Celebrating Thanksgiving Traditions with Balloons Over Broadway and Looking Ahead

Second grade signed up for a rotation through the library as part of their Thanksgiving feast celebration on the day before our holiday break.  Their request was to read the book  Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.  If you’ve never read this book, it is amazing!  The illustrations are filled with details that you can search through for hours and it is packed full of information while being very readable as a read aloud.  While I love biographies, sometimes it is hard to read a biography aloud because of the length.  Balloons Over Broadway is just right.

Before we read the book, we looked at information about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Watching this parade has always been a part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  I was very surprised to see how many students had never watched the parade or even heard of it.  I was reminded of the importance of the picture book and how it brings out conversations that might never have happened without the sharing of a story.  Some of our conversations included perseverance, immigration, failure, and growth mindset along with some other Thanksgiving traditions.

There are numerous resources you can use to share about the parade and the book:

After we read the story, we used on of the pages out of the activity kit to design our own balloons.

www.hmhbooks.com kids resources BalloonsOverBroadway_ActivityKit.pdf

I loved watching what students came up with.  Once they finished, they had the option of sharing their balloon on a Flipgrid.

Students came up to the webcam on the projection board and I helped them click through the Flipgrid menus to take a picture and record.  Then, students came up to type their name.  I normally use the iPad app for Flipgrid, but this was a fast way of doing a lesson closing as students finished their coloring on their own time.



Click here to see and here about their balloon designs!

The book also made me think ahead.  Last year in 2nd grade, we did a great project with the force and motion standards in science where students investigated Rube Goldberg and made their own inventions.  Balloons Over Broadway was a perfect introduction to the idea of tinkering and using everyday objects and simple machines to take mundane tasks and make them interesting.  I want to revisit the opening pages of the book where Tony Sarg invents a way t feed the chickens when we do the simple machine project later this year.

I also thought about the Hour of Code and how that event brought about so many conversations about failure and perseverance.  This book would be a great example to share ahead of Hour of Code to think about a growth mindset and prep students for the failure that comes with coding and how you handle that failure as a learning experience.

Who knew that so many thoughts would come about from a simple request to read a story.





Celebrating Picture Book Month with the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown

IMG_4429Our 2014 Picture Book Smackdown was a huge success.  Students in 5 states including Georgia, Texas, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania shared their favorite picture books along with 2 amazing authors, Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace.


Anytime you host an event like this, you worry about technical difficulties.  However, today the internet gave us smooth sailing.  I do want to take a moment to uncover some of the pieces that went into making this event successful.  There was a lot of preparation that went on behind the scenes.

  • I created our Google Plus Hangout on Air event page well in advance so that we could advertise our smackdown to all of our networks.

  • All of the authors and participating schools have been communicating with one another via email, twitter, and a shared Google doc.  The doc contained tips for making the hangout run smoothly such as keeping our microphones muted unless we were speaking as well as listed the order that we would speak.

Picture Book Smackdown Notes   Google Docs

  • All of the participating schools had students prepare in advance.  Many of our students wrote our scripts or memorized a brief blurb about their books.  Some of us hosted a practice for our students to run through their talks.

  • We opened the hangout well in advance so that we could test our microphones as needed.  I sent everyone a direct link to join the hangout rather than sending everyone a G+ invite.
  • Many of us had organization to how our students came up to the microphone. For example, I setup my chairs in groups of 3 so that students were already sitting in the groups of 3 that would come up to the microphone.

  • Some of us had helpers who were assisting us behind the scenes.  I recruited a parent volunteer, a UGA student, and UGA teacher to help me.  The parent volunteer took pictures and assisted students to the microphone.  The UGA teacher created a Google doc of all of the picture books that were shared during the event.  The UGA student helped students to the microphone.  Since I was in charge of the hangout, I wanted to be able to focus on the technology and supporting any issues that came up with our event.

  • As we had time, we tweet pictures or publicity about the event while it was happening.

I hope that you will take time to listen to the archive because it truly was miraculous.  We heard from Dianne de Las Casas about why Picture Book Month was started and it was amazing to see how many authors and  illustrators she has recruited to be picture book champions.

We also heard Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace share some of their favorite picture books.  I wish we could have heard more from them, but they were gracious enough to step aside so that students could voice their love for so many wonderful books.

IMG_4427 IMG_4421

We heard titles, authors, and summaries.  One of my favorite things to hear from students was why picture books matter in our world.  To hear their own reasoning about why picture books matter was truly inspiring.

2014 Picture Book Smackdown Titles   Google Docs

Click here to see a full list of the picture books that were shared during the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

I would like to take a moment to thank our participating author, librarians, and schools for the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month
Anne Marie Pace, author
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

This will definitely be an annual event for me, and I encourage you to think about how you might host your own event like this to get kids connected and sharing their passions and interests.  Happy Picture Book Month!

Watch the archive!

It’s Picture Book Month….Let’s Have a Smackdown

November is Picture Book Month.  It’s a time to celebrate the power of picture books and why the matter in our lives no matter what our age.  Picture Book Month was started by author Dianne de Las Casas to bring awareness to the role of picture books in our lives.  Each year, multiple authors and illustrators contribute daily posts about why they think picture books matter.  The Picture Book Month website has a wealth of resources for you to celebrate picture book month with your students, including a calendar, logos, bookmarks, and certificate.

At our school, we host a Picture Book Month Shelf Challenge.  Students set their own goal for how many picture books they will read during November.  I like allowing students to set their own goal because it allows for differentiation and also allows for surprising goals from students.  Each student receives a sheet to document their reading for the month.

Shelf Challenge   Google Docs

At the end of the month, students turn in this sheet.  They receive a certificate, a bookmark, and get entered into a drawing to win picture books that I’ve collected for prizes.

picturebookmonth.com wp content uploads 2011 11 pbm certificate color.pdf

For the 2nd year, we will host our annual Picture Book Smackdown.  On November 18th from 1:30-2:30PM EST, students in multiple schools across multiple states will gather online with authors in a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books and why they matter in our lives.  The event will be a Hangout On Air, so it will also be archived for future enjoyment.

To prepare for the event, I’ve sent a Google form to students to identify students in various grades who want to participate.

Barrow Picture Book Smackdown

As students share their interest, I’m sending them a script to help them prepare for their sharing during the smackdown.  They don’t have to use this script, but many find it helpful to remember all of the pieces of sharing.  The day before the smackdown, they will gather in the library to do a quick practice.

Picture Book Month Smackdown Script   Google Docs

I hope you will join us on November 18th to watch the smackdown and help spread the word about the event in advance.  During the smackdown, students and authors will step to the microphone in their own states and share a favorite picture book.  We also hope to capture all of these recommendations in a Google doc.

Here are some things to know:

  • Tweet about the event and your favorite picture books.  Even if your class isn’t in the smackdown, they can still share their favorite picture books with the hashtag #pbsmkdwn  as well as leave comments for our authors and students.  You can also include the picture book month hashtag #picturebookmonth

Many thanks to all of the schools and authors who are participating in the smackdown so far this year:

Participating schools include:
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Kathy Kaldenberg, school librarian in Solon, Iowa
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

Participating authors include:
Dianne de Las Casas, founder of picture book month
Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina

How are you celebrating Picture Book Month?  It’s not too late to get a plan together and promote the power of picture books with your students.

Picture Book Smackdown: Celebrating and Learning

Before the hangout started, over 200 people had viewed our Smore page.

Before the hangout started, over 200 people had viewed our Smore page.

Today was our Picture Book Smackdown Google Hangout On Air.  We had an amazing lineup of schools and authors to share their favorite picture books and talk about why picture books matter in our world.  This event grew from a seed of an idea on a Google Doc into a collaborative event.  Each participant and school brought their own talents, expertise, and connections to the table to make this event successful.  This was my first leap into Google Hangouts to do an event such as this.  I always tell students, teachers, and families that we have to be willing to take risks.  If we don’t put ourselves in a place of risk, then we’ll never learn.  We don’t do our best learning in places of comfort.  I certainly learned a lot today by taking that risk.  I want to thank each of these schools for preparing their students and taking time out of their day to connect and share with the world a love of reading and picture books.

  • Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
  • Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
  • Kathy Kaldenberg, school librarian in Solon, Iowa
  • Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas

I also want to thank authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman for joining us and sharing their own favorite picture books and why picture books matter.  They both have busy schedules and it meant so much to have them take the time to join us.  My adrenaline is finally coming down from the morning and I’m pausing to reflect on the experience.

smackdown (6)

What I loved:

  • Student voices from 5 different states were united.
  • Students were passionate about the picture books they were talking about.
  • Students had an opportunity to take a stance on talking about something that mattered to them.
  • Students were able to create an archived video that can be referenced for many purposes like inspiring readers of picture books or even showing a district’s technology department the power of Google Hangouts.
  • Authors and students had the chance to speak together on a level playing field discussing a common interest.
  • Students from multiple grade levels, backgrounds, and experiences made a connection to one another.
  • Students were engaged.  Each student had a role and purpose and were so eager to share even when technical difficulties happened.  My students stayed for a whole hour and were happy to wait and watch.
  • Even though only 10 people can participate in the hangout, we knew that many others were tuning in live or watching later, which connected us all with a very large authentic audience.

smackdown (13)

What I learned as the host:

  • Using a Smore page to advertise the event was a great choice.  We could all advertise the Smore, and then the actual hangout could be embedded right before we went live.  The page also gave analytics after a certain amount of views which allowed us to see where people were viewing the Smore and how they were sharing it.
  • In advance, communicate with all participants about what is expected during the hangout:  order of speaking, microphone rules, etc.  Make sure that all participants are added to your circles in Google Plus.
  • Prepare students in advance and practice.  As the host, there was no time to check-in with students today to see how they were.  They had to be ready to walk in the door and go live.
  • Have someone available to either facilitate students sharing or running the keyboard.  It was hard to do both.  Someone needs to click on each person in the hangout when it is their turn to speak if you are the host.
  • If you are broadcasting your hangout over speakers, then you should mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking.  If people are unmuted, there is feedback.
  • I’m considering having my control center be in a separate space so that I can click on who is next in the hangout and have students speak in a less noisy environment.  Then, I can have viewing of the hangout in another space.
  • If you have multiple modes of communication with your participants:  twitter, email, hangout chat, etc., it is difficult to manage and host.  Perhaps over time I might be able to juggle all of those roles, but I just ignored email and twitter during the hangout today.

smackdown (4)

What stressed me out!:

  • Feeling like everything had to be perfect and forgetting my own mantra that we have to be willing to fail in order to learn.
  • Having moments of panic when the connection was slow, the microphone wouldn’t mute, the main video wouldn’t switch to the right person, or when the audio had a lot of feedback.
  • Trying to host the event on air by verbally calling on each school.  Sometimes my microphone wouldn’t mute/unmute in time.  It was great when we got in a rhythm of our order and self-facilitated our speakers.


Take a look at how our event turned out, and please share your own learning about using Google Hangouts On Air in the comments below.

World Read Aloud Day 2013

Wow!  Even though a major snowstorm was making its way across the country, we celebrated World Read Aloud Day with multiple authors and classrooms around the country.  Educators around the world have been orchestrating this day for quite some time through multiple social networks.  Through Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, Skype in the Classroom, and Kate Messner’s excellent author website  we have planned day-long and even week-long reading events for our students.IMG_0148IMG_0138

Twitter was buzzing this morning with authors and librarians having to reschedule due to the snow, but here at Barrow most of our scheduled stayed secure.  Matthew Winner had to cancel due to snow impacting his flight to NC, so Kathy Schmidt and her students stepped in for us.  Anne Marie Pace, author of Vamperina Ballerina, had to reschedule since the Virginia snow shut off her power.  It’s pretty amazing that we were able to pull off so many connections even with bad weather.

Highlights from the day included:

  • Okle Miller, librarian in Tampa Florida, and I read We Are In A Book.  Okle was Piggie and I was Elephant.  Kindergarten students loved it!  We tried to play into the cameras in order to look at our audiences.
  • Kathy Schmidt in Gwinnett County, GA had students listen to me read Same, Same but Different and talk about what was the same and different about living just 48 miles from each other.
  • The amazing Laurel Snyder shared a favorite picture book with 2 fourth grade classes and then gave them a sneak peak of a new chapter book.
  • Jesse Klausmeier, author of Open This Little Book, skyped with our students and Shannon Miller’s students in Van Meter, IA at the same time.  A favorite question from one of our students for Jesse was “Did it make your family happy when you wrote your book?”  We all almost teared up.  So sweet!
  • I shared a favorite story by Colleen Sally called Epposumondas Saves the Day with Mary Priske’s 4th grade in Mt. Vernon, IA and Mrs. Griffith’s 3rd grade joined in too.  Students in both states chanted “sody, sody, sody sallyratus” as I read.
  • Laura D’Elia, librarian in Massachusetts, and I read Same, Same but Different and compared living in GA with living in Massachusetts.  Students in Massachusetts had 1:1 iPads while we have 1:1 netbooks.
  • Lisa Waggett at GoForth Elementary in League City, TX and I read Same Same but Different to 1st grade classes and compared our 2 states.
  • Mrs. Brink & Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade students read poems in 2 voices with Jeff McHugh’s 4th grade students in Arlington Heights, IL.  Our students had a lot of energy and it was fun to combine our voices across the miles to read poetry.
  • Jody Feldman, author of the Gollywhopper Games, read aloud to our 5th graders and allowed them to ask questions.  She also gave them a preview of the sequel.

IMG_0182What a packed day filled with releasing words into the air across the country.  Skype is such a powerful tool to connect us beyond the walls of our school.  It was so interesting to see how much our students don’t know about  beyond the boundaries of Athens.  I predict that the work that we did today will lead to many long-distance collaborations with libraries around the country.  Let’s continue to share the power of reading, connect our students, and understand what it truly means to be part of a global community!

Connecting Libraries through some “Extra Yarn”

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

What a fun day!  After lots of tweeting, collaborating via a Google Doc, and emailing, Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten Class connected today with Shannon Miller’s Kindergarten students in Van Meter, Iowa.  In the spirit of World Read Aloud Day #WRAD13, we read a book that connected with the theme of “Reading it Forward” and used the book Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  This book was just honored with the Caldecott Honor Award at the ALA Youth Media Awards.  So far, I’ve read the book to all 1st grade classes and every class falls in love with this text and the illustrations.  It also generates some great discussion about the mysterious yarn box.

In today’s session, Ms. Hocking’s Class gathered in the library.  We talked about etiquette during the Skype session and looked at a map of where Van Meter Iowa is located.  We also did a quick intro of what we would be doing together.  Then, we made the call via Skype.  Shannon Miller introduced her students and we enjoyed waving at one another and saying hello.  Then, Shannon and I launched into reading the book.  We each read a 2-page spread of the book, and it was so much fun to hear 2 different voices reading the text.  The kids enjoyed joining in by saying “extra yarn” every time that appeared in the text.  It was great to hear voices in 2 different states shouting “extra yarn”.  We stopped a little bit along the way to look at how the illustrations were changing and to make some predictions.  Our last step was to make yarn bookmarks to send to one another.  Shannon’s students had already made their bookmarks before the call, so they were able to show us their work.  This really inspired my students to do their best work and to make connections to what Shannon’s students had already started.  We said goodbye and got to work on our bookmarks.  Each student had a card stock bookmark with yarn attached at the end.  They put their name on the bookmark and decorated both sides.  Now we will mail our bookmarks to Iowa and eagerly await bookmarks to arrive from Iowa.  We plan to continue to connect these 2 classes through a follow-up project in book making.

You can read Shannon’s post about the experience on her Van Meter Library Voice Blog!

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Our students are read to send their bookmarks to Iowa

Our students are ready to send their bookmarks to Iowa

This was such a fun time.  It meant a lot to the students, and it was really super easy to do through so many virtual tools.  I look forward to many more collaborations with Shannon and other librarians across the country (and world)!


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