Happy 2014!  I hope you all had just the best and most relaxing holiday season, ever.  I know I sure did (hence the blogging absence).  But one of my new years goals is to share constant good ideas here on the blog, at least a few times a week.  I’m getting ready to teach a Literacy Foundations course in a local M.Ed program and I figured, what better motivation than to share what I’m telling them, with you!  I’ve been wanting to do a literacy series for awhile and this will be part one!  These lessons are designed to get your students EXCITED about literature and get you ready to tackle this last half of the year.  So let’s jump right in.

Truly, this is the MOST wonderful time of the year.  In two weeks, the ALA will announce the winner of the 2014 Caldecott and Newbery awards.  They also announce a bevy of other wonderful awards in children’s literature but the Caldecott and Newbery are like the Oscars.  You can watch the live announcement here at 8 am EST on January 27th.

Every year in my classroom, we would build up to this big announcement.  Even if you are just reading this today, you have two weeks to build the excitement and have your students pick their winners. Highlighting and previewing children’s books is a great way to spark excitement within your classroom and creating buzz around this prestigious award is a great way to also jump start the second half of the school year.  Since I taught first grade, this lesson is geared towards grades 1-2 but it is appropriate anywhere from K-6th grade.  And the idea of the lesson is from our school’s amazing librarian, Sarah Svarda.  So let’s jump right in!

Prep Work

First, gather up all of the buzzed about books that are in the running for this years Caldecott award.  I like to check blogs (Calling Caldecott and One Book, Two Book… are the best, in my opinion) and talk with my favorite librarian to see what titles are being mentioned frequently.  You can also search “Mock Caldecott” elections that are going on around the country.  I find that Allen County Public Library has the best and most accurate though.  I also review the terms and criteria of the award, so that I can answer questions the students may have or so I can double check books I like against it.  For example, I absolutely love Ballad by Blexbolex.  I think it would be a shoe in to win the award this year.  BUT the author is French.  And you must be an American to win it.  Bummer.

Day 1

As your students enter into your classroom, say after lunch or after specials, have their chairs set up in a circle around the carpet.  Each chair will have a potential award winner displayed on it.  Remind your children to go in and sit on the carpet and not touch the chairs just yet.  🙂

“Boys and girls, the books you see around you all have something in common.  Does anyone have any idea what that might be?  [take answers]  Well before I tell you, I want you to take a look at some of them.  This may help you figure it out.  In just a minute, I’m going to have each one of you choose a chair with a book on it.  When I say “go”, you’ll have three minutes to preview this book.  I want you to read it.  Look at the pictures.  Look at the front cover and the back cover.  And really look at it like a reading detective.  The only rule is: YOU MAY NOT CLOSE THE BOOK.  So if you finish reading it and time is still not up – read it again!  Then when time is up, we’ll switch!  Do you have any questions?  Okay quietly choose a chair.”

As students are choosing, set a timer or stopwatch for three minutes.  At the end of the three minutes, have them switch in a clockwise position.  Then start the timer again.  Based on your time limit, you decide how many switches you have.  I like 5 switches, which gives them 15 minutes with the books.  Let them know that they won’t get to see all of them today, but you’ll be previewing all of them over the next few days.

“Okay.  Now that you’ve all had a chance to see five of the books, I want you to head back to your seats and quickly write down your top three favorite books.  [Give them a chance to do this.  You as the teacher also write down your top 3.]  Now let’s think back to the first question I asked you: what do these books have in common?  Anyone like to take a guess now? [take answers]  Wow, those were great predictions.  You know this time of year is the most exciting and wonderful time of the year in the world of books and stories.  Every January, the American Library Association gives some BIG awards for the very best books of the year.  Does anyone know what these awards are called?  You may have seen the medal on some books in our classroom…  That’s right, the Caldecott Medal.  [This is where you go into the history and criteria of the award.  This is also a great time for you to share previous winners that may be classroom favorites of yours.  Also the 75th anniversary of the award is this year.  There are some great activities and a fun bookmark that you can find here.  You can find complete information here on the Caldecott ALSC page.]  Students, tomorrow you’ll be taking time to dive in and really look at some of these books you saw today.  And we’ll be checking them against the criteria that you just saw to see if they really have a chance to win the award.

Day 2-4

For the next three or so days, take time to really look at the literature.  You can make a checklist on an anchor chart of the criteria and have students refer to it as you read.  There can be a lot of criteria to wade through, so I’d keep my checklist to the following:

  • Must be an American author
  • Has a publication date of 2013
  • Appropriate for ages 1-14
  • The pictures must enhance the story
  • This is not a popularity contest
  • And of course… amazing illustrations!

Then read 1-2 books each day.  You can also incorporate interactive read aloud or shared reading time into this lesson (and I strongly suggest you do).  I typically pick my favorites to highlight in this time, but you can also check the Mock Caldecott sites to see what titles are consistently being referenced there.  Make a list of what you’ve read on an anchor chart that you’ll keep in your room until the announcement.

Day 5

This is the final day of your lesson.  You want to download this PDF to use for this activity.

“We have been reading a lot of really great books over this past week.  I want you to think of all of the titles we’ve read.  You can refer to our chart to jog your memory.  I’m going to give you a new post-it note.  I want you to write down your top three choices now.  They may have changed from the first day or they may not.  Now from the three that you wrote down, circle which one you think will WIN.  I’m going to pass out this piece of paper.  I want you to write your top three choices at the bottom with your winner in the number one spot.

CJT Medal

Now, think of your winner.  Go through this checklist and check the boxes that apply to your book.  We’re going to display these in the hallway so that other people in the school can see which books we liked.  Your checklist will serve as a book review for those students.  So if they’re looking for something funny, they’ll want to pick one that has the funny box checkmarked.  Finally, I want you to design an award in the circle.  This award needs to be designed very carefully because if the book you choose wins the Caldecott on the 27th, we’ll cut out your medal and put it on our classroom copy of the book… for the whole year!  [If more than one student chooses the winner, ask your school librarian if she’ll put the other medals on the additional copies of the book in the library.]  We will be watching the live announcement in two weeks so we’ll be able to see if any of our predictions were correct!”

Below are actual student work samples from Mrs. Svarda’s class.  Aren’t their medals so great?


Extension Activities

  • Fill your classroom library with Caldecott winners from past year.  Discuss how the pictures and illustrations have changed over time.
  • Have students write an actual book review about the winner they chose.  Post the review with the checklist.
  • Write a friendly letter to congratulate the illustrator on the award.
  • Write a persuasive letter to the committee telling them why an alternative book should have won.
  • Use various Caldecott winners as Authors as Mentors in writing workshop.  For example, use David Wiesner to teach storytelling through pictures in wordless books.

Additional Resources

This video from shares stories and snippets from past winners.  It made me tear up to hear all of their stories!

This bookmark was designed by Brian Selznick (2008 winner for Hugo Cabret) and has some fun questions and answers about Caldecott history on it.

Want to do a full and complete Mock election in your classroom?  You can purchase the entire resource from the ALA here.

So, what books would I use for this year?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter BrownI pick this one to win it all!

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly IdleThis one is my close second.  It has a chance to win it all as well.

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett – you have to watch the trailer for this one too!

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassan – Klassan won last year for This is Not my Hat

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman

That is really NOT a good idea by Mo Willems – I just love this story in general and think Willems deserves a win at some point.

The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Journey by Aaron Becker – this one is on ALL the Mock list.  Although not my fave, I think we may see it win the medal this year.

Bluebird by Bob Staake

Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner – will he win it for a FOURTH time?!?

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett

Locomotive by Brian Floca

The Mighty LaLouche by Matthew Olshan – this is getting a lot of credit and buzz as of late…

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

A Splash of Red by Jen Barnett

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch

And even though it can’t win… Ballad by Blexbolex


Happy reading and see you on the 27th!