Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let's Talk About Books: How Authors Get Their Ideas

Hi, Teaching Friends!

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn has become a classic first day of school book in many primary classes, and with good reason. It's a sweet story that your little learners, especially the more anxious ones, will readily connect with. It's also a springboard to great discussions about first day of school worries.

Today I'd like to share a story with you that you can use to incorporate The Kissing Hand into a lesson about getting ideas for writing.
Kissing Hand Activities
A number of years ago, I was privileged to hear Audrey Penn speak at a conference of kindergarten teachers, and she shared with us how she got the idea for the book. It's a story that I shared with every one of my first grade classes that I taught after that ... and a story that I heard my first graders refer back to throughout each school year.

Audrey told us that she was riding on one of those kiddie trains that wind their way around the wooded area of many zoos. Suddenly, the train came to a stop. The engineer stood up, turned around, and told all the passengers to remain seated, absolutely no getting up or out of the cars. Audrey told us that, authors being the inquisitive type, of course she just had to know what was going on. At this point in retelling the story, I always gave my students a conspiratorial wink, telling them that good authors are always watching, listening, and wanting to know more!

Moving to a place where she had a better view, Audrey saw a baby raccoon on the tracks, directly in front of the engine. After a few moments, a larger raccoon, likely the mother, emerged from the woods and approached the frightened baby. Audrey watched an exchange between the two - paws touching paws, paw touching faces - and then mama turned and walked away, with baby following right behind!

Now, there's likely to be some science about scent or whatever that brought a happy solution to the problem, but in this author's mind, the germ of a new story was stocked away ... the perfect story for our classes as they embark on a new experience still craving the assurance that mom is "with" them.

Like you, I love my students to see authors as real people, which of course leads to seeing writing as being something that they themselves can also do. So it was a joy for me to see how this story was instantly and deeply incorporated into their schema. I can't tell you how often over the years I heard a firstie encourage a friend who was stumped for a story idea, saying something like, "Remember that Audrey lady and how she got the idea for her book." [ I am a total sucker for a child who gets on familiar terms with an author, like asking our school librarian for more books by Eric Carle or Jonathan London. But when they get really cozy with authors and start calling them Audrey or Mo or Ian, I'm truly total mush. Love that!!!]

I hope this little vignette will be of help to you, maybe even something you'll be able to fit in with Six Trait writing. Even if not, it sure is a sweet story, isn't it?

On another note, if you're also looking for crafts and activities to go along with The Kissing Hand, look here on Pinterest to see a great assortment!

I'm linking this to Deanna Jump's new Tuesday linky, "Let's Talk About Books!". What a fun way to discover new books, as well as some new ideas for old favorites!


Happy Teaching!


  1. This book helped my daughter get through a difficult time in preschool. A kiss for later became a part of our goodbye routine and helped stem the tears. Great book!

  2. It really is a precious story, isn't it? Thanks so much for visiting my blog, Heather!

  3. Love using the story at the beginning of the year. What a cool story of how she came up with the idea!

    Down the Learning Road

  4. It was so awesome to hear her tell the story! I'm sure I didn't do it justice, but I hope it can add a new twist to the way you use this book with your class. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. What a great story! I love the idea of sharing this story with kids as a way to inspire writing.

    The Math Maniac

    1. Thanks, Tara! I think it's especially effective since the book is one the children all relate to, know, and love.
      Thanks for your always-encouraging comment!

  6. That little book sounds great. I love blogs that find small treasures. I will look into that little book for my granddaughter.

    Elisa Jed | http://www.coolmona.com/?page_id=710


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