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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!  :)

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

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.

2016-2017 WCCPBA Nominees!

Hot of the press!

Here are the nominees for the 2016-2017 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award.

When the list is first released, it’s titles/authors/publishers…which isn’t overly exciting.  Seeing the cover images brings the list to life!

A chunk of Summer 2016 will be spent reading the titles, then choosing a handful to create critical-thinking questions and/or extension learning activities.  So…of the books above, which 2-3 titles would YOU want to have questions/extension activities? Let me know!


2016 Tournament of Books: the Final Four

Without further ado, here are the results of the Elite Eight:

In the Graphic Novel region:  Amulet narrowly beat Sisters. Given that Kazu just visited, I predict Raina would have won this region if she visited our school.  (Note to self: test this theory!)

In the Picture Book region: Piggie and Elephant couldn’t overcome the hard-working The Day the Crayons Quit. This past WCCPBA winner is a favorite!

In the Chapter Book region: This was the tightest match of the week. Nine votes separated the two titles. Unfortunately, Bunjitsu Bunny was nine votes shy of a win and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library emerged victorious. Might this be due to 11 4th/5th grade classrooms and 8 2nd/3rd classrooms? Hmm…

In the Nonfiction region: A Boy and Jaguar continued it’s winning ways, besting those creepy Cryptids.

The 2016 Final Four is now set. Voting resumes tomorrow, and winners will be announced Friday, April 1. Find the link to vote in our Destiny library catalog:)


WA’s newest book award: The OTTER Award

There has never been a better time to be an emerging reader in Washington.  Why?

Because the OTTER AwardOur Time To Enjoy Reading – is here, officially recognized as a WLMA state book award by the Washington Library Association!

This award is designed for children ages 6-9 who are transitioning from picture books to longer chapter books. The words “Our Time” are important: they value the time of the child. As my daughter once said, she wanted “books kids like, not books adults think kids should like”. The annual OTTER nominees strive to meet that request.

OTTER nominees also aim to aid parents and teachers whose children need access to new, quality, kid-friendly reading material.  There are a handful of books commonly recommended to for children ages 6-9…but this award anticipates expanding young reading horizons and building bridges to longer, more complex chapter books.

The 2015-2016 school year an OTTER pilot project was undertaken, with colleague Monica Hodges running a version in Mt Vernon while my colleagues and I ran a similar pilot in Bellevue.

2015-2016 BSD OTTER Pilot Nominees

2015-2016 Mt Vernon OTTER Pilot Nominees

WLMA found our pilots successful, and we are now thrilled (along with 3 new committee members from across the state) to work toward April 23, when we will meet and announce the 2016-2017 OTTER Nominees.

Our selection criteria:

  • copyright year 2014-2015 (the 2 years prior to the upcoming school years)
  • reading level suitable for grades 1,2,3
  • multiple kid-friendly specs (including, but not limited to: white space, font size, line spacing, illustrations)
  • read and positively reviewed by a student (“books kids like, not books adults think kids like”)
  • representation of genres/gender/diversity/series

We are diligent in finding new books to both read and obtain student response, with over 20 titles on our reading list. Please COMMENT with any beginner chapter books (similar to the ones above) that would fit the criteria for the OTTER Award. 

Thanks for your thoughtful consideration. It is truly an honor and dream to bring this much-needed book award to life!


Maker + STEM in 2nd grade library

In the middle trimester, 2nd grade students have focused on Balance and Motion in their science curriculum. A key component is learning about – and building – bridges.

So for the last 2 weeks (Feb 26 & Mar 4 … no school Mar 10) , the library jumped on the building bridge bandwagon. Week 1, we read about building bridges and thinking like an engineer, listening to Andrea Beatty’s Iggy Peck, Architect.  And in week 2 students became Junior Architects, reviewing principles in bridge design before constructing bridges using wood blocks.  (NOTE: We have 11 sets of wooden blocks, thanks to a PTA grant.)

In both lessons, students listed and reviewed bridge vocabulary (abutment, span, arch, beam, etc) learned in the classroom. This was a huge learning moment for me, as I never studied bridges and knew almost no bridge-building terminology!  Prior to construction, students were partnered and given one direction: their bridge must have at least ONE feature that they could point out and explain. And they did, with great success.

This was, in a word, FUN. Giggles and happy comments ensued from successful structures and opportunities to redesign alike…and there were many redesign opportunities, as students wanted their bridges to be symmetrical and use Every Single Block in their box.  It was also hands-on, educational, STEM-based, and included Makerspace principles.

Now, to find another way to use these blocks in our weekly classtime…