Category Archives: Book Groups

Talk at home about…collections, curation, and #shelfchallenge

SwinburneDo you know how teacher librarians spend their time? My time is filled with so much more than just checking books in and out. The major part of my day is, of course, my students! This week alone, lots of learning is happening. Classes of K-4 students are learning all about the author Steve Swinburne, who will be visiting with them in a few weeks. His books are providing fuel for the minds of CCS young writers and scientists. They prompt what I call “the lean-in effect”. I know a book is a winner when I see their little bodies lean in to just get closer to the words and pictures. It’s a good thing. We are busy collecting our connections and questions to share with Mr. Swinburne on the day of his visit. And his website? Totally awesome and kid-friendly!

6th graders are getting ready to embark on a new integrated unit of study on the Industrial Revolution. Reading, writing, research and media literacy skills will combine in this unit inspired by the book Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop. In addition to collecting enough copies of the book for each student, I also prepared a pathfinder to help students gain some background knowledge and explore materials for research. Curating resources for students and teachers is a part of my job that is not easily seen, but it is so crucial. I couldn’t do that part of my job without having classroom teachers and administrators who see me as an instructional partner. I can’t wait to visit classrooms next week to begin teaching about primary sources!

7th graders are also practicing their media literacy skills! Yesterday’s activity in the classroom allowed for conversation about media resources, particularly those that abound via social media. My favorite part of the visit was overhearing pairs of students investigating websites using their critical thinking skills and using some pretty great language while doing so:

“This site has adds, it’s distracting”
“Oh look! This one has citations – three of them, right here!”
“I can’t tell who the author is, only who edited it last.”
“This one is a .com. That might be bad. We might need a .org.”
“What’s a site map?”
“This is pretty one-sided.”

So that covers my week in direct services to students. shelf challengeNow I’d like to talk about something else that teacher librarians are ALWAYS doing in the background for our students. We’re like ninjas, really; sneaking around all quiet-like in the before and after school hours. We are constantly assessing our collections and determining where we need to add, refresh, or take away. That nonfiction book from 1963? That’s just gotta go. Every year during School Library Month, I participate in the Shelf Challenge. I found this through my twitter PLN a couple of years ago, and have used it ever since to keep me motivated to always be thinking about what resources will best meet the needs of my school community. This year my challenge was the 973 section. U.S. History. I found some things that really had to go. I found some that just needed a little refreshing; new covers perhaps. I began looking at this collection and comparing it to what I have available for students in a digital format. Do we need both? Not necessarily. Finally, I touched every book in this section! I found myself saying “Oh yea, I forgot about this one!  I’ll need to remember to share that the next time that unit happens.” I’m happy to say I made it all the way through the 973s and my students are better for it, whether they realize it or not. All these little things that happen in the background lend strength to their learning.

Oh, and we’ve got our Arbor Day celebration coming up, so I couldn’t forget to build a display for easy access to those books celebrating the goodness of trees. And hey…the week isn’t over yet!


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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, Authors, Book Groups, booklists, Books, Collaboration, InformationLiteracy, Kindergarten, Middle School, Nonfiction, Pathfinders, reading, Research, ShelfChallenge

Talk at home about…cream puffs & collaboration!

photo 2 (6)I love so much about my job, and one of my favorite things is the joy of sharing an outstanding book with my students.  My favorite novel for older readers is Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Here is a review written by author Tanya Lee Stone for the New York Times. I really can’t say it any better! I can add that I love to share this book with students because it exemplifies excellent story-telling. Schmidt’s writing brings vivid pictures to a reader’s mind, and the voice of the main character is strong and true. In addition, Schmidt gets students curious about Shakespeare before they even realize it!

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You might be asking yourself where cream puffs and collaboration play into the sharing of a favorite book. One of the other things I love about my job is the collaborative relationship I have with our public librarians. Cheryl Sloan, the Youth Services Librarian for the Charlotte Public Library, joined forces with me over the past few weeks in offering a “lunch bunch” book club for students. Together, we read The Wednesday Wars and explored Shakespeare’s work as it related to the story line. Students were able to bring their lunches, sit around a table from one another, and just talk about what they were reading. This was voluntary for them, and included no formal scripts  on our part. What we found was that the students who participated enjoyed just having this time to talk about a book in a “no-strings-attached” kind of way. Their questions led the direction of our discussions, and we enjoyed watching them discover something new.

Cream puffs play a role in the book club because Cheryl and I always provide dessert for our participants. Of course, we like it best when we can use the desserts or snacks to tie into the themes of the book we’re reading. Tricky of us, right? Believe it or not, cream puffs are very important to The Wednesday Wars story. Of course, I cannot tell you how. I must leave you guessing. And let you know that you, too, can borrow a copy of the book to read on your own!

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Filed under 5th Grade, Authors, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Fun, Learning, Middle School, reading

Talk at home about…watching magic happen!

Take 48 6th graders, add 3 teachers with a dash of inspiration and a spirit of collaboration, allow time for learning, and watch the magic happen! Alpha 6 students just celebrated six weeks of integrated learning. I’d like to highlight a few aspects of this collaborative experience because I think they tell the story of how school library programs add value and opportunity to student learning.

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Ms. Duthie-Fox, Mrs. Sumner and I began weeks ago with a conversation that identified learning outcomes for our students. We wanted them to practice close reading strategies in a book club format that also tied in to learning in Social Studies about the Revolutionary War. Then, we researched historical fiction novels. We tried to locate engaging titles that offered multiple perspectives on this time period in history. The combined collections of our supervisory union libraries helped us gather enough copies for all readers. Sharing resources means we can make sure that everyone gets what they need without breaking the budget.

Our books:

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

War Comes to Willy Freeman by James Lincoln Collier

Sarah Bishop by Scott O’Dell

April Morning by Howard Fast

Groups were facilitated by teachers, staff, and parent volunteers. This was a great opportunity to put our human capital to work and for students to participate in learning as part of a small group. Students really drove the discussions each week, using close reading signposts found in their readings as their guides. We found that they thrived as readers in understanding content-specific vocabulary and big ideas that they were able to transfer from their learning in social studies. They learned to cooperate and disagree using evidence from their readings to back up their opinions.

Students were all curious about what each of the other groups were reading. We decided to capitalize on that curiosity and motivation and had each group create book trailers to promote the different titles. We led the groups through a mini-lesson on how to write and choose images to develop a book trailer that would entice others to read a particular title. In creating these products, they had to write effectively and efficiently, perform effective keyword searches using Creative Commons to locate appropriate, rights-cleared images, navigate the technical aspects of the creation tool (we used iMovie), as well as edit and assess as they progressed through the project. We found the products to be wonderful, but the best parts of the project were the conversations that happened among the groups during the creative process. Lo and behold, they were pulling in all the same techniques they learned while discussing the books. This was an incredibly rich learning experience.

This is an example of a unit that might not necessarily fit neatly into the scheduled minutes of a school day.  It is unscripted, and took collaboration and work from myself, the classroom teachers, support staff, and parent volunteers. It took knowledge not only of the standards, but also of our students. We needed to know where they’ve been, what they’ve learned so far, and where we want them to be next. Making time to figure it all out was key. Our flexible library schedule allowed the space, time and resources for the student learning to happen. It really was magic.

Close reading strategies based on Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kyelene Beers & Robert E. Probst

Common Core State Standards addressed through this unit.

I love this handy infographic “Book Trailers and the Common Core Standards” created by teacher librarian M. Harclerode that highlights how this type of content creation incorporates multiple literacy skills.

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Filed under 6th Grade, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Common Core, InformationLiteracy, Learning, reading, Writing

Talk at home about…a great way to start the summer!

We are just ending our first full week of summer vacation, and some of us spent it reading! The Charlotte Public Library and Charlotte Central School are celebrating a 4th year of collaboration on our “Classic Connections” Middle School Summer Reading Program. This past week, thanks to a generous grant from a local patron, 20 CCS 7th & 8th graders spent two hours a day with us at the public library discussing Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells; adapted by Lewis Helfand.

What? Middle schoolers in the library during summer vacation? Whaaaattt? Yes, my friends, your close reading strategies are working. Here’s why the program works.  Our awesome 7th & 8th grade Language Arts teachers offer the completion of this program as a choice for students to satisfy their summer reading requirements. That’s really amazing and has a huge impact on attendance! Their support is the key. I’d like to share some of our students’ accomplishments, as well as some of their own words. Over the course of the week, students:

Read 536 pages! Wow!
“Reading 90 pages [a night] goes faster than I thought.”
“I learned to organize my time so I finished all my reading.”
“Re-reading helps.”

Contributed to daily group discussions of our readings.
“Discussing books is fun!”
“Graphic novels are just as good as a normal novel.”
“Steampunk is a fun genre.”
“Reading is fun.”

Contributed to the Young Writers Project with daily writing and podcasts!
“Podcasts are fun to do!”
“When you combine ideas, it has a better outcome.”
“I had fun on YWP.”
“Don’t change the YWP writing.”

Created altered books illustrating major symbols and themes from our readings.
“I learned how to ruin a book and then make it awesome!”
“Don’t change the fun art project.”

Of course, we also asked students for feedback. Middle schoolers are really good at giving feedback! For some, the genre was a challenge. For others, the amount of reading was challenging. Others requested more opportunities for movement, and would love a field trip incorporated into the program. We have done field trips in the past, and I agree. They do add to the program!

Here are a few pictures that show some highlights of the week.

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Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of the students’ exit cards in the section “What I learned this week”:

“The future is what mankind makes of it.” Enough said. Happy summer!





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Filed under 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Learning, Middle School, reading, SummerReading, Writing, Young Writers Project

Talk at home about…Opportunities for Connections!

Students make connections when they are provided opportunities to use skills in a variety of ways. I’d like to highlight some connections being made recently in our school library.

Mrs. Little’s 6th graders are participating in historical fiction book clubs. This is one of my favorite collaborations with Mrs. Little! TBook Clubhe titles students are reading are set during the Revolutionary War, which is also their Social Studies focus at the moment. Students are able to integrate what they learn in the classroom into their reading experiences. It makes for quite lively discussions! In addition, they are practicing their literacy skills by reading complex text, discussing and questioning content, and yes…making connections!

Other examples are students’ “6-Second Book Bytes”, created to promote books and to get each other excited about our recent book fair. In these super-short book talks, students needed to pull out three or four subjects or key words related to one of their favorite books.  They needed to think big in order to get small words that captured the content of their books. They used the Vine app to create their finished products. This experience gave students an opportunity to think about those all-important key words. These handy things are crucial in so many ways. They help us to be effective searchers of everything from the library catalog to Google. They provide us with a way to personalize the content we find or create (think Twitter hashtags for example). It was amazing to see students as content-creators, forging pathways for connections by promoting favorite books.

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Filed under Book Groups, Books, Booktalks, Collaboration, InformationLiteracy, reading

Talk at home about…partnerships for good!

Partnerships are a good thing. We try to teach our students how to work together, so we should strive to do the same. We have a wonderful relationship with our public library. I’d like to highlight a couple of ways that we work together for the benefit of our students.

patternsLast week, preschoolers were treated to a guest storytime presented by Charlotte LMargaretReadingibrary Director Margaret Woodruff. The theme was patterns. Students helped Margaret read Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris, then worked on exploring and creating some patterns of their own. Margaret’s storytelling, supported with materials from The Mother Goose Program, was a huge hit with our 4-year-olds!

Today, I joined Margaret and Cheryl Sloan, Youth Services Librarian, to present our Middle School summer reading collaboration to a group of Vermont public librarians. Our aim is to help grow the connections between schools and public libraries throughout the state for the benefit of the children in our communities. WPresentatione shared how the program has progressed over the past two years and introduced grant opportunities to fund the program for interested libraries. This was a great idea that went somewhere because the people in our student’s lives took the time to talk to one another. Community members, public & school librarians, and classroom teachers all played a role. It’s a pretty good model for our students to see, I think! See my Summer Reading page to see an outline of last summer’s program. Why reinvent the wheel when we can share? Let’s keep the partnerships growing!

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Filed under 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Middle School, Preschool, Readalouds, reading, SummerReading, Writing, Young Writers Project

Talk at home about…Integrated learning!

Everything old is new again with 6th graders studying the Pre-Revolutionary War Era of American history! Integrated learning prepared students with enough background knowledge to participate in a classroom debate Tuesday – “Revolutionary War…Yes or No?”  Here is a short clip from one of the debates.

Library support of this unit of study included helping students access books and other resources for biographical information on important people of the time, as well as facilitation of book groups. What can a historical fiction novel teach us about this turning point in American history? What can classroom learning bring to a book discussion? Ask a 6th grader! Social Studies + Language Arts + Library = 6th graders who really know their stuff!

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Filed under 6th Grade, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, reading