Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Check out today's Google Doodle!  It is a fun interactive Halloween doodle.  Depending on what two ingredients you choose to put into the witch's cauldron, you get a different interactive result.

For Halloween this year I am Super Grover.  The alter ego of Grover! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tried It Tuesday- Nooks!

I'm linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for the first time for Tried It Tuesday since today was a BIG day for me

This week is the first week my students are allowed to check Nooks out of the library.  Each Nook is acting like one library book and the students can have it for 2 weeks.  Setting up the Nooks was a process.

Step 1: Obtain Funding for the Nooks
Each Simple Touch Nook starts at $79.  (If you are interested in a Kindle they start at $69 with advertisements, $89 without.)   The price of a Children's Nook Book vary.  New titles are about $9.99 but since I was just starting my collection, I could purchase many titles for $4.99.   Covers to protect the Nooks were $15.00.

Getting money is hard. I truly feel lucky to work in the district I work in.  Both the PTO and local education foundation are extremely supportive.  Each year the PTO donates $1,000 to the library which is almost always spent on books and basic supplies.  Last year it was spend on Nooks.  I totaled everything above out and ended up with 8 Nooks, 8 Covers, and money left over books!

Step 2: Setting up the Nooks
Once the funds were set, the Nooks were ordered, and had finally arrived, everything needed to be set up.  Decisions had to be made.  With 8 Nooks I decided I wanted to split them into two groups: lower level readers and higher level readers.  The lower level would be for 2nd and 3rd graders and the higher for 3rd and 4th graders.  While searching the Barnes and Noble website I created a spreadsheet  recording  the title, author, and price of each books I wanted.

Next, I worked with the Community Relations Manager at our local Barnes & Noble store and gave her my two list.  She said I only needed to buy each book ONCE!  If I had two email accounts, every time you buy a book it can be read on up to 6 devices.  So I was able to select more books!  In the end I had 40 books for the lower level and 41 for the higher level.  81 books total!

Since we are a school and use Purchase Orders, the Community Relations Manager purchases all the books and emails you the code to redeem each book.  Each code must be redeemed individually.  This was time consuming...

Once all the codes are redeemed you need to go to the Nooks and register each device to a specific email address.  Your library will sync so all the books you just redeemed are now on the Nook.  For this having a strong wireless connection is extremely helpful.

Step 3: Getting the Students Ready
So the Nooks are ready but are the students?

My students were very excited to hear they could take Nooks home for two weeks.  I sat them down and went over a variety of rules.   First, We discussed the benefits of having a 40 books for 2 weeks at a time. Then I explained the cost of a Nook vs the cost a book from the shelf.  They learned that all Nooks must be handed back to me in person.  We discussed that EVERY child that wants to take home a Nook must have a special AUP/Consent form signed.  Students were informed that not everyone will have theirs signed.  I received a large number back, it was a great surprise!

Students then learned about our binders.  Blue for 3rd and 4th grade, green for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  Above our resources bin I am keeping 2 binders.  Inside the binder is a wait list for students who have signed forms and behind that a list of all the books that can be found in the Nook.

Step 4: Checking the Nooks in/out
This week the Nooks are ready to go!  It is going to smoothly.  As I hand the student whose names are at top of the list their Nooks, I remind them that it must came back to me in 2 weeks time.  I show them the directions I made inside to help them out, and tell them if it needs a charge to bring it back.  (I debated sending home the micro USB cords and decided to keep them as most families have one for some device or another at home and it is just another thing to get lost.)

The cases I bought each have pockets so include instructions on basic operations I think they will need to use the Nooks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Week (and My Truth Monday) updated

It is Halloween Week and as the years pass I begin to like Halloween more and more.

This week, the Kindergartners are watching the BrainPop Jr. video about Fall, coloring a fall bookmark to accompany the video I made, and with the time remaining we are going to come with 1 word for each letter of the alphabet about Halloween.  My first class of the week did very well  with identifying words and their first letter.

First Grade
In first grade we have been spending time focusing on basic library and computer skills.  So this week we will focus on parts of a book, especially a spine.  Students will get to choose from some Halloween themed books for a read-a-loud. Today's class chose "Miss Fiona's Stupendous Pumpkin Pies" which I LOVE.

After we talked about the parts of a book: cover, title page, back cover, and spine. A few years ago I found this great worksheet "Books Have A Spine Just Like Mine" from the Modesto City Schools Library Media Lessons.  The students love the lesson every year and its a great and fun parts of a book review.
Here is my sample for this year:

Second Grade
The second graders are making surprise Halloween shapes in Excel.  This is their first time using Excel.  I like to introduce it with creating an image so students get used to naming and finding cells.  once my classes do this I will post it.   I made my own image and want it to be a surprise.

Examples of my stretched out pumpkin:

Download Here

To wrap up my Monday I'm linking up with Sunny Days In Second Grade for:

Each week there a new topic and people share truths about that topic.  This is my first Monday linking up and I am excited.  This is a great way to get to know others in the blogger world. 

So here we go:

What creeps you out?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Teaching Today's Technology

While I personally am not a huge fan of eCards, I will admit that they often make me laugh.  Today, thanks to George Takei, I was able to read one that gave me a small laugh but made me think about teaching.

In the 21st Century, students come into the computer lab with a large range of computer skills.  Personal computers and tablets are a price point that most families have some sort of digital device in their home.  Some students have desktops with a mouse, some laptops with a touchpad, and others touchscreens.  Each year I find I am teaching mouse skills more and more; in fact, I now have a subpage dedicated to mouse games for younger students to practice on at all times.  In a few years, students will be more comfortable with touchscreens, they will need both mouse and keyboard instruction unless schools follow the trend.

I have been teaching computers for 6 years.  For the first 2-3 years I could not get out of the habit of telling students "click on the disk to save".  Students response was always, "What is a disk?" Yes, the disk has been long gone yet we the icon for saving is a disk and software companies stick with what people know. 

When we make videos in class, students immediately ask if they can put them online or more specifically on YouTube.  This generation is growing up online.  We a computer teacher I try and change my curriculum to match the changing environment but it is hard to predict what is next.

How can we prepare these students for the future when it is constantly changing?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Big 6 Research Model

The fourth graders are studying Vertebrate and Invertebrates and the third graders are studying Planets in our Solar System.  This is the first time the third and fourth graders are using the Big 6 Research Model so I created a bit of a checklist/step-by-step process for them.  We are doing much of it together but I plan for them to do it on their own for the next project.

There is a LARGE amount of information about the Big 6 Research Model on the website  The amount of information is in fact, overwhelming.  The best place to start is the Overview.

The Big 6 is of course breaks down finding information into 6 steps:
1. Task Definition
2. Information Seeking Strategies
3. Location and Access
4. Use of Information
5. Synthesis
6. Evaluation

An experienced researcher goes through all these steps and we must teachers our students to do the same. From now on, each and every project I do with third grade and up, we will follow this model.

To make it easier for the students to follow, I broke down each step into smaller questions to follow.
For example, Step 1: Task Definition is broken down into the following questions and table for responses:

Step ONE: Task Definition
Do I understand what my final project will be?
Yes            No
Do I understand the topic that was assigned to me?
Yes            No
What are some keywords or phrases I can use to get the information I need?

What kinds of information will I be searching? (maps, pictures, biographies, graphs)
Types of information:

How am I required to cite the information?

There are few reasons I like this model
First we can discuss the kinds of information students will look at for information, such as text or video, before we discuss the actual source of the material.  This started out a tough task for my students.  The did not see these two things as separate entities until I gave specific examples and practically acted it out for them.

Also, during Step 4, when they are gathering information, students must continuously evaluate each source on its level of difficulty while deciding if it is valuable.  They then must define new keywords if they arise and this forces/allows them continue their research.

For Step 5, they stop and regather themselves for starting their final project.  This is HUGE for many students who rush forward and are not ready or need to recoup.

To get my checklist head over to my TPT store or click here. Let me know if you use it.

Fall/Halloween in the Library

The library was been decorated all month for the season and holiday.  While Halloween is not my favorite holiday it is my favorite time of year for decorations.  Pumpkins, scarecrows, witches, and barrels of fun make the library look so nice.  Soon the Halloween specific items will come down but they will be replaced by some Thanksgiving items; luckily for me, the leaves and many of the apples, scarecrows, and other items and can stay up until December holiday.

Take a look at some small snip-its about why it is so nice to spend Monday - Thursday in the library.

The door to enter:

The first display shelf:
 The computer station has a tree in the middle that changes with the seasons:

 The tops of bookshelves are decorated and then books are displayed:

Our mascot Bailey dressed for the seasons as well:

A book display as you enter:

A group of use are dressing up as Sesame Street characters for Halloween.  Since I'm not typical I had to choose someone special.  I will post a picture on Halloween.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Better late than never I always say!

In September I was part of the SLANT Box for the first time.  It was a great experience to get to know two different teachers while having an excuse to shop for someone else ;)

My partner that sent me a box was The Caffeinated Teacher, Raye.  She is an ESL teacher in Michigan who sent me a great box of goodies.  Unlucky for Raye, the first box she sent me got damaged in the mail. Thank you USPS.  But she is so sweet and quickly prepared a second box and shipped it so fast.  As a school librarian who ships weeded books regularly to those in need I actually understood, I have gotten those notices from USPS a few times.

My SLANT box:
The theme for the month was things you forget and I always forget little office supplies or do not order enough so this was the perfect box.  The binder clips have already been put to use and there are jelly beans in in the container under the flower that I have broken into. As an elementary school teacher, I always love soap so that was such a nice touch.

Thank you! Take a look at The Caffeinated Teacher, she's awesome.

I did not get involved in SLANT box for October but I hope to remember to get involved for November

Monday, October 21, 2013

School Violence Awareness Week in NJ

It is School Violence Awareness Week in New Jersey this week.  My elementary school is focusing on Peacemakers instead of school violence which is perfectly age appropriate.  The students and staff are dressing up all week long to show unity. 

Today, Monday, we are wearing team jerseys to "Team Up Against Bullying" (I am wearing Ravens)
Tuesday, is blue for "True Blue Tuesday"
Wednesday is "Peacemaker Pink Day"
Thursday, Be a Peacemaker – Wear white today
And Friday, I’m a “jean-ious.” I stand up for a friend against 
bullying. Everyone will wear jeans.

During the week each classroom votes on a peacemaker; a student in their classroom they feel has the personality and qualities of a peacemaker and they make these great outlines of these the child to hang in the hall (photo to follow)

In the Media Center, I'm almost always mid-project and do not become a part of these themed week except to dress up.  But this year, I am not mid project with THREE grades! I was so excited I must have started to plan about 4 or 5 lessons but ended loving one and plan to do it with Kindergarten, First, and Second Graders. 

First we will read parts of People by Peter Spier. After the students will compare and contrast their me and their teacher.  They will start with what they see and already know about us and then we will share some of our favorite foods, colors, and sports. We will focus on things that make us different and point out that we still get along and teach together nicely every week.

Students will then pair up and compare themselves to their partners. After I will use some of All Things Apple in 2nd's inference pictures.  The students will color in the character to look like them and then draw 3-4 things around it that make them special.

My example is digital but the students are going to do draw theirs with crayons and color pencils.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Award Winning Books

First and second graders are learning about books that have won awards.  At their age we are focusing on Caldecotts and Theodore Giesel Award winning books.

First we defined what it takes to win a Caldecott.  Students learned a new word, distinguished. I read "Kitten's First Full Moon" by Kevin Henkes aloud and we watched "Interrupting Chicken" by David Exra Stein on youtube. We took closer looks at the illustrations of "Extra Yarn" illustrated by Jon Klassen, "A Ball For Daisy" by Chris Raschka, and "A Sick Day For Amos McGee" illustratd by Erin L. Stead. (Take a look at the Amazon widget at the bottom for all the books I highlighted)

After the students looked at the illustrations of 40+ Caldecott Award and Caldecott Honor books.  In the second grade students were split into two teams and first had to put 20 of the Caldecott book in proper order based on their call number.  After looking through all the books, they chose their favorite and tried to mimic the illustrators style of drawing.  These came out amazing!

The following week we looked at books that won the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award and Honor.  Unlike the Caldecott, we focused on the words and the pictures.
We read "I Want My Hat Back" by Jon Klassen and "Are You Ready To Play Outside" by Mo Willems.  We took a look at "Bink and Gollie", "Ling and Ting:Not Exactly the Same",  "Mercy Watson, Goes For A Ride", "Hi Fly Guy",  and "Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas".  

Students picked a single sentence to type into Tux Paint and draw a matching picture.  While our typing skills are not strong, it was important for students to understand the words are as important as the pictures when it comes to wining to be awarded a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wendy Pfeffer is Coming!

Every year my school organizes a Family Reading Night. An author comes and speaks to families that come come back at night. Volunteer teachers welcome them back with a variety if activities to accompany the author's presentation. 

Each family is out in one of two groups. The first group meets the author and sees their presentations while the second group does our other activities. The art teacher plans an activity, the music teacher sings and tells stories, and families read books together in the library. After 45 minutes, the two groups switch.

Families can order books to be signed and the even is always a big hit!

This year, with the big push towards non-fiction books I looked for a local non-fiction and came across Wendy Pfeffer. Wendy writes books such "the Longest Day","The Shortest Dat", "From Seed to Pumpkin", "Sounds All Around", and many more. Here is some more information about here:

I am very excited for Wendy Pfeffer and started a display to get the students excited too.