Celebrating The Snowy Day

-posted by Ruth

Early in January, I was privileged to participate in an experience that combined celebrating winter, a recent Portland snowstorm, a great book, and the overall joy of literacy and learning.  I wanted to share it for fun and hopefully inspiration!

My teacher-friend Kelly asked if I would read one of my favorite books—The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats—to her class of 4- and 5-year-olds.  She began by asking the children if anyone knew the book.  Several hands went up, and Kelly called on each child to tell what she or he remembered from the story.

“I remember the snowball melting in Peter’s pocket and he was sad.”

“The snowball fight with the big kids!”

“Making snow angels.”

“Footprints in the snow.”

“You remember a lot about this book!  Ruth is going to read you the book, and as she reads, we’re going to act it out.  We won’t talk or make noise, but when Peter puts the snowball in his pocket, we will, too, and we’ll make our faces do what Peter’s face does.”

Such a seemingly simple extension of the experience of hearing a story read aloud!  But  I noticed that using their own bodies to tell the story as I read it to them deepened their understanding as they experienced it from their own perspective.

But this was only the beginning of the conversation.  When I closed the book, Kelly continued:  “Now you will have a chance to draw what you remember from the snowy day we had in Portland over winter break.  We’ll be telling our stories with paper and crayons this time.”

And what stories they were!

Amal filled his paper with a giant snowman with long straight lines for arms and legs.  Multi-colored dots covered the snowman’s belly.  “This is a Big Huge snowman with fireworks in this tummy!” he told me.

Gabriel’s picture of himself and a big snowman show two similar figures.  But in between the two, he shows how he made the snowman, with several large circles that represent the snow rolling into big snowballs.

Raquel explained that she didn’t get to go out in the snow, so she drew what she saw outside the window.  Giant snowflakes cover her page, and two yellow squares that represent the window she peered out of to view the snow.  “Then we went in my truck.  My Daddy was driving.”

Tara drew two figures that I initially thought might be snowmen, but she explained that they were drawings of herself and a friend in their “Christmas snow dresses.”  Her snowflakes were smaller and tumbled across the page.  Like all good writers, she also noticed the details of this particular snowstorm and added them to her drawing.  “I put this leaf falling, because while the snowflakes were coming down, some leaves that were still on the trees did, too!”  Brilliant!

This combined celebration of a recent event (a snowstorm) and a favorite book (The Snowy Day) paired with continued exploration of exploring a book (movement and drawing) reminded me that there are always new ways to learn- both from books and from each other!

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