As I've mentioned several times this year, our school participates in Scholastic's Reading Counts program. As part of that, I'm responsible for helping plan, fund, and organize 4 reading celebrations throughout the year. Today was the last celebration of the year and boy were the kids excited! I must admit that my level of excitement increased when they gave me a megaphone to use outside!
Luckily, the weather was beautiful (like 87 degrees) and we had a lot of kids earn the party. I had originally wanted to have an author come, but my literacy committee voted for a party instead. In searching for ideas, the committee brainstormed possibilities and I also asked some of our readers. The winning selection "ice cream and extended recess" was offered up by one of our book club students. And everyone loved her idea.
In thinking about buying lots of ice cream and toppings, I had a bit of a panic. Where would I store all of that? We aren't allowed to store in the school's freezer. How on earth would I have enough people to help me scoop and serve all of it? It made my head spin until I was talking with my bookkeeper about the money and I remembered that at one of my previous schools, we used to have the Jandy's truck come and set up as a fundraiser. Yatzee! I could call them and use my funds (I had been stashing book fair money aside to save for the author visit) to pay for the Jandy's truck to do all the work!
It worked out well because this company was so easy to work with. They gave me all sorts of options and even brought a "nut-free" truck so that we wouldn't have to worry about allergies with students. We had six flavor options, six "dry" toppings options, and about six "wet" topping options, plus syrups and whipped cream! Literally, I set up the visit, told them where to put the truck, and then several teachers and I supervised the older students and assisted the younger ones in making their custom frozen yogurt treats. It was a win-win! They also included a visit from "Mr. Jandy" and the kiddos went cRaZy over this! And I think you can see that the kids were very happy with their sweet treats too...just look at all of those smiles.
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!
Being new to an elementary school library means being new to the work involved in hosting a book fair. My school usually has a fall and spring fair, both with Scholastic. The previous media specialist had already booked the fairs for this year, so basically all I needed to do was to confirm. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Way wrong.
My first rookie mistake was in thinking that a book fair only takes one week. Wrong. When looking at the schedule, the fair is delivered the week prior to the actual event week, so I had to make room for all those cases coming in (more on the cases later). I also had to schedule a "closed" day so that I could set up the displays and put the items out in the library. And we also have a Grandparents' Day Lunch that is hosted every year....on a Friday...during the book fair. The booking of the fair was done so that the Friday before the fair we could host the grandparents for a day of shopping. This meant no class preview day. Basically, I needed an entire week to get this fair ready. And it was the week of Labor Day, so that meant we were out of school on Monday. I can honestly say that the fact I have to take two weeks out of my schedule for the fair, not just one, was disappointing to me. But...I get it.
My second rookie mistake was approving the custom fair that was ordered without thinking about it. The previous media specialist was obviously experienced. She had done many fairs in this space and knew exactly what she could and would be willing to do. She ordered a custom fair with 9 cases, plus countless boxed items for additional "sections" for the fair. I didn't realize this was a mistake until the fair was delivered. When I saw the quantity of stuff rolling in...well, let's just say my reaction was less than positive. Mostly because I was realizing in that moment that it would be me and one Scholastic rep setting up the fair. (Scholastic promised me a person to help set up the fair since it was my first fair ever.) There is no way I will order a fair this large ever again....and I mean never. It is just entirely too much stuff for our small space!
After the Labor Day holiday, I hit the ground running on Tuesday and Wednesday with all of my classes. I tried to get everyone in to return and check-out books prior to shutting down all circulation for the week of the book fair. The students were sad that they didn't have an actual library lesson this week and I was too...but the excitement was building for the book fair. I had to shelve thousands of books in these two days! My little library helpers came in each morning to help, but I did do the bulk of it.
I awaited the arrival of the fair on Wednesday. It was to be delivered between the hours of 7am and 4pm. When my clock read 3:50 and no truck had arrived, I was anxious. And upset. And worried. But at 3:58pm, the truck pulled in and the custodian and Scholastic guy started unloading. This is when the real panic set in. I couldn't believe how MUCH stuff was rolling in the door. I mean we had a hard time fitting it all in the library and the cases were closed!!! I didn't get out of the door until after 5pm that day.
Thursday came and I locked the doors and got to work. I started at 7am and worked all day. I didn't even stop for lunch! I worked and waited for the Scholastic rep to come. I had been told twice that I would have help from a Scholastic employee since this was my first fair. When it got to be noon and no one came....well....panic set in. I was almost in tears, at this point. But I plugged on.
My third rookie mistake was that I had scheduled my Teacher Preview Event for Thursday afternoon. The teachers would be coming at 2:30 to create their classroom wish lists and to have snacks. I only had a few hours to transform everything. With no Scholastic help in sight, I tried to pull it all together. And...it seems I did a decent job. The teachers came in and loved it. They were in awe of how MUCH stuff was in the fair! (Ha....never again, folks, never.) They loved the fact that I had put out "vittles" (Chex mix with added pretzels and candy corn) and chilled drinks for them. They were also in love with the Scholastic bins for their wish lists.
If you haven't seen or heard about the bins, they are a new feature this year. You need to order them. I got mine free because I was selected somehow (probably because I had a custom fair with 9 cases!!! LOL). Anyway, teachers grab a bin, pull books they want from the shelves and put inside the bins. Then, they use a dry erase marker to add their name to the bin. You make a cute display with these and it makes it easy for families to select a book to purchase for the teacher's classrooms. The teachers said they had never gotten to do this before and they had so much fun! Several of them even got in on the photo booth action, so that made it festive.
So, I survived set up. And I survived the Teacher Preview. I went home at 4:30 or so and immediately put myself in an Epsom salt bath! When I got out, I informed my husband he was in charge of dinner and then I put my feet up and put a heating pad on my back. Words cannot express the degree of soreness I felt in my body. The next day proved it to me in bruises. I was covered in them!!! They were so bad that I had to wear a long-sleeved cardigan to work so that people wouldn't think I had been abused during the night.
Friday had finally arrived and it was time for the Grandparents' Day Event. Luckily, my principal helped me secure some volunteers. Oh my gosh...these ladies were the only reason I survived this particular day! The school counselor and speech therapist worked our cash registers for two hours straight. No breaks. My principal greeted guests and also ended up bagging items when the lines wrapped around the walls. One mom volunteered as well and she was so helpful with explaining our Classroom Wish Bins to families as they entered the library. I made sure folks registered for our free prize drawings and generally ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. We probably had about 400 people in the library in about two-three hours time. We sold over $3000 worth of merchandise. It was crazy, but successful.
If you are still reading at this point, I'm grateful. I don't want anyone to think that I am anti-book fair. But, as a newcomer, I see that it is a lot of work and the profit margin is extremely small. As I write this post, I am currently at home on a Monday awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Yep. This post was about my PRE-FAIR week. The fair was supposed to start TODAY. But, Hurricane Irma decided to show up, so my school is closed today and tomorrow. That means my fair will only be two full days. On Friday, we will only be open half a day so that I can begin packing it all up. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
I see the benefit in the book fair. It gets the kids and teachers fired up about reading new books. It gave families a reason to come together over books and that is never a bad thing. But, I did have families come up to me and question the prices on items. More than one person commented about the high prices. In a Title I school, it is hard for families to buy books at $20 a pop. That is why I think the small stuff (like pencils, spy pens, rubber erasers, etc.) sell so well. And that is the last thing I want to be selling. I want to sell books. It was hard to look them in the eye and tell them that yes, that was the actual price.
One thing that did encourage me in all of this was the fact that our families supported our teachers. Many of our teachers have a big treat in store when I deliver their Classroom Wish Bins this week. These families purchased books for our teachers and some families purchased more than one. It was an awesome sight to see.
So...I'm anticipating low sales this week for the actual book fair. With only two and a half days of shopping time, I will be doing well just to get my classes all in to the book fair once. Here's to holding out hope.
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.
I have not been "promoting" my blog at all, but a colleague of mine just happened to notice the new web address attached to my social media accounts and took a peek. She is the first person to actually tell me that she found it! Well what a delight to learn that she loves it! She was complementary of the color scheme, remarking that it reminded her of her "beloved Fiestaware" dishes!!! If you don't know the dishes, here you go...
In the course of talking about the blog, she also gave me a fantastic suggestion that prompted this post. She mentioned the Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," which I love...and most kids do too! Here is the video if you've been under a rock and have not heard it...
Then, she went one step further and told me about the Pharrell Williams' Happy BOOK!!! You read that right, the book! I did not know the book existed.
How delightful this book is! And won't the kids be happy when I tell them that they are now the first students in The Happy Library at our wonderful school?! I just wish I could find someone to make me the neon "happy" sign that is on the cover to use in our library, now wouldn't that be fabulous?!
So, thank you to the one and only, very fabulous librarian and story-teller extraordinaire, Miss Melissa Cairns of Fairyland Elementary School!
Thanks to her gift of encouragement, one of my very first lessons of the school year will be about The Happy Library and we may even have a little dance party too. I think the kids will LOVE that.
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