Friday, July 31, 2015

"FLOTSAM" by David Wiesner

The wordless book and me chilling in the home-schooling corner.

"FLOTSAM" is Wiesner's award-winning wordless picture book that follows a boy's discovery of a washed up camera--the flotsam--at the beach. The boy soon discovers the camera is special, perhaps magical, camera film that has miraculously survived the ocean. He devlops the film and discovers photos of an underwater world, living, mechanical, and fantasy. (I would also like to point out this book has the first-ever documented use of a selfie-stick... well... kinda.)


This book is great for sharing with groups or one-on-one with kids, grades preK to third grade. I can see this being liked by upper elementary children who still have a love for fantasty, and perhaps again in art classes, grades 7-12--it is a beautiful piece of art.

Focus on The Writing Process: 

I like to use wordless texts to support writing and storytelling. One of the best tips I have for teachers who are trying to build writing into their classrooms is to SLOW IT DOWN and BREAK IT APART. Often we throw kids into writing without the pre-thinking that is required. Plus, we need to model the WRITING PROCESS and what real writing feels like. So here is one way to do this...

Grade Levels: 1, 2, 3

Materials Needed:

Chart paper

1. "Read" the book by showing the pictures. Don't add a verbal narrative; let the pictures do the talking--remember, silence is golden.

2. Afterwards, ask the children to turn to a neighbor and "tell the narrative" in five sentences or less--explain the narrative is the storyline and the major events.

3. Have kids share their points of interest in the story. Tell them this is what writers call, "brainstorming".

4. Now validate their ideas by "reading" the book again. As you read, stop to note what happens on each page. On the chart paper, write one to two sentences explaining what has happened. Have the children construct these sentences by calling on one child to dictate the sentence (or two). They needn't be perfect--you will edit them later. Tell the kids this is the "draft".

A sample page of the "draft".

5. After you have written a sentence for each page, have the children analyze the complete story. Ask them, "If we only wanted to keep the sentences that were essential to the narrative, which would we keep?" Then circle the five essential sentences. In many cases, you will decided to edit your list--for instance, you will probably take the pages with all the photos of the sea creatures and sum it up into one, cohesive sentence: "David saw pictures of animals, machines, aliens, and more in the photographs." Either way, tell them "This is editing."

The first round of editing.
Round two of editing, with circled essential sentence.

6. Next, tell the kids these points are essential to the story, without them we would be unable to understand the narrative. Illustrate this by reading through the book once more. Read their sentences for each of the "non-essential" sentences and skip over the pages that contain the five sentences that are "essential". (In some cases you will literally show three pages of the book.)

7. Now tell the class everything circled is essential, but all of the additional sentences are supporting details that elaborate and enhance the work--basically, they make the story better. Ask the children to each identify their favorite detail on the list and share it with a partner. Tell them when a storyteller adds these details it is another form of "editing".

8. Talk to the kids about how what they did was the writing process: They identified the main story with a partner (brainstorming), wrote it out in sentences (drafting), fixed it when something needed to be clearer (editing), and selected details that would make the story more interesting to readers (further editing).

9. Now that they have gone through the process with the group, have them write out the full story of "FLOTSAM" on their own. Have each child use the five essential sentences in their stories--you may wish to even type these out and leave gaps in the work like the sample below. Between each sentence, the child must provide at least one sentence (or if doing this with older kids one paragraph) elaborating on the big idea.

The ideas the kids share are typed out.
They fill in the details in between sentences.

Discussions/Writing Prompts:

Use these prompts to talk about the book with your kids, or you can have them write their responses. Remember, picture books don't need to stop in second grade!
One of many "photos" from the book.

1. If you could be there when one of the photos was taken, which photo would you pick? Why?

2. Do you think David (the boy) can convince others of his experience? Why or why not?

3. What elements of this book let you know it is a fantasy?

4. What happens after the last page? To the boy? To the girl?

5. Look at the title page of the book.  Most of them are not featured in the actual story. Why would the illustrator include them?

I hope you enjoy "FLOTSAM"... And remember to keep your eyes open the next time you are walking along the beach!

Happy learning! 

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