Welcome to my Blog! Hello, my name is MaryLouise and I am a Special Education Language Arts Teacher. I have utilized my lesson plans and other original teaching material to create picture books, workbooks, nonfiction and fiction articles and teacher's guides for educational resources.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today's Topic: Sports Writing

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Sports Writer?
Today's interview is with Sports Writer, Dave Lariviere, who holds a B.S. in Newspaper Journalism from Syracuse University with a Minor in History, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. He's worked as a Sports Writer and Editor for the Bergen Record, New Brunswick Home News and the Trentonian . He currently writes blog articles for SportsMoney.com.
MLAC: How can you compare sports writing to other types of writing?
DL: You still use the basic writing models of who, what, when, where, why and how. The pieces have a beginning, middle and an end. What changes is the knowledge and subject matter and terminology. That's the beauty of writing...you can write about a variety of topics but the actual skill doesn't change. You are looking for a catchy way for people to read a story; especially today when you have to immediately grab peoples' attention. It's like a refrain from a song...if it doesn't resonate in your mind,  people will not stay with it. The internet has changed the way people read articles.
MLAC: What are some of the tasks of a Sports Writer?
DL: Some Sports Writers only cover what is called a "beat". They would be the person that would say as their job would cover the NY Yankees. They would go to every game and cover what happens before the game, during the game, after the game, trades, injuries, controversies, etc. Their responsibility is to cover everything that happens to that team. A general Sports Writer would cover all types of sports...from High School level all the way up to the professionals.
MLAC: Can you tell us about some of your earlier experiences?
DL: I started at the high school level, covering every high school sport. I talked to athletes, coaches and went to the games. These are the young men and women in our town that we could be proud of.  I wrote about...what motivated them, how they got interested in the sport, what other activities they were involved in, etc. Most Sports Writers start at the local level; covering little league, Pop Warner in the community. In a way it humbles you because you come out of college and think you know everything and that you deserve to cover professional sports. You see kids at a grass roots level, the way sports should be played. And a big part of it is...you have to capture the passion of the athletes and of the moment. High school students are very passionate; maybe more so than professional athletes who have been interviewed millions of times.
MLAC: What inspired you to go into sports journalism? Any hopes of being a professional athlete?
DL: I have a tremendous passion for what I do. I really think that any kind of work that you do, you should have a tremendous passion for it. I've wanted to be a Sports Writer since I was 12 years old. It's something I wanted to do for a long time. Baseball was my favorite sport when I was growing up but I was a bad athlete. I realized this pretty early when I couldn't hit a curve ball and I could barely hit a fast ball. My parents wouldn't sign the permission slip for me to sign up for football. I had the skills but not the size.
Most Sports Writers probably wanted to be professional athletes. They kind of live vicariously through the athlete. There is that kind of respect...you realize that these guys are doing things that I could never do.
MLAC: Do you have a favorite assignment?
DL: I just did something recently that I was really proud of. For an assignment, I went to a school in Brooklyn, New York called the Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (MECPS) and it's basically an all African-American Charter School for grades 6th-12th. What they require for the 6th,7th and 8th grade, (with no options) is for these students to learn Chinese. I interviewed teachers, principals, and kids. It was amazing to me about how excited the kids were and how much they were learning. There was a high level of excitement and involvement for these inner city kids learning about the Chinese culture, dances, songs and language. When I interviewed the kids, I asked: Why be interested in learning Chinese? They thought it was really important and the teachers made it fun and fascinating for them. I felt really good about this story and got a lot of great feedback from the kids, teachers and staff members. They felt, because of the Chinese influence in the world this would be a major initiative in the school. To read more about the Confucious Classroom Program go to:
MLAC: What sort of challenges or obstacles have you faced? 
DL: A funny one early on...I was a terrible typist. I actually failed typing in high school because I couldn't learn the method where you put your hands on the keys and learn every letter. I used the hunt and peck method and still do to this day. That is a barrier and an obstacle that I still have to overcome. I was never a good typist and the other thing is, I was kind of shy in high school. Talking and interviewing people...you have to be outgoing to be a journalist. People are confiding things they sometimes don't want to reveal, may be painful, part of the past that they would like to leave in the past, and things they did wrong that they may not want to admit. I had to transform myself from an introvert to an extrovert. And it didn't happen overnight. It transpired over time and I got better at it with each interview. I gradually became more comfortable with people. It's akin to public speaking...you get over the initial fear the more you do it.
MLAC: Please share your thoughts on what makes a good sports writer/interviewer.
DL: You not only have to be comfortable with talking to people, but you have to get people to feel comfortable with talking with you. They have to feel able to talk to you about things they wouldn't normally reveal to others. A good interviewer has to be a good listener and remember that the interview is not about you. You have to listen to what they are saying and ask the next question. You go in with a set of 10 questions and then the interview goes in a different direction and something surprises you, then the whole interview would be about that new subject...a new direction. If they take you to a new direction where you didn't expect, then go there. And follow up with what is just said to explore more in depth. Be flexible and adaptable and able to relax.
MLAC: Any parting thoughts?
DL: I remember what it was like when I started out as a Sports Editor. I really like working with young people and teaching them about writing and getting started. Some people did that for me and I want to give back and help the next generation!
To read more articles written by Dave Lariviere go to:   www.forbes.com/sportsmoney

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today's Topic: How Educators Use Picture Books In The Classroom

Writers and Illustrators...have you ever wondered how your picture books and stories are utilized in the classroom? Current elementary, middle and high school teachers are supplementing the curriculum with picture books to increase student engagement, enhance learning and solidify teaching objectives.
Today's interview is with Ms. Sue Dimoia, MA-CCC-SLP, who holds a B.S. in Education, Masters of Arts in Speech Pathology, and an Education Masters in English Education with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Specialization.
How have you used children's books (picture) in the classroom?
For classroom lessons, I usually pick a theme that addresses an objective that students need to learn. The autistic support classes were going to the zoo for a class trip. In order to help prepare them for it, we discussed some of the things you would see at the zoo. The social piece dealt with how you would wait in line, greet people and ask for things politely, and take turns so other people can have access to the exhibits. I used picture books to reinforce language, vocabulary, punctuation, expanding language, and voice issues.
Can you list picture books that you have used to target these objectives?
To reinforce counting and language skills I used Eric Carle's 1,2,3 to the Zoo A Counting Book.
I used Put Me In the Zoo by Robert Lopshire to teach social skills. We want to be accepted for who we are and to belong to a community. This is a comical children's book about an animal that wants a home and to belong. Another book that I have used in the classroom to teach social skills and what to expect at the zoo is called Let's Go to the Zoo.
Tell us more!
Here's another example of how I use children's books in the classroom. I was doing language support with 4th grade students who were completing a unit on the Rain Forest. I choose a specific book by Lynn Cherry called The Great Kapok Tree. This story has a message about deforestation and the importance of conservation. As we read the story, I targeted many different skills such as: listening comprehension, predicting outcomes, finding solutions to problems, reinforcing curriculum based vocabulary, targeting words with specific sounds, and for expanding descriptive language.
Please explain how you would present a picture book to your students.
I basically have to choose a story that is flexible enough to meet a multitude of students' needs.
I read slowly and with expression because many children have comprehension deficits, as well as auditory processing deficits and also attention issues. We talk about the author and the title and depending on the students' level, I ask them to make predictions. I do a book walk and we talk about the pictures and I ask for a response from all students to keep all students engaged in the lesson. For the higher level students, I ask wh questions (who, what, when, where, why) and critical thinking questions with descriptions and descriptive language.
What type of children's book is there a need for?
I would like to see more children's books that deal with explaining autism to typically developing kids. If I had books to explain some of the autistic behavior, it would serve as a springboard for discussion to set up some type of buddy or peer mentor system between regular education classes and special education classes. There seems to be books written like this especially for younger children, but I'd like to see more books written for upper elementary grades and older students. Also there needs to be more books dealing with explaining the death of a pet. I've recently lost my beloved dog and have been questioned by the students about this and sometimes I'm at a loss as to how to explain the loss of a pet. Students of all ages usually have pets and this could benefit them greatly. As a speech therapist, this would be a good way to use language on a personal level as in relating a personal experience. Students can share experiences with each other and realize they have things in common. This type of book would be especially beneficial for students with limited language and/or autistic spectrum disorders...it's a good way learn about how to show appropriate expressions and feelings of emotion.