Friday, November 28, 2014

Our first One Book, One School

In a One Book, One School program all of the students and faculty in a school read the same book and have organized opportunities to discuss the book.  It provides each member of the school community a topic of common discussion, and can help to promote a culture of readers.

I wish I could remember where I first heard about One Book, One School. Maybe it was in the back of my mind after hearing about universities using a similar approach, or maybe it came from our public library's newsletter for the One Book, One Community, but I likely got the idea from someone suggesting it through Twitter.

I had been seriously considering the idea of trying out a One Book, One School program for about a year before I was finally able figure out the logistics of how I wanted it to work.  I knew what I didn't want it to be. I knew I didn't want it to be a hassle for our families, and I didn't want it to be another assignment, or a huge contest.  I wanted it to generate some excitement around reading, and give all kids and adults in the school a common frame of reference. I wanted it to be something that was fun and that could be used as a discussion starter, and something teachers could use as a touchstone text to introduce students to new ideas in their classrooms.

Because I didn't want to put more pressure on my teachers or families, I thought the best way to go about this was to buy every adult (certified and classified staff) in my building a copy of the book and it could be used for a read aloud with classes.  This way parents wouldn't have to be responsible for it, and teachers wouldn't have to do anything extra - just sub one of their usual read alouds out for the selected book. 

My teachers take their read alouds fairly seriously, even though it's 5-10 minutes each day that they get to spend relaxing with their class, so I met with each of my teachers this summer to ask them if they would be willing participate in the One Book, One School program.  After I explained what I wanted the program to look like - and that all they would have to do is read the book to their class - all of the teachers were on board.   I had a short list of books that I thought would be good: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Because of Winn Dixie, and Igraine the Brave, were the three I kept coming back to in my mind.  The teachers unanimously picked Because of Winn Dixie. 


To generate some excitement around the program, I decided to add a few "low maintenance" activities that classes or individual students could choose to participate in. I ordered a few extra copies of the book, so I was able to give some of those copies away as prizes for participation in voluntary activities.
  • Reading Calendar - I created a calendar with a suggested reading schedule.  
  • Daily Trivia - Each day our principal announces a trivia question that I write based on the reading calendar. Classes email me their responses and can earn a point for getting the answer correct and a bonus point for using evidence from the text to support their answer.  I felt like including the text evidence was a good way for classes to practice Common Core skills.  Each day our principal announces one of the correct answers submitted by a class, as well as a new question, so every day the kids are hearing good examples of how people are using evidence from the text in their responses.  I also try to ask questions that will get at character development and key plot events.  This also helps the kids practice Common Core skills in a fun way.  There is no prize for the class with the most right answers - just a fun way to keep track of what is happening in the book.  I hung a chart on the library door and fill it in when a class gets an answer correct.  The kids stop by daily to check their class's progress:)
  • Favorite Parts Slip - students can write down their favorite parts from the book and we are hanging them on a bulletin board.  I will occasionally draw a winner from the stack of submissions and students can win a copy of the book.
  • Read to a Dog Day - I contacted our local public library and was able to get the name of the owner of a therapy dog who often comes to the library for children's programming.  Just this week I was able to have 24 reluctant or developing readers come to the library to read to Wilma, the therapy dog!  It was such an exciting event!

Kids read to Wilma the therapy dog
  • Special Lunches - Our cafeteria agreed to have special treats associated with the book - and since even our cafeteria workers got copies of the book, I think it made it even more special.
  • Character Scrapbook Page - we used the activity from Scholastic and kids who finished things fast in the computer lab or who were interested could create a character scrapbook page for their favorite character.  I encouraged students to connect the character to the Character Traits program our guidance counselor has developed and give examples of how the characters in the story meet those traits. 
  • Animal Shelter Drive - we collected pet food and supplies for the local animal shelter.
To introduce the idea of One Book, One School to students, I created  a PowToon and a Smore with important dates and links, which I embedded in our school web page. I also used Canva to create special logos that I used in promotional information. 

PowToon Introduction

Our Smore Page


Sharing the Book With Others

I wanted to make sure when I shared the book with the adults in my building that I made it special.  I created book marks and we tied the bookmarks to the book using ribbon.  I also bought copies for the members of our School Board and the members of our Central Office administration team that work to make our school.  Some members of our journalism club were presenting at the board meeting, during the month we held One Book, One School so it was perfect because they were able to deliver the books and as a sidebar explain what it was all about.

School Response

The response to our first One Book, One School program has been overwhelmingly positive. The younger students, who are being exposed to chapter books and discussion questions at a young age are especially loving it, and the teachers have had nothing but enthusiasm to share with me about the choice of book and about the use of the questions and extra activities.  Hearing kindergarten students answer higher order questions about a complicated story and point to specific examples from the book has really been exciting to see.  The read to a dog day, even though we only were able to have 24 students, made a tremendous impact on those students and will be a positive experience they can always remember about reading.  For students who may not have many positive experiences with reading due to difficulty, that may be enough to recharge them.

I plan to continue the program next year and will seek feedback from my teachers about what they thought worked and didn't.  We didn't have a large response to the extra activities, but I didn't consistently promote them either because I was afraid students and teachers already had enough to do with other academic demands.  Those will for sure be ideas that I revisit and reflect on with teacher input.

Now, I just have to come up with a list of potential books for next year!  I'm hoping students and teachers have some good ideas for things they would like to read now that they have taken a chance on this!