Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Biography Research in the Library

Teaching good research habits to younger grades is a very important part of being a librarian.  In the past, I have introduced the research steps using a lesson that connected the Big 6 steps to following a recipe for making an apple pie.  You can read about this "Recipe for Research" lesson on my blog here.  
    Typically, after I do this lesson, we would investigate Non-Fiction books, Text Features, and databases, and then they would do their research later in their classrooms with their teachers.
     This year, I wanted to be more involved in helping them learn how to do the actual research part, so I decided to do a mini-research project with my first graders as part of their library lessons.  

Step #1
     I started off by asking them what they wanted to learn more about.  Most of them answered with some sort of animal, so we decided that our first research project together would be about animals.  
     This was actually perfect, as we had just finished reading the book Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin. (By the way, if you haven't read this, it's a FANTASTIC book.  The kids LOVE raising their fists and shouting "Those Darn Squirrels!" whenever Old Man Fookwire yells at the crazy squirrels in his backyard.  Plus, they were super excited to find out that there are 2 more books in the series!)
     I told them that I was going to research Squirrels since we had just read about them, and then I introduced them to PebbleGo.  This is an absolutely FANTASTIC database by Capstone Digital!  It is ideal for younger grades, and makes it super easy for them to find information. Each topic is divided into 6 main tabs: body, habitat, food, life cycle, fun facts, and related articles.  Each tab allows the student to either read or listen to the information, and most topics have a video they can watch as well.  It is slightly expensive, but well worth the money!  (If you are interested in checking it out, you can get a free 2 week trial by filling out a short form found here.)  I gave them some time to explore the database so they would be familiar with it for our next lesson, and I told them to think about what animal they would like to research.

Step #2
     On their next visit, we quickly reviewed the "Recipe for Research" steps again, and brainstormed a list of "egg" questions to research about their animal.  They came up with things like: what does my animal eat, how fast can it run, who is it afraid of, how does it move, where is it's home, etc.  I created a Research Brochure (aka: note-taking tool) and had them chose 4 questions to write inside each egg.  

  Once their questions were written down, I asked "What do you think the lines underneath each egg are for?"  They correctly guessed it was for their answers to the questions.  I had them look at the lines, and we discussed how they weren't very long and they would have to make sure they only wrote down the important words.
     I pulled up information on Squirrels on PebbleGo, and we read that "Tree Squirrels have bushy tails that are as long as their body." I had them help me find the "important facts" and I told them the general rule was they could write up to 3 words from a sentence.  (I am trying to start them early on learning how to paraphrase and write notes, and not just copy everything that they see.)  It was fun writing down their ideas, and then they would check to see if they had more than 3 words. After several tries, they came up with "long, bushy tails". We practiced a few more times together, and then they spent the rest of their library time on PebbleGo trying to find the answers for their animal. Before they left, I collected their research brochures to keep them safe for next time.

Step #3
      The next week in the library, I showed them another database that I love to use with the younger grades, Facts 4 Me.  It's super cheap (only $50.00 for an entire year subscription!) You can take a quick tour of the site to learn more here.  It's developed by former teachers, and the layout is also very friendly.   Each topic starts with a "Quick Facts" section that gives basic information.  On animals, it gives a variety of info such as: type, habitat, diet, weight, height, etc.  Along the left side are photographs, and under the Quick Facts section are short paragraphs giving more information.   

     At the bottom, it even gives the exact citation to include on your Works Cited page, so I took this opportunity to begin teaching them how to do a simple Works Cited page.  For the younger grades, I created just a simple ABC form (A=Author or website, B=Book Title or topic title, C=Copyright date).  I told them anytime they used facts from a source, they had to fill out a slip for their Works Cited page.  I had a stack and we just stapled the slip to their brochure so it all stayed together.  I gave them the rest of this library period to finish finding answers to their questions.

Step 4
     Now that they had their answers, I showed them how to take their notes and create detailed, complete sentences on notebook paper.  We also talked about how to write a simple paragraphs (one paragraph for each "egg" question that they had answers for.)  When they were done, I had them work in pairs and peer-edit.  They helped each other with spelling, capitals, punctuation, and made sure that all their egg questions were answered.  

Step 5
I gave them a variety of formats to choose from for their final presentation:  
1) They could write a basic report using the 2-page format. 
2) They could make their own animal book using the brochure format including a Table of Contents and Author page.
 3) Those that wanted to create a true Non-Fiction animal book could create one with a Table of Contents, Index, and Works Cited page.

Step #6
     For their finale, each student presented their animal reports to the group.  I believe it's important for students to get practice talking in front of their peers. Next time, I think it would be fun to Skype with another library and let students from each class share. 

Technology options:  
     There are so many different apps that you can use to present their final information as well.  I love Tellagami and Puppet Pals, and both of these are easy to use.  Since we completed these activities toward the end of the year, our normal schedules were interrupted due to state testing, book fair, and end of the year changes.  Exploring those apps were a great way to keep the kids excited about their research project and provided motivation for them to finish. 

If you are interested in doing this research activity with your students, you can find it here at TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.  I'd love to hear how you do research with your students!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Digital Citizenship in Spanish!

     For those of you who have been reading my blog over the last few years, I wanted to give you a heads up that there will soon be some exciting new changes!  In June, I will be launching my own website called....

     This has been a labor of love that my husband and I have been talking about and working on for quite a few months!  My hope is that "Lessons by Sandy" will become a valuable resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, and students.
    One of the first things that I will do in June is move my blog posts over to my website. Unfortunately, this means that "bookfairygoddess" will no longer be updated, but I hope you all will bookmark "Lessons by Sandy" as one of your new favorites! Don't worry...if you forget that I've moved, I'll leave some forwarding information for you and the link to my new website! :) 
     One feature of my website that I'm super excited about is that I will be offering the activities that I've been making in Spanish!  One of my good friends is a bilingual teacher at my school, and she will be translating my activities into Spanish.  It may be a slow process to get everything completed, but new products will be posted as soon as they are ready! 

     The first activity I chose to translate was the one on Digital Citizenship. You can read about my original post on this here.  With the school year ending, many students will have more free time on their own devices and computers.  I always end the year with showing my students cool activities and projects that they can do on the computer, but I also use this as a time to review good digital citizenship skills so that they can be safe when online and make good choices.   Here's a sneak preview of this new product!
If you'd like these products, you can get them at my TpT store.

Plus, if you shop May 3rd and May 4th, in honor or Teacher Appreciation Week, you can get up to 28% off all my products using the code "CELEBRATE"!  

Happy shopping, and I'll be posting more information about my new website in the coming weeks!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

2nd Grade Lesson Plans

     I was looking back to my last blog post, and sadly realized it was way back in September!  :( This has been quite a BUSY, STRESSFUL, and CRAZY year, at school and at home!  I found out my principal accepted a new position in January and they are interviewing next week for her replacement; I helped my parents move into a new house; and I have been working on creating my own business!  (More information about that will be coming soon as my blog will be merged with my website!) Lots of fun changes are coming though, and I'm super excited!
     As I said, this has been a pretty tough year at school with many unforeseen challenges.  Unfortunately, those challenges took up a lot of my time, and I wasn't able to spend as much time on creating things and blogging about them as I had hoped.  But, that's all about to change... starting today!  I'm happy to announce that I've FINALLY finished the next installment into my collection grade-level lesson plans!  
     I originally blogged about putting together a collection of 36 Kindergarten lessons to use for those unexpected times when you are sick and don't have the energy to type of lesson plans for a substitute. I then created the 1st grade follow-up.   I have received SO much positive feedback about these lessons, and I appreciate all the support and patience that everyone has given me as I tried to finish the 2nd grade plans!  
      Just like the Kinder and 1st Grade plans, the 2nd Grade plans include 36 separate lessons that cover a variety of skills/topics to take you through the school year such as: 
  • Book care
  • Parts of a book
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Parts of Fiction Story
  • Dictionary Skills
  • Reading Strategies: predictions, retelling, sequencing, book walks, connections, visualizing, summaries, questioning, inferring, evaluating
  • Text Features for Non-Fiction stories
  • Author's Purpose
  • Biographies
  • Research skills
  • K-W-L charts & Venn Diagrams
  • Poetry, Rhyming, & Alliteration
  • Folktales: Fairy Tales, Fabels, Tall Tales, Myths, and Legends
     All activities are connected to a Fiction or Non-Fiction books that you most likely have in your class or library or can easily purchase on  I've included an outline that shows the order of lessons and the books that are used for planning purposes.

     Each lesson page shows the week number, the skill/concept, and the book's title and author at the top.  Then there are 3 main sections including step-by-step directions, additional activities that can be used, and possible technology extensions.  Here's a sample of what the 2nd grade plans look like:

    To keep things organized, I put a copy of each lesson page in a 3-ring sheet protector, and copies of any additional activities behind the page.  Then I placed them in a binder.  Depending upon how many of the activities you print, you can use a 1 1/2 or 2 inch binder.  One new feature I added this time was the grade to the top of each of the 36 lesson plan pages in case you have purchased multiple grade levels.  (That way if you use them with substitutes, they will know which lesson goes with which grade level.)   I also updated both the Kinder and 1st grade plans to include this now as well. If you have already purchased them, simply re-download the file and you will have the updated forms.
If you would like the entire collection of 36 lessons, you can 
find them at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.

     Putting these plans together is always fun, but they definitely take a lot of time.  I've decided to try something different with the 3rd grade plans.  Instead of waiting until I have all 36 typed up and ready to go, I'm going to work on 6 week sections.  Once I've completed 6 weeks of lessons, I'll put them up in my store for $5.  After I've finished all 36 lessons, I'll create the bundle.  My hope is that this will help me get the 3rd Grade plans out there to you all sooner!  What do you think of this plan?  I'd love to hear your feedback!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Behavior Reports in the Library??!! they say, "Behavior Happens"!  After having several classes with my kinder and 1st grade students, I realized that I was going to have to come up with a way to encourage several students to make better choices.  I talked to the classroom and other specials teachers, and together we brainstormed different behaviors that were causing problems in all our classes.  
    Armed with that information, I decided to create this easy behavior form to document things that were happening that were distracting other students from learning.  We copied it on NCR paper so that the students could take the top copy home to their parents, and the teacher could keep the bottom portion for their files to go over during Parent Conferences. 
     At my school, library is a part of the Special's rotation along with PE, Art, Music, and Theater Arts.  Except our district has combined Music and Theater Arts and we call it "Performing Arts".  So this is what our form looks like.  Each of us will use this same form to that the students will be familiar with it.
I also went ahead and made a second version that does not combine Music and Theater Arts. 

*I updated this on 9/7/2015 to include just a Library version in case this is something you are using just in the library.
For each form, I included an editable version where you could type your own behaviors that you wanted to monitor.
If you'd like to use these in your class, you can get them here 

     I've used the form with one student already.  When he came to the library, I went over the form.  We checked "library" and then I asked "What kind of day would you like to have?"  He wanted to have a happy day, so we put a check mark by that face.  I then went over the bottom portion and said "These are the things that you need to focus on doing in order to have a great day."  As I taught the lesson for the day, I gave him one reminder and after that I simply put a tally mark next to each behavior that happened.  At the end of library, I showed him the form again and we counted the number of tally marks.  I asked him "Do you think this was a good day?" and he agreed it was not his best day. I had him look at the number of tally marks and set a goal for the next library visit.  (He had 8 tally marks, and set a goal of 6). I wrote that at the bottom of the page, gave him a high five for setting a good goal, and sent him on to class.
     I'm hoping that by making him aware of the frequency of the distractions, he will be able to control his behaviors over time.  I'm also going to talk to him on what he likes to do and use that as another way to encourage him to make good choices during the library lesson.  I'm crossing my fingers that the next time he comes we can lessen the number of tally marks to a manageable number.

Do you have any other ideas on managing behaviors in your library? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Digital Citizenship Update

     The beginning of the year is a great time to teach or review how to be safe at school.  When my students come back for their second trip to the library, I spend a few minutes talking to them about the types of emergency situations that may come up or that we practice at school so that we are prepared.  I talk about our procedures for a fire alarm, bad weather alarm, and a lockdown alarm.  They usually already know what to do from their classroom's point of view, but often when it happens in the library, they get flustered so I find it helps them if we talk about it early on so they know what to expect.  
     Then next thing I do is ask the kids "Is it important to be safe when we use technology as well?"  I let them share and then confirm that Digital safety is another priority we have at school.  
     I've taught Digital Citizenship for a few years now.  You can see my original post about that lesson here.   The more I taught it, the more I began to notice that some parts had too much information for the students to remember.  So this summer, I wanted to find a way to fix this so that it was easier for the students to remember.  After some suggestions from friends, I included 6 different body parts to help the kids visualize what to remember.  Here's what the updated poster looks like now:
Before I share this poster, I show them a series of fabulous videos from  They have a set of videos designated for K-3 (I use these with my kinder, 1st, and 2nd graders).  I usually start with Episode #1 which explains what the Internet is.  
Then we watch Episode #2, and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Using Your Head. 
Then we watch Episode #4, and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Using Your Heart, Your Feet, and Your Voice.

Then we watch Episode #3, and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Using Your Eyes and Using Your Hands. also has a set of videos designated for 4-6 that I use with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  With them, I usually start with Episode #6 and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Head.
Then we watch Episode #5, and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Using Your Heart, Your Feet, and Your Voice.
Then we watch Episode #7 & #8, and after that video I put up the poster that talks about Using Your Eyes and Using Your Hands.
     I love these videos, and they really help explain everything I want to talk about with the kids regarding Digital Citizenship.  (Just so you know I am in NO WAY affiliated with!)  I just really love their videos and the kids really enjoy them as well!
     I went ahead and updated the bookmarks as well so that you can give them to your students as a reminder. 
If you would like to use these posters with your own class,
you can find them here at my TpT Store or at Teacher's Notebook.
If you have already purchased this, you can just re-download the file and you will have the updated posters as well.

I hope you find this useful!