Caldecott Medal Teaching Techniques & Daily Activities

What is the Caldecott Medal?

The Caldecott is an award that is given to a “distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year.” It is given annually by the American Library Association as part of their Youth Media Awards. When teaching about the Caldecott Medal, you can always go to the ALA’s website you can read all the criteria and guidelines used for selecting the winner. Here they are in a nutshell:

  • It has to be a picture book written for children.
  • It has to have been published in the United States by an American citizen.
  • It has to have distinct illustrations that are marked by excellence in quality.

Introducing to Students to the Caldecott Medal – Day One

Very important: The first thing you want to do is pull all of the Caldecott and Honor books in your library. You will need these books as you go through your lessons. And once you begin talking about them with students, they will all want to check them out.

I begin by telling students that they will be learning about a special award given to picture books. It is an award given to a book with really awesome illustrations. That may be oversimplifying it a little bit, but that is how I begin. I then will go into more detail about how a book is selected. This is when I put up the PowerPoint presentation I created about the Caldecott Medal. I will also explain about the Honor books. The Honor books are ones that came in second and third place. No more than 5 Honor Awards will be given out.

Next I will list some books that have won the award, specifically ones that I think the students will know. This helps give the students some context as they begin to think about these books and their illustrations. These Caldecott Medal classics include: The Polar Express, Where the Wild Things Are, Officer Buckle and Gloria, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Creepy Carrots. Typically by this point in the lesson I am out of time. Depending on the class I might put some of the Caldecott books out on a couple tables for the students to look through for the rest of their library time.

In my Caldecott Activity pack I also have a short reading comprehension page that I give students to read and fill out. I do not always use this comprehension page during the first lesson. Sometimes I use it as a review at the start of the second lesson or wait and use it as a wrap-up.

Introducing to Students – Day Two

The second day is when I let students look at all of the Caldecott Medal books that I have pulled and begin to think about why these books were chosen. I feel it’s important that the students have the chance to look through as many books as possible. This allows them a chance to see different types of illustrations and how the illustrations have changed over the years.

I begin by putting several books out on the tables in the library. When students come in I have them each find a seat and explain the activity. They will be given time to look through the books and choose one that they really like. Then they will fill out the graphic organizer about the book.

Handout for looking at the Caldecott Medal winners

I put the organizer up on the SmartBoard for them to see as I go over it. There are six different questions they will need to answer based on the book they chose. These are yes/no questions. I made them simple so more students in different grades would be able to fill it out. As an extension, you can have students write more detail about why they answered one of the questions or draw a picture from the book. This is an easy way to differentiate, especially if you use it with students in older grades.

After the students have had time to fill out their sheet we will take some time to go over their answers. Another idea that I have used before is to give multiple copies of the same book to students. For example (2 tables have Owl Moon and 2 tables have Last Stop on Market Street). There are a couple reasons for doing this. One, if you need students to work together for some reason this makes it easier to do that (and it saves on time). It is quicker to go over the graphic organizers if the same 2 books were used and students won’t get as distracted as they work (wanting to look at everyone else’s book).

**This graphic organizer is available for free. You can download it by clicking here or the link at the bottom of this post.

Introducing to Students – Day Three and beyond

After I have completed the first two lessons, I spend the next few weeks reading individual books and then doing a companion activity. You can spend as much or as little time on this as you would like.

In my Caldecott Activity Pack, you can find worksheets and graphic organizers to go along with 14 of the past winners. These books include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell, and Last Stop on Market Street by Mat de la Pena. You can use these or come up with your own activities.

Ready to download your freebie? Click the image below.
Download your Caldecott Medal freebie
Purchase the Caldecott Activity pack here.