BLOGS  >  FEBRUARY 8, 2019

Shifting to Illustrations and Prepping for #MockCaldecott (2 of 3)


This year, our entire fifth grade (five classes) is participating in a #MockCaldecott unit that will culminate in each student selecting their favorite winner or honor and defending their choice through a literary essay. To read my first post, click here. This second post focuses on shifting #classroombookaday conversations from text to illustrations. 

We’re knee-deep in #classroombookaday with over 80 books read, and we’re preparing for our #MockCaldecott unit. Thirteen picture books have been selected. While we focused on choosing books with inclusion and diversity (in author selection, character and plot) at the forefront of our thinking, we believe each has the potential to either win, or be honored, using the Caldecott criteria from the ALA website:

“In identifying a ‘distinguished American picture book for children,’ defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:

1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
2. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
4. Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.”

To recap, here are the contenders, in no particular order:

1. Drawn Together, L?/Santat
2. The Day You Begin, Woodson/Lopez
3. The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, Messner/Forsythe
4. Dreamers, Morales (this is my pick for winning the Caldecott Award)
5. Let the Children March, Clark-Robinson/Morrison
6. Alma and How She Got Her Name, Martinez-Neal
7. Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse, Campbell/Luyken
8. Blue, Seeger
9. Mixed: A Colorful Story, Chung
10. Seeing Into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, Wright/Crews
11. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Johnson, Barton/Holmes
12. Imagine, Herrera/Castillo
13. What If…?, Berger/Curato

We have read all 13 contenders throughout the past few months during our #classroombookaday time, so the kids have an idea of what the books are about before they begin their illustration-focused analysis in January. 

However, starting the week before winter break, I began to shift my focus slightly during #classroombookaday to the Caldecott terms and illustrative vocabulary, so the kids are familiar with the terms when they begin their #MockCaldecott analysis and selection process. 

In the week before winter break, I read five Caldecott-winning books, focusing on what made them rise above the rest. The ALA Caldecott website has a comprehensive list of winners and honors here. I chose The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Santat, 2015 medal winner), A Different Pond (Bui/Phi, 2018 honor), Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (James/Barnes, 2018 honor), Owl Moon (Schoenherr/Yolen, 1988 medal winner) and A Wolf in the Snow (Cordell, 2018 medal winner).

In order to shift our conversations to illustrations, I made a packet for each student that included three things:

1. The Mock Caldecott criteria, above, translated into student-friendly terms 
2. A list of art terms and their meanings
3. A list of picture book terms and their meanings 

All of the credit for these tools goes to my amazing friend, Kristen Picone (@Kpteach5 on Twitter). I am infinitely grateful to her for her guidance and support as we go deeper into this work with the kids. 

With these tools in hand, I modeled for the kids what I noticed about the books as I read them aloud during #classroombookaday. I used terms like “full bleed,” “end pages,” “jacket,” “cover design” and “front and back matter” as I read aloud.

We realized how important it is to remove the jacket of the books because sometimes the cover is different and adds to the story. We also saw that the end pages aren’t always blank, that they often support the plot and shouldn’t be overlooked. Most thrilling perhaps was when I tried reading one of the books twice, on the advice of one of my colleagues. The first time I read it with just the text, and the second time I showed them the text with the illustrations. That experience was one I’ll repeat throughout the years, as it ignited so much excitement and conversation around how the illustrations supported, interpreted and lifted the level of the text to a new level.

Now that I have experience with both #classroombookaday and #MockCaldecott, it is so much easier for me to plan more enriching experiences for my students. I can begin working with the criteria, terms and vocabulary sooner, so my kids aren’t as lost or overwhelmed.

It takes time to analyze properly. The experience I gained, especially learning what I would do differently, has helped me grow as a teacher.

For my third and final post in this series, I’ll share the students’ analysis process, how they voted and how they defended their selection.

Happy reading!

Fifth Grade Teacher, Lisle IL   

Lorie Barber is a fifth grade elementary educator who highlights cultural identity, empathy, and compassion in her classroom. Lorie has been an educator for nine years, the last six of which have been with her fifth grade students in Lisle, IL.  Lorie’s main goal is always to help her students cultivate a lifelong love of reading. This is her second year implementing Jillian Heise’s #classroombookaday after experiencing an overwhelmingly positive response from her students the previous year. Lorie is a voracious reader, a proud member of #bookexpedition, and has blogged for Nerdy Book Club. She tweets from @barberchicago and writes at

Read my three-part series on #MockCaldecott as part of #classroombookaday 
1. Let Your Students Choose the Winners
2. Shifting to Illustrations and Prepping for #MockCaldecott
3. Students Rank #classroombookaday Titles

Visit #Classroombookaday blogs on Follett Community to see all of the articles written by our contributing classroom teachers.

Follow Follett Learning's Pinterest board for great resources on the titles featured.

To view the full #classroombookaday book list on Titlewave, click here

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