Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ask the Education Consultant - Interview with Marcie Colleen

I adore seeing Marcie Colleen at NJ SCBWI events, because she is a ball of energy and easy to find in a crowd. But it has been fun seeing Marcie everywhere in writing cyberspace the last few weeks, too.

Marcie & Lauri hanging out...
if we look exhausted it's because
Ame Dyckman (in the background)
had us wrestling PBs all day. 
As Education Consultant for Picture Book Month she developed this outstanding teachers' guide Why Picture Books Belong in the Classroom, where she makes a case for both non-fiction and fiction as teaching tools.

She served as housecleaner for PiBoIdMo with her post on preparing your creative idea collection space. 

She was seen rolling up her sleeves and mining childhood memories over at the Picture Book Academy, where she is a graduate and Blogette! 

Did I mention she ran the NYC Marathon last Sunday? Oh yeah. That too. :)  

So it seems totally reasonable she is hosting an Ask the Education Consultant Blog Hop on her site this month! She's hopped over here today to teach us about picture books in the classroom. 

Lauri: Everyone gives teachers little frowny face stickers when they "teach to the test." In the same vein, should writers avoid "writing to the Common Core?"

Marcie: I have been a part of the education world for quite some time.  State and Federal mandated standards have come and gone and quickly as the politicians that championed them.  As writers we are often careful not to write to the trends.  However, educational learning standards are essentially a trend, a buzz word. So, in my humble opinion, writers need to avoid “writing to the Common Core” and instead write what they want to write.  Any good teacher will be able to adapt any book for classroom use.  Teachers need to teach.  Write need to write.  Simple as that.

Lauri: I know teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, but... what's your favorite kind of picture book to write a teacher's guide - a PB that does a lot of things pretty well or a PB that does one thing with excellence? 
Marcie: I love a challenge.  When I first moved to NYC I worked for the Broadway theatre world and created curriculum guides for popular Broadway shows.  I remember thinking at first that the musical CHICAGO had no educational value, until further research turned up topics such as greed, the American Judicial System, celebrity and media, etc.  The same thing happened when I worked on AVENUE Q (a musical known for its language and naughty bits).  When I first take on a pb for a Teacher’s Guide, my favorite moment is sitting down with a pb to give it a good read with pen and paper in hand. By the end of the reading the paper is filled with educational ideas and possibilities…and it only grows from there.  Its like my archeological dig.  That’s what I love.
Lauri: Do humorous books present more difficulty to include in the classroom?
Marcie: As a person, I find it best to connect with people through humor and laughter.  Why not bring that into the classroom? The classroom that laughs together….
Of course, a sense of humor is part of child development.  But laughter in the classroom can help foster this.  Studies have shown that children with a well-developed sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and are better at handling differences between themselves and their friends.  Here is a great link for some further info:  how does sense of humor develop
However, where an issue might be difficult is when a book appears to be totally silly with no academic value. This is when a Teacher’s Guide tool or other standard-aligned curriculum plans can help an educator validate their book choices to school administrators or parents who might question a teacher’s choice. 
Lauri: Can taboo topics, potty humor (y'know like mice wedgies, fart explosions...) or any other naughtiness impact a book making it into the classroom?
Marcie:  Perhaps we should ask Dav Pilkey this question.  His Captain Underpants series has been both heavily challenged by parents and educators, but also hailed as a brilliant series that reaches even the most reluctant boy readers. 
Obviously parents have strong opinions as to what they want their children “exposed” to.  Teachers must know their audience.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time.  But is the goal to keep the kids in a protective bubble?  Or to get them interested in reading and perhaps begin a lifelong love?  Aye, there’s the rub!  A complicated topic with several equally complicated answers.  But as a writer, fear not.  Write on.  For every nay-sayer, you will have a cheerleader. 
Lauri: Could you share a few resources for PB writers to be introduced to common core standards?
Marcie: Google “Common Core State Standards” and quickly become overwhelmed.  I know I did. 
School Library Journal hosted a 6-part webcast series about the Common Core that I found very helpful. Although they are geared toward professionals in the education world, they will give you a good overview on what the CCSS entail and how educators are “unpacking" the standards for themselves.
Also, Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman is a great book that really makes sense of the CCSS for its readers.  It’s not the easiest read, but if you truly want to understand the standards, this is how. 
Visit Marcie Colleen at The Write Routine
And of course, reading the actual standards.  They can be found, in detail, at http://www.corestandards.org/.
There is really no shortcut.  They aren't rocket science.  But navigating through it all can be overwhelming. 

My advice to pb writers: get the gist and then move on.  You have books to write.  No need to get into all of the nitty gritty ins and outs.  Leave that to the experienced educators.  There are plenty of us who write curriculum or work in School and Library Markets Departments at publishing houses to assist you with the details when the time comes. 
Lauri: Ahh, after this interview, I'm feeling much less scared about managing the common core in my writing process! Thank you, Marcie! Keep an eye on Marcie's blog for more hop spots this month. 
Mon Nov 11 @ Jean Reidy 

Wed Nov 13 @ Darshana Khiani 

Wed Nov 20 @ Joanne Roberts 

Mon Nov 25 @ Tina Cho 

Wed Dec 4 Julie Hedlund

In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher and a theatre educator, but now she splits her days between chasing the Picture Book Writer dream and chasing toddlers on the playground as a nanny. Both are equally glamorous! Her blog, The Write Routine and her Teacher’s Guides, can be found at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.  She lives with her fiancé and their mischievous sock monkey in Brooklyn, NYC.


30 comments:

  1. Wow...just wow! Excellent questions Lauri. And Marcie, you handled those questions very well. I especially love the common core questions since that has been talked about many times. As a writer, I feel more at ease about it now. Thanks.

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    1. I agree, I feel so much better too!

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    2. Good! Relax, Romelle. Just keep writing!

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  2. Nice overview. I loved the SLJ webcasts as well.

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    1. Marcie makes everything fun and enjoyable.

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    2. The SLJ webcasts give quite the overview. I highly recommend!

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  3. Ahhhh the common core. Excellent perspective from Marcie. I need to check out some of those site for my own edification before it all changes again. :)

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    1. I can totally see the importance of good teacher's guides in getting picture books into the classroom. - whether or not the common core changes names in the future!

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    2. Yes! A Teacher's Guide is an excellent tool.

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  4. Great interview focusing on the CC and writers!

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    1. Marcie is an amazing resource for all of us writers!

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  5. Thanks for such a great interview!
    Marcie, I bow down at your teacher guide-ness! :)

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  6. As I began reading this I thought, "Wait, a Lauri post without mention of potty humor? What the.."

    And then, there it was!

    Seriously, this was a great interview Lauri. I learned a lot.

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    1. Funny, my original draft didn't have any humor, and I thought, "hmm, Mike's going to be asking if I'm feeling okay. I need to get some farting in this here post!"

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    2. So, now I know what Lauri's specialty is. :)

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  7. Great overview for integrating books and the arts into the education world. Thanks for hosting, Marcie, Lauri! Hopefully I'll see you both tomorrow? :)

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    1. Even though Marcie isn't officially a teacher anymore, she's still educating us! Yes, I'll see you tomorrow - I'm only staying for the afternoon though, but I'm hoping to soak up as much PB knowledge and writerly hugs as I can.

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    2. Thanks, Pam. Great seeing you both this weekend. Please keep in touch.

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  8. Great questions and answers! :D I like the fact that, even though Ms. Colleen does 5000 things, she still did this! :D

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    1. She totally reminds me of someone else I know, who has been busy winning contests, staging donation events, attending book signings, reviewing books....:D You're making us grown ups look lazy!

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    2. Thanks, Erik! I'm quite a fan of yours, as well.

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  9. Great information, Lauri and Marcie. I taught school for 26 years and still substitute some I totally agree with Marcie's comments on this: "So, in my humble opinion, writers need to avoid “writing to the Common Core” and instead write what they want to write. Any good teacher will be able to adapt any book for classroom use."

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    1. I cannot stress this more. I blame social media and fast moving buzz for the panic that has ripped through the online writing communities.

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    2. Glad we've got everyone in agreement! Boy it sure is nice to have so many teachers around to help us. As long as there are no pop quizzes.

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  10. WOW! What a phenomenal post and an amazing list of resources!! The best one I've read on CCSS yet. Thanks ladies!!

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    1. Marcie is pretty amazing. The calming perspective she brings must have made her an excellent nanny, too!

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  11. Thanks! Not sure i have ever been considered calming. More like the loud lady with the big hair. But whatever works!

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