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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Second Graders share what they learned about...

...some very cool animals!

The second graders have been learning about animals that live on the African continent.  They have been using both online and print encyclopedias as well as nonfiction books.  It has been exciting to watch them take ownership over the process. Taking good notes was an integral part of the process.  I loved watching the students work hard to write down  "words and phrases that were in their own words" as well as illustrate or draw their new found knowledge.

Hearing a child stand up and lean over a computer to share new information with a classmate: 
"My animals eats what your animal leaves behind."  
"My animals eats your animal!" 
"My animal can be as long as a station wagon!"

The students produced nonfiction "All About" books for their animals.  They also created a Kid Pix slide that had to demonstrate the habitat of the animal along with a picture of the animal and some facts.  Here are their slides.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

On leaving my fifth graders with a lasting impression

Yesterday, I saw my 5th graders for the last time as their library teacher.  Each year it is harder to say goodbye -- six years is a long time and they grow and mature in ways that are both predictable and surprising.

I always feel this need to leave the 5th graders with some lasting impression - a great story, a fun project...something.
I sat in front of them yesterday and asked them, "What is the last thing you think I would want to see you do?"  The expected litany of responses ensued:  "Destroy a book;"  "Spill water in a book;" "Write in a book;" and, "Not read."

I proceeded to share this need to leave them with a "lasting impression."  I took a book out from behind my back, opened it and ripped out a page.  Right.  I was going for dramatic effect...and it worked.  With this page, I showed them how to create a blackout poem.

I then ripped out a page and handed it to each student as they walked by.  It was incredible.
Part of the drama surrounded the book I was using,  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  (This book had been glued and taped beyond measure and was now no longer repairable.)

The library was then filled with an angst-like noise of something that is difficult and hard to grasp.  Gradually, the din grew into something closer to productive noise - it grew quieter yet bubbly as students found their rhythm and began to get excited about the poems they were creating.  Check it out.

Did I make a lasting impression?  
I think so.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Careening Into Summer

Picture a scene from To Catch a Thief, Hawaii 5-O, or some other movie or TV show, where a car is driving just within control down a twisting road.  This is what the end of this school year feels like.  

There is always this push right up to the last day and days after, but this year, because of snow days, MCAS, and odd schedules, it feels more like careening.  Each day in the last week has had this sense of being in a car that is driving erratically down the road. Four days of school left and students are still creating content in the library! We are busy learning, people. Each day:

**The students and I are actively working on projects.  
**I am preparing my library for the installation of a sprinkler system (read: boxing up books).  
**I am managing the administrative tasks of closing down a library - inventory, statistics, weeding and ordering for next year.  
**I am still teaching lessons.  

Up until today this is.  Today was the last day of classes for library teachers.  The last day for students is this coming Wednesday and we have to be out of our building by Friday (for the construction).  

Each day might involve, taking down signage, inventorying a section of the library, teaching a class, setting up the technology for graduation, and/or working with the students to create Kid Pix slide shows for their research projects....you get the drift.  We are all busy, every teacher, every parent, every person involved in the academic cycle.  We will not go gently into this good night.

HENCE...why I feel like I am careening into summer and my trip to Chicago to the American Library Association Annual Conference.  What a way to kick off summer.  Woo Hoo!  I love that I begin my summer by hanging out with readers, writers, readers and writers, publishers, librarians -- lovers of the written word.  Lucky Me!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When is a book not a book?

In what has now become a Father's Day weekend tradition, my daughter and I drove up to Montreal with my parents.  Twelve hours of driving passed quickly, we talked, listened to music and read.
While my daughter and I drove, my mother read the Nancy Drew mystery, The Hidden StaircaseIt did not matter that we had all read this book before.  Three sets of ears eagerly rested on my mother's voice and waited to see what might happen next. For Nancy Drew does find herself in some thrilling adventures.  
The stereotypes and generalizations in all the versions of the Nancy Drew stories can give pause, but can also provide good topics for conversation.  Thankfully, Nancy's "slender" shoulders could handle these thrilling adventures. Despite this, at the right moments, these books still provide hours of entertainment.

We started to think about ways to use the books with students, such as playing with and understanding language by using a thesaurus to find synonyms.  "Nancy said wonderingly" might be better described with another adverb.  We also had fun thinking about homonyms.  At one point, Nancy was working through a problem that was knotty and getting knottier.  I was laughing thinking about an ill-behaved or mischievous problem, a naughtier problem.

This led to my next idea - Nancy Drew skits!  Give a group of students a scene to act out.  They could demonstrate both the good and bad use of language.  Picture students acting out these scenes:
"Nathan Gombet's shifty eyes roved to the door, and, suddenly, he made a spring for it."
What does a "low exclamation of pleasure and belief" sound like?
 How does one murmur brokenly?
 Nancy glides here...
but prances here...  
and springs here.

My last idea?  Black out poems.  These pages should produce some very funny and descriptive poems. When is a book not a book?  When it is a script for skits, a word bank for poems and a language developer.