What an exciting day! Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Ramseyer’s class had the chance to Skype with incredible author/illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. She was simply amazing! Today’s Skype came about because a few months ago, Shannon Miller and I began a blogging project with our second graders. The whole project was started with the book Same, Same but Different. Our classes skyped with one another and began writing blog posts about our world to share with one another. Shannon and I both shared this work on our blogs and shared the project on Jenny Sue’s Facebook page. Jenny Sue reached out to us and wanted to connect with our students to share her work and talk about their work. We had a few email exchanges and test call to prepare for today’s session.
For today’s skype, students wrote some questions in advance. I went through and selected about 10 of them to have ready for today, but I let the students know that I would remove any questions that she answered during her talk. Students in both classes also drew pictures of “their world” just like Kailash and Elliot do in the book. They added a sentence to describe what was in the picture just like in the book. The teachers and I selected about 10 of these for students to share during the Skype.
We also took time to look at a Google map to see how far it was to Taos, New Mexico from Athens, GA. (1,491 miles & 22 hours 47 minutes in a car)
Our session started with Jenny Sue sharing her process for making Same, Same but Different. We heard about her travels to Nepal. She reached over and pulled out her journals to show the kids how she collected ideas, sketches, and research in her journals. After collecting all of these thoughts and sketches, she started working on the story. She said she probably made at least a hundred different versions of the story before she had the idea that she really wanted. Jenny Sue showed the students the book with the rough sketches of the illustrations as well as how those rough sketches changed in the final book. She even pulled out an original painting from the book and shared it with us. I loved how we felt like we were sitting in Jenny Sue’s living room and every time she thought of something to share with us she could just reach right out and get it. I also loved that she was sitting on a bouncy ball while she Skyped! We learned how her publisher didn’t really like the ending of the book that she sent to them and how she tweaked it just a bit to satisfy what they wanted in the book. She shared that even the smallest change can make a world of difference.
Next was one of my favorite parts, students came up to the rocking chair that my dad made and shared their own art with Jenny Sue. I loved how she took time to look at each piece of art, considering what it had to offer and what story it told. She gave each student an acknowledgement of their hard work and pointed out a special quality of each piece. She even took pictures of some of the artwork to remember.
We used a similar format for students to come up and ask questions. I really liked having students sit in the rocking chair right in front of the camera so that they could be seen and heard. It felt like they were having a 1 on 1 conversation, even though 2 whole classes were watching.
This will be a day I will cherish. Same, Same but Different has become a book that I love to use when connecting with other schools and in my lessons about culture. I am so grateful to Jenny Sue for taking time out of her day and busy writing life and family life to share the love of reading, writing, and illustrating with our students. If you haven’t read this book, please take some time to check it out from your library or better yet, purchase several copies from your local book stores! You won’t be disappointed.
Listen to a snippet of our visit!