All posts by vlatkaherzberg

About vlatkaherzberg

Vlatka is author of Grandmother Moon & Other Mother Stories, Aesop’s Fables eBook adaptations: The Brother and the Sister, The Buffoon and the Countryman, and The Bear and the Two Travelers, The Owl and the Birds, and the comic book David, Software Engineer, and Ancient Stories by the Keeper of the Tales told in classrooms.

Dialoguing About Wealth with Children

money

I learn as much as I teach when teaching creative writing to my students. A few weeks ago, a first grader wanted my help writing a play. He wanted it to be about a teacher who took a cheap job because she was poor. I noticed at the time that he was putting a lot of emphasis on the value of expensive cars and on money. I took the opportunity to discuss the issue with my mentor. She suggested I write a play and begin a dialogue about what wealth means.

It made me question what it is we teach children about money and wealth. What is wealth? Does being wealthy mean you have a lot of money? Or does being wealthy also mean that your life is rich and full and meaningful in many arenas of living? The dictionary meaning of wealth is “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” But is that really the true meaning of wealth? The dictionary meaning also includes: “plentiful supplies of a particular resource.” Could that resource be fun, happiness, joy, passion, or inspiration? Maybe a person is wealthy because of the depth of intimacy, love and caring in their lives. Maybe a person is wealthy because they feel joy from being, giving and receiving. Maybe a person is wealthy if they bring meaning and hope to their own life and the lives of others.

I wonder.

A week or so later, I ended up having another conversation with the same student. We talked about what else wealth could mean. The following week he told me that he decided to write a different play.

What are your concepts of wealth? What are the concepts of wealth the children in your life hold? Could they be expanded?

The California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco is holding a
“Women, Money & Spirit” Conference, April 29th, 2017, from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Leaders in psychology, social justice, religion, and finance will explore money from the perspective of spirit. It gives us an opportunity to examine our relationship with money and take a look at our beliefs around wealth. Here’s a link: http://www.ciis.edu/public-programs-and-performances/conferences/women-money-spirit-conference-2017

Image courtesy ClipartFest: clipartfest.com

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Social Story Impact

comicpaperbackThe benefits of social story may not always have the results that we think it should have or show up in the form we think it will take. What I do know with certainty is that social story works. I trust the process.

Yesterday, I noticed that the pile of blank paper that I had just brought into our open classroom the day before, (I bring my own supplies) was completely gone. I couldn’t believe it. I expressed my dismay out loud. Later in the day, two first graders came up to me while whispering to each other, and then one of them said, “We used up the paper to trace our characters.” (They used it to make stick puppets, and for coloring.) “We will bring paper from home to give you.”

I was moved by their honesty and caring, and the desire to take positive action. They saw the impact their actions had and they wanted to do something to change that. I responded in surprise and thanked them for their honesty and their caring and let them know how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness, which made them feel good about themselves.

I have also noticed that there is more interest in the social story books we have in the classroom, and that generally everyone is more conscious of putting things back where they found them.

Although the missing story “dream” stone has not yet returned, writing and reading social stories together, and then talking about choices and the impact we have with the choices we make has had immensely positive impact. I am amazed and grateful!

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

How to Write Social Stories

dreamstonepage10There are many  helpful tips on the internet on “how to write social stories.” Most of the guidelines focus on stories that are meant to help children learn social cues and understand social situations.

I have been writing my own form of social stories (or what are called pedagogical stories in Waldorf Schools) for nearly 20 years now. I have written stories about many topics including bullying, teasing, racism, kindness, and recently, stealing. Writing and sharing these social stories with children has shown me that it is really important that the story is engaging.

When children are engrossed in a story, the lesson is more gently received. I might start writing with the theme in mind, like stealing. I think about the context of how it is playing out in the classroom or the household. I consider the children involved in the actual life situation, and I consider their interests and the dynamics of what is going on. I create a main character who has a similar challenge to one that the children in my life are facing, and I create a resolution. The setting I use is usually a village or a world I create that will engage the children’s imagination.

I ask questions about my main character like who are they? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their dreams and wishes? What do they hate? What are they afraid of? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? I ask other questions to, including what really matters to my main character? What do they want? What is their problem or challenge? Why? And how do they resolve it?

As I answer these questions, the story starts to unfold. Often, a magical alchemy happens where the story flows from beginning to end as though it has a life of its own. And it does!

Once the story is written, I share it with my students. We discuss what happened in the story and why. We talk about the subject in context of their lives and in context of the character’s lives. Usually, new awareness, and understanding surfaces.

This is one way I create and work with social stories that address emotional challenges in everyday living with children. When writing your own social stories for the children you care about, I suggest that you do a google search: “How to Write Social Stories,” or, “Social Story Writing Tips.” Here is a link that might be helpful: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/explore/pbs_docs/social_story_tips.pdf

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Writing Social Stories About Stealing

dreamstoneWise mentors I know have used life situations as teaching moments. Recently, I brought a “dream” stone, a large tumbled quartz stone with yellowish iron veins and the word “dream” carved into it, to the after school where I work. My intention was to use it as a “story stone” encouraging the children to imagine and think about their “dreams” in context of story.

I set the stone aside on the pink drawers that contain all of the writing journals. I was aware of placing it there as one class left, and the other arrived. We had a lot of activities reading and writing plays, that I forgot about the stone. At the end of the class, as I was putting things away, I noticed that the stone was gone. I searched high and low, moving furniture, looking under tables, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wondered if it was lost or if it had been taken without permission.

Later in the evening, I found myself still thinking about the missing “dream” stone, and wondered how I could use this as a teaching moment. I have written social stories professionally for classrooms in Canada and here in the United States, but I haven’t really written my own social theater play yet, so I decided to do so last night. The story flowed, and 11 play pages later it was written. My intention is to read it to the classes that were present when the “dream” stone went missing. While we discuss the story, we can also discuss the concepts of taking things without permission, and the consequences of how people feel when something is taken.

There are a lot of good articles on the internet on “How to Write Social Stories”. My method is different. The focus is more on the story, and the lesson is woven subtly through it.

My experience has shown me that when writing social stories it is important not to be too preachy or even obvious. The lesson can be woven into the story, but a strong main character still needs to move the plot forward. If you know your audience well, you will know what sort of story will draw them in, so that they are so involved in the story they don’t realize it is teaching something until it is over. That’s when you can discuss both reading comprehension questions, and questions about the particular social topic.

(More on how to write social stories in the next blog post.)

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Creating Plays with 1st Graders

dragonmasktheatrePlanning ahead before initiating a puppet play with first graders is important. I work as a tutoring teacher at a reputable Chinese after school. The curriculum I have created is a Creative Writing curriculum for grades 1-5, drawing on my experience of teaching storytelling and writing for children grades K-7 and my experience as a writer and author.

It’s important to have a structure with varied activity. I started our class with a reading of the play, “There’s a Dragon in the Library” by Dianne De Las Casas and Marita Gentry. As an introduction to the play, I read while the children used stick puppets to act out the story. This particular story has a lot of repetition so it is a good one for first graders to easily memorize some of the key phrases and repeat them together. The children enjoyed this very much.

Afterwards we discussed the play briefly, reinforcing familiarity and understanding of the story. This was followed with making their own Chinese dragon puppets. I tied in the dragon story and celebrating Chinese New Year with this project. I printed up copies of a Chinese dragon head ahead of time. The children colored and cut out their Chinese dragons, then glued them onto brown lunch bags to make their dragon puppets, or onto paper plates to make dragon masks. They proudly named their dragons and wrote their names on the back.

The children were so excited about their unique puppets and masks with their very individualized colors, that they asked if they could write dragon stories and make dragon plays. Of course, I said yes. It is wonderful when the actual writing and performing of puppet plays comes as a request from the children.

Some of the children already started writing their dragon stories in their writing journals. They are very excited. It is very rewarding to see them having so much fun while learning.

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

David, Software Engineer STEM Career Comic Book

DavidSoftwareEngineerLast year I wrote a second version of a comic book for a STEM Career Series. Paris Gamble had given me the first script which included the story and the already developed characters, plus feedback from middle grade and high school kids on how to improve the story. The feedback suggested changes that would make the story more interesting and entertaining as well educational and something girls would enjoy reading too.

Writing comic books and novels is definitely a passion of mine especially when the comic books are used both creatively and educationally. This project was a joy to work on from the beginning to the end. The characters were already well developed and the storyline was too. My challenge was to incorporate the educational information in a way that engaged kids, so that while they were enjoying the story and connecting with these two main characters from middle school through to college they were also learning about the potential of becoming a software engineer.

This is the first in a series of STEM Career Comic Books by Paris Gamble. You can find out more at his Kickstarter Campaign site, where you will also be able to see a few of the comic book pages. Donations are reasonable, starting as low as $5.00, and home-schoolers and schools can also receive student and parent guides.

It’s a highly creative and engaging way to open up communication about STEM Career possibilities with your child.

Here is the link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1432729010/stem-career-comic-book-david-software-engineer/widget/video.html

article written by Vlatka Herzberg

Win a Grandmother Moon Book, CD or a Gift Certificate!

Umpquadisplay2It all started when I walked into Umpqua Bank last year. I saw a display of leather goods from a local artisan. A sign grabbed my attention. It said “Local Spotlight”. I asked AJ who works at the Novato Umpqua about it. She told me that it is one way that the Umpqua Bank participates in the community. She continued to say that the previous Local Spotlight was a Children’s Author. I mentioned that I was a Children’s Author, and that my partner Becky Parker Geist and I would like to be part of Local Spotlight.

Well here we are in month two of being in the Umpqua Local Spotlight and Becky and I have come up with a contest. Win a free Grandmother Moon Book, CD or a gift certificate for Five Little Monkeys Toy Store. They are also part of the local spotlight with toys that are depicting scenes from the Grandmother Moon Stories. Come have a look.

Stop by the Umpqua Bank on Grant Avenue in Novato. Say hi to the friendly folks there. They always have free coffee and tea. Have a sip while you visit our Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories book display. Fill out a ballot. You might be our next winner! Good luck!

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Grandmother Moon Gratitude Story For You!

SliverCrescentMoonMoth was flitting through the forest bumping into trees, “Ow, ow, ouch!” The moon is missing!” She cried frantically. Moth was in such a tizzy that she bumped right into bear.

“Ow, ow, ouch!” grumbled bear. You just smacked me in the eye!”

“I’m sorry,” said Moth, “But the moon is missing!”

“It is rather dark,” grumbled the bear. He wasn’t happy to be awakened.

“How will we ever find our way without the light of the moon?” worried Moth.

Bear scratched his huge head with his huge paw, “You are right! We must get help!” And off they went on their search for help, Moth flitting about, bumping from tree to tree and Bear lumbering along behind her.

It wasn’t long before they bumped into Coyote’s den.

“Maybe Coyote can help us!” suggested Moth as she flitted about in worry. Bear stuck his giant head in the giant hole and yelled, “Get up you lazy coyote!” Bear’s giant voice made the earth shake, which shook Coyote right out of his den.

Coyote bumped right into bear, yawned sleepily, and then scratched his behind. “What’s all the hullabaloo? Can’t a Coyote get some sleep?”

Moth flitted around Coyote’s head in circles till he was dizzy, “Moon is missing! How will we ever find our way without the light of the moon?”

Coyote burped, “Excuse my dinner.” He looked up in the sky, scratched his behind, and looked stumped. The moon wasn’t anywhere to be seen. “You’re right. Moon is missing. Well there’s nothing we can do about it in the dark. I’m going back to get my beauty sleep.” Coyote tried to sneak back into his den. Bear grabbed him by the scruff of his mangy neck, “Not so fast Coyote! We need your help!”

“But what can I do?” whined Coyote.

“You can sing to the moon.” said Bear

“That always makes her shine.” Moth flitted about frantically. “Hurry, it is getting darker! Let’s go!”

“Wait!” said a calm, low voice. Everyone looked up to the tree branch and saw Spotted Owl looking down at them. “Whoo new Moon would go missing? Maybe she went missing for a reason.”

Moth stood still, “Why?”

“Maybe she felt unseen,” suggested Bear.

“I forgot to sing to her,” admitted Coyote.

“Maybe if we appreciate her, she will shine her light upon us again!” said Moth and she got so excited she bumped right into Coyote’s snout. He sneezed her right off!

“Let’s go appreciate Moon,” suggested Bear.

“But where do we go to find her?” wondered Moth

“A hilltop,” suggested Coyote. “That’s where I go to serenade her.” So Moth, Bear, Coyote and Owl rushed to the nearest hilltop and began their Moon Appreciations.

“I love the way you light my way!” Moth danced her appreciation in circles.

“I like the way you guide me from season to season. I always know what to do because of you Moon,” said Bear.

“Dear, lovely Moon,” began Owl, “Because of you I can easily find my food.”

Everyone turned to Coyote. It was his turn to appreciate Moon. Coyote paced back and forth then started to sing. He sang all night long, and the next day. All the animals of the forest came to hear Coyote’s Gratitude song, and they all joined in. The sound was so beautiful and filled with so much love and joy that Moon woke up and just had to see who was singing. As she peeked down on earth, she appeared in the sky as a crescent. All the animals of the forest cheered!

“Moon is back!” Moth flitted excitedly around Bear and Coyote and Owl, but this time she didn’t bump into anyone because she could see!

From that day on all the animals of the forest took time during her waning to appreciate Moon, and she always received their gratitude in her open crescent arms.

And that’s the end of the story.

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Photograph, Copyright © 2014, Theodore Herzberg.

Thank you Grandmother Moon Supporters!

BeckyVlatkaGMOMBecky Parker Geist and I are celebrating! Our print book of Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories: Book One just arrived! It is our first book that we have published together and we are reveling in the joy of it.

Becky and I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped us:

Professionals:

Ruth Stotter, Jay O’Callahan, Andy Parker, Natasha Tasiyana Kolida, BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Associations) and BAIPA Mastermind authors. Also, Ruth Schwartz, the Wonderlady, Linda Jay, and Mark Coker of Smashwords.

Friends and People who have bought the book:

Jeann Iris Brick, Rachel Marsh, Allison Cox, Letticia Quinn, Jessica Barrilleaux, Lyn Marsh, Ines Sinon, Glen Carlson, Marjorie Thorne, John Koch, Lazaris, you whose name is not mentioned and of course our wonderful families!

Thank you everyone for your support and contributions! It’s such a joy!

If we missed you off of our gratitude list, please let us know and we will add you to our list!

Grandmother Moon Blessings!

Vlatka and Becky

Grateful for Becky’s audiobook of Grandmother Moon!

I just finished listening to Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories: GrandmotherMoon1Book One on my phone. It is the audiobook by Becky Parker Geist of Pro Audio Voices. Becky is not only a business partner but a friend. Listening to the Grandmother Moon audio book on my iPhone I was flooded with gratitude. Becky has done such a beautiful job with all the character voices, and music and sound effects. It really makes the stories fun to listen to, and I really like having them on my phone. There is an audio sample at Becky’s website. The stories are for children 4 and up.

http://proaudiovoices.com/product/grandmother-moon-mother-stories-book/

This whole project has been a labor of love with the focus on having fun creating stories that celebrate mothers and children. Becky and I hold a vision that these stories will contribute to that special bonding time that mothers and children share, full of warm hugs and giggles.

Here’s a little about the stories on Book One:

Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories: Book One offers traditional and new original folktales that explore the love, joy and challenges between mothers and children. Perfect for mothers and children to read aloud, or you can listen to the audiobook by Becky Parker.

“Epaminondas,” a traditional folktale told to Becky Parker Geist by her mother, is about a boy who tries so hard to please his mother, but can’t seem to get it right. “Grandmother Moon and the Homeless Child” is a touching story about searching for home. A little blue bird and a rock child play major roles in “Abuela and the Rock People.” And Louisa-May’s mischievous little sister Angel causes trouble in “Mama, Angel and the Tree Dragon.” In “Strawberry Moon,” Mother Moon helps her daughter express herself colorfully.

“The stories are clear, dramatic, inviting and delicious. I love them. This is marvelous work! Bravo!” — Jay O’Callahan, Storyteller. National Endowment of the Arts recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award National Storytelling Network, Commissioned by NASA to create and perform a story in honor of NASA’s fiftieth anniversary

“A delightful collection of lovingly told and affirming stories filled with timeless magical transformations and a traditional humorous folktale — all addressing the mother-child relationship.” — Ruth Stotter, Past Chairman, American Folklore Society Aesop Committee; Former Director, Dominican University (California) Certificate-in-Storytelling Program

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Becky Parker Geist: http://proaudiovoices.com/

Illustration by Natasha Tasiyana Kolida: http://www.tasiyana.com/

Design by Andy Parker: http://andyparkerdesign.com/