Major Impossible: An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

It has been a rainy week in Georgia, which means kids haven’t had recess in a while. Pair that with the full moon, and you have a group of high energy kids. We were already excited about our upcoming author visit with Nathan Hale, but this added an extra layer. If I had known what students were about to experience during the visit, I wouldn’t have worried at all. Nathan Hale is a top-notch author & illustrator and his school presentation is a sight to behold. I don’t want to give too much away about the content, but I will say that he had almost 300 high energy 3rd-5th graders laughing, gasping, and hanging on every word.

We’ve known about our visit since November, which gave us a bit of time to build some excitement. When Nathan Hale arrived at our school, two of our 5th grade ambassadors welcomed him and walked him to the library to get setup.

Once we got him setup, he worked on a drawing of Hangman. He continued working on this as kids arrived and then moved over to draw on his iPad.

I loved that this immediately hooked kids in as they sat down. There was a buzz of excitement as kids chatted and watched Nathan draw.

All Nathan uses for his presentation is an iPad connected to the projector, but don’t let that simple setup fool you. After my quick intro, which included a huge thank you to Abrams Books and Avid Bookshop, Nathan launched right in to his presentation which is a combination of storytelling and drawing on his projected iPad. He introduced the Hazardous Tales books and then crossed them all out.

Since kids can just read those on their own, Nathan told us a new Hazardous Tale about Lewis & Clark. Since some people say that this story is too weird, too gross, and too dumb to be published, it can only be heard in school presentations. And, of course, the students were dying to hear it.

Nathan proceeded to tell us the story of Lewis & Clark and the corps of discovery. His story introduced an evil doctor, York-an African American explorer, and Sacagawea. His story was filled with  sarcasm, danger, gruesome details, and of course laugh-out-loud humor.

As Nathan told the story, he drew everything out on the iPad. He would zoom in at just the right moment, just like we were zooming in to a panel of a comic.

The storytelling introduced students to parts of the Lewis and Clark expedition that they most likely hadn’t heard before. It explained the “Lewis and Clark” is really referring to a whole group of people, and Nathan was sure to give credit to the individuals who played big roles in the expedition.

The story built up to a huge comedic finish that I can’t give away. What I will say about it is that it was so much fun to look around the room and see so many students and adults laughing to the point of tears. No matter what we were carrying with us as we came to the visit, we had 45 minutes of storytelling and laughter.  You couldn’t help but feel good after laughing that much.

One of the things I loved about Nathan’s presentation was that he went around the library before the presentation and pulled books about Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, York, and Sacajawea. He repeatedly reminded students that the story he was telling them was true and that he learned about the facts by reading books from the library.

He showed each one with his iPad and even turned this book presentation into a comedic event by always zooming in to show Baby Pomp on Sacajawea’s back.

Nathan chatted with students as they left, and then signed a huge stack of books. Every student who bought a book got a signature and a drawing of Hangman.

Before he left, Nathan took time to look at all of the comics that kids had made for the library windows. I loved that he took a moment to see how each one was different and what kids did with a blank piece of paper.

After an author/illustrator leaves our school, they don’t always get to see the miraculous things that happen back in classrooms and home. Kids returned to class buzzing with ideas and retelling the Hazardous Tale they heard. I had reports back from parents that their child couldn’t stop talking about the visit. Some students made their parents take them to hear Nathan again at the public library. Several parents reported back to me that their kids couldn’t put Major Impossible down and some finished it that night.

The next day, I put out a new set of Hazardous Tales and 5 copies of Major Impossible along with the other books Nathan showed at his visit.  All were immediately checked out and there’s already a list of holds on each book. Before Nathan’s visit, we already had some Hazardous Tales fans, but now that students know him, he has developed a much bigger fan base at our school.

Thank you again to Abrams Books for sending Nathan Hale on a tour of bookshops and schools. Thank you Avid Bookshop for supporting our schools with author visits and allowing us to have this opportunity. Thank you Nathan Hale for sharing your talents with us all.

Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs: A Visit with Mike Lowery

Our students are always crazy about dinosaurs. If you visit the dinosaur section of the library, you usually see a pretty empty shelf. We were so excited that we had the chance to welcome author/illustrator, Mike Lowery, to our school to share his newest book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts with our 2nd-4th grades.  Mike’s visit was thanks to his publisher, Scholastic, and our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.

Ahead of his visit, I shared his book on our morning broadcast and sent home pre-order forms.  We also held a design-a-dinosaur contest for all grades. Students could design any type of dinosaur (real or made up).  Little did I know how well this would connect with the actual content of Mike’s visit.  My student support technician, Ms. Allie, and I sorted through the entries and had a very hard time narrowing down to 10 final winners.  Students were so creative and funny. Each of these winners received a copy of Mike’s book.  All entries were displayed in the windows of our library along with a dino welcome sign.

Our 3rd graders also studied Mike Lowery’s books in art and created projects that were inspired by his art style.  These pieces of art were displayed at the entrance to our school.

Mike is a super funny guy and he hooked the kids’ attention with lots of random facts. One of his favorite things is to collect weird facts and illustrate them, which developed into his Random Illustrated Facts book.  He of course connected this to where authors & illustrators get their ideas (their brains). Even though it was humorous, it was a good reminder to all of us that we are perfectly capable of coming up with great ideas when we put our minds to it.

Mike launched us into his dinosaur book with lots of super cool facts about dinosaurs along with his humorous illustrations. He introduced some dinosaurs along with some dinosaur awards.  I loved how he engaged the audience by having them predict what dino might be coming up next, and how he wove in his humor along the way.  (I won’t give away any of his punch lines).

The final part of Mike’s presentation was extremely fun and a direct connection to our design-a-dino contest. Mike had the students name several pieces of clothing that a dinosaur might be wearing. Then, on his projected iPad, he drew the dino wearing all of the clothes.  Students saw their ideas magically come to life on the screen with a dino wearing pants that said “short arms rule”, a dress, rain boots that were also elf shoes, and a fez.  They could also see a bit of Mike’s drawing process and how he could edit or manipulate the image on his iPad to fix or fine tune details.

Next, Mike had students name some careers and he drew a dino with one of those careers. In this case, it was a scientist, and Mike made it a female scientist with a scrunchy (of course).

Mike took lots of questions from the audience, so we got to learn about his educational path, what he would does when he isn’t drawing (eat tacos), and whether raptors can actually open doors like in Jurassic Park.

Mike signed lots of books for students.  Thanks to our PTA every class got a copy of the book for their classroom library too.  Immediately after Mike’s visit, every one of his books was checked out from the library.  More evidence of the power of an author visit.

Thank you, Mike Lowery, for sharing your talents with all of us. As I delivered signed books, I already saw students hard at work creating writing and illustrations inspired by your work.

 

Movie Makerspace: Exploring Green Screen & Stop Motion

September has come to an end and our 1st month of makerspace is complete.  We hold an open makerspace every Tuesday and Thursday. Students choose to come to makerspace as an alternative to their recess time.  We weave makerspace projects into the curriculum throughout the year, but this Tuesday/Thursday time is more open-ended. Our makerspace is also a collaboration with Gretchen Thomas and her students at the University of Georgia.  This class evolved organically out of some very small collaborations a few years ago. Now, 8 UGA students visit our library every Tuesday & Thursday from 10:45-12:15. Students sign up with their teacher via a Google Doc after watching an introductory video to the month’s topic. Each teacher is allotted a certain number of spots.  If they don’t use all their spots, another teacher can claim them. We have a staggered schedule: 3rd grade 10:45-11:15, 4th grade 11:00-11:30, 1st grade 11:20-11:50, and 5th grade 11:45-12:15.

For September & the first week of October, we focused on making movies. For week 1, students rotated to three stations to tinker. They used Stop Motion Studio on the iPad along with our library Legos to tinker with stop motion animation.  They used Do Ink green screen app on the iPads to experiment with green screen. This included using green gloves, green string, green plates, and the green cushions in our library to create small green screens and green screen effects.  At the final station, students explored iMovie trailers for making regular movies as well as editing movies made in other apps.

During the 2nd week, we asked students to commit to what type of movie they wanted to make.  This could be done alone or in a group. Before students jumped right into filming, we wanted them to storyboard or create a quick script. Most students chose stop motion with just a few choosing green screen.

For the stop motion students, we took a quick look at a new book from Capstone Publishers called Create Crazy Stop Motion Videos by Thomas Kingsley Troupe. I was fortunate to pick this book up at the SLJ Leadership Summit. I love how this book goes step by step through the movie making process: casting, script writing, storyboarding, prep, filming, editing, and final touches. This is a Capstone 4D book which means it also has videos that accompany certain pages.  Since it was most students’ first time making a stop motion, we tried to get a few ideas from the book and give it a go. In the future, I would love to come back to this book and really spend more time with each step.

For 2 weeks, students worked on their movies. We put their names on the backs of the iPads with tape so that they could continue their project each time. We also stored any lego creations they made on our makerspace shelving. The UGA students sat with groups or individuals and helped with tips on storytelling, keeping the iPad and background stable, and helped keep our legos as organized as possible.

As usual, students were super excited to come to makerspace and they developed many skill sets while having fun. I loved the storytelling that students put together in such a short amount of time and it made me really think about using legos even more in conjunction with writing. We have a long way to go before creating stellar stop motion videos, but it was fun to see what students learned from one another through trial and error, chatting with UGA students, looking at stop motion videos online, and looking at our new book from Capstone. My hope is that students can take the skills they learned in this project and apply it to future projects in class. We saw so many students get excited about their movie creations which could easily spill over into curriculum areas.

Students who wanted to share their movie worked with me to upload videos to Youtube. Please enjoy these first attempts at stop motion videos. If you have any of your own tips to share, leave them in a comment.  We hope to do more stop motion videos as part of curriculum projects in grade levels.

 

 

 

Poem In Your Pocket Days 2019

We just wrapped up 2 days filled with poetry readings. For many years, we have been celebrating poetry month and national poem in your pocket day by hosting a poetry cafe in the library. During this 2-day event, every class in the school comes to the library for a 20-minute session. Students sit in a specially decorated area of the library filled with soft cushions, lighting, flowers, and a fancy microphone.

Every student has a chance to come up and share an original or favorite poem into the microphone and we celebrate each poet with snaps and quiet claps. This even is broadcast via Youtube Live so that family and friends can enjoy our poetry from afar. Ahead of the even, I setup each Youtube event and put the links to every class on a Smore page for easy access and sharing. As we broadcast each event, it immediately archives to Youtube and the Smore page.

One of my favorite parts of these days is that it is one time where every single student in our school has an opportunity to be seen and heard. While not every students chooses to get in front of the microphone, they all have the opportunity.

There’s always magical things that happen: kids who are shy have a friend who encourages them and stand with them, a poem is tucked away in a special place like a shoe, a student creates an unexpected poem that stands out in a beautiful way, a student reads a poem in a different language, a parent or teacher shares a favorite or original poem.

I invite you to listen to some of the student poetry by visiting the Youtube links on our Smore page. You can continue to leave comments for the students on Youtube or on Twitter by using the hashtag #barrowpoems

Happy poetry month!

Sharing Books Through Google Slides, Shelf Talkers, and Book Talks

I’ve been working with Ms. Hicks and a group of 3rd graders to think about our reading lives, how we talk about books, and how we share our reading with our local and global community. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking more about our school community and what we can do to share new book ideas with them.

We started our journey by creating a rolling slideshow that could be displayed on a hallway monitor that most students pass at some point during the day.

Each student created one slide about their book.  Their goal was to write a short blurb about the book to inform passersby about the book they had read. They were also supposed to include an image of themselves with the book or the book by itself.  I published this slideshow to the web and set it to rotate slides every 15 seconds and repeat the show when it reached the end.

It continuously plays in the hallway until we update it with new slides.  Then, I’ll need to publish it to the web again.

Next, we talked about other ways we could share our books with the readers in our school. We brainstormed a list, and rather than asking everyone to do the same thing, students chose from the list what they wanted to create. They could create a shelf talker like you might find in Avid Bookshop, a poster to hang in a strategic spot in the school, or a book talk that could be shared on our morning broadcast, BTV.

To get ready, we looked at some mentor examples. A few years back, we Skyped with Will Walton at Avid Bookshop, and he shared tips from writing shelf talkers. We took a look at his video clip and a few examples from the shop. I made an example of a book poster on a Google slide and had students point out things they noticed. For book talks on BTV, we revisited our 30-second book talk Flipgrid videos and reminded ourselves about a good hook, a tease of information, and a recommendation.

Students made their selections and got to work creating. Ms. Hicks and I conferenced students but also encouraged students to share their work with one another for feedback.

For posters, I created a blank set of Google Slides, which Ms. Hicks shared with the students. Each claimed a slide, chose a background color, added a short book talk, and chose images from Google Explore that represented their book.

As students finished, I saved each slide as a JPEG and printed them in color.

Students met together to brainstorm strategic spots in school to place their posters. They decided to pick spots where people would have time to stop as well as spots that were visible. This was spots like the water fountain, the hand dryer, and columns in the rotunda.

For shelf talkers, students displayed the book that they wrote about near its genre section and taped the index card shelf talker underneath.

For BTV book talks, students wrote out their script and practiced. Then, they scheduled a day to come to our morning broadcast to share their book.

As a part of the book talk, each student shared which section the book could be found in in our library.

Our hope is that giving student these authentic ways to share their reading lives within and beyond our school will get them thinking about even more ways they might share the books they are reading. We hope that it raises the awareness of other readers in our school to want to also share their reading lives within their classroom and around our school. We are hoping that are small group explorations will put a spark back into grade levels to incorporate this more into the classroom culture.  I know that I want to be more intentional about getting student voice out into our school in regards to sharing our reading lives.

 

 

 

 

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.