The final two days of Anica Mrose Rissi’s four-day tour with IRW were full of excitement and surprises, as there were so many amazing projects made by students on display. Anica was overwhelmed by all the creativity. (At the beginning of the week, Anica visited Jonesport Elementary School and Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School.)
Ella Lewis School
Upon entering the Ella Lewis School in Steuben, teachers, custodians and Principal Joanne Harriman were putting final touches on the hallway displays as we entered. Some wore dachshund-themed socks and scarves in honor of Banana, the dog from Anica’s book, “Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split.”
We filed into the gym where Anica shared one of her earliest books, “Anica’s Book of Poisonous Things,” showing kids know that they, too, are writers even at a young age. She read aloud “The Teacher’s Pet,” to pre-K and kindergarten students and five kids visiting from Step By Step Daycare. Some students were wearing adorable handmade hats and masks of animals that “may or may not” make good pets.
The hallway near the first and second grade classroom featured a life-size hippo that certainly got Anica’s attention. She discovered she is the exact same size as the average teacher! On the classroom door, the giant hippo head complete with a mouth that opened was also a big hit.
In her grades 1-4 workshops, Anica used story titles as jumping off points for brainstorming a story that they created out loud. As kids shouted out suggestions, Anica’ prodded them to go deeper with questions such as “Where are they?” “Who are they with?” “Why do they feel that way?” There were a lot of clever ideas that came from the title, “The Day My Sister Came Back.”
The fourth grade students created dioramas of scenes from “Anna, Banana,” complete with tiny details such as a little jump rope and broken pencil. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came when we entered the third grade classroom where, in the corner of the room was a dachshund book nook the size of a sleigh that could fit two adults quite nicely. Anica had a chance to try it out while she read to the students. It was a magical day.
Milbridge Elementary School
At Milbridge, the same spirited enthusiasm was palpable across the school. Hallways were filled to the brim with creative and clever projects using themes of Anica’s two books “The Teacher’s Pet” and “Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split.” Teachers and students were even wearing orange and purple because the character, Anna, loves those colors!
This day began in the fourth grade classroom where we learned that these students had read all of the books in the “Anna, Banana” series! Through Anica’s presentation, we learned that she became a writer in part because she likes to boss people around. In the workshops, she began the “brain dump” of ideas for an oral story that began with the title, “The Happy and Sad Giraffe.” Anica asked questions beginning with “Where?” “When?” “How?” and “Why?” to expand on their story. The giraffe, we found out, is bathing in a chocolate fountain. He is happy because there are strawberries, but sad because everyone is watching him. This silly and fun start is only the beginning to a clever story that Anica tells back to them with out missing a single detail.
During the read aloud of “The Teacher’s Pet” with the younger students, Anica asked how they would get the character, Mr. Stricter, out of the hippo’s mouth if they didn’t know he was allergic to plants. In true, Downeast, Maine, fashion one answered, “Give him lobster!”
The day ended with a gallery walk of the amazing hallway displays and Anica was impressed by all of the kids’ hard work. The students came out from their classrooms to discuss and share their work with Anica. There were pet rocks, clothed and placed in habitats by pre-K and kindergarteners. The first grade had made posters of what Bruno, the hippo from the book, ate and compared that to what real hippos eat. Second graders made a giant crossword puzzle and acrostic poem. The third grade shared photos of their “friendship tea” event. They also made “friendship haikus” and jump rope rhymes while fourth graders made posters of Anna’s emotions with photographs of the children depicting each one. What an amazing day and fun-filled week!
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