Friday, June 8, 2018

Summer Projects (part 1) or Gaining Confidence in My Abilities

Starting on summer projects!  Found a great post on coloring pasta and rice with no alcohol or vinegar!  So, I went out and bought different shaped pasta and kid friendly paint (water based/washable), poured the pasta into gallon bags, added paint, seal, and shake!  My daughter had fun helping me out on this, especially with the shaking!

After, spread it out on wax paper to dry.  With the warm summer weather, an hour in the sun or overnight works well!  Our first batch we did last night (forgot to get pictures) and left outside overnight to dry.  Some did clump together but when broken apart, it still kept the color and didn't crumble!  If you want bright colors, be sure to add lots of paint!

So, what am I going to do with all this?  Sensory play with my autism, preschool, and maybe Kindergarten first comes to mind.  Then again, I might bring it out for my older students.  I learned this year that it doesn't always have to be the exciting, hard makerspace stations for the older ones.   My fifth grade library helpers saw the playdough and accessories I had for my Junior Makerspace (grades K/1) and begged me to make it one of their stations.  It was a pretty big hit! 

The tiny shell pasta turned out really cool, looking like coral, so I will probably find a use for it for our first summer session, which is "Under the Sea." 

So my lesson in all of this?  I have seen this idea a lot of times and because we are the "autism school" for the district, I am always looking for sensory ideas.  I always hesitate though - I am not an artistic person.  However, this was easy and actually fun!  My next project includes dying rice in the same manner.  I also saw a neat post on using scotchguard (or another waterproof sealer) on sand to make that underwater sand that stays dry, so after buying a 50 lb bag of sand at Toys R Us (it was $4.44 with tax since they're closing!) I need to figure out 1) how to make it different colors and 2) waterproof it!  Hope to post more soon!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Dewey of the Month

Sorry for the drought between posts - I have so much to share of what we did this summer in the library, what we're doing this year so far, and my future plans for the library.....which I hope to be more consistent and get to!  However, today, I decided to share something I've been working on the side for a couple months that I JUST finished (and had a few moments to share!).

First, I was so excited to finally get a bulletin board in my library!
I have pictures of students in the Makerspace (and their creations), Genre of the Month, and Dewey of the Month.  I also have points for "Adopt a Shelf" which I do with grades 3-5.
I call this "Dewey of the Month" but it can really be any length of time - day, month, week, fortnight, etc. 

In trying to highlight my nonfiction section to my students, I liked the idea of highlighting an area that was popular (at first) and then delve into the lesser known areas. I've displayed 3 Dewey circles on a bulletin board in the library, as well as in a display outside the library. When I introduced it to students, I encouraged them to find the section and, if they checked out a book from it, to fill out a slip that would be drawn for a monthly prize. Students now are more interested in checking the board to see what type of Dewey numbers are highlighted, as well as finding those areas a little easier (and paying more attention to the shelf labels!). 

Another idea is to display the circles on the actual shelves itself, to draw attention to them.

I hope you find success with a Dewey program and having your students become more proficient in finding nonfiction books in the library!  You can click on the pictures to see it in my TPT store.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fun Activities for the End of the Year: Life Size Games!

Sorry for the delays in posting - I have so much to share that I hope to catch you up on this summer!  Today, I'll focus on one of our "Friday Club" activities we're doing the last nine weeks. My 3rd grade students have been doing a "Games" club while my 4th and 5th grade students have a "Mystery" club that has included Breakout activities as well as yesterday, a "Life Size" Clue game.

I am loving these "life size" games!  I found some ideas and ran with them for popular board games.  I have an old Twister game in the Makerspace my kids LOVE.  In fact, they loved it so much the spinner pieces broke and after repairing multiple times, a crucial part got lost.  So, I created cards in lieu of the spinner because they were begging to play again!  You can find these {here}.  The biggest problem with Twister, though, is that only a certain number of students can play at a time which of course leads to a bit of chaos and volume as potential players impatiently await their turn!  So, a solution was to still use our mat, as well as borrow colored dots in the same colors from the P.E. teacher.  We set the mat out and continued the pattern in a large area so all students could play!

Yesterday, my 4th and 5th grade club members played a school version I created of "Life Size" Clue.  Students were divided up between detectives and suspects.  Suspects wore a nametag that identified them (Principal Mustard, Chef Peacock, etc) and each got 3 cards to hold.  They then rotated themselves through the marked rooms around the library as detectives asked them questions.  The only catch was they could only ask yes/no questions.  For example:
"Chef Peacock - did it happen in the library?"
(Chef Peacock looks at his/her cards.  If he has a library card, he can answer "no".  If he does NOT have the card, he answers "I don't know" which tells the detective he does not have that card).

I had some very intuitive students ask questions like "Chef Peacock, did Miss Scarlett do it in the Kitchen with a stinky sock?" - which gave them 3 chances to find out an answer!  If the suspect had one of those cards, they had to show it to them.

The kids had a great time, everyone was involved (I was worried the "suspects" would get bored but they did not and for our 2nd round we had suspects and detectives change places because everyone wanted to be a suspect!)

Next week, I'll be playing a "Life Size" version of "Guess Who."  We'll see if they ask to play Clue again - they seemed to really enjoy it! If you'd like to see more about Clue, check it out {here} in my TPT store and TN store {here} (who, by the way, are both having sales next week!).  You can check out Guess Who by clicking {here} on Google Drive.  I wrote out the directions but haven't played it yet so it might end up getting edited!

I hope you're having fun as your year is winding down, but of course, I can see using these games any time of the year!  I hope to share more of what's been going on this year with you soon, including my love affair with Breakout!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Newbery and Caldecott Cafe

Not that this is a new year's resolution, but trying some new things this year.  One is the Breakout box ( - think Escape Room) when it gets here (only ordered it back in November!) and the other is a tasting party.  Now, the tasting parties have been around for awhile and I've been wanting to try, but haven't quite found the right time or lesson.

Enter January.  January is a great time to work with kids - it's cold, the kids need to be more active since sometimes outdoor recess isn't an option, they're coming down from sugar highs they've had since October....

So, I've also been wanting to do more with the awards books earn.  I've made a show to all my ages about when a book has a medal on its cover.  I do a brief "this is what this award is for" to the students, but that's about all.  Since I'm getting ready to start Virginia Readers Choice with K-3, I decided fourth and fifth would learn about Caledecott and Newbery awards!  After all, they are getting to that point where they are reading more Newbery and have previously read some of the Caldecott, so I figure it's a good age!

After looking at some ideas from lesson books that the former librarian left me, I thought why not a book tasting?  At first, I thought of having students create mock awards for books, based on the criteria.  However, I want our first one to be fun and inviting and the kids get excited if we do it again!  So, instead, I'm pulling books we have in the library and doing one week Caldecott winners/honor books, the next week Newbery.  After experiencing this and other awards, I might then go to the mock awards, but students need some background first on what has already been chosen.  It's also a great way for students to experience new books they may not have read or - even better - realize they've read an award winner and get excited and share it with others!

I created menus based off of many many ideas I found on Pinterest and blogs.  I wanted the focus to be more on books, but wanted the students to reflect on the books, so I made the questions a yes/no answer, and a rating of 1-5 stars.

So, I'll be doing this the weeks of the 9th and 16th.  I'll be sure to post pictures on here on how it goes!  If you'd like to see more, I've decided to go ahead and put my menus on TPT and TN since award season will be here soon, and people might want to use them!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Snowflake Bentley

Ok, I have to admit it - I've been thinking about snow!  It's been cold enough - why not have some of the picturesque white?  I'm sure I'll eat my words later (especially in January and February), but for now, I guess I'm tired of 70 one day, 30 the next!  Ah, winter in Virginia!

Today was our first day of break and after doctor appointments and finishing up the Christmas shopping (few last minute items), as well as dropping my daughter off at a friend's for a sleepover, here I am back at school.  Crazy, huh?  Well, my teen son loves the high speed wifi so he's sitting in front of me in gaming heaven!  I'm sure I'm not the only one that does weekend hours!

So, today, I was excited because I finally created a packet for one of my favorite winter books:  Snowflake Bentley!  I fell in love with this book years ago and when I started in the library, I ordered posters and items from the museum in Vermont.  The kids are fascinated with the pictures of the different snowflakes!

There is a lot more out there on him than there used to be, so I took advantage of it!  My kids love QR codes and using tablets, so it was only natural that besides the creating snowflakes (which I'll add as a station in our Makerspace), they can learn more about the man, his photos, and snow in general.

If you'd like to check it out, click on TN or TPT (your choice).  Another great discovery was (after I thought I lost my copy and a teacher checked out our only library copy - but I found it) several read alouds on YouTube.  Here's one of my favorites.  Watch, enjoy, relax (are you on break now, too?).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Breaking the Silence? An Any Time of Year STEM Idea

Wow, I haven't blogged since August - sorry about that!  As usual, the year has been busy!  I've been meaning to blog, and I gotta admit, I post some great imaginary posts!  I'm still waiting for someone to invent something that can record your thoughts and ideas in the car and shower!

Well, what I wanted to blog about today is an activity I'll be doing with my students on Monday.  Yep, we have 2 more days of school til break.  Jealous, right?  When we come back in January, it's for another 2 day week.  So, I wanted a lesson I can teach this week and then do when we come back!

Well, we just read Laura Murray's Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas.  We've previously read Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck as well in October.  So, with the popularity of those two, we're going to read The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo!  Because this is such a crazy time of year - especially with behavior - I wanted something that they would be interested in listening to as well as an activity that will steer their energy in a positive direction!

We love doing STREAM in our Library.  So it was only natural for me to create an activity where students would build something - this time, a zoo!  It's something I feel is totally flexible - the animals, the materials, the groups, the time I definitely wanted to share it!

I'm lucky that I have my now 10 year old daughter's Lego Duplo Zoo animals.  So, my students will be using Legos to build the enclosures.  That will give students an idea of size to build their enclosures.  I'll also be providing books with pictures for each group so they can see the type of habitat they need to build for their animals.

While I'm using this with my K and first graders, it's a project I really could use with any grade.  I've also thought of the possibilities of taking it farther.  Especially with Legos, we tend to break down after we build, so that the next group can use them.  Taking pictures of each group's project, I can save them and use it in a multimedia presentation.  Recently with our Kinders, we did a project where they built either a house for the 3 little pigs or a chair for Goldilocks.  We took pictures and then using the app, Chatterpix, students talked about what they built and why they built it the way they did.  I then imported the Chatterpix into iMovie and created a movie for each K class for them to watch in the classroom.  Talk about stinkin' cute!  The kids LOVED watching their pictures "talk" with their voices.

With older grades, you could do the same as with the above project, but each group could add a fact about their animal and/or its habitat to the picture using Chatterpix.  Hmm, even sense a research project in there somewhere as well!

So, even though it's not a winter or holiday theme, I'm excited to do this with my students on Monday.  I think they'll enjoy it, it'll channel their energy in a positive direction (Friday nearly took me under!), and it's something I can definitely take to greater (or lesser) levels!

If you're interested in learning more, I've uploaded it to TPT and TN.  Click on the name you like to shop on for the link! (By the way, it's my 300th product on TPT!!!!).

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Our Resource team is trying something new this year.  Since we have 4 resources (Art, Music, Library, P.E.), in the past our Fridays have been a class we saw earlier in the week, and trying to come up with a different activity for students to do.  This year, we are trying "Club Fridays."  Each nine weeks, students get to choose what club they'd like to join.  We gave a little presentation back on August 19 and had students choose:  Art/Gardening, Music & Movement, 100 Mile Club, or my club.  Unfortunately, my club has been called Makerspace, STEM, building club, and I had to stop the Art teacher from calling it Lego club at one point!  This past Friday was our first club day!

We have our small but growing Makerspace in our library, which the kids love, so it made since for my club to have something to do with it!  I thought about it this summer and finally came up with some cute ideas, thanks to Pinterest inspiration (pinspiration?).  I also decided to make it easy on myself:  group lessons by K/1, 2/3, and 4/5.  Well, for K/1 and 2/3, I'm focusing on stories and projects.  This past Friday, we read Mark Teague's version of the 3 Little Pigs, and students got to become pigs and build houses from each of the materials, then become the wolf and try to blow them down!  I differentiated between the two levels.  K/1 got all 3 materials and built in groups:  "sticks" (unsharpened pencils), "straw" (drinking straws), and "bricks" (connecting cubes).

2/3 had the same story, but different approach.  They had to choose a card from a bag to determine what type of house they would build - sticks (popsicle sticks), straw (drinking straws), or bricks (Legos).  I laid the materials out for students, as well as tape and string, and they had a certain amount of time to build.  Then, they too became wolves and got to blow their creations down!

I was a little nervous, thinking students might not want to hear a story and then do the activity, but they loved it!  Next Friday, we're doing Jack and the Beanstalk.  On a side note, when I asked students who had heard the story of the 3 little pigs, not everyone raised their hand!  Interesting.

For my 4/5 group, I was so excited to finally be using our Makedo tools we earned from Donors Choose last school year!  We are working together as a group to build a giant windball, so we can become familiar with the tools and working together.  This will last several Fridays.  In fact, we are still working on cutting out the cardboard squares!  Then, after that project is finished and we've played with it, we'll take it apart, and I'll show students the story of Cain's Arcade.  We'll then build our own arcade machines from recycled cardboard and other materials.

I'm really excited on how our clubs turned out this past week.  Each nine weeks, I plan on offering something a little different.  I just hope it's not one of those things that we do for one year, and it gets dropped!  The kids have really enjoyed having a choice and being able to mingle with other kids in their grade not in their class this year!  I've included some pics below on what we're doing, as well as a video of my 4th graders hard at work (and a preview of what our ball will hopefully look like!).  I can't seem to get the video to orient, so hopefully your neck doesn't get too stiff!