I love today’s Nerdy Book Club post, Melissa Williamson’s “Tales of Adoration $ Appreciation.” In it, Melissa describes her passion for Edgar Allen Poe and how she successfully communicated that passion to her students. While as teachers we want to encourage our students to find their own passions as readers I feel there is a place to also model and share ours with them just as Melissa did with her students. She used her own enthusiasm, comics, visuals, public speaking, and more to excite her own students with the work of this classical writer.
I do something similar with Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. That is, through my excitement and the activities I do, my students become as infatuated with that book as I am. I read aloud the book, stopping along the way for my class to try out a quadrille, play a bit of indoor croquet, and explore various logic and mathematical tricks along the way. And we always end with a project. For years it was a new kid-illustrated and annotated version, then we did toy theater puppet shows, and last year we did book trailers.
I encourage other teachers to do this as well. What may appear old and tired can come alive with the personal passion of a creative and talented teacher!
This year we read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland then we decided… that we were going to make a lovely, funny, amusing, interesting, and awesome Alice in Wonderland book trailer.
The point of the trailer was to tell people that Alice in Wonderland isn’t a scary book written for older kids. It’s a clever and funny story written for a nine year old girl. A great book for all ages.
From reading the book to writing this post, I have been thinking to myself, “This is the best project yet this year.”
The final step was to publish the trailers and so the children put them on their individual blogs along with a written overview of the project. Since these are private we also put them on a public blog and so you are encouraged to head over there where all the trailers are available along with excerpts from the children’s blog posts (a few of which are above). And for those of you who want just a taste, here’s a montage:
Next: My reflections on the project
I purposely have waited to mention the book being featured in this trailer project as I didn’t want to put any of you off. However, at this point I will reveal that it is (unsurprising to those who know me) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As I have done for decades I read the annotated version aloud while my students followed along in my large collection of illustrated editions. They loved the different approaches to the art, the puns, the characters, dancing a quadrille, playing indoor croquet, and everything else we do as we read the book. Because I know how much fun the book is for them I challenged them to communicate that in a book trailer, especially to those who are dubious that it is still a book for children.
My wonderful colleague and tech specialist Ellen Nickles who has embraced the project did a lesson taking apart my model trailer to show different ways it could be created. We then asked the children to consider the mood they wanted to impart in their trailers and then to come up with some text, quotes, and images to use in it. They did a great job with this, getting the sense of the book in their text and choices of quotes from the book. The only problem for some was having too many quotes or just too much text. When this was pointed out they eagerly return to rethink this. As for the illustrations they could create their own or use John Tenniel’s as they are out of copyright.
After Ellen did a fabulous Imovie demo, they were off creating their trailer. I was amazed at how well they did this. Not only did they require minimal support, but the room was incredibly quiet — they were completely focused and engaged. Admittedly, they have been working on various tech projects all year and most of them had used Imovie before so they quickly adapted to the specific demands of this project tech-wise. Still, I think it was their complete engagement in the project that was what mattered more than their tech ability.
Students drafted versions of their trailers and then I looked them over with them and gave them suggestions (just as I would a piece of writing). They did, as was to be expected, get a bit carried away with effects, often putting way too many for such a short piece of video. But once I pointed this out to them, they were very open to bringing them down into a reasonable and less distracting number. Lastly, we introduced music. Ellen made several versions of my trailer with different kinds of music (from this royalty-free music site) so the children could easily see why some did not fit. With remarkable ease they selected their own and added it to their own trailers. Interestingly, I had expected them to go wild with this and have to suggest better choices, but that wasn’t the case at all. They made excellent choices, every single one of them!
Next: The finished trailers.
Yayoi Kusama is a fascinating artist who has done what looks like a unique and delightful illustrated version of Alice. I ordered it ages ago and was excited to learn today that I should be getting my copy in a few weeks. Here is a video that gives a taste of the book.
Today is Litworld’s World Read Aloud Day. As someone who has always read aloud to her class it is a celebration I can totally get behind. Right now, in preparation for Jack Gantos’ visit to our school in May, I’m reading aloud to my fourth grade class his Newbery winner Dead End in Norvelt. Earlier in the year I read aloud Carman Agra Deedy and Randall Wright’s The Cheshire Cheese Cat with great success so I’m delighted to see it as a finalist for the E. B. White Read Aloud Award. Here are a few favorites of the many posts I’ve done on this topic:
Betsy Bird recently posted about a fabulous NEH institute being held at her library this summer reminding me of these wonderful professional development opportunities, several of which I participated in years ago. The first was a 6 week children’s literature seminar at Princeton University with the brilliant U.C. Knoepflmacher; it did much to change the direction of my life. A couple years later I did a folklore institute at Bank Street College (where I first met Jack Zipes) and then further on I did one more seminar on Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast at Rochester University with Russell Peck. (whose Cinderella bibliography is amazing) All three were wonderful, intellectually stimulating, and life-changing experiences.
Among this year’s offerings is one I want to do very, very badly: Golden Compasses as Moral Compasses: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Fairy Tales and Fantasy, a seminar at Harvard with Maria Tatar. Here’s the overview:
What happens to children when they read and immerse themselves in other worlds? In this seminar, we will investigate how imaginative literature leads children into possible worlds, enabling them to engage in mind reading and explore counterfactuals in ways that are impossible in real life.
They are going to be looking at fairy tales, fantasy literature (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), and literature across cultures. You can see the schedule in detail here. It looks amazing and it is going to take all my will power not to apply (because I’m deeply into two book projects and will need every bit of the summer to write).
This coming Saturday, November 12th, the Lewis Carroll Society of North American will be having its fall meeting at the New York Institute of Technology. And guess what — the Saturday events are free and open to the public! From the society’s website here is an overview of the day (the complete agenda is available here):
Speakers include Morton Cohen on Carroll’s epiphanies; Adriana Peliano, founder of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil, on the metamorphosis of Alice in illustrations and art; Alison Gopnik on her discovery of the Iffley Yew and how Dodgson’s real life affected his works; Emily R. Aguilo-Perez on film adaptations; Jeff Menges, editor of Alice Illustrated (coming from Dover in October), on illustrators; and James Fotopoulos, an artist and film-maker who made an avant-garde film called Alice in Wonderland and will also display related art.