I come from a world of stories...
Thus begins Oliver Jeffers's and Sam Winston's remarkable picture book A CHILD OF BOOKS (Candlewick Press, 2016).
After several days working with students to articulate "Great Questions" in the short stories we've been reading, and after struggling to move students to a deeper understanding of how to discover these universal questions and phrase them as themes, I decided to turn to picture books for inspiration.
We began by reading A CHILD OF BOOKS, which had arrived at my home the day before the lesson.
As I read and showed students the pictures accompanying each page, their reaction to the book overwhelmed me. Each student sat transfixed, exclaiming how beautiful the book is and how much they love the words and images, which, for those who have not read the book, Winston drew with words.
Still, the students could not quite settle on a GREAT QUESTION or theme. I decided to show them the book trailer, which I've included below. In it the authors state the main theme of their story.
Books let us explore unknown places and ignite the imagination.
This theme is one I start the year with as it articulates my love of literature so succinctly. We explore texts that draw our attention to the act of writing and telling, including poetry, short stories, novels, and plays. By looking closely it's easy to notice the myriad ways writers mention writing in their works. It's as though they honor stories this way.
Students moved into triads and selected a picture book to read together and to practice raising questions about. They then worked to state the stories' themes, and we took turns
1. Briefly describing the plot in 2-3 sentences,
2. Raising a GREAT QUESTION the story brings to our attention,
3. Stating a them for the story.
We still had some themes that work more as morals and lessons, but all groups moved toward a deeper understanding of how we discover ideas in complicated literary texts.
And it's the stories that students tell about stories as they relate to their own lives that resonate most with me.
This Monday, the day I'm writing this Slice of Life, I received an email from a student who graduated last year and who was in my AP Lit and Comp class.
Hey Mrs. Funk!
This is ______ ______, I just wanted to let you know that I went in for a really good job interview this last Friday and thanks to you I was able to talk about Life of Pi with my Interviewer and talk all about all the metaphors and symbolism and it just may have gotten me a job! I just wanted to thank you for pushing me through some hard literature, that helped me grow as a person.
That's the kind of story that fills my story-telling mind with pride and wonder. And it's a pretty good way to spend a Monday!
Happy story-telling and making week to you. May you always be "a child of books" and know the joy of reading stories, which as Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston remind us are places
where anyone at all can come
for imagination is FREE.
|You'll find more stories each Tuesday in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.|
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for your "Once upon a time" moment.
Thank you TWT for your commitment to stories and teaching.