Category Archives: Writing

Talk at home about…a few weeks in pictures!

Time flies, friends! Here are a few pictures highlighting the things that have been keeping us so busy over the past few weeks.

Kindergarteners are exploring how to find “just-right” books, and we’ve also been sharing great new wordless books with them, working on visual literacy skills. They had great fun designing their own!

1st and 2nd graders have been reading, reading, reading! They’ve also begun learning about our new maker space materials, and getting creative with some awesome literature as their inspiration!

3rd graders have begun their fairy tale unit, and we have begun storytelling workshops as they work to write their own fractured fairy tales! 4th graders have been practicing their Destiny Quest and research skills as they work to find information on their independent topics. They have also been exploring the new maker space materials!

5th-8th graders have been busy with research, writing, and book groups! These are times when I get to visit their classrooms to help, or have students visit me with questions like “I’m using one of the library’s eBooks. Can you show me how to cite it?” and “I know ABC-CLIO is one of the most reliable sources, but what if the information I need isn’t there?”. I love that our older students have things like citations and reliability as part of their every day vocabulary! Here is an example of how I help guide middle schoolers through the research process. Give it a try!

Westward Expansion Pathfinder

Counting on You Pathfinder


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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Collaboration, Digital Literacy, InformationLiteracy, Middle School, Pathfinders, Research, Writing

Talk at home about…picture book inspiration!

November is Picture Book Month! Here are some highlights from library land that have been inspired by picture books.

Our youngest learners have finished their Global Read Aloud books. Some classes learned all about the Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal via an author study. Some have been listening to a read aloud of The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. Our thinking about big ideas contained in these stories went beyond the walls of our building! We shared our thinking and learned from others via tools like ChatterPix, ThingLink and Padlet. We also opened up conversations with good old fashioned postcards, which led to a high-tech impromptu Skype visit with a classroom in Michigan! We realized that we had many things in common with these other students!


We have also turned the library into a literary cafe this month, hosting a “Book Tasting” for 6th graders learning and writing about courage. We wanted students to have access to books that would allow all of them to have an entry point to information about people, both famous and not-so-famous, who exhibited courage in a variety of ways. Picture book biographies proved to be the best resource. Picture books for 6th graders? Absolutely, yes. Here’s why!

Book Tasting is an engaging and efficient way to share lots of books with students! Normally, it would take me more than one class period to book talk a sufficient amount of titles, hoping that each student would hear about something that interested them. The Book Tasting format, in contrast, allows students to be in the drivers’ seat, so to speak. Tables are set up in a cafe like arrangement, each one pre-set with about ten titles. Students rotate tables about 5 times, with just enough time to sample at least one item from each table. They are encouraged to look at illustrations and text features, read a paragraph, and a bit of the authors’ note. Menus help students keep track of their favorites, and give me the information I need to match each reader with a book that interests them!




November 2015 - school 006


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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 6th Grade, Books, Booktalks, Collaboration, Kindergarten, reading, Writing

Talk at home about…sailing into summer reading!

IMG_4617Wait a minute! What does this picture of beautiful Lake Champlain have to do with summer reading? Today was field trip day for the middle schoolers who participated in the Classical Connections summer reading program! Now in it’s 5th year, this collaboration between CCS and the Charlotte Public Library has grown into one of my most favorite things to do with my students!

Each year, students read a modern novel paired with a classic. This year’s classical connections were The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Is the picture making more sense to you now? Good! Over this past week, students have read and talked about two amazing stories, participated in activities like “How to Survive if You’re Lost at Sea”, written about the books using their Young Writers Project blogs, created fictional journals, and today they learned how to sail! The week just flew by, and I hope that this quick jump-start to summer reading will carry through the rest of the summer months for my students. I am so thankful to families that share their children with me. I find constant delight in my students, and am always amazed at their insights into what they are reading. I am also grateful for our strong Vermont community connections. This program would not be possible without the help of Cheryl Sloan and the awesome Charlotte Library staff. I am also grateful to Kathy Folley and the Young Writers Project Staff who provide a tool for students to capture their thinking in writing.  Appreciation to Mrs. Williams and Mr. Lutz for offering this program as a choice to help complete summer reading requirements.  Thanks to Sharon Colvin of the Vermont Department of Libraries for supporting the goodness of this program and helping to spread the word around the state. The Charlotte community also played a huge role this year! A Front Porch Forum request brought out donations for the week of nautical charts that illustrate the very setting of The Great Wide Sea! Alex Bunten of the Charlotte News visited and  graciously answered questions about a recent sailing trip of his own! Thanks also go to the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center for an awesome experience today. Not only were my students making connections to the books they read as they sailed, they did so on the gorgeous Lake Champlain canvas. I so appreciate the opportunity for my students to make a connection to this beautiful body of water. Stewardship of  our local natural resources begins with simply experiencing them! Many thanks to Alex Kroll, who appreciates the middle school soul, and supports their reading adventures from summer to summer. I cannot forget to thank the entire Charlotte community, who welcome a middle school takeover of our public library space for a week every summer.  As you can see, it really does take a village! I’m so happy that my students get to experience something that develops around them with the help of many community hands.  See the slide show below for the story of our week in pictures, and sail on into summer my friends!

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

Talk at home about…authors’ journeys via @steverswinburne

“Libraries are filled with authors’ journeys.” This was something that Vermont author Steve Swinburne shared with my students last week. We are so fortunate to have authors like Steve who share those journeys with students!

Hands-up, lean in!

Hands-up, lean in!

I’ve said before that Steve’s books prompt the “lean-in” effect when read aloud. He weaves the power of story into all of his books, fiction and nonfiction alike. Even facts have a story to tell!  You may read Steve’s thoughts on this yourself on this blog post “How to tell the story of sea turtles?” Seeing him in action, interacting with my students, made me realize that it’s really his words that have that effect, because he completely captivated his audience.

A little help from a friend!

A little help from a friend!

He incorporated movement and music while teaching students about his research and writing process. He encouraged students to think like scientists as he talked about how he researched his books, highlighting Turtle Tide and Sea Turtle Scientist. They were participants, not just listeners.

He left them with five reasons to love nonfiction. My favorite? “You may discover your passion.”

Signing our sea turtle!

Signing our sea turtle!

High fives for everyone as they left the library after the presentation left my students feeling connected and kept them thinking as they went through the rest of their day.


Thumbs-up selfie!

The best part of this story is that Steve not only got my students thinking, he motivated them to take action. By the end of the day, I had a teacher telling me to expect persuasive letters from her 3rd graders. They were making the case for CCS to support the conservation efforts of  WIDECAST, The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network. Now that’s passion!I met Steve at a conference the following day, and he donated the first dollar toward the students’ efforts.

A huge THANKYOU to our PTO group for making this author visit possible. This event provided the opportunity for  an author’s journey to inspire our students’ journeys. I couldn’t make this happen without their continuous support!


Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, Authors, Books, Kindergarten, Learning, Nonfiction, reading, Research, Writing

Talk at home about…stories and statistics!


Building bags of DCF goodies!

This week CCS celebrated stories! Numbers and statistics always seem to be woven into the stories I tell about our library. Students learned the winners of the two Vermont kids’ choice awards. The Red Clover Award winner is the Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Deywalt;  ill. by Oliver Jeffers. Our CCS K-4 voters were so happy with this news! This book won here with 42 votes – a landslide!

4th-8th graders who read enough Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award nominees started their day today with a celebration! They got a sneak peek at the titles on next year’s list, enjoyed a few breakfast munchies, and were able to “build a bag” with DCF goodies. Congratulations to Schuyler Edgar-Holmes, who read ALL 30 of the titles this school year! And congratulations to the winning book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. This won 34.6% of our student votes here at CCS!


“See, Think, Wonder”

6th graders began learning about primary sources this week in USkills classes as a way to prompt their thinking and questioning of images & other media. They are currently reading the book Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop, and will be researching photographs taken by the investigative photographer Lewis W. Hine. The Library of Congress holds 5,309 of his photographs, taken at the turn of the 20th Century. One of these photographs inspired Winthrop to write her story. Students will turn their wonderings and research into writing of their very own during Language Arts classes. The strategy we used to think critically about primary sources  is called “See, Think, Wonder”.  Ask your 6th grader about the strategy! If you’re curious about these photographs, you can take a look at our pathfinder.

Finally, I have one last story about numbers. 4th graders are investigating what it means to be a Vermonter. Today, we used Google Forms to create a survey for their families to complete in order to gather data about the qualities they think are most important when defining what being a Vermonter means to them. This data will be analyzed and added to the eBooks they are creating. I can’t wait to see the numbers.

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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 6th Grade, booklists, Books, Data, DCF, InformationLiteracy, Kindergarten, Learning, Pathfinders, reading, Red Clover, Research, Writing

Talk at home about…everything old is new again!

I’m going to tell you a secret about me. I love old technology. Don’t get me wrong; I work hard to keep ahead of the curve on new technologies, but after all the book is one of the oldest technologies around. Over the years I have kept exactly ONE of each of a few gems. ONE record player, ONE slide projector, ONE sound filmstrip projector, ONE overhead projector, etc. etc. I keep them on hand because believe it or not, they still get used. Seldom though the use may be, it is still my job to give my patrons what they need when they need it!

I recently teamed up with our awesome art teacher, and we were able to connect one of these old technologies with new learning and artistic expression for our 3rd and 4th grade students. Our school set time aside this year for teachers to collaborate as part of a PLC. Alice, the aforementioned awesome art teacher, approached me with an idea that she had read about called “The Me Inside Myself: Visual Art Meets Reading, Writing and Beyond”. This original idea came from Judy D. Wells and was published in Arts and Activities, September 1, 2014 issue. I just love that we we able to use Alice’s extended Professional Learning Network to take an excellent idea and place our own spin on it!

We developed a series of lessons that incorporated both information literacy and artistic expression skills. We began by sharing the poem Me I Am by Jack Prelutsky. The lovely picture book version of this is illustrated by  Christine Devenier.meiamWe  then used the ONE overhead projector to trace students’ silhouettes onto black paper. The silhouettes were then cut out and I was able to quickly take pictures, upload and organize the images using my handy-dandy Google Drive app. During library times, students used a graphic organizer to help brainstorm keywords that describe themselves. This tied in nicely with recent learning about how  using effective keywords makes for an efficient strategy when searching for information in various formats. Then, they practiced navigating their Google drives by creating a document with those keywords and sharing it with me. The keywords were then uploaded to Tagxedo, which allows users to generate a word cloud in the form of a silhouette. Remember the pictures I took of the silhouettes? Upload the picture, insert keywords, and see the word cloud generate. So very cool! During art classes, students translated their keywords into a visual format. The finished products are now gracing the halls and show two silhouettes, both celebrating all those little things that make our students the wonderful individuals they are. Thank goodness I kept that overhead!

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Filed under 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, Books, Collaboration, InformationLiteracy, reading, Writing

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