If you've successfully inspired your students to keep writer's notebooks this year, then now is the time to plant "seeds" in your writers' minds that will keep them working in those notebooks over the summer.  This is the first of three Notebook Summer Challenges for you (from me) to share with your students.

Now I am a lover of language!  Palindromes and oxymorons excite the tar out of me.  I also believe puns to be fantastic.  I have devoted full pages in my writer's notebooks to these topics, and when I hear (or make-up) a new pun, palindrome, or oxymoron in my daily work, I know I have a place to record them.

The other day, I came up with a brand new palindrome: Exam know, that's the axe they give novice firefighters when they take the "break the burning door down" test as they're testing to become full-fledged firemen.  My brain works in this crazy way, and I am glad to have a place in my writer's notebook to record them. 

My Summer Notebook Challenge #1 is based on a language pun that I love: Tom Swiftie jokes.   Inspired by the writing style of Victor Appleton, author of the Tom Swift adventure books from long ago, this is when you write a dialogue sentence with a dialogue verb (said, reply, etc.) that sits next to an adverb.  The goal is to make what's said in quotes pun off the adverb.  For example, here are two of my favorite Tom Swiftie puns:

  • "I've only got spades, diamonds, and clubs," Tom said heartlessly.
  • "I'm wearing my wedding ring now," Tom said with abandon.
I have a whole lesson on Tom Swifties posted at WritingFix; it shares the whole history of this type of pun, which I first discovered on the "Grin and Bear It" joke page found in every issue of my Boy's Life Magazine from my youth.  You can access the whole lesson here:

Over the summer, I encourage my students to read their books with a "Tom Swiftie" eye for punning, which means they're looking for lines of dialogue with interesting adverbs attached to the speaking verb.  For example, they might find in a book they're reading the following line of dialogue:
  • "I don't think I can stand," Ariel said weakly.
If they see a punning possibility with the adverb weakly, they can create a Tom Swiftie joke.  They have to change the character name and what's said in quotes, and that might lead to several possibilities.  Here are two from me:
  • "It's Sunday.  Here we go again," Tom said weakly.
  • "Why do I always become ill on Tuesdays," Tom said weakly.
Tom Swifties are certainly not for every student, but I'll bet you have kids excited about their notebooks who will find this to be a great challenge for the long as you model the process and show them a Tom Swiftie notebook page (yours or mine below).  Have your interested students dedicate a page in their notebooks to this topic, and as they read, challenge them to create these types of jokes.  On their notebook page(s) they can record their best ones and illustrate them.

Here is my Tom Swiftie page from my notebook; click the image to see it in larger form:

If you click on the image and print, it should print out the size of a full notebook page!


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