Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Higher! Higher! in the classroom

Hey everyone! I want to introduce you to Monique Durso. She is a 1st Grade teacher at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. She was part of the Judging Panel that selected this year’s Book Award winners, and was in attendance at the presentation ceremony on Friday, April 23rd at Please Touch Museum. I wanted to share Monique’s account of her experience teaching one of the winning books, Higher! Higher!, in her classroom and of meeting the book’s author, Leslie Patricelli, at Please Touch Museum:

"Our words are powerful," has been the main teaching point of my reading and writing workshop for the past five years. Whether we are writing a story, a letter, or conversing with friends, our words have an impact on others. One of the things I love about stories is that they have the power to transport us to different times and places, and transform the way we view ourselves, others, and the world around us.

This year, my first grade class followed my journey of being a Children's Book Award judge for Please Touch Museum. After independently reading stacks upon stacks of books, the panel of judges came together and we decided on one book to be deemed Please Touch Museum's 2010 Children's Book Award selection in two categories: Ages 3 and Under, and Ages 4 to 7.

The book we chose in the younger age category was Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli. I then read this winning selection to my first grade class and opened up the conversation to any comments and questions from the students. And did they have a lot to say! They asked great questions and offered insightful comments. One first grader asked, "What material did the author use for her illustrations? It looks like cut paper, but I can see that it's not..." Another wondered, "Why did she only choose to put a few people in the windows of the apartment building?" After many comments and questions, it was clear the students were curious and invested. If only Leslie could hear their words.

Then, on April 23rd I was fortunate enough to meet Leslie Patricelli, and relay all of the positive feedback and intriguing questions about her book. Leslie was thrilled that the class had taken such an interest and began to answer each question in order (she uses canvas paper and then paints brown on top of it; it was more realistic to have people and pets in just some windows). Additionally, Leslie was gracious enough to write a letter to the first graders in my class.

When I returned to school and shared the exciting news of our meeting, I could see my first graders eyes light up. They were overwhelmed to hear that their questions were answered, and that their words and ideas meant something to Leslie Patricelli. The satisfaction was written all over their little faces. Deep down, I was satisfied as well. For it was clear to me at that moment that whether we write words down for others to read or we share them in conversations or on blogs--our words certainly do matter.

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