The London Adventure: I Spy literature!

I’m back, y’all.  The plane landed, the suitcases made it, and I’m in London! Here’s a peek of what our temp space looks like at the moment:

Actually, that photo makes a lovely little game of I Spy…with a London twist.  

In my London flat, can you spy: a Cadbury bar, a mug for tea, the electric kettle, a place for laundry?

A little bit of Seattle snuck into the photo by way of two votives, given to me by my colleagues and a dear family prior to moving. And a book. Because there are always books around…

Speaking of I Spy and books – the first two weeks in the city we took time to get out, see the sights, and visit some museums and shops. And boy is there a whole lot of literary love in London! Some photos, the connection is obvious. Others remind me of books and authors. All of it made my heart happy as I attempt to settle my family in.

Victoria & Albert Museum: Home of the National Art Library. I squealed upon finding original sketches from Beatrix Potter AND Randolph Caldecott (he of the Caldecott Medal). Excellent books in the gift shop, including Du Iz Tak?

The British Museum: Mummies – including cat mummies – reminded my kids and I of Mummy Cat. Too bad we couldn’t find this version their gift shop (they had MANY other books, though). And real-life amulets caused my kids to ooh and aah and remember their favorite graphic novel series of the same name.

Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick Garden: The massive lanterns were inspired by the silk road, and these reminded me of the folktale Aladdin and the fairy tale Thumbelina.

LEGO store on Leicester Square: Three words – Life-size Lego Shakespeare! I had to get in this picture 🙂

Waterstone’s book shop: Comparing U.K. covers to some U.S. favorites…including a not-yet-released-in-the-U.S. Andy Griffiths book!

Gosh! Comics book shop: Shopping the outstanding selection of quality comics, graphic novels, and picture books. And the piece of Dickens ABC art didn’t go unnoticed 😉

Paddington Station: Paddington. LOTS of Paddington. Books, toys, pencils, hats…

John Lewis (an all-in-one store, a bit like a huge Nordstrom+BBB+Crate&Barrel): This journal. I love journals. And while not a piece of “literature”, this one brought a smile to my face, for I often wake up at 3am – wide awake, with swirling thoughts, usually about details relating to our move here.  Upon opening the journal, I had a moment of clarity. Because these are the words I need to remember on this London Adventure: It might be hard, but it’s worth it.

Cheers, y’all.  ♥ arika

a reflective moment

The move to London is imminent. Less than two weeks, and we’ll be there.  And not just visiting…living life.

People often ask how I’m doing. If we’re packing. Cleaning. Ready.

To be real: the answers change depending on the day, the hour, the moment.

There are many days when I’m like Piggie in Mo Willems’s I Am Going! Excited. Joyful. Effervescent. Thrilled for the adventure.

But not always. There are times when Bernard Waber’s Courage gives me strength when feeling overwhelmed.  That I *can* do this.

Some evenings though, with thoughts swirling, I’ve felt like Katie Woo in A Nervous Night: unsure and afraid.

Todd Parr’s cheerful illustrations and messages help me face my nerves. I’m Not Scared…usually.

Ultimately, though, it’s Kat Yeh’s The Friend Ship that keeps me afloat.

Knowing that friends near and far are cheering, supporting, and hoping for the best for me and my family has made the stress of the transition bearable. If this life change has taught me anything, it is that our friendships are vital. They sustain us when life becomes overwhelming. They provide reassurance.  And that no matter how big the world seems, the bonds of friendship can stretch and grow.

So thanks, friends. Every sidewalk talk, phone call, email, text, hallway & office chat, Facebook message, Instagram comment, Tweet, and moment you’ve taken to be a friend has mattered. It’s helped. And I only hope to one day repay it.

TheThankYouBook

With gratitude, arika

New year? New ideas! Kindergarten

After teaching elementary school library for over a decade, one would think there is a set lesson or format I use to map out each school year. It’s often assumed that I do the same thing, year in and year out. After all, why recreate the wheel?

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Well, I do. New classes mean new personalities. What worked with one group of children may not work with another. Our annual school learning goals need to be taken into account, as well as curricular, technological, and logistical changes. In short: I never do the same thing exactly the same way each year.WP_20141002_006

Our K’s traditionally take part in unit studies, but the books, activities, and technologies used change a bit each year. With so many new titles, apps, and websites, there will always be new ways to foster learning.  The questions used in lessons change, too, since I work to get better at incorporating critical-thinking, claim-evidence-reasoning questions. Adding strategies and ideas from the Maker movement into our lessons (when reasonable) is also a goal.      

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Protecting their garden from invading bunnies. Inspired by Candy Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

The first six weeks tend to follow a pretty set format regarding skills introduced and overall expectations. Most of my first six weeks is explained here.  Note: for the lessons listed, students visit library 1x week for 40 minutes.

  • Week 1: Play I-Spy in the Library game, learn where to sit (assigned spot) and how to sit (hands/feet to self), get to know one another with the Squishy Ball, listen to one story (first author study), show where to sit at the end of the lesson (the line near the door…no chairs/table spots), learning goal: what does an author do?
  • Week 2: Review where/how to sit, play make-believe games with Mr. Tiger (large stuffed animal mascot who I “talk” to), listen to story, barcodes & passes, self check-out (books on top of shelves only), learn whose responsibility it is to bring back book (students, not moms!)
    • Before week 3 – remind students to bring back books. No tears is the goal…
  • Week 3: review where/how to sit, play make-believe with a stuffed animal Tiger (he holds our stories…I model kindness by asking to borrow it politely, then giving it back at the end), listen to one story, begin questioning, learn E=Everybody, review what happens if you forgot your book (browsing basket), review self check-out
  • Week 4: continue week 3. No new additions.
  • Week 5: Add Rhyme Time. Continue with previous skills/expectations.
  • Week 6: Introduce book care. Continue with previous skills/expectations.

By this point, routines are usually down pat. If they’re not…it’s reteach, reteach, reteach. It’s impossible to add in how to find books if children can’t remember where to sit so that they have their own safe space.

Most of our lessons will have a focus question and includes stories and rhymes. I’ll often include movement games and make-believe to maintain interest and focus. Technology (in the form of beginning database research and project creations) is usually added in the second half of the year. Some tech I like: PebbleGo (for outer space/animal research), Flipgrid (for video responses to any literature), iPads (is perfect for K to extend learning, Daisy the Dinosaur & Lightbot Jr are great for coding). Major units outside of Author Studies may include the Geisel Award, a Wool/Fabric science collaboration, and Folklore Around the World (which includes map skills). However…

I’ve been known to extend units into first grade. To leave units out. To add new learning. Because life happens: there are subs, no school days, new classroom units.  Because each group of children is different…so my teaching should embrace and reflect their differences. And while there are certain authors I read year in and year out (Ezra Jack Keats), each group has stories shared and questions asked that best meet their needs.

Curious as to which author/illustrator units were kid-friendly AND whose stories had great questioning / conversation potential from the past few years? See below! And please note: the K’s will usually study 5-7 per year at a minimum of 3 weeks per individual.

  • Ezra Jack Keats ♥♥
  • the Mo you don’t know (lesser-known Mo Willems titles)
  • Kieko Kasza
  • Jon Klassen
  • Mac Barnett
  • Candace Fleming
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Jon Agee
  • Sergio Ruzzier
  • Deborah Freedman
  • Cynthia Rylant (usually with Arthur Howard)
  • Christian Robinson

Happy reading & teaching, y’all! ~arika

We’re Full…of Beans

Oh, Jenni Holm. How I am thankful for you.

As a parent, your books make reading fun. Babymouse was J’s first graphic novel that she loved. Proof: her 2nd grade diorama.  H, like any younger sibling, followed suit. He doesn’t care if a book is pink or blue. He’s all about fun. And Babymouse is fun to read.

When your new chapter book came out – Full of Beans – I read it. LOVED it. Talked about it. And gave it to J – now a 4th grader – to read. And she did: she likes Jenni Holm books, after all. And like the little brother he is, H picked it up. He started reading it a week ago, then said he was almost done the other night. Like a good teacher-parent, I asked what he liked about it. Turns out, there was a lot that went over his head. So: FAMILY READ ALOUD.

Full of Beans is a brilliant read aloud: fast-paced, diverse characters, memorable setting. And as we read, we sometimes talk. About Key West. Rum-running. Choices. Through your story, we’re building understanding and empathy for others whose lives might be different from ours.  We are inferring (who DID paint “Queen Dot’s Throne” on the outhouses?). Learning. Enjoying. And, ultimately, connecting.

History is a tricky subject to teach and to learn. (My childhood report cards are evidence of this.) I truly believe literature – specifically kidlit – is a magic portal for learning and understanding historical events and outcomes.  Full of Beans is a brilliantly accessible novel to introduce readers to the Depression, the New Deal, and how lives are impacted by economics. This was not my goal; rather, it is a happy result of our time spent reading and reflecting on Beans, his choices, and his family.

Our reading and conversations about Full of Beans has really stuck with my kids. Yesterday, while grocery shopping, there was a kid-initiated discussion on which character each child would choose to be and why. Ultimately, H chose Termite…because everyone loves dogs, even flea-ridden ones. J was Beans. Naturally.

So Jenni, thank you. Our family is full – full of appreciation for the stories you share with us readers year in and year out. Full of gratitude for creating memorable characters who have depth and flaws.  Full of admiration for writing historical fiction that is appealing and informative.  The bright, shiny 2017 Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award is truly deserved.

2017 Mock Predictions

Tomorrow morning – less than 10 hours, really – ALSC and ALA will announce the 2017 Youth Media Awards.

I’m not lying when I say that this is my favorite morning of the year.  I *might* get a little excited. (Read: I’ve woken up my kids by cheering each of the last 3 years). This was last year:

There’s the lead-up. Waking up at 4am PST. Making tea. Prepping breakfast. Getting devices ready – phone to Tweet, iPad to photo, desktop to view the live feed. And the, the main event. The live feed. You can find it HERE: https://www.facebook.com/ILoveLibraries/

My predictions for Newbery, Caldecott & Geisel: The Wild Robot. They All Saw a Cat. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.

Now, to get a good night sleep. The day is almost here!

2017 Mock Newbery – RESULTS!

We did it. Almost 30 students and 3 teachers took part in our Mock Newbery book club. This morning’s penultimate meeting: VOTING and the announcement of the WINNING and HONOR titles!

We had 11 titles on our ballot: the ten from our original list, and one mid-year addition.

Similar to the real Newbery Committee, students had three votes: a first place, second place, and third place. Ballots were handed out. Points were assigned. Numbers added and compared. And now: our 2017 Mock Newbery winner and four 2017 Mock Newbery honor titles.

#mtigerslibrary 2017 Mock Newbery Honor Titles

  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano
  • Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • Maxi’s Secrets by Lynne Plourde

#mtigerslibrary 2017 Mock Newbery Winner

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

We are eagerly anticipating next week’s Youth Media Awards. As we’re on the West Coast, I’m begging students to not look at the results before arriving for our final gathering – when we watch the tape-delayed 2017 Newbery announcement as a group. I cannot wait to see their reactions!

Du Iz Tak?

There’s been a lot of  buzz about Carson Ellis’s newest picture book, Du Iz Tak?: it seems like every journal, Best Of list, and bookstore has it listed as a top picture books of the year.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

You may have noticed that it wasn’t part of my Best Of 2016 list (it’s there now).  Yes, I’d read the book. It took longer expected, for a book having so few “words” (we’ll get to those in a moment).  My verdict: it was okay. Not Best Of worthy. I could leave it.

But I hadn’t stopped thinking about the book (there’s a sign).  So last night, we read it during Family Story Time.  Telling J&H (ages 9&7) that it had no real words in it piqued their interest. And 25 minutes later, we sat back, completely amazed and blown away by what Ellis created…and I admitted I was wrong.  This book is so, so worth of Best Of honors.

Let’s start with the illustrations. Ellis shows readers the passage of time – and the unfurling of Mother Nature’s gifts – with a simple, accessible ease. Grass grows, characters enter and exit with appropriate speed, seeds fall (then grow), seasons change. The cycle of life is clear, which is needed in order to make sense of the words.

The words – yes, words. You can read this story of 100% nonsense words…with a little work. And that was what made this book a grand slam to my kids. Du Iz Tak?, in our house, translated to What Is That?  Look at the cover: two insects (or oodas, as we figured out), one pointing at the green sprout – and a question mark as punctuation. It *had* to be asking What Is That?  As we read, flipping pages back and forth, we slowly figured out Ellis’s language. Using body language and gestures as well as capitalization and punctuation, we deciphered the insect’s conversation. What an exemplary example of using text features/illustrations to infer language. And for students working on decoding…it doesn’t get any better. This book is a teaching dream.

My gut says that sharing it as a whole-class read-aloud maybe tricky, but it’s totally doable. Maybe share on a doc cam would work well – to allow all to really “see” the illustrations. I’d certainly read it twice: first, without stopping, having children really pay attention to the pictures. The second time, we’d try to figure out the language. I think it’d be super-fun AND educational. Imagine pairing with an insect unit!

Fantasy. Insect Story.  ©2016.  Recommended for ages 6+. Plan on spending 20+minutes reading – and thinking through – this one.