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!
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.
As I begin to think about what types of things will be placed in our new makerspace area, I have really started paying attention to what other media specialists have done with making. My first source of inspiration tends to be Pinterest, but eventually I seek out those who are close to me. The librarians that I work with in my local RESA are usually the BEST source of great ideas!
Several of those librarians have used origami in their own makerspaces with success, so I thought I would give it a try. As I prepared stations for my "maker week" lesson of the month, I included a winter animals book mark activity. I used only materials I already had on-hand so there was no cost involved.
The origami station was set up with a sign, directions, materials, and also a laptop. I created a Padlet where students could see the real-life image of the animals to choose from. I have shared my Padlet below, so feel free to use it for your own makerspace. I also linked to four YouTube tutorial videos on how to make the book mark for each animal type. The fact that I was limited to only one computer meant that students at the center all had to work on the same creation. This was only a problem in one class. All of the others came to a quick consensus and were fine creating the same animal.
I took a minute to get the kids at this station started because they had to begin with a "perfect square" piece of paper. I didn't have origami squares, so I taught them how to fold and cut the existing paper in order to get the square. This step is included in the videos, but it worked best with me helping them get started. After that, it was all smooth sailing! The snowy owl and polar bear involved a lot of small piece cutting, so it was harder for the 3rd graders, but 5th graders had no issue with these. The snowshoe hare was by far the simplest to make and really was the perfect choice for the 3rd graders. The 4th graders gravitated toward polar bear making and although challenging, they were able to do it!
I think the kids were inspired by this activity! They were amazed that they could create such cute creatures and then when they saw that they could be used as corner book marks, they were beside themselves! They wanted to pose for pictures and everything! I even had one student ask to make a spin-off UNICORN and I said, of course!
I do believe that more origami is in our future. I think students in other centers (like coding and puzzle solving) were wishing they had chosen origami! It was fun, required them to follow directions and work together, and they walked away with a little inspiration to keep reading.
It is amazing what a little time with some awesome kids can do for one's spirit. After the less-than-stellar experience I had with my first book fair, I have just been craving time with the kids. I missed them! I decided to keep things really simple to start my week and it has paid off in huge dividends. It is only Wednesday and the librarian is finally in her happy place once again.
On Monday, I was expecting to have to move all of those huge cases out of the way so that my 1st and 2nd graders could get in the door and get to the Everybody Fiction section. I opened the doors to the library and (insert amazing angelic sounds here) all of those cases were gone! I stood there for just a minute wondering if someone had stolen the fair....but then I came to the realization that my precious custodian had taken pity on me and had used his time to move every single case into a storage room. This was no easy feat and the fact that he did this for me still gives me chill-bumps. I have a special treat in store for him later this week.
To make Monday even better, my new storytime rug was delivered about 15 minutes prior to my first class. I was super excited to see it and eagerly unrolled it so that my students had a sweet surprise on their first visit after the end of the book fair. It did not disappoint! They loved the bright colors and the variety of shapes. They felt extra special as they looked to see which square would be theirs for the day! It was so fun!
Then...the next great thing was that I planned to read The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. This was in lieu of all of my "big plans" for Dot Day (if you didn't read my post about scratching those plans, you can read it here). I wish that I had asked a teacher to take pictures or film one of the class readings because it was a HUGE HIT with the kids! I cannot believe how much they laughed and giggled....they had me laughing right along with them....and one little boy was literally rolling in the floor with laughter!!! One child commented, "I just love this silly book!" and as the story ended, it was met with cheers and a cry to read it again. It was so fun. And I was shocked by how many of the teachers had never heard the story. As a matter of fact, the laughter spilling from the library started drawing crowds as several passers-by peeked in to see what in the world was going on! It was a HOOT! Truly, good medicine for my spirit.
After the story, we did book check out and students had a few minutes to find a cozy spot to read. Of course, the new rug was a favorite.
Tuesday brought the third graders and keeping with my "less is more" theme for the week, I returned to centers. Most of the ones I put out were things I have used before, but there were a few new additions that were hits with the kids. The first was a Spirograph set. Do you remember these? I loved these as a kid and this summer I stumbled upon one at a dollar store. The kids were fascinated by the designs they could make by fitting the "gears" together.
Another center I added was a collection of farm animals from my youngest son. He used to collect the Schleich figures with a huge love for the farm collection. These are not cheap. They cost about $20+ each!!! It was a risk, but I decided to give it a try. The girls LOVED playing with the animals and gave them a lot of love. Most boys avoided the center like the plague. I think if I had added in some tractors or something, they might have liked it. But, it worked okay. We didn't rotate the centers this time. Students had book check out and then chose the center of their choice. I even let them pick their partners. It worked well.
That brings me to today...Wednesday. Today I had all of my 5th grade students and I jumped right in to my new Buncee Classroom subscription. I will need to do a separate post on my plans, but today was just a chance to get them all set up with accounts and let them learn the basics of adding text, stickers, and animation. It turned out that they had a blast. The kids and the teachers loved Buncee and it made my heart happy to share one of my all-time favorite tools for school.
I still have a few classes to see on Thursday and then I can really tackle some projects on my Friday flex-day, but the week has been a blessing. I feel things settling back in to a routine and am loving every minute with these wonderful kids.
It was a busy week in The Happy Library! Monday started out with the long-awaited solar eclipse and it did not disappoint. Our young students were not allowed to view the eclipse outside, but did get to watch via Discovery Education's live stream. I gave certified glasses to all of our staff and they were able to sneak out of class to take a peek at the eclipse. It was as much fun watching them act like kids as it was to watch the eclipse! Even my principal (in the pink jacket) was giddy as she tried to take selfies with the sun.
We finished up our last week of the solar eclipse centers that I shared with you in the last post. The kids still enjoyed them, but I could tell that the excitement of it all had worn off a bit. Two weeks of rotation was just enough to make this a successful activity. My third graders begged to read instead of visiting centers, which made my heart melt, so many of them chose to just sit in our quiet area or at the tables and read....it was awesome. Notice that they are loving the book buddies to read with, too.
It was also the week of the library volunteer, meaning that when I invited students to come and help in the morning, I was overrun with almost 40 students!!! Lesson learned. I had to create a little application and several teachers have stepped up to help me make selections. The 4th and 5th graders have stepped up as clear leaders. I even have a few 3rd graders who I'm going to let help with dusting, straightening, and such. I'll do a separate post on my library volunteer program once I work out the kinks. The good news in all of this is that the students want to be in the library! They are taking ownership of the space and that means so much to me. It is certainly a step in the right direction for our library program.
And a final note about the collection. If you have been following me on Instagram, you know that I'm struggling with this aged book collection. I completed a collection analysis that revealed the average age of library books in our collection is 20 years old! About 67% of the collection is nonfiction...meaning we have some great nonfiction titles but very little to offer our fiction fans. There are only three sections of fiction books to the six sections of nonfiction.
I'm also at odds with the fact that there is little in the form of quality for our youngest readers. The entirety of offerings for our newest readers can fit onto one cart and most of it is very outdated. I shared all of this with our literacy committee and the principal. As most of you know, people get nervous when you start talking about weeding a collection, but it is necessary. I've placed the first book order and can't wait to see the kids faces when the new books are out. I'm going to make a VERY BIG deal about this. More info to come...
And with the outdated collection comes the cardboard magazine box signage. This way of labeling our shelves looks good when no one is using the library. But...after one or two classes have touched the books, it is a hot mess! These things are not sturdy enough to withstand constant handling and are typically falling down or crushed in by the end of the day. Plus...they don't do much for helping the books stay "in line" on the shelves.
I am on a mission to solve this problem. But, to be honest, I'm really wanting to genrefy. It is becoming evident that students do not know how to find what they are looking for. And with my students, they almost always ask "where are the mysteries?" or "do you have any funny books?"
I would also love to get some feedback on how all of you shelve your series. As you can see, my graphic novels are shelved in with my regular fiction, as are any other series. The signage is confusing for me, so I know that the students must struggle with it. I'd love to put my graphic novels in their own location. What about series? Do you guys use bins? How do handle this in your space? Let me know!
So, that's my recap of this past week. I learned a lot. My To-Do list got longer. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm not sure about where you live, but here in Georgia, we are getting super excited about the solar eclipse. It turns out that many of our local school systems are holding student release until after the eclipse has occurred. Unfortunately, my school is not allowing the students to go outside for viewing. That has not deterred me from focusing on the eclipse in the library.
Many of you probably have seen me posting pictures of displays and such on Instagram and Twitter, but I wanted to take a minute to share my centers here with you. So...let's get to it!
No rocket science involved here....well, actually there is, but you get it. The kids LOVE the NASA Space Operations Learning Center website! I just bookmarked the site on my school web page and they were off and running!
Solar Scrabble Center
I adapted this idea from Mrs. Lodge's Library page. She does a Boggle center in her library and I thought why not make up my own Scrabble version for the solar eclipse. Students are reading a book in the center and then can use some wooden blocks (if they choose) to unscramble key words from the text. I printed my scrambled words on card stock and then laminated. They use dry erase markers for easy clean-up and less paper consumption.
Solar System Sort
This activity came to me last minute when another idea just didn't work out. The kids do a little "research" using books in the center and then they attempt to put the solar system (paper planets I found in the storage room of the library from a former space theme) in order. They loved spreading out on the floor to do this. The third graders loved it and it was just challenging enough. The fifth graders found this a little too easy, so you might need to adapt.
I bought three different solar system puzzles of varying piece size and "complexity" and asked teachers to help pick the appropriate puzzle for each class. Just dump the pieces out and the kids go to work! They LOVE this!!!
Roll it, Read it, wRite it
I saw this activity on Pinterest somewhere and just randomly made up my own version. The students read a fiction and non-fiction book pair and then use a Dollar Tree die to roll for which number question they will answer first. I thought this center might be a dud, but they like it well enough. And they are really getting some good information on moon phases in this center.
This is an activity I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers and I simply love it. Click HERE to purchase it for yourself. The great thing here is that it isn't eclipse specific, so this could be used with other lunar/solar lessons in the future. The key here was to have students build their model FIRST and then save the coloring for last. They really like this one because it is both art and science.
There you have it! And I did include a little lesson before we went to our centers and showed a brief video that you can view HERE. It was just short enough to keep their attention and not take up too much of our centers time.
Oh, and all of the clip art I used (the solar viewers, etc.) I bought from TpT as well, but when I tried to link to the same product, it was no longer available. Don't worry, there is a lot of solar eclipse clip art available by other sellers.
It has been nearly a month since I last wrote anything here. And even now as I type this, my back aches, my feet are swollen, my eyes have bags, and my hands have a tinge of stiffness. I'm tired. Who am I kidding? I'm exhausted!
Words cannot express the journey I've taken in this transition to elementary. But I'm going to give it a try. I was able to get into the library for three days prior to our pre-planning and those three days were nothing but cleaning out stuff. I had to remove the jungle decor that was last year's library theme. I had my middle son come and spend an entire day scraping hot glue off the library walls. I filled 10 of those big rolling trash bins that the custodians use!!! Yes, 10. I don't want to bash the previous librarian. We all do the best we can where we are. But, as you can imagine, there were a lot of things that just really needed to go. So, they went. My goal was just to create a blank canvas. I needed to have a clean slate when beginning pre-planning and I think I got pretty close to that.
Pre-planning lasted 5 days, but as you can imagine, I was tied to all sorts of meetings and trainings, so I didn't really get that much accomplished in terms of the library. I arrived around 7:00 each morning and worked until 6:00 each night (the custodian basically threw me out) to try to make some headway in decorating and organizing. Keep in mind, I hadn't even touched one book at this point. I did get things looking bright and cheery prior to our Open House. The Happy Library actually was starting to look happy. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was SO relieved when the first day of school came because I knew that teachers would be in their classrooms with students and I would have the library to myself. (We have a teacher workroom in the library that houses our laminator, xerox machine, color printer, etc. and teachers were in there non-stop during pre-planning.....and the laminator was torn up no less than three times during those five days....enough said.)
I was graciously given the first week of school (4 days) to work in the library with no classes. I was able to figure out our self-check station logins, learn a little bit of the new library management platform Destiny, figure out a couple of the other digital platforms we use, plan centers for grades 3-5, and finish up a few touches on the library decor. I felt ready. Not like perfect ready, but good-enough ready. I had done almost three weeks worth of work for kids and I wanted them to come in!!!
This past week I was able to see all of my third, fourth, and fifth grade students. I I decided to tweak my Happy Lesson upon the advice of The Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones. I had the students come in and we went through a short Google slide show introducing myself (in the form of a bitmoji, no less, which they loved), the concept of The Happy Library, and the procedures for centers. This only took about 10-15 minutes and then students were on their way to explore the Happy Centers!
I set up 8 centers: coloring (library pictures, of course), a reading inventory, dry-erase word search, peg art, Connect 4 game center, reading center (cozy up with a book buddy and read books centered around a library theme), I-Spy, and a paper construction center.
When the students first walked into the library, without fail, every single class went woooah!...it was sort of like the sound and faces you see when Willy Wonka opens the doors to his chocolate factory in the Gene Wilder version of the movie. I'm not kidding. It was magical. Then, as the kids went off into the centers, they were giggling, laughing, and saying things like this is so cool or we get to hold these?! (the stuffed animals were a huge hit, even with 5th graders). I tell you the truth when I say that there were moments when I thought I was going to literally burst into tears. The children were so full of joy. They were so excited. It was like Christmas morning every single day.
The teachers were pretty excited too. They were so positive about the changes they were seeing. One teacher heard some students giggling and said, "listen at that...they are laughing! This is perfect." What a compliment!
So, even though my body is screaming for Epsom salt baths and Advil, my heart is full and my grin is wide. I wanted to create a bright, happy space where the students can read, explore, learn, and have fun. I wanted to bring my vision of The Happy Library to life. And I did it.
Who to follow: