I’m putting my 5th graders on notice this week that it’s time to start thinking about being prepared to move on to middle school next year, so they need to step up their game when it comes to library skills. I want them to be able to walk into their new library next year and know how to use the OPAC, how to use call numbers and library signage to find what they’re looking for, how to choose appropriate sources for research assignments, and how to choose books for pleasure reading.
Toni Buzzeo has written a great picture book on this very topic that makes a great read-aloud for older students. Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything tells the story of Robert, the new kid in Mr. Dickinson’s class, Carmen, the disgruntled classmate assigned to accompany him to the library for the first time who warns Robert that their librarian is NOT helpful, and Mrs. Skorupski, who wants all of her patrons to become Library Success Stories. She makes the most of every “teachable moment” to meet her students at their point of need and show them how to find the answers themselves, whether it’s selecting a useful online article, choosing a project idea, or locating snake books in the nonfiction section.
The ongoing feud between Robert and Carmen (who are assigned to the same research team) adds humor to the story, and things come full circle at the end of the book when Robert is asked to escort the next new student to the library.
After reading the story aloud, I introduce the students to Toni Buzzeo and the real Mrs. Skorupski. Finally I have my students complete an exit slip so I can see whether they understand what it means to be a Library Success Story. Isn’t that what we all want for our students?
I was so blessed to be able to enjoy the 2017 solar eclipse with my family. We spent the weekend camping at Santee State Park and watched Monday’s eclipse from our pontoon boat on Lake Marion. The weather cooperated beautifully with us, and we couldn’t have asked for a better view. It honestly was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was over much too quickly.
In spite of being warned that it was more important to remain in the moment rather than trying to get pictures — which wouldn’t turn out well anyway — we did take a few photos. This one doesn’t come close to doing the eclipse justice, but it’s special to me because it’s my unique personal memento of an event I’ll never forget.
Being a librarian whose thoughts are never far from books, I couldn’t help but compare my eclipse experience with the one described in Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. This book has been a favorite of mine since it was nominated for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award in 2011, and I’ve both read it and listened to the audio version which is performed by three different narrators representing the book’s three main characters, and is extremely well-done.
To quote the book’s summary: “At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. Three lives are about to be changed forever:..Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s place in the universe.”
From the professional reviews:
“The astronomical details are fascinating and lyrically incorporated into the narrative. Readers who like quietly self-reflective novels like Lynne Rae Perkin’s Criss Cross or Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl” books will also enjoy this compelling and thought-provoking story.” —School Library Journal *starred review*
“Ally, Bree and Jack, three very different souls, converge at the Moon Shadow Campground to witness a solar eclipse. Mass has crafted a beautiful tale of preteen angst and growth under a glorious sky. The planetary research into our universe and the world of eclipse chasers is not only impressive but woven together in a way that makes this book hard to put down.”
“Mass succeeds in making the eclipse a truly moving experience for her protagonists and her readers.” —Horn Book
I’ve blogged about Wendy Mass before, as she’s quite a favorite at my house and you really can’t go wrong with any of her books. But as of this week I truly owe her my gratitude for preparing me six years ahead of time for one of the most amazing events of my life! THANK YOU WENDY!
It’s that time of year when school librarians start to think about resources we can use for teaching book care to our students. Here’s a great read-aloud that gets the message across in a humorous way, and it’s sure to leave kids feeling a bit more empathetic toward those of us who fret about smudged, wrinkled, stained, and torn books!
Little Louie is so excited about the story he wants to tell, but when first a jelly blob and then a peanut butter glob land on his beautiful pages, he is outraged that someone is being so careless with his book.
Page from A PERFECTLY MESSSED UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell
Orange juice stains, fingerprints,scribbles — keep calm, Librarians! — will no one respect Louie’s story? He eventually comes to realize that we can enjoy books (and life in general) in spite of any imperfections that intrude.
McDonnell (winner of a Caldecott Honor medal for Me . . . Jane) has created a thoroughly charming character in Louie, and there’s no doubt that as a book loverI have found a soul mate in him! In Louie’s own words: “We need to show some respect here. Books are important. They teach us stuff and they inspire us.”
And I love that I can use this book to share three different messages with my students: 1) Please take care of your library books!, 2) Even if someone else didn’t take good care of a book, you can still enjoy the story, and 3) Don’t let a little “jelly” spoil your good times. (In that respect it reminds me of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin!)
Testing season can be stressful for students and their teachers! We asked teachers for their favorite positive, motivational, stress-reducing, hard-work-encouraging and just plain fun read-alouds for those bubble-test kind of days.
The author (Hannah Hudson) goes on to list 6 titles that teachers recommended, with an explanation of why each book was chosen. It got me thinking about which books I would want to hear if I had taken one bubble test too many. Here’s what I came up with:
Dex: The Heart of a Heroby Caralyn Buehner (Because no one epitomizes the importance of hard work and dedication to a goal than Dex!)
Dexter the dog is little but he has dreams — big dreams. He wants to be a superhero! So he reads all the comic books he can, works out to build his muscles, and even orders a hero suit. Dexter has determination, spirit, and heart. He proves that no matter how little you are, you can still do very big things.
Instructions for using this book:
Brainstorm ways that students can prepare themselves for standardized testing (getting a good night’s sleep, eating a nutritious breakfast, etc).
Allow students to design a Testing Hero Suit. Features might include a cape in case the testing room is chilly, pockets for mints and #2 pencils, a belt buckle with a built-in pencil sharpener, and a logo to represent some sort of testing motto. (A large question mark, for example, with the big red NO symbol over it.)
Grandpa’s Teethby Rod Clement (Because I LOVE the visual twist at the end!)
Grandpa’s teeth, which were handmade by the finest Swiss craftsmen, have been stolen! Officer Rate arrives on the crime scene to investigate. He puts up WANTED posters for the missing teeth and rounds up the usual subjects. Grandpa even goes on the famous TV show Unsolved Crimes. But the crime remains unsolved. What is Grandpa going to do? And why does everyone in town keep smiling all the time?
Instructions for using this book:
Athk all thtudenth to thpeak with a lithp ath though they were mithing thome teeth.
Have students smile continuously throughout the day, the way the townspeople in the book do.
Face the standardized tests with the same bright smile the townspeople in the book use.
Skippyjon Jones: Class Actionby Judy Schachner (Because any school story that can pack in Mo Willems’ pigeon, a woolly bully, The Mona Fleasa, a word of praise for the delicious scent of books waiting to be read, a jump rope rhyme, slipping on a banana peel, three different Mexican Hat Dance songs, and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary words is worth sharing!!)
Skippyjon Jones, the little Siamese cat, really wants to go to school, but Mama Junebug Jones tells him school is where dogs go to get trained. So he goes inside his closet instead, where he finds himself in the school of his imagination, surrounded by dogs of all kinds enjoying reading, art, and music! It’s fun until a bully threatens total lunchroom destruction; then it’s up to Skippyjon to save the day.
Instructions for using this book:
Read it aloud to your students. Even better, play the audio version of the story (my book came with a CD) while you show the pictures.
Write your own set of class lyrics for a Mexican Hat Dance with a testing theme. (“Oh we are the testing banditos Clap Clap, We bubble like lively mosquitos Clap Clap, We all do our best on the standardized test, We hope that our snack will be Fritos Clap Clap!) Use the song and dance during your testing breaks.
Let’s Do Nothing!by Tony Fucile (Because students may need to practice doing nothing, since once they finish the day’s testing they aren’t allowed to read or draw or move until everyone else has also finished the day’s testing.)
Practice doing nothing every time the kids get on your last nerve. These are high-stakes tests after all, so your students really can’t over-prepare for the strict testing environment they will encounter.
Big Bad Wolves at Schoolby Stephen Krensky (Because ya gotta love a book whose cover shows a wolf sitting in class with two pencils stuck up his nose! Thank you Brad Sneed, illustrator!)
Rufus is not like the other wolves. He spends his time rolling in the grass, running like the wind, and howling at the moon. His parents, feeling he needs a more structured existence, send him off to the Big Bad Wolf Academy. The curriculum is tough: learning to huff and puff, determining the best way to enter a henhouse, and coming up with disguises to fool little boys and girls. When it’s time for exams, Rufus is unprepared. Then hunters interrupt the testing, and it’s Rufus who has the necessary skills to successfully fend off the danger.
Instructions for Using This Book:
Discuss with your students how everyone has a unique set of talents and abilities, and that rather than trying to force everyone into the same mold and measure success through a single limited type of assessment, we should….we should….well…
Maybe you’d better just save this book until after the testing is over!
All kidding aside, are there any read-alouds you like to use during testing season? Please share your favorite titles in the comments!
As most of you know, Pi Day is celebrated every year on March 14.
I can’t let Pi Day go by without giving a shout out to a book by one of my favorite authors, Wendy Mass. Her novel Pi in the Sky takes us to outer space for a funny and informative science fiction adventure. With pie!
In Wendy’s own words:
“The germ of the idea for Pi in the Sky came from a quote a middle-schooler gave me. It was by astronomer Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ My brain just started churning that quote over and over until a story started to form. I’ve always loved reading science fiction—starting with Ray Bradbury when I was younger—and I felt ready to take on the challenge.”
She actually started her career writing nonfiction for kids, so she’s no stranger to researching science and math. It actually took her three years to do the research for this book before she felt ready to write about astronomy, evolution, and astrophysics on a level that students could understand.
For years teachers have been using wordless books to encourage creative writing with their students, but imagine putting a new spin on it by having students write dialogue and narration using a comic book format! It’s easy when you use speech bubble sticky notes, and the same book can be used over and over again.
The Red Book crosses oceans and continents to transport one girl into a new world of possibility, where a friend she’s never met is waiting. And as with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over!
Students could even use this as a starting point for writing their own graphic novel sequel to show what happens to the boy who finds the book at the end of the story!
“A little girl sees a shiny new bicycle in the shop window. She hurries home to see if she has enough money in her piggy bank, but when she comes up short, she knocks on the doors of her neighbors, hoping to do their yard work. They all turn her away except for a kindly old woman. The woman and the girl work through the seasons, side by side. They form a tender friendship. When the weather warms, the girl finally has enough money for the bicycle. She runs back to the store, but the bicycle is gone! What happens next shows the reward of hard work and the true meaning of generosity.”
“A rainy day. Three kids in a park. A dinosaur spring rider. A bag of chalk. The kids begin to draw. . . and then . . . magic! The children draw the sun, butterflies, and a dinosaur that amazingly come to life. Children will never feel the same about the playground!”
The story of what happens when three children find a secret box that was hidden long ago, and travel across town and across time on a puzzling adventure. It’s up the the reader to interpret the ending, and to imagine what happens next.
Click here for additional teaching suggestions for this book.
“A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life!”
“When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience, and she must make a difficult choice. Will she have the courage to help him?”
Here is Henry Cole “reading aloud” from the book. This is a great introduction to show students how to think about and interpret a wordless book.
You and your students can easily cut sticky notes into speech/thought bubble shapes. (Just be sure not to cut off the sticky part!) If you’d like to purchase pre-cut speech bubble sticky notes, here are some that I found online:
Can you recommend other wordless books that students could use to write narration and dialogue? Please share in the comments!
Spearheaded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom, MCCBD is intended to “raise awareness of kid’s books that celebrate diversity and get more of those books into classrooms and libraries.” Visit the site to learn more.
I came up with a selection of titles from my school library that are perfect for this project, and I used Thinglink to add links to additional resources for the books and authors. Just hover over the book covers to see and click the links!
What books would you add to this collection? Please share in the comments!