“When a whole school reads a book, there is a lot to talk about.”
Modeled after the One School, One Book premise, Phillipsburg School District Elementary ELA & Social Studies Curriculum Director Darlene Noel created a school-wide event called #OneStatelinerStory: Every Classroom. Every Student. Every Family. The fundamental purpose of this event is to build a community of readers through a shared reading experience. Think of it as a really large book club!
Darlene worked closely with Elementary Math & Science Curriculum Director Stephanie Condon to plan meaningful cross-curricular lessons and experiences that address grade level standards and enrich our students’ learning for the PES whole-school read of Poppy by Avi.
As the leaders of the initiative, we built excitement for and anticipation of the event by Tweeting and sharing messages on Class Dojo, which many parents follow. We created a parent letter, established a school decorating team called The Poppy Squad, and worked in close collaboration with our district food service leader to create a book-themed boxed lunch on the day of the reveal. Every student who ordered the special boxed lunch was surprised with a note from Poppy, the main character, inside their box! The lunch had a forest theme which fit the setting of the story and included snail sandwiches (ham & cheese roll ups), twigs (pretzels), ants on a log (celery with cream cheese and raisins), berries (fruit), and some pond punch (fruit punch).
The surprise book selection was revealed during school with a movie trailer created just for this event. Take a look at the one-minute video:
When the students arrived at school, they were shocked to see PES transformed into Dimwood Forest, the setting of the story. Teachers stayed late on the previous Friday night to decorate. Each student received their very own copy of Poppy to take home, along with a family reading schedule. At school each day, teachers reinforced the previous night’s chapter by re-reading it and engaging our learners in a creative, shared learning experience.
Once it was announced, Poppy was everywhere! We shared photos of everyone reading the book: Our District Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, Teachers, Custodians, Students, and Secretaries.
We invited families to send in photos of their family’s participation in #OneStatelinerStory and the photos came flooding in! From our youngest readers to our oldest readers and everyone in between — including pets! With parent permission, photos were shared on Twitter, Class Dojo, and on the Facebook page of our Superintendent.
Darlene was concerned about the possibility of some families not being able to read the book or students being without a participating family, so she created audio recordings of each chapter and linked them to our #OneStatelinerStory page on our school website with the help of our Education Technology Specialist, Kirby Hendershot.
The Directors thought it would be fun to have a real live Poppy at PES so we applied for a Pets in Classroom grant from Petco. We were able to purchase three mice — one per grade level along with a habitat, bedding, food, and chew toys. Each day, Poppy visited a classroom and students had the opportunity to see Poppy up-close! They talked to Poppy, wrote about Poppy, and drew pictures of Poppy. Students also researched the care and keeping of mice.
Among the planned cross-curricular activities were: Owl Pellet Investigations and Dissections, Graphing of the Bones, Line Plots, Word Problems involving characters and locations, Map Scale, Food Webs, Explorations of Predator and Prey, Art Projects, Poetry, Engineering Challenges, Research and Public Speaking, Dimwood Forest Maps including geometry specifications, a Mouse House STEAM Challenge, and Class Pet Journals.
We closed the book on our whole school read of Poppy following three major events. We welcomed Kathy and Erick Uhler from the Pocono Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center along with some of Poppy’s friends from Dimwood Forest. Students and Staff met four types of owls, a chipmunk, an albino crow who is the messenger of the forest, a skunk, and a porcupine. It was amazing to see these animals up close. Kathy and Erick are terrific presenters and read the book ahead of time. Throughout the presentation they used the characters’ names and referenced the book which tied the experience to our shared read. We took up a collection and made a donation to the Center following our parent night.
All PES students participated in a “Meet the Author” event via Skype. Avi, the author, talked to us about writing, perseverance, generating ideas, reading, and creativity. Students were invited to submit questions and alliterations in advance and thirty students were selected to personally interact with Avi. The Skype session was such a success! The students were amazingly quiet and attentive which could have been a challenge with such a big group and having some classes seated so far from the action. The audio was a little choppy at some points, but that was to be expected with Avi’s location in the Rocky Mountains. The students handled it well and used the context clues to keep up! We are so thankful to our tech team for making sure we had the best experience possible! The questions submitted were super and the amazing alliterations added to the experience. We held a whole-school raffle at the end of the session and some lucky students went home with mouse ears and noses, and one student went home with the complete set of the Poppy series books!
Our culminating #OneStatelinerStory Family Celebration was a true celebration of the book and of the families’ participation. We had an amazing turnout of over three hundred family members who participated in a variety of Poppy-related activities. Phillipsburg families created a pinecone owl, spent time meeting and learning about forest animals from our friends at the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, created #OneStatelinerStory video testimonials, viewed and voted on student-created mouse houses, and participated in a green screen photo shoot which realistically positioned families deep in Dimwood Forest. Two families went home with another mouth to feed as we raffled off two LIVE mice, their habitats, bedding, and food. After rotating through our activities, students placed their Poppy Passport in the bag of the item they hoped to win. We had lots of prizes, but the most popular item was another complete set of the Poppy series books! We ended the night with a Dimwood Forest Dirt Cup and Pond Punch.
Families provided feedback about the initiative through both high- and low-tech survey options and conversations. PES staff is sharing their feedback and suggestions for the future and we’re already thinking of our next book! Students will also be asked for feedback on the initiative. We will use the information from families, staff, and students to plan for the future.