Furry Inspiration

Our kindergarteners are using little furry friends as inspiration for writing list poems this week. As they came into the library today, I handed each one a stuffed animal and a blank poetry paper. We talked about adjectives and ‘describing” words and within a few minutes each student was writing a poem about their furry friend. There are no minimal age limits to being a poet.



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Duke Book Trailer Debut

How much do you love your dog?

Are you brave enough to give him away?

 duke picm

I originally wrote this post in November 2013 after Kirby Larson’s book launch for Duke. Recently I had the chance to create a book trailer for her book, so I decided to update and repost the article. I took the majority of the photographs myself in Seattle. Using the PhotoStudio iPhone app, I artificially aged the photos to make them look old. I also used Creative Common photos, where people give permission for you to use the photo. I did obtain permission from the artist of one photograph and received another from Kirby herself. I wonder if you will know which picture is of Kirby’s dad?  Usually I make book trailers using Photostory3, Windows MovieMaker or Animoto, however, this time I decided to try out the iMovie app on my iPhone. There is a book trailer template available, and within an hour or so, I had the rough draft of my book trailer made. Really, anyone with a little patience, some photos and love for a book can make a book trailer! Here is the original post, with the book trailer at the end.


The poster in his classroom seems to be screaming at him. Are YOU doing all you can?  Hobie struggles inside. Is he really doing everything he can to help his dad? He’s saving all his dimes to buy war stamps. He’s helping his Uncle Tryg and trying to be the man of the house for his mom.

Is it enough? Hobie hears about the Dogs for Defense program where people with well trained dogs can donate them to help the war movement. Hobie has spent hours training Duke and the military could use him to sniff out mines or help patrol borders. It is important work and Duke would be a great defense dog.



From the moment Hobie says yes, and watches Duke leave, he regrets his decision. What if Duke doesn’t come home? What if his Dad doesn’t come home? Does Hobie have what is takes to be this brave? You will have to read Duke and find out!

Kirby had a book launch party at Third Place Books in the fall of 2013. She talked about her love of history, the research about Dogs for Defense and the backstory she used from her own family that developed into the book. You can also watch an interview with Kirby talking about her book.

Duke launch collage

Kirby is a serious dog lover and a portion of the proceeds went to Reading with Rover, a local reading organization where children read to dogs and practice their reading in a fun and non-stressful way. Along with some other Reading with Rover teams, Reese and I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Duke at Third Place Books.


If you would like to learn more, visit Kirby Larson’s website and find out about other books she has written. Update: April 2014 – Reese has now retired from  Reading with Rover. At almost 7, he is  considered an old dog in the Bernese Mountain Dog breed.  He really likes his naps and occasional walk around the block. The Duke launch was his last official outing and I’m thrilled it was to promote a book featuring a fabulous dog!

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It’s All in the Bag

What does a rock, a feather, a mask, a rubber chicken and a bag have to do with one another?

bag poem

Poetry of course! I wanted the second graders to use their touch sense as the only method to describe an object hidden inside a bag. First I hid an object in the bag. Then volunteers came forward, covered their eyes with the mask, reached inside the bag and touched the object. Using one word, they had to describe what they felt, without using a word already used by a student previously. Squeak, hard, rubbery, soft, smooth, light, heavy. As fast as I could, I wrote down their words in a list.

After a few minutes we switched gears. This time, the students had to look at the list and see what the words had in common, to try to guess the hidden object in the bag.  How could something be both rough and smooth, hard and soft? The library got pretty loud with all the giggles and laughter as they realized that what they were describing was a rubber chicken! Yes, even rubber chickens and rocks deserve their own poems! Here are two of the poems written by our second graders. Poetry can be fun! A big thank you to Mrs. Daly for sharing her awesome mask, Mrs. Butler for the white feather,  and Mr. Haeck for donating his rubber chicken to us for our poetry lesson.

chicken poem

rock poem pic

A few years ago, I did a similar lesson called Paper Bag Poems. Another librarian, Mrs. Camp, in Klein, Texas saw the post and also had some poetry fun with her students. You can read about her Paperbag Poems on the Bobcat Library Blog.

What poems have you written lately? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Kids Write Poems

We are back from Spring Break and continuing with our Fabulous Poetry Month Lessons! This week the younger grades are creating class poems about some of their favorite things. The lesson is based on Regie Routman’s book Kids’ Poems: Teaching First Graders to Love Writing Poetry.
kids poems

Here are some of their creations!

dogs poem

pizza poem

Stop back again for our next post about Paperbag Poems. You can read about Paperbag Poems on the Bobcat Library Blog

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Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

What is happening with Jarrett Krosoczka today?



From one of my favorite authors is a new picture book out today, April 8th! You probably know him best as the author of the Lunch Lady series, but he is also a picture book author. In fact his writing career began with picture books like Punk Farm and Annie was Warned.

Photo from http://thejjkblog.blogspot.com

Photo from http://thejjkblog.blogspot.com

Here is a book trailer of Peanut Butter and Jellyfish and interview about the process for creating the book.


Look for this awesome book in a library near you!

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April is National Poetry Month


April is here. Winter is over. Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. Days are longer.


 It’s the perfect time of the year to celebrate poetry.


National Poetry Month is a month-long celebration of poetry established by the American Academy of American Poets in 1996. We are celebrating all month as well with special poetry displays, lessons, and book features.

poet tree

Each day a poem is read on the morning announcements, and a copy is on display on the library door. We began our poetry lessons before spring break. Here are some poetry highlights. The first photo shows 5th grade Blackout Poems. The second set of Tiger Poems were written by some second graders.

black out poem collage

 tiger poems



On Poem in Your Pocket day, April 24th, we are having our First Poetry Café during lunch. When I was looking for ideas, I saw that the students at Barrow Elementary Media Center would be having a Poetry Café at their school and thought it was a terrific idea!. Now that we have a stage and a microphone in the lunch room, we have all the equipment needed for performance poetry.

Students will read or recite an original or favorite poem up on the stage. during lunch. This is a completely optional event. Students can perform solo or with a partner. It’s going to be an awesome celebration of poetry at school and I encourage anyone to sign up and give it a try! Come to the library to sign up. Poets from kindergarten to 5th grade are welcome. Families can come and watch as well. All performances will be during lunch: K-2 (11:50-12:10) and 3-5 (12:20-12:40) Spring Break is a perfect time to visit your local public library and find a book of poems. You can also find wonderful poems online. Be sure to ask your family for help. You create a poem with interactive websites. I have links on our school library catalog page. Look for the Poetry section.








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Washington Children’s Choice Votes

Today I submitted our votes for the favorite Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award!


The Washington Children’s Choice Award is selected annually by Washington State’s K-3 students, who may vote for this award through their local teacher-librarian. This award is given through the Washington Library Media Association! Last year, there were over 114,000 votes, which was a record number of votes. The winner was…


Our students have voted for their favorite 2014 winner, and the top results are as follows.

First place

Creepy Carrots

Second place

The Monster's Monster

Third place (a tie)

Kel Gilligan Chloe and the Lion

Fourth Place

The Lonely Book

Fifth Place

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

What really made a difference in helping the primary students vote were the advertising videos that the 5th graders made for them. When I went to the Washington Library Association conference in October 2014, I attended a session by Kathy Davis from the Renton School District who shared how her students made this type of video. The purpose was for the students to produce a short video to persuade voters in grades K-2 to vote for a specific WCCPBA nominee. This project met numerous Common Core State Standards as well as Lake Washington standards, Librarian and technology standards such as writing and expressing an opinion, demonstrating creative thinking, using digital media and practicing legal and ethic behavior.

In pairs or groups of three, the students selected a book, read it, wrote a script, found props (optional) and then filmed the video. They also made posters and bookmarks as additional advertisements. This week the primary classes viewed the videos and then voted for their favorite. The best part was hearing how excited the younger students were seeing the 5th graders on film. “That’s my sister!” “That’s my brother” or “He’s my buddy!” were shouted all week! Here are two video examples:

Next week when all of the votes are tabulated, we will find out how our votes match with with the Washington state votes! If you would like to see the complete list of books, they are listed here. You can also view the 2015 nominees there as well!

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Best of Barcelona


Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum held in Barcelona, Spain. The forum is a professional development event that gathers together educators and school leaders from around the world  sharing how we link everyday subjects like reading, science and math with  technology to make learning fun, engaging and memorable. In other words, I went to school for a week. The school it just happened to be in a really wonderful city, far, far away from here.

1a sand global

I flew into Barcelona before the forum began to do some sightseeing with some of the other teachers from Team USA. We stayed at a hotel along a street called Las Ramblas. This street is really a long pedestrian walkway lined with people day and night.


The first place we visited was Park Guell (Catalans pronounce it “gway”) and saw Barcelona’s famous dragon and colorful tilework by the artist Antoni Gaudi.

5 park guell


The next day a group of teachers spent the day sightseeing. We first visited Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) which is a large, modern style church that began in 1883, and  is still under construction.  It’s a very modern, colorful structure, designed by the same person who did the tile work at Park Guell.

14 sagrada familia

At the top of many of the towers are colorful spheres that look a lot like candy, yet they are all made with tiles. I’ve never seen anything like these tower toppers!

16 sagrada familia

To get to the top of the towers, you take an elevator, but you must walk down the spiral staircase. You can’t got too fast, or you get dizzy!

17 sagrada familia

After we saw the cathedral, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe, which is a smaller version of a similar structure in Paris, France. There is a large walk area where street performers entertain the tourists, venders sell balloons, and teachers can get a little crazy.


22 crazy teachers

I also had the chance to visit a bookstore in the mall. I loved seeing Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Spanish. I came home with some books too. Stop by the library to see what I brought home for you to read.



 On Tuesday, the conference began. The organizers welcomed everyone and then it was time for the teachers to set up  the teacher booths. Each teacher had a booth to use for showcasing their work. We hung posters and decorated our spaces so people who walked by could get a quick idea of each project. Our booths were arranged in alphabetical order by country. When you look at the top, you can see the name of the project and then the country of origin. We also were evaluated by a judge who met with us individually.


Each project was given two judging times over the course of two days. A judge would come to your booth for 15 minutes and we had to present our “digital story” and then answer any questions the judge had. One of my judges was from India, and the other one was from France. I gave them the thank you cards the Books to Africa group made for them.


It was a very busy time. When we weren’t being judged, most of us tried to go visit other booths to connect with other teachers and hear about different ideas. I met another teacher from South Africa who would like to be part of our Books to Africa project and a friend of Mr. Malakane in Lesotho, who is one of our partner teachers.


When we weren’t being judged, we were listening to presentations or in classes about technology. Everyone had received a Surface RT, so it was fun the learn about some of the great apps we can use with it.


We had a welcome reception that evening. Each country wore something to indicate their team. It was a lot like going to the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some people had team jackets, others had hats, or scarves. We all had our special name tags that we had to wear everywhere we went. Team USA had red, white and blue shirts with USA across the front and our name on the back.

team usa

In addition to the project judging was a learn-a-thon. Teams of teachers had about eight hours to create a student project using technology to solve a real-world problem . I was partnered with teachers from Belgium, Israel and Japan. We created a project called Trees Please, drawing attention to the problem of deforestation in China because 11 million acres of trees are cut down each year to make disposable wooden chopsticks. In the photo below you can see us hard at work.


The next morning we took turns presenting our project to a panel of judges, including a student judge from the United Kingdom.



After that we had some free time for sightseeing.  Mrs. Arnett, my teacher friend in Colorado, and I went to the beach and picked up seaglass and shells to bring home to our students. The Barcelona beaches are beautiful!




The closing keynote, or assembly, had many inspirational speakers, including Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, Prince of Asturias.  Many of the teachers in Team USA, including me, sat right behind him. There is no question – we had some great seats!


Whenever I travel I like to bring something back that reminds me of my experience. This time I returned with some sea glass, some shells, a few souvenirs and a signed copy of The Dot. Whenever I could, I asked fellow teachers in Barcelona to sign my copy. I wish I had everyone’s signature, but I just wasn’t possible. The message of The Dot is to make a mark and see where it takes you.


The highlight of the last day of the Global Forum was a reception and dinner in the convention center, followed by an awards ceremony. I have never been to the Olympics, but I think this event closely matched what it must be like at the awards ceremony. As teachers from different nations proudly wore their flags and came to the stage for their awards, the rest of the room clapped and screamed in support. When they announced our team was the 1st runner up for the sustainability learn-a-thon, I was completely in shock. Someone wrapped the American flag around my shoulders and I headed down to the stage to accept the award with my team-mates. It was a moment I will never forget. Each of us is now looking forward to putting our project into action.


The day after the forum ended, I got up early and went on a tour to a medieval village in the Pyrannes Mountains with Mr. Bergman and Mr. Wettrick, two other teachers from Team USA. Most of the day we hiked up through trails in the countryside and had a chance to step back in time and see a different side to Catalonia. I brought The Dot with me on the hike. This book helped begin our Books to Africa journey, and it needed to be with me at the end too!

DSC00474_edited DSC00483_edited IMG_1051_edited

Now I am home, recovering from some serious jet-lag and thankful for the experience. I was reminded that sometimes life takes you down a path you never expect. If you are willing to join the journey, there is so much that can be learned. I spent a week with some of the most energized, innovative teachers from around the world and their stories have changed my life. Still, I couldn’t trade places with any of them because as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “there’s just no place like home.” 


Lastly, I know this isn’t directly student- related, but if you are a teacher reading this post, I urge you to join the Partners in Learning Network. It’s free to teachers and schools. You have access to all of the global forum teacher projects, free tools, professional development, and information about 21st century learning design. I hope you will join the network and apply for the 2015 Expert Educator program. I have had the opportunity to attend two Global Forums now, and I can whole-heartedly say the experience will change your teaching life. I am so grateful to Microsoft and humbled by the support of all the global educators I met. So long, Global Forum Barcelona! It was a great ride!




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Where in the World?

Where is Mrs. Hembree this week?


On November 7th, I learned that I was one of the 250 educators chosen to participate in the 2014 Microsoft Expert educator program. One of the opportunities I have with this program is to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain from March 11-14, 2014.


I will be presenting our Books to Africa program and the various activities the students completed last year, as well as the progress we have been making with out global outreach program this year. This is my second opportunity to participate in the Global Forum. In November 2012, I traveled to Prague, Czech Republic and presented our 4th grade book trailer project.


To be selected, I had to go through a rigorous application process – I had to fill out an online application, create a learning activity, prepare a 2-3 minute video that describes my project and how it uses technology and innovative teaching practices to impact student outcomes. The winners were selected by a worldwide group of judges who used a broad set of criteria to assess the educators’ evidence of learning, collaboration, knowledge construction, and critical thinking. In Barcelona, each of the 250 educators will go through another judging process. We had to prepare a 3 digtal story outlining our project and then we will explain this to different judges who will assess our project again based the 21st century learning criteria. The Microsoft photos below show the judging room and conference center at the forum in Prague.



It’s not all judging in Barcelona. I will also have the chance to learn about different Microsoft products, participate in a team project and meet teachers from all across the globe. I will be in Barcelona on March 9th and I am going to spend the day sightseeing as much as possible.



My first stop is going to  see La Sagrada Familia.  This is a giant basilica (church) that began construction in 1882 and it’s still not complete! The architect Antonio Gaudi designed the structure and the building is not expected to be completed for another 30+ years. After that a group of us are going to Park Guell, where the photo at the top of this post was taken. Gaudi also designed this park and it features a beautiful view of the city of Barcelona and brightly colored mosaic tile seats. I will post photos   as much as I can.

I will also be using a translator program. I can speak some basic German because I lived there many years ago. However,  I don’t know many words in Spanish. Did you know different languages are spoken in Spain? Yes, the people speak Spanish. However, in Barcelona, many people prefer to speak Catalan. You all know I love dogs. The Spanish word for dog is perro. Can you investigate and find the Catalan word for dog? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Fins a la propera vegada…

Mrs. Hembree

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