Last year was my first year taking part in a mock award when my lunch book club did the Mock Newbery. I loved the process and the conversations, but I really wanted to move to a less stressful book club and make the process more focused and to get more […]
Last year was my first year taking part in a mock award when my lunch book club did the Mock Newbery. I loved the process and the conversations, but I really wanted to move to a less stressful book club and make the process more focused and to get more students involved, so I decided to do a mock award with my class; however, I knew that doing the Newbery well is a very long process, so I thought the Caldecott would be interesting to try with middle schoolers. And I was right!
When I decided to do a Mock Caldecott unit, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I turned to my friends on Twitter who have done Mock Caldecott lessons before. I also turned to good-ole Google. With all of this help and a bit of hard work, I felt pretty good to start.
To pick books, I completely trusted my PLN and myself, and I chose 20 books that blew them and/or me away. The books were:
|A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert, Ill. by Lauren Castillo|
|After the Fall by Dan Santat|
|All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, Ill. by Mike Curato|
|Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, Ill. by Kadir Nelson|
|Claymates by Dev Petty, Ill. by Lauren Eldridge|
|Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, Ill. by Pascal Lemaitre|
|Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Ill. by Fred Koehler|
|Grand Canyon by Jason Chin|
|How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy|
|La La La by Kate DiCamillo, Ill. by Jaime Kim|
|Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin|
|Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Water by Michael Mahin, Ill. by Evan Turk|
|Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares|
|The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, Ill. by The Fan Brothers|
|The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken|
|The Rooster Who Would Not be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, Ill. by Eugene Yelchin|
|The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse by Mac Barnett, Ill.by Jon Klassen|
|When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, Ill. by Christian Robinson|
|Windows by Julia Denos, Ill. By E.B. Goodale|
|Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell|
Standards and Learning Goals
To justify a Caldecott Unit, I needed to tie it to middle school standards, and I chose to focus on the standards of citing textual evidence to support analysis and presenting claims and findings with relevant evidence. There were also five secondary standards that fit the unit.
|LAFS.8.RL.1.1||2||Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.|
|LAFS.8.SL.2.4||3||Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.|
|LAFS.8.SL.1.1d||Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.|
|LAFS.8.RL.1.2||3||Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.|
|LAFS.8.RL.1.3||3||Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.|
|LAFS.8.RL.2.5||3||Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.|
|LAFS.8.RL.2.6||3||Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.|
After determining the standards, I created a scale to help plan my timeline. I knew I needed to start with the students understanding the Caldecott criteria and end with students presenting claims and evidence supporting their claim.
|4||I can do level 3 plus I have appropriate eye contact, volume, and clear pronunciation and can think on my feet during a discussion.||Mock Caldecott discussion|
|3||I can present claims and findings with sound reasoning, relevance, and cite evidence from the text that supports my analysis.||Choose which potential winners they believe will be honored and present this claim using evidence from the text.|
|2||I can cite evidence from a text that supports my analysis (using a set of criteria).||Analyze past winners for criteria.
Analyze potential winners for criteria.
|1||I understand the criteria I will be using to analyze a text.||Caldecott criteria presentation
Example Beekle analysis
The next step, in my Google searching, I found a wonderful Slideshare by librarian Steven Engelfried from Portland, Oregon. Over about 40 minutes in two days we went through all of the criteria. We also talked about some art elements vocabulary that they would need to know and use during the unit (and I found Quizlets on Elements of Art and Art Mediums!)
I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know where to go from here… Luckily, there is an amazing teacher from Illinois named Jessica Lifshitz who teaches 5th grade and wrote such a brilliant post about the Mock Caldecott unit in her classroom, and I finally felt like I could proceed with this unit and do it well–all because of this post! I’ve emailed Jessica to thank her, but I also want to publicly do it here–thank you, Jessica!
The next step was sharing books that already won or were honored for the Caldecott. We started with Beekle by Dan Santat as a whole class. Then, my students, in partners, got to browse a huge pile of Caldecott books, and I asked them to answer for each book: “Why did this book win over the others? How did it meet the Caldecott criteria?” I also had them rotate partners to make sure they were hearing different opinions and voices. Here are some examples of student answers:
|Du Iz Tak?||I think this book was honored over other picture books in the year it was published because the story is fun and in a made-up language which made us think about what they were talking about and try to translate it to English. She uses lots of space and colors. Some pages there are no words which make the pictures necessary to understand it. The medium she uses are gouache and ink.|
|Journey||This book was honored over the others because the illustrations had such good creativity and were very unique. There was no writing, so you had to rely on the pictures to tell the story. The bird found the girl after she set him free, and led him to a friend. The story has a very good meaning, and a good purpose. It had a variety of contrasting colors, and showed the most important stuff in bright colors. It had a very powerful visual experience. It showed the plot, setting, and characters in illustrations. Her world was bland in the beginning, but after she came into the new world, everything explodes with color.|
|King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub||I think that this book was honored because all of the illustrations in the book are very detailed and tell the story without words. If you were to remove the words from the book you would still know what was going because all the pictures are very detailed and have a lot of different colors on every page.|
|Where the Wild Things Are||I think this book was honored by how realistic the illustrations are and for how fun the story is. I love the leading lines the illustrator uses how there are no words over the illustrations giving the book plenty of white space. All the spreads have plenty of happy colors which for me makes the book very appropriate for kids.|
|Swimmy||The book was drawn with watercolors. The illustrator was very meticulous and detailed when he was painting the pictures. It actually felt like some objects had a texture that you could feel. It was very entertaining. Younger children would be fascinated with the drawings and would love the story. This was a great book in all aspects.|
|Interrupting Chicken||I think this book was honored because it included other famous stories but with a plot twist. They included little red riding hood and she was on her way to go to her grandma when she met a stranger and the chicken said don’t talk to strangers. Then the story ended so fast. The style of the chicken’s drawing of his own story was like a child’s actual drawing. It was very kiddy and I liked that the story was kind of based off of what the dad was trying to do to the chicken. He kept telling him stories but he never fell asleep. Now the chicken told him a story about his dad not falling asleep but in real life the dad fell asleep before the story ended. The illustrations look like they are painted and the colors are very warm to make the room seem cozy.|
Now that they were experts on the criteria and saw example of winners/honors, it was time to jump into our Mock Caldecott titles. To evaluate these books, I had them look specifically at each part of the Caldecott Criteria, and they had to answer how the book fit or didn’t fit the criteria. I set up a pretty clear close reading process for them to follow:
- First read: Just read the book and enjoy!
- Second read: Focus on the illustrations. How do they meet Caldecott criteria? What does the author excel at? Use Post-Its to annotate your thoughts.
- Third read: Focus on the narrative elements of the story. Use Post-Its to annotate your thoughts on how the illustrations enhanced the narrative.
Students started in pairs again then we scaffolded off to working independently. I also had them leave the Post-Its in the books, so the students were seeing thoughts across classes. Students were asked to get to at least ten of the mock books. We did this for over a week to allow them time to read as many as they can and also time to evaluate properly.
At the end of the unit and the Thursday and Friday before the ALA Youth Media Awards, it was time to start making predictions. First, I had them rank the books they read from favorite for the Caldecott to least favorite. Using these predictions, I gave books numerical scores and figured out average scores. I also had students get together in groups of three to five to pick their collaborative four favorite books and awarded bonus points. With all of these scores, I was able determine the winners for each class as well as for all of my classes.
The last thing my students did before finding out who had won was complete a written response answering:
- What book do you feel best met the Caldecott criteria thus you feel should win?
- What criteria did it most meet?
- Share evidence supporting your claims.
- Use RATE: Restate, Answer, Textual Evidence, Explain/Elaborate!
Some student responses:
- I think that The Book Of Mistakes should win because it does appeal to kids because it is very colorful, with much space so they can focus on what is important. The rest of the book is white except for the illustrations, which I think is easier for the kids to understand what is important. Also, the illustrator used a lot of artistic medium, with paint, pen, and other things, she made very good illustrations that connected with the story. They really made a visual experience, because if you just had the story, you would not know what was going on at all, and so you had to depend on the pictures to tell the story. I think that this book should win the Mock Caldecott award because I think that it deserves it with beautiful illustrations that have a good meaning and theme, and I think that they really appeal to kids, and so therefore should win the Mock Caldecott Award. The illustrations were very nice, and they tell the characters, and other narrative elements. There was a lot of line, space, colors and other things that made the illustrations very unique among other illustrations by other illustrators. The colors did change depending on many things, and the color choices were very good. I think that The Book Of Mistakes should win the Mock Caldecott Award.
- I think After the Fall would win the Caldecott. The reasoning in this is because with the amount of detail put into the text more specifically the illustrations. The illustrations in the book show a big part of the story. It shows the sequence of events with the illustrations now that the egg falls then he lives a sad life without being able to climb due to his fear. You can see the emotion and detail with everything he does not like being grey or showing sadness. Then, in the end, he made an invention to be able to fly again a mini plane even with him having bandages and being injured after the fall. He tests it out and then it gets stuck on where he fell he decides to go up and with the pictures you could see how stressed out he was. Then at the end, you can see the light and feathers cracking showing that he is becoming a bird. But that’s not the first reference throughout the book it shows birds on every page giving reference to the end of it. Then you see him fly away into the sky after he hatches. That is why After the Fall will win the Caldecott.
- The book Little Fox In The Forest is going to win because of its unique illustrations. These illustrations such as when the Little girl lives in a colorless world and brings her colorless fox to show and tell. When the little girl is swinging on the swing she finds the orange fox stealing her colorless stuffed fox . Now the little girl and her best friend is chasing the fox and follows the fox in the forest. Then all the sudden you start to see little experts of color, and then there was a very colorful magical forest. This book was such a good using of artistic medium and a very good visual experience this book definitely deserves to be on top.
- I think Wolf in the Snow should win the mock Caldecott because of the detail in the illustrations. It has a story in the illustrations which is about a wolf cub and a girl who help each other out. The detail in the wolves and every picture is great, for example, the wolves breath due to the cold environment they are in. This book really appeals to kids because of the illustrations they are showing like when the wolf stares at the girl holding the wolf cub, and it creates a questioning of what will happen next. This book does not need words at all because you can already see the story from the illustrations. This means there is a great visual experience in the book.
- The book that I think will win the Caldecott is Flashlight Night by Fred Koehler the illustrator of this book. I think this book will win because it tells the story with the imaginations of kids and uses lots of colors and is told amazingly. I think this book appeals to kids because it shows how you imaginations can take you anywhere. The art to make this book was very detail from one illustration to the next. The illustrations work amazing with the story because depending on what the illustration was the story would match up perfectly with it. This are some of the reasons why I think that Flashlight Night should win the Mock Caldecott this year.
The ALA Youth Media Awards
On Monday, February 12th, my classes watch the ALA Youth Media Awards either live or recorded, and it was so much fun to watch their reactions when they saw books they read or their disappointment when their favorites didn’t win. We were so excited to see Grand Canyon and Wolf in the Snow honored with the Caldecott, and the students who put them high on their prediction felt so validated. There were three Caldecott honor books that we hadn’t had in our pile, so we have them coming from the public library, and I promised them that we’d have a conversation on why those titles may have won over the ones that we chose.
This unit was one of my favorite lessons ever, and I was so impressed with my students and the quality of books! Thank you to everyone who helped me make this possible, and I hope that if you are reading this and never done a Mock Caldecott award that you now feel like you could because if I can, you can 🙂
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018
Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.
“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.
A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”
In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.
Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try.
Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.
Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.
And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.
Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.
In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.
Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.
As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?
Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:
“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”
And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.
Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.
Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:
- Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
- After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.
- Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
- Which scene represents love the most for you?
- Which scene are you glad they included?
- How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
- What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?
Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:
Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)
“Talking to Kids About the Sixth Mass Extinction”
I think that when most people hear the word ‘extinction,’ dinosaurs come to mind first. But the truth is, billions of species have gone extinct in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history.
Many of these were background extinctions, a normal part of life on […]
“Talking to Kids About the Sixth Mass Extinction”
I think that when most people hear the word ‘extinction,’ dinosaurs come to mind first. But the truth is, billions of species have gone extinct in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history.
Many of these were background extinctions, a normal part of life on this planet. There have also been five mass extinctions—events that wiped out more than 50 percent of species at one time. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the asteroid that hit the earth 66 million years ago and wiped out those dinosaurs.
What is not well-known, however, is that there is a sixth mass extinction currently underway.
The normal background extinction rate for mammals is one extinction every 100 years. But in the past 100 years, there have been more than 40 extinctions. Looking at all species on Earth, everything from the smallest microbes to the largest mammals, scientists estimate that the current extinction rates are 1,000 to 10,000 higher than normal. But unlike the previous five extinctions, this one is our fault.
We spend a lot of time talking about climate change, but we also need to pay more attention to the species that are dying off because of that and other human-related causes.
It’s time to spread the word. Before I wrote Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds?, there weren’t any books for kids that talked about the sixth extinction or what they can do to help slow this trend. Kids need to know what’s happening to the planet they are inheriting. And they need to be empowered to take action. In some ways, it seems a daunting task to stop extinctions. But history has proven that one person can make a difference in the world, and that together we can do even more.
It’s important to start the discussion with kids and to show them that even at their age, there are things they can do to create positive change. Here are some ideas!
Activity: Start the Discussion
If the scientists’ predictions are right, three out of four species will go extinct over the next few hundred years. What will the world be like? Take students outside so they can get a better understanding of this prediction. Have students list the different species they observe. Encourage them turn over rocks, crawl in a garden, think about what is underground, or look in a tree. Remind them to include insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, trees, and plants. Can they find 10? 20?
Once they have a list, ask students to cross out three out of every four of those species on it. For this activity, those crossed off species are the ones that will become extinct.
Questions for discussion:
- Are the extinct species part of the food chain? What will happen to the other species that rely on that species for food or shelter?
- What will happen to species when their main predators die off?
- Can the ecosystem can be healthy, even with those missing species? Why or why not?
- Can some of the surviving species adapt? What adaptations would they need to survive?
Activity: Taking Action
Another way to get kids thinking about extinction is to have them think about their own carbon footprint. Start with a discussion of the terms “carbon footprint” and “carbon emissions.” Then, discuss and list the things humans do that require burning fossil fuel. Each of these activities contributes to global warming and ocean acidification, and ultimately to increased extinction rates. But there are things we can do to reduce carbon emissions.
There are many online resources that can help students research this, including NASA’s Climate Kids website (https://climatekids.nasa.gov/), and other carbon footprint calculators. The purpose of the activity is to have students identify their own actions that contribute to carbon emissions and what actions they can take to reduce their carbon footprint.
Questions for discussion:
- What can you do in your home or community to reduce your carbon footprint?
- Will making changes in how you live be easy or difficult?
- Calculate the carbon emission reduction if everyone in the class took one step to reduce their carbon footprint. What would the savings be if each student could also convince three other families to do the same thing? How about if 1,000 families in the community took steps to lower emissions?
Activity: Planning for the Future
Tell students they are a team of engineers for a new town that’s going to be built. All that’s there right now is a mix of prairie and forest. Their job is to make it as green as possible. They must find a way to balance the need of humans and the needs of the environment and the species that live there.
Start by researching what makes a city green. Also, students must consider all the things in a town that people need—homes, schools, food stores, etc. They can even discuss their own town or city as an example of things you want to include (or omit) in the town they design and build. Possible activities include collages, models, dioramas, or drawing. The focus should be on the green details.
Questions for discussion:
- What was easy about creating a green city? Difficult?
- What was difficult about balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of people?
- What can be done in their own town or city to move it towards being more green?
Discussions and research lead to awareness. Awareness leads to action. And action creates change!
Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds? (with 25 Projects)
Published September 15th, 2017 by Nomad Press
About the Book: Have you seen a dodo bird recently? Do you have mastodons playing in your back yard? Not likely—these species are extinct. In Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, more than 5 billion species have gone extinct, some of them at the same time. In Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds? readers ages 9 to 12 learn about the scientific detective work scientists perform to find the culprit behind mass extinctions, including the present-day, sixth mass extinction.
About the Author: Laura Perdew is an author, writing consultant, and former middle school teacher. She has written more than 15 books for the education market on a wide range of subjects, including the animal rights movement, the history of the toilet, eating local, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She is a long-time member of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. Laura lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Thank you, Laura, for pushing us to start this conversation with our students!
Every year when I am applying through my district to attend the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Conference followed by the ALAN (Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of NCTE) workshop, I have to write up a rationale about why I like to attend the conference, and it is always hard to put into words. And each year the conference seems to be getting better and better.
I consider myself lucky that I get to attend this conference each year because it really does recharge my professional battery. I would not be the teacher I am today without my NCTE and ALAN peers, and I know I will keep growing because of these conferences and the people I know through them.
Like Ricki shared yesterday, we are huge advocates for ALAN. It is the organization where I have found all of my like-minded educators who believe that reading and access to a diverse and wide-range of literature is the key to a literacy education for our adolescents. (PLUG!: It is only $30 a year to join, and you get our newsletter and The ALAN Review!)
A few of the highlights this year include:
1. I am going to start with the same thing as Ricki: The “YA Lit IS Complex: Authors and Teachers Reframe the Conversation About Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity” session. It featured YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson, M. T. Anderson, Matt de la Peña, A. S. King, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, and Angie Thomas. I was in charge of moderating Laurie Halse Anderson’s round table, and I had the pleasure of working with her and her brilliance. The session, chaired by the incredible Jennifer Buehler, was based on her book Teaching Reading with YA Literature which is a must read also. I really hope I get to be part of any future sessions Jennifer decides to propose!
Please feel free to check out my handout about the complexity within and activities to do with The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Andersonthat I shared at my round table on Slide Share (click here).
Also, check out the notes I took while Laurie talked on Twitter (click here).
2. I was also very lucky to be part of the “The Vision of ALAN: Rationales and Strategies for Using Young Adult Literature in Secondary Classrooms” an ALAN-sponsored session with some of my favorite ALAN people (including the one and only Dr. Ricki Ginsberg! And we forgot to take a picture together! We’re the worst!). Five roundtables, each hosted by a past chair of the Walden Award, focused on different young adult literature (YAL) topics including the literary merit of YAL, using YAL in the classroom, and research supporting YAL. Attendees will be free to move to the roundtable of their choosing, and will have opportunities to switch tables/topics during the session. Roundtable leader(s) will provide materials for attendees to take back to their school sites, including book lists, teaching strategies, and rationales for challenged titles.
Please feel free to check out my handout about text sets that I shared at my round table on SlideShare (click here).
3. Author panels are some of my favorite to attend and be part of! First, I was lucky enough to be the chair of an amazing author panel on the use of unconventional narrators within the author’s books and within the classroom. Katherine Applegate, Lisa Bunker, Josh Funk, and Adam Rex each shared some about their writing process and then also shared a way their book could be used in the classroom.
Please feel free to check out the presentation on SlideShare (click here).
4. I then attended an teacher dream come true session called Reading as a Personal Art which included Nancie Atwell (my education hero and this was the first time I’ve seen her speak!), Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle. The focus was on how they include reading in their middle and high school classes, how they get include rigorous and thought-provoking activities with the reading, and how English teachers need to think of themselves as literacy teachers, not literature teachers. One of my favorite thing they shared was the cross-country social justice book clubs Penny and Kelly are doing in their classrooms.
5. The next panel I went to was another awesome author panel: Positive Social Engagement moderated by Michele Knott with Lisa Yee, Jennifer Ziegler, J. Anderson Coats, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. The panel looked at ways to use literature, and their books specifically, to help students find their place in our world and make sure that they are a positive part of the future.
(P.S. These are only some examples of the panels! Wowza, right?!)
6. The ALAN Breakfast was by far one of my biggest highlights for a few reasons: A) RICK RIORDAN spoke, and I actually got to meet him. I’d seen him here in Orlando two years ago, but it was an auditorium tour. You should have heard my students squeal when they saw my picture with him! B) NEAL SHUSTERMAN was awarded the ALAN Award for his outstanding contribution to young adult literature and gave a truly enthralling speech. C) I was the chair of the ALAN Award committee, so I GOT TO INTRODUCE NEAL!
Please feel free to check out my introduction on Google Docs (click here).
7. I also have to give a shout out to the publishers who sponsors dinners, cocktail hours, book signings, and so much more for the educators at the conference. We are lucky to have you!
8. The ALAN Workshop should probably have its own top ten list because it isn’t fair to give it only one spot when those two days are such a joy in my life, so I will share my top five panels I loved at ALAN:
- MINE! 🙂 I presented with Julia Keller and Jodi Lynn Anderson on their science fiction books The Dark Intercept and Midnight at the Electric.
- Joseph Bruchac was entrancing and also such a pleasure to talk to afterwards. I wish I could absorb all of his knowledge and stories.
- The key notes were ON POINT this year! Monday opened with Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds and Tuesday started with Meg Medina. True brilliance.
- The “In Conversation” panels were fascinating this year! Two examples: Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson talked about sex, and Donielle Clayton and Cindy Pon spoke about diversity in sci-fi/fantasy.
- The line up in general was fantastic. I am in awe of Laura Renzi and the vast array of authors that she put forth for us to experience.
9. Friends! My heart always feels just a little bit empty when I leave. I have some educators, publishers, and authors who I consider friends who I only see at conferences, so it is always hard to leave them. (Shout outs to Jennie, Michele, Aly, Jason, Dani, Wendy, Daria, Katie, Beth, Beth, Lee Ann, Sarah, Jennifer, Ricki of course!, and all of my other wonderful PLN friends! Also, I was so happy to meet Amber and Kristen!)
10. Books and Authors! So. Many. Books! I already had a problem choosing, and now it is worse. And so many authors to swoon over! I have so many photos; too many to share, but if you want to check them out, you can view my Google Drive folder (click here) if you’d like.
Every year, I think to myself, “Golly, that was the best conference yet.” This year was no different. I was fortunate to be invited to be a part of several phenomenal sessions. I learned so much from my colleagues and from the many wonderful authors who attended the conference.
It’s no secret that the ALAN Workshop is my favorite part of the conference. I live and breathe ALAN. If you aren’t an ALAN member and love young adult literature, I highly recommend this organization. Please feel free to contact me (or Kellee, for that matter) if you’d like to learn more!
My favorite part of the conference was the ALAN Workshop. This should come as no surprise to readers. I am a diehard ALAN member. As we say during the workshop, #IamALAN. If you aren’t an ALAN member and love young adult literature, I highly recommend that you join. The assembly is like a family—the members are extremely accepting and their passion shines.
I so enjoy the time I spend with old friends at NCTE and ALAN. Two of my students attended this year, and one commented, “It’s so interesting how well you know these people because you only see each other once a year.” It’s quite true. I consider some of my greatest friends to be the folks that I have met at this conference. Based on my work with The ALAN Review, I was able to meet new friends this year, particularly the reviewers for the journal. It is is such a wonderful community to be a part of, and for that, I am very grateful.
A few of the highlights this year include:
1. The “YA Lit IS Complex: Authors and Teachers Reframe the Conversation About Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity” session. It featured YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson, M. T. Anderson, Matt de la Peña, A. S. King, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, and Angie Thomas. I was in charge of moderating M. T. Anderson’s table, and I was shocked at the turnout for this entire session. Someone counted 300 people in the tiny room. I feel so, so lucky to have been a part of this session, which was chaired by the incredible Jennifer Buehler. I have my fingers crossed that she does the session again next year.
2. The CEE-sponsored session about YA voice, culture, family and identity. Benjamin Alire Sáenz spoke, and he (once again) captured my heart.
3. The Meet the Editors session. This is my third year with this session as a presenter (with The ALAN Review). I love hearing what scholars are working on, and this year, I was able to connect with some people who I’ve always wanted to meet.
4. Getting to dine with some of my favorite bibliophiles and authors. Kellee Moye makes me so happy!
5. The “Vision of ALAN” session. It was so fun to work and present with some of my favorite colleagues. Our roundtable was focused on research in YAL, and I loved sitting beside my friend and soulmate, Wendy Glenn.
6. The “Future is Now” session. WOW! This is a massive session that features preservice and new teachers. It’s incredible!
7. Taking fangirl photos with some of my favorite authors, and capturing these moments with my two students.
8. Neal Shusterman‘s ALAN Award speech and Rick Riordan‘s breakfast speech. My goodness. These two men are FORCES.
9. The ALAN Workshop keynotes! Both were incredible! Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, and Meg Medina make my heart feel full.
10. All of the books! I don’t even know where to begin! I am going to cut this post short. It is time to READ! 🙂
The Real Us
Author: Tommy Greenwald
Illustrator: J.P. Coovert
Published August 8th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Summary: Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however–well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.
But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don’t ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they’ll challenge the school’s status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.
About the Author: Tommy Greenwald has enjoyed reading all his life, which is why he’s appalled that his kids Charlie, Joe and Jack, would prefer getting a dental check-up to checking out a book. After years of pleading, threatening, and bribing, Tommy finally decided the only way to get his kids to read was to write a book about how to get out of reading. The result was Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. And they read it! (So they say.) The Executive Creative Director at SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising agency in New York City, Tommy lives in Connecticut with his wife, Cathy; his non-reading sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack; and his dogs, Moose and Coco.
Review: Middle school is a time of finding one’s identity. In The Real Us, Tommy Greenwald explores three different examples of kids in middle school and their search for who they really are. Damian is like many of our students who has something to hide from his peers so is quiet and hidden. Laura is friendly and known, but because of her weight is still excluded from most social activities. Then there is Callie. Who seems to have the perfect life, but even she learns through a bump in the road that perfection is not always what it seems. All three of these characters will resonate with readers either as a mirror or a window.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is going to be loved by middle school students. Add it to your classroom and school libraries, and it will be read and loved!
Discussion Questions: Callie’s life seemed perfect, but it wasn’t. How was it not as it seemed?; Which of the three characters do you relate to the most? Why?; Why did Callie stop being friends with Laura? What does this tell you about the two characters?
Damian: “I wish they had assigned seats at lunch like they do in class. It would make life a lot easier.”
Callie: “Here is a math equation for you: Sitting in class + A bandage on your nose = Forever.
Everyone gets pimples, Patrick had said.
Laura: “I start to walk away, since my work here id done. But Ellie has one last question for me.
‘Do you play goalie?’ she asks. ‘Because you kind of look like you could totally block the goal all by yourself.’
Ellie and Ella dissolve into hysterics. I look at Calista, who doesn’t seem amused. But she doesn’t seem mad, either. She doesn’t seem anything.
‘No, I don’t play goalie,’ I answer. ‘I play defense. And you better watch it before I defense your butt with my foot.’
That shuts them up. I walk away.”
Read This If You Love: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Moon Shadow by Erin Downing, Posted by John David Anderson, Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Don’t Miss Out on Other Blog Tour Stops!
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
Author: Stephanie Roth Sisson
Published: October 14, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
A Guest Review by Brittany Brown
Summary: A curious boy living in a small city apartment finds the world astonishing. He wants to know about light bulbs, inch worms, and rocket ships. Carl sets out on a journey to find answers, but finds bigger, even more powerful questions. Through his research and studies, Carl eventually earns the title of Dr. Carl Sagan and spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding about the universe. This young
boy’s contributions to science and education have inspired many children everywhere to question the world around them. His story will resonate every child who has ever wondered “how” or “why” or spent an evening looking up at the night sky.
Review: I am constantly looking for books which will inspire my students and get them excited about learning. This book, which is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the great mysteries of the universe, did that for myself as an adult, too. After reading it, everyday life is once again imbued with the magic and novelty it had in childhood. In Sagan’s eyes, there is no phenomenon too mundane to investigate. The curiosity which most adults leave behind drove Sagan to be the lifelong learner that all teachers hope to foster in their students. Reading this book shows that science is all around us, that we all belong here in the universe, and that in everyone there is a scientist. I absolutely loved reading this book, and as a new teacher building my classroom library, this is the first one which I will be purchasing multiple copies of to share with my students.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would pair well with any science or biography unit. It would also serve as a great example of narrative nonfiction.
The most obvious use for this story is in a science unit. I would love to use this book to open up a discussion at the beginning of a unit on the solar system. Not only would it generate excitement, it would also begin to build some vocabulary and background knowledge. It would make the information in the unit more personal and relevant to kids, and would be a great launching point to encourage students to come up with their own questions about how the world works.
This book is also a wonderful book to use for mini lessons in writing. Using this book as an example, a teacher could lead a discussion on how to choose which life events to include in a biography, how to sequence and organize it, and how to incorporate quotes from a historical figure into a writing piece. It also shows how to include facts and achievements in an engaging way, and how to demonstrate a person’s impact on history.
Finally, this book would also be a superb example of narrative nonfiction. Despite containing lots of scientific facts, it reads like a storybook and the illustrations do much of the talking. Students will be captivated with the descriptive narration, and discussions could explore their experiences as readers or how they may be able to attempt this style in their writing.
Discussion Questions: What are your big mystery questions? Where would you go to try to find answers to them? What character traits helped Carl on his journey? What impact did he have on the world? Who does he remind you of?
Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, I Wonder by Annaka Harris, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Edros by Deborah Heiligman, Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh
Thank you, Brittany!
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