Raising Kind Humans One Student at a Time

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s National Day of Service is the perfect time to discuss with my students the importance of helping others. After discussing with my students what Dr. King  meant by “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others”, we got busy helping others.  At my school, I not only encourage my students to ask their parents to help them participate in our county’s many MLK Day of Service events, but I bring a service project to our school.  One year we created poster sized thank you notes for our local firefighters, and I delivered the four posters to the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department station (where they were thrilled to receive them!), another year we made thank you cards for soldiers at Walter Reed VA Hospital and I delivered them to the Wounded Warriors Project in Germantown.  This year we made over 200 cards for the organization Cards for Hospitalized Kids.  I told the kids that they were making cards for kids just like them, and to create a card that they would like to receive if they were the ones in the hospital.  Many of my students went above and beyond to create meaningful, and absolutely beautiful cards, and I share a few of them below:

Invisible Boy by author Trudy Ludwig and illustrator Patrice Barton is a gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.

Be a Friend by written and Illustrated by Salina Yoon, is a heartwarming story of self-acceptance, courage, and unbreakable friendship for anyone who has ever felt “different.”   There is also a wonderful song written by Emily Arrow that is a fun addition to the lesson!

Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, and illustrated by Jen Hill is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.

Small Saulwritten and illustrated by Ashley Spires, is a  high-seas adventure and a  light-hearted celebration of individuality, perseverance and being true to one’s self.

Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B Lewis, is the unforgettable story of bullying, and regret for lost opportunities to show kindness.

The first week of February is National School Counseling Week, and to celebrate, I read books about kindness to others, and then we showed kindness to our school counselor, Debbie Miller, by writing her thank you notes.  Students in prekindergarten drew a picture using this thank you note template I created; kindergarten through grade 2 students used a template I found on Teachers Pay Teachers (which I bound into a book each day) and students in grades 3-5 created their own cards.  I asked my students to reflect on lessons Counselor Miller had taught the in their classrooms, issues she may have helped them with, or just say thank you for caring about us. My students have great big hearts, and wrote some of the most beautiful letters and cards to her – the reaction I received each day from Debbie was priceless!

Join me and commit to teaching kindness. Check out the awesome teacher resources on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s website here.

Share in the comments below activities you have done with your students to teach kindness!

The Creative Librarian: Adventures in School Librarianship contains affiliate links – please click here for information.

Getting Loopy during Computer Science Education Week

Future Ready Librarians are brave before perfect, and I bravely lead my students into a variety of learning experiences, hoping to find the perfect way to engage them.

We celebrated Computer Science Education Week (12/3-12/7/18) again this year by participating in the Hour of Code.   My primary grade students were introduced to the world of computer coding through various online and “unplugged” games that take them step-by-step through the process.

My kindergarten students and I got a little “loopy” by first reading Sing and Dance in My Polka Dot Pants by Erik Litwin, danced to the accompanying video, and then students took turns leading their classmates using the Code Your Own Dance Party lesson plan resources that I modified on Code.org.  If you would like to see my lesson, please click here (feel free to make a copy of it for your own use).

Persistence is the name of the game when it comes to building a strong foundation. After watching the Code.org video that compared building a foundation to building a sandcastle (link here), we moved to the tables for hands-on learning.  My 4th grade library helpers were so supportive of the 1st graders as they explored the concept of foundations by attempting to build a tower with toothpicks and gumdrops that would support a picture book. If you would like to see my lesson, please click here (feel free to make a copy of it for your own use). A book that works alongside this lesson is How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk.

Students in grades 2 to grade 5 classes brought their Chromebooks to media class so I linked the code.org/learn website in their Google Classrooms and allowed them to self-select a game or games for their grade levels.  I encourage my students to read and try (and fail) and try again – and to ask their table mates to help them.  Students helping students is a great way for them to learn and grow.

With each class that participated in Hour of Code, I sent home information about Hour of Code and why computer science is so important to the success of our students, and our global society. I included the Hour of Code website is https://code.org/learn and I encouraged all to continue with their learning with Beyond Hour of Code herehttps://hourofcode.com/us/beyond.

I have an active makerspace in my library, and created a Coding Club using Google Classroom.  In it, I share resources provided by Code.Org (and a few other organizations, too).

I have been involved with Code.org since I discovered the organization several years back, and have benefitted from two full-day workshops.  You will not only have the opportunity to network with some amazing teachers, you will go home with a wonderful book and lots of hands-on resources to use in your lessons.  I highly recommend their workshops – take a look at their professional learning opportunities here … ”Anybody can learn.  Start today.”

The Creative Librarian: Adventures in School Librarianship contains affiliate links – please click here for information.

October is Inktober for our Doodlers!

A few years back I heard about Inktober from my colleague Matthew Winner, and decided to participating in the event this year with my students as part of my STEAM Makerspace.

From the Inktober website, “What is Inktober? It’s an art challenge started by Jake Parker, one of the founders of SVSLearn. Every year, artists all over the world take on the challenge of making an ink drawing every day for the entire month of October. That’s 31 drawings in 31 days! The goal is to improve your drawing skills and develop positive drawing habits.”

Jake Parker is the talented author and/or illustrator of several children’s books, including The 12 Sleighs of Christmas, Little Bot and Sparrow, The Little Snowplow, Who’s the Grossest of Them All? , The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair, Apples A to Z, and The Tooth Fairy Wars. His graphic novels include The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, SkyHeart, Missile Mouse series, The Antler Boy and Other Stories, Rocket Raccoon, SkullChaser, and Lord Balderben and the Infinicorn of Destiny. He also published art books entitled Jake Parker Drawings, Drawings II, and Drawings III.

I started by creating a large calendar using one of my hallway bulletin boards, and using Post-it® Notes, invited Flower Hill staff and students to participate. Since we are an elementary school, I didn’t want them to post on social media, but rather to enjoy each other’s creativity as they walked down the media center hallway! Post-it® Notes served this purpose perfectly!

Some prompts were more popular than others! 😀
We are looking forward to participating again in 2019!

JumpStart’s Read for the Record – Maybe Something Beautiful

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record brings together millions of people each year in classrooms, libraries, community centers, and homes across the US. This annual campaign was launched over a decade ago to highlight the importance of building early literacy and language skills for EVERY child, so that all children have the opportunity to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed.”

This year, Jumpstart chose one of my favorite picture books, Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by the amazing Rafael López. The story is fictionalized version of the transformation of the East Village in San Diego into the stunning Urban Art Trail by two exceptional people –
Rafael and Candice López – committed to art and social justice.

Maybe Something Beautiful is about a young girl named Mira who lives in a gray and hopeless urban community until a muralist arrives and, along with his paints and brushes, brings color, joy, and togetherness to Mira and her neighbors. This book was a Maryland Black-Eyed Susan picture book nominee last school year, so I had read this book with most of my PreK-Grade 5 classes last year. When I read it to my primary grades this year, many remembered it. I had found a book trailer about the book which shows video from the actual Urban Art Trail which my students enjoyed viewing (link to my lesson plan here). I used the corresponding bird handout (teacher’s guide here), which PreK-grade 1 students colored with crayons and colored pencils. Many were absolutely beautiful and so creative! On the back side was the certificate of participation. With grade 2 students, we taped together 4 poster-sized papers, and each class created a mural, more-or-less in the style of the illustrator. We even learned how to dance the cha-cha-cha! Everyone loved this book!

Fun with Back-to-School Bulletin Boards

Trying something a little different this year, I created a “Summer Travels” Bulletin board, and it quickly became one of my most popular interactive bulletin boards ever!

Staff and students filled out “suitcases” with their names and travel destinations.
I love to encourage reading … this board featured some of their favorite book titles from the previous year – along with a few new titles to our collection.
As much as I love my interactive boards, sometimes it is just nice to use the posters that we receive from publishers!
Towards the end of September, this bulletin board transformed slightly to …

Dots Helps Us Make Our Mark!

Every September, we participate in International Dot Day – a global celebration of courage, creativity, and collaboration. It is based on the Peter H. Reynolds’ book entitled The Dot—the story of frustrated grade school artist, Vashti, as she sits slumped over her blank piece of paper at the end of art class. “I just CAN’T draw!” she tells her teacher. Her teacher first uses wit, then subtle yet clever encouragement to inspire her student to go beyond her insecurities and become, in the words of a younger boy who “can’t” draw either, and laments that he could never become “a really great artist” like Vashti. However, she encourages him to try, just as her
teacher did. The open-ended conclusion encourages students of all ages to contemplate how they can make their own mark in the world.

Peter H. Reynolds is one of my favorite author/illustrators!

We discussed fixed versus growth mindset, making our mark, and then students created their own art to take home and share with their parents.

Students used our recycled dot-shaped crayons, too! This is a great use for old, broken crayons — find out how to make them here.

2018 National Energy Conference for Educators

The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project began “over 35 years ago as a one-day celebration of energy education when National Energy Education Day was recognized by a Joint Congressional Resolution. In the same year, President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation stressing the need for comprehensive energy education in our schools, a reduction of our dependence of fossil fuels, and increasing use of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency.”

This year, MCPS school library media programs partnered with The Energizing Student Potential (ESP) program to bring resources to educators so that they may teach their students with their awesome hands-on learning activities.  This past year, my 5th grade students enjoyed the ESP lessons, and were able to present their anemometer and windmill projects, and demonstrate wind energy with our KidWind turbines, at our school’s STEM Night and Science Fair in April. 

This coming year, I hope to start an Earth Conservation afterschool program for my 4th and 5th grade students that will include the NEED.org energy lessons, as well as others that focus on the Three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle.   My goal is for them to submit their year-long project to NEED.org for consideration in the Youth Awards Program.

At the 2018 National Energy Conference for Educators in Galveston Island, Texas, we were able experience the ESP lessons with the dynamic NEED.org facilitators, and the networking opportunities were invaluable.  The friendships that I made with educators in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Massachusetts will hopefully be lifelong! I am looking forward to a long partnership with NEED.org !

2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival (in review)

Being a part of Gaithersburg Book Festival planning committee is magical for me, because it allows me to be on the ground level of creating this amazing event each and every year.  As I watch the list of featured authors and illustrators grow, and help to recruit authors, illustrators, poets and other creative sorts for our writers’ workshops, my anticipation grows as well.  I encourage my students and their families to attend, hoping they will be as excited as I am about the “big day”.  There is nothing quite like listening to an author talk about their writing, or watching an illustrator create magic on an easel!

In case you missed my earlier posts about GBF 2018:

And The Children’s Book Podcast by Matthew Winner

Pop-Up Interviews at the Gaithersburg Book Festival (The Children’s Book Podcast #447)

In Conversation with Matthew Winner of The Children’s Book Podcast

The Children's Book Podcast logoAs a new educator, I met Matthew Winner at the Maryland Association of School Librarians annual conference where I attended one of his workshop sessions.  I have been one of his biggest fans ever since.   I have found his children’s literature podcast to be one of my favorite forms of professional learning and one of the best resource tools for library collection development.  But they are wonderful resources for anyone who loves children’s literature from librarians, to teachers, to parents – and to the children who love to read. Matthew’s interviews encourage the listener to look at each book with eyes that see the wonder in its words and illustrations.  Every time I listen to his podcast, I am filled with joy.

Matthew is a “Rock Star” school librarian in Howard County Public Schools. In 2013 he was named Mover and Shaker by School Library Journal for his work incorporating technology into his classes.  That same year, he was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program.  Matthew is the co-founder of All the Wonders children’s literature website, and the founder of The Children’s Book Podcast.

On Saturday, May 19, Matthew will be in conversation with Gayle Forman, prolific author of young adult fiction titles including Just One, Leave Me, I was Here, If I Stay, and Sisters in Sanity about her newest release, I have Lost my Way – a powerful story of empathy and friendship.  In live recording for The Children’s Book Podcast, Matthew will explore Gayle’s craft as a writer, asking questions with a sense of curiosity and wonder for her artistry.


What do you appreciate the most about interviewing authors and illustrators?

“I have always loved having a venue to speak openly, honestly, and sincerely about the books I love with the people who made them. More often than not I have seen something beautiful or challenging or new important (or all of the above) in these books. That opportunity to get to know the storyteller as well as the origins of the stories themselves is something I’ve always valued.”

What have you learned about yourself and about the KidLit industry as your podcast has evolved?

“I think the biggest things I’ve learned are that modeling diversity and representation through your art or platform take concentrated intention, and with said platform comes responsibility.  I strive to champion as often as possible authors and illustrators of color, LBGTQ authors and allies, and historically marginalized voices. But in doing so I find I spend a lot of time looking at my recording schedule and being as deliberate as possible as I consider what my guest list says about my values and goals on the podcast. It’s important I stay cognizant of my own biases and gaps in knowledge as I approach each interview. It’s something I strive to improve with each and every episode. I think that everyone in children’s publishing, from authors to illustrators, editors to publishers, bloggers to teachers, we’re all still trying to find our way, to navigate these uncertain waters with care and respect. It’s nice to know that all of us are learning together.”

What keeps you coming back year after year to the Gaithersburg Book Festival?

“I live in Ellicott City, just a short hop down the road to the GBF, and I am continually impressed with the list of authors hosted each year. The setting of downtown Gaithersburg feels intimate and even quaint, but the authors, illustrators, and cartoonists that come to speak rival that of The National Book Festival some years. It’s really a great way to hear a world class author on a close-seat stage.”

Since you are a KidLit expert, how do you feel about interviewing young adult author, Gayle Forman? Do you think you’ll continue to expand your podcast and interview more young adult authors in the future?

“The books that are most often on my radar as an elementary school librarian tend to be books that would appeal to that age range, but I definitely try to “read up” as often as time allows (and usually through audiobooks). I don’t feature YA as often as I’d like, but I’m blessed to have a great group of friends who work in middle and high school libraries and are always willing to share what books are on their radar or won’t ever stay on the shelves. But in terms of the interview, I’ll approach my interview with Gayle with the same sense of curiosity and exploration as I do with any other guest. I look forward to speaking with Gayle Forman at GBF and all that we’ll all learn together about her craft and her new book!”

Gayle Forman will be in conversation with Matthew Winner in the Ogden Nash Pavilion   1:15p-2:05pm – I hope you’ll join in on the conversation! 

For more information about Gayle Forman and her books, visit http://gayleforman.com

Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman has written several bestselling novels for young adults, including the Just One Series, I Was HereWhere She Went and the #1 New York Times bestseller If I Stay, which has been translated into more than 40 languages and in 2014 was adapted into a major motion picture.

To listen to The Children’s Book Podcast, visit  http://lgbpodcast.libsyn.com/

Hosted by Matthew Winner, co-founder of All The Wonders. The Children’s Book Podcast features insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators, and everyone involved in taking a book from inspiration to bookshelf.

Zooming through Space with Dave Roman

GBF starbunny_gaithersburgDave Roman is one of our most popular children’s book presenters we’ve had crash land at Gaithersburg Book Festival.  His graphic novels are exciting to read, and he has a great way with kids – he “draws” them out (pun intended) and helps them get their creative juices flowing with his interactive presentations and workshops.

Dave’s books – especially the Astronaut Academy series – are very popular at my elementary school library and copies are rarely on the bookshelf in my ever growing graphic novel section — they are out in the hands of my students!

On Saturday, May 21st, you will find Dave leading the Comics Character Team Up (with Special Guest) a workshop for middle school-aged kids 11:00-11:45 am in the Children’s Workshop Tent and moderating the Science Comics Series discussion 12:15-1:05 pm in the Willa Cather Pavilion.

Dave stopped by to chat with me about the upcoming Gaithersburg Book Festival…

Have you been attending GBF since the beginning in 2010?  

I’ve attended all but the first Gaithersburg Book Festival. I was trapped on another planet that year, but was eventually saved by the intergalactic hero, Jud Ashman and his team of literacy robots!  

What keeps bringing you back to crash land in Gaithersburg each May?

Gaithersburg puts on one of the best book festivals I’ve ever been to. The attendees are such an enthusiastic community of people who care deeply about literacy and supporting the arts. The kids who come out to the comics-making workshop are like mad scientists with their boundless creativity. So kids have come back year after year and just keep getting more creative. I look forward to seeing their own books featured at the festival in the near future!  

Which book(s) will you be talking about at your featured presentation?

I’ll be moderating a presentation with Joe Flood and Falynn Koch, talking about the amazing Science Comics series from First Second. Joe is the brave author responsible for tackling Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter and Falynn is the mad scientist who is spreading knowledge with Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield. I was lucky to work with them as an editor, which means I got to read these books long before anyone else. Woo! I think the three of us are going to have a lot of fun drawing on stage and maybe I can convince them to draw a Plagues vs. Sharks crossover comic!

Do you have any book projects in the works that you can tell us about?  

I illustrated a book called Pluto is Peeved: An Ex-Planet Searches for Answers that was written by Jacqueline Jules and will be crashing to earth next month.

gbf pluto is peeved







Are you still creating the StarBunny webcomic? Anything you can tell me about it? 

It’s been a few months since I wrapped up the original Starbunny, Inc. story. But I have ideas for a follow up that I hope I can get to soon! Starbunny is probably my most personal work and it’s been super rad to hear from kids who really get into the idea of a lactose intolerant bunny hitchhiking across the galaxy on a shooting star caught with a butterfly net!yaytime

Hope you will come out to meet the amazingly talented Dave Roman (and our other authors and illustrators as well) at the 2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival!

Melissa McDonald

GBF Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator