Monday, October 23, 2017

The Children's Book Harvest

This Thursday, we will visit The Children’s Book Bank to learn more about The Children’s Book Harvest, which we will be helping coordinate for our school. We will also learn more about the importance of diverse books and help with cleaning books so they are ready for new readers by cleaning covers, erasing scribbles, and taping torn pages.

The Children's Book Harvest will begin this Wednesday at Lewis. In this video, The Children's Book Bank Operations Manager Jean May gives tips for The Children's Book Harvest book drive donations, including physical condition of books, desired book donations, and how to sort and pack books for delivery to The Children's Book Bank. We will use this video to begin our work organizing this book drive for our school.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Classroom Notes

Greetings!

Our book drive has come to a close. Thank you Lewis families and staff for donating over 1000 books for the new Little Free Library, which will soon be just outside the main entrance of our school.

We used our Thursday to talk about the diversity gap in children’s literature and collected some data around the question, “How diverse is our book drive collection?” and the subquestion, “How are different races and genders represented?” We then entered our data into a Google Form and talked as a team about what we noticed.

Instead of the usual Classroom Notes this week, I encourage you to visit our blog to read a write-up about this project.

Mark

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Diversity in Children's Books - How Diverse is Our Book Drive Collection?

Introduction


Our class has been working together for the last several weeks to bring a Little Free Library to our school. Kids have been busy creating designs and painting the little library. They have been creating posters and videos to advertise the book drive that we organized. As our book drive concluded, I wanted us to take some time as a class to think about the books that we had collected. 

During the prior week, while thinking about how I could guide my kids to make sense of the books that we collected, I talked with my sister-in-law, Roxanne, who works at The Children's Book Bank. She shared a post on the Lee & Low Books blog by Jessica Lifshitz, a fifth grade teacher in the Chicago area. Lefshitz wrote about how her students analyzed the diversity of their classroom library. This post was instrumental in guiding our inquiry into the diversity of our book drive collection.

Setting Up an Inquiry into the Diversity of Our Book Drive Collection



The morning after our book drive concluded, kids entered our room and were amazed at the tremendous number of books that we had collected. They took some time to peruse the pile. 

We then came together as a class and began talking about our collection and why having access to books is so important. I shared a statistic, which I had read on The Children's Book Bank website, that kids enter first grade with a remarkably wide gap in the number of hours that they have experienced one-on-one picture book reading -- from an average of only 25 hours to upwards of 1700 hours -- and that a key part of this is having access to books. Kids shared what an advantage being read to has on a child's learning and success in school. I said that our Little Free Library can be a way for more kids to have more access to books.

I shared some about how books are vital in helping people think about the world. I said that having a robust classroom library is important to me as teacher. However, the books that kids have access to in our library, while full of choice, are limited by what I have placed there as teacher. I said that I think it is important for us to think more about what and who is included in the books in this collection or in any collection. What kinds of books are we surrounding ourselves with? And who is represented in these books in terms of race and gender?


As Lifshitz suggested in her post, we then looked at an infographic from the Lee & Low Books blog, which shows the diversity gap in children's books. We talked about the term "people of color" and how language is important to the way we work to understand people, and that the language we use to describe one another changes over time. One kid said that the goal of the language in this term is to be inclusive, that this term goes beyond just saying African American to include more people. We talked about how challenging it can be for authors of color to get their work published. Kids brought up the role that publishers play in controlling who gets published and who is represented on book covers. We talked about the difference between white writers writing about people of color and writers of color doing the same. Kids said that it can be hard to stand in the shoes of a person of a race different from your own, that this can impact how real a book is, and can contribute to stereotyping by white authors. Next we turned to look at the books that we had collected during our book drive.


In our classroom we use a simple inquiry framework: ask a question, collect data, analyze data, and tell others. To connect our conversation about the diversity gap in children's literature to our book drive collection, I put forward the question, "How diverse is our book drive collection?" and the subquestion, "How are different races and genders represented?"


Collecting Our Data



To begin collecting our data, kids grabbed a stack of books and began recording each book's title, whether there were people on the cover, if those characters where white, and if the characters were boys using this data collection sheet from Lifshitz.





Analyzing Our Data



To begin analyzing our data, we entered everything that we collected into a Google Form.


As kids entered their data into the Google Form, the data populated this Google Sheet. Looking at our data organized in the spreadsheet, we talked as a team about what we noticed. These posters show that conversation.




During our conversation, kids talked about there being white characters on 79 percent of the book covers with people. They mentioned how many book covers had animals or other objects and that this was more than those featuring characters of color. During our data collection, one kid had noticed how a cover had about ten white characters on it. We wondered how hard this would be to change. Another kid brought up an action step that we could take. She said that when we stock and restock our Little Free Library that we should be intentional in the books that we are choosing, being sure to include a greater selection of books with diverse characters than is in our collection.

We concluded by talking about why thinking about the books that are in our Little Free Library collection matters and why the diversity represented within the books that we read ourselves matters. I shared this picture from a post on the Lee & Low Books blog by Katie Cunningham and talked some about Rudine Sims Bishop's terms "mirror books" and "window books." I said that kids who are white can easily find mirrors in books. The data that we found today supports that claim. Most children's books have white characters. Borrowing from Lifshitz, I said that we need books as windows to see into the lives of others and to develop our understanding of what it means to be a race other than white. I shared with them something that Cunningham wrote, that "when the lighting is just right, can't a window become a mirror?" I mentioned that reading aloud Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go To Birmingham last year is a great example of a book that can be both a mirror and a window. Kids agree that they could see themselves in the feelings and experiences of Kenny and the rest of the Watson family, and that the book also offered a window into understanding the segregated South during the Civil Rights Movement. We talked about how there were also mirrors and windows in another book read as a class last year, Alex Gino's George. I encouraged kids to take another action step with their own reading and to think more about how a book can be a mirror and a window when choosing their next book to read.

Reflections 


Later in the day, we sat down to complete some written reflection. Kids wrote...
  • Our Little Free Library just got books. I went through 53 books and only three were about people of color.
  • We need diverse books to teach children to step away from becoming a person with a very white perspective.
  • A diverse book is a picture into someone else’s world that gives us a chance to see what it would be like to be someone else.
  • If we could open our eyes and see what it would be to be someone else we would not need a lens (a book) to look through, but we will always need books.
  • Our society would crumble if we did not look through a window or a mirror to see what others see.
  • There are many books with animals as characters and stuff other than humans.
  • If you write a book about people of color, it's opening a crack. If you get it published, it is opening a window. And if people read it, it is opening up a door.
  • Diverse books are important because if books were not diverse, then one race would be included and that's not fair because we should all have equal rights.
  • If there was no diversity in books, we'd fall apart. People would be starved for new points of view.
  • The main thing we read about with people of color is the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. We don't as often read books about a person of color's regular day.
  • Diverse books are important so we know what it is like to be in someone else's shoes.
  • Diversity should not only be here to help raise our future to care more and have more diverse opinions, but to change adults and people of every kind and point of view.
  • Books can help us come to realize that other races matter and help see things that we did not think about before.
  • Books should be more inclusive.
  • Books are like a window. Sometimes you can see yourself, but other times you can see right through so you can learn. We should read books that we can relate to and learn from.
  • I think that we should keep protesting. Sure we're civilized and we like following leaders, but that doesn't make it okay to go around with our mouths shut. Book are going to get worse if no one speaks their thinking.
  • My next step will be to read an equal amount of books with people of all races as characters.
  • My next step is to spread my thinking.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Salmon Egg Pickup Help


In addition to learning the regular Reed Science curriculum this fall, Team 20 will learn about the salmon life cycle with a salmon tank in our classroom. I have been in contact with someone at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and reserved a collection of Chinook eggs that will be ready for pickup at the ODFW office in Clackamas on either October 24th from 1-5 p.m. or the 25th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you think you might be able to volunteer for this pickup, please contact me. I will not be able to do it myself.

Yay! We have a volunteer! Looking forward to our salmon project.

Field Trip Forms - The Children's Book Bank


On Thursday, October 26th, we will be on the road! We will visit The Children’s Book Bank to learn more about The Children’s Book Harvest, which we will be helping coordinate for our school. We will also learn more about the importance of diverse books and help with cleaning books so they are ready for new readers by cleaning covers, erasing scribbles, and taping torn pages. We will be leaving Lewis via TriMet at around 9:15. After meeting and learning with our host, Jean, cleaning books, and lunch, we will return to Lewis at around 1:45.

Please complete the linked field trip forms by Tuesday, October 17th.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Diversity in Children's Books - Books as Windows and Mirrors


Soentpiet, Chris. (2013). Amazing Faces. Lee & Low Books. Retrieved from blog.leeandlow.com

Diversity in Children's Books - Data Collection

Diversity in Children's Books - Infographics


Mautner, Ben. (2015). The Diversity Gap in Children's Books infographic. Lee & Low Books. Retrieved from blog.leeandlow.com



Huyck, David, Sarah Park Dahlen, Molly Beth Griffin. (2016 September 14). Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 infographic. sarahpark.com blog. Retrieved from readingspark.wordpress.com

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Classroom Notes

Greetings!

We’ve had another busy and productive week in room 20! Can you believe that it is already October?

Our project to bring a Little Free Library to Lewis is well under way. Our book drive continues through next Wednesday. For our book drive, kids made posters, a bulletin board display, artwork, and these advertising videos. On Monday, kids began painting their illustrations on the Little Free Library.

During Language Workshop, kids are planning a letter to their pen pal in Mrs. McCollister’s class at Marquette Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. Next steps include working with a partner to revise and edit their plans before moving onto writing their rough draft.

Last week we began Words Their Way, which is a phonics, spelling, and vocabulary program that is being used school-wide. The skill instruction focuses on word study and spelling patterns rather than memorization. Each week kids get a new set of words and use them for a variety of hands-on activities, the central one being word sorts where they organize what they know about words and form generalizations that can be used when they encounter new words in their reading and writing.

For social studies, kids are making maps and learning state locations and capitals. They took a quiz on the West region last Friday and will take one on the Southwest region at the end of this week. The kids are well prepared. We have been talking about study strategies and quiz taking strategies. Kids have been using the State and Capitals page on our blog

On most Fridays we will look together at something that has been in the news. We began last week by watching a video clip and then talking through some questions from Teaching Tolerance about NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem

We had our second meet-up with our buddies in Mrs. Logue’s first grade and had a visit from my wife and daughters. We also had many conversations about “self-control” this week. Perhaps the kids are starting to understand the advantages associated with self-control! 

Coming up…

Run for the Arts is this Friday. Please help your kid remember to dress for running and bring a water bottle.

Reed Science begins this Friday. During Reed Science, two Reed College students take the lead in teaching the kids of Team 20 through a variety of hands on, inquiry-based experiences in science.

In addition to learning the regular Reed Science curriculum this fall, Team 20 will learn about the salmon life cycle with a salmon tank in our classroom. I have been in contact with someone at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and reserved a collection of Chinook eggs that will be ready for pickup at the ODFW office in Clackamas on either October 24th from 1-5 p.m. or the 25th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you think you might be able to volunteer for this pickup, please contact me. I will not be able to do it myself.

The Lewis PTA is asking all classroom teachers to remind families about a fundraiser that has been advertised by them since last June. As I understand it, families are invited to submit artwork by their child to me by October 9th. It will then be sent off to a company from which you can purchase the artwork on a variety of objects, such as a coffee mug. The artwork is then returned. For more details, please see the Lewis Newsletter dated September 27th.

Last, but not least, one more invitation to sign up for classroom messages with Remind. Remind allows me to share messages with families. If you haven’t yet signed up, please consider doing so using these directions.

Please follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 and at LewisRoom20.blogspot.com for regular updates and photos!

Mark