Monday, September 21, 2015

From Plan A to...Plan Z

Teachers monitor and adjust. It's just what we do. Second nature. Something goes wrong? That's ok...we can just fly by the seat of our pants like nobody's business! I saw an e-card a few days ago that reminded me of all teachers.

Last week, during our Input Technology classes, students were supposed to create an info graphic. Fifth grade would use to create their digital footprint (five rules of internet safety and social media sites they frequently use). Sixth graders were to create an info graphic in Microsoft Word.

During the first class of the week, we discovered that despite checking tagxedo the previous week, it was not working. An update occurred over the weekend and had not yet been pushed through the district network. While students sat idly in their chairs, Miss Denise and I both got to work on figuring out a way to continue the assignment. Quickly, I searched clip art on Microsoft Word for footprints; it was saved to the U-drive and students could then access it. Our easy lesson using a website students had used several times turned into a much more complicated lesson on inserting clip art and word art; arranging both by either selecting to place in front of text or behind text; and how to change shape fills to no fill.

Talk about MONITOR and ADJUST. We completely reworked a lesson in a matter of minutes. That doesn't include the one student computer that did have Microsoft Office loaded. That student logged into her Google account and began working in Docs. When I asked her why she had chosen to do that, she replied, "you guys figured out how to keep us working, so I figured I could try using Docs to do the same thing."

Students watch teacher reactions during a lesson fail...I'm glad we were able to use that opportunity to set the atmosphere to one where students weren't afraid to try something on their own.

When plan A doesn't work, there are still 25 more letters of the alphabet left to try.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's Time for a Change

When I inherited my library, there were many great decorations and paintings. However, I felt that the "Animal Wall" needed an update. I've been so excited to search for new wall decor, paintings, and art. Our new art teacher has been fantastic and has agreed to help me repaint the wall.

Our school is a Music & Performance Magnet, incorporating dance, piano and string music classes, drama, and a select choir. I pursued Pinterest for ideas and have found what I think will be the perfect incorporation of literacy, library, and the arts!

The caption for the wall will say "Reading. It's in everything you do."

Now for a painting party and deciding what colors to use! Oh, the choices!!!

I'm excited to update the wall and add a few new artistic and literary pieces to our library. This framed art space will become home to a literacy word cloud. I'm hoping that our Tech Club can create some samples for me to use for the word cloud.

I'm off to Pinterest to find more inspiration. Follow my board...or me for library inspiration, lessons, & technology ideas!

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Week Jitters

The first week of school is always full of stress, tiredness, and fit-throwing...even for the students. One of my most favorite things about starting back to school are the comments I hear from students. Here's a little snippet of what has taken place this week in the library...

Student: You have a LOT of hair! I mean it's pretty, but there sure is a bunch of it.
**I was bending over speaking to a student in line about behavior and my hair apparently fell over the student's face who was standing in front of us.**

Student: Olaf is here! Olaf is here! Can he come down? How did he get up there? Where is Ana and Elsa? Why is Olaf in the library? Can he read?
**I have a fairly large stuffed Olaf on top of a book shelf.**

Girls: (giggling) Miss Ashley you're being extra funny today. You're always funny, but are you ok?

Almost every student: Her makeup is so bad!

Student: Love this one! I hate paper soup.
Other student: Yeah...I did that last year. Except it was Kool Aide. Those pages were super colorful.

I've been so happy to see all of our students and new kinder kids! I cannot wait to get our lessons started for the year. Fifth and 6th grade students also watched book care videos about mixing food with books and keeping books safe from the weather. Check them out below. Happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What Should I Read Next?

"Ms. Ashley, I need a book to read."
"Ms. Ashley, do you know any good books?"
"Ms. Ashley, are there any good books in here?" To which I reply, "nope, this is a library of 10,000 bad books, sorry." Sometimes my sarcasm carries me away.

As librarians, we are bombarded with those questions every week, if not every day. I have found a few websites that I direct students to utilize when searching for their next big literary adventure. I always try to get students (especially reluctant readers) reading a series, since it will keep them occupied by offering a "next" book without all the worry and search. Here are a few websites that can help students (and you) find your next favorite read:

What Should I Read Next? comes with predictive text, which is helpful for students who may have difficulty spelling the title or author of the book.

Your Next Read has great graphics when suggesting books to read. It displays much like a mind map. This is probably my favorite simply because I like the way it is presented.

I typed in my last read, clicked the book, and....viola!!! Check out the cool book web it made for me. You can also save the lists and link them to your Goodreads account.

I like to use Book Seer; however, you have to know the title AND author of the book for it to supply suggestions. Oftentimes, the books it suggests are the next books in the series or books by the same author.

Of course, with a login Good Reads is amazing. It can be linked to your Facebook account or you can login with an email address. You can build shelves of books you've read, subscribe to discussion groups, and get suggestions. The downfall for younger students is having to have a login to do so. Good Reads also gives great reader reviews of books, which I use when compiling book orders.

If you can find a Professional Development session that is solid book talks, ATTEND IT! I created a Pinterest board with each year's SMBSLT list. Sadly, no more of those sessions are being offered.

Don't forget about AASL Blog post: What to Read Wednesday. Blogs are posted with suggested reading materials for all age levels. These lists and reviews are a great resource provided by the American Association for School Librarians!

What are some other tips, tricks, and resources you use to suggest books to students? I'll add them to the list!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Geeking out at Universal Studios

Last week I had an amazing vacation at Universal Studios Orlando. The kids and I have talked about visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a few years. With the opening of Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express, we jumped on the chance to visit this summer. Needless to say, I was totally geeking out! Both parks were fantastic, and the employees and actors were so awesome. They never broke character.

Also, if you're a ginger and you visit the parks, they will refer to you as Ms. Weasley. I constantly had people in the park address me as Ms. Weasley. It was so much fun.

The kids got interactive wands and cast spells at various places. The rides were like walking through Hogwarts castle, Platform 9 3/4, and Gringotts Bank. I took plenty of pictures and will be using them in a Harry Potter display for the library. I love trips like this! Bringing back the fun for my students always makes the trip extra special.

**Side note: we also visited the USS Alabama and USS Drum. Pictures and information are being shared with Social Studies teachers! Collaboration anyone?!**

Monday, June 8, 2015

One Child, One Book...and then some!

Last school year, I began this program with a dream that all students would have access to reading material during the summer. Not just access to reading material, but OWN reading material. Many of our students do not own books. I began by using Scholastic Dollars earned through our book fairs to purchase "bruised books". By the end of the school year, I had collected enough books so that each student was able to choose a book to keep for their very own.

This year, I wanted to go bigger. We've all heard the statistics stating that reading just four books on grade level can help prevent the "summer slide". Again, using Scholastic Dollars, I purchased even more bruised books. I had also weeded the nonfiction collection throughout the school year. This provided all of our students three books that now belong to them (two brand-new books and one discarded library book).

I was brought to tears several times throughout the day. Kindergartners asking "this is mine....forever?", fourth graders cheering and clapping loudly in the hallways as they waited for their turn, teachers asking if they too could pick out some new books for their library. Luckily, we had plenty and some teachers took several books back to their classroom to share!

I love this program and can't wait to see it grow even bigger next year. The local newspaper, the Batesville Guard, came out to take some pictures and talk to our students as they shopped. It was a great day. One of my favorite days throughout the year.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Race Car Trophies & Strawberry Yoohoo

When I began as the LMS at West, I was asked to help revive the Accelerated Reader program for our second through sixth grade students. Some teachers already had incentives and a working program in place, but we needed something consistent.

A fellow teacher was moving, and her husband had been a driver at the local Batesville race track. She posted on Facebook about giving trophies away. I jumped at the opportunity for FREE trophies. After all, if it's for free, it's for me!

We began the AR Race to the Top (sadly, the name is oh-so-close to our current national academic "race"). Each grade level has two trophies that their classroom has the opportunity to win. One trophy is for the best test average (number of quizzes passed/number of quizzes taken). The other is for the class who reads the most words.

As part of my PGP, I wanted to increase nonfiction circulation; so I used the mac-daddy of the trophies for the classroom with the highest average of nonfiction quizzes taken.

Here's the catch...for any classroom to win, EVERY student in the class has to take at least one AR quiz. The trophies are awarded each nine weeks. So...when a class wins, they can only keep the trophy for one quarter before having to return it to the library. There is some serious competition among some of the grade levels!

Which brings me to the Strawberry Yoohoo part of my story. Some classrooms do not like to give up their trophy, so I have to confiscate it. On this particular confiscation trip (I feel like a bounty hunter at times) a fellow teacher had some Strawberry Yoohoo remaining from a party and gave it to me to put in my fridge for after school. Here I am carrying six cartons of Strawberry Yoohoo and four race car trophies. Not my brightest idea ever, but our campus is large and I was trying to make it a one-trip trip to that side of the building. Luckily, a sixth grade student was not too far away when a Yoohoo started to slip. I yelled, "I'm losing a Yoohoo! Help!!!" She came running to the rescue, but not before asking if that was all I was losing. Gotta love 'em!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

National Poetry Month: Part 2

The first part of this project, students wrote their poems. For the second part I wanted to somehow incorporate Poem in Your Pocket Day. I've always loved the idea of this day and sharing poetry with students. Poem in Your Pocket Day began in 2002 in New York City and was adopted by the American Academy of Poets in 2008 as a national event. Throughout the day, you carry a poem in your pocket to share with others.

To celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day at West, students took the poems they had typed the previous week and illustrated them. The students were encouraged to think like an illustrator and be creative!

Kindergarten illustrated by drawing their favorite thing about school. 
We asked "what makes West best?"

Before illustrating, the soccer ball shape was difficult to see.

After students finished illustrating, they created a pocket for their poem. Kindergarten and first graders used an envelope glued to a sheet that stated what National Poem in Your Pocket day was. BIG THANKS to my Tutors, Inc. students for gluing 200 envelopes to paper for me! Students also illustrated thier pocket to match their poem.

After the students were done, they folded their poem and placed it in their pocket. While students were working I asked them think of someone they would share their poem with and tell their table friends. 

Students in second through sixth grades folded a paper in half to creat their pocket for their poem. Fifth and sixth graders asked to hang their pocket poems on their lockers to share with friends.

I absolutely *LOVED* this student's creativity with his poem! All of his classmates asked to read his and talked about how cool it was on his locker! 

Second through fourth grade students took their poem home. Some fourth graders did display their poems around their classroom for a few days to share with each other. Next year, I will make arrangements with their teachers for students to display their work in the hallway. I don't have a bulletin board or much wall space to display student work. 

Several sixth grade students asked to rework their poems before they illustrated because they thought of "better" words to describe their object.
Overall, this project was a success, and the students really enjoyed being able to illustrate...which is our fancy word for "color" around here. We like to illustrate!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Poetry Month: Part 1

First of all, I LOVE co-teaching classes with the computer lab teacher. It makes projects like these run so much more smoothly.

For National Poetry Month, I wanted to incorporate Poem In Your Pocket Day and have students write their own poems. Our students have been working very hard this year on keyboarding skills: using home row typing and for younger grades, letter identification on the keyboard. We took all students to the computer lab for this part of the activity since I only have 12 student computers in the library.

Kindergarten students typed our school motto with a little added flair (mostly because it rhymed). After students completed the short poem, they were allowed to change the font! This was a huge incentive for students to work hard so that they would finish. They *love* getting to use "pretty" or "cursive" typing.

West is Best,
Better than the rest!
Each first grade class typed a nursery rhyme. Again, after they finished typing, they were allowed to change the font style and size.
For second graders, they have progressed a little further in their typing and spelling skills, so they created a Monster Poem using an online generator. We discussed adjectives and similes. The website provides examples next to the generator. When printed, there was a grayish box behind the poem. We decided to copy/paste the poem into a Word Document, and then students were able to change the font style and size.

Third and fourth graders worked within their Google account to create an acrostic poem. They utilized thesauruses and dictionaries to help them find describing words. Many used one word per line, but some students got creative and used rhyming phrases!

For fifth and sixth grades, we used Tagxedo, an online word cloud creator. Our tech club has also used Tagxedo to create a "digital footprint" and online safety posters. For National Poetry Month, students chose a shape and typed 10 adjectives or phrases that would describe their shape. There were so many creative and thoughtful concrete poems! I was truly amazed at what the students created.

Abe Lincoln

Coffee (he knows me too well)

Big Foot


 The lightning bolt took me a minute to figure out. 
 The Flash

 Chess Piece


Rubber Ducky
This was one of my favorites.
This shape was difficult to see once printed, but after the student illustrated, it looked amazing!

I always ask students if they enjoy our lessons. Every student with whom I spoke said that it was one of their favorites.

Be sure to follow up in a few days for Part 2 of this project!