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'm sure we've all struggled with keeping students engaged for a full class period. The library can be one of the best places to learn in our schools, but it is also challenging to manage students in such large spaces, with many different tasks happening all at once, and so many possible distractions. If your library is anything like mine, during class time there are students coming in and out constantly for individual book check-out, there are teachers coming in and out to access the resources in the workroom, there are tech guys coming in and out to work on tech issues, and all of this doesn't take into account the activity involved in the library lesson itself. It is daunting sometimes to keep all of the students in the class fully engaged in the learning process.
Well, today I experienced something that simply was too good not to share. I am working with students in 4th and 5th grades on a genre project. The purpose of the project is to review various literary genres and to create a little excitement over some book recommendations. I had planned to share the entire project with you once it was all wrapped up and done, but after what I've witnessed today (and over the past few days) I just couldn't wait to tell you about it! And the "it" isn't the project...it is the student engagement level!
This project involves Buncee. Basically, students are picking four genres to explore and research. They are charting the definition and characteristics of the genres they choose and then they are digging in to our library collection to find great book titles from those genres. The final piece of the project is creating a promotional poster for one of the book titles. This poster will be posted to a shared Buncee Board. (I will share it with all of you once students have completed their work, but below is the sample I created for students to preview.)
The thing is...I knew it would be a struggle to get students to do the "work" part of this project. I mean seriously, what kid wants to research genres? Especially when there is NO GRADE attached to the assignment?! This is a library lesson after all....I do not give grades. I knew that the Buncee creation would be the key to getting them working. However, what happened has just blown my mind.
I assumed that students would love the "fun part" of creating the promotional poster. They would have the freedom to choose their own backgrounds, stickers, and more. But how on earth would they feel about the Buncee chart I was asking them to create? Plugging information and research into a chart that was basically text just didn't seem like too much fun, but I trusted that using Buncee would hook the kids. Well, to my amazement, it worked! The students have LOVED it. Buncee has kept them totally engaged in the process of documenting their research!
In all honesty, some of my classes are pretty good at staying engaged with little effort during most library lessons. However, I do have two or three classes that really struggle with independent work and with staying on task during the full 45 minute library lesson time. Today, I observed 100% of students in three different library classes stay on-task for the duration of the work session. Yes, I said 100%. And I took photos to PROVE it!
There was one afternoon class that did struggle with being a little more social (a.k.a. talking) during the class period, but when I started walking around to see if I could get them back on-task, I discovered that they were talking about the project! They were just a little more boisterous than the previous classes, but they were engaged in the learning! I also saw many students step up as leaders and help others who needed to know a "how-to-do" in Buncee. This is really fun to observe.
In hindsight, I wish I had surveyed students on their knowledge of genres before we started so that I could re-survey and see if this type of engagement in the lesson impacted their learning, but I didn't do that. But I have confidence that they are really learning about the genres they are investigating and I can't wait to see what they come up with when creating their promotional posters of the books! Stay tuned!
Better than never, I'm sharing the results of my second dictionary skills lessons with 3rd graders today. If you didn't get to read my first lesson with Dictionary Dude, you can catch up HERE. So this past week's lesson was a follow-up on our dictionary skills lesson review and creation of Dictionary Dudes. I decided to use Jo Nase's idea for a dictionary relay. I used Jo's rules/guidelines in the beginning but had to tweak once I saw the "trouble spots" with my own groups of students. I also set my relay up a little differently. So, just take a look at what Jo created, read my lesson format, and then decide on what will work for your kids! It was a lot of fun and well-worth the very brief time it took to pull it all together. But, one word of caution, if you like a quiet library, this may not be the activity you are looking for.
I set up three stations for my relay game. I had these cute little cones from the Dollar Tree that I had stashed in a drawer and pulled out to mark the team tables. I also took a second to create little signs for each team, as well. I put a clipboard, 2 pencils, and a dictionary at each station as well.
I welcomed students to the library and we did book check-out first. We limited this to 10 minutes so that we would have about 30 minutes to play the relay after review and instructions. I wasted no time in settling our 3rd graders down on the carpet and doing a quick review of our key dictionary skills from last week's lesson. The kids remembered almost everything. Guide words are tough for kids, so I made sure to really emphasize the guide words and how we use them in our review.
I asked my classroom teachers to help me pick teams. Each teacher did this a little differently, but it worked quickly and efficiently. Once kids were lined up with their teams, I gave them the rules of the game. Basically, the first person would "run" up to the table and tackle question one, which is always looking up the word and writing the page number on which it was found. Then the second person is tagged and runs up to answer question two and so on. Once all questions are answered, they bring the clipboard to me for a quick check. I found out after about two classes that few teams rarely get all of the questions correct the first time, so I allowed the entire team to pull together to solve the problem of which answer(s) were wrong. This made it a little more inclusive.
One thing I had to tweak in my particular relay was the set up for classes that had a larger amount of inclusion or special education students. Teachers and I decided that we would allow pairs of students to tackle the questions to build confidence in the game and to keep kids from getting too bogged down if they were really struggling with a particular skill. It worked fairly well, but we did have some groups that needed a lot of help from myself and the classroom teacher.
After round one of the relay, the teams became a little more competitive. Some classes were able to do two rounds and some three. I didn't give any type of prize to teams who won, other than cheers of course. And I am happy to report that only ONE student approached me to ask "what do we get for winning". My answer? "The satisfaction that your team won." It was a great deal of fun and certainly made people wonder what on earth we were doing...the library was super NOISY each day I did this with students!!! And who doesn't love a little ruckus now and then?!
I was recently asked by my principal to cut back on STEM-maker lessons and focus more on supporting classroom teachers with our state testing. I lucked out when I found Jo Nase's Dictionary Dudes and Dictionary Relays activities posted on her blog. If you've never read Jo's blog, it is well worth a look and she also has a TpT store where you can get a pile of freebies and great library materials.
I started the first lesson this week with my third graders. I reviewed the concepts of alphabetization, guide words, parts of speech, and other elements of dictionary entries. This was no easy task because most students see dictionaries as obsolete. They told me to "Google it!". Of course we had a few giggles and it opened the door to some digital citizenship conversation, but we had to get past the digital and embrace the print. Once I got past this hurdle, things went more smoothly. The culminating activity was the creation of individual Dictionary Dudes using a template from Jo's website.
I had different words printed out and cut apart and in a basket. Students received a worksheet, pencil, dictionary, and then drew a word from my basket. The mystery of what word they would receive made the lesson a bit more exciting.
Once they had their word, they found it in the dictionary in order to complete their "Dude-sheet" as we called it. I also allowed small groups to do book check-out during this part of the lesson. Things went fairly well. Some students chose to embellish their "dudes" for a little extra fun.
Next week, I plan to use Jo's relay activity to have team races centered around dictionary skills. Of course, I'll be sharing that with you too! Click HERE to get the materials from Jo's website.
I don't share many of my kindergarten lessons, mostly because this is the area where I feel the weakest as a media specialist new to elementary. I never feel like my kindergarten lessons ever really turn out all that special. However, this week I hit GOLD when a kindergarten teacher shared with me that students were studying community helpers. I thought about sharing a little lesson on the community helper that I know best....the librarian, of course!
I set to work pulling any books on libraries or librarians in my collection. Keep in mind that 60% plus of my collection is out-dated (I'm weeding y'all...just takes time), so there wasn't much to pull from. But I did find a few things. The best was a cute Cloverleaf book titled "Meet the Librarian". It is a cute and fairly modern take on what the job of a school librarian truly is. So, that was my read-aloud.
At the beginning of the lesson, I asked students to share which community helpers they were learning about and they did a great job. They were very eager. Then, I told them I would be sharing my favorite of all community helpers....the librarian! I was wearing my professional badge on a lanyard as usual, so I told them to think about my "uniform" and guess which thing I wore every single day. They guessed and then I told them they would be librarians for the day and proceeded to give them lanyards to wear. They absolutely LOVED this!!! And these weren't anything special I made for the lesson, but are the very same lanyards I use for my library workers each morning! Easy peasy!
I did my read aloud and we reviewed the many jobs of a librarian. I then took the students on a little tour of librarian-ish things in the library....like the book cart.....which is unbelievably exciting to kindergarteners! It was so cute! Then, if time allowed, we had an activity sheet that was called "What belongs in the library?" and they had to color items that belonged and circle items that did not. It was so fun to see them identify the cute librarian, sitting at her circulation desk surrounded by books! (Although we all know that we rarely get to just sit at the circulation desk!) The coloring is always a big favorite of kinders.
And that's all folks. It was that simple. Not flashy, but effective. And the teachers seemed pretty happy that I was able to tie the library lesson in to what they are working on in class. It doesn't always happen that way, but when it does, it is pretty sweet.
Don't you just love it when things go right?! That is exactly how I felt about today's library activities! I had such fun with students today and one of the best parts of the day was the Wall of Wonder. If you don't remember, I posted at the beginning of 2018 that I was choosing "wonder" as my one word of the year for all things library. I started by creating my Wall of Wonder and was so excited to get going with the questions when...the snow and ice hit Georgia. Needless to say, we haven't had many days of school this month and I've not been on any regular schedule with classes, so I just didn't even start with the wall. It has been sitting blank. And bugging me.
So today, I chose to write #welovethelibrarywednesday and prompted the first class of the day by telling them it was okay to write on the board as they were lining up. One student asked, "what do we write?" Before I could answer, another student said "Write why you love the library on a Wednesday!" Well, that is all it took...the kids were pumped and quickly wrote their responses. As did each class that followed throughout the day.
At the end of a long day, I stepped back to read some of their responses. It was both touching and bit funny! I saw a lot of thoughts about loving books and reading and a few about loving centers. But the best surprise was seeing that they love the librarian too. It was so moving...
So many things happen that cause us to doubt ourselves. I struggle with comparing myself to others on social media or Pinterest. I sometimes forget, until I'm gently reminded, that it isn't about all of that other stuff. What we do in the library is really, quite simply, about the kids. And today I was able to give them a voice. A simple way to express their thoughts and feelings. And I feel pretty darn good about that.
I have neglected to share a few more ideas that I implemented during November's National Picture Book Month celebration. I'm going to try to keep this post short and succinct, while still providing you with an update on our lessons with picture books and our Picture Book Smackdown.
One of the BEST lessons I did with students during the month of November was a #picturebooksnap lesson. We used one of my favorite digital tools, Buncee. Those who know me, know I'm a HUGE fan of this digital tool! One of the best decisions I've made this year was to purchase a classroom edition for the library. Students in 4th grade classes used their student computers to snap pictures of a page in their current picture book. Then, they uploaded the photo to Buncee as the background. They were then able to add stickers, text, and other Buncee features to create a picture book recommendation in the form of a #booksnap. If you don't know what a book snap is, or what it looks like, I'm sharing a few of my students' creations with you! It is an awesome activity and highly engaging to students. The idea for this lesson originated with the #booksnaps done by Tara M. Martin, which you can read about HERE.
One thing that was so great about the #picturebooksnaps activity is that it gave student experts a chance to shine. Once a particular student mastered the photo uploading or perhaps the use of the drawing tool, they became the "table expert" and were able to tutor other students at their table. It was AWESOME! I purposefully taught certain students who often do not get to be leaders in other ways, how to do particular tricks or skills with Buncee. They were then the table expert in those areas and it was wonderful to see them embrace their new leadership role!
This activity also really empowers students to give honest reviews of the books they've read. Most of them loved their book selections, but not all. Students used star ratings (or other things like snowmen, etc.) to share what they really thought about the books they did for their #picturebooksnaps. It really gave them a voice. I love this.
Another thing we completed this month was our first-ever Picture Book Smackdown! We joined forces with two other schools for a Skype session where we shared our favorite picture books of the month and it was AWESOME! We had a few technical difficulties as we prepared for the week, but we were able to work all of those out with the help of our technical support people. On the day of the event, our Skype connection went off without a hitch!
Fellow media specialists, Diane Hassler of Cartersville Elementary School and Melissa Cairns of Fairyland Elementary School, did a wonderful job selecting students to share and in helping them prepare. The students seemed to have such a fun time and in our library, we had an audience of almost half of our 5th grade! I would be remiss without mentioning again Andy Plemmons of Barrow Elementary School who invented the smackdown concept and so graciously shares his resources with others so that they might begin smackdowns in their own libraries. I hope to share the full video of the event in the future, but for now, I'll just share some photos from the day!
And finally, I wanted to briefly say that the Picture Book Challenge was also a success. Although most students did not completely fill up their stamp cards, they were able to earn a lot of stamps and they gained a greater exposure to a variety of picture books.
I hate that it took me this long to share the final events of our Picture Book Month activities with you here, but hopefully it was worth the wait. Don't forget that if you want up-to-date happenings from The Happy Library, you should connect with us on Instagram and Facebook. I post there almost daily...or at least weekly. And that's a wrap!
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...
This is the final post in a series for lessons in October 2017. To read the previous post, click HERE. To read the initial post, click HERE.
Where has the time gone? October has flown as fast as a goblin on Halloween night! This week wraps up (no mummy pun intended) the final week of not-so-scary library lessons and it was a great week! There will be two days of lessons next week to get us through Halloween, so I'll be sure to include those plans at the end of this post. Hope you have enjoyed the series and have gained some inspiration for some spooky fun in your library!
You must be living under a rock if you've not heard of The Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds. It has been all the rage on Instagram and when it showed up in our Fall Book Fair, I knew it would be a big hit for this month. With the fantastically ghoulish, greenish glow in the illustrations by Peter Brown, this book was a HUGE hit with students of all ages! Just look at their faces!
I started the week by reading this story to my 1st and 2nd graders during story time and they loved it so much that I took the chance to use it with older students later in the week. Remembering that I have only 30 minutes with my younger students, I only read to them and then did book checkout. With my older students, grades 3 and 4, I chose to include a creative writing and art activity.
I found a great little packet on TpT by Moonlight Crafter that was both cost effective and simple to access. I decided that I like the handout that included both the blank undies to color and a writing section. For the writing, students described an imaginary pair of underwear that would scare them and told how they would "get rid of" them! This opened the door for lots of discussion about describing words (adjectives have been a big topic for 3rd grade this month) and for making connections to the story (I gave students the opportunity to make predictions as I read the story aloud to them).
With the illustration part of the worksheet, students were only allowed to use pencil and a green crayon or green colored pencil. We talked about Peter Brown's choices in using black and white illustrations with the neon green accents and how those choices increased the "creepiness" of the underwear. We had such a blast sharing our thoughts about these illustrations!!! I just love anything Peter Brown does....right?!
The students were so creative with this worksheet....I was tickled by how clever the illustrations and descriptions turned out. And when I overheard one student saying, "This is the best thing ever!" as he worked on his drawing, I knew I had a hit. Days like this are what make my job the best job in the school!
To wrap us this week, I can't forget to include my Kindergarten and PreK students. I brought back a favorite character from the beginning of the school year....Splat the Cat! His adventure with his Halloween costume and jack-o-lantern turned out to be just right for the younger students....lots of giggles with this read-aloud. Once we finished our story, students practiced reading a library book of their choosing (from a pre-selected table display) in a space of their choosing.
Another little side note that made this lesson work really well is that it was Red Ribbon Week and we had a "Crazy Sock and Crazy Hair" dress up day. I took full advantage and wore my eyeball socks, Halloween librarian shirt, and googly eyes headband. It really made the Splat lesson more festive.
As promised, I want to share what I will be doing on Monday and Tuesday of next week since they are the last two days of October and one of them is Halloween. Students who come into the library on these days will get to do a Flashlight Fun Day....I will cover the windows with black paper, have inexpensive flashlights at the ready, and greet students in a dark library. I'm thinking I will hang a few string lights around our story carpet to keep things Not-So-Scary. I plan to read I Want to be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and then will have the students get their own flashlights to do book selection and silent reading. I will post pictures to my social media accounts, so if you aren't following those, look for the links in the right-sidebar of the blog.
Last but not least, my 5th graders did not have library with me this week because I was attending a conference....so, they will present their Monster Buncees on Wednesday. We might turn the lights out for that lesson too! Happy Halloween!
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