Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

The Many Formats of Book Club

For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways.  I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences.  Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.

For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.

My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud.  Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again.  The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom.  We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud.  Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.

Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book.  We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another.  My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary.  We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations.  Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.

The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book.  We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.

However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group.  Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion.  We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book.  We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today.  We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.

Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about.  We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.

After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion.  I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book.  I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.

For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs.  With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group.  I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event.  This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one.  As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing.  One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.

Onward we go.

Poem In Your Pocket: Connecting Our Voices Through Poetry

For 2 solid days, students in every class have been visiting the library to share poetry into our open microphone for poem in your pocket day.  As always, this was a special day where every single student in our school had an opportunity to step up and share their voice through poetry that they carried in their pockets.  Many students shared original poems which ranged from silly to humorous to scary to sentimental to observant.  Many students also shared favorite poems that they copied from our large poetry collection in the library.  Sometimes it takes a lot to get up in front of your peers and read aloud, but I love the accessibility of poetry. It can be short but powerful.  It can give you a chance to shine before your nerves kick in.  It can quickly create reactions from your audience. It creates moments.

As usual, there were many special moments.  Teachers shared poems from their phones in their pockets.

A student who spoke limited English, broke out of her comfort zone to share a poem all in English with a friend standing by her side.  PreK poets recited their very first poems of their school career as their teachers whispered the words into their ears.

5th graders filled up their poetry slot by repeatedly going to the microphone to share poems from the books displayed on our poetry tables.  Families who couldn’t be here with us in the room were able to watch their children perform via our live Google Hangout.  Sweet poems about brothers were shared.

Tweets rolled in via our Twitterfall wall.

A retiring paraprofessional shared her final Poem In Your Pocket moment.

If you missed any of our poetry readings live, you can watch any of the archives by visiting our Smore.  Take a moment to look at all of the poets in the gallery below.

 

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.

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.

Make Your Mark for Dot Day 2016…Let the Planning Begin

One of our favorite times of the year is Dot Day and September 15 will be here before we know it!  It’s a day to celebrate connecting, collaborating, and creating and seeing where our creativity takes us. Can you believe that it’s less than 2 months away?

Now is the time to start brainstorming ideas for celebrating creativity and supporting your students in making their mark in the world. You can read all about this special day and sign up here.  There is a wonderful educator’s handbook that you will receive as part of the registration.

Then head over to the Get Involved…Making a Mark page to be inspired to Read, Create, Learn and Visit on Dot Day too.

There are tons of ideas on Shannon McClintock Miller’s International Dot Day Pinterest Board

In our own library, we’ve enjoyed reading lots of stories related to dots and creativity as well as connecting Dot Day to core subject areas.

Check out these examples:

  • After reading the book, Going Places, with Sherry Gick’s students in Indiana, two of our students made their mark by teaching Sherry’s students how to create a beading craft from our makerspace

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  • We’ve enjoyed countless storytimes with classes around the globe reading dot-related stories and stories of creativity including Ish, The Dot, Press Here, Mix It Up, Let’s Play, Rose’s Garden, Little Elliot Big City, and more.

For the last several years, hundreds of us have used our Google Doc as a place to make and plan lots of special connections on September 15 and throughout the week of Dot Day. When we put our minds together, we come up with amazing new ways to celebrate the day with our students.

You can add your schedule, connect with others, and start making your mark with others around the world. Check out the doc here: http://bit.ly/dotday2016 

Please include your information including name, location, grade level and subject, Twitter handle and whatever else you’d like to share.  As you start planning, add your schedule and ideas.  Others can then look at your profile and connect if they’d like to on the Google Document with you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask.

Let’s Make Our Mark on the World! Happy Connecting!

Many thanks to Shannon McClintock Miller for co-writing this post.

 

 

Connecting Voices through Robotics: An EdCamp Global Event

This year, our library is fortunate to have a robotics loan from Birdbrain Technologies. We have 12 Finch robots that we are using throughout the year for coding experiences for our students. Currently, a group of 2nd-5th graders are meeting every Friday for one hour to learn to code these robots and create projects with them.

Donna MacDonald (Vermont) and Jenny Lussier (Connecticut) are two wonderful friends who inspire me through my professional learning network, and they also have these robots on loan.  Jenny and Donna wrote their robotics loan application with plans to collaborate with one another, and they have invited my students to jump in to their learning. We recently started talking on Twitter about how our kids could collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously, and we were looped in to a conversation about EdCamp Global.

I wish I had clued in to EdCamp Global sooner because it was an amazing opportunity.  Across 24 hours over 51 countries and more than 800 classrooms empowered students’ and teachers’ voices in multiple online formats. Not only did voices from around the globe come together but there was also a true global audience to watch the work happen. I definitely want to do more with this the next time around.

Thanks to Donna and Jenny’s enthusiastic energy, we pulled together a session on the EdCamp Global schedule to allow our students to share.  Jenny got the application in, setup the Google Hangout, and got everything up and running for us. Donna created a Google doc of resources for the session and started advertising our session on social media.

On the morning of the hangout, I was able to pull a couple of my Friday students from their classrooms to join the hangout and Jenny & Donna both had classes of students rotate through their libraries.  Across the 1-hour session, we talked about the Finch loan program and how we got started. We also talked about other robotics tools that we are using in our schools such as Sphero, BB-8, Dash and Dot, and Ollie.

My favorite part was when students took turns sharing their experience with robotics.  My two students showed programs that they were working on within Level 1 of Snap!  Donna and Jenny’s students also told stories of challenges they had faced with the robots, things they had figured out, and plans for what they hoped to do over the next few weeks.

 

Tweets during:

Toward the end of our time, Jenny had her students start experimenting with Scratch and Finch. They had just enough time to come over and demonstrate what they figured out during the hangout.  I can’t wait to share what we learned with the rest of our 2nd-5th graders so we can continue to explore programming the Finch.

Donna created a Padlet where we can post challenges to one another.

Jenny created a Flipgrid where students can share video challenges or tips about the Finch robots.

I think it is just incredible how students in multiple locations can come together to collaborate in real time when our schedule allows, and that we can continue to collaborate even when we aren’t meeting together at the same time.  My group is just getting started, so I can’t wait to see what we learn from Jenny and Donna’s students and what we are able to contribute along the way too!

Let’s Make Our Mark and See Where It Goes for Dot Day 2015

How do you and your students want to make your mark on the world this school year?  International Dot Day, which is September 15ish, is the perfect time to make connections with other schools, spark creativity and collaboration, and see where it takes you for the rest of the year.  Whether you’ve celebrated Dot Day from its beginnings or you are just getting started, we invite you to get creative with your students and share that creativity with the world.

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From the official page:
International Dot Day, a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration, began when teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot on September 15, 2009.The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe.”

There’s no “right” way to celebrate Dot Day.  In fact, every year people around the globe come up with new and creative ways to make dots and connect with others.  That’s the magic of this special day.

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What happens during a Dot Day connection?
Often, we start by reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds or other dot-inspired books such as Press Here by Herve Tullet.  This is done via Skype or Google Hangouts with a connecting class. We begin to connect the dots with one another by learning a bit about one another.  Sometimes we create something together.  For example, last year students in Barrow Elementary made collaborative digital dots with connecting schools via Google Drawing.

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If you need some ideas to get started, consider taking a look at Matthew Winner’s past lessons or check out what others have posted in the Dot Day gallery.

Shannon Miller and John Schu’s Dot Day video is always an inspiration.

Also, check out the Celebridots page for dots created by some of your favorite authors and illustrators.

Many times connecting schools send some of their creations to one another through traditional mail.

How to get started

  1. Register your school on the official Dot Day page.  You’ll be added to the global map as well as gain access to the educator guide which is packed with information
  2.  Visit our shared Google Doc to start making connections with other schools.  We plan to make connections during the whole week of September 14-18.  Simply post your schedule, ideas, and contact information. Then, browse the doc for other schedules that match yours.  Skype in the Classroom is also a great place to make connections.
  3.  Start collaborating with your connecting schools and get ready to make your mark with your students.

Part of making your mark on the world is getting your students’ voices and creations out into the world.  As you connect, share your creations on Twitter using #DotDay and #Makeyourmark  Consider creating a blog post to show your students’ work to the world.

Now, make your mark and see where it takes you.

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