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149: Two Inspiring Children’s Book Projects, with Pernille Ripp

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Today on the podcast, we’re continuing our wonderful conversation with Pernille Ripp from last time, all about the power of children’s books for students of all ages.

In episode 148, we talked about why children’s books can play such an important role in students’ reading lives, and how to use them to start important conversations and teach writer’s craft.

Today, we’ll be diving into two of the big creative projects Pernille has done with her students related to children’s books, and also zooming in on some of her top recommended books.

You can listen in on the podcast player below, or on any of these lovely platforms. Or, read on for highlights and links!

Children’s Book Project: Play Performance

Do you know the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems? They are charming, hilarious, readable, and often filled with helpful SEL lessons.

Pernille noticed how much her students loved them, gravitated toward them, and even chose to read them together and do fun voices for the characters. She knew her kids needed a chance to laugh and have fun together, and also to work on their public speaking skills. So she decided to launch a project in which her students would perform them for each other, film their performances (with the students’ permission), and then share them with kindergarten classrooms around the world.

She challenged them to bring out the comedy of the books through their delivery, focusing not on memorization or extensive props, but on bringing out the fun, silly elements of the text.

She chose books that didn’t rely too heavily on props for their plot. The kids loved the opportunity to be goofy and laugh, especially at a time in their lives when they are often trying so hard to be adult.

To get started on a similar project, Pernille recommends noticing what books your students really love and then thinking about how they could translate into performance. Then ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish with the project? Do you want to help kids with their public speaking? Help them make connections to a classroom across the world and see the power of writing to build community? Do you want to help them learn how to write a play? There are many possible goals you could dive into with this project.

Have your students type up their books as scripts so they can easily rehearse and perform without shuffling through a book. Taking memorization out of the requirements will help students relax into the project – some may still choose to memorize, but a major source of anxiety will lift.

Children’s Book Project: The Epic Nonfiction Picture Book Project

An example from a student nonfiction book project

One of Pernille’s favorite children’s book projects, which she has successfully returned to again and again, is what she calls the “Epic nonfiction children’s book project.”

In this project, each student writes their own book of nonfiction. But there are so many wonderful steps along the way to help make the process truly exciting – epic.

Pernille introduces her students to Melissa Stewart’s concept of the 5 different types of nonfiction. She brings out so many different nonfiction picture books for students to explore as they choose the type of nonfiction that they’re most interested in. Once they choose the type they want to write, they pick a specific mentor text to go with it to use for inspiration.

Students meet virtually with 1st and 2nd graders for market research, asking them what they’re interested in reading about. (Animals tend to get a lot of votes!)

As students begin to explore their topics and plan their books, Pernille begins to teach components of informational writing (like finding good sources, rewriting information into your own words, and creating citations). But she doesn’t stop there, she also dives into visual literacy, talking with her students about how they can use their layout and format to help cement their writing and make words come alive. Students must really think about how to use images, popout boxes, and captions to capture and keep the attention of younger kids.

The embedded lessons flow so well with the project, the students get to choose topics they are really interested in (that fit with their market research) and the audience is so clear and authentic. Pernille has found that students really take over ownership of the process, surprising themselves with how hard they are willing to work to create a powerful final product. So many of the kids blew Pernille’s team out of the water, finding success in a way they maybe hadn’t found it before.

One of the great things about the project is that it feels so accessible and easy. By the time the students realized its layers, and that maybe it was harder than they thought, they were already committed to figuring it out.

Because it would be tough to publish and send out so many children’s books, Pernille has explored different digital platforms to house and share the books. Google Slides and WriteReader have both worked well for her kids.

Pernille’s Top 5 Recommended Titles in this Moment

Before we finished our interview, I had to ask Pernille about her favorite five titles at this moment. A very hard question! Here’s what she shared.

The Year we Learned to Fly, by Jacqueline Woodson: This book focuses on identity. It’s a great way to talk about how we see ourselves.

Watercress, by Andrea Wang: This book is powerful for sharing about visual literacy. It examines the idea of the stories that come from the generations who raised us.

On the Trapline, by David Robertson and Julie Flett: Pernille uses this as an anchor text in her narrative unit. She references David Robertson’s words that so often when you see picture books about indigenous peoples, they’re centered in brutality and what was taken away. This book shows how truth in reconciliation can come from the everyday, from relationships.

Don’t Touch my Hair, by Sharee Miller: As you might expect from the title, this books teaches about microagressions, but also about what it feels like for a space to feel safe. As Matt Kay says, “you can’t just declare a space to be safe.” This book can help start a conversation about what boundaries need to be set to create community in the classroom.

What are your Words, by Katherine Locke: This is another title with a focus on identity. You can use it to examine how students signal pieces of their identity, controlling how they see themselves and how much to let other people in to the layers of their identity.

Pernille is always recommending books on Instagram and Patreon. Check out her amazing hashtag, #pernillerecommends, with over two thousand posts!

Connect with Pernille Ripp

Pernille Ripp is an expert in literacy and technology integration and dedicates her research and practice to developing engaged and empowered students and communities.

She is a teacher, speaker, author, blogger, and passionate advocate for education. She is the recipient of the 2015 WEMTA Making IT HappenAward; and the 2015 ISTE Award for Innovation in Global Collaboration.

In 2010, Pernille founded The Global Read Aloud, a global literacy initiative that began with a simple goal in mind: one book to connect the world. From its humble beginnings, the GRA has grown to connect millions of students in around the world.

She is the author of Passionate Readers -The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child and  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students, now in its second edition, and Empowered Schools, Empowered Students, both focusing on creating learning spaces and communities where students thrive and all stakeholders are empowered and passionate about learning. She has also authored Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration published in 2016 by Solution Tree.  Her work has also been featured in many print and online journals including Edutopia, The New York Times, School Library Journal, The Guardian, and MiddleWeb.

There are a lot of ways you can connect with her! Such as….

Visit Pernille’s Website.

Become a part of her Patreon community.

Follow along with her wonderful book recommendations on Instagram.

Join The Passionate Readers Facebook Group.

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