Mock Caldecott is one of my very favourite things to do in the classroom! This year, with a Grade 4 and 5 classroom, I was able to stretch the analysis process further and deeper with my students. All around it was a rich and rewarding learning experience. I have much to celebrate!
We started this three-week process by learning about the Caldecott award, working to understand the specific criteria and examining past winners (both medal and honor).
We wrote about what we noticed.
Over about 7 days, I introduced our Mock Caldecott contenders. Reading these books took us in many directions. We wrote detailed responses to some stories. We watched related videos. Some books we read more than once and just giggled.
Then in small groups of 3 to 4 students we began the task of rereading each book, talking together about Caldecott criteria, our opinions and all that we loved about each title. Thank you to Jess Lif! Her blog post about her Mock Caldecott unit led me to sheets we could use to record our notes and thinking about how each book met or didn’t meet the criteria. Like Jess, I used this as an opportunity for my students to learn from each other. I listened in for students’ thoughts about the books, yes. But I also was listening for how we communicated. Some groups needed more support than others to contribute ideas and some groups needed guidance on how to all have voice and how to listen attentively. I was very proud of the growing independence, the progress that happened over the week and how some quiet students stepped up and took on a leadership role in their group.
Carefully rereading the story before going through the illustrations and beginning to talk about what we notice.
Sharing details with each other.
Taking careful notes about what the group discussed.
Enjoying the amusing aspects of a funny book!
Looking closely at criteria.
Through all of this – lots of joy!
And then Friday afternoon came and we spent an hour picking our top 3 titles and filling our Caldecott reflections/self-evaluations.
Some students were confident in their choices immediately. Others took a long time to finally submit their top 3. Everyone took a great deal of care filling out the Mock Caldecott Self-Assessment Reflections and Feedback sheet I created.
And the winners? I had some eager volunteers ready to celebrate with a few photos!
Some dramatic reading!
Our medal winner? Return by Aaron Becker
Honor books? They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe and Giant Squid written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann
The reflection sheet allowed students to continue to think critically and creatively about the books, self-assess their own contributions, reflect on their learning and rank all 12 titles in 1 to 12 order. Many students carefully studied their notes to help them with this process. These questions also allowed them to move beyond the illustrations and talk about story.
A few highlights of the thinking. Questions are in bold and italics.
Which book do you think K students would enjoy the most? Why?
- A Hungry Lion because it has messy drawings and kids will think they can be an author too!
- A Hungry Lion. Little kids like animals.
- Maybe Something Beautiful because it’s bright and happy.
- They All Saw a Cat because it’s cute and creative.
What about Grade 7 students? Explain.
- Giant Squid because it has such cool drawings.
- Giant Squid because it’s science.
- Ada’s Violin – the like drama and true stories.
- Ada’s Violin because it’s inspiring
- Radiant Child because it tells you a message.
- Radiant Child because it’s about a dream and soon they will need to accomplish their own dreams
Which book do you think adults would enjoy the most? Name a specific adult if you want.
- Radiant Child because it’s a beautiful story and has amazing pictures.
- Radiant Child because it actually happened. It’s a true story!
- Radiant Child – old people can relate to “me” time.
- The Night Gardener because it has very calm pictures.
- My Mom would pick A Hungry Lion because it’s so funny.
Which book made you think the most? List some of your questions/thoughts.
- Return. I was inspired by all of the imagination in this book. Is he going to write another book? Please!!
- Ada’s Violin. I never knew people lived like this. How can people live in a pile of garbage.
- The Sound of Silence. He can’t find silence. It’s hard to find. I can’t find silence in class.
- Giant Squid. I wonder everything about giant squids now.
- The Storyteller. It didn’t make sense until I kept reading it.
- Radiant Child. It made me think about why people use drugs and about who is sad.
- The Hungry Lion. What’s going to happen to that turtle?
What did you like about our Mock Caldecott process?
- Participating in all of these things made me think about so much.
- It’s fun reading it and then reading it again and actually being like a judge!
- I love looking at so many books and voting!
- Seeing all of the different art.
- Getting to share my opinion about picture books.
- Some really well done details can actually blow someone’s mind.
- It was an enlightening experience. It made me more critical. It made me think about details and how colours impact me.
- I liked getting to read so many different kinds of books and then getting to rate them and show my opinion.
- We didn’t just read pretty books. I got to share my opinion.
- I liked looking at many illustrations because they are so beautiful.
- It was so fun because we got to rate books!
What did you learn about your own likes/dislikes/preferences with picture books?
- I think I have been judging books too fast instead of taking my time.
- I now know that if I really like it, I can read it all over again and see more.
- For some reason, I love art with trees!
- I like things that are realistic with really bold shadows.
- It’s possible to have too much colour in a book.
- I didn’t know I liked books with no text so much. I love illustrations that show adventures.
- I like books even if the drawings aren’t perfect.
- It seems I like books with a little bit of mystery.
- Books that are black and white except for some parts will bring your attention to the spot with colour.
What did you learn about illustrations?
- Some of the smallest illustrations have great details but you hardly notice unless you focus.
- That they can be anything – there is no best way. Some are collage. Some are messy. Some are weird. Some are super detailed.
- I really like pencil drawings.
- Colours affects your mood.
- There is lots of orange skin.
- There are so many different ways drawings can be: colourful, bland, collage, paint.
- A story doesn’t actually need words.
- Illustrations can touch you.
- I learned about the different kinds of illustrations. And finally I can spell illustrations!
- Not every picture has to be perfect to be beautiful.
Why do you think Mock Caldecott is a worthwhile activity to do in a classroom?
- We learned that illustrators do many unique and special things
- Just because you are 10, 11, 9 or any age doesn’t mean you are too old to read or listen to a picture book.
- We can learn new books and also learn from their art and really know the story.
- Students should know about illustrations and always see new books.
- It makes you talk to people you might not usually talk with.
- We were so inspired by the pictures!
- We all learned that art is so beautiful and important. We want to read even more picture books now.
- Kids learn how to judge things by having a list [criteria], I learned a lot about what art looks like.
- Think critically. Slow down and notice.
- It expands your reading world
- Picture books need pictures. Pictures can tell a story all on their own.
- It’s great to actually be able to vote.
- Doing this let us talk in groups with new people.
- Picture books teach you so many things. They teach you to dream.
Students also rated themselves on their ability to share ideas, listen to others, learn from other people’s opinions, work cooperatively in a group and refer to criteria when rating books. Each child gave themselves a compliment about their group work and identified an area for improvement.
The most entertaining response was to this question: Which book would you remove from our Mock Caldecott list. Give specific reasons.
A Hungry Lion. Why? Because animals get eaten!
Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!
Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.