Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Edge of Their Seats Every Time

Sometimes when I get a little bit anxious about how I'm doing as an elementary school librarian, I pick up an old favorite and sneak a peek at my audience as I'm reading.  Sometimes I see them sitting with their hands over their ears but eyes wide, sometimes they put their fingers over their eyes with just a teeny bit of separation so that they don't miss out entirely, other times it is just a silent group of children, each looking up at the book with their jaws hung slack.  Sometimes I can hardly get through the book...what with the laughter.  Sometimes at the end of the book my students applaud.  Spontaneously.

This is not a movie they're watching.  They are listening to another human being read written words on a page.  It amazes me, sometimes, the power of the read-aloud.  I love when I read a sentence and a child says, "I love how he said that."  Um...that was me saying it that way.  But really I'm just the go-between, the middle-woman if you will.  I will never forget when I had a high school senior with me for two weeks for her high school Senior Experience.  She was from Australia and she read the students Possum Magic.  I was one of those students with my jaw hung slack.  I can never read that book aloud again...I've been spoiled by her reading of it.  For the following read-alouds I rarely stop to ask questions or to check for understanding.  There's plenty of time for that.  I don't want to break the spell.

Here are three books that I read to my first grade students every year.

Epossumondas Saves the Day :: by Coleen Salley :: Illustrated by Janet Stevens
Sure it looks humorous enough except when you get to the Great, Huge, Ugly, Louisiana Snapping Turtle.  Read it to my Firsties every year and I never get tired of it.

My Best Friend :: by Mary Ann Rodman :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
There's nothing scary about this book, but my Firsties or Kinders are captivated by it.  They are on pins and needles wondering what's going to happen to Lily.  Will Tamika finally accept her as she is?  Will it take just another bathing suit change or half a popsicle to make them BFFs?  Friendships are so important to these little guys and I use this book whenever I can tell there's a little bit of friendship strife going on in the classroom.

Each Kindness :: Jacqueline Woodson :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Hmmm...okay, another book illustrated by E. B. Lewis.  Not intentional but there is no doubt that illustrations add to the allure of these picture books.  I read Each Kindness to each of my three first grade classes last year.  The reaction was literally stunned silence.  And if you know Firsties you know how monumental this is!  Then chatter.  "Maybe she came back."  "Maybe the author will write a second book."  Lots of hoping and wishing when this read-aloud was finished.  Sometimes you don't get second chances and I think this book made that a little bit more real for my compassionate Firsties.  Afterwards we wrote our acts of kindness on paper pebbles and set them on a paper pond, imagining the ripple effect.

What captivating tales do you read to your first graders every year?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Postings from the Past: Part One

I finally caught up with my old friend Carolyn from Risking Failure the other night on twitter.  We were both lamenting the fact that our blogs have fallen by the wayside and what could inspire us to update them with a little more frequency.  We also had a good virtual laugh because we found answers to some of our own questions in our very own past posts!  Wouldn't it be fun to revisit our past posts and reflect on how far {or not} we've come?  And so was born the #pastpresentpostingchallenge.

This Friday I've decided to reflect on my post from about this time two years ago {!}; a post that I called Four Down...Four to Go.  

:: Reading - Two years ago I was reading mostly adult fiction as summer began.  I still tend to do that over the summer but this year I started out with Finding Audrey, the new YA book by Sophie Kinsella.  I really enjoyed this book - it is full of the kind of oddball humor that I like and the main character's "issue" wasn't handled in a forced or contrived way.  So am I shifting to YA literature? This year I read a lot of MG literature - does this mean I'm maturing?  LOL!  Or, upon deeper reflection, what does this mean as I begin my eighth year as a K-5 librarian?  Do we age up or out of grade-level?

:: "The Office" - I am spinning a la Julie Andrews to report that my Library was PAINTED this week.  Yes, a lovely new white (that showed how disgustingly dingy the old white had become :: shudder ::), a beautiful sky blue on the expanse of cinderblock near the windows; and a darker blue to make the entryway pop!  I know that always say this on Home & Garden Television, but it is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do.  Deeper reflection:  What do you do each year to re-energize your space?  Does it work?

:: Guest - Haha!  TWO years ago Carolyn came up to visit with me and my librarian friends.  This year I need to make some visits.  I need to observe other Librarians in their spaces as they work and teach. Deeper reflection:  How does observing other teacher-librarians help to improve your practice?

:: Family - We are home from our annual summer vacation.  As I mentioned two years ago, this summer time at home with my children is just another reason why I love my job.  Deeper reflection: If you have children and work during the school year, what are your summers like? 

:: National Boards - Two years ago I was contemplating whether or not to apply for National Boards. That following September I decided to go ahead with the process and this November I learned that I had in fact achieved my National Boards.  It was a long process and I have very mixed and tortured feelings about it.  If you'd like I can do a post on my experience.

:: Writing - Two years ago my article on selecting books for my Library was published in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin.  I still haven't finished that pesky MG novel but have since moved on.  I hoping for some better news two years hence.  Deeper reflection:  What are your personal long term goals?

Stay tuned for next Tuesday's post where I will write about this year's first time experience with flexible scheduling in my Library. 

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