Submitted by Candy Devlin, Principal of Carmel Elementary School of RSU 87
Picture the combo gymnasium/cafeteria, typical of schools built in the mid 70’s. Enter one hundred fifty-three kindergarten through grade four students. Today, students efficiently organize into pre-determined discussion groups; they wait patiently, anticipating the work that is about to begin. They know how to do this work. One Book, One School has been part of the school community in one version or another for over a decade. There is an air of expectation and enjoyment in the gymnasium: purposeful talk is about to begin.
The principal welcomes students and staff; the literacy coach begins with a review of our discussion norms and a prompt to launch the discussion. Immediately there is a buzz of conversation in the gym: purposeful talk about two texts that have been the focus of intentional read aloud, classroom discussions, vocabulary study, and writing over the past ten days. Carmel Elementary students have a lot to say about Sky Color and Art and Max, the texts chosen for One
Book, One School this year. The discussion continues for twenty minutes, with students comparing the two texts. Comments are supported by evidence from the text, elaborations are offered, disagreements are respectfully proposed. Following the discussions, students enjoy Sky Color set to a soundtrack they created during their music classes. The One Book, One School assembly concludes with feedback on how our school community met expectations. The students leave. As they exit, students admire the mural created collaboratively in their art classes, depicting a scene inspired by one of the texts.
One Book, One School is one example of how school structures, adult and student learning, and community support come together at Carmel Elementary School. Beginning on the first day of school, classroom teachers, specialists, and support staff teach procedures and routines, making expectations clear. Using exemplars and providing specific and immediate feedback is common practice. Students are taught and regularly practice classroom discourse in all content areas; therefore, they are able to use those practices in the whole school community setting. This experience and others like it are possible because teachers prepare to facilitate learning opportunities through professional development with colleagues, we enjoy the on-going support of our parents and community citizens, and we collaborate every day in service of our children. Collaboration with staff, community, and parents is the foundation of success at CES. In the words of Lucy Calkins, “no one wants to do this hard work alone.”