Children’s Book Author and School Visits
Length: 1 hour
Choose the focus for the workshop: strong verbs, interesting details or writing a great lead. Steve teaches for 20 minutes, the class writes for 15 - 20 minutes, followed by a group critique session led by Steve for the remainder of the time. Writer's workshop work best with groups of 25 and under, but are possible with larger groups. Student's need to be prepared with pencil, paper and writing surface.
Librarians and teachers from Houston, Texas to Hartford, Connecticut are talking about the emphasis these days on expository or nonfiction writing. Let me help kickstart a passion for writing nonfiction in your young authors by highlighting the basics of using strong verbs and interesting details. Are your students struggling with how to write a good lead or satisfying ending? We'll practice the bookends of a story- writing a solid introduction and good conclusion. Do your young authors have trouble elaborating on a main idea? This workshops focuses on revising a weak paragraph and enriching the language with specific details that show and don't tell.
In a lively hour-long workshop, I can help inspire your young writers and offer them some tools to become better writers. But don't take my word for it...
"Education, engagement, enthusiasm, energy, and excitment for EVERYONE! This is what you can expect when you invite Steve Swinburne to your school for either an author’s presentation, a writer’s workshop or best of all, BOTH.
Steve recently visited the Head O’Meadow Elementary School in Newtown, CT for both whole-school presentations and 4 writer’s workshop sessions with third and fourth grade students. What a hit! Students from pre-school through 4th grade and teachers alike were enthralled with his presentations and engaged in his workshops. Why…because Steve brings so much to his work with students and teachers. His workshops have just the right balance of teacher and entertainer, adult and child. He has fun with the students while involving them completely in the writing process.
As the teacher librarian at Head O’Meadow I can attest to the value of having Steve visit. The number of holds I’ve placed on Steve’s books in our library; the desire of several teachers to work with Wiff and Dirty George as a class book with a number of projects planned; the interest students have shown in our writing projects in the library all demonstrate the impact his recent visit has had on the entire school population!
Run, don’t walk to your computer and book a visit now; you won’t regret it!"
Library Media Specialist
Head O’Meadow Elementary School
It is with genuine pleasure that I recommend author, Stephen Swinburne, for school programs for elementary school students and staff! His From Blank Page to Book program is customized to meet the developmental needs of elementary students. His presentation targets an integrated curriculum. These are examples:
- Writing – use of strong introductory paragraphs with examples of ways to create them.
- Writing – use of strong verbs to enhance meaning.
- Science – conservation and life cycles of wild animals.
- Music – rhythms of animal life and sounds.
- Graphic Organizers – an example is the "cats" chart in his Bobcat…book
At our February presentation, the students and staff were equally attentive with the animal life exploration, the writing information, and the crowd management skills that Steve built into the program. There were numerous positive comments from students and staff following the presentation. To all teaching librarians I give this advice, "Make it a priority one budget item to include Steve’s presentation as part of your quality library programming for next year".
Should funding be a concern, due to the writing elements that he includes in his program, local, state, or federal funding such as Title V could be proposed, approved and allocated to pay for some or all of his presentation and expenses. You would be totally justified in making such a proposal due to the content of the program.
Librarian & Author of the Collaborative Bridges Series, Grades 3-5
Rosehill Elementary School Library
17950 Waller Tomball Road
Tomball, Texas 77377
Thumbs up for INTERESTING DETAILS!
Do you really want your writing to sparkle? Do you want to be totally happy with the story you wrote about your walk in the woods? You can make your story come alive by writing with specific information that shows the reader what is happening rather than telling the reader what is happening. Maybe you’ve heard your teacher or an author say "show, don’t tell." What they mean is try to paint a very clear picture in the reader’s mind.
Here’s how it works. Look at these two examples. One is a "telling" sentence and one is a "showing" sentence. Which one is stronger, more alive? "The squirrel was active." OR "The squirrel dashed up the tree, scampered along the branch, flicked its tail, and chatted like crazy castanets."
The first sentence tells you the squirrel was active but the second sentence shows you how active the squirrel was. It helps the reader picture the image of a dashing squirrel and hear the sound it makes. By replacing general words with concrete, specific details you can "see" what the writer is saying. Your writing comes alive. A sentence that shows may take a few more words but it’s worth it.
See if you can turn these sentences that tell into sentences that show:
The mountain is high.
The forest was dark.
My backyard is nice.
If you practice, you get better at turning boring telling sentences into sentences that are alive with strong verbs, interesting details and vivid images. Have fun!
P.S. I’m REALLY looking forward to my visit to your school. I can’t wait to meet all you guys! I’m very excited about my three new books for your age: Ocean Soup-Tide Pool Poems; Wiff and Dirty George-The Z.E.B.R.A. Incident and Whose Shoes? A Shoe for Every Job.
I’ve created web sites for each book, so don’t forget to check those out. Here are the links:
Here’s a special challenge. You can hunt for the names of characters from Beatle songs, hidden throughout Wiff and Dirty George. If you find all 16 references, you will win a prize.
Mark Twain said: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." The tips that follow can help your students find the right word when they begin revising a draft.
Remember, that first drafts can be messy and usually the writer focuses on getting ideas or the story onto paper. It’s during revision that writers can refine and shape their work. The essayist, Annie Lamotte, pointed out that an engineer has to get the blueprint for a bridge right the first time. Writers, on the other hand, can revise, revise, revise until the piece works.
Outstanding writing has strong verbs and specific nouns with only a few adjectives and adverbs. Another great Mark Twain saying is, "If you see an adjective, kill it." What Twain meant was that a specific noun can replace a series of adjectives. In addition, a strong verb can make an adverb unnecessary.
REVISING FOR STRONG VERBS
- With younger students, you should circle three to four weak verbs such as go, cook, and make. Older students can choose and circle the verbs they want to improve. These verbs are weak because they don’t create an image in the reader’s mind.
- Organize students into pairs so partners can help one another.
- Ask students to write, in the margin of their paper, several other verbs that are specific and relate to the context and meaning of the sentence and text. So go might become trudge; cook might transform into poach; and make into compel.
- Have students choose the best verb from their brainstormed list in the margin and write it above the weak verb.
REVISING FOR SPECIFIC NOUNS
- In first drafts, students writers tend to use general nouns such as things, stuff, time, games. These wide-open words create different images in readers minds--images based on readers’ personal experiences. For example, if i write tree, readers might see an oak, maple, cherry, and all during different seasons. If the writer wants to communicate an exact image, specific nouns help.
- Follow the process I suggested for improving verbs, only circle three to four general nouns on students’ work. Once students jot down alternatives, ask them to choose the specific noun that best fits the meaning of the sentence and piece. So, stuff, might become balloons, time might be dawn, and games might be kick-the-can.
Making the revision process very specific helps student writers improve their work and tunes them into professional writers’ craft and revision techniques.