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

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

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.

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.

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

Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

The Many Formats of Book Club

For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways.  I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences.  Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.

For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.

My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud.  Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again.  The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom.  We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud.  Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.

Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book.  We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another.  My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary.  We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations.  Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.

The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book.  We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.

However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group.  Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion.  We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book.  We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today.  We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.

Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about.  We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.

After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion.  I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book.  I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.

For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs.  With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group.  I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event.  This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one.  As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing.  One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.

Onward we go.

Poem In Your Pocket: Connecting Our Voices Through Poetry

For 2 solid days, students in every class have been visiting the library to share poetry into our open microphone for poem in your pocket day.  As always, this was a special day where every single student in our school had an opportunity to step up and share their voice through poetry that they carried in their pockets.  Many students shared original poems which ranged from silly to humorous to scary to sentimental to observant.  Many students also shared favorite poems that they copied from our large poetry collection in the library.  Sometimes it takes a lot to get up in front of your peers and read aloud, but I love the accessibility of poetry. It can be short but powerful.  It can give you a chance to shine before your nerves kick in.  It can quickly create reactions from your audience. It creates moments.

As usual, there were many special moments.  Teachers shared poems from their phones in their pockets.

A student who spoke limited English, broke out of her comfort zone to share a poem all in English with a friend standing by her side.  PreK poets recited their very first poems of their school career as their teachers whispered the words into their ears.

My airplane poet #prouddaddy #poetry #poetrymonth #prek

A post shared by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

5th graders filled up their poetry slot by repeatedly going to the microphone to share poems from the books displayed on our poetry tables.  Families who couldn’t be here with us in the room were able to watch their children perform via our live Google Hangout.  Sweet poems about brothers were shared.

Tweets rolled in via our Twitterfall wall.

A retiring paraprofessional shared her final Poem In Your Pocket moment.

If you missed any of our poetry readings live, you can watch any of the archives by visiting our Smore.  Take a moment to look at all of the poets in the gallery below.

 

Join Us for Poem In Your Pocket April 6 & 7, 2017

One of our newer traditions at Barrow is to participate each year in Poem In Your Pocket Day.  This national event takes place on April 27 this year, but due to our state testing, we will celebrate a bit early.

On these days, all students carry an original or favorite poem throughout the day and come to the library for a 20-30 minute slot to share poems on our open microphone. I setup a poetry atmosphere with decorations, and each student has a moment to share poems.  We celebrate with rounds of snaps and quiet claps.

We also broadcast this live on Youtube Live(Google Hangouts On Air) so that other schools, family, and community can join in the 2 days of fun.  If you watch live, you are highly encouraged to tweet your snaps of celebration for students so that they can see your tweets on our media center projector.  They love to get shout outs.

Visit our Smore page for a full schedule as well as links to every live feed.  As each feed ends, it is automatically archived to Youtube for your future enjoyment.

 

https://www.smore.com/x4hh5

It’s already amazing to see where in the world people are taking a look at our event.