Join Us for the 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

We are nearing the end of November, which means the close of Picture Book Month. In 2013, I started brainstorming with several dynamic librarians across the country a way for us to celebrate the close of the month.  Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Shawna Ford, Kathy Kaldenberg, and I created the very first Picture Book Smackdown which was held via Google Hangout on November 21, 2013.  Authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman joined us as well.  For one hour, we all shared as many picture book talks as possible.  This was the beginning of an annual event that is now in its 5th iteration.

This year, our event will take place on November 30th from 1:30PM-2:30PM EST.  We will feature students from:

  • David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA (facilitated by Andy Plemmons)
  • Orchard School in South Burlington, VT (facilitated by Donna MacDonald)
  • Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX (facilitate by Julee Murphy)

We are also very excited to announce that we will be joined by author/illustrator Deborah Freedman. Her books include This House Once, Shy, The Story of Fish & Snail, and many more!  You can learn more about her books here.

I’ve put together a Smore that puts everything you need in one place

Click the image to visit our Smore

What to expect:

  • A live broadcast via Youtube Live or archived to watch at a later time
  • Numerous student voices book talking their favorite picture books in 3 states
  • A short talk from Deborah Freedman about why picture books matter in the world
  • A list of the books we reference

What you can do:

  • Watch live with your class!
  • Host your own picture book smackdown in your classroom, library, or district
  • Share your favorite picture books on social media using the hashtags #pbsmkdwn and #picturebookmonth
  • Send students a shout out on Twitter using #pbsmkdwn

In Loving Memory of Dianne de Las Casas

We will of course continue reading and sharing picture books all year long, but we want to end November with this special event.  This year’s Picture Book Smackdown is dedicated in loving memory of Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  We lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, but her legacy of advocating for the importance of picture books in our world lives on.

Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

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.

2016 Picture Book Smackdown

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Picture Book Month came to a close and we once again hosted a Picture Book Smackdown with schools around the country.  All month long, students have been celebrating Picture Book Month by reading picture books from every genre section of our library. As they read a book from a section, they earned a stamp on a challenge sheet. Once students collected all 12 stamps, they turned their sheet in for a bookmark, certificate, and to be entered into a drawing to win a new picture book.

Another piece of Picture Book Month was preparing for the Picture Book Smackdown.  Since 2013, I’ve been hosting and organizing a Google Hangout to bring together students from multiple states along with authors & illustrators to celebrate the power of the picture book.  For one hour, students and authors take turns stepping up to the microphone, book talking a favorite picture book, and saying why picture books matter in the world.

We advertised our event using Smore.

This year, we were joined by author Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month.  We had students from 4 states: Maine, Vermont, Texas, and Georgia.

 

We broadcasted through Youtube Live and had a full hour of sharing favorite picture books.  Dianne de Las Casas opened and closed our event.

 

I loved that at the end she reflected on what had been shared.  There was such a mix of classic picture books with current picture books.  There were books about Star Wars and books about difficult topics like hurricanes.  There were new twists on fairy tales like Little Red and books in made up languages like Du Iz Tak?

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As students shared, I had a wonderful parent volunteer who kept a list of the books that were shared during the hangout. We need to go back now and clean up the doc, but you can view its progress here.  I also had a volunteer who helped get students up to the microphone while I made sure our technology was all running smoothly.

We had multiple viewers from around the country during the event and it was fun to see tweets from different perspectives.

 

It was also fun to look at the Smore analytics to see where people were from who at least visited our page about the event.

I think one of the things I enjoy most is seeing students and authors share with the world with one voice.  They come together around a love of picture books and each take time to speak about why picture books matter to them.  Each student had a different take on the importance of picture books and they all brought something for us to consider.

You can view our entire Picture Book Smackdown here:

As you view, I hope you’ll consider tweeting about your own favorite picture books using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

Another incredible thing that happened this year is that I heard from a group of librarians in Alabama led by Bonnie Howard who wanted to host their own picture book smackdown gaining inspiration from the smackdown we started in 2013.  I of course encouraged them to go for it.  Their smackdown gained a lot of community attention and because of that, we get a chance to see the smackdown in action as well as hear some students talk about what they loved about the event.  One of the things I love about the video is how a principal and librarians got excited about the future of connections beyond their state and even country.  When you start connecting with other schools, you see the miraculous things that happen as students and adults collaborate with one another. I can’t wait to see how the work of Bonnie Howard, Kris Gray, Lisa D, and Dixie Paschal continues to grow.

If you are interested in starting your own picture book smackdown, I encourage you to go for it too.  Whether it’s within your own school, with other schools in your district, or reaching beyond state boundaries, you and your students will be rewarded by sharing your work with one another.

Picture Book Smackdown 2015 is a Wrap!

smackdown (8)Wow!  We had the most students ever participate in our 3rd annual picture book smackdown.  Even sickness and technical difficulties didn’t stop our students in 5 states sharing favorite books along with author, Laurie Thompson.

Here are a few behind the scenes notes:

  • There were multiple emails and tweets sent between the participating schools in this smackdown. We established etiquette for the hangout such as keeping things moving, muting microphones when we weren’t speaking, and only having about 5 students at a time share
  • We all prepared our students in advance of the smackdown but we each did it in our own way.  My own students had a basic script that they filled out.

  • The amazing Cathy Potter helped organize Laurie Thompson to join us. Unfortunately, Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us.  She was with us in spirit, though!
  • I had a group of 50 students!  Luckily 2 volunteers and a teacher helped me keep them organized in chairs and a parent frantically wrote down as many titles of shared picture books as she could.

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  • We all came into the Google Hangout early to test our cameras and microphones.  We communicated with one another through the chat in Hangouts as well as through text messaging if needed.

All of our Picture Book Smackdown content can be found on our Smore.

I would like to thank all of the schools who participated, Laurie Thompson, our volunteers, and all of the people who viewed and sent out tweets.  Thanks for celebrating Picture Book Month with us!

We’ll see you next year for our 4th annual smackdown!

Celebrating Thanksgiving Traditions with Balloons Over Broadway and Looking Ahead

Second grade signed up for a rotation through the library as part of their Thanksgiving feast celebration on the day before our holiday break.  Their request was to read the book  Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.  If you’ve never read this book, it is amazing!  The illustrations are filled with details that you can search through for hours and it is packed full of information while being very readable as a read aloud.  While I love biographies, sometimes it is hard to read a biography aloud because of the length.  Balloons Over Broadway is just right.

Before we read the book, we looked at information about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Watching this parade has always been a part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  I was very surprised to see how many students had never watched the parade or even heard of it.  I was reminded of the importance of the picture book and how it brings out conversations that might never have happened without the sharing of a story.  Some of our conversations included perseverance, immigration, failure, and growth mindset along with some other Thanksgiving traditions.

There are numerous resources you can use to share about the parade and the book:

After we read the story, we used on of the pages out of the activity kit to design our own balloons.

www.hmhbooks.com kids resources BalloonsOverBroadway_ActivityKit.pdf

I loved watching what students came up with.  Once they finished, they had the option of sharing their balloon on a Flipgrid.

Students came up to the webcam on the projection board and I helped them click through the Flipgrid menus to take a picture and record.  Then, students came up to type their name.  I normally use the iPad app for Flipgrid, but this was a fast way of doing a lesson closing as students finished their coloring on their own time.

 

balloons

Click here to see and here about their balloon designs!

The book also made me think ahead.  Last year in 2nd grade, we did a great project with the force and motion standards in science where students investigated Rube Goldberg and made their own inventions.  Balloons Over Broadway was a perfect introduction to the idea of tinkering and using everyday objects and simple machines to take mundane tasks and make them interesting.  I want to revisit the opening pages of the book where Tony Sarg invents a way t feed the chickens when we do the simple machine project later this year.

I also thought about the Hour of Code and how that event brought about so many conversations about failure and perseverance.  This book would be a great example to share ahead of Hour of Code to think about a growth mindset and prep students for the failure that comes with coding and how you handle that failure as a learning experience.

Who knew that so many thoughts would come about from a simple request to read a story.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Picture Book Month with the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown

IMG_4429Our 2014 Picture Book Smackdown was a huge success.  Students in 5 states including Georgia, Texas, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania shared their favorite picture books along with 2 amazing authors, Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace.

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Anytime you host an event like this, you worry about technical difficulties.  However, today the internet gave us smooth sailing.  I do want to take a moment to uncover some of the pieces that went into making this event successful.  There was a lot of preparation that went on behind the scenes.

  • I created our Google Plus Hangout on Air event page well in advance so that we could advertise our smackdown to all of our networks.

  • All of the authors and participating schools have been communicating with one another via email, twitter, and a shared Google doc.  The doc contained tips for making the hangout run smoothly such as keeping our microphones muted unless we were speaking as well as listed the order that we would speak.

Picture Book Smackdown Notes   Google Docs

  • All of the participating schools had students prepare in advance.  Many of our students wrote our scripts or memorized a brief blurb about their books.  Some of us hosted a practice for our students to run through their talks.

  • We opened the hangout well in advance so that we could test our microphones as needed.  I sent everyone a direct link to join the hangout rather than sending everyone a G+ invite.
  • Many of us had organization to how our students came up to the microphone. For example, I setup my chairs in groups of 3 so that students were already sitting in the groups of 3 that would come up to the microphone.

  • Some of us had helpers who were assisting us behind the scenes.  I recruited a parent volunteer, a UGA student, and UGA teacher to help me.  The parent volunteer took pictures and assisted students to the microphone.  The UGA teacher created a Google doc of all of the picture books that were shared during the event.  The UGA student helped students to the microphone.  Since I was in charge of the hangout, I wanted to be able to focus on the technology and supporting any issues that came up with our event.

  • As we had time, we tweet pictures or publicity about the event while it was happening.

I hope that you will take time to listen to the archive because it truly was miraculous.  We heard from Dianne de Las Casas about why Picture Book Month was started and it was amazing to see how many authors and  illustrators she has recruited to be picture book champions.

We also heard Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace share some of their favorite picture books.  I wish we could have heard more from them, but they were gracious enough to step aside so that students could voice their love for so many wonderful books.

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We heard titles, authors, and summaries.  One of my favorite things to hear from students was why picture books matter in our world.  To hear their own reasoning about why picture books matter was truly inspiring.

2014 Picture Book Smackdown Titles   Google Docs

Click here to see a full list of the picture books that were shared during the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

I would like to take a moment to thank our participating author, librarians, and schools for the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month
Anne Marie Pace, author
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

This will definitely be an annual event for me, and I encourage you to think about how you might host your own event like this to get kids connected and sharing their passions and interests.  Happy Picture Book Month!

Watch the archive!