"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, December 10, 2012

Making mistakes is natural and critical to learning: Reflections on a Skype visit with Stephen McCranie

What keeps 50 fourth graders engaged and sitting so quietly 
on a Wednesday afternoon?
of the Mal and Chad series

Below, I quote Stephen McCranie and then insert comments that I collected from students after the Skype visit. It's pretty cool stuff.
What Stephen said:
"Give your characters a problem to solve. 
It will make your story more interesting."

What my students heard:
"I learned that each character has something they want and something preventing them from getting it."

"I learned that when you have a character, you have to figure out his/her biggest desire, and what prevents them from doing/getting it."
Stephen shared his screen so the students could watch him draw.
I love how this picture shows how engaged the students were.
The word riveted comes to mind.
What Stephen said:"Making mistakes is natural and critical to learning."
What my students heard:
"I learned that drawing takes time and practice."

"I learned that it is okay to make mistakes."

"I learned that writing is a process."

"I learned to never give up on my drawings."

What Stephen said: 
"Think about shapes when you are drawing characters"

What my students heard:
"I learned that is is easier to draw when you know the basic shapes of your characters."
"Thanks for Skyping with us! I learned that it is much easier to draw comic people by starting off with simple shapes.  Thanks for the advice!"
"I learned that you can draw anything, if you can find the basic shapes."

What Stephen said:
"Writer's block is not that you cannot write, 
it is that you are not writing what you want to write or 
like what you are writing."

What my students heard:
"I learned that if you are having trouble with your writing, you can take a nap (or pretend to) and think."

"I learned that if you have writer's block you should keep on writing and if it is bad you can always go back later and fix it."
To put Stephen's theories to the test, the students gave Stephen a character, an activity and a problem. This picture started with some simple shapes and evolved into this very complex, detailed illustration. Wow.

How many web-slinging, ice cream eating super heroes 
do you know?
Thank you, Stephen!
I'm heading out to purchase the newest book in the series:
Mal and Chad: Belly Flop!


  1. I've been cruising around your blog and loving it, Jennifer. Yay, teachers!

  2. Thank you, Steve. I have reading your posts as well and enjoying the word play.