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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Celebrating the Book Birthday of SMART COOKIE with Elly Swartz

Yesterday, Elly Swartz celebrated the book release of her newest book, Smart Cookie, with my fourth and fifth graders. 
Happy Book Birthday, Elly!
Elly had my students at "hello." Her warm and approachable personality combined with her energy created an atmosphere that was like a calm buzzing.
The students listened attentively as she shared her writing journey, imparting advice along the way. There's a line from Smart Cookie that she shared that really resonated, "move my brave up to the surface." It's something many students connected to because it's something they do every day. Elly answered a question about ideas for her books and she explained that for her, "sometimes you find ideas and sometimes they scoop you up." It was a magical morning
You know an author or illustrator has made an impact, when: one, the students continue to talk about what they heard and learned during art, math, science, etc; and, two, the teachers email and call you to share what they heard and experiences. 

Here's a peak into her visit:

Elly came bearing gifts, along with bookmarks to post-it notes, she brought along supplies for making Smart Cookie Jars. The Smart Cookie Jar Activity that Elly created reinforces the central messages within the book - accepting yourself and recognizing those who love and support you. 
The students create a cookie jar and fill it with cookies that recognize and celebrate their idiosyncrasies (the things that make you you) as well as cookies that acknowledge the people in their lives who are in their herd (people who love you and all your idiosyncrasies unconditionally). 

As you can see, it was an incredible visit. THANK YOU, Elly. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Excitedly Preparing for an Author Visit from Elly Swartz

Elly Swartz visited my school last year to share her first published novel, Finding Perfect. Elly's visit was incredible, not only because she was engaging and informative, but because she imprinted Molly Nathan's story on my students' hearts. The way Elly spoke of creating the character of Molly and writing her story touched my students. 

Shhhhh, Exciting news....Elly is returning to my school on Tuesday to celebrate the book birthday of her new book, SMART COOKIE
The students and I have been eagerly awaiting this visit. To prepare my current fourth and fifth graders (they did not meet her last year, only last year's fifth graders met Elly), we've been reading from both Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie
First, I read the first two chapters of Finding Perfect. While I read, the students wrote down words or phrases or drew pictures of images or scenes that stood out to them. We finished by talking about what we already knew about Molly. Here are a few examples of the students' work:

The next week, I read chapter eighteen, when Molly's (undiagnosed) OCD really starts to impact her ability to get through daily routines. The students and I talked about OCD. I differentiated between Molly being neat and orderly in chapters one and two versus being driven by her need to follow routines to control what feels out-of-control in her life.

Elly created a project connected to Finding Perfect, called the Unfolding Identity Project. The students and I used what we knew about Molly to introduce the it. I left the example at work, but will at it to this post later. When you create the fortune-teller-styled identity project, different layers or aspects of your identity are revealed as you unfold it. The students thought about something their classmates know about them that the average person at our school might not -- something about themselves that they reveal to their classmates. (My 5th graders did something similar last year.) Here's a glimpse into the unfolding identities of my fourth and fifth graders.

The third week, we read from Smart Cookie. Again, I read the first two chapters because they set the stage for the rest of the book. I have read these two chapters with eight classes of students and I can say that there is a deftness and thoughtfulness to how Elly lets the reader know that Frankie's mother died in a car accident when Frankie, now eleven, was four. The writing has the right amount of pacing for the students to absorb this information, while also seeing that Molly is fine and living a normal life. 

After reading the final sentence in the second chapter where Frankie and her best friend Elliot have made a pact to help each other in their quests, I said, "and so begins Frankie's and Elliot's adventures in ghost hunting and mom finding. Along the way they will get involved in a mystery and discover things about themselves and those around them." I shared that just as Molly experiences growth, so to does Frankie, but where Molly's sense of herself changes, it is Frankie's sense of family that does. I am looking forward to learning about the project that Elly has created for Smart Cookie, I am guessing it has to do with the Winter Family Festival Float theme, "Who is in your herd?"  We'll see!

There was one part of the first two chapters that really caught the students' attention, the game-themed rooms in Frankie's family's B&B. I asked the students which room they would want to stay in. I also asked them which new room's the Greene Family needed. After hearing the students' ideas, which ranged from Twister to Trouble and from Stratego to Solitaire, I shared mine: Chutes and Ladders, equipped with with actual slides and ladders. Wouldn't that be amazing? Here are some student suggestions:

Which room would you like to stay in?