Friday, August 22, 2014

Slowly, Slowly, She Got Up

{That's one of my favorite traditional songs, by the way - do you know what the title of my post is from?}

This last Friday of my summer vacation has been kind of an awakening for me.  It just took a few emails from my fabulous Principal, a couple of texts from my reading specialist, and a slew of inspiring tweets and emails to finally get my brain excited about the new school year.

First, an update on Flexible Scheduling!  I have completed my mini-course catalog for my teachers - I will be posting it here as soon as it's truly finished {I noticed a couple of sloppy typos in the last re-read} for you to comment on and for you to steal!

But, my real reason for this post is to announce my recommitment to my own 2012 Pura Belpré Challenge!

I must admit, when I first announced this challenge I failed miserably!  Who starts their own challenge and then doesn't even participate in their own challenge?  Evidently, ME!

So here I go...I will be reading past winners, but also trying to wrap my head around who might be in contention for the 2015 Pura Belpré Award.  Won't you join me?  Have any books on your radar?  

Friday, July 11, 2014

This is the Face of Flexible Scheduling - Post Two

or should I say faceS:
Planning doesn't need to be done in a stifling classroom with no air-conditioning or a conference room with no windows!  Today I met with a member of my school's teaching staff at the pool!

The Other Ms. B. teaches one of the primary grades so we met up to discuss next year's arrangements.

First we started with what didn't work last year:

1)  Her library time was terrible.  Due to the fact that I have to see 32 classes per week not everyone got an ideal time to come to the Library.  Ms. B. was one of those teachers.  We THOUGHT it was a great time.  Her class would dismiss from the Library so really {we thought} 40 whole minutes {instead of 30}.  But of course it didn't work out that way.  With the children packed up, getting situated, excited for the end of the school day and a million dismissal interruptions we never got our momentum going.

2)  I was never available.  With 32 classes I could never attend a grade-level planning meeting or meet during Ms. B.'s planning time or even push in to assist Ms. B. in the classroom with a research or unit-related skill.

We then brainstormed about ways in which we could work together during the first few months of school.  We agreed that the following could be accomplished during this time:

1)  Digital Citizenship lessons including acceptable use policies and contracts;

2)  Review of nonfiction text features;

3)  Review of dictionary skills;

4)  Book talks on early chapter books;

5) Research methods including citing sources;

6) Co-teaching researching skills on the topic of birds;

7) Reviving a favorite co-taught unit of ours from two or three years ago:  Owney, the Postal Pooch.

We even listed a few "dream" events including our own Book Festival to coincide with the National Book Festival.

Our next steps were to work on our own to come up for some ideas for each of these topics.

Nothing fancy...except for the waffle fries we ordered from the snack bar.

CANNON BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Road from Fixed to Flex in the Library - Post One

For several years I have been contemplating a move from a fixed to flexible library schedule.  Over the next few weeks I will be working on this transition and blogging about it here on Classic Six Books.  Today I am just going to start by giving you a snapshot of my school's population and a few reasons why I think this year is THE year to make the move.

I'd love to hear your experiences with flexible scheduling - why it worked/doesn't work for you or if you are contemplating a move to flexible scheduling.

My School

I wonder if a unit on Arnie is acceptable...
My school is a K-5 elementary school in a major metropolitan area.  The 640 students that attend my elementary school, are, in general, of a very high socioeconomic status.  They have been exposed to print-rich environments from a very early age, have access to the public library system and bookstores, and many of them use electronic devices at home.  They are technology-savvy {but not necessarily technology-wise, which I will be addressing this year!}.

Why This Year

When I first arrived at my school seven years ago, the school was on a flexible schedule.  The teachers did not care for it {from what I could tell}, the parents were confused {from what I was hearing}, and the students were wishing for more library time {who could argue with that?}.  My first year I made the decision to transition back to a fixed schedule.  It was the best thing for me.  It enabled me to really get to know my students, build relationships with teachers because I was seeing them on a weekly basis {library time is NOT planning time at my school; teachers must remain with their class in the library}, and it help me get acclimated to my first job as an elementary school librarian.

Times have changed and we are ready for a change as well.  This past year it became blatantly obvious that fixed was no longer working.  On a personal level I felt that I was creating "busy work" for myself:  oodles of 15-minute mini-lessons that, while they often coordinated with what was going on in the classroom, really had no "sticking" power.

Then there were the snow days.  Many of them.  It would be weeks before I could pick up on a lesson with a class - and you know how that goes!

We'd run out of time!  The students felt rushed and so did I.  I felt terrible speeding them up when they were so obviously engaged in a lesson.

The teachers and staff are stellar.  I have worked hard over the past six years getting know my teaching staff and many of them are truly excited for this change.  I don't think I would move to flexible scheduling if my teachers were not willing to give it a try.  I even have one teacher who is VERY skeptical but is willing to give it a try! {He knows who he is...:: waves ::}.

I have the full support of my Principal and Assistant Principal.  I am so lucky that they are willing to take this risk with me!

In my next post I'll be sharing some of the strategies I'll be using to encourage collaboration between myself and my teachers {including specialists!}.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

YIPES! Welcome Summer

I have 5 more days to go 'til summer break and the truth is...I'm feeling very scattered!

My attempt at National Boards has been submitted, my desk is a mess, my house is messier - I have a million things I want to do but don't know where to start!

JES Second Annual Bookswap :: Last week I held our school's second annual bookswap.  I had so many books that I'd hoarded over the school year that every student came away with at least one book!  Kiddos could bring in up to five books to swap as well.  They were very particular - they all insisted that since bringing zero books entitled you to one book, any other number would earn you that number plus one!

The best thing about the book swap was seeing how excited they were to find a book to keep forever!  Some of the littler ones couldn't believe...and only two or three had to give up books they had taken from the library shelves!  Yes, THAT would be too good to be believed!

Picks on Pinterest :: I really got into adding new library books to my Library's Pinterest account.  This summer I plan to sort the books from the "new books" Boards to their appropriate categories.  I hope you find this helpful!

Multiplication Tables :: My own kiddos still have a bit more time before middle school, but this summer the only priority is learning their multiplication tables.  In fact, I heard through the grapevine that our MS principal is specifically requesting that all rising sixth graders really know their times tables backwards and forwards!  I agree, and I would like them to learn them by rote memorization.  Too many tricks that are easily forgotten.  Kinda old-fashioned, right?  I know.  Any suggestions?

What are you up to?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Room with a Review: Mouseheart

Title:  Mouseheart

Author:  Lisa Fiedler

Illustrator:  Vivienne To

Month/Year Published:  Expected publication date May 2014

You May Know Her:  Hmm...not really sure!  We want to know more!

You May Find Her:  Hmm...  Lisa Fidler...where are yooooou?

Review You May Not Have Seen:  Not a lot of reviews quite yet - the buzz will begin soon though!

The Review

I'm not quite sure how I arrived by this Advanced Reader's Copy of MOUSEHEART, but let me tell you, the packaging alone, from Simon and Schuster free of charge, made me feel like I was receiving something special.  Nestled in a brown paper, the book, complete with a mock-up of the book display and cover with its pyramidical (pyramidical?) illustration in colors both vibrant and muted, definitely caught my attention.

But how would this little nestled egg hold up under the boiling water scrutiny (are ya catching my egg metaphor here) of my most critical readers:  my very own 3rd and 4th grade daughter and son?  Would it crack under the pressure? Would the plot be too scrambled? Or would it read easy (over)?  (Okay, I'm done with the egg metaphor now.)

Over the course of a week, we read this book aloud on successive evenings.  Here is what my own reviewers thought of this forthcoming book, the first in a trilogy.

My fourth grade son:  "I thought MOUSEHEART was very good. A lot of parts were very amusing to read.  This book also makes you think a little bit.  This book is sad, scary, and happy all at the same time.  I thought the characters in this book were very good.  Like, Hopper {the main character}, Zucker, Pinkie, Pup and Titus.  I really think that title matches the story.  I think that it being a trilogy is good because it makes you want to read the others.  I would read the others.  I would recommend this book to people who like action, animals, and cliffhangers.  I really loved this book!"

My third grade daughter:  "The book was awesome.  I can't wait for the sequel.  My favorite characters in order were Pup, Hopper, and Pinkie.  I would recommend this book to people that aren't afraid of rodents.  The title really makes you think about what it means.  I liked the whole story and how it was thought out.  My favorite part was one of the fighting scenes between certain characters in the book {no spoilers!}."

My children really did enjoy this book and asked me to read it to them every night.  I know this book will be a hit in my elementary school library as well.  It's a little less challenging in terms of reading stamina than Redwall and the Warriors series, to which it is being compared, and that will suit my students in grades 3-5 just fine.  A definite purchase for our collection and recommended reading, if, as my daughter cautions, you aren't afraid of rodents! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching with Primary Sources: Snow Plows Past and Present

Before Winter Break I talked to my third graders about primary sources.  And when I say I talked to them about Primary Sources, I mean...they had no idea what a primary source was.  I realized that I rarely teach with primary sources which is a shame because there are so many fantastic educator resources online, especially from the United States Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute.  Carolyn over at Risking Failure and I decided to explore not only primary sources, but to reflect a little bit on how we teach using primary sources.  Each month, we will share a lesson with you and the "results" of our teaching with primary sources.

Carolyn has been brave enough to start us off with a fabulous lesson using primary sources related to the past and present of snowplows!  A very timely topic, I might add, Carolyn!  

::  This was a great lesson to try with my first graders.  I told them that you had created it, Ms. Vibbert, so they felt super special trying it out for you.  I had never done the See, Think, Wonder routine with any of my students, let alone my firsties, so I was a little nervous about how they'd do.  I think it's safe to say that both of my first grade classes did awesome!  Very engaged, hands in the air kind of awesome.  

::  On of of the slides, there was a date 1/14-15/10.  This led to ALOT of thinking and wondering among my kiddos.  We tried to figure out if the year was 2010 or 1910 or 1810 by looking at the photograph for clues.  Some students said they could tell because the "trolley" looked old-fashioned.  We also discussed how there probably weren't streetlights in 1810.  Another student saw the word New York and suggested that it was 1910 since there were no tall buildings.

::  As we went through each of the slides (we did all four), the classes kind of skipped around a little bit - they shared their see, think, wonder not in linear order, which I thought was okay.  If they had had trouble coming up with "wonder" observations, I would have stepped back a little bit and had them do the process in order, but they didn't seem to have any trouble.  I will say that I did not write down their thoughts.  Maybe next time, now that they are familiar with the process.

:: My favorite parts were when a student said he thought the photograph was from the past "like 1980 or something"!  That always makes me feel ancient! Another student, after we looked at the final "present"  slide, said "I wonder what snow plows will look like in the future!"  Today I received a packet of illustrations from that class showing just that!  YAY!  I love lessons where the classroom teachers feel they can extend them in their classrooms.

Both of the classroom teachers enjoyed this activity as well.  One teacher asked me if we could do more See, Think, Wonder.  Another student requested books on snow plows {which I did not have!} so I ordered some.

Thank you, Carolyn, for a fantastic lesson!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Creating Movie Dialogue Using Primary Sources

After several weeks of feeling like a creative slug, I finally got a jolt of inspiration made possible, in part, by a request to the Twitterverse.  I was looking for some lesson ideas for my third and fourth graders that utilized primary sources and technology.  Of course my trusty tweeps guided me to the Library of Congress website and from there things fell into place.

First, students will access TR Calls on Neighbors at Christmas, 1917.

Then they will complete the Graphic Organizer I have created and that is available here.

I welcome your comments and any suggestions  you might have for improving this graphic organizer.

Imagination Designs