Dr. Seuss Day!

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Saturday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and last Friday was Read Across America at school. I made paper bag Cat in the Hat hats with all the K, 1, and 2 classes during the week. I worked with the PTA president to put together some fun prizes for a Dr. Seuss door decorating contest. I sent out Dr. Seuss trivia all week. It was a great week for books, and it was also the first time in my current district that I’ve tried working on school-wide programming for Read Across America. Last year I was on maternity leave by now, and the year before that it seemed like teachers really did their own thing. So I haven’t been in the spirit since my last big program 3 years ago. It was great.

I brought back the paper bag hats this year in all of my K, 1, and 2 classes throughout the week.

I do love these hats. It was also Pajama Day.

I ended up with smaller bags than past years, but I improvised.

The teachers got pretty into the door decorating contest, too. This is the door that one for 4th grade.

I did a Dr. Seuss bulletin board for March, but I went very minimal.  There were so many cool doors and decorations all over the school that I just wanted some simple, colorful quotes in a Dr. Seuss font I downloaded.


Friday, February 22nd, 2013

We’ve had quite a rash of snowstorms since the new year, with none of them turning into snow days. Which is just as well, since a snow day at this point will mean a longer school year in June–we’re still making up days from Sandy. But, I still have winter snow fever. So a few weeks ago I read these two stories to my kindergarten and Multiply Disabled classes:

Then I showed the kindergartners how to make paper snowflakes. Once in a while, it’s not the worst thing in the world to make the library a bit of a mess.


Drop Everything And Read

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

So my first year teaching I wanted to have a game for my 2nd graders to explore the library and discover new books. I’ve blogged briefly about this game before. We spend a lot of time in second grade talking about how we choose our books, how to find summaries on the backs and inside the dust jackets of books, and basically just how we find the books we like. I do another activity called “Judge a Book By Its Cover” (I talk about Drop Everything and Read in that post). Judge a Book By Its Cover came in real handy this year when my 4th graders started Wonder; they remembered the 2nd grade game immediately and understood what I wanted them to do.

Anyway, I concocted this version of Musical Chairs for the library, and I called it “Drop Everything and Read.” Yes, I blatantly took the title of my game from this. But, I actually mean it a little more literally.

The kids walk around the library with their shelf markers, moving constantly just like in Musical Chairs. The game is exactly like Musical Chairs, really. When I yell out “Drop everything and read!” the kids must immediately use their shelf markers to pull a book from the closest shelf to them, drop to the floor, and start reading it. From any page, or from the summary. I time them, then they stop and put the book back and start again. If they don’t use their shelf markers (like the two students above), they are out. If they talk, they are out. I tell them my job is to catch them and get them out, their job is to stay in the game.

If the kids find a book they want to check out this way, they put it at their seat and keep playing. We check out 2 books at a time in second grade. And if they forgot their books, they can play the game but have to put every book they pick back on the shelves. Kids find a lot of treasures this way, and we always play the game after we’ve spent a good month talking about book selection and personal choice.

I felt like posting these photos I took of us playing recently because this game is always such a hit with the kids. They practice using shelf markers, they learn about keeping the shelves neat, and they discover books they might have otherwise overlooked. Did I mention that if I catch them hovering around their favorite books they can also be out? They have time at the end of class to look for whatever books they want, but while we’re playing the game they have to keep moving. It has to be a random book they drop and read. No dashing across the library to grab that book they really, really wanted. We save that for checkout time at the end.

Maybe I’ll play this with them next week.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the (School) Year

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I love this time of year at school. Every year during the short Thanksgiving week I have the 3rd and 4th graders help me change The Library Tree from fall to winter. It’s a small thing, but I love those rituals.

I’m also really getting into the change in direction with my back bulletin board and display. That area was completely ignored during the reign of my “Spotlight On” boards, but I’m definitely getting more foot traffic now with September and October’s boards. And I’m kind of in love with my December board, too.

I live for doing bulletin boards, no matter how simple. Some of my coworkers roll their eyes at me when I tell them this, but I need to put my fancy art degree to good use somewhere.

I also love this time because it kind of just works out that the space between Thanksgiving and winter break is when I do some of my favorite activities with my classes. Last year everything was moved earlier to squeeze it in before my maternity leave began in March, and I didn’t get that same thrill. So this week I’m kind of remembering how much I really do love December (and late November) in the library.

Here’s an example: I’m set to start Hugo Cabret on Monday with all the 3rd grade classes, it will be the 5th year that I’ve taught this book. But I’ll be at a workshop next Thursday, so I decided at the last minute to start it today with my Thursday 3rd graders. I wasn’t in the best mood this morning; it’s been a long week. But the second I launched into my annual Introduction to the Awesome of Brian Selznick, I immediately felt content and almost teary-eyed as I looked at another class of gobsmacked third graders fill up with wonder as they get ready to take that ride with me. That book never lets me down, and my day was pretty awesome after that.

This week the kindergarten classes all started our Laura Numeroff circle stories unit. Yes, it is technically “circular stories”, but you try getting 60+ kindergartners to say that over and over again, week after week. I do, by the way, have first and second graders who still bounce into the library to tell me about “circle stories” they’ve read that are just like the ones from kindergarten. That is rad, so I’m not changing it. Anyway, we’ve read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Take a Mouse to School this week. We start slow, but since we need a week to be authors and another week to be illustrators, I have to decide if I want this unit to continue into January. We usually start this unit the week after Halloween, but…that obviously didn’t happen this year. So I have to decide, ending it before winter break is so tidy and wonderful.

I also moved the first grade Wordless Stories unit to December this year. We’ll start fresh in January with Clementine, but I kind of couldn’t wait any longer to read The Adventures of Polo with them. Again, it just felt like the right time of year to do it.

The second graders are reading The Velveteen Rabbit this week and next! One of my favorite stories all year, and that will segue into the first chapters of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane before break.

And then, finally, my 4th grade classes are still working their way through Wonder and absolutely loving it. The storm definitely threw off my timing, so I will have to start looking at chapters to trim from the reading. But we’ve now all finished the “Choose Kind” chapter and had our big talk about that theme. Again, such a great time of year to be doing it.

I love this time of year at school.

Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I cannot overstate what a marvelous fall read-aloud Bob Raczka’s Fall Mixed Up is. I have read it to all of my 1st grade classes, my Multiply Disabled class, and I’m getting ready to read it to my kindergarten classes. I think this might even be my favorite read aloud of the year so far.
I bought this book last year hoping to get some use out of it, but I guess in my pregnant haze I decided it would be too confusing after all to read with classes. Not to mention the fact that I was furiously trying to squeeze in all of my Big Important Units with each grade before I went on maternity leave—we were kind of rushed last year. But this year I brought it out, and it was a huge hit.

Someone has gotten fall all mixed up. From the first sentence (“Every Septober, Every Octember, Fall fills my senses with scenes to remember.”) we know something isn’t right. Red pumpkins, bears collecting nuts for the winter, turkey legs and stuffing for trick or treaters. It’s all wrong! Can the readers sort it all out?

The more animated you get with this one, the better (I personally like to play dumb and pretend I don’t know it’s all wrong). I also had the kids make some fall collages to hang in the library. That took 2 weeks, so the next week we read Bob Raczka’s sweet but less hilarious Who Loves the Fall?. This title also went over well, especially when we reminded ourselves of all the fall things that went wrong in last week’s book.

So. Much. Fun.