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

Friday, September 30, 2016

They All Saw a Cat inspires big thinking about perspectives

This week, this students and I have been reading They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. You can read about the experience on this post: ReedALOUD: They All Saw a Cat.  On this post, you will find examples of the thinking the book inspired in the students. 

There is now a bulletin board outside the library showing second through fifth grade students' work with perspective taking: how they see themselves as learners and how they want others to see them as learning partners. After having a conversation, the first graders practiced drawing cats from an emotional/relationship or proximity perspective.
I connected They All Saw a Cat and this type of perspective taking to our work around our library rules, and after exploring the many amazing things about the book, I told the students that in order to take care of ourselves, our first school rule, they had to know themselves as learners... the reflection parts. I gave examples for how I see myself: enthusiastic, interested, creative. I added that in order to take care of others, they had to think about how others see them as members of our learning community. I then gave these examples for myself: flexible, curious, hardworking. For the younger students I play acted partners and thought bubbles. (I did something similar with Peter Brown's My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not) two years ago.)

This is our almost complete bulletin board. The first graders created the cat borders, like the one on the bottom and I have one more to hang up.

Fourth and Fifth Grade
I created a window and a mirror hoping to further encourage introspection and give the students a more tangible prompt.

Third Grade
I drew a cat and a pond, mirroring (no pun intended) the final pages of the book, hoping to help them better separate the type of perspective.

Second Grade
The second grade students shared a word that they hopes would be in a projects partners thought bubble when thinking about them as a learning partner. (The thought bubble is important because we always use a poker face when hearing partners and groups.)

They also drew cats from close up and far away (proximity perspectives) as well as tried to show how they feel about cats (emotive relationship/perspective).

First Grade
The first graders had a conversation, joined Emily Arrow in a sin-along song of the book, and drew a cat border for the bulletin board.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ReedALOUD: They All Saw a Cat

This week, we are continuing to build out our library rules. The students are sharing examples of what the school rules look like and sound like in our library space.  

To help them deepen their thinking, we are reading They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. This debut picture book presents a wealth of art and ideas. Having now read it from grades one through five, I can confidently say that They All Saw a Cat has significant kid appeal. The students' reactions as each page is revealed is fabulous. 

By the third page, they have understood that this is a book about perspective. They also know that it is the same cat that is being seen by the child, dog, and fox. First graders told me confidently that the cat has the same pattern, red collar, and yellow bell. With this common understanding we launch into the rest of the story. Upon reflection at the end, they also understand that the book is about varying kinds of perspective. Not only that, they are quick to point out the fact that each illustration is a different style and medium. As I said above, the book is rich, in both art and concept.

They understand the emotive relationship some of the characters have with the cat.

They understand the the proximity to the cat for some of the characters.

They understand the physiology, the actual ways the characters vision impacts the way they see the cat.   

The students have been quick to raise their hands and talk about the science behind the ways the bee, snake, skunk, and bat see the cat. I learned about the heat pocket or pit in a snake's mouth that aids in thermal vision...from a second grader.  This is incredibly cool stuff.

It's fun to go back and revisit the perspective taking after reading it through. A favorite has been the dog, which we think sees the cat as a really unattractive thing lurking about.

The reader has no doubt that this is the same cat. The repetition in the book is a lyrical and effective way to help the reader understand that this is the same cat making its way through its neighborhood. Also, the careful use of "a cat" and "the cat" makes for a fun read aloud experience and reinforces that the cat is being seen and that it is the same cat.

This book can be used in many ways, the students could follow any one of the perspective paths:
*they could research how other animals would see the cat;
*they can choose an animal and draw the cat from that geographic point of view; 
*they can choose an animal and show its emotional connection to the cat (predator/prey).

I chose to read the book with an eye for how the students as learners see themselves in our library space and how they would like others to see them. I'll be sharing the outcome of those lessons later this week.

How would you use this of a book with students? 

Want more information? Check out the wonderful book trailer.

Use the Emily Arrow Song with your students:

Friday, September 23, 2016

ReedALOUD: SHY inspires thinking about "taking care of self."

This week, we're making the connection between our Hopes and Dreams and our Rules and Routines. (This post shares the lesson for the first and second graders. The lesson for the third, fourth, and fifth graders can be found here.) 

Our school rules are: 
Take Care of Yourself
Take Care of Others
Take Care of Our Environment

To help the students think about how they might take care of themselves, we read SHY by Deborah Freedman
Shy is shy, so shy that he is hiding inside this book. With a gentleness in both art and narrative, Deborah Freedman takes readers on a voyage of courage and friendship. 

"Shy loves birds. He'd love to watch them fly and hear them sing, but he's only ever read about them in books. . . until a real bird comes along. He's dying to meet her, but there's just one problem: Shy is, well, shy — so shy, in fact, that he's afraid to leave the gutter of the book. Can Shy overcome his fears and venture out onto the page? 
In eight classes of reading this book, I was able to watch the students faces as they followed Shy along his journey. They were both sympathetic and empathic. The art is beautiful. The effective use of color is fabulous, it mirrors Shy's emotions and allows readers to deepen their connection to him. The writing offers moments of conversation and reflection. For instance, I stopped at the line, "With the bird, Shy thought, he could go anywhere!" and asked the students if they could think of a time they needed to do something that made them nervous or uncomfortable and had wanted or needed a friend beside them to help. A chorus of hands reaffirmed the importance of friends and allies. 

After reading the book, we connected back to our rules by talking about how Shy had taken care of himself by doing the bravest thing ever -- calling out to the bird. I asked the students to think about how they could take of themselves in the library. Here's a peak at what they shared:

We'll be continuing to explore the rules by reviewing this week's work and delving a deeper into how students can take of themselves and others in the library.

The other part of our lesson involved reviewing the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and Take a Break space. By following the AUP technology guidelines, the students are taking care of themselves, each other, and our environment. With the first and second graders, I worked hard to make the AUP language accessible. I also created a short Animoto:

After this we discussed and modeled using our take a break space, addressing how using it ensures that students are taking care of themselves and each other.