The list could go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list . . .
For much of my professional life, all lists have been “to do” lists. I developed an aversion to them, because I had so many bad memories of trying and failing to manage my work through these lists. When I taught at a university, I’d sit at my desk, jotting down a dozen or more items I was determined to check off by the end of the day. Yet ten hours later as I packed up to go home, I’d realize that I’d not only checked off a meager number of items on the list — I’d usually added at least a few new (and irritating) tasks that needed to be done. That list, sketched out with so much hope at the start of the day, taunted me by the tired end of it.
It was a revelation to read Ruth Ayres’ take on lists. Ruth loves creating big lists, not of items to be checked off or tasks to be accomplished, but of possibilities — like dozens of potential topics for a young adult novel she might someday write. Ruth explains, “It’s made me rethink the way I approach lists with students. I used to say, ‘Jot down a couple of ideas.’ Now I ask, ‘How many ideas do you think you can add to this list?’ Or I might say, ‘When I made this list in my notebook, I had 62 ideas. How many do you think you can add?’ I push them to think big.”
Most kids haven’t lived long enough to see lists narrow to the dreaded “to do” series of tasks that must be accomplished. Teacher Linda Karamatic told me, “My second graders love the genre, because they are writing lists of possibilities instead of lists of obligations. They become engrossed in creating lists of their favorite baseball players, people they would like to meet someday, or names they would consider for a pet.” Beth Lawson’s fourth graders close their day in the classroom by writing in their gratitude journals, and many love the challenge of the list format, trying to see how many different moments that day provoked a grateful response. Isn’t that a lovely image?
I try for a big list at least once every couple months now, of 48 potential newsletter leads, of 67 reasons kids might resist writing in a classroom, of 33 topics for podcasts . . . I abandon or reject most everything on the lists once they are created, but they are like starter cables for a dead engine — they provide a spark of potential, and get my mind revving again. When you create an enormous, messy, scattered list, full of off-the-wall ideas, most of which would be impossible or even silly to attempt, it really does make you rethink what is possible. Try a big list challenge with your students or colleagues if you’re finding yourself in a rut with writing or solving a particular problem. When lists move from obligation to possibility, you might be surprised how the mundane becomes magic.
This week we’re featuring resources to help you explore graphic novels and comics with your students and colleagues. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help you think about using graphic novels in new ways.
Katherine Sokolowski listens to her husband’s sage advice and develops a new relationship with the popular graphic novels in her classroom:
Mary Lee Hahn provides a quick primer for teachers new to graphic novels, as well as suggestions for using these novels to teach comprehension:
The Association for Library Service to Children has posted a handy booklist to build your classroom or school library in their Core Collection of Graphic Novels:
We’ve completed our Facebook January Great Ideas series with images from our travels over the past few months to classrooms throughout the country. There are some wonderful design and management ideas here — just scroll down the page to see all the entries:
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Katherine Sokolowski designs a graphic novels unit for her fifth graders, and is surprised by how much the genre delights them:
Meghan Rose gives a mom’s perspective in our Comic Books and Mini Caped Crusaders for the Youngest Readers booklist. This is from our new series, Home is Where the Books Are, on literacy in the home from birth to age 5:
In My Name is Not Julie, Ellie Gilbert is deeply moved when her high school student connects to a text in a startling way. It’s one of those magic moments that keeps teachers coming back to classrooms, but is nearly impossible to share with others:
When students take a stand in writing, they will almost inevitably bring up touchy topics. Heather Rader considers the challenge in part 3 of her opinion/argumentative writing series:
Students may balk at making cuts to writing drafts — they often much prefer adding over deleting text. In this week’s video, Karen Terlecky gently guides fifth grader Richard into revision by highlighting the strengths of his piece first:
New PD2Go: Franki Sibberson explains how she uses comics in her reading and writing workshops. The instruction meets Common Core Standard RL.4.7: Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
That’s all for this week!