Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Celebrating Picture Book Month in the Middle

"I have always believed that literature begins in the cradle -- the poems we say to the babies, the stories
we tell them -- prepare them to become part of the great human storytelling community. We humans are
the only creatures in the known universe who make and remake our world with story."
- Jane Yolen from her Picture Book Month essay

Dianne de Las Casas is hosting a Picture Book Month site for the month of November, so I thought I'd concentrate on some of my favorite Picture Books that we use at the Middle School. We may have a different intent in bringing them into the classroom, but I think that it works because it continues to connect us to the "great human storytelling community."

Summary: Vashti is a frustrated artist who is ready to give up in her art class when her teacher challenges her to just make a dot, then sign it. When her teacher honors Vashti's efforts and helps her to see her work from a different perspective, Vashti is inspired to push herself and with practice and confidence, her dots do become great pieces of art. At the end when she meets a young, frustrated artist Vashti is able to turn around and become a mentor for this young child.

What it looks like in the Middle:
I love to start the year off with this book, read it aloud, then ask my students why I read it. What does this story have to do with this class and what I expect from you?

That's usually all I need to ask. Some of what the students get from the book about the coming year:
  • Just do it (in this case, since it's English, just write)
  • When you write it, put your name on it, own it
  • Don't edit yourself ahead of time
  • Work will be honored and published
  • Push yourself to do better
  • Mentor others

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