Books are like a Box of Chocolates

blind date

About a week ago, I saw this picture on twitter and Facebook.  It was getting tons of attention and it made me very curious about the impact this sort of mystery might have on readers.  So…..I shared the picture on our Barrow Media Center Facebook page, and a few fans had some great ideas about connecting this to Valentine’s Day or to a box of chocolates since elementary students don’t really go on blind dates.

I took these ideas and passed them off to our wonderful library volunteers, Leslye Queen, Jen McDowell, and Hester Meyers who got the pieces in place.  Leslye pulled books that were new or hadn’t circulated in awhile, wrapped the books in butcher and construction paper, wrote the barcode numbers on the back of the wrapping, and made a master list of the books that had been wrapped.  Jen cutout hearts in preparation for a student creation area.  Hester continued wrapping books and labeling the back.  I found short blurbs for each of the books, printed them out, and glued them to the wrapping.  I also made a small poster explaining the promotion.  wrapped books 2

All day today, the wrapped books have been sitting on top of a bookshelf and all day students have been asking what they are.  I’ve just responded with “Listen to BTV tomorrow morning”.  This has peaked their curiosity even more and they’ve started begging me to tell them why the books are wrapped.  I love it!

Just look at how these students were acting!

wrapped books 4Tomorrow on BTV, I will let them know the details.

  • Each book is wrapped with only a blurb about it.
  • Students are invited to check out a wrapped book and give it a taste because books are like a box of chocolates….you never know what you’re going to get.  They will check out the books by typing in the barcode on the back.
  • If they love the book, they should consider doing a review for the book so that it gets more promotion.
  • If they know of a book in the library that should be wrapped, they are invited to wrap it, put a blurb on the book, add it to the master list, and put it on the shelf.  There will be a “making station” available for them which will include paper, hearts cut-outs, glue, scissors, crayons, and markers.

I’m hoping that this catches on and becomes something that the students manage themselves.  It offers one more way for students to connect with and participate in their library.  It also brings attention to books that are new or haven’t been checked out while also challenging our tendency to choose books based on the cover or popularity.  I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!  wrapped books 3


More Kindergarten Storybirds

These cards were used prior to moving into Storybird.

These cards were used prior to moving into Storybird.

You may remember from earlier in the year that Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten class worked on a sequence of lessons in the library and in their classroom to eventually produce their own story inspired by art using Storybird.  Now, even more of the Kindergarten classes are working on a similar sequence of lessons.  We have spent time on the common core standard:

ELACCKRL7:  With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

This has been done through wordless picture books, picture books where part of the story is told in text and part in pictures, and picture books where the pictures support the text.  Students read these books in class lessons as well as in the library.

To prepare for Storybird, we started by using storytelling cards from a set of cards called “Tell Me a Story“.  I chose a sequence of cards and then had the kids begin telling the story and linking the story from one card to another.  As we transitioned to Storybird, I told them that it was like pulling illustrations from a big deck of cards and figuring out how the story connected together across cards.  We wrote a Storybird together as a class to model the thinking it takes to select a sequence of pictures as well as create text that ties together the pictures.

Finally, in small groups with an adult, students wrote their own storybird. The role of the adult was to lower the barriers to artistic expression by helping students with things like typing, taking turns, etc.   Today, Ms. Seeling’s class (Mrs. Boyle’s Class), created their stories in small groups.  We had 5 groups led by me, Ms. Seeling, the parapro, a student teacher, and a parent volunteer.  Here are their final stories:

They Are Friends

The Rabbit and His Friends

A Porcupine Babysitter

The Mean Gorilla

The Porcupine Dream

Ms. Seeling also hopes to have some students make individual stories and then use Screencast-o-matic to record the students reading their stories.  I love how each teacher and class is learning from what previous classes did and building onto what was accomplished.


Barrow’s Knot

KNOT 5Now that we have a mobile computer lab for the library, we no longer have a wired lab full of mice, headphones, and power cords.  However, people still need headphones, mice, etc, so we put these in boxes for people to grab as they need it.  Since our students are usually in a rush to clean up and get back to class, they often just toss the mice back into the box rather than wind them up correctly.  This resulted in a very tangled problem.  The cords of the mice became so tangled that you could not get even 1 mouse out of the box to use.  I definitely did not have time to sit down and untangle these, and I felt bad asking a volunteer to do it.  I wasn’t sure how the mice were going to be usable again.

This morning on the way to school I had an idea.  The knot reminded me of Cobble’s Knot in the book Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  I found that part of the book and prepared an announcement for BTV.  I read an excerpt from the book and then talked about making a connection to our own library (which is a standard we teach).  I introduced Barrow’s Knot by holding up the tangled mess of mice.  I issued a challenge to see who could brave the knot and untangle the mice.  After BTV, I put the knot on a table with the Maniac Magee book.  I also put a sign up sheet for students to sign their name as they attempted the challenge.  If they were successful in getting a mouse untangled, they could highlight their name to earn a prize.  KNOT 3

If you want to see the announcement of Barrow’s Knot, watch our morning broadcast.  Fast forward to 1:23.

I barely got the knot on the table before students were in the library to attempt the challenge.  Our library has been buzzing all day long with kids coming to see the knot, try to untangle it, and asking who was successful.  This is what the knot looked like as people were trying to defeat it.

Only 14 students attempted the challenge before Barrow’s Knot was defeated.  I never imagined it would be done so quickly.  These students put each untangled mouse into an individual ziploc bag to prevent this from happening again.  For the rest of the day, kids came to take the challenge and hear the stories of the students who were successful.  It was so much fun.  I was amazed by how something that was so frustrating to me was suddenly fun when it was turned into a game.  Students were so willing to take on the knot rather than look at it as an impossible time-consuming task.  I was also amazed at how something fun and mysterious brought so many kids to the library.  It makes me wonder about the missed opportunities I may have had with other dilemmas the

I’m taking away so much from this one simple act such as:

  • Gamification is a natural part of us.  Chores are more fun when they are turned into a game.
  • When we work together on a dilemma that frustrates us, great things can happen.
  • Combining expertise and talents can accomplish what seems impossible.
  • Our students hold the answers to many of our dilemmas and frustrations if we just open up the space for them to contribute.
  • The library should be more than a place to come and get books.  It is a place to work together, solve problems, be creative, make connections.
  • We must model what it means to connect to a book through bringing books to life and intentionally connecting them to the real world.  I imagine many students will remember Maniac now that they have participated in a dilemma much like his own.

What do you take away from this?


Martin Luther King Jr Lessons: A Different Spin



Every year, I offer lessons to accompany the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  There are so many inspiring stories about this influential man, but students hear some of the same stories every year.  This year, I wanted to offer a different spin and introduce a recent book called Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend by Calvin Ramsey and Bettye Stroud.  The book is most appropriate for grades 3-5, but it could certainly be used with others.

Prior to reading the story, I build a bit of background knowledge about Gee’s Bend by watching the first few minutes of this video about the Gee’s Bend Quilters.

I wanted students to know the importance of the quilts to the people of Gee’s Bend as well as understand a bit of the culture of Gee’s Bend, so we only watched a bit of the first Bender’s interview.

Next, we used Google Earth to zoom into Gee’s Bend and talk a little about the geography of the area and where the name “bend” came from.

In 4th grade, students are working on common core standard ELACC4RL3:  Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).  As we read the story, I asked students to pay close attention to the characters, setting, and plot so that they could discuss it at the close of the story.

In 5th grade, students are working on common core standard ELACC5RL2:  Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.  To build some background knowledge on theme, we watch the first few minutes of this video:

5th grade reflected on theme throughout the book to inform their conversation at the close of the story.

In both 4th and 5th grade, we read the book and stopped along the way to have impromptu discussions.  Many of our discussions came around the part of the book that is about the right to vote and how Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged all African Americans to vote because it was their right.

last mule today's meet

Student contributions in Today’s Meet

At the close of both lessons, students went to computers and used Today’s Meet to have a silent conversation about their particular standard.  4th grade posted about characters, setting, and plot, and 5th grade posted about theme.  I encouraged students to read what others were writing and write follow-up posts or questions for their classmates.  I wouldn’t say that the conversation was particularly connected at this first attempt, but there were definitely things that I liked.  For example, in 5th grade, every student was able to post a comment about theme whether it was right or not.  I could quickly see who really understood theme and who didn’t without publicly naming what was “right” and “wrong”.  Also, at the very end, I had students read back through the posts and decide which comments stood out to them the most as really identifying theme.  Students could easily name who said what as they were speaking.  For example, “I liked how Aidia said that anyone can be a hero”.  It was a way for students to acknowledge the contributions of their peers and accurately quote their contributions.  Sometimes it’s hard for students to remember exactly what someone said aloud, but this printed text made that easier to remember.

I definitely would like to try Today’s Meet again in other settings, and I’m happy to find a place for this wonderful story to give new life to a topic that students have heard many times.

Stone Soup: A Folktale Follow-up

Ms. Spurgeon, a fabulous third grade teacher, does a Stone Soup folktale study with her students each year.  This is a part of the folktale study that third grade just kicked off.  She has her students study multiple versions of Stone Soup and consider how the characters, setting, and plot change based on where the story is taking place or which country the story comes from.  Students are quickly discovering that the basic themes of Stone Soup stay the same but characters, setting, and the ingredients in the soup change.

DSCF2366Today, we read Jon J. Muth’s version of Stone Soup.  We loved hearing the many different kinds of ingredients that were added to the soup such as pea pods, lily buds, taro root, winter melon, and more.

After we finished the story, we revisited our Google form of folktale elements to see how Stone Soup compared with other folktales we have read.  We noticed that the following elements appeared in all 4 folktales that we have read in 3rd grade:

  • flat characters
  • fantasy time
  • setting briefly described
  • plot full of action
  • repeated phrases

Classes will continue to fill out the form and make comparisons.

To conclude this lesson, we used Tagxedo to make our own digital bowl of Stone Soup.  I asked students to think about what ingredients they might add to a class stone soup if they were to go home right now and get something out of their cabinets, refrigerator, or from a neighbor.  While students were checking out books, they came up to me and told me 2-3 ingredients, which I typed into Tagxedo.  I selected a circle shape to represent the pot of soup, and here is what our soup looked like at the end of our time together.

stone soup

Little Free Library 5th Grade Project

I’ve known about Little Free Libraries for awhile now, and since I learned about them I wanted to help establish one at our school.  I was waiting for just the right moment.  This summer I attended the Decatur Book Festival and saw several creative Little Free Libraries that were being auctioned off and it made me want to establish one even more.  I posted a picture of the libraries on our media center facebook page and immediately Ms. Cross, a 5th grade teacher, said she wanted to help make this happen at our school.  Her comment made me think about the gift that our 5th grade gives to the school at Moving On Ceremony at the end of each year as a way for the 5th graders to make their mark on the school before they leave.  Since our 5th graders won’t get the opportunity to go to school in our brand new building next year, I thought this year’s gift needed to be extra special.  I had found the perfect fit for the idea.

I began talking with people at our school about the project.  As always, our art teacher, Rita Foretich, was on board to help weave this project into an interdisciplinary experience.  Other teachers in the school that don’t even work with our 5th graders began offering ideas too and within a few days our spark of idea was really starting to grow.

I sat down with Mrs. Foretich and we did an initial brainstorming of what our project might look like.  We thought of materials, resources, locations, and also a sequence of events that would need to happen in order for the project to be done by the end of the year.  Our plan consisted of:  an intro to Little Free Libraries for the whole 5th grade, persuasive writing in 5th grade classroom, continued research and conversation in the media center, and little free library designs and artwork in art.  I took our plan to the 5th grade team for feedback and additions.  The teachers brainstormed ways for the students to really take ownership of the project such as donating their own books to stock the libraries and bringing in $1 each to cover the registration for the 2 libraries.

We launched into the first phase right after this session.  I made a short introduction video using screencast-o-matic and uploaded it to Youtube.  Mrs. Foretich showed the video at the beginning of an art class.

As she showed it, the kids immediately began having ideas and wanting to contribute them.  She developed a Google form to share with the students so that they could all submit their feedback without taking up too much of the class time to hold a discussion.  Mrs. Foretich’s student teacher also began contributing her knowledge and connections to UGA.

The next step will be for the student to brainstorm more about the materials, labor, and location so that they can begin writing persuasive letters to individuals and organizations for support.

Our goal is to create 2 Little Free Libraries by the end of the year.  One will be installed at the new Barrow and one will be installed somewhere near downtown so it is accessible to our students and the community on that end of town.  Who knows what this project will develop into, but it is already full of participatory culture as more and more people contribute their ideas, their expertise, and their creativity.

If you have ideas or resources for this project, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact our library.

Folktales with Google Forms

Third grade just launched into a study of folktales.  As a kickoff, each class came to the library for an introduction to folktales.  We used a slideshare that listed many elements of folktales as well as kinds of folktales.

Then, I showed students a Google form with 3 questions. This form was displayed while I read a folktale aloud. Question 1 was the title of the book.  Question 2 was a list of checkboxes that listed out all of the elements from the slideshare.  Question 3 was about what kind of folktale.folktales

At the end of the story, students paired and discussed each of the checkboxes to decide if those elements were present in the story that we read.  Finally, we came back together and checked off the elements that were present in the story.  Students raised their hands as I called out the elements.  If we had a majority of hands, we automatically checked the box.  If it was less than half the class, we stopped and discussed and voted again.  If few people raised their hands, we left the box blank.

For the first class, this was the end of the lesson, but for the other two classes we looked at the summary of responses in Google forms to see what folktale elements were the most common in the stories we read.  I sent the form to the 3rd grade teachers and they are  going to share it with their students.  A next step will be for students to read folktales on their own and fill out the form.  Then, we’ll really be able to notice the trends of which folktale elements are most common in our library folktales.chart

One piece I didn’t incorporate into this, which would be really cool, is to insert a question about where the various folktales are from.  Then, I could have embedded a gadget to put a pin on  a world map (like I did in this lesson) to track where our folktales were from.  This might be an addition for next year.