Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Saturday, June 19, 2010

End Papers

When June rolls around I find that I had better find something really engaging to do with my students if I want to be cheerful. I realized that we had never done my end paper study.

I started by explaining the role of end papers. We talked about browsing in book stores. End papers help move you visually through the book. They keep your interest level high and make it more likely that you will keep turning the pages. End papers are like trailers for movies…they either leave you uninterested or have you counting the days until the movie comes out. Before you even come to the title page, you can be hooked.

After we understand the idea, we start looking at a stack of books. Students give their reviews on the success of end papers in each book using thumbs up or thumbs down. When we got to Grace Lin’s book, Dim Sum for Everyone, one of my classes broke out in cheers. In every class there was at least one person who declared themselves too hungry to go on. In Ian Falconer’s Olivia, the end papers not only delight, they actually make your eye take a journey from left to right. The response was warm. We looked at many examples of brilliant use of end papers before I presented the problem.

I took a book which is a brilliant book in terms of content and illustration. However, the end papers are really subpar. What were they thinking? I primed the book as I had all others. Excitement to see the end papers was high. Then I opened the book. Confusion was written on the faces of most of the children I showed it to. Exclamations of horror were not uncommon. Several children had to be spoken to regarding inappropriate language choices.

The challenge: To create end papers which were superior to the ones in the original book. We read the whole thing so they would have the context. Then I gave students a piece of paper, a pencil and some crayons. They followed through brilliantly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Internet safety

My favorite teenager took an out take test in technology class this week. Said teen didn’t think much of the answers. I inquired as to what exactly was troublesome. Here’s the objectionable question and answer:

Which of the following is safe to post on the internet? Your:

1.) First name

2.) Last name

3.) Address

4.) Phone number

While this darling teen agreed that the best answer was 1.), there was quite a bit of grumbling a out the real safety of using your first name. After all, I make sure to introduce my loved ones to resources like Net Smartz.

Our conversation made me think. This idea that our first names are generalized enough to be safe seems odd to me. In the last few years I have had students who have had first names which were so individual that there is little chance of them finding someone else with the same name in their lifetime. Some of these individuals have family names which are relatively common. So in reality, wouldn’t using the last name be a safer bet?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It took a thunderbolt

Last week we had really terrible thunderstorms in our area. As the thunder and lightning grew closer together the walls shook more violently. Suddenly the two joined the fire alarm and there was nothing for it but to evacuate with purse, family members and a couple of laptops. It was 2:45 a.m. About an hour and a half later, we carried those items back into our home and attempted sleep. Unfortunately, that left me about half an hour before I needed to get up. As I slogged through my commute, I thought about how scared some of my students would be. It seemed that reading some of my favorite storm books would be in order. My two favorite books about lightning are Thundercake by Patricia Polacco and Dragon is Coming by Valeri Gorbachev

I prefaced the lesson by asking students to raise their hands if they had not slept well the night before. Most of them raised their hands. I plowed ahead naively asking what had kept them up. The answers started out with “the t.v. was too loud”. By the time the answers made it to “my sister/brother was snoring” I had caught on. Only one child had mentioned the storm.

I was not brilliant on that day. I did not move fast nor did I always follow what people were saying to me. I would have been happy to have someone tell me to put my head on the table and take a break. Concentration was not easy. Somehow, though, I began to think of what performing in school would be like for a six year old who didn’t get enough sleep. How easy would it be for a child who regularly doesn’t get enough sleep?

I don’t have any answers, but I do think I woke up that day when I made the electric connection.