Saturday, March 21, 2020

Learning Clubs and Author Studies for Distance Learning during Covid-19

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals38532996. sx318 2260948522749736

     We finished our first week of being out of school and work due to the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine. It has been quite the challenge.  Schools have closed across the country for three weeks (or indefinitely - we're expecting a longer closure), non-essential stores have closed, and people have been asked to keep social distancing themselves.  In fact, we're supposed to just stay home.

     In response to this dramatic time, many educators are sharing distance learning resources and support.  Suddenly, our students and teachers are home and away from each other.  School leaders had to make incredibly important decisions at lightning speed.  As an education consultant, serving five districts as a gifted coordinator and several more as an education and ELA consultant, I was a witness and participant in this drastic time.  I have to was impressive .  I already knew educators were an impressive lot.  But wow.  Now I think they're superheroes and beyond. In an amazingly short time, folks were creating and sharing resources, hopping on teleconferencing tools and planning, strategizing, connecting (we were suddenly missing face-to-face time with colleagues, students, family, and friends), learning, and teaching, and the world was making in-person experiences virtual.  The week was nothing short of surreal and breathtaking.  It was also inspiring.
     In the midst of the whirlwind, I was listening to the audio of Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, and I was mesmerized. Somehow, Sy's calm and impassioned voice took me to another dimension amidst the chaos of the current situation.  Here she was, talking about the wonders of an octopus when a virus was ravaging the world.  And I was all in.  Because I am also suddenly immersed in thinking about distance learning, an idea started to form...

     A couple years ago, I did a professional development with intermediate teachers about disciplinary and content literacy.  While researching, I came across learning clubs.  I loved the idea of grouping kids according to interest in a topic and across disciplines.  This idea came to mind when I thought about Sy Montgomery's love of octopuses (yes, that's the correct plural).  How can we leverage that love of a topic in a distance learning environment?  Can we have kids make quicklists of favorite animals, places, people, and events?  Bring them into a videoconferencing meeting using Zoom or Google Meet and then have them break out into learning club discussions/research/planning according to topic?  Have a blog group around the topics?  Suggest asynchronous discussion tools - Padlet, Linoit, Slack, Voxer? Have them present to each other using Screencastify or some other tool?  I don't know the details, but I'm thinking we can help them discover their topics and then support them with text sets.

For example, what if the topic was octopuses?  The above texts would be a great start (The Soul of an Octopus is actually an adult or YA book, but the others would be great for intermediate grades +).  Then how about gathering the following resources to help support research:

Newsela articles (by the way, along with SO many other amazing sites, Newsela is offering a free upgrade to schools for the remaining 2019-2020 school year)
New England Aquarium news about live FB events and virtual activities during the Covid-19 quarantine (the New England Aquarium was the home of Montgomery's beloved Octavia)

What if students want to pursue author (or illustrator) studies?  Sy Montgomery would be an AWESOME choice!  I first knew her through one of my favorite nonfiction series, The Scientists in the Field.  She's written several amazing books in that series.  She also wrote the much acclaimed Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World.  I ordered The Good Good Pig right after I finished How to Be a Good Creature.  There are lots of interviews with Sy Montgomery to enjoy as well (I loved how she is described as "part Emily Dickinson, part Indiana Jones"):

     The possibilities are endless!  One of the other topics this could inspire is women in the sciences.  What are your ideas and thoughts around learning clubs or author studies, especially designed for distance learning?  Anything you can share would be appreciated!

     I'm going to keep exploring this learning pathway.  Stay tuned for more posts on learning clubs and author studies!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book #nf10for10 Event - Books about Books

I'm excited to join Mandy Robek, Julie Balen, and Cathy Mere (hosts) for the #nf10for10 event, featuring 10 favorite nonfiction picture books.  I always love adding to my to-read stacks and seeing what wonderful nonfiction has been enjoyed by all in the past year.  I like to group my choices around a theme topic, so this year, I chose "books about books" since I just read a 2020 ALA Youth Media award winner about Aaron Lansky, Yiddish book rescuer.  Here we go!

43211964. sx318

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Loved this one and found it fascinating the lengths someone would take to save history.

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
Quirky, honest biography of Margaret Wise Brown. Being a fan of Brown's for so many years, I gained an appreciation of who she really was thanks to Mac Barnett not shying away from her sometimes strange and controversial characteristics and behavior. She was a colorful, bold woman writer. Interesting that her books were banned at times for not being typical and accepted children's stories. Loved Sarah Jacoby's illustrations!


Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar
I loved learning about Pura Belpre in this beautifully illustrated picture book biography!

33961446. sx318

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Libary by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
I didn't know anything about Afro-Peurto Rican Arturo Schomburg, so this biography taught me a lot! I had to laugh that he fired a librarian who used the Dewey Decimal System instead of his own way of shelving his massive collection by arranging them "by size and color, like a bouquet".


The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
A winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, The Book Itch is an account based on the true story of Lewis Michaux Sr.'s National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem. He opened it in the 1930s and had to battle the notion that "Black people don't read." Told in his son's (Lewis Michaux Jr.) point of view, his dad proved everyone wrong by making it a place for prominent people such as Malcolm X (who was friends with Lews Michaux Sr.), Muhammed Ali, Eartha Kitt, and Langston Hughes to exchange ideas and buy books. "The House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda", just down the street from the Apollo Theater, was forced to close its doors in 1975, but the legacy lives on in words.


Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O'Brien
This book was especially enjoyable to read since I bought it in the Library of Congress book store after seeing Jefferson's collection! I love the story of Jefferson's obsession with books and reading and the legacy he left to the Library of Congress. And who wouldn't want a table that revolves so that you could read several books at once?! I enjoyed O'Brien's lively illustrations, also.


The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter

This is a remarkable story of Alia Muhammad Baker who was the librarian in Basra, Iraq when it was invaded in April, 2003. She was determined to save the books in her library. The governor wouldn't help her, so she took the rescue mission into her own hands. With the aid of friends and neighbors, she hid 70% of the books before the library burned down.


From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford

Gutenberg was the first European to use movable type printing. What mysterious thing came from Mainz (Germany) that was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds, covered in leather and decorated with gold? What did lead and tin, strong oak and a mountain make? A printed book. Through a series of questions and vibrant illustrations, we see book-making as artistry. The epilogue talks about Gutenberg's Bibles and muses over how books may change in the future.

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atwell

Can you imagine libraries without children? Or thinking that children's books weren't very important? Neither could Annie Carroll Moore from Limerick, Maine. In the 1870s women weren't expected to be educated. Most people thought they should be quiet homemakers. Annie, however, had different ideas and studied to become a lawyer. One day, Annie heard the exciting news that libraries were hiring women as librarians, so she moved to Brooklyn, NY to enroll in the Pratt Institute library school. Once she became a librarian she challenged the idea that children shouldn't be allowed in libraries and most certainly shouldn't touch library books or take them home. Once Annie was put in charge of the children's sections of thirty-six branches of the New York Public Library, she created children's rooms, pulled dull books off the shelves and replaced them with adventurous ones, wrote book reviews and book lists, and got to know publishers and authors of children's books. She inspired librarians across the country and world to do the same. 


Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Oh, be still my heart. This is Some Book! There's something about E.B. White that makes me all teary, and the fact that one of my favorite children's illustrators/authors wrote a long picture book biography about him makes me especially teary!!! The whole thing is a masterpiece. It's so lovingly and expertly written and illustrated - capturing White's essence perfectly. Thank you, Melissa Sweet - this is a gift to the world. I'm going to cherish this book.

Now off to see what others have picked!