As Christina Crowe and Chelsea Palmer's book club began to wind down for the school year, they decided to challenge their students with one more book—with a twist.
Rather than read another chapter book, the third-grade teachers decided to let the students pick a picturebook, read it, then create a presentation about it. It could be a slide show presentation, a movie trailer created in iMovie, a gallery walk, a video created using a green screen and different backgrounds—anything to help convey the story and their opinion of it.
Using the list of nominees from the 2018-2019 Georgia Children's Book Awards, the teachers at Rocky Branch Elementary School in Oconee County distributed books among the two dozen or so book club members, asked them to read them and choose one, then partner up with another student with the same book to begin the projects.
The results? A variety of videos where students exercised their own creativity in the retelling of a story, as well as their analysis of it.
Jaxon, 9, chose the book "Leave Me Alone," by Vera Brosgol, about a grandmother who just wants to be left alone to do her knitting—even though, as it turns out, she still wants some company. He said it reminded him of his own grandmother, and he drew a new set of pictures to go with his presentation. "I made an art gallery where you draw images and write a quick description," he added. "They were new images, not pictures from the book."
Another student, Kevin, 9, chose to create a Google Slides presentation for "Jabari Jumps" by Gaia Cornwall. He liked being able to integrate technology with his synopsis and critique.
"It's very advanced—we get computers with it and we get to add a lot of descriptions with it," he said.
Every year, the Georgia Children's Book Awards, which is housed in the University of Georgia College of Education, names award finalists in two categories: Picturebooks and chapter books. The lists follow a public nomination process from the previous year, and culminates with an award named in each category the following spring. Each year, 20 picturebooks and 20 chapter books are named as finalists. (For a list of the 2019-2020 winners, or to nominate a book for the following year's awards, visit coe.uga.edu/gcba).
Crowe and Palmer said they chose books from the Georgia Children's Book Award list because they knew the books would be engaging—a key factor for third-graders, who may find picturebooks more suitable for younger children. But they also appreciated that the book list would include different types of characters and settings that might seem new to their students.
"The books are very diverse, and we want to expose our kids to stories about other kids in their community," said Crowe. "And, that they can still read picturebooks."
This is their first year leading a book club, and Crowe and Palmer were able to secure some grants through local organizations—namely, the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and Walton EMC—to purchase books for the group to read. They also created T-shirts with a vintage-inspired Reading Rainbow graphic on them to go along with the theme.
In the end, the children were excited about the opportunity to use different mediums to tell their own stories.
And, the project also showed that they're not too old to enjoy a good picturebook.
"I like them because they're such short books, and most of the time they give very good lessons," said Nicholas, 8. "But I also like chapter books because you can have a picture in your head and it's not what's in the book."
Other students liked that picturebooks aren't as large a commitment as the more grown-up chapter books.
"Picturebooks are good to read when you have a short amount of time to do stuff," said Danica, 9.
Mary Peyton, 9, agreed. Sometimes, she added, it's just nice to be able to just chill out and read a nice, easy book.
"I think that picturebooks are good because, picturebooks, you don't have to try to figure out what the pictures are because they're there for you," she said. "But I like chapter books because they make you think."