Fall 2015 Update: Teaching, Leading, Inspiring

With the first trimester completed, it’s a great time to recap what has been taught and accomplished in the school library. (Full disclosure: reflecting, while often done mentally, is MUCH harder to do in writing.) Here’s (most) of what happened in the first 14 weeks of my 2015-2016 school year:



  • Completed three author/illustrator studies, reading a wide selection of titles from Audrey Wood, Mo Willems, and Arthur Howard.
  • Learned about the jobs of authors and illustrators and how authors are represented on a book’s spine label.
  • Explored the E/Everybody and I Can Read sections of the library, locating titles by authors shared in class.
  • Understood the importance of caring for books when examining ruined, discarded titles.
  • Discovered books about wild animals in the 500 section of nonfiction and pets in the 600’s, which related to their classroom-based animal projects
  • Incorporated purposeful movement, as it is important that these students move every week. Recited rhymes to start each lesson – we call it Rhyme Time.  Used hands to act out where to find wild animal and pet books in the non-fiction section (5 = wild animal paw swipe; 6 = 3 pet whiskers on each side of the cheeks).
  • Modeled and introduced questioning strategies, beginning with “I Wonder” questions. Students are frequently asked to explain their thinking, using both the text and life experiences as references.  One example of this: when reading Mr Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, Mr Putter is at a loss when faced with the naughty dog Zeke. Students are asked to give advice to Mr. Putter, based on what they know about dogs or what they think Zeke will respond to based on the story.

2nd Grade:

  • Celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day, reading pirate stories and researching real-life pirates using WorldBook Kids database.
  • Discovered how students and schools across the world are similar/differentRead fiction stories Rain School and Waiting for the Biblioburro, then researched true facts using CultureGrams and YouTube (videos of news clips).
  • Explored OTTER Award nominees, including placing informal holds on any title of interest. The nominees were The Hit of the fall! With up to nine copies of each book, students are reading like crazy. The hold list is still long, but we’re making headway!
  • Began reading WCCPBA nominees. A nice compare/contrast was made between Mogie and Gaston – how are the dogs the same and how are they different? Using the text to find ways aside from their looks was key.
  • A special October 30th storytime featured Mac Barnett’s charming Leo: a ghost story. Listening the final version of a story they’d heard last year when Mac visited our school was a treat..as was seeing the NYTimes-honored illustrations of Christian Robinson!

4th Grade:

  • Connected Michael Hall’s Red to our school expectations…which were connected to expected behaviors in the library.
  • Reviewed and retaught how to use Destiny to make recommendations, write reviews, place holds, and make friends. A Code of Conduct was reviewed and signed by each student, expressing the integrity they’re expected to maintain when using school technology. Students practiced each skill, writing reviews for Red, making ME a friend, and logging on/off appropriately.
  • Explored Sasquatch nominees, and set reading goals. In reflecting on this, I’ve noticed many students choosing to not read the nominated titles. What to do, what to do…
  • Researched a self-selected topic related to NW Coastal Peoples (the fall SS unit). All students practiced taking notes, rewriting them into original paragraphs, citing their source, then sharing their research in unique Flipgrid videos.  This project took FIVE WEEKS…but the process was important. The videos will be peer-reviewed in the next two weeks!
  • Read and discovered traits of myths – NW myths in particular. Sharing Coyote in Love for this lesson allows for students to practice predicting and inferring.
  • Similar to the 2nd graders…a special October 30th storytime featuring Mac Barnett’s charming Leo: a ghost story. Listening the final version of a story they’d heard last year when Mac visited our school was a treat..as was seeing the NYTimes-honored illustrations of Christian Robinson! This served as a TREAT for all students who had completed the note-taking portion of the NW Coastal Peoples research.

Inspiring…in the library:

  • By popular demand, began and sustained a weekly Lunch & Listen storytime with 5th graders. Missing even one week – even due to a power outage – is no excuse for the story-starved students.
  • Selected 30 students (of the 60+ applicants) to participate in Global Reading Challenge, a reading event sponsored by the King County Library. The 4th and 5th graders are in teams of 6 and aim to read/remember as much as possible about six different books. At our meetings, students eat lunch, swap books, and answer teacher- and student-created questions about the titles. Along with a 5th grade teacher, we host the weekly meetings during lunch/recess in the library. I read and wrote questions about one title, and students are asked to do the same. We remember what we write 🙂
  • Volunteers! Met with the PTA library chairs – planned and hosted two hour-long parent volunteer training sessions, planned and organized the fall book fair. Student volunteers come in daily – they cover magazines, check in / out books during open recesses, and manage kindergarten library books and passes.
  • Book fair!! Hosted a 3 day fair (due to a power outage). Ordered all materials and restocks from Scholastic, distributed flyers to all students (with hours printed on address labels!), booktalked dozens of titles, hosted a hugely popular Family Night…and made over $4,000 for the library. YAY!
  • Utilized our new iPads. The 4th grade uses them when filming Flipgrid videos and accessing Destiny.

Leading – PD and goals:

  • Attended the SLJ Leadership Summit in Seattle. Best takeaway: http://www.bezosfamilyfoundation.org/students-rebuild
  • Attended and presented at the 2015 WLMA Conference in Yakima, WA. My session was Operation: Motivation! A year of enthusiasm in the elementary library. As nervous as I was that no one would stick around for the last session on the last day, colleagues from across the state stayed to listen. Truly honored. Best takeaway: http://www.slideshare.net/Donalynm/the-best-books-of-2015-so-far
  • Attended and presented at the 2015 AASL Conference in Columbus, OH. My session was Easy as 1,2,3:designing an essential library program for young students. Another huge honor. Reflecting on the experience, I know what to do to improve as both a presenter and a K/1 expert.  Learning what to spend more time on – and what to leave out – was a good growth experience. Best takeaway: http://national.aasl.org/58543aasl-1.2740177/t019-1.2740640/fri011-1.2740647/a042-1.2740654
    • Of note: gave similar presentation to district librarians in October.
  • Attended SLJ webinar on littlebits, a very cool Makerspace / coding platform. Super-cool that our art department already has a set ready for use.
  • Submitted proposal to WLMA to establish a new state book award – the OTTER Award – designed for transitioning readers. No word yet on what will happen, but I’m very optimistic!

SO! The first trimester has been busy. A bit of reflection and random thinking:

  • Read and teach traits of myths BEFORE Thanksgiving for 4th grade to better connect to classroom learning (ultimately, myths are part of their assessment).
  • Find more stories about students in school around the world for 2nd grade – only read and mapped stories from 2 continents in our mini-unit.
  • Make Halloween week a dividing line – have mini-units or studies finished at that time so that classes can enjoy a reading week.
  • GRC – email home families as soon as teams are formed (email is my least favorite). Give students questions to prep during Winter Break.
  • Virtual library training? Have a video they can watch at home?  Shelving tips?  Hmm…
  • HUGE success running a 3 day fair (versus a 5 day fair). Had more sales – especially books. Only 1 day with the Fun Zone was amazing.
    • Schedule K/1 classes in 2-20m chunks – browse/buy times.
  • Dot Day – to celebrate or not? Maybe alternate with Talk Like a Pirate Day?
  • Continue to have students responsible for checking in K books and pre-sorting library passes into YES/NO piles before check-out (yes = can check out/ no = can’t check out…much easier)
  • Lunch & Listen is the Best Thing Ever. Keeping it 5th grade has worked well.
  • Need more K-3 students in at recess. Reach out to teachers to let them know students can come in.
    • Maker days?

And…that is all. For now. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Fall 2015 Update: Teaching, Leading, Inspiring

    1. ajdickens Post author

      Hi! I read aloud to the 5th graders while they eat lunch each Wednesday. By far, it is their favorite time of the week – I’ve had many parents come up at 5th grade graduation and tell me how much their child enjoyed this time. Any book I can finish in one lunch period is fair game – we’ve done wordless books, Piggie & Elephant, Finding Winnie, Tricky Vic – truly, any book. The only downside? I don’t eat until much later…but it is so worth it.

    1. ajdickens Post author

      Thanks for the question. I’m sorry for the delay in replying – life got in the way.
      I do have handouts; however, because they include student images, I can’t publish them (they were signed off to be shared at conference, but not to be published online). I can send a handout of the basic gist of what was covered, though. Email me at arika dickens @ yahoo dot com (no spaces), and should I find the handouts I’ll get them to you. Cheers! –arika


Leave a Reply. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s