Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 1, No. 8

Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked…and called it junk.
-from “Hector the Collector,” Shel Silverstein (1994)

photo-1Last night was a live session for the curriculum course I’m currently teaching. We generally have three of these meetings over the course of each eight-week session of the program. The first is like the introductory overview and discussion one would get on the first day of any graduate level course. The other two are generally filled with hurried student presentations. I inevitably leave these sessions feeling like there’s never enough time and not the right space for engaging in one another’s ideas or carrying out any kind of substantive dialogue.

For this session I tried to slow things down a little. To go deeper rather than try to cover everything. Part of the session included an introduction to our next project and I decided I needed to try to model some of what I wanted the students to do; the processes of brainstorming and planning I hoped they would engage in their own work. I presented my own small unit of instruction dedicated to the idea that “artists give new life to old things.” I am going to see if I can run a version of this with Cora’s preschool class or our new creative play-group, so more on it later.

For the purposes of this post, the important thing is that I started my presentation by reading “Hector the Collector” from Shel Silverstein’s (1974) Where the Sidewalk Ends. I primarily read the poem as a way of demonstrating the role children’s literature can play as an introduction to the study of visual art, but it wound up seeming like something more than that. Reading a story aloud to the class gave us something to focus on as a group. Though we were as far away from one another as Las Vegas and Miami, I like to think we were united for a moment by Hector and his treasures. Like I’ve written here before, I think sometimes even grown-ups just want to hear a story.

I’m not sure I was successful in furthering my students’ understanding of backward design and essential questions through this presentation. (Perhaps some of you will chime in here… for extra credit??) But, there’s something I really like about the image of a distance learning teacher sitting in her house, reading aloud from the pages of a printed book to her students across the country. There’s something comforting about that to me. Something concrete in a virtual, and at times surreal, learning environment.


4 thoughts on “Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 1, No. 8

  1. I have to admit it did get me to stop and pay attention. 🙂 it is very easy to get distracted when you are at home just listening. Your taking the time to slow down and read the poem got me to stop and listen 🙂

  2. I read to my art students (K-5) often. Somedays it is only a thought provoking quote, other days an inspirational poem, however the most effective reading selections are gleaned from descriptive fantasy books. These stories have the potential to transport the audience (or even allow for escape) to a far away land or an imaginary place. After reading your post, it dawned on me that my 5th grade students, more so than the primary grades, appear to hang on my every word. I wonder if hearing a familiar rhythm or an animated voice resurrects cozy memories of bedtime rituals and a less stressful time. Or maybe it is because very few 5th graders get read to anymore. Somewhere along the educational journey the act of reading surrounds a 5th grader with academic purpose rather than enjoyment. When I read “Where the Wild Things Are” to my 5th grade students, engagement is at a high. The students appear to be mentally visualizing the words. I follow the book with essential questions such as: “How can art depict ‘the wild things’ real or imagined?” or How can an artist’s purpose be similar or different from an author’s purpose. Some may argue this book is not “age appropriate.” I would have to disagree. The students create meaningful, thought provoking images following the read out loud sessions.

    The above post reminds me that even as adults, the act of being read to is a rare occurrence. I love the fact that you brought your graduate students together in a such a simply profound manner.
    Beth Dobberstein -Former graduate student

  3. I very much appreciated it. I think it gave me a sense of what you would be like in the classroom, and sometimes it seems to get lost in the essential questions and backward design discussions – nothing really matters so much as actually connecting with your students.

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