I begin every school year with a study of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. As I’ve written before here and elsewhere, it was not a book I gravitated to naturally. But during a 1990 seminar at Princeton with U. C. Knoepflmacher I discovered what a remarkable book it was and, more importantly, what an amazing writer White was.
The children read the book completely before we do anything with it. This is already a new experience for them. In earlier years they were more used to reading a class book chapter by chapter. But I ask them to read the whole thing first, at home and in school. I do invite them to comment to me privately and in their journals, but we have no major class discussion about the book until they are done. This year many of the children knew the book already, but still told me they liked reading it again. One or two had only seen the new movie and complained that the book was too much like it and, therefore, boring. But the overwhelming majority enjoyed it.
I then showed them how to do a close reading of Chapter I just as I did with Uli in 1990 and just as I’ve been doing with classes of 4th graders ever since. (Here’s my post about last year’s lesson.) This time I decided to try to document it for the kids and for you blog readers by recording the lesson, having a few photos taken, and so forth. And so here are the results for you to consider or ignore.
These are thumbnails (click them on for the larger versions) of the pages I annotated on the Smartboard. (Since it is difficult to write legibly on the Smartboard there are fewer comments on the annotations than in my book.)
Here I am annotating on the Smartboard with the kids doing the same in their own books.
The learning specialist who works with me, Julia Stokien, created a wonderful collection of slides to support the annotating of Chapter I. I was able to switch from the book pages themselves to her slides and back on the Smartboard. Cool! This slide provides definitions and images for Arable and Fern. (She also found an adorable white pig and even a little snort audio file to accompany it! As well as a wonderful series of slides supporting the “Madonna and Pig” illustration.)
I recorded the lesson too (and felt sort of like a one-man band doing all this documenting at once! ) and when my school server allows me to I will upload it and link it here.
The children have started presenting their chapters and are doing a fantastic job. I used to have us sit seminar style, but now I just have the presenter sit at a desk in the front and call him or her Professor as he or she does his presentation. It is as much fun for me as when I first did it so long ago because the children always uncover new things. And because of this I’m evermore impressed with E. B. White’s brilliance as a writer for children.