29 November 2014

Book Review: How to Be by Lisa Brown

I found this book at Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston, South Carolina, which is a lovely little book shop. If you're ever in Charleston, you should definitely pay it a visit. The beautiful cover caught my attention and after reading it, I knew I had to buy it. The illustrations were awesome, the message was positive, the text was great for beginning readers, and it featured a big sister and a little brother (my daughter is four and my son is three). Yeah, I had to buy it. 

How to Be by Lisa Brown is an adorable book about positive character traits. Readers will love reading about how to be a monkey (you have to eat with your toes) and all the other animals. The writing is simple and repetitive, which my kids loved. On the second reading, they enjoyed reading along with me. But there's plenty of opportunities to talk about vocabulary. What does it mean to be curious? What does it mean to be creative? We had a good discussion about each trait and how they show them all the time.

The book closes with a short lesson on how to be a person. Borrowing traits from the animals in the book, the author lists six important character traits the reader should build, but the best advice comes on the final page. After reading the book, you might have a discussion with your students about other positive character traits. Can students think of an animal that illustrates that behavior? Break out the crayons and add your own section to the book.

If your school has a character education program, this book should definitely be part of it. Kindergarten and first grade students are sure to love it. My three-year-old had it partly memorized after two nights of hearing it as a bedtime story. I caught him the next day sitting in his bed reading it to himself. 

☆ (Money Back Guarantee)

27 November 2014

A History Project in Development

There's been something bouncing around in my brain for the past several weeks and I want to get it out. I'm hoping that I can get some help developing this little seed of a thought. So, be prepared: I have my fingers crossed that you'll post a comment at the end of this post. 

There's a closet in our library that's full of boxes. Not boxes full of books or papers, as you might expect. Nothing exotic in the boxes like discarded film projectors or antique floppy disks. Each and every box is chock full of photographs, lots and lots of photographs. And some negatives (kids ask your parents what negatives are). And even a few VHS tapes. What I have in the closet is years full of photographic history of our school. I'm not sure what time period is covered, but I'd guess several years in the 90s. 

Our school opened for the 1990-1991 school year, so next year will be its 25th birthday. Back then it was called Fourth Street Elementary School. A lot has happened in 25 years, including a name change. To celebrate, I'd like to do a history project about Stroud Elementary School. The photographs are a start; I definitely want to digitize those, but I don't want to stop there. I'd love to interview Stroud alumni, former teachers, and people in the community. But here's my question for you: what else? How else can I make this an awesome project? 

Ok, go!

10 November 2014

Postcard Project: Connecting 39 Schools in the U.S., Canada, Indonesia, and Australia

Last year, we participated in the Postcard Exchange Program, a pen pal network created by Melissa Schur. We connected with 20 schools in 15 states across the country. In the process, we learned a lot about the other states, practiced some letter writing skills, and even participated in our first Mystery Skype. This year, it looks to be bigger and better.

There are 39 schools from the U.S., Canada, Indonesia, and Australia participating in this year's postcard exchange. And we've already received postcards from seven schools! We're just getting started and we need to hurry for our friends in Indonesia and Australia; they'll soon be getting out for their summer break! Fourteen classes at Stroud, from kindergarten to fifth grade, are taking part in the program. I created a lesson menu from which teachers can choose from a variety of lessons. I'll use this document to track the classes and keep up with who is doing what.

Some classes started brainstorming about their letters during their last visit to the library. Some students used books about Georgia to help decide what we wanted to share with our pen pals; other students thought of questions we wanted to ask. We'll work on composing the letter on our next visit. My goal is to get all of our letters sent out before the end of November. But that won't be the end of the postcard project, not by a long shot. Classes at Stroud have the option of connecting with multiple schools, either in exchanging postcards or through Mystery Skype sessions. We'll be learning map skills by plotting all the schools on a map. We'll use online tools to do research on our pen pals. For some classes, I'm sure this will be a project we're involved in until the end of the school year. 

08 November 2014

Picture Book Bracket

It's November and that means two things: there are a lot more hairy-faced men out there and it's time for us to celebrate our love of picture books! It's hard for me to participate in No-Shave November since I don't shave pretty much all year, but I'm happy that others are joining me in giving their razors a rest. But participating in Picture Book Month is so much easier. It can be as simple as recommending a particularly awesome picture book to a particularly awesome friend. Or it can be something a little more ... interesting.

This year, we're celebrating Picture Book Month by having a Picture Book Bracket. I chose 16 of our favorite picture books and paired them in 8 initial match-ups. They're all awesome, but only one can win. Which one will it be? 

Voting starts this week. Each match-up will be decided by two or three classes. In the final match-up, every student in the building will cast a vote. 

The contenders are:
  • Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes by Eric Litwin
  • The Book That Eats People by John Perry
  • The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington
  • The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Jitterbug Jam by Barbara Jean Hicks
  • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • The Hello-Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
  • The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • That Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
  • The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak
  • Probuditi by Chris Van Allsburg
  • When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor
  • Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
  • The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith

Axing the Biography Section

Two years ago, I took the first steps in ditching the Dewey Decimal System. The first step was splitting chapter books into genres. Then, I reorganized nonfiction. And this weekend, I started the next step in our library's shift toward genrefication by axing our biography section and moving those books into other nonfiction sections. It's something I've been considering since I heard Sherry Gick, Tiffany Whitehead, Kathy Burnette, Megan Scott, and Shannon MIller talk about it at their AASL '13 session on Ditching Dewey

I'm confident that the change will result in an increase in circulation for many of our biography titles. I don't think I've ever had a student come in just to browse the biography section with no specific subject in mind. Instead, students ask where the sports stars are or where they can find famous musicians. Sometimes students are looking for a president. By grouping famous athletes with the sports nonfiction books, famous artists with the drawing books, and books about inventors with books about inventions, students will be able to quickly (and independently) find they books they're looking for. 

The freed up space from the biography section will allow me to create a spot to highlight new arrivals. Before now, I'd show all the new books on the morning show, create a list in Destiny, but then just put the books in their spots. I knew it wasn't the best way, but I didn't have a good spot until now. I know the students will be excited to see all the new books in one spot for a few weeks. Then, I can just cover the "new" sticker with a genre sticker and put them in their spots.

The only section still alphabetized is picture books. I'd love to make that section more user-friendly, but I haven't come up with a solution yet. It won't be nearly as easy to split the picture books into genres as it was with our chapter books. For now, they'll stay in ABC order by author, but I'll keep thinking.