Category Archives: School library lessons

Library Lessons: Sep 25-29, 2017

Week 6. Time is moving right along.

PreK:

Continuing the COUNTING theme. We started, as usual, with The Name Song and Little Mouse, Little Mouse (neither are listed…too many words for the PreK children!).


These two stories were PERFECT for the PreK set.  Sergio Ruzzier’s Two Mice was both simple and complex, as there were many places for inferencing and predicting.  Mac Barnett’s Count the Monkeys was, as usual, an interactive gem.  Picking books that give opportunities to talk and move will serve you (and your little learners) well!

K/1:

Continuing the Author Study with Peter Brown.  The best part of this week’s lesson was the BRAIN question: what surprised you?  So many surprises, from Tiger walking on all four legs to getting undressed to going back to the city.  Open ended questions like these allow all students to participate without fear of being “wrong”.

Notice that this week, I left off the bottom of the spine label AND the period from the underlined title.  This was a teachable moment – it took about 90 seconds and will be part of the review for the next 2-3 months.

Grade 2:

First: reading for the sake of reading.  No agenda, no questions, no work…purely a story to enjoy.

Next: Book BINGO! More about that HERE.

Know that some of the BINGO sections were chosen to match last week’s Scavenger Hunt. Students should now know where to find Fairy/Folk Tales, series, nonfiction. Next time, I’ll add biographies and poetry to the hunt!

After sharing the goals of BINGO, I booktalked 2-4 titles that would be great fits for their BINGO board.  From titles like Ready, Freddy! to Bunjitsu Bunny to Mercy Watson, many books were getting checked out to support the BINGO board.

Grades 3/4:

Same as grade 2: reading for the sake of reading. No agenda, no work: students LOVED AKR’s Exclamation Mark.  (side note: so do I!)

Book BINGO was the big lesson, followed by booktalks and goal-setting (which BINGO column would be their first to tackle).

Some background: SO many of these students wanted to know why we weren’t doing Battle of the Books (which was done by the previous librarian).  Short answer: because we’re doing something that allows everyone to participate.  Longer answer: BINGO supports all language learners as books can be read in any language.  It allows students to achieve success if they move mid-year.  Extra copies of the same books don’t need to be purchased. Books can be in any language and from anywhere. MORE books and a wider variety of books are read with Book BINGO than in Battle (where the same 6 titles are repeatedly read).  No class time is needed to run BINGO, as compared to Battle. No extra meetings need to take place. Diverse titles are supported in BINGO (though, as an international school, diversity is already a big part of their lives).  I love that everyone – adults and students alike – can participate and succeed and grow with Book BINGO!

Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Sep 18-22, 2017

Week 5!  The time is flying.

PreK:

New unit: COUNTING.  We started with The Name Song, then did the Little Mouse, Little Mouse color/counting/guessing rhyme from last week (note: I always hide the mouse before they come in. My pieces are magnetic, too).  They were so excited to play this game again!  We’ll use it one more time before changing it up.  Patterns and repetition works with the littles.

Made in my long-ago days as a preschool storytime librarian!

Stories included another Pete the Cat – this time, with his four groovy buttons.  And Doreen Cronin’s counting adventure Click Clack, Splish Splash gave good opportunity to talk about what was actually happening in the story and why it was happening.  Why were the ducks sneaking?  Why was it important that the farmer was sleeping?  Building in opportunities for children to think and wonder about their reading at a young age will serve them well as they grow as readers.

You may notice our main slide doesn’t include much of this work.  Why?  Too many words/images.  I keep it simple for the pre-K’s visual needs.  More isn’t always better.

Grades K&1:

Author study: Peter Brown.  Intro song: The Name Song.  This week: My Teacher is a Monstert! (no, I am not).  No image was put on the slide…and here’s why: I forgot!  Noticing this error before the class came in, I could’ve added it, but I chose to use it as a thinking question moment.  After sitting down, students talked with knee-neighbors about what they think a teacher-monster would look like.  Ideas included sharp teeth, rough skin, purple or green, big size, pointy nails and more.  This was a perfect way to build an open-ended question into the lesson and engage all students.

Know that each week, prior to check out, we review expectations related to self-checkout and locating books (using our shelf marker, how to scan the barcodes, etc).  It takes 2-3 minutes, but I’m taking time at the beginning to reinforce and review.  One of my favorite sayings in teaching is “go slow to go fast.”  Slow down at the beginning of the year (and week 5 is still the beginning!) and work with intention to teach the skills and behaviors you really value and that will ultimately benefit the child.

Grades 2, 3, 4:

Emoji Scavenger Hunt!  After last year’s Pokemon Go to the Library hunt, I chose to edit the clues and streamline the hunt into a single hunt for all grades.  What I learned: it was perfect for grade 3 learners, a little too easy for grade 4 and too long (though not too hard) for grade 2.  But, my assessment was informal: at the end, students were asked if they found a space in the library that they didn’t know about…and 95% of students answered YES.  Success, even if they didn’t complete the hunt.

Students did the hunt with a teacher-selected partner.  The reasons partners are teacher-selected are many, but the big ones are: 1 – it eliminates fretting over “who will be my partner?”; 2 – it keeps kids focused on directions, as they’re not fretting about finding a partner; 3 – students who need specific partners (a strong reader with a student who struggles; a student who speaks Italian with the student who speaks multiple languages) can be placed together and not left out.

Full procedures for how to do the hunt are found in the Pokemon link above, including a timeline of how it looks in a 40 minute class.

This year there was a bonus question: if students finished early, they were to think of a clue I could’ve asked.  There were some great ones: where the family photos are hanging, where the daily directions are found, a cozy spot with a rooftop. These are all places in our library that they found important and meaningful.  I’d also include the E section (who knows why I left it out!), poetry, and more nonfiction.

Questions? Wonders? Please ask.  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

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

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:

The new library. Wish me luck! #librarianinlondon #hawkslslib #librariansofinstagram #library

A post shared by Arika Dickens (@ms.arika_) on

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