Skip to main content
View Sidebar
Click on any book icon to see Table of Contents and/or to purchase a copy.
Prairie Pedagogy: A Reflection on Free-range Reading

Prairie Pedagogy: A Reflection on Free-range Reading

May 21, 2019

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

In the previous WinkWorld (re-posted at the bottom of this blog), I mentioned that I was going to Atall School for a literacy activity, which we were calling Free-range Reading–meaning nothing more than we were free on the range to read and remember our favorite books from the past year.  We told the kids that we would talk about the books, and then eventually, they would have to choose their favorite and draw an image, which reflected the book.

Here is some of what happened during those 2 fabulous hours.

Lots of our treasured books, which the K-8 students had read during the year, were placed around the room. We had planned to discuss these books for maybe 30 minutes.  However, this lively discussion took at least an hour, and then the students wanted me to read some specific books again.  I read….


The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and illustrations by Katz Cowley

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak

If You’re Not From the Prairie. . . by David Bouchard and images by Henry Ripplinger

Many of the students chose Patricia Polacco books as their favorites, and we didn’t even get to all of the chapter books in the classroom.

After talking about the stories and reading together, we asked the students to make a poster which represented their favorite book of the year.  In the photo below, you can see them creating a representation of their favorites.

The community of Atall School is always sad to say good-bye to the eighth grade students, who in the fall will have to commute to Sturgis (50 miles away) to attend high school.  Usually the country kids stay in town with someone during the school week.  This year Atall is losing two very, very special 8th graders, Shaniah and Mariah, twins–we love them dearly.


Shaniah chose A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Iam Winston.

Here is a page from the book, and you can see how the image of the ocean is really created with words from a story.  Many of the pages are similar.

After choosing this book, I vaguely remember Shaniah asking if she had to draw an exact picture from the book, and I assured her that she only needed to represent what the book meant to her.  And, then she sort of disappeared, but Missy found her going through a basket of my books which I had carried over for the day.

When she turned in her image, we could see that her favorite book was really many, many books, which give her happy memories.

Mariah, the other 8th grader chose The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds.

And, now you understand why we love Mariah and Shaniah so much.

Meet Missy Urbaniak, the teacher, and the two 8th graders, Mariah and Shaniah.  The twins remind me of how much I used to love my classes of 8th graders in Benson, AZ, circa late 70s.

The students also asked me to read one of the John and Jennifer Churchman books–but, more about that in the next WinkWorld.  Here is a sneak-peek of how the kids seemed to dive right into the book as I was reading.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Critical Pedagogy 4th Ed – The Benson Kids






Leave a reply