2015 Barrow 5th Grade Battle of the Books

BOTB 2015 (5)

Twenty two 5th graders have been busy since December reading a list of 10 books chosen to be a part of the 2015 Battle of the Books.  Students formed teams of 4-5 students.  Each student read at least 5 books and agreed to be an “expert” on at least 2 books.  Here are this year’s titles:

  • Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
  • The Giant Slayer by Ian Lawrence
  • Shooting Kabul by N H Senzai
  • Wonder by R J Palacio
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Students spent 2 days per week practicing during their lunch for about 30 minutes.  In Battle of the Books, a detail from one of the books is given in the form of a question.  For example, “In which book does a principal wink when a big surprise is coming up?”  On their team, students have 30 seconds to huddle and discuss.  The team captain gives the answer of the book title and author.  For example “Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea”.  If they get the question right, they get 5 points.  If they miss it, the next team has a chance to steal the question for 3 points.

Today, our 5th graders participated in 2 rounds of competition.  Their scores from each round were totaled and the two top teams competed in a final battle with 20 questions in the library.  The Reading Mustache Panthers and LJSG were our top 2 teams.

BOTB 2015 (8) BOTB 2015 (11)

As usual, the competition was fierce, but in the end the Reading Mustache Panters are the 2015 winners.

Each year, I think about how Battle of the Books fits within our library program.  It takes a lot of time, but each year I see students get involved in this competition that don’t get involved in other things the rest of the year.  I also see students who discover new favorite books and authors because they have to read from a list.  Even though some of the pieces of Battle of the Books don’t mesh with my own personal preferences, they do speak to what some students like.  For that reason, I think Battle of the Books is one piece of our library program that should stay.  I wouldn’t want our whole program to be based on reading lists and competition, but I’m so glad that a small part is.

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our runner-up: LJSG

Our runner-up: LJSG

Congratulations to this year’s winners.  Now, they will go on to the district competition and compete against the other 13 elementary schools in the district to defend our district title.

2015 World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge Week 3

It’s time once again for the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge as we count down the days to this special week-long event of sharing stories with one another across the miles.  My friend and super librarian, Matthew Winner, has outlined the challenge on his blog.

The World Read Aloud Day “Speak Your Story” Blogging Challenge begins February 9 and runs through March 8. If you choose to take the challenge, each week you will be asked to write a post in response to a prompt or question (outlined below), for a total of 4 posts counting down to World Read Aloud Day.

Each of the prompts addresses the WRAD theme “Speak Your Story.” Speak Your Story encapsulates that simple yet effective way that we connect with others by sharing our stories aloud. Your voice is powerful and when a story is shared a bond is made.

Week 3: February 23 – March 1
Profile Partner

Find a puppet, stuffed animal, or image of your favorite kid lit character. Next, take a selfie with the character. You now have a picture with your WRAD companion. He or she can travel with you wherever you go and whenever you speak up about World Read Aloud Day. Post the image as your profile picture on all of your most-used social media venues (Skype, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter).

I wanted to involve my students in this experience, and I’m so glad I did.  This has been a very popular activity in the 3 short days we spent at school last week due to ice.  I really wished that we could have done this longer before I posted.  I pulled all of the plush book characters from around the library and put them on cushions at the front of the library.  I put an iPad with them and invited students to start taking their own selfies.  Some of them got very creative with how they did this!

Every student who came in was smiling and laughing as they picked out a character to hug and pose with.  Here’s a look at our selfie gallery.

Barrow #WRAD15 Selfie (78)

I chose to do a selfie with characters from Kate DiCamillo books.  I specifically chose Despereaux and Winn Dixie.  I love what these two characters represent.  Despereaux is an unlikely hero.  He’s small, looks a little different than a “normal” mouse, but has a huge heart filled with bravery.  I love how he proves that heroes can come from unlikely places and that we all need to believe in ourselves no matter what.  Winn Dixie represents so much about the importance of community.  I love how Winn Dixie was a change agent for Opal’s life in the story.  Because of him, Opal explored her community, met unique people, and gathered the stories of her whole community.  She found friends, made connections, and exemplified the power of sharing our stories aloud with one another.

Join me and countless others as we celebrate LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day on March 4th, 2015 and throughout that entire week.  Check out the shared Google Doc to find a connecting class or post your own schedule.

2015 World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge Week 1

It’s time once again for the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge as we count down the days to this special week-long event of sharing stories with one another across the miles.  My friend and super librarian, Matthew Winner, has outlined the challenge on his blog.

The World Read Aloud Day “Speak Your Story” Blogging Challenge begins February 9 and runs through March 8. If you choose to take the challenge, each week you will be asked to write a post in response to a prompt or question (outlined below), for a total of 4 posts counting down to World Read Aloud Day.

Each of the prompts addresses the WRAD theme “Speak Your Story.” Speak Your Story encapsulates that simple yet effective way that we connect with others by sharing our stories aloud. Your voice is powerful and when a story is shared a bond is made.

For week 1, we have been exploring the question:

What is your favorite book to read aloud or to hear read aloud and why?

My Answer:

I have so many favorites, but right now one of my absolute favorite stories to read aloud is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.  Reading this story alone is fun, but when you read it aloud to a class of students, it is pure magic.  With each turn of the page, the students get more and more vocal about Sam and Dave’s decision to change directions in their digging.  The students can of course see the massive treasures that Sam and Dave are missing, and they get so frustrated that they miss every single one.  What I love most about reading this book aloud is the many conversations that are sparked by the mystery and the frustration in the story.  I honestly think that students could talk about this book all day long and still come up with some off-the-wall idea that we haven’t thought of yet.  I’m so happy that this book just won a Caldecott honor award.  I know magic isn’t one of the criteria for winning, but this book is filled with read aloud magic.

For the past week, my students and other friends have shared their own favorite read alouds via a Flipgrid.  I invite you to listen in to what we all have to say about our favorite read alouds, and feel free to add your voice too!

WRAD Week 1 (2)

Polar Express Day: A Barrow Tradition Filled with Community

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Ask any Barrow student about some of their favorite events from the year and Polar Express Day will most likely be on the list.  Every year in December, our school transforms into a train station with a train bound for the North Pole.  We wear our pajamas to school, and every class in the school comes to the library to listen to the Polar Express.  On their way, students pass by numerous decorations that have magically appeared overnight.

They sit in rows as if on a train and are served hot chocolate while the hot chocolate song plays overhead.

Then, students listen to the story.  At the end of the story, every student receives a bell with the word “Always Believe” whispered into their ear.

As they exit, they each receive a candy cane as they return from the North Pole back to their classrooms.  I love watching the magic happen for our PreK students as well as students who are new to Barrow, and I love the excitement and bit of sorrow that 5th grade students have as they experience their final Polar Express.

Each year, this event amazes me by the amount of community that is involved in staging the event.

  • Our principal organizes a schedule and gets feedback from the teachers about their assigned time.  She also purchases hot chocolate, cups, and candy canes and arranges with the lunchroom to have the hot chocolate made throughout the day.

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  • A parent volunteer creates a volunteer sign up to have about 3 adults at each Polar Express session to assist with preparing hot chocolate, serving it, and handing out bells.  This year I also had tremendous help from Perrin, a former Barrow student, who came back to volunteer for the entire day.  She organized volunteers and made sure our hot chocolate kept flowing all day long.

Barrow Media Center  Polar Express

  • Some years, a team of volunteers have a bell stringing day where they prepare all of the bells and store them individually in egg carton trays.  This year, a retired teacher prepared all 575 bells for us.  Thank you Terri Sheppard!

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  • I setup the library.  This year, I arranged the shelves to form a path that took students to their seats.  I lined the path with white lights, flowers, stockings, and a tree.  I also setup the chairs, spotlight to shine on the book, and falling snow on our projection board.

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  • Overnight, a team of teachers take time to decorate the hallway.  This special group is our spirit committee and always involves teachers like Mimi Elliott-Gower, Sarah Britton Vaughn, Allison Griffith, and anyone else they can round up.  The kids love coming in to see what the school looks like on this special day.

One of the students who was leaving Polar Express gave me a huge hug and said, “Mr. Plemmons…we are so lucky at our school to have things like this.”  Another student said, “Thank you, Mr. Plemmons, for having this for us.”  It took me by surprise, but I couldn’t agree more.  I’m so thankful for our sense of community that pulls together to make these kinds of events truly magical for students.

An Author Visit with Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz (13)

Once again, the amazing Avid Bookshop has brought an author to our school.  This time our visiting author was Alan Gratz.  He is currently touring in promotion of his newest book The League of Seven.   Gratz is also the author of books such as Prisoner B-3087 , Fantasy Baseball, and The Brooklyn Nine.

Alan Gratz (12)

All students in 3rd-5th grade attended, which was roughly 200+ kids.  They were mesmerized by his every word.  After showing a slide with all of his book covers, Alan Gratz focused the conversation on the cover of his new book.

Alan Gratz (6) Alan Gratz (7)

Instead of starting with a summary of his book, Gratz began with the story of how the book came to be.  He explained that he wanted to make a book “full of awesome”, so he made a big board to pin up awesome ideas for his book.

Alan Gratz (16) Alan Gratz (11)

He kept bringing students back to a slide with several of these ideas and having them vote on what they wanted to hear about by raising their hands.  For example, would you rather hear about heads in jars or mad scientists?  Would you rather hear about secret societies or machine men?  Would you rather hear about giant monsters or Native American cities?  As students chose a topic, he fleshed out the topics that appear in The League of Seven.

When it came time to talk about what the book was about, the students had context about what “steam punk” meant as well as example of secret societies, flying machines, and monsters.  Best of all, by the time Alan Gratz got to the part about giving a summary of the book, pretty much every student was hooked and wanted to read the book.  I ordered 2 additional copies of the book during the presentation because I knew demand would be high.

The Septemberist Society – About The League of Seven

Alan Gratz showed students how readers around the world are creating fan fiction and illustrations based on the book.  He has a website called the Septemberist Society, which has challenges, book news, and places for displaying fan fiction and illustrations.  He encouraged students to send any of their creations to him for the site.

Alan Gratz (22) Alan Gratz (4)

As soon as the talk was over, I hurried to catalog the books.  A parent came in to prep the books for checkout and within minutes of putting them out, they were gone.  Students came in and started putting holds on the books as well.

I love how hearing from an author sprinkles magic dust onto the library books.  The awesome cover of this book designed by Brett Helquist is enough to make you want to pick it up, but hearing from the author creates magic.

Thank you Alan Gratz, Avid Bookshop, and Starscape for this incredible visit with out students.

Participating in World Book Night 2014

Last year was the first year that the Barrow Media Center participated in World Book Night.  It was such a fun and rewarding experience, that I knew we had to do it again.  On World Book Night, each “giver” receives 20 copies of a certain book to hand out in the community.  The process is really simple.  A few months before April, applications open.  You submit an simple application explaining how you will hand out the books.  If your application is approved, you select where you will pickup your books.  I always pick mine up at our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  They hold an event where givers can meet one another and exchange of ideas of how to hand out the books in the community.  Then, on April 23, you hand out your books.

Here’s a little more from the World Book Night website,

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in our mission. Successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2012.

This year, my book was Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon.  I was so happy that this was the book I was selected to give because it’s a book that I’ve hoped many of our students would pick up.  Rather than randomly hand the book out in our community, I decided to target specific students in our school.  Teachers in 4th and 5th grade helped me select 20 students via a Google doc.  Each student was chosen for various reasons.  There was no set in stone way to choose a student other than we wanted to put the book in the hands of a student who could use a new book in their home library and who would enjoy reading this book.

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At 1:00, all of the students came to the library.  I told them about World Book Night and we visited the World Book Night website.   I told them about being a giver and picking up my books at Avid Bookshop.  Then, I showed them the book.  We visited the Candlewick site where we could watch a trailer for Zora and Me.  I read the back of the book to all of the students.

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Then, I got to say the words I was so excited to say…”I’m giving a copy of Zora and Me to all of you.  Every single student was so excited.  Some of them jumped up to help pass them out to the group.  I loved watching them immediately open the book and start reading it.  I also gave them all a bookmark.

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I told them that my hope is that they would read the entire book, share it with their families, tell me what they thought of, and cherish the book as a part of their home libraries.  I look forward to hearing from them very soon.  One student told me she would probably have it finished by tomorrow!

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World Book Night is an amazing experience.  It seems small when you first sign up, but you are filled with emotion when you put your book in someone’s hand with the wish that they will read it and love it.

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Unpacking Our Student Book Budget Order from Gumdrop

IMG_2827Today, the student book budget group came to the library to unpack our first order.  Most of our books that we ordered will come from Capstone, but there were a few books that they found from Gumdrop.  Gret Hechenbleikner is our Gumdrop rep who brought in several book samples for students to look at.  One of our goals for purchasing books was World Records.  We have several Guinness World Record books, but Gumdrop had some Ripley’s books that were much smaller in size that the students loved.  They also found some haunted history books that I’m sure will be extremely popular.  We are trying to increase the number of books we have about making things, so they found a series of books about making graphic novels as well as making crafts out of various materials.

To save a bit of money, we did not purchase shelf ready books.  We did order the barcodes and protectors, though.  Students came in during their recess and worked through several steps.

Step 1 was to unpack the box, check off the packing slip, and check the books for damage.

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Step 2 was to put the labels and label protectors on each book.

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Step 3 was stamping each book with our library stamp.

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Step 4 was to download the MARC records into Destiny.

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Step 5 was to think of how to advertise the books to the school.  Students decided on 2 things.  They wanted an Animoto of all of the books and the unpacking process on our morning news show for Monday.  They also wanted to create a display at the front of the library.  One group of students worked on taking pictures.  Another group worked on making the Animoto.  A final group worked on creating the display.

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It was fun to watch them celebrate when their Animoto was made.

The books haven’t even been officially advertised to the school yet, and already several of the books have been checked out.  I won’t be surprised on Monday when there is a stampede to the library to check out what is left.

These students will meet again next Friday, when they will unpack a large order from Capstone and repeat the same process.