The objective of this long-term project is to have students decide, as a class, which newly published book should be awarded the Caldecott Award. It is great because students get to really investigate and analyze picture book illustrations while following a certain criteria that the Caldecott judges use when they decide on a winner.
To start out, I told my students what we were doing and shared with them a website called Calling Caldecott. This is a website where people are discussing books and determining which books they think should win and why. It is a really great resource and we keep referring back to it. I emailed this link to students and for homework, they were to reply to me with three books they think should be in the running.
The next day, I made a list of seven books that we are going to study and eventually choose one winner from. It turns out that the students all seemed to pick similar books. There were only 1 or 2 books that didn't make our list of seven. Unfortunately, I must keep our seven nominations confidential, so I cannot share that list with you here.
After we made the list of seven and put it on a big piece of chart paper, we looked at past winners. I had a few in my classroom library and found others in the public library. The librarian was able to give me a pamphlet with the list of winners from 1938-2011!
We read the article, "Can We Get These Folks a Sticker, Please?" and discussed exactly why illustrators like Eric Carle, Tomie DePaola and Dr. Suess never won a Caldecott. It helped us to determine our first set of criteria: The illustrations must be original and unique. Because those illustrators mentioned have their own style, all of their illustrations essentially look the same and therefore, do not qualify as "unique" and "original". Isn't that interesting?! It was a really great discussion!
My plan for the next lesson is to look at the range of winners, from earlier years to more recent, and discuss the changes in time and how that might influence who wins. I will ask questions like, "What do you think impressed people in 1942 when Make Way for Ducklings was awarded?" "Why would that not impress people now, in 2015?" "What advantages do illustrators have now as opposed to those who were illustrating books in the 1950's?" "Do you think it would be more of a challenge to win the 2015 Caldecott or the 1938 Caldecott and why?
Next, we will look at our nominations and decide who we think is most unique. I plan on making a chart that lists the books and then the criteria we are judging them on. I will make a check mark for each and then that will help us when we have to decide on one. We will be using a 4 point scale and the criteria is: Technique is original and unique, Pictorial interpretation of the story, theme or concept, Appropriate style to the story, Illustrations help set the mood and tone & Excellence in appealing to child audience.
Another aspect of this is read aloud and Guest Readers - which I absolutely LOVE! We will be reading each of these books to help bring the illustrations to life. My Head of School will be a guest reader as well as some parents. I might even have their 4th grade teacher come in as well!
There is so much you can do with this project! I hope you will consider doing this in your classroom.
Caldecott Winner for 2015 will be announced on February 2, 2016 at the McCormick Place in Chicago.