Thursday, 16 December 2010

More iPad Apps to Love!

Pad fever is starting at our school. From kids who tell me they have one at home to a few teachers who have purchased one as well, there is some serious iPad love blossoming at ISB.

Here are some of my new favorite apps to add to our growing collection on the Hub iPads (our lovely PTA donated another iPad to us a few weeks ago, and we are overjoyed!).

Cut the Rope (.99 cents)
Love the strategy involved in this game. Your job is to feed a Christmas creature a piece of candy by cutting various ropes at the right time. It looks deceivingly simple, but it's a great challenge, and I see tons of potential for collaborative use (much like Gravity HD). Plus, the creature is super cute!

Lego Creationary (free app)
You cannot go wrong with Legos & kids, and this app is great for spatial skills. You roll a 3-D dice (even that is cool!) and then watch a Lego structure being built. As it is being built, you decide which of the pictures shown it will be, all within a time limit. This one is crazy popular during our recess times with all ages of students.

Alphabet Car (free app for the lite version)
This game, designed for the wee ones, is fun because the iPad itself becomes the steering wheel of the car. You try and drive the bus into various letters to spell 3-letter words. 1st graders had a lot of fun with this the other day.

I'm pretty sure our school is piloting iPads in the early childhood classrooms next semester. Can't wait to see some of these apps in the classroom setting.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Star Wars, the Aftermath

a view from outside...I love these funky windows in our Hub.
Let's just say that the Star Wars Marathon was a big hit! Like, 125+ kids and a lot of parents in one space but still heaps of chaotic fun. The Lego activity was the most popular, and I found that kids did not want to leave that center. Overall, it was great fun, but I need to do some future thinking about how to organize these for a smaller amount of kids. I guess if too many kids being excited about something is my biggest problem, that's a good problem to have.
A surprise addition to our event was the visit of many Star Wars characters. Our middle school put on the play last year, and a group of students offered to come and walk around in costume and in character. It was the perfect addition to the party and a perfect addition to my Princess Leia outfit!

One of our centers was a graphing center. I did a quick search for something free and easy to use to show the data, and this one from Kids Zone was very straightforward. Any other easy-to-use sites that anyone knows of to create graphs?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

More Celebrating Characters We Love

Last school year's Percy Jackson event was such a success that I started thinking of how to offer something similar for the younger grades this year. When I took more than three seconds to think about what characters make the kids crazy excited, I thought of Star Wars. Our Star Wars basket is one of the first students run to in the Hub, and I try to continue adding to it when I find a new book at a bookstore.

I enlisted a small group of 2nd and 3rd grade Star Wars fanatics to help me design the special day, and they decided that we call it the Star Wars Marathon (I love that the event is 45 minutes after school, and we are calling it a marathon!). Again, I'm keeping it simple with six different stations and having kids rotate at their leisure.

Here are the stations--all names created by our organizing team

1. Death Star Coloring (color your favorite character)
2. Mustafar Battle (show off your light saber moves)
3. Star Wars Structures (putting a ton of Legos out and some ideas of how to make something Star Wars-ish)
4. The Quest for R2D2 (take a quiz to show what you know)
5. Force Jump Training (a non-violent Star Wars online game)
6. Jedi Archives (our graphing station to view our favorites)

Using Photopeach, we made a short promotional video to get people excited about the event. I adore Photopeach.

While all this planning has been going on, the 4th and 5th graders have already begun planning the next event--without me because I was helping with the younger students. I am told that Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be the next Celebrating Characters We Love. Talk about a gradual release of responsibility...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Wallwisher & New Title Browsings

It's been a while since I've used Wallwisher, and I wanted to introduce a new 4th grade teacher and her class to the tool since it is fairly simply to navigate and has tons of uses in the classroom. We started our lesson with a quick title recommendation, and then we moved on to the Solon Community School District website hosting tons of wallwishers and video reviews created by the students. Many of our students went straight to the video reviews and they loved them. The room was buzzing with kids checking Destiny to see if we had the title, and then coming right to me if we didn't to ensure I put it on the order. I added quite a few to our list of new books to buy.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

QR Codes in the Library

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I've been hearing rumblings of something called QR codes, but I had no idea what they were until Kim posted this video on Twitter the other day. After watching, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Jeff is calling 2011 "The Year of the Code," and I think he's on to something.

QR codes are perfect for the library--just perfect. The condensed version of QR codes are that they are barcodes that hold a lot of data and can be scanned using a mobile device or laptop. You decide what information you want on the barcode: it can be a URL or a written message. When you create a QR code (I've been using Kaywa to make mine), you print it out and tape it to any surface to be read by a QR scanner. Below is the QR code for my book recommendation blog.

To get a QR reader for your laptop or mobile device, there seem to be many choices of apps. Here's one to try.

Ideas swimming in my library brain:

1. Messages on QR codes about why kids like certain books. I print and tape onto the book cover.
2. QR codes linking to various book trailers.
3. Communicating better with parents about book recommendations via QR codes outside the Hub

Exciting times for libraries and librarians...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hunger Games Book Club

On the heels of our recent Mimosas and Mentor Texts came our second book club for Hunger Games. This time, our gathering consisted of teachers from high school, middle school, elementary, administration, and even our director's wife who is a huge YA fan. I believe the conversation was richer and deeper because we had people with such diverse experiences. Here's what I took with me from that night:

*The realization that we bring our own adult expecations to the books we read. Some of us wanted Katniss to develop as a character throughout the book, but she simply did not. Others felt this was the point of the book, and we had a great conversation about it.

*In big schools, we become so focused on our own divisions that sometimes we miss out on meeting people. It was wonderful to spend some quality time with different folks and to hear different opinions about the same book.

*I had little knowledge of the YA genre, but the evening finished with a sharing of recommended titles and a desire to continue this book club with another choice soon.
*Having cheesecake at a gathering always makes it better. My fabulous husband sent a parachute down from the 2nd floor to announce the arrival of the "gift," much like Haymitch in the book. It added some yumminess and some humor to the night.

Overall, I'm finding that these teacher book clubs are pretty casual on the organizing front but pack a real punch for deepening understanding and building community. Love them!

Image Attribution: Jokin BCN

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A Little of This & A Little of That

One thing I absolutely love about Twitter and blogging is how many amazing ideas are out there being shared. And copying is ok, even encouraged! Today's lesson with 5th graders was a little bit Becky and a little bit Mary Lee & Franki--Becky posted about Big Huge Labs trading cards and Mary Lee & Franki blogged about themselves as readers. I combined the two and had the students brainstorm 5 things about themselves as readers and put them on the trading cards. They not only dug deep about their own selves but they learned some very useful tech skills:

1. How to use Photobooth
2. How to take a screenshot
3. How to upload a photo

My next step is to get their trading cards on a slideshow and have it running on our small digital screen in the Hub for all to see.

Here's my wondering-- is it ok for me to share the slideshow on my blog if the students only have their first name listed? I prefer to share their work rather than my example, but I am unsure. Advice welcome!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Creative Commons

Teaching students how to find and use Creative Commons images is the focus of my lessons with 4th and 5th graders this week. From my conversations with both adults and kids, there seems to be widespread lack of understanding about the concept of Creative Commons, and so Chrissy and I are trying to develop strong digital citizenship habits in the younger grades.

My favorite site for finding Creative Commons images easily (this is key because for a long time, I was doing it wrong and it was frustrating and complicated) is Compfight. Easy, cheesy, hit the CC only button on top and search away for the most amazing photos that artists are willing to share as long as they are given credit.
In working with students this week, our conversations are so interesting, and they are so keen to look at the copyright symbols for each photo. We are taking it slowly at this point, introducing them to the concept that they just can't take whatever they want from Google images (this is just shocking to most everyone), and then having them notice the artist's name on the page, and doing some searching for photos on topics that interest them. I'm scaffolding for Chrissy who will then go one step further and teach them how to attribute the photos on their blogs.

I did a bit of searching on Compfight tonight for an image that apprehended me. This is a doorway in Tunisia, a country that has intrigued me for years. One day, I would love to walk past blue doorways like this, on my way to grab a coffee and read a book at a sidewalk cafe. Better yet, what if it were the entrance to my house?

Chrissy shared a new link with me that does the same Creative Commons searching but includes the attribution for you--definitely worth a look! Thanks, John Johnston!

Image attribution: ahisgett

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Future?

While browsing the shelves for engaging nonfiction, I came across a book about the future, published in the year 2000. Most of the book was very interesting and had great ideas about what the future might be like, but this page made me crack up.

Just a short 10 years ago, this is what we envisioned for the year 2010.Ever since I saw this picture, I keep picturing all my friends walking through the halls with these contraptions rather than their sleek iPhones. Makes it so hard to order technology books for a library.

How the Future Began: Everyday Life by Clive Gifford

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Mimosas and Mentor Texts

A recent conversation with the librarian from The American Embassy School in New Delhi inspired me to start some teacher book clubs at ISB. The idea is simple, yet brilliant--gather teachers together to have a kid lit club.

At first, the idea started out as teachers all reading the same book (that Hunger Games book club will take place in a few weeks with HS, MS and ES teachers--cannot wait!), but when our literacy council discussed this idea, it morphed into a mentor text book club for the younger grades. I found about 5-6 quality new books to introduce to the teachers, we rotated the bag of books between us all, and then we met last Saturday to talk about them for our first 'Mimosas and Mentor Texts.' It was just a blast.

Here are my reflections:

*Meeting outside of school made it such an 'event.' It brought us together for some quality time and not just a quick chat in the hallway. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to build community because we wound up chatting for three hours, mostly about books.

*Teachers are so eager for exposure to new books. This is where librarians or literacy coaches can be a big help by keeping current with new releases and organize an event like this.

*Food makes everything better. But we already know that.

*I loved how we were talking about books just the way we want our students to talk about books. With the book, Life-Sized Zoo, we had such authentic conversations about our awe over the pictures and talked through our own curiosities. My friend Erin turned to me at one point in the conversation and said, "This is exactly what we want our students to be doing with books."
*Some of us chose to leave sticky notes in the front endpages. Loved seeing what others were thinking while reading.

Overall, it was one of my best days, and not just because of the chocolate fountain. I can't wait to have more book clubs with more grade levels.
A special thanks to Franki and Mary Lee from A Year of Reading and Katie from Creative Literacy who blogged about many of the mentor texts I chose for our club.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Instant Gratification

On the wonderful Year of Reading blog, I found a book trailer for The Magnificent 12 by Michael Grant. I'm always keen to show our students book trailers to get them excited, and the power of this type of media is nothing short of amazing. When I showed the trailer during recess, a big crowd gathered, and I was bombarded with questions like, "Is this a series? Is there a movie?" The excitement was palpable.

Then, from the back of the room, a voice piped up,

"I've just downloaded the sample on my Kindle."

And here I thought me getting it by December would be fabulous! I love that this is just another peek into the possible future of reading.
Lucky me got to read the first few chapter with a group of 5th grade girls during lunch recess later that day. It's funny and adventure mixed together, and I can't wait to get it for our Hub.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Future Plans

This falls under the "I am so going to do this as soon as possible" category for me. Becky Maher posted this on her blog (I always get such great ideas from her!), and it is using a program called Big Huge Labs. It was super quick and easy and would be so much fun for 2nd and 3rd graders to take a picture of themselves reading a favorite book and writing a bit about why they like it so much. Already picturing these in a slideshow of some sort. Now I just need one of those digital photo frames...
This was using the trading card option on Big Huge Labs.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

5 iPad apps for the Wee Ones

I'm always grateful when I come across posts recommending iPad apps, so here are my recent picks.
Hanoch Piven, an amazing artist and author, has an app out that is so much fun and very creative. It's called Faces iMake
and uses object art to create various faces. Tons of fun and excellent for children to tap into creativity.*

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin is a great story that is now on the iPad (how I wish more kids' books were on the iPad...) There are options to read it yourself or have it read to you, as well as lots of interactive sounds.

ShapeBuilder is perfect for spatial awareness in younger children. This one is a hit in our house.

Spell N Say Lite encourages spelling practice but with the cool factor of touching the speaker button to hear your word. What I love about this one is that there is a natural interest in spelling a word just to hear it said.

Piffle's ABC book of Funny Animals is great for matching pictures to words. There are a number of different animals to match, and then there is a song that goes along with each of them.

*Creativity in this Faces iMake is from my daughter.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Tagxedo--Alternative to Wordle

The always fabulous Chrissy shared a new-to-me tool, Tagxedo, that is similar to Wordle but with a few more bells and whistles. It wasn't as easy to navigate as Wordle, but it sure is cute! This is a recent post from my personal blog that was all about swimming and marshmallow treats. I love seeing the words I crafted displayed so artistically. And I know students would love all the choices they have in this program.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Playing with Prezi

For some time now, I've heard rave reviews about Prezi, a funky 'new' way of creating a presentation, but I had never tried it myself. However, this weekend I was determined to create a simple Prezi. Sitting down and actually having the patience to figure technology out is my biggest sign of growth in the last few years--the frustration doesn't stop me anymore, and I love that confidence that has slowly grown over the last few years. It is now few and far between that I want to throw the computer out the window.

Here is my first attempt at Prezi, inspired by my friend Colleen. I must say that I did not find it to be an intuitive program, which was kind of a bummer. Once I watched the tutorial video and played around a bit, it worked enough for a start. Certainly there are a gazillion more bells and whistles that can be added, I'm sure.

Already thinking this is the perfect idea for collaborating with a 4th grade teacher. We've been looking for something tech & literacy focused to do with the students. Can't wait to see what 5 books from various genres they will recommend.

*To view, click on the arrow, then the MORE button and click Autoplay.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Getting To Know Ourselves as Readers

I've been thinking of a way to have younger students look at their book choices a bit deeper. With 4th and 5th graders, they can easily explain what genres they like and dislike, but the little ones are still in the process of figuring out what is fiction and what is nonfiction. So I experimented with the 2nd graders this afternoon by asking them to make their book choices first and then to bring them to our meeting area in the Hub. We then looked at our choices and decided where they fit in the Venn diagram.

And then I figured out that it's a whole lot easier (and quicker!) for 2nd graders to write tally marks. We had a great group discussion with the children who came up unsure of whether their choices were fiction or nonfiction. My thought is to have something like this up every now and then to have the kids quickly add a tally once they have chosen their books for the week.

We did have a few stumpers--what about an I Spy book? After a lively discussion, it felt like both to us.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Reading for a Cause

Via Twitter, I discovered an organization called We Give Books that is just that--they give books. Every time you read a book online, you press a button, and they donate a book to the cause you wish to join. I joined a few of them them this week and am sharing the site with students who come to me in the Hub.

On top of that fabulousness, they are also organizing a world reading event on October 7. The idea is that thousands of people around the world will read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. We are hoping to participate in that as well.

In the meantime, I love knowing that by reading great books online, I am helping out the people of Asia, my adopted home for the last seven years. Here's the promo video for that cause.

One more thing I love about the online reading is the ability to zoom into certain sections. This was a blast with the nonfiction selections on the site. And Spot is on the site! You can't beat that with kinders.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Big Nate Fever

You know a book is getting some good press within a school when the hold queue is 32 students! Big Nate Fever has definitely hit ISB, and the word is spreading fast. It's similar in format to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is why it's making kids just nuts with excitement.

When I went online to find out more about Big Nate, I discovered that the website has the first 42 pages of the first book online for free. I was showing the site to a group of 4th graders the other day, and I read them the first few pages aloud from the computer. We were all laughing and having such a good time that I realized I didn't want to continue with my planned Destiny Quest lesson. Instead, we postponed that lesson until next week and spent our time reading the first few chapters at computers and then taking a few minutes at the end to play the games.

My biggest Big Nate lesson: taking the time to honor where kids are at the moment. There was such genuine excitement about the book that it felt very liberating for me as a teacher to honor that excitement and postpone my planned lesson.

Then I knew I had to get to the bookstore to pick up some extra copies of the book. 32 holds means that some kids won't ever get the book!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Letting Go

One year later, and I am still the hugest fan of the social networking options on Follett's Destiny Quest. For elementary students, the authentic nature of their book recommendations continually make me smile and make me proud because they are so into it and excited about writing about books--exactly what we hope for.

However, letting them use the recommending feature means I have to let go of a lot of teacher control. And I mean A LOT. Even the previous version of Destiny allowed for me to approve every single recommendation, and I could go in and edit out all those spelling and grammar mistakes if I so chose. It was kind of a pain, and how is that authentic if I add and delete or correct grammar from a child's work?

But no longer. It's just them out there, typing away about Geronimo Stilton or Leven Thumps or Candy Apple books.

There are some that will say the reviews are too loose, but I feel it allows the students to express what they truly feel about a book. Of course we talk about what is appropriate, and how we are writing for an audience, and how we should say more than the I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!! comment (this is huge in 3rd grade, but even a big part of me thinks that is fabulous because there are some books I've read where this is exactly what I want to say!). It's fascinating to see how there is a natural progression from 3rd to 4th to 5th grade, and how their recommendations contain an added depth as they get older and wiser and more well-read.

I spent most of last week teaching students how to create good, solid book recommendations, and they have so much to say. But it is only when I can let go, when I can provide that gradual release of responsibility, that they can truly interact on Destiny Quest.

Here's to letting go and enjoying the ride. Try it--It's TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Image Attribution: Destiny's Agent

5 Great New Books

A Sunday shopping trip to our local bookstore provided me with some great finds, and I can't wait to share these books with our lower elementary teachers and students.

When I read Little Owl Lost, I knew it would be perfect for Pre-K. A small owl falls out of his tree and is off to find his mother, but there are lots of misunderstandings when he describes her. We were all giggling and acting out parts, which was such fun. The illustrations are simply stunning and with all sorts of additions that you notice only after a few reads. I'm putting this book into the Pre-K classroom library after I read it to the other class--it's great for retelling.

Teachers are always on the lookout for good books to model similes, and I have a feeling that My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil will become my new go-to book for that. Great object art and deeper similes to describe teachers and classmates make this a great book to use at the start of the year to describe the class.

This songbook looks like it will be great for kinder and first grade classes with its monster theme and amazing illustrations, set to the tune of 'If You're Happy and You Know It." Lots of opportunity to act like monsters with this one.

Nico and Lola: Kindness Shared Between and Boy and a Dog is so special. Nico is asked if he would be "so kind" as to babysit his aunt's dog, and he agrees. Each page is a different activity that he does with Lola, and it ties into a sentence on the bottom that illustrates kindness. I love this book and can already hear the students clamoring to tell their own dog stories. Perfect for small moment writing.

Lastly, our ever-popular princess basket is always in need of new princess books. It seems that every girl under the age of nine wants to check out a princess book, and I can never keep enough around. I love that Princess Pigtoria and the Pea has a ton of alliteration, all with the letter P.

And the really cool part of buying these books? They are going to be part of our first teacher book club. The idea is that we'll invite our Kinder and 1st grade teachers to read all the texts, then we'll share some food and wine one night to discuss how the books will fit in the classroom and whether or not they are fabulous enough to add to our classroom libraries. I can't wait!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Balance in the Tech Zone

One of my biggest challenges in our Hub is the amount of time in the day that the tech zone is open for student use. We open at 6:30 a.m., so there is a 45 minute period of free tech time before school starts. After school, we are open for 90 minutes. In between, there are staggered recesses throughout the day, and so we are a revolving door for student use. Definitely not a bad thing, but the high interest of computer use coupled with the sheer volume of students has made it tricky for me for two years now.
Some questions I was asking myself: What should they be doing on computers during their free time? How can I manage the space best and still give kids a choice? How do I balance the volume of kids in the tech zone while I am teaching a class simultaneously?

After much trial and error (like when I thought it would be fun to let them do Poptropica--not my finest choice), I have created a wiki with choices that is the home page when students go to Firefox. It's a nice balance of fun and literacy that is weeding out the Poptropica-only patrons and allowing room for those who want to explore Destiny Quest or book blogs or National Geographic.

I'd be so curious to know what others are doing out there in the big, wide world. Feel free to share what your tech zone looks like during recess.

Image attribution from pshutterbug

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Series Organization

Since our Kevin Hennah library design visit last August, we've been trying to pull together our space with common colors and design to make it look professional. One of the last pieces in our design was doing something with our series baskets at the entrance to the Hub. I love that kids can easily find the series they are looking for in baskets rather than hunting on the shelves, but ours were randomly colored and in poor condition. Our locally made bins arrived this week, and I am in organizational heaven. They are gorgeous, and I find myself looking at them the minute I enter the door. Exactly what we wanted!
And this was the picture I had to take this morning before school of the big group of students all huddled around the iPad playing Gravity HD. I love the collaborative nature of the iPad for kids.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mystery Reader with a Twist of Tech

One of our fabulous kindergarten teachers asked if I would be the Mystery Reader for her class this week. The twist was that she wanted me to Skype from the Hub to her classroom. Last week, I read the book Monkey with a Tool Belt, which was a smashing success with kinders (all those nonsense words cracked them up). Today, I read the sequel to it, Monkey with a Tool Belt has a Noisy Problem.

It was fun seeing the kids from a different angle, so to speak. Since it was my first time reading on Skype, it was tricky to "read" the kids because I wasn't right in front of them seeing their reactions. But they still had fun and they love Chico Bon Bon, the character.

We're thinking this way of reading might be great fun for parents who travel a lot as a way for them to have the opportunity to connect with their child's classroom.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Lovin' the iPad!

Oh, the lovely iPad! It sits on my desk during the school day and kids come up and take it to use during recess time. I've even had kids meet me at the door in the morning just to be the first in line to use it. Sharing one iPad with 670 students will prove to be challenging, but I'm glad it's a huge success already.

Currently, the two most popular apps are I Spy Spooky House (the kids kick my behind in this one!) and Issac Newton's Gravity. At this point, no one has used it as a reader, but I think this is because they have such a limited amount of time.

What still amazes me is how intuitive the iPad is for kids. They just sit down and figure it out. I love watching that because it is truly so different than many of us adults. My daughter is a real pro at the iPad, and I feel like I'm watching the future when she uses it.

Here's a little demo of how simple it is:

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The First Book of Summer

My husband discovered this gem while browsing the bookstore the other day, and I was hooked from the first page. I did decide to wait and buy it on the Kindle because it was much cheaper, but I'm loving it as my first book of the summer. It's informative, funny and so perfect in how it addresses how relevant librarians truly are today. The author, Marilyn Johnson, is not a librarian, but I like that someone outside our field felt strongly enough to write a whole book about how we are anything but obsolete. An interesting side note is that she became interested in librarians after writing a book about obituaries--she found that librarians tended to have these really interesting lives. Not surprising.

Any other suggestions for great summer reading?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

iPad from a Mama Teacher's Perspective

Summer vacation has started, and the iPad arrived at my parent's house. Less than 48 hours old, let's just say that it's getting a whole lot of use in our household, and I know it's going to be amazing for elementary students when I get back to ISB in August.

When I'm using the iPad, I'm looking at it from two points of view--the mama view and the teacher view.

Things I Am Loving from Both Perspectives...

1. It's smaller than I imagined but the perfect size for kids. Fits them nicely and not too bulky.

2. There are so many free apps or ones that only cost $.99. I've added a bunch and am trying them out one by one. There are lots of ABC apps for the younger ones and I found a Greek Gods one for the older readers.

3. My favorite app so far is Miss Spider's Tea Party. It cost $9.99 but is worth every penny (my daughter is reading it at this very moment) because the artwork is spectacular. You can either watch the story as a movie with words on the bottom or read the story yourself but with lots of interaction as you read. In addition, there is a matching game as well as a painting program. When there are more of this kind of book available, I'll be thrilled!

4. It's incredibly intuitive. Amazingly so. My 3 year old is navigating it almost seamlessly after only a short time. We are both trying to work on our sharing skills with the iPad.

5. One way to save a bit of money is get the free samples of chapter books for students. The covers look very cool sitting on the virtual bookshelf, and my thought is that kids can get a preview of books we have in the Hub and then check out the paper copy. A little taste to get them hooked.

5. One more free book (or at least a few chapters of the book) is Alice in Wonderland. Again, the illustrations are spectacular. As my mom said, "It's simply magical."

Alice in Wonderland

Lingering Thoughts/Concerns/Paradigm Shifts/Adjustments on my Journey

Because the books are so interactive, I found my daughter quite distracted by all the buttons to push while I was reading Miss Spider's Tea Party to her. It is set up so that there are different actions on each page-a teacup shaking, an ant stomping its foot-but all of these are controlled by the reader. She was more interested in pushing all the buttons and wasn't really listening to the story. At first this bothered me, but then I let go and realized she was having a blast. And that's what reading is about-having fun. This is where my own thinking is changing with things like Tumblebooks and now the iPad. Balance is everything to me, and I feel strongly that there is a place for both paper books and digital books.

The future is incredibly exciting for books and for us librarians. I have this gorgeous vision of kids entering the library with their own iPads in hand. They will choose books and check them out from me, much like Netflix is done on computers now. Once the due date arrives, the book is then deleted from the iPad.

Just think--no chasing down kids for overdue books!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Coming Soon...

A few months ago, International School of Bangkok's very generous PTA offered to donate a Kindle to our Learning Hub. And while I think the Kindle is a great reading tool, the iPad offers much more to a larger community of readers. I could easily picture a small group of students huddled around an iPad more than I could the Kindle, and the PTA agreed to the change. Since it is not yet available in Thailand, I had the iPad sent to my parents' house in the U.S. Lucky me gets to familiarize myself with it this summer, add apps, order some books and somehow figure out a way to fairly share one iPad with a whole lot of students during recess time.

Image borrowed from here

Monday, 24 May 2010

Family Blogging & Summer Writing

Still on a high from the summer reading workshop, a friend stopped me the other day to pitch an idea:

What if I held a tandem workshop on summer writing, but from the perspective of setting up a family blog and providing this fun, authentic opportunity for kids to continue their writing over the vacation?

Needless to say, I loved the idea and set out to find Chrissy, our soon-to-be tech gal in elementary. She was keen as well and we dove right into the planning.

Keeping it simple, we focused on three things:

Why? (why would you blog? what kind of blog will you have?)

How? (getting them set up from the ground up--we used Wordpress because it's the platform our students will use in school)

What? (what will kids and parents write about?)

Creating the list of cool things to blog about was fun and gave me ideas for my own family blog this summer. Our main goal here was to really encourage the family aspect of the blog. What kinds of memories are families creating and wouldn't it be awesome to have them all written down as a digital scrapbook? Why not all take turns writing a post?

Here's what we came up with:

1. Places You Are Visiting

2. Good Books You've Read

3. Day Trips

4. Reflections (my favorite part of the day)

5. Top Ten (things to do on a rainy day, restaurants in my hometown, ways I annoy my brother during the break)

6. Best and Worst of the Summer

7. Artwork

8. Photography piece (how to start noticing things more)

9. A Day in the Life of...

10. In My Own Backyard (science, flowers, wondering--use video for this)

11. Visitors

12. Mapping Out Your Special Place (draw a map of finding small moments in the map)

13. Things To Do In Our Town

14. Food

15. Small Moments

We had about 25 interested and engaged parents in attendance this morning. The workshop was fun and parents gave us tons more ideas about what they want to learn next.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Percy Jackson Day

Wow! Our Percy Jackson day was a huge hit. Over 100 kids descended upon the Hub after school, where the organizers and I (as Medusa!) met them at the door with a ticket showing all their choices. Something we found that worked really well was promoting the event about 2 weeks before it happened--it really created a buzz of excitement. I literally had kids stopping me in the halls to tell me how many days were left before Percy Jackson day. My advice to anyone hosting their own character day is to keep it simple. I did at first, but then about three days before, I started to panic and think the activities weren't exciting enough to hold their attention. A sweet 5th grader was talking with me, and I asked his advice about the various Greek god and goddess coloring sheets in one center (I thought it would be boring). He kindly told me that kids don't really care--they just want to be together and having fun. And during the event, he sought me out to give me a big "I told you so" when we saw that the coloring center was filled to capacity!

The students and I are already planning next year's Celebrating Characters We Love events. Garfield is one they are thinking will be fun. Whatever will I wear?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Power of 10 Minutes

I've used the Skype An Author network three times this year, and each time has been nothing short of amazing. Ten minutes of time with an author always seems like it's going to be too short, but it ends up to be perfect.

This morning, a 4th grade class met with the fabulous Bruce Hale. He was funny, down-to-earth and instantly connected with the kids. Plus, we were all cracking up at his jokes and anecdotes.

In 10 minutes time, we had a bunch of great student questions answered and even got to listen to Bruce read the first part of one of his books. Hearing the words from the author himself is magical, and I become downright giddy when I see authors talking about their work. It was easy to see that Bruce would be a great visiting author at a school--another reason I love Skype An Author. To get a taste of what an author would be like as a potential visitor is invaluable.

The second we finished, a ton of kids ran to check out his Chet Gecko books. Thanks, Bruce Hale!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Summer Fun-Making Book Baskets

I loved talking with parents yesterday about tips on how to keep kids reading over the summer. Every time I think reading with kids is pretty straightforward, I am reminded that parents still welcome all the advice they can get. One of the ideas I talked about as a fun idea for summer was to create book baskets with your kids. Here are some tips I shared with parents on how to do that:

For Younger Readers

1. I don't use any bookshelves for my daughter's books; instead we use various baskets. They are placed in many rooms in the house (1 in the living room as in the above photo, 2 in her room and 1 in our bedroom) so we never have to go far to find a book. Plus, baskets look lovely.

2. I keep a bunch of books in the closet and 'freshen' the basket every now and then. My daughter helps me with this, and even at the age of 3, she knows what she is tired of having in her basket.

3. I add a few non-fiction books to give her a variety of choices. She tends to not gravitate towards these herself, so I put these books on the outside of the basket to hopefully capture her attention.

4. Definitely put some beginning chapter books in there, even for the wee ones.

For Older Readers (I tied this into how we set up our classroom libraries and how easy this is for kids to make book choices)

1. Take all the books off the bookshelf and dump them on the floor. Kids love this part!

2. Have all your empty baskets lined up.

3. Start looking at the books with your child. What do you notice goes together? Begin making categories like "Books with Strong Girl Characters" or "Science Books" or "Books That Crack Me Up." The ideas kids have are great, plus it's using the math skill of classifying.

4. Make the tags either by hand or on the computer. Place the baskets wherever your child can have easy access to them.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Storybird & First Graders

In trying to provide students with ideas of fun ways to read and write over the summer, I decided to create a Storybird with each first grade class this week. We had a blast choosing pictures, (the art is beyond fabulous on this site, and all you do is click and drag your choice to the story) and it was a bonus writing lesson. There was definitely enough excitement created that many kids will be going home and sharing the site with their parents tonight. At the end of the story, I was able to email the creation to their classroom teacher at that moment, even adding a personal message from us to her. Love, love, love this site!

Love it even more at the end of the year when attention spans are shorter! They were mesmerized the whole time.

Here's the link to the full story, Dali, the Mean Monster. Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Summer Reading

Aaah, summer! Here you are again! Energy levels are rising, vacation plans are being made, and it's the perfect time to talk about summer reading with kids. We have made some changes this year to our approach to summer reading. Last year, we had classroom teachers help students set summer goals, but there was no way for us to check in on that progress since they go to different teachers the following year. Enter the librarian...

Since I am the only one who sees all the students in the elementary, I am helping them brainstorm and set reading goals for the summer holidays in these last weeks. It has been wonderful and eye-opening. There is a tendency to automatically set a number goal, so we spent some time stretching our thinking to think of deeper ideas. Above are some of the great ideas they had. After brainstorming, each child chose a goal or two and recorded them on a paper star. I'll keep these over the summer, and we'll revisit them again in August.

In addition, I'll be hosting a parent literacy morning next week on tips for summer reading. My plan is to have five areas of focus--Access, Togetherness, Fun, Extension and Modeling. I'm again using the Presentation Zen approach and had so much fun locating images that pop. The cover slide is my favorite, but that might be because I am anxious for my own summer hammock reading in just four short weeks.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

FBA--Pete the Cat

Man alive, I love when a book is just so fun that I feel compelled to share it with every single kid that comes to see me during the week! Franki, from a Year of Reading, has a list called "Books I Could Read a Million Times," and Pete the Cat falls into that category for me.

The problem is that we don't even have the book in our library, but no matter! This youtube video has the author, illustrator and guitar player performing the fabulous story/song.

Thanks a million to Katie from Creative Literacy for sharing the book idea. Her blog is filled with great stuff, and I am constantly learning from her.

I dare you to watch the video and not find yourself singing the tune hours later.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Celebrating Characters We Love

A while back, a small group of 4th grade boys approached me and asked if I would help them start a Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief club. We sat down during a few lunch recesses and mapped out what they wanted to do, and before we knew it, their club idea morphed into what will hopefully be the first of many of our Celebrating Characters We Love events in the Hub.

We got many of our ideas from Rick Riordan himself at his site. (scroll down until you get to Percy Party Event Guide). Please note that because of the mature content in the book, we are only offering this event to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders--we felt like the little ones would have little connection to the book.

This is what ours is going to look like:

*Kids can come in costume if they want. I am planning a fabulous Medusa outfit!

*We will have 5 different activities that the participants will visit during the hour-long event. The plan is to have it be very organic and let kids move at their own pace, with teachers and/or parents supervising the areas.

*Activities will be in various areas of the Hub. The students have named the areas and we will have big signs directing partcipants.

1. Poseidon's Home-Make your own name tag in Greek letters (borrowed from the Rick Riordan site)

2. Hephaestus' Workshop/Tech zone-play games about Greek mythology (borrowed from this Rick Riordan site)

3. Mt. Olympus-Take a Percy Jackson quiz and try to be the person with the most correct answers for a prize (adapted from the Rick Riordan site)

4. The Underworld-Make a craft activity of either Medusa or a cyclops (borrowed from the Rick Riordan site)

5. Camp Half Blood-watch a short movie on Mt. Olympus

*Ambrosia (apple juice) and cookies will be served after the activities. If I am feeling really ambitious or find a parent who is, I'd love to serve the cupcakes above!

Mind you, it hasn't taken place yet, but it still seems to be stress-free, simple and fun from my perspective. Exactly how I want it to be.

Ours is on May 14! Can't wait. Here is the promotional video we are sending out to kids. Still loving Photopeach

yummy image from here

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Spilling Ink

There has been so much talk in the blogosphere about the new book by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, Spilling Ink, that I knew I couldn't possibly wait to read it until August when our overseas book orders arrive. to the rescue! As luck would have it, the book was delivered mere minutes before I headed out the door to start my spring break vacation.

I blazed through it--dog-earing pages, nodding my head, all the while wishing I were a classroom teacher again. To go through the whole book with kids to see what resonates with them as writers. To share the 'realness' of Anne and Ellen (such voice these two have!) and how hard writing is but how good it also feels.

But mostly, I'd love to watch them dive into the chapter endings of 'I DARE YOU' ideas. My plan is to do more than a few of them myself and see what happens with my own writing.