Sunday, February 9, 2014

Picture Books for Deeper Discussions

A colleague and I are teaching a workshop after school about running literature discussion groups. One of the overriding messages that we are trying to convey is that there must be lots of guided practice for the students before they are sent off to read novels in groups. Lots and lots of practice. Lots.
This practice might take a lot of different forms. At the beginning, it is the teacher reading aloud and stopping to have students write down their thinking. Then, there might be opportunities for students to practice discussions using picture books since they can finish these during one class period.
There is no magic to the lessons we are talking about, other than the need for constant debriefing with the students about what worked for them in their groups and giving them strategies of how to solve what didn’t work.
But, I did begin to notice the need to have picture books that were more ‘deep’ thinking books. These books deal with bigger topics and issues that students can hopefully find things to discuss.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson - I love this one because it doesn't have a happy ending. The girls are mean to the new girl and eventually, she stops coming to school. Chloe thinks about how much she has hurt Maya, but doesn't have the opportunity to make amends.

Finding Lincoln by Ann Malaspina - Louis has to do a report on Lincoln, but it's 1951 in Alabama and he's not allowed to use the library. Find out what he does to finish his report.

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan - I love this book. I think kids can relate to the embarrassment that Rubina would feel about brining along her little sister, uninvited, to a birthday party.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson - A great story about two girls who live on opposite sides of the fence.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


A colleague asked me for books about change. She was doing a thematic study on change and wanted some picture books that supported this topic. It was difficult to pull picture books for this, not because there are none, but because there are so many. Change is all around us. Whether it is the weather (although the Chicago weather seems to be UNchanging), our feelings, or even the circumstances that we face.
But, for kids, change is hard sometimes. The familiar is comforting. When faced with change we may not know how to react. By using texts, we can show kids that their feelings are valid, and here are some appropriate ways to face those challenges they may be feeling. Each of the books on my list show different kind of changes and depending on your purpose, each one may or may not work for you.

Cheyenne Again by Eve Bunting

The Flower Man by Mark Ludy

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater