Tuesday, February 3, 2015

OES Reads: Family Literacy Night

A staple of our whole-school family reading project (OES Reads) is a Family Literacy Night when we bring students and their parents and siblings to school for a wide-array of activities related to our whole-school books/author. 

(Find more information about OES Reads in these previous blog posts in the series: Building Excitement, the Big Reveal, Week 1, and Week 2.)

The event was supposed to be held on January 27, coinciding with the release of Kate Messner's newest book, All the Answers. However, the weather was uncooperative. We held our event on it's rescheduled date, January 29, and had good attendance despite the change of plans. Fifty-three families were represented!

The event was comprised of two main segments: Activity Stations and the All the Answers Birthday Party.

Activity Stations
All participants rotated between three stations in the first part of the event. When families arrived, they were given a raffle ticket in one of three colors. The colors helped keep the size of the groups fairly even. The three activities happened simultaneously for 20 minutes, and then the groups would rotate.
In the gym, staff volunteers facilitated many activities children on the Oregon Trail might have engaged in to entertain themselves. Students and parents were jumping rope, playing hopscotch, using hoops, and more. This station also had the equipment to play Capture the Flag. Outside the gym, students and families were invited to sign their names on Independence Rock.
In the cafeteria, families made book-related crafts. Some constructed covered wagons out of milk cartons. Others made Silver Jaguar Jewelry with silver medallions, paw stamps, and oodles of beads. Some families accomplished both crafts. There was also a station in the cafeteria where staff were poised with face paint for participants who wanted "Snake Arm" tattoos. 
The third station took place in our music room. A kindergarten teacher gathered all the students in this group and read aloud from some of Kate's other books (including Over and Under the Snow, Sea Monster's First Day, and Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish). While the students were occupied, parents and school staff engaged in conversations about supporting students in their writing development. The conversations were fashioned in the likeness of restorative practice circles, keeping the conversation voluntary and interactive.

The Birthday Party
When the committee first looked at our five-week time frame for OES Reads with the goal of reserving a date for Family Literacy night, we looked for something that was mid-way through the project to maintain excitement and interest. I had read an advanced reader's copy of Kate Messner's All the Answers and when I realized it would be released on January 27--smack dab in the middle of our timeline--we had a win-win situation. Before long, plans for a book birthday party were underway.

When Family Night finally arrived, we had balloons and party hats and cupcakes and gifts...and excited readers. What more could we need?

And this was taken BEFORE all the cupcakes had arrived!
Raffle prizes wrapped as presents
After three rotations, the whole group assembled in the cafeteria around tables adorned with a birthday cake and cupcakes of every possible variety. After some brief announcements and thank yous, All the Answers was introduced to the crowd and students, families, and staff sang "Happy Birthday" to this (almost) brand new book. No one minded that it was belated!

While families ate their cupcakes and trail mix and sipped on lemonade, the host drew tickets for the "gifts." Wrapped up like presents were an assortment of other Kate Messner titles and packages of notebooks and writing tools to encourage student writing at home.

Digital Media students mid-production
Student Media Coverage
Members of our school Digital Media team were on hand for Family Literacy Night. In addition to collecting photos and video from the event, the students conducted interviews with an assortment of guests, which they hope to compile into an OES Reads news report. Even I was interviewed!

Supporting Home Reading
Erica Jedd, owner of our community bookstore Books N Things, was in attendance for the Family Literacy Night also. Not only did she deliver the Kate Messner books that were ordered in advance (including copies of the brand-new release All the Answers!), but she brought limited stock to make available to families. She sold out of Wake Up Missing and All the Answers, and a few other titles were seen walking around, too. Erica is still taking orders and honoring the OES Reads discount for OES families for the next two weeks of our project, also.
Families perused other Kate Messner
titles at the Books N Things display.

Tomorrow we will begin Week 4 of our OES Reads program. Four snow days in the last eight days have made the classroom projects hard to accomplish, but have given students lots of time for reading at home and working on calendar activities. And, we're beginning to turn our planning minds to the finale of our project. More to come!

Use this link to read the next blog post in the series: OES Reads: Week 4.

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