Library Lessons

After Christmas vacation, I wanted to do something fun with the fourth and fifth grade classes before we plunged headlong into research (also, I wanted to procrastinate the inevitable moaning and groaning that would accompany my announcement that no, they could not use Tony Hawk or Michael Jackson  or Adam Sandler as the topic of their research project (that moment has now come and gone and, as predicted, the whining; it was prodigious)).

I landed upon the idea of doing a mock Caldecott panel (the Caldecott award, as you probably know, is awarded for the best illustration). By these grades, the kids are almost never looking at picture books, certainly not of their own volition, so I thought it’d change things up a bit.

I introduced the Caldceott medal and how the committee works, showed them some of the more popular winners (“Make Way for Ducklings“) and some that have not really stood the test of time (“Animals of the Bible,” anyone?), talked about how the definition of the award can vary a great deal (they loved seeing “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” nearly as much as I love overusing parentheses), and showed them some of the books that were getting a lot of buzz as possible winners for 2010 (happily, “The Lion and the Mouse” was among those I showed).

I then divided the class into 5-6 groups, handed them each a stack of books that had, at one point, won the Caldecott gold medal and had them decide as a group which one they would have picked if they’d been on the committee. Then each group got up and showcased their choice. Afterwards, everyone voted on their favorite book from the 5-6 finalists and after they’d checked out their books, I announced the winner.

It was really fun to see these kids pouring over the books, debating the merits of the artwork, trying to decide if funny meant better, and complaining that they couldn’t pick a winner (“You and the Caldecott committee both,” I told them, “You have to pick one”). I mean, these kids were really into this.

David Wiesner’s books (especially “Tuesday,”) and Chris Van Allsburg’s books won over and over again, but some times the overall winner would surprise me. When “Kitten’s First Full Moon” won by a landslide in one class, my eyes may have bugged out a little.

The kids kept asking, “Can we check these books OUT?!” I assured them that they could indeed and spent the whole week trying to scrounge up more winning books so I wouldn’t have to tell any of them no.

Best of all, I can’t count on two hands the number of students that came in for class two weeks later, eagerly asking which book had won, and then freely giving me their opinions about which books should have won.

They may have forgotten the awesomeness of it all, now that I’ve crushed their dreams of doing a six-slide presentation about Jessica Simpson or the Jonas Brothers, but I have not. It was a major, major success.

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  1. I LOVE Kitten's First Full Moon! And I'm glad I'm not the only person in the planet swimming in piles of picturebooks. That sounds like a really fun activity – stuff like that make school librarys sound like so much fun. You could never pull it off in a public library.

  2. What a fun idea. You are a great librarian. You know how I know? You're willing to scrounge around for more books so that you don't have to tell any students "no" they can't check something out. That really says something. Way to put forth the extra effort!

  3. How fun! Again, I wish you were the librarian for my students. I'm pretty sure they do crossword puzzles in library every week… lame.

  4. You have to be the coolest librarian ever. The only thing I remember librarians doing is scolding or treating us like we were criminals and/or were stupid. The only one that didn't was the people who drove the book mobile.

  5. You are a genius for doing this with the older guys…. WHAT fun!!!!!! Have I told you recently how brilliant you are??? love, k

  6. My wife is an elementary librarian, she did something similar, only she picked books where the auther and illustrator were not the same and had them do research on the illustrators. The authors are often fairly well known, but sometimes the illustrators aren't and the Caldecott's are ALL about the illustrations. She really liked your lesson here.

  7. What a fun project. I don't remember doing anything in elementary school library time other than checking out books. What exactly is the research project they're working on?

  8. That sounds amazing! Oh, my education is in editing, but stories like this are what always bring me back to wanting to teach.

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