Friday, December 2, 2011

Marty McGuire - a 2nd grade unit

Earlier this year two second grade teachers asked me if I would be willing to take their higher level kids and do something with them, they wanted me to do something with reading and they were looking at my readers theater unit that I do with some gifted fourth graders and they wanted me to do something like that.  I decided that since these groups were small I could do a book group and add extras into it.  I meet with each group once a week for about 45 minutes.  The first book I decided to do was Marty McGuire by Kate Messner. it was the PERFECT choice on so many levels and both the boys and the girls in the group LOVED the book - they have not stopped asking me WHEN the new books is coming out - I have a feeling I will have to have the new book - Marty McGuire Digs Worms on preorder for these guys!

Here is an outline of what I did each week with the students.  I used the AWESOME discussion guide from Kate and Scholastic to guide my planning of this unit.  Where it says "discussion questions" below, I used the questions from this guide. The other great thing about Scholastic is, they released this book as both a paperback and hardcover at the same time - there is no way I could have purchased 17 copies of the book in hardcover, but could do it in paperback! I assigned chapters for them to read every week, but they could always read as much as they wanted to, I had some kids finished with the book by the second week!

Marty McGuire Book Study Unit

Week one: Introduce the book and the author, look at Kate Messner’s website. Give the kids bookmarks I created.

Week two: Use discussion questions for chapter 1-3 and also read a picture book version of Princess and the Frog.

Week three: Use discussion questions for chapters 4-6, use the databases (our school subscription to World Book Kids and PebbleGo) and National Geographic site to gather information on frogs. This is where I was hoping to bring in a live frog, but catching a bull frog seemed much easier for Marty then it was for me!

Week four: Use discussion questions for chapter 7-9 and talk about improve and do an improve exercise (this website has some good improv exercises for kids). Introduce what reader’s theater is and give them their parts for the readers theater. We used a reader’s theater from the book: Fairy Tales Reader’s Theater by Margaret Allen from Creative Teaching Press we used the reader’s theater To Kiss a Frog
Week Five: Use discussion questions for chapters 10-12 and practice readers theater

Week six: Use discussion questions for chapters 13 & 14 and practice readers theater (we were hoping to do a Skype visit with author Kate Messner but we had a compatibility issue, she was so willing to connect with my students, but I couldn’t figure it out this time, going to try harder next time to come up with an activity that we can connect with Kate!

Week seven: Perform the reader’s theater to classmates and start writing, as a group, a book trailer for Marty McGuire (show examples of book trailers to them before we started).

Week eight: Create the book trailer – the students drew pictures illustrating the book and we used those illustrations plus some video and audio recording I took to create the book trailer. I created the final product this time, but might have the students try their hand at it next time.

Here are the finished book trailers:

Next up we will be doing a unit using Mr. Poppers Penguins starting in January.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Letterboxing - Library style

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation at COMO by two of my colleagues, Suzanne Skeen and Sharon Amolo about using GPS technology to create geocache's outside the school. I loved the idea, BUT I don't have any GPS units and I really don't have a space outside that I could use for this.  I have also read a few blog posts about a librarians (Shannon Miller ) this year using QR codes to create scavenger hunts throughout the library and the school, but I don't have any devices that my kids could use to read the QR codes.  SO I got to thinking....  While I love technology and try to use it as much as possible, I realized recently that even low tech things can be just as engaging and create authentic learning experiences.

I thought back to this summer when we visited author Matt Tavares and his family and we went on a letterbox hunt for some letterboxes that his family had created and hidden on Marginal Way in Ogunquit.  Letterboxing is a lot like GeoCaching but without having to use a GPS system - the low tech version.  Someone hides a box somewhere, in the box is usually a stamp and an ink pad, a notebook and sometimes a little trinket.  You can get the directions to different letterboxes at sites like this one or you can just send out the directions to friends and family who might want to go on a treasure hunt.

My second graders were still having trouble understanding how to find books in our catalog (Destiny Quest) and then writing the call number down and finding the book in the library, I thought this might be a great way to create a "scavenger hunt" to show them in a fun way how to do this.

I had some old plastic video boxes that I should have thrown out awhile ago, but just KNEW I would find something to do with them - these became my letterboxes.

I filled them with a stamp, a stamp pad and a question. I added a spine label to the spine of the boxes and a sticker asking not to remove the boxes (so far only one student has removed one and asked what it was!)When the students find the boxes from the clues I give them they get to stamp the stamp on their paper and in the box there is a question they have to answer (they write the answer on the same paper that they put their stamp on). SInce I have fairly large classes this year I had the class break up into groups of three or four to do this activity.

I created 8 letterboxes and "hid" them in the library. I put the clues on index cards and each group got a clue, when they found the letterbox and answered the question they came back to me for another clue, this way I did not have more than one group looking for the same clue at the same time.  Here is an example of one of the clues that the students needed to use to find the letterbox -

1. Go to Destiny on the computer
2. Search for a book on Hank Aaron
3. Write down on scratch paper the call number of the book
4. Find the book in the library using the call number to guide your way.  You should find a letterbox near the book. Follow the instruction on your letterbox sheet once you have found the letterbox.

I hid letterboxes in all the key areas of the library (non-fiction, biographies, fiction, everybody, magazines and reference sections.) This lesson followed my lesson on how to use Destiny and a review of call numbers and areas of the library.

I am planning on doing this a few times this year to reienforce the skill so hopefully by the time they leave second grade they will be EXPERTS at finding materials in our library.

Someday when we have devices that can read QR codes, I can see using this same lesson but adding in QR codes in the leterboxes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virtual Storytime with Jarrett Krosoczka

On Tuesday some of my students were treated to a "wicked awesome" virtual story time with author Jarrett Krosoczka as he introduced his new picture book Ollie The Purple Elephant.

For most of my kindergarten students this was not only the first time they had seen a virtual visit (Jarrett did the visits every hour on the hour via his UStream channel from 9am-5pm) but also the first time they had ever seen a REAL author.  We were able to interact with Jarrett by posting questions using the chat function on UStream. My kids were SOOO excited when Jarrett answered our questions "ON TV" (as one of my kids told me later).

I am sure that Jarrett was tired by the end of the day, but I can guarantee you that I will be ordering MANY copies of this book, my students were already asking to check out a copy of Ollie right after the story time.

Of course technology always doesn't work, I had a group of 2nd graders in at the noon story time and we could never connect to watch, not sure if it was on my end or the fact that there seemed to be over 100 people viewing the UStream channel at that moment, but we didn't have any problems any other time (we tuned in two other times on Tuesday).

Thanks to authors like Jarrett for taking time out of your schedules to make time for our kids and give them opportunities like this to interact with authors!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Georgia COMO 2011 Presentation

Welcome new visitors to my blog from GA COMO 2011. Below is the presentation I gave at GA COMO 2011 today titled: Inviting the World into Your School Library Using Web 2.0 tools.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Two of my favorite people have new books coming out TODAY!

Matt Tavares' new book, Over The River And Through The Wood is a beautiful picture book of the song we all know, Matt also included some background information on the song that I didn't know about! I just love the book trailer!

Laurel Snyder's new book, Bigger Than a Bread Box is about divorce, Bruce Springsteen songs, Baltimore, Atlanta and a magic bread box.  It is SUCH a great book, and I am not just saying that because she is a friend and because at her book party on Friday night at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur she is serving TastyCakes (butterscotch krimpets - YUM!) I gave the book to a 5th grader on Friday, she read the book this weekend and had the BIGGEST smile on her face Monday morning when she came in to tell me she loved it - she keep stopping me in the halls telling me more about what she liked about it!

There is also a slew of other great books out today - check out a list and book trailers at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Who says kids books are dead???

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

International Dot Day at Rock Springs

International Dot Day at Rock Springs

Check out the animoto video of all the FUN we had in the Media Center last week celebrating DOT DAY!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Time flies when your having fun...

I can't believe we are starting week six of the school year - it seems like it should only be week two or three!

I have been busy in the media center and here are a few things we've been working on:

I've been working with all five 5th grade classes on a big civil war research/technology project - we are almost done with the research and are ready to get going on our multimedia projects and get our Wiki up and running.
I am having my 2nd graders learn a little bit about the world of Roal Dahl and one of my 2nd grade classes decorated peaches to Follow that Peach - we have sent our decorated peaches to Van Meter, Iowa as part of a multi school project - the students are so excited to see where their peaches are going! Here is a blog that the schools participating will be posting to.

Today we started celebrating Dot Day (which is actually on Thursday). I have loved the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds for years, so when I heard about Dot Day from my friends Shannon Miller and John Schu I knew I had to do something.  Today I showed my 3rd grade technology class the TumbleBook of The Dot then the kids made their own Dots using the program KidPix.  Tomorrow I am going to show my Kindergarten classes the TumbleBook and I am also going to read them the book New York's Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne. We are going to talk about heroes and how people leave their mark on the world.  Then the kids will create their own dot with paint and crayons and markers.
And finally, today I had my first Club Click meeting. Shannon Miller and Diane Cordell started Club Click last year at Shannon's school Van Meter - well a bunch of us joined in on the fun this year and started clubs in our schools.  My club is an after school club for fourth and fifth graders.  We will learn about digital photography, share photographs with the other schools and learn how to use digital photography to tell a story. The kids were very excited today and they started taking photographs of our school to introduce our school to the other members of Club Click.

I also had a few costumes already this year - the first one was for a little video I created for an in-service meeting of media specialist for our county - I am SUPER LIBRARIAN and my tag line for the video was 'Even Super Heroes Need Capes" this was in reference to the fact that we all need mentors and a PLN (personal learning network) to rely on as we try to be the best librarians/media specialists we can be!

And my next costume was for a contest author Jarrett Krosozka (and fellow Worcester, MA native!) was holding for the book release of the latest Lunch Lady book - Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco.  Even if I didn't win, it was worth it to see my 13 yr old daughter absolutely MORTIFIED by me dressing up in the middle of downtown Atlanta (she was my photographer)!  I kept telling her it could have been worse and I could have worn the cape too!

It's been a busy first six weeks and a great, if not hectic, start to our year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy New School Year

School actually began a week ago here in my neck of the woods, and I have about five blog posts in my head, but haven't had a chance to actually sit long enough to write them out - my own three kids started school last week also and it has been a week filled with forms to fill out, checks to be written and the start of football, dance and baseball tryouts - whew - what a week!

This year my media center schedule looks a lot different than in years past- I am teaching a fifth grade technology special (basically teachers planning period) everyday and teaching a third grade technology special two days a week. I scheduled all of kindergarten, first and second grade to come in once every other week for story time.  With the success of my readers theater collaboration with our fourth grade gifted teacher, I have had two second grade teachers ask if I can collaborate with them with their gifted students twice a week. I am still working with the fourth grade gifted teacher with a reader's theater unit, only this year instead of meeting with two small groups once a week I will be meeting with one very LARGE group once a week. After I put my schedule down on paper,  I realized I have very little flexible time to meet with classes for projects and special things. I am hoping that as the year goes on I will realize my schedule isn't as packed as it seems and I can fit in more special collaborations, but time will tell.

Summer Reading Bulletin Board, filled with postcard book reviews sent in by students this summer
I am excited to get a club click going in my school this year.  This will be an after school digital photography club that I will be collaborating with Shannon Miller at Van Meter School in Iowa, John Schumacher at Brook Forest Elementary in Illinois, Jen Malphy at Kickapoo School in Wisconsin and the FABULOUS Diane Cordell, a retired media specialist and amazing photographer in New York.  Shannon and Diane started the club last year and I am excited to see what this year will bring with all of us collaborating!  I am also excited to have a fifth grade lunch book club (using books for our counties Reader's Rally list) and a fourth grade Penny Dreadful lunch book club (with books that I acquired last year from a Donors Choose grant).

I have also been looking at the possibility of acquiring some Nooks in our library.  I have been working with the Principal trying to figure out the logistics and the funding and am hoping ((fingers crossed)) that we can get these in here sometime this fall.

I do admit, 5am comes AWFULLY early and I really am missing the somewhat lazy days of summer, but I think this is going to be a great year and I can't wait to see what exciting things happen here in the media center this year!

My already out of control desk

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Have you visited the library this summer??

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Have you visited the library this summer??: "Can you believe that 3 weeks from today we will all be back at school?? I have had a great summer, but it did go by fast! If you are sending..."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Summer Road Trip part 1

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Summer Road Trip part 1: "I am BACK! I was hoping to blog while I was on my road trip, but Internet connection issues made it hard for me to post. So here is my wra..."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Road Trip!

I am *trying* to blog at least once a week on the blog I set up for my summer reading program at school - check out my latest blog post -

Rock Springs Library Media Center: Road Trip!: "As most of you know, I am from Massachusetts and my family still lives there, so every summer I pack up my kids and we take a LONG drive to..."

It has been a busy summer of teaching, dancing and car trouble - hard to believe only 6 1/2 weeks until I start work "officially" for the 2011-2012 school year!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Welcome GCPS Digital Conference Attendees

Below is the link to the Prezi presentation that I gave today at the GCPS Digital Conference.

21st Century Classroom Prezi

If you have any questions or comments about the presentation please feel free to comment here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

GCPS Leadership Presentation

Welcome! If you have found my blog because you were involved in the GCPS Leadership conference, below is our presentation Reader's Theater With a Technology Twist.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This is just awesome!

If you have followed my blog at all you know I LOVE to dress up, to me it really is one of the best parts of being in elementary school! Here is a blog of a dad who took it a bit farther - he dressed up everyday (so far) this school year to wave at the high school bus (which his son is riding on) as it goes past his house. Read his blog here and then make sure you watch the interview a local tv station did about him below (thanks to Mr. Schu for pointing me to this blog)

I am already thinking of what I can do with this - the high school bus doesn't go down my street (and I really think my oldest son would run away if I did this) but what could I do at school (it is my youngest son's last year at my schools, after all!) The wheels are turning - but that is a LOT of costumes... stay tuned!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The End

Well another school year, my 7th as a media specialist and my 4th at my current school, has come to an end. I always have mixed feeling with the end of the school year - happy that I have a break from the alarm clocking waking me up at 5am to sadness seeing students leave our school either on their way to middle school or leaving due to a move. I am also taking stock in what happened this school year and what I can do better next year - first up was cleaning my office - I really need to get more ORGANIZED next year! I will be working on a wrap up report next week to get a handle on what we DID do in the media center this year and it will help me as I plan for next year.

I also have been busy talking about summer reading to my students. I have started a blog for the students to follow this summer, my goal is to post at least twice a week... we'll see how that goes. My hope is that I have some students who do log on and take a look, I have spent the year introducing small pockets of students to things like blogs and podcasts and I am hoping to expand that next year... baby steps sometimes work best in a VERY large school setting, but sometimes I am just too impatient for these baby steps to happen - I want ALL my students blogging and podcasting and sharing, but like I said, baby steps....

Speaking of summer reading, check out my friends (and FABULOUS librarians) Shannon Miller and John Schu's summer reading project - it will KNOCK your socks off (and I am wondering if I can enter a picture in their contest, even though I am not one of my students??)

Next week we will have end of the school year meetings and I will be preparing my web 2.0 course that I am teaching to some media specialists and technology specialists from my county in early June. I will also be tap dancing - our recital is in TWO weeks - YIKES!

Happy summer to those of you who have ended school and happy last days to those of you who are still dealing with the CRAZINESS of the end of the year.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring has blown right by me

We have TWELVE days of school left - yep 12 - where did this year go?? And where has spring gone?? Things have been so busy here since spring break that many times I have said - Oh I need to blog about that and then 3, 4 days later I just gave up finding the time to blog about it, so here are some high lights of what we've been up to here in the media center.

Poetry Month
I wrote about Poem in your pocket day, but we also had a great Poetry Cafe in the Media Center - due to state testing we had some scheduling glitches in getting a lot of classes to come in and share their poems, but the classes that did get in here had a great time sharing poems they wrote and some of their favorite poems by others - my favorite was the first grade class that shared the Kentucky fight song as their group poem (can you tell where their teacher went to school!).

Not very exciting, but necessary. We were lucky that it did not take too long and in the end we were only missing about 6 items - not bad for a library with over 18,000 items!

Author visits
For Children's Book Week we celebrated by having two authors visit us.
Monday we had my friend Laurel Snyder - she was GREAT - I wish more of my teachers could have listened to her, she had some great tips for my kids in their writing and was very inspiring - and FUNNY!! The best compliment to a program that you run is when you have a parent come up to you and say "Johnny came home and couldn't stop talking about the author visit"
Tuesday we had Eric Litwin, author of Pete the Cat. He was SOO FUN! His program had guitars and harmonicas and storytelling and just a lot of FUN.

Both is these authors have some AWESOME stuff coming up and if you are local, you MUST get them booked for your school for next year - I really think both of these people are going to be BIG (as in, I knew them when kind of big...)

Summer Reading

I have started to talk to students about summer reading - I am doing a program that I have done for the past three years - basically I help the kids sign up for our local library's summer reading program and I also encourage them to participate in the Barnes & Noble program (and get a FREE BOOK) and in the Scholastic Summer Challenge website. I also ask them to send me a postcard to tell me what they are reading this summer. At the beginning of school in August I display the postcards on the bulletin board outside the media center. Last year I had a great response (even getting a postcard from Korea!) and hope that this years is even bigger.

I am also starting another blog - I have tried this before and things get so busy in the summer at home that I forget to post to it (gee, same things happens here too) but I really want this to work, so I am going to try and blog about different books and tie the books to some things and places I am going this summer. I am going to try and come up with a schedule 0 like every Monday I blog about picture book, every Wednesday I blog about a chapter book (grade 3-5) and then maybe a picture on Friday - I'm still trying to figure it all out, but I better figure it out quick, I only have 12 days left!!

Tomorrow is our 4th annual used book sale (here is a story from the first sale we held) - I am so excited, I have been sorting books all week and we have some great ones to sell - I am hoping we make about $500 to donate to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

And finally, the weekend is almost here and I get to see one of my FAVORITE people this weekend - yep, Jon Bon Jovi and I will be breathing the same air on Saturday night - I just wish my seats were closer, but oh well, it will be a great ending to a VERY hectic week here!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Poem in Your Pocket day was last Thursday and I celebrated it with some pretty AWESOME folks from around the country via Skype!

First up, one of my first grade classes Skyped with a kindergarten class at Van Meter school in Van Meter, IA where the FABULOUS Shannon Miller is the media specialist. My kids shared their poems and her kindergartners shared a poem all together that they had learned.

Next up, one of my fifth grade classes Skyped with a group of students and teachers and even the Principal at Brook Forest school in Oakbrook, IL where Mr. Schu is the media specialist (and also the coordinator of this FABULOUS day). My students shared their poems and Mr. Schu had students and teachers share poems with us. Our favorite was when his principal shared a poem about picking your nose with us!!

My fourth grade gifted students (who have Skyped with me before) got to share poems with 4th grade students at Kickapoo School in Kickapoo, WI. Mrs. Malphy, the media specialist, even shared a great poem about rocks making good pets!

My last Skype of the day was with Mr. Gagnon's 4th graders in NH and one of my kindergarten classes. Of course I couldn't help but start off our Skype visit with a little Red Sox talk, but wouldn't you know it, one of his students, sitting front and center was a Yankee fan! The 4th graders shared their poetry with us and I had two of my kindergarten students share poems that they had written THEMSELVES.

It was an awesome day and one totally worth all the hoops I have jumped through this year in order to be able to use this resource. In my county, Skype is not readily available to all teachers and I went through MANY hoops and begging and pleading to be able to use it. Hopefully projects like this will show the people in my county what a great resource Skype (and/or some kind of video conference software) can be.

Check out my video with some pictures of the day and read about the celebration at Mr. Schu & Mrs. Miller's blog and at Mrs. Malphy's smilebox presentation.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Connecting with Skype

Yesterday I finished up my first school to school collaboration project (Flat Stanley Project) with a Skype visit between Mrs. Archibald's first grade class and Mrs. Dittman's first graders from Kickapoo Area School in WI.

After a few technical glitches, the Skype visit went off without a hitch! My kids loved to hear from the Kickapoo students about the pool at their school and their students were interested in finding out more about the skeleton that resides in our science lab. The teachers and students in Wisconsin all had a good laugh when I told them it had been a little chilly here this week - it has been in the high 50's here!

This whole project has been an AWESOME collaboration between the four of us (me, my first grade teacher Mrs. Archibald, Jen Malphy, the librarian at Kickapoo school district and her first grade teacher Mrs. Dittman.) We were able to pull in all kinds of learning, from writing to geography and even science when we talked about the weather here and the weather in Wisconsin. I can't wait to do more school to school collaborations!

Some pictures of our Skype visit yesterday

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WILD Storytime

This week I used the excuse of wanting my students to use the website Build Your Wild Self (a website from the NY Zoos and Aquarium) to read one of my all time favorite books to them - Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I think I love this book because I have so many memories of my parents reading me this book when I was a child and because I LOVE reading it out loud - I have great voices for the lines "And they Gnashed Their Terrible Teeth and they rolled their terrible eyes and they showed their terrible claws" Since this classic is also fairly short, I also read Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown - I love it when I have a students make the connection of Marc Brown being the author/illustrator of the Arthur books!

The best part of this story time though, is having my students use the website Build Your Wild Self. The kids are LOVING this - basically you can choose all kinds of different animal parts to add to your boy or girl avatar. When the kids are finished, they can print out their wild thing, which comes with an explanation of what animal parts they added to their wild thing. I have encouraged the teachers to then take these back to their classroom to use with their kids in their writing workshops. Some of my kindergarten students are printing these out and taking them to art where the art teacher is working on having the kids make wild things out of different materials.

Another WILD thing that happened last week - I was named Media Specialist of the Year for Gwinnett County (the LARGE county I work in). I was totally surprised when my Principal, a few people from our district media office and my husband came charging into the media center on Wednesday yelling CONGRATULATIONS! What a great honor!

My Principal congratulating me after the ambush.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flat Stanley Connections

A few weeks ago someone on Twitter mentioned doing a Flat Stanley project with their own kids - one of the teachers I used to teach with at another school used to do a Flat Stanley project every year and the kids loved it. I started thinking about how I could use some web 2.0 tools to do a Flat Stanley project with a twist. I was thinking out loud on twitter (I do that a lot) and another media specialist that I follow, Jennifer (@Jmalphy on twitter) from Wisconsin responded to me that she would love to do something. So a few emails later we had a plan - we would each choose a first grade class to work with. We would read some Flat Stanley books with them and have the students color their own Flat Stanley. We both scanned in our students Stanley's and put them up on a Picasa web album so that we could each access the Flat Stanley's to print them out and not have our tech. people screaming at us for emailing HUGE files to each other.

Before I gave my students the Flat Stanley's from our friends in Wisconsin, I showed them on a Google map WHERE Wisconsin is, how far away from Georgia it is and what the difference in our weather is (I think the day I showed them the high in WI was 40 and our high was 65!). Once I gave them to the students they went back to their class and brainstormed where they should take pictures of Stanley in our school to share with our new friends. Our school is VERY different from Jennifer's school in Wisconsin, for one her school is K-12 and about 450 students and our school is K-5 and about 950 students!

The class took their Flat Stanley's and a camera around the school for a week. After they took pictures, we had a writing session where the students, their teacher, Mrs. Archibald and I helped them to caption the pictures they took. We then did something pretty cool, we put the photos up on the Mimio board and we had the kids write on the picture who was in the picture. We were then able to save the pictures as jpegs to add to our Animoto video. It added another special touch to our project.

I took one of the Flat Stanley's to Chicago with me and he seemed to have a great time at the Follett Software user conference and at the ST. Patrick's day Parade with me!

Our finished product was an Animoto video that I produced. I just finished it tonight and sent it on to Jennifer in Wisconsin. She will be sending to us in a week or so a Smilebox presentation of her students' experience with our Flat Stanley's. My students can't WAIT to see where their Flat Stanley's went!

This was my first experience of collaborating with another school and with a teacher in my building and it was such a GREAT experience. I can't wait to do more collaborating between my school and other schools near and far. Next up, hopefully a Skype visit with our new friends in Wisconsin!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hello from Chicago!

I am in Chicago for the first Follett Software User Conference. You may remember the CHEESY video I made which won me a full scholasrship to this conference. I am so glad I have the ability to be cheesy!

The conference started yesterday afternoon with some round tables. I was in one on student engagement. It is always so great for me to hear what other schools/libraries in other parts of the country (and in this case the world since there were two people from Canada in our session) are doing. It also makes me feel SOOO thankful for what I have in my school.

The Follett people also really know how to make you feel welcome. They had a great opening reception last night with a local arts high school jazz band and free drinks and food. I am really looking forward to today's sessions and to meet some people I have been getting to know on Twitter (@MrSchuReads & @shannonmmiller ).

I will leave you with a picture of Flat Stanley in Chicago. I am working on a project with one of my first grade classes and a first grade class from Viola, WI (@jmalphy ). I will blog more about the project when we are done, but so far my kids are LOVING it! Here is what Jennifer has to say about our project so far on her blog.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Read Across America Day Celebration

Because of a state writing test that our fifth grade students had to take on Wednesday, we moved our Read Across America celebration to Friday, which is actually a great day to do such celebrations, teachers are much more receptive to doing special things on Fridays!

Our reading specialist arranged to have books given to each teacher for their classroom and a guest reader to visit each classroom. Some of the guest readers included people from inside our school community (Principal, Assistant Principals, technology specialist etc..) and people from outside our school. I arranged to have the mascot from our local minor league baseball team, the Gwinnett Braves and a local tv weather man (Steve Milone from Fox 5) come and participate in our reading celebration. A tradition I started when I worked at St. John Neumann continued again this year, having the TEACHERS dress like a book character. We had some great ones, Pippi Longstocking, Captain Underpants and of course the Cat in the Hat. I gave all the teachers who participated a $10 gift certificate to our book fair (which was ending on Friday). I had been working on my costume ever since I saw the 360 theater production of Peter Pan in Atlanta, I was Tinker Bell and my costume included a light up skirt and lights in my hair - it was FABULOUS! We also had the kids participate by having crazy hair day. The students were encouraged to bring in $1 and they could wear their hair as CRAZY as they could get it. The proceeds from crazy hair day go toward our literacy team and purchasing new books for our book room.

Here is a short video of some of the fun we had on Friday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Celebrating Black History Month

In honor of Black History month, my story time this week is all about JAZZ - jazz music that is.

I read one of my favorite books about the subject, Lookin for Bird in the Big City by Robert Burleigh. I love reading this book because of the rhythm of the words as you read it. The book is about what *MIGHT* have happened when Miles Davis came to New York City to find and play jazz with his idol, Charlie "Bird" Parker.

After we read the book I play parts of an episode of Reading Rainbow - Hip Cat by Jonathan London. The books is read by the FABULOUS Ann Duquesnay, I don't think I could do this book justice after hearing her read it! If you are lucky enough to have access to Discovery Education streaming video you can download the episode from there (which is what I did). The kids love the music and it is a great introduction to jazz music.

Another thing I did this week for Black History month was with third grade, we did a webquest on Frederick Douglas. You can access the webquest here, but the links are specific to some databases that my school has access to as part of Galileo (our state database portal). I have done quite a few of these webquests with third grade in the past few weeks and they are great for two reasons, one is that they get to learn about the different databases that our school has available and how to naviagte them and two, they learn some facts about the person we are researching (the people are all part of the third grade social studies curriculum). You can take a look at some of the other webquests I created here, but realize that many of the live links will not work unless you are part of my school district.

I hope everyone has a GREAT weekend, it is 70 degrees here in Atlanta today - not bad weather for February!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chinese New Year

Last week and this week we are celebrating Chinese New Year in the media center. Some year I am going to get brave enough and attempt to make a dragon head - but not this year! This year we are reading two books, Grace Lin's Bringing In The New Year and Janet Wong's This Next New Year. after we read the books we are making Chinese lanterns. I have done this before with kindergarten and first grade, but for some reason I didn't remember the kids having as much trouble following the directions as they have this year. I do think art projects like this are great lessons in following directions. My teachers really appreciate it when I do things like this, to reinforce the skills they are trying to teach in their classrooms.

To make the lanterns I printed out this template, I cut off the directions part of the template and enlarged just the template onto an 8-1/2x11 piece of red paper. I hand these out to the kids and they follow me step by step as we create the lantern. I think with my kindergarten students it is the following directions part that is making it difficult. My first and second graders are having a much better time creating the lanterns.
According to Grace Lin, this year, the year of the rabbit "should be a should be a gentler and smoother one" - I sure hope Grace is right!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Skype Author Visit

Last week after much wrangling with my county to allow us to do this, we had our first Skype visit with author Melissa Stewart.
I first learned about Melissa last year from Twitter - one day I tweeted about doing a reader's theater project and she tweeted back to me to check out her website, she had some reader's theater scripts on there. As it turned out, I had just ordered her books for the library that she had scripts for! I used the scripts with my class, we created a slide show/podcast with the reader's theater, which I put up on this blog and Melissa saw it. She linked to it on her blog and it made my kids DAY - I mean, how COOL to have an author put your work on her blog!!! So, Melissa and I talked about a school visit (she wasn't heading to Georgia anytime soon) and she suggested a Skype visit. Great idea, I thought, until I had to deal with my county telling me it wasn't possible.
So fast forward to this school year and I was determined to make it happen! With the help of my district media coordinator, we convinced the county technology department to let me do this. Originally they wanted me to use a different software to conduct the visit, but ended up letting me use Skype (but I have been told that any future virtual author visits need to use the other software). It helped that Melissa was on board no matter what software we had to use for the visit - and that made it so much less stressful for me to know that she was willing to work with me on this.
So then FINALLY last week was the day. I had my two reader's theater classes in the media center for the visit (about 28 students). The students had written questions the week before when we met and we had talked about what is an appropriate question to ask and what is not (not asking How old are you but maybe ask When did you start writing instead..). My partner in crime for this class - the 4th grade gifted teacher Mrs. Zawacki - typed the questions up and made copies for the whole class and we highlighted the questions WE thought were the most important to ask her. I had done a test Skype with Melissa earlier in the day and we had determined that we would mostly have the kids ask questions to her during the visit. I think the visit went FABULOUS and the kids were SOOO excited about the while thing. Most exciting for Janet and I was the advice that Melissa gave to our students about writing a reader's theater, since our students will be writing their own as our next unit. The students blogged about it after and you can read their reflections here and here.
I can't wait to do this again, I think having a smaller group (under 30 kids) works out best and definitely having a group write questions before speeds things along and makes for a better visit (I think this applies for any author visit!) I also think that since we have spent SOO much time with Melissa's books that it really meant more to the students than if we had a Skype visit with an author they were not as familiar with. I can totally see doing this again, maybe with my 4th grade book group or maybe with another class that has done an author study on a particular author.
Here is author/teacher Kate Messner's great article on author Skype visits to get you started.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tough Times

These are tough times in education - I know that phrase has been used for the past few years, but this week that phrase really hit home here in my world.

Galileo, our state database system is being threatened. Our new state education superintendent Dr. John Barge left if off the new budget proposal. The state DOE stated that while it is useful it is not necessary.

I have my students use Galileo databases on a daily basis (example here ) and I cannot imagine not having access to resources like this for my students. Martha Powell, a Georgia media specialist has a great letter up on the GLMA blog about WHY we need resources like this in our schools.

In my own school this week budgets were again cut. The good news is I will have a job as a library media specialist at my current school and I will still have a full time clerk. The bad news is we are having to do more with less staff and this includes me teaching specials next year and I am sure my clerk will be doing many things not related to helping run the library. I am not teaching specials all day, but it does cut into time when I could be collaboratively planning lessons with teachers. I am teaching a 5th grade special this year with the technology person at our school and I have seen that the 5th grade teachers have not been collaborating on many lessons or projects with me this year. A 5th grade teacher told me it was because she figured her kids were getting "what they needed" from me during the special. While, I am teaching research and technology skills during the special class, I still think it means more to the students when both the classroom teacher and I collaborate together.

I think times will get better and I am VERY fortunate to be in a school system that does value the role of the library and having a full time certified librarian in the library. I think in the mean time, we need to roll up our sleeves and do whatever is needed to help our students be as successful as they can be - I mean, isn't that what it is all about - the kids. Sometimes I think some people forget that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Crayon Story Time

For my first story time of the year I searched for something unique to tie into Martin Luther King Day (which we celebrate on Monday - YAY another day off of school - not!) and I found this lesson plan (on an art teacher website, no less!)

I decided to use mix the lesson up a little bit. First, I showed the students the two books I was going to read to them - Martin's Big Words, The life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport (you can read any book about MLK, this just happens to be my favorite) and The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf (we do not have this title in the media center, but I did have a WORN OUT paperback copy that I bought through a Scholastic book order when my oldest was in kindergarten, see above picture) and I told the students to think about WHY I was reading both of these books, I told them that they went together and they had to figure out why. I read the books then we had a discussion about how the books are similar (and even my kindergarten students got it!)
After I read the stories we went to the tables and each student colored their own crayon. I used this crayon pattern, but in the interest of saving paper, I reduced the size so that two crayons fit on one piece of paper. For the K & first graders I had them draw a picture of themselves in the middle of the crayon. For the second grade students they had to write 4 things that make them unique in the middle of the crayon. After they were done I glued the crayons into a class crayon box. As usual, I over thought this and making the crayon boxes was more of a project than I thought it would be (especially since I am art challenged!).

It was a fun project and I think really helped to convey Dr. Kings message of love to the kids.
MLK day bulletin board

Snowpocalypse 2011- Atlanta style

I am currently typing this in my jammies at my kitchen table - WHY you ask am I not at work today..

We are on day FOUR of snowpocalypse 2011 here in Atlanta. ^The picture above was taken yesterday in my neighborhood. It seems to be a little better today, but since the Atlanta area does not seem to own any plows or sand trucks, we just have to wait for it to melt - which is a little hard when the temperatures seem to be staying below freezing. I have not left my neighborhood since Sunday, but I am determined to brave the ice and make it out of my neighborhood today! The kids had a great time playing in the snow the first two days, but yesterday I started hearing "I'm bored" I'm cold" I'm sick of playing in the snow" and the best was from my daughter "I hope we have school tomorrow". After two weeks of Christmas break togetherness and now this, I think we have officially had TOO MUCH family time. Unfortunatly my husband was not part of the family togetherness, he works for a local tv station and they were on "disaster" mode this week. He left our house Sunday night and he finally got to come home last night for a while before going back into the station for his "normal" shift. The news must go on!

Next week I start my annual SNOW unit in the media center, where we read snow stories and I "make" it snow in the media center - it is ALWAYS a big hit, but this year I am wondering since the students have seen so much of the real stuff if it will be as big of a hit?

I am sad that I had all kinds of things planned for this week - week two of my Martin Luther King story time (post of that to come), research with some classes, week two of my Animoto unit with 5th grade - now I have to adjust my plans and go on. I did get to read some books and catch up on some laundry, but as my thirteen year old daughter said "I'm all done with this snow now" I have to agree

Some pictures from my snow days

Here is hoping that we get some melting going on today!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy Half Year!

Yes, I know it is a new year, but for those of us in the school system (at least here in Georgia) it is half-way through our school year. While I HATE starting school in early August, I do like that our half way point starts off the New Year. I have been spending the past few days trying to catch up on all that I *thought* I would do over our two week break (and didn't) and reflecting on what I've done this year and what I still have to do.

what I've done:
* started a new IMPROVED Reading Raptors program (my school wide reading program) - I like the way this program is going, although I didn't realize how much WORK it would be for me to keep up with the reading logs and prizes - I have a few tweeks for next year, but I think I FINALLY have something I am happy with.

*brought back the weekly reference question - while I thought I would have a lot more kids participating online, I am happy with the number of kids participating and researching using BOOKS here in our library

* started the Penny Dreadful 4th grade book club. This has been SOO much more than I thought it would be. I had more kids sign up then I could take, the kids who I did take into the book club are excited and having some AWESOME conversations about books. And the most exciting thing - right before Christmas my Donors Choose project was fully funded so I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting 3 sets of books for our club- this will also allow me to add another day to the club - YAY!

* Taught the first 9 weeks of the 5th grade technology special, doing projects on Galileo, PowerPoint, digital cameras and digital photography

* Did numerous story times for grades K-2

* started year two of my collaboration with a 4th grade teacher on our reader's theater project - this year we have added blogging to the mix!

* Presented at GA COMO and at my local districts professional development day

* Ordered LOTS of new books (which I am also anxiously awaiting for)

* and lest not forget running a pretty successful book fair and a helping coordinate a VERY successful school wide literacy night

* I won a scholarship to the Follett User Conference in Chicago in March (with the CHEESIEST video ever made)

* and oh yeah, I was named Teacher of the Year at my school (which I STILL can't believe!)

I feel like I still have SOO much I want to do these next 90 days. I have Dr. Seuss day projects to get going on, a 5th grade oral history project I am trying to get off the ground with a 5th grade teacher, poetry cafe, two author visits, another book fair to run and hopefully lots more teacher collaboration. The other thing I would like to do more of is blog - I seem to have this goal every year and every year I start out strong, but then life gets to me... maybe if I had an iPad to blog on ((dreaming..dreaming..))

Happy New Year!

Oh yeah - if you are in the Atlanta area this Saturday night (1/8/11) and you LOVE kidlit - stop by the first (of hopefully many) Atlanta kidlit drink night - 6pm at the Square Pub in Decatur - I am planning on being there with the lovely and talented Laurel Snyder - it should be a FUN night!