"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fifth Graders Pitch Picture Book Ideas

My fifth graders have been engaged in a digital citizenship/picture book month mash up. They learned about Picture Book Month by evaluating the website and gathering information, using the document below.

Leading up to this unit, the students have read and discussed books that demonstrate the power of story in picture books. Today, they started thinking about the picture book they would write - the story they wanted to tell. I used this stack of picture books as examples of mentor texts. These are books I have read with them in the past. 
I talked about drawing upon where you live, family history, or an emotion as an idea for a story.
I talked about drawing upon a passion, an experience, or an event as an idea for a story. 
I talked about drawing upon an historic event or fact, humor, or a common childhood misunderstanding for a story.

Here's where the digital citizenship came into play. The students needed to pitch their idea on a Padlet. The students shared what they know about posting their work on the web and demonstrated a clear understanding of what their posts and comments should look like and sound like. I reminded them that this is yet another opportunity to practice and learn. And yes, I did something I hadn't done in a while. I opened up the comments option and invited the students to read each other's ideas and then comment. They handled it all pretty well. 

Their picture book pitches range from personal stories to complete fantasies. It's cool to see how they responded to this opportunity.

We'll be moving onto using some digital storytelling to get these stories off the ground. The plan is to ultimately share them with their buddies. I am excited for the next few weeks!

Have a look at some of their ideas and the comments:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

First graders explore the work of and receive a visit from Kevin Hawkes, oh, and they produce some pretty amazing art.

Kevin Hawkes visited with our first graders today! It was an extremely exciting day for these students who have been reading his books and learning about his art. 

This post is chock full. Part one is the visit. Part Two is the art created after the visit. Part three is the project and art created prior to the visit. Choose your own adventure!

Part the First: During the visit
Kevin talked about the artists who inspired him, like Maxfield Parish, and how his skies have influenced Kevin's skies. He shared that it is important to have favorite illustrators and authors and to learn about art from them.

He showed the students one of his sketch books and how he does many character sketches until he draws the one that is just right.

Kevin also did some drawing with the students during the visit, imparting hints and tricks for the students own art.

Check out this fan art that appeared later in the day:

He talked about creating harmony with lines flowing in the same direction.

He explained that shapes are really important in his work.

The students learned that where you place eyes on a face can make the character look older or younger.

He shared the secret of creating cute drawings. (No spoiler alerts here!)

He read his newest book Dogosaurus Rex, a collaboration with Anna Staniszewski.

I think its important that during his visit he let students know that each book takes the hard work of a team of people -- the author, artist, editor, art director, publisher, printer, etc. I love that he remind them of the importance of working with and collaborating with others.

Kevin also shared the publishing process, that it goes from sketches to a dummy book to revisions with an editor and art director to printers sheets to a fold and gather and then final hard cover of the book. He also shared how exciting it still is to see his name on a book.

He finished with this great advice: If you need a new story, start with a line and see where it takes you.

Part the Second: After the Visit

The students were back in the library for their regular classes during the late morning and afternoon. I decided to include time to both hear what they learned and to show what they learned.

The students used Voicethread to share what they learned during the visit. Have a listen, it's pretty cool stuff.

The students used the collaborative drawing process he used during the visit to draw with partners and show what they learned. The first person drew two lines and the partner finished the drawing based upon what he or she saw in those two lines. It's pretty amazing. You have to just look at a few:

Part the Third: Prior to the Visit

Along with reading books illustrated and/or written by Kevin Hawkes, the students explored aspects of his art. For this project, the students used the book My Little Sister Ate One Hare.

After reading the book, where a little sister eats some very interesting things, the students collectively came up with funny objects to eat and words that would rhyme with those objects, here's a sample:

The next time they came to library they chose an object from the list and created a Kevin Hawkes-style new page for the book. I think the illustrations show that they really looked at Kevin Hawkes' art. Have a look at a few of their new book pages!

This has been a fun adventure!

Each Kindness and I'm New Here get paired together to look at kindness in a school setting

We started our picture book month exploration of kindness in picture books by reading Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B.  Lewis and I'm New Here, written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien. Both of these books take place in a school setting, which helped to place our thinking in our own school setting.

Reading Each Kindness always leads to powerful and interesting conversations. In the story, we learn how Chloe is unkind to a new girl in her class. The new girl eventually moves away before Chloe recognizes the impact of her actions. Inevitably, a student will say "Wait! It can't end like that."  -- A thought I know many students share. This allows us to talk both about the fact that many books have happy endings, but why it is important that not all books do because it makes readers really stop and think. We are also able to talk about making mistakes, which we all do, and how usually we have a chance to apologize, but there might be a time when we can't, so we should always try to choose kindness the first time. Each kindness, big or small, matters.

As in the book, the students had a chance to share their own acts of kindness and watch them ripple out into the world, making it a better place.

After reading and discussing Each Kindness, we read I'm New Here
This time we get the perspective of the children that are new to a classroom. We hear of their challenges to understand a new language, navigate recess, and adapt to a new school learning structure. In this story, the students are welcomed into their communities and supported by their classmates. We see role models for kindness here. The students shared what they would say or do to make someone feel comfortable and safe.

How are you celebrating?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Three books that get students thinking about kindness and connecting with others

The second graders are focusing on kindness for Picture Book Month. Today's theme was thinking about how we connect with others.

Today's read aloud books included: Why Am I Me? written by Paige Britt and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko; We're All Wonders written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio; and, Be a Friend, written and illustrated by Salina Yoon. What follows is a bit about each of the books we read, along with the students' thinking after reading the book. This was a #heartmelt kind of day. 

We started with Why Am I Me?  I used the Elmo (document camera) to project and read on the whiteboard. This allowed students to both appreciate and read closely the paint and collage illustrations, which are beautiful, engaging, and thought-provoking. Qualls and Alko's art places Paige Britt's narrative in a space that readers can think and explore. Two young children silently share thoughts about their place in the world and eventually cross paths with the understanding that they are part of a bigger whole -- not you and me, but we. It's quietly deep and beautiful.

With the context of needing to recognize who we are before we can connect with others, the students shared their thinking about themselves on a poster. 
I was planning to leave the middle space, where the faces overlap, blank to talk about the "we" and finding commonalities and connections with others (which we did during our brief discussions), but forgot to let the students know. I am okay with this though because their comments about themselves show the commonalities and connections.

"I am a bundle of joy."

"I feel like a good dancer."

"I am a daughter."

Having thought about themselves and finding connections with others, we read the next book, We're All Wonders.  Told with with tenderness, this book's message is empowering and hopeful. Like the narrative, the art is both light and deep. Palacio's narrative and art offers readers insight into what it feels like to be different than those around you and to be teased because of it. We can read the body language, we know how this feels -- escaping into his helmet, our young boy reassures himself that the Earth is a place that is big enough for everyone and all of our differences. If we just look, we can see that we're all wonders. 

Thinking about others, the students shared how their classmates are wonders - what it is they see in each other.

With a sense of who we are and  how we see others, it was time to cement our connection with others. We read, Be a Friend, a book these students read in kindergarten. (These second graders shared strong memories of this book and started miming before I cracked the cover.) Yoon's story about seeing and being seen perfectly compliments the other books we read. Once again, an important message is handled with tenderness. The Mime Boy, who feels invisible, is finally noticed by Joy, a young girl who understands that friends don't need words to communicate. Yoon's appealing and engaging illustrations along with her use of the color red ensure that readers focus on what's important.  

The students were asked to think about how they show kindness - the things they say and do for each other. They could also illustrate acts of kindness on cards, like Salina Yoon's endpapers in the book.

How are you celebrating?