Celebrating: Our Caldecott Writing Journey

This week I’m celebrating my fourth graders’ four-week study of potential Caldecott Medal winners. While the work was fun and accessible, it required complex thinking. It is literary analysis with a purpose, a medal.

For the first two weeks, my kiddos analyzed the books in small groups featuring the child-friendly Caldecott criteria shared by Jess Lifshitz. The beauty of the criteria is that it sets up the “reason” or “supporting idea” for students to be proven with evidence.  By week three, each student was asked to choose one book they felt should win. It was difficult. Many had rated all books as their favorite. Using the criteria as their reasons for selection, each student had to defend their choice using the evidence to debate another student. The result, deafening noise, and a few changed opinions.

This week, I wanted students to write their thinking citing the evidence. To do this well,  every child had to have access to every picture of the book they selected. I wanted them to be able to point out, in writing, exactly what they saw in the pictures and explain how that connected to the criteria.  With a Google Doc of pictures from each book, they could do it. Their task was to choose the pictures that provided the evidence for their beliefs and explain it in writing.

There were, as always with technology, issues. My conferences often began with how to do something technical and then moved into writing craft. (Find my mentor text here.) The time spent on how to do tech always worries me. How much is about the writing when we leave pens and paper for the digital world? In this, our first attempt at using pictures with writing, students learned as much about how to write around pictures as they did about introductory phrases.

There were, as always with technology, mistakes. Pictures were deleted inadvertently. Work was lost. But they kept on.   I was amazed at their perseverance and stamina. And in the end the joy around the work.

Now we wait for the actual Caldecott Medal winner’s announcement and begin reading short stories for their literary craft. Hoping for transfer of technology and writing skills.