As I’ve mentioned in some previous blog posts, I share an office at the school with two other educators. Due to our different schedules and the fact that I rarely make it back to the office until well after the bell has gone at the end of the day, I can go full days without seeing these other teachers. Sometimes all we do is wave a quick, “hello.” Jenn Angle, the teacher librarian, is one of these two people, and our friendship has formed over a bunch of voice memos. I think that she texted me the first voice note that I’ve ever received, and now if we need a reminder or a thought strikes, we voice note it. I love Jenn’s passion — it’s contagious: trust me — and hearing her ideas also gets others excited about them. This blog post is inspired by a voice memo … and maybe a little something that came before that.
On Thursday, I was in the Learning Commons over the first nutrition break supervising the Chess Club. As I was walking around and chatting with some students, I noticed this banana on the LEGO wall.
The Banana That Started It All
I almost tweeted a picture of it at the time! I love this banana. It almost has a “comic” feel to it, and I was intrigued by the letters underneath it. Could this text contain a message? Could it be the start of one? I ended up getting immersed in a few other things, so I never sent the tweet and forgot about the banana …
That is until early the next morning when I received a voice note from Jenn reminding me about this LEGO fruit. She told me the background about this banana that I didn’t know at the time …
- More than 50 students created this banana.
- Students have been adding to this banana together on their weekly visits to the Learning Commons.
- Students from Grades 1-8 have contributed to this LEGO artwork.
- Every single child is speaking about the banana when they come into the library.
- The banana brings Jenn joy, but it also brings joy to all those that see it.
Jenn wanted to capitalize on this collaborative piece and all of the great conversations around it, by linking it with some writing. She was trying to figure out where to go next, so she texted to see if we could come up with an idea together.
When Jenn saw this banana, she viewed it as a writing provocation. Strangely enough, I saw the writing connection as well, but in a slightly different way. In my mind, this banana was like a LEGO comic. The text underneath it reminded me of one of the callouts in a comic book. Could this be the start of a LEGO comic wall? I then started to think about this artist that my previous teaching partner, Paula, and I explored with students last year: Doodle Boy. Maybe it was the fruit that reminded me of his work, or maybe it was the artistic style, but I almost envisioned a LEGO Doodle Wall. Students could add LEGO text to it or even explore speech bubbles with the characters that they create. Imagine the reading and writing possibilities in this space as well as the media literacy opportunities. There are Language connections here for every grade.
This could also be linked with some comic creations. I just printed a blank comic template to use as a choice follow-up for an upcoming Kindergarten Read Aloud. It’s very open-ended, but there are also other examples of ones that could be printed and used. There are probably some comic apps that students could use as well, or they could create and read a pseudo-comic on Explain Everything. I was getting excited by all of the possibilities, and I sent Jenn an epic voice note with all of my thinking.
There are many things that I love about Jenn, but her overwhelming excitement about learning opportunities for kids, might top the list! She came running into a Grade 1 class where I happened to be before school started, and in true Jenn form said, “We’re doing this!” Yay! My long voice note didn’t deter her, but instead, further inspired her. She built on the comic idea, and even added some graphic novels along with some question prompts to get kids thinking more about the LEGO banana.
At second nutrition break, I received a text from Jenn, telling me how excited students were about this space. They already created a hamburger, french fries, and the start of a strawberry on the LEGO wall.
Jenn’s going to check out Doodle Boy’s work this weekend, and I’m going to bring in some speech bubble sticky notes to extend the writing possibilities in this space.
Working with Jenn on this evolving project reminded me of how important the Teacher Librarian and Reading Specialist relationship is in a school. Both of us have a “building capacity” component to our position, but it’s as we team up, that we also build each other’s capacity. We can then work with the classroom educators and students to support the reading, writing, media literacy, oral language, and vocabulary opportunities in this library space. Could this even extend to teaching and learning opportunities beyond the library? I’m thinking about the Epic Play Store Project that I’ve started in some Grade 1 and 2 classes recently.
- Maybe a comic could be a different way to advertise for the store, while supporting reading and writing as part of the process.
- Maybe we could have a Doodle Boy component to our project, which would also support storytelling as well as story creating.
Jenn’s getting me excited about new possibilities, and the evolution of the teaching and learning in the Learning Commons space might influence the evolution of teaching and learning outside of it. We’re now in the heart of the AprilMayJune (intentionally one word) crazy that comes every year in school systems. Maybe both kids and adults need to find and hold onto their own “banana joy” … a little something that can capitalize on the learning throughout the year, while allowing for some application and critical thinking wrapped up in fun. What might be your “banana moments?” How can you connect with other educators in the school to bring them to fruition? In the midst of stress, it helps to find your banana.
Aviva! I love that you and Jen built on one another’s enthusiasm. I am also determined to set up a Lego wall SOMEWHERE in my new space (and if you can connect me with Jen, that would be great!). Comic Life used to be incredible OSAPAC software for comic creating. I wonder if BookCreator might have comic templates (note to self to check). And Jarrett Lerner has great printable comic story templates for free – I also think he would LOVE this story.
This gave me joy and inspiration. I particularly appreciate that your team took something that was already creating joy, and you made it even more fun, with room to grow.
Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I will definitely connect the two of you on Twitter. She also knows and connects with Beth and Jenn M. You will adore her and vice versa! I also really appreciate the resources that you shared. Such great ideas! I need to check Book Creator too. I think you might be right.
Please share what you end up doing! I hope we can learn from each other.