The Many Formats of Book Club

For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways.  I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences.  Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.

For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.

My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud.  Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again.  The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom.  We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud.  Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.

Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book.  We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another.  My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary.  We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations.  Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.

The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book.  We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.

However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group.  Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion.  We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book.  We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today.  We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.

Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about.  We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.

After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion.  I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book.  I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.

For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs.  With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group.  I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event.  This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one.  As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing.  One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.

Onward we go.

Same, Same but Different: Skyping with Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

IMG_0605What 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.

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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)

FireShot Screen Capture #023 - '280 Gaines School Rd, Athens, GA 30605 to Taos, NM - Google Maps' - maps_google_com

IMG_0613 IMG_0612 IMG_0611Our 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!

Connecting Libraries through some “Extra Yarn”

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

What a fun day!  After lots of tweeting, collaborating via a Google Doc, and emailing, Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten Class connected today with Shannon Miller’s Kindergarten students in Van Meter, Iowa.  In the spirit of World Read Aloud Day #WRAD13, we read a book that connected with the theme of “Reading it Forward” and used the book Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  This book was just honored with the Caldecott Honor Award at the ALA Youth Media Awards.  So far, I’ve read the book to all 1st grade classes and every class falls in love with this text and the illustrations.  It also generates some great discussion about the mysterious yarn box.

In today’s session, Ms. Hocking’s Class gathered in the library.  We talked about etiquette during the Skype session and looked at a map of where Van Meter Iowa is located.  We also did a quick intro of what we would be doing together.  Then, we made the call via Skype.  Shannon Miller introduced her students and we enjoyed waving at one another and saying hello.  Then, Shannon and I launched into reading the book.  We each read a 2-page spread of the book, and it was so much fun to hear 2 different voices reading the text.  The kids enjoyed joining in by saying “extra yarn” every time that appeared in the text.  It was great to hear voices in 2 different states shouting “extra yarn”.  We stopped a little bit along the way to look at how the illustrations were changing and to make some predictions.  Our last step was to make yarn bookmarks to send to one another.  Shannon’s students had already made their bookmarks before the call, so they were able to show us their work.  This really inspired my students to do their best work and to make connections to what Shannon’s students had already started.  We said goodbye and got to work on our bookmarks.  Each student had a card stock bookmark with yarn attached at the end.  They put their name on the bookmark and decorated both sides.  Now we will mail our bookmarks to Iowa and eagerly await bookmarks to arrive from Iowa.  We plan to continue to connect these 2 classes through a follow-up project in book making.

You can read Shannon’s post about the experience on her Van Meter Library Voice Blog!

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Our students are read to send their bookmarks to Iowa

Our students are ready to send their bookmarks to Iowa

This was such a fun time.  It meant a lot to the students, and it was really super easy to do through so many virtual tools.  I look forward to many more collaborations with Shannon and other librarians across the country (and world)!


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LL8 Virtual Comic Workshop with Jarrett Krosoczka

I have long been a fan of Jarrett Krosoczka’s illustrations and writing.  His Lunch Lady comics are among the most popular comics in our library.  I was thrilled to learn that he was doing a virtual comic workshop today via Ustream for free!  I advertised this to teachers a few weeks ago so that they could watch in their classroom or in the media center.

Today a small group of 3 students and their teacher came for the 10:00 session.

My largest group came for the 12:00 session.  In this group, I had 2nd grade Spectrum students who will be studying graphic novels very soon.  Last week, I did an exploration lesson with their class to identify some of the elements of graphic novels.  They began constructing some of their questions for Jarrett.  Later, they will read multiple graphic novels before constructing their own.  Another group that came at 12:00 came by choice.  One of Jarrett’s biggest fans, Marquavious, is a 5th grader at our school.  Marquavious re-read all of the Lunch Lady books to gear up for today’s webcast.  His teacher gave him permission to leave class to come, but he did some detective work and found several other 5th graders who wanted to participate in the workshop, too.  All of these students brought their lunch to the library and ate while they watched.  I also put drawing materials out on tables for them to draw their own comics along with Jarrett.  

All of this setup really helped us when Jarrett had technical difficulties at the 12:00 session.  Since the session was delayed until 12:30PM, I had time to have the students eat lunch, create mini-comics, and read some of Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.  Even though the food ended up all over the tables and carpet, it just seemed appropriate to have lunchroom food during our virtual comic workshop.

Jarrett showed the kids some pages from his newest book, a sneak peak of the cover of his book coming out in April, and ended by creating a comic using ideas from all of the viewers tuning in.  The kids had a great time, and they were thrilled when they heard their suggestions read aloud by Jarrett and were even more over-the-top with excitement when he used one of their ideas in his comic.  Thanks for a great FREE event, Jarrett Krosoczka!

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