Max and the MidKnights: A Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We’ve been building excitement for weeks to get ready for an author/illustrator visit with Lincoln Peirce. Many people know Lincoln from his bestselling series Big Nate, but he has an equally fantastic new book out called Max and the Midknights. This new book is a spoof on the Sword in the Stone and other medieval stories. It is filled with surprises, adventure, a wicked king, an evil sorceress, unlikely knights, a dragon, a few zombies, and plenty of humor. (And the best part is that there are more Max books in the works).

Prior to Lincoln’s visit with 3rd-5th grade, we held a one-page comic contest and used those comics to fill our windows of the media center to welcome him. When he arrived, he was so impressed by how many of our students expressed their creativity through comic art.

Lincoln arrived a little bit early so he took time to sign the many books that we pre-sold through our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. He also had one adoring fan spending recess time in the library, and Lincoln took time to chat with this student who has read all of the Big Nate comics. This student even drew a comic for Lincoln using Big Nate and his other favorite topic, the Titanic.

Before his chat with all of the students, Lincoln had just enough time to create a special Max drawing for our library. I’ve made it a habit now of framing an illustration from each illustrator who visits and is willing to leave behind an image. With 3 author/illustrator visits just this year, our walls are becoming a mini-museum.

A few lucky students arrived early and got to see Lincoln create the drawing.

In his presentation, he of course acknowledged Big Nate at the beginning because that’s what he’s famous for. I loved how when he showed each character from Big Nate, the kids shouted out their names. These illustrated novels have made quite an impact on many readers.

Lincoln then backed up and showed us where a lot of his inspiration has come from. He referenced books he read as a kid and many comics that inspired him. I’m always impressed when an author/illustrator shows things that they kept from their childhood, and it reminds me the importance of holding on to at least a few things from my own children each year.  He had drawings of Peanuts characters that he created and super heroes based on his love of Batman.

Lincoln took students up to the point where he created the Big Nate comic strip for newspapers and how it became wildly popular. We were all surprised when an image of another famous author made its way into Lincoln’s presentation because Jeff Kinney was a key player in how the comic strip turned into an illustrated novel series.

It was very evident that Lincoln has had a lot of fun moving away from the Big Nate novels to a new series. He’s coming up with so many new, fun characters that are based in medieval tales he’s read or watched in the past.  Students loved seeing how he took some small ideas and eventually turned them into a much longer story. He introduced them to all of these key players in the book without giving away any of the fun secrets from the book.

One of the most fun parts of Lincoln’s presentation was seeing him draw. He emphasized to students that the smallest lines and symbols convey big messages to the reader. A simple letter z tells you someone is sleeping. A slanted eyebrow can change a character’s emotion.

He drew one character on our whiteboard and then erased and drew over and over to show how small changes can make a big difference in the message you are sending to the reader. This was so helpful to our young artists and I can’t wait to see how this impacts the images, comics, and stories that they create.

After Lincoln’s visit, we rushed all of the signed copies to classrooms. Students immediately started opening them up to read. Students came in the next day buzzing about what they had read.

Our 6 copies of Max and the Midknights immediately got checked out and a “hold” list started to develop throughout the day. Every signed copy of Big Nate was also checked out right away. I started to get messages from parents whose kids came home and wouldn’t stop reading the book and stories of kids who went home and made their own comics. I heard stories from teachers who had students begging to have the book read aloud in class or to the be the first student to read the class copy of the book.

This is what an author visit does. It inspires students to create. It creates a buzz of conversation. It encourages readers to read and readers who haven’t found the right book yet try something new. Thank you to all publishers who send authors and illustrators to schools and bookstores. For this visit, thank you to Random House Kids & Crown Books for Young Readers for sending Lincoln Peirce to our school. Thank you to Avid Bookshop for advocating for this visit and for taking care of all of our presales of books. Finally, thank you to our amazing PTA who made sure every class in 2nd-5th grade received a copy of Max and the Midknights for their class library.  These books will make an impact for years to come.

 

A Walk to Avid Bookshop with the Student Book Budget Team

Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.

I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.

When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.

Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.

We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.

I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.

As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.

I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate.  I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.

Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.

One-Page Comic Contest: Prepping for a Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We are still in shock that next week we will be visited by Lincoln Peirce, the author of the bestselling Big Nate series. Lincoln is touring the country to promote his newest illustrated novel, Max and the Midknights. I can’t wait for students to be introduced to this new book. It has a little bit of everything: surprises, humor, medieval fights, mystery, magic, zombies, and more.

When an author/illustrator visits, I love to fill our windows and/or hallways with student work inspired by the author/illustrator. Sometimes there’s just not enough prep time, but luckily for Lincoln we knew a couple of months in advance.

When I read the Advance Reading Copy of Max and the Midknights, I saw that it opens with a one-page comic to setup the story. I thought this would be a great concept to invite students to try out. Instead of hosting class after class in the library, I made this a choice contest. In the contest, I invited students in any grade level to create a one-page comic on any topic. That’s pretty much the rules. They could create the comic on their own paper or use a pre-printed page of comic boxes that I provided in the library.

I introduced the contest on our morning broadcast and also made a video that teachers could share.

Students had a little less than 2 weeks to enter the contest and it didn’t take long to see that this was a high-interest topic. By the deadline date, we had over 100 entries in our contest from almost every grade level. It was impossible to pick winners by myself, so I had the help of Allie Melancon, SST, and my high school intern, Andrea Aramburo. I also had a few students, teachers, and my wife read a some comics too.

In the end, we picked 12 students to receive an autographed copy of Max and the Midknights. Thanks to a local organization called Books for Keeps, I had some other items I could hand out as prizes for about 50 honorable mention students.

These students received their choice of several doodling books, coloring books, magnetic storytelling kits, and comics.

Every student who entered a comic also has his/her work displayed on the windows of the library. As soon as the display went up, students, teachers, and families were stopping in the hall to read comics. We can’t wait for Lincoln Peirce to see them next week too.

I loved having this choice contest. It’s something I would like to try again with other author visits. It gives students one more way to interact with their library, one more way to make their voice heard, and one more way to be creative regardless of grade level, language, or background. I met some students in a new way through their art or writing. I saw some hidden talents that I didn’t realize were there.

We never know what opportunity is going to be the spark that students need in order to connect.

Enriching Rocks with Blendspace, Tinkercad, Research, Thinglink, and Painting

Third grade studies rocks as a part of their science curriculum. Each year Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade spectrum teacher, finds so many ways to enrich the study with her students. She collaborates with me in the library on several pieces of the project.

Blendspace

Early in the project, students come to the library to learn about a tool called Blendspace. This tool has gone through many changes and names. It allows users to create a lesson made up of tiles. The tiles can include quizes, images with descriptions, links to websites, embedded Google docs, and more. The goal for the students is to use Blendspace throughout the study of rocks to capture their learning and present in a way that might teach someone new what they have learned.

I show the students how to login with Google and we explore the features together. Ms. Hicks shares a folder with students in Google drive that is filled with images for them to pull from. The images feature work the students have done in class during their study of rocks and the Mohs hardness scale.

We also think about types of quizes and students create pre-test, midpoint checks, and post tests for their blendspace tiles. Each time they learn something new in class or create something new in the library, they add a tile to their blendspace.

Tinkercad

In another series of library blocks, students return to the library to explore a 3D design tool called Tinkercad. They use their knowledge of the Mohs hardness scale to design a climbing wall prototype. Each color they select represents a different rock or mineral that would work well in their wall. As students finish their design, they create screenshots and upload those to Blendspace.

Thinglink

When students have added several tiles to their Blendspace, they return to the library and add their link to a Thinglink image so that we can access every Blendspace in one location. This makes it easy to share with families and with other viewers around the world.

Research & Painting

This year, students were very interested in their birthstones. One birthstone in particular caught their attention more than others: opal. We had no idea how many kinds of opal there are in the world. Students spent a week in the library exploring 2 websites: Gem Kids and Geology.com

Each student narrowed down to one type of opal to research. Students added notes and images to a Google doc so that they could tell someone else about the type of opal they chose. Once they gathered enough information, students selected a river rock and used paints and paint pens to design the rock to resemble the opal they studied.

We sealed these with Mod Podge to give them the shiny play of color effect that opal has. Students added their Google docs to Blendspace and will get to take their painted rocks home.

It’s always fun each year to see what new directions this project takes. There are always pieces that we keep the same, but time and interests always lead us in new directions too.  Take a moment to look at some of the student work in Blendspace and see what you might learn about rocks.

 

Matching Readers to Books: A Reader’s Advisory Exploration

In the library, we see all kinds of readers: those who still haven’t found a book they have fallen in love with, those who read everything in sight, those who need a nudge to try something outside their comfort zone, those who wander around and just can’t choose, and more. Even though one of my favorite things to do is talk individually with students about their interests and connections with reading, the busy library program that we have sometimes gets in the way. My time is pulled between numerous classes I’m teaching and collaborating on projects with, collaborative planning with teachers, keeping our collection up to date and organized, exploring new tech with students, and the list goes on.

This quarter I’m working with 2 different groups of 3rd and 5th graders to explore our reading lives. Some of the students I’m working with have not found a book they connect with enough to finish. Others need a nudge to try something maybe a little more challenging or stretch the breadth of their genre choices.

Prior to meeting with both groups, I tweaked a reading interest survey in Google forms. The questions included:

  • What are you reading now?
  • Would you rather……have fun with friends at recess or go on adventure in the jungle?
  • Who are some of your favorite celebrities (yes Youtubers count)?
  • Would you rather…..cast a spell on an evil creature or battle an army in a war?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • Would you rather…..be scared by a ghost of a girl who drowned in a lake or play a prank on friends?
  • Do you like……just the facts, a far out story, or something in between?
  • What book did you NOT enjoy?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What are some of your favorite movies, shows, or Youtube channels?
  • What are 3 books that you loved?
  • Why do you read? to escape, to be entertained, to learn something new, because you have to, something else
  • What is your preferred length of book? short and sweet, long and detailed, in between short and long, depends on the book
  • If you could visit any time or place, where would you go?
  • What is your favorite series or genre?
  • What else would help me match you with a book?

When students arrived, we had a quick conversation about how you make a decision on whether a book is right for you. Conversations were mixed. Some groups had lots to say. In other groups, I had to share some things that I do for myself to match to a book. We talked about looking at covers, reading the description, using Novelist for reviews, and reading a few pages. One interesting thing that came up was that several students did not like someone telling them what to read. Can you blame them? I want to pick my books too.

This part put me in a bit of a dilemma. I told them that I wanted them to give me some information through a survey so that I could pull a possible stack of books that matched their answers. However, I also let them know that I wasn’t forcing them to read any of the books. If none of the books matched, I would work with them to explore other books until we found something they were actually interested in reading in class.

Next, students answered the survey. Once students left, I went through their answers and pulled out key words from student responses and wrote them onto post-it notes. I used these notes to walk through our chapter book genres and pull stacks of books for each student.  I tried to match the book length that students suggested, but I also mixed in some varying lengths of books too.  Several students mentioned that they wanted at least some illustrations in their chapter books or even that they wanted an illustration on every page. This also gave me a challenge because most chapter books aren’t going to fit this description unless I’m pulling from graphic novels. Again, I tried to meet their requests but also throw in some surprises too.

In general, each student had between 6-8 books to choose from. On day 2, students returned to the library and we reviewed what readers do when they are deciding on a book. Each student took the personalized stack of books and found a private spot in the library to go through the stack. Most started by looking at all of the covers. Most students then picked a few of the books to start reading a few of the first pages. In a few instances, students dismissed most of their stack based on the covers alone. For these students, I sat with them and actually walked through some extra steps with them so they could at least give some of the books a chance. Most of the time, having me read the description or the first page for them was enough to get them started back into their stack.

By the end of the 2nd session, every student found at least one book they were going to read in class during “read to self” time and also outside of school too. Most students had 2-3 books. For those students, I took their post-it and left it on the books they were interested in so they could check them out next time.

Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade teacher, shared with me that one of her students said “This is just like heaven” as she was referring to the opportunity to just sit with a stack of books curated just for her and spend time reading. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s so powerful for students to show them that their interests matter. Reading books they have selected matters. We can’t just put kids in guided reading groups all day long and never give them a chance to select books they want to read. Some students get to 5th grade and despise reading. I can’t blame them when their main experience with reading is sitting in a group reading a book they aren’t interested in that they had no hand in choosing.

Reading skills and strategy groups are important, but they can’t replace the power of hearing a great story read aloud and discussing it or finding a book that connects with your soul and having time just to read it.

This was very time consuming, but every time I do it, I’m reminded and how much interest and choice matter in reading.  My next steps are to check back in with these students in a week to see how the books are going.

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our 2018-19 student book budget team is hard at work creating consideration lists of books for purchase. So far, they have created an interest survey, surveyed numerous students in our school, and set purchasing goals. I sent their goals to vendors and setup some appointments for vendors to meet with the team.

Our first vendor was Gret from Gumdrop Books. Gret brought in fiction and nonfiction and split them into separate groups on tables. She gave each student a pad of paper to write down item numbers for books or series they were interested in. They gave Gret each of their papers at the end of their time and then she put them into a consideration list in Excel. One of the things I love about what Gret does is that she has a printed list inside each book that shows other books in the series. Students can easily see if there are other books they are interested in.

Since Gret only had a sample of books to peruse, we had the Gumdrop website pulled up on the big screen so that Gret or students could search for books that weren’t represented on the tables. At the close of Gret’s time students in the 3 groups had made a list that totaled over $6,000! That’s not unusual for this group. It will become a good lesson later into how you get critical and purchase the very best of what you’ve found with the money you actually have.

Our second vendor was Jim Boon from Capstone. Jim has worked with us since the very beginning of this project. He’s great at bringing in a variety of books in fiction and nonfiction and splitting them into 2 displays that students can easily access. He also has catalogs and pens shipped to the school prior to his visit so that students can look through catalogs for books that aren’t found in his displays. Jim does a quick overview of what he has brought, how to use the catalogs, and any promotions Capstone currently has. Then, he spends time assisting students in looking at books and finding specifics in the catalogs.

My favorite feature in the Capstone catalog is the barcode listed on each series. Students can scan the barcode and it pulls up the entire series on the screen. Then, students can check the books they want to add to the list.  It’s so much faster than having to write things down or bookmark pages in a catalog. Then, we can easily go into the list later to delete the books we don’t want.

Jim gets right in with the students and helps them find whatever they are looking for. He’s so fun and keeps them laughing and shopping. He even brought them a special treat bag to go with their Capstone pen and bookmarks.

Now, students have a lot of work to do after the break looking through their Capstone catalogs and cutting books from their Gumdrop list. Then, we’ll meet with one more vendor before making final decisions.

I love watching this group work and seeing what stands out to them.

 

Polar Express 2018

Our Polar Express tradition continued this year in the library. Every year we host a Polar Express Day where every class comes to the library to enjoy hearing the story read aloud. Students and teachers get to wear their pajamas to school.

When they enter the library, they find hallways that have been transformed with special decorations thanks to a special team of elves (teachers) who come back to school at night to create some magic. In the library, the lights are turned off and our tables have been flipped on their sides to form a train that students board. The hot chocolate song comes on and a team of servers (parent volunteers) bring out hot chocolate for all.

A conductor (teacher) holds up the book while we listen to a recording of the story. At the close of the story, our parent volunteers come out and place a bell around each student’s neck and whisper “always believe” into their ears. Students receive a candy cane as they exit.

Many classes take a class photo together by the Barrow tree or with the new backdrop that Ms. Vaughn magically discovered.

This is a special day that takes so many people to pull off. It ends up being one of the many memories that students come back to again and again when they think about what they love about our school. We are so happy to continue this special tradition.

Thank you to:

  • Kim Ness, parent, who purchased bells, string, cups, marshmallows, hot chocolate, and candy canes. Thank you for also organizing our volunteers for the day and for organizing volunteers to prepare bells.
  • Families who donated their time to help the serve hot chocolate, punch tickets, and hand out bells.

  • Renee Williams, lunchroom manager, and the lunchroom superheroes who prepared our hot chocolate and let us borrow carts and trays.
  • Ellen Sabatini, principal, who created our schedule for the day.
  • Sarah Britton Vaughn, Phyllis Childs, Allyson Griffith, and everyone else who helped transform our halls
  • The team of parent volunteers who donated a morning to string over 600 bells.
  • Teachers for being on time, preparing students, turning pages, cleaning up spills, throwing away trash, and sharing your love with our students and families.
  • Katherine Byrne (family engagement specialist) & Lauren McElhannon (counselor) for organizing pajamas for students who didn’t have a pair to wear to school.
  • Our wonderful PTA for providing funds to purchase all of our supplies.
  • Anyone else I may have forgotten. If your name or job isn’t listed, it’s not intentional. This day takes so many hands. Please remind me and I’ll edit this post to include you.