Friday, July 25, 2014

More on Fiction and Non-Fiction

     Once again, let me tell you how much I LOVE summertime.  I have been busy busy busy creating brand new products that I'm super excited about!  Here's my latest ah-ha moment!
     So, last April, I created a set of Assessment task cards for Non-Fiction Text Features.  I wanted a quick way to assess whether my students understood the different features, and could recognize them when asked in different ways.  

1) The first option gives them a picture and a Multiple Choice format. 
2) The second option gives them the definition and a Multiple Choice format.
3) The third option gives them a picture and an open ended question where they have to remember the Text Feature Vocabulary word.
     I printed these regular sized on 8 1/2 x 11 white card stock and used them during the lesson to introduce and teach each of the Text Features.  Then I printed these 2 to a page on white card stock, laminated them, and then hole punched them in the corner to put on a ring.  As students came up to check out their books, I would flip through the questions and assess their learning. 
     So you're probably wondering why am I showing this NOW, and what does it have to do with creating things over the summer?  Well, let me explain. 
     I was working on my lesson plans for this coming year, and I realized that I always spend a lot of time teaching the difference between Fiction books and Non-Fiction books first because it is such an important skill, especially in the younger grades.  In the past, I’ve always created an anchor chart on paper with the information along with the students.  Sometimes, in my rush, my poster had mistakes or was not the neatest as I must have missed the day they handed out the  “teacher handwriting gene”!  That always bugged me, because I would refer back to the poster for several weeks.
          So, this summer, I decided to create an anchor chart that I could BUILD with the students, but have the pieces already printed out, including cute graphics to help my kindergartners know what the words were.  (I also missed the “being able to draw and have people recognize what it is” gene!)
 Now, for those that don’t know me by now, I’m a big promoter of making larger posters at Office Depot, and then laminating them so that I can use them again and again!  So, here’s what I plan to do:
1.Take the two posters and blow them up to a 24x36 size.

Copy the other pages on white cardstock, and then laminate everything.  Finally, cut all the pieces apart. I like to use Velcro to attach them, but you can also just use tape. 

      I’ll use the pieces to BUILD the poster with the students on the empty clipboard poster.  Once we’ve done that for a few lessons, I’ll have the filled in clipboard available to hang as a reminder to use in  subsequent lessons.  Cool, huh?
     As I was doing this I had an AMAZING revelation...Did you know that when you tell the kids that reading Non-Fiction books is reading for "iNFormation", the word iNFormation actually has the letters NF which correlates to Non-Fiction!!!! I'm been teaching 20 years and this is the first time I've seen that.  Either I'm a genius or I'm super slow on the uptake! LOL! 
     Anyway, I hope you find this post helpful!  By the way, all my products will be 20% off at my TpT store and Teacher's Notebook starting on Friday, July 25th through Sunday July 27th.  Think of it as an early "Christmas in July!" 

Happy Summertime!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Promoting Authors

     I admit it!  I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to getting my picture taken with authors at TLA or during the Texas Book Festival.  There's just something about meeting the author of a book that brings out the little kid in me and I get totally excited!  
     My students are always good sports, though, when I come back with all these new books and I tell them about meeting the authors.  Often times, they ask me questions that I don't know, so we end up finding the author's webpage and researching the answers together on the computer.  I then would add that author's website to our library webpage, and glue the picture inside the book so that the kids could enjoy the picture throughout the year.  Unfortunately, many of those books with pictures "disappeared" over time, and I knew I needed to come up with a better idea!     
     So as I began to plan this summer, I brainstormed different ways to share these pictures with my students.  

My challenge
  • I wanted to give them an independent way to find out more information about the author and the books that he/she has written. 
  • I wanted to use technology as that is one of my target improvement goals for this year.  
I literally hit my head and shouted "QR CODES!"

     At first, I thought about hanging up picture frames to create my "Author Wall", but I was worried that they would be too heavy and that they would be knocked off the wall too easily.   
     Then I remembered that I had this fantastic picture frame clipart that I got from Krista Walden!  I quickly got to work!  I started off by making frames for the different authors that I had met throughout the last 5 years as a librarian.  My thought was that I could print them on card stock and then laminate them.    
     I was having so much fun, that I continued to add new frames for authors that I knew my students LOVED, as well as some new authors I wanted to introduce them to over the next school year.  Instead of leaving a place for the author's picture, I made these with pictures of their new books or popular ones I know my students enjoy reading.  
     I plan on rotating different authors throughout the year for the students to investigate.  I'm going to start off hanging them up in the library, but then I plan on strategically placing them all around the school.  I love this template because I can easily use it to promote additional authors that the students, teachers, or I find in the coming months or to promote brand new books that are purchased for the library.
     I'm super excited about this idea, and can't wait to share it with my students!  If you would like a copy of this activity, you can find it at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook!
    Do you have some fun ways to introduce new authors to your students?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Time Planning

     Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year... but not for the reasons that you may think... (sleeping in late, laying out in the sun, going to see movies, etc.)  Don't get me wrong....I absolutely LOVE those things, but what really makes summertime my happy place is that special feeling of TIME!  I don't know about you, but there's something about teaching that makes me feel like I'm always behind!  Even after the first day of school, I have a list of things that need to be done, preferably yesterday, and this feeling only gets worse as the year progresses.
     Happily, I don't have that feeling during the summer!  I actually have TIME to sit, think, and then percolate some more!  This gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past year and decide on areas that need improving.  I started off this summer by brainstorming a list of improvement ideas, but in trying to not overwhelm myself, I narrowed it down to two main target goals for this coming school year:
  1. Incorporate more technology into library lessons, and make them real-life and meaningful to the students
  2. Create opportunities to involve parents in the library, and the concepts/skills the students are learning
     One of the new ideas to come out of this summer's TIME that will support both of my goals is an extension on my blog about the Library in my Pocket.  This year, instead of just meeting with the students for a Digital Learning Day to help them set up their Library in their Pocket, I am going to create a large display or bulletin board right outside the library (which is right by the front office) that would advertise this tool all year long.  My hope is that having a large display will get information out to parents about how their child's device (or even their device) could become something more than "just a phone" or "just a thing to play games on".   
     I started off by creating this main poster that resembles the screen on my iPad.  I am going to take this poster to Office Depot and have it blown up to a 24x36 poster size. 

     I will print each of the apps and links on cardstock and laminate them.  They will be displayed under the correct heading "Apps to Download" or "Links to Bookmark" so that students, parents, and teachers can see the type of help that each app/link can provide. 

     My final display board will look something like this.  I like it because I can display the icons as I teach them throughout the year, or all at once.  I also have the opportunity to add additional icons as the year progresses for apps or links that we come across that the students feel would be beneficial to have in their Library in My Pocket. 

     If you would like to create your own bulletin board display, you can find these items at my TpT store or Teacher's Notebook.  I've also included blank copies of the main poster (so that you can input your own icons) as well as an editable iPad page in which you can create your own app/link pages.

Have you been doing any planning this summer for your library?  What ideas have you come up with? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Promoting Your Library

     Well, another year has flown by and I've been busy working on my End of the Year Library report.  This year, our district coordinator revamped what was needed, so it wasn't the "hair-pulling-out-horror" that we had had in the past!  (Think excel spreadsheets with LOTS of pre-set function cells!)  
     Instead, we were actually able to sit and reflect upon the year, and write about the library program's successes and failures, learnings and mistakes, opportunities and challenges.  It was more of a "tell your story" kinda thing, which was much more appealing to work on than plugging in data into different cells! 
     While I was working on my report, I heard about a creative tool from other fabulous librarians called a "Smore".  
No, not that kind of S'more! 
     This is an online tool that you can find here.  If you haven't heard about it, I'm about to make your day!  This is a really cool online tool that you can use for free to create digital flyers to spread the word about your library!  You can use it to advertise different events you may be having, or even to highlight a specific class or activity you may be offering.  It's super easy to create, and they give you all kinds of templates that you can choose from. 
     I decided to take information from my End of the Year Library Report and create a "Year in Review" to advertise the the exciting things that had happened this year in our library.   

     Once you create your Smore, they give you all kinds of ways that you can share it through social media.  I posted mine on our library's Twitter page, and also had it posted on our school's Facebook's page.  You can also embed it on your blog (like I did here) or on your library's website.  
     Next year, I plan on making a Smore to help advertise our Book Fairs and other events that we will have in the library.   I think it would also be a fun way to share library information at the Beginning of the year during Open House Night. 
     I'd love to hear if you are using Smores for your school or library, or if you have any brainstorms on different ways to use them with your students!


Monday, April 21, 2014

New Book Happy Dance!

     Have you ever come across a book that fits perfectly with a lesson you do or an idea you have and then you uncontrollably break out into a happy dance!?  That's exactly how I felt when I came across this book: Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. 

     I periodically receive email updates on books I might be interested in from, and this book was a link in one of those emails.  It's a wonderful picture book that teaches the reader all about their brain, but what I love most is the message the book promotes...making mistakes is a necessary process in learning!  I thought this book would be a perfect introduction next year to my lessons that I do with my Reading Brain Hat.  (You can read about those lessons here for Fiction and Non-Fiction books.)  

     I'm super excited because next year, there's going to be some changes to our schedule.  The Library will now be part of the Specials rotation, along with Fine Arts (Music & Theater combined), P.E. and Art.  Instead of only a 30-minute weekly class time, I'll be able to have the class for 50 minutes!  That gives me enough time now to do my normal lessons and extend them with additional activities or technology applications!  

     In this case, I'm thinking about having the students create their own brain hat like you can find here.  There are several different versions of the brain hat:  one with labels and even one without any labels.  On the first lesson, I'll give them a copy of the brain hat with labels to review the parts of the brain.  I'll give them a blank brain hat when we do our Fiction lessons so that they can write in the "thought bubbles" (for characters, setting, events  problem, and solution).   They can use this same brain hat when we do our lesson on Non-Fiction reading.  

     There's also many websites out there like this one that has all kinds of different brain games for kids to help with their memory.  I'm going to add this to our library website so that they can use it throughout the year, to help increase their brain memory power!

     Have you ever found a cool book that gives you that "A-Ha!" kinda moment? I'd love to hear your ideas too!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Advertising New Books

     Have I told you that I love buying new books for the library!  (I personally think that it's directly tied to my love of new school supplies!)  When the new books come in, my receptionist lets me know right away, and I always do a HAPPY DANCE as I go pick up the boxes.  I may even be more excited than the kids, at times!  

     This year, I came up with what I think is a cool way to advertise NEW books, and create a great "end of the year" job for my 5th grade leaders.  Here's what I've done:
     First of all, I purchased green "Color Tinted Label Protectors" from Demco (I get the ones that are 1-1/2" x 2" that come in a box of 250), and I placed them over the call numbers on all the new books.
     Once they are all processed and ready to go, I display the books up on top of our bookcases.  However, if they get shelved, students can still find them easily as the green label sticks out. 
     This has really been effective this year! It's always fun to see the kids so excited when they come up to check out and say "Look, Mrs. Liptak!  I have a new book!"  
     I use a similar method for displaying the current Texas Bluebonnet books.  I have a special bookcase where I store the 20 nominees along with the Shutterfly books I make each year to showcase our Battle of the Bluebonnet teams.  I print out a small picture of the front cover of all 20 book nominees so that students can see where to put the book when they check it back in.

     I purchase the Bluebonnet Spine Labels from TLA's website and use blue Color Tinted Label Protectors from DEMCO to cover over it. (Hint: Make sure you put a normal label protector over the spine label first before placing the blue label protector over it.  Otherwise you can't peel it off easily.)
     At the end of the year, my 5th grade leaders will help me remove all the stickers so that we can begin again next year.  I can also use this as a job for students who need to work off lost books at the end of the year. 
     What kinds of things do you do to advertise new books? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Reading Brain Hat for Non-Fiction

     In a previous post in October, I had described my lesson using the Reading Brain Hat  where students practice "turning their brain on" and thinking when reading a Fiction story.
     In November, I took the same concept, and used the brain hat to introduce the different type of thinking that should be happening when using Non-Fiction books.  The first thing I did was show them the story, Turk and Runt by Lisa Wheeler, that we had read last week.  
     Using the brain hat, I went over the basic storyline as I placed the corresponding popsicle sticks on the hat:
  • Characters =  Turk and Runt, who are brother turkeys
  • Setting = the farm
  • Problem/Events = Turk is the biggest, strongest, and most graceful turkey on the farm, but no one listens to his brother, Runt, when he tries to tell them it's not a good idea to be the biggest at Thanksgiving time. 
  • Solution = His brother, Runt, is finally heard and together Turk and Runt devise a plan to save Turk from being sold for Thanksgiving dinner.
     I then showed them another story, Turkeys on the Farm, by Mari C. Schub. I told them that this story wasn't a made-up Fiction story, but instead was teaching us all about Turkeys that live on a farm.  I asked them, "What type of story is it then?"  They proudly shouted "Non-Fiction!" 

     Then, I asked them, "Does my brain do the same type of thinking when reading a Non-Fiction book?"  Some responded yes, some responded no, and some just shrugged, so I knew this was an important point to get across to them. 
     I began to take off the popsicle sticks, one by one, and explained that in a Non-Fiction story, I don't have characters, setting, problem/events, or a solution.  This left my hat bare, so I asked them, "Does that mean I don't have to do any thinking at all when reading a Non-Fiction book?"  They all shouted "No! You still have to think!" (Can you hear their implied "Duh!")  ;)

     I told them that they were correct.  When reading a Non-Fiction book, your brain does need to be thinking, but in a different way. The first popsicle stick that we put on the hat and talked about was the yellow one. I explained that Non-Fiction books are all about "How Can I Learn New Information?"  I introduced the concept of "Text Features" and explained that Non-Fiction books have these features to help you learn more about your topic.

     I walked them through the Turkeys on the Farm book, and every time we found a new Text Feature, I would add that popsicle stick onto the hat.  I also would show a corresponding poster of that text feature that we would put up around our reading area. 
     Once we finished adding the 5 popsicle sticks for this book (Table of Contents, Index, Headings, Keywords, and Glossary), I explained that there were other Text Features that books could have that can help you learn new information such as: illustrations/photographs, captions, diagrams, labels, maps, and charts.  I pulled other Non-Fiction books to demonstrate these features, and we hung up those posters as well.  
     The following week, I divided the students into pairs, and had them select a Non-Fiction book from the table.  They worked together to fill in their Non-Fiction Text Features Hunt and then we spent a few minutes letting each group share what they found.  I then gave each student a bookmark to remember the text features as they began their research unit. 

     In the weeks that followed, I would show them the story that we would read, and I would ask them which brain hat would we need to have on, Fiction or Non-Fiction?  This has helped them become more aware of the different types of books as well. 
    If you would like copies of any of these activities for your students, feel free to visit my TpT store or Teacher's Notebook.  Happy "BRAIN READING"!