Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#ClassroomBookaDay: the First Weeks of School

This is my first year teaching fifth grade (after ten years in third, fourth, and seventh), and one of the additions to the curriculum I am most excited about is incorporating the #classroombookaday commitment to daily read aloud (at least during our reading periods, which are four times per week).

Most weeks' readings will have a common theme as well as a title related to some of our year-round themes around identity, acceptance, and kindness. (See this year's #cyberPD posts about Sara Ahmed's Being the Change for more details.)

Week One: Identity and Community

Our theme for the first week was about personal identity and classroom community. On the first day of school we shared Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, followed by All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, and I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien to round out the week. We also read and discussed the new The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson during our Library time.

Jabari Jumps was a great first day of school read. The story of Jabari and the various ways he wrestles with his fear of the high dive serves as a great extended metaphor about facing your own fears and be willing to try new things. We also used the character of Jabari to discuss issues of identity and make a model "identity web" (below, inspired by Being the Change). Students then used Jabari's web as a jumping off point for making their own personal webs. Below you can also see our brainstormed list about characteristics of own identities.

All Are Welcome is a short poem of a picture book based on a celebration of school's like the one the author and illustrator's children attend. There is a lot going on in the illustrations, which my students enjoyed examining and discussing. This would also make a great read aloud and discussion for staff - how does your school measure up to these ideals and what can you do to make it an even more welcoming space?

I'm New Here tells the story of the beginning of a new school year through the eyes of three children who are all recent immigrants to the US. It's a great book to get kids thinking about what it might be like to be new to a whole country and not just a new school.

Finally, we shared The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson during our Library time.This brand new picture book shares some elements with those above (first day being new at school, feeling like you don't belong, etc.) but instead addresses the reader directly.

Week Two: Names

For the second week of school, we focused on stories about names and their connections to identity. In writing, students wrote etymologies about their own names, with these titles serving as ideas and inspiration.

In Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, the titular Alma is frustrated by the length of her name, but her father patiently explains to her where each name came from and how each is connected to her family and her history. This one has a structure that would be easy for younger students to emulate when writing about their own names.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a great story that forces kids to think about what they consider "normal" names and how that can be exclusionary. Unhei has just moved to the US from Korea and is considering choosing her own "American" name rather than introducing herself as Unhei.

Younger students at our school also share Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, but my fifth graders were happily nostalgic about the story and willing to talk about it again. Chrysanthemum the mouse loves her name until she starts school and hears the reactions of her classmates.

Someone New by Anne Sibley O'Brien is a companion book to I'm New Here and revists the story from the perspective of the three kids already at the school who each reach out to welcome the new immigrant students. We had some great conversations around the ways that each character has to choose to take action and the impact it has.

What books have you been sharing lately? Click here for all of our #classroombookaday posts.

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