As a librarian, my favorite way to teach research was to cover the material and follow up with a game or activity to reinforce learning. The day I was teaching the kids how to use a Thesaurus, we used a Ven Diagram to cover the similarities and differences between a thesaurus and a dictionary. Next, we changed a boring letter into something amazing with the new words we were learning. Finally, I handed each child a thesaurus to play That’s My Word (I call out a word. They look it up and call out a better word.) They said, “We do what?” Throughout the day, I got the same reaction: interesting lesson, fun activity, and then totally confused. That’s when I began searching for a book to help explain how to use a thesaurus. When I didn’t find one, the lightbulb went off – I’ll write it myself!” What Do You Do with a Thesaurus, was based on my students and their questions. I shared my construction paper version of What Do You Do with a Thesaurus with my students, and something clicked. Now they knew exactly what to do! When teachers began asking to borrow my manuscript, I knew it could succeed as a published book.
Something similar happened with This or That? Whale or Fish? The idea and the first page came from a second-grader who needed help finding the fish books. She said, “I’m doing my report on whales!” I turned and said, “Is a whale a fish?” She gave me a look that said, ‘You are crazy!’ and said, “Yes, Mrs. K! Whales live in the ocean like fish. They swim like fish. They look like fish.” And I said, “But, a whale is not a fish.” That night I knew I had a great idea for a series and began Whales or Fish? using our words for the opening.
Even though I no longer teach, I still notice the things that make me say, Why? Who? How did that happen? Like the day I was bitten by a fire ant, and I wondered why their sting was so fiery. And that led to my upcoming book, How Fire Ants Got Their Fire.