Monday, March 20, 2017
Spring is just around the corner here in Calgary. Despite the little snow flurry we had this morning the temperatures are rising and the snow is melting. And the University of Calgary awaits the arrival of a mating pair of peregrine falcons any day now. According to the webpage dedicated to tracking the falcons, they had already arrived by this time last year. The falcons have been using a high ledge on a campus building since the mid 1990s to nest and raise their young. Check out their website for more information.
I always feel like the arrival of peregrine falcons is a triumph somehow. As recently as 1995 they were still considered endangered in Canada and now, are ‘watched’ for further decline even as their numbers increase. The pair that resides here on campus always seem successful at raising their chicks and I love to hear them calling to each other as I walk across campus.
This means that I buy many books and artifacts for the Doucette Library’s collection that focus on these exceptionally beautiful, resilient birds. Here are a few recent purchases:
The title of this book, Maggie, the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon: a true story of rescue and rehabilitation by Christie Gove-Berg pretty much tells the whole story. It’s an interesting story about the lengths that a rescue team go to save Maggie, ensure her wellbeing and eventually, give her a job to teach children about falcons. The many photographs and clearly written short paragraphs make this a terrific classroom resource for early elementary grades.
In Skydiver: saving the fastest bird in the world by Celia Godkin relates how the peregrine falcon became endangered through the use of DDT. A clutch of eggs are taken from a pair of falcons in the wild by scientists who raise them to either stay in captivity to breed or be released back into the wild. We learn about the dangers, resiliency and efforts to save this breed of falcon. Good for grades 1-4.
Queen of the Sky by Jackie Morris is another recent book but is best suited for higher grades. This is a story of a rescued bird by a woman who nurses ‘Hiss’ back to health eventually releasing her back to wild. The artwork is brilliantly done with woodcuts, watercolour drawings and photographs. The art paired with the narrative of the struggle to nurse the falcon and the growing bond between the bird and her rescuer makes for an interesting story. This is a wonderful book to share with grades 9 and up.
Another very informative book is Falcons in the City: the story of a peregrine family by Chris Earley. This particular family of falcons decided to roost and nest on the balcony of a high-rise building in Chicago. There are some amazing photographs taken from the balcony of the chicks hatching, growing and flying. Close-ups of the birds as they fly and glide by the balcony are captivating. Students in elementary grades will learn all about falcon behavior, habitats, food and challenges to survive in an urban environment.
The last book I’ll recommend is the Peregrine’s Journey: a story of migration by Madeleine Dunphy. Here we learn what it takes for a female falcon to make an 8,000 mile journey from Alaska to Argentina. Again, this book is appropriate for elementary grades.
Monday, March 6, 2017
I’ve had a soft spot for this book, Hands by Boris Cyrulnik, photographs by Tiziana and Gianni Baldizzone for a really long time. I often try to find reasons to bring it into my various workshops. It’s a beautiful coffee table book with loads of photographs showing close-ups of activities that hands do every day. Listen to the how the chapters have been organized: Hands of Pleasure, Hands of Beauty, Hands at Work, Hands of the Heart, Hands of Ritual, and finally By Hand… There are many beautiful images here that I think have lots of classroom potential.
Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten is a recent picture book that does the same thing; it asks what things will your hands do today? Will they plant seeds? Or maybe plant ideas? Or touch hearts? Will they lift spirits? Or stretch imaginations? Will they reach for love? Or peace, truth, dreams?
The illustrations are unique using brightly coloured handprints to create images of birds, flowers and butterflies.
Using these two books together in a classroom would provide opportunities to explore the concepts the books embody as well as the actions that these hands engage in. At the youngest grades in social studies in Alberta where the focus is on identity, family, school and community, self, uniqueness and belonging, these books will start conversations. They could also be mentor texts that model work that students can engage in. Having students photograph the activities that they, their friends and family members do every day allows them to develop an understanding about what people do. Hands, also speak to an individual’s identity and uniqueness.
I love the idea of how we use the word "hand" and the images that come to mind: hands up, hands off, hands on, hand out, hand-me-downs, a hand up, hands on, handful, handy, helping hands, heavy handed, show of hands, ‘talk to the hand’, shaking hands with the devil. What others come to your mind? There is both play and power with these words and the images they create. Hands create but they also destroy. Hands can be loving but also hurtful. Exploring binary opposites is a great way to introduce a kind of tension in a unit that will engage students.
Other books that would tie-in beautifully with these book titles would be:
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason is a history lesson embedded in a warm story about an African American grandfather telling his grandson all the things he could (tie shoe laces, play the piano) and could not do (not touch the dough at the Wonder Bread factory). It’s a gentle story about the civil rights African Americans had to organize and fight for.
Nadia’s Hands by Karen English is about a little girl worried about what her classmates with think of her and maybe tease her about having mehndi designs on her hands in preparation for an aunt’s traditional Pakistani wedding. This story speaks to culture and identity, about being one's self and belonging.
Sister Anne’s Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki is a favourite of mine. Again its set during the civil rights movement in the United States and shows how a beloved teacher (an African American nun) makes a teachable moment out of a cruel, thoughtless act by one of her students to show how small acts of hate can lead to the big acts of societal discrimination.
Hands & Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli is about a mother and daughter who have a fun-filled day at the beach. They enjoy playing in the waves and sand, building castles and swimming. They also happen to use their hands to speak with each other. There are 15 words introduced in American Sign Language.
Hands by Lois Ehlert is brilliantly designed with a hand glove shaped book. It speaks to all the activities that the busy hands in this household get up to: Dad is busy making a bird house and Mom is busy sewing. The narrator is given his or her own work space and is taught some the skills that Mom and Dad use in their activities. This book connects with the maker mind set that is now being promoted in schools here in Calgary.
These are only a few that would work well at the elementary level.
Friday, February 10, 2017
I’m posting a little early this time so that I can contribute to this year’s Top 10 for 10: the Nonfiction Edition. I love these events.
Now in the fifth year, Nonfiction Picture Book10 for 10 (#nf10for10) is co-hosted by Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Go to Picture Book 10 for 10 Community to see all the contributors. There’s no better way to build your library than with recommendations from people who are really passionate about children’s literature and many of the teachers in the crowd generously share teaching ideas, as well.
This time round, I’m focusing on nonfiction books about people who are the do-gooders of the world, the righters-of-wrongs and the impossible optimists of causes, lost or otherwise.
#1. Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson.
The illustrations are particularly strong as you can see from the cover. This image introduces us to the man who had vision and was a great leader. The free-verse text sketches out the basic story of his life and a 2-page author’s note fills in more of the details of Nelson Mandela’s struggle. Recommended for elementary grades.
#2. 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy.
I’ve blogged about this book numerous times and included it at least twice in past lists for the Top Ten event. It really is a must-have. Again, the illustrations only emphasize the beauty of the story. A young Kenyan man studying in New York in 2001 when the Twin Towers collapsed returns home to seek support from his community to give a herd of cattle to the Americans as a way to show sympathy, support and as a way to heal. To the Maasi of Kenya, cattle are a way of life and mean everything to them as a people. I still tear-up when I read it.
#3. OnePlastic Bag by Miranda Paul
I love this story because of the initiative taken by a Gambian woman named Isatou when she saw a problem that needed to be addressed. Single-use plastic bags were a problem in her community, polluting the area, killing livestock and attracting insects. With help from the community, repurposing the plastic bags, into crocheted carrying bags she is able to generate income and, at the same time, as reducing waste.
#4. Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! By Jody Nyasha Warner & Richard Rudnicki
This is a Canadian story about Viola Desmond, a black woman who in 1946 was asked to move from a main floor movie theatre seat to a seat located in the balcony. When she refused, she was jailed, charged, and fined. This incident rallied the black community in Nova Scotia to push back against long standing racial discrimination.
#5. Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changedthe World by Laurie Lawlor AND
Rachel: the Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich
Having just watched a PBS documentary about Rachel Carson it reminded me about the importance of her work. These two books tell us Rachel’s life story, her strong connection to nature, and why she was committed to increasing awareness to environmental issues. The book by Laurie Lawlor really ties into the impact a single person can have in the world. The beginning of the environmental movement is attributed in part to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring.
This book also speaks to a person committed to the environment. I really appreciated how this story illustrates a man’s commitment to wildlife conservation and how his connection to animals helped him overcome a debilitating stutter. Finding his voice has enabled him to speak for the animals found in the wild.
#7. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with theChimps by Jeanette Winter
Jane Goodall is the quintessential conservationist, internationally renowned for her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania. The other book to be aware is a 2012 Caldecott Honor book, Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell.
#8. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
Awareness of transgender issues have been prevalent recently and Jazz Jennings is certainly doing her bit to help people understand what this experience has been like for her and her family. This picture book is appropriate for younger children whereas Being Jazz : My Life (as a TransgenderTeen) by Jazz Jennings a much longer book is directed to students in grade 6 and up.
#9. Emmanuel's dream : the true story ofEmmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel was born in Ghana with a severely deformed leg. The biggest challenge for him to overcome was the prejudice he experienced from others. With a great deal of grit, perseverance and encouragement from his mother he went to school, learned to play soccer and ride a bike. He undertook a 4000 km trip across Ghana on his bicycle to raise awareness and change attitudes in his county towards those with disabilities.
#10. Dreams of Freedom : In Words and Pictures by Amnesty International
This book is a collection of quotes from famous activists including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Anne Frank, and the Dalai Lama who have lived experiences with ‘dreams of freedom’. Besides the provocative, beautiful, and inspiring words are provocative, beautiful and inspiring illustrations done by a bevy of international illustrators such as Mordicai Gerstein, Chris Riddell, Sally Morgan, Oliver Jeffers and Roger Mello. Works well with social studies when the Rights of Child is being taught. Beautiful book.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Lots of building going on with our student-teachers these days: building lesson plans and units; building projects’; building prototypes of all sorts using various materials including Lego robotics, wooden blocks, foam blocks, straws, cardboard; and above all, building knowledge.
One topic that came my way recently was students wanting to develop a unit for primary grades around the idea of building a community. Did I have any recommendations that would inspire and inform a unit like this?
With the idea in mind that young children would connect readily with building homes (and ties neatly into the Alberta social studies curriculum to boot) we decided to start with that.
I recommended browsing the series, Young Architect with the following titles:
Adventure Homes by G. Bailey
Though the suggested grade level is 3 to 6, I think the illustrations would certainly spark the imagination of students in grades 1 and 2, as well. These particular student teachers got excited when they started flipping through them, for there’s lots of information about construction techniques and materials and definitions for specialized words. I didn’t think these books provided everything but were a good starting point.
I matched these books with the picture book by Chris Van Drusen, If I Built a House because it takes a fanciful, pie-in-the-sky approach to building a home for the narrator’s family.
Because the unit was going to go beyond homes, the student teachers wanted books that would show different kinds of buildings. They wanted iconic buildings from around the world, so I showed them 13 Buildings Children ShouldKnow by Annette Roeder. Also graded for grades 3 to 6, it does feature the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, The Eiffel Tower and many others. Each entry includes photographs, illustrations, information about when they were built, construction techniques and the occasional quiz question.
I’m hoping I’ll find out how the students developed this unit further in the near future.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Weird & Wacky Inventions by Jim Murphy is a gem.
I’m wrapping up January’s design thinking blitz with a focus on the fourth phase – prototyping.
(If you’re just joining us and wondering what design thinking is please visit the blog DoucetteEd Tech and read the last couple of weeks blogs to learn more. Here's the link to Paula's blog where she's review some resources that fit with the prototyping phase.)
Prototyping is about producing a product that can be tested in the real world to see if it fits with the need that was initially deemed worthy of investigation in the first place with an eye to improving the situation.
So back to Jim Murphy’s Weird & Wacky Inventions.
One of the things that make us human is the ability to solve problems and in this book, the reader is introduced to a myriad of inventions and the associated problems. These devices were all patented in the United States going all the way back to the early 1800s.
The information is presented as a quiz; there is an illustration of the invention with a wee bit of description about what the device might do or the problem it might solve. After you make a guess you turn the page and learn what is really was for.
For example, here’s one that cracked me up:
The answer is # 2(of course), a sunbather’s toe-ring. This was designed to in 1973 by Russell Greathouse to help with the problem of uneven tanning. His toe-rings looped around the big toes and prevented the legs from splaying outwards thus resulting in the unsightly appearance of uneven tan lines. The flower was purely for aesthetics. He’d thought of everything.
There are so many more inventions highlighted in the book that are ingenious, ridiculous, and amazing in their own ways. Having students browse through this will certainly give them a very good sense about idea generation and that in the prototyping phase of design thinking everything is on the table for consideration. Nothing is too crazy. You never know when a bit of one idea meshed with something else will give you an outcome you wouldn’t have come up with in any other way.
The format is very approachable and easily read, great for dipping into and browsing. The illustrations have an old-fashion quality to them which I liked but may not appeal to students. Nevertheless, I’m recommending this for upper elementary, middle grades and struggling readers in high school.
(Tell me what kid wouldn't be thrilled with a pair of jumping shoes with strong springy steel legs that would allow kids to jump farther? My track and field days would have been soooo different if I'd had these. Design in 1922 by May and George Southgate.)
Monday, January 23, 2017
Definition from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary:
1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thought, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner, also : the capacity for this
You could make a strong case that one of the main reasons people read literature is to learn about other people. It might be on a totally superficial level like learning what it's like to live in another country or what activities make up a person's day. But the stories that go beyond the surface and take us into the mind of another person, get us to feel what that person is feeling, is where the power of literature really lies. The stories that stick with me are the ones where I connected emotionally with the characters.
I'm focusing on empathy today as a wrap up to the instruction I've been doing the last couple of weeks about design thinking. (See last week's blog for more about this.)
Empathy is the first component in the design thinking process and is used in a way to generate a better understanding of a problem from the perspective of someone who is closely associated with that problem. One of the scenarios we used in the workshops was based around the picture book, Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley. We wanted to have students get into the mindset of a refugee family who had lived through a horrific war and wanted to escape to another country, hoping for a better life but lose a great deal in trying to survive.
In one of the last sessions (Paula and I co-taught 15 sessions) a student directed us to the following YouTube video about the difference between empathy and sympathy which I really liked.
Take a look:
It really is about connecting to someone else on an deeper level.
I wanted to recommend some books that perhaps could be used to promote empathy in a classroom. But "Holy-Tons-of-Books, Batman!" almost any book could fall into this category. So this becomes super easy or incredibly difficult depending on how you look at it.
The following is a list of 10 titles that represent a range of stories that could be used in many different ways:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee : novel for secondary level
2. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White : novel for middle grades
3. Moo by Sharon Creech : novel for elementary grades
4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio : novel for middle grades
5. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson : picture book
6. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig : picture book
7. Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaajte : picture book
8. Red: a Crayon's Story by Michael Hall : picture book
9. Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg : picture book
10. Ivan: the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate : picture book