by Chris Kehan
Flipgrid, Seesaw, Padlet, Canvas, Bitmoji classrooms, etc. seem to be all that we hear from our colleagues and administrators in preparation for a virtual start. If you are like me and gearing up for the start of this unprecedented 2020 school year, then you are probably overwhelmed by EVERYTHING we need to learn as teachers for our students to be successful online. As I sat in my library office thinking about all that I needed to do to get ready for this year, my heart started to race and my head was spinning. Then, I took a deep breath as I looked around at all of the books in my library, and my heart rate slowed and my mind became more open to the possibilities that books can offer me, my students, and the teachers during these tech-filled times.
These first couple of weeks should be used to give our students and ourselves grace to ease into this extraordinary school year. What better way to do that than through picture books? No matter the grade level or subject you teach consider using picture books to open the necessary conversations we need to have in order to get to know our students, find out how they feel, and get a sense of how to proceed with care–the curriculum can wait.
Before becoming an elementary school librarian, I taught for 19 years in a regular classroom. My two favorite things to do were read aloud and use a Writer’s Notebook. Now as a librarian and starting a school year during a pandemic, I intend to use the same two tools to get the year started. Picture books provide opportunities for quick, meaningful read-alouds which can lead to an entry in a Writer’s Notebook and follow that up with sharing and/or discussion. The following titles are a small sampling of books to use to get your year started or use them periodically throughout the year to maintain community and care in a virtual world:
Thankfully we have the technology to connect to our students as we start the year online. However, we cannot let it get in the way of what is important–getting to know our students and letting them know we care. In the end, a good book, a pencil and some paper (or a Writer’s Notebook) is all we need to get started connecting to our students and building the community necessary to navigate the year. So, take a deep breath and give your students and yourself grace.
Chris Kehan is a library media specialist in the Central Bucks School District. She became a PAWLP Writing Fellow in 1995 and a Literature Fellow in 1997. After teaching 4th & 6th grades for 19 years in the regular classroom where she amassed over 4,000 books in her classroom, she decided to take her passion for literacy to the library where she teaches children in K – 6th grade. She has been sharing her love of reading and writing with the students and teachers at Warwick Elementary School for the past 10 years. Follow her on Twitter @CBckehan