Category Archives: Elementary library tips & tricks

Building readers with Book BINGO

Who: readers – adults and students.  This means YOU. Yes, YOU.

What: Book BINGO – a BINGO board devoted to reading different types of books.

When: Starting NOW. Or, in a school year, some time in October. This allows everyone time to settle in.

Where: Reading can happen ANYWHERE – at home, on the bus, in the car, on a plane, in class, in library.

How: With books. The books can be from home, from school, from your friends or teacher, from a bookstore or library. The books can be in English or another language that you read.  The books can be read out loud to you or as an audiobook or as an e-book.

Why: Because the best way to get better at reading is by READING. And readers need to read a wider variety of books – not just chapter books, but also nonfiction, biographies, folklore, poetry, and different genres.  This year, my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders will get to do Book BINGO.

The logistics:

  1. Choose a column to get started. This is the initial goal: to read a book for each square in the column.
  2. Read a book that matches one of the categories listed on the squares. When you’ve finished reading the book, cross off the square AND write the title on the back of the BINGO board.
  3. Repeat 1-2.
  4. When a column is finished, let the librarian know.  She’ll likely stamp it with a snazzy library due-date stamp…and check in with you on what you’re reading.
  5. Start a new column and keep reading!

The commonly asked questions:

But are there rewards?:  Yes. Rewards are for everyone who completes a column. Students will be called and recognized at the monthly school assembly. (Side note: public recognition in front of one’s peers is a powerful reward)

Can I get more than one reward?: Yes.  Read all 6 columns, get recognized SIX times.

Are there blackout rewards?: Likely so. (But don’t ask what they are…I don’t know yet!)

Where are the BINGO cards to download?:  HERE: book-bingo-pdf  They’re PDF’s and can’t be edited.  If you want the original Publisher file, leave a comment with your email.

This is FREE?:  Yes.  I created these templates and made them available for free.  🙂

Are you doing Book BINGO too, Ms. Arika?:  Yes. I’ll be doing Book BINGO along with my students, posting my reads in the hallway of the school.

Why are there are 3 versions of the BINGO board?:  One version is for each grade.  The smallest board (with 24 squares) is for grade 2, then 30 squares for grade 3, and 36 squares for grade 4.

How long does Book BINGO last?: We are reading until June…so all year long.

How do you copy them?:  Front to back. I did the front side first, then loaded the paper back into the copier and did the back side.  This kept the margin alignment on point.

And, possibly the biggest question:  Does one book count for only one square?: That’s right.  One book per square. You can’t use Harry Potter for fantasy AND first in a series AND book over 200 pages AND book by a British author.  One book, one square…and lots of reading.

I hope you find this useful for you and your students.  Make it match your readers and your audience (like the British author while I’m a #librarianinlondon).  Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Sep 4-8, 2017

Week 3 is in the books. With fewer classes than in previous years, it makes sense to combine grade levels to teach certain skills.

PreK

We warmed up with The Hello Name Song (thanks to Stephanie, the best music teacher ever for this hack!), with index cards for each child pre-placed on the floor. Doing this alleviates drama in locating a seat, gives a set way to begin class as the children walk in, and helps me (and them!) to learn names.  Here’s a peek of how it looks with the K class:

Theme unit: CATS (because why  not?). We talked about animals cats like and don’t like as our lead-in.

They LOVED Splat the Cat, and we had good discussion about how Splat felt using our Emoji Mood Meter. Hairy MacLairy, while full of rhyme and repetition, wasn’t as well-received.  To be honest, this was likely because I wasn’t feeling the story.  I chose it because the school has a complete collection of the books.  Bad choice.  Read what you love, and the lesson will likely be better for it.  I know better and will do better next week.

Kindergarten/Grade1

Begin with The Hello Name Song.

Unit: SEL / Dogs / Intro Author Study

 

After last week’s Dog & Bear discussion, we continued talking about how characters DO THEIR BEST with Peter Brown’s Chowder.  With a whizz-bang first illustration (the dog is on the toilet!), this story has the students in rapt attention.  The brain question of the week was tied to the school&life behavior expectations I teach in the library (BE KIND. BE SAFE. DO YOUR BEST. HELP THE REST.). Even though the school hasn’t adopted those sayings, I continue to repeat them whenever I see the children in the building.  How did Chowder do his best?  He didn’t give up when the ball got stuck in the tree.  He kept trying to find friends. He played kickball his best.

Chowder also lent itself to a wonderful SEL (social-emotional learning) discussion. As he’s excluded by other dogs, as he struggles with making a mistake, we consulted the Emoji Mood Meter to place Chowder’s moods.  SEL can happen in the library with a little bit of planning and the willingness to have the discussion.  Note that I don’t announce “we’re doing a SEL-themed lesson”…this is an unwritten, yet very purposeful, intention in many PreK/K/1 lessons.

Grade 2

SCIENCE TIME! With a unit of States of Matter happening in their classrooms, it was the perfect time to introduce Arnold Lobel’s Owl at Home.  With solids, liquids, and gases represented in the first story, The Guest, our conversation was rich.

Taking inspiration from Kyleen Beers & Robert Proubt’s Divergent Thinking, the BRAIN icon was introduced with a question stem from the book.  Asking children, “What surprised you?” was surprising in itself: one class had very flat answers while another had rich, thoughtful insight.  What a gift when professional reading works in daily life – and, in one case, with great results.  This is one resource I’ll continue to mine and incorporate into the library.

Grade 3/4

First up: booktalks!  As independent reading is the root of academic success, I’m aiming to increase the amount of books read.  One way to build interest and excitement is by booktalking.  Looking over the reading survey results from last week, I tailored the booktalks to the interests of the students.  Series like Ranger in Time and Bunjitsu Bunny were very popular, as were books like The Terrible Two, We Can’t All Aren’t RattlesnakesCrenshaw, and The Wild Robot.

The day’s big goal, though, was PASSWORDS. With Destiny logins in our future – and no central IT that sets student passwords – I chose to instruct on how to construct a STRONG or WEAK password and allow them to write their own. There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on how to best make a password – and it changes the rules.  Short version: write a short, 3-4 word sentence that’s important to you.  Boom: strong password.  The sentence can have a capital letter and punctuation, too. Less gibberish = easier to remember.  WIN!

Exit tickets had students writing their own password which were checked for clarity prior to the end of class.

Note: All classes did self check out, and 4th grade had 20 minutes to independently read (as their class lasts 1 hour). I sit with them during this time, reading a book, while intermittently walking around the room to check what everyone is reading and – if not reading – recommending a quick read (like a TOON graphic novel).  This worked so well for 2 4th grade EAL students in one class that they checked out the recommended quick read to read again at home!

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library ideas for little learners

What to do with the youngest students in the elementary library?  

This question is asked by many, and with good reason: the needs of the youngest learners are drastically different than those of children just a few years older.

Rhymes are perfectly suited to the PreK/K/1 crowd.  This explains how to begin Rhyme Time and includes a video demo.

For lower grades – PreK in particular – using themes to guide library lessons is one way to go.  Similar to how public library storytimes are structured, a theme is woven through the entire lesson (story/stories, songs, activity, etc).  With no curriculum standards for the 4 year olds and a long, 40 minute library class, this gives plenty of activity and some structure.  I haven’t done theme storytimes for years, but expect to have the same them for 3 weeks.

For K & 1st grade, though, standards exist (stay tuned for updates from AASL in November).  How to teach them in a meaningful way that meets the developmental needs of the 5 and 6 year old learners?  Some use the state book award nominees to guide lessons, which may work for you. Years ago, though, I tried something different: author studies.

An author study is exactly that: a chance to study an author (or illustrator) for a period of time, usually 3-4 weeks.  It gives a chance to make connections between books and characters while giving a sense of predictability to a library class: students know that when they come in, they’ll either be continuing an author unit from a previous week or starting a new unit.

There are many authors and illustrators that work well for the K/1 crowd.  In my experience, choosing those who represent a diverse background and whose books I find appealing work best.  Jon Klassen, Candace Fleming, Keiko Kasza, Mac Barnett, Lauren Castillo, Christian Robinson, Arthur Howard, Audrey Wood, Peter Brown, Brian Won, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Ezra Jack Keats, Deborah Freedman, and Anna Kang are some of my favorites.

Perhaps notably missing on that list is Mo Willems.  As many students are familiar with his famous characters, having a “The Mo You DON’T Know” unit  (with titles like Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster) can been successful.

As technologies have changed, so are the opportunities to connect with real, live authors over Skype and Google Hangouts. The virtual sessions are perfect for the shorter attention-spans of the K crowd and those with limited budgets: many authors are willing to Skype for free if the time is 10-20min. As a goal, find one author who is willing to Skype during your year.

How to build in research is one question that often crops up.  One possible answer: choose the final book in the study to springboard into research.  Perhaps, after reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, the students research tigers or another wild animal.  Or after reading Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold, the K’s research how to stay healthy.

There are other K units of study that aren’t author studies, notably Folktales Around the World (a 6 week study) and Out of this World Research with Kindergarteners (a 3-4 week unit connected to classroom science).  The important part: they’re all units.  Almost every library lesson is part of a unit.  When there is a flow, students know what to expect when they come into the library and are better prepared for a successful experience.  This is why the daily schedule is always posted, regardless of the grade level.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Rhyme Time: a how-to

A dozen or so years ago, faced with teaching Kindergarten for the first time ever, I was at a complete loss.  What to do with 5 year olds in a school library for 40 minutes?  What would benefit their development as readers?  What would be developmentally appropriate?

Thinking and brainstorming about how to structure the class led me to two ideas.  One: use author studies to structure our reading time.  Two: use nursery rhymes to build pre-reading skills.

Best. Ideas. Ever.

Nursery rhymes are well-known as one way to build reading readiness.  Chanting rhymes as a group, discovering words that sound the same, brainstorming other words that have the same sounds is a powerful tool toward building readers.  By displaying the printed rhyme and modeling the left-to-right, top-to-bottom patterns of reading, children get pre-reading skills without a formal “lesson”.  And this can be included as part of the elementary library program.

With the beginning of the year as a time to teach expectations and basic behaviors (where to sit, how to check out, where to sit after checking out, etc), Rhyme Time is usually begun in week 4/5/6 of the school year.  By this point of the year, children (mostly) know how to come into the library, sit down, and be ready for the lesson.

Back in my public librarian days, I created a flip chart with handwritten nursery rhymes, including both well-known and more esoteric offerings, as part of infant Lapsit and Toddler Time.  It’s this same chart that I’ve used ever since. To begin, I model “rhyme time fingers” (like spirit fingers).  These wiggling fingers serve two purposes: they let kids move, and they show which children are ready.  Counting aloud, patting the beat on my legs, I model chanting the rhyme by myself.  On a second run-through, students join in.

The first time we do Rhyme Time, 2 nursery rhymes are introduced.  At least one is a rhyme they should know (like Humpty Dumpty) and one they may not know (like To Market To Market). The goal is to work up to 3 rhymes each week, which are repeated for 6-8 weeks before retiring them for new rhymes.

There are variations and extensions to Rhyme Time that can be included, should the group be ready.  Some weeks, brainstorm more words that rhyme (like in Humpty Dumpty, we notice that WALL and FALL rhyme…but ask if they know any other words that rhyme with those two – like BALL, ALL, CALL, etc). Some weeks, kids will create body movements that match the rhyme.  Sometimes, have a student lead the rhymes.  It’s formally flexible instruction. 🙂

Curious as to how it looks in action?  This is week 1 of Rhyme Time a few years ago.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Aug 28-Sep 1, 2017

Week 2!

New this week: students were assigned individual iPads as part of their tech. Hearing this inspired the activity for grades 3&4.

PreK:

No library this week, as there was an all-day LEGO community build on Thursday. Six hours of building, assisting, & supervision for all grades PreK-4.

K/Grade 1

Warm up: the name song (repeated from Week 1).

Continuing with bears & SEL in the library, I shared Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear: two friends, three stories. This has always been a hit with the young crowd, and this week was no exception.

Our white board introduced a new symbol:

Part of my summer professional reading was Disrupting Thinking by Kyleen Beers & Robert Proust. Inspired by their Book-Head-Heart questioning strategy, I tweaked it to become Book-Brain-Heart. Because it was our first time seeing this strategy and it was with the K/1 students, only one icon was introduced. I believe that you go slow to ultimately go fast, especially in teaching new strategies.

Our questions today were to inspire the BRAIN to connect the story with our SEL expectations of Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest. The students were asked to think of ways Dog and Bear were KIND or SAFE in their stories. After each short story, we stopped and had turn-and-talk discussions with knee-neighbors to share how either Dog or Bear was KIND or SAFE. Interestingly, the children also expanded their discussion to include how they HELPED THE REST.

Self-checkout was better than before, and most children remembered their books. If they didn’t and they still wanted a book, it was allowed.

Grade 2:

Stories with a SEL focus was today’s objective.  Inspired by the Mood Meter from Yale’s RULER SEL curriculum, I created & introduced the emoji Mood Meter. It looks fun and kicked off our discussion: we talked about what the emoji’s might mean, how moods can change throughout the day, and how – if we were OK – we’d feel.  Being OK isn’t bad or good – it’s medium, it’s OK. This led to our story: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s The OK Book, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

Side note: AmyKR is a favorite-favorite of mine.  Share books that you love. Your joy shines through.  Faking excitement or interest in a book? Kids can tell.

While reading, if students agreed with the character that they, too, were OK at ___, they tapped their head three times. This means “I know this” or “I agree here”. Lots of children were OK at kite-flying (must be the wind in London)!

After the story, students were asked to respond to a question on a sticky note: What are you OK at?  These were attached to their library passes so they could be easily distributed. 🙂  In the future, I hope to use Padlet and have kids use their iPads to respond to questions like this.

Grades 3&4:

Tech time! Somewhere in the readings or websites I’d seen in the first three weeks, I got the idea that a student survey was a requirement for my evaluation process.  Some Pinterest searches provided inspiration for our Reading / Library Survey.

Other goals of the survey: to learn reading interests (to drive purchases), to discover likes and questions, and to informally observe/assess overall tech skill and typing comfort. Results to be analyzed in the next two weeks.

Overall, it went well…but there were learning moments.  Too many of my questions required typewritten answers for this group.  Some questions, which were included to learn a bit about the student as a person, weren’t well-received. Others were poorly worded.  Here’s the version I’d use in the future (note: it’s a google doc).

For those wondering how they got to the survey: a tinyurl of our Destiny website, where a link to the survey was placed, made the process fairly painless. If the iPads had a QR code scanner, we’d have done that. By going to the Destiny homepage, we made a shortcut link to the desktop to use in the future.  Storing surveys and weblinks in Destiny is easy and kid-friendly.  Symbaloo would also work.

Both 3rd and 4th also had an intro to the emoji Mood Meter, and 4th had booktalks as part of their hour-long library class.  Another lesson learned: booktalk first, survey second.

Phew. Busy week! Cheers, y’all! –arika

Week 1 in a new library: the behind-the-scenes work

Week 1 of 2017-2018 at my new school is in the books.  But before the lessons and teaching, here’s a bit about how I got there.  It is with careful thought and hard work that Week1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start. Tears were shed as I struggled to learn the school culture, ramp up on the new technology AND sort the library.  But we must start.

DISPLAY

The library space is different this year, but notably in that there is no place for a mobile white board for lessons to be written (and I LOVE a white board) and no wall space.  There is an AppleTV, which will be used to display a daily PowerPoint of our lesson.  Sharing our daily plan gives students a heads-up on what is happening and often answers any questions (like “are we checking out today?”). It builds accountability to the library program.

CIRCULATION POLICIES

Something new I’m trying this year: a no-limits policy in regard to circulation.  Called “take what you need”, it allows children to do just that: take the books they need for the week. Some weeks, children need more books.  Some weeks, less.  Overall, it’s about meeting their needs and giving them full access to the library collection.  I’ve not done this before, though it’s been percolating for some time.  Look for a mid-year update on how this goes – especially in regard to getting books returned.

SELF CHECKOUT

Speaking of self-checkout: we’re going for it, even though it’s never been done in this school  I believe in giving students control over their own account, starting as young as possible. This hasn’t always been the case, but time has been a lovely teacher.  How does it work?  With preK/K/1st grades, I’ll be alongside them as we scan their barcode pass and their book(s) together, taking a moment to find their name on the computer screen.  With 2nd/3rd/4th grades, I’ll be nearby as they scan their own items. From past experience, it’s with a hushed awe that they’re “allowed” to do this by themselves.

LIBRARY PASSES

In order to facilitate self-checkout, children get library passes.  Constructed of heavy posterboard (railroad board), they’re about 3″x11″ in size and have the child’s name and barcode printed on an Avery sticker (the student barcode report can be exported in Destiny, sorted by homeroom). Passes are sorted by grade and color: grade K gets pink, 1 is aqua, 2 is green, etc.  Teacher names/numbers are written in pen in the upper corner to further sort. Some people laminate them to further their life, but I leave them as paper. The library pass doubles as a shelf-marker, too.

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING / LIBRARY RULES

Self-checkout gives children a chance to practice our most important words in the most meaningful way: they Do Their Best and Help the Rest. When someone is stuck, another child usually comes to the rescue.  If they forget the order of scanning (pass first, books second), a child often steps in to assist.  Building a community of engaged learners and kind helpers is the most important to the success of the library.  Social-emotional learning is vital to the success of my library program. I’ve “borrowed” the words from my former school to incorporate into my new library: 

These words are part of every lesson for every grade for the first two months.  They’re framed and displayed throughout the library.  We’ll use them as critical thinking stems as we begin to read and think about books. They’re ways to behave, both in school and in life.

Students and teachers often ask if there are any “library rules” aside from the phrases above.  The closest “rule” in the library is “Act Like You’re in a Library”. With an international community, it’s a chance to talk about if libraries are the same across the world.  Students will be asked to explain what these words mean to them.

COLLECTION MANAGEMENT

As for the books, there’s a lovely collection that’s been curated – from series to I Can Read titles to world languages to fiction to picture books and more.  On (good) problem: there’s no wiggle room on shelves and books are bursting out of closets, awaiting shelf-space.  Weeding is Job 1.  Along with weeding, books are being streamlined into fewer categories, rearranged, and given similar call numbers.  Library barcodes are to be in the same spot on all books.

All of this is done for one reason: to best meet the needs of the students.  Self-checkout is easier when a barcode is in the same spot every week.  Finding fiction/nonfiction titles is easier when they’re all in the same general location.  Books are easier to find when the shelves have some space in which to browse and display. Behavior is easier to manage when we’re all on the same page regarding expectations and value the social-emotional learnings.  The library experience and learning should be enjoyable and memorable because the child and his/her developmental need is at the heart of every decision.

Again, I write this to share that it’s with careful thought and hard work that Day 1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start.  So pick one thing and START.  It’s not magic, and it’s not pretty.  It’s messy and sweaty and time-consuming. And it will take a long time.  But START.  You can do it.  And if I can help, please ask.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

New year, new school, new people

For the first time in a LONG time, the start of the school year was full of newness: new school, new staff, new library, new collection, new students.

Take a peek as to what I saw when I first walked in to the library:

In one capacity, it’s super exciting: a chance to start anew.  But it’s also nerve-wracking.  Sftressful. Overwhelming.

It turns out that – aside from getting to remove a LOT of plastic – the two librarians at the middle and high school level are also new to the school. It just so happened that all three librarians turned over last year, and I’m kinda glad: we three came in together, went through new teacher training together, asked one another our rookie questions, and connected over librarian-only concerns (ordering! budgets! categories! organization! standards!).  And we bonded.  So when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, there are two people in my corner who get it, no questions asked.

Note to everyone: find your people.  Take time to build the relationships at the beginning of the year.  There’s never time to do it, but make the time.  It’s worth every minute.  Find the person or people to have in your corner who’ll have your back.  It’s a sanity-saver.

I continue to be thankful that I’m working in a lower-school capacity (grades PreK-4th).  The challenges of newness are mitigated by this age level, which plays to my strengths.

Lessons and ideas will continue on this blog.  They’ll look different – the London school has different technologies and databases, challenging me to plan and pre-plan differently than ever before. With all students having iPads, how can this be meaningfully incorporated? How do apps get added to student machines (like Tellegami and ChatterPix)?  With PebbleGo not part of the current database offerings (and I love PebbleGo!), how do I get approval to get the purchase done for this school year so that students & staff can research? And how do I manage, curate, and catalog a language collection that includes over 12 languages outside of English?

Welcoming international students is a new hurdle as well. The languages spoken are numerous, and I wanted to be as welcoming as possible.  Thanks to Hafuboti for the signage, which I posted on our exterior windows, incorporating some of the more popular languages of our students.

New year.  New challenges. Deep breath, folks.  It’s go time!

Cheers, y’all.  –arika