World Read Aloud Day 2017

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Each year we looking forward to celebrating the joy of reading aloud during LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.  This year’s official date was February 16, but we celebrated the entire week.

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It takes a lot of organization to pull off a week full of Skypes and Google Hangouts.  Planning began back in December.  Shannon Miller and I created a Google doc where people could share their World Read Aloud schedules.  Kate Messner also did a great blog post with a list of authors willing to do Skypes during the week.

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I got my teachers to sign up for slots, and then I started looking for connections on the Google doc.  Other librarians also signed up on my schedule.  Once all of the slots were full, our connecting authors and schools started communicating to decide which books to read.  I made a separate spreadsheet for myself to keep times, books, Skype names, and email addresses organized.

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Of course, weather and illness was a factor and caused a few cancellations during the week. Even with some cancellations, we still had a full week of connections.

We also experienced many technical difficulties with our internet filter and I had to communicate with our technology director on a daily basis to make sure that Skype and Google Hangouts was not being blocked by the filter.  A growth mindset and perseverance really helped push through the issues.

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Over the course of the week, we connected with schools in Georgia, Washington state, Missouri, Vermont, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas, and Illinois.  We also connected with authors Dee Garretson (Boxcar Children), Hannah Barnaby (Bad Guy), Paul Fleischman (Seedfolks & Joyful Noise), and Jason Chin (Gravity & Grand Canyon).

The week was filled with many special moments.  Students were able to ask one another questions about their lives and make connections to students in another location.  Each connection helps us realize we are all part of the same world and have more in common than we realize.

Fun reading The Day the Crayons Came Home with students in Kansas. #powerofpublicschools #wrad17 #readaloud

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We wove in a lot of map skills my looking at Google maps to see distances from Athens, Georgia to our connecting schools.  Students were able to talk directly with authors and ask them questions about the writing process.

Authors like Paul Fleischman turned around and open his filing cabinets to show us the original version of poems like Whirligig Beetles.  We had fun performing stories with students in two schools and hearing special songs performed by PreK students.

We were entertained by middle school students reading Ballet Cat and chanting out the text of Yo! Yes! with students in Seattle.  We also got to connect with Caitlin Ramseyer who was a teacher at our school last year and moved to Maryland.  It was fun to reconnect with her and her Kindergarten students.

If you’ve never tried Skype or Google connections, I highly encourage you to do it.  These events lead you to collaborative partners around the world and help our students step outside the bubble of their everyday lives.

2016 Picture Book Smackdown

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Picture Book Month came to a close and we once again hosted a Picture Book Smackdown with schools around the country.  All month long, students have been celebrating Picture Book Month by reading picture books from every genre section of our library. As they read a book from a section, they earned a stamp on a challenge sheet. Once students collected all 12 stamps, they turned their sheet in for a bookmark, certificate, and to be entered into a drawing to win a new picture book.

Another piece of Picture Book Month was preparing for the Picture Book Smackdown.  Since 2013, I’ve been hosting and organizing a Google Hangout to bring together students from multiple states along with authors & illustrators to celebrate the power of the picture book.  For one hour, students and authors take turns stepping up to the microphone, book talking a favorite picture book, and saying why picture books matter in the world.

We advertised our event using Smore.

This year, we were joined by author Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month.  We had students from 4 states: Maine, Vermont, Texas, and Georgia.

 

We broadcasted through Youtube Live and had a full hour of sharing favorite picture books.  Dianne de Las Casas opened and closed our event.

 

I loved that at the end she reflected on what had been shared.  There was such a mix of classic picture books with current picture books.  There were books about Star Wars and books about difficult topics like hurricanes.  There were new twists on fairy tales like Little Red and books in made up languages like Du Iz Tak?

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As students shared, I had a wonderful parent volunteer who kept a list of the books that were shared during the hangout. We need to go back now and clean up the doc, but you can view its progress here.  I also had a volunteer who helped get students up to the microphone while I made sure our technology was all running smoothly.

We had multiple viewers from around the country during the event and it was fun to see tweets from different perspectives.

 

It was also fun to look at the Smore analytics to see where people were from who at least visited our page about the event.

I think one of the things I enjoy most is seeing students and authors share with the world with one voice.  They come together around a love of picture books and each take time to speak about why picture books matter to them.  Each student had a different take on the importance of picture books and they all brought something for us to consider.

You can view our entire Picture Book Smackdown here:

As you view, I hope you’ll consider tweeting about your own favorite picture books using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

Another incredible thing that happened this year is that I heard from a group of librarians in Alabama led by Bonnie Howard who wanted to host their own picture book smackdown gaining inspiration from the smackdown we started in 2013.  I of course encouraged them to go for it.  Their smackdown gained a lot of community attention and because of that, we get a chance to see the smackdown in action as well as hear some students talk about what they loved about the event.  One of the things I love about the video is how a principal and librarians got excited about the future of connections beyond their state and even country.  When you start connecting with other schools, you see the miraculous things that happen as students and adults collaborate with one another. I can’t wait to see how the work of Bonnie Howard, Kris Gray, Lisa D, and Dixie Paschal continues to grow.

If you are interested in starting your own picture book smackdown, I encourage you to go for it too.  Whether it’s within your own school, with other schools in your district, or reaching beyond state boundaries, you and your students will be rewarded by sharing your work with one another.

Winter Around the World and in Athens, GA: Original Songs and Personal Narratives

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For the past few weeks, 2 classes have been involved in exploring winter right here in Athens, Georgia.  Even though we might associate cold and snow with winter, it isn’t always like that where we live.  Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class and Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class both participated.  You can read about the beginnings of their projects here.  Our work is all coming together with classrooms from around the world on a collaborative Google slide presentation.

Ms. Kelly’s class has been busy in their classroom dividing into groups and building a song about winter.  As a class, they worked on the base beat using beatlab.  Then different groups worked on parts of the song.  Singers created the words and sang them. Clappers used their hands to add rhythm.  Ukuleles strummed chords for another layer.  Instruments such as coffee can drums added even another layer of rhythm.

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Ms. Kelly wrote the words up onto a big chart paper with plenty of visuals for students to follow.  She saved their class beat in beatlab and pulled it up on the library projector.  I used Screencastomatic to record the beat along with our webcam recording the student performers.  Ms. Kelly used dry erase markers to make notes on the beatlab beat for specific groups of students.  She also used a cowbell and her voice to help students know when to come in.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to record multiple times, but we just loved our first take!

Even though we were in love with that version, we decided to try one more time with just an iPad so that we could get some closeup shots of students performing.  We love this version too, but we are including the 1st one in our global winter project with classrooms around the world.

We had some fun shout outs while we were working on our song, including some retweets from Kishi Bashi who was one of our inspirations for our song.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class split into groups of 4.  Two students were author and two were illustrators.  After starting their work in the library, they continued to write and draw in class to tell about personal experience with winter in Athens.  They featured things like food, clothing, school, and events in winter.

Each group came to the library with their finished work.  We spread their pages out on tables and took digital pictures of each page.  We then took these and added them to the collaborative Google presentation.

In Youtube, we pulled up the feature where you can record straight into Youtube with your webcam.  We placed each page in front of the webcam and students read their winter personal narratives and facts.  These videos were also embedded on the Google slides.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the slides turn out as we learn about winter around the world!

 

 

 

Suzanne Bloom Author/Illustrator Visit

We were thrilled today to host author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom thanks to the community connections of Avid Bookshop and the generous publisher, Boyds Mills Press.  What a great time to have an author visit during National Picture Book Month!  This visit was exclusive to our 1st and 3rd grades.  We began planning the visit a few weeks ago, when Avid Bookshop emailed me to see if I was willing to host a visit.  I’m seldom one to turn down the support of a published author/illustrator because I know the kind of impact it can have on student enthusiasm and productivity in reading and writing.

All 1st-3rd grade classes came individually to the library for an introduction to Suzanne Bloom’s books.  We visited her website and learned a bit about her life.  One of the things that sparked the most conversation was how she wasn’t allowed to play with blocks and trucks when she was in Kindergarten just because she was a girl.  This led to other books in our library that break away from gender profiles.  Students were also curious about her messy desk and talked about how how messy writing and illustrating can be sometimes.  We laughed together as we read the Bear and Goose books and made connections to Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie Series.

Today during her visit, Suzanne shared some of her earliest drawings from when she was in Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 4th grade.  For the students, it was validating that Suzanne’s work didn’t start out as the polished drawings that we see in her books today.  She had to practice, practice, practice in order to develop her skills.  Students also heard how each of her books has a bit of truth in them such as how Piggy Monday is really about her son’s Kindergarten class and how A Splendid Friend, Indeed came from a conversation she had with her dad while working on her writing.  Suzanne also took time to read aloud to students and do a quick sketch.  She immediately molded into our participatory culture by having students select the crayons from the box that she used and having students give details and topics for her illustrations.  All along the way, she encouraged participation through sounds, comments, questions, and more.  She honored every student’s voice and tried to make as many connections to her audience as possible.

I was also impressed with the conversations I had with her outside of the presentations.  I learned how she overwrites her stories and then cuts away at the words to find the very best language.  She looks for language that feels and sounds right while it is read aloud.  What seems like a very simple text, actually has a tremendous amount of thought poured into it to create just the right effect in readers.   I even learned that she was a contributing author/illustrator to the Picture Book Month celebration which started last year!

Suzanne Bloom was a delight.  Many thanks to Avid and Boyds Mills Press for allowing this visit to be possible.  I know our students’ writing and illustrating lives are enriched because of her generosity of love for sharing her words and illustrations.

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