I always like to plan end-of-the-year activities for my library classes that encourage students to keep reading over the summer. As someone who always has stacks of books around the house, as well as a public library card, I take it for granted that time off from school just means MORE time to read. But I realize that for many of our students, the opposite is true.
Summer Reading BINGO, except I don’t play it as a bingo game. I give each student a copy of the grid showing all the reading possibilities along with some colored pencils. I put on some upbeat music and students move around the room collecting signatures from their classmates. Each student signs a square representing one type of summer reading he/she will participate in. Not only does this get kids planning for their reading, but it makes a nice memento with everyone’s autograph. I have also used this as a back-to-school icebreaker, where students sign a square that represents a type of reading they actually did over the summer. You can download the grid I use for free on Teachers Pay Teachers from Create Teach Share. (Also includes a Summer Reading Bucket List, which is cool for setting individual reading goals.)
I also like to create a Summer Reading Brochure tailored to my students as a way to share a lot of info in one place. I include a definition of “summer slide” and how to overcome it; information on summer reading programs hosted by the public library, the local bookstore, and online sites; and summer reading lists including our state book award nominees for the upcoming year. Since many kids now have some type of device capable of accessing the internet, I also include URLs for websites with free ebooks. I include our school library collection, and a link to DISCUS Kids, which includes a free subscription to Tumblebooks for residents of South Carolina courtesy of our State Library. (Your state library may offer something similar.)
And finally I entice them with the promise of our annual Summer Reading Celebration, an ice cream sundae party for students who turn in a reading log (signed by a parent) of books they enjoyed during the break or a certificate of completion from an official summer reading program.
How do you get students excited about reading over the summer? Leave a comment and share!
The quiz consists of seven questions such as what you want to be when you grow up, favorite after-school activity, and thing you’re most afraid of. Your answers determine your recommended genres, and you can receive anywhere from one to three categories of books that you might enjoy, along with a brief description of the genres and the reason they were chosen for you.
I have each student write his/her name on an index card and list the recommended genres. I then collect the cards so that I can provide some reader’s advisory feedback using the quiz results plus what I already know about the students’ reading habits.
While I look through the cards and write down a few recommended titles from our library collection, students use Destiny (our OPAC software) to conduct genre searches and write down any promising results on the To Be Read log sheet in their library folders. I give the index cards back as I finish my recommendations, and students are then free to visit the shelves for check out time. They can choose a book they found in the library catalog, a book I suggested, or something totally unrelated to the genre quiz activity.
Here are two log sheets you can download for your students to use for books they want to read in the future. They both have a column for the title and author of the book. The first one also has a space for a brief summary of the book, while the second one has a column for the book’s genre and for the date finished (should the student actually read the book).
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!
Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes — wherever young readers and books connect!
You can download and print some wonderful resources to celebrate reading this week, including a poster by Brian Won featuring characters from his book Hooray for Hat! and a bookmark by Cece Bell based on her graphic novel memoir El Deafo.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
If you’ve seen the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, then you’re familiar with the concept behind this book which shows us what’s going on above and below ground in the garden. The book opens just as spring is arriving, melting the snow that covers last year’s garden, and the illustrations show how the garden grows and evolves throughout the year and explain the symbiotic relationship between the insects and animals that live and visit there. As always Messner’s writing says much in just a few well-chosen words, wrapping scientific facts in poetic prose, and additional information about each animal is provided in the end notes. (Bonus: Right now you can get the ebook version for only $1.99 on Amazon. I used the free Kindle Reading App on my desktop computer to share this book on my interactive whiteboard so no one would miss any of the details in Neal’s mixed media illustrations.) Be sure to share Over and Under the Snow by this duo next winter!
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead
This young protagonist has had enough of winter’s endless brown (haven’t we all!) and with his faithful animal companions decides to plant an assortment of seeds to brighten his world. The pencil and woodblock illustrations provide us with small signs that spring is indeed coming, even though it seems as though nothing will ever happen in the brown dirt. Stead includes a nice peek below ground as well, which lends this book to comparison and contrast with Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. (You could also share the spring poems from Fogliano’s book When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons.) Enjoy the book trailer:
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
In contrast to the planned gardens in our first two titles, this book focuses on the many ways seeds travel and take root without (intentional) assistance from humans. Solid science combined with lyrical language (including lots of onomatopoeia) make it a perfect choice for story time, and the soft colored pencil and watercolor illustrations give solitary readers much to examine. The page layouts create the effect of a nature sketchbook, and may inspire some readers to take a nature walk and record what they observe! (Includes a bibliography of related nonfiction titles.)
I don’t know about you, but I was REALLY ready for spring this year! As a result, I’ve been sharing picture books about spring with many of my classes, and we’ve been celebrating in our makerspace and STEAM lab with related activities. This week I used some springtime books that feature paper collage illustrations (I’m a huge fan of this type of art) and that inspired some paper cutting projects in my library:
Finding Spring by Carin Berger
It was love at first sight as soon as I laid eyes on this gorgeously constructed story of a little bear who can’t wait to experience his first spring. The soft collage illustrations have a slightly vintage feel, and it’s easy to empathize with Maurice’s impatient yearning for spring. And don’t miss Berger’s other cut-paper books, including Friends Forever which explores friendship in the context of changing seasons, and A Perfect Day which celebrates one magical snowy day in winter.
Sorting Through Spring by Lizann Flatt, illustrations by Ashley Barron
This book is part of the Math in Nature Series by this author/illustrator duo, and it features a full measure of onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme, and whimsical questions about animals and nature on every page. The math concepts covered include patterns, graphs, and probability, and the author has also included Nature Notes on the animals featured in the text.
I included some math cards based on these pages in my STEAM Lab, and students used manipulatives to recreate and solve them. You may also be interested in the Sorting Through Spring teacher guide.
These books take collage art to a whole new level, in that Fleming makes her own paper that she then uses to create her illustrations. There are plenty of spring pond and meadow animals to inspire young artists to depict their own colorful scenes, and wide variety of descriptive rhyming verbs on each double page spread to move the action along from early morning to late at night.
I wasn’t ambitious enough to try making paper with my classes, but I stocked my Creation Station with construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, and extra copies of these books. Here are some of the spring collages my 2nd grade students created:
Can you recommend some other spring books using collage art? Please share them in the comments, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune
I will miss celebrating Read Across America Day this year (waahh!) because I’ll be attending the S.C. Association of School Librarians Conference but I thought I’d share a little of last year’s celebration. I arranged for some education club students to walk over from the middle school next door to serve as guest readers for our lower grade classrooms. I wanted to provide some snacks for them as a “thank you” that would highlight a few books by Dr. Seuss in honor of his birthday, and here’s what I came up with:
The middle schoolers really enjoyed interacting with our students, and I could tell they put a lot of time and enthusiasm into preparing their read-alouds. What are you doing to celebrate Read Across America Day? Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune