Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Drawing Dude!

Inspiring kids to dream and create is a tough job and John Steven Gurney did it with panache!

John is an illustrator who has produced a copious number of covers and drawings. He is best known for his series: A-Z Mysteries, the Calendar Mysteries, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, the Bailey City Monsters and the Palace Puppies. As a librarian, this was a dream come true since we had over 75 books featuring his work. His work has also appeared in many magazines and even the board game 'Guess Who'. 

Dinosaur Train is a wonderful picture book featuring John's son Jesse as the main character. Not only did he draw the illustrations but he is also the author. His presentations were varied according to the students ages and he establishes a good rapport with his audience. And he had a great number of tricks up his sleeve that he shared with the kids during his drawing workshops. The kids were excited and realized that they too can be illustrators.

His presentation was a great way to finish up my unit on award winners and illustrators. It was so much fun to read quality picture books, use wordless books to focus on illustrations and then have the kids meet a real life illustrator.

Book sales have been fairly steady, with over 50 books sold in a few days. Kids love having a memento and a book with their name signed in it by someone they've met is a pretty special thing. 

If any other school is looking for a brilliant guest speaker, email John 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

And the winner is ...

Award winning books are a treat to read and share with the students. With my younger students we've been focusing on the Caldecott winners. For the past few weeks we looked at the criteria, and I 'borrowed' a list from a fellow 'Busy' librarian Matthew Winner. The criteria can be simplified and is: books kids like, excellent illustrations, illustrations help explain the story and a really good plot.

During lessons I shared the 'Three Pigs' by David Weisner
and 'Creepy Carrots' by Aaron Reynolds. We used the criteria checklist to see if we could figure out why the books had one. Students had an opportunity to talk about plot and illustrations while sitting knee to knee. Then they put the criteria into practice, they used small checklists and selected their own books that they thought should be winners. I made the checklists into little bookmarks with a blurb at the bottom telling parents about the award in the hopes that they would discuss it at home.

As we move into our focus on illustrators, in preparation for our illustrator visit at the end of next month. Students spent some time browsing through a stack of about 30 award winning books and their task was to pick one picture they loved, copy it and explain why.

It was really interesting to see how students selected the same books again and again, and even the same picture. Their favourites were Blackout, Knuffle Bunny, Where the Wild Things Are, Whose Tail is This, Sector 7 and Fredrick. Their reasons were various: some loved the colours, mixture of mediums, or it was family/ classroom favourite.

As a librarian, my efforts to get these into the hands as many students as possible continues. The books are displayed in two places plus I've hung student work. I've also used an animoto video showing the kids with their work and this is played on a loop on the libraries digital display.

I hope a family finds a new favourite to love!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"I'm just browsing"

Browsing in a library has some similarities to browsing in a shop. Sometimes our customers want help or advice and sometimes they don't. The trick is knowing when to approach the customer and then figuring out what you can offer to help them.

For the upper elementary students I encourage them to use a variety of strategies. The library catalogue is the usual first 'go to' and students know how to search by genre, theme, character or author as well as use filters to adjust the results to their interest or fountas and pinnell reading level. For students that already have 'something' in mind, this is most effective.

Now for my customers that won't let that favourite series go and are lost as to what to do next I direct them to my library websites 'What to Read' tab. Under the tab I have the links listed below.

Book Wizard  I really like the 'Find Similar Books' on Scholastics book wizard, it works for mainly American titles. The kids really like seeing what comes up and we have good conversations about the connections between the titles. Sometimes it is a little frustrating in just recommending more books in the same series or it recommends something that is too challenging.

The Stacks - Students enjoy browsing through many parts of this Scholastic sponsored site, although I generally encourage them to view the videos about authors or the book trailers. They have some great links and the website is really engaging for the kids and interactive. My biggest problem is when they post new books and videos and I don't yet have the title in the library. Still it is a great way for our students to learn to browse by reading, listening and viewing.

Read-a-Likes - This is a  wiki set up by a colleague, Linda Marti at International School of Prague and she has wonderful page that is similar to the Book Wizard's 'Find a Similar Book' but I think some of her connections are better and definitely more diverse.

For my younger customers who aren't quite ready to navigate the computer catalogue, I encourage them to use library signage. I have little pictures of favourite characters stuck to the shelves so they can find what they like with some independence. To familiarize them with the pictures we explore through a scavenger hunt, and this is a lesson that is revisited a couple of times a year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Do Kids Want?

Teachers know that the best way for our students to learn is to make it enjoyable. Sometimes, this is a challenge since not everyone likes the same thing. This video, What Kids Want Out of School?, of middle school students shows what our leaners would like. The answer to this is we attempt to make tasks inquiry based, meaning we allow students to make guided choices about what they want to learn. We also like to ensure our students have an authentic voice in the process.

This links to my former posting about reading contests. For the Golden Dragon Book Award I'm using Google Classroom to stay organized. To further motivate my students and encourage them to build a reading community I'm giving my students different options to share their opinions.

Currently, the students are expected to evaluate their books using criteria set by myself and I created a template for them to use and an example video (seen below). They need to discuss the genre, characters, author's style, connections and a recommendation. However, they do have some choices as to how the present their work. At the end of the project, I'm aiming for them to create their own criteria lists.

Students who are introverted and want to express themselves through writing may use Destiny Quests Review function and post a written review. Students who are more visual and extroverted may express themselves through a video (here's the link to my template).  If they are somewhere in the middle and don't want themselves in the video then they can use a powtoon or animoto template.

My goal for next week is to set up a library youtube channel so the students can see the videos and eventually make a QR code to more students can watch the videos.

My journey to make a community of readers is to be continued!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Something Old, Something New

Book Contests are not new on the library block. They are a great way to motivate kids to read books outside the genre comfort zone as well as incorporate authentic reviews that other kids will read. The students will be inquiring into what makes an award winning book.

Google classroom, well that's new and I'm going to attempt to keep the kids and myself organized using Google Classroom. This contest is spread across 2 grade levels and will have approximately 40 kids. Students are expected to complete a google form that is a brief review that will help me to track which titles are being read. The brief review includes title, genre, a scale rating and a couple of sentences to inspire others to read it, or not read it. Also included in the classroom are some videos about the contest, book trailers and the contenders. Eventually, mini assignments about character, theme, plot, connections and perspective will be posted.

Hopefully, this combination of old and new will inspire the students to read some great upcoming literature.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Halloween is a Librarian's Dream Come True

Halloween, a holiday filled with creative characters and storylines that will haunt readers of all ages. The books were flying of the shelves this week. Creepy character discussions were rich and diverse, topics included different characteristics of vampires, how witches can be good and evil and how to do skeletons talk.

Students love the suspense found in Halloween tales and there's many great books at appropriate levels to introduce the concept of the horror genre. It's also the time of year when I practice my oral story telling by sharing my personal ghost story, it is suitable only for upper elementary and leaves them guessing as to whether I'm telling them the truth. The wonder if they should be believers, which I think is a sign of a good ghost story!

Many sneer at this American tradition but I'm thankful to be back in a place where you're allowed to embrace this fun occasion. School spirits were high and the library was definitely a participant. Students found books to match their costume and this was a great assessment to see who knew how to use library signage or the catalogue, in fact it was a great assessment for every grade level. Teachers supported by participating in a door decorating contest featuring a favorite class title, although this particular event didn't have to be connected to the Halloween theme.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Preparation for Character Day

The students of all ages were challenged with finding a book of their favourite characters, and it could match their Halloween costume. This twist meant that students had to do a little more searching and allowed me to assess their skills on using library signage and the catalogue.

We had many happy customers, although I soon discovered that I don't have many devil books in the collection and was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't overwhelmed with princess or superhero requests. Many students got creative and took skeleton books from the Dewey section or a Sleepy Hallow Book from the Fairy Tale section. There was quite a diversity!