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

Friday, January 27, 2012

Post Caldecott reactions...my students weigh in

I shared the official Caldecott Award results with my first graders. They were eager to hear how the committee had voted.  I am going home on this Friday afternoon feeling a wonderful sense of joy in that my students were as excited by this process as I was.

We first revisited their own voting results (see: And the winner is...) and then shared their comments and compared them to those of the official committee (see: Straight from the horse's mouth...or the first grader's pen).

I thought I would give my students the "last word."  Many of them speak generally about the books, but a few might be asked to sit on a book award committee in the future based upon their comments. Happy Friday! 

What did you like about A Ball for Daisy, Blackout and Grandpa Green?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Squared Away

With Josef Albers!

Today, with my second grade students, I read this biography about the artist, Josef Albers.
An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers

Each page of this book teaches the reader about Albers and the interplay and interaction of colors. The students loved this book and told me all about "warm" and "cool" colors.  This page in particular had them sharing for quite a while!

A page from An Eye for Color
 The book culminates in this celebration of Albers' art, Homage to a Square.
A page from An Eye for Color.  Josef Albers and some of his squares.

Excited and inspired they set to work to investigate color! You can learn more about Albers and view a gallery of his art.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Celebrate great books, come on!

Apologies to Kool and the Gang, but this song is just asking for some new lyrics, preferably ones related to books and reading.  Are you in?  Have you got skills like Poe? Let me know.  Do you have the time for a rhyme?  Can you improve mine?

"Read a book!
Come on!  Let's read a book!

There's some reading going on 'round here.
It's a celebration to last throughout the years.
So bring your nonfiction and your fiction too.
We're gonna grab a book, and do some reading with you.

Come on!
Read a book!

We'll all grab a book and read 'til its through."

(Apologies once again to Kool and the Gang.  Their song Celebration deserves a much better lyricist than me!)

Why all this book-enthused joy?  I am still buzzing with excitement from the ALA Youth Media Awards!  On Monday at 8:45, I was watching the live stream on my laptop in the hallway, outside of a classroom where I had just been making a VoiceThread with students.  (On Mondays I am an ITS in a different building then where I am a school librarian.) 

I was too excited to risk falling off the wireless and losing my Internet connection to walk down three flights of stairs and through two hallways. So there I sat as students, teachers, aides, learning center staff and inclusion staff walked past.  My cheers, whoops and occasional claps brought smiles.

I have been anticipating Monday's announcements for quite a few weeks, but especially since my first graders placed their Caldecott votes on Friday.  I cannot wait to share the official results with them. 

Caldecott Medal  
Medal Winner: 
A Ball for Daisy -- illustrated and written by Chris Raschka

Honor Books:
Blackout -- illustrated and written by John Rocco

Grandpa Green -- illustrated and written by Lane Smith

Me … Jane -- illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell

My first graders top two choices received Caldecott Honors and the Caldecott Medal winner was their fourth choice overall.  Not bad odds for a bunch of six-year-old children!  Read about all the awards.

In the "day-after-the-awards-announcements" blues I remind myself, "only 11 months and 28 more days to wait," I better start reading!   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Straight from the horse's mouth...

 ...or the minds of first graders...

On the bottom of the Mock Caldecott ballot, I invited the first grade students to tell me why they thought their number one choice should be the Caldecott Medal winner, specifically asking them to tell me how the book best met the Caldecott criteria.  This was an invitation and I explained to students that it was optional.  

Here's what I find interesting: of the fifteen or so comments I received, ten referred to Grandpa Green.  This story garnered the most first place votes, but it is also the book which most inspired the students to explain their thinking.  

See what these students said...

...about Grandpa Green
I like the way they did the plants.

Grandpa Green is the best because plants help tell the story!

I like how Grandpa Green used plants.

They had a war and showed it by plants.

I like when they battle.

I liked how they made the bushes.

I think Grandpa Green should win because it is very unique.

...about I Want My Hat Back
because I want my hat back has the best illustrations.

I Want My Hat Back is fun to read because it has a mystery.

...about Blackout
Because it is funny when the baby sister wants to turn out the lights.

...about A Ball for Daisy
Wordless book!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And the winner is...


Here's how it played out:

we go strictly by amount of number one votes each book received, the order is as such:

Grandpa Green
I Want My Hat Back

If we order the books by the total points for all the votes garnered, the order is as such:

Grandpa Green
I Want My Hat Back

I followed the Caldecott voting method and awarded four points for each first place vote, three points for each second place vote and two points for each third place vote.

As you can see, I would need to have the students vote again until one book received 50% of the first place votes to follow the Caldecott rules, but I am liking these results and look forward to talking with the students about them.

A few notes regarding the process and the votes.

** I could not get my hands on Me....Jane this week.  I think if I had read this to the students it would have landed safely in their top four.

** My Principal read Blackout to one of the classes, which may have skewed the results.  (Note: dry sense of humor required -- any book my Principal reads becomes a hit.)

** I think it is really interesting how many second and third place votes Red Sled received.  The students loved this book and were quiet raucous during the reading.  I think they showed their appreciation for it by giving it seconds and thirds, indicating to me that they would want it to be considered for a Caldecott Honor. 

Teaching is always a learning process (hey, maybe that's the next post!).  Based upon what I learned, here's my plan for next year:

I plan to start this much earlier.
I plan to involve the whole school.  

Two very doable steps! 

One thought I have is to create a non-lending "Mock Caldecott" shelf and hold several voting days.

December 3-13: Students read books
December 14: Students will vote for their top five books

Based upon the voting, the "Mock Caldecott" shelf will be culled down to 20 books.

December 17-20: Students reread/revisit books.
December 21st: Students vote for top five books

Based upon the vote, "Mock Caldecott" shelf will be culled down to ten books.

Janurary 2-10th: The students reread/revisit books.
January 11th: Students vote for top three books.

Based upon the voting, the "Mock Caldecott" shelf will be culled down to five books.

January 18th: Students vote for top three books.

This is about as specific as I have gotten.  I'd love to hear your ideas! 

Anyone want to collaborate?  We've got almost 10 months to plan!

Looking forward to Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The awards are coming! The awards are coming!

I am so excited for Monday!  I think the ALSC ALA awards are one of the best days of the year in the book world.  Of course, every day that a new children's book is published and hits the shelves is an exciting day, but awards' announcement day is akin to the Oscars or the Grammys!  (Okay granted, without all the fancy dress aspects.)  But wait!  I may be on to something.  This might be a fun idea for next year, maybe I could dress up and visit each classroom making the announcement and posting the winners!  No, likely not, this idea is one for the "Friday afternoon outlandish thoughts" bin.

Back to the awards!  My first grade students have been learning about the Caldecott Award. We have been reading old winners and discussing the award and its criteria for a few weeks.  

This week, we have read six potential Caldecott Award winning books. I chose six books which I thought would make them think about the criteria and, which I hoped, would help them experience what it is like to have to judge a book based upon certain criteria. These six books have appeared on Caldecott prediction lists as well as on some of my favorite blogs (Watch. Connect. Read; 100 Scope Notes; and, Book-A-Day Almanac).  

The Allen County Public Library staff maintains a great Mock Caldecott competition and keeps the list moving. The "Calling Caldecott" mock Caldecott competition on the Horn Book site has a description of the voting process.

Here are the books we read:
Our six Mock Caldecott books

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Blackout by John Rocco -- 
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith -- 
I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen --
Red Sled by Lita Judge
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee

My students loved all of these books and there were many questions, such as what to do if you identified with one book (i.e., sledding and Red Sled) but you felt that another book (i.e., Blackout) better matched the criteria. I love how thoughtful my students were today and how seriously they took this experience.

I showed them the ballot box, which I now show you under duress because I made it in my spare five minutes during lunch. (Despite the important message in Peter H. Reynolds' book, So Few of Me, there are days I really do wish I could clone myself because there are so many things I want to do, but that is only some days, most days are more manageable!)  Back to our project.

It was Voting Day Today!  
At least that is how my students and I felt.  Excitement and energy abounded.
The ballot box was unveiled,
the ballots were cast
And are waiting to be counted.
Want to know which illustrator my first graders think was "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children?"  Check in tomorrow to find out...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Standing up and Sitting in

On this day where we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I am remembering a very special experience.

For four years I traveled with a high school track team to the Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was incredible to watch high school athletes push themselves to amazing heights and demonstrate incredible athleticism. What was equally, if not more, exciting were the two visits we made to the Woolworth's where the sit-ins movement started.

It was June of 2009.  The athletes had all competed for the day, so we grabbed our maps and set off.  After some time driving the streets of Greensboro, and likely some unexpressed reticence on the part of the crew, we found it!

The Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC

The site was in the process of being converted into the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. We asked the (slightly bewildered) workmen if we could step inside and actually walk on the floor where the Sit-ins had taken place.  One might imagine that high school juniors and seniors fresh off a track would be fairly nonplussed about the event, but they weren't! 

Stepping through the main entrance of Woolworth's

I am not sure if it was my enthusiasm (which can be infectious) about visiting a place I had read and heard so much about, but I think that was only part of it.  The students were excited in their own right.  The workmen even let us walk over to the area with the counter and stools. We quietly stood there.  I know history came alive for them at that moment.  I thought of the people who had passed through the doors and the history that had transpired.  

Plaque honoring David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain and Ezell Blair, Jr.

I wish Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney had been published then.

I love this book!  I really like the illustration below because it's unending lunch counter reminds me that we are on a journey.  We have not yet achieved a fully inclusive society that welcomes and celebrates all of its members.

I know these high school students would have loved the book and had a deeper connection with the visit had they been able to read it.  Luckily, my students do get to read this book!  I will be sharing this book with my fourth grade students as part of our Civil Rights Movement unit and am excited to share my experience visiting the Woolworth's. 

The side entrance to Woolworth's

The track team and I went back to the site the following year.  The International Civil Rights Center and Museum had opened and we spent a few hours immersing ourselves in history.  The museum is incredibly well organized and presented and I will return again some time in the future, but there was something very special about that first visit.  On this day where we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am thankful for all the people who have stood up and sat down to make this world a better place.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Here are some books I can't wait to read!

The art room and my library share an octagonal addition to the school.  I feel lucky to have this proximity with the art teacher and her program. I love to hear and see what is happening in my friend's space (as I hope she does mine).  She's a wonderful friend with a willing ear for my ideas!

Just before the holidays, she popped into the library to share a project.  Her second graders are making books and have begun working on the covers.  I love them!  I am eager to find out what happens to The Kid with a Big Eye and a Buck Tooth and with The Sloppy Turtle. I hope I will have some local authors willing to share their stories in the library soon!

When left to their own devices

Students will create the best surprises!

I was in the art room and happened to look over at the drawing figures. 

Which creative child or children created this running group?

The addition of the clay shark-like figure gives incentive to this race.

Lovely bit of lightheartedness in this day!

It's hip to be scared...

Apologies to Huey Lewis!

As I head into the new year, I leave the old one with some great memories.  No surprise here, but these memories all involve some connection to a great story.

We, the teachers in my school, are in the midst of re-evaluating how we teach writing and one initiative involves having the students tell their stories before they write them.  I am incredibly excited about this!  I think this happens naturally in the library.  I look forward to offering more opportunities for students to tell their stories, especially those that connect to the books they are reading.

In this vein, here's a one of my favorite memories that involves story telling. 

I was doing a quick lesson on folk literature and my students and I were reading the  Bruchac's books: Turtle's Race with Beaver and How Chipmunk Got His Stripes

The students were making text-to-self connections and sharing wonderful stories.  After hearing theirs, I was inspired to tell one of my own. 

Here's what I told my students:

I spend the summers in a mountainous valley. (This is not really an oxymoron! We often ski and run up into the valley!)  I was out running, by myself.  I was on the dirt road, returning from the farm up in the valley, when I came upon a bear. 

Now, having spent a considerable number of years in this area, I know full well that one is supposed to stop, face the bear and talk very loudly (about anything at all) while backing away from the bear. Well, tell that to my body, which was in a full run down a hill, when the bear crossed over the road.

I invited my students to predict what I did next.

They guessed correctly, I turned and sprinted back up this very steep hill, glancing back over my shoulder to see if the bear was chasing me!  It wasn't.  (And if it was, I would not have out run it, bears are very fast!) The bear had little interest in me and was likely just afraid. 

My students were engrossed, laughing and asking questions.  We shared a memorable moment.  Literature is a powerful connector!