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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Fall Semester Makerspace Blowout!

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The fall semester at UGA is coming to a close, which means that our wonderful support in our makerspace is taking a break.  We will resume our open makerspace times in January when UGA cranks back up for spring semester.  Today, Gretchen Thomas’s entire class from UGA came out to support our young makers.  We pulled out many favorite activities from the semester: green screen, makey makey, littlebits, sphero, morse code bracelets, and safety pin bracelets.  It was noisy and fun.

Having this class come out has exposed our students to so many of the tools in our makerspace and also taught the UGA students what is happening in elementary schools today and just what elementary learners are capable of.  We are already brainstorming what next semester might look like.  I hope to see some more advanced projects come out of what the students know now that they have some familiarity with the tools.  Instead of just snapping littlebits together, I want to see them invent something.  Instead of driving Sphero all over the library, I want to see some programming or a use of Sphero that has a purpose.  Instead of playing a banana piano with makey makey, I want to see students designing their own programs that are controlled with all kinds of things that conduct.  The tinkering piece is important, and I love that so many students now have a level of comfort with the makerspace tools with a lot of room to grow.

We also want to look at how we can take the makerspace on the road by visiting classrooms and showing teachers and students what happens in makerspace, especially for those that are unsure or hesitant.  We started to notice the same kids always coming or teachers not sending kids for various reasons, so there’s  a need to get out into the classrooms.  We’ll also take a look at how to do another makerspace fieldtrip to the UGA campus sometime in the spring.

 

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).

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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.

Picture Book Smackdown 2015 is a Wrap!

smackdown (8)Wow!  We had the most students ever participate in our 3rd annual picture book smackdown.  Even sickness and technical difficulties didn’t stop our students in 5 states sharing favorite books along with author, Laurie Thompson.

Here are a few behind the scenes notes:

  • There were multiple emails and tweets sent between the participating schools in this smackdown. We established etiquette for the hangout such as keeping things moving, muting microphones when we weren’t speaking, and only having about 5 students at a time share
  • We all prepared our students in advance of the smackdown but we each did it in our own way.  My own students had a basic script that they filled out.

  • The amazing Cathy Potter helped organize Laurie Thompson to join us. Unfortunately, Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us.  She was with us in spirit, though!
  • I had a group of 50 students!  Luckily 2 volunteers and a teacher helped me keep them organized in chairs and a parent frantically wrote down as many titles of shared picture books as she could.

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  • We all came into the Google Hangout early to test our cameras and microphones.  We communicated with one another through the chat in Hangouts as well as through text messaging if needed.

All of our Picture Book Smackdown content can be found on our Smore.

I would like to thank all of the schools who participated, Laurie Thompson, our volunteers, and all of the people who viewed and sent out tweets.  Thanks for celebrating Picture Book Month with us!

We’ll see you next year for our 4th annual smackdown!

Winter Around the World and in Athens, GA: Original Songs and Personal Narratives

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For the past few weeks, 2 classes have been involved in exploring winter right here in Athens, Georgia.  Even though we might associate cold and snow with winter, it isn’t always like that where we live.  Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class and Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class both participated.  You can read about the beginnings of their projects here.  Our work is all coming together with classrooms from around the world on a collaborative Google slide presentation.

Ms. Kelly’s class has been busy in their classroom dividing into groups and building a song about winter.  As a class, they worked on the base beat using beatlab.  Then different groups worked on parts of the song.  Singers created the words and sang them. Clappers used their hands to add rhythm.  Ukuleles strummed chords for another layer.  Instruments such as coffee can drums added even another layer of rhythm.

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Ms. Kelly wrote the words up onto a big chart paper with plenty of visuals for students to follow.  She saved their class beat in beatlab and pulled it up on the library projector.  I used Screencastomatic to record the beat along with our webcam recording the student performers.  Ms. Kelly used dry erase markers to make notes on the beatlab beat for specific groups of students.  She also used a cowbell and her voice to help students know when to come in.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to record multiple times, but we just loved our first take!

Even though we were in love with that version, we decided to try one more time with just an iPad so that we could get some closeup shots of students performing.  We love this version too, but we are including the 1st one in our global winter project with classrooms around the world.

We had some fun shout outs while we were working on our song, including some retweets from Kishi Bashi who was one of our inspirations for our song.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class split into groups of 4.  Two students were author and two were illustrators.  After starting their work in the library, they continued to write and draw in class to tell about personal experience with winter in Athens.  They featured things like food, clothing, school, and events in winter.

Each group came to the library with their finished work.  We spread their pages out on tables and took digital pictures of each page.  We then took these and added them to the collaborative Google presentation.

In Youtube, we pulled up the feature where you can record straight into Youtube with your webcam.  We placed each page in front of the webcam and students read their winter personal narratives and facts.  These videos were also embedded on the Google slides.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the slides turn out as we learn about winter around the world!

 

 

 

Stop Motion Colonial Perspectives

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I just love it when a teacher steps out and tries something totally new just to see where it goes.  Some of the most exciting projects happen when a teacher gives himself or herself permission to say, “Hey, I have this crazy idea”.  Mr. Coleman, 4th grade teacher, does this often.  He isn’t afraid to step out and try something that no one else has done and look for the miraculous things happening all along the way.

Fourth grade is currently studying colonial life in social studies.  He wanted to weave in something from our makerspace or some new type of technology that would allow students to engage with the content in different ways.  During a quick brainstorm, we tossed around several ideas and he reflected on them overnight.  The next day, he came back with the idea to create stop motion videos that showed the perspectives of various roles in colonial America.

To start, students watched many stop motion videos in class just to see what they looked like. In the library, they came for a tinkering session using Stop Motion Studio.  As we usually do during tinkering, I encouraged them to press every button to see what it did.  I also told them to not focus on creating a polished product but to try out many different strategies to see what worked best for stop motion.  Most of these students had never made a stop motion video before. They grabbed Legos, stuffed animals, and pipe cleaners to use in their videos and got to work.

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Mr. Coleman and I walked around and tried to give students tips that we were observing from other groups.  The main thing we noticed is that students were constantly moving the iPads which ruined the effect of stop motion.  They also weren’t taking enough pictures to show movement.  A few students started getting the hang of both of these, so we relied on them some to help other groups.  We also found it helpful to regroup and have kids share tips to the whole group as well as share out own tips.

Back in class, students selected a perspective to showcase in a stop motion video.  Many students were drawn to either slaves or women.  They formed groups and started developing a plan.  Across 3 one-hour work sessions they came back to the library to create their videos.  They pulled things from makerspace, used objects around the library, brought things from home, and made things to use in their videos.  Some groups jumped right into their projects with a lot of success while others had to learn to work together or how to back up and try again.  Mr. Coleman also gave them some time to work in class.

I loved how different strategies developed during the work time.  Students began using their computers as a setting and stage or used library bookends to help characters stand up.

Mr. Coleman and I constantly walked around to conference with groups.  We had them back up and look at their work to see where they might need to add pictures.  We also had them talk through their story to see if they had enough to tell a perspective.

As students finished up in their final work session in the library, we exported the videos onto the iPad camera roll and uploaded them to a shared folder in Google Drive.

Mr. Coleman plans to take these videos and continue using them in class.  Students might write out scripts and do voice over or maybe they will add music and simply attach an accompanying script.  However this goes from here, it was a big leap in using technology and tools we have tinkered with in our makerspace.  Many pieces wove together to support a social studies curriclum standard in a creative way.  Student interests, creativity, and expertise came into play in many groups.  I invite you to take a look at their work in progress.  This Youtube playlist is the raw footage that still needs to be finalized, but I always like to show that our work is never really finished.  There’s always something more we can do.

 

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

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For several years, I have dedicated a portion of our library budget to be completely controlled by students.  This project has come to be one of my favorite ways of empowering the voices of the students in our school.  It’s so much more than just asking students what they think I should buy for the library.  It gives students a voice in every aspect of the decision making and purchasing process.  Each year is a bit different, so here’s a look at how we started the project this year.

Where did we get the money?

Some years our budget comes straight from my state budget.  Some years it’s part of book fair profits.  Some years it’s a grant. This past spring, I applied for the James Patterson Partnership grant where he gave $1.75 million dollars to school libraries.  I was one of the lucky libraries to receive this grant in the amount of $5,000.  This will be our budget this year along with rewards dollars that I have collected through Capstone Rewards.

How did I choose students?

This year I created a Google form and emailed it to students.  I primarily pull students from 3rd-5th grade for this project and these students regularly check their email.  I kept the form open for 5 days for students to apply.  The beginning of the form included some details about book budgets followed by a video intro.

For students who marked that they might be willing to give up some recess time to participate, I followed up with individual emails and conversations.  I accepted every student into the group unless they decided they didn’t want to do it.  I created a group of all of the students in my email contacts so that I could easily send messages to them all.  On my initial emails to the group, I included the teachers so that they were in the loop with what they were doing and why they were coming to the library instead of recess.

First Week

On Monday, students came to the library at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 depending on their grade level.  I did a quick overview of the purpose of the book budget group and the steps that we would most likely go through across the course of the project.  They also had a chance to ask questions.  Then, we jumped into the work.

Our first goal was to gather reading interests from every grade level in the school.  We made a copy of last year’s Google form.

Then, students talked about each question and whether or not they wanted to make changes to the wording from last year.  Each grade level added to and revised the form until it was ready.

They made several changes, including asking students about their preferences in types of books such as picture book, chapter book, and informational books.  They added some new categories of books and revised the language to be more clear.

During the 5th grade group, we went ahead and emailed the form out to students to begin collecting responses.  We also created a QR code so that students who were surveying younger grades with iPads could easily pull up the form.

I emailed an update to the entire group to let them know that surveying needed to begin, and they started coming in before school, during lunch, during recess, and during any extra moments of the day to start surveying.  All along the way, we could check our progress.

 

Throughout the week, I emailed updates to the group as well as sent reminders to teachers to let students fill out the survey.  We will meet one more time this week to examine our results so far and decide if we have enough data to set goals or if we need to survey more people.

I’m very proud of this year’s group already and I know they are going to do miraculous things this year!