Sunday, March 9, 2014

Connect & Engage with Technology - NCTIES 2014!

I love a good conference!  Especially, one that helps you learn new and creative things to bring into the classroom and allows you to connect with other professionals to build your personal learning network.  This past week was the annual NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) conference.  This year's theme was all about using technology to connect and engage students in the learning process.  NCTIES  is one of my favorite annual conferences and if you have never had the opportunity to attend, you need to add it to your teaching bucket list.  I always walk away feeling invigorated with the new things I learn and eager to share with students and staff.  I strongly believe that one of the most important things we can do as educators is to continuously grow and learn to inform our professional practice and then to share that learning with each other.  

This year, I had the privilege of attending NCTIES with a team of educators from Northside. Getting to share in the excitement of what you are learning with colleagues is always more fun than attending something solo. I love that moment when you are sitting next to a coworker in a workshop and you both look at each other with that expression that shouts, "Oh, yeah....we are definitely going to try that with our students - how awesome!"  It is that shared excitement and fervor for teaching and learning that helps build capacity in a school for new and innovative ways of educating our students.  Our team walked away with new and creative ways to make learning come alive for our students and staff at Northside and to bring relevance and authenticity to the work we do each day.   The car ride back was exciting as we reflected on our learnings and our eagerness to share what we learned with our whole school community. 

The conference ended with a presentation from Adam Bellow who is a leading speaker on technology in education and integrating technology to aid school reform.  He said many things that resonated with me but one of the most important was, "the key ingredient to learning is passion."  How very true and one of the many reasons I love the school library and why school library programs are so important for our students!  The library is a place in which all students can find something they are passionate about and pursue their own unique interests.  The library can be the foundation of a passion driven school helping students and staff connect and engage in new and creative ways through inquiry and exploration.  We must build a passionate school of learners.  We must teach with passion each day and let students bring their own passions into the classroom to help drive the learning experience.  We must make learning both authentic and relevant to our students so they can be passionate about what they are learning.  We must not only teach the readers and writers but also the mathematicians, the engineers, the artists and the musicians.  How can we as educators ignite the spark of learning so that all students are driven by the need to know more? How can we use technology in creative ways to reach our learners and allow them to create, connect and engage?  

I walked away with many takeaways, but here are a just a few highlights from NCTIES 2014: 

1) I really want to create a Library Makerspace.  What is a Makerspace, you ask?  Basically, it is a space in which students can create in a myriad of ways.  From simple arts and crafts, to computer coding, to designing objects that can come to life on a 3D printer.  It's a space in which students can bring their creative ideas alive.  It's also a space in which its okay to explore, create and fail.  In fact, failure is an important part of the learning process and helps students understand that with patience and persistence great things can happen.  To learn more about makerspaces click here

2) I want to infuse augmented reality tools into the learning environment.  Think QR codes on steroids.  Basically, AR allows students to interact with a flat service using a smart device and bring it to life.  We saw this earlier in the year when students created "Dots" for our dot day celebration and then interacted with them in 3D mode.  Imagine going up to a student's book review, holding a device over the image of the book and up pops a video of the student describing why they loved the book so much.  Or, for another example, looking at a book about dinosaurs only to scan a page and see the dinosaur "come to life" and interact with the reader.  This in a nutshell is augmented reality and I want to infuse this in creative ways at Northside as we move into next school year.  Check out this great blog post from an educator about the many ways Aurasma (an augmented reality) app is being used at their school.   

3) The importance of infusing digital citizenship skills alongside all this great use of technology.  Thinking critically about how we are getting our students to question the media they encounter daily and use resources ethically and responsibly.  Whether it comes to researching online, communicating with others, or using digital media for projects, it is our responsibility to help guide our students through these waters and model its appropriate use. We can't protect our kids from all the evils of the world but we can arm them with the tools they will need to chart their course in the digital world they now live.  

I look forward to sharing (along with others from Northside) all the great things we learned while at NCTIES so our students can continue to "think, learn and grow with purpose, persistence and pride." 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Book-A-Day 28: Two Old Potatoes and Me

Two Old Potatoes and Me
Written by: John Coy
Illustrated by: Carolyn Fisher

Whew, I made it!  Twenty-eight days of reviewing books can wear a girl out!  But, it has been a great way to dive in and get to know our collection on a deeper level and share wonderful reads with our school community.  I hope others will enjoy all the books I've discussed as much I did.

The last book of the month, Two Old Potatoes and Me is a great one to wrap up the challenge.  On the surface, it is the story of a young girl and her father and the bond they share working in their garden.  But as you read, you find there is so much more to this story.  It's about growth and change in a myriad of ways.  When two old potatoes are found in a cupboard, the little girl is about to throw them out when her dad stops her declaring that he thinks they can use them to grow new potatoes.  So out to the garden they go to get the potatoes settled into the soft earth.  The story moves forward describing the process the father-daughter team take in getting the potatoes to grow strong month by month.  In the end, they are left with a bountiful harvest and a special moment together as they share in eating mashed potatoes.

This would be a perfect story to read aloud as students begin exploring living things and how to care for plants.  During the story it describes the process of caring for a garden from picking weeds, to adding compost, to waiting and watching.  After sharing the story, have students create a list of all the things they will need to do in order to care for our school garden.  What tips can they learn from this story?  There is also a note at the end that includes a recipe for mashed potatoes.  What fun it would be to grown potatoes in our Northside school garden and then make some mashed potatoes following this recipe.  Click here to watch a Reading Rainbow clip featuring this book that you may also want to check out.

John Coy, the author has numerous other books for children.  You can learn more about him here.  If you like to know more about the illustrator Carolyn Fisher you can click here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book-A-Day 27: H.O.R.S.E - A Game of Basketball and Imagination

A Game of Basketball and Imagination
Written and Illustrated by: Christopher Myers

You know that phrase, "anything you can do, I can do better?"  That is the essence of this story between two friends who meet up to play a game of HORSE on the basketball court but whose imaginations get the best of them.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the game of HORSE it's played like this (according to the character in the book), "the game where one person shoots any kind of shot -- layup, jumper from half-court, bounce shot, whatever.  The other other player has to shoot the same shot, or else that player gets a letter. Spell HORSE and you're out."  As the two friends begin to play their game they keep attempting to out perform one another with the descriptions of the shots they are going to take.  Each new description gets more and more elaborate from around the world shots to intergalactic shots.  Reading through this story and seeing the imaginations of each of the characters in relation to a simple game of basketball is such fun!  Kids will delight in hearing this story read aloud, particularly young boys.  You might even find them on the blacktop at recess later in the day attempting to out-do one another in their own imaginative game of HORSE. 

Because this story has a distinct back and forth rhythm to the reading, it would make for a great shared read aloud.  Two people could perform this story for a class of students and the giggles and smiles will quickly ensue.  

Christopher Myers both wrote and illustrated this book.  It was published in 2012 and was awarded a Coretta Scott King honor.  Check out the video interview below to learn more about this author and illustrator.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book-A-Day 26: Violet's Music

Violet's Music 
Written by: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: Laura Huliska-Beith

What do you love to do more than anything else?  Do you have a passion that can't be stopped?  For Violet, that passion is music.  From the time she was a baby in a crib she was making music with a "boom, shake, beat, shake" of the rattle.  As she continues to grow her passion for music grows with her and she yearns to find someone who loves it just as much as she!  She looks for fellow music lovers when she walks down the street, plays on the beach, goes to school and meanders around town.  From museums, to zoos, the even the dentist, Violet continues her quest to find fellow musicians.  Violet's attitude is so upbeat and I love that she persists even when she continuously comes up empty-handed finding musical friends.  Does it happen?  Does she meet friends who love musical melodies and strumming instruments?  You'll have to read to find out!

A great book to introduce a passion project.  Brainstorm with students what their own passions are and how it makes them feel.  Describe how Violet's character feels about her passion based on the authors words in the story.  Ask students to think of things Violet may like about our school based on her character traits.  Or, what other book characters would Violet be friends with if they could meet? Get students to justify their answers by referencing evidence from the story.  

Author Angela Johnson has written many books for children.  To learn more about here click here

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book-A-Day 25: My People

My People
Written by: Langston Hughes
Photographs by: Charles R. Smith Jr.  

I adore this Coretta Scott King Award winning book! Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets and his poems carry such power in their simplicity.  Combining the poetic words of Langston Hughes with perfectly captured photographs taken by Charles R. Smith Jr. create a powerful book to share with students. While the poem itself is only thirty-three words in length it serves as an anthem to celebrate african-americans.  Originally written by Langston Hughes to lift-up and celebrate African-Americans during the 1920's when they were not acknowledged much in society.   Charles R Smith Jr. has captured the many faces of African-Americans so well as he worked to pair photographs with words from the poem.  He says in a note at the end of the book, "I wanted to show skin color as bright as the sun and as dark as the night; I wanted to show the newness of a newborn smile and the wisdom of wrinkled skin.  But, more than anything, I simply wanted to show that like any other group of people, black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique."

Here are the words to Langston Hughes' poem that filled the pages of this book. 

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. 

This would be a perfect book to inspire kids to create their own artistic interpretation of a poem.  Students could choose a poem and then use iPads to capture images that could illustrate the poem when broken apart.  What do they see in their mind's eye when they read their chosen poem?  How can they convey that through photographic images? 

Langston Hughes was a famous African American poet whose work is still celebrated to this day.  To learn more about him and his writing click here.  Charles R. Smith Jr. is an author and illustrator for children's books and we have many of his titles in our school library.  You can learn more about him here.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book-A-Day 24: Dear Mr. Rosenwald

Dear Mr. Rosenwald
Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie 

We had the distinct honor today of meeting Carole Boston Weatherford as she led our students and staff through some of her works for children (blog post about this visit coming soon).  One we did not touch on today, but would love to highlight is her book Dear Mr. Rosenwald which tells the story of the Rosenwald Schools (schools built for African-Americans in the 1920s).  Using poetic form, Mrs. Weatherford describes the process the African-American community underwent in order to provide educational opportunities for their children through the building of a new school.  While Julius Rosenwald (the founder of Sears Robuck) helped to provide partial funding for the schools, the African-American community had to raise their own share in order to move forward with the building of a new school.  The book is broken down into separate poems that carry over into a larger storyline about a young child named Ovella who has plans to attend the school when it is complete.  Through my own research learning about Northside as a Rosenwald School, I was able to make so many immediate connections to the storyline as I read page after page.  My favorite poem is the last one in the book.  It reads, 

Dear Mr. Rosenwald
Even before the bell rang,
we children lined up at the door. 
Me with bows in my hair
and ham biscuits in my lunch pail.
I share a desk with Lottie Mae.
Miss Shaw got busy right away.
Our first lesson -- letter writing. 

Dear Sir,
I am ten.  I like to read books.
My best subject is arithmetic.
My parents are counting on me
to learn all I can.  This school
is the first new thing I ever had 
to call my own.  I'm going to stitch me
a dress in the sewing classroom. 
One day, I'll be a teacher like Miss Shaw. 
Thank you, Mr. Rosenwald.
Yours truly,

Many of the historic Rosenwald schools have since been torn down (including the original Northside) but many that remain have become historic trusts.  This would be a wonderful book to read prior to, or in the midst of examining the history of our own school as a Rosenwald school.  It would serve as a wonderful mentor text for students to engage in close reading and have them begin thinking critically about what these schools meant for the African-American community.  What did they symbolize?  It could also serve as a model text for how a storyline can be created in a poetic form.  Have students examine where Mrs. Weatherford chose to make certain breaks in her poems and discuss how those influence the reading of the poem.

Carole Boston Weatherford began writing in first grade and we learned today that it is something she has always loved to do.  She has written many books for children and has been honored with Coretta Scott King, Caldecott and NAACP book awards for her work.  She currently lives in Fayetteville, NC and teaching English Literature at Fayetteville State University.  We have many of her titles in our library collection.  Illustrator R. Gregory Christie has helped illustrate a number of books for children including Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book-A-Day 23: Wind Flyers

Wind Flyers
Written by: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: Loren Long

This book is a wonderful collaboration between children's author Angela Johnson and Illustrator Loren Long that tells the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black group of fighter pilots that was formed in 1942 and trained in Tuskegee, Alabama.   Told through the eyes on a young boy, simple yet powerful words, describe the story of his great-great-uncle and how he came to be a pilot for the United States Air Force during World War II.  Although the story is fiction it is based on historical facts and does a wonderful job of honoring the men who played an important role in our country's history through the lens of story that even young children can understand and appreciate.  The author's note at the ends provides a short history on the Tuskegee Airmen and describes how the 332nd fighter group was the only military escort group that never lost a single bomber to enemy fire.  A fascinating history that has often been overlooked but played a significant role in helping pave the way for civil rights in the 1960's. 

At the upper grades, this story could be used to spark interest around the role  of minorities in the military.  Students could brainstorm a list of questions they have about the Tuskegee Airmen and use those questions to drive their research.  Have students complete a comparison between the Tuskegee Airman and the Native American Code Talkers during World War II.  Students can dive deep into understanding the critical role both of these minority groups played in the history of our country and how they were treated upon returning from war.  What can we learn from those historical experiences? How can we inform our community about these histories to learn from them? For younger students, this would be a wonderful book to discuss the concept of "then and now".  The young boy learns his great-great-uncle's history and in doing so learns about the past.  How could our students interview their own parents or grandparents to learn from the past?  How could they use that information to create their own story that teaches others about a historical event from the past? 

Angela Johnson has written many books for children including the first one featured on the Book-A-Day blog challenge. I adore how she creates simple yet powerful stories for children that model the art of writing.  Loren Long is a celebrated illustrator who has written numerous books for children.  They should be celebrated for their work on this story!

**To learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen click here.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book-A-Day 22: Shades of Black

Shades of Black
A Celebration of Our Children
Written by: Sandra L. Pinkney
Photographs by: Myles C. Pinkney

This is a book that was published 14 years ago, but I love it's message and how it celebrates African American children and all the qualities that make each child unique and special.  It begins with the phrase, "I am Black.  I am Unique" opposite a photograph of a beautiful wide-eyed, smiling African-American child.  Each page thereafter uses metaphors to describe how children describe the color of their skin from, "I am the coppery brown in a pretzel" to "I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick".  Each statement is paired with a photograph of an African-American child celebrating their unique quality.  The book goes on to use metaphors to express the many ways African-American children are unique and special from one another.  The phrase, "I am Black.  I am Unique" repeats throughout the book, each time before a new characteristic.  The author specifically focuses on skin tone, hair, and eye color.   The book ends with the statement, "I come from ancient Kings and Queens.  When you look at me, what do you see? I am Black, I am proud to be me."

This book could be used as part of a social studies unit in which students examine similarities and differences in one another.  Often times with units like this we have children complete self-portraits of themselves describing their attributes.  How wonderful it would be to dive deep with this work and have students think of how truly unique they are from one another.  It would also serve as a wonderful text to illustrate the use of metaphors as a way to describe something in ourselves or in nature.  Pair this with "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss to encourage students to describe something using strong figurative language.  With phrases like, "My eyes are the shimmering glow of ebony in an Onyx" this text will help model for students how to use descriptive language to make their writing stronger.  Rather than simply describing their eyes as black or brown, they can be encouraged to use metaphors to make a stronger visual for the reader.  Students could even create their own "Shades of Us" book in which they describe themselves and pair their statements with photographs of themselves to create a class book that celebrates their unique and special qualities.  

Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney are a husband and wife team that come from a large family of published authors and illustrators.  Celebrated illustrator Jerry Pinkney is the patriarch of the family. Click here for an interesting article that celebrates the Pinkney family as a literary dynasty. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book-A-Day 21: Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Hip Hop Speaks to Children:
A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
Edited by: Nikki Giovanni

I love poetry and sharing it with children, particularly poems that carry a distinct rhythm to their words. This book does exactly that with the poems that fill it's pages - it speaks to children.  I love that there are poems taken from the lyrics of hip hop artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, and Young MC combined with selection from traditional poets Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.  Included with the book is a CD in which a handful of selections are read orally or sung from the song for which the lyrics were written.  The illustrations that accompany each poem on the inside of the book are done by various artists, and they are all fun, colorful and interesting to look at from one page to the next.  Also included is an amazing introduction by Nikki Giovanni in which she describes how rhythm, rap and hip hop have been a part of societal cultures for years in various shapes and forms.  Her history into the this artistic art form is very interesting and well worth the read.  As eager as you might be to skip over this introduction - don't!  You will learn a thing or two that will give you even a greater appreciation for the poems that follow.

This would be a fun book to "take apart" and have students each study a different poem.  Each student could perform their assigned poem and then compare their performance with the poet's performance on the CD.  They could also draw a unique illustration that represents their assigned poem.  Pair their illustration with how they choose to read their poem to create a digital anthology of poetry in a collaborative tool such as Voicethread.  These poems could also be used as part of a poetry slam in which students rehearse and perform their selected poems in a creative way.  

Check out the video clip below to hear Nikki Giovanni discuss this book and share what she liked most about working on this anthology.  While this is not a recent video, it's wonderful to see Nikki Giovanni introduce this book before it's initial release back in 2008.

Author Carole Boston Weatherford to Visit Northside!

Coming Monday, February 24th the Northside Library will host Children's Author Carole Boston Weatherford!  We are very excited to host Mrs. Weatherford at Northside and look forward to hearing about her books, the creative writing process, and learning more about life as an author!  Flyleaf Books will have several copies of her book Freedom on the Menu on hand this weekend for purchase.  Students are welcome to bring in one of her books  to get it signed by the author during her visit.  

Carole Boston Weatherford has written many books for children that focus on the African-American freedom struggle through the perspective of children.  Many of her books are based on real events from the past.  Her books have received both Caldecott and Coretta Scott King book award honors and we are delighted that she will get to share her gift with our Northside students.  To learn more about Mrs. Weatherford click here or view the video below.  

Our fifth grade students Skyped with Mrs. Weatherford earlier in the year when they were examining the civil rights struggle as part of their Northside History project.  They read three of her works, Dear Mr. RosenwaldFreedom on the Menu, and Birmingham 1963 to better understand the history behind segregation.  They were very excited to learn they would also get to meet her in person at our very own Northside which was once a Rosenwald School for African American students during the time of segregation.  

Each program will be interactive, interdisciplinary, multicultural and involve multimedia.  There will be a mix of poetry, storytelling, music and movement. The student programs will conclude with a Q&A and a presentation on how a manuscript becomes a book. Please see the breakdown below of grade level program descriptions.  Each session will take place in the library media center.  

Visit at a glance: 
K-2 grade students - 9:00-10:00
Mrs. Weatherford will engage our younger students with poetry, percussion and playground rhymes hat celebrate jazz, family and community.  Many of the poems will come from her book entitled Sidewalk Chalk Poems of the City. This will support upcoming units in these grade levels in which students will study the art of poetry. 

3rd grade students - 10:00-11:00
Third grade students are in the midst of studying biographies.  Mrs. Weatherford will support their current unit of study by sharing and discussing several biographies she has written on unsung heroes and will include tributes based on the biographies I, Matthew Henson and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive, or on the true adventure Sink or Swim: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks.  She will help answer questions from our students on steps needed to write a biography and the research that goes into creating a story based on someone's life.  

4th and 5th grade students - 1:15-2:15
She will specifically discuss her book Freedom on the Menu which is based on the sit-in movement that took place in Greensboro, NC during the struggle for civil rights.  She will read aloud stories and poems celebrating the African-American freedom struggle.  At this last session of the day we will surprise Mrs. Weatherford by presenting her with a gift from our school as a way to say thank you. 

Afterschool Session for Staff
All staff are invited to attend an afterschool session to meet with Carole Boston Weatherford and learn more about her work as an author.  She will address her writing her process and how her books can be used to support the curriculum.  Teachers will receive professional development regarding how to incorporate multiple perspectives and how literature can be used to debunk stereotypes.  Refreshments will be served and teachers who wish may get books signed.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book-A-Day 20: These Hands

These Hands
Written by: Margaret H. Mason
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper

If our hands could talk, what would they say?  What memorable experiences and special moments have our hands been witness to over the course of a lifetime?  In These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, the reader gets to experience a grandfather's conversation with his young grandson about all the many things his hands have experienced with each memory beginning with the line, "Look at these hands, Joseph...Did you know these hands used to..."  He describes for his grandson how his hands used to tie triple bowline knots, throw curveballs faster than a dive-bombing honeybee, and pluck the ace of spades right out of thin air from a deck of cards.  Each mention of a memory is paired with how he can still use that skill of his hands to teach his grandson something new.  

Using the imagery of his hands, he begins sharing how "his hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread Factory."  He describes the experience of racial prejudice and because of that how he used his hands to join with others to create change so that "now any hands can touch the bread dough, no matter their color."  The story ends with the young grandson expressing how his own hands can now do things they couldn't before such as tying his shoe, hitting a ball, or shuffling cards all because of the help of his grandfather.  My favorite line comes at the very end of the story when the grandfather says to his grandson, "Look at those hands.  Those hands can do anything.  Anything at all in this whole wide world."

This is such a tender story between grandparent and grandchild and the author captured the loving bond between them well.  She did a lovely job of bringing forth the topic of racial prejudice in a way that is understandable for young children and will spark a conversation on racial inequality that existed in our country not that long ago.  This book would serve as a wonderful mentor text to kickstart an oral history project.  Students could interview their parents or grandparents about things their "hands" have experienced in their lifetime and special talents they hold.  They could then create their own "These Hands" book with information gathered from their own family.  

Author Margaret H. Mason includes an author's note at the end of the book in which she describes how she came to write this story.  You can learn more about her here.  Celebrated illustrator Floyd Cooper has won many awards for his illustrations in various children's books.  Click here to learn more about him. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book-A-Day 19: Back of the Bus

Back of the Bus
Written by: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
Imagine sitting upon that historic bus ride in which Rosa Parks stepped aboard and refused to give up her seat.  What must it have felt like to be a part of that experience?  Now imagine, you are a child witnessing the scene of that day unfold.  What I love about Back of the Bus is that Aaron Reynolds creates a story very unique from any story we have read before about Rosa Parks and her refusal to forego her seat to a white passenger. The entire story is told from the perspective of a young African-American boy sitting at the back of the bus alongside his mother.  The story both begins and ends with the boy playing with a small toy marble.  That marble is used for a metaphor to express change by the end of the story.  While it is a work of fiction, it is based on the real events that happened on   December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. 
This book is filled with figurative language using phrases such as "lightnin' storm eyes", "mama's crinkled-up somethin's-wrong voice", and "clicks them metal things on her hands, quick and loud like the screen door slammin'."  It would make for a model text when examining ways authors "spice" up their writing by using figurative language to create a strong visual.  I have also talked a lot about using books to teach children how to create "small moments" stories.  This is yet another book that fits that category.  The entire story is about riding the bus and taking in the sights and sounds of the experience.  Aaron Reynolds does a lovely job of stretching this out over time to create a full storyline for the reader based on a small moment in the life of this young boy.  Finally, this book could be used to discuss perspective in writing.  What might another passenger's perspective be of this event?  What about the perspective of the arresting officer?  How fun it might be to have students write about a familiar experience through the eyes of someone else involved.  Or take another historical moment in our country's history and create a story about it through the eyes of a witness to the event.  

Author Aaron Reynolds has partnered with illustrator Floyd Cooper whom I just blogged about in yesterday's featured book.  And just like with all of Mr. Cooper's other books, he paints life into each page as the story moves along.  I adore the young boy in this book and I love the way Mr. Cooper has chosen to illustrate this character.  It left me wanting to sit down next to this endearing young boy and have a conversation with him.  Click on the links to learn more about Aaron Reynolds and Floyd Cooper.


Google Doodle Competition 2014

You know those cool doodles on the Google search page?  There is creative genius behind each one.  Each year Google puts forth it's Google Doodle competition to students in grades K-12.  There will be lots of judging and several prizes, but one lucky winner will see their Doodle featured on the front page of Google along with a $30,000 scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for their school!  Judges for this year's competition include Mary Pope Osbourne, Rick Riordan, Limony Snicket and many more!  Click here to see the full list of judges.

To find out more about how you can create a doodle and get in on the fun click here.  Closing date for all entries is Thursday, March 20th! For teachers wishing to partake in the fun with your entire class, take a peak at the teacher resource page.

I will be hosting a Google Hangout session in the library on Wednesday, February 26th @ 1:00 for students interested in participating in the competition.  Students will get to meet Google Doodlers and learn how they go from ideas to doodles. Doodlers will share the creative process for one of their doodles: brainstorms, first drafts and exploratory sketches, the review process and finally how it all comes together in the final doodle. They'll then take questions from the classrooms and other viewers on the Hangout On-Air. 

World Read Aloud Day is Coming!

Join in the fun as we celebrate the joy of reading and the power of story at Northside Elementary School!  

World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) is a global celebration of reading sponsored by Litworld being held on Wednesday, March 5.  Last year, the celebration reached over 65 countries and a million participants! This year, we will join the celebration!

To give you background on WRAD, Litworld puts it best:   
Every year on the first Wednesday of March LitWorld's advocacy campaign for the human right of literacy calls worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. 
Imagine a world where everyone can read...

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.
By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.
          Be one in a million (or more) to join in celebrating the power of reading aloud this March 5th.

How Northside will Celebrate: 
We will celebrate the power of literacy and profound impact reading can have on our lives March 3-5.  Combining the fun of Read Across America Day with World Read Aloud Day, we will use this week in March to share the joy reading brings to our lives. 

Monday, March 3 - Read Across America
We will read with others across America in honor of Dr. Seuss and the power of books in our lives.  We will form a Northside reading chain as we line the hallways with books in tow and kick off our day with 15 minutes of quiet reading.  
  • Each student and staff member will choose the book they wish to read during our reading chain by Friday, February 28. 
  • Each student will write their name and the title of the book they will read on a paper strip that will be part of a paper chain that will be on display through the school halls. 
In addition we will have a reading display of all the staff holding their favorite children's book.  We will turn it into a guessing game for our students by only showing the staff member's eyes peeking out from behind each book.  Students will have to figure out the mystery readers behind each book shown.  We will be coming around to take photos of staff members with your favorite book.

Wednesday, March 5 - World Read Aloud Day
  • On this day all Northside staff members will share our collective love of story by reading aloud to students across Northside.  Sharing our favorite picture book or treasured childhood story we will give our students a glimpse into our reading life with a book worth sharing because of the love we have for it.   
Finally, we will have a digital message board students, staff and Northside families can contribute to in which they share their favorite memory of their reading life.  Was it a favorite book that you couldn't put down?  A special reading moment you will always treasure?  A favorite reading spot?  I look forward to seeing all the ways reading is celebrated and shared in the lives of our students and staff at Northside.     

Additional ways to celebrate include: 
  1. Get students in on the action of sharing the collective love of reading books aloud.  Partner up with a younger class and have older students read to younger and vice versa! 
  2. Using SKYPE in the Classroom or Google Hangout, connect with students around the nation and world who are looking for ways to collaboratively celebrate.  Share a story your class has written with another audience outside our school.  Share a favorite poem or partake in a shared Read-Aloud.  The possibilities are endless. Click here for a list of individuals seeking collaborative partnerships. I will host some collaborative Skype experiences in the library too and will send out the schedule for that soon (first come, first serve).
  3. Connect with authors who are willing and able to share a read aloud via SKYPE.  Many authors have partnered with Skype in the Classroom to celebrate this special day...the best's FREE! 
  4. Have parents come in on this day to share a read-aloud with your class -- perhaps a favorite book that is shared at home.  
  5. Have students use the Tellagami App to create a 30 second book review using an avatar image of themselves.  Share with each other in class on during the week!
If you have more fun or creative ideas share them in the comment section below.  I look forward to celebrating and sharing the love of literacy with our community.  Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book-A-Day 18: A Beach Tail

A Beach Tail
Written by: Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper

This is an endearing book about a young African-American boy and his father spending a day at the beach when imagination comes into play.  The young boy, Gregory draws a lion on the sand with a stick and proceeds to make the lions tail longer and longer as he walks down the beach coming across various items along the way.  With each encounter the lion's tail gets longer and longer as he maneuvers around each newfound discovery. He  takes it "up and over and down" the mound of an old sandcastle, around a purple jellyfish, and zigs and zags it around a horseshoe crab.  When he realizes how far he has adventured down the beach he realizes he can follow the lion's tail that he created to find his way back to his father resting under the blue beach umbrella. 

This is another perfect example of a book that could serve as a mentor text when exploring small moments in writing.  The author stretched one small experience with Gregory over the course of an entire story.  Pair this with The Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats for a small moments comparison between a day at the beach and a day in the snow.  How do the characters Peter and Gregory differ from one another?  What about their experience is the same?  This story also has a few repetitive phrases that echo throughout including "Swish - Swoosh" (the sound of the waves) and "Sandy's tail got longer until....." In the beginning his father gives him a warning to not go in the water and to not leave Sandy the Lion.  As he stretches the lion's tail longer and longer the phrase, "But Gregory did not go in the water, and he did not leave Sandy" repeats as he discovers new items along his walk.  How could students create a phrase that might repeat throughout their own small moment stories? This book could also be used to illustrate the use of prepositional words.  Under, around, over, and through are all used as Gregory drags his stick through the sand.   Finally, this could simply be shared as a read aloud to students before leaving for summer break.  What a perfect book to get them in the mood for a trip to the beach!

Karen Lynn Williams is the author of this book and you can learn more about her by visiting her website.  Floyd Cooper is an award-winning and celebrated African-American illustrator. You can learn more about him through this interview.  


Monday, February 17, 2014

Book-A-Day 17: I, Too, Am America

I, Too, Am America
Written by: Langston Hughes
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier

Langston Hughes is a celebrated African-American poet whose poems are simple yet very powerful.   He wrote poems that told stories reflecting the culture of African-Americans, both their suffering and their celebrations.  In I, Too, Am America the words from Langston Hughes' famous poem, "I, Too" are partnered with Bryan Collier's illustrations to highlight a distinct storyline.  While, Hughes never specified any certain person in his poem, Collier used the history of the Pullman Porters, African-American men who worked as caretakers to wealthy white passengers aboard luxury trains to bring this poem to life and illustrate change over time.  While the words to this poem are few, they are indeed powerful and Collier's illustrations strengthen the message even more.  

Bryan Collier has used his distinct collage illustrations to show change over time in a unique way that corresponds to the words in this poem.  His illustrations begin with images of an African-American porter on a train doing the daily tasks.   Gradually the scenes change from the past to the present in which people of all colors ride on an urban city train together.  At the end of the book, there is an illustrator's note in which he provides additional information to the reader and things to notice in his illustrations.  

When discussing metaphors and similes with students, have them explore how artists can also depict these through drawings.  Collier does a wonderful job with this throughout the book in which he uses the American flag to serve as a metaphor for the "growth of our people almost invisible during the Pullman porter's time, but bolder and stronger toward the end."   Using this book as a mentor text, you could also have students choose poems to take apart and illustrate to create their own "poem turned picture book".  You could even do this with other powerful poems written by Langston Hughes.  How does their work compare with that of Bryan Collier's? 

Below is a clip in which you can listen to Langston Hughes read aloud his famous poem.  

To learn more about Langston Hughes and his celebrated life as a poet, please click here.  Illustrator Bryan Collier is a three time Coretta Scott King Book award winner.  More information about him and his illustrations can be found here.  
Langston HughesBryan Colllier