Top Ten Lit Lessons I’ve Learned

Last week, I had the honor of having a column published over at the amazing Nerdy Book Club. I love Top 10 lists, and writing this post was an opportunity for thoughtful reflection on the library experience for students.





With more than 2 months between submitting the column and its publication, I had forgotten exactly what I’d written.  Rereading the column – and reading the thoughtful comments of others – reinforced the value in reflecting and learning from students.  Not a day goes by without thinking how I could do something better, more efficiently, or more meaningfully.  From lessons with students to library admin to classroom management, there is always something to learn.  Ignoring the opportunity to learn and grow is a disaster for educators.

I suppose this explains why, when my husband deleted the first draft of this column, I didn’t completely lose it.  Yes, I sulked.  Yes, I was fussy.  But as my 4th grade students remind me, I have a choice: I adopted growth mindset and started rewriting.  After all, it was ultimately my fault (I didn’t save it), and the writing was better for it.

So now I ask you: What lessons have you learned from your students this year?  Please share!


Library Lessons: May 11-15, 2015: Folktales, Fables, Biographies!

This was a week of continuation for all grades, as we are in the midst of extended learning.

Kindergarten: Week 4 of our Folktales Around the World lesson.  This week: Margaret Read MacDonald’s The Squeaky Door, which is based on a Puerto Rican folk song.


The K’s *love* the choral reading aspect, chiming in with Little Boy’s common refrains of “No, not me!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”.  This folktale’s problem – a boy can’t sleep with a squeaky door – is always discussed, as is an appropriate solution to the problem.  Adding animals to the bed won’t solve a squeaky door!

2nd grade: Comparing illustrations of fables:  “The Ant and the Grasshopper” (Snead) and “Belling the Cat” (Pinkney).  Looking at illustrations of fables from 3 variants – Pinkney’s Aesop’s Fables, Snead’s Aesop’s Fables, and Wormell’s Mice, Morals and Monkey Business – students listen to ONE fable, then use text/illustration evidence to prove/disprove which illustration matches best.  C-E-R, folks!

Comparing student’s Claim-Evidence-Reasoning to the work of a detective (who looks for evidence everywhere) or a lawyer (who tries to prove why something CAN’T be) worked well and sparked some great debate.20150514_152952691_iOS

4th grade: Mighty Jackie, Fact or Fiction?

After listening to last week’s story – and listing statements that could be proven true/false – we worked as a class to access the local public library’s databases and find a newspaper from April 1931, when Jackie was to have pitched versus the NY Yankees.

We read headlines, dates, captions and text of 2 NY Times articles to discover that yes, Jackie Mitchell DID pitch and strike out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Interesting side note – we ended up teaching the game of baseball (balls/strikes, umpires, teams, etc) to the handful of students who had no idea. Thankful for the OTHER handful of students who were baseball experts and helped in explaining!


Connecting with staff & families from the library

Connecting. Communicating. Advertising, Broadcasting.

Whichever word you choose, it’s been a top priority in the last few months to showcase our library program: the resources (books!), the creativity (lessons!), the technology (STEM!), the activities (awards!)…

But how to do this connecting in the most effective & efficient way? I ♥ this blog/Twitter/Facebook, but let’s be honest: not many families visit my feed weekly (or ever).  I’ve tried a newsletter for a bit, but ultimately felt it wasn’t worth the effort.

So: After speaking with staff and parents, I created a Weekly Wednesday email sharing 2-3 bits of library-related info.  Sending it to staff – who then forward it to families – has resulted in a greater audience (as families usually glance at teacher-sent emails).  How do I know? Because parents have responded with qadestions or comments. :)

Designed to be eye-catching (did I mention they glance at their in-box?) and brief, the goal is to share the great aspects, learning, and knowledge in our library on a weekly basis.  Keeping the library as a proactive, positive resource is vital.  There is always something new and informative in the library!

Below is a our most recent weekly email. (Bonus: it’s also emailed to interested colleagues!).

So: Take the plunge.  Get started!

  • Share what knowledge you have and what is new in your library.
  • Keep it short & eye-catching.
  • Embed images & hyperlinks (instead of attaching files or pasting long web addresses).
  • Be predictable. Our email always includes a Book of the Week.
  • Circle back. Poetry was a big theme during April’s emails – hence the shout-out to the 2nd grade poetry unit.
  • Know that someone will be thankful. :)


Library Update: 05.05.15

New Tech: padlet

Padlet is a free web-based application that allows users to post content (text, images, videos, documents) on a simple background. It can be private or public and has the option of password-protection.  The best part: anyone – from any device – can collaborate and add to a similar topic with minimal effort.

Our library has a Padlet featuring ALL of the recommended 2015 Books of the Week:

Book of the Week: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart


At first glance, Mark is like most kids: he’s got a best friend, loves his dog, and enjoys the outdoors. But Mark’s not like most kids – he’s sick. Really sick. So sick that he decides to run away from his small WA town to go do the one thing he’s always dreamed of: climb Mt. Rainier. Because he’s afraid: if he doesn’t go do it now, while he’s feeling good, will he ever have the chance? With his dog by his side, Mark takes off leaving behind family and friends.  He only hopes he makes it to the mountain before they figure out where he is…or worse.

A hopeful, action-packed story of determination and friendship, Dan Gemeinhart’s debut novel will build empathy and get kids talking. NEW in 2015.

Writing Poetry with 2nd graders

Poem in Your Pocket Day was a success!  Throughout the day, students were seen reciting poems, wearing poem pockets & stickers, and reading/writing poems.  What a treat!


During National Poetry Month in April, all students celebrated poetry during library class.  The 2nd graders studied free-verse poetry: they learned its unique traits, listened to poems, practiced Claim-Evidence-Reasoning, and created a class free-verse poem.  These poems were inspired by our read-alouds and are written from the point of view of the dog in the photo above. They are on display in the main hall of the school, along with a summary of their learning.  For more information, visit the main hall or click HERE.

Need books? Curious about creative apps for kids? Come by the library or send an email.  We work hard at staying informed and are happy to help!   Ms. Arika & Mrs. Bethel

Read-Aloud Tuesday: 05.05.15


Welcome! On #ReadAloudTuesday, I read to the Maple classroom at my son’s Montessori school to students ages 3-6.  Young readers are demanding and honest: I strive to share the best of children’s literature with them each week.


Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

One night, a little kitten mistakes the full, round, white moon for a bowl of milk.  Hungrily, she pursues it: running across fields, climbing trees, even leaping into a pond!  Tired, wet, and exhausted, she returns home to find a special surprise on her porch.  Henkes’s pacing is perfect, as is the gentleness in which the kitten explores her world.  The Caldecott-winning black and white illustrations are a bonus.  Share with ages 2+.


Jamberry by Bruce Degen

“One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry.”  So begins this rhyming, rhythmic ode to berries and creative play.  With playful illustrations, off-beat plotline, and fun-loving characters, this is a classic worthy of reading again and again.  Share with ages 2-5.


You Are NOT My Friend, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk

Monkey and his best friend Dog are true buddies, until the day they argue over a toy ball.  “You are NOT my friend”, Monkey emphatically states, taking his ball away. As he recalls ways in which Dog was not a good friend, readers begin to see that Monkey is just as guilty of not being a good friend.  This is THE BOOK for preschool and Kindergarten teachers who struggle with friendship issues.  Share with ages 3-7.  NEW in 2014.


Manana, Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul

The folktale of The Little Red Hen with a Spanish twist.  Iguana is hosting a fiesta on Sabado.  Who will help her mail the invitations, hang the streamers, and cook the food?  “Yo no!”, cry the conejo (rabbit), tortuga (tortoise), and culebra (snake).  When they’re left out of the festivities by  frustrated, upset Iguana , the three realize the error of their ways and work to find an opportunity to help.  Includes a glossary of spanish terms.  Share with ages 4-10.

Library Lessons: May4-8, 2015: Folktales, Fables, Biography?

Kindergarten: Week 3 of our Folktales Around the World unit.

2nd grade: Kicking off a 2 week study of Folklore / Fables!

4th grade: A two-week study of biographies/primary sources.  This ties back to our previous study of Henry Box Brown in January!

#AMonthOfReading: APRIL 2015

A Month of Reading (#amonthofreading) is just that: the YA & kidlit books I read each month.  You can also find my lists on Goodreads.  To be fair, the books in this list are new-to-me reads – because like every reader, I do a LOT of rereading!

April 2015 FICTION (including YA):




#AMonthOfReading: March 2015

A Month of Reading (#amonthofreading) is just that: the YA & kidlit books I read each month.  You can also find my lists on Goodreads.  To be fair, the books in this list are new-to-me reads – because like every reader, I do a LOT of rereading!

 March 2015 FICTION (including YA)