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!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the Library!

Every year in the second semester, I start teaching the parts, or different sections, of the library to my first graders.  I wanted a fun way to review these different parts, but not be too overwhelming, while my older students reviewed Dewey. 

I love funny books, and so do the kids!  I thought of the story, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, and had a fun idea where students could use clues to find different areas of the library.  Once they found that area, they would then find a missing piece of the Gingerbread Man.  Once all 6 clues were solved, they would then put together their gingerbread to form a whole "man"!

So, then I had to think - what areas did I really want them to recognize, but not repeat the activity from the week before, our Library Survivor.  There, I emphasized books like graphic novels, that the students started getting into at the end of last year.  I decided with the Gingerbread Man to stick with more general areas - nonfiction, fairy tales, fiction, circulation desk, fiction ("chapter books"), and computers where we look up books (although they won't be learning about Destiny, our online catalog, until the following week!).

So, I'm excited about what I came up with AND the fact that I was thinking ahead and decided to color-coordinate!  Each group will have a color to look for (to avoid chaos) that matches their clue cards.  So red clue cards = red team = red gingerbread parts!  You know sometimes those thoughts don't come until after the activity! :)

Here's what I came up with!  If you're interested in seeing more, I listed it on TPT and Teacher's Notebook.  I also included blank cards since every library is different, so you could program your own!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

That First Week Back....

Oh man, we start back (teachers) on Monday.  I am NOT looking forward to getting up at 6am!  Other than that, I'm excited!  I've already been at work in the library (did I ever really leave this summer?  Not sure) with lesson plans for each grade.  I am that weird individual that I don't like to repeat lessons (unless they're really good ones!) if I can make them better.  Besides, I'm always adding new books to share!

So, last year, I introduced a QR Code Hunt for my 4th and 5th graders to re-orient themselves with the library.  They watched videos from Animoto and Powtoons (there's also a YouTube version as well) and answered questions.  It was such a big hit, it's going to be repeated this year!

For my 2nd and 3rd graders, I decided to do a Survivor type activity that I saw suggested in a book, but after looking through my picture books for a great "survivor" type story, I realized I didn't have any!  So, using Old Crump by Laurie Lawlor, which tells the true story of a trip out west in the covered wagon days (Old Crump being an ox), my "survivor" turned into a western/desert theme!
Image result for old crump
Now, knowing that everyone's library is different, I decided to upload it to Teachers Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers as a Powerpoint so buyers could edit.  It's the first time I've done this for a paid product, and I'm a bit leery only because I used clipart I purchased on there.  I'm hoping it will be okay!  I'm excited for my "veteran" 2nd and 3rd graders to explore the library and answer questions like the older ones, but at a more basic level!  My now 2nd graders were just introduced to the different parts of the library in the spring, so I'm hoping this will also help them find the graphic novels and craft books they are always searching for!  So, if you're interested in seeing more, please click {Teachers Pay Teachers} or {Teacher's Notebook}.

You can also check out my updated QR Code Hunt (alternate version without YouTube) where I fixed a few flaws in the videos and added some hints as well to some of the harder questions!
What's in the Library?  An Alternate QR Code Scavenger Hun

Friday, July 22, 2016

It's a SUPER Day in the Library!

We had our Superhero/Supervillain Day in the Library this week!  There are so many movies and TV shows now related to "supers" that I thought it would be fun to celebrate both sides!  That, and I had a superhero day last year which was pretty successful, but didn't want to repeat too much.  Well, next week is a repeat - Minecraft - but that's by popular demand!

I just can't believe how fast the summer is going by!  We got our teacher back to school letters yesterday!  Yikes!  Our teachers report back August 1 and kids start August 10.  As I told one person, it's not that I dread teaching or the kids coming back, it's the getting up at 6am every day!  I am NOT a morning person!!!!  I hope you enjoy the pics!  Most of my ideas came from Pinterest, of course!  It was nice, though, that most of what I used are things I had around anyway - electrical tape for the "laser maze", hoops for the obstacle course, the "Disk Drop" game and the bean bag toss...the kids really enjoyed themselves! I think the top two were the Super Strength, Agility, and Obstacle Course!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Virginia Readers Choice!

I was so excited to see some of the books that I ordered and loved this year made the list!  I mean, how funny is a book about a dog being swallowed by the book???  So, since I had some of the books and hit up the Green Valley Book Fair for most of the others (I found all but 2 of the Primary and I'm still missing one from the Elementary list), I decided to go ahead and work on lesson plans, even though it's still summer (but it seems not much longer!  Yikes!).

We've spent part of the summer coming into the library for the high speed Internet to help my 15 yr old make it through summer school.  Algebra I.  Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds.  15 days, 3 days a week, from 8-2:30, he has to go to school to JUST do Algebra.  On a good note, it's a computer-based program, so it's at his own pace.  Bad note - he gets easily distracted and bored.  So, since he didn't make it through during the year, we're doing it now.  The deal is - one hour working with his program on Algebra, the rest of the time he can play to his heart's content and watch videos.  It's helped with the motivation!  It also helps, I think, to have someone sitting with him and helping him.  Being 15 and a boy, of course he won't ask for help in class :(

But, I digress.  You're not here to hear about Algebra.  Sorry if it brought up any bad memories!  Hah ;)

I'm excited to share my packet again this year!  Like last year, there are bookmarks, videos, AR quiz numbers, memory books, lesson plans....this year, I added a last minute addition I did this Spring with my kids.  You know those sudden inspirations you get that just work really well?  I did a March madness type bracket when I started reading the books to my K-2 group in January.  It really helped them to see the covers on the poster, as well as vote along the way so we had two semi-finalists.  They got really excited about it!

For Elementary, my 4th and 5th graders who read at least 5 out of the 10 books, get invited to an ice cream sundae social, where I presented the brackets and they voted on the ones that they had read.  It was a fun way to come up with a winner!  For the students who read all 10 books, I had books I had purchased from the book fair and let them choose a brand new book to keep!  It was a big hit.  I'm excited because I had almost a whole 4th grade class come to the party, so I hope they keep motivated for 5th grade!  Some of my 3rd graders last year started looking at the books in my special area in the library and started reading them!  I'm hoping to have a HUGE turnout with student readers this year!

Another thing I did this year, at the end of the year, was go through my shelves and label all past Virginia Readers Choice books.  I tell students that they're the "best of the best", and they've enjoyed reading some from the past.  I have several students who like to read books together, so it's nice the multiple copies still come in handy!

I also had the opportunity to order some of this year's books and getting them in before the end of the year, so I already have students who are working on reading them!  The Lion Who Stole My Arm has been a BIG hit with my boys!

So, here's some sneak peeks below of my packet.  If you're interested in seeing more, feel free to head over to TPT or Teacher's Notebook where it's listed.  Also, I put my past year's Virginia Reader's Choice packets on sale.  There are some great books from year's past you might have in your library and be able to use in a lesson!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer in the Library: STEAM Day

For our 2nd Wednesday in the Library, we focused on the STEAM concept.  What that meant for my students was that Mrs. Youel was opening up the Makerspace!  However, since these days are open up to anyone and everyone, it was a bit different, as some of the students told me ("Wow, I didn't know you had this many things!").   It was nice to show the parents, though, what the Makerspace actually is and that their donations go to good use!

I decided we would do structured stations with free play, if that makes ANY sense.

Building Station:  Students could use Legos (always a hit), Tinker Toys, Marble Runs, and PlayDoh to make things.

Art Station:  I brought out my binder of activities we've done this past year that I've kept the directions, opened up the "Fletcher's Creation Station" wiki page on a couple iPads, and set out different materials for those projects, as well as a few extra (like painting) so students could get their create on!

Take Apart Station:  ALWAYS a hit!  If you have a Makerspace, or are thinking of starting one, THIS is the big hit - almost bigger than Legos!  Students have a BLAST taking apart things to see how they work.  Since it's summer, I had a tape player and a CD/tape player that didn't work, and let me tell you - they took them down to bare bones!  However, the conversation that ensued about how they discovered a magnet in the speakers....and the fact the screwdriver they were using was magnetized after awhile....would've made any Science teacher happy!

Circuits/Coding:  On my iPads, I have a folder for "Hour of Code" apps, so I locked in a couple for play:  Lightbot, Scratch Jr, and Foos.  I also set out my Little Bits with some suggestion cards that I got on TPT as a freebie.  One set shows what to build, the other makes a suggestion.  I can't wait to use these next year with my kids - maybe they won't be as obsessed with the buzzers!  I was surprised this station didn't get more activity (I had about 1-2 kids check it out briefly, then moved on), but I'm finding that although the kids love to use tech in the library, hands-on wins hands down! (pun intended).

So, 4 simple stations, but the participants (including some parents) were engaged for the 2 hours and some were even reluctant to go (always a sign of a hit!), but of course, it was lunch time so they were also hungry!

It was a lot to set up, but it was a very hands-off activity, unlike the Amazing Race, where I was bouncing from here to there, helping out at stations (someone's got to ref the Kangaroo race!).  I hope you're able to use some of this in your library or classroom!  I ended up conversing with some of the parents who came, and totally forgot to get action pics! :(  Good thing I remembered my set up ones!