Monday, September 21, 2015

Superheroes in the Library

This year, our school theme is Superheroes. We have t-shirts, we’ve had the pep rally, but I started to wonder: What defines a superhero?  What makes them different from heroes?  Are there people, living or literary, who fit the criteria of superheroes?
These questions have been pondered by fourth to sixth graders in recent library classes.  On week one, I shared what I’d learned in a personal inquiry about superheroes, particularly those of the Marvel / DC variety.  The skill exhibited during the lesson was the many media that people use to share what they know.  We examined charts, graphs, infographics and more.
We discovered that there are some major and minor criteria for superheroes, which include:
·         The mission to serve
·         Super powers beyond those of regular humans
·         Secret identities
·         Identifiable costume or physical features
We added allies (having a partner or being part of a team) and hideouts.

A chart displayed many of the well-known superheroes and examined how they fit the criteria.  Discussion features included:
·         Bruce Wayne/Batman and Tony Stark/Iron Man not having super powers per se, but being multimillionaires with awesome tools and technologies,
·         Hulk may not have a clearly defined mission, thought some students, but he allies with those who do (although some thought that his anger at the system was mission enough). He also doesn’t have a costume other than shredded clothing, but his size and skin tone were recognizable features.
·         Thor was the only one we could think of without a secret identity. Thor is always Thor.  Then again, he lives on another planet and doesn’t have to deal with the day-today world like the others.
Comic books fans feel free to educate me if anything above doesn’t ring true!

Day two was really fun.  We took the superhero criteria and applied it to a literary character:
Is Harry Potter a superhero?
Students identified Harry’s mission: to defeat Voldemort and to avenge his parents’ death.
The superpowers discussion was fun.  Some students said, “Of course. He’s magic!”  Others chimed in with “But he needs tools to do magic.  And besides, everybody at Hogwarts can do magic, so are they all superheroes?” In each class, at least one student countered that, unlike other wizards, Harry can communicate with snakes (parseltongue) and he has telepathic powers in his visions into Voldemort’s world.
Secret identity?  Well, his wizard identity was a secret even to him for the first decade of his life. He navigates the Muggle and wizard worlds, maintaining various secrecies.
His robes, glasses and scar were enough to convince many of his fourth criteria.  Students also realized the extent to which Harry has allies: friends, teachers, other adults, Dobby, etc.
Culminating this unit was the discussion of the design of a library superhero.
Oh, our students are amazing!
They considered a library superhero that might: maintain an impeccable library, would provide everyone with all the books they needed, and would install a love of story in all.
Some superhero powers they discussed:
·         Indestructible books, the ability to FREEZE a book before it falls
·         One that I particularly loved: the ability to look into someone’s eyes and know just the book that s/he needed that day
·         The ability to summon all lost books from wherever they were
·         The ability to enter a book, or to bring a book to life
·         The ability to teleport to any library in the world
·         A BOOKNADO. With prompting, this student agreed that all books could land gently in the right places.
·         One student said “the ability to grow your budget.”  Thank you.
Superhero persons included Captain Book, Librario!, the Readers of the Lost Ark, and my favorite alter ego had a perfect name: Charlotte Webb.
See what I mean?  I love these kids!
Up, up and away.... to the shelves!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Glad to Have a Friend Like Beekle

This week, we're celebrating Dan Santat's Caldecott win.  The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend won the American Library Association's prize picture book on Monday.

Our library thinkers have been making BIG connections with this title, which features an imaginary friend just waiting for some child to imagine him.

And, the lucky imaginary friends who belong to these children!  This week we've been hearing about many imaginary friends. I share my own story of the imaginary horse I used to ride around when I was young (I wonder how ol' Blaze is doing these days?). Though puppies and kittens are leading the way, we've also listened to children's stories of:
* stuffed animals and dolls who come to life
* unicorns, pegasus and other fantasy creatures
* Angry Birds imaginary friends (IFs)
* IFs who help people sleep
* IFs who help us when we are sad (one student receives imaginary lollipops from her IF on these occasions)
* one has a "promise monster" who keeps promises
* one has a whole interactive soccer field as an IF
* several had royalty - kings, queens, princesses - one child's king grants each and every wish!
* a few students made me quite misty when they explained that a pet who had died is now their IF. What a lovely way to stay connected to goldfishes and cats that have left us.

Congratulations to Dan Santat, and our thanks, too, for inspiring us.  Some students who said they didn't have imaginary friends seemed very interested in their classmates' stories.  We may have to make extra room in the hallways for many new IFs in the days ahead.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Expect the Best; Prepare for the Worst

It is no secret that we're Scaredy Squirrel fans here at U School. What's not to like? Melanie Watts' tales of a persnickety rodent have brightened up many a library class.

As we know, Scaredy is always prepared for any eventuality.He'd never go anywhere without his handy-dandy emergency kit.

This week during library time, first graders put on their thinking caps and suggested items for the ultimate Scaredy Squirrel emergency kit.

Here are some of their suggestions:

Don't leave home without 'em.
A library kid is always prepared.
Who knows?  It could happen.
Minimalist and meta
Hmmmm?  Hey!  Who was in charge of inflating that football?

These elements are truly game changers for Scaredy.
Always, always useful; emergency or not.
Our completed kit takes up much of a wall.  With these suggestions, we're prepared for anything!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

One of our spectacular volunteers ran into an old friend while shelving books.
Magic Secrets had inspired childhood imagination and neighborhood magic shows, and seeing it again brought back a rush of pleasant memories.

We never know what book a child will connect with.  That's why we hope that kids will read widely, fiction and nonfiction, great literature and fluff. We sometime make assumptions that a student who chooses a book that seems too simple is not going to be challenged.  But we don't know what is going on in that child's brain.  Who knows what imaginative connections are being made, that might be useful in one's own imagination or actions?

When I worked in the children's department of public libraries, it was always a particular pleasure to re-connect an adult reader with a childhood favorite.  A person would generally come in, and say something like: "You're probably not going to know this book.  I read it when I was ten years old and haven't seen it since.  It's about..."  And, oh, the times when you could say, "Could it be [insert title here]?"  The eyes light up, you place it in their hands, and they greet a dear, old friend.  It rarely gets better than that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Libraries, Libraries, Libraries!

University students are inquirers! University students are open minded! University students are community service oriented! University students are internationally minded! I say this with confidence.

As a student teacher working with Ms. D’Eliso in the library, I have seen countless demonstrations of 3rd and 4th grade students demonstrating the core principles of the International Baccalaureate program over the last four weeks.

Together, the 3rd and 4th grade classes and I have embarked on a journey to learn more about libraries around the world. The first week focused on different types of libraries. We learned about the Monroe County Public Library Bookmobile and saw pictures of the original bookmobile, 85 years ago! The Bookmobile even makes a stop at University Elementary school every Thursday from 5:05-6:00pm.

(1929, MCPL Bookmobile History)

We learned about Little Free Libraries. Little Free Libraries can be built by anyone, in any shape and any size, and can be found anywhere and everywhere around the world. The Little Free Library operates on generosity and kindness. There are no librarians to check in and out books. Instead, anyone can take a book and leave a book.

There are Little Free Libraries popping up all over Bloomington. University students have been alert, spotting them in Park Ridge East Park, downtown, in people’s yards, even on a trip to New York City. Community service minded University students have helped build Little Free Libraries with their family members, others have told me about how they helped paint a Little Free Library made of pottery, and some demonstrated generosity and community spirit by not only taking books but donating books back to the Little Free Libraries so they continue to flourish.

In addition to Little Free Libraries and bookmobiles, students learned about tool libraries, the true story of Luis Soriano and his Biblioburro in Colombia, elephant libraries in Laos, telephone box libraries in England, and St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt - the oldest continually operating library in the world. It’s been around for over 1,500 years.

(Luis Soriano and his Biblioburro)

Last week students answered the question, “What would they do to protect the books they love?” Put it on a high shelf? Sue someone? Call the police? Secure it in a vault? After lively discussion students heard Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books which tells the true story of demonstrators standing up for a library they love. In January 2011, during the fight for democracy in Egypt, thousands of Egypt's students, library workers, and demonstrators surrounded the great Library of Alexandria and joined hands, forming a human chain to protect the building from looters and vandals. Students demonstrated global and cultural awareness by drawing connections between the non-violent actions in Egypt and those of Martin Luther King, Jr during the Civil Rights movement. They also reflected on their own rights in the U.S. - the freedom to eat what they want, read what they want, believe what they want - in comparison with other countries around the world. They embraced their rights by…..checking out more books!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Connecting the Dots

To celebrate International Dot Day this year, we decided to "connect the dots" with a school across town.  Our kindergarten, first and second graders made dots after reading the story.  So did the students at Templeton.  Laura Hall, Templeton librarian extraordinaire, and I sliced each dot in half. Then we exchanged them.  We made new art out of the scraps.  Colorful strands of dots now hang in the story room, and each dot has the work of four students in it.

Our students were so excited about seeing artwork that meshed our two schools, and they were thrilled to think that their art hung in another school in town.  As both schools begin our journey into the International Baccalaureate world, we begin to be curious about our neighbors, both in our town and around the world.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Does the Fox Say?

     I wanted to take the kids through a simple practice inquiry process, and needed a subject not too narrow, not to wide, but just right.  Inspiration struck when a fourth grade  student walked through the library singing “What Does the Fox Say?” (thanks, Olivia, for the inspiration).
     During the next library visit, we got to work.  We started by listing our THOUGHTS and our QUESTIONS about foxes.

Here are the types of things we thought:

  • They are members of the dog family.
  • They probably make vocal sounds.
  • Maybe their bodies and postures are used to communicate.
  • Like dogs, they might have territory issues and maybe communicate because of that.

Here are the types of things we wondered:

  • Do they make vocal sounds?
  • Is it possible that they are mute?
  • Do other parts of their body such as tail and ears help them to communicate?
  • How about posture and body positioning?
  • Do they use communication to mark their territory?  What kind of communication?
  • Do foxes have unique sounds only used by foxes?
  • Can foxes communicate with other members of the dog family?
  • How do foxes use their senses to communicate?

Where should we go to find out our answers?
The students decided on : Books, interviews with experts, zoo visit, websites, nature videos/TV, lectures, out to the wild/observation, articles

Possible search terms:
Fox, communication, fox sounds, yips and barks, vocal cords, dog family, animal language, body signals and language

     During the research process we learned about scanning for big ideas and reading for details, we took proper brief notes on important information, we evaluated websites for information, and we learned a lot. We used books, websites and video + audio clips.  Many of our early thoughts proved true, but there were a few surprises.

We learned…

  • That a fox uses its unique tail as a flag to communicate with other foxes.
  • A fox’s voice may be heard up to a mile away.
  •   Foxes make over 20 types of calls, and use most of them during the winter months.
  • Foxes leave their scent on bushes and rocks as another means of communication.     
  • Scientists continue to gain knowledge of fox communication; they are cataloging the various sounds made.

Yes, the song is annoying. But now at least you know the answer to the question it poses!