News From the Library–April 30, 2012

Tug of War–to ebook or not to ebook?

This week fifth graders and sixth graders experienced The Artifacts.  Is it an ebook? An app?  A different way of experiencing literature?  All of the above?  Whatever we want to call it, it was mesmerizing to the students and a great example of the power of this new medium.  The Artifacts is the story of a 13 year old boy who loves to collect things.  But when his parents move, they decide it’s time he stopped doing that.  From then on, the collections are in his mind.  The vocabulary is so rich, the interactivity so seamless to the narrative, this is by far one of the most successful ebooks I’ve used to date.

We used the Visual Thinking Routine, Tug of War, after the story to discuss the pros and cons of ebooks.  Students were totally engaged in both the book and the activity.  Our consensus was that like a tug of war, we are pulled in two directions on the subject of ebooks.  We saw their advantages and their disadvantages.  And in the end, we hope we never have to make an absolute choice between the two forms of literature.

Here is a YouTube Video of The Artifacts.

Also in the Library this week….

Kindergarten–After reading Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candance Fleming last week, we just had to read the sequel, Tippy, Tippy, Hide.  Oh those three bunnies!  They torment Mr. McGreely once again, this time getting into his house during the long, cold winter.  Kindergarteners loved predicting what the bunnies were up to and to also find all the prepositions in the story.

First Grade–To correlate with their social studies unit, first graders heard Cold Spring School, A Long Time Ago.  Over the summer I gathered many of our amazing artifacts, photographed them, and put them into an iPhoto book with simple text about the history of our school.  First graders loved doing the math and finding out our school is 123 years old!!

Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade–Reference books are sadly becoming a little like dinosaurs as we move reference materials to the internet where they can be updated easily and often.  But it’s not a bad idea to know what each reference book or website contains so this week students had a review of encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries, almanacs and thesauruses.  After looking at each book, we played “Name That Book.”  Students drew cards from a hat with different reference problems on them and had to determine in which book they could find the answer.

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News From the Library–April 23, 2012

A Fascinating Life

This week fourth graders heard Blockhead, The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese.  This charming book gives biographical information about medieval Europe’s greatest mathematician and the numerical sequence that is found throughout nature and still bears his name.  Using visible thinking skills and the “connection game” students studied slides from nature students and discovered the amazing sequence in the petals of flowers.  A lovely undercurrent in the story is the celebration of a thinker who was teased and perhaps bullied, but kept his own vision of himself, the importance of his study,  and loved the beauty of the world around him.

Also in the Library this week…

Kindergarten–Poor Mr. Greeley.  He has waited and waited to plant his vegetable garden and this year he finally does.  But each night while he sleeps, three adorable bunnies get into his garden in Candace Fleming’s delightful book, Muncha, Muncha, Muncha!  Not only is this book great for practicing visible think skills like predicting and hypothesizing, it also serves as a wonderful introduction to prepositions.

First Grade–City Dog, Country Dog by Susan Stevens Crummel and Dorothy Donohue is a delightful variation on the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.  The two dogs meet in art school–Henri and Vincent–and become great friends despite their differences.  Using the visible thinking routine Same, Same, Different, first graders had fun finding not only the differences in their appearances, but the similarities in their painting to the works of two famous french painters.

Second Grade–I Wanna Iguana by Karen Orloff is a great way to introduce points of view and persuasive writing techniques.  Told as a series of letters back and forth between a boy and his mother, this hilarious story ends with a resolution that pleases everyone.  We discussed all the ways in which the boy made his case and why he was successful.  Watch out parents!

Third Grade–We love Miss Smith and in Miss Smith Reads Again by Michael Garland, students are taken to the jungle to tangle with explorers and dinosaurs.  Although the story in this book is not quite as engaging as in the first Miss Smith book, the illustrations are fantastic.  Students had fun predicting what dilemmas would befall the class at each turn of the page.

Fourth Grade–see opening post

Fifth and Sixth Grade–To review reference books, fifth and sixth graders took a little quiz.  There were ten “scenarios” or problems and students had to decide in which book they might find the answer.  We talked about how many of these  resources were online now and why, and also how important it is to know a reliable source.  Seeing the actual books and discussing what information each one might contain gave them a concrete image and a head start to finding a website from a publisher they recognize and can trust.

News From the Library–April 16, 2012

Continuing the Hunt for Good eBooks…..

This week fifth graders were lucky to hear a new eBook, Pablito and the Speckled Bear, written by former Cold Spring School parent, Melissa Marsted, and published by Lucky Penny Press.  I decided to tap into fifth grader’s “book reviewer” role–one they truly love–and have them write a book blub when we finished the book.  We first talked about the differences between reading a “regular” book and an eBook.  Students could see that there are pros and cons for each.  Then we discussed the pros and cons of having interactive features in eBooks.

 I chose to read Pablito, although there is the choice to have the book read aloud with music in the background.  Reading it myself gave me the chance to pause, encourage discussion, and keep the focus on the narrative.  The illustrations by Ben Ciccati have a beautiful woodcut-like style, and although some students had suggestions about an interactive feature here and there, they were delighted with the book just as it is.

In my experience so far, I have found that less is more when it comes to using an eBook in a classroom or library setting.  A good story and wonderful illustrations are the key.  Keeping the focus on the narrative line is much more effective in an eBook that has limited interactivity and it is especially important for that interactivity to be dormant during the reading of the text.  Just because something can be animated, or designed to make a noise, or can be manipulated is not enough.  And yet, if the interactivity is a part of the narrative, it can be spell-binding.  Two great examples of that are The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and The Artifacts.

We wish Melissa the best of luck in her new venture and hope we can be “reviewers” in the future!

Also in the Library this week…

Kindergarten–Almost all of us who are cat owners can relate to the story of a cat who just doesn’t want to come in at night. In Night Cat by Margaret Beames, Oliver the Cat refuses to come in after dark when his owner calls him.  What makes this book special are the innovative illustrations by Sue Hitchcock.  You feel as though you are out in the night garden with Oliver and all its possibly spooky elements! Kindergarteners used their visible thinking skills to hypothesize and predict which predicament Oliver would get into time after time.

First Grade–First graders heard Judy Sierra’s Wild About Books on the iPad.  Although the story is as charming as it is in the print book version, unfortunately the iPad version has gone overboard with the interactive features.  If they had been dormant during the reading of the text, I think this eBook would be fantastic.  As it is, students were completely distracted from the narrative by all the interactivity, even though it is innovative and fun.   This is a good example of the challenges of using eBook in a library story time setting.  When I asked students what the story was about after we finished, their answers were about how the lion roared and the fish jumped.  Reading an eBook like this alone with a child would probably be a different experience, but in a group setting, there was simply too much going on.

Second Grade–Second graders compared the elements of fiction and non-fiction by listening to Patrick McDonnell’s new picture book, Me Jane.  This simple story tells of a young Jane Goodall and how, holding her stuffed toy chimpanzee, she observed nature around her and dreamed of a life living in Africa and helping animals.  The illustrations are lovely, combining art with real objects, and second graders enjoyed using the visual thinking technique, see..think..wonder, as we turned each page.  This is a quiet book and a wonderful way to encourage slowing down and appreciating the natural world.

Third Grade–This week’s sequel to last week’s story was a rousing success!  Third graders can’t seem to get enough of Diane Stanley’s Saving Sweetness and Raising Sweetness.  We’ve had such fun using the visible think technique called “Writer’s Craft” and finding all the colorful similies and metaphors in these stories.  These books are a great way to introduce the concept of irony, too.  They are wonderful read alouds!  I look forward to using them every year.

Fourth Grade–Using their thinking skills to discuss how things are the same and different, fourth graders heard the lovely Cinderella variation, Lily and the Wooden Bowl by Alan Schroeder.  We even found some connections to Rumplestiltskin, too!!

Fifth Grade–see opening post

Sixth Grade–Sixth graders continued the Website Evaluation and Research Skills unit by learning how to use the Find Command in Firefox and Safari.  This week they had fun imagining they were researching the perfect dog for them.  Using the Animal Planet’s great website on dog breeds, they typed their keywords into the Find Command in order to get information about the dog of their choice.  Using this technique helps them find exact information because the keywords will be highlighted on the webpage.  When they finished the research, they wrote a paragraph about why they had chosen their particular dog.

News From the Library–April 9, 2012

A Happy Bookworm!

Congratulations to Marin in first grade for being the first bookworm of the year to finish 18 books in our Bookworm Club!!  She is already on her second card and looking forward to reading 18 more!

Also in the Library this week…..

Kindergarten–Homer is a quiet cat who lives with a quiet lady in a quiet house.  But one day he goes outside into the big noisy world by accident and spends the day trying in vain to find a quiet spot.  Homer the Library Cat by Reeve Lindberg was a big hit with Kindergarteners this week as they followed Homer from place to place (and predicted his problems) until he landed in the perfect one–the library where his quiet lady worked!

First Grade–After looking at the cover of Bailey by Harry Bliss, first graders made lots of predictions about who Bailey was and where the story takes place.  We used the thinking routine, “See, Think, Wonder,” to observe details, make predictions, and wonder what the story was about.  If you ever wondered about the proverbial excuse, “The dog ate my homework,” you should take a look at Bailey’s expertise on the subject.  This is a charming book that gave students lots of practice with their thinking skills.

Second Grade–Teaching foreshadowing as a literary device can be tricky but with a book like The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens, it becomes a chance for hilarity.  Second graders loved finding all the places where they could use their thinking routine, “Here Comes Trouble,” as well a discovering all the examples of alliteration in the book.  This is a great read aloud with equally great illustrations.

Third Grade–One of the most enjoyable books to read aloud (from the teacher’s point of view) is Diane Stanley’s Saving Sweetness.  Not only is the story charming, it’s a great example of point of view, using dialog to show character, and how the use of simile and metaphor enhance the listener’s experience of the story.

Fourth Grade–Fourth graders watched a short video on BrainPop about digital etiquette and then took a short quiz.  This provided us with a springboard for a lively discussion about the importance of acting politely and ethically in the digital world.  Our students have access to more and more digital devices and navigating this digital world takes a lot of instruction and guidance in order for them to understand the consequences of their behaviors online.

Fifth Grade–This week fifth graders continued their work on Website Evaluation.  Using sites from our Skills Blog they evaluated accuracy, currency, bias, and authority.  They had fun figuring out which sites were real and which were hoax sites.  What they also came away with is the idea that it can take quite awhile and some diligence to figure out if a website is reliable enough to use for research.  They all agree, “When in doubt…doubt!”

Sixth Grade-Sixth graders continued to work on website evaluation and research skills by using the topic “What dog would make the best pet for me?”  They came up with focus questions, key words, and phrase searches.  Next week they will go to a website and put those to use finding out which dog would be the best match for them.