"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Fantastic Jacques Cousteau

Last week, I read two biographies about Jacques Cousteau with my 5th graders.

We compared the two biographies and discussed why it is important to read more than one biography about a person.  The students were able to see how each biographer might focus on different aspects of a person's life.  They loved both biographies.  Listening to them discuss the two books, it became apparent to the students that each of them gravitated toward one or the other based upon his or her own interests.  This was a fun exercise for them to witness. 

There were so many interesting connections and discussions that occurred that the teachers brought the student back into the library for a visit to explore more about Jacques Cousteau.  I love Jacques Cousteau and grew up watching his television series, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau," so am thrilled that a new generation of children find him interesting as well!

I promised the students I would post links to some of Jacques Cousteau's movies as well as other information about him.  Enjoy!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Press Here and Draw There

This fall, I picked up Herve Tullet's Press Here.  

I was familiar with Tullet's doodling books, but had not seen many of his books for younger readers.  Press Here is an interactive reading experience that celebrates the imagination. Watch the book trailer to get an idea of what I am speaking about. I also recently bought Tullet's The Game of Mix-Up Art, a book which allows and challenges the reader to play with not just art, but shape, line and color.

I have been eager to share both books with students.  Today was the perfect opportunity.  Happily I grabbed the art teacher and we joined forces to bring this lesson to the students.  We read Press Here (a great experience!), I gave some background on Tullet and then we explored The Game of Mix Up Art.  The art teacher explained the project and the students set to work. Toward the end of our time together, I showed this interview with Tullet along with some of the other books from his Website.

Let me just share that my fourth graders (100 in all) were completely enamored with Press Here, there was not an unengaged face in the crowd.  They were happily pressing, rubbing, shaking and tilting.  A great book is a great book no matter the age!

Here's a video of their art.  We'll be creating our own The Game of Mix-up Art books with their work! Look for them in the new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The things of which memories are made...

My wish for everyone for this holiday season is plenty of time with the people you love.

As a child, my house was full of puzzles, maple blocks, wooden train sets, board games and a smattering of toy animals and people.  More important than these things were the "unexpected" toys, the tools for our imaginations.  It is playing with these things that I remember most, which is likely due to the imaginative play or skits we created to go along with our experience, like how we re-purposed our backless cabinet/changing table into a "magician's box" by laying it on its back.  My sister and I were oft to be found popping out of the two doors at the sound of my brother saying the magic words.  In the summer, this cabinet was brought out to the back porch where one of the wooden boards was not screwed down.  We would perform our usual popping out trick, but for the finale, my sister and I could remove the board, slip down through the stringers and truly disappear! Ta Da!

One family event which resonates so strongly for me and captures the essence of what I mean was our kitchen derby.  We had one of those portable dishwashers which we could pull out from under the counter and roll over to the sink (think: square, enclosed shopping cart with no handles but with similar maneuverability).  You would have to unclasp the hose from the back and attach it to the faucet (similar to a garden hose attachment) and uncoil the electric cord and plug it in.  It had a lovely flat top perfect for sitting on.  Now picture: a large kitchen; a square oak table in the middle with just enough space to circle around it (when the chairs are pushed in); and a long front hallway. Add in a small red tricycle which resided in the front hall.

Here's the scenario:  My father driving the dishwasher (with or without dishes), with either my sister or me on it, around the kitchen in a race with the tricycle, where the other of us resided.  The Indy 500 had nothing on us, we would race around the kitchen laughing and screaming as the dishwasher careened around corners and survived the 360 turns which the wheels made it do.  The person on the tricycle would pull out chairs from the table in order to slow down the careening beast looming over your shoulder.  Where was my mother?  Laughing and jumping out of the way lest she accidentally become part of the action!  Fun never had it so good. 

The things of which memories are made, heart-racing action and lots of laughter shared with the people you love.  Cheers.

What comes first?

Which came first? 


The chicken or the egg? 

What comes first? 

The Book

Common Core

 The book or the curriculum?

It's a silly question. But, I'll share my thinking.

Ideally one begets the other.  I often pick up a book and pretty quickly see a connection to the curriculum, either mine or a grade level.  The book is often the magic thread which sews together the tapestry of my lesson. What then do I do when I read a new book that is lovely yet I see no curriculum connection?  I suppose I can always teach a location and access lesson:

Where are picture books located?
How are they organized?
What do spine label stickers tell you?

But why do I feel the need to have to do even this?  Why do I have to justify reading a great book?  Isn't there value in this act? That last question is rhetorical, apologies.  Of course there is value.  As to why I have to justify reading a great book?  I believe that the school librarian has a very important, very special role in the school.  We are the dot connectors for the curriculum.  I love collaborating with teachers and celebrate this part of my job.  Also, I have always felt that my library department curriculum is best taught when it correlates with the grade level classroom curriculum (hopefully coming together in an authentic, engaging learning experience for the students!).  Maybe though, it is time I cultivate the role of reading champion.  I am already envisioning something along the lines of a program involving a "literature laureate."

The egg or the chicken? I have no idea.  The book or the curriculum?  Stay tuned.....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Food for Thought

During Picture Book Month, one of the day-by-day calendar suggestions was to celebrate books about cooking and food.  Fannie in the Kitchen by Deborah Hopkinson quickly sprang to mind!

I love sharing this book with my students.  They appreciate both the clever delivery of the story and the whimsical illustrations. Alas, I could not read it in November, I had to wait until it fit into my lesson plans.

Here are a few of my students talking about this book.

Why do I use particular books for teaching?  It is not a quality issue, my library is full of wonderful books.  Its a curriculum issue.  I have created an entire unit around this book.  We begin with a brief exploration of biographies and finish up with a tour of the cookbooks (641 being a Dewey Decimal number they remember after this) and searching in our online catalogue for both these types of books. In addition, students perform a readers' theatre script from Library Sparks (October 2009) and work in small groups to write and perform their own scripts.  You can learn more about the book in a this brief interview with Deborah Hopkinson. It is a very fun unit, and lucky me, I often end up with quite a few treats after all this new-found interest in Fannie Farmer and all those cookbooks get checked out!

This book lends itself well to many of the benchmarks in my Department Curriculum.  But what if it didn't? Can I justify just reading a book because it is wonderful? I haven't felt so in the past.  I have always felt the pressure to align my lessons with both my curriculum and the classroom curriculum.   Recently another school librarian challenged me to reconsider this perspective. She's correct. Shouldn't I, as a school librarian, also be supporting and growing a love of literature?  "What is wrong with helping students appreciate great literature by reading a wonderful book?"  Nothing.

Now, where can I fit this into my lesson plan book....?

Food for thought....  
(pun intended)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Learning through Skype

I am loving expanding the walls of my classroom.  With tools like Flip cameras and applications like VoiceThread, my students are connecting and communicating with students outside of their daily life.  Recently, my first grade students learned about TumbleBooks from a class of third graders in another library in my district.  The other library teacher and I Skyped with three different classes.  It was an exciting day.  I think the greatest measure of success was having my students ask me, the next time they came to the library, "Are we going to learn about something new on Skype again?"  "We will!"  I told them.  They don't know it yet, but the next time, they will get to be the teachers and they'll be helping someone else learn something new!

Here's some footage of the Skyping experience.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm Here...with you

It's Sunday night! I need to get this post out before the new school week begins!

I am determined to keep my input to a minimum this evening and let the students do the talking, so to speak.  I set out to read three books for National Inclusive Schools Week, but quickly came to the realization that only one book was needed: I'm Here by Peter H. Reynolds.  It was the perfect book to: frame our discussion about an inclusive school community; build understanding around what it looks like; and, identify the types of behaviors members of an inclusive school community exhibit. I'll let the students take it from here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Inclusive School is...

Inclusive Schools Week poster comment

Inclusive Schools Week poster
It's Inclusive Schools Week!  Today with my 3rd grade students I read I'm Here by Peter H. Reynolds.  I started the lesson by having the students build a definition of what it means to be an inclusive school and what it looks like, as well as having them describe what a library in an inclusive school feels like and looks like.  We talked about how the collection should include books that are both a window and a mirror for the students in the school.

We then read I'm Here.  We reflected on the story and then watched the animation of I'm Here. The students were visibly touched by both the reading of the story and the viewing of the video. (The music for the video perfectly underscores the gentleness of the story.).  I explained that I had placed posters with writing prompts around the room and that students could respond to the ones which moved them.  There was no obligation to participate.

It was a wonderful thing to witness.  Students were once again reminding me that even if they don't always remember to do the right thing in the heat of the moment, they are thoughtful human beings who know, somewhere inside themselves,  the right thing to do.  Today was one of those moments. During one of the lessons, a student asked a question, which I had just answered.  I answered the question as if for the first time with some added explanation, knowing that this particular student sometimes needed clarification, but would have done so regardless of the circumstances.  Two students snickered and added in a demeaning tone, "She just said that!"  It was a teachable moment. We had a very good authentic discussion about being an inclusive community and the ways in which we can support each other as learners.  What a wonderful growing moment for all of us.  It is not all perfect here in my library and in my school, but we are firmly rooted in good intentions and taking this journey together. I'm Here. You're Here. We're Here.

Here's a video of the posters, inspired by Peter H. Reynolds' I'm Here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who is in(cluded)?

It's National Inclusive Schools Week!

Awareness to Action: Moving Forward
"Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN).  Since its inception in 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference and other factors. The Week also provides an important opportunity for educators, students and parents to discuss what else needs to be done in order to ensure that their schools continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children."

I work in a fully inclusive school, at least I like to think we are. When I look around my classes, I see a rich, inclusive community.   I was pulling books for the Inclusion Facilitator in my school and was pleased to see the suggested book list encompassed a broad spectrum of books and that in almost every book I pulled from the shelves one prominent theme emerged, that of being or having an ally. The role comes up frequently in the work we do surrounding bullying in schools.  I wonder whether this is something we can teach children or if it is something intrinsic in certain children's character. Whether they envision themselves being allies or not, every day I witness my students looking out for and protecting those whom they believe need protecting.  How can we help them protect even those who don't appear to need it?  Food for thought.

Have Flip, Will Travel! I will be hitting the hallways of my school to find out what my students think an inclusive school community looks like.  Stay tuned!

Here are three books I plan to read this week.

I'm Here by Peter H. Reynolds

Flipping about: Collaborate. Communicate.Connect.

These are the elements I am enjoying most about my blog!  It is one of the  tools which allows me, and therefore my students, to collaborate, communicate and connect with other students and teachers, along with a broader community of parents, authors, illustrators and book enthusiasts.

How do my students interpret or define the words collaborate, communicate connect?   I grabbed my Flip camera and headed to the hallways to find out how my students define communication.  (You have already heard them talk about collaboration (see post: Have Flip. Will Travel).)

Here's my question, "How do we help students see the connection between expressing oneself and communicating an idea?"

Technology is a wonderful thing and when used appropriately can provide authentic learning experiences, but I am most excited about using technology to communicate and connect with others.  (I interpret "communicate" as the ways which we express ideas, thoughts and knowledge; and, I interpret "connect" as the ways we share these ideas thoughts and knowledge.) Stay tuned, because my students are eager to communicate and connect with you!