Visual Literacy with a Picture Book Mystery

Ms. Freeman, 5th grade reading teacher, is always brainstorming ways to make the reading standards more engaging for students.  One of the standards focuses on how visual and multimedia elements enhance the text.  Specifically, the standard is:

ELAGSE5RL7  Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

She wondered aloud with me about what we might do together in the library with this standard, and we came up with a visual mystery of sorts.  Before students came, I selected about 30 picture books and copied 1 page with 1 accompanying illustration from each book.

When students arrived, we took a look at the standard and then read Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko and Dan Santat.

The students were quick to notice the amount of figurative language packed into this book.  As we read, I slowed us down so that we could really look at the illustration and how it matched Gennifer Choldenko’s words as well as how it enhanced her words.  We imagined Dan Santat receiving the text without the pictures and how he might visualize the illustrations while he read.  We noticed how the grass looked like a sponge when Choldenko talked about the “spongy grass”.  We noticed the boy’s face lit up in green when Choldenko talking about how it “glowed like a glow stick”.  We made lots of noticings.

Then, I gave each student one of the pages of text that I had copied.  I asked them to imagine that they were the illustrator receiving this text.  What did they visualize as they read?

Once students had a chance to read the passage and create a picture in their mind, they wandered around the library tables where I had spread out all of the images that matched the text. They had to search for the image that they felt matched their text.

It was very tricky for some because some of the text could potentially match more than one image, but if they looked at the details of the text and the details of the illustration, they should be able to find the exact match.

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Matching text and pictures. #visualliteracy

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When students felt confident in their choice, they recorded a Flipgrid video explaining why they felt like their match was correct.

Click the image to listen to our videos

Finally, students went to another set of tables where the full books were spread out.  They located the book with their image and explored the title, the images, and rest of the text.  Many students discovered a picture book that they wanted to continue reading.  Several have been back since the lesson to check out the book.

Another student came to the library to show me one of her guided reading books and how there was a mistake between the image and text.  The color of a dog’s collar did not match the description in the text and she wanted me to see that she noticed.  I loved that her author and illustrator eye continued on beyond our lesson in the library.

This took some time to put together, but Ms. Freeman and I were really happy with how it turned out and how many students explored books that they might not explore on their own.

A Visit with Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson (17)

We are one fortunate school. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Avid Bookshop we welcomed illustrator Christian Robinson to our school in promotion of his newest book School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex.  Christian has illustrated numerous books including the award-winning Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena.

Christian Robinson (7)

Prior to Christian’s visit our Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes all read the book in the library during library orientation. We loved thinking about our own feelings on the first day of school and relating those feelings to the feelings of the school. We also loved examining the illustrations to see the face of the school and discovering connections to our own lives in the illustrations.  One of those connections came on the spread in the book that shows the children arriving to school. Students loved finding the way that they come to school on this page because they were all represented somewhere.

In classrooms, students created drawings of our school and turned them in to the library. Each student who completed a drawing had his/her drawing displayed in the library windows the week before the visit. Christian Robinson took some time to appreciate them all when he arrived at our school.

Our visit with Christian was in the library, so I pushed shelves and tables away to make room for over 250 little students.

Christian Robinson (1)

He began his visit with a reading of School’s First Day of School.  It was so fun to hear the book read by one of the collaborators. I hope students discovered something new after hearing the book again.  I know I did!

Christian Robinson walked us through his process in creating the book. We learned about starting small by making sketches on tiny post it notes.

Christian Robinson (9) Christian Robinson (10)

We also learned about making mistakes. Christian showed us one picture of a big pile of mistakes, and he stressed with students that mistakes are a part of the process.

He showed us the research that went into the book including visiting actual schools and looking at buildings that seemed to have faces in real life.

Christian also took questions from the audience.

Finally, he created some drawings.  Students imagined an animal and he called on different students to suggest an animal to draw.

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Thanks to our incredible PTA every classroom got a copy of the book to put into their classroom library, and Christian signed them all.

The impact of these author and illustrator visits is very special. Different students connect in different ways.  Some are inspired to write and illustrate their own books that they proudly show off in their classroom, the library, and at home.  Some realize that being an artist isn’t something that has to wait until you are an adult; the foundation starts now. Some students connect with an author or illustrator as a person and realize that there’s a friendly face behind the writing or art on the library shelves. Some students connect with a story in a way that they didn’t connect before because they know the story behind the story.  Often after a visit, the author or illustrator’s books fly off the shelves and stay consistently checked out.

Christian Robinson (28)

Today as I was walking down the hall, two boys in Kindergarten stopped me to ask, “Where’s Christian Robinson?”. I smiled knowing that they had met someone who they respected and hoped to see again at our school.  Thank you so much for supporting our local bookshop to bring authors and illustrators like Christian Robinson into our schools. It matters to our students.

The Power of the Picture Book: A Look at Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

Picture Book Month is coming to a close, but of course, the power of the picture book and the magic that it holds should (and will) live on beyond one month.  Picture Book Month is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of the importance of reading aloud to one another.  It reminds us of the connections that we make to those that we experience a book with.  It reminds us of how a story that seems so short and simple can be packed with so many conversations, memories, and inspiration.

This month, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Little Red by Bethan Woollvin, a new picture book published in the US by Peachtree Publishers (April 2016).  I love getting advance copies of books and seeing what readers have to look forward to in the coming months.  I also love taking them home and sharing them with my own children.  When you share a book with a child, you see it through different eyes and it takes on a life of its own.

Little Red is a version of little red riding hood, and its pages are filled with images that use just 3 colors: red, white, and black. Many of you know how much I love the color red, and the red definitely stands out on each and every page. Little Red is a clever girl and doesn’t adhere to the rules of sometimes naive fairy tale characters.  She isn’t fooled by the wolf for one minute and has her own ideas of how to handle every situation.  The wolf has a massively long snout that shows off his extra sharp teeth, and Bethan Woolvin zooms the reader in to a two-page spread of the wolf that will make you feel like you are being swallowed too.  She does the same thing with Little Red to show off Red’s subversive thinking in action.  I can’t quit staring at these simple yet vibrant images.

When I took Little Red home, I first read it to my 3 year old son. He immediately fell in love with the story and had to read it again the very same night. He had a love/hate relationship with the wolf and loved to shout out “EAT YOU WITH!” when I turned the page in that part of the story. Little Red also has a repeating line: “which might have scared some little girls, but not this little girl”. It only took a couple of readings for him to discover this line and read it along with me every time. My son is a wiggle monster and it is sometimes hard to get him to sit still for a book or even pick out a book to read at bedtime. However, every night since taking Little Red home, he has requested to read it. There’s something magical about the simplicity of the text and illustrations, the subversive nature of Red (which is a bit like him), and the element of getting “eaten” that demands his attention.

Peachtree sent a cute little paper basket filled with cupcake wrappers, a red velvet recipe, and cupcake toppers. These quickly became toys to continue the story beyond the pages of the book. He took all of them out at supper at stuck them in his bread and began telling us all a story over dinner. It made me realize as a parent that I often go beyond the book at school but I don’t do it nearly enough at home. Something as simple as a paper cutout of a book character became an avenue for imaginative story-based play, and it really wouldn’t take much effort for me to do that with more books.  It also reminded me of a new resource for families called All the Wonders, which offers ways for families to go beyond the book.

My 5 year old daughter also joined in on the fun of Little Red by listening along as I read.  It did not take her long to be able to read the entire book by herself, so now she wants to share it with every person she can. She reads it to me, her mom, and her brother.  We also brought it along with us to Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. My daughter’s great grandmother came down to visit and of course was delighted by a reading of Little Red. It was magical to watch my daughter, who I’ve read to since before birth, suddenly be the reader.  I think she read the book three or four times to her great grandmother, and then I watched as they started talking about what happens “between the lines” of the pages.  Her great grandmother shared the story of the woodsman from other red riding hood stories and they began to wonder if there was a woodsman anywhere in this story or why there wasn’t.  I’ve always loved my grandmother’s knack for storytelling, and it was fun to see her do a quick red riding hood version with my daughter.

There’s no way that I could have known all of the magic that was hiding inside this one book without opening it up, sharing it aloud, and carefully looking for the miraculous.  As we leave Picture Book Month, I invite you to look at the picture books around you. What magic is hiding inside? How are you sharing them with the readers in your life? How are you encouraging readers beyond the pages of the book? I write these questions because they are what I’m considering for myself right now thanks to Bethan Woollvin, Little Red, and my own family. Happy reading!

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Winter Around the World and in Athens, GA: Original Songs and Personal Narratives

song recording (3)

For the past few weeks, 2 classes have been involved in exploring winter right here in Athens, Georgia.  Even though we might associate cold and snow with winter, it isn’t always like that where we live.  Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class and Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class both participated.  You can read about the beginnings of their projects here.  Our work is all coming together with classrooms from around the world on a collaborative Google slide presentation.

Ms. Kelly’s class has been busy in their classroom dividing into groups and building a song about winter.  As a class, they worked on the base beat using beatlab.  Then different groups worked on parts of the song.  Singers created the words and sang them. Clappers used their hands to add rhythm.  Ukuleles strummed chords for another layer.  Instruments such as coffee can drums added even another layer of rhythm.

song recording (4)

Ms. Kelly wrote the words up onto a big chart paper with plenty of visuals for students to follow.  She saved their class beat in beatlab and pulled it up on the library projector.  I used Screencastomatic to record the beat along with our webcam recording the student performers.  Ms. Kelly used dry erase markers to make notes on the beatlab beat for specific groups of students.  She also used a cowbell and her voice to help students know when to come in.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to record multiple times, but we just loved our first take!

Even though we were in love with that version, we decided to try one more time with just an iPad so that we could get some closeup shots of students performing.  We love this version too, but we are including the 1st one in our global winter project with classrooms around the world.

We had some fun shout outs while we were working on our song, including some retweets from Kishi Bashi who was one of our inspirations for our song.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class split into groups of 4.  Two students were author and two were illustrators.  After starting their work in the library, they continued to write and draw in class to tell about personal experience with winter in Athens.  They featured things like food, clothing, school, and events in winter.

Each group came to the library with their finished work.  We spread their pages out on tables and took digital pictures of each page.  We then took these and added them to the collaborative Google presentation.

In Youtube, we pulled up the feature where you can record straight into Youtube with your webcam.  We placed each page in front of the webcam and students read their winter personal narratives and facts.  These videos were also embedded on the Google slides.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the slides turn out as we learn about winter around the world!

 

 

 

A Visit with Illustrator R. Gregory Christie

Gregory Christie (1)

We have such an amazing community.  Anytime we have a wish or a dream that we put out there, we somehow find a way to make it happen. This year, our supportive PTA budgeted money for us to have a school-wide author or illustrator visit.  These types of visits are huge learning experiences for our students because they connect them to the real people behind the books on our shelves and inspire their own art and stories.  Author/illustrator visits are hard to do for an entire school every year because they take a lot of financial support to pay speaking fees and travel for the author/illustrator.  I am so thankful that our PTA brought Gregory Christie to our school this year for every grade.

From R. Gregory Christie’s site:

R. Gregory Christie has been working as an illustrator for over 20 years.

He has illustrated over fifty books,as well as collaborated with clients

such as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe, The Wall Street Journal,

The New York Times, The Kennedy Center, Pete Seeger, Queen Latifah ,

and Karyn Parsons on a variety of projects.

Our day kicked off with Kindergarten and 1st grade in their own sessions.  Mr. Christie took time to read a bit of A Chance to Shine and talk about how he connects the text of the story to his art.  What the students in these grades loved the most was seeing an illustration come to life before their eyes.  It was like magic.  Mr. Christie got the students to come up with some drawing ideas.  They wanted a cat.  Then he asked them to think about more details, so they added a bad cat from Korea.  Using these details, he started to draw.  He constantly checked in with them to see if his drawing was matching the text.  If it wasn’t, they gave him reminders and held him accountable for what to draw.  I loved how he connected this to what an editor does.

During our 1st grade visit, we had a bit of excitement: a real fire emergency.  We all had to evacuate while fire trucks and firefighters came to investigate our building.  The kids were fantastic, and Mr. Christie was so flexible with this unexpected part of our day.  First grade came back in for a few more minutes and we adjusted our schedule for the rest of the day.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders had a chance to really study some paintings and consider the mood of them.  They also compared two paintings to see what was similar and different.

These students loved it when Mr. Christie drew the face of Jazz Baby but then let students come up and collaborate on the drawing to help tell a story.  They only had  few seconds to add to the drawing.  He started asking them to be accountable for their work by telling what they were trying to achieve by drawing what they did.  After several students, he came in and added his own twist to the drawing.

Mr. Christie visited both PreK classes individually and read Jazzy Baby and A Chance to Shine.  Then, he took time to draw Jazz Baby and some other things like birds and dogs.  The kids loved having those illustrations left in their class.  My favorite part of this time was when the PreK students were able to show him their artwork and talk about what they did in their own artwork that was inspired by his artwork.  This was so empowering for our smallest students.

In our 4th and 5th grade, students had a special treat.  They saw Mr. Christie’s first book that he has written and illustrated.  It isn’t published yet, but they were treated to parts of the F & G version of the book.  He also took them through several of the books and how the illustrations came together.  Students saw the very first book that Gregory Christie did called Palm of My Heart.  It was great to see this first book side by side with the newest book to see how his illustrations changed or stayed the same.  Students shared a lot about why Mousetropolis stood out to them with its cute mice and its vibrant colors.  These students were also treated to a special video production that is yet to be released about an African American ballet performer.  It was a session full of special opportunities for our students.

I loved capturing some words from Gregory Chrisitie throughout the day.  Students heard:

“When a book starts it’s a manuscript.  When the book it comes to me.  The words can help you feel that it’s an upbeat bright colored book.”

“It’s graphic.  You see a lot of negative and positive space.”

It takes about a year to do a book.

Body language is important when you are illustrating a book.

I know these students will remember this visit for years to come.  We now have all of our Gregory Christie books autographed and ready for checkout in the library.  Thank you again to our PTA for this opportunity, and thank you Avid Bookshop for helping with our book sales.

Ashley Bryan Traveling Exhibit of Illustrated Africana Children’s Literature featuring Shadra Strickland

Images on display through September 27th

The Ashley Bryan Traveling Exhibit of Illustrated Africana Children’s Literature is now in our library!  This exhibit is provided through a collaboration between the Auburn Avenue Research Library and the National Black Arts Festival. The display is on the tops of the shelves and features 8 works of art by Shadra Strickland, award-winning children’s illustrator.  The exhibit will be with us until September 27th when Shadra Strickland will visit our school.  To support the exhibit, we have copies of six books that accompany the exhibit, a curriculum guide to inspire lessons using the texts and artwork, and a school-wide subscription to Literacyhead.

From the accompanying curriculum guide:

Ashley Bryan

“A renowned author and illustrator, Ashley Bryan is perhaps best known for his work celebrating the African American experience. In 1962, he was the first African American to be published as both the author and illustrator of a children’s book. Since that time, his work has expanded the catalogue of children’s literature by African Americans and has led the way for other African American authors and illustrators.  Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx by Jamaican immigrant parents, Bryan always harbored a love of books, art, and music. He recalls writing his first book in kindergarten and never gave up writing and illustrating books until he was finally published at the age of 40. Bryan was a talented and dedicated student, graduating from high school at 16 and attending Cooper Union Art School on a scholarship. After serving in World War II, Bryan attended Columbia University and studied in Europe as a Fulbright Scholar.

Ashley Bryan’s children’s books have won several awards including the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration, six Coretta Scott King Honors, and the Arbuthnot Prize. Bryan’s work is heavily influenced by African American poetry and storytelling. His retellings of African folktales such as Beautiful Blackbird and Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum have successfully exposed a wider audience of children to the African oral tradition.”

Shadra Strickland

“Shadra Strickland studied design, illustration, and writing at Syracuse University before earning her MFA at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Her illustrations have received numerous awards including the American Library Association’s John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award as well as an NAACP Image Award and the Ashley Bryan Children’s Literature Award.

Strickland’s illustrations start with real-life images. For her work on Bird, Strickland spent time walking the streets of New York, and her research for A Place Where Hurricanes Happen involved time in New Orleans. Yet, her illustrations, while based in reality, also manage to capture the imaginative worlds that children create.

When not at home in Baltimore where she teaches illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Strickland can be found conducting workshops across the country with children, teachers, and librarians.”

Throughout the next month, students will be coming to the library to view the exhibit and participate in a variety of lessons exploring the illustrations and text.

Some possible lessons that students may experience:

1.        Where I’m From:  Read aloud one of Shadra’s books.  Discuss how the words and images help us learn more about the characters in the story.  Examine one piece of artwork from the exhibit that is from the picture book and use the picture to think about what the character might write in a “Where I’m From” poem.  At the end, students can either craft a poem from the character’s perspective as a class using Poll Everywhere in the computer lab or students can write individual poems

2.       Connections:  Students will examine two pieces of artwork from Shadra’s exhibit and compare and contrast the two images using a venn diagram on the smart board.  Following this, we will read aloud one of her books and continue looking at how the images have connections to one another.  At the end, students will have time to examine all the pieces in the exhibit and write a response on an index card about connections they saw between the artwork.

3.       Text to Self Connections:  Examine a piece of art from the exhibit.  Have a conversation around a series of questions as a whole group and with partners that build connection between the art and the students.  Read aloud one of Shadra’s books and continue the conversation of connections.  View the remainder of the exhibit and see if any of the other paintings have a connection to you.  At the end, students write a response on an index card about a connection they had to the artwork.

4.       Response to Literature:  Read aloud one of Shadra’s books and examine the artwork from that book.  Ask a guiding question that would build student response about the book.  For example, in the book Bird, how is Bird like a bird?  Students write a response in relation to the question.  This could also be done as a more open response to the book in a book review format.  In the computer lab, students could type their response into Tagxedo and print a visual interpretation of their response.

5.       Read Alouds:  

a.       White Water:  Inspired by the author’s own childhood experiences, White Water tells the story of Michael,a little boy growing up under Jim Crow laws. He and his grandmother must give up their seats on the bus for a white family and must drink from the “colored” water fountain.Michael begins to dream about the “white” water, and devises a plan to get a taste of it, but Michael soon learns that many things he has been lead to believe are simply untrue.

b.       Bird:  Mekhai, nicknamed Bird, is struggling to deal with the changes in his life. He grandfather has recently passed away and his older brother has been lost to drug addiction. Fortunately for Bird, he has the love and support of his grandfather’s friend, Uncle Son, and a passion for drawing that help him to make sense of the world in this difficult time.

c.       A Place Where Hurricanes Happen: Adrienne, Keesha, Michael, and Tommy all live in New Orleans prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. This story follows the events of Katrina as seen through the eyes of the four children, all of whom experience the tragedy of the hurricane in different ways. Ultimately, the book is a hopeful reminder that even in the face of devastation and loss, the human spirit is resilient.

d.      Our Children Can Soar:  Each spread highlights key figures in African American history including George Washington Carver, Jesse Owens, Hattie McDaniel, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall and Barack Obama.

If you are in the Athens area during the next month, we invite you to stop in and see the exhibit.  For more information or to let us know you’re coming by, email Mr. Plemmons at plemmonsa@clarke.k12.ga.us

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