News from the Library–Jan. 30, 2012

The Perfect Read-Aloud


There are some books that are perfect for reading aloud to a group of children.  Catherine Friend’s The Perfect Nest, perfectly illustrated by John Manders, is just such a book.  The story is simple, humorous, with a sweet message, and pictures that work for reading to a group.  Kindergartener’s loved hearing this book this week and we had a chance to use the thinking routine called “fluttering feelings” to talk about how Jack the Cat’s feelings changed from the beginning of the story to the end.

Also in the Library this week….

First Grade–The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning not only works as a way to explain the workings of the postal service, it’s a fun way to engage students in the thinking routine called “story sequel.”  Owen wants to send a hug to his granny–an actual hug– and in a series of funny interactions it makes its way across the country.  And when his granny wants to send him back a big kiss for the hug?   Students had a great time coming up with the sequel.

Second Grade–In teaching about plot, one of the elements students love to find is what might be called “the dark moment.”  After talking about that element, students heard Chrysthanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  After loving her name before she starts school, the title character discovers that not everyone shares her feelings about it.  Using the thinking routine “here comes trouble” students watched how it became a problem for her, and how she discovered her own idea was right after all.  There is a lovely gentle message about bullying in the story as well.

Third Grade–Continuing our discussion about plot, students heard Murfaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe.  In this lesson, students used the thinking routine “same, same, different” to discuss the ways in which this book was similar to last week’s Cinderella tale, Adelita by Tomie de Paola, and how it was different.  Then we looked for the one word that could summarize the theme of these two stories.  One student also found a great connection to a story they had heard last year, Toads and Diamonds by Charlotte Huck.  It’s wonderful to see students using their thinking routines in a spontaneous way!

Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade–Battle of the Books meetings will start on Feb. 3, so this week upper graders had a chance to be in a mock Battle of the Books so they could see how the Battle works.

News From the Library–Jan. 23, 2012

Find that Plot


One of the best ways to teach the literary elements is to read stories to students and have them discover them.  And one of the best ways to discuss plot is to read various versions of the Cinderella story.  There are many out there but one of my favorites turns the story on it head while retaining the important elements of the plot.  The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo makes for a great lesson and really appeals to the boys in the audience.  Third graders had fun listening to the story (I didn’t tell them the title) and trying to figure out what the connection was between this story and one they were familiar with.  We first discussed the elements of a plot and they listened for each of the elements as we went along. Close to the end of the book students looked like they were about to explode with their answers!

Also in the Library…..(this was a short week due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday)

Kindergarten–While Kindergarteners were walking to the Library (and having a hard time of it) I decided to switch from my planned story to Helen Lester’s hilarious and, in this case, timely book entitled Me First!  It’s the story of a pushy pig who always has to be first in line and first to get everything.  In the story he was asked if he would “care for a sandwich” and found out (too late) that there were two meanings to sandwich and being first to care for one wasn’t necessarily a good thing.  With a little humor, I’m hoping the Kindergarteners learned that pushing and shoving to be first isn’t they way they should walk to the Library.

First Grade–One of my favorite versions of Jack and the Beanstalk is the one told and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  The story is a delight to read aloud and those illustrations…jaw-dropping….literally.  First graders were quite transfixed by this book.  It’s no wonder the story is a classic.

Second Grade–no library this week

Third Grade–see opening post

Fourth Grade–This week began our unit on American Tall Tales and after seeing a Keynote presentation about the elements of a tall tale, students watched a video version of Anne Isaac’s, Swamp Angel.  The illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky made this a Caldecott nominee and deservedly so.  After the video, students picked out each of the tall tale elements.

Fifth Grade–As I have just received my budget for the year (hooray!) and purchased a number of new books, we had another round of Speed Dating with Books.  Fifth Graders love doing this!  I put several titles on 3 separate tables.  After talking about how to look at a new book by using the jacket blurb and reading a few pages, students were broken into 3 groups.  They then have 5 minutes at each table to “get to know” the books and  at the end of the 3 rounds can choose a book to “have a relationship with.”  In the case of two wanting the same book, we simply flip a coin.  (If only it were that easy in real life…..)

Sixth Grade–no library this week

News From the Library–Jan. 16, 2012


To start off the New Year, sixth graders had a lesson this week that made them reflect on the connections between their studies at school.  The question posed was “How are your classes connected and, in particular, how is the work we do in the Library connected to your other classes?” To answer it,  we used a Visible Thinking Routine called “One Word.”  After showing the video above, students were given post-it note tablets and they wrote down one word that summarized what the video was about.  (By the way, the video was mesmerizing to them (no small feat) and it was a great hook into the lesson.) After they wrote their one word, we discussed their ideas.  It was fascinating to see how many different single words they came up with and how they defended their answers.  Words ranged from connected, to complicated to non-stop, to perfect, to teamwork, to life!  Then students were asked to write down two classes that were connected and how they were connected.  The example I gave was music and math, and how note values connected to fractions.  After they finished their writing, they stuck their page on the white board.  Next students came up and read someone’s page and said if they agreed or disagreed with what was on the paper and why.  It was a lively discussion and the final take away was that if you make connections between what you learn, your thinking will be deeper and you will remember what you’ve learned without simply memorizing it.  We also had fun discussing Rube Goldberg inventions and looking at a book from our collection as well as this interesting video and article from the New York Times.  A great way to start the New Year!

Also in the Library this week….

Kindergarten–We had a special treat this week as one of our kindergarten students donated a book to the library in honor of her birthday which just happened to fall on her Library day!  So we read Valentina’s gift, April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham.  This book was absolutely charming and right on target with the interests of this group.  A great read aloud with some suspenseful moments for the tooth-fairies-in-training and a lovely explanation of why we never see those winged creatures.

First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade–This week was the introduction of our ever popular Library Book Clubs.  First and Second graders are in the Bookworm Club and choose from a selection of beginning readers.  Third graders can choose from a wide range of beginning chapter books for the Red Dot Club.  Bookworms make appointments to read their favorite pages to me (one of my favorite parts of being a librarian) and Red Dot members can choose from a variety of book projects, including video book reviews that are posted on this blog.  Stay tuned……

Fourth Grade–How did people believe that famous broadcast, War of the Worlds, in October of 1938?  This is a hard concept for our tech savvy students today but we had fun looking at pictures of old radios and newspaper articles about the famous hoax.  We did a thinking routine called “Time Machine” while looking a slides from 1938.  After thinking about how different things were in 1938,  students had a much better understanding of the reaction to the broadcast as told in Meghan McCarthy’s great book, Aliens Are Coming.  For the reading of the story, I projected a large image of an old cabinet radio, we dimmed the lights, and pretended we were back in 1938 on that fateful October evening…

Fifth Grade–In honor of Martin Luther King Day, we read and discussed My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris.  I projected one illustration from the book and students did a thinking routine called “See, Think,Wonder” in which they observed the image, talked about what they thought was going on in the picture, and then came up with something they wondered about.  Then, after reading the story, we had a very lively discussion about the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s place in it.  The illustrations in this book are wonderful and paint such a detailed picture of the King family.  This book provides great way to help students understand the powerful contribution of Dr. King by telling stories from his childhood and how they affected him and his choices in life.

Sixth Grade–see opening post

News From the Library–Jan. 9, 2012

One Word


One of the most interesting Visible Thinking Routines I’ve used is called “one word.”  It asks of students the distillation of a presented image or text into a single word.  The ultimate summary.  This week the third graders were challenged to do this after I read Jeff Brambeau’s beautiful book, The Quiltmaker’s Gift.  Beautifully illustrated by Gail de Marken, it tells the story of a very rich and greedy king who, though in possession of every gift he could possibly want, could not smile.  Thinking the one last gift he could get was a beautiful quilt made by a mysterious old woman in the mountains, he sets out to get one even though she has told him she only gives to the poor and needy.  Through a series of transformative tasks, the king discovers how to be happy at last.  Without giving away the lovely and detailed story, students came up with several single words: generosity, giving, unselfishness, and caring, to name a few.  This was a great way to start off the new year!

Also in the Library this week–(this was a short week so some classes did not come to the Library)

Kindergarten–Oh, that odd bird!  There’s not another one like Tacky, the Penguin in Helen Lester’s book of the same name.  There were lots of giggles as Tacky showed just how different he was, but in the end, it was his difference that saved the day.  We did a Visible Thinking Routine called Same, Same, Different to compare Tacky with his companions and talked about seeing the value in individual differences.

First Grade–After comparing fiction and non-fiction books with a Visible Thinking Routine, first graders heard Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick.  This book was a little tricky to categorize at first because instead of illustrations there were photographs (hints that it might be non-fiction), but as students soon found out, this was a charming story about two children who build a snowman just for the forest animals and watch as the animals discover (and eat) their creation.

Third Grade–see opening post

Fourth Grade–Trying to predict the plot in Mrs. Marlowe’s Mice, a fabulous book written and illustrated by Frank and Devin Asch, is a tricky proposition.  Fourth graders loved the twists and turns in the plot and were riveted to the pages when it almost appears the the main character has been tricking us all along.  This is a great way to teach the literary device of foreshadowing and to use the Visible Thinking Routines called Plot Prediction and Writer’s Craft Detective.

Fifth Grade–Fifth graders in Mr. Orr’s class played a great game of Library Jeopardy.