The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

Celebrating International Dot Day 2018

September 15(ish) is International Dot Day. This day celebrates The Dot by Peter Reynolds and the idea that we are all creative and unique and can all make our mark on the world. Every year, we use this week to make Skype connections with classes around the country, share dot-related stories, and realize that we are all connected to each other.

Some years I try to host many dot-making activities in the library.

This year, we are doing creativity challenges every week as a whole school, so I asked my principal if we could make this week’s challenge dot-related. At the beginning of the week on our morning broadcast, I explained the purpose of Dot Day and challenged all classes to see what they could make out of dots. They could create something as a class, create individual ideas on post-its or index cards, or anything else. Each class was encouraged to hang their work outside their door for all to see. They were also encouraged to bring their creations to Skype sessions to share with our connecting classes.

I really loved this new addition because I feel like more people jumped into celebrating Dot Day. On Friday, we invited everyone to wear dots, and I was surprised to see how many students created their own shirts at home with dots.  One student even hid a Mo Willems pigeon in his dots on his shirt.

For our Skypes we connected with:

  • Donna MacDonald at Orchard School in South Burlington Vermont to read Little Elliot by Mike Curato.
  • Craig Seasholes in Seattle, Washington to read Yo! Yes! and The Dot
  • Shannon Miller at Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa to read Ish
  • Mrs. Shekleton at Howard Winneshiek School District in Iowa to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Guardiola at Caldwell Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Mrs. Snead at Central Elementary in Carrollton, Texas to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Schnurr in Dallas, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt

As usual, every connection was filled with special moments. One of my favorites was reading Say Zoop with so many students. It’s a book that puts you a bit out of your comfort zone, but the kids had a blast making all of the noises.

I also loved seeing all of the creativity of dots from place to place and hearing students ask questions and share with one another. These Skype connections always remind us how we are sometimes stuck in our routines and forget that there’s a whole world of people out there doing some of the same things we are. It just takes reaching out and having a conversation to connect yourself to one another.

Thank you to everyone who connected with us and to all educators and students who reached out, tried something new, and connected the dots around the world.

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.

World Read Aloud Week 2018: Author Visits, Skypes, and More

What an amazing week for celebrating the power of reading in our school!  For the past few years, we have celebrated World Read Aloud Day and stretched it into a whole week.  This celebration was created by an organization called LitWorld for a very important reason.

We think everyone in the world should get to read and write. Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people. ~Litworld

In fact, there are some pretty mindblowing facts about reading around the world.

and

This week in the library, we’ve hosted skypes and Google Hangouts with classes, libraries, authors, and illustrators as well as hosting an in-person visit with Matt de la Pena & Loren Long.

We’ve stressed many things in these connections.  One of those is that we all should read as much as possible and celebrate our freedom and right to read.

Author & Illustrator Visit

On Tuesday, Matt de la Pena & Loren Long visited our 1st-5th grade to share their new book Love.  This was one of the many stops on their national tour.  Our amazing art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich collaborated with me in the library to create art projects with every grade level in the school.  We wanted them to know how much their book impacted us by showing them an art exhibit throughout the front halls of the school.

Matt & Loren started their visit with a reading of the book.  Matt read the book from memory while Loren  painted the front cover of the book on chart paper.

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Love! #thisislove

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Then, they both took time to tell us their own personal journeys of how they came to work together on the book, Love.  From Matt’s basketball scholarship to college to Loren’s mom encouraging him to continue his art pursuit even with the barrier of being colorblind, we learned of the many examples of love that filled these two guys lives.  They brought messages to students about taking risks, loving and respecting your family, working hard even when things are hard, having empathy for people going through tough bumps in the road of life, and more. I hope that their messages will connect with students for years to come.

The power of their spoken word had our audience of 450 1st-5th graders captivated for an entire hour.  We can’t thank Penguin, Avid Bookshop, and Matt & Loren enough for taking time to visit our school.

Class & Library Skypes

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, several of our classes connected with other classes around the country via Skype and Google Hangout to read aloud books.  This year, I tried to select books that had an element of discussion around doing good in the world.  Selections included books like Love by Matt de la Pena, Be a Friend by Salina Yoon, We’re All Wonders by R J Palacio, Yo Yes by Chris Raschka, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, and Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell.

Each connection had its own variation.  Sometimes students helped me read the text to the other class.  Sometimes the two librarians alternated reading the text.  Other times we read one book to our connecting class and they read a book back to us.  We always spent time making connections with one another through sharing and questions.  We talked about things like making things beautiful in our school, creating gifts to give to others in need, identifying wonders of our classmates, and what it takes to be a good friend.  So many of our conversations were filled with meaningful ways to make sure the world is a great place to live, and we learned that we aren’t alone in our interests and routines.

Authors & Illustrator Skypes

On the official World Read Aloud Day, we had several skypes with authors and illustrators.  Anne Marie Pace, Brian Lies, Carter Higgins, Donna Gephart, Jody Feldman, and Loree Griffin Burns all connected with students.  I loved that they showed many of their books and then read aloud from one of them.  Any time an author/illustrator connects with us in person or in Skype, they immediately become a favorite author/illustrator in our library.  Their books fly off the shelves and stay checked out.  This time was no different.

Brian Lies read from Bats at the Beach and then got kids to brainstorm a new bat drawing that he illustrated on Skype.

Donna Gephart read to us from a book that she had just gotten the ARCs for.  We couldn’t take pictures or record anything, but it was so exciting to get an early preview. Loree Burns went in depth with students about her research process and writing about what matters in the world. A group of writers met with her and got lots of inspiration for their own writing.  Anne Marie Pace and Carter Higgins both read from brand new books with a timely topics of love and Groundhog Day.

We are so appreciative of these professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to connect with readers.

Mapping

As usual, we used Google Tour Builder to keep track of our connections and the books that we shared. It’s always fun at the end of the week to see all of the stories that have been shared and the connections we’ve made. Technology flattens our world and reminds us that stories can connect us across the miles.

Happy World Read Aloud Week.

 

Love Projects: 2nd Grade Tweets & Instagrams

Every class in our school has read the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long. In preparation for their visit later this month, every class has also created a piece of art in response to the book.  These projects began in the library and continued in the art classroom with Ms. Foretich.  I have loved the inspiration that the book has given her and the pieces of art that students have created with her.  I’ll be sharing much of this student work in the next few blog posts.

Today, I want to focus on 2nd grade.  Every 2nd grade class came to the library to hear Love before the holidays.  When we read the book, I invited students to listen to Matt’s words and look closely at Loren’s illustrations for as many examples of love as they could find. Similar noticings emerged in each class, but there were also unique observations made that other students didn’t catch. We always paused on the 2nd spread that shows a park image with a cab, a hot dog stand, and a man on a bench. Students always talked about the boy in the wheel chair giving the man a hot dog. Sometimes they noticed the people making eye contact and talking in the cab. Sometimes they talked about the color of the balloon being a symbol of love.  The important thing is that they always talked. Students were never silent on a page. They always found love even on pages that were hard like the one with the boy hiding under the piano. Even with all of the bad things happening in the picture, love was still there.

In the art room, we took apart the F&G version of Love and Ms. Foretich gave groups of students an image from the book to study more closely. Students were asked to think about what the image said about love. They had a brainstorming page to get some of their ideas down.  They used this process to reimagine the version of love into a new image that connected with them personally.

Over the next class, students turned this into a watercolor image.  Each student made a statement about their art that could be posted in a tweet or Instagram caption and wrote it onto their art.  What message of love could students send out into the world? I loved the student voice that Ms. Foretich was giving students as she asked them about a short message of love that they could actually send out to the world via social media. She has been taking time to post these images and captions to her Instagram & Twitter account.  If you don’t follow her, please take a moment to.  You will be inspired by the many examples of student work that she posts.

For now, I’ll let the student work speak for itself through this series of Instagrams.  Take a moment to leave students comments here on the blog or on Ms. Foretich’s Instagram posts.  The students would love to hear how their messages have connected with you.

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"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

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"They are all being nice to each other." Jaiona

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"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

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"To love, you need to share." Patrick #thisislove

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"This is how I show love." Baylen #thisislove

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"Someone will be by your side." Deiondre

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"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

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Happy Book Birthday to Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long

When I first saw the cover of Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, I knew it was going to be something special. I couldn’t wait to peer inside the pages and hear Matt’s words and see Loren’s vivid illustrations. The first time I got to actually hear about what was inside the book was with the amazing John Schu while we presented at the Tennessee School Librarian Association Conference. In his masterful way of book talking, he made me want to read the book even more by gushing over the illustrations and how Matt brought the idea of “love” to life in many different ways.

I finally got to see a copy of the book in Phoenix at the American Association of School Librarians Conference, and I read the book multiple times in the Penguin Young Readers booth. Every single illustration from Loren Long is breathtaking. You can see something different each time you look at the pages. He takes Matt’s words and extends them into a visual masterpiece of how love lives in our world. Matt’s words take you well beyond the idea of love being a hug, a kiss, or an “I love you”. Love lives in music, in time spent with family, in the colors of the sky, in good deeds to those in need, and more. We’re in a time where it sometimes feels like love has been lost in our world.  This book reminds us that love is everywhere, but we do have to take a moment to look closely in order to remind ourselves where it is.

I’m so happy that this book is finally out in the world. It’s the perfect book to start the new year as people consider their goals for the year. If you’ve found yourself in a hard place over the past year, pick up this book and reconnect yourself with the love in our world.

I knew that this book was one that I wanted to share with my entire school as soon as I saw it. Miraculously, while I was in Phoenix looking at the book for the first time, I got an email from Hannah DeCamp at Avid Bookshop.  The email subject was “Pssst, we’re hosting Matt de la Pena and Loren Long in January”.  My fingers couldn’t open the email and respond fast enough.  As part of the extensive Love tour, Matt & Loren are stopping by our school in January.  Also while in Phoenix, I scored an ARC of Love after standing in a long giveaway line.

Many times for these tour events, I don’t have a lot of time to prepare. This time we had almost 2 months notice. As soon as I got back to school from Phoenix, I started showing the book to teachers.  One of the first was our art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich. I love collaborating with her because so often we take a seed of an idea that blossoms into something grand. The book immediately got her creative wheels turning and she wanted to do something with every class in the school.

Over December and January, we have been reading the book to every class and creating an art piece that is inspired by the book.  Every grade is doing something different.  I’ll be sharing many of those projects in some posts over the next few weeks leading up to our author and illustrator visit.

For now, go out and get this book at your local bookstore.  Even better, order a copy from Avid Bookshop to have signed when Matt and Loren visit on January 30th.  They will ship the book to you.  See the beautiful in the world and give love.

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.

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.