As the school year comes to a close, so does our Happy Readers Book Club. It is a little bitter sweet, I must admit. These kids have been a joy to work with and read with! They love books!!! For our last selection, the students were all gifted (through a very generous donor) a paperback copy of Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses. Students enjoyed the book tremendously and of course, loved the scenes with the superhero squirrel.
For the last book club meeting, we started by watching a wonderful interview with Ms. DiCamillo. She speaks about her inspiration for the characters, as well as how the vacuum came to enter the story. Students enjoyed hearing from her and I think they followed most of what she shares. They all loved her laugh.
After watching the video, we talked about the book. I shared photos of an old Electrolux vacuum, the type my mother and Ms. DiCamillo's mother owned. The kids got a real kick out of this. We also talked a lot about Ulysses and his super adventures in comic book form.
I then shared that we would be designing our own comic book pages with original superheroes! The kids were jumping for joy at this idea...which made me feel very pleased. I can't take credit for the idea. My youngest son did a similar activity with his school librarian, Sarah Watson, several years ago. He is the one who reminded me of it and I thought it would be a great choice.
Some students worked alone, while others opted to work with partners. We had superheroes like "The Pig-i-corn" and "Masked Monkey Man". The kids also created some really fun villains....I think "Ringo the Raccoon" was my favorite. The little girl who invented him also had a villainous giggle to match. Although we didn't have enough time for students to complete a full cartoon, they got some great characters and story starters done. I also gave them extra paper to take home so that they could continue to write more adventures!
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!
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.
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!
This is the fourth post in a series on library lessons for October 2017. Read the previous post HERE.
It's hard to believe we've already arrived at the middle of the month! This post will be somewhat abbreviated, as this week included two days out of school for our district's fall break. Without Monday and Tuesday classes, I didn't see any Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd graders and I also missed two of my 3rd grade groups. Then, we had Georgia Power presentations (energy conservation) on Thursday morning in the library, so I didn't get to host my regular 4th grade lessons this week either! So, what to do with a "messed-up" week? READ, of course!
In keeping with the monster theme, the 3rd grade classes that I did see this week listened to Bone Soup by Cambria Evans. The main character is not really a monster, but a skeleton. However, there is a monster in the story so I felt like it was a good fit. The book is such a treat! Ms. Evans was inspired by the soup her mother made for her each Halloween season. She took this inspiration to write a new version of the stone soup story and it was a big hit with the kids! The story also features fabulous vocabulary, so it tied right in to the previous lessons I've done with 3rd graders on adjectives. They really did love this story and reacted with lots of "ooo...gross!" and "yucky" commentary as I read aloud. After the read aloud, we did book check-out and silent sustained reading...the kids and the teachers really enjoyed this. Sometimes I forget how much everyone just wants some quiet time to enjoy their books.
The only other group I was able to see this week were my sweet PreK students. They come on Fridays for a short story time, so the crazy schedule didn't interfere with their regular library time. I read aloud Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin and we had fun naming all of the colors in the story. I also found a plush red crayon doll while cleaning out a back storage space and thought it was the perfect compliment to the lesson. We asked "RED" to join us for the story and we waited patiently to get to the page in the story that features the red crayon. I forgot to take a picture of the crayon I have, but it is very similar to the one pictured below.
This book was fun and I will certainly use it again. I also introduced the concept of an illustrator and used the "scribble" pictures in the book to talk a little about book care....."we don't scribble in our library books with crayons do we?" and "the illustrator is the person who chooses what to draw in the book" and so forth.
So that's a wrap on a 3-day week of quick lessons. I'll be back next week to finish out the series with our 4th week of activities. It is sure to be a busy week and we will be gearing up to announce our winners for the Eye Candy Contest (eyeballs in a jar) for the month! Our school also hosts a Monster Mash dance for the students next week, so that will be the perfect ending to this month of monster-themed fun.
This is the second post in a series for October 2017 library lessons. Read the previous post HERE.
I have my first week of "Not-So-Scary" lessons under my belt and wanted to share them with you! My week starts with all first and second grade classes on Monday. I only see these students for 30 minutes, so when you include book circulation, that leaves me about 15 minutes for a lesson...not a lot of time!!! I decided to use a video recording from Storyline Online to kick off our monster month. The book is I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll. It is a cute story about a boy who requires a monster under his bed so that he can sleep. He is visited by substitute monsters when his very own perfect monster goes fishing. It is such a cute story and all of the students really loved it! If you've never used Storyline Online, I highly recommend it. Since this particular story video lasts 12 minutes, that was it for the lesson for 1st and 2nd grades. But I connected it to the book check-out time by telling students that we needed to search out monstrously good books just like the little boy searched out the perfect monster. It worked.
Kindergarten classes visit on Tuesdays and I decided against reading a book this week. I was inspired by the "Five Little Pumpkins" poem that many students learn this time of year. I re-wrote the lyrics and created my own poem "Five Silly Monsters," complete with hand motions. I created a Google Slide using the same free monster clip art I mentioned in the preparation post and had it up on the interactive board. Students learned the words and motions and we had such fun! It got them moving around and that was great.
Since I am only in my fourth week with kinders, I am still focusing on basic library procedures. I spread books about fall, scarecrows, apples, and the like on a big table. After we did the poem, I told them that just like the silly monsters went looking for a library book, we were going to do the same thing. We practiced walking with our hands behind our backs and looking with our best googly monster eyes first. Then, students were allowed to select a book and find a carpet area to read. Obviously they were reading the pictures, but it was a great way to practice book selection and book care.
My third and fourth grade students are in the library for 45 minutes, so I can do so much more with them. I shared the same Storyline Online video with them as I did with first and second graders, but we followed it with a writing activity. We brainstormed adjectives and adverbs we heard in the story describing the different monsters that visit the main character. Then, I posted the directions for our writing activity on the interactive board.
The third graders had trouble getting started, so upon the suggestion from a teacher, I also gave them some sentence starters and typed up the words they offered up. I placed those on an additional slide and we used them during the writing activity. I think the fourth graders enjoyed the creative writing more than third graders did...not sure why.
And finally, the fifth graders....I mentioned a few posts back that I spent two weeks teaching these students how to use Buncee. I introduced their first Buncee assignment this week...monster research! They viewed my instructional Buncee presentation and asked questions. (I have posted it below so that you can see the directions and also so that you can see how versatile Buncee is! Flip through the slides to see the list of monsters we are using, as well.) Then, they spent the rest of our lesson time (45 minutes) deciding which monster they wanted to research. The kids are so excited about this project!
So, that's the first week recap. Basically, I was able to use the same story for all grades and then do little spin-off projects from there. It worked pretty well. The only grades that didn't get the story were kindergarten and fifth. And I was able to share the eyeball guessing game guidelines with each class. Kids are already making their predictions about how many eyeballs are in the jar! Now to work on next week's lessons...
Some of the best library lessons are inspired by great children's books. I recently got a shipment of new picture books and in it was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk. What a fun story!
If you aren't familiar, the story centers around two friends who race each other to the last drop of syrup. There are many great lessons you could pull from this tastefully illustrated book (pun intended). I chose to use the book with 3rd graders and to focus on two standards: (1) identifying characters and (2) identifying the problem and solution within a story. I originally thought I might pair it with If You Give a Pig a Pancake, but I ended up dropping that idea somewhere along the way. (It is a good idea that I might use in the future.)
I had the students make predictions about the characters by looking at the cover. Right-away, students noticed that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast appeared to be upset with one another. They also noticed that Lady Pancake's "hair" is really whipped cream!
I then read the story aloud to them and it was a big hit. We discussed the problems that arose during the story and I had students brainstorm what they thought was the central problem.
I then moved on to directions for our project. I put a slide on the interactive board with directions, but I also read the directions and showed them the handout before moving them to tables to begin working. Some classes did need more direction than others, but for the most part, students seemed to know exactly what I wanted them to do.
They moved to tables and completed the "fun-sheet" (we don't call them worksheets in The Happy Library) by filling in the title of the book, the two central characters names, the problem of the story, and the solution. Then, they used colored pencils to illustrate the two characters. They were really excited about the drawing part! Students really talked a lot about the food items in the book, too....many kids didn't know what sauerkraut or celery are!
I can think of several ways to use this book in the future, and with other grade levels, but it seemed to be a good fit for 3rd graders. They didn't feel that it was too childish and I'd love to revisit the book and talk about nutrition and what is in our refrigerators at home!
The final results were just adorable! The kiddos did a great job with these and I am in love with all of the detailed illustrations they did. I hope you plan to use this book in the near future....it is utterly delicious!
Please do not copy any of the clip art images from this posting, as I purchased them and they are protected by copyright (c)TheLibraryFox aka Crystal Fox
Sometimes I get lucky and things work out better than I planned. Not often, but sometimes. When working on lesson plans for my 2nd grade students this past weekend, I felt uninspired. I am still a bit overwhelmed and with my first book fair approaching, I found myself wanting something simple.
My dilemma was solved when I remembered that I had started the year with a Library Ninja lesson purchased through TpT. (Get it HERE) The lesson was a big hit with 2nd graders and each week when they've returned, I've taken to calling them my Library Ninjas. They love it.
I had also purchased the matching ninja clip art from The Library Fox (which I used as part of my lesson) and it was sitting under-utilized in my Google Drive. (Get the clip art HERE) I quickly threw together a Google Slides presentation as a refresher for our previous lessons. Then, I added a statement about the current lesson.
In order to teach my ninjas about returning books on time, I thought it would be fun to read aloud Splat the Cat and the Late Library Book. It is a fun read and would be a good choice for our last lesson before the madness of the book fair ensues.
Sidebar: I absolutely LOVE Splat the Cat books. Everyone is always talking about Pete the Cat...you see costumes and bulletin boards and big buttons with Pete....but rarely have I seen this with Splat. And, in my humble opinion, Splat is just as awesome. His facial expressions are absolutely priceless. I may identify with him more than Pete because Splat is a bit of an excessive worrier and over-thinker....I tend to be one of those, too.
Monday arrived and I had my slideshow ready to present and went to retrieve my Splat book. Um....it wasn't in my bag. I looked high and low all over my office and....no luck. I couldn't find my precious Splat book anywhere!!! I knew I had it. I knew where it should be. What to do?! I mean the panic was really setting in because my first class would be arriving in less than 15 minutes and I had NO BOOK!!!!
YouTube to the rescue. I found a sweet video of a mom reading the book to her son. I quickly embedded it into my slideshow (thank you Ge-Anne Bolhuis for teaching me about Google Slides) and voila! I was ready for my classes.
The lesson worked out better than I planned because I was able to honestly stress the importance of putting our library books in our book bags the night before school so that we have them on library days. The kids had a great "shock- and-awe" moment when they realized that I was the one who had forgotten to return a library book. And of course, Splat had them in stitches! Here is my little lesson if you are interested...
The best part about the lesson was that it promoted books! I unintentionally created a supply and demand crisis in the library! The kids were all eager to ask, "where are the Splat the Cat books?" and I was happy to answer. They flew off the shelves and out the doors!
Here is a picture I found of my Splat collection at the beginning of the school year. (Yes, I took pictures of everything for posterity's sake. And yes, I'm still cringing over all of the leveled labels on these books...but I digress.)
Here is a picture after my lesson with Splat. It is obvious that great books can be under-circulated if not shared with students. My lesson wasn't something spectacular. It wasn't even really blog-worthy. But, the lesson paid off in a multitude of dividends...the best being that Splat is now in the hands of young readers who are excited to have found something new. And maybe, just maybe, they will return the books on time.
Oh, and I still haven't found my Splat the Cat and the Late Library Book book.
Anybody just love books?! That is the BEST part of being a school librarian....the wonderful access to books! And for Father's Day, my husband (who happens to be an avid reader, as are my three boys) wanted to go on a shopping spree to one of his favorite used book stores, McKay's in Chattanooga. The wonderful thing about McKay's is that there is something for the entire family.....two miles of something to be exact. Yes, there is literally two miles of shelving in this store! Two floors of awesomeness.
We rarely get rid of books, but we had a few things (mostly college textbooks since I'm in graduate school) to get rid of. McKay's BUYS books. We rarely take the cash option and "double" our money by taking a store credit.
My guys all scattered once we were inside....youngest one headed straight for mythology and astronomy books, middle and oldest boys went upstairs to peruse the old G.I. Joe comics, and the hubby headed straight to history. Me? Well, as one might imagine, I headed straight to the children's books. That sounds like it might be a small section in the store, right? WRONG! There are literally rows upon rows of children's books. And each shelf is divided into these tiny cubbies, but they are crammed with books. It is just simply awesome. Like heaven for librarians.
I didn't really have any particular books I was looking for, and that is usually a good thing at McKay's because the inventory is constantly rotating. You never know what you will find. I do regret not buying a little $3 book of postcards I found for teachers. The "emoji" postcard was rather cute and I snapped a photo, but I came across that book early in my browsing and was just leaving room in my two-tiered shopping cart for other goodies.
Eventually, I stumbled upon the poetry sections. The photo I took only shows one or two of the cubbies and a little taste of an "egg-ceptional" poem, however, I spent almost an hour looking at poetry books! The more I looked and read, the more I became inspired.
I think I shared in the last post that I attended an Andy Plemmons workshop this summer. He did an awesome activity inspired from another done by Colleen Graves that involved a Makey-Makey kit. Basically, you record a poem in sections, draw pencil pictures that relate to the poem, then connect the Makey-Makey up so that just by touching the pictures, the poem sections will play. This really allows a lot of creativity and allows kids to re-think the poetry. They can play the different stanzas or sections in different order to create new poetry! It was an awesome idea and one that has me thinking of all sorts of ways I can help kids see poetry in a new way.
And, as one might imagine, my shopping cart was full of poetry (with a few fiction chapter books thrown in for good measure) to use with students this coming school year. I even found two Strategies for Building Fluency workbooks that use poetry! I'm really excited about that.
Who to follow: