design and environment are critical to children's growth as learners. I believe wholeheartedly that if a child isn't successful in school, there is something in the environment that can be changed to better meet the child's needs. So, I was THRILLED when I found the book BRONTORINA by James Howe.
Brontorina, a very large dinosaur, had a dream. She wanted to dance. Even though she did not have the right shoes (they don't make them in her size after all), she knew that in her heart she was a ballerina. So, Madame Lucille lets Brontorina join her dance class. But, Brontorina's head hits the ceiling, her tail hits things it isn't supposed to, and she almost falls on a piano. Madame Lucille realizes that she can no longer help Brontorina learn to dance--she is just too big. But then a Clara's mother surprises Brontorina with a pair of specially made shoes. And Madame Lucille realizes that the problem is not that Brontorina is too big--rather her studio is too small! So, they find a place where everyone can be a successful dancer.
This is a great fun story, one that reminds me of others written on the topic of believing in your dream. Kids will love the hopeful story, the fun illustrations and the clever talking bubbles throughout the book.
For me and for teachers, this book reminds us of the importance of creating a space that helps every child be successful. Just as it was very easy for Madame Lucille to begin by putting the blame on Brontorina for being too big, we often put the blame on students who are not successful. This is a great reminder that if we create the right environment, all learners can be successful. Madame Lucille definitely belongs on our "100+ Cool Teachers in Children's Literature" list. Rather than blaming the student, she takes responsibility for creating an environment in which every student can be successful
I watched a great video that would work nicely to begin conversations with colleagues about our role in not blaming the children. "It's Never the Kids' Fault" by Greg Whitby is a short, powerful clip that reminds us that theory-based practice works with all students.