Saturday, May 18, 2013

Reflecting on Picture Books

Our picture book collection

Most fifth graders don’t enter our classroom on day one and ask for a picture book. They often tend to look at them as books for little kids – not something that “counts” as real reading. Fortunately, in a matter of days, those feelings start to shift. We share many picture books in our classroom – through reading and writing mini-lessons, book talks, book trailers, and more.

Throughout this school year my students explored picture books. Some memorable lessons include:

-       Reading What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan on the first day of school. Knowing I will return to this text on the last day of school. Sharing that with my class, eyes watering, knowing our time is limited.
-       The sharing I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat – both by Jon Klassen. The discussions about the endings were memorable.
-       Whispering “jackass” as I read It’s A Book by Lane Smith. Howls of laughter floated up in the air. Watching a student read it to her dad at Open House. Praying he had a sense of humor.
-       Bringing in a stack of Elephant & Piggie books to discuss familiar characters. Watching as students read them to each other, acting them out.
-       Discussing banned books – and my feelings about speaking loudly when a book is challenged – with the hilarious Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake.
-       Delving into what makes a picture book “distinguished” during a Mock Caldecott Unit with Margie Myers-Culver.
-       Cheers erupting in my class when the Caldecotts were announced.
-       The gasps as I turned the pages of the wordless book Bluebird by Bob Staake. Hands down, one of the best days of conversation during mini-lessons this year.
-       Skyping with Mr. Schu’s second graders for Children’s Book Week and listening to the two classes read We Are In A Book.
-       Working with my students to create our own picture book biography unit. Sitting back and listening, as they just “have” to come up and tell me what they just learned.
-       Having my RTI class ask to create their own reader’s theater from I Want My Hat Back and then perform it for other students. (See video below)

Now, almost 180 days after meeting these children, I know they are changed as a result of picture books. These slim volumes have taught them about friendship, love, loss, perseverance, history, kindness, family, and more. Picture books are ageless – a lesson my students now understand. Each time I see their hands shoot out to grab another book, a stack built by a student on the floor, my smile grows a bit wider. I am grateful they have embraced these books for the treasures they are. I hope their teachers in the future do as well.