We all love to hate mandatory testing for students! I am responsible for testing a group of students and the offices of the library space are being used for small group testing, so I had to re-think the library schedule for a two week time frame. The first half of the school day, the library is closed. But once testing is done, we open the doors to our "De-stress from the Test" activities! And it has been a huge hit this first week....students in 5th grade can't wait to come next week! So...what am I doing? Take a look...
You know I just had to advertise with signs made in Buncee, right?!
I had a 1000 piece puzzle out during National Library Week and the reaction from teachers and students was overwhelming. They loved it! But...it didn't get completed. It is a very challenging puzzle that I bought for $4 at a local discount store. I chose to leave it out and add more options!
I purchased four more puzzles from Barnes & Noble. They are 500 piece puzzles of varying difficulty. I knew that the only students working on these puzzles would be 3rd-5th graders, so I didn't have to have anything too primary. I set each puzzle box and pieces out on a library table. I also purchased these really cool Sort & Go puzzle trays! They are awesome!!! You can use them to sort pieces as you work or to gather loose pieces for storage at the end of the day. They are really handy.
The most adorable puzzles I purchased were from Mudpuppy. Everyone loved the designs and the colors. This one called "Little Feminists" was my absolute favorite...and many afternoons I could be caught sitting at the table working on it myself!
The way the schedule has worked this week is that the library has been closed until around 11:30 or so. Once I'm in here to open the doors, teachers write a pass for 2-3 students at a time to come and work. They can work a puzzle of their choosing OR they can opt to sit and read. Most have chosen the puzzles. I think out of novelty. And after reading the state test for three hours, who wants to read a book? Very few...and that's okay.
I marked the time students arrived and when their 20 minutes were up, I just sent them back with a friendly pass. Then, most teachers sent another pair of students. It has worked well because many teachers chose to do centers in their own classrooms and the library visit became one of the centers! Genius!
With close supervision, there haven't been any real issues other than one torn puzzle piece. I still opted to print some guidelines and tape to each table. These just serve as reminders. You can see parts of these signs in the bottom photos in the gallery above. Overall, I am pleased with the effort from students in caring for the puzzles. And I've had a little chuckle over how possessive of certain puzzles the teachers have become...several teachers have come in almost every day to spend 5-10 minutes working on a puzzle! LOVE it! This truly has been one of the best ideas I've had all year!
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'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!
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!
December in an elementary school is cRaZy busy! Every day it seems we have a new event happening...chorus concert, Santa pictures, holiday breakfast, and on and on. I had been really looking forward to sharing holiday stories with students and had the idea of doing a passport for a "Christmas around the world" event, but my calendar got the best of me. As it turns out, I only get one week during the entire month of December to have regular library classes. Only one.
I debated over doing STEM challenges or holidays around the world, but I ended up at The Nutcracker. The ballet has been one of my personal holiday favorites for a very long time. I even did a nutcracker themed Christmas in my own home, when my boys were younger, where I put a different themed tree in every room of our house! I had the Dance of the Candy Canes in my youngest son's room, the nutcrackers in the mud room, the Arabian Coffee dance in the kitchen....you get the picture. It was over the top, but the best thing about Christmas that year was dressing our boys up and taking them to the Chattanooga Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. The boys behaved very well, enjoyed the show, and were exposed to a little "culture," as my momma would say.
Most of my students have not had cultural experiences like these. So, I set upon finding a storybook to share and figuring out a lesson. And, even though you probably don't have time to implement it this year, maybe sharing it here will inspire you to think about personal stories and experiences that you had growing up that you could turn into library lessons for your students!
I found a lovely picture book at Barnes & Noble that is a re-telling of the ballet as performed by the New York City Ballet Company and beautifully illustrated by Valeria Docampo. The text is quite lengthy, but worth it. It does a great job of telling a very complex story, but in language that students can follow with the added bonus of a few vocabulary words you can introduce to them.
I started my lesson by showing students two of my own nutcrackers and talking a bit about what a nutcracker is, why we use them as decoration this time of year, and introducing Tchaichovsky's writing of the music. I then read aloud the book.
After reading, I had a few links to scenes from the ballet placed in a Google slide show. I introduced each scene briefly and connected to our story. The possibilities are endless here, but these are the scenes I chose and the reasons why. I have also inserted the videos so that you can see them.
1. Act 1. Tableau 1. Scene 7. The Battle between The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. I felt like the battle was important to highlight for the boys. Many young boys feel that ballet is for girls. We talked about this and I shared with the boys that many strong men perform ballet. I was pleasantly surprised by how the boys were really engaged watching the video! They noted how strong the nutcracker's legs looked and they laughed at the antics of the mice and the "bang" of the cannon. I did fast-forward into the clip to about 2:10 or so, just to save time and to get to the actual dual of the nutcracker and mouse king.
2. Act 2. Scene 12. Divertissement. Trepak. (Also known as the Dance of the Russian Candy Canes.) This was obviously a choice because of the music. I knew students would recognize the tune and I wanted them to make the connection to Tchaikovsky and the ballet. It was fun to see their faces light up when they heard the music and exclaim, "I know this!" They also loved the jumping and leaping of these dancers! And this scene is only about one minute long, so quick and easy. The only thing here is that the dancers are not dressed as candy canes and that was a little confusing to the children. In the future, I might look for a version that has the candy cane costumes rather than the traditional Russian costumes.
3. Act 2. Scene 14. Variation 2. Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy. We talked about the principal ballerina and why the role of the Sugarplum Fairy is so coveted. I also asked students to listen for the music to see if they recognized it...which, of course, they did. I also told students about the wooden toe blocks placed inside of a ballerina's toe shoes for pointe work and they were fascinated! Even the boys were really into this...they watched her feet very closely, looking for the blocks of wood! Watching their faces was the highlight of my week!!! So fun...and this particular ballerina, Nina Kaptsova is such a delight to watch. She seems to be having fun, so that makes the video clip so much more interesting. The students also commented on how different the sets look in each clip. This opened the door for some conversation about productions, costumers, set designers and so on. Lots of STEM ideas there!
After watching each of the clips, we moved on to the final portion of the lesson. I had coloring sheets that I purchased HERE and I also provided a Nutcracker word search for those who didn't want to color. As students worked on these, I played more of Tchaikovsky's music. They loved it.
As students lined up to leave the library, I handed them a scratch-n-sniff bookmark that was either a gingerbread scent or peppermint candy cane scent. These went over with RAVE reviews!!!
Most of my students had never been to see The Nutcracker. Only about two students in each group admitted to having been and most of those had only been to local productions by student ballet companies and not professional companies. I would really like to find videos that feature dancers with more ethnic diversity and I also think it would be really neat to find variations on the story of The Nutcracker...maybe something by the Alvin Ailey Dancers that is more contemporary would be fun.
I did this lesson with all third through fifth graders and I would say that 3rd and 4th graders were the most engaged. I think that involving a STEM aspect to the lesson, or getting more technical with the ballet or music portions of this lesson would be more appealing to the older students, but overall I think everyone enjoyed the lesson. And teachers were appreciative...they commented that they were so glad I was exposing students to this production, noting that most of these kids have never been to a live performance outside of a school concert. I think I need to find a way to change that.
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 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!
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...
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