I have attended many professional conferences over the years and there is one that is the highlight of the year for me. The Georgia Library Media Association's Summer Institute is by far the best conference I attend. I love that it is an overnight conference, but doesn't take three to four days out of my life. I love that it is FULL of great sessions (some long, some short) that offer great ideas that can literally be implemented the next day (if school were in session). I love that there are always wonderful authors and guest speakers featured at the large group sessions! I love that it is my librarian family...this conference is all about the school librarian!
The conference usually takes place in Peachtree City, Georgia which is not too terribly far from where I live. This makes for a relatively short commute to the conference and requires no plane tickets. The conference also highlights and celebrates librarians by offering awards....Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year, Georgia Intellectual Freedom of Information Award, and Exemplary Library Media Program Awards to name a few. It is fun to see librarians being recognized for the amazing work they do each and every day in Georgia libraries! They also award grants!
If you are near Georgia, please know that this conference is open to ALL librarians. We usually have several folks from Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida with us. And...if you are interested...I'm doing two sessions this year. One session is on my favorite digital tool and some of the projects I've done this year using it. You know what it is if you've read any portion of this blog. The other session I'm doing is a reflection on my year in the elementary library. I'm going to share the challenges, successes, and take-aways from a high school librarian-gone elementary-perspective....should be interesting!
So, please come join me!!! I promise you won't be disappointed.
HERE is the link to the registration and more information about the conference.
I hate winter. I really just don't like being cold, dressing in all those puffy clothes, wearing gloves, scraping ice off my car, or playing in snow. I do like a snow day, but only when school is cancelled and I get to stay home in my PJs with a warm cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other.
So, it is no surprise that as our weather begins to change this time of year, I get pretty excited about sharing some spring books with kiddos. I recently purchased the beautiful Peter Brown picture book titled The Curious Garden and have been saving it for some type of lesson with gardening. I found my perfect moment this past week with our kindergartners.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, it basically chronicles the planting of gardens in the city of New York. Liam, the central character, rescues dying plants on some old train tracks and the garden comes to life and spreads throughout the city. Not only do new gardens pop up, but new gardeners too! It is a lovely book.
I first did the read aloud and then had the students talk a bit about gardens and plants. We then talked about the tools Liam used in the story. To do this, I brought some of my own tools (and bought a few new ones so they would look better) and held each one up for the students...think show-and-tell.
We named each tool. The students easily named the hose and the gloves, but had more trouble with the trowel (they called it a shovel) and the cultivator (they thought it was a rake). It was a lot of fun listening to them shout out the answers and talk about what each thing was used for in a garden.
I then asked them if they wanted to play a game and of course, they said yes! I had them partner up and sit at the tables. Each pair got a baggie with cards. These cards had a picture set and a word set. We talked about beginning letter sounds and sounding out the words. Then, they got to work!
To make the cards, I found the free print out on a website called Home School Creations. I printed them on colorful card stock in different colors so that pairs of students sitting near each other would not mix up the sets. I also laminated these for durability. Some groups worked really fast and only had trouble with the cultivator and trowel. Some groups had problems with the dirt and the seeds, but self-corrected or followed a hint given by myself or the classroom teacher. Some groups needed more help than others, especially students with learning challenges or special needs. Overall, the activity went well and most kids were able to complete the matching game in an appropriate amount of time. And they had fun! They talked about the tools and remembered parts of the story, so it was fun to hear them chatting about it.
This lesson really didn't take that much prep work and was an age-appropriate lesson. Next week, I want to expand on our gardening and plant theme, so it will be fun to see what I can come up with! Happy Gardening!
My 4th and 5th grade students have been reviewing literary genres over the past month and we've been using Buncee to record our learning. Students were given access to my Buncee presentation so that they could look back over instructions and see samples of what they were to create. You can see the title slide of my presentation below.
As students finished charting four types of genres they wanted to learn more about, they had the option of creating a promotional poster for a book in our library that fit one of the genres. The poster is to serve two purposes: (1) prove that you know why that particular book fits in that particular genre and (2) promote the book so that another student might want to read it!
I want to mention that I have blogged a bit about this project before in THIS post. The students have been very engaged during this entire process; practically 100% almost every session! But keep in mind that I am their librarian. Students are not getting a grade/assessment for their work and they don't necessarily see it "as important as" what their ELA teacher might assign them. I say that because some of the work that is being submitted is awesome! They could have just blown off the project, but I think most of them really took it to heart. I'm really proud of some of the work the students have done!
Below is one student submission. If you hover and click the arrow on the right of the poster slide, it will reveal the chart slide that documents the student's research on four genres.
One thing that worked really well for this assignment is that I used a shared Buncee presentation for all instructions and examples. As we worked on the project each week, I went in and added a "check mark" over the directions so that students would know where we had left off. The shared presentation also made it possible for students to work on the assignment outside of the library time if they wanted to do so.
Now that students are getting closer to having a completed project (2 slides: one that is the chart and one that is a promotional book poster), they are beginning to submit to our Buncee Board in order to get some feedback. I think this will be the most valuable piece of the project! Students can give constructive/positive commentary on each other's work. This also allows me a chance to give students a little hint here and there before the final "cut off" on submissions. I'm offering some Reading Counts points to students who do an excellent job in following all directions for the project, so they seem to be excited about that little token. I also really like that we will have a board of book recommendations for students to hear from their peers about fun book choices!
If you aren't using the Buncee Boards to allow students to publish and comment on each other's work, why not?! I love that it is empowering students as creators of content and that they get feedback from their peers. This has been a worthwhile project....and teachers are now asking for a Buncee tutorial! That happens next week after school. I can't wait! Happy Bunceeing!
I've been on a kick with PreK lessons lately...just experimenting with different lesson ideas and exploring different book options. As you all know, my collection is very old and I'm working hard to bring in new books. I had the idea of doing a lesson with PreK involving the making of a pizza after seeing this image on Pinterest from the www.shesaved.com website.
I thought it might be fun to read a story about making a pizza and then see if the kiddos could re-tell the steps. I searched my library high and low for the right book and just couldn't find anything exciting. Then, I remembered that when one of my son's was little, he loved Curious George books. There was a Curious George book about making and delivering a pizza....sure enough, it was in my library. Now, if I had other (more modern) books available, I certainly would try to use one. This particular book is a little dated. For example, the characters use a land line phone mounted on the wall, there is a jukebox in the restaurant, and it could be argued that there are some stereotypical characters, as well. But, it was what I had, this was PreK, and I felt like I could make it work.
The kids loved this book and the topic! I did a little introduction to ask students what they knew about pizza. They came up with some great responses! They knew it had to be cooked, it had cheese, it was a circle, that you can eat it, and that it could be cut! I did the read aloud and really emphasized the cooking of the pizza section. After that, we reviewed the steps for making the pizza that Tony the Baker had followed. I had these steps written on a dry erase board at the carpet area, but this was only for my benefit....
Finally, students moved to tables where they were given supplies to make their own pizzas. We reviewed the steps one at a time. They received:
*a paper plate
*an oval (but swiggly) red shape
*a cup with yellow squares and rectangles
*a brown or tan crayon
*a glue stick
As we reviewed each step, they completed their own project. We drew a big circle on our plate and colored it in with crayon for the dough. We then glued our red sauce on the plate in the center of the dough, being careful not to "spill" our sauce on the plate or the table. We added cheese....as much or as little as we liked. I normally try to take pictures of these activities in process, but this one took me and the two PreK teachers all of the energy and attention we could muster, so no photos...sorry.
I had a few early finishers so I took this project one step further. I had an empty library shelf nearby and told the kiddos this was my pretend oven. I put my imaginary oven mitts on for safety and then put my pizza in the oven for just a few minutes to cook it. I carefully pulled it out and it was ready to deliver. They went NUTS over this!!! Suddenly they all wanted to cook their own pizzas!!!!
At the close of the lesson, I had the boys and girls stand and carry their pizzas to deliver. I told them that their teacher would show them where to deliver them (basically, they were lining up to leave and returning to their classrooms where they would put the pizzas away to be delivered home). It worked GREAT!
There is so much potential with a lesson like this for the future. I would love to really work on more "how-to" and "step-by-step" type lessons with this age group. The pizza theme was a hit and I'd love to make a fake pizza oven from cardboard and maybe even have chef hats or oven mits to really get the theme going. Aprons might be fun! Lots of potential!
Now, I've got to get on the hunt for some updated literature. Not that Curious George is bad, but a more modern book selection would make my librarian heart happy.
A week or so ago I posted a picture of a PreK lesson that took place in The Happy Library. I promised to share the lesson here on the blog and with all of the excitement of Seuss, I totally forgot! So, here you go...
I just love the book They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. It is a wonderful picture book that shows various perspectives of animals who see a cat. This is a great teaching tool for so many reasons. We have been focusing on listening skills with stories in PreK library lessons and with this one, I wanted students to react or explain what they were seeing and hearing. And they did! They loved this book!
To introduce the lesson, we brainstormed the parts of a cat. We talked about animals that might be afraid of cats and animals that might like cats (for example: people!) Then I did the read aloud. After the story, we talked about what we saw. We discussed why some of the animals might be afraid of the cat (for example: it is bigger than they are...) and we talked about why some animals are not afraid of the cat (for example: the dog was bigger and wanted to chase the cat for fun).
We then moved to tables where I had a little fine motor skill activity for the students. I had printed and cut out the cat faces from the Your Therapy Source Blog. I printed them on card stock and laminated them in hopes that I could use them again and again. I punched two holes in the "whiskers" area of the cat faces. Then, I pulled some pipe cleaners from my makerspace stash. Students were given a cat and a card and we counted out together THREE pipe cleaners. (Reinforcing counting is always good with PreK.) Then, the students worked to see if they could thread each pipe cleaner through the holes to create whiskers on their cat. The lesson was a hit with both students and the PreK teacher, so I'm certainly using this one again....and I let the kids keep their cats. I can always make more!
HERE is another resource for this book as well.
I was really excited to brainstorm ideas for my first Read Across America Week when I first learned that I would be working in an elementary school library. I sort of went nuts on Pinterest pinning all sorts of blue, red, and white decorations, crafts, STEM activities, and art. I was on a high! But surviving Seuss has been an entirely different experience than what I expected.
I created all sorts of grandiose ideas in my head about transforming the library into Seuss-ville, but when the time came, I'm afraid my results were less than Pin-worthy. I did the best I could with materials I already had on hand. I just didn't have the time or quite frankly the money to go and buy a ton of new decor. (I've already spend more than I care to confess of my personal money on decorations for the library.) I ended up with a small display rather than a Seuss-ville transformation.
I had also planned to do STEM-maker centers during the week of Seuss, but in a previous meeting with my principal, I was asked to suspend all makerspace activities until after state testing in April. So...I couldn't move forward with those plans. I decided to read the Seuss book of the day to the classes that were not working on the big genre project (grades 4 and 5 which you can read about HERE) and add in a little activity and book check out. And then it hit. The Seuss controversy.
Twitter, Facebook groups, and Instagram were filling up with posts, pictures, and blogs about how school librarians should boycott Dr. Seuss and choose books of more diversity and acceptance for Read Across America Week. I read the articles. I felt the compassion of the authors. I found myself questioning my own choices to celebrate the week as planned. BUT....that is a big "but" just in case you were wondering.....I knew that my school had been celebrating and loving Seuss week for years. And I've made some changes this year. These changes haven't been easy. I have had to justify my choices at various times. I just couldn't bring myself to "fight this battle" as they say. I felt it would be best to keep the Seuss activities as they were. This wasn't an easy choice. To be perfectly honest, I almost hesitated to post a picture of myself on Twitter wearing a Seuss shirt I ordered just because I was worried about how others might judge my choice to celebrate.
After a full week of reading Seuss books, talking with my students about how Theodore Geisel impacted the world of children's literature, and leading my very first Book Character Parade, I have come to some conclusions about my Seuss experiences.
Firsts aren't easy. It certainly has been hard transitioning to elementary after almost 20 years in a middle-high school setting. It certainly has been hard making changes to a very traditional library as I've tried to move it forward into a more modern, future-ready library. It certainly has been hard to advocate for more freedom in book selection and book labeling. The first year of anything is typically challenging.
Worrying about how others judge you is a waste of time. People will judge my decision to celebrate Seuss week. Some might decide it is the best decision I've made. Some might decide I should have taken a stand like many other librarians against literature that reflects the stereotypes of the generation in which it was written. Either way, I will be judged. But that doesn't really matter. It isn't about me. It's about the students and how I communicate with them about the books they read, the books we have in our library, and about how literature is an art form that allows for freedom of expression...even if that expression goes against what we may believe to be inherently wrong.
Seuss is still fun. The highlights of my week came in the form of giggles from 3rd graders as I messed up six times in reading the tongue twisters found in Fox in Socks. And they came in the form of precious kids smiling and waving as we paraded around our school dressed as our favorite book characters. And they came in the form of "thank you, you are the best librarian ever" as a sweet girl thanked me for hosting a Reading Celebration where she got silly Seuss glasses and enjoyed a free snow cone.
Dr. Seuss books often have wisdom in them that is issued by a fish. I'm not sure I would compare my thirteen-year-old to a fish, but he summed up my entire post in one sentence, "usually the most simple solution to a problem is the correct one." The simple solution was to celebrate Seuss. And we had a wonderful time.
Who to follow: