Friday, September 30, 2011

X Marks the Spot in the Library

Monday, September 19th was International Talk Like a Pirate Day and to celebrate in the library, third graders went on a Dewey Decimal System treasure hunt. First, we read "Edward and the Pirates" by David McPhail. "Edward and the Pirates" is always huge hit.

Throughout the library, I had placed an X in each Dewey 100's section. Partners received treasure maps to fill in with spine label information and the title of the book they identify in the 100's section with spaces to identify one book from each section. We will use this information to decide what kinds of books belong in each section as we learn about the organization of the library this year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Squids Will Be Squids and Grasshopper Logic (Also Known as 4th and 5th Grade Projects Spelled Out for the Year

In third grade, students read and studied fables along with other variety of folk tales. When I discovered Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Sciezka and, more specifically, the first fable, "Grasshoppe Logic," I knew I would need to share it with fourth and fifth graders. Last year, as my first year in the library, I had a LOT of ideas for assignments to complete in library class to integrate with classroom curriculum and great books for kids. This year, I have a (slightly) more realistic idea of what to expect given the timeframe of the school year. I also learned to make those expectations clear. So I did. On our library website, I outlined the expectations for preparation, class participation, and assignments. I went over this information with each class following a reading of "Grasshopper Logic," Jon Sciezka's take on "The Ant and the Grasshopper.". In "Grasshopper Logic," the young grasshopper has waited until the very last minute to complete a rather large homework assignment. And his mother is none too pleased. We talked about people we know (some students recognized themselves in this fable) who wait until the last moment to complete assignments. This fable lent itself perfectly to discussing our expectations in the library for the year. Hopefully we won't have too many procrastinating grasshoppers this year.

Fifth Grade Expectations

Fourth Grade Expectations

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Friday (Wednesday) Tech Tip for Teachers

Since we have a long weekend (wahoo) and don't have school on Thursday or Friday, I thought I'd post my tech tip today.  Today's tech tip will point you in the direction of an image creation site I default to often.  Big Huge Labs has many different photo editing options including, but not limited to:
  • Magazine Cover Creation
    • Create your very own magazine to feature:
      • a famous person for a biography assignment
      • a current events topic
      • an animal research assignment
      • just about anything...
  • Movie Poster
    • Fourth graders created movie posters last year to "advertise" our author visit with Debbie Dadey.
  • Captioner
    • Want to add speech or thought bubbles to a picture?  The captioner will let you do just that.
    • Students can create a cartoon speech bubble to show character's conversation from a book
    • Dialogue between two famous individuals from history
  • Billboard
    • Ever wanted to convey a BIG idea?  Why not do so on a billboard?
  • Framer
    • Put a fun frame around your photo.
  • Trading Cards
    • Again, great for a biography to sum up the traits of a character.
  • Badge Maker
    • If you need an official "press pass", this is the place to put it together.  Fun for students as part of a news team or any nametag-worthy event.
  • And others that are just plain fun!
Check out Big Huge Labs today!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Talk: The World According to Humphrey

I finished reading "The World According to Humphrey" and enjoyed the perspective it offered.  The story is told...according to Humphrey, the class hamster of Room 26.  The book shows growth of the characters and the joy that a class pet and the act of bringing that pet home can bring.  Humphrey touched the lives of those around him in ways they may never know.  As a teacher, it also makes us think about all the many things happening in our students' or co-workers' lives that have an impact on their daily actions that we do not know about, good...and bad.  I'm excited to introduce this book to students.  In reading it, I discovered that we have several of the Humphrey books, but not all of them, so that will be remedied soon.  I also put it on display by my desk as a "book I'm reading now" and a classroom aide mentioned that the book is a "One School, One Book" selection.  Which got the wheels turning in my head (get it?  like a hamster wheel...).  I don't think we're quite ready for a program like this at Pine Road, but perhaps this book could be a Nook Book Club selection and we could skype with students from this neighboring school.  So, I have to get on that...but, in the meantime, check out Humphrey and his world.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Tech Tip for Teachers: Smart Floating Tools and Smart Recorder

I am presenting a hands-on tutorial on how to write on top of PDF's on the smartboard or using the floating tools on your computer. This is useful for students and teachers as there are many graphic organizers and worksheets associated with the online components of curriculum in all areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Science, and Everyday Math. This is helpful for one-time note taking sessions, or to save the notes for future use in a Smart Notebook File. Below is a video tutorial created as a screencast using the Smart Recorder, also available to teachers in our district. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Talk: Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up

In our library, we currently have three of the Miss Fox's Class titles by Eileen Spinelli: Miss Fox's Class Earns a Field Trip, Miss Fox's Class Goes Green, and Peace Week in Miss Fox's Class. And, though I'm sure there are more I should check out immediately, I've found one tomput on our "to order" list immediately: Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up. In this 2011 publication, Miss Fox notices that students in her class are tired, hungry, and out of breath running from...the fence. Woven throughout the text are healthy reminders for good nutrition, and great ideas for fun exercise as well as some tips to wind down at the end of a busy day for a good night's sleep. I think our Health and Physical Education teachers would love this book! And, so do I! As the story develops, the class really comes together as the students help each other to meet their healthy goals. In one of the illustrations, beautifully drawn by Anne Kennedy, there is a cozy reading corner with "Get Fit Lit". I love the idea of incorporating some Get Fit Lit when introducing this book to students.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story of How I was Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick Who...

Is amazing.  I had the opportunity to see Brian speak at the Central Library in Philadelphia yesterday as part of their author series.  I had heard about Brian coming to the area to promote his new book, Wonderstruck, after meeting illustrator Matt Phelan at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival.  He pointed me in the direction of Children's Book World in Haverford, PA.  I checked out their website that day (which, as I now recall was also the day of my surprise birthday party...hmm) and discovered that Brian Selznick would be coming to the store to present.  I planned to go to the event, but then I learned that Central Library was also hosting Brian during the day.  For free.  Free trumps ticketed any day for me.  Children's Book World still provided the books for the event, so I felt good that my purchases on behalf of our library would support an independent bookstore.

I first read The Invention of Hugo Cabret as an audiobook last winter, not even realizing, at first, all of the amazing images I was missing out on.  But the audiobook came with a DVD.  I watched the DVD and was treated to my very own "author visit" with Brian Selznick and learned more about his concepts integrating the idea of a silent film into his story via the illustrations.  I had been planning to talk to fourth graders about different books that had been made into movies and was able to introduce this book in that way, talking about early cinema and the integration of a "movie" concept into this book.  And that was BEFORE I knew it was being made into a movie!!  During this unit, we segwayed (not the moving scooter, though that would be fun) into preparing for our author visit and adapting her books into movie scripts (also potentially useful as reader's theater scripts) and promoting her books via movie posters.

I've gotten a bit away from Brian, haven't I?  I'll re-focus now.  As I was saying, I had the opportunity to see Brian Selznick yesterday.  I arrived an hour early expecting swarms of people.  There were not, but I stand firm that there should have been.  Regardless, I purchased my books and got a great seat right down front.

As I was sitting, I was simultaneously realizing that Brian Selznick was RIGHT THERE.  He was in the row in front of me chatting up a fourth grade girl...RIGHT THERE. So, I did what came naturally in the situation and eavesdropped like crazy.  He was so kind and personable.  He talked about seeing the making of the movie and how many automatons they made and the girl expressed that she hoped he got to keep one and he expressed that he hoped so too (so do I by the way, but they didn't ask me).  He told her how the director had made the scenes just like his pictures (it is  remarkable) and he also shared that there would be a sign language interpreter for his presentation because his book, Wonderstruck, features deaf characters.  

Shortly thereafter, his presentation began.  He spoke about the process of creating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the experience of having it made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorcese (he showed a picture of Martin Scorcese showing the two main characters a picture from the book as their "direction"- makes his job sorta easy if you ask me), and the process of creating a book following the huge success of Hugo.  He was worried that people would read it because of the success of Hugo but that it wouldn't be any good.  Could he have been more wrong?  

Highlights include watching the movie trailer.  Chills.

Brian explained the process of researching for Wonderstruck.  He started by telling us about a documentary called Through Deaf Eyes and how watching it caused him to realize that, like an artist growing up in a family of non-artists one day finds his community, so too do deaf individuals find their community of people with similar life experiences and that was, in part, his inspiration.  

Other inspiration includes a diorama of two wolves from the American Museum of Natural History in the 1920's set in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota; The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (and the author whose E. In E.L. Stands for Elaine; the replica of the five boroughs of New York City found in Queens; and the meteor also found in the American Museum of Natural History.

Brian Selznick is an amazing and inspiring author and illustrator to see speak.  If you have the opportunity, please go.  He explained to children about the editing and drafting process with pictures from his own editor and showed pictures of the wall covered in his artwork for the book.  Incredible.

To top it all off, while waiting in line to have the books signed, I gave the name of our school library to the post it man and the woman standing directly behind me was a fellow school librarian in a neighboring district and a resident of  my own district.  Her daughter graduated from the high school just two years ago!  We connected and exchanged emails to collaborate in the future. 

But the real icing on the cake was the woman who waited the entire time I was talking to my new friend because she thought she recognized me from the slideshow... As Brian's agent.  If only.... Another lifetime, I suppose.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Tech Tip for Teachers: Document Cameras

I began to draft a post about how to create an email distribution list in Microsoft Outlook, but my computer hasn't been updated to 2010, so the screenshots would only be confusing.  But I digress... In our building, we are fortunate to now have two different kinds of Document Cameras.  We have a Lumens Ladibug 265 and also a 120 to fit into a wireless dock.  Some of our classrooms have teacher computer stations that are removed from the smartboard, and last year we attempted to rig up a USB extension cord.  It didn't work very well, so the wireless will address this issue of a time lapse. 

A document camera is like an overhead projector, except for that you can show ANYTHING underneath of it.  Think of the science experiment/art example/read aloud possibilities!  I have been using the document camera for a year now and yet, I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the possibilities of using it in the classroom and in the library.  I'm planning to incorporate its video function in the near future and wanted to share some of the functions with teachers. 

Here is a short video overview of the functions of the Lumens Document Camera 265.

And here is some information on the wireless camera:

Document Camera Teaching Links

11 Dozen Ideas to Transform Teaching

50+ Ideas for Using a Document Camera in the Classroom

Document Camera Lesson Plans

Show Me Great Lessons!

Enjoy!  And add your own ideas for uses of the document camera in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shelf Talker On The Shelf 4 Kids By Kids

Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 had the option after checking out books to make shelf talkers. What are shelf talkers? Simple stuff, really! We took index cards and folded them in half. The top half gets taped onto the shelf near the book it is "talking" about. The title, author, and student name are required, as well as the student's library section on the back. The student can then add a brief descriptor or small picture to try to persuade others to read the book. I'm hoping to have tons of shelf talkers around our library as the school year progresses. This will be an optional assignment for students after check out with materials ready for students to create shelf talkers all year long. I was hoping to get a bit more crafty with shelf talkers with speech bubbles and student pictures, but sometimes simple is best. And that leaves me something to aspire to!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Book on Behavior - Second Grade

Students in second grade discussed behavior expectations in the library and each contributed a card with an expectation for behavior in the library to add to our visual poster of second grade library expectations. I'm hoping that this will serve as a positive reminder for the second graders as well as the younger and older students too. Last year, I caught students using their shelf markers properly for our "Booky Looky" poster and I'm hoping to do the same to add some pictures to this poster as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

14 Cows for America

A beautifully written and illustrated picture book about how the Massai people made their own offering of love and goodwill to the people of NY following 9/11. Three years ago, I was fortunate to visit Tanzania in East Africa as part of a grad school class I took at Arcadia University. While I was there I met Massai warriors and was honored to witness some of their long held traditions. This book brings me back. A native Kenyan living in NY at the time of the attack on the World Trade Center, studying to become a doctor, decides to do something. He returns to his village and tells the story of that fateful day. He has come to have a cow blessed to give in memory of the victims of the attack. The people, so moved, are able to raise enough to do ate, instead, 14 cows. In a Massai tribal ceremony, they present these to an ambassador. At first, I worried that they were sacrificed for meat, but instead, they are on a preserve, and the herd is flourishing and multiplying. I think the same can be said (well, except for economically, I suppose) for New York. People have continued on, and, hopefully, are more tolerant, accepting, and understanding of each other. Immediately following 9/11, there was a lot of suspicion in our country, but my hope is that we have all learned to love.

14 Cows for America is a book that can be shared with all ages to discuss feelings surrounding 9/11 and the events that happened that day, as well as the profound feelings of civic responsibility that many felt and the desire to do SOMETHING. This story can spark a greater conversation about what our youngest (and oldest, and all those in between) students can do in the face of tragedy. To help.

Over the past few years, as a teacher, I have seen incredible examples of the giving and philanthropic nature or our students. Following Hurricane Katrina, we collected toys and books for students in shelters. We collected Pennies for Pennies for Peace. After the tsunami last year, our students folded 1,000 cranes and raised $5,000. Students initiated a fundraiser to raise money for the residents of Joplin, MO.

The students, teachers, administrators, and parents of our school community have been so generous, not just in a monetary fashion, but generous with time, creativity, ideas, and heart. I feel lucky to be a part of this community.

I've gotten a bit away from my book talk though, haven't I? 14 Cows for America is also a story of generosity of spirit, and people doing what they can to help.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Curious About the Library in First Grade

First graders have been reading "Curious George in the Library" which highlights some of the many topics students might find books on in the library like trucks, trains, dinosaurs, jungles, and just about anything else students might be curious about. When students are finished checking out, they have the choice to read, read, read (always a good choice), or to make a picture of a spot or book in our library that they are curious to learn more about. Then they can add their very own Curious George into the picture, using the prepared monkeys.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Tech Tips for Teachers: Wordle

At our first faculty meeting, our assistant principal demonstrated to teachers and staff how to make a wordle. We conducted a staff circle, stating one word that summed up Pine Road. Not surprisingly, caring was the word that ended up taking top billing. When creating a wordle, a list of words is input, or a famous speech, or, well, just about anything with words. If you would like two or more words to stay together, they can be joined with a tilde (~). An example of this might be the title of a book. In fact, I will illustrate that example shortly. Common words or articles are left out when calculating the most frequent word. So the, a, an, and, or of would not end up being the biggest fish in the sea. Wordle represents words by size. So, whatever word is in the list, or speech, or text most often will end up in the largest font size. Different color schemes and even custom color schemes can be chosen. You can randomize text to try out different fonts and colors. When you are finished, you can choose to post your wordle to a public gallery. Wordle is quite popular, so don't expect yours to stay on the front page for too long. Copy the HTML code to embed your wordle in a webpage or blog so that it will link back to the original or print it out to keep a copy.

In the library, we created Summer Reading wordles with each class in grades 3-5 as an opening circle activity. Last year, most students had read from a prescribed summer reading list, but this past summer we tried something different. Students were able to read any book at all. It's interesting to see which books, characters, and series rise to the top, even without a list. It's also helpful to me to create a consideration list of books students are mentioning that we do not (yet) have in our library. Wordles are being created for each class and then I plan to compile lists for each grade and then a combined list for all the upper grades in our school.

Wordle: 3A Summer Reading

What are some other ways teachers can use wordless in the classroom:
  • Surveys (if you would make a graph, you can make a wordle)
  • Feelings

Wordle: Feeling Survey

  • Favorite color

Wordle: Colors

  • Mode of transportation to school

Wordle: Transportation

  • Famous speeches, songs, passages from a book, and students' own writing can take on a new form.
  • Take a political figure's speech, put it in a wordle and see what they are REALLY saying.

Wordle: Obama Inaugural Speech

  • In music class, import the lyrics to a song and see if students can identify the song based on the wordle.

Wordle: The Wheels on the Bus

Can you guess?

  • Ask students to create poetry with words and create a visual representation. They can repeat the words they want to emphasize.

Check out wordle at

If wordle has you wondering, check out tagxedo for more word artistry using specific shapes.

What ideas do you have for incorporating wordle or tagxedo into your teaching?  Share in a comment below.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book, Book, Book

In the book, "Book, Book, Book" by Deborah Bruss, the farm animals find themselves bored when the children return to the school in the fall and find their way to the library. Each animal goes into the library to ask the librarian for help, but only one communicates successfully. I think this is a great book to use to introduce kindergarten students to the school library. We see the librarian at the circulation desk, engaged in story time, shelving books, and helping patrons. We can also notice that the books are arranged in alphabetical order. I also use this book to introduce a few things. When I meet students at the door, I tell them there will be a duck in our story, and that we are going to practice walking like ducklings. How do ducks walk? Do they all walk in different directions or in a line? So, we walk in a line to the story tower and talk about our favorite animals and some of the animals we predict will be in the story. Following this story, I also introduce a procedure for our tables. Each table has a picture of a different farm animal. I have cards with matching pictures and distribute them to students. This is how students find their tables. In the beginning of the year, I call one table at a time to find books and check out. One table at a time is called to line up as well. I could sing "Old MacDonald Had A Farm," but instead I sing "Mrs. Zschunke Had A Library" using the animals to call each table, which works on listening skills while reinforcing a familiar tune and ties into our theme as well. Throughout the year, as we change our focus from library procedures to nursery rhymes and familiar folk tales in kindergarten, the pictures and table assignments change to correspond. Hopefully other school librarians can find these ideas helpful in their library. It is important for our youngest students to have consistent routines to rely on when they come to the school library in order to have a positive experience and meet the school librarian's behavior expectations as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Restorative Practices and Circles in the Library

Our school is a Restorative Practices school. Part of what we do to address behavior and classroom management proactively is to conduct circles on a regular basis. As a teacher in the school library, I see each class every six days. It can be difficult, at times, to make time for these circles, but I have seen great benefits and opportunities to incorporate circles into the lessons I teach, giving each student the opportunity to contribute to the conversation in a controlled environment.

A talking piec is used and passed around the circle in one direction. Each student responds to a given prompt. For example, during this first cycle, we are using the following prompts:

Kindergarten: One of your favorite animals (Book, Book, Book features farm animals)
First Grade: What are you curious about in the library? (Curious George in the Library)
Second Grade: Library Expectations
Third - Fifth Grade: A book they read this summer or are looking forward to reading

In this way, I get to know the students and they get to know each other. Circles are a great way to break the ice, get students settled, and ready to learn.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School Jitters

Today is the first day of school at Pine Road. Each year there are jitters for students, teachers, and parents alike. Last year was my first year teaching classes in the library setting. I had taught for years prior in both first grade and kindergarten. But teaching in the library is a different animal. Many people asked me if I liked teaching in the library more, if it was "easier", or if I missed the classroom. I can say with absolute certainty that being a school library media specialist is definitely not easier. But it is different. There are different responsibilities and learning a new role is never easy. But I am not complaining because I love it. I LOVE teaching in the library, getting to see EVERY kid in the school, and watching their eyes light up when they find a "just right" book. I love helping kids learn to search in a way that is safe and effective, and learn to give credit where credit is due. I love helping students find creative ways to express themselves. I love connecting with and supporting staff in their different curricular areas, class research projects, read-aloud needs, unit development, and technology integration. Our library is not just a library. It is a media center, a living, breathing place. It is growing and changing as technology and the way we as a society embrace new ways of reading evolve. The library media center is alive. Alive with learning! Can you tell I'm passionate about my job? So, do I miss the classroom? Do I like teaching in the library more? All of the above. I miss the classroom, but I feel like teaching in the library is, for me, the best of both worlds. It's not for everyone, but it's "just right" for me!

And, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg is a great read aloud for teachers on the first day!

So, this year, as students enter the hallways, classrooms, and library of our school, I have jitters, but mostly the excited ones. I'm excited to share some awesome lessons, books, and technology with students this year. And I'm excited to share what we do with all of you. Thank you for joining me on the journey this year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Extra Credit

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently finished "Extra Credit" by Andrew Clements. I loved SO many things about this book. Where to begin...

Teachers or school librarians can use this book to introduce a letter writing unit, either around the world or close to home, or a letter writing project to a character or an author. Another great book for author letter writing is Beverly Cleary's "Dear Mr. Henshaw."

Abby, the character who lives in America, loves to rock climb on the climbing wall in the gym at her school. We recently got a climbing wall at our school. It is not 30 feet tall like the wall at Baldridge Elementary School, but the kids here seem to like it just the same. My husband helped our physical education teacher set up the wall as he works at Doylestown Rock Gym and loves to climb himself. So, kids who enjoy or are interested in climbing will like to read why Abby chose to write to a student in Afghanistannimstead of one of the other two countries that were possible choices, how climbing makes her feel, and the technicalities of some of the knots and the names of different pieces of gear needed for climbing.

Anyone with an interest in current events will love this book as well. Details of some of the past conflicts in Sadeed's village are well constructed for middle grade readers. And events are portrayed realistically regarding how people in Afghanistan and in Illinois might feel about these two students writing to each other. Cultural norms are seamlessly woven into the writing to give both perspectives for each country.

Anyone who read Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, Stones into Schools, or Listen to the Wind will appreciate Clements' ability to tell a tale of education across the globe in Afghanistan and right here in the US. The similarities and differences are striking.

The growth of the characters is profound and the power of a pen pal is well portrayed.

I've enjoyed reading everything Andrew Clements has written that resides in our school library. Now it's on to what we don't have...yet. School Story, Janitor's Boy, and his newest book, Troublemaker, will be coming up on the blog soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Extra Books in Extra Credit

I recently finished reading Andrew Clement's "Extra Credit". As I have recently gotten into the habit of noting other books that are mentioned, I'd like to do that for this book as well. The main characters, Abby and Sadeed, both share a love of "Frog and Toad Are Friends.". Beyond that, we learn that Sadeed has read a few other books written in English with Christian characters, opening his mind to the Western world, "books that were not on the approved list from the Ministry of Education."

The books he mentions are:
* Robinson Carusoe
* The Adventures of Robin Hood
* Hatchet
* Kim

Readers may want to read in the footsteps of a character by checking these books out themselves, or a teacher might make an extra credit bulletin board showcasing these books. Either way, hearing a book character talk about how he felt while reading a book can hook others for that book. And realizing that a student in a country like Afghanistan might have such limited access to reading for pleasure can help our students develop a greater appreciation for their library and the access they have to its books and other materials. For teachers interested in reading aloud the excerpt that speaks to the books Sadeed's teacher, Mahmood, provided, check out pages 122-123 in "Extra Credit" by Andrew Clements.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Iza Trapani

When I was a babysitter, in high school, one of my favorite books to read at bedtime was "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" by Iza Trapani. The additional verses coupled with whimsical illustrations make for a great picture book. Many of Trapani's books have a dust jacket overlay that adds to the cover art. The Itsy Bitsy Spider's dust jacket includes a spider web. At the time, that was Trapani's only book with which I was familiar. Fortunately, that is no longer true.

In college, I had the opportunity to go to the NAEYC conference in New York and presenting and signing was Iza Trapani. There I was able to get several more, including Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. Iza Trapani was an excellent presenter, explaining her methods and connecting to her audience.

More recently, I picked up a few more of Iza Trapani's books at the library. I can see these fitting in well to our kindergarten library curriculum. Last year, we did a unit on nursery rhymes, and many of Iza Trapani's books are extensions of familiar nursery rhymes with inventive verse added on to the original. The ones we have been reading at bedtime these days are "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone," and "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Cecelia has enjoyed both, and I'm certain that this year's kindergarteners will too!