One of the best parts of the end of the school year is witnessing and celebrating the culmination of a year’s worth of teaching. Out of the Blue and it’s fabulous author, Elizabeth Shreeve, afforded our classroom that opportunity. But before I get to the end, let me go back to the beginning.
Last year I interviewed fellow TBR blogger and children’s book author, Jody Little, on my podcast, Chalk + Ink. She talked about the power of letting students free write once a week and how it positively affected all of her students’ writing, not just what they were producing on Fridays. She implemented the Friday free writes after reading Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher.
Inspired, I integrated two free write notebook jobs into our classroom job rotation. Each week, two students bring home a free-write notebook, write two entries of their choosing and comment on two entries by other students. Inspired by last year’s success, I incorporated the free write notebook jobs again this year.
We also participated in Melissa Stewart’s Sibert Smackdown which you can read more about here. To sum up the activity quickly, students read, reviewed and voted for their favorite nonfiction title written the previous year. Our Sibert Smackdown included Elizabeth Shreeve’s fantastic Out of the Blue.
While reading Out of the Blue, one of my students, Hannah, ran up to me and said, “Mrs. Narita, did you know we evolved from fish?” I confirmed that I, too, had read that fact in the book. She jumped up and down and returned to her reading partner. I thought that was the end of that discussion.
I was wrong.
Hannah was so struck by the book, she wrote about it in one of our free-write notebooks.
I was so struck by Hannah’s review, I posted it on Twitter. I mean this reveiw was an author’s dream, right? Who wouldn’t want to know that their book had created a burst of excitement and creation in another human being?
I was right.
In fact, Elizabeth Shreeve was so touched, she offered to Zoom with our class. Her presentation was as professional and informed as Out of the Blue. To top it off, she included Hannah’s review in one of her slides, which made Hannah giddy.
As we wrap up the end of the year, we’ll be coming back to Out of the Blue one last time. Why? Well it turns out, Elizabeth Shreeve has developed an amazing curriculum for the book, with teachers, that is completely free. It has videos, activities, and incredible photos and diagrams of the animals in her fabulous book.
Like that, out of the blue, free writes enabled our classroom learning to come full circle, and incorporate a relationship with a children’s book author along the way.