A Fun Classroom Activity for Common Core Standards

By Darcy Pattison

How do you get kids interested in a book about vultures and desert tortoises at a summer program where they are interested mostly in having some fun? And how do you do it while fulfilling the Common Core State Standards?

One of the tenets of the Common Core State Standards is the use of technology with kids. This summer, I volunteered at the Arkansas Audubon (ar.audubon.org/) summer camp. Camp Director Mary Smith agreed when I asked if we could do some videotaping with kids to create a book trailer for my new book, DESERT BATHS.

First, I studied the Common Core requirements. The Common Core ELA Speaking & Listening anchor standard #5 requires students to “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding.” An appropriate task for this standard is for students to create a video. In this case, we also emphasized close reading of the text of Desert Baths (CC ELA Reading anchor standards #1, 2, 4) to understand how each desert animals stays clean.

Note: The camp had a wide range of ages, so I didn’t use any specific grade level standards. The Common Core provides Anchor Standards, which are in turn specifically interpreted for each grade level. By following the more general Anchor Standard, I was confident that we would accomplish something appropriate for each student.

After the close reading of the text, students were assigned an animal to act out and practiced a couple times.

Videotaping the Desert Baths Book Trailer

Videotaping with kids can be chaotic. In order to minimize this, I set up four stations.

  1. Camera man. The camera man was responsible for running the camera and taping the Actor. I use a Kodak Z-i8 hand-held camera because it is the only camera in its class with an external microphone jack. The camera was mounted on a tripod and the Camera Man had to make sure it was the right height for the Actor and was positioned for the setting to fill the screen.
  2. Actor. The actor was responsible for standing on the stage, saying his/her lines and acting out how a desert animal takes a bath.
  3. Sound Man. I plugged a lapel microphone into the Kodak Zi8 Camera. If you look closely, you can see the wire on the kids. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was placed on the Actor correctly. Also, to conserve the batteries of the microphone, it was turned off except when in actual use. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was turned on and off at the right times.
  4. Stage Director. This was a favorite task, because this person got to yell out, “Quiet on the Set.” In addition to starting and stopping the action, the Stage Director was responsible for making sure everything was set up correctly, the Actor was ready and then directing everyone to start.

The stations worked well because students came to the videotaping in groups of four and each student rotated through all the tasks. They knew their job was important and they took it seriously. Watch and see what fun they had.


Darcy Pattison Discusses Prairie Storms and Writing on PBS Special

Darcy Pattison will discuss her latest children’s book, Prairie Stormsas part of “AETN Presents: On the Same Page” on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) on Friday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m., and again on Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m..  “AETN Presents: On the Same Page” is part of AETN Arts Fridays, featuring world class arts and culture programming and locally produced series.

Darcy Pattison is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for her work in children’s literature. She founded the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Arkansas Chapter, and actively serves as a speaker and judge for chapters throughout the nation. She is currently co-chair of the Children’s Program for the Arkansas Literary Festival. Pattison’s other works include Nineteen Girls and Me and Searching for Oliver K. Woodman.

Prairie Storms gives children a front row seat into the harsh climate of the American prairie and how the animals that reside within it adapt to the ever-changing climate. Pattison focuses on a different prairie animal and habitat each month, showing how a prairie grouse surves the freezing snows of winer or how a lizard evades the brutal sun and heat of summer with realistic watercolor illustrations by Kathleen Rietz. Written in lyrical prose and complete with activities and quizzes, Pattison’s book is both an educational and celebratory look into the great American prairies.

Be sure to watch for Darcy’s next Sylvan Dell picture book, Desert Baths, out Fall 2012!

Get to Know Darcy Pattison, Author of Prairie Storms

Darcy Pattison is an award-winning author of numerous books, and the author of the Sylvan Dell Fall 2011 Release Prairie Storms.


What drew you to writing, children’s books especially?

I write because I read children’s books to my own children. With four kids, it meant years and years of reading books, during which time I developed a love of the picture book form and a passion for chapter books for kids. I started writing when they were young and have never grown up.

What do you hope children get out of your stories?

My goal is to help kids enjoy playing with language. Of course, that means a story and I hope they enjoy the story, too. And since Prairie Storms is a non-fiction book, it also means facts. I want kids to have fun learning about the ani-mals and the storms and how living creatures interacts with the weather and cli-mate of their area. But mostly, this is meant to be a great read aloud that an adult can share with a kid, and enjoy a moment of shared pleasure in the words, the art, the sound of literature, the joy of knowing something.

What tips do you have to encourage young readers?

Read, read, read. The more you practice, the better reader you will be. And why should you want to be a great reader? So you can travel to places you’ve never seen, can feel emotions you’ll never feel any other way. In Prairie Storms, for example, you’ll stand stare into the face of a blizzard and stand, “prairie strong and defiant.”

What is the most rewarding thing about having your books published?

Because I’m published, it means I get to visit many places and talk to many peo-ple. In that sense, writing and publishing has enlarged my world, made me friends with widely scattered folks. I love the book, as something you can hold and open together. But mostly, I love that crea-tive work can connect people in special ways.

Any advice for those interested in writing?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Prac-tice is the most important thing you can do. If you want to be in a rock band, you don’t just pick up a guitar and wind up rich. Instead, you learn how to play chords, how to write music, how to sing. In other words, you practice. Don’t expect to sell the first thing you write. You may need to write ten novels before you write well enough to sell well. Consider those books and those years as an apprenticeship and you’ll be fine.

Darcy Pattison, (www.darcypattison.com) author of both picture books and novels, has been published in eight languages. Her books include 19 Girls and Me (Philomel,), Searching for Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), The Scary Slope (graphic novel from Stone Arch). Her books have been recognized for excellence by **starred reviews in Kirkus and BCCB, Child magazine Best Books of the Year 2003, Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Books of the Year 2003, and various state award reading lists.

As a writing teacher, Darcy is in demand nationwide to teach her Novel Revision Retreat. Her books about writing or teaching writing include Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise (Mims House) and Paper Lightning: Prewriting Activities to Spark Creativity (Cottonwood Press).  Darcy is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Awards, Individual Artist Award for her work in children’s literature. Forthcoming titles include Prairie Storm (Sylvan Dell, 2011) and Desert Baths (Sylvan Dell, 2012).