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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Book With No Pictures creates quite the memorable picture

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I don't believe I have ever seen my students laugh as hard as they did yesterday.

...And I think I am a fun and engaging reader and I think there are fun and engaging books out there,  but yesterday, something magical happened: 

B.J. Novak visited our school and read his new book.
The Book With No Pictures is great, B.J. Novak is B.J. Novak (great!), and my students are my students (great!), BUT these three things took on a new energy and became an experience that I feel fortunate to have witnessed.


I saw children's faces that were rapt in attention, flash with disbelief, and then glow with raucous laughter as they watched and listened to B.J. Novak read his book.

B.J. Novak gets children.

Patiently encouraging as he was welcomed by a first grader.

Managing a room full of eager questioners.


Encouraging them to listen to their own stories and pay attention to their own creativity.

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Reading with the perfect amount of energy and expression and knowing how to bring them back.
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The students had great questions and B.J had great answers. They were so appropriate for first and second graders.


"How do you sound out the words?"

"How do you know how to read all those words?"

"What do you write with?"


"Where do you write?"


"Do you work with other people?"

"Do you like to write at your friends' houses?"


"What books do you like to read other than your own books?"


B.J. asked the students to share story that they were writing. There were some incredibly creative and wonderful story seeds shared.  The teachers and I plan to get the students writing and sharing these stories in the next few weeks.  Some of my favorites were the ones about: giant broccoli man; a tooth fairy in a loose tooth; Halloween eggs and Halloween stuff; and the awesome scooter jump.

A few moments that I will not soon forget...
After hearing one of these ideas, B.J. Novak asked the student if he could pitch an idea, and, with permission, suggested that the student might add a scary element to the broccoli story, like maybe there is someone trying to eat the broccoli man. The students then shared that the broccoli man was too nice to eat and what followed was a great conversation. It was surreal, and authentic, and beautiful.
When he asked students about the stories they are writing, one student explained her writing process: "I think of a character, I think of a problem she has; I think of things that get in the way, how the person tries to solve the problem, a bigger problem happens and then it gets solved." The conversation moved onto character traits and other writing strategies for every child in that room. #coolbeans

When asked about writing and story ideas, B.J. talked about writing at his desk in college, how he liked writing there so much he was afraid to leave and how a part of him felt the desk was almost magical, but he added that he discovered the magic was within himself. There are quite a few stories about creativity and ideas with the protagonist feeling like the creative magic was attached to an object. This first hand story will likely stay with them longer than those stories.

When asked about his writing process, B.J. explained that he thinks of an idea, talks with some friends about it, jots down notes about it, and then writes a draft. This is great advice for these young writers.

B.J. Novak attended Mason-Rice, so our welcoming sign should have said, "Welcome Back, B.J. Novak!"  As an alum, B.J. was presented with a Mason-Rice tee-shirt, and some birthday pencils to inspire his future writing.



Our Principal, Mark Springer, took B.J. on a tour of the school, including the old school store (otherwise known as a closet of erasers, rulers and pencils).  B.J. took the time to visit each classroom, which was pretty darn cool.  As for me, he graciously accepted to take a selfie (since there was no one about to snap a picture). One for good luck and one for good measure!

There will be more blog posts emanating from this visit, the creativity that he encouraged and the stories that will ensue need an audience.

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