By Melissa Quimby
What is Meet Someone New Monday?
Three years ago, Meet Someone New Monday was born. It began as a read-aloud project that enabled me to share and celebrate my beloved collection of picture book biographies with readers all year long. Over time, I molded this project in intentional ways, and it evolved into an adventure that focused on identity, centered marginalized and minoritized communities, and cultivated thoughtful, strategic middle grade readers. In just year one, fourth graders were introduced to 28 scientists, artists, inventors, and activists who contributed to the world in their own unique ways. After learning about these previously unknown 14 men and 14 women, my students stepped up to middle school with important life lessons in their hearts.
Selecting Texts: A Team Effort
Year one of this project was a beautiful endeavor, but it only lived within the four walls of my classroom. As time went on, and I witnessed the way picture book biographies were sparking joy in my small reading community, I felt pulled to share this passion project with others. I started sharing images of my reveal slides on Twitter paired with the hashtag #MeetSomeoneNewMonday, invited our principal in to share a book and facilitate discussion, and published stories from my classroom on the Teachers Books Readers blog. As my teammates and I began planning themed morning meetings for the next school year, we transformed Meet Someone New Monday into a collaborative project, and it is now celebrated across all fourth grade classrooms at Brown School.
At the beginning of a new month, my teammates and I each choose one figure to put in the spotlight. As we make decisions around who will be featured, we have three tasks:
Monday Read-Aloud Routines
On Monday mornings, we gather together as a reading community. In an effort to build excitement, our reveal slide is projected on the board as students arrive. Some weeks, copies of the backmatter wait on the rug, inviting students to preview the figure of the week. This could be the author’s note, a timeline, or a collection of real-life photographs. Once all readers are settled, we watch a video to learn a little bit about the person in the spotlight.
Some weeks, interactive read aloud time happens on Monday morning immediately following the reveal. On some Mondays, it works best for us to huddle up in the afternoon. Occasionally, we steal pockets of time throughout our busy schedule to enjoy the biography of the week in smaller doses. When we read the text is not as important as how we read the text. The heart of this work truly lies in how we generate emotional investment within our students and how we help our students’ reactions and ideas blossom into new thinking about the world and ways that they can take action in their own lives for themselves and others. Sometimes, we simply read the biography to love it. In those moments, readers are silent with their eyes glued to the book, scanning the illustrations, wide-eyed when something surprising happens. Perhaps they whisper something to their neighbor, let out an audible gasp or share a comment aloud. Sometimes, we read to grow ideas. In these moments, readers are tracking trouble, considering how the figure responds to obstacles. They are ready to turn to their partner and reach for a precise trait word or theme and supporting evidence.
A Lasting Impact
As educators, we hope that the work that we do with students is impactful. Sometimes, we do not get the privilege of seeing the impact as students grow up and move on from our classrooms. I do, however, cherish the moments that I get to witness it myself.
This year, after weeks of celebrating Meet Someone New Monday, several readers went on to read about as many other world changers as possible. I observed more readers reaching for the Who Was? Series. Two popular book choices from our student-designed “Amazing Historic Figures in the World” bin are Young, Fearless, Awesome: 25 Young People Who Changed the World and Stand Up, Stand Out! 25 Rebel Heroes Who Stood Up for Their Beliefs - And How They Could Inspire You.
More recently, when I went to meet my class at the end of their Library time, our librarian approached me about a special moment. She described four readers huddled up by the shelf that displayed a new book--one that featured Zaha Hadid. We had just learned about this architect in our classroom, and there was a spark of curiosity when readers noticed a different text about her.
What touched my heart even more was the morning our school librarian wandered into my classroom while students were away. She had a stack of three books and was looking for a particular reader’s desk. “She sits right over here,” I shared as I walked over to check out the requested titles. Pleasantly surprised, and warmed to my core, I noticed that all three books featured LGBTQ+ figures. As a reading community, Meet Someone New Monday invited us to learn about Harvey Milk, Sharice Davids, Megan Rapinoe and Alan Turing. Following those read aloud experiences, my student approached the librarian asking for more titles that feature others from the LQBTQ+ community. When I excitedly stated, “Tell me about your new book choices!” my student shared, “I want to learn about as many different kinds of people as I can.” This truly shows that when we are intentional about the stories we choose to share in our classrooms, it can result in higher levels of empathy and potential allyship.
Fourth Graders Think You Should Join Us!
I recently asked my students to consider why other teachers and students should start celebrating Meet Someone New Monday in their classrooms. What I learned is that they want other learning communities to be exposed to the talent and bravery we have. Fourth graders love that learning about someone new each week, through videos and books, helps us understand what it looks like to stand up for what one believes in and invites us to collect life lessons that we can apply to our own lives. We hope you’ll join us in learning about individuals who have helped to shape our world, and make sure to share on social media with the hashtag #MeetSomeoneNewMonday!
Teacher friends of the Biography Clearinghouse who share how they have used used our biography ideas and resources in their classrooms.
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