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read across america day 2016

We joined in on Discovery Education’s #CelebrateWithDE event this afternoon, in honor of Read Across America Day. The event included a read aloud with Peter H. and Paul A. Reynolds of the awesome FableVision Studios.

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Peter read and explained the book Going Places during the event. Unfortunately, his twin brother Paul wasn’t able to make it – he was home sick. We read along from the classroom, using our own copy of the book.

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This is such a great book for students in a PBL or STEM classroom because of its emphasis on divergent thinking and creative problem solving. During the event, they posted tweets on the right side of the screen, so this provided an opportunity to show them how social media (in this case Twitter) can be used for educational purposes in real time.

After reading the book, he answered some questions from the audience. One of the things he talked about that related to a big focus for us this year was feedback. Starting at about 19:33, he was asked a question about how many times he edits his writing before it is considered complete. He shared that he tests out his stories on live audiences in a few different settings so that he can see how they react and if anything doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work well for his readers (or listeners in this case). He may revise it 4-5 times before feeling like he’s really got it right. Awesome for young writers to hear!

Next came the activity, based on the book The Dot. He talked about the inspiration for the book, which came from an experience he had with a young girl who didn’t believe that she was a good artist. He wrote the story to help her, and others like her, who are nervous about drawing and/or feel that they need to be a little bit braver.

My students loved hearing him say that the circle he drew needed to look “dot-ish”. At the start of the year, I always like to read the book Ish, to help start a discussion about how varied our talents are. It really emphasizes the idea that you don’t have to be perfect at things – in this case drawing – and that it’s okay to create things that are perfect-ish, which I just think is such an important message for kids. We use that -ish ending all the time in our classroom and it was fun hearing Peter use it too!

For the activity, he challenged us to draw a circle and then turn it into something unique. As he drew his own version and it began to take shape, he talked about his process. He said that he thinks of the drawing as an animated film and talks about all of the other things that would need to be added to it. He then came up with a working title for the book that would go with the image, to bring it even more to life. That then becomes his book cover. Such a great exercise for children as a pre-writing activity. Here are some dots that my students came up with…

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The event ended with some pretty powerful words from Peter to make, create and BE BRAVE! He asked them, “How can you use your talents and gifts to make the world a better place?” Well said, Peter!

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