In less than two weeks time I will be headed to South Africa for a month to volunteer teach in Cape Town and then visit schools we support in our reading partnership project. I will be posting updates on my Books to Africa website http://bookstoafrica.weebly.com. Look on the blog page for photos and news of what’s happening while I’m there. I am sincerely grateful to my family, friends and school supporters whose generosity with my GoFundMe campaign made this dream come true! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
When it comes to having Rock Star status in the library, Mo Willems is at the top of the charts. This spring when all the library books came back for a summer vacation rest, we were surprised to see exactly how many copies of his books we actually have. Why? They are always checked out. I could have 50 copies of his books and still not have enough to keep readers happy.
So when I heard about the Mo Willems book and plush character sale at Kohl’s stores, there was no question what I would be doing at 8am on a Saturday morning! Now I have what I need to make four more Backpack Buddies for the library! I also bought a couple extras to take with me to South Africa this summer. We are all set to have some Mo reading Fun!
If you would to learn more about the Backpack Buddies we have in the library, check out this post.
Join us this week as we celebrate the life and books of Dr. Seuss! Each day has a special theme. On Wednesday you can either dress up like your favorite book character OR wear your wackiest socks! On Friday, please wear your PJ’s and bring a favorite book to read. Sometime during the day we will have some DEAR time = Drop Everything And Read. Everyone will stop what they are doing, move into the hallways and quietly read together. Let’s have some reading fun this week!
Read Aloud. Change the World.
That’s the message of World Read Aloud Day. Today we celebrated the joy of reading — the joy of listening to a book and the joy of talking to authors. We were so fortunate and we took action on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.
If you have visited my blog before, you know I’m passionate about spreading the love of reading throughout the world in events like this and through my Books to Africa Partnership. Today we Skyped with two authors- Dan Gemeinhart and Robin Yardi.
Dan Gemeinhart is the author of the middle grade novels, The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island.
Dan spoke to us from his home in Washington state and shared his reading and writing story to an audience of 4th and 5th graders. Nearly everyone in the room had read at least one of his books and they were completely enthralled with his presentation. Dan shared how he moved a lot when he was young, and while that was difficult, he found that he always had one thing no matter where he was….BOOKS!
Nobody could take away the stories from him and he always had a book in hand. In fact, like many authors and readers, he got in trouble for reading TOO much. Only readers know how painful it is to hear parents beg them to go outside and get stop reading. By second grade, he knew he wanted to be an author, but he didn’t do anything to make that dream come true until much later as an adult. His message that you have to make your dreams come true – that they don’t come true magically on their own was especially powerful. Even more powerful when that message is coupled with the fact that he had a very hard time getting published.
Dan was very candid about the fact that he wrote for 8 years and tried to publish 5 and I quote – “terrible” books, but was rejected 99 times! Then letter #100 came back with a big YES, and The Honest Truth came to life. Now there’s The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island with two more books in the works.
As soon as our call ended, there was a mad dash of students trying to be first to nab one of his books. You know it’s a successful author visit when you have to figure out a way to safely hand out books! thank you Dan for so generously sharing your story with our readers for World Read Aloud Day.
In the afternoon, we hosted Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mario Martinez and They Just Know: Animal Instincts.
Robin read They Just Know Animal Instincts to my Thursday 1st and 2nd grade classes in an interactive presentation. The students let Robin know when they saw silly and real illustrations as they read the story together.
Afterward she shared photos of cool animals like the pygmy seahorse and a species of bats. They learned the words adaptation and echolocation. she shared some of her new favorite books with us as well before we had to end our call. The children loved being to talk to an author almost in person. They were super excited to checkout their own book and bring it home. I am so grateful to the Microsoft in Education Skype in the Classroom program for our Skype visit with Robin.
World Read Aloud Day 17 is nearly over, but the message remains the same. We can all take action on any day to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. We can all dream and imagine a world where everyone can read. As Dan said in our call, dreams take work, and we can all make a difference.
Since I began celebrating in 2012, I’ve noticed the numbers of illiterate people advertised in the handout literature are going down. The handouts in 2012, stated there were 793 million illiterate people in the world. The 2017 materials have 758 million people. That’s a reduction of 35 million in 5 years! We are making this dream come true for millions of people. Keep advocating locally and globally!
The power of a QR code has become crystal clear in the past few weeks. I’ve been working closely with a teacher who works with significantly learning disabled students. Each student has highly specialized individual education plans. The demands on this teacher to ensure that her students have different activities which support their IEPs every single day is overwhelming at times.
She has looked at technology as a possible solution to some of her questions, and is an avid OneNote user. In our conversations about her students and their new access to iPads, we were brainstorming programs and how her students were going to use the devices. I suggested that she try using Microsoft Forms with her students.
The next day she had a form made, but we ran into a new wall. How could her students independently access the form? The forms live online, but it’s too hard for her students to type lengthy URLs. There had to be an easy way. Enter the QR code solution! Using a QR code generator she was able to make a simple title page with a QR code to put in her student’s notebook. Then she taught her students and their Educational Assistants how to scan the QR code with a QR code reader. In seconds, the form activity was activated and the student was working.
Her students all love using devices, and since she has implemented the program, they are starting to push against adult assistance! More and more she is seeing a “I can do this myself!” mindset.
What I love is this wonderful blending of adaptive technology – iPads + Microsoft Forms + QR codes = independence AND gives this teacher more time and flexibility for other lessons. It’s a pretty big win!
How do you celebrate the fact that 35 Books to Africa club members came together, created posters, screamed loudly, and inspired students from kindergarten to grade to dig deep into their coin jars and piggy banks and donate to their project?
You play “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang and make sure it’s blaring loudly from the speakers as they walk into the library! We had much to celebrate this morning as I was able to announce our final figures.
Surprisingly, at first I wasn’t sure how to celebrate. As I was kicking around ideas in my head, I realized that maybe the best thing I could do is help them see that their actions are similar to some of the most giving and selfless people in the world:
Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, MLK, Jr.
This is the Sway we watched:
Afterward, it was time to share the news around the school with mini-thank you posters to attach to our big posters already plastered along every wall in school. However, that easy idea, quickly got a bit complicated. When we began, our final number was $1251.04. Woo-hoo!
And then more people came to our meeting today and asked, “Can we donate more money still?”
Five minutes later, we had $1262.54.
Ten minutes after that it was $1288.54.
By the end, we had $1302.54 donated to our cause!
That will pay the postage for 14 boxes of books to be sent to our partner schools in Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. It has been a great week of caring and sharing!
Update: Tuesday, February 2, 2017 Final Coin Drive amount raised:
My favorite week in December is Hour of Code week. Hour of Code is really supposed to be an hour of coding. However, in the library I extend it to an entire week, so all of my classes can experience coding.
Hour of Code is a week-long introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. Check out the tutorials and activities.
This grassroots campaign is supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide, including our school! We are one of those teeny dots on the world map. All of our K-5 classes participated this year. In primary we focused on the Moana tutorial.
According to the website, since 2014, The Walt Disney Company has worked with Code.org to build Hour of Code tutorials featuring Disney characters that inspire kids of all ages to try coding. “The new Disney Hour of Code tutorial uses a visual programming language using blocks where students simply drag and drop visual blocks to write code.
Visual programming is a fun and easily understood way to teach the logic of coding. Exposure to visual programming lays the foundation for text-based programming, a more complex activity. The tutorial is targeted for kids ages 8+ and those trying coding for the first time.
We have a significant number of students whose first language is not English. One of the significant strength of the Hour of Code tutorials is that they are available in 23 different languages. On Friday afternoon, we had students coding in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Russian. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they could read their own language was priceless.
All week long I repeatedly heard students cheering “I did it!” as they successfully figured out a command sequence. Remember, it’s not limited to school. Try coding at home too! Visit the Hour of Code website and try any of the tutorials at home.
The intermediate classes tried something completely different. I know the majority of these students have some coding experience, so I took their computer science exposure to a different level. With the Windows 10 app, Lifeliqe, we entered the world of virtual reality! Lifeliqe has over 1,000 3D interactive models of K-12 aligned with common core curriculum. Lifeliqe makes deep-learning fun!
In January, we will be combining the Lifeliqe models with database research to create an interactive, research project! I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Lifeliqe this year and experiment with how elementary aged students can benefit from learning with virtual reality 3D models.
During Hour of Code week it was fun to see students throughout the school participating. In music the students learned that a musical score, is much like computer coding.
The kindies learned that you don’t have to have a computer to learn coding basics. They did some unplugged learning with a parent volunteer!
Some FAQs about computer science:
Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path. See more stats here.
Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Code.org’s vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Code.org believes computer science should be part of core curriculum, alongside other courses such as biology, chemistry or algebra.
*All background facts are from the Hour of Code website.
Iain Reading, author of The Dragon of the Month Club and the Kittyhawk series visited our school this week for a much anticipated visit with our 5th grade students.
He talked to the students about the power of ideas and books. As a writer you never know where an idea might take you. He explained what he meant with the story of how he thought of the idea for The Dragon of the Month Club. It started with something he saw on television when a character on an English show received a Sausage of the Month gift as a joke. Thinking about the concept, made him wonder the question, “what if there was a dragon of the month club?” Within two years, his book was written, published and he was talking to us at our school!
His visit was the direct result of some 5th grade students who inspired by the book, created their own dragons.I wrote about the experience in the post When Magic Happens. The last paragraph of the post read:
I didn’t know what kind of doors those words would open at the time. Like Iain, as a writer you just don’t know the path you might be led down. In our case, that post was shared on social media and Mary Grigg, the 5th grade teacher who had been reading his book to her students, tracked down Iain’s contact information and shared the link with him.
When he wrote to us and asked if he could visit our school we were thrilled! I can assure you when Mary and I read our emails, we had a fabulous day!
What we didn’t expect is how he would spoil us when he came all the way from Holland! Talk about a treat! In addition to telling us about his writing process, and sharing the pain of rejection letter, he brought very special give aways. Everyone received a bracelet, pin and Dragon of the month card. He also gave away dragon pendants.
Then 20 students received a special Cougar Ridge edition of his book. There are special “cookies” throughout the book that refer to Bellevue and our school, as well as a custom cover.
Iain and Ms. Grigg had fun trying to find the special places in the book that are customized!
When his presentation was over, each lucky student had their copy autographed by Iain.
Iain explained that after his visit he was going to Vancouver to the Comic Con Convention where he always has a wishing tree. To get the tree started, each student could write a wish and put it on the tree. It would then be on display at the convention for others to add on to it.
While all these details were absolutely fantastic, the ultimate part of the day, was a special lunch Iain shared with a small group of students. The five girls who made the original dragons, plus others who applied to have lunch with him shared an extended visit where they had the chance to ask questions about the book in more detail. One of the girls joined us via Skype from her new school. Everyone laughed and talked about their favorite dragons, plots twists and when the sequel would be available.
We had a “Dragon” dessert, which we showed our friend on Skype before we cut into it! Two of the girls had also made a Candy Dragon which Iain took with him to Canada for the Comic Con Convention!
Then Iain shared the ultimate surprise. He brought out five custom copies of the Dragon of the Month Club with the girls’ dragons on the cover! Screams and cries filled the air as the girls scanned the pages looking for their names hidden inside the book!
I’ve had a lot of author visits, but I have to say, this one certainly had a huge impact on a lot of children at our school. From all of the 5th graders and their teachers, we shout a loud and boisterous, Thank you Iain! You are the best!
Iain’s book The Dragon of the Month Club, as well as The Kitty Hawk mystery series are available through Amazon in book and Kindle versions.
There are just some lessons in the library that can be drier than sun burnt mud no matter how much I have tried to make them interesting. Librarians you know what it’s like. You have to teach THAT LESSON, but 3 minutes into it, the kids are picking at the carpet, staring off at the corners of the room or waving their hands and pointing at the cobweb they found in the art installation. Trying to ignore it all (and secretly hoping full chaos doesn’t start) you keep going because it’s the required curriculum topic.
We all have those lessons. My struggle has been helping students understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction in a fun way. The lessons have been okay. Nothing great. Certainly not newsworthy. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t part of the conversation at the dinner table when the kids tell their parents about the best part of their day.
I had some extra time yesterday and was searching AGAIN for a quick mini-lesson to go along with an author/illustrator study emphasizing that Lauren Castillo’s books are fiction, not non-fiction. I admit, my effort was a bit lackluster. I was scrolling through my browser on one screen and deleting old email on the other. Then I came upon my reminder email about my subscription to Flocabulary. Flobaculary teaches concepts through hip-hop music
I’d signed up in September, but hadn’t tried anything out yet. I was supposed to do a review, but I hadn’t done that either. Okay I thought, I wonder if there’s a video on fiction and non-fiction in Flocabulary? Sure enough, the first video in the Reading and Writing section, was one on Fiction vs Non-Fiction.
Could it be my lucky day? Fridays are notoriously NOT lucky days, so I admit, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. I pushed play and the next thing I knew I was rockin’ in my school chair. (thanks Pete the Cat). I liked it. Now, the question was would the kids AND would the info stick in their brains?
Four Friday afternoon grades 1-3 classes later, I can say yes, the music video worked! Hurrah! I pushed play at the minute they sat down and they were engaged from the first beat. If there was ever a lesson we could learn from Sesame Street or any other children’s show, is the combination of music and learning works. Make that music hip-hop and these 21st century learners are ready, engaged and learning.
Later when we finished reading Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo, I had a sea of hands to choose from when I asked, “What kind of book is this, and how do you know?”
Thanks Flocabulary for turning what is usually the dreaded lesson into, “Can we watch that again next week?”
Blogger note –
I did not get paid for this review. Nobody made me write it. I like Flocabulary because it worked for me. If you would like to learn more, you can sign up for a free trial on the Flocabulary website. They have songs & videos for the major content areas, plus the Week-in-Rap videos that summarize the major news stories for the week. The teacher handouts have the CCSS listed, quizzes, handouts, lessons – the basics you need to supplement your lesson. Check it out. Rock on….