Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Word and Book for the Year: Journey

When my mom and I attended the Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat in August, Debbie shared that she chooses a word every year as a mantra.  I loved that idea.  I immediately started thinking about what I would want my word to be.  As a teacher, I also thought I'd like that word to apply to the school year, too, and I could share it with my students.  Debbie feels that her word is chosen for her by God, and I loved that, too.  Shortly after the retreat, my writing colleague, Megan Ginther, and I were meeting at our favorite writing and shopping spot, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and I bought the book Journey by Aaron Becker.  I already blogged about this book last week, but I have a feeling I will be blogging about it several more times even after this post!  It's the perfect book to start off a school year, and after I shared it with my students, I am convinced I've found my word:  JOURNEY


On Friday, I showed my fifth grade classes the book trailer, which is magical, and then shared the book as our first read aloud together.  It is wordless, so we had a discussion of all the literacy skills necessary to read a wordless book:  you have to infer, know the basic elements of a story, interpret images, predict, connect, use background knowledge, make meaning from images, etc.  I had many of my students as fourth graders last year, and I've shared other wordless books with them, so they knew what to do!  I wish I had set up a video camera from my point of view so you could have seen their faces as I showed them each two-page spread!!  That experience was priceless, and I'll remember to do it next time!  I always instruct the kids to be completely silent when I share a wordless book because I don't want anyone to influence the thinking and imagination of anyone else.  I always promise them they will all get to talk afterward, however!  After I closed the book, I invited them to turn and talk to the student next to them.  (I gather my students around close to me when I read aloud, as opposed to reading from the front of the room with students at their desks - I find it's much more intimate.)  They immediately started focused conversations, and I beamed as I heard snippets of their conversations.  I only let them talk for about a minute because I don't want any awkward silences to start happening, and then I opened up the conversation to the whole class.  I loved what they shared!  These are the connections they made:

Blackout by John Rocco
Harold and the Purple Crayon - the book and the t.v. show
Bluebird by Bob Staake
Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead

Wow!  These are all books I shared with them in 4th grade, and they remembered them all!  I promised some of my new students that I would make a stack of those books for them to read.  They were happy about that!  Here are the things they said about why they made these connections:

Symbolism of color and lack of color
Expressions of loneliness
Circular structure
Leaving a legacy theme
Imagination and curiosity
Disconnecting from technology
Connecting with others

Now you know why I love this book so much.  I even had a student say Aaron Becker's next book should focus on the color blue because red and blue make purple (read the book, and you'll know why purple is significant).  There you go, Mr. Becker - your next book planned. ;-)

We ran out of time before I could start a concept map on journeys (we're also going to add the word QUEST to our first unit) and then write Quick Writes about journeys, so we'll continue that on Monday.  It will give me a good excuse to share the book with them again!

The word JOURNEY is a perfect word for me this year.  I'm embarking on journeys that include new grade levels and school/staff, I'm writing a book with Megan and we are writing for Choice Literacy, my youngest daughter is entering her senior year in high school, my oldest daughter moved into her first apartment, and my parents are moving to Florida.  I don't doubt that there will be other journeys that will add to those.  Journeys can be bittersweet, exciting, joyful, scary, and rewarding.  Thank you Aaron Becker, for showing us that so beautifully!  Don't forget that the #Sharpschu Book Club is talking about Journey on September 25th! 

What journeys are you embarking on this year?  If you had to choose a word for a year, what would it be?


  1. Holly - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your post! I, too, LOVE the book Journey and am excited to share it with my students next week. I also LOVE that your word for the year is "journey". I speak of "learning journeys" when working with teachers so I made strong connections to the word. And finally, I LOVED reading the description of your lesson and the amazing Text-Text connections your students made. Clearly, they are exposed to high quality picture books - a reflection of their teacher! I am embarking on many of my own journeys this year as well - my youngest son starts high school and I am on a journey to finish my 4th book. I'm very interested in your new book - what is about? You have inspired me to choose a word for the year. I think it will be "gratitude" - I have many things to be grateful for - my family, my friends, my students, my work, books and blogs! Thank you, HOlly!

    1. Thanks, Adrienne! I'm so glad you commented on my blog because I had to go to your website and blog to find out about your books. Wow! FOURTH book!! I love your blog, and your books look great! Megan and I are writing a book about literacy contracts - frameworks designed to connect reading and writing, Common Core, theme topics, genres, and student choice. We may be asking you advice about how to go about the whole book writing process. I love the word "gratitude!"

  2. This is a great post, Holly! I bought the book Friday and plan on sharing it Monday. I completely forgot about the book trailer, but now I plan on showing that, too! I love the idea of a word for the year. I think Journey could be mine too, for many of the same reasons you listed. We're in a lot of our journeys together this year. :) I think I might even show this blog post to my students tomorrow after I've read the book and they've had a chance to chat. I love the idea of a concept map with it. I think I could work it in easily with our concept map of empathy. What a wonderful book to launch the school year! Well done!

    1. Thanks, Megan! We certainly are in a lot of journeys together this year! :-) I think it could definitely be worked in with empathy! I'll look forward to hearing about how it goes with your students.

  3. Thank you for making me think. I like that. When I got to the part about adding the word "quest" to the mix I thought of Doll Bones. The boat on the cover of Journey and questing made the connection for me. There are both literal and metaphorical journeys in that book. Zach, Alice and Poppy journey and quest. Depending on your class - it could also be a great book to share.

    Good luck with all your journeys this year!

  4. Great book, I am planning to buy it and propose it for teaching foreign languages to children. In fact wordless books are very useful to teach any language and you can adapt the activities on vocabulary depending on the students. This one seems very fit even for children up to 11-12 years old.