Category Archives: School library lessons

Reflecting on Students Reading…or not

Developing students into readers who read & talk about books, who clamor to get their hands on the next hot title: this is one of my goals as an elementary librarian. I want to build a generation of passionate readers.

So as I reflect on this school year – on my students, on their reading needs – I look at all aspects of my program to see if the choices I’m making best meets this goal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my current grade 3 & 4 students. They’ll be the grade 4/5 students next year who need continued inspiration to jump into and continue exploring the wonders of middle grade novels.  They deserve something amazing, something inspiring, something that will awaken their passion for reading.  And as the person they come to for book advice, I can’t let them down.

So next year, I’m trying something new to inspire them to read with wild abandon.  My students, along with others in some nearby schools, will be participating in the first (possibly annual) Rainier Reading Challenge.  It’s a bracket-style competition with 8 books vying to make it to the top of Mt. Rainier (which we can see on a clear day here in the PNW).  Voting will happen in stages, so student engagement should stay high.  Student interest, diversity of authors/characters, reading levels, professional reviews, genres, and cover images were all considered when selecting the 8 titles.

You’re welcome to join.  More info on the award and its eight titles to be shared tomorrow.

Cheers, y’all!


PS: a huge shout-out to my friends Julie, Leah, Sarah, Christina, Juliana, and Elizabeth – thank you for listening, for offering feedback, and for being an awesome Professional Learning Community.  This wouldn’t exist without you.  Thank you to my son H for coming up with the name Rainer Reading Challenge.  You’re one of those I hope to inspire to read with wild abandon.

Library Lessons: Feb 25-Mar 1, 2019


Week 1 of our new author/illustrator study with Deborah Freedman!  Her stories are brilliant tie-ins to the SEL / social-emotional learning happening in our building this year.

Grade 1:

It’s WCCPBA time.  We will spend 4-8 weeks on this unit.  We’ll look at all types of books, at characters and how they act, and consider which story is our favorite and why.

Grades 2&3:

Shark Weeks!  Combining a few WA State Book Awards (WCCPBA & Towner) AND research AND critical thinking, this 3-4 week unit promises to be fun.  Week 1: SHAWN LOVES SHARKS by Curtis Manley.

Grades 4&5:

More media literacy on being aware online.  When discussing phishing a few weeks ago, a grade 4 student brought up catfishing. While it wasn’t part of what I expected to teach, I decided to include a lesson on it…because if a 9 year old has heard the term (but isn’t clear on what it means), then it’s worth the time.

Is catfishing this?

Nope!  It’s not fishing for catfish, either.  As we learned, catfishing is:

There was a LOT of conversation about this topic.  It seemed like half of the students in each class had examples they were willing to share when either they or their parents had seen a catfishing scam.

Led by Google’s Be Internet Awesome slides & curriculum, our discussion focused on “Let’s Talk” – how do you know it’s really them?  Students shared many ways they could identify if a person was real.  Then I shared a screen cap I’d taken a few weeks earlier from Instagram of a new follower (only the first slide).  I asked what they noticed and what they’d do if they were me.  Many knew about blocking, but only a handful knew that they could look in the account to “see” more about the follower (the second & third slides).

One student brought up how sometimes people care about their number of followers.  This was a good conversation point!  Another mentioned that they don’t have Instagram so they don’t have to worry about this.  To that end, I reiterated that the focus was on being aware when online in any situation: social networking, gaming, email, research, etc.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Oct 29-Nov2, 2018


Laura Vacarro Seeger is a favorite, especially her DOG AND BEAR stories.  These last two weeks have been a lovely mini-study.

Note: all K classes start with The Name Song for the first 8-12 weeks of the school year. In a 30 minute class, this can take up to 3-4 minutes. But I think it’s important to greet each child by name and to learn their names ASAP, so the song is sung. Plus: singing!

Grade 1:

The final week in the Peter Brown author / illustrator study. This story gives readers an excellent chance to determine the difference of whose name appears on the spine label, as the previous 4 stories were all E BRO.  We always credit the author first. 🙂

If there was more time – a famous phrase uttered by many a teacher and librarian – students would have created their own CREEPY CARROTS.  Alas – our 30 minute classes do not lead to such creative endeavors (unless the lesson were to spill into next week…and next week is the start of something enormous!.)

Grade 2:

Since our library Symbaloo is complete and loaded into Destiny (at least, the links I’ve added), it’s time to highlight the resources with my students.  First up: MYSTERY DOUG. MYSTERY DOUG is, without a doubt, one of my favorites to share with students & teachers.  Each week, a video is sent to a subscriber’s email address.  Want to unlock all Doug’s videos? Simply enter 5 email addresses, and voila!  I used 5 of my own emails: school, home, home 2, old school email, and spouse’s email.  They get a link to sign up (which is easily ignored), and I get all the videos Doug has ever made for free!

The only downside to MYSTERY DOUG is that the video bank isn’t available for students to view independently at home or in class.  Honestly, though, that’s a small quibble for the richly researched, high quality videos Doug creates answering science-themed questions from students around the world.

Since Doug has a video on “Do bats drink blood?”, this was an ideal way for grade 2 to wrap up their BATS unit while highlighting our catalog’s resources.  While we watched, I pointed out how Doug gives credit to the sources he uses for images in his videos.  Authentic lesson on copyright – YES!  We also fact-checked Doug’s information using what had been learned when researching bats in PebbleGo the previous week. WIN-WIN!

Grade 3:

Because Mystery Doug is so good – grade 3 got in on the action, too!  Their video – ‘What makes pumpkins orange?‘ – was timely, given that it was Halloween week.

Grades 4/5:

If you ever want to have your students watch a video and literally OOH and AAH and ask questions, Mystery Doug’s video on ‘How do things glow in the dark?‘ is for you.  And them.  We ended up pausing the video a few times to think, to reflect, and to react.  And just like in grade 2, I make sure to point out how Doug gives credit whenever he uses information or sources that aren’t his own.

Why this video this week? Glow in the dark things are super-popular during the fall.  Kids know about glow bracelets.  Most, though, don’t know how the science works.  The chance to embed real-life learning into our library class is a chance I’ll take. 🙂Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Sep 10-14, 2018

Week 2 = the first week for check out this year!

Something I didn’t mention in Week 1: learning names. This should be a post in and of itself, as learning All The Names is one of the more challenging hurdles of the specialist life.  However, there are a few tips & tricks that have worked for me that I can share.


There are 6 K classes this year – 5 in a row on Monday afternoon, and 1 on Thursday.  Since school started on a Wednesday, this week was Week 1 for the Monday classes…and they did not check out.  The Thursday class DID check out.

For more about teaching kindergarten at the beginning of the year, read the following:

Grade 1:

Author study time!  Hello, Ryan T. Higgins!

Due to 30 minute classes and our first check-out, there wasn’t much time for questioning or reflection.  However, know that I always ask inferencing / predicting questions as I read aloud, and that stories often end with a Thinking Question.  A good one for this would be: Do you think Bruce is a good mother?  What evidence from the story supports your thinking?

Grade 2/3:

Perhaps the third year in a row I’ve used this lesson.  I like it.  So do the students.

This year, with only 30 minute classes – and this being our first week of (self) check out – we celebrated Dot Day over 3 weeks.  It ultimately incorporates literature, self-reflection, augmented reality, and digital citizenship.

Grade 4/5:

Week 1 was relatively easy: welcome & a read aloud.  Week 2, though: I was at a complete loss of what to do.  The availability of technology wasn’t entirely clear, the 4/5 classes were huge, and the students were bigger than I’d remembered.  I wasn’t ready to jump right into “big” learning.  Looking to the news, I became inspired: a huge hurricane was bearing down on the Carolinas, and I felt it was important for my students to realize that their country (and the world) was bigger than the small snow globe in which many of them live.  Hence: TWO BOBBIES by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery.  We looked at a large map to see where Hurricane Florence was, we talked about where in the US hurricanes occur (not the PNW), and we started a read-aloud that tells the story of a dog and a cat who became bonded for life after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Next week: finishing up the story.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Nov 26-30, 2018

If it looks like lessons are repeating – they may be. SO many holidays or field trips or delays due to power outages and snow this year…


Grade 1:

Grade 2:

Grade 3:

Grade 4/5:

also, because it needed a quick refresher: how NOT to leave the Graphic Novel section after browsing…

Library Lessons: Sep 5 2018

Week 1 came too fast this year. Having been hired not two weeks before, I was *not* prepared in ways that I expect of myself.  Excuses or valid reasons?  Either way:

  • Library passes for self check-out weren’t made, nor was there railroad board used to make them available (thank you, Dick Blick, for having it AND delivering it in a speedy fashion). Result: no self check out during week 1.
  • Destiny wasn’t set up. Time was spent on setting up the physical space, not the virtual computer.  Students had to be updated, old fines forgiven, and restrictive notes removed.  Eep. Result: no check out at all in week 1.
  • Sorting through the cabinets and drawers was akin to an archeological dig: it never ended and there was a good chance of finding something valuable where it was least expected. Result: tons of time spent clearing, tossing, recycling, labeling, and reorganizing.
  • Books were double-stacked behind the circ desk.  Result: my mental sanity was being tested…
  • The library had new carpeting installed a week before Day 1.  All the furniture had to be put back..but where to?  There was no good map.  Result: designing a new library layout that worked.  Shelves had to be rolled, books had to be shifted, tables and chairs had to fit as the space needed to have a natural flow and sense of order.  Result: sweatiness, sore muscles, hours of time, but a design that flowed and made logical sense.
  • There were boxes and bags and tons of “stuff” packed pre-carpeting.  Dealing with furniture was easy compared to this.  What to keep?  What to let go?  I tossed it all in the library storage room for the time being (note: the room was, 4 weeks later, christened The Book Room and all the junk stuff that was tossed in there had to be dealt with ASAP).

But week 1 doesn’t care about these things: week 1 comes, whether I’m ready or not.  So it was a slow week, one where I shared a little bit about me, my family, and new books.  My personal goal for the year is to let students discover that the library is a place for them: that they’re always welcome in the library and that it will have what they want/need.  Starting slow, sharing books, and introducing my expectations (Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest – which are similar to the schoolwide expectations…except they rhyme, which works really well for the 16 K-2 classes) was the way I chose to go.


Grade 1/2:

Grade 3/4/5:

Library Lessons: Dec 3-7, 2018


Grade 1:

Grade 2/3:

Grade 4/5:

Cheers, y’all! –arika