Hands down, when it comes to school, this is my most favorite time of the year. "Right after the holidays?" you ask. Yes, right now—the weeks and days leading up to January 28, 2019. Like Easter, the exact date changes every year. What am I anticipating? Why the ALA Youth Media Awards, of course!
This year marks my fourth year doing a Mock Geisel. A Geisel-winning book is perfect for your emerging readers. If you have first graders and haven't connected with the Geisel world, you are missing out. The first year we tried it, it seemed like no one else was running a Mock Geisel. We modeled it after my fifth-grade Newbery project and it worked out so well that we did again. Now it's so much easier to find the contenders. Follow the Guessing Geisel blog to get book recommendations. Connect with authors and illustrators for possible Skypes and make sure to tag everyone on social media. On the day of the awards, give students the opportunity to dress like their favorite characters or just wear Cat in the Hat garb. Oh and here's another tip—have all the books available for your young learners to read while they wait for the announcement. It significantly helps with crowd control.
I like to do Caldecott with second grade. Follow the blogs and Twitter, try and guess who will win the next year and then book a visit with them. Then imagine if they actually win! Wow! (That's what happened with us and Matthew Cordell!) If that's not a possibility, try to Skype with the illustrators of the books your students are falling for. They, too, might be winners.
The nonfiction award has become a favorite project in fourth grade. In small groups or pairs, students read and review nonfiction picture books. Then they have to put on their creative hats and come up with something to share with the class that is related to the book. We've had papier-mâche sharks, models of ships, cookies, a giant penny, skits, and so much more. The authors love seeing what the kids come up with, and so do the teachers and I!
My favorite book award is the Newbery. We take this project to the nth degree in fifth grade. Off of a list of about thirty to forty contenders all students read at least four books; some read twenty or more. We begin with small book groups facilitated by myself, the classroom teacher, other educators, volunteers, and administrators. If a book is loved, students write letters to the authors sharing that they think their book should win the Newbery. With a partner or alone, students create book trailers using Animoto. A few years ago while preparing for a visit from Sarah Weeks, she told me how much she loves readers' theatre. With her guidance, we now ask students to write a readers' theatre script based on one or two chapters from their book group book. The writing is the hardest part. We choose the chapters and after a while they finally catch on. On the day of the performance, actors wear all black and perform in front of music stand podiums. I love passing the best ones on to the authors. Finally, we debate. Some students really have a knack for this. I create brackets (only two months away from March Madness) and winners keep moving on.
If kids have read at least eight books, they are invited to a "Consensus Club" meeting after school behind closed doors. Here is where I break out the snacks and we get to work. For an hour and half we cordially debate, persuade, and argue to decide on one winner and an open-ended number of honors.
Anyone who has conducted a mock program is invited to our small gym/auditorium to watch the ALAYMA live. Most times we are very happy with the results, and that gives us an excuse to celebrate, and what's a celebration without cake? And so we have cake.
Move over Oscars. Sorry Tonys. Hello ALAYMA. January 28 is almost here and my eyes and ears (along with hundreds of my students) will be glued to the projector just to see if our top choices match those of the committee. May the best book(s) win.
Guessing Geisel: http://guessinggeisel.blogspot.com (Geisel)
About to Mock: https://abouttomock.blogspot.com (Newbery)
Heavy Medal: http://blogs.slj.com/heavymedal/ (Newbery)
Anderson's Bookshops: https://www.andersonsbookshop.com/andersons-mock-award-programs (Newbery, Sibert, Printz)
Rhode Island Mock: http://www.olis.ri.gov/youth/newbery (Newbery) or http://www.olis.ri.gov/youth/caldecott (Caldecott)