Top Elf: An Author Visit with Caleb Zane Huett

We have a magical bookshop in Athens called Avid Bookshoop, and in that bookshop works a talented author named Caleb Zane Huett.  Caleb’s new book, Top Elf, which is published by Scholastic, is the hilarious journey of a group of elves as they compete against one another to be the next Santa Claus.

It’s filled with a cast of characters that bring something for every reader, and numerous jokes fill the pages to keep you laughing along the way.

Ready for an elf visit. #author #authorvisit #avidinschools

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I was so excited when Caleb offered to visit our school this December.  Thanks to him and Avid Bookshop, our 3rd and 4th grade got to come to separate sessions to hear him speak.  He started each session with a reading of the first chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear him read, do it!  He brings every page to life with voices and movement and keeps the audience totally focused on every word.

After reading, Caleb facilitated the students in a collaborative story.  He wanted to model this story after some of his own thought process as he writes. Kids were raising hands and shouting out ideas all along the way, and Caleb masterfully wove their ideas together into a story that he told along the way.

Teachers were also excited because they knew that his mini writing workshop directly tied back to what they were doing in their classrooms and now students can go back to class and create their own stories using a similar process.

At the close, we heard a bit about how Top Elf followed this same type of process and students got to ask Caleb questions. I always love to hear students ask authors about how long it takes to write, how many times a book was rewritten, and what inspires them.  These become common questions but they make the author a real person to our readers.  It creates a connection between the author and the students because the process they go through is very similar.

I want to thank Caleb Zane Huett for taking time to visit our school. I also want to thank Avid Bookshop for this opportunity and the presales of books. Finally, I thank our wonderful PTA who makes sure that every classroom gets copies of the book to add to their classroom libraries.

I know we will now have many readers of Top Elf at Barrow, and I love that our readers can walk down the street and visit with Caleb if they want to share what they’ve discovered.

Kindness Rocks

Third grade studies rocks and minerals in science.  Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade Spectrum teacher, is always dreaming up ways to extend and enrich the study.  We have collaborated together many times, and I always love leaping into something new.  In the past, we’ve Skyped with a jewelry studio and designed our own jewelry.  We’ve thought about climbing wall design and how the hardness of different rocks and minerals would support the design. Students even 3D printed prototypes of their climbing walls.  This year we once again worked together to add a new layer to this science unit.

I’ve been watching lots of people getting involved in kindness rock projects locally and globally. The idea of these projects is to spread words of inspiration in the world through randomly placed rocks and inspire people to create good in the world.

Our local Athens Rock Project

I’ve found a few of these rocks myself and know that it gives you a bright moment in your day just to know that someone cared enough to create a piece of art intended for good.

Be light in a dark world #rockpoetry #rock #paintedrocks

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Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructor, and I have been brainstorming the idea of weaving this project into makerspace, but we held off this semester.  I passed the idea on to Ms. Hicks and we decided to give it a trial run.

We started by showing images of rocks and asking students if they had ever found a rock like these.  I was surprised at how many stories were already in our small group of 15 kids.  From a rock in a stream to a rock in the park, students had stories of words and images they had found on rocks.

Then we watched this video to consider the meaning of a project like this.

We also read an excerpt from If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. These books helped us think beyond a rock just being a rock but instead a symbol of something else.

Starting our rock project today with some 3rd graders #kindness #kindnessrocks #rock

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At tables, students used an index card to plan out their rock.  We wanted them to really take their time in planning so that they chose their words with purpose, so Ms. Hicks and I conferenced with students as they worked. They chose a word or phrase, wrote a short explanation of their choice, and sketched a design for their art.  Students also selected a rock. All of this took one class session.

In the next session, students used paint pens and paint to design their rock.  Most started by getting the word(s) onto the rock and then worked on design. If they finished early, they helped one another fan portions of rocks to get them dry enough to keep painting on.

Kindness rocks in progress #choosekind #rocks #kindnessrocks

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My wonderful computer technician, Allie, added layers of Mod Podge onto the rocks before our 3rd session. Here’s where this project is taking a different turn that many of the kindness rock projects.  We don’t really want to be random.  We want the person who finds our rock to know a bit more about it.

In our 3rd session, we used Flipgrid to record videos to tell the story of our rock.  Students talked about the reason they chose their word and even why they designed it the way they did.  We also brainstormed what someone would need to know in order to get to the video we recorded.

I took this brainstormed and turned it into an information card to put with our rocks.

Instead of randomly placing the rocks, we are putting them all in one container. We’ve talked with Avid Bookshop in Five Points and will be placing this container somewhere outside the shop.  Our hope is that people will select a rock, take an information card, watch the accompanying video, and hopefully leave a response video to the student.

It’s all a big experiment, and I’ve tried to be very open with students about that from the beginning.  Anything could happen.  We of course want every rock to be taken and for every person to leave a response, but we also know that might not happen.  Whatever happens, we’ll know that our rocks have gone into the world and caused at least one person to pause for just a moment and think about kindness.

Before our rocks go to Avid, we’re making a few more.  If your’e in the area, keep your eyes open in Five Points for a clear acrylic container near Avid Bookshop sometime this week!

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The 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

Our 5th annual Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 30th.  This year’s smackdown featured students in 3 states along with author & illustrator Deborah Freedman.

Every year we love to close out Picture Book Month with an hour-long Google Hangout where we book talk as many picture books as possible across one hour.

In Georgia, I had students in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades who shared their favorite picture books and why picture books matter. In Vermont, Donna MacDonald had 1st graders and 4th graders who were reading buddies.  Each pair of students shared a favorite picture book.  In Texas, Julee Murphy had 6th graders who shared favorite picture books and some 3rd graders who came in to watch.

We kicked off our Google Hangout by dedicating our time to the late Dianne de las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  Her enthusiastic spirit was definitely with us and we missed having her with us in person this year.

Deborah Freedman shared a whole range of books in all shapes, sizes, and emotions before book talking Many Moons by James Thurber & Louis Slobodkin.  She then turned the smackdown over to students and several students in each state took turns sharing.

We were able to come back to author Deborah Freedman two more times for some more book talks and closing thoughts.

One of the things I always love about the smackdown is how many new books we see that we haven’t read yet. We also love seeing students and authors pick books that are also our own favorites.  It gives us a connection to one another.

I also love hearing students take a stand for picture books.  Their reasons range from picture books being for all readers to the necessity of picture books for people who are learning to read.

As we shared our books, I did my best to write down as many of the titles and put them into a Google doc for our reference.  We’ll be cleaning up this document in the coming days and trying to make sure all books are represented.

I loved seeing pictures from different perspectives.  Many thanks to Donna MacDonald for capturing some great moments at each school.

Since we broadcast our hangout through  Youtube, it was fun to know that other people were watching with classes.

Even if you didn’t watch live, you can still experience our smackdown via Youtube and consider hosting your own smackdown whether it’s with picture books, novels, poetry, or something else.

We already look forward to next year.  I thank Donna MacDonald, Julee Murphy, and their students for sharing their time with us. I also thank Deborah Freedman for time and enthusiasm as well.

 

Follow the Bookstagram Choice Awards Nov 27-Dec 17

Instagram has become one of my favorite places. I’ll admit that I was late to the Instagram craze, but now it is probably my favorite place to be. I love the visuals of classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and books. I get so many ideas for new projects in the library as well as new books to add to the collection.

There are numerous bookstagrammers who post pictures and reviews of new and upcoming books. A personal goal of mine has been to be critical of our library collection and be constantly aware of the voices represented in the books on our shelves. Instagram has helped me see many more books than I could ever find alone.

One of the people I started following is Charnaie Gordon @hereweeread  Her posts about the diverse books that she reads with her son and daughter always keep me up to date on books that need to be added to our library.  The great thing is that she isn’t the only one. As I follow one person, I discover someone else and suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about books and diverse voices.

I was so excited when I learned that Charnaie was brainstorming a new Instagram book award list selected by many of the “bookstagrammers” that I admired.  I was in disbelief that she wanted to include me as one of the members of the first award selection group.  I was honored, intimidated, but mostly inspired.  This group of people has poured their hearts into what has become the Bookstagram Choice Awards.  Each person chose one winner along with honorable mentions in a variety of categories.  The hope is that these categories will represent a diverse collection of voices and communities that serve a wide age range of readers.

Starting on November 27th, there will be one category announced each day. This will include the winner and any honorable mentions.  You can follow along on the newly created Bookstagram Choice Awards Instagram account as well as by following all of the contributors who will post on their individual pages on their assigned day.

Be sure to follow:

 

I hope you will take time to follow all these wonderful people, celebrate the books that were chosen, and suggest books you would have selected.  It’s all in the name of amplifying the wonderful books that exist in the world. Through books, we can better understand and connect with one another in the world. Through books, we can have conversations about what matters and help our world be a better place.

Let the Bookstagram Choice Awards begin!

P.S. Stay tuned on December 17th for some special giveaways where you’ll have a chance to enter to win some of the books featured in the awards.

Join Us for the 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

We are nearing the end of November, which means the close of Picture Book Month. In 2013, I started brainstorming with several dynamic librarians across the country a way for us to celebrate the close of the month.  Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Shawna Ford, Kathy Kaldenberg, and I created the very first Picture Book Smackdown which was held via Google Hangout on November 21, 2013.  Authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman joined us as well.  For one hour, we all shared as many picture book talks as possible.  This was the beginning of an annual event that is now in its 5th iteration.

This year, our event will take place on November 30th from 1:30PM-2:30PM EST.  We will feature students from:

  • David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA (facilitated by Andy Plemmons)
  • Orchard School in South Burlington, VT (facilitated by Donna MacDonald)
  • Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX (facilitate by Julee Murphy)

We are also very excited to announce that we will be joined by author/illustrator Deborah Freedman. Her books include This House Once, Shy, The Story of Fish & Snail, and many more!  You can learn more about her books here.

I’ve put together a Smore that puts everything you need in one place

Click the image to visit our Smore

What to expect:

  • A live broadcast via Youtube Live or archived to watch at a later time
  • Numerous student voices book talking their favorite picture books in 3 states
  • A short talk from Deborah Freedman about why picture books matter in the world
  • A list of the books we reference

What you can do:

  • Watch live with your class!
  • Host your own picture book smackdown in your classroom, library, or district
  • Share your favorite picture books on social media using the hashtags #pbsmkdwn and #picturebookmonth
  • Send students a shout out on Twitter using #pbsmkdwn

In Loving Memory of Dianne de Las Casas

We will of course continue reading and sharing picture books all year long, but we want to end November with this special event.  This year’s Picture Book Smackdown is dedicated in loving memory of Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  We lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, but her legacy of advocating for the importance of picture books in our world lives on.

2018 Student Book Budget: First Steps

It’s time for one of my favorite projects of the year: Student Book Budget. Every year, I reserve a part of the library budget that is under complete control by students. This budget comes from many places.  Sometimes it’s a grant and other times it is part of our regular budget.  This year their budget comes from the profit we made from book fair.  The book budget is their chance to make sure that books are added to our library that represent their interests.  They go through a long process to make sure that many voices are represented in their purchases.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing their process.  Here are some of the steps that are already happening.

First, I created a Google form application for students to apply to be in the group.  The form was available for one week for students in grade 3-5.  Every student who applied and had a genuine reason for being in the group was accepted.  Our group this year is 40 students strong and has a great mix of boys and girls.

Next, we held our 1st meetings. I met with each grade level group separately and answered all of their questions about the group. Then, in small groups or pairs, they brainstormed things that they thought we should ask on a reading interest survey for the whole school.

Then, I took their ideas and put them into a Google form survey.

I sent the survey to all of the students on the book budget team so that they could review it and decide if it matched their comments.  We made some minor adjustments and were ready for the school to be surveyed.

I sent the survey via email to our 3rd-5th grade students who each have their on device. The Student Book Budget Team was responsible for surveying Prek-2nd grade. On our 2nd meeting, we scanned QR codes to get to the survey on an iPad and went to recess and lunch to survey as many people as possible.

The students were so professional and I loved standing back and watching them work.  It truly was their project and they were taking it very seriously.

In just one day, we have already surveyed 216 students.  We will continue this process and then take the next step of looking at the results.  I love how we can check along the way to see which grades need to be surveyed more so that we have a somewhat even distribution of voices.

Be on the lookout for our next steps.  We are off to a great start.

It’s Time to Plan World Read Aloud Week 2018

It’s time for us all to start making plans and building excitement for World Read Aloud Day 2018 with Litworld.  This year, World Read Aloud Day takes place on February 1, 2018, but many of us will celebrate the entire week of January 29-February 2, 2018.

wrad15-day-3-15

World Read Aloud Day “calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  When we connect our students through Skype, Google Hangouts, or other web tools, they experience the power of the read aloud and realize that they are connected with a bigger world that is both the same and different from them.  By connecting our voices through reading aloud, we are reading on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

Shannon McClintock Miller, Matthew Winner, and I invite you to start posting your schedules on our shared Google Doc.

World Read Aloud Day 2018 Planning Document

This year, we’ve tried to organize the document by time zones to make it easier to find connections that work for you.  If you don’t see your time zone listed, please add it as a heading.

When you share your schedule, be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your contact info such as social media, Skype, and/or email
  • Your role
  • Your school and grade levels
  • Your location
  • List your time zone when posting your available dates and times

wrad-map

After you post your own schedule, take a look at the other schedules and sign up on someone’s schedule to connect your students.  We’ve found that it doesn’t matter if same grade levels connect with one another. Often times, an older grade can read aloud to a younger grade or younger grades can find parts of a books that they can read aloud to an older grade.  There’s not just one way to connect.  Part of the fun is meeting new friends, planning your read alouds, and seeing what magical things happen during your connection that you weren’t even expecting.

We have many ideas from previous years on our blogs.  You can read more about previous World Read Aloud Day connections on Expect the Miraculous and The Library Voice.  Litworld also has several resources for you to use in your planning and connections including:

wrad16-5

Please let us know if you have any questions.  Happy connecting!

Shannon McClintock Miller @shannonmmiller Matthew Winner @matthewwinner & Andy Plemmons @plemmonsa