We recently started using the Jot it Down program from Brave Writer for part of Language Arts. It has turned out to be a much better fit for Storyteller. I’ve been very pleased with the work she’s done and the effort she’s put into these projects. Her most recent project was an animal mini-book. There is such a fantastic story behind this book that I have to share it.
She chose to make a book about sloths. Both of my girls have been obsessed with sloths for some time now so it was no surprise that Storyteller wanted to make a book about them. We went to the library and checked out every sloth book on the shelf. Yes, every single one of them and I even requested a few because sloths aren’t exactly popular. We ended up with about 10 books written for younger kids.
Over a week or two we read through all of books and took notes about different facts she wanted to include in her book. I sometimes prompted her but for the most part she identified which facts she wanted on her own. She put the facts into her own words and I wrote down her thoughts on Post It notes exactly as she dictated them to me. We used them as bookmarks in case we wanted to find that part of the book again.
After we made it through all the books, she categorized the notes. She laid all of the Post Its out on the dining room table and grouped them into categories such as habitat, appearance, diet, predators and defenses. Once the groups were finished, she stuck them to a piece of paper to keep them all in place.
Next, she picked out some pictures from the books that she wanted to include in her book. She looked for pictures that illustrated the different categories. We made copies of the pictures and she glued them onto card stock as a way to start a page or two for each category. (**I wasn’t thinking about posting this while we were doing the project. Unfortunately, I didn’t note which books these photos came from so that I could give proper credit,)
She took a lot of notes and she was capable of writing these out but it would’ve really extended the project. She decided that she wanted me to type them. As we did this, she revised some of her notes so that they flowed better on the page that she had planned for the category. She cut out the typed sentences, arranged them in the order she wanted for each page and glued them into place.
A few months ago, we joined a homeschool group on a field trip to a small local zoo called Roos-N-More. They had a baby sloth that the kids got to pet. Storyteller wrote a story about that experience and added a photo of the sloth to her book. She also drew a picture of it.
The only handwriting she ended up doing was copying a poem about sloths. I would have liked for her to do more but this was a good start for her first project of this kind. She wrote the poem on lined paper and then glued it onto the card stock for the book.
Once all the pages were assembled and in the order she wanted, I three-holed punched it and tied it up with yarn. It is 13 pages long and most of the pages are double sided.
The entire project of this book included identifying important facts, putting it into her own words, arranging the facts into categories, finding pictures for the categories, arranging the facts in order and arranging the pages in order for the book. WOW! Who cares if she didn’t handwrite much of it! Even with all the work she put into it, she needed very little guidance from me. I let her decide what she wanted to put into the book and how she wanted it to flow from start to finish.
During this time, we watched a Wild Kratts episode about the Amazon rainforest and sloths. I also found a PBS documentary about sloths. It was an hour long show meant for adults. They were able to watch sloths for a whole hour and they absolutely loved it! I had to stop it a few times to explain some of what was happening but they seemed to follow it very well.
And if this wasn’t enough…Here’s another little tidbit that ties in perfectly with this project.
Several months ago, we had a science lesson that talked about things people do that can damage the Earth. One of the many rabbit trails we followed was learning about endangered species. We read about organizations that help these animals and their habitats. We ended up at the World Wildlife Fund website. She saw that they offer species specific symbolic animal adoptions and they just happen to have sloths listed as an option. They offer optional gifts for different levels of donation. The donation of $55 includes a gift of a stuffed animal, adoption certificate, species info card, postcard and gift bag. Since then, she worked very hard to save $55 to adopt a sloth. I thought she would get distracted and end up deciding to buy something else but she kept her focus and she hit her goal right as she finished her animal book about sloths!
We talked a lot about what her money will do to help sloths. I wasn’t quite sure if she understood the purpose of donating to this organization. Many times it seemed that she thought she was just saving up her money to buy a stuffed animal. However once she received her stuffed animal sloth, I overheard her telling it that her money was going to help the sloths in the rainforest. So she does understand but she also believes that she adopted the stuffed animal. She included her story of adopting the sloth in her animal book and put a copy of the adoption certificate on the cover. This was such a perfect way to end this project!
This was such a hit that Storyteller has a list of animals ready for more books and Comedian can’t wait to do one of her own.