Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mock Caldecotts - The Why and How

This week my third graders participated in a Mock Caldecott.  It was a whirlwind of reading, rereading and analyzing 15 picture books in 1 week.  Crazy, I know.  For some reason I thought the ALA Youth Media Awards were later in January, but over my winter vacation I checked my calendar and noticed the Caldecott Medal would be announced on Monday, January 11th! Yikes! That gave me one week to put the mock together. But, it ended up being a great way to jump start our new year.

If you haven't ever participated in a Mock Caldecott or Newbery, I highly recommend you do so.  I think this year marks the 4th or 5th year I have organized a Mock Caldecott and I'm always happy with the outcome.  Picture books are a wonderful thing and I read 1-2 each day to my class.  Read aloud time is probably their favorite time of the day.  But giving students extra time to reread and carefully look at and discuss the books is valuable teaching and learning time.  I'm always amazed at what they notice and discuss.

Fortunately, I had already read most of the books on my list of titles I wanted included in our mock this year.  The few that I hadn't read aloud yet I was sure to read on Monday and Tuesday.  I think it's important to just read and enjoy the book as a "reader" first.  Later we can reread as a "Mock Caldecott Committee member".  I provide a list of our titles which includes author, illustrator and art media used.  You can click here to see the list I gave my students this year.

It's always fun to get other students or teachers involved with your mock.  One year I was able to convince my 6 second grade colleagues to participate in a month long Mock Caldecott.  It was lots of fun and lots of work organizing the books and voting, but well worth it.  This year I met Kathleen Sokolowski at nErDcampLI and after mentioning I would be doing a Mock Caldecott, asked if she would like to participate with us.  Kudos to Kathleen for participating and skyping with us after my last minute tweet the Sunday before our week of mocking! On Thursday we skyped and shared/discussed our favorites for the medal.  Lots of fun.

Finally, there is the voting part.  Before we do the voting I give my students plenty of time to work in small groups with the books each day.  I give them a list of the criteria from ALA, but put it in third grade friendly terms.  It takes a few days for students to start moving away from "this is my favorite book" or "I like this page" and start focusing on the criteria, but they eventually do.  I usually have a chart with the terms I want them to focus on - noticing how the illustrations tell the story or make the story better becomes important to them.  We talk about how the illustrations show mood or character emotions. Students like to compare illustrations in different books.  They like that Kadir Nelson's and Matt Tavare's illustrations are so realistic. (but they do note that the animals in If you Plant a Seed are NOT doing realistic things!) They notice that Christian Robinson's illustrations in Leo: A Ghost Story use limited colors.  They like that and wonder why Christian decided to do that and discuss possible reasons.  They notice a similar thing in the artwork of Erin Stead's  Lenny & Lucy.  They decide that Erin must of wanted us to notice certain things on the page and that's why she gave them color.  They pointed out over and over how each illustrator was able to convey emotion in characters whether realistic or cartoon-like.  By Thursday I started noticing favorites when students kept going back to certain books.  They would pull a group of students over to them and start pointing out the qualities they loved in the illustrations.  Many students loved the magical or fantastical elements of Drum Dream Girl and The Whisper.  On Friday, before we voted students got up and gave their last pitch at convincing their classmates that their book should be selected for our Mock Caldecott Medal.  Then I gave each student a ballot and had them vote for their top three choices.  You can click here to see our ballot.  The book that gets the most votes wins our Mock Caldecott and any close seconds get our Mock Caldecott Honor. You can see who won our Mock Caldecott by going to our class blog.

This year I also started a Twitter account for my class.  We are @Grade3Warriors.  During the week we tweeted about our Mock Caldecott thoughts.  When authors favorite, retweet or tweet back to us it is thrilling for my students. Authors have become real celebrities to my students.  They are so disappointed when an author or illustrator doesn't have a twitter account!

On Monday we will watch the ALA Youth Media Awards live in our classroom.  The awards begin at 8am EST and fortunately my students begin arriving around 8:10am EST.  This year we have also invited our new full time library media specialist, Ms. Yildirim, to watch with us. (Thank you School Board for working to restore full time librarians.) My students are so excited for Monday morning.  They will be thrilled if a book that they have read wins of course, but I also know that if a title is announced that they are not familiar with I will hear voices calling out, "Can you get that book?"