Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Power of the Picture Book: Scott Fillner


The Picture Book as a Catalyst

According to Merriam-Webster, catalyst means a substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly. Another definition of catalyst is a person or event that quickly causes change or action.

A picture book is a catalyst. The picture book has been, and will continue to be a catalyst in our learning community.  It is a catalyst which allows chemicals in our brain to have the ability to make connections more quickly and feel safe. These connections help our community build, and sustain growth throughout the year.
The picture book is a catalyst as an event. It brings us closer together through our daily Morning Meeting structure (See the Responsive Classroom for more information). It allows us to make connections to our lives, share our experiences, collaborate to generate ideas, and communicate how we might take action to empower others around us.
The picture book is a catalyst to allow us to hear, read, view, reflect, and share powerful writing and illustrations to fill our minds, and help us determine success criteria, in order to become powerful readers, writers, and illustrators of the stories which shape our lives. We believe that if we turn our focus away from the deficit model of correcting what is wrong, like Daily Oral Language Prompts, and focus on the words of those we look up to, we will be able to write by noticing what others who have been successful have been able to do.
This year our class has been participating in #ClassroomBookaday. Jillian Heise @heisereads and Angie Huesgen @ajhueySTL have inspired our room to take part in this adventure as well. I also have been following for quite some time now Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks and the #Bookaday movement she began a few years ago. Listed below are just some of the picture books which have been a catalyst in our learning community.
    • Let Me Finish-by Minh Lee. This book is a catalyst to help shape our book talks and our book recommendations while blogging to an authentic audience this year using KidBlog.
    • Normal Norman-by Tara Lazar. This book is a catalyst for a discussion about what is Normal? We discuss that what is abnormal, typically leads others to verbalize thoughts, which may end up leading to teasing.
    • Each Kindness-by Jacqueline Woodson. A beautiful book that is a catalyst for thinking about our impact and making the most of every opportunity.
    • A Beautiful Oops- by Barney Saltzberg. This is a book acts as a catalyst in  that we utilize for a lesson regarding creativity and the growth mindset
    • Ish-by Peter Reynolds. This book is a catalyst for further discussions about the growth mindset. We utilize the phrase I am kind and I can do hard things.
    • Horrible Bear-by Ame Dyckman. This book is a catalyst for a discussion about the size of a problem and perspective. Teaching students about the perspective that what is a small problem to them may be HUGE to someone else.
    • The Invisible Boy-by Trudy Ludwig. This book is a catalyst for our powers of noticing. Noticing others (Inclusion) is difficult and we need to be mindful. Our class observed Kindergarten students at recess. We learned to notice students who were alone. We talked about how to be proactive and ask...Can I help you? Do you want to join us?
    • Everyone-by Christopher Silas Neal. This book was a catalyst for us to notice and clarify that having feelings and strong emotions are’s what makes us human and beautiful.  It is how we act upon those emotions that we need to be strategic about.
    • Let’s Talk about Race-by Julius Lester and We Came to America- by Faith Ringgold. We utilized both of these texts as catalysts for understanding diversity and belonging in our community.
    • Green City-by Allan Drummond. This book is a catalyst for us because it helps us create a vision and have discussions about building norms organically. It is about how one community survived a tornado and rebuilt for a sustainable future by Allan Drummond. This book allowed us to create a vision and agree on norms as we consider rebuilding “Green” from an unfortunate event.
    • Ideas Are All Around by Phillip Stead. This book was a catalyst for us as it helped us to see the power of the small moment around us. It was a catalyst because it helped us begin our conversation of success criteria in our personal narrative unit.
    • Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. This book was a catalyst for our creativity.  We utilized this nonfiction picture book to be a catalyst for our Calaveras book covers.  We created original book covers using Calaveras’ to replace characters found on our some of our favorite book covers.

  • The picture book has been and will continue to be a catalyst in our learning community.  A catalyst which brings us closer together. A catalyst to aide in our growth of a community of learners who build on each other’s unique strengths, in a classroom where empathy is strong, and effort is high.  We believe that the combination of human spirit, effort and the catalyst of picture books is vital to our development.  We believe that the power of the picture book helps us to see that we are unique, creative, kind, and we can do hard things...together!  What books have been a catalyst for you and your learning community?


Scott Fillner is an educator who is currently teaching 4th grade at Bowman Woods Elementary in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He has been teaching and serving in other roles, such as Instructional Coach and Building Facilitator, for the past 18 years. Scott is married and has 3 children who fill his life with excitement, love, hope, and joy everyday! When Scott is not teaching, you will find him reading voraciously to fill his life with stories, so he can share the love and the power of reading with others.