Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teachers Are Heroes Sale!

Wednesdays are great days to shop!

Especially today!

Teachers Pay Teachers loves teachers, and they know how hard we all work. So, they are having a SITEWIDE SALE today (Wednesday, February 25th)
and my store is participating!

WAIT!! They just extended the sale through Thursday, February 26th!

Just enter promo code HEROES when you check out, and you will get a whopping 28% off

This is a great time to go purchase those items you've had on your wish list!  While you're shopping, check out all the other amazing stores that will be participating as well!

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Starting a Makerspace in the Library

     I have been using centers in the library for several years now and absolutely love them.  They work really well at giving students choices of activities to do after the lesson and checking out new books.  Now that I have 50-minute library classes as part of the Special's rotation, this has proven to be beneficial.  If you haven't started centers in your own library and you're interested in starting, you can read about my journey here.

      Over the last year, though, I have begun to read more and more about Makerspaces. They intrigued me, and it seemed like a natural progression from what I had been doing with my library centers. So, like most things, I decided to dive head first into trying them in my library this year. 
      I started off researching ideas from another amazing librarian in my district, Tracey Rice.  She has been the brave pioneer that tried Makerspaces in her library already and created this great Symbaloo of ideas and resources.

     After investigating these links and listening to Tracey talk about what she was doing, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what a Makerspace could be.  Now, I wanted to get some feedback from my students.  The first thing I did was create a chart paper that I divided into 2 columns:  
  • What is a Makerspace? 
  • What are our Expectations?  
I then asked each 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class to brainstorm their thoughts as I wrote them down.  With each new class, I would let them brainstorm first, and then would share what the other classes said for them to comment on.  I put check marks by ideas they liked, which would show me some similarities between grade levels and classes.  I also made note of specific items they wanted to have in our Makerspace such as:  Legos, Rainbow Looms, jewelry, crochet or knitting, origami, electronics, puzzles, games, arts-n-crafts, etc. 
     I combined all their thoughts and created this poster to hang up in our Makerspace area. (For those that know me well, I took both of them to Office Depot and had them make an 18x24 color poster.)
     I also created a blank version of each so that I could use the same format in the following years.     
     The next thing I did was look for things to put in the Makerspace area.  I started out by going into my garage and looking through all my stored teacher stuff. (One of these days I will take the time to finish going through 15 years of teaching stuff again.  I've done it twice already, and each time I weeded out a lot or sold/donated things, but those that have taught for years like me know that this is a hard process to go through!)  
     I did find some cool things though.  I had these cube puzzles that I had used with my third graders that I originally bought from Oriental Trading.  I haven't been able to find anything like them there now, but I did find this site called "Happy Cube Puzzles".  They are pretty pricey, but the kids LOVE THEM!  And it fit perfectly for those students who wanted "puzzles and challenges" in the Makerspace!  I also found my legos that I got for free when I attended a lego robotics workshop at the University of Texas (Go Longhorns!), along with an assortment of games and arts-n-crafts that I hadn't brought up to the library yet.
     I'm also very lucky to have a supportive husband, and as part of his "Blue Santa" tradition, we took his 2 nieces to go shopping at Target for some toys to donate. He gave each niece a $100 bill and told them that it could be used to buy whatever toys they thought kids would like. (I still swoon when I remember him taking me on a mystery trip when we were dating!)  While they shopped for items to give to Blue Santa, I shopped for some items to donate to my school from their Makerspace wish list.  Here's a list of what I found at Target:
     If you don't want to go out and buy a lot of stuff, there's a lot of fun activities out there that only require materials that you would have around already.  You can see some great STEM activities here by Smart-Chick.  I've downloaded some of her projects, and the kids LOVE them.  One of their favorites is the Plastic Cup Tower!  My "make your own bookmark" area is also a big hit, and you can find a ton of fun ideas on Pinterest.
     Because I'm such an organization freak, I knew I would have to have some sort of system to store all these activities.  I didn't think I would want to have everything out all the time, plus as new things were donated or materials were used up, I knew I was going to need a way to rotate and store the activities.  I created these labels to put on my plastic containers that I already had in abundance from teaching for so long.  The labels are roughly 4 inches long by 3 inches high, which easily fits onto any plastic shoe box container (like the ones you can find here at Walmart), and would allow me to easily see what was inside.
The last thing I made was an "open" and "closed" sign.  I knew that some of lessons would not leave enough time for Makerspace, and I wanted to have a way to communicate this to the students (without having to say it 100 times!) 

      I'm planning on introducing our Makerspace area to Kinder and 1st grade soon.  So far, it's been a huge hit, and the students have been doing an amazing job of following the expectations and monitoring each other.  If you would like to get any of these activities, you can find them here at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.
     Have you tried starting a Makerspace in your library?  I'd love to hear the types of activities you are doing!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Reading Goal Bookmark

     For the second half of the year, I wanted to do an activity that would encourage my students to reflect more about the “type” of books that they were checking out, with the hopes that they might explore some new genres instead of just checking out the same books or series over and over. I also wanted to provide them with a way to set some reading goals for the new year.
     So I started playing around with different ways to set a New Year's Resolution with them, and I came up with a foldable that will be super easy to make.  Here's what it looks like:  
     The first page has the year on the right hand side, and will be double-sided with the second page.  Once you fold the page in half, you will see the year, and I'll have the students cut underneath each number.  When they do that, they'll be able to see the information box underneath to fill out. 
  • 2 = Two books I have read this year and would recommend to my friends are...
  • 0 = A genre that I have never read, but may give a try this year is...
  • 1 = My favorite part about coming to the library is...
  • 5 = Five books that friends have recommended for me to read this year are..
     When we do this activity, I’ll spend a few minutes reviewing the different genres that we have in our library:
  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Scary/Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Sports
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Non-Fiction
  • Biography
  Then, I’ll hand out the pages and go over each section.  I’ll have the students meet with me to look at the history of books they have checked out so far this year (for the "2" and "0").  While they are waiting to meet with me, they will find 5 friends to get recommendations from, and work on filling out the other sections.
     I'm interested in what they will think when they see their history of checkouts, and I expect to have some conversations with them regarding books that they have checked out versus what they've actually read.  I'll also use this time to share data on which grade level currently has the most checkouts, and remind them to return their books on time so that they can check out new ones each week.  Hopefully, my latest order of brand new books will be in by the end of this lesson so that we can continue our discussion of new books to read.
     If you are interested in doing this activity with your students, you can get it at my store at TpT or at Teacher's Notebook.  I included pages for the next couple of years as well. 
Update: 1/5/2015
I did this today with 3rd, 4th, and 5th and I have to say it was SO MUCH FUN!  Most of the kids could remember at least 2 books they checked out, so I ended up only have to look up the history for a few students in each class.  I ended up sitting at the tables with them for most of their library time as they filled out their resolutions, and had some fun conversations about books that they had read.  It was so cute to see them walking around asking for recommendations from each other on what to read next!  Some even came up to me to ask for a recommendation!  This is definitely an activity I will continue to do next year!

What kind of plans will you be doing with your students after Winter Break?  I'd love to hear your ideas!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kinder Lessons

     When I became a librarian, I had already taught third grade for 15 years.  I was pretty confident in my teaching, and I felt like I had a good grasp on how to plan interesting lessons, build differentiated activities, and create assessments to and for learning.  But somehow, my first year in the library made me feel like a first-year "newbie" teacher all over again, and planning for 7 different grade levels (Pre-K through 5th) became this nerve-wracking event each week!   
     Out of all the grade levels I planned for, Kindergarten seemed to be the most challenging for me, and I was always looking for new ideas to keep the students' attention.  My first year was pretty much a blur, but I did make a conscious decision to save my lesson plans and write down the titles of books that I read so that I could use them the following year.  I made sure to write down notes to myself on what worked, what didn't work, and what needed to be tweaked if I did the activity again.  (I still do this today!)  
     As each year went by, my lessons became more detailed, and I began to see a natural flow of concepts from one week to another.  I was becoming more adept at collaborating with the kindergarten teachers, and blending my library skills with their grade level's language arts skills.  I was also able to create lessons that correlated to prior ones so that students could start to make some connections from week to week.

     This year, I decided to type up some of these lessons and create an “Emergency Binder” to use for those unexpected times when I'm sick.  (You know, those rare occasions when you don’t have the time or energy to try and write up a detailed lesson plan for a substitute because you can barely remember your name!)  
     Some fellow librarians asked what I was doing, and when I told them, they all said that they would love to have a copy!  So, I thought I'd put together a collection of my kindergarten lessons for librarians who may need some guidance in their first year or who just need some new ideas for their own "Emergency Binder". 
     I created the unit to include 36 separate lessons that cover a variety of skills/topics. These lessons can be used if you are on a 6-week or 9-week grading period, or can also be used in isolation.  Most activities correspond to either a Fiction or Non-Fiction book (sometimes both) that are common to libraries, but can also be easily purchased through if needed.  If you follow them in order, they will take you through a normal school calendar year (August/September through May/June).
     Each lesson page shows the week number, the main library skill/concept, and the book title(s).  The rest of the page is divided into three main sections:  1) the main lesson with detailed step-by-step directions, 2) a list of possible supplemental activities, and 3) a list of possible technology activities.  I put a copy of each lesson page in a 3-ring sheet protector, and placed them in a binder.  I added a post-it note to let myself know if I had a personal paperback copy of the book or I wrote the call number if it was a library copy.   Here's a sample of what the lesson plans look like: 

If you would like the entire collection of 36 lessons, you can 
find them at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.

     I just finished typing up these lessons over our winter break, and made my binder tonight!  I'm super excited about this and I'm now thinking about creating a collection of activities like this one for each grade level (1st through 5th).  Do you think it would be more useful to have a 6-week or 9-week collection that includes all grades (Kinder through 5th)? Is this something that you would find helpful and use? I would love to know what you think!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

October Library Events

     This has been an amazingly BUSY year so far, and it's been hard to catch my breath, much less update my blog! But, better late than never, right?!  So here's a summary of all the exciting things that we did in the library throughout October!
     Our first fun event was our 2nd annual Monster Mash! (You can read about our first Monster Mash here).  This year, I decided to change it up a little and read a different book for each grade level.  This was inspired when I came across a new fabulous story called The Monsterator by one of my favorite authors Keith Graves! I let 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade choose between The Monster Diaries, The Monsterator, and A Halloween Scare in Texas.  Then I read Creepy Carrots for 2nd grade, The Monstore for 1st grade, and The Monster of the Woods with Kinder and Pre-K.

     After the story, students were able to go to our own "monsterator" machine and select body parts to create 2-D shape monsters.  I set up one table with various body shapes (squares, rectangles, circles, etc.) and another table with an assortment of eyes, hands, and feet.  After they selected their pieces, the students were able to get creative and add details to make their monsters unique.   It was super fun to see the kids get so excited, and even my big 5th graders had a blast!  If you'd like to see our video of this event, you can check it out here.

     At the end of October, we celebrated with our 2nd Annual Storybook Pumpkin Patch (You can read about our first Pumpkin Patch here.)  Students were given the option to bring in a pumpkin (real or fake) decorated as their favorite storybook character.  It was so much fun to hear them planning out their designs, and so exciting when their pumpkins started coming in!  If you'd like to see a video of this event, you can check it out here!  Here were some of my favorites from this year!

     If you're interested in starting your own Storybook Pumpkin Patch, you can get everything you'll need at my TpT store.  Also if you shop on December 1 and 2nd, you can get 28% off all my products just by using the code TPTCYBER at checkout.  Many other stores are participating in this Cyber Sale, so this is the perfect time to fill up your shopping cart with all those great products you've always wanted!  Happy shopping!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dot Day Celebration Week

     Dot Day is on September 15th, but instead of just doing one day of celebrating, I've decided to do a whole 6 days of celebrating!  Why you may ask?'s due to our schedule changes for this year.  Instead of having teachers sign up for a weekly time slot to bring their class to the library, the library is now part of the Specials rotation. This means that students will rotate over 6 days to all the Specials classes.
Day #1 = PE
Day #2 = Art
Day #3 = PE
Day #4 = Performing Arts (Music and Theater Arts combined)
Day #5 = PE
Day #6 = Library
    Change can be scary, but I was actually pretty excited about being able to have the students for 50 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I normally got. Plus, now I'm guaranteed only 6 classes each day, with a lunch AND a conference time!   One major downside is that I only see classes every 6 days instead of every week.  I am working on some solutions for reminding kids to bring their books back as their library day will fall on a different day each time.  I am also still trying to work out how I'm going to do Book Fairs AND have classes...but that topic is for another post!
     Anyway, back to the amazing DOT DAY!  When you join here, you get access to a plethora of ideas for activities.  I did a lot of those last year, so this year I wanted to find some new things to try.  Pinterest again proved to be invaluable! :)
     A Zen Librarian had a great blog post about Dot Day that you can find here. I decided to use some of her ideas and created station signs and directions.  I had all 8 stations available for 3rd-5th grade, but limited the number of stations for Kinder - 2nd grade to help myself manage everything!  

  • Kinder really had a lot of fun with Station #2
  • 1st grade rotated between Station #1 and Station #2.
  • 2nd grade chose between Station #1, Station #2, and Station #6.

I put out hot dots and let students take one and place it anywhere on their paper.  Then they used that dot to create a new picture of something.  The Busy Librarian had a great poem to use with this activity that you can find here.  The kids had a great time being creative.  I had drawings of trees, aliens, baseball player, a shark, and even a clown holding a bouquet of balloons.
 Students went absolutely crazy with this station!  They loved the final look and said it reminded them of Tye-Dye!  Two 4th graders even tried an experiment to see if their pictures would turn out differently.  One decided to "grow" each of the 5 dots at the same time.  The other "grew" one dot at a time.  I won't give away the surprise in case you want to try it on your own! 
Even though we've done the Colar App last year, the kids still had fun making their own "dot" pictures, and then they took turns using the iPad to watch their picture "come to life"! You can download the coloring page here.
I put copies of the Morse Code Alphabet around each computer, and then underneath, students could take a practice page to try their hand in writing in Morse Code.  I even had some 5th grade boys that were so into this station that they spent their entire time here!  But boy were they excited when they were able to figure out one of the mystery words on the Advanced level at DitDah!  You can find copies of the Morse Code Alphabet plus the activity page on The Zen Librarian's blog here.
This station wasn't as big of a hit as I hoped it would be, but several kids did go over to explore the books I ordered in Braille from The Braille Superstore. Everyone who tried to "read" the book "The Cat in the Hat" all left saying "Wow! That is hard!"  The Zen Librarian also has some great handouts for this station including the Braille alphabet and an activity sheet for students to try writing in Braille. 
I am super excited about this Station, and think it will actually last throughout the year.  There are SO many cool things when you search for "dot trees" on Pinterest (see link here) but not enough time to do them all! So I chose this one from Mrs. Picasso's Art Room here.  I thought it would be cool to paint a tree trunk for each grade level in our cafeteria, and prepaint large colored circles.  Then, each year, let students create smaller circles to staple on top of the painted ones, so that each student could "make their mark" on our school.  Our counselor even got involved and had the students write a goal they wanted to accomplish in their circles.  I may not get enough to do one per grade level, but maybe I'll get at least 1 tree done this year! :)
 I love the Aboriginal Hand Art, and thought this would be a great addition to our Dot Day stations this year!  I had a friend that introduced me to this type of artwork when she sent me a postcard from Australia with examples on it.  I looked on Pinterest, and found even more examples to show the students.  Needless to say, this was a HUGE hit during our Dot Day Celebrations, and we had to put a timer for 10 minutes at this station!
I loved watching the students creativity at the Seurat bookmark station.  I found small round dowels at Hobby Lobby, and also had long toothpicks for the students to create their own Pointilism masterpieces!  Another great hit!
To help manage everything that was going on, I had each student check out books first and place their library books in a line by the exit door.  As they finished a station, they simply placed their artwork/activity on top of their book and then went to a different station.  I gave them the option to stay and finish a station, or if they wanted to do as many as possible, they were allowed to take their unfinished work with them to finish at another time.  This system worked really well with all grade levels!

Another "aha" moment I had was with my 2 paint stations.  On the first day, I used clear cups to put the paint in, but the q-tips were the same size, and so the top of the q-tip kept getting paint all over it.  Plus, at the end of the day, I had to scoop the leftover paint back into the paint bottles which was a pain. So, in a dream, I remembered that I had all these empty play-doh containers (because I never throw anything never know when you can re-use it)!  These containers were the perfect size as the q-tip was about an inch taller than the container.  Plus, I could put the lids on and keep the paint fresh for the next day!  I love it when ideas work!  If you'd like to purchase these stations signs so that you can do your own Dot Day Celebration Stations, you can get there at my TpT Store or at Teacher's Notebook.

So, this was our Dot Day Celebration!  What kinds of activities did you do to celebrate?  I'd love to hear your ideas!