A Mock Caldecott Unit

Margie Myers-Culver has the world's kindest heart. I always look forward to reading her thoughtful blog posts about the books she loves and how she's connecting her students with authors and other schools. She cares deeply about children's literature and education. 

Margie and Katherine collaborated on a Mock Caldecott unit. I invited Margie to complete my sentences about this successful experience. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Margie! You're amazing! 

Photo credit: Katherine
I hosted a Mock Caldecott for the seventh time this year.  In the previous six years I did the unit with our third and fourth grade classes.  The books would be numbered (for voting purposes later) on display in the library for weeks to invite exploration even before the unit started. For the 2012-2013 school year a decision was made to move the fifth grade back to the elementary building. This was a golden opportunity to do this with students who enjoyed and were familiar with the process.

Katherine Sokolowski’s students in her three fifth grade classes paired up with our three fifth grade classes.  To get started we (Katherine and I) traded a series of emails and DMs on Twitter listing titles we thought might be considered by the committee.  It was great to see we had quite a few titles in common.  We ended up with twenty-three books on our list.  With our individual classes we each discussed the points the committee considers when making a decision on the Caldecott Medal and Honor awards.  We read and reread the books aloud drawing attention to the art and the overall flow of the text with the illustrations.  Our students were given a chart listing the book names along with the medium used by the illustrator so they could go back and examine the books on their own time at their own pace.  (At Charlevoix Elementary we had two complete sets of the titles shared between the three rooms.)  All of our students were asked to write a short paragraph about which book they favored for the win and why.  For voting all six classes used the same method.  In our classes this template was attached to the outside of an envelope.  The students arrived at a total value for the book (with ten being the highest) and slipped their score inside. 

It was such fun to work with Katherine’s classes on this project and to compare our tallies at the end.  Without Twitter and Skype this would have not been possible. 

I think it is important for young readers to connect with students outside of their community, their state, to give them new perspectives.  Our town (about 2,500 population) is located in northern Michigan.  Knowing they were going to Skype with Katherine Sokolowski’s students in Illinois provided an additional motivation, the opportunity to speak with their peers about a common topic. It definitely increased the fun factor.

This unit allowed older readers the chance to read, examine and enjoy outstanding picture books they might not have seen on their own.  Having worked in high, middle and elementary school libraries during the course of my career, I find picture books to be valuable at all levels. 

I recommend hosting a Mock Caldecott because it is one of the most exciting and fun units we do all year.  (You should have seen Katherine’s students and ours cheering when the Mock winners/honors were announced.) It gives students ownership in the process used by the Caldecott committee.   Doing a Mock Caldcott election promotes some of the finest titles published in a given year, generates great discussions between students and acquaints them with the techniques used by some of the most talented and gifted illustrators.

Illustrated books are the heart and soul of children’s literature.  The illustrations add dimension and interpretation to the narrative. These books bring our children into the reading community.  But is does not end there. The writers and illustrators of picture books pack a lot of power in those few pages.  This is a magical kind of power that transcends a particular age enveloping all who read them.

My favorite Caldecott Medal winner is very hard for me to say. Over the years I have developed a love of various illustrators for their signature styles. Plus the more I know about an illustrator from sources such as Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac, author/illustrator websites and blogs or book trailer and information videos you post at Watch. Connect. Read. it is hard to favor one more than another. But…many of my most memorable times with students are when we share laughter.  Their laughter is like the fountain of youth.  For that reason plus his fantastic artwork I will choose David Wiesner’s Tuesday.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me who won in our three classes (Katherine’s winners are listed in her post here)

Mrs. Dhaseleer’s class

Medal:  Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Dog Names Baltic by Monica Carnesi

Honor:  Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack

Honor: Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Mrs. Maki’s class

Medal: Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack

Honor:  Two Tall Houses by Gianna Marino

Honor:  Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff

Mrs. Madison’s class

Medal:  Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Adam Rex

Honor:  Unspoken by Henry Cole

Honor:  Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack

Plus here are some of the student thoughts:

Chloe and the Lion--…is my favorite because the expression(s) on the people matched the words in the book. The illustrator has a very big imagination. Abby S.

Unspoken---Words are not needed in this book because the drawings are so elaborate. Lizzie P.

Good News, Bad News---I like at the end how it surprised you because bad news mouse found the picnic basket and said, “Good news?” Robin L.

Good News, Bad News---All of his artwork in this book looks three dimensional. Luke S.


  1. Hoping to get my kids' school doing some of this and will forward this post to the fifth grade there. Yay for technology. And a big hooray for people who use it to connect to one another in such a meaningful way.

  2. Tuesday!!!! I love that book so much.

    Great interview!


  3. Loved reading this reflection on running a Mock-Caldecott program, love that it was shared between classes! (I miss running mine, such fun and passion every year.)

  4. Like many librarians, I too, do a Mock Caldecott unit, the Peasleecott.


    I do it with 2nd and 3rd graders and am amazed every year about how thoughtful they are about their votes. Witness how a book like "Unspoken", a serious and somber wordless tory about the Underground Railroad, can be chosen by a second grade class who then peppers me with questions about slavery, runaways, slave hunters, etc etc.

    What I have never done, however, is collaborate with another teacher or librarian and this post has inspired me to give that a try next year.


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