Friday, November 17, 2017

Writing Video Game Stories

free images from

When I worked at a local high school, many of my students wanted to become video game designers. Video games often contain great story plots! I created the powerpoint below to give struggling writers a simple way of creating a story using the format of a video game. Ideally the powerpoint would be downloadable for each student and they would write directly on the slides. I'm still working on a way to make that more accessible, so sign up for my newsletter on the CONTACT page if you want updates. In the meantime, you may share the link below to the power point/YouTube video with your students. You will have to pause each image or it will automatically move forward since it is a video.

A few years ago, I conducted a writing workshop with a group of dyslexic students, grades 5-12, at the Annual Conference for the Southwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association using this same power point. I spent 90 minutes talking to students about story structure using my story plotting technique called The Secret Language of Stories. Megan Shanley, Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Specialist, downloaded my powerpoint below onto iPads for each student and showed them several strategies for recording their ideas, such as the voice-to-print feature of the device along with apps for word prediction. Her husband, Dan, a high school English teacher, then helped us go around the room and assist students with creating original stories for the last half of our session. The results were phenomenal. By the end of our workshop, several students stood up and shared their insightful and funny stories. It was exciting to see students who struggled with the written word be so successful and creative with stories.

So try it out and let me know how it goes. I love finding new ways to inspire struggling writers.

How to Create a Video Game Story

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Three Time Saving Tips for Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

One of my favorite dishes growing up in Southern California was Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole. My mother used canned Ortega green Chiles and I had no idea there was anything better until I got married and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My husband and I grew quite addicted to Hatch green Chile. Hatch is a town in southern New Mexico known for it’s exceptionally hot chile. Green Chile chicken Enchiladas could be found all across the state and “Red or Green” was offered everywhere from McDonald’s to Village Inn for everything from scrambled eggs to hamburgers. 

When we moved to Colorado, everything changed. Chile was available, but not nearly as abundantly or as spicy, even at authentic Mexican food restaurants. We had to do a thorough search of the freezer section of several local grocery stores to find Bueno Autumn Roast and I dusted off my old casserole recipe, with a few modifications. 

Quick Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole
(Makes 2 large 9x12 inch casseroles)


2 cups water or chicken broth
1 - 26 oz can of cream of chicken soup
1- 13 oz container chopped green chile
4 cups finely chopped chicken
1 - 16 oz container of sour cream
1 - 22 count package of tostadas
6 cups of Mexican Cheese (or a cheddar and Jack cheese combination)

1. Preheat Oven to 350
2. Spray 2- 9x12 inch pans with cooking spray
3. Combine first five ingredients in a large pan and heat until bubbly
4. Spread a thin layer of this filling on the bottom of each pan.
5. Cover with tostadas. About 4-5 broken into pieces to fit. 16-20 total.
6. Spread another layer of sauce and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese.
7. Repeat steps 5-6. Top the final layer with cheese.
8. Bake one casserole for 30 minutes. 
9. Freeze the other casserole and save for another day.

Three Time Saving Tips:

1. Extra Crispy - Instead of cooking each tortilla, buy a bag of crispy, pre-made tostada shells. They will soften during cooking but won’t get soggy like fried or dipped tortillas often do.

2. Eat More Chicken - Instead of cooking or boiling a chicken yourself, buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. With the leftover chicken, make another meal like this hearty chicken, vegetable, pasta soup. 

An alternative is to use canned chicken. To save money use more soup and less chicken.

3. Two for One - As long as you are going to all of that trouble to dirty all those pans, get in the habit of doubling the recipe and making another casserole to freeze. This recipe already provides enough ingredients for two large (or 4 small) casseroles. It doesn’t take that much longer and you will have an extra meal prepared for an especially busy work day.

Build a Better Brain for your Baby Through Reading Aloud - Free Toolkit for ages birth-5

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has partnered with an organization called Read Aloud 15 Minutes to create free handouts in both English and Spanish that provide information about communication development for seven different age groups birth to age 5. The Tool Kit outlines important developmental milestones in the areas of speaking, listening and understanding. Tips are provided for supporting child development at each stage.

The Took Kit is comprised of a series of seven handouts for each age group.

  • Birth–3 months
  • 4–6 months
  • 7–12 months
  • 1–2 years
  • 2–3 years
  • 3–4 years
  • 4–5 years
Daily reading and talking with young children are two simple ways parents can aid their child’s development. If parents have concerns about their child, they should seek an evaluation from a certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist. Intervention is most effective when done early. Young children who have significant speech and language delays that go untreated often have reading difficulties during the school years.
ASHA is encouraging certified audiologists, speech-language pathologists, pediatricians, early childhood educators, librarians, and other professionals to use this online resource and either forward or print for parents to use.

To learn more about the importance of reading aloud to children go to

(Image from Pixabay)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Four Picture Books About Real Kids Facing Disability, Illness and Adversity

In my work with students with disabilities, I have often used stories about real kids facing real challenges. I especially like the picture book format because this genre gets to the heart of a story so quickly and eloquently. When these books follow a narrative structure, I have the opportunity to talk about plot and story form as well as themes of perseverance and hope.

Four excellent picture books about real kids facing disability, illness and adversity are below:

Six Dots: The Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant illustrated by Boris Kulikov (2016) Random House; New York. Grades K-4.

SUMMARY: Louis Braille wants to read but there are no books for blind children in his small French village. He attends the Royal Academy for the Blind in Paris and is excited when he is presented with a book with raised letters, but the words are the size of his hand and the books are huge which limits the volumes the library can contain. He makes it his mission to produce a reading and writing format for the visually impaired and realizes his dream at the age of fifteen when he creates a system using six dots to represent all the letters of the alphabet. 

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Quails (2015) Random House; New York. Grades K-2.

SUMMARY: Emmanuel is born in Ghana, West Africa with a deformed leg. Most people think he won’t amount to much, but his mother encourages him to believe in himself and follow his dreams. He hops to school on his good leg two miles each way and learns to play soccer with his classmates. When his mother becomes ill, he leaves home for the city at the tender age of thirteen to earn money to support her. He later becomes a cyclist and rides four hundred miles across Ghana to promote awareness about people with disabilities. The film version, Emmanuel’s Gift, is narrated by Oprah Winfrey.

Thank You, Mr. Falker written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco (1998). Philomel Books; New York. Ages 5-8. Grades K-3. 

SUMMARY: Patricia Polacco, renowned illustrator and children’s book author, tells of her personal experiences with dyslexia and how one caring teacher helped her overcome bullying and learn how to read. Video interviews with Polacco talking about the book and her experiences with dyslexia may be found at Reading Rockets.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr (1977) Puffin: New York: Ages 4-8 for the picture book and Grades 2-6 for the chapter book. This title is available as both a short chapter book (ISBN 0-14-240113-7) and a picture book (ISBN 0-698-11588-0). 

SUMMARY: Sadako develops leukemia as a result of radiation exposure during WWII. She sets a goal of making 1,000 origami paper cranes because of the belief in Japan that if a person completes this task their wish will come true. She wishes not only for health, but also for peace. Her classmates help her complete the cranes and also raise money to build a memorial. Though she dies at the age of 12, Sadako is immortalized by this beautiful story as well as a statue of her image holding a golden crane at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan. Most of the paper cranes were buried with Sadako, but her brother donated one of the few that remain to the WTC Visitor Center in New York See the article. More information about Sadako as well as lesson plans and a teacher's guide for the book may be found at the Origami Resource Center.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Deception Pass, The Eclipse, and Winnie-the-Pooh

Last week was quite an adventure. My husband and I flew to Seattle and then took the train to Bellingham, Washington where we spent a few days with my brother and sister-in-law and got to watch the eclipse. We squeezed in a drive to Vancouver, Canada and a ferry boat ride to the San Juan Islands where we visited  Friday Harbor and Deception Pass. Now wouldn't those make good book titles? 

My creative wheels are turning.

On Wednesday my husband flew home and I took the train to Portland where I was graciously welcomed by members of the Oregon Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. On Thursday I gave a workshop on Adventures in Verse: Using Poetry to Support Reading, Writing and Speech. Afterward my good friend, Paula Moraine, and I held teacher workshops for the Oregon Branch including a three-hour workshop on The Secret Language of Stories. I will be holding several SLOS Workshops this fall in Colorado, New Jersey, Georgia and Los Angeles at various conferences across the country. There is a tab on this blog where you may learn all about SLOS and find several stories that I have already analyzed using this method that I created to teach writing and story analysis to students of all ages. 

On today's post I'm including an analysis of Finding Winnie, the story Paula and I shared at the Oregon workshop for those who so graciously attended and for anyone else who might be interested. Paula has added a wonderful executive function perspective to my material and has written two books on the subject.

Image result for finding winnie

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattock. Winner of the Caldecott Medal.

SUMMARY: In 1914, Harry Colebourn, on his way to war, rescued a baby bear and took her with him across the ocean. He named her Winnie and left her at the London Zoo where a small boy named Christopher Robin befriended her. This true story of the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh is told from the perspective of Harry’s great granddaughter, Lindsay Mattock.

ORDINARY WORLD: Harry Colebourn lives in Winnipeg and works as a veterinarian. 
CALL AND RESPONSE: World War I breaks out and Harry gets on a train with the other troops headed to Valcartier, Canada.
MENTORS, GUIDES, & GIFTS: He gets off of the train to take a little walk around the station and pays a trapper twenty dollars for a bear. He names the bear Winnipeg to remind his regiment of home as they gather in Valcartier and prepare to go across the sea.  
CROSSING: Harry takes Winnie with him in a giant ship across the Atlantic Ocean. 
NEW WORLD: The regiment trains on the Salisbury Plain and Winnie becomes the Mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade.
PROBLEM, PRIZE, PLAN: The order comes that it is time to fight. Harry doesn’t want Winnie to get hurt so he plans to take her some place safe.
MIDPOINT ATTEMPT: Harry takes Winnie to the London Zoo. 
DOWNTIME RESPONSE: Harry and Winnie say goodbye. He tells her, “I’ll always love you. You’ll always be my bear.”
CHASE & ESCAPE: Harry goes off to take care of the horses at the front in France. 
DEATH & TRANSFORMATION: It seems that Winnie’s story is over, but then a boy named Christopher Robin comes to the zoo and a new story begins.
CLIMAX/ THE FINAL TEST: Christopher Robin plays in the bear enclosure with Winnie. He loves the bear so much that he names his stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh. Playing with Winnie inspires him to take his stuffed bear on adventures in the woods.
FINAL REWARD: Christopher Robin’s father, A.A. Milne, writes many famous books about his son and his bear and that’s how Harry’s Winnie becomes the famous Winnie-the-Pooh. Harry returns to visit Winnie and is happy to discover that she has found people who love her. A statue of Winnie and Harry is unveiled in Winnipeg in 1992. 

 Please send feedback if you are using SLOS with students. I always love hearing  your stories. 

Friday, June 17, 2016


I did it! I ran/walked 13.1 miles at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and here's the proof.

The organizers thought of everything for this race, including a download that allowed my husband to track my progress every 5K. My favorite thing was the yoga mats and rollers at the end, and of course the live concert by Gavin DeGraw.

I met so many fun people associated with TeamQuest.

Here I am below before the race with my newfound friend, Ann, from Northern California. She was also running for TeamQuest, representing sunny CA. The line for the shuttle bus was so long that we just walked the two miles to the starting line.

13.1 miles later, here I am at the end of the race, still vertical, with my arms full of SWAG. In between the start line and the finish line were live bands, gatorade, and lots of spectators sitting out on their lawns wishing us well (and offering Uber rides).

Something truly remarkable happened at mile marker 11 when a mom ran up beside me and asked if I was running for the dyslexia association. See my post over at the SWIDA website to read her story at It really helped to remind me what all of this was for.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Hearts, Soles, and the Half Marathon Video

I went out a few weeks ago and splurged on a new pair of running shoes at Heart and Sole here in Albuquerque. This is a great store. Very high tech. They got me up on a treadmill with several different pairs of shoes (one pair at a time of course) and took video footage of my feet as I ran. I settled on a pair of Everuns from Saucony that just happened to perfectly match my TeamQuest t-shirt. Now I can rest assured that I am both well-cushioned and color coordinated.

If you go to Heart and Sole, ask for Matt Glasier and tell him Carolee from TeamQuest and the Dyslexia Association sent you his way. I just sent my husband over there this morning.

I can't believe the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego is only a few days away. Yesterday I ran 3 laps (10 miles) around the Albuquerque Academy and the week before that I did 13. My incentive for each run is to meet my family at Einstein's bagels afterward.  They usually join me for the last lap too.

The marathon folks sent a really cool video of exactly what the half marathon course will look like. Half Marathon Video. Yikes! That looks like a long road. It's a good thing there will be live music and porta-potties along the way.

If you would like to know more about TeamQuest, check out my fundraising page at TeamQuest.