I’ve chosen author and illustrator Eugenie Fernandes to show the Kindergarten students a little more about books. Fernandes has written books that others have illustrated, illustrated books that others have written as well as both writing and illustrating some of her own, giving a good variety of examples to reinforce these important roles played in the making of picture books.
The first book we read was One More Pet, which Fernandes both wrote and illustrated. (It was also a great book to launch a discussion of responsibility, which is our school’s character trait for January.) Fernandes’ daughter, Kim Fernandes used plasticine pictures to illustrate our next book Sleepy Little Mouse. The children were compelled to touch the illustrations to confirm that they weren’t the real plasticine creations. We talked about how ‘someone’ had to take photographs of the artwork in order to make copies that would go into the books. Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish was illustrated by the author’s husband, Henry Fernandes. I showed 2 different editions of this book. We compared the covers (one hard, one soft), the updated artwork and determined that the text was exactly the same in both. We finished up with a wonderful fantasy written and illustrated by our featured author: The Tree That Grew to the Moon.
This class has accomplished the unprecedented feat of returning every one of their books on time since the beginning of school in September. No overdues! They received the monthly library award for the second month in a row and each received 3 month prizes and the privilege of one more book each. (See Responsible Reader Awards.) The first class in January was a celebration – rather than having a story, I gave extra time for book exchange and when each student was finished, they collected a bean bag to sit on and a puppet or stuffy to read to. It was sweet to see them reading to their puppets all over the library. I also sent them back with a book for their classroom.
Since these students may now check out two library items, one of them can be a magazine if they wish. We took another class this month to get to know the magazines in our collection, what kind a regular features they might find in each and how magazines differ from books.
We often read books in Grade 1 relating to their science unit: Needs of Plants and Animals. Grade 1 students naturally love nature and with all the nature right out our back door, it’s a natural theme for this age. In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George takes us on a wintry walk through the woods, looking for signs of birds and mammals and learning a little about their habits and habitats as we go. David Suzuki presents the essential elements for a tree’s growth in the very entertaining The Tree Suitcase. Students were astounded that we breathe the same air and drink the same water that dinosaurs did millions of years ago and had no problem remembering that trees need soil, water, air and sunlight to grow after we had finished the story. The ecologically accurate The Tree in the Ancient Forest with cumulative verse by Carol Reed-Jones and beautiful illustrations by Christopher Canyon rounded out the month.
We always get a lot of snow in winter and this winter we’ve already had our fair share, so it was easy to stay with the Arctic theme at the first of the month and learn a little about Igloo building – an activity that every northern child has at least tried. We started out talking about what kind of books we look to when we want to get information, which most students already understood are nonfiction. Igloo by Lauren Diemer from the Canadian Icons series allowed us to not only learn about igloos, but to review helpful elements in nonfiction books like the Table of Contents, Glossary and Index. We then watched an Inuit boy and his father actually build an igloo from the BBC documentary, A Boy Among Polar Bears.
Responding to student demands, we spent the next couple of weeks giving everyone a chance to have their turn at Library Charades, where each student pantomimes a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ library activity while the rest of the class guesses what they’re doing and responds. (See Grade 2 in this post for a description of the program.) We also spent a class talking about our selection of primary magazines and how they compare and contrast with books. I always see a spike in magazine check-outs after I do this with a class and Grade 2 was no different.
This month we started a program I call “Show and Share”. Rather then me reading to the class, they do their book exchange first and then gather. Students are asked to look through the books they’ve checked out and see if they have one that they feel other students may not yet have discovered, but might enjoy. They then volunteer to show the book to the rest of the class and tell them what caught their interest, why they think others might like it and where they found it.
Our first volunteer was Aden, who showed an issue of Petersen’s Hunting magazine. Although the reading level is far above Grade 3, many families in our little bush-town hunt, so the class was very attentive when he highlighted a two-page spread showing completely camouflaged hunters sitting in a blind. It was like a Bev Doolittle painting, or a look-and-find like Where’s Waldo. He pointed to the magazine stand that is shared by the Nature & the Environment and Science and Technology ‘islands’ to show where he found it.*
Emma was next. She showed a book called Spring from the Get Set…Go! series, that she found on the Seasons and Weather shelf in Easy Street. She read us the entire directions on how to make a paper nest. In both cases, when I asked if anyone else would like to check out these media, a good 2/3 of the class raised their hands. That set the stage for a few weeks of students eagerly volunteering for their chance to show off their finds, with other students visibly excited for their chance to check them out.
Other books shared were: Socksquatch, How to Draw Animals, (Face to Face with) The Horse, (Creative Crafts) Drawing, (Hayley & Bix) Late for School, (Life & Survival) The Seal, The Day the Crayons Quit, Ninjago, Rabbits, 4 Wheeler, I Have 2 Mommies, and 101 Animal Babies. This program gives us a good chance to discuss the diversity of literary taste and how looking at others’ choices helps us determine, but shouldn’t dictate our own.
The last 2 visits of this long month were spent on pirates – my favourite theme for comparing fiction and nonfiction materials in Grade 3. We began with A Pirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller, a delightful portrayal of imagination play and a great foil for nonfiction as we discussed the ‘imaginings’ in the book cleverly set apart from ‘reality’ by illustrator Greg Ruth. We had to look to a few nonfiction books to see where Ruth may have found the source material for his pirates. Our mantra for fiction is that it comes from the author’s imagination. Phoebe Gilman’s rich imagination helps to reinforce this with books like Grandma and the Pirates, our second read on this theme.
Ricky has had his cover blown in Sigmund Brouwer’s Tyrant of the Badlands. We are all on pins and needles while Ricky and his friends wait for their fate deep in the bowels of the earth.
Grade 5 students have again voted and the majority wish to continue reading A Prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis, following Ivy Weatherall through her first year in Canada. I know that part of the appeal is the enjoyment of sprawling on cushions while I read to them and the casual discussions afterwards. There are never any quizzes in library class. We have discussed the many ways Ira’s life differs from ours. Of special note was the striking difference in the number and value of Christmas gifts she received. She was grateful for fruit in her stocking, a book from her aunt, mitts that her mother had knitted and a box of watercolours.
After finishing The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis before Christmas, the class unanimously decided to continue the series. Parvana’s Journey started out with a surprise and Ellis again had the students hooked from the get-go. This was not my plan but I can’t turn my back on such enthusiasm.
You can see all the books we have read in library classes this year here.