Category Archives: Book a trip

Bringing literature to life with Skype

London. It has its iconic buildings, red buses, and afternoon teas. Sounds great.  And it is…to an adult.

To a child, though, there is only one thing they’re interested in when it comes to London:  Harry Potter.  And there is one place that stands out, a spot that’ll determine if she is a witch or he a wizard: Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

Both are real places – a fact lost on me when I first read the books.  And lucky me: I got to share them via Skype with a class of 2nd graders who read and compared US and UK editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone earlier this school year.  This group, I thought, would love to “see” the platform and the real King’s Cross.  Technology – Skype – could help make it happen.

I sent a query email to their teacher Ms. A, asking if she was interested in a virtual field trip.  (Note: this was quite deliberate –  I know that Ms. A loves England & London.)  A Skype rookie, she was willing to try something new because London! England! HARRY POTTER!  Making literature come alive!!  It was the tech that could be tricky.  Because while my former school is Microsoft school, few teachers use Skype (or any other platform) to connect to the world and expand the classroom walls.  It was a goal of mine, once in London, to help change that. 🙂

Ms. A was great at sorting it out (a very English phrase): securing a wide-angle camera and a better mic from the district, asking for help from the tech folk when needed, setting up a Skype account.  I was ready with the Skype app on my phone and wifi.  And together, we made some magic.

I “toured” King’s Cross with the class – it’s enormous, with trains and a tube (subway) station, dozens of restaurants and people everywhere – then made our way to the platform.  Along the way, I answered questions, showed them the official Platform 9 3/4 shop, and asked them questions about HP.

Skype was a perfect tool for our virtual field trip, though I imagine Google Hangouts would also work well.  Some helpful tips (learned in “The School of Trial and Error”) for hosting a Skype literature field trip:

  • Do a practice call in advance!  Make sure the mic/camera/connection/usernames work.
  • Make sure the whole class has heard the book & knows about the location to be shared.
  • Have students submit questions in advance in the event of tech troubles.  Ms. A emailed hers to me.  They were partially about HP, partially about London, but all from their heart.
  • Use a mic and headset for the single presenter.  This is a MUST!  My mic/headset earbuds were vital to the success.
  • Know your “tour” and literature. Don’t start at the main event…lead up to it.
  • Plan for 20 minutes.  Much more and people get restless.

And some reflection:

  • Have some student interaction/movement.  I asked students to share their Hogwarts house and which was their favorite character, but I should have done more with this.  Maybe a  “who said this line?” quiz?
  • Come up with questions to ask the class that require everyone to participate.  Again, I could have done better…
  • Ask the students if there is anything they would like to see more of.  I feel like I went way too fast through the train station and that it was a blur.  I should have slowed down!
  • Find someone to interview?  Maybe the people at the HP store, maybe someone waiting in the Platform 9 3/4 line…

Thanks, Skype, for making our world a bit smaller AND bigger.  Technology allowed us to expand the walls of learning outside of a suburban Seattle school and connect to a city thousands of miles away.  It also allowed this homesick librarian to see and interact with her students in a way not possible a decade ago.  Win-win, all around.

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

Book a Trip: summer 2014 edition!

It’s August – wow!  The middle of summer – at least for those in the Pacific NW.  I’ve not been ignoring the blog; rather, I’ve been traveling, traveling, TRAVELING!  Vegas for ALA in June, down South for the Fourth of July, and a long family trip that just ended a couple of days ago.

Similar to the last big vacation I took with my family, I decided to document each day of the last trip, the big one, with a different book.  Something from each book – the title, the plot, the characters – reminds me of events from the day.

These are the thirteen books that give a glimpse of what we were up to over the last two weeks.  In that time, 7 states were visited and 7 stops were made.  Care to guess where we went and what we did?  Comment below!

 

Book a Trip!

Schools in Washington have a mid-winter break, a week off of school, in February.  This year, my family used the week to travel away from the cold, gray drizzle that permeates our winters.

While on the trip, I decided to document each day with a different children’s book title – one that would give a little insight into what happened during the day: a place we went, a person we met, or an activity we did.  Why share pictures from a trip when I can connect it to books, right?

These are the eight book titles that give a glimpse of what I was up to last week. Care to make it a game?  Guess where we went!

Disclaimer: While I didn’t read any of these books during the trip, I did read a suitcase full of other books (including this, this, this, this, and this).