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.

Books for Keeps: It’s Time for Summer Reading!

I am so excited to share that this was the very first year our school was served by an amazing program called Books for Keeps. This non-profit group was founded by Melaney Smith and gives 12 new books to every student in 12 of our 14 elementary schools in Clarke County. They also serve schools outside of Athens as well. It takes a massive effort in fundraising, grant writing, and volunteer hours to make this happen in each school.

I’ve had several questions on social media about this program and how it works, so I’ll try to explain it here.

Before the event:

  • Year-round Books for Keeps is fundraising, grant writing, and ordering books to deliver to their warehouse. Volunteers spend many hours sorting and boxing books grouped by grade levels and themes and sorted into stacks for delivery to schools in April & May.
  • I send a master schedule to Books for Keeps which includes the number of kids in each class. They create a draft schedule that I send to teachers for feedback.
  • During the year, Books for Keeps checks in to see if numbers need to be adjusted in each class and the schedule is finalized.
  • Boxes of books are delivered to the school and sorted into areas for quick distribution to tables.
  • Bags and tags arrive for every student. Bags & tags have to be counted out and delivered to each class. Teachers/students write student names on tags.
  • Since this was the first year, I did an introduction to Books for Keeps via Youtube Live.

  • I did a presentation to our whole faculty at a staff meeting so they were comfortable with the process and understood the purpose of BFK. The biggest things to go over were the importance of student choice and the importance of making sure every child got to participate.
  • I also sent home info to families in the my monthly newsletter.
  • A volunteer signup went out from Books for Keeps to help with distribution.
  • Right before distribution day, I arranged tables in the middle of the library.

Distribution Days May 14 & 15

  • Volunteers arrived for a morning shift and an afternoon shift

  • Leslie Hale & Justin Bray from Books for Keeps handed out aprons, clipboards and questionnaires as well as gave volunteers and overview of what to expect during each visit from classes.

  •  Leslie and Justin also unboxed books for each class session and volunteers stocked the tables.
  • As classes arrived, Leslie or Justin gave an intro to each class on choosing 12 books, the importance of summer reading, and the process for checking out with a volunteer.
  • Students carried their bags to the tables and self selected 12 new books. Volunteers were encouraged to hold back and let students look. We wanted students to self select books because that’s a huge predictor of whether kids will actually read during the summer.  If a student was having trouble making selections, then volunteers would step in to have conversations and make suggestions.

  • When students had 12 books, they visited a volunteer to count their books. Some students had too many and needed to make decisions. Others didn’t have enough and went back for more. Volunteers also asked students about which book they were most excited about as well as what was missing from the selections. This helps Books for Keeps make purchases for next year.
  • When a class left, new books came out of boxes and onto tables and the process repeated again.
  • Each class had 20-30 minutes depending on the number of students.

I’ve been hoping Books for Keeps would come to our school for several years.  There have been many initiatives where I’ve tried to get some extra books in student hands for the summer, but none as large as this one. A few things I’ve tried include:

  • Giving Middle School the Worst Years of My Life to all of our 5th graders for World Book Night. https://expectmiraculous.com/2013/04/23/world-book-night-2013/
  • Giving all 3rd and 4th graders a copy of Pie. https://expectmiraculous.com/2015/03/26/give-our-students-some-pie-by-sarah-weeks/
  • Creating summer reading buckets (home libraries) for 100 students in multiple grades. https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/05/04/home-libraries-and-summer-reading/ and https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/04/12/building-home-libraries-a-community-collaboration/

Books for Keeps takes approximately $15,000 per school which means about $30 per child. They rely heavily on donations, so if this program speaks you to, check out their site and make a donation. http://booksforkeeps.org/ 

These 2 days were amazing and filled with smiles, squeals, and students jumping straight into a book to read.  I’ve gotten messages from families who said that their child got such a great mix of books that were truly of interest. I’ve also gotten thank you notes to send to Books for Keeps with lots of great feedback from students. I can’t wait to see how this grows across the years and how students’ excitement and expectations develop.

Seeing every student in the school right before summer began also surfaced some dilemmas and questions for me. A handful of students didn’t want books to take home and weren’t afraid to say that they had no plans to read during the summer because it was their time off. Those comments bothered me, but they also gave me information about work that needs to be done ahead.  Just handing books to them isn’t going to resolve that dilemma. I’m diving into some professional reading to help me begin to think more about this.

I can’t thank Books for Keeps enough for continuing to work tirelessly to get books into kids’ hands. Even with some bumps in the road, it’s an amazing program that was overwhelmingly welcomed by teachers, families, and students. Thank you to every donor who made the funding available to purchase books and thank you to the many volunteers who put in countless hours to prepare for these 2 days.

Happy summer reading!

 

2018 Student Book Budget: First Steps

It’s time for one of my favorite projects of the year: Student Book Budget. Every year, I reserve a part of the library budget that is under complete control by students. This budget comes from many places.  Sometimes it’s a grant and other times it is part of our regular budget.  This year their budget comes from the profit we made from book fair.  The book budget is their chance to make sure that books are added to our library that represent their interests.  They go through a long process to make sure that many voices are represented in their purchases.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing their process.  Here are some of the steps that are already happening.

First, I created a Google form application for students to apply to be in the group.  The form was available for one week for students in grade 3-5.  Every student who applied and had a genuine reason for being in the group was accepted.  Our group this year is 40 students strong and has a great mix of boys and girls.

Next, we held our 1st meetings. I met with each grade level group separately and answered all of their questions about the group. Then, in small groups or pairs, they brainstormed things that they thought we should ask on a reading interest survey for the whole school.

Then, I took their ideas and put them into a Google form survey.

I sent the survey to all of the students on the book budget team so that they could review it and decide if it matched their comments.  We made some minor adjustments and were ready for the school to be surveyed.

I sent the survey via email to our 3rd-5th grade students who each have their on device. The Student Book Budget Team was responsible for surveying Prek-2nd grade. On our 2nd meeting, we scanned QR codes to get to the survey on an iPad and went to recess and lunch to survey as many people as possible.

The students were so professional and I loved standing back and watching them work.  It truly was their project and they were taking it very seriously.

In just one day, we have already surveyed 216 students.  We will continue this process and then take the next step of looking at the results.  I love how we can check along the way to see which grades need to be surveyed more so that we have a somewhat even distribution of voices.

Be on the lookout for our next steps.  We are off to a great start.

What Do You Do with Those Advance Reading Copies?: A Summer Reading Project

It never fails that I overload on Advance Reading Copies of books at conferences I attend, and then I just can’t manage to get to all of them to read.  I do in fact read many of them, but then I’m left with a stack of books sitting in my office. As we approach summer, I’m always wondering how to get more books in kids’ hands for summer reading. We promote our incredible public library summer reading programs, but I know that even with talking it up, some kids just won’t make it over there.

I decided to give our 4th graders (rising 5th graders) an opportunity for the summer.  I took all of those ARCs I had read as well as some that I hadn’t read and spread them out on tables.  Each class came to the library and I gave a quick spiel to them about how I really needed to hear their voices about some books that we might purchase for the library.  I encouraged students that even if they didn’t find a book that jumped out at them they should try something new and stretch themselves as readers.  This is something I’m wanting to do more of next year because I think it’s so important for students to help build the collection in the library.  By allowing them to read the ARCs and give their opinions, they are owning the collection and will also be more likely to recommend books to their friends if they have chosen them.

Each student had a chance to go to the tables and select a book. I book talked ones that I had read and listened in as students made their decisions. I loved that every student took a book. Then, they filled out a paper with their name, book title, and author so that I could keep up with who got which book.  Finally, students moved to another area where they put a label inside their book with a place for their name as well as a link to a Flipgrid where they can record their thoughts over the summer.

I’ve never tried this as a summer opportunity, so it’s a bit of an experiment. I’m curious to see how many students follow through with recording their Flipgrids. Even if they don’t, I have a record of their books so that I can at least check in with them in the fall to see if they read their book.

If they liked the experience, then perhaps these students will want to take this on as a project next year when I get ARCs in the mail or at conferences.

Happy Summer Reading!

March Madness Global Book Talk Challenge (Final)

Many votes have been cast in our global book talk challenge and we are down to our final 2 students.  Will it be Evin?  Will it be Adaline?

Take a moment to watch (or rewatch) their videos and vote on your favorite.  Share with friends, family, and your own networks.  Voting will end on April 2.

 

Vote Here!

Be sure to take time to visit the full grid of videos to watch many other incredible book talks from around the world.  The competition is fun, but the real reward is hearing from so many student voices sharing their love of books.

 

Flipgrid Global Connections & the Epic 30-second Book Talk

book-talk-10

Flipgrid continues to be one of my favorite tools for getting student voice out into the world.  They are constantly listening to users and working to improve the functionality of this tool.  Now, in the paid version of Flipgrid Classroom, there is a section called “Global Grid Connections”.  You can establish any of your grids to be accessible to other members of the Flipgrid Classroom community. As an administrator, I can browse the available grids and look for opportunities for my students to connect and collaborate with other students around the world as well as offer my grids for students around the world to contribute to.

 

Prior to this release, I would use social media and online communities to seek out collaborating classrooms.  I’ll of course still do this, but I love that Flipgrid is taking one of the big barriers to global collaboration and trying out a solution. They are helping me push my grid out to more users so that my students have a chance to have a larger audience as well as hear from other perspectives around the world.  They’ve made it so simple to reach out and communicate with classrooms around the world.

Right as all of this update was being announced, Jennifer LaGarde and Brad Gustafson launched the 30-second book talk challenge.  Lead Learners and Literacy Legends submitted their 30-second book talks and a competition brackets was setup for voting.

At the bottom of the post, they offered resources for creating your own 30-second book talk challenge.  I thought this would make a perfect global connection question on my grid.  I started collaborating with Melissa Freeman in 5th grade, and all of her language arts classes came to the library to select books, read, and create 30-second epic book talks.

We started by listening to some book talks, including some vintage Reading Rainbow!

We looked at Jennifer & Brad’s tips for book talks.

Then students identified some important pieces of an epic book talk.  We constructed this sheet as a framework for our talks.

Next students chose a book that they recently finished or selected a book from the library to read.  I pulled a diverse collection of picture books, especially ones that our 5th graders might overlook because so many feel the pull to read only chapter books.  They spent the first day reading and writing their script.  Ms. Freeman, Ms. Mullins, and I all walked around and read with students as well as conferenced with them on book talks.

On day 2, students continued working on their scripts, practiced, and recorded.  We reminded them that Flipgrid has a feature to pause the recording along the way so that they could pick up a prop, turn to a page in the book, etc.  We didn’t want them to waste any of their 30 seconds with transitions.  As they submitted their videos, they began watching other people’s videos.

Now, it’s your turn!  We hope you will join us on our 30-second book talk grid.

You are welcome to add your own student voices alongside our students sharing favorite books in 30 seconds or less.  Let’s unite our student voices through Flipgrid and inspire a global community of readers.

Building Home Libraries: A Community Collaboration

4reading

One of the goals of the Barrow Elementary Media Center is to support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families.  During the school year, our library is a huge source of reading, but I often wonder what I can do to continue to support reading during the summer months when students are at home.  What do their home libraries look like? What can we do as a school to support the idea of building a home library?

Many schools in Clarke County are supported by an incredible program called Books for Keeps where every student in the school receives 12 books for summer reading. Our school will eventually be served by this organization, but at the moment, we are not. Since we can’t really raise enough money to buy books for every child in the school, I decided to start with 2 communities of students in our school.

This year, I am working with our community, writing grants, and raising funds to support families in building home libraries in their communities. The Junior League of Athens is purchasing 6 books for each student from the Bethel Homes community who attends our school.   These books are for the students to keep and share with their family. There will be a family day of learning about home libraries, creating a plan for a home library, and adding these 6 books to the home library.  We hope by taking this step, we are supporting a culture in each home of having a dedicated place to keep books that are purchased, borrowed, or donated.

Through First Book UGA, we have a $750 grant to replicate the Junior League’s program in the Parkview community. This will provide approximately 3 books per student through First Book.  In order to replicate the same program we are offering at Bethel, we needed to raise some additional funds.  After getting approval from our superintendent, I created a GoFundMe campaign to raise an additional $1,000. I began sharing the campaign through many avenues of social media as well as personal emails. Camilla Bracewell, a Barrow grandparent and huge library supporter, also shared the project through her own networks. In just over 24 hours, we raised the funds needed.

I’m notorious for jumping into a project before I really know exactly what it’s going to look like, but I always leap in with the faith of expecting the miraculous and knowing that things will work out. Now that the funds are in place, some logistics must be worked out.

Logistic 1:  If students are going to create home libraries, what will I actually use for the home library container?

I didn’t want to assume that every student had a home library at home or that they knew that a home library could be any place you keep books, so I wanted them to have a container to take home with their books. I started pricing containers at Walmart and Target and seeing what Dollar Tree had. Along the way, I posted Instagram pictures of my journey and invited people to chime in with suggestions.

People chimed in with ideas:

Then, my wife suggested that I contact Suki Janssen with the Athens Clarke County Recycling Division, so I did.  She invited me to come and check out the warehouse where the Teacher Reuse Store items are kept. This CHARM facility houses items that are difficult to recycle.  I met with Chris Griffin and he let me browse the building and see what I could find.

bins at recycling

Miraculously, I found  3 different stacks of trays in varying shapes, sizes, and conditions and was fortunate enough to take them all home with me.

Logistic #2: Getting all of these trays ready to become home libraries.

I took all of the trays home and started cleaning a few of them and brainstorming exactly what to do to the trays to decorate them.

Again, I reached out to the community for ideas. Gretchen Thomas, my collaborative partner from UGA, suggested lots and lots of spray paint.

I went out and bought some cans to do a paint test.

It was a time consuming process to clean and paint the trays and I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone.

Logistic #3: Who can clean and paint all of these trays?

I brought all of the trays to school.

I called upon my wonderful volunteer coordinator Courtney Tobin as well as Gretchen Thomas to send out emails and ask for volunteers. Once again, the community didn’t disappoint. Camilla Bracewell came in along with Margaret Christ and her librarian mom came in to clean trays.

I also have volunteers scheduled to come in and start spray painting the trays outside.

Logistic #4: How will I order the right books for students?

Since we have a First Book account and grant, I can order books directly from First Book for a great price. I really wanted to go back to my student book budget model and give each student a certain amount of money to spend in the First Book marketplace.

However, I don’t think I have enough time to pull that off.  Instead, I created a short reading interest survey so that I can do interviews with each student and find out some of their interests in order to get the books they really want to read. Again, this isn’t something I can do alone since there’s 75 kids in this project, so volunteers are helping me interview students with printed copies of the survey.

Logistic #5: How will I get the order done?

As we interview students, I’m searching the First Book Marketplace for books that match what students are asking for. I’m adding these to a wish list that I can pull from when it’s time to order.  I’ve blocked off times on the library calendar next week to work on the actual order.  I plan to take each student survey sheet and personally search for books to meet the needs of the student request and age.  Then, I’ll use the donated funds and grant to pay the bill.

Logistic #6: How will students take ownership of the libraries?

Rather than just hand over the books and trays to students, I want them to have some investment in the project. In two weeks, we are going to hold some decorating sessions where students can come and decorate their libraries with personal touches. During that time, we’ll talk about what it means to have a home library as well as talk about sharing books between home libraries. Since these students are in the same community, there is an opportunity for students to be able to exchange books with one another if they want to.

I know that I have many more logistics to work out in this project, but it is amazing to look at where this seed of an idea has grown into a blossoming project.  I can’t wait to see where the project takes us, how it impacts students, and what we all learn about one another along the way. Having a community that pulls together around a common project makes such a difference.