When I presented this book to a group of teachers in Kansas, one said, "I know exactly what I'm going to do with this book! A letter-writing unit!"
Ask your students about their pets. (This always starts a flood of stories.) If someone doesn't have a pet, is there a classroom hamster? goldfish? A friend's pet? An imaginary pet?
Discuss the gripes or problem their pet might have. ("They don't brush me enough. I hate my food. I don't like to be left alone. Why can't I sleep on the couch, sit at the table . . .")
Ask them to write a letter, explaining the problem, to "Dear Queenie" from the POINT OF VIEW of the pet, .
Then ask them to write Queenie's reply—from HER point-of-view.
Have students exchange their letters with each other.
Then have them write Queenie's replies to those letters.
NOW...Write a Story:
1. Read some of the letters and replies.
2. Discuss how the pets will use Queenie's advice.
3. Guess what! You've been brainstorming stories.
4. Write the story!
When I start a story, I don't always know what is going to happen, so I sometimes make storyboards with rough sketches. The sketches give me ideas about what might happen in the story. I don't worry about getting the words just right or the sketches perfect. After all, these are ROUGH DRAFTS...or 'Sloppy Copies'.
Below is a storyboard for Letters From a Desperate Dog. It shows how I first imagined the scene where the dog, Emma, discovers a mouse.
Many, many sketches later:
Here is the almost-finished sequence. You can see I made a lot of changes!
This sequence starts on page 13 of Letters From a Desperate Dog. Emma and the cat hear a mouse! What is going to happen next? With picture books the question is answered when you turn the page. Since this is a website, you'll need to scroll down instead. But look at the book too!
In some schools I've visited, I've noticed students are writing their stories as illustrated comic strips or storyboards. I've collected some wonderful examples.
• Use large sheets of drawing paper—at least 11" x 17", drawing pencils (at least HB to make a strong black line), crayons or paints
• Divide the sheet into 4 to 6 sections.
• Draw (and write) the beginning of the story in the first section. The next scene goes in the next section, etc.
• Dialogue can be in speech balloons while action can be described by pictures and text.
The story below was given to me several years ago by a second(?) grader from a school outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.