Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Peaceful Start to the Year...

it does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble
or hard work.  it means to be in
the midst of those things and still
be calm in your heart.
On a canvas bag sent to me by my friend Mimi
     I started my school year out somewhat differently this year.  Oh... we've had the usual conversations about workshop structures, rituals and routines, the gradual release of responsibility, learning with a spirit of endurance.  And, our conversations have been grand and thoughtful.  But I've added a new twist.  My friend, Dana, nudged my thinking in a different direction (great colleagues have a way of nudging and stretching our thinking, don't they?).
     Dana and I decided that we wanted a "peace-filled" beginning to our school year (she's in Casper, Wyoming and I'm here).  And, after talking a bit (okay, more than a bit), we both decided that it would be a great way to start the year... to build on the concept of "peace" and to incorporate peacefulness into our reader's and writer's workshops throughout the school year.  Together, we did a search of our classroom libraries (and bookstores) to find just the right literature to launch our discussions with children. 
     Within the buzz and bustle of my classroom of 31 fourth graders, I knew I had to bring a sense of slowness and calm, patience and peace, lingering and depth to our work together.  And, what better way to do it than through making careful decisions about some of the texts we're using for think alouds, shared readings, and writing launches?  We've delved into some sophistication along the way so far... comparing, critiquing, commenting.  What a grand way to start the year!  Combined with "peaceful" music, low lighting, and a quiet tone... it's been, well, peace-filled.
     Having an overarching feeling of "peace" has added a new dimension to our classroom environment.  My students and I have enjoyed exploring the concept into our discussions, our notebooks, and our classroom routines.  And with "peace" comes a sense of rigor and quiet reflection that is both contagious and awe-inspiring.
     I thought I'd share some favorite texts I've found with you.  I have used several and plan to use several more throughout the year... as we step "gently out" into our year together, I can't wait to find more!  Helen Frost's wonderful poem (and picture book) "Step Gently Out" has become our theme for this year.  And we all need a little gentleness is our classroom worlds, don't we?  Here you go:
A favorite find!  A wonderful mentor text for writing biographies... breathtaking!
A simple text that creates a grand message!  Talk.  Peace.  Two words that should be on our lips as we work together daily...
This book is definitely for a more mature group of children, but what a grand book to empower children to become peacemakers.  A bit "controversial," but worth having on the list!  Beautifully written narrative text.
Joanne Ryder... need I say more?  Okay, how about Norman Gorbaty.  Enough said!
The photographs are endearing and the text is a tribute to a peaceful existence.
The creator of dynamite now has the most important prize in all the world named after him... the Nobel Prize.  Amazing!  Look at the cover... it is absolutely brilliant!  I love this book and I was amazed by Alfred Lobel's story.
The photographs are lovely... and the text takes the reader through a day of peace.
I love the illustrations by Stephanie Carter.  And Jane Baskwill's words can't help but create a peaceful tone.  If peace is a promise... a wonderful repeating line!
Lee Bennett Hopkins compiled this wonderful collection of poetry from some of our favorite poets.  And, Chris Soentpiet's illustrations are masterful (look for the face of the girl from Something Beautiful on the cover).
Our "theme" book for the year... We're stepping gently out into a year of exploring and learning.  This is a beautiful book by Helen Frost.  Combined with Rick Lieder's photos... stunning!  Check out this Vimeo!  I've blogged about this book before and it's a read and read again addition to our "peace" bag this year!



  1. What a beautiful concept,Patrick! When I worked in the alternative high school setting, I had classical music playing and we started our English class each day with independent reading. It was a peaceful way to start our class. I soon realized that most of my kids came from homes that could be chaotic and noisy at times (like mine!) and that even our small hallways could get loud and overbearing as they moved from class to class. Offering a place a peace could just be the only time some of our kiddos get this calm space.
    Wish I had been as wise as you and connected that to the beautiful literature you shared here! Wishing you a peaceful, joyful year!

  2. Thanks for sharing all these great titles! Loved visiting your peaceful classroom!

  3. Love this list! Here is one of my faves to add to your list: Somewhere Today by Shelley Moore Thomas.

  4. I love this! I started with a theme of empathy, and I would love to add peace to it! Thanks for a thoughtful post!

  5. Wow, these are great titles. What thoughtful choices of books!

  6. Love this!! This is my theme in my kindergarten class and we focus a lot about how to be peace makers and avoid being a peace breaker. I love this list and will be getting a few of these I don't have. I was going to suggest Somewhere Today that Franki posted and also Todd Parr's The Peace Book. It's very simple but also an "out of the box" way to think about peace. Thanks again for sharing!

  7. How smart to make school a calming and peaceful place. We talked about that very thing in third grade today after reading a very peaceful poem. I find that certain texts lend a peaceful mood without being overtly concerned with peace. I'm always looking for peaceful stories like Owl Moon and Fireflies to read with my third graders. I'll bet that Home anthology has some peaceful poems in it as well. We all need more peace and beauty in our lives. Thanks for the thought provoking post!