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2017 OTTER Award nominees

Otter Award Logo Color

The nominated titles for WA State’s first annual OTTER Award!

  • The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Jelly Bean: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord
  • Let’s Get Cracking! by Cyndi Marko
  • Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner
  • Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West
  • Hilo: Book 1 by Judd Winick

The OTTER Award is intended to support children as they transition into chapter books. As this happens at differing ages/grades, we have chosen not to limit its eligibility to specific elementary ages/grade levels.

Voting will happen in April. We expect nominees to be announced in late March/early April in the future. For more info, please visit the official OTTER website!

A huge THANK YOU to my OTTER Award co-chair Monica Hodges and the four committee members from across WA State. With flexibility and determination, we met via Google Hangouts to deliberate over the best books for all young readers.  Because this is the OTTER goal: to be a nominee, it must be a book KIDS like, not a book adults think kids like.  And if my children (grades 1&3) are any reflection of the students in WA State, our young readers will find something to love in this nominee list.

As you – and your children/students – read the nominees, let me/the committee know what you think. We love feedback!  :)

Hitting a home run with primary source research using databases

It’s no secret that I love baseball. And kidlit. Evidence? Check.

I also love teaching library skills. And guiding students to new learning. You’ll have to imagine photos for these…but trust me, I do.

So, since April was National Poetry Month as well as the beginning of baseball season – it was only natural to create a 3 week unit combining kidlit, baseball, and teaching library skills, focusing on using evidence.  There were lots of goals here. Lots. Of. Goals.

Student learning goals:  

  • Define primary source
  • Identify needed primary source
  • Understand what a database is (and how it’s different from google)
  • Select appropriate database
  • Log in / access database using kcls.org/students account
  • Use multiple primary sources to assist in identifying a piece of literature as nonfiction or historical fiction
  • Reflect and respond to literature in a variety of genres (poetry & biography)

Goals aligned to the AASL 21st Century Learner standards:

  • 1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, 1.1.5, 1.1.8, 1.2.4, 1.4.1, 2.4.3, 3.1.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2

And my personal, informal goal: to make research, primary sources, and database access interesting by connecting each to sports

Now, to do this in 3 40 minute library classes with my 4th graders.

Week 1: last week of April

  • Read Casey at the Bat, the classic baseball narrative poem written in 1888
  • During reading, have students retell at various points what has happened (after the first stanza and fourth stanza worked for me)
  • After stanzas 6-8, have students infer and describe Casey in a word or two. Our favorites: boastful, not humble, confident, cocky (which, we discussed, is very different than confident).
  • After stanza 12, have students make a claim about what they think happened at Casey’s at-bat and use evidence from the text to support/refute the claim.
  • After poem: have students think about famous historical baseball players. Jot down a list of who they know. Possible HW: have students ask someone at home about famous baseball players from history.

Week 2: first week of May

  • Begin by reviewing/adding to list of famous baseball players. Explain that one or more will appear in today’s story (allowing students to understand at least part of it is fact-based).
  • Read Mighty Jackie: strike out queen by Marissa Moss
    • BEFORE READING: explain that this story is either nonfiction or historical fiction They need to listen for details that can be proven TRUE or FALSE as written in the story.
    • During reading, pause and ask students to remember details that could possibly be TRUE or FALSE. Good stopping spots include: after 2nd page, after Jackie is taught by Dazzy Vance, end of story. They can turn/talk, then share to the group. Write down their statements, and be prepared to guide them back to the text if needed.
    • DO NOT read/show final page of book with Jackie’s photograph.
  • At end, ask students if there is a way to prove the story details as FACT or FICTION. (They’ll tell you “Google”…and you’ll have some Google Jackie Mitchell after class [I do every year]. Which is fine – Google has a lot of answers…but not easily located primary sources.) Who would we trust? Was someone at the game that day…and did they give an account of the day’s events?
    • (side note – at this point in the year, my 4th graders are studying primary sources in their classroom. This ties in beautifully.)
  • Define primary source (first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation)
  • Ask: what type of person is at a baseball game that writes down exactly what happened? (reporter) Where can we find their article? (newspaper) Which one? (NY Times, as Jackie pitched against the NY Yankees)
  • State that next week, the students will be creating their own search to locate evidence to VERIFY or REFUTE the statements made in Mighty Jackie.

Week 3: 2nd week in May

  • Begin with a review of student-generated statements from Mighty Jackie that they thought could be either TRUE or FALSE.

At this point, depending on access to technology and databases (and the abilities of your students), the lesson can go a few ways and still be successful.

Limited tech and/or limited access to NYT historical database: (most years)

  • teacher guides the lesson as whole-class experience in locating/accessing/searching databases (see below…)
  • once articles are located, there are two options:
  1. hand out copies of two NYT primary source articles after locating as a class, having students work individually/in pairs to locate evidence proving story is FACT or FICTION
  2. read/skim projected articles together, locating evidence proving story is FACT / FICTION

Good tech, but limited access to NYT historical database: (one year)

  • email families, requesting students to bring in public library cards to use at school, as they’re learning to access and utilize databases for research. Depending on response, have students work in pairs.

Good tech, equal access to NYT historical database: (this year!)

Each student in the district has their school ID linked to KCLS. Every single child can use the electronic resources of KCLS – including databases – for free!

  • Teacher asks students which newspaper would have recounting of the baseball game (NYTimes). What date? (1931, as given in the story)
  • Search using the database tab from the public library – locate newspapers, then NYTimes.
    • NOTE: lesson in reading – be sure to choose the right NYTimes link!
  • Reteach/demonstrate how to log in to the database using their KCLS library info.
    • Side note: great time to remind group about online privacy/saving passwords!
  • Once logged in, ask group what they think we should type in the search box. (Someone will say Mighty Jackie, others will say Jackie Mitchell, and still other terms will come up. Great modeling potential here…).
  • Search jackie mitchell (without quotes). Notice the number of hits – over 4,000!
    • Note: capitalization doesn’t matter…
  • Ask students how they could limit the number of articles. Lots of right answers: you want to generate a quick list. DON’T MODEL. They’ll use these limiters in their own search!
  • As no student knew this strategy, I taught limiting using quotation marks – that putting “ “ around two or more words will keep them together in the search query. This works on almost every Internet search, including Google!
    • Side note: to reinforce this – search Steph Curry (NBA player) without quotes, there could be a chef named Steph who makes Curry. With quotes, and only the NBA player shows up
  • Student work time! In 15 minutes, they will:
    • Independently access kcls.org/students
    • Locate and log in to NYTimes database
    • Create search query
    • Successfully limit search results using one or more tools
    • Locate 1-2 primary sources on Jackie Mitchell, baseball player
    • Read/skim and identify if story details are FACT or FICTION
    • Identify Mighty Jackie as either nonfiction (biography) or historical fiction

Much of student reflection/reaction was done as they lined up to leave the library, as 40 minutes wasn’t enough time (including 7min for check-out). Not all students found two articles, though all who logged in found and read one. Most could name a new way to limit search results in a database. Many were fascinated with Jackie’s real-life story.  But let’s be honest: a handful in one class didn’t get past step 1…evidence that I still have work to do as a teacher. How do I reach all students? How do I identify students who need more support…and give it to them?

Barnacle’s Boring Bubble Blog Tour!

Jonathan Fenske, Geisel Honor author, has written and illustrated his first picture book, Barnacle is Bored. It’s my pleasure to host Barnacle on his Boring Bubble Blog Tour!

Summary & Review:

Bored children, meet your comrade Barnacle. He experiences the same things every day: high and low tide, sunrise and sunset.  Nothing changes in Barnacle’s stationary life under a dock, until a new polka-dot fish swims by.  Filled with imaginative longing, Barnacle fancies him in exciting adventures: “I bet he dives with dolphins. I bet he soars with sailfish.” When the active fish is caught off-guard by the unexpected arrival of a hungry predator, both Barnacle and the polka-dot fish get new outlooks on life.  Fenske tackles a common childhood foe – boredom – in an appealing, engaging story that reminds us that things are not always as bad – or good – as they seem. The speech bubbles with straightforward vocab and crisp design with cutaways make this picture book perfect for newly independent readers….or anyone who has ever been bored.

Jonathan on Barnacle, boredom, and picture books.

I think Barnacle… is no different than most of us. We all have that person or group of people whose lives, from the outside, look so much more exciting than ours. Sometimes we find out things on the other side might not always be as awesome as they seem! But who am I kidding?! I know contentment is a lesson I never seem to learn!

Boredom ismy own fault! There’s always something to do. Sometimes you just have to use your imagination when finding what that “something to do” is! My mom says I ALWAYS complained about being bored. And now my own kids complain to me, so I guess there has been some justice in that (and book inspiration, too!). 

 Picture books...are eye-popping portals to magical new worlds. I spent hours and hours lost in picture books when I was a kid, and now I get such joy from reading them to my own children. I’m so very grateful to have such a fulfilling art outlet! Mixing words and pictures to create a book, and knowing parents and children are reading them together….I can’t think of any career I’d rather have! Hooray (and “thank you”) to everyone who reads picture books (and any books, for that matter)! 

Barnacle is Bored is in bookstores TODAY – May 10, 2016!

Kid Feedback:

Quotes from kids:

  • H, age 7: “I wonder what the polka-dot fish will do next? Maybe the barnacle gets loose and helps save the fish.”
  • J, age 8: “I think the polka-dot fish will have a plan to escape. Or maybe he’ll get digested and come out as droppings.”
  • J, age 6: “Maybe Barnacle will escape the eel’s stomach using the hook!”

BIG Thank You’s to Jonathan for sharing his book (and Barnacle swag)! And congratulations for being an Amazon Best Books of the Month for May 2016!

If you celebrate CBW, they will come

It’s no secret: I love children’s books, and I love the library. So when I started as a school librarian, I expected the library to buzz with energy and excitement of students debating and discussing books.

In short, this did not happen.

Being hired late, in mid-October, meant I had little relationship with students or staff.  Add to that the logistical nightmare of a library in it’s own building, away from the hustle and bustle, and I knew I had to take drastic action to learn about my students and get people in the doors. But how?

Enter Children’s Book Week (CBW). This was in 2004, when CBW was celebrated in November. Halloween was over, and shops were clearing out old costumes and props. Out of nowhere, I had an idea: what if I dressed as a character from a children’s book? What if I wrote “Guess Who?” clues and had kids try to figure out who I was? And what if I did this Every Single Day during CBW?

I wanted kids to come to the library. I wanted them talking about titles, debating over characters, buzzing over books. So I went for it. And I didn’t ask permission.

On the Monday of CBW, I walked into school dressed in a black pointed hat and black gown, with a wand in hand and gray hair.  It was the first day of CBW. No one else knew this but me. To them, it was random Monday.

Until they saw me. In costume. And they wondered, “What on Earth is she doing?”

Teachers and students came to the library. All week long, they came. They read the clues, debated over characters, and made guesses. As the week continued, we had opportunities to talk.  Students suggested costume ideas and made predictions on upcoming characters.  This was the dream. This was the goal realized. We were talking, connecting, buzzing over books.

And it was all thanks to Children’s Book Week.

It’s been 8 years since I last celebrated CBW in costume – entirely too long.  So today – May 4, 2016 (CBW is now celebrated in May) – I’m renewing this tradition. The costume is dusted off. The clue is printed. No one knows this is happening.  And I am ready.

I can’t wait to hear the buzz.

PS: In keeping with #ThankORama, I am indebted to my former principal Betsy Hill, who thought showing up for work in book character costume was the Best Thing Ever. Prior to her passing, I thanked her for believing in my ability and encouraging me to always dream big.

CBW, #ThankoRama, and sticky note art

Months ago, our library tiptoed into the Makerspace movement with Legos, coding, origami, and coloring.  Around that same time, a self-designed library display of sticky note art went up on our huge glass windows went up.

The thought had occurred that, ultimately, students should get to do this: it would be a great Maker activity, to design the library window display with pixel art! But after one week, no student had ventured into the library to work on this challenge. So I changed the plan of attack:

Students could take home the Maker activity! And boy, was this popular. Over 100 sticky note design grids went out in the first week alone.  The students went all-out: designs included a tiger (our mascot), an under the sea scene, a tree, an American flag, a Japanese flag, an owl, Nyan bunny, and more. One student even created two separate pixel designs: Elephant & Piggie, from Mo Willems’s beloved books.  Designs were due April 30, as a new display was due to go up.

Update: here is the template!

Know that this date was completely arbitrary…but completely perfect.

As it happens, May 2-6, 2016 is Children’s Book Week. The final book in the Elephant & Piggie series, The Thank You Book, is releasing May 3, 2016. And Mo Willems has decreed May as #ThankoRama month.

When I figured all of this out, it was like the pieces of a puzzle falling into place. Children’s Book Week + #ThankoRama + Elephant & Piggie = window art.

Last Friday afternoon, the 5th grade student designer helped install her Elephant & Piggie sticky note display. She had no idea about #ThankoRama or Children’s Book Week – she only wanted to share her love of the stories. And she has, in a big BIG way.

On the way out of school, students were in awe as the new art went up. And today, I imagine they’re loving the finished product.

This week, to celebrate #ThankoRama, CBW, and the final book in the Elephant & Piggie series, students will interact with the display. They can write their favorite E&P story (#1 – 25) on a sticky note in the display. At the end of the week, we should be able to tally and see our love for the different titles.

Aside from the cost of the sticky notes ($$), this was FREE and EASY. It blended art and design with math (have you ever tried to chart out a design? it’s harder than you think). Bringing creative fun to the library has never been so…well, fun.:)

2017 Sasquatch Award nominees

It’s a sunny Sunday in Seattle, but that didn’t stop my friends on the Sasquatch committee! They met today and have announced the dozen nominees for the 2016-2017 school year.

The 2017 Sasquatch Award Nominees

  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
  • Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
  • Gaby Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
  • Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
  • A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar
  • Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley
  • Dash by Kirby Larson
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
  • Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick
  • Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells
  • The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

For more on the Sasquatch Award, visit their official website.

AND! Please comment on any nominated title you love, your students love, or one that you’re curious about. Me? I LOVED The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. My students adore Stuart Gibbs and will like that Space Case is on the list.  And I can’t wait to read A Song for Bijou and The Forbidden Library, among others.

Out of this world research with Kindergarteners

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Mc stopped by the library for a casual chat. Five minutes later, a plan was hatched, fusing library research, databases, and technology to in-class curriculum.

I love chatting. And I’m a big fan of Mrs. Mc.:)

See, during our impromptu chat, she mentioned an upcoming literacy unit on outer space. Tentatively, I threw out an idea: could we team up and research about planets using PebbleGo, then make learning videos with ChatterPix Kids to share new knowledge with others? She was on board (!!), and this is what’s happened so far.

(NOTE: Our school is on a fixed specialist schedule, and the K’s come to library 1x/week for 40 minutes. Our library has 18 desktops and 10 iPads.)

Week 1:  After we settled down with Rhyme Time, I explained the next 3-4 weeks would be devoted to a library/classroom unit on outer space. Prior to class, I’d printed out photos of the eight planets and our sun…and Pluto. Arranging them on the floor as an intro, a handful of students knew that Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore but didn’t know why…the perfect lead-in to the story Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger.

After reading, students were asked to think about which planet they would most like to learn about while watching a BrainPop Jr video on the planets. Post-viewing, each student selected a planet.  It was awesome seeing their authentic energy and excitement. Some asked if they could research TWO planets!

Between week 1 and 2:  Planning time -creating a note-template for the K’s, checking to be sure it’s accessible and K-appropriate for all the students, emailing parents to request help for the research lesson, preparing clipboards with pencils and personalized note-templates (student name/planet filled in). One thing I should’ve included on the note template: a space for citing PebbleGo. Argh!

During open library periods in weeks 1 and 2: visiting the K classrooms during Friday Fun to share/show/teach the ChatterPix Kids app. Knowing that we have 10 iPads and 24 students who have never used the app, giving them more hands-on playtime is important.

Week 2:  A quick review of the planets to start our lesson, followed by a refresher in accessing/using PebbleGo. Students had experience with it earlier in the year, having completed an in-class animal project. Now, they’d use a new area of the database: SCIENCE. My sample was Pluto, as it was not a planet they would research. After modeling how to navigate/read/listen to the information about Pluto, I showed them how to write what was learned in your own words (not PebbleGo’s words). Paraphrasing was a goal, but not a requirement.

Students then received clipboards with their personalized planet note-template and a pencil and went to work at desktops/iPads. Two parents were on hand to assist with PebbleGo navigation and note-taking (a VERY good thing, as there is no aide or para help).  At the end of our lesson, each student had written down (either by themselves or with the help of an adult) at least one fact about their planet. Including check out and the whole-group lesson, it was 40 fast minutes!

Between weeks 2-3: reading and deciphering the K notes, emailing parents to request help for the iPad recordings, testing ChatterPix on the iPads (does the camera/mic work?). By rewriting the student notes, it’ll help a nearby adult prompt them if needed. No changes are being made…just legible handwriting on sticky notes.

Weeks 3-4:  The current plan is to create – then share – our learning using ChatterPix Kids to make videos. Here are samples made using my Pluto notes:

How this’ll all get pulled off is still TBD. Given that it’s right before/after Spring Break, many students will be absent.  With only 10 iPads and 24 students, there is no fair sharing (which is a BIG concern for 5/6 year olds).  And what about when they’re not making their video…what will they do then?  Ack!  Food for thought…

Once the mini-movies are made, I’m not sure what application to use to gather them into one large video…iMovie, Sway, or something else…but there is still time to figure that out.  Updates to come!

Moral of this post: all it takes is one conversation at the right time with the right teacher. Take a minute. Get up. Chat. Connect. Because what you learn may lead to some great teaching and learning for you…and your students.