“Ida B. is the book I fell in love with this year,” 11-year-old Sara gushed to Ruth. “I’ve read it 12 times. I even own three copies, I’m so obsessed. Everybody around me knows all about this book. They have to!” Her classmate Ivan pointed to the open Tintin book on his desk and talked about how this early series of graphic novels had grabbed his attention over the year.
As co-researchers, (Katie teaches this sixth-grade class, and Ruth is literacy-researcher-in residence), we wanted to give the students a way to reflect back over a year of reading. So we asked them to think back over all the books they had read and pick one that they had “totally fallen in love with.”
Katie prompted them: “You’ve read a lot of books this year. Think about your choice books for Readers’ Workshop, the books you read in Book Club, maybe a book you didn’t even read in school. Look through your Readers’ Notebook and your Response Journal. What book was the coolest, or the most emotional for you . . . for whatever reason, choose a book that you love, love, love and want to recommend to a lot of people!”
We wanted to give the students a chance to talk about these books they love — and we wanted to preserve their choices in a community quilt to hang proudly in the classroom in the fall as a way to transition to the next class with a gift of book recommendations from the previous year.
We imagined this would be a fun project, a way for kids to “talk books,” draw a quilt square of their favorite, and create a kind of memory quilt to honor their choices.Â WEÂ were excited, and thought it would be a lot of fun; but we wondered if the kids would feel the same way.
The kids’ engagement with this project exceeded our wildest expectations. They drew, talked, and enthusiastically recommended the books and characters they had experienced over the year. It’s a wonderful culminating project, but also one that we think could be a great initiation to Reader’s Workshop in the fall as you make plans for greeting students.
Directions for the class:
1. We began with the prompt, “What book did you fall in love with this year?” We told them we’d be creating a “book quilt” from their choices, and that each student would get a square to draw a representation from their book. They could pick a favorite scene, create a symbol, draw the setting, an important character — whatever they wanted as a way to illustrate their book.
2. Next, in groups of three, they talked about their book choices, reminiscing about where and when they read them — and what made each book special.
3. Now it was time to actually create the drawings. We passed out blank muslin quilt squares we had prepared for each student (see below) and bundles of permanent markers to share. (We also encouraged them to use their pencils to make a preliminary sketch, since they each got only one cloth square – no exceptions!)
4. Over the course of two class periods, the students sketched, created their colorful quilt squares, and talked books. We circulated for casual conferences — about the books as well as their quilt designs.
5. The project culminated with a Gallery Walk, where students lay their completed quilt squares on their desks and we wandered through the class “Gallery” to view each work of art.
6. Finally, we debriefed on the project, giving the kids a chance to talk about what we had done for the past two days:
Michael told us, “It was really fun, ’cause you got to draw and do art on the books you read and liked this year.”
Michelle agreed: “It was great because we could choose whatever, draw whatever. It was good that we got to pick.”
“There was a big variety of books, “Cheyanne added. “It gave me ideas of what to read. We got to socialize and talk about books.”
Of course, our real final step was to sew together the quilt and hang it in Katie’s room, where it will be ready to greet next year’s class of sixth-graders. We already know a group of soon-to-be 12-year-olds eager to visit the classroom and view the finished quilt.
As we wrap up the project, we realize the wonderful unintended benefits. Not only did these kids get to reflect on the books they read, so did we! We have a great list of books to make sure are available for sixth-graders, “kid-tested” and recommended. Each square will also be a suggestion for students new to reading workshop in the fall, a sampling of what kids their age enjoy. Adding more art possibilities to reading workshop will also be foremost on our minds as we think of projects for the year ahead.
We encourage you to give this Booklovers’ Quilt Project a try. Here are some suggestions based on what we’ve learned from our first attempt. Happy Quilting!
Materials for Quilt Squares and Assembling Quilt
We cut out 9″ squares of poster board and taped 8″ squares of muslin in the center of each with 1″ masking tape. Cloth really needs the cardboard backing so that you can draw on it. The 1″ masking tape makes a perfect seam allowance when you take off the tape and sew the quilt.
Make sure the markers you use are permanent. Otherwise they’ll fade, even if you never wash the quilt.
To assemble the quilt, cut out 8″ squares of a calico print and alternate these squares with the muslin squares. Sew on a back in the calico material for a quick quilt, (or include a layer of batting in between, and tie off each corner if you are a quilter).
- Encourage the artist to do a sketch first, and to draw lightly on the quilt square with pencil so they can cover it with marker.
- They might appreciate having the book in front of them as they work – for inspiration or to look at the illustrations.
- Remind them to include the title and author on the quilt square, as well as their own name.
- No writing on the masking tape, as that will be discarded when the quilt is assembled.