Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble: A Visit with Nick Bruel

We’ve been purring with excitement for the past few weeks as we geared up for an author/illustrator visit with Nick Bruel. Nick is currently touring to promote his newest installment in the Bad Kitty series: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble.

Prior to his visit, we held an art contest in the library. Students in any grade could enter. Their task was to name a new Bad Kitty book and create a cover for that book. Winners in the contest received an autographed copy of Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble and honorable mentions received a blind bag Hatchimal.

Once again, students amazed us with their creativity in both titles and covers, so it was hard to narrow down to just a few top winners. All student artwork was displayed in the library windows to welcome Nick to our school.

Our 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade packed into the library to hear Nick talk about Bad Kitty. In the beginning, he introduced us to the newest book: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble. He made the connection for students that it was inspired by the global issues around refugees and how we welcome them into our communities around the world (or not). Even though this Bad Kitty addresses a global topic, it is still a Bad Kitty book at heart with plenty of humor along the way.

Nick read aloud the first couple of chapters of the books, and it was fun to hear students chime in with the repeating lines that they quickly noticed.

Rather than go through his whole writing and creating process with students, Nick took a different approach. He made sure we divided the audience in half as they were being seated and he had each side think of pieces to an entirely new story. One side thought of a character, while the other side thought of an emotion. Then, he picked students to share their thoughts. Our story title became “The Happy Cockroach”.

With this title, Nick began asking questions to each side of the room. With each question, more of the story developed and more questions emerged. Why was the cockroach happy? ….because he was in a hotel full of food.  What problem might that cause?….he ate too much.

The questions and answers continued until we had created a story from beginning to end. Nick took time to retell the story from memory using every answer that students had given.

This brought us to the learn the secret of writing.

This was a perfect setup for students and teachers to take back to the classroom to continue writing workshop. Nick even gave them some activities they could try when they returned.

Students always love to see an illustrator draw, so Nick of course drew Bad Kitty for us. After that, he took time to reinforce the idea that simple changes to the same drawing can give your character different emotions. He did this by just drawing the eyes, nose, and mouth of Bad Kitty and making changes to show surprise, adorable, and crazy.

He finished up his time by letting students ask questions, and he even got some questions he had never been asked before. One of those questions came from a 4th grader: “On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you saw your writing and illustrating has improved since the first Bad Kitty?”  This question took some thought, and even though he didn’t have a number to assign, he did talk about how his work had grown both in writing and illustrating.

Before he left he signed pre-ordered books for students. Our PTA bought a copy of Kitten Trouble for each homeroom class library.  We also now have 6 copies in the library for checkout.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for bringing another author to our school to inspire our reader and creators. Thank you to MacMillan Kids for continuing to send authors on tour to bookshops and schools.

This was our 4th author/illustrator visit this year, and each one brings a new piece of learning and inspiration to us all.

These visits connect us with a real person that creates just like we do in our classrooms and homes. These visits build excitement for books that some students may not have engaged with yet, and they create a shared experience that we can all continue to talk about throughout this year and in the future.

 

Celebrating World Read Aloud Day 2019

We’ve been celebrating World Read Aloud Day for several years now. In fact, World Read Aloud Day was my first venture into Skyping with other classrooms around the world, and it helped me make connections to so many teachers and librarians that I continue to collaborate with today.

World Read Aloud Day was established by LitWorld as a way for us to celebrate our freedom and right to read aloud. Stories connect us, and when we read aloud together, we make connections between places, cultures, and so much more.

Back in November, I started getting teachers in my school to sign up for World Read Aloud Skype sessions via a Google Doc. I took those time slots and added them to the World Read Aloud Doc that was shared by me and Shannon McClintock Miller. Every year, that massive doc helps teachers and librarians connect classes across multiple time zones around the world to share stories.

As we found connections, I made a plan with each connecting author or educator so that we knew what story we would share. As usual, when the week of World Read Aloud arrived, we had to be prepared for technical difficulties, school closings, and sick children. Even with some barriers in our way, we made many connections this week. Here are a few of the highlights.

Monday 1/28/19

We kicked off the week with Donna MacDonald and her students reading Snappsy the Alligator. I love how this book is perfect for two voices to read aloud.

Ingrid Mayyasi’s students read Be Quiet to my Kindergarten students. It was so great to hear a group of 4th graders become the characters in the story. It really made us see how much this story could become a reader’s theater in the classroom.

Tuesday 1/29/19

Kelly Hincks and I shared Narwhal & Jelly with 2 PreK classes. Kelly’s students sang the Narwhal & Jelly song by Emily Arrow. It was so much fun to see how a story and music could connect us together. It didn’t take long for my students to start singing along and doing the motions to the song.

Kristen Mogavero’s AP English students read aloud a chapter book to our 4th graders. They shared a lot of information about their high school which was a great connection to our College and Career Week coming up next week.

Author Deborah Freedman read the book Shy to our 4th graders. They prepared questions in advance to ask her and learned a lot about why has written several stories about animals and where she gets her ideas.

Our 5th graders did a mystery hangout with April Wathen and her students in Maryland. Since we had older readers, we took turns reading aloud favorite poetry.

Wednesday 1/30/19

We were hit with several weather cancellations this day, but we were able to connect with a very fun class in Texas thanks to Nancy Jo Lambert. Our students read selections from the book Can I Touch Your Hair? This book features poems about race, friendship, and mistakes. Our students had a great time reading together and lots of laughs as we asked each other questions. I think our favorite question from them was “Do you like to eat Mexican food?” We all took a turn to share some of our favorite foods. We hope we can connect together again sometime.

Thursday 1/31/19

One of our connections on this day was with Nikki Robertson in Leader, TX. We both had 1st graders and read the book The Rabbit Listened. This was such a fun story to share for WRAD because it gave us a chance to talk about our emotions and the importance of listening to someone and giving them space when they need it. Students in both places had so many insights on why the rabbit was the one who helped Taylor the most in the story.

Friday 2/1/19

On the official day of World Read Aloud, we connected with 3 different authors. Phil Bildner gave us a sneak peek of one of his upcoming books by reading the first chapter. Anne Marie Pace shared her book Groundhug Day. Angela DiTerilizzi shared her newest book Just Add Glitter.

Each of these amazing authors also answered questions from students about writing (and a few other random things). Getting to step up to the camera and speak directly to an author is such a powerful moment for students. It makes a deep connection between the book we hold in our hands and an actual person in the world.

Every year, I make a Google Tour Builder map of our connections. After each class connects, we add a pin to the map and type in what book we read together. I love seeing the visual of all of our pins connected together because every story we share connects us across the miles with new friends. We learn about what connects us together and also what makes us all unique. These Skype connections remind us that we are not alone in the world and that in every town there are people doing some of the same things we are.

Thank you to every author, illustrator, classroom, and library who made connections this week. Your voices and stories made an impact this week. We look forward to connecting again next year.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Grandparents, Dots, and Making Our Mark

We had a very short week due to Hurricane Irma, but we still had time for some miraculous things happening in the library. September 15 was International Dot Day, but at Barrow, we also celebrated Grandparent’s Day for the very first time.

These two events fit perfectly together because it gave grandparents and grandchildren a space of time to share conversations, stories, creativity, and think about how we are all making our mark in the world.

The morning started in the cafeteria with a donuts and coffee event organized by our amazing PTA.  Well over 300 grandparents & children gathered in the cafeteria and shared table conversations around these questions.

Then, I shared Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street. I loved sharing this grandparent story about seeing the beautiful in the world. So many grandparents came up to me to talk about how much they loved this story and how much it meant to them to hear it. I was so worried about choosing a book for a crowd this large, but this one spoke to so many.

Following the story, I showed the table conversation questions again and invited families to stop by the library to record some of their conversations using Flipgrid. The library was filled with grandparents and grandchildren. Several did record their stories, and there are so many special moments in the videos.  I hope you’ll take a moment to listen, react, and respond to some of them.

Grandparents and grandchildren also sat down together all around the library reading stories to one another. Some visited our Lego wall and build creations together. Others took coffee filters and design collaborative dots in honor of International Dot Day.

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Grandparents day and dot day #dotday #grandparentsday

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The library was buzzing for almost an hour.

After grandparents left, our day continued with many classes coming to the library for Dot Day. We of course read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, but we also read The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken.  I loved how these two books paired together. Both spread the messages of getting started, persevering, making a mark and seeing where it goes, and realizing the potential that is hiding inside you.  During the stories, we had conversations about what it means to make your mark on the world and students shared many of their ideas of how they are already making their mark.

After each story, students practiced the idea of physically making a mark on paper and seeing where it took them. Students took a coffee filter and made one mark as a symbol of starting and then each students continued the dot creation to see what emerged.

I loved walking around and seeing the individuality of each student and dot. No two dots looked alike even though every one started with just one mark.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain Dot Day to people who haven’t heard of it, but when you experience the story, conversations, and creativity that are made public on this day, it brings Dot Day to life in a whole new way.

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Dot gallery walk #dotday #creativity

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How did you make your mark on Dot Day? What did you try that was new?  I hope that this year (and next) I can continue this conversation between students/families about how we are all making our mark in the world.