King Alice: A Visit with Matthew Cordell

I love collaborating with our local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Each year, we get amazing authors and illustrators who visit our schools and share their expertise with our kids. Our first visit of this year was Caldecott-medalist Matthew Cordell.  He won the Caldecott for his story of bravery and kindness called Wolf in the Snow.  Now, he is touring for his newest book King Alice.  His visit to our school was made possible by his publisher MacMillan Kids and Avid Bookshop.

I’ve followed Matthew’s work for several years. His book,  Hello Hello, is a favorite book that I love to use as we ponder how we balance our digital lives and real lives.  Even though it is a few years old, it continues to be relevant.

When I found out he was coming to our school, I began collaborating with Rita Foretich, our art teacher.  I scheduled read alouds with every class in K-2.  During every class, we read Wolf in the Snow. First grade also read Dream. Second grade also read Hello Hello.

In art, Ms. Foretich focused on 1 book per grade. Kindergarten made art inspired by Wolf in the Snow. They considered a time they were kind or brave and illustrated that moment. First grade made art inspired by Dream. They considered what they dreamed to be and illustrated that dream.  Second grade made art inspired by Hello Hello. They considered what they like to do in their free time and how they balance digital/real life and illustrated those thoughts.

Each piece of art was mounted on black construction paper to create a gallery in the front halls of our school.

For the visit, we transformed the entrance to the library to look like a castle wall. My talented high school intern, Andrea Aramburo, created a hand-lettered banner that said “Welcome Kings”. Every class received paper crowns from the publisher to wear to the visit. All of this was in honor of King Alice.

During Matthew’s visit, he shared a little of his childhood leading up to where he is now. Then, we got to see inside his messy studio. He talked about how he purposefully took a picture of the studio in action because he wanted students to see that art wasn’t a neat and clean process.  This became one of the favorite moments of the talk for some students.

Before Matthew read King Alice, he told some stories from his family. One example was how his daughter suggested things for them to do together like throw a pie in dad’s face or put on dad’s makeup. I loved hearing these real-life examples because it showed all of us that ideas are truly all around us.  King Alice is about a dad and daughter doing things together on a snow day. The dad doesn’t always want to do everything Alice suggests, but when she suggests making a book, the dad is all on board. We loved learning that Matthew’s daughter even got to collaborate on parts of the book.  King Alice has many laugh-out-loud moments that students were still talking about after the visit, and I heard more than one student shout out “Idea!” just like Alice did when she thought of additions to her story.

Students always love seeing an illustrator draw. Matthew drew King Alice and narrated every step of the drawing process. Seeing the blank page transform into the stoic King Alice was incredible and inspiring. I always see students go back to class after these moments and try to draw the characters themselves.

Before Matthew left, he chatted with several students including one student who presented him with a book that he wrote just for Matthew.

He also took time to tour the gallery of student art and get to know our many creators throughout K-2.

 

Thanks to our PTA, every classroom teacher received a copy of King Alice.  I’m sure it will be heavily used as a mentor text in writing workshop. It brings up some many important ideas of storytelling from ideas to revision to illustrating.

If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I encourage you to go to your local independent bookshop and make a purchase. I’m sure there’s even a few signed copies still left at Avid Bookshop if you want to order one online.

Thank you, Matthew Cordell, for sharing your wisdom with our students, teachers, and families. Thank you MacMillan Publishers for making our city one of the stops on the tour. Thank you Avid Bookshop for collaborating with our school to make this visit possible and for supporting all of our book sales.

 

 

Making with a Cause: Cardboard Awards

One thing I’ve been very interested in with our makerspace is “making with a cause”. I see so many posts on social media where someone has done something amazing for someone else by using skills and materials often found in makerspaces. From 3D-printed shells for turtles to scarves for the homeless shelter, there are so many ways we can give back to our community through making.

I love that my friend, Gina Seymour, has created a whole book on “making with a cause” and I look forward to my copy arriving in the mail.  Her book, Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects For Library Youth, has a whole section on getting started and another section with examples of projects from animal welfare to health/wellness to community service.

For this month’s theme of cardboard, we asked students to think about someone who deserved an award. What would the award be? What would it look like? Why would the person receive the award?  Students designed their awards out of cardboard.  Some made medals to hang around necks.  Others made trophies or even booklets. The only requirement was to use cardboard.

We asked students to start by brainstorming ideas on paper, and then they transferred those ideas onto cardboard. Using Makedo saws, scissors, and canary cardboard cutters, students worked with UGA mentors to cut out their award designs.  They embellished these with duct tape, string, washi tape, and other supplies from our makerspace supply cart.

As students completed their cardboard awards, they came to me at the computer to print a certificate to accompany the award. I found an easy certificate generator called Certificate Magic.

It allows you to choose the type of award you want to print and then fill in the details in a very simple form.  Then, you can download your award as a PDF and print. Students named their award, identified who they were giving it to, and chose a reason for the award. I loved hearing who they were giving the awards to and why.

A few examples included:

  • A T-rex award given to someone’s sister for acting like a dinosaur
  • A Golden Bracelet award given to someone’s sister for being a good sister
  • A Golden Butterfly award given to someone’s whole family for supporting her
  • A Football Trophy given to a dad for being a supporter of the Georgia Bulldogs
  • A Butterfly Necklace award given to a friend for being a good friend

There was even a special surprise award for me.  Somehow this student kept his award details a secret until he gave me the award.  He even asked if he could have privacy while he filled in the Certificate Magic form.  My award was called “Read More Books” for being a great librarian.  He even made the cardboard award look like a book with the award details inside.

I’m loving this component of our makerspace so far this year and I look forward to seeing what people end up creating for others in the coming months.

 

The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

Celebrating International Dot Day 2018

September 15(ish) is International Dot Day. This day celebrates The Dot by Peter Reynolds and the idea that we are all creative and unique and can all make our mark on the world. Every year, we use this week to make Skype connections with classes around the country, share dot-related stories, and realize that we are all connected to each other.

Some years I try to host many dot-making activities in the library.

This year, we are doing creativity challenges every week as a whole school, so I asked my principal if we could make this week’s challenge dot-related. At the beginning of the week on our morning broadcast, I explained the purpose of Dot Day and challenged all classes to see what they could make out of dots. They could create something as a class, create individual ideas on post-its or index cards, or anything else. Each class was encouraged to hang their work outside their door for all to see. They were also encouraged to bring their creations to Skype sessions to share with our connecting classes.

I really loved this new addition because I feel like more people jumped into celebrating Dot Day. On Friday, we invited everyone to wear dots, and I was surprised to see how many students created their own shirts at home with dots.  One student even hid a Mo Willems pigeon in his dots on his shirt.

For our Skypes we connected with:

  • Donna MacDonald at Orchard School in South Burlington Vermont to read Little Elliot by Mike Curato.
  • Craig Seasholes in Seattle, Washington to read Yo! Yes! and The Dot
  • Shannon Miller at Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa to read Ish
  • Mrs. Shekleton at Howard Winneshiek School District in Iowa to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Guardiola at Caldwell Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Mrs. Snead at Central Elementary in Carrollton, Texas to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Schnurr in Dallas, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt

As usual, every connection was filled with special moments. One of my favorites was reading Say Zoop with so many students. It’s a book that puts you a bit out of your comfort zone, but the kids had a blast making all of the noises.

I also loved seeing all of the creativity of dots from place to place and hearing students ask questions and share with one another. These Skype connections always remind us how we are sometimes stuck in our routines and forget that there’s a whole world of people out there doing some of the same things we are. It just takes reaching out and having a conversation to connect yourself to one another.

Thank you to everyone who connected with us and to all educators and students who reached out, tried something new, and connected the dots around the world.

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.

Fine Tuning Genrefication with Custom Signs

One of the things I’ve loved the most about organizing our library by genre has been the ability to customize the experience for readers. If a section of books isn’t working for how readers find books, then it can be changed. If kids keep asking for a kind of book that is mixed into lots of sections, they you could pull those books into a new section.  I’m always watching and listening to the words I’m having to repeat over and over as well as the questions that readers are asking about where books are located.

One noticing this past year was how I was always having to explain that the “E” section or “Everybody” section is where picture books live.  The “F” or the “Fiction” section is where chapter books live.  Students would search the library catalog and see that something was located in “Sports Fiction”, but that didn’t really translate to the sports chapter book area to them.  I decided to fine tune this in Destiny to make searching more user-friendly for readers.

I simply went into each subcategory in Destiny and changed it so that it specifically said “chapter”, “picture”, or “information” next to each genre category. Now, when a student searches, they will see a book like Ghost by Jason Reynolds is in the “Sports Chapter” section.

I also wanted to improve the signs in the library to help students see which sections of the library are “chapter”, “picture”, and “information”.  I started browsing around online looking for existing signs or even custom signs that would be helpful and appealing in the library, but I didn’t really see anything I liked. Then, I had the idea that some custom signs could be made using fabric designed by illustrators. I looked at Mo Willems, Eric Carle, and other illustrator fabric, but the fabric that I kept coming back to was the fabric designed by illustrator Christian Robinson.

He visited our school a few years ago to celebrate the release of School’s First Day of School, so we have a special connection with him. His fabric also features a diverse group of individuals which represents both our school, our community, and the books we strive to have in our collection.

I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any connections with someone who would be willing to work on custom signs for our library using Christian Robinson’s fabric. Several people gave helpful information to think about in designing the signs, but then I got a wonderful email from Barrow parent, Amy Norris, offering to help.

This began a string of emails and conversations to design the 3 signs. Amy offered her design expertise as well as her sewing talents to create the signs. We met in person and sketched out what the signs might look like as 3 rectangular hanging quilts. Then, she went home and created a mock up of several options.  I was amazed at her attention to detail and thoughts about maximizing the fabric to cut down on cost. I picked out the design that I thought would work best and ordered the fabric.

Amy jumped right into designing the signs. She was so enthusiastic about this project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to create our signs. She sent little progress updates all along the way and even helped me think through how the signs would hang. I originally was going to use a quilt or curtain rod, but we decided that it was light enough to just use a wooden dowel.

As soon as Amy had the signs finished, she delivered them to school and they were absolutely beautiful. Each section’s word was created in a different color and the Christian Robinson fabric stood out beautifully. Now it was my turn to get the signs installed. I went to Lowes and purchased eye screws, wooden dowels, chain, and s hooks. I cut down the dowels to the length of each sign, and put each quilt onto its rod using the sleeve on the back.

Now, each sign is flying high in our library to help kids see where our 3 main areas of the library are. Since they hang by a single chain, they freely rotate with the gentle air currents. It’s a simple change that I really should have done much sooner, but the library is always evolving, and sometimes a small change is just the thing that was needed to make the collection easier to navigate for readers. I’m so thankful for the many talents that exist in our community, and this project once again reminded me that so many people are out there waiting to support the work happening in schools, but many times we have to put our work and requests out there to help them connect to those opportunities. A huge “Thank You” goes out to Amy Norris for taking the time to create these beautiful signs that we will enjoy for years to come.