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.

 

Book Character Costumes on Parade: Our February Makerspace

Each year, we hold a Storybook Parade to celebrate our favorite books. This is a long-standing tradition at our school. Students choose a favorite book, dress up as that character, and parade down the sidewalks near our school to advertise their books to the community.

Classroom teachers do a wonderful job of supporting students in making costumes if they are unable to do that at home, but this year, I thought our February makerspace theme could be about costumes so that students could get a jump start on preparing for the parade.

Ahead of makerspace, Gretchen Thomas had her UGA students practice making their own costume pieces based on book characters to get warmed up. I made an introduction video for February’s costume theme and a Google doc signup for teachers to signup students at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 on Tuesdays & Thursdays.

I also went through our makerspace and gathered possible materials that students might use for costumes: felt, fabric scraps, yarn, cardboard, plastic tablecloths, various glue, pom poms, beads, and more.

I pulled several costume and fashion books from our makerspace genre section of the library as well as a few possible examples of books that could become character costumes.

When students signed up, they were signing up for a 3-week session on costume making to meet on Tuesdays & Thursdays. If students finished early, they could take their name off the list to allow others to come, but if they needed all 3 weeks, they could come. Each week, a different group of UGA students came to support our makers in grades 1-5.

During week 1, I met with all students on the carpet to set the stage for our time together. We looked at past storybook parade photos to see the wide variety of costumes people had. I also held up some of the picture books I had pulled and we brainstormed together some possible costume pieces that could be made for each character as well as what we could use that might already be in our closets.

At our tables, I put paper and pencils for students to do some planning as well as all of our costume/fashion books for ideas. Our goal was for each student to have a costume idea before gathering materials from the material table. From past experience, we’ve seen students just grab everything they see because they like it rather than think about what they truly need. We wanted students to be conscious of our makerspace materials and not creating excess waste.

As students gathered their materials with help from our UGA students, they spread out in the library at tables to start working. It took a lot of energy from all adults in the room because every student was creating something completely different. However, it was amazing to look around and see the collaborative creativity between our young makers and our UGA helpers. Many hidden talents and problem solving skills began to emerge.

We watched as cardboard became hats, ladybug wings, ninja swords, and candy bars.

Plastic tablecloths became dresses, skirts, and shirts.

Scraps of fabric were tied together into ninja clothes.

Felt and construction paper became cheetah spots and Little Elliot polka dots.

Cardstock, construction paper, and pipe cleaners became masks.

We all learned how to be resourceful with the materials we had and all worked together to figure out how to be costume designers with limited experience.

With so many works-in-progress, our storage room is a bit of a mess. We have costume pieces drying and stored on every shelf, table, and corner. As students return each day, they locate their own items with assistance from adults and continue the process. Students are allowed to take their costume pieces home, but I’m encouraging them to keep them here at school until our parade on March 8th so that they don’t get lost.

This was our first try at a costume making makerspace. It could use some fine tuning. It’s always a challenge to have so many different projects going at once where every student needs different materials and skill sets to create. However, our extra hands from UGA helps this part a lot. I would love to have a better plan for getting students started and gathering the materials that they each need.  Maybe each student needs a box or a tray where they could keep their items. Then these could be stacked on top of one another. I’m not sure, but I would love to debrief the experience with our students and the UGA students to get ideas for next year.

We can’t wait to see these costumes on parade very soon!

 

 

 

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.

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

Star Wars Day: May the Fourth Be With You

I’ve wanted to hold a Star Wars Day in the library for a long time, but it seems like every year something comes up that prevents me from doing it. However, this year, I put it on the library calendar early and crossed my fingers. By the time May 4th arrived, I had protected five 45-minute slots on the library calendar to host classes.

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Use the force #starwarsday

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The signup was open to any classes. Three 5th grade classes, one Kindergarten, and one 2nd grade class signed up. We opened each session with Star Wars music and a reading of Chewie and the Porgs by Kevin Shinick. As students were seated, they selected one of four cards: porgs, jedi, storm troopers, and wookies. This sorted them into 4 groups to move into centers.

I knew our time would disappear quickly, so I wanted helpers at each rotation. I made a signup genius to send out to families, but I also invited 4th and 5th grade students to sign up.

Origami Yoda

This station was inspired by the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Students saw the book series and then followed either a Youtube video (more difficulty) or printed visual instructions (easier) to create their own origami Yoda. The finishing touch was using black marker to add eyes, mouth, and any other details.

For the Kindergarten class, this station adjusted to making a Yoda headband since their fine motor skills aren’t as great for creating origami. They traced Yoda ears on green paper and added them to paper headbands.

Star Wars Name

This station was combined with origami. Students used a formula to create a new name for themselves. For the first name, they used the first 3 letters of their last name combined with the first 2 letters of their last name.  For the last name, they used the first 2 letters of someone’s last name and the first 3 letters of city where they were born. This name was written onto a “hello my name is…” tag and taped on their shirt. I loved to watch the concentration it took to figure out the correct letters and then the laughs as people tried to read one another’s name. It was a great lesson in spelling and phonics.

 

Tiny Light Sabers

This station was a hit. We used finger lights that I purchased on Amazon and put straws over the LED light. Students cut the straws to the length they wanted and used washi tape and feathers to jazz them up. We loved watching the tiny light saber battles that ensued. I put book at this station that featured light saber duels on the cover.

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Tiny light saber battle #starwarsday

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Chewbacca Puppets

Students used brown paper lunch bags with white & black construction paper to create a Chewie puppet. I didn’t use stencils for this station. I simply made an example and let them cut out teeth, eyes, and a nose in their own style. We did offer the Kindergarten class a few pre-cut objects to choose from.

Star Wars Doodles

At this station, students finished partial Star Wars drawings by adding their own creative details and coloring. I loved the impromptu storytelling that happened as students created their scenes.

Next year, I want to think about how I can expand this opportunity to more classes. I also want to think about more stations that connect with various areas of the curriculum. Each of these stations connected with a book, writing, or storytelling, but I would love to weave in some space science and some math. I’ll think on that, but overall, I loved seeing the enthusiasm of students especially in the Kindergarten and 2nd grade classes.

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Star Wars creativity. #starwarsday

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May the Fourth be with you!

 

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.

 

Our Lego Wall: A New Way to Interact in the Library

Each year we add a little something new in our library. I’ve watched several libraries add a Lego wall to their libraries and wanted to do it for a long time. We have students who use Lego in our library and makerspace for stop motion videos and storytelling, so I’ve been curious about the possibilities of this collaborative building space and what projects or ideas it might spark for students.

Several librarians have posted helpful tips on how to create your own Lego wall. I looked very closely at Diana Rendina’s plans and considered building my own.

Then, I saw a post from Shannon Miller about a company called Brik. This company has Lego-compatible plates that have a reusable adhesive on the back so that you can move it from one location to another if needed. You could order packs of 6 plates which came with an assortment of briks as well. This was appealing to me because of how much time it would save me in constructing a wall. I wouldn’t need to mount plywood to the wall or worry with liquid nails.

Sherry Gick shared her own experience with Brik and said the adhesive seemed to be pretty reliable. I decided to give it a go.  Before ordering, I posted a Twitter poll and also sent a Google form to my students to ask what color wall they preferred: white, black, or blue.  The response was overwhelmingly blue.

Shipping was super fast, and within about an hour I had everything unboxed and on the wall.  I used Lego pieces to make sure the plates lined up and stayed together. I also made sure to firmly press each plate so that it secured to the wall.  I don’t really plan on moving the plates very much, so I would rather know they are staying on the wall.

After posting some pictures on social media, I started getting messages from families whose children were already excited about the wall. During open house, several students stopped by to check out the wall.

I’m sure we’ll learn a lot about how to best use the space and what rules need to be in place, but we are so excited to have this new space in our library for imagination, creativity, collaboration, and sharing.