Showing posts from 2015

The Best Gift

Time, it really is the best gift and as busy adults we seem to deem it a rather precious one. In fact, as a society I think we are often rushed for time. Our students can feel this as we rush them through things, with a sense of urgency any teachers knows in order to 'get the job done'.
Today was a gift. It was a gift that we shared with our students and other children in a Hungarian home for children. We spent time being an audience, having an audience willing to listen is a gift. Also, we spent time playing, having time to play is a gift. 
Occasionally, there's hesitation between having two groups of students interact without a common language. For a short time period, it is very manageable. Modelling is important, as an adult you need to readily jump into the situation, say hello, give pats on the back, props/ fist bump, give a smile and make eye contact. Once our students could see the other children were just as nervous, they worked hard to embrace the chance to join in…

Book Clubs are Powerful

Book Clubs are a wonderful! Today my students chanted their favourite authors name like they were cheerleading squad. I have been working on a Newbery Book Club with Gr. 4 and Gr. 5 students. My students are a mixture from a variety of classes and are the strong readers. The students really enjoyed working with kids they don't normally get to work with and they really pushed each other in their thinking.

Seeing them only once a week was a bit challenging at first, I was accustom to more of a guided reading format where I saw them a couple times a week. However, we soon settled into a routine. They finished an award winning novel every week, they found it to hard to stop part way through, but it worked since our discussions drew upon a wider variety of books. My enthusiastic readers consumed quality and award winning literature!

My goal was to have them read more deeply and focus on analysis and evaluation. We looked at different themes in books, created video reviews and then compar…

Inquiring Minds

Being a specialist teacher provides us with the big picture of our students. Literally, we observe the spectrum of learning on a daily basis, we observe a range of learning styles and therefore we have tendency to make generalizations.

An interesting trend happens around Grade 2 and Grade 3, students struggle to ask questions. I have given them beautiful action packed nonfiction books and they just ask if they should research and take notes. When I prompted them by asking what they are wondering about, I'm met with blank stares.

Questioning is on the mind's of many educators, not just mine. Asking questions, gives the learner power over their learning.

So for the past two years I have made it my mission to encourage questioning from multiage to Grade 5, especially when beginning research.  I've got a variety of tools including little question rings. I use a lot of 'think/pair/share' since talking about their interests or wonderings seems to help promote deeper thinkin…

Formula for a Successful Book Fair

Hosting Book Fairs is another important component of library advocacy. This year along with my Usborne Book Rep, Maria Bihari, we hit upon a winning formula and managed to hit her record in sales. 
We have tried various methods. The first is the 2 regular school days when classroom teachers are expected to support by monitoring students money, and anyone who has taught younger students knows this can be challenge which can end in tears if money is forgotten. We had done well with hosting the book fair during a student conference day so parents are encouraged by their child to visit after seeing their teacher and then followed this up with a regular school day. The benefit was that classroom teachers didn't need to keep track or sign up their classes to visit. Most of the sales for the second day were from kids who had found favourites and returned to by them, either independently or along with a teaching assistant.
However the winning combination was a regular…

News in Kids Lives

News, it's something that I can remember watching with my parents as a kid. There was one TV in the house and if you wanted to watch it you had to watch what you parents wanted, including the news.

As an expat my news viewing habits are continually in flux depending on the country we live in and our ability to access an English news channel. Turning on the TV and having a wide range of news options is a thing of the past for many expats who live in a country in which they don't speak the language. In Hungary its been a struggle to find a reliable online news source, nevermind a channel on television. Whereas in China we were forever plagued by the Chinese authorities censoring Hong Kong news stations by randomly throwing up a picture of a mountain. CNN or BBC are great resources, but being very global in nature it is sometimes challenging to follow local events in your host city or country.

With a movement towards everyone in the house having their own devices, it means families…

We Made Our Mark

The Dot by Peter Reynolds is a great way to have students think about perseverance, taking risks and reflect upon what their talents are.

Internationl Dot Day was an avenue for authentic collaboration with the Art teacher. She showed the video and the students did a fabulous job 'making their mark' in all sorts of dot-tastic ways. Student work was shown off with a dot explosion in the front entrance of our school.

The dot explosion extended into the library. After reading the story, we discussed if the book was truly about dots. The students discussed the idea that Peter Reynolds was trying to tell us much more. They drew their connections onto dots, which were then 'dotted' around the library.

Not only were dots on display, but I also took the opportunity to highlight some of our great art picture books and craft books. Students were encouraged to browse and try something new!

Loving Literature Together

As a former classroom teacher, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that one of the things to get bumped out of our schedule during a hectic week was the read aloud. I know, it's the last thing that should go but in the rush to complete, reflect, post, it was often done.
I'm not alone in this and that's why having a good old 'Drop, Everything, And Read' session to celebrate International Litearcy Day worked.  It was heartening to see the number of classes who participated, and enjoyed doing it. Teachers and students alike kicked back, relaxed and read.
DEAR sessions have their place in the world, and this is the 5th country in which I've tried it. An important component for teachers participating is to model, either by reading aloud or reading along side the students.  The students need freedom to enjoy as well, and should be able to read whatever genre or format they wish. Too much structure destroys the joy of these sessions.
The video below shows us loving lit…

What's the Word?

Magazines are a saving grace on a plane, the audience can be for all ages and there's one out there for everyone.  In my library magazines are undervalued and slow to circulate, so to promote magazine literature I'm starting an online magazine with some Gr. 4 & Gr. 5 students in an after school program.

To begin the kids will need to explore some online magazines like Amazing Kids Magazine, National Geographic for Kids, Boys Life and Sports Illustrated for Kids which I have linked on my library website.  While they are exploring I will pose some guiding questions: which articles did you find interesting, what features were helpful and who is the audience for the magazine. Once we discuss their findings our publication will gain a name and an aim for the audience.

Planning is key and it will need to be soemthing the kids do, is think ahead about how to plan to write an article. They will be required to have some form of plan: a scribbled brainstorm, a picture on the iPad, a l…

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Back to school is a time to change gears and sometimes habits, both for adults and students.

At home, I have my own emergent reader to act as a guinea pig for new resources and strategies. In addition to the suggestions on the infographic, there's also the 'device'. With the online literacy being here to stay as educators we have an obligation to support our learners in how to read devices, it is a different skill set.

And just like when reading books, it should be done and aloud and together. Modelling is a great piece. Luckily, there's a fun variety of options to guide parents to viewing, like Tumble books which has different audio options and also highlights text. Just books aloud sorts popular titles into a wide range of categories for easy browsing. Want to support EAL students then Unite for Literacy offers different languages.

Another avenue are eBooks. Our library has some interactive eBooks that are great when viewed on computers or laptops. Other eBooks can be r…

Poetry Month

People use poetry to share ideas and feelings. This is the idea that is central to the students poetry inquiry this month. Students are exploring forms, how they connect to poetry and why people write poetry.  
Although poetry is not officially found in the common core standards, students are expected to explore a variety of genres and have an understanding of figurative language. Poetry is the perfect avenue to do this.
Personally, poetry isn't my favourite genre. It is one that I chose to read for my own reading pleasure. However, I do appreciate and can value it as a form of expression.
Keeping in mind this quote by Leonardo Da Vinci I introduced students to some powerful poetry. For older students this included Frida's works, which include her famous portraits as well as her lesser known verses. I help the students connect with her by explaining she is of mixed heritage, like many of them, her parents were Mexican and Jewish Hungarian. 
Since we are in Eastern Europe I also in…

Drawing Dude!

Inspiring kids to dream and create is a tough job and John Steven Gurney did it with panache!

Johnis an illustrator who has produced a copious number of covers and drawings. He is best known for his series: A-Z Mysteries, the Calendar Mysteries, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, the Bailey City Monsters and the Palace Puppies. As a librarian, this was a dream come true since we had over 75 books featuring his work. His work has also appeared in many magazines and even the board game 'Guess Who'. 
Dinosaur Train is a wonderful picture book featuring John's son Jesse as the main character. Not only did he draw the illustrations but he is also the author. His presentations were varied according to the students ages and he establishes a good rapport with his audience. And he had a great number of tricks up his sleeve that he shared with the kids during his drawing workshops. The kids were excited and realized that they too can be illustrators.
His presentation was a great…

And the winner is ...

Award winning books are a treat to read and share with the students. With my younger students we've been focusing on the Caldecott winners. For the past few weeks we looked at the criteria, and I 'borrowed' alistfrom a fellow'Busy' librarian Matthew Winner. The criteria can be simplified and is: books kids like, excellent illustrations, illustrations help explain the story and a really good plot.

During lessons I shared the 'Three Pigs' by David Weisner
and 'Creepy Carrots' by Aaron Reynolds. We used the criteria checklist to see if we could figure out why the books had one. Students had an opportunity to talk about plot and illustrations while sitting knee to knee. Then they put the criteria into practice, they used small checklists and selected their own books that they thought should be winners. I made the checklists into little bookmarks with a blurb at the bottom telling parents about the award in the hopes that they would discuss it at home.

As …