I was the Lower School Librarian at The Kinkaid School for thirty years before retiring in June 2010. Over the years at Kinkaid we had an active visiting author program including some very well known names in children's literature. Of the many authors and illustrators we invited to Kinkaid, Peter Catalanotto was one of the very best. He came as a visiting author/illustrator once and twice to present writing workshops. He has a way with children that is second to none. I was especially impressed with how he made each student feel comfortable enough to take a risk in asking and answering questions, giving feedback and reading what they had written. Peter was able in just a short period of time to establish a sense of trust with the children. That is a real gift and makes for meaningful instructional sessions that fit right into regular curricular activities.
Peter Catalanotto is an energetic, enthusiastic author/illustrator whose presentations kept students engaged and left them with something tangible to use in their writing and painting. Peter was entertaining, yet he had a substantive message for his audience. There was always something to take away from a session for the teacher to use as a starting point for a discussion, a lesson or writing exercise. The best thing about his three visits to our school was how well he related to the students. He worked equally well with our PreKindergarten as with our fourth graders. He was always positive--validating every answer when asking for responses from his audience. Peter's method of teaching writing using a storyboard was one that even our youngest writers could understand and use as a model for creating their own stories. After the first year of workshops both students and faculty asked for a return visit. Peter was even better the second year!
Caro Ann Germann
Lower School Librarian , retired
The Kinkaid School
Peter Catalanotto first visited The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 1996. We were so impressed by his ability to connect with and inspire our students that we have invited him back four times since then, and his presentations and workshops have become even better over time. Last year he spent a week at the Lab Schools doing both large group presentations and individual class writing workshops with our first through fourth grade students. What makes Peter's author presentations unique in our experience is his understanding of children and his ability to actively engage them in the learning process. Our teachers love his storyboard method of teaching writing and have adapted the technique for their own classrooms. Students are particularly inspired by his amazing ability to draw and his demonstration of simple sketching techniques that they can use immediately. We heartily recommend Peter as a visiting author.
Lower School Librarians
Universtity of Chicago Lab School
"...the opportunity to meet Peter Catalanotto has enhanced our writing program by allowing our young students a glimpse of how real authors/illustrators get ideas for their books. This program's positive influence is evident in the growth we see in our students' writing..."
Debbie Zanca / Kindergarten teacher
Williamsburg-James City County
I teach a class of self-contained, special needs students. My class responded well to Peter's visit, especially the story boards. Expressing thoughts in pictures really gave some students better focus. We now use this approach more often since Peter's visit. Peter Catalanotto's workshops were memorable and the children still talk about it. Creating a finished, published book was very rewarding for them. It was an incredible confidence booster. The way he presented the information was never confusing to my students. As we discussed the next writing step after each of his visits they would recall his ideas from the workshops.
I felt that my students and I took away from Peter Catalanotto's writing workshops was truly thinking about the reader. We spent time coming up with thought-provoking questions to ask ourselves in the mind of a reader. This in turn made planning and developing stories more meaningful.
What will hook the reader in?
What kind of roller coaster do I want them to be on while turning each page?
Will my reader think my ending is somewhere in between believable and not so believable?
How can I make the audience walk away with questions, comments, and wanting more?
Through this whole experience, we were were able to appreciate and include our own ideas and also intertwine elements of writing that would keep the reader continually interested. As a teacher, I appreciate the importance in the planning process and now can gear my modeling and instruction on the types of questions students should be asking while planning before they gets their words down.
Thank you, Peter!
Peter Catalanotto visited our school for two years working with our teachers and students on the writing process. Most of all, his genuine love of the children and helping them to realize that they COULD write was what impressed me the most. He proved to all of the students, regardless of their ability that they were able to write and all of them did! They loved the experience with a real author/illustrator and with his encouragement worked to produce their own book. We followed up with an author's night at our school where each student read their book to their friends and family. It was a great success!
The teachers at our school learned many strategies from Peter and I know I use many of them today. He consulted with us on individual students and we worked together to bring success to the students who were struggling. There was one particular student in my class who could barely write a sentence and when his book was completed he had so much more confidence than I alone could have brought out in him. Another thing that I have observed with these students is they are now WRITERS! I have never experienced the quality of writing in third grade that I saw last year. It was nice when this year I had the opportunity to teach the same students in fourth grade. They LOVE to write. They had journals and wanted to write each day. They were actually disappointed when they couldn't. During recess many of them would write and make books. I never thought I would see the day!
Franklin Area SD
I enjoyed Peter Catalanotto's workshops as much as the children. They were engaged and eager to follow him. They loved how drawing helped them visualize in written language. They used the images to help them with descriptive language. I also saw so many children finally have the light bulb moment whereby they realized that a character had a 'want', one which can be denied or fulfilled. It made the 'problem-solution' phase much simpler.
Thank you again.
Jefferson Elementary 3rd grade
My students and I really enjoyed Peter Catalanotto's visits to Jefferson.
I have noticed that some of my struggling writer's have shown more confidence about their writing and they no longer shy away from student-teacher conferences. In fact, many of them look forward to them so that they can hear my suggestions. I cannot thank Peter enough for the insight that he has given me and how he has unlocked the minds of my students.
Here are some the things my students wanted to share about what they learned from Peter's workshops.
Jonathan: "I learned how to write a very good story."
Hank: "I learned how to add very good details."
Lael: "I learned what a back story was and how to use it."
Madison: "I learned how to make my story more descriptive."
Matthew: "I learned how to make a surprising ending."
Alec: "I learned that writing a story can be awesome!"
Jared: "I learned about action and dialog."
Zahira: "I learned that writing is important."
Josie: "I learned to grab the reader in the beginning of the story."
Anna: "I learned to be more specific in my writing."
James: "I feel more confident about my writing now."
Third Grade Teacher
Peter Catalanotto worked with my 5th and 6th grade language arts students for two years. On his first visit I was ready to challenge him. What could he possibly bring to my classes? The last thing I was concerned about was creative writing. Test writing was my primary focus. And my students were very good at that. But I had my eyes opened when I saw how eagerly they took to the idea of writing their own stories. Writing from their own thoughts, experiences and flights of fancy was invigorating for both students and their teacher.
At first we were rusty and the results were slow, but as we wrote and revised and shared and came to a final product at the end of the end of the first year, I realized what an incredibly rich experience we had been part of. We not only wrote individual stories, we wrote a class piece of historical fiction based on local lore that became a hit with students and parents alike. And that has changed how I view writing with my students. I make sure that in addition to writing for tests, I take time to let every student's voice be heard through the stories they have to tell. I think the best part of this more balanced approach is that every student, regardless of ability level, gets to be heard. And that authenticity has really made my class a strong community of writers, readers and independent thinkers.
Franklin Area School District