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

Friday, September 13, 2013

We are a community of learners

This, the first full week of school, was a week spent building community.  From kindergarten through grade 5, we discussed what it means to be a community of learners and shared ways that our space can be a safe and supportive environment for all learners. 

I created a poster with the question, "How can you help make our library a learning community?"  I also made a poster with some of the big ideas about being a community: listen to others; support your peers; contribute your ideas; take risks; and, do your best work.  After our discussion, we finished with students adding their voice to posters, about our learning community, that will hang in the library. I hope I started a conversation that the students will finish and own. We are on the road to becoming a community of learners.

How to start this great discussion?  With a great book of course!
I happen to have a galley of Tea Party Rules, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K.G. Campbell.  My review of this book gives you some indication of how much I love it, 1980's bridesmaid dresses and all. Without any spoilers -- there's a bear, there's a girl, there's a tea party, AND there are rules.  

I read the same book all week long, from kindergarten to grade 5. (Now, I prefaced with the 4th and 5th graders that the book was geared to younger readers, but that they would enjoy it as well, and enjoy it they did.)  

Each grade level and classroom experience and reaction was unique, but there were some common moments, make that guffaws and groans, during this tea party.  I loved seeing the 4th and 5th graders let go of any preconceived notions or societal strictures about being too old for this kind of book and to witness their eyes light up just as much as the younger students and see them elbow and nudge those close to them to share a humorous moment. It was all so much fun, right up to the final page.  

After reflecting on the story, I explained that I didn't want to think about having rules in our library, but that I wanted to think about how we could be a community for all learners, a space where both the girl and the bear could be learners. The ensuing discussion was awesome. 
I want to talk about some of the other aspects to this book that make it great for teaching.

We spent time using our visual literacy skills to read expressions and body language and to make predictions.

We spent time practicing reading strategies like making predictions and activating prior knowledge.

We spent time practicing recalling information in the text. "Rule number one was?" When we got to rule number four, it was a group recall event...I read the text, "Cub couldn't believe it."
And then, added my own text, "Tea Party rule number one, he was..." and the students answered, "clean."

The group gasp that accompanied the next page was awesome!

The last thing I will tell you about this book is that is allowed me to share my own story of dressing my real live cat in my teddy bear's dresses. I loved reliving those memories.

What a week it was! is it really only the 8th day of school?

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