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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Women's History Month: On Being Connected with Women You Have Something in Common With

My students love learning from Capstone's PebbleGo Encyclopedia. We use it in first grade for rotting log critter research, biography research, and ocean animals research. In second grade they use it for endangered animal research along with smaller projects. We have our own units mapped out along with the data gathering sheets created for these units.

Yet, sometimes a great new opportunity to get students exploring and learning arises. I was looking through ideas in the Capstone Community for Women's History Month. (If you are not a member of the Capstone Community, check it out here: My Capstone.) 
Turns out they had just what I needed! A quiz that my second graders could take and then get paired with the biography of a woman from history. Answer the following four questions and viola!
I got Bessie Coleman!

Who were my students connected with?
At the start of the second week of our project, the students shared who they were connected with and why they thought they were lead to that biography. Here are their responses:

We had a snow day, so I was not able to ask these two classes the same question, but look at the differences in all four of these classes. Wilma Rudolph hold strong among all four classes, but class three must see themselves as more athletic. Class four has some future teachers and scientists. Classes one and two above have some serious science interests as well.

Class three:
Wilma Rudolph - 12
Marie Curie - 8
Jane Goodall - 1
Bessie Coleman - 1
Frida Kahlo -1

Class four:
Wilma Rudolph -6
Mary McLeod Bethune - 5
Marie Curie - 4
Frida Kahlo - 3
Bessie Coleman - 1
Jane Goodall - 1

There are printable data collection sheets from Capstone, 

but I had another idea and in mind and made one of my own. I wanted for them to choose a woman to read about on their own and to see how having a connection to a person makes it more interesting. Having them state why they chose the person they did helped get them thinking about this connection.
I reminded the students how to use the breadcrumb trail across the top to navigate back to read more articles about women.

Who did my students choose to read about?
Due to the snow day, I was only able to get to this part of the lesson with two of the classes. It was really interesting to see how the students chose their second biography. In one class, a child who had been matched by the quiz with Amelia Earhart talked all about her, which led two students to seek her out when they had a chance. 


Clever, Informative, Motivating, Interesting, Captivating

These are a few of the words I would use to describe HELLO HELLO by Brendan Wenzel after reading this story aloud with my first graders. 
HELLO HELLO is a celebration of the interconnectedness on Earth, but it's not just a celebration, it is a call to action to see and hear that which surrounds us. That act of seeing and hearing leads to learning and an understanding of the importance of caring for our planet and the beings that inhabit it.

Brendan Wenzel's mixed media art for this book is wonderfully-engaging and encourages the reader to slow down and explore each spread. Expressions and body language enliven this friendly group of animals.

The back matter includes a note from Brendan Wenzel encouraging readers to keep on learning. This is followed by a listing of the ninety-two animals that appear in the book along with their status - vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, etc. This back matter proved useful when my students wanted to identify a few of the animals in the story.

Want a sense of how I shared HELLO HELLO with my students and the project it lead to? Read on!

I showed my students the book trailer before I read the book:
I was able to do a case art reveal and it was fun. The students were eager to share the names of all the animals they recognized in the silhouettes on the case.  We took a quick gander at the end papers and then were ready to read. 

Given the enthusiasm for sharing all the animals they recognized (and had some pretty vast knowledge of) on the case, I asked the students to practice their visual literacy skills and see what they noticed, what did they see that the words didn't mention? 

They shared some of common features and similarities that they saw. My students noticed many small and big details within the story, like how the last animal that appears on the far right of the spread is the first animal on the far left of the next spread, thereby reminding readers of the continuous thread of connectedness woven through the book. They also noticed when bird plumage and fish spiky fin rays were the same, or webbed feet, or striped tails.

We finished by going back page by page and talking through the connections. With these ideas in mind, the students went to the PebbleGo Animals Encyclopedia to begin exploring and looking for common features and connections between animals. Here are a few that I heard about just in an initial perusal of the articles:

cardinal and blue jay - they are both birds
hawk and a jaguar - they both hunt
eel and newt - similar tails
parrot fish and parrot - colors and teeth/beak

The students will return this week to gather information on this sheet:

I am excited to see how they continue this thread of interconnectedness started by HELLO HELLO.

What are you waiting for?
Just say...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ReedALOUD: Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Image result for rescue and jessica
Back in February, I had the opportunity to meet Jessica Kensky (along with Rescue) and Patrick Downes, the authors of Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship. This week I had the great pleasure of hosting Jessica, Patrick, and Rescue at my school to read their story with one of my third grade classes. 

Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship is about parallel journeys that intersect just when it is needed. Rescue, a service dog is on a new path to help others. Jessica, a young girl who is injured, and, like Kensky, ultimately becomes a double amputee, is on a path of healing. The book is about how the lives of a service dog who needs a job and a girl who needs a service dog come together.  
As with Kensky, the Jessica of the story finds hope, freedom, and a return to normalcy when she receives her service dog, Rescue, who, in turn, finds purpose. It's a life-changing friendship.  Here's a trailer for the book:

Promotional material for the book states: "...the heartening story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her service dog will illuminate and inspire." Illuminate and inspire this book does, in many ways, just like the authors.
Through spare text, Kensky and Downes tell Rescue and Jessica's journey from both perspectives. We see how these two are made for each other. Rescue's voice brings a lightness to the story, yet he is serious about training for the job ahead of him. Kensky and Downes convey in straight forward and clear language the experiences the young girl is going through, deftly covering aspects like becoming an amputee. Their narrative engenders compassion, not pity, in the reader.

Kensky and Downes have channeled their real-life experiences and emotions allowing readers to feel, not just see, how Jessica's life changes when she gets her service dog, Rescue (whose life also changes).
Image result for rescue and jessica

Scott Magoon's art has a lightness and softness, yet is realistic. From hospital settings to life with Rescue, Magoon shows the fine details, as with the medical equipment, including wheel chairs, prosthetic devices, and physical therapy settings. Effective use of white space frames the scenes and invites further inspection.
His art shines a light, literally, on Jessica's emotional journey, from the darker shaded spreads where she is dealing with the removal of her lower leg to the sunlight filled spreads where hope exists and when Rescue comes into her life. 

Image result for rescue and jessica

Being in my library when authors are reading their books to my students is always an incredible experience - the privilege to witness the connection that reader and writer make. The visit from Jessica Kenksy, Patrick Downes, and Rescue was this and so much more.

I visited this classroom of third graders a few days before to explain that they were going to have a special author visit. I explained that the book is about a young girl who has a similar disability as one of the authors, the girl has to have both of her legs removed below the knee. "Rescue and Jessica: A Life -Changing Friendship is about a young girl and a service dog whose lives intersect at just the right moment. The young girl has injuries and has to have both of her legs removed (amputated) below the knee. Rescue becomes Jessica's service dog and helps her rebuild her life." 

I asked the students about the Boston Marathon. How many watch it? How many have friends and family who run it? I then explained that our authors had been hurt during the bombing at the Marathon almost five years ago and that the story is based upon Jessica's own experiences after the bombing.

We then watched the book trailer that I posted above. 

I wanted my students to see Jessica and Rescue doing the things they do together. It was easy to show some footage of them at home and at the park because Rescue won the ASPCA Dog of the Year and there is a video about them. I started the video at about 45 seconds to skip past the footage from the bombing. 

The students loved seeing Rescue get a tissue or a blanket for Jessica. They also loved seeing them out playing in the park. 
Fast forward three days and Jessica, Patrick and Rescue were in the house! They read their book, with Patrick reading Rescue's journey and Jessica her own. As you can see, it was a wonderful read aloud experience.

After reading their book, Jessica and Patrick invited the students to share comments or ask questions. 
The comments affirmed my feelings about this book. Students felt the book was a little sad, but not too sad, and more hopeful and inspiring than anything else. The students loved how Patrick voiced Rescue's part. They also demonstrated their visual literacy skills by talking about the effective use of color in the artwork (shout out to Scott Magoon!).

The questions demonstrated the natural inquisitiveness of children and also indicated that they are focused on the practicality of life as an amputee as opposed to focusing on what happened before. They loved Rescue and asked many questions about him and what he likes to do. 

One student asked why they had not included the Marathon bombing. Patrick's answer was perfect. He shared that that was just seconds of their life, that these last five years are what is important as are the life ahead of them. 

Patrick asked why the students thought they had made the girl in the story young and not an adult like Jessica, someone quickly answered that it was easier for the students to connect with the young girl because she is their age. I say this often, but children are deep thinkers and keen observers. 

The students noticed the little boy with the fire truck throughout the book. Patrick explained that that is his cameo in the book. When asked why they thought he carried a fire truck, the students remembered that Rescue was named after a fire fighter. Deep thinkers and keen observers.
I had reminded students that Rescue would be working when they visited and that we needed to respect his job and give him space, you will notice that they took this part seriously.

For the visit, I received an early copy of the book from Candlewick. I wanted to share my experiences reading the book with students with Jessica and Patrick, so I read the book with my fifth graders, which was the only grade I saw before their visit. After we read Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, I invited the students to leave comments or questions if they wanted to, they did.


I plan to bring Jessica, Rescue, Patrick, and hopefully Scott back to our school for all of our students in grades one through five. You'll likely hear about it here.

More Information:
For those of you not familiar with the book, here's the publisher's description:

Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue."

The Rescue and Jessica book tour starts in April, if they are in your area, you should go!