At our spring book fair I casually picked up a book that caught my eye: “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger. The love for Star Wars in fourth grade is as big now as it probably was back when the movies orignally came out. These kids have grown up watching the movies with their fathers and playing Lego: Star War video games.
I bought the book and after a long night of conferences I sat down and read the whole thing in a night. Dwight has got to be the funniest character I have met in a long time. Visualizing him digging holes in his front yard, sitting in them, and then filling them back in, is an example of an author using characters actions to describe a character, that I will always turn to when teaching fictional writing. That image always pops into my head when a student starts talking about Dwight.
The book took off like a wild fire in my classroom. Within a week 12 students had flown through our 3 copies. I emailed Mr. Angleberger to let him know the hit he had become and he very kindly agreed to Skype with my class.
Knowing that we would be Skyping with Mr. Anglebeger took the reading of this book to a whole new level. Kids read and reread the book. I could hear them talking at recess, “I can’t wait to ask Mr. Angelberger about how he came up with Dwight,” or, “Do you think Mr. Angelberger will tell us how he comes up with topics?” Having recess talk move from video games to author’s craft was crazy awesome.
A week before spring break (two weeks before our Skype visit) a reluctant reader in my class decided to take home a copy of the book and make the entire class of 25 their very own origami Yoda. The smile on his face when he was showered with compliments was magical.
The class left for spring break with their Yodas actually looking forward to coming back to school, so that they could Skype with their new favorite author. Over break I was flooded with pictures of Origami Yoda visiting various places throughout the world from our local library to the Coliseum in Rome. All in all I about 75% of my students sent me pictures of Yoda on spring break.
Between emailing, Tweeting, and Skyping with Mr. Angleberger I really started to realize how technology isn’t killing the novel, but when used correctly opening up doors to the novel that may have been closed to many readers before.
By the time we Skyped with Mr. Angleberger, four weeks after the book was introduced to the class, 21 out of 24 students had read “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”. We started with the one copy I purchased, and we ended up with seven floating around the classroom. I wonder if teachers that require students to read books ever have 88% of their students read the entire book, and half of them read it multiple times. What do you think?