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.


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