Stacked in Our Favor

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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mock Caldecott Reflections

I’ve had some time to reflect on the process of running a Mock Caldecott group. Through that reflection I’ve come up with some things I would change if I for next time. It seems like this might be one of the most important things to share with others who are starting their own groups. Knowing the pitfalls is actually one of the more valuable things to know. We can all dream big. We can’t all see what snags we are going to get tripped up on.

When the results of Mock Caldecotts across the country came rolling, I found that there is actually a book about hosting this kind of event. Before I do this again I’d like to get my hands on a copy of Newbery and Caldecott Mock Elections by Kathleen Simonetta, Nancy Hackett and Linda Ward-Callaghan (ALSC, 2001) I’ve also discovered that Library Sparks had an article in January 2004 called The Peasleecott: A Mock Caldecott Unit written by Nancy Keller. I’d also like to get my hands on that article.

Things that didn’t work as planned and should be changed:

1. The length of time it takes to read and evaluate a book should be looked at. I did not anticipate how carefully our participants would view each book and contemplate the features. This was good, but we did not start out offering them an appropriate amount of reward for their effort.

2. Going along with number one, adjusting the number of books to review and the schedule for that.

3. Rethink whether it would make more sense to make this a weekly meeting. While I felt that offering the group in a flexible format would be easier to manage, people seemed to have more difficulty with that. Sometimes having a set meeting time can be easier. Sometimes it is easier to leave an important task to go to a scheduled meeting than it is to leave it to do something that is perceived of as “having fun.” When that happens, the fun factor decreases and guilt takes over. Perhaps this could be run as a graduate class to pair the reward with the amount of effort required to be an active member.

Things that would add to the program:

1. Provide posters on the library wall featuring successful renditions of various techniques.

2. Along with the examples of successful techniques, the actual tools and techniques would be a plus

3. Vocabulary posted on the wall to go with the posters above. This would help with identification as well as writing prompts for students.

Management items to tweek:

1. Start keeping a database in January. Adding to it each month would make it possible to keep on top of it later in the year and have more time for reading the books.

2. Differentiate between reviews and starred reviews.

3. Make sure to get a copy of ALL the starred reviewed books early on.

4. If I start previewing books at the beginning of the year, some of the titles that are not contenders can be weeded out in advance and we can focus on the best. This would include finding those books with illustrators who are not eligible for the medal.

5. Make decisions about offering the class earlier in the year so that people can plan their activities for the season. Most of our people really wanted to do it so they participated on top of a heavy load of activities. It would have been easier for them if they had known in May.

6. Come up with a list of refreshments in advance. While it may seem an insignificant thing, I find that creating a festive environment for the project makes people buy into it in a different, more joyous way. This yields more results than one might think.

I'm already scanning the book reviews for next time around and dreaming of other ways I can improve this program. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Youth Media Awards

It’s been a week since the award winners were announced and I’m way behind in reporting. So many things have happened this week.

The night before the Youth Media Awards were announced I wasn’t able to sleep. I got up and high tailed it into work. I know the ceremony was t start at 7:45 AM, so I got into work a little earlier to ensure enough time to log on and connect to the live stream. I tried and tried, but the computer indicated that the item could not be found. After playing with it for about 30 minutes it dawned on me that the ceremony was being held in San Diego and wouldn’t be held until mid-day East Coast time!

All day long people were slipping by the library to see if I knew yet. One of my colleagues was completely unable to imagine that I would be able to keep quiet once I knew the results of the awards. She tried to wear down my resolve, but I could not be worn down or tricked. It seemed like the suspence building would enhance the experience of the group.

People started gathering before three and immediately wanted information. The suspense was so strong you could have cut it with a knife. When they arrived I gave them each a string of gold beads (Mardi Gras beads, but they were gold, round and resembled medals), pointed them to the direction of our round, gold confetti and offered refreshments. Round and gold things ruled the day.

When we were all accounted for, at 3:15, I made the announcements. We started with books we had read which won other awards, moved on to the honors and culminated with the Caldecott Medal winner. You can easily see that our list does not correspond, even marginally, with the winners. Some of us had seen two out of the three books. We are all anxious to get ahold of copies of the award winning books to peruse and evaluate.

It will be very interesting to look at them and try to guess which elements in these books made the committee choose them. Reading as many books as we did and not having access to them all simultaneously, it is very interesting to go back and revisit. We did do this with some, but not all of the books. The books we read at the beginning sometimes looked less appealing when revisited and sometimes we appreciated them more. It is a task we are anxious to undertake to further our own skill and perception.

The work of our meeting followed. We had to evaluate our journey:

How had we changed?
What had we learned?
What do we take away with us?
How will this experience change us as educators?

When we were through talking and filling out evaluation forms, I gave out prizes. I had enough prizes for everyone. Most of the prizes I collected at Midwinter in boston last. I threw in a couple of small gift cards to bookstores. Participants were delight to “win” something and it build fun feeling.

Now what is left for me to do is paperwork to fill out and my own self-reflection. The focus group took an enormous amount of time, but yielded correspondingly enormous benefits. Would I do it again? Yes, but there are many things I would tweak so that it would go smoother. That’s another post.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Big Day!

Today is the day that the Youth Media Awards will be announced. I look forward to this day every year, but this year the excitement level is up. The Mock Caldecott group is fueling my enthusiasm with their own.

If you are interested in following them this morning the ALA's Youth Media Awards page will stream coverage for a limited number of viewers. I hope to get my computer turned on early enough to be one of those viewers. You can also get information about the winners by following on twitter. The hashtag is #alayma.

Our group will be meeting to hear the results, deconstruct the experience and evaluate.

Looking forward to a day of excitement and illumination.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Blog - Picture Book Inspirations

I'm pleased to announce my new blog: Picture Book Inspirations. I noticed that Purple Glasses Club was becoming a catch all for my many interests. Part of the reason I did not complete my 60 post challenge is that I spent most of the summer writing, brainstorming and re-envisioning my direction. From this Picture Book Inspirations was born.

Picture Book Inspirations will be a destination for the ways in which picture books inspire me, projects which I take on after reading picture books, writing and art projects which I hope may some day be picture books and news.

What I hope to feature on the blog:

Art Criticism – In order to appreciate picture books it is helpful to have some background in art appreciation. I will be posting mini-lessons to help us all become more adept at talking about the art.

Guest Writers – I don’t have any lined up yet, but I hope to have some guest writers post about what inspires them

Techniques – Know how those illustrations were made? If you answered no, you are not alone. I will be posting information about the process of making illustrations. Hopefully with photos and videos.

Writing Challenges – Information about writing challenges I am taking part in and ones that you can take part in too.

Drawing Challenges – Same as for Writing Challenges

Current Events – articles, events, congratulations, kudos, sympathy.

Other stuff that I have not yet dreamed about. 

I hope you will come and join me there. The welcome mat is out. I've just moved into the site, so it will be a while before the curtains are up. You're welcome to join me there anytime.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The One

After the teacher voting on December 20 I went to the library and picked up a book I had seen a great deal of discussion about. I had not gotten my hands on it and it finally came in. The book I’m talking about, CHALK, was certainly one I wish I had ordered sooner and had had the opportunity to include in the discussions.

When I showed it to my colleagues over the next couple of days I heard them agree – this was a book that might have made them change their decisions.

Throughout the process of evaluating books I kept hearing people say that they were waiting for “the one” and some felt that this could have been it.

So I feel a bit like a fisherman. The one that got away. Not sure it would have made the difference, but I wish it had been on the table.