Category Archives: picture books

Library Lessons: Sep 11-15, 2017

Week 4: International Dot Day!

Last year, I missed out on the chance to connect with other teacher-librarians celebrating Dot Day across the US / world.  This year, remembering missed opportunity, I had a prime opportunity to connect with schools in North America…and I didn’t miss out!

Due to time changes and class schedules, only 3rd and 4th grades were able to Skype/Google Hangout for Dot Day.  How’d we do it?  This Google Doc.  And by getting my name and location out there, other t-l’s across the US have been in contact so that we can connect over Global Read Aloud and other events.

In a lovely turn of events, all technology worked for each Skype/Hangout!  I’ve had some serious tech hurdles at the new school, making this turn of events much appreciated.

What’d we do?

PreK

Theme: CATS

It’s not on the white board, but we warmed up with The Name Song, followed by the storytime favorite Einy Meiny Miny Mouse flannelboard (which I do with magnet pieces).  LOVE that I saved some of these from my long-ago years at YCL in South Carolina (and brought them to London!).

Our story: Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon.  Why this?  It not only fit the theme of CATS (a kitten is a baby cat, which we discussed), and the full moon looks a lot like a DOT!  This wiggly bunch was mesmerized by the kitten’s story.  After, each child made a dot for the kitten, which was then brought to life as part of a whole-group experience using Quiver’s AR app.

K/1:

International Dot Day!  We read The Dot, then created dots as creatively as possible.

As the school library is crunched for space, I sourced clipboards for children to color on and handed out 2 crayons per child.  They could share their crayons (or not) and color anything their hearts desired. As a whole group, I used the Quiver AR app to bring their dots from flat circles to 3D spheres for the whole group to see and appreciate using an iPad that connected to the AppleTV.  Bonus: the K’s are studying shapes in their classroom!

Grade 2:

More Dot Day fun!Learning from my first lesson – where students brought their own iPad to the library to use with their dot – the second lesson I structured like the K/1 lesson in that I brought their work to life.  Similar to last year, students wrote a word to describe who they wanted to be this year. Favorite words included: kind, nice, respectful, creative, happy.

Grades 3&4:

With 40 min (grade 3) and 60 min (grade 4) class times, lessons weren’t the same.  If we had time, students made AR dots; if not, dots were sent home after a quick how-to tutorial (all students in grades 3&4 have school-issued iPads that can go home, and the app was pre-downloaded).  All classes heard the The Dot and connected with a different elementary library in the US.  Some classes had a Mystery Skype, others had a co-reading of The Dot, while still others had a share session of Dot Day creations.

We were lucky enough to connect with learners in Maryland (2 schools), Vermont, Kansas, and Alabama.  And, in case you’re wondering, these were all new connections for me – I knew no one at these schools!  My students guessed that the connections were coming from places I’d lived – WA, GA, and LA – and they were so surprised to discover new places across the US.  One of the best moments was when a student here in London realized the school in Vermont was not far from where he used to live! Another great one was when we were asked, during a Mystery Skype, whether we lived east or west of the Prime Meridian.  We’re almost exactly on top of it AND a student was wearing a t-shirt from the official Prime Meridian gift shop…making for some amazed looks.

Perhaps, though, it was the reactions that were the best.  My students have the gift of experiencing a bigger world than most kids: almost all of them have travelled extensively and attended schools in at least one other country.  That wasn’t the case for the schools we Skyped – these were kids that, almost exclusively, had attended the same school since birth.  Watching the realization set in that we were not in the US – that we were in London – was a true gift.  I am so thankful I could help broaden their world while living and teaching abroad.

Now, back to reality.  Dot Day, I’ll be back next year. I cannot wait to connect with more learners across the US and world!

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

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

Library Lessons: Aug 21-21, 2017

Week 1, y’all! New year, new school…even new country!

This week, I channeled Tim Gunn from Project Runway.  “Make it work!”, he says.  So I did.

There was a lot of newness for the children, from self checkout to library passes to assigned seats to visible daily learnings.  And there was a lot of newness for me: teaching SIX grade levels (PreK-4), learning names, answering book questions like where to find horse fiction books (Wonder Horse worked for the student) and are there any Stuart Gibbs books (no), and more.  Here we go!

(PS: Read this if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes work and decisions that went in to making Week 1 happen.)

PreK

Learning moment: the PreK children need a lot of stories, movement, songs, and activities…and 40 minutes is a LONG class for 4 year olds. I pulled a lot of tricks from the years of Read Aloud Tuesday at the Montessori preschool and my first library job doing Preschool Storytimes at the public library.

It’s not on the white board, but we warmed up with a name song.  Borrowed from my favorite music teacher Stephanie, it’s an echo song:  As we sit down – name cards are placed around the story area, helping with name recognition – I start to sing: “Hello PreK, Hello Ms. Arika”.  I change the pitch and volume during the singing, inviting them to sing along with me.  Once they’re seated, students hold their name cards in front of them and the song is sung: teacher – “Hello (name)”, student – “Hello Ms. Arika”. We’ll do this for months.

CATS were our first theme, if only because we have a Library Lion who joins us for our lessons.  He was found after we read Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle (more about how I use stuffed animals with young students is here).  Pre-reading questions include: What kinds of cats to you know? What sounds do cats make? During the story, questions included: Where do you think the cat could be?

With the Library Lion found, I shared how he was being KIND by staying quiet during the story and being SAFE by keeping his paws and tail to himself. SEL starts early!

Pete the Cat was the 2nd story, giving us more opportunities to sing. Lots of prediction questions in this one. We brought up SEL again: Pete DOES HIS BEST by keeping cool when he dirties up his shoes. No fits from Pete!

PreK did check out, though they selected from books on display or from book boxes.  They also learned the beginning parts of self checkout: having their library pass ready to be scanned first.

Kindergarten / Grade 1

 

Even though I used the Library Lion with the K/1st grades, the story Library Lion was too long for our first library class.  Otto the Book Bear was, however, the perfect length and full of opportunities for critical thinking.

Note that the K and 1 children also warmed up with the name song (described above), though it isn’t on our white board. This helps with learning student names and is a nice way to transition into the library.

During Otto, students were asked: How might Otto feel after his family moved away? What other places might Otto like to visit?

Students also observed how the end papers changed from the beginning of the book to the end. That they noticed this week 1 was great!

Self-checkout happened this week, too: I modeled how to use the library pass as a shelf marker, how to find the sticker barcode on the book, and how to go to the circ computer. Once there, more modeling/teaching was done to help children check out their own book(s).

Grade 2/3

One of my very favorites – School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.  This was an apt choice, as our building is undergoing some serious construction. Every day, there is a cacophony as jack hammers, saws and more are worked in the room above the library (we’re in the basement).

This story gave us some great conversation regarding feelings: the building has emotion, and it changes depending on the situation. How very human! We worked on recognizing how the building felt and what may have caused the feeling.

Notice #4: Who are YOU? In building a community of learners, students were asked to send in a picture of their family or who they live with. We are all more than “just” a student or a teacher or a librarian: we are the product of our lives outside of school. On the same sheet, an overview of the library program was given for all grades, PreK-4th.  The photos sent in will be on display for Back to School Night.

Self-checkout happened, and students were informed of the new “take what you need” circulation policy. No limits on books, merely a request that children take what they’ll use in a week’s time.

Grade 4

Two stories: one fun, one serious, both which give opportunities to bring SEL into the library.

One self-centered rabbit who wants undivided attention, until something better comes along. One boy who feels invisible, until a new kid gives him the courage to reach out and feel valuable. Two different stories, two great conversations.

In You’re Finally Here, students were asked: What’s one word you’d use to describe the rabbit? Why?

In The Invisible Boy, students were asked: What do you think is worse – feeling invisible or being laughed at? Did Brian (the invisible boy) do anything to make himself invisible? Did he do anything to help become visible?  What choices do we have when we feel certain ways?

In future lessons, I hope to use these two titles to springboard Destiny book reviews.

At checkout time, students were pumped to utilize self checkout and the new “take what you need” library policy.  Interestingly, most children chose 2-3 books – though one chose 8, all on reptiles. There’s always one 🙂

With a new-to-me 60 minute library class (new for them, too), I decided to take a page from Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and build in dedicated time for independent reading.  Under consideration is the 40 Book Challenge (if I can figure out a good way for 3 classes to track their work).  Children had 15 minutes of silent reading time. Win!

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

This Is How We Do It by Matt LaMothe

There’s been a push in education (and in school libraries) to make connections with those outside of our building.  Tools like Skype and Google Hangouts make it easier to see and interact with children outside our school walls, but those connections are usually across the US.  Trying to get out of North America and learn about others in the world is harder, if for no other reason than the time differences. And that’s where books and librarians can come into play.

It takes a concerted effort to teach global understanding and build empathy for others.  Finding titles that encompassed multicultural backgrounds and deepened world understanding AND are engaging read-alouds is even harder.  Lucky for us, there’s a new book to make teaching global literacy a bit easier.

This is How We Do It: one day in the lives of seven kids from around the world by Matt LaMothe

Children take center stage as they explain what their daily lives are like in seven diverse countries around the world.  Because none of the countries featured are from North America (children from Japan, Russia, Uganda, Peru, India, Iran, and Italy are included), it stands to reason that this was created for children with background knowledge from that continent.  The big takeaway is that we have similarities regardless of where we are from: we play, we go to school, we eat meals, etc.  It’s the little details that make our countries, our cultures, distinctive: while many children walk to school, it is what they experience on that walk – from mosques to fruit stands to cafes – that is unique to their country and culture.  The crisp font and child-like illustrations lend themselves to sharing with a group, and the captions on each page, describing the child’s experience in each country, are brief yet informative.  A book with a timeless quality, this is highly recommended.  Share with ages 6-10.

For teachers developing and implementing social-emotional learning in their classrooms, This is How We Do It is a must-purchase. Oftentimes, a lack of cultural awareness or knowledge is what leads to exclusion and bullying in schools.  There are rich research opportunities within these pages, too. Paired alongside the CultureGrams database, students could research about lives of children not featured in this book and – potentially – create their own.

Were I still teaching in the Northwest, this would be the 4th book in a “Learners Around the World” unit (the other three are Rain School, Waiting for the Biblioburro, and I’m New Here).

 

This Is How We Do It publishes on May 2, 2017.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Triangle by Mac Barnett

There’s something special about a book cover that has no text on it. It may well be the eyes.  Martin’s Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier, stands out as the larger-than-life portrait of Dr. King emits radiant life through his smile and eyes. Similarly, Jerry Pinkney’s Lion and Mouse depicts a lion’s strength – and ultimate downfall – through reproachful yet alert eyes.

It stands to reason, then, that there would never be any text on the cover of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s latest collaboration, Triangle.  Because Klassen is, if anything, the master of the picture book eye. With a (not-so) simple dot, he lets readers know how characters feel and think. Paired with Barnett’s always-unique storyline, this hotly-anticipated book didn’t disappoint.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, pictures by Jon Klassen

Triangle lives in the land of triangles: triangle-shaped house, door, even art. Wide eyed, he gives an innocent vibe.  But don’t be fooled: he is a sneaky fellow and, one day, sets off to play a delightful trick on his friend Square.  Square, seeking revenge, chases Triangle back to his house.  Readers will delight in predicting Square’s predicament of not fitting through Triangle’s door and inferring whether Square’s intentions were to play a similar sneaky trick on Triangle.  Square’s legs and – yes – eyes give it away: he is a square, after all.  The first in a planned trilogy (lucky us!), Barnett continues to create inventive, unique storylines and, paired with Klassen, he’s at his best.  Highly recommended.  Share with ages 3+.

The case design stands out, too: a board over paper cover, with rounded corners and heavier-than-average stock pages sewn into the binding. With no dust jacket, there is no chance to a peek underneath for any additional insight into the mind or actions of either character. A well-played choice.

Let’s circle back (pun intended) to Martin’s Big Words and Lion and Mouse.  The two covers shown earlier were upon initial publication. Today, however, they look like this:

People – librarians, booksellers, teachers, students – saw something in those eyes.  They stood out.  Were memorable.  Impactful.  One can only speculate if Triangle will join their esteemed ranks.

One thing is for sure: kids won’t be able to take their eyes off this one!

Triangle was published March 14, 2017 in both the US and the UK

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Candlewick/WalkerUK booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Newbery Honor Author.  Caldecott Award Illustrator.  Those two facts alone would sell a book, but when it’s Gennifer Choldenko (of Al Capone Does My Shirts fame) and Dan Santat (the brilliant Beekle creator) that we’re talking about, just take my money now.  Because their collaborative effort Dad and the Dinosaur released yesterday.  And we are all richer for it.

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Young Nicholas is afraid of everything – from big concepts like the dark to inconsequential things like manhole covers.  But don’t tell his dad, who is the biggest, bravest, most fearless person Nicholas knows and who knows that Nicholas is, too.   And Nicholas can be brave – when he has his trusty little dinosaur by his side.  The small, plastic dinosaur he carries gives him the strength to be big and confident.  It goes with him everywhere, small but mighty, until the day it goes missing. Nicholas had it tucked securely in his sock during his soccer game, and he’s desperate to go out and find it.  But it’s bedtime.  Dark.  Nicholas must face his greatest fear – disappointing his dad – if he’s going to get the dino back.  The tender side of fatherhood isn’t often seen in picture books, and even more rarely when interacting with young sons.  Choldenko’s story – paired with Santat’s eye-catching illusrations – is one for every dad to read and share.  A great springboard to talk about fears and how children can cope with them.  Share with ages 4-10.

Dan Santat created the trailer for the book, below.  Is anyone else as happy as me to see another Santat book featuring dinosaurs?

Still another sneak peek – click the picture below for a flip-through of of Dad and the Dinosaur from Dan.

#DadAndTheDinosaur written by Gennifer Choldenko, art by Me. In stores March 2017

A post shared by Dan Santat (@dsantat) on

 

Dad and the Dinosaur released March 28, 2017 in the US.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Penguin Random House booth. Look how busy it was!

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika