Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

Bringing Books to Life with Flipgrid

What happens after the cover of a library book has been closed? What thoughts and connections does the reader continue to think about? How many people have experienced this story and what would they say to one another?  These are the questions that a group of 3rd and 4th graders asked as we continued to think about how we share books with one another and build a reading community in our school.

We’ve tried several ways of sharing books this year, and this time we decided to create a digital way for people to continue the story after the pages of the book are closed. Using Flipgrid, we would create a topic for a book and leave the link & QR code in the front cover of the book for other readers to share their thoughts and experiences with the book. Since we were just coming to the end of November and Picture Book Month, we decided that we would focus on picture books for this project.

Session 1

Each 3rd and 4th grader in the group chose one book from our picture book section to read. They spread out around the library and had time to enjoy their book by themselves.  As they finished, they began to think about what they might say to someone about the book beyond just a summary. We talked about how in a book club there would be discussion questions where people would share wonderings about the book, connections to their own lives, and books that this book reminded them of.

Some students began to write out a script of everything they would say while other students decided to just make a list of talking points. I also made an example video for them to watch to see one way they might talk about the book they read.

As students finished their script/talking points, they practiced what they might say.

Session 2

Since we wanted each book to have its own Flipgrid topic, it meant that students had to create the topic within the admin panel of my Flipgrid account. They certainly could have created the video in the camera app on the iPad and then let me upload the video myself, but I wanted them to have ownership of starting the conversation. Ahead of students arriving, I logged into my Flipgrid account on multiple computers and pulled up the “Living Books” grid in the admin panel.

On the big screen, I modeled for students how they would click on “Add new topic”, fill out the details such as title/prompt/recording time, and how they would click “record a video” to make the opening video for their book. I also told them they could not go anywhere else in my account other than this screen.

Students picked up their books and continued where they left off in session 1. When they were ready to record, they got a computer with my Flipgrid account already pulled up, filled out the prompts, and then lined up at various rooms around the library for their turn to record in a quiet space. We used my office, makerspace storage, equipment storage, and a workroom for recording.

As students finished, they finalized their topic. If there was time, I went into the topic and turned on a guest QR code and link that we could paste into Word and print.  Most of this step happened after students left. As each QR code and link were printed, we taped them into the inside cover of the book using book tape.

Session 3

During our final session, students brainstormed how we might advertise this collection of 30 books to the rest of the school so that Flipgrid conversations begin. Our hope is that this space will become a digital conversation about the book between its numerous readers. There were many ideas for advertising the project: BTV announcement, a special display, shelf talkers to show where books were located, posters with pictures of the books, a flyer to send home, and more. When we return from winter break, we will implement some of these ideas.

With the rest of our time, students had an opportunity to test out the QR codes to make sure they were working. They also really wanted to hear about the other books. After they listened to 4-5 different topic videos, they chose one book to read and record a response.

You can listen to a few of the topics here and here and here.

Next Steps

I love watching this group grow as readers. The 4th graders that began this book club community last year have come up with so many ideas and they aren’t done. When we return from winter break, we will get the conversations started with these living books and hopefully encourage other students to create topics for even more books.

They are also very curious about starting a podcast about authors, illustrators, and the books they are reading. I went to a podcasting session at AASL so we have some ideas brewing.

The Forgotten Girl: A Visit with India Hill Brown

Thanks to Scholastic Book Fairs our fourth and fifth graders were introduced to debut author India Hill Brown.  Her new book The Forgotten Girl releases in November, but it is a featured book on Scholastic’s fall book fair allowing readers to enjoy it well in advance of release day.

The Forgotten Girl is about 2 friends, Iris and Daniel, who leave their home one night to play in the first snowfall of the year. They sneak away into the woods to get to some fresh snow and to be out of sight. Iris decides to make a snow angel, and when she gets up, she realizes she has just made a snow angel on top of a forgotten grave. This action awakens a ghost named Avery, who needs help being remembered. Iris and Daniel launch into a research project to remember the deceased members of the segregated African American cemetery and to have the area cleaned up. However, Iris is put in some dangerous situations due to her new ghostly friend.

Our local Athens history has some interesting connections with this book. We invited local expert, Fred Smith Sr, to speak to students ahead of our visit with India. He shared the history of segregated cemeteries in Athens, including the slave burial grounds at the University of Georgia. He also shared how UGA moved some of the remains as well as built on top of the burial sites. Fred Smith Sr has been active in the process of acknowledging and honoring the forgotten graves.

He then shared about our 2 black cemeteries in Athens that were created after slavery ended. The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is where Harriet Powers is buried. She is well known for her Bible story quilts which now hang in the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Art. I brought in my replica of her quilt for students to see.

Scholastic sent books for pre-ordering ahead of the event, so we were also able to read the first chapter before the visit.

Our library windows transformed into the cover of the book with a the title sign, trees, and tombstones representing some of our Athens graveyard residents.

India Hill Brown spoke for about 30 minutes to our 4th and 5th graders. She shared some of her favorite books as a child as well as her love of writing from an early age.  She also surprised us by sharing that she really doesn’t like scary stories. However, she said one way to get over your fear of something is by doing it or by turning it into art.

 

India showed us pictures of the cemetery in her own community that inspired her to write the book. She wanted to weave in the history of forgotten cemeteries with a ghost story. We always love it when authors share the creative process of a story, and India showed us how the story went through multiple revisions and edits to reach the final version. I loved how she explained the different kinds of changes she made from the content of the story to spelling mistakes. Students are always surprised how long the entire process takes. Even though the first draft was done in about a month, the entire process of creating the finished book took over a year.

Students had a chance to ask India lots of questions about writing and her favorite things in life.  I even got to ask a questions about any ghostly happenings she has encountered in her own life.  After her talk, India took time to greet students as they exited. I loved seeing students making connections with her and even doing chants and hand clapping games with her.

Many times when we host and author, they are in a hurry to get to their next event. We usually do signing without students and then deliver books. India wanted to greet her readers, so we had students wait in the library and get in line for greeting and signing. I loved watching students glow as they met her and shared their excitement about her book.

Now that the visit is over, we have 5 copies of the book in the library and all 5 have already been checked out. Every classroom also has a copy in the classroom thanks to our PTA. I have a feeling many students who missed out on pre-orders will want to purchase the book at our fall book fair.

Thank you Scholastic Book Fairs for bringing India to our school.  Thank you India Hill Brown for sharing your historically important story with our readers. I can’t wait to hear the conversations that take place as students read this book.

Sharing Books Through Google Slides, Shelf Talkers, and Book Talks

I’ve been working with Ms. Hicks and a group of 3rd graders to think about our reading lives, how we talk about books, and how we share our reading with our local and global community. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking more about our school community and what we can do to share new book ideas with them.

We started our journey by creating a rolling slideshow that could be displayed on a hallway monitor that most students pass at some point during the day.

Each student created one slide about their book.  Their goal was to write a short blurb about the book to inform passersby about the book they had read. They were also supposed to include an image of themselves with the book or the book by itself.  I published this slideshow to the web and set it to rotate slides every 15 seconds and repeat the show when it reached the end.

It continuously plays in the hallway until we update it with new slides.  Then, I’ll need to publish it to the web again.

Next, we talked about other ways we could share our books with the readers in our school. We brainstormed a list, and rather than asking everyone to do the same thing, students chose from the list what they wanted to create. They could create a shelf talker like you might find in Avid Bookshop, a poster to hang in a strategic spot in the school, or a book talk that could be shared on our morning broadcast, BTV.

To get ready, we looked at some mentor examples. A few years back, we Skyped with Will Walton at Avid Bookshop, and he shared tips from writing shelf talkers. We took a look at his video clip and a few examples from the shop. I made an example of a book poster on a Google slide and had students point out things they noticed. For book talks on BTV, we revisited our 30-second book talk Flipgrid videos and reminded ourselves about a good hook, a tease of information, and a recommendation.

Students made their selections and got to work creating. Ms. Hicks and I conferenced students but also encouraged students to share their work with one another for feedback.

For posters, I created a blank set of Google Slides, which Ms. Hicks shared with the students. Each claimed a slide, chose a background color, added a short book talk, and chose images from Google Explore that represented their book.

As students finished, I saved each slide as a JPEG and printed them in color.

Students met together to brainstorm strategic spots in school to place their posters. They decided to pick spots where people would have time to stop as well as spots that were visible. This was spots like the water fountain, the hand dryer, and columns in the rotunda.

For shelf talkers, students displayed the book that they wrote about near its genre section and taped the index card shelf talker underneath.

For BTV book talks, students wrote out their script and practiced. Then, they scheduled a day to come to our morning broadcast to share their book.

As a part of the book talk, each student shared which section the book could be found in in our library.

Our hope is that giving student these authentic ways to share their reading lives within and beyond our school will get them thinking about even more ways they might share the books they are reading. We hope that it raises the awareness of other readers in our school to want to also share their reading lives within their classroom and around our school. We are hoping that are small group explorations will put a spark back into grade levels to incorporate this more into the classroom culture.  I know that I want to be more intentional about getting student voice out into our school in regards to sharing our reading lives.

 

 

 

 

Storybook Celebration and Parade 2019

We continued Read Across America Week this week by having our annual Storybook Parade and Celebration.

We started our day with 2 guest readers in every classroom. They read favorite books from home as well as books from our library collection. It’s always a great way to get kids excited about trying out some new stories in our library.

Next, we held an assembly in the cafeteria. This was our chance to come together as a school for a story and to see each other’s costumes.

Dressed as Jarrett Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady, I read aloud Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra. Since I was reading to 600 students, I wanted something that could be a bit interactive, and this book has some great moments for choral reading, laughs, knock knock jokes, and saying yes or no. I projected the book up on the screen so students could follow along as I read.

Next, each row took turns standing to show off their costume and faced the back of the lunchroom before sitting back down. This allowed us to get prepped to walk out the door for the parade.

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I kicked off our parade with our 5th graders as we marched down the sidewalks by our school, the UGA athletic fields, and Lumpkin Street. Students chanted “Read More Books” and added in some rhythm along the way too. We loved seeing families waving along the route as well as UGA students walking to class or cars driving down the road. It is a great way to make our school and reading visible in our community.

Our 5th grade stopped by the Dooley garden to have some lemonade and donuts while the rest of the parade passed by.  Many group photos were taken based on themes of costumes.

Once we returned to school, grade levels held their own activities in their classrooms. As with any schoolwide event, it takes a village to pull this off. This tradition is one that students always look forward too and remember for years to come.

Now as we head into spring break, our students can spend some time reading more books!

Our 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was a Success!

The 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 29, 2018.  This has been a yearly tradition since November became Picture Book Month.  During a smackdown, we hold a Youtube Live event where students and authors in multiple states book talk as many picture books as possible across 45-60 minutes.

This year’s smackdown featured students in 4 different grades in 3 different states, which included:

Andy Plemmons and students at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA

Donna MacDonald and students at Orchard School in South Burlington, VT

Julee Murphy and students at Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX

Ahead of the event, students selected a picture book to share, read the book, prepared a script, and practiced.  I also communicated with all the librarians at each site to make sure we all knew our roles during the hangout.

I made a Smore for us to advertise our event, and it’s really fun to see where people are viewing the smackdown from.

Donna MacDonald reached out to author Saadia Faruqi who agreed to kickoff our smackdown. She shared her Yasmin books as well as 3 favorite picture books featuring Muslim characters and stories.  We can’t thank her enough for speaking to our students. I know many of my students want to read all of the Yasmin books now.

During the smackdown, we had 5 students from each school step to the microphone, share their name, and tell about their book. We kept this rotation going until we ran out of students or time.

It was amazing to see that every student chose a different book, even though we didn’t plan that. We kept a list of all of our books so we could remember them for our own libraries and to share with all of you.

Saadia Faruqi closed out our hangout by encouraging students to continue to read picture books and create their own stories. She found it so encouraging to see so many students reading and also enjoying the books that she created herself.

You can watch the full smackdown here.

I encourage you to host your own, even if it’s just in your own school.  We are even thinking about doing a smackdown with other formats of books like graphic novels or chapter books.  Thank you to everyone who participated and watched.  We’ll see you next year for the 2019 Picture Book Smackdown.

Happy Picture Book Month 2018

It’s November 1, which means the beginning of picture book month. We’ve been celebrating this special month since it was created back in 2011 by Dianne de Las Casas. Today, we launched our annual picture book challenge. The challenge has been a bit different each year.  Some years, students have earned stamps for reading a certain number of picture books. Other years, students have set their own personal goals for what to read whether it was reading a certain number, all the books by a specific author, every book on a certain shelf, etc.

This year, I decided to focus on the genres of our picture book section.  I made a sheet that lists out each picture book genre/format in our library with a check box by each one. I also included a line. The goal is for students to read 12 picture books across the month of November, 1 book from each section. They simply write the title of the book on the line when they finish reading. At the bottom of the sheet, I asked students to list their favorite book they read for the challenge and tell why picture books matter in the world.

At the end of picture book month, we hold a picture book smackdown where we do a virtual hangout with authors and schools to book talk favorite picture books. I hope that the challenge will get some students prepped for the smackdown by already having a favorite book and a reason picture books matter.

Today, we launched the challenge on our morning broadcast by going over the instructions and showing the sheet.  I’m also highlighting a diverse selection of books in my read alouds and encouraging students to think about windows and mirrors as they read for the challenge.Every student who finishes the challenge will get a certificate and a special bookmark. We will also announce their name on our morning broadcast. Each finisher will also have their name entered into a drawing for an autographed picture book. I try to get an extra autographed picture book each time we have an author visit or I go somewhere to hear an author. This year I’ll give away signed copies of More-igami, King Alice, Love, Last Stop on Market Street, and Hansel and Gretel. I showed each of these books on the morning broadcast too.

If you go to our school or want to take a look at our challenge sheet, you can download it here.