Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Picture Books in Middle School

Fifteen weeks in and I still feel like I'm finding my footing in seventh grade. There are certain parts of the day that feel no different than elementary school. Other portions make me wonder if I've landed on another planet. It's hard. My brain hurts. I never feel like I have enough time. I question on a daily basis if I'm teaching the right lessons, the right units. I wonder if what I'm doing is helping the kids grow or holding them back. But I try. Some days, I find a bright spot. Today was one of those days.
I've done a Mock Caldecott for the last several years with Margie Myers-Culver. This year we are teaming up again. The students will have much less time, and it will be a more independent unit, but I'm excited to begin. 
Today I began by handing out a packet where the students could take notes and analyze the titles that we selected for this year's Mock unit. I explained the timeline of the unit and said that we'd begin together with one of my favorite picture books of the year, Jon Klassen's We Found a Hat. There were several cheers, I had read the first two books in the trilogy - I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat to these same kids in fifth grade. The kids circled up, made observations about the book, and scribbled notes down recording their thoughts. 
I then gave them some time to grab a book from our nominees and read it alone or with friends. I wondered how seventh graders would react to this assignment. They were a trip. Many told me it was their favorite day of the year. I heard shouts from the back corner as two girls experienced They All Saw A Cat for the first time. Three boys in one class told me that Secret Subway was amazing. Many kids in all of my classes chortled with laughter at This is Not A Picture Book.
At the end of fourth period I paused for a moment. Taking the time to look over the room I realized I wasn't as far from the world of fifth grade that I sometimes imagined. These kids of mine were sharing, laughing, and enjoying picture books. Their joy filled the room and made my heart just a bit lighter. Picture books, they are for everyone.