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.”
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!
As an enthusiastic member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival Committee, I was thrilled to see our lineup of featured children’s authors and illustrators, which included: Dianna Hutts Aston, Cece Bell, Gennifer Choldenko, Paul Czajak, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Laura Gehl, John Green, Steve Light, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Dave Roman, Aaron Reynolds, Syl Sobel, Maris Wicks, Timothy Young among others.
Despite the rainy (and cold) weather, our dedicated guests arrived in full rain gear. And stayed. And listened. And participated in the many author talks and workshops. It was a wonderfully creative and enthusiastically attended community event, led by a group of totally awesome lovers of literature…Cannot wait for next year’s event!
I would like to thank my students, their parents, and the entire Flower Hill staff for a fabulous first year at Flower Hill Elementary School! We’ve learned a lot, had many adventures and had fun, too, and I am looking forward to another great year beginning in (late) August!
I came across an interesting article in the Washington Post, written by Deb Werrlein, an adjunct professor of English, and include an excerpt here, and link to the full article. In it she says, “A few weeks ago, my son and I finished reading Stephen King’s “11/22/63: A Novel.” The unusual part is the fact my son will be 18 years old in less than a month. I also read with his sister, who is 14. I didn’t plan to read aloud with my kids for this long. It just happened. As a former adjunct English professor who tutors students with dyslexia, I am an ardent lover of literature. Our home is packed with magazines and novels for all interests and ages. But these days, having a parent who loves and promotes books is not always enough. Reading competes with busy sports schedules, homework, and the ever powerful screens that dominate our kids’ lives. My kids have trouble saying no to the incessant flow of Netflix entertainment that draws them away from books. While they love a good story, they are not bookworms the way I was as a kid. Consequently, I discovered early that reading together encouraged an activity that my kids may have skipped altogether. It’s well known that reading aloud benefits infants, toddlers and emerging readers. Aside from introducing children to a love of literature and storytelling, reading exposes them to written language, which differs from the spoken word. Writing contains more description and typically adheres to more formal grammatical structures than speech. When you choose books that exceed your child’s independent reading level, you promote language acquisition, increase vocabulary, and improve comprehension. These benefits foster literacy in young people, but the pluses don’t diminish just because the kids grow up. When we finally turned the last page, I was sad for the end of an era. My son will graduate this June and leave for college in August. But I’m so grateful for the stacks of books and memories we’ve made over the years. From “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” to the Magic Treehouse series, to classics like “Huckleberry Finn,” to fantasy series like Harry Potter, to dramas like “Ordinary People,” and of course, to Stephen King, we’ve shared a lot. Many parents already understand it’s never too early to start reading with their kids.—and it can never go on too long. Reading aloud isn’t only about teaching literacy, it’s about sharing stories, and we can do that at any age. So if you’ve already got a good reading ritual going, don’t stop. And if not, consider plowing through some of that summer reading list out loud. You never know what you might discover together.”
I encourage everyone to read this summer, and for inspiration, provide links to several book lists below:
If you visited our school during the month of April you would have noticed our large bulletin board inviting all to pick a poem or two from the pockets, and share them with others. Throughout the month (and into May) we have been exploring different types of poems – Haiku, List, and Book Spine Poetry, to name a few. Book spine poetry is a bit eclectic, and it’s created and read by stacking books so that the title of each book is one of the lines in the poem. Below are a few examples of book spine poetry that my fourth grade students created:
We read Guyku (haiku poetry for boys) by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds and my 4th grade students created some fantastic Guyku and Galku (haiku for girls) –
During the week of April 27th – May 1st, many of my classes connected with students in other states via Google Hangout. We collaborated together to create some wonderful list poems with our new friends in New York and South Carolina. We read a few selections from Falling Down the Page – A Book List Poems, edited by Georgia Heard. and then, using Google Docs in real time, we created poems together, alternating lines, and color coding the poem to help! If you’d like to read some of them, please click here.
The month of May was filled with industrious students finishing book trailer videos, researching and creating online newsletters, learning about effort and persistence, taking care of the earth, and much, much more!
I will be preparing my 2015-16 library book order soon, and have asked all the students to give me input. I have several book catalogs available for them to peruse, and they can add their suggestions to the wish list.
The Black-Eyed Susan Book awardees were announced on Saturday, May 2nd. I attended the event, and knew my students would be thrilled to find that The Day the Crayons Quit (educator guide),and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library(website) were this year’s KidLit winners! All three have been very popular titles in our Flower Hill ES library, and rarely stay on the shelves – if they make it back on them at all!
On June 16th, I was thrilled to be a guest reader in the Story Time Tent at the 6th annual Gaithersburg Book Festival. I read two great books by Patrick McDonnell – Wag!and The Monsters’ Monster. Both have wonderful messages of friendship, kindness, and love, and both have downloadable activities from the publisher’s website. I also volunteered in the Edgar Allan Poe Pavilion, and there was able to listen to many authors of adult literature. At one point during the day when I wasn’t volunteering, I had the opportunity to listen to Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan discuss Marilyn’s Monster, a delightful book about a little girl who has been found by her monster yet, so she decides to go out and decides to go out in search for him herself, and the adventure that ensues. (Michelle reads her book to us)
(Matt gives writing tips)
Another book I like to finish my year out with is The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds – a quiet book about a little boy who learns to follow his guiding star. I love sharing this book with my 4th and 5th graders and getting them to think about their own strengths and following their own paths to greatness.
Reading is my super power, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my love of books and learning with my students. I have spent many enjoyable hours this weekend listening to The Busy Librarian’s podcasts, and have been so thrilled to learn more about authors and illustrators (and everyone in between) and their amazing books and hope that I’ll be able to stretch my media center budget to include the purchase of all of the books I have heard about on the Let’s Get Busy Podcast. If you haven’t discovered Matthew Winner’s fantastic website or podcast series, you need to do so quickly by clicking here!
In October, Maryland Association of School Librarians (MASL) held its annual conference. As I always do, I left energized and full of new ideas to bring to my school library. Although I am far from the level of school librarians like Matthew Winner and Jennifer LaGarde, I strive to be a mover and shaker in the field of school librarianship, and I continue to Level UP my library program. I follow Jennifer LaGarde’s philosophy … I am NOT a Zombie Librarian – I am definitely fighting the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse in my school library media center! Each year I challenge myself to submit a proposal to MASL, and again was chosen present this year. You can see my Session 1 presentation on becoming a Common Sense Media certified educator here.
One of the exciting things I was asked by my administration to create was enrichment programs for our 2nd and 4th graders. This fall I launched “Technology Rocks Information Literacy” to give my students more opportunities to do more in depth research and create projects using technology. Students were invited based on their MAP-R scores, and I have twelve 2nd graders and thirty-four 4th graders participating this session. I meet with the 2nd graders twice a week for 30 minutes, and with each of the 4th grade groups once a week for 30 minutes. I chose two MASL 2014-2015 Black-Eyed Susan books upon which to base the programs: Lifetime by Lola Schaefer and Escape from Mr.Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. I have asked the 2nd graders to research one of the animals in the book Lifetime, and create a Google presentation based on their research to be shared with their classmates and teachers. After reading the book (and working through all the riddles within it), my 4th graders will be creating book trailers and a scavenger hunt for all the Flower Hill students. We will be culminating our fall session with a Google Hangout session with the author (whom I was thrilled to meet in person at MASL conference after having emailed back and forth for some time)! MCPS launched Google Apps for Education this year, and rolled out Chromebooks to the 3rd and 5th graders; my goal is to prepare not only these 2nd and 4th grade students, but all of my students (and staff!), to the Google products and to build their computer navigation skills for the rigors of PARCC online testing.
I asked all my students and staff to sign the Digital Citizenship Pledge and shared with them these THINK bookmarks created by Technology Rocks seriously blogger Shannon Long. It is amazing the engagement when you start talking about being safe online, posting on Facebook, Instagram, etc., and discussing the reasons for minimum ages on social media. Even the youngest of students emphatically shares their personal experiences with online games and social media!
So thrilled to be mentioned in The Busy Librarian‘s blog for my SLMS Around the World database! Thanks, Matthew, and everyone I’ve received requests from today! Can’t wait to connect with these awesome librarians!