Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Choose your favorite for the 2015 Caldecott Award

The Randolph Caldecott Award seeks to find "The most distinguished American picture book for children."

But just what does distinguished mean?

Distinguished: (adjective) made noticeable by excellence; having an air of distinction or dignity

In making your decision you must keep this in mind: the Caldecott is awarded for illustration, not for text. You may only consider text only if it detracts from the illustration.

Here is the Caldecott critera from the ALSC website (I re-worded some of this to help you better understand the criteria):

  1. In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider :
    1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique used
    2. Excellence of interpretation of story, theme, or concept through pictures
    3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
    4. Understanding of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
    5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
  2. The only limitation to graphic form is that the form must be one which may be used in a picture book. The book cannot be dependent on other media (i.e., sound, film or computer program) for its enjoyment.
  3. Each book is to be considered as a picture book. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustration, but other components of a book are to be considered especially when they make a book less effective as a children’s picture book. Such other components might include the written text, the overall design of the book, etc.

A.  Read through the picture books provided to you in class, keeping notes about your favorites in your writer's notebook -- but ONLY considering illustration, not text.
Caldecott notes
Example of my notes. (These selections are from last year so as not to have my opinion influence yours)

B.  When you have made your choice, begin crafting an essay about the book you have selected, including the following:
  1. Mention the title, author, and illustrator of the book at the beginning of the essay
  2. A short summary of the story
  3. A description of the artwork (think about art terminology you have learned with Mrs. Ackley: use of color, lines, brush strokes, etc.)
  4. Reference the Caldecott criteria by explaining why you consider your selection to be "the most distinguished," how the illustrations help interpret the plot, why the artistic techniques used are superior to the other books, etc.

Here is an example of the writing I did for my favorite 2014 Caldecott pick, Journey by Aaron Becker:

Mrs. Shaum's pick for the 2014 Caldecott: Journey by Aaron Becker
(Note: This is my selection for last year's Caldecott so as not to have my opinion influence yours)

When a young girl is desperate for some attention from her family but they appear to be too wrapped up in their own lives to notice her, she draws herself into an imaginary land and can get herself out of any predicament with just a few lines drawn from a magical red crayon, invoking a nod to the classic children's book, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Journey is an absolutely stunning, heart-skipping wordless picture book. It will make you gasp at its beauty and feats of imagination.
What is so captivating about this picture book is the variety of influences you see in Becker's art, namely the Eastern influences, especially on the first full page spread where our protagonist enters the land of her imagination and you see paper lanterns strewn about the forest. That spread will make the reader's eyes bulge in wonder and heart skip a beat at the awe-inspiring transition from a colorless, depressing world to an adventurous, fantastical one. In going from one world to the next, the reader experiences a delightful, soul-stirring surprise. 

To examine Becker's art further and noting why it should be considered distinguished, one merely has to look at the level of detail in his pen and ink/watercolor illustrations. In poring over the architectural marvels Becker created in this book, one would almost assume he had a background in architecture, and yet, his illustrations are so fantastical that his artistic abilities are likely too whimsical and outlandish to be of any practical use in the field of architecture.

In considering Becker's level of detail in the setting, one also has to consider another curiosity in his artwork and that is the lack of detail in the faces of the people he draws, namely the little girl who goes on this journey. This could be cause for criticism, however, I see it more as the artist's way of not imposing this journey on any one person -- it is, in essence, all of our journeys. 

As a wordless picture book, Journey has all the things the Caldecott committee is looking for: excellence of artistic techniques, the use of illustrations to tell a story, timelessness, and appeal to a child audience.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Improving our summarization skills

I've noticed we need to work on writing better summaries. First we must know what a summary is. Here are the ideas we came up with in class today:

A summary:
  • Sums up your reading
  • A shorter version of what you read in your own words
  • Gives the most important facts and ideas from the text
  • Usually AT LEAST a paragraph in length

So now it's your turn to write a summary.

1) Read this blog post by Kelly Barnhill
2) In your writers' notebook, make a list of the important points and facts about the story
3) On a sheet of loose leaf, write a summary of the story that is AT LEAST one paragraph.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Beauty of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech

After you watch the speech, you will read the full text and do the following:

1) Write down three words in your writer's notebook you would like to look up later - Copy the sentence in your writer's notebook so you can use it as a vocab word.

2) On a sheet of loose leaf, copy 3 passages from the speech and give a short explanation for each as to what makes this a beautiful and powerful use of language.

Here is an example (therefore, you may not use this passage as one of your 3):

"This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity." 

This passage is full of precise, rhythmical language such as "great beacon light of hope,"  "seared in the flames of withering injustice," and "joyous daybreak." King clearly knows how to put words together to "nudge the world a little" as Tom Stoppard would say. Not only are his words powerful, but they are visual (you can picture them in your mind), and musical. 

Write a short report (in your own words) explaining the differences between the Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. 

Be sure to list your sources. 

Due Monday January 26th. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Research/Passion Project Introduction

This year you will have the opportunity to do a research project on something you really care about. I don't just want you to do research, however. The end goal is that when this project is over you will have done something you are passionate about.

My friend Cheryl Mizerny introduced passion projects in her middle school classroom and to get them started, she asked her students 3 questions:

1) What do you want to learn how to do? 2) What would you like to create? or 3) Who would you like to help?

You will chose not just a topic to research for this project, but something that involves an action to take or a new skill to learn.

For example, I have decided that I would like my passion project for 2015 to be to learn how to become a Google Certified Teacher. So, as a result of my research, the goal is to DO SOMETHING at the end of the process.

I would like to remember, however, that in the end, this is also a research project in which you will have to consult multiple sources. If your passion doesn't involve extensive research, then you will have to reserve it for another time and opportunity.

For example, now that I have my new piano, one of my goals since I was ten-years-old was to learn how to play Frederic Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu." It is a piece that has always eluded me and I would love to attempt to learn how to play it.

However, that would not be a good choice for my passion project because a) I can't practice in class b) It doesn't involve any research, only practice. Learning "Fantasie Impromptu" is more of a goal than a project.

So today in class I'm going to give you some time to write, discuss, and explore possible ideas for your passion project. Return to the three questions above and ask yourself what you would like to have accomplished when all is said and done.

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Little Word 2015

As think about the year ahead of us, many people like to make New Year's resolutions. Full disclosure: I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. They're just a way to disappoint yourself and for places like gyms and sporting goods stores to feed on our lofty goals and make money. Still, I do like the idea and symbolism of a new year being about new beginnings. So I've been thinking a lot lately about  how I can improve myself without setting unrealistic goals that I will never fulfill.

As a result, Ruth Ayres got me thinking about the One Little Word challenge and that has been swimming around in my head lately. The idea behind the One Little Word Challenge is to pick a word and live with it for an entire year.

The word I have chosen for 2015 has actually been a word we've all been living with in this classroom since September, but I feel the need to make a formal declaration and continue living with it for another 12 months.

Ali Edwards first presented this idea in 2006 and has since created ripples all over the world.

As you think about a possible word you would like to live with for the next year, here are some possibilities:

Here are some examples of students in teacher Cathy Fiebelkorn's class and their One Little Word:

What do you do with this One Little Word? As Ali Edwards says:
You live with it
You invite it into your life
You let it speak to you
You might even follow it where it leads