Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones! November just seems like it has flown by and as you noticed, I didn't do any blogging during our week off from school. My family took a trip to South Carolina (hope to share a little something from that trip in the future) and I just chose to spend the week enjoying my time away from school. But now that I'm back in the swing, I just keep thinking to myself, "why is it that I only seem to stay one step ahead?"
Do you ever have that feeling? The feeling that no matter how much planning you do, how much you organize, or how hard you work that it just seems you are barely staying afloat?
I have several projects I've started and few I've completed. Sad but true. Just keepin' it real, folks. I started my labeling for genrefication of my fiction section and I've only made it to the Cs. Seriously. I cleared out a massive storage room and got it almost completely done when I was told that it wouldn't be my space to use....yep, they are claiming it for a data room. Bummer. I started designing a plan to remove the circulation desk and transform the space into a more user-friendly area for students, but alas, plans have stalled. No money for the new seating I want.
Now lest I have you thinking you've stumbled on the Un-Happy Library website....I'm not down in the dumps about any of this. I realize I'm only one step ahead, but that is saying something! I am still happy to be where I am, doing what I love, and dreaming of how to make my little library the happiest it can be. And it so happens, one of the spaces that is connected to our library that was being used for storage of technology and outdated curriculum has been returned to me for our future STEM (a.k.a. maker) space! That's right....I get to clean out another area, but this time it will stay a part of our library.
With the long intro done, I want to show you what I'm working with!
Here is the doorway that connects to our library....you can see my board and my yellow story time chair off in the distance. When you enter this room, you can see there is some sturdy metal shelving against the walls. Some of the shelving will stay, but the one section you are looking at here will be moved. It might be hard to tell, but this room has an elevated floor section and that shelf is sitting in the path of the stairs. Look at all of that old guided reading stuff! Whew! I asked teachers to come and claim anything they wanted, so what you are seeing is AFTER the massive clean out by our staff....unreal. These paperback books will be donated to our school store or may be recycled. My plan here is to clear the wall and the pathway so that it is safe for students. I would also like to paint....more on that later.
In this picture, you see a direct view from the actual doorway of the library. The fact that there is an outside doorway and window is wonderful because it gives this dark space some light! And again, you can see how much metal shelving there is. I will keep the sections bolted to the wall on the left of this picture. I have discussed with my assistant principal and custodian the idea of keeping the other section (that is sitting up against the stage wall) but cutting it down with metal cutters. It would provide some valuable storage for STEM supplies, but by cutting it down lower, it would open up a line of sight for me and wouldn't block the natural light from the windows to the other side of the room. We will see if this happens. It might not work.
There is more of the old curriculum items to weed, plus the big blue box is just "junk" that needs to be hauled out. The old Eagle banner in the back needs to be removed and all of those clothespins need to be scraped off the wall. Can you imagine what a fresh coat of paint would do?!?
These two pictures are just spanning right from the view in Photo B and give a great view of the current space. This area is primarily an elevated stage and you can barely see the steps up on the right side in Photo C. The steps are wide and flat which is nice for little feet.
A lot of the technology equipment is being moved into the technology office. That will clear off that shelving unit in the back (which will probably stay in the space). The boxes of books in the foreground of these photos are books that were sorted by our upper grade level teachers and are now gone. They were moved into a book room in another location of the school.
I'm not sure about all of the heavy brown library furniture back here. I really want something lighter and more flexible, but I won't move it out just yet. I have to be sure I can replace it with something first. But I do want to be sure to open up as much floor space as possible for activities on the floor.
This is just another view of the stage area and step area. I'm still debating about that white wire shelf over there on the right....ideas?
And finally, a view from the stage itself. The room is actually quite spacious, but it looks so small due to all the tall shelves packed with materials. I have big dreams for this space....fresh paint, new STEM supplies, flexible seating.....
I plan to share this transformation with you all. One step at a time. And trust me, I'll only be one step ahead.
Our wonderful Happy Readers Book Club got its feet off the ground today! After months of planning and dreaming, I met with 18 amazing kids today after school to discuss this month's selection, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. And it was so much better than I had hoped!
I originally wanted to do a "lunch bunch" book club for each grade level, but my literacy committee suggested that it just might be too much for my first year AND it might be too much for my library carpet, too. Elementary school is different than high school....so did I really want them eating in here? I took their advice and decided to start with one book club open to grades 3-5 with the expectation that it will grow into something more.
I typed up little applications that included a teacher recommendation. I did a library lesson to introduce the book club by showing a video I made (inserted below) and talking about what a book club actually does. The kids knew I could only accept about 25-30 members, so that generated even more excitement. They actually seemed to like the idea of an application process. It made things fair.
After receiving the applications, I weeded through them and then had my literacy committee help me make the final cuts. The names were announced and kids picked up a letter for their parents about the first meeting and an opportunity to order a personal copy of the book at a discounted rate...thank you to my local Barnes & Noble store for helping me get the cost down.
Just as a little reminder, I am in a Title I school with about 90% of students on free-reduced lunch. These kids can't really afford to buy every book for book club. So, I did buy several copies to circulate, as well as donated my personal copies out to two trustworthy students. It worked pretty well, but I've started a Donors Choose project to get funding to support the purchase of book club books. If you are interested in supporting us, DONATE HERE.
So once the club was selected and kids were reading, all I had to do was wait. That was the tough part. But finally the day arrived.
We started off by introducing ourselves and doing a little discussion of book club guidelines. Then, we took turns pulling questions out of a bag for our round table discussion. It was awesome! These kids loved Mr. Brown's book and they had so many wonderful ideas and commentary on the story. They literally led the discussion while I listened, laughed, and enjoyed their perspectives.
After about 30 minutes of talking about the book, we then took on a little STEM challenge. I bought THIS on Teachers Pay Teachers and will not go into too many details, but basically the packet has a lot of STEM challenges. We did the first, which was to build a ROZ out of index cards and tape. There are no words for how pumped the kids were about this challenge! They found a partner and got to work. I just had to walk around and snap pictures!
To wrap up our book club for today, we cleaned up, took pictures of our final creations, and then I did a little promo for our next book selection. They were intrigued and excited to jump right in to the next book! And.....my wonderful school rep at Barnes & Noble got us a great rate of $6.00 for the book. When I shared this with the kids, one of them said, "Wow! I have six dollars right now!"
Then, as I lined them up with order form and robot in hand, I told them I had a little something special for them. Since Roz used camoflauge throughout the story, I selected camo-printed pencils and gave them each one to take with them. It wasn't anything expensive or extravagant, but these kids were tickled to get a treasure from the day. My treasure was their smiles.
Several of you asked about my student book review activity from this past week when you saw this picture I posted on Instagram, so I thought I'd take a minute to share it here.
In preparation for our Picture Book Smackdown, I wanted students to learn what makes a good book review. Since my students have never done video book reviews before, I wanted to introduce examples to them. I used videos I found on YouTube from two channels: The Book Man and Amazon Two Lions. I showed students several of the videos and had them brainstorm a list of the characteristics they thought made a good review.
After the kids had a strong list of things (introduce yourself, title and author and illustrator, prepare ahead, share a few details, show the book, show the pictures, keep it short, tell why you like or dislike the book....etc.), I then gave them a chance to do a written book review. I used book review sheets I found on TpT. The ones I used are HERE, but there are many available and anything will work. If you have time, you could design your own.
After doing these written reviews last week, this week I have introduced my kids to FlipGrid for the video book review. We just started these lessons (today is Tuesday), but it is going well so far. We had a few technical difficulties, but we worked those out and I hope the videos will get better as the week goes on. The kids are loving it! More information to come...
100% of the credit for this activity goes to Mr. Andy Plemmons, L.M.S. at Barrow Elementary School and author of Expect the Miraculous blog. In looking for activities to do with National Picture Book Month, I knew I wanted to do this challenge. Andy shared this in his workshop at the West Georgia RESA in Grantville this past summer. You can read about all of Andy's Picture Book Month projects HERE.
The project is rather simple. Just create a grid/worksheet for the kids to pick up and carry all month long. As they read picture books, they earn a stamp for particular categories. Andy's categories are based on the genres in his picture book collection. I haven't genrefied my collection yet, so I chose to create my categories based on topics/themes in the picture books.
I think Andy lets his kids stamp their own sheets, but since I'm just getting to know my collection and my students, I've opted to set up my "stamp station" in the mornings and during each class's book check-out time. I have the kids share what they've read with me and I give them the stamp. This seems to be working well, but I think I would like to let the kids take control of stamping in the future.
I've shared some of this on Instagram and have had a positive response. Several of you inquired about whether or not I would be selling my form on TpT. Good news....I'm posting my form below (click image to visit the Google Doc) and it is FREE for you to use! I'm also including a link to Andy's original form HERE.
My stamps and little ink pads came in sets that I found on clearance at Michael's. They are really cute because they are all sorts of fun designs: rainbows, paperclips, check marks, and little sayings like "TGIF".
One of the great things about this activity is that it really doesn't end in any type of reward or incentive other than the value that comes from READING. It is an awesome way to engage kids in a challenge that pushes them to explore books that they might normally never choose. It has been successful in our little library this month and I hope you give it a try in your library too!
I have never written a Donor's Choose project before, but my new book club has forced me to think beyond my library budget and book fair funds. I am in a Title I school with almost 90% of our students being on free/reduced lunch. Many of the students in our school come from families who cannot afford to purchase their children books. Even when I offered a discounted rate on our first book club title, only four students were able to actually purchase an individual copy of the title. I did purchase several copies and placed in the library collection, but if the book club continues, I cannot afford to do this for each title we read. What's a librarian to do? Enter Donor's Choose.
The process was quite simple really. The website walks you through it step-by-step and I had a basic list of items already. You create shopping carts that link directly to Donor's Choose, so that made adding the books and bins I'm requesting really simple. You do have to make sure that you have photo permissions and you do need to think about what you will share in your essay. I have no idea if I will get the funding I'm requesting, but it only took me about 45 minutes to prepare the entire proposal, so no harm done. If you would like to see my proposal for ideas or if you would like to be generous and donate to the project, just click the image below and it will take you to the page! I do believe that they review the projects and I just submitted mine today (11-5-17) so I'm not sure how long before it is "approved" and appears on their website. I do think that the direct link they provided me will work, however. I've also added the promo code that doubles any donations made this week.
I'll keep you posted on the progress of this project! I really hope that I can gain the funding to purchase our book club titles for all the students.
Donate and add the promo code LIFTOFF at checkout and your donation will be doubled up to $50 for the next 7 days!
Have you ever had to plan a lesson last minute? If you've been in education for any length of time you know that sometimes you have to come up with an exciting lesson on the fly. Well, time got away from me this week, as my oldest son was celebrating Senior Week at school, I had a major assignment due for grad school, and was feeling a little under the weather early in the week. I spent so much time planning and preparing for my picture book lessons to introduce my older students to Picture Book Month that I didn't really spend any time preparing for my kinders. I usually do a read-aloud and a simple activity or library skill practice. But this week, I had nothing. So....frantically, I looked around the library for an exciting picture book to share with them. (And when I say frantically, I mean I was looking for a book about 15 minutes before the class was to arrive!)
I landed on Dan Santat's Beekle. I'm not sure why. I just love the cute story, adorable main character, and the illustrations. This is one of the new books in our collection, so I figured that the students did not know the story. Well, I was wrong. They all said, "I heard this story!" and then I knew that the reason they had heard it was because the book had been on a new books display and their teacher had already checked it out and read it aloud. Hmmm....well, I smiled and said something to the effect of we can read books over and over again and enjoy them. They all wanted me to read the book again, so I did.
In an effort to have a little activity, I pulled out some pipe cleaners that I had stashed in a drawer from the previous month's monster activity and told the students we would be using these to make our own imaginary friend. We talked about friendship, imagination, and many of them told me they had imaginary friends. My favorite was a girl who shared that she has a dog named Macon who is imaginary and wears a bathing suit!
The activity wasn't the best. They did have a little trouble with getting started, but it turned out okay in the end. It was fun to hear their ideas. We had one young fellow who created a dinosaur foot and told us all that his friend was "Dine-E-Saur" and several girls made princess jewelry (think crowns, bracelets, earrings) out of their pipe cleaners. The designs were simple, but cute. My favorite was a little fella who told me "music is my friend" and he made earphones out of his pipe cleaners and then began to rock out! I snapped a quick photo before he stopped and giggled to himself.
I don't recommend doing lesson prep in this way, but if you ever have to, just know that you are not alone and things will work out. Kids are so resilient and they just want to hear a wonderful story, use their imaginations, and make a connection with you. No fancy lesson plan required.
Some of you may have seen my recent post on Instagram featuring my new Happy Chime. I'm not sure that I ever shared this during the whirlwind that was the start of the school year, but I was inspired by Mr. Greg of The Kindergarten Smorgasboard to use a door bell of sorts as a classroom management tool. Mr. Greg is a fun educator and is worth a follow on social media!
Mr. Greg uses a door bell clipped on his lanyard as a way to get students attention when things get busy or loud. It works very well for him. I decided against purchasing the door bell, but I did want a happy sound to signal transitions for students in the library. So I looked to another educator on social media, Anita Goodwin at Goodwinnovate. She suggested using a door bell app called Fake a Bell. There are a lot of these types of apps out there for iPhone or Android.
I downloaded the free app and gave it a try. The kids seemed to like it and it worked at getting their attention. As I tried to use the app more and more during centers rotations, I started having a few issues. The first was that I sometimes forgot to have my phone in my pocket, which meant I was chasing it down in order to ring the chime. Another issue was that if I left the app open, the ads would randomly start playing....loud rock and roll music, truck sounds, and so on.....so, I decided that the free app was a no-go. And I wasn't willing to shell out the money for the paid app at this point.
In an effort to help me, a teacher in my school gave me the gift of a golden bell she had stashed in her desk drawer. It is battery operated and has several different settings. One of the settings makes a sweet chiming sound and so I gave it a shot. It worked fine, but eventually I just gave up using it. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was that I had to constantly adjust the volume or maybe it was that it wasn't easy to carry around while doing daily tasks in the library. So, the hunt for the perfect chime continued...
...until I attended a BER workshop offered by Deborah Ford. I was sitting there, excited about the children's literature session that was about to begin when it happened. I heard a beautiful, happy sound...it was the perfect happy chime! It was actually a silver tuning fork with a star on top. And what made it even more fantastic is that it was lightweight, small, and no batteries or technology was needed! I knew in that moment that I just had to have one!
After a little search online, I found mine at the Bella Luna Toys website. And at only about $8 each, it was very cost effective. Once it arrived, I added a few ribbons to the handle. I used it for the first time today and it was a hit! The kids LOVED the sound and they were excited that the Happy Chime is back. Me too.
I am beyond thrilled that today is November 1st. Why? Because I absolutely adore picture books! There is so much that this art form offers our young readers. I took the opportunity today to kick off National Picture Book Month with students in grades 3 through 5.
In preparation for this month, I visited the PBM website in order to find a little inspiration. The website features a little promotional video that I showed to students to "kick off" my lesson. I know that some students couldn't really read all of the author's quotes on the screen, but the music and pictures did a nice job of setting the tone for the lesson.
The next thing I did was instruct the students to select two picture books from the shelves. I told them they were on a scavenger hunt for picture books they have not read or seen before. Some students picked books from the displays, but most really took this task very seriously and searched the shelves for something of interest.
Once students had their two books, I asked them to sit and look at them...the pictures, words, details, covers, and so on. I asked them to think about how they would define a picture book. What is a picture book's characteristics?
I gave them each a sticky note and a colorful marker and they wrote a few key words that they felt described a picture book. We then put them on our little board and discussed them. Most of their descriptions were predictable: easy, colorful, funny, written for little kids. It was exactly what I expected.
Then I showed the students a book that would not fit their description. We looked at Patricia Polacco's The Butterfly. We first examined the cover and the students realized that the book probably wasn't funny or silly. We talked about the Nazi flag on the cover and the fact that the book's characters looked sad. Then I showed them a few of the pages and we talked about the lengthy text, paragraph format, dialogue, and other features that indicated the book might not be an "easy" book. This activity really got the kids wondering what this book was about and several asked about checking it out after my lessons were done this week. What a great result, right?!
For the final part of the lesson, I showed the students a video of Mac Barnett talking about why he believes picture books are for everyone. Although his language is somewhat elevated in this particular video, students can see his passion for picture books and for kids. The students really responded to this video, as did their teachers (who are in the library with us during library lessons).
To conclude the day, students did book check-out and I was tickled that many of them chose to select a picture book as one of their two books. I am also doing a Picture Book Challenge activity which I plan to share with you in a later post. Hooray for picture books!
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