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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

ReedALOUD: Newbery Medal: Last Stop on Market

That Last Stop on Market Street is considered the most distinguished piece of writing for children has created opportunities for all readers to really explore the language in a picture book as well as learn about the Newbery Medal.  What does it mean to be distinguished and can this be accomplished in thirty-two pages There are numerous conversations happening on this subject and it will be interesting to see where they lead. I am okay with this book winning the Newbery Medal. I love Matt de la Peña's writing and how, in thirty-two pages, we are invested in this grandmother and grandson making their weekly pilgrimage to a soup kitchen along with how the value of material objects diminishes as Nana helps CJ see the "beautiful where he never even thought to look."

The first time we read it was last spring and we read it just because I loved it. 

The second time we read it, we read it as part of our Mock Caldecott unit.

This, the third time, we were reading it with a Newbery Medal lens. I explained to the students that we were going to read the book twice. I wanted them to just listen to the language the first time and then, on the second reading, I wanted them to write down phrases, words, and sentences that stood out or resonated with them.

I read the book twice. I didn't show the pictures. The students had already seen them, but I also wanted them to really hear the language. In our discussions, the students spoke of the rhythm of the language as well as the rich and descriptive language. 

Here are some more of the words, phrases, and sentences that the students wrote down:

What kindness role models have you met through reading?

It's Kindness Week on the World Read Aloud Day seven strengths count down.  On this poster are a few of the book titles that my students shared when asked, "What kindness role models have you met through reading?" During our conversation they mentioned specific characters and the actions that modeled what it means to be a friend, but that seemed too much for the poster, so it is just the titles.
We've joined the WRAD initiative a little later than usual this year, so we are jumping right in at week four.  The WRAD classroom kit has suggestions for titles of books to read with students or children, for each week. For Kindness Week, I  was happy to see Each Kindness by Jacqueleine Woodson on this list. I have read this book with students in the past and it always invites important conversations. I decided to read it today, along with talking about Patricia McKissack's Mirandy and Brother Wind and The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, two books I would add to their list.
After reading Each Kindness with my four classes today, there was a quiet hush and at least one student said out loud, "That was so sad." I asked them why it was sad and eventually brought the discussion around to authenticity and how this story reminds readers that we need to make the right choice the first time because there might not be another opportunity to make things right. The students also felt the hope in the book, knowing that Chloe would make a different choice the next time. 
I'm looking forward to Confidence Week. 
What will you be reading?
Read Aloud. Change the World.

February 24th. Read Aloud. Change The World.

Read Aloud. Change the World.  

When I see these motivating words from LitWorld's World Read Aloud Day initiative, I think of Patricia and Fred McKissack their important messages around the Power of Story.  In an interview with Reading Rockets, they explained their thinking:

"Einstein's theory of storytelling

Frederick: Most people that we have been around don't really understand what the power of story is and I think it's best illustrated again by an Einstein paper. He was asked…one of those great questions, "What should mankind be doing now that will benefit him in the future, him or her, whoever mankind might be?"

He answered, "Read stories to the children." So the person interviewing didn't quite understand that. They wanted to move on and he said, Mr. Einstein, what else do you think we should be doing?" He said, "Read more stories to your children." And I don't think he ever got it. But the power of story is just beyond, you know, beyond the idea.

Patricia: It prepares children for making adult decisions and developing their problem solving skills. Without story you're not connected to anything. I mean, think of yourself as being the Little Red Hen. You've been there. You've done all the work for the committee and then they show up for the photo-op.

Well that's the Little Red Hen — of course it is! The Boy Who Cried Wolf…we know that story and we've seen it acted out in life and we react and respond to those situations based on what we were taught in those stories. And so we needed to tell…you have to tell old stories so that we don't lose the connection. And we have to tell new stories. We have to meet children where they are with new stories."

World Read Aloud Day is about recognizing and celebrating the power of story and the power of the shared story. 

Stories do hold power and this year LitWorld is building towards World Read Aloud Day with a seven week challenge based upon their curriculum. 

"The 7 Strengths is the foundational model for all our curriculum, from LitClubs to LitCamps to advocacy events. We combine resilience building activities with literacy best practices in sets of dynamic lessons around the themes of Belonging, Friendship, Confidence, Curiosity, Courage, Kindness and Hope."

Each week, we are challenged to think about how books have influenced our understanding of or grown our knowledge of the seven strengths.

belonging week: When has reading helped you feel like you belong to a community?

curiosity week: What kind of reading makes you curious and fills you with wonder?

friendship week: How does reading help us connect and make the world friendlier?

kindness week: What kindness role models have you met through reading?

confidence week: What stories make you feel confident and proud to be you?

courage week: When did reading give you the courage to stand up for something you believe in?

hope week: If you could share a message of hope, what would you read aloud to the whole world?

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Read Aloud. Change the World.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ReedALOUD: Martin & Mahalia

Today I read Martin & Mahalia with my fourth graders. Martin & Mahalia is written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney's poetic prose and Brian Pinkney's evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side -- as they would one day walk -- following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right"

We are moving from our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. exploration and celebration into a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. This book is ideal for making the transition because it introduces the idea that there were many activists in the Civil Rights Movement. It also places an important spotlight on the role that music played in the Movement.  Did I mention that it is rewarding to read aloud and stunningly illustrated?

After reflecting on the knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr. I talked a bit about the power of song and how my parents used to come into the library to talk about their experiences in the Civil Rights Movement. My mother emphasized the importance of song and how on bus rides, marches, and gatherings the songs would create a sense of community among those gathered as well as strengthen their spirits, as in Selma where the singing carried them through their fear.

But, I digress. This is about Andrea Davis Pinkney's amazing book and how it gives light to the powerful combination of Martin's oratory and Mahalia's singing. 

After reading the book, I turned back to the page where Mahalia urges Martin to "tell them about your dream." I pulled a New York Times article that explores the the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on that day.  With Mahalia's urging, Martin diverges from his prepared speech and launches into five minutes of extemporaneous speaking, five minutes that the world will never forget.  

After looking at parts of the article, I showed the students a bit of this footage of Mahalia singing that day as well as a bit of this footage of her singing that day.
Then I played the first part of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech so the students can see how Andrea crafted her language in Martin & Mahalia.
I then fast forward to 10:00 into the speech. I pause around 12:15. It is clear that Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrapping up his speech in one direction pauses and takes off in another. I then played the remainder of the speech. Here's the full text from the National Archives.

It was interesting to watch the students, some of whom have seen and memorized those last five minutes of the speech and silently but energetically mouthed the words versus those who in stillness absorbed the power of speech for the first time.

This was powerful stuff. What followed was the start of a long conversation on the fight for equal rights. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"They can make all different colors in their books."

True stories about people who make or made a difference.

The first graders started their Biography Unit. I co-plan and co-teach the unit with the classroom teachers. In order to reinforce our school definition of biography, a true story about a person who makes or made a difference, I asked the students how they, or people in general,  can make a difference. Here are their answers:
After this discussion and a quick location and access lesson (explanation of where you can find the biography neighborhood and which color sticker in on the spine label of the books), I showed the students two biographies on Wilma Rudolph, Wilma Unlimited and Wilma Rudolph and talked about the different formats of the books.
We then read the Capstone book, Wilma Rudolph. We used the glossary to understand some terms and had a few conversations. I paused after reading the page about the parade in Wilma's hometown, Clarksville, Tennessee, that occurred after the 1960 Olympics, where Wilma had won three gold medals. 

I had a plan. 

I had a story quilt in mind. Monday was the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we had had an all school assembly where each grade performed a song or poem related to Martin Luther King, Jr. The first graders had already started to learn about people who make a difference. 

I had a plan because I had just received the perfect book in the mail. In the mail had arrived, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison. As soon as I read the book, I knew I had to share it with my students.
I had a plan because the story in The Quickest Kid in Clarksville takes place during Wilma Rudolph's visit to her hometown to celebrate her three Olympic Gold Medals. 

From Chronicle books, "It's the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She'll be riding on a float tomorrow. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma once was. It doesn't matter that Alta's shoes have holes because Wilma came from hard times, too. But what happens when a new girl with shiny new shoes comes along and challenges Alta to a race? Will she still be the quickest kid? The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the power of friendship."

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a great read and will spark important conversations. I loved sharing it with students.  

Pat Zietlow Miller explains that Wilma required the organizers in Clarksville to ensure that any event she attended to be integrated, the first time in the city's history. Wilma was a person who made a difference in so many ways, including standing up for what she knew was right.  

This book was the perfect way to tie together all the learning happening during the week. I love when story threads come together.

What threads are you weaving this week?

Snowy Wonderings: How does a cloud get water from places that are frozen?

What better way to kick off a Snow Unit in kindergarten than reading The Snowy Day? Following a lesson which included the students drawing what they like to do on snowy days as well as comparing and contrasting what they like to do with the adventures that Peter had.

The following week, the students shared wondering questions about snow and began to share they they know or think they know about snow. Here's a link to our snow grid

We spent the next two lessons trying to find answers to the wondering questions (and check our thinking). The students and I used books from our Wonder Wall (nonfiction neighborhood) as well as two articles from PebbleGo.
As we found answers, we would fill in our grid:
These two books were ideal for reading small parts, thinking about what we had read and seeing what answers we had discovered:

The real magic happens when wondering questions lead to answers which lead to new wondering questions.  Here are three questions that arose as a result to answers from other questions:

Why are all snowflakes different? 
Wonderopolis comes to the rescue again! Why are all snowflakes different?

Why is snow white?
I found this video from the Weather Channel: Why is Snow White?

Where did the biggest snowflake fall?
Thanks New York Times! Snowflakes as Big as Frisbees?

Here are some additional questions my students had:

How does a cloud get water from places that are frozen?

How do animals survive in water under the snow and ice?

I wonder if we will get a ton of snow tomorrow?

Where does it snow all the time?

Why do cats hate snow?

Why do you sink in snow?

Here are some additional things kindergarten students think they know about snow:

snow has lots of coldness - that’s why animals hibernate or stay inside when it is snowing

snow can cover ice and make the ice look it is not there, so it is possible to slip - then people put down salt

snow can be so tiny you can’t see it

snow is fun to play in

sometimes it forms icicles

sometimes snow has salt in it

ice is hard to break

hail is cold raindrops

snow can be soft

snow can make slush

people can go skiing and sledding

What are you wondering about snow?

Monday, January 18, 2016

ReedALOUD: Waiting

I was reading Waiting by Kevin Henkes this fall, but not for the reason I am writing about today. I was reading Waiting as part of my Mock Caldecott Unit. This beautifully illustrated book has perfect Caldecott elements to it, so I was not surprised when it won a Caldecott Honor at the ALAYMA on Monday. I was totally surprised when it was also recognized with a Geisel Honor. But, of course, it's perfect! I was just looking at the book with too narrow a lens.

So this week, I read Waiting with my first graders, who are in the midst of a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Unit. We've been exploring what they now about Dr. Seuss books and how that compares to the purpose and criteria of the Geisel Award.  From the Geisel Award page: "The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award recognizes the author(s) and illustrator(s) of a book for beginning readers who, through their literary and artistic achievements, demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading."

To reinforce this new understanding, last week we read You Are (Not) Small (last year's Geisel Medal winner). With this knowledge in mind, we read Waiting.

I was a bit worried that they would focus too much on the humorous aspect of Dr. Seuss books and have a harder time connecting the award, but they did not. They loved this book. They talked of the imagination and creativity in writing about characters (and their adventures) on a windowsill. They fairly unanimously wanted to read it again.

Along with the conversations about the book and the Geisel criteria, the students also shared their thinking using the iPads as well as drew pictures of characters they would like to visit those on the windowsill in the book. 

Some children created pictures of the items on their own windowsills. (I did preface the book by talking about windowsills and keeping treasures there as not all houses in this area have windowsills.)