Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary School

Today was book group number three of my summer five.  I don't know how the next two can top this one.  Pinch me!  We met at the Castleton Public Library and skyped with Laura Shovan, the author! How lucky were we that she was actually available at the exact moment we were meeting and not only that, had a significant amount of time to spend with us.  Thank you! What a treat for my small but powerful group of fourth, fifth and sixth graders (plus a mom and a seventh grade sister!).

Writing our Skype questions

As soon as I started reading this book I was reminded of another fifth grade year long memoir, Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt.  Like Mr. Terupt, this book's narrators are all of the students in the class.  But unlike Terupt, all their voices are in verse.  More and more books are being written in verse these days and you know what? That's awesome!  Just in the past week I've read two--this one and Free Verse by Sarah Dooley--and I love it.  Let's get everyone hooked on poetry!  Isn't that so, Kwame?


With a backdrop of folk songs, the 18 diverse kids in Ms. Hill's fifth grade class wonder if there are "some things worth holding onto."  Unfortunately, their school isn't one of them.  Come June these kids will say goodbye to the walls that held their memories where they were taught how to read, write and do arithmetic to say hello to a shopping mall.  Yes, that hurts.  But it will not come without a fight with a side order of every form of poetry you can imagine.

It's summer and we were at the public library so we talked to Laura via the iPad mini.
It was mini, alright! Can you spy Laura?

Today when we got together to talk about the book, we started out by sharing what we were looking forward to in the coming school year.  The fourth graders are excited about having "three teachers" and "doing science with Mr. C" and one of the fifth graders said that he is looking forward to "a big field trip" at the end of the year.

Thank you, Laura!

We also discussed our favorite characters.  "I like Rennie because she is saving the school for her sister" said a fourth grader with a younger sister.  Another girl likes Sydney "because she likes sports and I like sports." Other favorite characters were Mark, Edgar and Katie.  I don't know who my favorite is--so many of them have qualities and characteristics that I admire and love.  Is it Rachel because she has Jewpanese roots like my own children?  Or Tyler because he is from Texas and you know how much I love Texas.  Or Newt because he grows from writing haikus to way more.  Or Jason because I grew from thinking he was kind of "meh" to really liking him in the end and I loved his concrete self portrait poem. Or? Or? Or? I could go on and on about all 18 of them.

We also got out sticky notes and followed Jason's instructions on how to make a Mr. Stick Guy flip book (p. 76).  That was fun!

I asked the kids to give me a one sentence review and here is what they came up with:

"I liked the poems" [YES!]

"I like the book because it had a realistic ending."

"I liked the poem, 'Time Capsule Rap'."

"I liked the book because the class was very different." That says a lot because our classes are NOT very different in Castleton.  I'm glad I can expose my students to different cultures and people through literature.

Along the same lines, "I like it because it had Spanish."

And of course, the simple, "It was funny." "It was interesting."  Well, it is summer, after all, and I'm just happy they read and chose to spend an hour with me on a beautiful August afternoon to talk about a book! Lucky me!

Check out Laura in Zack's hands!

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