Friday, July 28, 2017


I love the metaphor "Laying a Path”--so we use it to label both online classes and curriculum. It is a bit long, so we shorten it: LAP. As in, crawl onto my lap and I will help you . . .

When my kids were young, I joined a garden club, read Michael Pollan, and made a friend who loved to create children’s gardens. The theme of PATH kept coming up over and over again. Paths create interest. Paths are inviting. Paths give a sense of movement. Paths are systems of travel. Paths lead.

I don’t have a big yard, but it is an interesting yard. In part because one of the very first things I did for my kids was create a garden path. That simple little path became a great source of play, movement, and imagination. The moment the stones settled, my children began to move upon them. Their ages ranged from about 2-8 years, but each one (and their friends) walked that simple little journey multiple times a day. Each new visitor (even adults!) would see the path and immediately trot forward, even though all it provided was a little loop. There is something about stepping stones that invite and delight.

LEARNING SHOULD BE A PATH. We want it to invite and delight. But for a struggling learner, not all learning is inviting or delightful. So a path provides small steps--Bits and Pieces of success.

A learning path breaks each step into its own accomplishment, so the next step is less daunting. Figuring out the steps is what I have spent a lifetime developing with my students. Amazingly, I now see my path in full bloom. Before, I had my path laid out, surrounded by seedlings. But now, with Rooted in Language, this path is a botanical bounty! Here’s why:

Every idea has been and continues to be kid-tested. Every strategy we share with you has been proven effective. Kids have given us feedback and shown us results. Every strategy I share with my SLPs and tutor begins to morph in amazing ways.

Moira is constantly adding and tweaking my ideas and adding her own, teaching in ways I never imagined! Together our ideas hitch-hike along, resulting in a better journey for our students! Moira brings fresh eyes and further depth. Every time I see one of Moira’s ideas on Instagram, I think, “Wow! This is even better!”

Every strategy and idea is run through other creative minds. Claire sees every piece of language through both her creative writing head and artist’s eye. She turns multisensory learning theory into a multisensory experience! Claire shares her ideas and insights in our Write, Draw, Think curricula.

Every idea and strategy is made visible and enjoyable by Tracy. Tracy is a playful artist who paints crazy flamingos and wild botanicals. She loves color! She combines splashes of fun with refined details. Without Tracy, I am a pile of post-it notes, full of only words and clip art. Tracy creates the product and builds each material, making my path to learning inviting for all of us.

Before any product comes to you, we at Rooted in Language share our improved lessons (in steps that are visible and enjoyable) with our own students. We test out which visual aspects best convey the concepts we hope to teach, and we make continual refinements. Every product represents months in the making, and years in my practice!

Our newest curriculum, LAYING A PATH: ANNOTATING LITERARY ELEMENTS, is meant to be a long slow journey for your school year. It is meant to be inviting and playful.

Don't rush through these rich concepts. Instead, wander with your kids. Take your time.

Enjoy the colorful world of literature--both the texts we provide and the ones sitting on your bookshelves.

Add notes to text (annotate) in Bits and Pieces--all stepping stones to critical thinking and analytical writing.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Look Inside Explore-a-Story

We have received a lot of questions about our Explore-a-Story book.
  • What is it?
  • How is it used?
  • Which is more appropriate for my child--the book or PDF version?

What is Explore-a-Story? Explore-a-Story is an expanded, upgraded, more personal version of our original Cartooning Characters activity. We changed it in many ways:

  • We improved the directions and wrote them directly to your child
  • We included more drawing, thinking, and writing directions
  • We improved the layout so the directions and general “look” of the content is more “graphic” for older kids who may see cartooning as too “young.”
  • We put it all together in a journal so it creates a reading log and keepsake--a place to keep a list of books read within the school year.
  • There are 23 graphic spreads for creating, 26 content pages with directions and tips, with one final spread for kids to write about their favorites based on attributes. 

How is Explore-a-Story used? Well, we have so many ideas about that! 

  1. Use Explore-a-Story as a personal journal where each of your kids can keep track of their favorite stories and characters. These can be characters they love, despise, fear, or celebrate! Kids can choose one character from each book they read, or from each family read aloud, and engage in drawing with Bits and Pieces of writing. In this way, Explore-a-Story encourages a bit more than “this book was about” and helps kids begin to understand how to analyze a story through character, conflict, and theme.

  2. Use Explore-a-Story as a family book. It can be a way to engage everyone in shared writing and drawing about any shared story--books, movies, or plays. Each person in the family can draw and write on a different character, so you can write with your kids! The character pages are divided in five sections, each with 4 spreads. In between these drawing pages are numerous drawing lessons and writing/thinking hints. This would allow a family to create their journal of the best stories of the year!

  3. Use Explore-a-Story as a way to track famous people in history, science, technology, or the arts, to support your curriculum. Every famous person faced their own conflicts and has their own story. Explore-a-Story can help you journal famous non-fictional characters! 

  4. Use Explore-a-Story to create a Shakespeare journal. Each four character section can be used to represent one of the Bard’s famous plays, which are rich in character and have awesome costumes! There are plenty of conflicts to explore, character flaws to analyze, and famous lines to include! In this way, Explore-a-Story might be used across multiple years!

  5. Use Explore-a-Story to inspire your young artist to add writing to enrich their drawing. An avid artist may wish to fill the entire Explore-a-Story journal with characters from a beloved novel. This works well for novels with many characters, such as Thief Lord, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Redwall, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.  Books with many characters really spark the imagination in the visual child, so helping them to create a keepsake of their favorite book would be an awesome write/draw project. This idea would overwhelm some kids, but those who love to fill pages with their art will enjoy turning their favorite books/movies into this form of visual fan fiction.

  6. Use Explore-a-Story PDF version to supplement your language arts notebook this year. It can be a supplement to Brave Writer’s Wand, Arrow and Boomerang curricula.

Should I choose the book or PDF format? This depends on your curriculum plans or on your child.  Explore-a-Story is meant to inspire--not to overwhelm. You know your child best: would they like holding their own journal or prefer to only view a page at a time?

If you have a strong reader, or you engage in one of the curriculum ideas listed above, your child could create one or more graphic characters a month--one for each book read or famous person studied. Kids who love to read, love to keep book logs. If they read a book a week, they may not want to create a graphic for every book they read. You could suggest a schedule that fits your child’s learning style. Some children may read many books, but choose to create only one graphic per month. We want kids to enjoy Bits and Pieces of writing, not to become overloaded by weekly demands.

The struggling or reluctant reader could cartoon on more than one character per book (again only 1-2 times a month) over the course of the entire book. In this way, the struggling reader digs into characters as they read, helping them to track the story's plot, while encouraging writing in Bits and Pieces for deeper comprehension. In the end, struggling readers will have completed Explore-a-Story to celebrate their reading accomplishments--accomplishments measured in quality, rather than quantity.

No matter the reading and writing skill, Explore-a-Story gives kids time to savor stories. It is a journal versatile enough to be used for a single book project, a year’s worth of reading, or a topic/author study for years to come.

~ Rita and Tracy