Guest Post by Janet Wong
Have you noticed an explosion of activity books in bookstores and box stores? Elaborate coloring books, clever creative journals, and books similar to those in the Wreck This Journal series? These books allow tweens and teens to interact in ways beyond reading—drawing in them, writing in them, and exploring their thoughts and feelings. Why do kids love them? Because they’re fun—and writing in them is an act of ownership.
For those of us who teach language arts: how can we take a middle school student’s excitement for activity books—and bring it into the classroom?
Sylvia Vardell and I are trying to do just that with our newest collaboration, You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, published this month by our imprint Pomelo Books. It’s part activity book for tweens and teens; part verse novella; and part writing coach, combined in a way designed to gain the approval of both the school board and your favorite skeptical tween.
Here are the steps that we followed in creating You Just Wait. My part of the book came first.
—I took a dozen “outside poems” (“already-published poems” by eleven different poets, all found in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School).
—I imagined how these outside poems could be woven together and wrote two dozen new poems that form a story featuring Paz, an Asian-Latina soccer player, her movie-loving cousin Lucesita, and Joe, Paz’s older brother, who dreams of playing basketball in the NBA. These new poems became “Response Poems” and “Mentor Text” poems as the book evolved.
Sylvia Vardell then added her magic touch. She:
—created twelve quick, creativity-spurring, PowerPlay activities;
—paired twelve Power2You writing prompts with my Mentor Text poems; and
—assembled twelve Resource Lists for writers (and readers) for the back matter of the book.
Here’s a look at PowerPack 5, one of the twelve PowerPacks in You Just Wait. You can find downloadable files at www.pomelobooks.com
We think we accomplished what we set out to do, but we’ll only know if we start seeing ragged, well-loved class sets of You Just Wait filled with scribbles. Send us your photos at infoATpomelobooks.com—we’d love to see them!
Janet Wong is the author of 30 books including You Have to Write. She is the co-creator (with Sylvia Vardell) of The Poetry Friday Anthology series (www.pomelobooks.com).
Note: Some vendors such as QEPBooks.com are offering healthy discounts this month as part of the book’s promotional launch; please consider ordering some copies for your school.