Monday, January 23, 2017

Community Read with Tamra Wight

For the past few years, our school has participated in a one book, one school event where all of the teachers read aloud the same book in their classrooms.  As teachers, we've shared read aloud ideas for The Miraculous Journey of Edward TulaneWonder and Fish in a Tree, but we've never gathered our school community together to share the true spirit of a community reading event.  That all changed on Wednesday, January 11th.

This year instead of reading one book as a school community, we are preparing for an author visit with Maine author, Tamra Wight on February 7th.  We were unable to get grant funding this year for an author visit, but our teachers pulled together to share their individual PTA funds to support a visit from Tamra.  Instead of reading one book as a school community, we are excited to connect with one author by reading texts from the Cooper & Packrat series. 

The third grade teachers are reading aloud Mystery on Pine Lake with their students, while our fourth and fifth graders are reading Mystery of the Eagle's Nest.

Our goal was to kick off the New Year by announcing the author visit with Tamra to our students on Wednesday, January 4th when we returned from our winter break, but a snow day caused us to reschedule to January 11th.  The teachers did an excellent job keeping our special announcement a surprise for one more week!

After gathering more than 210 students on our gymnasium bleachers, we were ready to Skype with Tamra.  I reminded students of our past community read book selections and shared that this year we were going to read books by one author.  Some students were familiar with the Cooper & Packrat series because a few of our third grade teachers had used the book as a read aloud in the past two years.  A number of classrooms have Skyped with authors in the past, so when I announced that Tamra was going to join us for our assembly, there was a new buzz of excitement in the gym.  

Tamara started by introducing herself and telling us about her many roles including campground owner, teaching assistant at Whittier Middle School, photographer and of course, author!  Next, she shared information about two of her books, Mystery on Pine Lake and Mystery of the Eagle's Nest.  She spoke to each grade level by sharing not only the book but also a sample of her amazing research photographs.  Finally, it was time for the big announcement!  Tamra told the students to keep track of their questions so she could answer them when she came to our school on February 7th!  There were audible gasps as the gym erupted with foot-stomping applause on the bleachers!  The kids couldn't believe Tamra was planning to visit to our school!

After leaving the gym that afternoon, I had a number of students stop me to tell me how awesome it was to "meet" Tamra.  Teachers shared that after returning to their classrooms after the assembly, students wanted to immediately start reading the book!  One teacher shared that her students took out their reading notebooks and started recording questions for Tamra that afternoon.  The benefits of our launching our community reading event and author visit with a Skype announcement are so clear.

*Our students are energized about the Cooper & Packrat books!  They are motivated to read and discuss the texts.

*They are discussing the books more deeply as they know they are going to meet the author.

*There is a real audience for their questions - the author!  They are excited to have their questions answered by Tamra when they meet her in a few weeks.  

*The immediate energy and enthusiasm are palpable.  Seeing Tamra during our Skype visit created more excitement about her author visit!

Teachers are digging into the Cooper & Packrat books in powerful ways. 
Karen Mayo's students charted their "Thinking BEFORE We Read" which was an idea we found on a blog post from Franki Sibberson.  After their rich discussion, they couldn't wait to start reading Mystery of the Eagle's Nest!

Samantha Veilleux's students are recording the characters, as well as their notes and observations about events while reading Mystery on Pine Lake.  They are also tracking important vocabulary words they've discussed together while reading.  Other classrooms are recording the elements of a mystery, including clues and suspects while they navigate the text.

Our visit with Tamra is 15 days away!  Stay tuned for photographs and updates from our community read and author visit in February. For more information about the Cooper & Packrat series, visit Tamra's website at