Storybook Celebration 2014


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Our annual storybook celebration was another huge success.  I often get questions about how our storybook celebration is organized and what we do throughout the day.

Planning for this day begins in early October.  It takes multiple steps and multiple people for this day to be successful.

Storybook celebration begins with guest readers in every classroom.  To organize readers, we create a Signup Genius to easily share the signup as well as send out updates and reminders to those who have signed up.  My volunteer coordinator, Courtney Tobin, from PTA helped with this.  She created the signup and she and I began sharing it.  She contacted parent representatives at each grade level to also send out the link to families.

Barrow Media Center  Storybook Celebration Guest Readers

On the morning of storybook celebration, guest readers arrive in the library between 7:30-7:50.  They sign in at the counter and select a book from 2 tables that are organized by books for PreK-2 and 3-5.  All of these books are pulled by me ahead of time.  Some readers bring their own book.

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While readers wait to go to classes, they mingle, pre-read their books, and find a place to sit in the chairs that are ready for a group photo.

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At 7:55, we all gather and I give a quick welcome.

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Then we take a group photo.

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My morning BTV crew escorts readers to classrooms by grade level, so I have a sheet with all of the readers and their assigned classes that I give to each crew member.

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Once all readers make it to their rooms, I race around the school to take pictures of as many readers as I can.  There are about 2 readers for every classroom.  They read and talk with the kids about their book.  Some even leave the book in the room so that kids can keep enjoying it during the day, but most bring the book back to the library.

At 9:00, we gather in the cafeteria for the assembly.  This year, we tried some new things in the assembly, which required some organization in advance.  We had an assembly guest reader.  Our family engagement specialist helped a lot with the assembly.  She contacted and organized Dan Coenen, a UGA professor and community member.  He read The Book with No Pictures and had the kids laughing and engaged.

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We also had a skit performed by teachers.  It was written by the teachers and reviewed many of the Daily 5 strategies that kids use in class.  One again, Mimi Elliott-Gower, our family engagement specialist, got this organized along with Carrie Yawn, 2nd grade teacher.

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In the past, all students have walked across the stage to show off their costume.  This has been very time consuming, so this year we tried something new.  Each row of students stood, twirled, and sat down facing the back of the cafeteria.  We did this until every student was facing the back.

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Then we were ready for a parade!  The parade is outside on the sidewalks of our community.  I send out the parade route to families in my newsletter and via facebook.  Our principal emails UGA and lets them know so that they can come out of their buildngs and wave.

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Taking almost 600 kids on a walk is a big task, and safety is one our biggest concerns.  I drive around to make sure that the route we plan to take is all clear before we decide the way to go.  Our family engagement specialist contacts the police and they help us cross streets and watch for unsafe drivers to pull over.  We talk to the kids about staying away from the road while they are on the sidewalk and we want them to walk in a single line.

I lead the parade so that we make the right turns, but I communicate the route to all of the teachers as well so that they know where we are going.

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The kids chant “Read more books!” as we go down the sidewalks and we usually get lots of waves and honks as we walk.

Our 5th graders break off of the parade route and stop at the GA Center for hot chocolate while the rest of the parade returns to Barrow.  Once again, several people help with buying, prepping, and pouring the hot chocolate.  This is a special treat for our 5th graders’ final storybook parade.

Once we are all back at school, classes carry on with their normal lunch schedule and literature activities in their classrooms.  We also have a specials schedule that teachers sign up for.  Because teachers miss their planning period, we create some 30-minute segments that they sign up for.  Art, music, PE, resource teachers, and I all offer literature-based activities.  I create a Google spreadsheet with times and each teacher posts what he/she will be offering.  This is done a few weeks before storybook celebration.  The week before, I send out the schedule for people to signup.

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This year I read the book Ol’ Clip Clop to some classes and Precious and the Boo Hag to other classes.  Then, we used the Puppet Pals app on the iPad to create our own stories.

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Days like these are filled with learning opportunities, collaboration, tinkering, dreaming, and community.  It is a difficult kind of event to pull off by yourself.  It can be done, but I’m very thankful to have the support that I do to create days like these for our students.


Perspective on Explorers

I’m very excited about a project with our 4th graders this month.  This project is a spinoff of something we did last year with explorers and Native Americans.  This year, we are just focusing on explorers.

To kickoff the lesson, we did a very similar kickoff to last year’s project.  The entire fourth grade came, which was about 65 students.  We used a video from about Christopher Columbus.  We only watched the first two minutes of the video.

Following the video, I asked students to tell me what words they would use to describe Columbus.  They turned and shared with a neighbor first and then I used Tagxedo to capture several of their words into an image.

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Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen.  I love pairing this book with what students are already thinking about Columbus because it typically flips their outlook on Columbus and explorers in general.  I asked them the same question about Columbus, to describe him based on the book they just heard.  Here’s how their words changed.

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This lesson was meant to setup the whole research process that students will now embark on.  They will each select one of the explorers from the 4th grade standards:

SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.

a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.

b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native

They will ask themselves, “Is this explorer a hero or a villain?”  Some teachers may even assign a perspective for students to take even if they disagree with that perspective.  I told them to think back to Columbus.  Even though many of us think he’s a villain after reading Encounter, we were still able to come up with all kinds of words to describe why he was a hero.  Students will use a Sqworl pathfinder along with other databases and print books to research. They will write a short persuasive piece convincing an audience to believe that their chosen explorer is a hero or a villain.

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We will use Flipgrid to create videos of all of these writing pieces.  I made one grid for each explorer so that we hear both perspectives in one place.  They will be stored on a Google site so that we can easily view all of the videos.  I also made a Google form so that viewers can easily vote for whether they think each explorer is a hero or a villain.

Our plan is to share this with our entire school as well as share on social media and this blog when we have everything ready to go.

Be on the lookout for your opportunity to give the students feedback on their work and participate in this project.



Exploring Makerspace through Alternative Recess

makerspace recess (7)Since the beginning of the year, students have been itching to get into our library makerspace to use the many tools housed there.  As the librarian, I try to weave as many of these maker tools into curriculum as I can, but the truth is that it’s just not fast enough for our students.  Telling them, “I’m waiting to find the right piece of the curriculum to use the littlebits with”, is not acceptable.  They want to tinker and explore and see how things work.

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Recognizing this, I had to find a way to give them more access.  I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect solution, but I’m working on it.  I’m blessed to have the University of Georgia right next to our school.  I’m even more blessed that the College of Education is within walking distance and Gretchen Thomas teaches in the instructional technology department.  Gretchen is an educator who truly gets the realities and challenges of school.  She wants her students to have experiences with what instructional technology really looks like in a school rather than guess about it in the college setting.  She and I have been brainstorming about challenges that I face in the library and the makerspace has come up a lot in our conversations.  We’re trying to create a plan to have adult support in the makerspace on a regular basis for students to explore during their recess time.  This alternative to going outside isn’t the only solution, but it’s one that many of our students are willing to do in order to get their hands on the makerspace tools.

Even though we don’t have details worked out for Gretchen’s students to be in the makerspace, she has volunteered her own time once per week to come in and help.  For the past 3 weeks, we have offered makerspace recess to our 4th graders.  A whole range of students have shown up.  I was very excited to see such a mix of boys and girls as well as several other kinds of diversity within the group as well.

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During the 1st recess, Gretchen and I quickly showed the tools in the space: Sphero, littlebits, and MaKey MaKey.  Students chose a starting place and jumped in.  It didn’t take long until the Sphero was being driven around the library, being programmed to drive and jump over a ramp of books, and a maze of books, shoes, and legs was being created on the floor.

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Students used the littlebits cards to snap together several suggested circuits, but it didn’t take long for students to start snapping random bits together to see what would happen.

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Students at the MaKey MaKey got out balls of Playdoh and started plugging in alligator clips.  Gretchen showed them how they could type using the balls of Playdoh, and they also explored how to play the piano on the MaKey MaKey site.

This alternative recess is certainly supporting my library goal of allowing students to dream, tinker, create, and share.  This free time to dream and tinker will only strengthen the curriculum work we do within the makerspace in grade level projects.

At some point, I’m sure we’ll create some structure to our alternative recess, but for now it just seems right to explore.

Barriers to Bridges: Using Tripline to Document the Civil War


I love using Google tools.  Our district is a Google Apps for Education district. We have numerous kinds of devices in student hands from Asus netbooks to Samsung Chromebooks to HP laptops to Lenovo Thinkpads. Each of our 3rd-5th grade has their own device supplied by the district and in 5th grade these devices are predominantly Chromebooks and HP laptops. We mix devices in grade levels for 2 reasons. We don’t have enough of one devices to give one grade level the same device and not all of our programs run on all of the devices. This causes problems for us from time to time, but a big part of my philosophy is that when you come to a barrier you have to build a bridge to get over it.  Roadblocks are a nuisance and they slow down productivity, but they aren’t reason for giving up.

Recently, I had a great planning session with Ms. Shelley Olin in 5th grade to plan a Civil War project with her students. She wanted a way for students to remember the many events of the war as well as visualize where all of the events took place.  I’ve used Google Tour Builder several times to document virtual connections with classrooms around the world. I love that you automatically have an account if you have a Google account and that you can easily integrate your Youtube videos and Google drive photos into the tour.  I used this tool last year to document the 36 connections we made during World Read Aloud week and it is so nice to see all of the connections and play through the summary of where we traveled each day. I thought this would be a perfect tool for Ms. Olin.  Students already had an account through their Google apps accounts.  Our plan was for Ms. Olin to use this tool in her closing of her lesson each day.  Students would visit their Google tour and add new locations to a Civil War tour.  They would write summaries of each location or event and search for images on public domain sites such as the National Archives or Library of Congress.

Then, we faced a major road block.  Google Tour Builder requires a plugin that can only be installed on IOS or Windows.  Why was this a road block?  None of our Chromebooks could install the plugin.  How ridiculous that a Google computer couldn’t even use a Google tool!  Even though we were both frustrated, I didn’t want this one road block to keep us from carrying out our plan. I searched for another tool and stumbled upon Tripline.

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Tripline does many of the things that Google Tour Builder can do. You can create a map in a sequence of events, list specific dates and times, add summaries of what took place in each location, upload photos, and add links to other content.  It doesn’t integrate into Google apps, but it was the closest match that I could find.

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Ms. Olin scheduled each of her classes to come to the library to get started.  I did a quick demo on the board and then we got students setup with accounts.  Once they had accounts, each student created a tinker map.  This was a space for them to just mess around and explore all of the functions of Tripline.  Their map could be about anything and they could travel anywhere.  They would always have this map to come back to in order to tinker if they needed to during the course of their social studies project.

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It was fascinating to see what students decided to do during their tinkering time.  One student had moved to our school from Rome, GA. He located his old house and made a map of several important places to him while he lived there.  Another student made a dream vacation map and traveled to several countries that she only knew the names of.  She then pulled up a Google search to look for cities within those countries and added specific cities to her trip.  Each map was different but all students accomplished the same thing.  They got familiar with how Tripline functions.

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At the close of our time, we opened up a new map and got their Civil War map created and saved.  Now, they are ready to begin their study of the Civil War.  They will document major locations of the war through pinpoints on the map, pictures, and summaries of what happened at each location.  I can’t wait to see what they create.


Connected Librarians: Eyes Wide Open & America Recycles Day


One of my goals this year in our library is to foster global thinking and global collaboration.  To connect with these types of opportunities for our students, I seek out connections on Twitter as well as in Google Plus communities such as GlobalTL and Connected Classrooms.  I also offer opportunities within the projects taking place in my own school for other people around the world to join in.

This summer, I became involved in a conversation with Joyce Valenza, Shannon Miller, and Paul Fleischman about how books could live beyond the closing of the cover.  What if a book inspired us to take action in the world?  What would those actions look like around the globe?  How could they be documented?  How could they be shared? What would it look like if the author engaged in conversations about the actions being inspired by the book?

This September, Paul Fleischman’s book Eyes Wide Open: Going Beyond the Environmental Headlines was published.  It’s a different kind of book because it doesn’t give our young people a prescriptive list of answers to solve the environmental problems of the world but instead to take an inquiry stance.  It inspires our young people to listen closely to the environmental stories being shared about our world and to uncover stories of their own.  It calls our young people to take action on those world problems and realize that even at a young age they can make a difference in our world.

Joyce Valenza wrote a great post about the book.  In it, she included Paul’s voice about his book.

About Eyes WIDE Open:

Paul Fleischman 300x225 Eyes Wide Open: A proof of concept for sustaining the conversation around booksWe’re living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren’t visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking–suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It’s a changed world.

Eyes Wide Open explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money and human behavior are as important as molecules in the environment, science is joined with politics, history, and psychology to give altitude on this unprecedented turning point. It’s a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation.

What better time to have our eyes wide open?

An Eyes Wide Open Google Plus Community has been established to make connections for global collaboration around the book.  Paul Fleischman has also created a site to house headlines, projects, and conversations about the book.  He wants this to be more than a book that you read and close, but instead for it to be a book that inspires action in the world.

Also from Joyce’s blog, there’s a great list of ideas of how you might use Paul’s book with students.

What sort of reports might students contribute?
  • Take photos (and create a gallery) that document population rise or consumption levels or innovations being used to address these challenges.  Attempt to document how your eggs, milk, farmed fish, and meat are made.
  • Make a video describing a local citizen science project.  Document a plastic bag banning campaign, a local pollution issue, or your own attempt to go vegan for 30 days.
  • Interview someone in city government connected with water, transit, city planning, or emergency services.  Or a biologist, park ranger, or science teacher.  Or a religious leader whose church has taken a stand on the environment.  Or your state senator, state assembly representative, or an aide to your congressperson.  Or fellow students or neighbors to get a sense of how average citizens view the situation.  Google+ Hangouts might be a perfect venue for archiving these interviews!
  • Write a description of one of your area’s key issues and how it’s being dealt with.  Join with one or two others, each tackling one part of the project: research, interviewing, editing.  Would your local newspaper be interested in the result?
  • Do a survey of your city, finding out where your water comes from, how your electricity is made, where your trash goes.  Prepare to make many phone calls and to ask follow-up questions.  More fun with a friend.
  • Annotate local newspaper stories, adding commentary that lets us see how the global trends and mental habits described in the book are playing out locally.  Feel free to refine my thinking.
  • Remix media and create digital stories around an area of local interest.
  • Inspire a meme to invite continual, global reinterpretation around an environmental prompt
  • Submit a field report. Work prepared for school assignment is fine.  Take time to review and revise.  Once you’ve posted it on Google Docs, YouTube, or another platform that all can access, send a description to  Include a bit about yourself, how you came to the topic, and a photo of yourself or something connected to the report.  If Paul finds it well done, he will add it to the roster, put a pin in the map, and maybe even give it a shout out in his blog.


Connected librarians have a huge opportunity with this book and the many communities that are available to us.  We are the people within our buildings who work with every student, teacher, and family member within our school.  If we collaborate, then we connect our entire school communities with one another.

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  The week of November 10-14 would be a great week for us to begin to connect our voices with one another around an issue that really affects us globally.  Paul’s amazing book Eyes Wide Open could be a piece that we could use to spark conversations around the globe.  It could also be paired with a plethora of other picture books and informational texts on environmental action.  More than a conversation, our connections could push our young students to take action in our world, and those initial connections could lead to a continued connection between schools around the world in the name of environmental action.

Here’s what I hope to do:

  • Connect with schools throughout the week of November 10-14 via Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Read an environmental text together
  • Have each school identify and explain an environmental issue in our school or community.  For us, it will most likely be the amount of waste being thrown away in our classrooms.
  • Have each school exchange their issue and brainstorm possible next steps for one another.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hand your problem over to someone for a few minutes to see the problem through their eyes?  That perspective might be the very thing you need in order to take a next step in your problem.
  • Share our brainstorming with one another and document suggestions in a digital format such as a Google doc or Padlet.
  • Commit to reconnect at some point to share what actions we have taken, what has been successful, or what new problems have surfaced.

I invite you to connect with my students and also to post your own schedules and find your own connections via this Google Doc.

Let’s do more than just connect our students for a day.  Let’s connect our students to work on an issue that has an impact on our world.  As part of Connected Educators Month, let’s start thinking of how we can connect our students in meaningful ways throughout the year and begin planning those connections now.

As you make connections, create action steps, and make an impact on your world, share it!

Eyes Wide Open hashtag: #ewopf

America Recycles hashtag: #americarecyclesday

GlobalTL hashtag: #globalTL

and don’t forget #tlchat