And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Schools tend to play it safe. Part of this mind-set is put upon us. Standards, test scores, and accountability tend to bend our attention toward the status quo.
Part of playing it safe is on us too. I experienced this recently while covering a preschool classroom of four-year-olds.
Before she left, the teacher read aloud a picture book on apples. Then the students were asked to use construction paper, scissors, and glue sticks to re-create the apple character from the story.
This was more challenging that I had initially assumed. Even after the assistant modeled for the students how to cut out the shapes and use the glue, several kids struggled. Scissors were being held upside down. Eyes were glued to the backside. The apples were not looking too much like apples.
Two students had especially interesting creations. One student decided to create a cyclops apple—one eye instead of the expected pair. Another student added three eyes in a diagonal row, like a sash on a pageant contestant. I looked to the assistant, also working with students, and asked, “Is this okay?” as I gestured toward the divergent crafts. She shrugged. “Looks like you’ve got a few going rogue.”
I relaxed, reminding myself that apples do not actually have faces in real life, and let the kids finish their projects the way they wanted.
What happens to these students as they go through school? We promote creativity and critical thinking in what we say, but are they reflected in our beliefs and practices?
The innovative people who have improved our society usually go against the grain to reach their goals. They break norms, and schools often don’t support these efforts.
Maybe I am overthinking an apple activity and a couple of students going rogue. Maybe the systems we have now are better than what has come before. Then again, maybe preschool is a great place to start rethinking what type of world we are preparing our students for.
This week we look at creative ways to use picture books. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Matt Renwick is an elementary principal in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Matt blogs at Reading by Example, tweets @ReadByExample, and writes for ASCD.
Katherine Sokolowski values read aloud for her middle school students and struggles to find time for them. Her solution? A picture book a day, better known as the #bookaday activity.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain the concept of “detour texts”—picture books to use as mentor texts in the intermediate grades to illustrate complex literary elements. They also share three of their favorite newer children’s books to use as detours.
Franki Sibberson shares her favorite picture books to share during the early weeks of school to build community and connection.
It’s tough these days for preservice teachers to get into classrooms to observe teachers and students in literacy workshops for required field experiences. Most schools will not allow visitors or interns during the pandemic, and many districts have moved to fully online instruction. Choice Literacy to the rescue! We are now offering a virtual field experience through the over 900 classroom videos from grades K-8 on the site, featuring top teachers from around the country. We’ve developed this $49 option as an alternative to a traditional fieldwork experience, and it includes a three-month Classic Classroom membership. You can read more about it and register here.
Check out our new and affordable lineup of online courses to help you navigate the challenges of remote and blended teaching and coaching. These courses are free to our paid annual subscribers, and the low fee for non-subscribers includes a trial membership to the site.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Gretchen Schroeder finds that picture books are the perfect tool for rhetorical analysis with her high school students.
Mandy Robek learns a lot about worry from her daughter, and discovers a treasure trove of children’s books to help students cope with worry and other difficult emotions.
In this week’s video, Bitsy Parks helps first grader Zac work on his decoding skills by using a fun picture book.
In an encore video, Katrina Edwards confers with first grader Dylan, teaching this young English language learner the value of picture walks for comprehension.
Heather Fisher brainstorms with teachers to get the “big picture” of what makes a professional development experience exceptional.
In this quick video, Principal Lee Snider talks about the importance of being intentional in integrating new coaches into the school community.
Kelsey Sorum shares some thoughtful infographics on how to do the most good and least harm during remote instruction, meetings, and work with caregivers.
The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
That’s all for this week!