Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Great article!

Laura B. sent me this link to a great article about school and classroom libraries.  Nice find!

The Ultimate Classroom Library: Your School Media Center

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book of the Week: The Higher Power of Lucky

Around Halloween, I reviewed the most recent Newbery Award winner, The Graveyard Book.  I thought that the holiday season would be a great time to review another Newbery winner, in case people are looking for last-minute gift ideas.  I'm not going to mention the 2008 Newbery winner, except to say that it was absolutely awful (which you will very rarely hear me say) and I firmly believe that the only reason why it won was because it was written by a librarian and the people on the Newbery committee were showing their solidarity.  So we'll go back another year to the 2007 winner, The Higher Power of Lucky.

Granted, Susan Patron, the author of The Higher Power of Lucky, was also a childrens' librarian (for 35 years, no less), but I don't feel that played a part in this novel being chosen for the Newbery.  This is a novel that has something for everyone.  There has been a lot of controversy over this book, and I can see both sides of the issue.  Yes, the word "scrotum" is in the book.  Yes, scrotum is 100% gratuitous.  Yes, Lucky's dog could have been bitten anywhere...on the foot, on the leg....it didn't have to be the scrotum.  But  someone smart once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  People were talking about this book.  "Scrotum" is apparently scandalous!  It created an uproar in the library community.  At the time this was happening, I had to wonder why all of these outraged people didn't have better things to do with their time.  I'm sure that if I headed over to my 612's, I would find the word "scrotum" in plenty of books, along with some even more colorful words.  But people were up in arms.

Despite the shock value, the book won the Newbery, and it deserved it.  Lucky is like a modern-day Ramona Quimby: spunky, inquisitive, and full of life.  After losing her mother in a tragic accident, her father's estranged wife, Brigitte, leaves France to care for Lucky.   Lucky is sure that her "higher power" will make her life less difficult.  In the meantime, she decides to always be prepared and carry around a survival kit, just in case.  This will come in handy when Lucky thinks that Brigitte is planning on returning to France, which prompts Lucky to run away, along with an unexpected travel companion.  Students will relate to Lucky and her unfortunate experiences--if they are like me, they will both laugh and cry.

Personally, I would not shy away from doing this as a read-aloud.  I have a feeling that if you read the infamous scrotum sentence and just kept going, students wouldn't even notice.  I highly doubt there would be any gasps of shock in the room.  And if anyone did ask, it could be easily defined as part of a dog's body. Don't let one word ruin the chance for a great read-aloud.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book of the Week: One Giant Leap

Fifth grade is studying the Moon, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to do a read-aloud about something that I love to read about, which is non-fiction.  Over the summer, I read Too Far From Home: a Story of Life and Death in Space, which is the nail-biting story of the Expedition Six mission to the International Space Station in 2003.  Their three-month trip turned into a five-month trip after the space shuttle Columbia exploded and NASA grounded all other space flights. (They did not bring enough food or supplies for an extended stay, so their return home was in jeopardy).  I was very happy to have read what life was like in orbit, because our reading of One Giant Leap resulted in many questions and discussions about what it is like to travel to space.

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh commemorates the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's Moon landing. The text is accessible and the illustrations are beautifully detailed, yet dreamy at the same time.  The book discusses the feelings and fears of the astronauts and does a wonderful job of giving an inside glimpse of what the men were thinking.  In the future, I might pair this book with another that discusses day-to-day life in orbit (being strapped into bed so they don't float around all night, changing their clothes once a week), but we paired this book with an investigation of NASA's website.  This book would be a great piece of a non-fiction or space-themed lesson.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book of the week: NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Po Bronson's NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children was recommended in my favorite magazine, The WeekThe Week rarely lets me down, so I expected great things from this book, and I was not disappointed.  This book is a compilation of the latest scientific research about children and how modern parenting ideas are failing our youngsters.

Each chapter deals with a different aspect of parenting: praise (given way too often), sleep (getting less than ten hours per night takes the equivalent of two school years off of performance) and race (kindergarteners will notice race and come to their own conclusions, whether you mention it or not), to name a few.  This is a fascinating read for anyone who deals with children and challenges many of the rules that we have been taught to believe.  This title would make a wonderful choice for a school-wide book discussion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Picture Book of the Week: School Lunch

When I printed the statistics for my monthly report for November, I was suprised to see that School Lunch by True Kelley was the most popular picture book in the month of November.  It is a new title for us this year, but I hadn't taken the time to really look at it until  now.

Harriet, the cook at Lincoln School,  is tired from making healthy lunches for the students, so she decides to take a vacation.  The book consists mostly of letters sent from the students to Harriet, describing the horrible replacements that Mr. Fitz, the school principal, scrapes up.   While this wouldn't be one that I would do for a read-aloud, classroom teachers might consider it when talking about letter-writing.  Kids will enjoy the humorous meals that the various cooks serve up, and it could be tied in with a nutrition lesson, too.  You might have a hard time getting your hands on a copy, though...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If you can't beat it...appreciate it

I am blogging in my PJs on a weekday afternoon because we had a snow day today.  While I was out shoveling at 6 am, cursing the snow (out loud, I might add), I remembered that I wanted to post the website that I am using with third grade this week, snowflakebentley.com.  While most of us grumble and complain about snow, Wilson Bentley devoted his whole life to documenting the beauty of snowflakes.

A third grade teacher requested a non-fiction book for their lesson this week, so we disucssed nonfiction and biographies.  We read Jacqueline Briggs Martin's Snowflake Bentley, which is not only a gorgeous example of a biography, but it is also a Caldecott medal winner.  We then looked at photographs of his snowflakes online.  His life's work turns something that most of us hate and dread into a mystical work of art. Check out the site, read the book, and think about him the next time you are achy from shoveling and asking yourself why you don't live in sunny California.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chapter book of the week: The Van Gogh Cafe

I am a little ashamed to admit it, but I don't read fantasy books.  I would much rather read historical fiction or nonfiction, and I can't even remember the last fantasy book that I willingly read.  I picked Cynthia Rylant's The Van Gogh Cafe from the stack of new books, knowing nothing about it except for the fact that it got rave reviews.  Now I see why; this charming little book is a delightful fantasy.

The Van Gogh Cafe is housed in what used to be a theater.  Theaters are always magical, according to the main character, Clara.  And magical things do happen at the Van Gogh Cafe: breakfasts cook themselves, the owner, Marc (Clara's father) writes poems that predict the future, and cats fall in love with seagulls.  Each chapter highlights a bit of magic that occurs in this sleepy little Kansas town. This would be a great introduction to fantasy, or it would make a great classroom read aloud.  It is very short (53 pages), and contains many springboards for classroom discussions about writing, such as small moments, imaginative similes, and a person who wants to be a writer but feels that he doesn't have the talent.  This will be suggested to many a reluctant reader in the months to come!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Picture Book of the Week: The Three Snow Bears

Jan Brett is our Author/Illustrator of the month in December.  Not only do I love her illustrations and the way that she supports schools and libraries, but I also want to highlight some authors who are not old white men.  Since her birthday is in December, she seemed like a perfect fit.

We recently got one of her new titles, The Three Snow Bears.  This is a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with some differences, of course.  It takes place in northern Canada,  Goldilocks is an Inuit, and the bears are polar bears.  I have been doing a great lesson with first grade, comparing and contrasting this to Jan Brett's version of Goldilocks.  This would be a great story to support a lesson discussing arctic life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book of the week: Larger-Than-Life Lara

Dandi Daley Mackall's Larger Than Life Lara would be a great read-aloud for fourth or fith grade.  Laney Grafton narrates the story of how 300-lb Lara Phelps joins her class, and the impact that has on Laney and everyone else.  Each chapter is titled with a different element of writing, such as frozen moment, setting, dialogue, oppostion, and cliffhangers.  This title would be a great tie-in with Writer's Workshop, and the students with sympathize with Lara's stuggle with being teased.  This would also be a great tool for discussing bullying and being different.

Picture book of the week: S is for Story: a Writer's Alphabet

Sleeping Bear Press has many titles in their Alphabet Book series; we own many at Elmer Library, including E is for Empire: a New York State Alphabet, B is for Battle Cry: a Civil War Alphabet,  and A is for America: an American Alphabet.  Esther Hershenhorn's S is for Story: a Writer's Alphabet is a great way to introduce young authors to writing vocabulary.  Each letter of the alphabet highlights a writing term with a short rhyming poem, and additional information is given in paragraph form along the side.  Terms defined include notebook, observe, genre, edit, and character.  Whimsical illustrations complete this charming book.  This title could be used with just about any age group, and it would be fun to have students write their own versions of the writer's alphabet book.  I think I feel a project coming on....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chapter book of the Week: the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I had another title all picked out and ready to go for my chapter book of the week, but that title is just going to have to wait until next week.  I read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when it first came out in 2004--it caused quite a stir as a crossover adult/young adult book.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  My husband and I were standing in line to check out during our weekly trip to the public library when I glanced over at the book recommendation display, and there it was.  I told him to grab it for himself, because it is such a novel idea, and he had never read it.  I thought that I would re-read the first chapter, just to refresh my memory, so we could talk about it when he was done, but I couldn't put it down.  Needless to say, he is just going to have to wait until I am done re-reading the whole thing.

I wanted to post reviews of only books that I own at either Yates or Elmer, in case someone read my blog and wanted to read the title that I had reviewed.  I don't own this book at either library, however; it is an adult book.  But I think it would be a worthwhile read for any teacher because the book is told from an autistic child's point of view.  Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone finds his neighbor's poodle murdered on her front yard and decides to solve the case.  His school social worker had encouraged him to write a book, so he writes about his investigation. Seeing our world through his eyes is totally fresh and endearing, and it made me appreciate  how difficult and confusing it must be for our autistic students to navigate through their school days. 

Picture book of the week: Thanksgiving Is...

I love Gail Gibbons.  She can take any non-fiction subject that you wouldn't necessarily find interesting, like the post office, and write a great book about it.  I think that non-fiction is finally getting the recognition that it deserves, in part because of our new reading series, and it makes perfect sense.  If children are going to read, why not read and learn at the same time?  And non-fiction has long been the genre of choice for many boys, so it is great to see their preferences become mainstream.

As I said in an earlier post, I have been discussing Thanksgiving with my students.  Decent non-fiction Thanksgiving books are actually hard to come by, but Gail Gibbons did a great job with Thanksgiving Is...  It has colorful illustations and plenty of opportunities to make text-to-self connections.  If you are looking for a quick but in-depth overview, you won't be disappointed.

Helicopter Parents

I was intrigued by the cover article in Time magazine this week: helicopter parents.  I haven't seen too much of this in the Schenectady school district, but it was very common in my last job in the ' burbs.  I had a mother chastise me for recommending the Babar books for her 3-year-old because there was no way she was going to subject her child to those imperialistic viewpoints...what was I thinking?  Really.  He is a talking elephant who wears suits and carries a cane.  But anyway, I found the article fascinating.  Being overprotective is harmful to both children and parents.  The article made me wonder which is more harmful...too much parent involvement, or not enough?

Can These Parents Be Saved: the Growing Backlash Against Over-Parenting

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chapter Book of the Week: The Mysterious Benedict Society

It has always been a secret wish of mine to be a secret agent.  Who wouldn't want to sneak around and learn everything you can about someone else?  The book of the week, Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society, is about four gifted orphans who join a secret society to try to save the world.  Will they be able to work together to outsmart the evil Mr. Curtain?  Read and find out!

Poster Contest Winners!

This fall, Elmer Library had its second annual poster contest. We had a record number of entries this year: 47!  It was a very tough choice, but we selected one winner from each grade.  The winners are:

Kindergarten: Christopher M.

First Grade: Jenna A.

Second Grade: Saul C.

Third Grade: Perrida L.

Fourth Grade: Nadiya B.

Fifth Grade: Nyara T.

Sixth Grade: Felicia O., Simran R., Gabbie P.

All posters will be hung in the library for the rest of the school year.  Other people who made posters are:

Nicholas C.
Lindsey D.
Imonie W.
Harley K.
Rebecca R.
Breanna B.
Josh A.
Damarie R.
Audley B.
Michelle U.
Kimberly R.
Josh E.
Denise D.
Arnez M.
Kiara E.
Nyzir H.
Morgyn L.
Gabriella R.
Keizyiah M.
Kaseem J.
Alex M.
Dante T.
Jeffrey C.
Preetima M.
Sabina M.
Pamela L.
Ayshana C.
Ralena G.
Nakyla J.
Tiffany I.
Angela P.
Margaret H.
Isa B.
Shontiara W.

Congratulations, everyone!

Picture Book of the Week: 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It is a holiday all about eating and family without the pressure of finding the perfect gift and totally decorating the house. I was born on Thanksgiving Day, actually, and when I was younger, I used to think that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was just for me. I know better now, of course, but it is still my favorite holiday. And in honor of my favorite holiday, I have chosen a comical book for our picture book of the week: 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. As you might have guessed, it is modeled after the old classic, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. In this version, a class takes a field trip to a turkey farm. While they are there, the students make the connection between the cute clucking turkeys and their upcoming Thanksgiving feast. In the end, the students all decide to have turkey for dinner, but not in the way that you would expect! This is a great holiday read that can be appreciated by just about any age group from kindergarten right on up.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chapter book of the week: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

As I said in an earlier post, our new circulation program, OPALs, prints wonderful reports.  Not only does it keep track of almost any statistic imaginable (want to know what the boys in Miss Breen's class checked out last month?  No problem!), it also lists the one title that was checked out the most for any given month.  Not surprisingly, the most circulated item in Elmer Avenue for the month of November was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

This is the second book out of four in the series.  Our loveable, yet misfortunate Greg Heffley is back, along with his mean older brother, Rodrick.  Rodrick's main goal in life seems to be tormenting Greg.  Greg desperately wants one embarrassing incident from his summer vacation to remain a secret, but things have a way coming to light, especially when there is a journal involved....

Picture book of the week: The M & M's Counting Book

I love our new circulation software.  Not only can you access it from any computer with internet access, but it also prints wonderful reports.  October was the first full month that we used the OPALs software, and when I printed our statistics report in the beginning of November, I found a little bit of trivia at the bottom (and I love trivia!)--the most circulated book at Yates for the month of October was not a spooky story, as you might guess; it was The M & M's Counting Book.  This title was checked out six times in October!

Yes, it might seem a little commercial, because those smiling M & M's, with arms and legs, are on every page, but it is a great way for students to practice counting, number recognition, number sets, shapes, adding, subtracting, colors, and rhyming.  All in one book.  This title, along with some actual M & M's (without the arms and legs, of course) would make for a very exciting lesson for your students in grades K-2.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chapter book of the week: Sunny Holiday

Local author Coleen Murtagh Paratore (author of the popular Wedding Planner's Daughter series) has a new book out: Sunny Holiday.  This title is written for a slightly younger audience than her previous books, (the main character is in fourth grade) and is sure to please.  Sunny  is a spunky fourth grader living in the fictional town of Riverton (which has many similarities to Troy).  Her father is in jail and her mother often works long hours, so Sunny decides to brighten up her life by adding a kid-centered holiday to every month to give herself something to look forward to.  Despite her hard life, Sunny almost always lives up to her name, and is a great example of having a positive attitude and outlook on life.  This would make a great read-alound for 3rd-5th grade classes; not only would students sympathize with Sunny, but they would also get a kick out of all of the local references.

Picture book of the week: Duck! Rabbit!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld are co-authors of the adorable new book Duck!  Rabbit!  Two unseen narrators cannot agree on the animal in this book...is it a duck, or a rabbit?  Not only would it make a great read-aloud, it is a great example of how two different points of view could both be correct.  Check it out and let me know which you think it is!

Author of the Month

In the Elmer library, we highlight an author every month.  The author of the month for November is Lois Ehlert.  She has written many books, and we own twelve.  I love the way she uses collage in her illustrations.  Her fall titles include Leaf Man, Boo to You!, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, and Nuts to You!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Teacher Resources

Part of my job is to provide resources for classroom teachers. Please let me know when you need materials for your classrooms or websites to support what you are doing in the classrooms. I distribute planning sheets every month to coordinate my lessons with yours, but I would also love to do research project with your classes. I have every Friday morning open from 9-9:45, so let know if you would like to work on a special project!

We also subscribe to many professional journals, including Mailbox and Reading Teacher.

Here are some links that might be helpful to you:

Nettrekker: this is a fabulous database that provides interactive websites and lesson plan ideas, all reviewed by professional educators. It was described to me as "Google on steroids."

Brainpop: Entertain and educate your students about a variety of topics with our favorite cartoon robot, Moby.

World Book Online Encyclopedia: check out this online version of the high quality encyclopedia.

Discovery Education: find great video clips or clip art to share with your students.

Please see me if you need usernames and passwords, or if you would like to get together to plan a lesson using one of these online tools!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Picture book of the week: Ghosts in the House!

If you are looking for a cute book for Halloween, check out Kazuno Kohara's Ghosts in the House! A witch buys a house that is haunted and thinks of very creative ways to deal with the ghosts, including giving them a spin in the washing machine. This charming book is just right for kindergarten and first grade.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chapter book of the week: Savvy

Have you ever wished that you had magical powers?  In the Newbery honor book, Savvy, written by Ingrid Law, everyone in Mibs Beaumont's family has a savvy, or magical power, that appears on their thirteenth birthday.  Mibs's grandmother can move mountains.  Her brother Rocket can make electricity.  On the night before her birthday, Mibs is worried.  What will her power be? When her father is injured in a car accident, Mibs decides to sneak into the hospital and use her unknown savvy to save him.  When she realizes that the bus that she snuck into is headed in the wrong direction, her troubles begin.  Mibs's journey is one that you'll never forget!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Picture book of the week: The House in the Night

Susan Marie Swanson's lastest book, The House in the Night, is the 2009 Caldecott Award winner.  This lovely picture book uses just three colors: black, white, and yellow to depict what light looks like as it fills a house at night.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chaper book of the week: The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman’s lastest book, The Graveyard Book, is the 2009 Newbery Award winner. Not for the faint of heart, this book takes place in a graveyard. Nobody Owens is a regular boy being raised by ghosts after the death of his parents. This book is a mix of mystery, fantasy, and humor. Will Nobody solve the mysterious death of his family? Read and find out!

Elmer Avenue school students are published poets!

During the 2008-2009 school year, library classes in grades 3-6 wrote haikus and entered them in a poetry-writing contest. Ten current Elmer students were selected to have their poems published in a book of poetry. The following students have poems published in Young American Poetry Digest; the library owns a copy of the book and it is available for check-out. Congratulations to our published authors!

Austin A., fifth grade
Summer Vacation
Big hot vacation
Many people come to play
In the field to laugh

Breanna B., fourth grade
Polar Bears
Polar bears are white.
It’s my favorite animal.
It is snowy here.

Ally C., fifth grade
Warm crisp apple pie
The hot cocoa is burning
When you wrap yourself.

Destiny D., fourth grade
Fireflies light up
From the evening to the night.
I watch fireflies.

Alyssa H., fourth grade
Nature has beauty
There are many kinds indeed
All over the world

Anajah H., fourth grade
White is falling down.
What could it be?
Perhaps it is snow.

Ben H., fifth grade
I like vacation
I sweat all day in the summer
Then grab a cold drink

Margaret M., sixth grade
Here I am in Maine
York Beach to be exact
Shining sun on me

Faith W., fourth grade
Apples are growing
They are sweet and delicious
Granny Smith is great

Hermine W., fourth grade
It is warm today
The sun is shining
It is getting cool

Amber J., former Elmer student
Our teachers rock!
Teachers help you with school work!
Thank you for the help!

Dechelle T., former Elmer student
Books are all colors.
As authors form fun letters,
And readers read books.

Breana M., former Elmer student
Interesting books.
The pictures remind me of days.
Cool books and pictures.

Unice D., former Elmer student
I drank tea today
It was so sweet like honey
It felt good inside

Lilly M., former Elmer student
Mirrors all around
I can't stop spinning around
In my leotard

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A peek inside the library...

What would you see if you visited  the Elmer Avenue library?  You might see a kindergarten class discussing fire safety while examining an actual firefigher's outfit.  Or a first-grade class participating in an interactive read-aloud, or a second-grade class practicing alphabetizing words on the Smartboard.  Or a third-grade class participating in Reader's Theater.  Or a fourth-grade class learning how to use the online catalog.  Or a fifth-grade class using the computers to do a webquest about economics.   Or a sixth-grade class doing a Dewey Decimal scavenger hunt.  And all that activity is in a two-week time period!

Not only do we provide computers with internet access and subscription databases, we also have over 9,000 books that students may borrow.  We also provide teachers with a professional collection, academic journals, and videos and DVDs to supplement classroom instruction.  And if we don't have a what someone needs, we do our best to get it.

Elmer Avenue was the first public elementary school in New York state to have a school library.  What a wonderful claim to fame!

Library times, they are a-changing!

I was very shocked to read this article in the Times Union. Albany Public Library is abandoning the well-loved Dewey Decimal System in favor of a more user-friendly bookstore arrangement. I wonder if this will become a trend?

Its Number Up, Dewey is 86ed

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our new online catalog

Check out our new online catalog! You can check to see what books we own from the comfort of your couch, or any other computer with internet access. You can even see a listing of our newest books!

OPALs online catalog

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Thank you for checking out Elmer Avenue Elementary School's blog. Check back frequently to read about current happenings in the library!