New Beginnings

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Photo by najeebkhan2009 used under Creative Commons License

I love fresh starts. When school opens in September (yeah, yeah, it’s really August, but traditions die hard around here, and September will always be the calendar page for the new school year), I have my freshly sharpened pencils, shiny new shoes and an untarnished enthusiasm for teaching and learning.

January rings in resolutions, or at the very least an opportunity for a revised outlook. It is a time to look back at the year that was, and forward to what will be in my library classroom and beyond. What worked last year and what didn’t? Where can improvements be made? One of the units I continually tweak is my Peasleecott Unit, a series of lessons that culminates in a mock Caldecott selection.

Last year I added an art component. To help students understand how media and technique can affect the final piece of artwork, I gave a simple assignment. Students were told to illustrate a tree. They could choose the type of tree, season, perspective and whether they wanted to portray the entire tree or a part. The only limitation was that they had to use the media assigned to them. The five assigned media groups were watercolor paints; magazines for collage; tissue paper and construction collage materials; crayons, oil pastels and watercolor wash; and, for a black and white alternative,  black felt-tip markers and black pencils. With apologies for the quality of the photography but not the children’s work, here is a small sampling of what they produced.

Not only did the students get a feel for making art, as they perused the gallery of their classmate’s creations, they gained a finer appreciation for the style and tone of different approaches to art. When it came time to choose the “most distinguished illustrations” of the year, the discussions that evolved were of a higher order than ever before.

This year, I gave my students the gift of time. Instead of our usual mad rush to survey all our Peasleecott nominees, I recruited parent volunteers to read excerpts of each book and walk the students through the rest of the illustrations, with built-in opportunities for discussion. Using sub-committees (the students love the importance of this designation), each class narrowed 24 nominees down to 8. This week we will make the all important choice of the 2013 Peasleecotts, after having had a better chance to explore the illustrations of some of the most distinguished illustrations of 2012. Stay tuned for an announcement of the winners later in the week.

It is not only in my library that I am reflecting on what was and planning what will be, but also with this blog. While originally intending to emphasize the role the library could play in supporting the Common Core, I realize now how that limited the subject matter of my posts and was not where my heart truly lies. (And, by reviewing what I have already written, I was veering away from it from the very start.) Don’t be surprised if this blog sports a new name in the near future. (As soon as I come up with one that won’t lock me in.)

As a novice blogger, I am still finding my way. I’ve had writer’s block (as evidenced by the great gap in time since my last post), stage fright (can I really get up on that “stage” and deliver this particular message?) and just plain doubt about the whole endeavor.

But, although blog posts ought to be longer than Twitter snippets and Facebook updates, they are still short enough not to be intimidating. I am not, after all, attempting to write The Great American Novel. Just a paragraph or two about what really matters to me.  As Anne Lamott counsels (quoting her father as he consoled his procrastinating son who had a report on birds due the next day), “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

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3 Comments on “New Beginnings”

  1. ocdtalk says:

    Love it. “Bird by bird, that’s all any of us can do!”

  2. […] I alluded to in an earlier post, I have been considering a  blog name change for some time. Before I started, I was convinced that […]

  3. […] have written about our school’s Mock Caldecott process before here and here but I would be remiss if I did not share this year’s game-changing Peasleecott […]


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