Sunday, August 9, 2015

Writing YA by Chris von Halle

I’ve always found writing for young people, including the high school age range, a lot of fun, which is why I’ve been doing so for many years now. There’s something awesome—for me, anyway—about reconnecting with a part of my past, with how I used to feel about certain things in life, and with what I used to think about back in those Prehistoric days (OK, it wasn’t that long ago). And I explore some of that in my first published novel, a young adult dystopian called The Fourth Generation, in which a plague that kills everybody when they turn seventeen has been ravaging the Earth for about one hundred years.

What I find fun about my book’s premise is that legacy becomes very important for kids in a world like this. These days, kids in high school are really just starting to think about their legacy. Or, at the very least, they’re considering and thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and what college they want to go to in order to prepare for that. So it’s interesting to imagine a world where you need to, in essence, live your legacy by the time you’ve turned seventeen. You’d have to have started to think about your legacy at a very early age in order to have it be fulfilled by the time your seventeenth birthday comes around. Even though high schoolers don’t need to do that, I think they can at least connect with the idea of leading a legacy, of looking forward to the type they want to have.

It’s those types of high school-related themes and subject matter that are fun to explore in a YA novel. Another one that crops up in The Fourth Generation is romance. High schoolers are just beginning to explore or have already been exploring the dating scene for a while. With my book, I thought it would be fun to imagine a post-apocalyptic world in which romance is totally forbidden, and how that would impact the teenagers existing in it (bear with me here; romance does exist in the story). In The Fourth Generation, the sexes are forbidden by the rulers to intermix. The rulers’ reasoning is that everybody needs to be constantly spending their time working hard to not only keep society going, but to find a way to rediscover electricity and invent a cure to plague. In fact, the teenagers aren’t even allowed to meet who they’re assigned to produce babies with (as they obviously need to reproduce in order to sustain the human race). But, of course, some kids are not going to buy into everything their leaders say. Some are going to find a way to have themselves a little romance, or at least discover a way to explore that aspect of life. That’s why my main character, Gorin, purposefully attempts to find out who the mother of his kids will be, and the two of them immediately hit it off. I think teenagers can relate to that sort of thing—curiosity about the opposite sex and putting themselves out there to satisfy—or at least test the waters—of that aspect of life. And, of course, some of them can relate to making a genuine connection with a member of the opposite sex.

In fact, curiosity in general is a major theme of The Fourth Generation, and is something I think high schoolers can relate to, too. High schoolers are naturally inquisitive about, well, everything—romance, their potential future careers, how the world works, etc. It’s a great age of exploration, and that’s mirrored in Gorin—as well as his romantic interest Stausha—in many ways in The Fourth Generation.

And I think that’s not just what YA books, but all books, are about, too: exploration. Reading a good book brings us to a different time, a different place, and sheds light on an important element (or elements) of the human existence. Which is why I think it’s important for not just kids, but everybody, to read. Reading isn’t just about escaping from the real world to relax and be entertained, though that’s certainly a nice side effect. It’s also about growing more aware of the world around us through the story. Sometimes it’s so easy to get carried away within the real world that it’s tough to step back and really think about it, to really analyze what makes it tick, and that’s exactly what a good book helps us do.

Anyway, moving back to writing YA specifically, when it comes to writing within that age category, I always include the subject matter and themes that are relevant to that age group. Which I do for when I write any age group, really. Among other things, high schoolers specifically are just starting to experience, think about, and explore things like romance, their careers, and the world at large. It’s a very exploratory, and therefore very exciting time! And that’s what makes YA (and, my book, of course, if I don’t say so myself) so much fun. And I hope those who “explore” The Fourth Generation find it fun, as well.

Social Media Links:



Twitter: @ChrisvonHalle
Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble Smashwords

You can purchase The Fourth Generation on Amazon.

Guest Contributor -- Author Chris von Halle
Chris von Halle has had many different lives in many different worlds—the near and distant future Earth, other planets, and even other dimensions—and his books recreate his childhood memories of such outlandish locations.  In this world and life, he lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and enjoys such extraordinary activities as playing videogames, tennis, and basketball, and writing the occasional comic strip.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Self - Care to prep for BTS

I hope this summer you all - teachers and parents and parents that are teachers and teachers that are parents... I hope you all are taking good care of yourselves.
And when back to school (BTS) begins again, I hope you continue.
Educators should practice extreme self – care to foster the long term resiliency needed for the school year. Self-care in all of life’s areas (physical, financial, spiritual, mental, and emotional) should preempt burn-out in any profession of continuous purpose filled service.

How one responds in an educational environment depends largely on how clear one can become. I believe clarity stems from creating systems that facilitate self-love. Often the way a teacher copes with a particular situation can stem more from whether or not they are receiving adequate rest, rather than responding to 'random acts of crazy' that often occur in our classrooms.

I suggest devoting at least twenty five percent of an educator’s break time (lunch or conference) to an action of self-care.

Need suggestions?

Take a walk.

Call a friend.

Pay a bill.

Experience a moment in prayer (meditation, silence, gratitude, etc.).

Read a book.
I keep a yoga mat rolled in the corner.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Language Safety

“When our language is direct and authentic, when we say what we mean and mean what we say, children learn that they can trust us. They learn that we won’t use language to trick, manipulate , or confuse them. This feeling of safety must be in place if children are to take the risks that are necessary to learning – try out fledgling skills, to explore their own and others’ thoughts, and to take on challenges.” –Paula Denton, EdD

Show & Tell

If your child does not show or tell about their school day a strong possibility exists that engagement is waning in their educational world. Lack of positive or negative reports from a student generally indicate that the learner has lost interest in their classroom environment. Some showing / telling translates from body action, some from actual product.

To what one gives their conversation and attention is that which that holds his priority.

How to address the engagement collapse?  Request show and tell.
  • Show me your grades.
  • Show me your homework. 
  • Tell me what you are learning in first period.
  • Tell me about your science teacher, I’ve heard she is difficult.
  • Tell me what are on your walls in your classroom.

Creating a space for safe conversations that target show and tell responses may recharge the learning / attention process. If children come to expect a certain level of accountability for these type of conversations, more than likely they will be encouraged to respond.
Learning is Freedom! Happy Independence!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wreck this p i c t u r e l e s s book!

Consider using the I CAN Alphabets as a journal for your classroom.

I is for Invigorated
dynamic characters.
Dynamic characters change and grow throughout our stories. They go from this to that. After completing each story, flip through the pages of Invigorated. Did any of the characters shift from being one word to another? Why? If they didn’t change they were static characters.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a ‘g’. He travels from green to grace. We can write his name on the ‘g’ page of Invigorated. Scrooge was primarily concerned with his riches (green). By the end of Dickens’s  A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is full of grace.
Words you are not familiar with, find the definition and record them right on their page.

C is for Character
literary terms.
Record the definitions of writing / literary terms on pages of your pictureless papers above each word. Below the pictureless word, draw or document examples from the assigned text.

A is for Apple
your pictureless pages.
For your reading notes for this class. Paper clip the first page of A is for Apple for easy access. On pages of Apple, take your class notes, make your own notes, ask your questions, scribble on the page, color, record, collage. You may even tear out a page or two and give to a friend.  There is a message from me to you on each page. l o v e

N is for Never Night
your Alphabet Book.
From one of our literary selections or all, write your own alphabet book at the bottom of each Night page. Words you love. New words. Words from a few different reads. One or many! Can’t wait to see what you come up with! Share with us on facebook!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

free inspiration

h o w d y lovelies,

do you need w o r d s to brighten your w a y?
have a free book, and play!
it's f r e e until Tuesday!!!
y a y!

we will be sharing words at EPCC's 5th Annual Literary Feista this saturday from 11:30-5:30. p l e a s e leave review l o v e

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cotton Tools Around the Home

When considering a Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine question, I asked my children now eighteen and thirteen what items did they love having at home when they were wee. 
Here's what they reported:
Cotton Digging Tools
Perfect for planting, shaping new worlds, or discovering old ones, kids will spend hours digging in terrain.

Cotton Building blocks and PVC

Kids connect these items to their imagination’s limits.

Cotton Tents

Private and magical arenas can begin with a pop-up shelter inside or outside of the home.

Cotton Noise Makers

Encourage your kid to compose and arrange melodies by having a variety of musical instruments and noise makers on hand.

Cotton Costumes

A wardrobe of dress-up inspires kids to become what they desire.

Cotton Maps / Globes

A strong display of ‘all the places one can go’ grants your kid’s mind to experience wanderlust.

Cotton Magazines

Keep a collection of recycled magazines for projects, collages and picture themed journals.

Cotton Magnets 
Magnets of all shapes and sizes make for sticky scientific discover, and endless hours of refrigerator play.
Cotton Art Supplies

With a grand assortment of writing utensils, palettes, and canvases, a kid can create their own galleries for your home and others.

Cotton Tape

Kids desire to express with new varieties of adhesives that promote endless sticky possibilities.

Allow your kid to imagine stories, settings and characters penned in pages of pictureless ebooks, audio books, and print versions.

See what other readers and parents keep around their inspiring worlds.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Lesson Plan W.A.L.T.Z. - ZING!

An educator with whom I discussed this piece entered my office and asked, “What’s the fifth step, the ‘Z’?”

“You know? The Zing!” I responded. 

She instantly knew.

The ‘Z’ stands for the Zing, the non-tangible component, of this acronym that will allow you to let the zing ring. The zing is whirling engagement. The zing is when the pupils of pupils light. The zing is when the learners take responsibility, pride, and ownership for their learning. It seems that in order for students to become vested in their work and take responsibility of their learning, they must be included in the planning piece.

The moments of true content mastery look different in every classroom, but it should be seen. Results should show in assessments. Quality models of student success should be displayed on the walls of the classroom.

One school year I allocated a separate same-sized bulletin board to each period. After grading each assignment I displayed quality work from the class. I marked an asterisk next to a student’s name when their fabulous work went on the board, to ensure that each person had an opportunity. The work executed became so quality the decisions became brutal. Students began to note mentions at the end of their turned-in work telling me that their work was board-worthy. Administration often toured my room with guests to display the boards. The boards allowed the student additional input into the lesson planning even after we completed the task. The boards worked one year, a blog in another. Of course, the students decided where and how to display their work.

We can endlessly dance around the issue of accountability, rigor and best practices. One thing is certain we can’t be successful teachers without successful students. Without their presence, buy in, and input, we stand in classrooms alone. We must WALTZ.


Mrs. Hanson (formally known as)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Lesson Plan W.A.L.T.Z.- t e a c h

Each week we have added another component to this lesson plan W.A.L.T.Z. I love acronyms! We are finally here... at application!

In step four, teach. The classroom can be seen as a reciprocal environment. My rule:

I will teach you, if you will learn. 

I’m responsible for the first, and you the later.

Prior to starting class, post the daily objective in the same place each day. Students can often refer to this note to stay on track, and to prepare for the learning that they helped create and are responsible for receiving.

Design a schedule that allows for your many findings to at least be done within the week, if not daily. Having a time associated plan helps with this process, as do procedures. Students can also be included in this creation. One student is assigned to keep me on time because the schedule is posted on the board. The student holds up a finger that means it’s time for the next item on the agenda. I have found the more that students share in the classroom responsibilities, the easier it is to manage the plan.

Zzzz - next week!


Mrs. Hanson (formally known as)