News From the Library–Oct. 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We had a great week of reading spooky stories in preparation for Halloween.  Finding the right level of “spookiness” can sometimes be a challenge but over the years I have found some winners.  Each class this week heard one of those and I think it’s safe to say they are ready for the Big Day!

Kindergarten–Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson is just the right mix of fun, rhymes, and a little bit of spookiness for Kindergarteners.  We used visible thinking routines to predict the plot after looking at the opening page illustration and proceeded to find lots of words for word detective skills.  We even got to see a dragon have a change of heart and decide not to eat witch with french fires for lunch!

First Grade–Splat the Cat wants to win the Halloween costume contest and, with the help of his mom, comes up with a great spider costume.  It becomes much more spooky when his pumpkin lands on his head!  Scaredy-Cat Splat, written and illustrated by Rob Scotton was a big hit with first graders.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic and hold the interest of even the” wiggliest” first grader.  This is a new addition to our collection and will be a favorite in years to come.

Second Grade–Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky gave second graders a chance to practice three visual thinking routines–Plot Predition, Fluttering Feelings, and Word Detective.  The sole surviving brother of the three little pigs has become a scientist and decides to invent a friend.  After several tries, Porkenstein is created and although at first he seems like a monster, he turns out to be that friend in the end.

Third Grade–Some of our favorite characters are Wendell, Floyd, and Mona in books by Marc Teague and One Halloween Night puts the three of them in a spooky adventure full of magic and fun.  At the beginning of the story they have a series of disasters that make them think Halloween night is going to be a bad one, but one by one they surprise themselves and each other with their sudden powers.  As Wendell says at the beginning,  “Anything can happen on Halloween Night……”

Fourth Grade–Fourth graders always love the Spanish folktale, Esteban and the Ghost by Sibyl Hancock with its haunted castle and a ghost that appears down a chimney piece by piece.  Esteban meets the challenge of spending the night in the castle and ends up dealing with the ghost, a robbery, St. Peter, and a midnight deadline.  This is a delightful folktale with just enough of the spooky to make it fun.

Fifth Grade–Bruce Coville’s Duffy’s Jacket is part of collection of spooky stories  called appropriately Spooky Stores for a Dark and Stormy Night, edited by Alice Low.  This is one of those perfect read aloud stories with great suspenseful rhythm and an ending that combines a scare and a laugh.  Perfect for fifth graders.

Sixth Grade–Who better than R.L. Stine to write a scary Halloween story?  Part of the above mentioned collection, The Surprise Guest is a little “darker” and tells the story of a haunted Halloween costume.  I’m sure each sixth grader will a look inside their costume before wearing on Monday night!

News From the Library–Oct. 24, 2011

Web Drill!!

Mr. Orr’s fifth grade class practiced “escaping” from inappropriate websites this week.  After discussing 5 ways to get out of a website (thank you, Devan, for giving us a fifth way!), students browsed (appropriate) websites on our Skills Blog and then had to practice how to get out should that ever be necessary.  Although we have a internet filter here at school, it is important to give students the tools to be their own filters when at home or with friends.  I likened this to fire drills and earthquake drills and the need to practice so that responses will be automatic.  You can find our lesson on the Library Skills Blog.

Also in the Library this week….

Kindergarten–Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman was very appropriate for library this week as the kindergarteners were off to the Pumpkin Patch in the afternoon.  They loved the repetition in the story as the witch tries to harvest her huge pumpkin with the help of a ghost, a vampire, a mummy, and finally a little bat who has the best idea yet–cooperation.  Students used visible thinking routines to be word detectives, predict the plot, and understand the theme of the story.

First Grade--Halloween House also by Erica Silverman provided first graders with lots of chances to use their visible thinking skills.  After taking some time to observe the cover and title page, students made some great predictions about the story.  Then they discovered the rhymes, the reverse countdown, and  figured out lots of great words–like debris and askew–by being effective word detectives.  But best of all, they loved the story and are eagerly looking forward to Halloween!

Second Grade–One of my favorite Halloween read alouds is A Job for Wittilda by Caralyn and Mark Buehner.  Poor Wittilda has 38 cats and no job and she has to find something so she can feed all those cats.  After applying for many she finally lands the job delivering pizzas at Dingaling Pizza, but not before she has to make a hard decision about saving another cat.  This book has it all and worked wonderfully for visible thinking.  Students practiced plot prediction, looked for details, discussed the pros and cons of her decision to save the cat, and all this was done having fun listening to a great story.

Third Grade–One of our favorite third grade books is Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland and he has treated us for Halloween with Miss Smith’s Haunted Library.  Students practiced visible thinking skills by predicting what might happen when Zack and his class visit the town library and the librarian, Miss Virginia Creeper, reads scary stories.  We had lots of fun identifying characters from such stories as the Wizard of Oz, The Headless Horseman, Dracula, the House of the Baskervilles, and Alice in Wonderland.

Fourth Grade–Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray is based on The Night Before Christmas but with a decidedly spooky twist and students used visible thinking routines to find similarities and differences.  The illustrations by Brandon Dorman are spectacular and make this a wonderful book to read aloud to a group.

Fifth Grade–Mrs. Wooten’s class played Library Jeopardy this week and Mr. Orr’s class had a chance to do Web Drill.  (see opening post)

Sixth Grade–Sixth graders played Library Jeopardy this week, honing their understanding of how the library works, how to research, and how to use our catalog.

News from the Library–Oct. 17, 2011

Books vs. Google

Fourth graders became Web Weaver Detectives this week and did research about spiders.  After seeing a Keynote about spiders and doing a visible thinking routine (Same, Same, Different) they drew the name of a spider out of our hat.  Working in teams their assignment was to describe their spider, its habitat, prey, whether or not it weaves a web, and then find five interesting and fascinating facts about their spider.  Before we started we had a little “contest” between books and Google.  Typing in tarantula we got over 10 million hits.  Then we timed the amount of time it took to find the habitat of the tarantula in a book and how long it took to find a credible answer online.  Much to their surprise, the book, with its index and reasonable assurance of authority, was a much faster choice.  Not to denigrate the power of the internet, students learned that sometimes it’s actually much faster to find credible and reliable information the “old-fashioned way.”

Also in the Library this week…..

Kindergarten–What happens when two little mice–one field mouse and one town mouse–both grow the same pumpkin unbeknownst to each other?  In Steven Kroll’s The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, Clayton and Desmond both water and fertilize one pumpkin until it grows to huge proportions.  Each one has a goal in mind–Desmond to win the prize for the largest pumpkin, and Clayton to carve the largest jack o-lantern.  This simple story provided us with several opportunities for visual thinking routines and students compared the two mice and predicted the plot.  One of the nicest lessons of the story is the value of compromise as both mice ended up sharing the pumpkin and getting exactly what they wanted.

First Grade–The Pumpkin Story by Mariko Shinju is a charming little book that never fails to delight first graders.  It’s the story of a man who starts with pumpkin seeds and grows pumpkins that soon satisfy all his needs–food, shelter, furniture, and finally fun in the form of pumpkin hotels and pumpkin swimming pools! The pumpkin village was a great way to practice a visual thinking routine where students discriminated between fact and fantasy.

Second Grade–The illustrations by Kathleen McInerney in Helen Cooper’s Pumpkin Soup make for perfect visual thinking routines and second graders had a great time practicing several of them.  The three cooks in the story, a duck, a squirrel, and a cat have a hard time getting along at the beginning of the story but as the story progresses their feelings about each other change.  Students used the visual thinking routine Fluttering Feelings to track the changes in the characters as well as doing some great Word Detective work figuring out words like “pipkin.”  Predicting the twists and turns of the plot gave them lots of opportunities to use those great thinking words like “hypothosis” and “supporting evidence.”

Third Grade–One of my favorite Halloween themed stories is Chris VanAllsburg’s The Widow’s Broom.  It’s just the right amount of creepiness for third graders and gives them a chance to use their deductive reasoning skills.  We talked about different points of view towards the broom in the story and after the story ended worked on the visual thinking routine that made them wonder, “What if the author had a message that he wants you to consider after reading this book?”  This was a great example of how a book can be well written, beautifully illustrated, and also provide opportunities for students to move from literal to inferential thinking.  For this story students summed it up beautifully as follows:  Don’t judge by appearances.

Fourth Grade–see opening post

Fifth Grade–It’s entirely possible that when doing research on the internet you can inadvertently stumble upon something quite inappropriate.  In our school we have a filter on our internet server, but what can students do when they are at home, at a friend’s house, or at a wi-fi hotspot?  This week Fifth graders practiced what we call “Web Drill.”  After learning about four different ways to get out of an inappropriate web page students used their laptops and  went to our Library Skills Blog.  In this lesson there are several appealing (and not inappropriate, of course) web sites for them to peruse.  After they are thoroughly engaged I call out “Web Drill!” and they have to exit the web site using one of the four methods.  We practice several times, using different methods each time.  The analogy of a drill seems to really work and gives students the power to manage their own experience online.  To see the lesson on the Library Skills Blog, go to

Sixth Grade–Sixth graders missed Library this week because they were at AstroCamp.

News From the Library–October 10, 2011

Dewey Scavenger Hunt


Learning about the Dewey Decimal System may not be the most exciting lesson in Library Skills but it is so valuable to understand how a library is organized.  So to spice it up, we had a Dewey Scavenger Hunt in grades 5 and 6 this week.  Students paired up and got a sheet with all the main Dewey classifications on it.  Then they picked task cards from the hat and tried to locate a book that would help them accomplish a task.  An example would be:  Find a book to help you explain football to Mrs. Reid. (No easy task)  Using the Dewey sheet, students dashed around the non-fiction section searching for books to answer the task on their card.  When they found the book, they put it in their stack on the tables and hurried to take another card and dash off to search again.  The hardest part was that they couldn’t talk during the hunt!  They did a great job and all felt that had a deeper understanding of how the non-fiction section of the Library was organized.  It also makes using the computer catalog look way easier!!

Also in the Library this week…..

Kindergarten–Cat Dreams by Ursula LeGuin provided Kindergarteners with a lovely story with exquisite illustrations and a chance to practice some visual thinking routines.  We predicted what might happen based on careful observation of the illustrations and we talked about the difference between fact and fantasy when the cat began having its typical cat dreams of raining mice, and milk and kibble fountains.  We even came up with some new dreams for the cat.  Fish pillows, anyone?

First Grade–The Library is “crawling” with spiders this week…..books, decorations, and great stories like Aaaargh! Spider by Lydia Monks.  As well as being a very entertaining story, it gave us a chance to talk about point of view.  The poor spider had to try very hard to convince a family that he would make a most delightful pet.

Second Grade–After watching a presentation about spiders, second graders were delighted by Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin.  As well as reinforcing some of the facts they’d just learned about arachnids, we talked about the idea of point of view and they took turns reading diary entries as if they were the spider.

Third and Fourth Grade–To make reviewing parts of a book more fun, we played a kind of Musical Chairs game using a cube with the parts of a book written on each side.  Students sat in a circle and passed the cube while music played.  The student who was holding the cube when the music stopped rolled it and then showed the group his “part” in a non-fiction book about spiders.  We covered all the essentials in a fun and active way.

Fifth and Sixth Grade–see opening post