Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10: Building Character & Community

Welcome and thanks for stopping by to see my 2011 10 for 10 list!  I can't believe a whole year has passed since the first ever August 10 for 10!   You can see my 2010 lists for Kindergarten here and 4th/5th Grade here.  This year I have decided to share picture books that I use at the beginning of the year to encourage conversations about being a member of our learning community:  recognizing one's own uniqueness, being a collaborative member, and accepting other's differences. 

 You can read more about my thinking around using picture books in the intermediate grades here but let me take this opportunity to reiterate again what an important role they play in teaching literacy at the intermediate level.  I want to dispel the notion that picture books are "baby" books right off the bat with my students.  In those first few weeks of school as we building classroom community, we are also building our stamina and picture books break the day up into smaller chunks.  The picture books I chose for this year's list all share one thing in common...they evoke important  discussions that lay the foundation for our future work together.  So, in no particular order, here are my 10 picks with a brief description.

CourageCourage by Bernard Waber (2002) Focusing on a variety of scenarios, from the serious ("Courage is being the first to make up after an argument") to the more lighthearted ("Courage is tasting the vegetable before making a face"), Waber introduces children to the many ways to define this character trait. One or two statements appear on each page, accompanied by a whimsical pen-and-ink and watercolor illustration that offers an amusing interpretation of the caption like text.

A Circle of FriendsA Circle of Friends by Giora Carmi (2006) When a young boy anonymously donates his snack to a homeless man, he begins a cycle of goodwill that reverberates and expands in a great circle of kindness. I love using wordless picture books to help students really focus on the comprehension strategies they use while reading and this one is one of my favorites for thinking about inferring. It also lends itself to discussions about showing kindness and the idea of paying it forward.

Agate: What Good Is a Moose?Agate: What Good is a Moose? by Joy Morgan Dey (2007)  Agate is a moose with low self-esteem. He feels inadequate and plain, like an ugly brown rock, especially when he compares himself to his beautiful friends who are named after birthstones. These friend help Agate to see that just like his namesake, true beauty lies within. Stunning original watercolors, a witty, positive message about self image plus bonus pages with birthstone and agate facts. 

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School HazardsButterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch (2008)  With witty and wonderful images that mix whimsical line drawings with photographs of inanimate objects, Bloch gives us a unique and sympathetic perspective on a boy’s first day of school where colorful butterflies flutter in our hero’s stomach and a cloud rains on him when he’s “under the weather.” Even the “big cheese” Principal has a body cut out of a block of Swiss.  This is one I go back to later in the year when talking about idioms, similes, and metaphors.
The Conversation Club by Diane Stanley (1990)  When shy Peter Fieldmouse is invited to join his new neighborhood's Conversation Club, Peter isn't sure he has anything to offer so he asks if he can just listen. At the first meeting, he makes a disturbing discovery-- everyone talks at once!  When Peter invites his neighbors to join his Listening Club, they discover that listening to each other one at time truly hits the spot.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About MannersDo Unto Otters by Laurie Keller (2009)   Mr. Rabbit's new neighbors are Otters. OTTERS!  But he doesn't know anything about Otters. Will they get along? Will they be friends? Just treat otters the same way you'd like them to treat you, advises wise Mr. Owl. And so begins Mr. Rabbit's reflection on good manners. But don't be fooled! While on the surface this book may appear a simple list of manners, it's really about becoming the kind of person you would like others to be.

Junkyard Wonders
 Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco (2010)When young Trisha finds out her class at the new school is known as “The Junkyard,” she is devastated. She moved from her old town so she wouldn’t be in a special class anymore! But then she meets her teacher, the quirky and invincible Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with his or her own unique talent. And it is here in The Junkyard that Trisha learns the true meaning of genius, and that this group of misfits are, in fact, wonders, all of them.

Don't Laugh at Me (Reading Rainbow Book)Don't Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin (2002)  Do you wear glasses? Ever been picked last for the team? Afraid you’ll be called on in class? Have you laughed at someone else for the same reasons? Someone you thought was geeky or slow--someone different from you. For anyone who’s ever been bullied--or been a bully themselves--it’s time to change your tune. This is not a book for whiners, but a new language that will give you the words you need to take charge and stop the cycle of teasing.

Say SomethingSay Something by Peggy Moss (2008)  This story takes an interesting slant on an important topic. A young narrator describes different examples of bullying that she witnesses at school and on the bus, but remains silent. One day, when her friends are absent, she must sit alone in the cafeteria, and several students make jokes at her expense. In addition to feeling angry about being treated this way, the girl is frustrated with the other kids who look on sympathetically but say nothing. She is then able to empathize with other victims.  As well as demonstrating different examples of bullying, the author gradually but clearly illustrates that being a silent bystander contributes to the problem.

The Secret Olivia Told MeThe Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy (2007)  This is the story of two friends, who share a secret. It starts off small and grows as the secret is shared amongst classmates on the playground.  This simple book illustrates in pictures and words how simple secret can change and grow as it's shared.  The illustrator, Nancy Devard, provides an interesting touch with a red balloon that also expands as the secret grows through the playground. 

Thanks so much to Cathy Mere (@CathyMere) at Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robek (@mandyrobek) at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for hosting this fantastic event!  You can see all of the lists shared today at this really cool jog that Cathy put together.  You can also follow and post on Twitter by using the #pb10for10 hashtag.