A Walk to Avid Bookshop with the Student Book Budget Team

Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.

I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.

When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.

Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.

We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.

I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.

As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.

I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate.  I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.

Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.

Student Book Budgets: A Walk to Avid Bookshop

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We are so excited to have the second location of Avid Bookshop just a few blocks from our school.  Avid was recently named one of the top 5 finalists for the 2017 bookstore of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.  Since our students have walking field trip forms on file, it was easy for this year’s student book budget group to plan a walking field trip to the new Avid.  This group of students has a library budget that they have complete control over.  Through surveys, they have set purchasing goals to buy new books for the library that kids want to read.

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Ahead of our visit, I sent Hannah DeCamp, school specialist, a list of the major genres the book budget group is looking to purchase books for.  She pulled together some books to show us, found some “Best Books for Young Readers” magazines, and dug out some advance reader copies of books for students to review.

On the day of our walk, I met with 11 of our book budget team and reminded them about the purchasing goals we had set.  We also reminded ourselves that Avid would be open for business so we needed to stay out of the way of customers as well as keeping the store organized during our browsing.

It was a great morning for a walk and it only took us about 15 minutes to arrive.  Hannah greeted us and showed us how the store was organized.  She showcased a few books in each section and then allowed students to browse the store.

Since the store sells books for all kinds of readers, students really had to ask themselves if they were looking at a book that would best fit an elementary library.  Some books were of interest, but they were really more for adults.  As students found books that they liked, they came to me and we wrote the titles down in a notebook.  I originally wanted to type them as we worked, but I didn’t want to lug around a computer.

What I noticed right away was that when books were presented in smaller sections like the shelves in Avid, students noticed the books better.  There were several books our students got excited about that we actually have in our library, but they haven’t seen them. It made me start to wonder how to make books more visible to students.

When Hannah let students look through a stack of advance reader copies, they again got excited about many of the books. It reminded me that I need to get more students involved in perusing the ARCs that I get in the mail or pick up at conferences.  I can’t read them all, but students can help read and make decisions.

I kept sending students back to the shelves of Avid and making them take books off the shelves to read a few pages or at least read the back.  I feel like they spent a good amount of time digging through what was in stock.  In all, we spent about an hour browsing.

Several students brought money with them, so they made some purchases.  We gathered outside the shop for a bit and took time to look through the catalog that Hannah had given us.  Again, we added to our list before walking back to school.

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Avid Bookshop is going to be such a great resource for us being so close to our school.  There were so many life skills and standards that we explored on this trip.  We learned about the publishing industry, independent bookshops, community helpers, budgets, adding money, and taxes.

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Now, I am typing up the books that we loved, and students will make a final decision to send back to Hannah at Avid for a quote.  I know this is just the beginning of how we will utilize having Avid right here in our school community.

Seriously Silly: A Visit to the High Museum to See the Mo Willems Exhibit

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Third grade has been hard at work on a Mo Willems art and writing project.  Since there is a Mo Willems exhibit at the High Museum of Art, we decided to use Mo Willems as an author/illustrator study to take a close look at how illustrators show emotion through their characters as well as how authors many times have a moral or lesson that we learn from their stories.

In the library in collaboration with Rita Foretich (art teacher), we took a close look at the whole Mo Willems collection of books.  We wanted students to spend time looking at the illustration and noticing similarities and differences across series as well as how he creates simple illustrations that show a range of emotions.  I pulled all of our library books for this as well as brought my whole collection from home.

In art, students have been working on characters and settings for their own stories which will include a moral of some kind.  In writing workshop, students are working on the text of their stories.  They will eventually come back to the library to use all of these pieces with the Puppet Pals app on the iPad to tell their stories.

Our art teacher wrote a grant to fund a field trip for the entire 3rd grade to visit the High Museum in Atlanta.  Across 2 days, every student had a chance to visit the museum, tour the Mo Willems exhibit, see some additional pieces of art, and participate in an art workshop.  The grant funded tickets for all students as well as transportation.  We are so fortunate to have an art teacher who works tirelessly to increase access to art for our students.  For several students, it was their first time visiting Atlanta and seeing the massive skyscrapers.

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At the museum, we split up into two groups.  One group went to an art workshop and the other group split in half for a tour with a docent.  Our docent tour took us into the main exhibits to stop at key art pieces and consider materials the artist used, the story the piece was trying to tell, and to learn more about how to examine a piece of art in a safe and meaningful way.

We eventually made our way into the Mo Willems exhibit, and the docent took us to each collection of art and had students sit on the floor.  At the pigeon illustrations, we looked at the many expressions of the pigeon and how Mo Willems shows emotion through eye position, movement, and facial expressions.

Students took turns standing and acting out the emotions of the pigeon to see if they agreed with the choices that Mo Willems made.  She also pointed out how Mo Willems draws an illustration multiple times before doing the final illustration.  Some of the pieces on exhibit showed blue, red, and black lines to show he changes Mo Willems had made along the way.  Students loved looking at the final piece and seeing what changed from the original sketch.

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We continued to each collection of art doing similar activities to consider emotion and movement.  Students had a chance to share their favorite Mo Willems book or tell about the book that various pieces of art came from.  Along the way, we learned a bit more about Mo Willems and his work with Sesame Street.  Students also loved looking for the pigeons hidden throughout the museum.

In the workshop, students listened to the story Leonardo the Terrible Monster.  As they listened, the museum reader pointed out the expressions of the various monsters in the story and continued the theme of having students think about movement and emotion in illustration.

Following the story, students made their own monster out of construct paper, textured rubbings, and various craft supplies.  They were once again asked to think about emotion and how they were showing that through their monster.  I liked walking around and seeing students and teachers positioning their eyes, mouths, and other body parts to see how it changed the look and feel of the monster.  Students continued to add to their monsters right up until we packed up to leave.

It was a fabulous day at the museum and I can’t wait to see how this experience translates into the stories, characters, and settings that they are continuing to work on.

Mo Willems Seriously Silly Exhibit at the High Museum of Art: Let the Planning Begin

Now through January 10, 2016 you can see an incredible exhibit of artwork by Mo Willems at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA.  As soon as I saw that the exhibit was coming last spring, I shared it with our art teacher, Rita Foretich.  We immediately began talking about a collaborative project and field trip.  She applied for a grant and both of us began thinking about which grade we might target and which standards we could weave in.

On July 11, the High offered an educators day which allowed educators and one guest to get into the museum for free.  This was a perfect time for me to see the exhibit without 100 elementary students and also to start thinking more about our project.  Thank goodness my wife went along so that I could take a moment to see the exhibit without chasing a 3 and 5 year old around.

As soon as we arrived in the parking deck at the High, we began seeing the Pigeon.  He was even in the elevator to the ground level.

And on the revolving doors at the entrance.

Before you even get to the main exhibit, there are some teasers along the way and some great photo opportunities.

You really have to keep your eyes open because there are characters and illustrations hiding everywhere.  Even this aspect could be woven into a field trip.  The museum provides its own scavenger hunt, but I think it would be fun for kids to write down all of the characters that they find along the way or count the number of pigeons they find and write down the locations that they found them in.  Of course, to recognize all of the characters, the kids would need to read all of Mo’s stand alone books and at least one of each of the series books.

The actual exhibit is grouped by series as well as stand alone books.

I loved the wall of ice ream where the Elephant and Piggie illustrations are found.  There’s even a pigeon hiding on this wall just like the end papers of the books.

One of the things that I immediately noticed was the pairs of illustrations that showed a sketch by Mo Willems followed by the final drawing before color was added.  This would be a great process to replicate with students in our project by having them create first, second, ….drafts of their art before drawing the final art.

I also noticed the illustrations from Knuffle Bunny.  The drawings were done without the digital photographs.  I could see this being incorporated into a project on mixed media and layering drawing and digital photographs together.  Having this image to show students can give them an idea of how to imagine the digital photograph in their illustration before adding it.

Of course, the thing that I love most about Mo Willems is how simple his artwork is without being oversimplified.  In Elephant and Piggie, for example, there is very little on the page other than speech bubbles and the characters.  However, each line drawn around the characters, each raised eyebrow, upward looking eye, outstretched arm, etc gives life to the character and reveals the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the characters.  To me, there is great potential in a project around this aspect of Mo Willems.  I could see us studying his artwork very carefully for all of the subtle details that allow us to know a character’s emotions and actions and implement those same ideas into our own characters, stories, or new versions of Mo’s stories.  The exhibit is filled with numerous illustrations to show these details up close.

The exhibit continues in the Greene Family Learning Gallery where you can learn the steps to draw the Pigeon as well as practice drawing him with different emotions.  I snapped a picture of the directions because I plan to incorporate this into either a center in the library or a lesson in our project.

In the learning gallery as well as the exhibit, you can pick up a scavenger hunt to do while you are in the exhibit, but this scavenger hunt could also be used as a way to look closely at the whole body of Mo’s work.

I loved that the gallery included a bus driven by the Pigeon so that you could take a fun picture like this one.

As soon as we get back to school, I’m going to debrief my experience with the art teacher.  We’ll start looking at our own standards as well as the standards of other grade levels and narrow down to which grades, what project, and which standards we will weave together.

Collaborating brings together the expertise of everyone involved.  I love that I can bring my knowledge and observations as a reader and pair it with the art teacher’s expertise in art terminology and technique.  When we put that together with the interests of the kids and the expertise of the grade level teachers, we have a crowdsourced project that is fun, enriching, authentic, supported, and driven.  I can’t wait to see where this project goes this year.

Think about who you could collaborate within your school.  If you’ve never done a project with the art teacher, I recommend it.  I love that a project can flow from the library to the art room to the classroom and back.  Even if you don’t have a big museum exhibit like this near your school, there are endless possibilities when educators work together with students.

A Visit to the High Museum of Art: Witness…The Art of Jerry Pinkney

high museum (31)Today was step 2 of our 3rd grade folktale project, and it was a big step.  We traveled to the High Museum of Art to see the exhibit Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney.  Prior to going, we spent time exploring all of Pinkney’s books in our library collection.  Mrs. Foretich, the art teacher, also did a lesson on museum etiquette.

On the way to the High, students explored Pinkney’s books some more.  As we neared our destination, I asked a few students to think about what they might like to tweet about the books or their excitement for the exhibit.  bus convo Our plan was to use twitter throughout the trip to document some of the things we saw and the things we learned.  We used our school hashtag #barrowbuddies to tag our posts.

After arriving, our groups  split in half.  Some toured the exhibit, whiles other ate lunch.  Then we switched.  Some of us were also able to explore some of the permanent collection before our tour began.

The tour of Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney was done by a docent.  We received a brief history of the museum before entering the exhibit.  Our docent had us sit in front of collections of paintings and told us about the stories that the paintings came from.  We saw paintings from historical books such as Minty and Black Cowboy Wild Horses, folktales such as Three Little KittensRikki Tikki Tavi, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Little Match Girl, and biblical stories such as Noah’s Ark.  Our docent had the kids work together to retell some of the familiar folktales as she pointed out things in the paintings.  We noticed how Pinkney set The Little Match Girl in New York City rather than in Europe where the tale came from.  We noticed how Pinkney set Little Red Riding Hood in a wintry woods so that it made sense for her to wear the kind of cloak she was wearing.  Along the way, we also learned about Pinkney’s childhood and how he always had access to a pencil and art supplies.  As we studied the watercolor paintings, we were reminded of the difficulty of working with this medium and the need to work quickly before the colors run together.  At the close of the exhibit, we looked at The Lion and the Mouse.  Along with looking at the paintings, students got to do some impromptu storytelling of their own using puppets.

The finale of our visit was getting to hear some of Pinkney’s folktales come to life through the storytelling talents of a rambler from the Wren’s Nest.  We heard 2 folktales, and the students were heavily involved in the performance.  He had them hanging on every word.

Our field trip allowed us time to do a brief second stop at the Georgia State Capitol rotunda.  Although students didn’t get to tour the entire Capitol, they at least got a frame of reference for the Capitol as we study it back at school.  We plan to use the Georgia Capitol Tour App on our iPads to do a more in-depth look at this landmark.

Once again on the way home, students took another look at Pinkney’s books with a new appreciation for the artwork that spans the pages of this books.  It was truly awesome to stand in a room surrounded by the collective work of Pinkney.  We did not have enough time to truly appreciate the years of work that went into this collection, but we will return to our school with a new appreciation of his art.

Our next steps will be to:

  • Continue reading folktales and studying their elements
  • Identify one folktale for each class to read without seeing the illustrations
  • Create the illustrations for the folktale in art
  • Put illustrations and text together with our iPads

A Virtual Google Earth Field Trip with 1st Grade

virtual field trip (1)1st grade is getting ready to go on a walking field trip.  They have been learning about community helpers, so they will walk from our school to 5 Points to visit several businesses.  I met with the team early in the year and we brainstormed how we might bring technology in to support the trip.  I suggested having the students walk the actual trip in a Google Earth tour before they go.  Of course, at the time, I had no idea how to even create a tour, but I knew it could be done.  They were eager to try this, so I got to work.

virtual field trip (4)I watched an online tutorial of how to make a tour.  There were a couple of options, but I chose the one that was simple.  You basically create a folder in your places on Google Earth, start searching for the places that you want to visit, add pins with any info you want to include at each place, and then you click the play button to start the tour.  You save the tour as a kmz file that Google Earth can read.

I put our file on my website so that students could click the link and download the kmz file.  To make the process even smoother, I used LanSchool, our monitoring software, to push the file out to computers.  It created a folder on each student desktop.  They opened the folder and clicked on the link.  Google Earth automatically opened and they clicked play to begin.  I showed students how they could pause the tour at any time and drag the little person out of the toolbar in order to switch to streetview.  This was really helpful because students could actually see the place that they were about to visit.  To continue the tour, students pressed play again and it went out of streetview and moved to the next location.  Students had fun seeing familiar places and also took a few detours to look for their house or other Athens landmarks.  I could tell they were engaged when they didn’t want to get up to checkout a book.virtual field trip (2)

On the actual field trip, teachers are going to let the students tweet about their experiences.  They will use the hashtag #barrowbuddies so that classrooms at school can follow along with the field trip, ask questions, and feel a part of the trip while here at school.  We hope to do this on several of our trips this year.