A few years ago Dallas Clayton wrote a book for his son, all about dreaming big. But no one wanted to publish it. Fortunately for us, Dallas Clayton is not easily daunted, and the phenomenon of An Awesome Book was born.
Wait! Don’t read on. Go back and click on that link. Read the book online and think for a minute about your dreams. (For that matter, think about what it says about Dallas Clayton that he wanted to put the book online—for free—for anyone to read.)
But (as they say on infomercials), there’s more! Dallas Clayton also has a website. Of course he talks about his school tours, but the site is also full of images that inspire and a collection called The Greatest Writer Alive. He calls it “a column” but it is really a short book of poetry to download in pdf form. How amazing is that?
Dallas Clayton and his Awesome Book are wonderful enough to read as is, but think of some of the many ways they can be used to teach young—and not-so-young–people about creativity.
- Read An Awesome Book with students of any age. Consider the difference between big dreams and small ones. Write, draw, act, sing, or dance a big dream.
- Note the rhyming pattern in the book. Take on the additional challenge of sharing a big-dream idea in rhyming form. Imagine you were going to insert 2-4 pages in the book, decide where they’d go and create them.
- Dallas Clayton started writing for children when he was a teen. Have teens read An Awesome Book and talk about why a parent would write that book for a child. Consider other messages they’d want to send to young people and how they could do that in books that are not preachy or boring. Write the books. (Yes, this could also be a lesson about subtext!)
- Do some stealth teaching about creativity while also addressing the Common Core. Common Core ELA standards are full of outcomes that require students to cite textual evidence and identify themes and central ideas. So, read some of the poems from The Greatest Writer Alive looking for common themes across poems. Pease don’t analyze these to death or Dallas Clayton will probably come after you! But there is room here to discover, “Hey, he is saying similar things in many non-boring ways.” Think about writing, drawing, singing, or dancing a series of short pieces around a central idea. The best way to understand over-arching themes is to create one.
- Learn about Dallas Clayton’s life. Either use him as a simple example of a person following a dream or (and here’s another chance for analysis) compare him to another writer and see how the paths are similar or different.
What else? I’m sure there are a million awesome lessons to be found in this truly awesome book.
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