Digital Book Talks and Exploring How We Belong for #WRAD16

Belonging Week (8)Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade class has been exploring how they can be leaders within our school community.  Back in the fall, they started writing shelf talkers and displaying them on shelves at the front of our library. After all of their suggested books were quickly checked out, they are looking for ways to expand their leadership.  They have decided to take the “7 Strengths of Reading” challenge leading up to World Read Aloud Day and explore each week’s question.  They have also decided to take their shelf talkers and make them digital.

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Across 2 days, the class came to the library to work on their next steps of this project.  We began by talking about our memories of being read aloud to.  I shared about my 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Deloache, and how she read Brer Rabbit stories to us with so many voices that I can still hear in my head today.  Ms. Tesler shared an experience of being read aloud to in college and how that stuck with her even as an adult.  Many other students began to share their own memories of being read aloud to.

We used this to launch into a new purpose of exploring the read aloud.  We are thinking about books that others might enjoy reading aloud.  We are also thinking about books we might read aloud to our buddies in other classrooms. Along with this, we started discussing how reading aloud builds community and how certain books help us feel connected with a community. To close, I shared my own example of a book talk and a reflection on the #belongingweek #wrad16 question on Flipgrid.

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The first task was for students to select a book or books to read.  We wanted them to choose a picture book for this first book talk and question.  I pre-selected some books that had a theme of belonging, but students were welcome to choose any picture book.  Once students chose a book, they sat down to read it.  If they finished, they could start writing their shelf talker or their reflection on this week’s #WRAD16 question: “When has reading helped you feel like you belong to a community?”

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In class, students continued to work on their reflections and they returned to the library with their completed writing.  I’ve been sharing the belonging week Flipgrid a lot on social media in the hopes that other schools would contribute.  When the students arrived to record their own, I was happy to share with them that Donna MacDonald in Vermont and Kathy Schmidt in Georgia had students who contributed to the Flipgrid.  We started by taking time to listen to them.

We used these contributions to consider pieces that were included as well as what we needed to do when we recorded our own.  Students pointed out things like speaking clearly and loud enough to hear.  They pointed out how there wasn’t a lot of movement behind the students who were recording, and that they introduced themselves.

Students spread out all over our library and recorded two Flipgrids.  One Flipgrid was a digital book talk sharing a new book.  This set of answers will be displayed on a monitor in the library and put in slideshow mode.  This will cause the videos to constantly scroll through and advertise books in our library.  We also hope that other schools will contribute their own book talks.  Renee Cunningham in North Carolina is already planning to do this with her students.

http://flipgrid.com/#b9bd04f0 

Finally, our students reflected on the belonging week question for World Read Aloud Day.  I loved hearing students make connections to their own lives and the sense of belonging.  I also loved hearing students pick out parts of a book and how a character felt like he belonged to a community.  It was a natural way to collect some analysis of text from students.

I hope you will take a moment to listen to some of their thoughts.

http://flipgrid.com/#8e21e4e6

We are just getting started, but I hope to see many more schools contribute to both our book talk Flipgrid as well as our weekly 7 Strengths of Reading grids.  If you are interested, feel free to add your students’ voices!

Polar Express 2015

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Our school is filled with tradition, and one of the favorite ones every single year is Polar Express Day.  It takes a huge team of volunteers to pull off this schoolwide event, but it is always a magical day for our students.  Every student hears The Polar Express read aloud while sipping hot chocolate in their pajamas.  Every child receives a bell with the message of “always believe” whispered in their ears.  Each child also receives a candy cane on the way back to class.

#alwaysbelieve

A photo posted by Julie Moon (@julie_moon_) on

Ahead of the event, volunteers purchase supplies to make bells for 600 students.  They spend a morning stringing the bells and prepping them for quick delivery to students on event day.  Another volunteer list is created to help on the day of the event as we have every class in the school come through the library.  A schedule is created and approved by the teachers.  This year, that schedule was very tight due to our increasing size.  Some sessions had 3 classes in them.

The day before the event, the lunchroom gets the hot chocolate so that it is prepped and ready to go.  A special spirit committee meets late at night and transforms the school into the north pole with train tracks, crackling fires, ornaments, and lights.  It is a magical arrival to school.

The first team of volunteers pick up the hot chocolate and start getting it ready for the first group.  At that point, things repeat every 30 minutes.  Music is played as students enter. Hot chocolate is passed out during the hot chocolate song by a team of 3-6 volunteers.

Polar Express (59) Polar Express (60)

We listen to the story while a teacher holds the book.  Then, the same team of volunteers put the bells around all the students’ necks.  Immediately, there is a chorus of bells ringing around the room as students check to see if their bells actually ring.  As always, there were special moments such as a former Barrow buddy returning to hold the book for a grade level.

Abney Marie's brother shares in the Polar Express experience! Awwww!

A photo posted by @fourthgradebarrow on

This year, we even had a spontaneous sing along of Jingle Bells.

Thank you to each and every person who made the 2015 Polar Express day another great success.

 

 

 

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: The Final Lists

 

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Since early November, a group of 30 students has been hard at work spending a student book budget.  This year’s budget was funded through a generous grant from James Patterson.  Students created a survey in Google forms, surveyed the school, analyzed the results, set goals, met with vendors, and created consideration lists.

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You can read more about their work in these posts:

Getting started

Meeting with Capstone

Meeting with Gumdrop

Meeting with Avid

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Over the past week, students have worked to narrow those consideration lists down until they had books that met our goals and were within our budget.  There were many tough decisions as usual.  Students had to consider how many of each kind of book to order.  Should we order more superhero books than anything else?  Should we order copies of books that we already have in the collection?  Should we include books that we knew students would like but didn’t actually meet one of the goals we set in the beginning?  Should we spend more money with a certain vendor in order to earn additional free books?  As usual, I saw students go to bat for a book because of something they heard other students ask for.  For example, there was a Frozen drawing book with Gumdrop Books.  One of the 5th grade boys said, “I don’t personally like Frozen, but I know a lot of students who do.  I think we should order another copy of this book so that more students can enjoy it.”  I’m always amazed by the conversations that surface during this project.

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After cutting books from the list, I sent the student choices to Avid Bookshop, Capstone, and Gumdrop books to give us final quotes.  They each emailed me a final list for students to see.  Students met for one final time before the holidays to give a stamp of approval to the final lists.  There were a few minor changes to the lists in the end.  We added an additional Wimpy Kid book and some additional books in series.

Now, all of the lists have been sent to the vendors.  We met our goal of finishing before the holidays and students spent the entire $5,000 James Patterson Grant and managed to stretch that budget to an additional $750 thanks to Capstone Rewards.  Now we wait.  The books should arrive in January.  At that time, we’ll meet again to unpack the books, market them to the school, and enjoy a first look and checkout before the rest of the school.

Capstone List

Gumdrop List

Avid List

Great work student book budget team!

Happy International Ninja Day!

Did you know there was a day dedicated to ninjas?  Well, I didn’t either until my friend, Matthew Winner, pointed it out.  International Ninja Day is December 5th, and even though it’s a Saturday this year, it doesn’t mean you have to pass by the opportunity to read some ninja stories in December! Over at All the Wonders, you’ll find a whole toolkit to celebrate the day at home, in your classroom, or in your library.

International Ninja Day is December 5th! Celebrate at All the Wonders.

Yesterday, I had 4 Kindergarten classes in the library who wanted to have a storytime and checkout, so it was the perfect opportunity to talk about ninjas.  We started by sharing all the things we know about ninjas.  Words like sneaky, training, ninja moves, and fighting were of course brought up.  Then, we thought about characters we knew who were ninjas.  The overwhelming favorites were Ninja Turtles and Lego Ninjago.

This connected us to our read aloud of choice for the day which was Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Scwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat.  Since we were already talking about characters, we took some time to talk about Red Riding Hood and what we knew about most Red Riding Hood stories.  We held onto these ninja and Red Riding Hood ideas to see how they unfolded in the book.  Once the book was complete, students picked out some of their noticings.  They were so observant, and there were many memorable moments.  I think my favorite was when a student talked about how Ninja Red Riding Hood didn’t need a woodsman to help her.  She saved the day with her ninja grandma.

After our quick but rich conversation, we hurried to tables to make our own ninja masks.  I printed off an online template and students used crayons to decorate their masks in any way they wanted.  Some chose the Ninja Turtle route and colored with their favorite character colors.  Others chose to create patterns on their mask like a rainbow ninja.

This was a whirlwind time in the library because all of this along with a checkout happened in 30 minutes, but I guess that goes with the ninja theme.  We didn’t have time to finish our masks, so the teachers were gracious to take the masks back to class to finish.  As I was in the halls during dismissal, I spotted a student who was proudly carrying her finished mask to take home for the weekend.  She stopped me and said, “Mr. Plemmons…I forgot my backpack at home, but I’m carrying my mask home.”

I’m often asked if I do “traditional storytime” because I do so much with technology.  The answer is a huge YES!  It’s not about print vs digital.  It’s about how all of the tools we have available to us come together to help us experience the world.  Sometimes it’s an iPad, and sometimes it’s a box of crayons, a paper mask, the power of our imagination, and our curiosities about becoming a ninja.  Happy International Ninja Day!

The Power of the Picture Book: A Look at Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

Picture Book Month is coming to a close, but of course, the power of the picture book and the magic that it holds should (and will) live on beyond one month.  Picture Book Month is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of the importance of reading aloud to one another.  It reminds us of the connections that we make to those that we experience a book with.  It reminds us of how a story that seems so short and simple can be packed with so many conversations, memories, and inspiration.

This month, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Little Red by Bethan Woollvin, a new picture book published in the US by Peachtree Publishers (April 2016).  I love getting advance copies of books and seeing what readers have to look forward to in the coming months.  I also love taking them home and sharing them with my own children.  When you share a book with a child, you see it through different eyes and it takes on a life of its own.

Little Red is a version of little red riding hood, and its pages are filled with images that use just 3 colors: red, white, and black. Many of you know how much I love the color red, and the red definitely stands out on each and every page. Little Red is a clever girl and doesn’t adhere to the rules of sometimes naive fairy tale characters.  She isn’t fooled by the wolf for one minute and has her own ideas of how to handle every situation.  The wolf has a massively long snout that shows off his extra sharp teeth, and Bethan Woolvin zooms the reader in to a two-page spread of the wolf that will make you feel like you are being swallowed too.  She does the same thing with Little Red to show off Red’s subversive thinking in action.  I can’t quit staring at these simple yet vibrant images.

When I took Little Red home, I first read it to my 3 year old son. He immediately fell in love with the story and had to read it again the very same night. He had a love/hate relationship with the wolf and loved to shout out “EAT YOU WITH!” when I turned the page in that part of the story. Little Red also has a repeating line: “which might have scared some little girls, but not this little girl”. It only took a couple of readings for him to discover this line and read it along with me every time. My son is a wiggle monster and it is sometimes hard to get him to sit still for a book or even pick out a book to read at bedtime. However, every night since taking Little Red home, he has requested to read it. There’s something magical about the simplicity of the text and illustrations, the subversive nature of Red (which is a bit like him), and the element of getting “eaten” that demands his attention.

Peachtree sent a cute little paper basket filled with cupcake wrappers, a red velvet recipe, and cupcake toppers. These quickly became toys to continue the story beyond the pages of the book. He took all of them out at supper at stuck them in his bread and began telling us all a story over dinner. It made me realize as a parent that I often go beyond the book at school but I don’t do it nearly enough at home. Something as simple as a paper cutout of a book character became an avenue for imaginative story-based play, and it really wouldn’t take much effort for me to do that with more books.  It also reminded me of a new resource for families called All the Wonders, which offers ways for families to go beyond the book.

My 5 year old daughter also joined in on the fun of Little Red by listening along as I read.  It did not take her long to be able to read the entire book by herself, so now she wants to share it with every person she can. She reads it to me, her mom, and her brother.  We also brought it along with us to Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. My daughter’s great grandmother came down to visit and of course was delighted by a reading of Little Red. It was magical to watch my daughter, who I’ve read to since before birth, suddenly be the reader.  I think she read the book three or four times to her great grandmother, and then I watched as they started talking about what happens “between the lines” of the pages.  Her great grandmother shared the story of the woodsman from other red riding hood stories and they began to wonder if there was a woodsman anywhere in this story or why there wasn’t.  I’ve always loved my grandmother’s knack for storytelling, and it was fun to see her do a quick red riding hood version with my daughter.

There’s no way that I could have known all of the magic that was hiding inside this one book without opening it up, sharing it aloud, and carefully looking for the miraculous.  As we leave Picture Book Month, I invite you to look at the picture books around you. What magic is hiding inside? How are you sharing them with the readers in your life? How are you encouraging readers beyond the pages of the book? I write these questions because they are what I’m considering for myself right now thanks to Bethan Woollvin, Little Red, and my own family. Happy reading!

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Students and Vendors: A Student Book Budget Project with Capstone Press

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We just finished week 2 of student book budgets.  During this week, students have analyzed the data from over 300 students who answered our reading interest survey.  They used the summary of results in Google forms and also printed out a list of specific books that students requested.  They used both of these tools to create a list of goals for purchasing as well as a list of things to consider while selecting books.

This year we will focus primarily on comics/graphic novels, sports, animals, scary stories, games, and how to do things. We will also focus some on music and humor/jokes.

Goal-setting based on our survey data

We haven’t specifically decided how to split up our $5,000 James Patterson grant, but the discussion has started.  It seems like more money is going to go to our top 3 goals and the remaining money will be split to the other goals.  However, that is still being decided.

Once our goals were established, I started sending out invites to vendors to come and meet with students.  We have 3 vendors we will be working with this year: Capstone Press, Gumdrop, and Avid Bookshop (our local independent bookstore).

Jim Boon Capstone (44) Jim Boon Capstone (36)

This week, students met with Jim Boon of Capstone Press.  Jim and Capstone have been longtime supporters of this project.  Jim ships in catalogs ahead of time so that each student gets a catalog.

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He also brings in a selection of books and divides them into fiction and nonfiction.  Most of these books meet the needs of our goals, but there’s of course a few tossed in just for fun for students to look at.  Jim usually brings in some fun posters and things for the students as well, which makes them feel very special.  This year, students are adding books to our Capstone consideration list that match our goals, but students are also able to pick one book of their personal choice to add to the library.  These books will get a special sticker with each student’s name designating who chose the book for the library.

Each grade level group came in for 30 minutes.  Jim met with them at a table first to go over things like Capstone rewards, how to use the catalog, and how to scan books from the catalog straight into a consideration list.

I love how Jim talks directly to the students instead of me.  They are the customers for this project, and he is meeting their needs and expectations.

After orienting at the tables, students start looking at all of the books that Jim brought in as well as using their catalogs to locate the books.

When students find books in the catalog that are for consideration, they fold down the corners of the pages until they can come to the computer to scan the books into our list.

Once we scan the barcode in the Capstone catalog, that entire series is added to our list.  We then take a look to see which of the books on the list we already own.  Students decide if they think we need an extra copy or if we should uncheck books we already own.  Then, we save the cart.

After one pass through the books and catalogs, our students have added 116 titles to our Capstone consideration list for a total of $2,267 .

This number will of course grow and will be added to our other 2 vendors.  Then, we’ll work to narrow our lists to meet our goals and our budget.

As always, thanks to Capstone, Jim Boon, Amy Cox, and Eric Fitzgerald for their support with this project each year. I can’t wait for the many conversations we will have about these books in the coming weeks.

Get Ready for Picture Book Smackdown 2015! #pbsmkdwn

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For 3 years, I have organized an online picture book smackdown in honor of Picture Book Month.  Over those 3 years, our Google Hangout event has grown stronger thanks to the collaboration of librarians, students, and authors around the country.  We are busily planning this year’s event, but you can go ahead and put it on your calendar now!  It will be November 19th from 1:30-2:30PM EST.

We made a Smore to host all of the content of the event:

During the smackdown, you can expect to hear:

  • An introduction and welcome from Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas
  • Students from at least 5 states share favorite picture books and why picture books matter in a fast-paced format
  • Authors such as Laurie Ann Thompson share her favorite picture books along with our students
  • An ongoing doc of picture books that we share!

Everything will broadcast through a Youtube link:

We would love for you to watch the event with your students or share with classrooms.  You can even participate by tweet about the event or tweeting your own picture book recommendations during the event using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

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Even if you can’t join us, we hope you are inspired by our event and consider having your own Picture Book Smackdown online or in your own space.  Feel free to use our hashtag to connect our events together. Happy Picture Book Month!

P.S.  If you can’t wait for this year’s event, here’s a little taste of what we did last year: