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!

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!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An End to March Madness: We Have a Winner!

What a fun March it was in the library.  We let the blustery winter blow while we enjoyed the art of the picture book. Every true Hoosier takes on a certain hysteria during this month, and we experienced a bit of that at University School.

During the first week of March, we introduced March Madness, Picture Book Version in a huge pep rally. Cheers! Drum rolls! Picture books flashing across the screen!  Thanks to the many teachers who got the kids pumped up for books.  Our Sweet Sixteen titles were met with great enthusiasm.  They were, in alphabetical order:

Boot and Shoe written and illustrated by Marla Frazee.                
The Day the Crayons Quit written by Drew Daywalt; pictures by Oliver Jeffers.
Flora and the Flamingo written and illustrated by Molly Idle.     
Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  
How To written and illustrated by Julie Morstad.                                          
If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano; pictures by Erin Stead                       
Journey by Aaron Becker.                                             
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown.  
More written by I.C. Springman; illustrated by Brian Lies. 
No Fits, Nilson! written and illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Oh, No! written by Candace Fleming; pictures by Eric Rohmann.
Open This Little Book written by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee.
So Many Days written by Alison McGhee; pictures by Taeeun Yoo.
The Story of Fish & Snail written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great written and illustrated by Bob Shea.  
Xander’s Panda Party written by Linda Sue Park; illustrated by Matt Phelan.

All of these excellent titles have been received at our school during the last calendar year.

After the rally, the fun work of evaluating the titles began. Various matchings were seeded by differing grade levels, from kindergarten to grade six.  The older grades understood that their response to a book might be different from younger students, but that they had valuable skills that could be employed.
Week-by-week, we worked our way from 16 to 8, to a Final Four, then two. The students turned a critical eye to the books, examining how a cover or endpapers can set a tone, how word and image work together to tell a story, and how details can bring greater understanding.  Whenever possible, we examined the artistic media employed, and learned about techniques and media that were new to us.

All the books were enjoyed, but the efforts of our students paid off in a final winner, announced today.
They decided that the book that most entranced and delighted them was The Day the Crayons Quit. The story of a box full of crayons holding a protest provoked discussion, opinions, questions and laughter! 
Congratulations to author Drew Daywalt and illustrator Oliver Jeffers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stuck on Reading

    Reading motivation. It's been the subject of conferences, books, discussions, and articles too numerous to count. This year, we found a very effective motivator.
     The challenge was this.  During the month of February, students would receive a log.  They would read at least 20 minutes per night for at least 20 nights and have parents initial their logs.  Responsibly returning it to the teacher would earn them.... a piece of tape.

     But this would be special tape, for a special purpose. The duct tape would be used to stick our principals to the wall at our Read Across America celebration on the first week of March.
     SO much feedback! Parents were reporting record-breaking reading each night! I fielded questions such as "If I read 40 minutes each night, can I get twice as much tape?" or "We've got duct tape at home.  Can I bring it in and use that too?"  Our principal, Mrs. McClaine, and assistant principal, Mrs. Plumer, winners of this year's "Good Sports" awards, also received comments and many sly glances from students in the hallways.
     The month passed quickly, and our celebration was upon us.  Eager tapers lined up.

                                                                                                                                            The most amazing volunteers in the world kept everything running smoothly and kept the tape flowing!


Even teachers got in on the act.  I believe that Mrs. McClaine is asking to see proof of completion on Mrs. King's reading log.
The students read A LOT.  But would it be enough to actually to support our principals... even if the stools were removed?  Click HERE to watch the countdown!

Thanks once again to our amazing principals and to all the volunteers who made it all happen.
Thank you to Mrs. Killion for the photos shown here and to Mrs. Knepper for the video.  In fact, Mrs. Knepper was on camera duty for the entire event. All were able to watch on our "jumbotron" as she captured the exciting moments.
Stick with reading!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hats, and More, for the Jizos

Our study of East Asia continues in the library.  We've been experiencing the global art of storytelling.  Last week, we enjoyed a story called Hats for the Jizos from Japan. The storytelling technique employed was kamishibai theatre. Employed in Japan for hundreds of years, the small kamishibai theatre holds picture cards that help to tell the story.  Kamishibai was very influential in the development of Japanese television and currently popular arts, such as manga and anime.
The story shared in library class centered around a kind, humble man who sees statues our in the snow and puts hats on their heads to protect them from the elements.
    We learned about jizo statues. Our research told us that these statues exist in nearly every town in Japan.
They are there to greet and protect travelers, and can be seen along roads and paths.  We enjoyed looking at the images.  Some are very plain and others are elaborate; sometimes there is on statue and sometimes there are many. 
 People often leave clothing or other gifts for the jizos.

We all enjoyed the story, and then yesterday, something rather odd happened.
Outside the library, someone had drawn some jizo statues and pinned them to the wall.
Then I noticed several others around the building.  By now I have seen many jizo statues appearing.  I can honestly say that I have nothing to do with it.  I suspect some kind and enthusiastic students may be responsible.

I hope we all start leaving little decorations for the jizos. You can "teach" kids, and fill their heads with ideas and information, But, it's a beautiful thing when students take ownership and take their learning to the next level.
Oshimai = "the end."