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Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat

The last two posts on my personal blog, I’ve talked about the amazing experience I had at nErDcampLI. One question that author and illustrator, Lita Judge, asked is whether or not we are making a home for neurodiverse learners in our classroom. She shared that she grew up on a remote island in Alaska where she drew artwork and wrote stories in her journal. Later, when she moved to the mainland and started attending school, she was labeled dyslexic. But it didn’t matter because through her journaling, she already knew how to express herself creatively. Today she is the author of 24 fiction and nonfiction books. Read more about her here.

So, when I did a close reading fiction signpost lesson in my classroom, I wanted to make sure I included books that appealed to visual/spatial learners as well as verbal/linguistic learners. Drawn Together is a stunning 2018 picture book. The narrative arc is mostly conveyed through illustrations, instead of words, because the grandson and the grandfather speak different languages.

I began placing several picture books on the rug for students to choose from. As soon as Drawn Together flashed in my hand, the kids started bouncing up and down remembering that Drawn Together had been in a finalist in their third grade March Madness competition. By the way, Penguin Flies Home by Lita Judge is on the 2020 March Madness list along with many other fabulous books.

As students began reading the books looking for signposts, they came across this page:

Grandfather has an aha moment.

The reading partners knew it was an aha moment, but they didn’t know how to talk about it because there weren’t any words that accompanied the picture. The three of us discussed how the pictures showed the grandfather realizing he could use art to communicate with his grandson. When the students added this aha moment to their poster, they weren’t able to use words to explain how Dan Santat used the four lines and the open mouth to express the grandfather having a realization. But the deeper illustration analysis will come with time.

I became curious as to whether or not the students in my room had ever used art to communicate with the people in their lives. Here’s what they had to say:

Earlier in the year, I read a tweet exchange between Caldecott medalists, Matthew Cordell and Sophie Blackall. They have a sketchbook that they pass from one Caldecott winner to the next from year-to-year for each illustrator to draw in. The tweet exchange made me wonder if I could enrich my Friday journaling classroom activity by having one student draw a picture of our weekly activities in a classroom sketchbook instead of writing them down.

Matthew Cordell passes the Caldecott sketchbook to Sophie Blackall.

Drawn Together is the perfect book to introduce the idea of a visual Friday journal because the case cover is made to look like a sketchbook. Check it out!

Drawn Together’s case cover looks like a sketchbook.

Needless to say, I’ll be heading to Michael’s this weekend to pick up a sketchbook for my class. I’m looking forward to seeing where this visual journey leads. Thanks so much Lita Judge, Minh Le, Dan Santat, Matthew Cordell and Sophie Blackall!

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