Our final Rhyming Party is this Friday! I hope you can join me for the mayhem! It is one hour of trivia questions about this week’s blog posts in our RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group. If you aren’t a member, request to join the over 600 folks who share our rhyming passion. Everyone involved must type in rhyming phrases…SO funny! Don’t miss this last chance at 8:00 pm CST Friday night.
Today’s guest blogger is a good friend who was also part of my RPB Revolution Conference “DREAM TEAM” Committee! I first met her on Facebook, when we both competed in the March Madness Poetry Tournament. She placed second last year, which is truly a dinosauric feat! The level of poets in that competition is stellar. Fortunately, we met in person last summer at a retreat and really hit it off. I’m so happy to say that she is now an agency mate as we both share Kendra Marcus as our agent at BookStop Literary! Obviously, I’m thrilled to have this talented lady on the calendar of bloggers this year!
I’m pleased to introduce
Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine
Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine
Not Just for Circle Time: Rhyming Picture Books
in the Classroom
by Randi Sonenshine
I confess – I’m a picture book pusher.
As an instructional literacy coach, part of my job is to search for, recommend, and often purchase supplemental texts. Naturally, as a reading specialist and writer for children, picture books are at the top of my list. They are the perfect, bite-sized segue into many complex skills and concepts, not to mention a stand-alone literary treat.
Ten years ago, as the new (and only) literacy coach in the school system, it was hard enough to sell this idea to middle and high school English teachers. Luckily, with modeling and support, they quickly came around. But what about science, social studies, and math teachers? The first time I brought up picture books during a professional learning session, most of them looked at me like I had a third eye. Some even seemed to want to hurt me. Really.
In their defense, with only a vague statement about “reading across the curriculum,” in their standards, literacy was far from a priority; how could they see the connection between literacy and learning when the “experts” creating their curriculum made it an afterthought?
Thankfully, that’s far from the case today. Both the Next Generation Science Standards and the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies weave literacy strands throughout the core concepts and across grade levels, and they both align with the Common Core Standards for ELA and Literacy. With those critical reading and writing skills embedded in the standards, content literacy is not merely a suggestion, but an expectation for all teachers.
The problem is that textbooks, especially science and social studies, haven’t caught up with these curriculum shifts. Most still contain dry, – well, textbook text, which is hardly the most engaging material, not to mention difficult for students with learning disabilities or limited English proficiency. That’s why many teachers are turning to online subscriptions like Newsela and TweenTribune, as well as classroom magazines, novels and picture books, for more interesting and accessible content-related texts.
While there seems to be a growing number of content-related picture books on the shelves, rhyming picture books are scarce among them, a surprising fact considering the strong link between rhyme and learning.
That’s where you come in! Add beautiful language, connections to content standards, and engaging illustrations, and your rhyming picture book will have a life well beyond Circle Time.
So, beyond the tips shared here by so many amazing industry professionals (Holy Cannoli, Batman – I’m in between Margarita Engle and Alexandra Penfold!), here are a few more from an educator’s perspective:
Establish a strong, rather than vague connection to the standard. To that end, familiarize yourself with the standards. As navigating these can be daunting, even for seasoned teachers, start by zooming in on overarching themes, like the Crosscutting Concepts in the NGSS, the Anchor Standards in the ELA Common Core, and the Ten Themes for the NCSS social studies standards.
Be diligent with your research, as content must be accurate and up-to-date. Provide bibliographic information and sources for further reading; teachers often use these to extend and enrich learning.
Create opportunities for readers to explore concepts more fully in the back matter or with non-fiction call-outs. Also consider adding sidebars, charts, graphs, and/or maps if appropriate; interpreting these text features is a critical skill across all subject areas, and a common task on state assessments.
When possible, use the academic language of the standards. Rhyming picture books, which naturally lend themselves to repeated readings, provide both context and multiple exposures to new words, which are necessary for word learning. If there isn’t sufficient context in the text for readers to infer the meaning, add a glossary as part of the back matter.
Consider emphasizing a particular organizational structure, such as cause-effect, chronological, comparison-contrast, cyclical, or problem-solution. Analyzing these patterns is another critical skill that crosses all disciplines.
Strive for multiple layers of meaning that provide opportunities for close reading, discussion, and debate for older students. For a good example, read Denise Fleming’s Where Once There Was a Wood or This is the Dream, by Diane Z. Shore, Jessica Alexander, and James Ransome.
Create some STEAM. The STEAM movement, which is quickly gaining momentum, grew out of STEM, (the push for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education.) The new platform infuses the Arts, such as music, dance, theater, visual arts, and design.
A Few of My Favorite Rhyming Picture Books for the Classroom:
This is the Dream and This is the Earth by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, illustrated by James Ransome.
This is the Sunflower by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Donald Crews
Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Water is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Fleming
Randi Sonenshine has been an educator and professional developer for over twenty years. An instructional literacy coach and member of the ELA Advisory Council for the Georgia Department of Education, she has taught high school English, middle school language arts, and college reading. As a children’s author, she is represented by Kendra Marcus at BookStop Literary.
She lives in northwest Georgia with her husband, two sons, a very sneaky schnauzer, and an immortal, shape-shifting goldfish.
You can find Randi at Facebook, theproseytree.blogspot.com or on Twitter as @rsonenshine.
Thank You Randi!
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