Rethinking Use

For the last couple of days, my teaching partner and I have been busy planning for the first week of school.  With a multiage class of first, second, and third graders, we have a wide span of age and school experience to take into account…and our older students have been in class with us for the last year or two.  That means we are always figuring out new ways to build community and academic skills, encouraging student engagement and building collaboration and problem solving.

We love using picture books to launch student thinking…and students love to be read to!  Today’s planning conversation involved many books, what role they might serve, and how we might use them as we start the school year.  Last year we read a book by Jerry Pallotta called How Will I Get to School This Year? which we used to get our students started with writing opinions.  We used this simple picture book to ask our students to come up with reasons and evidence to support their opinions about how they would want to travel to school.  Which would be better, a grizzly bear or a butterfly?

At the end of the school year when we came across another Pallotta book in the series, Who Will Be My Teacher This Year, we set it aside for potential use this fall.  And when we read it again this year to think about how we might use it, it initially fell a bit short of our expectations. And then we started thinking…

Something we want our students to begin when they come back next week is to help us reorganize our classroom library to better serve their needs.  We have lots and lots of books–but they don’t seem as accessible as we would like.  And we would love to have our students more actively recommending books to each other.  As we thought this reorganizational task through, we worried that some of our more accomplished readers might be dismissive of some of the easier to read choices in the library.

So…how might we use this Pallotta book to model how a seemingly simple book might actually be more than you see at first glance.  When we took a closer look at this book we noticed that in addition to the fairly simple text and some silly associations between teachers and animals, there are also a lot of idioms used.  Attention to these would change the way a reader looks at the book.  We also considered how our students might pick a page where the connection between the animal and the teacher action is tenuous (the alligator teaching students to be “green”–as in environmentally aware–is one example) and revise it.

We found ourselves reading and reconsidering picture books from a variety of perspectives in our planning today.  I know that our thinking today will inform the way we set our students up to revamp our classroom library.  I can’t wait to see all the ways they approach books when charged with this important task of making our classroom library work for them!

How have you rethought your use of and approach to a book you use with students?  What’s a favorite book you can’t wait to share?

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