Monday, December 16, 2013

I Got MelonHeadz-ed!

Yaaay! It finally happened, that's right, I got MelonHeadz-ed! My ultimate "I finally made it" moment is seeing myself as a cartoon. Well, feast your eyes on this!

I am tickled pink by the talented Nikki and the rest of the crew over at Honey Bunch Blog Design! If you're not familiar with MelonHeadz, it's an absolute must! Her stuff is adorable and designed especially for the classroom. Aside from what can be found on Etsy, you can also order a custom "Build-a-Teacher" (as you can see, mine comes complete with Toms, wedding ring, iPad, books and Starbucks iced chai latte). And to my delightful surprise, it was far more reasonably priced than I expected.

Sigh... Adorable.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who Knew... "Who Was" Works Magic

My 5th through 8th grade students are required to read across a range of genres throughout the year. One genre that always prompts a lot of heel-digging is biographies. Our biography section is... Well, let's just call it a little "dusty." It's not a section that I'm proud of. In an effort to not only help the kids fulfill their requirement, but also get them interested in reading non-fiction, I ordered the complete Who Was series. These short, illustrated biographies are great for my middle grade readers. I found there are a ton of great biographies for children and a ton of great biographies for high schoolers, but the ones in between, fell through the cracks. This series is the perfect supplement.

Best of all, when I delivered them to the 5th grade classroom, they went WILD. Now that's librarian magic.

Photo credit: Ideas by Jivey


Preschool Storytime: Choo-Choo!

If our ragged Thomas the Tank Engine books were any indication, I knew our train storytime would be a big hit! Feeling extra ambitious, I wanted to do a fun project to top it all off. Little did I know, this would be a storytime to go down in the record books.

It all started with Esther's CrafttoArt "Thumbprint/Fingerprint Freight Train" post. I loved her colorful thumbprint train so much that I quickly went on a mad search for large, washable, child-safe ink pads. After a fruitless search at Target, Michaels and Joann Fabrics (they all have a plethora of stamp pads, but either they're permanent or I would have needed to spend a bundle of money and buy one of every color), I was about to give up. That's when my husband chimed in and suggested using those cheap little watercolor paint trays. Now, I had my doubts, but it turned out he's brilliant. Not only were they incredibly inexpensive, they were also super kid-friendly and much less messy.

Book: Hey, Mr. Choo-Choo, Where Are You Going? by Susan Wickberg and Yumi Heo
I absolutely adored this book. It was so catchy and the kids just loved to sing along. It might have been a little too catchy... I found myself singing it for days after I finished storytime. And after thinking about it, the song is now happily bouncing around in my brain once again.

Rhyme: The Wheels on the Train (to the tune of Wheels on the Bus)
Conductor on the train says, "All aboard!"
Whistle on the train goes toot, toot, toot!
Wheels on the train go clackety-clack!
The crossing gates go clang, clang, clang!
People on the train go bumpety-bump!

Credit: Miss Jenny Reads

Book: Train Man by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha
A fun story that was a favorite of the kiddos who are already train enthusiasts. I will say, when I was short on time for some of the classes, this is the story I left out. The first book, Hey Mr. Choo-Choo got them excited about the theme and the last book was important for leading into our craft. I liked the book, but if need be, this was the one I would leave out.

Book: Freight Train by Donald Crews
We went from Train Man straight into Freight Train and for all of my classes, I was very impressed at their ability to hold their attention and sit still that long. Granted, wearing a conductor hat and blowing a train whistle never hurts... This classic story was a great intro to our craft.
Craft: Thumbprint Train
I cut pieces of white card stock in half and then draw a horizontal line across the bottom of the paper using a black marker. The kiddos did this project one-on-one with either myself, the assistant librarian or one of their classroom teachers while the other kids picked out their books. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to go over my 30 minute time limit, if need be, and this was definitely one of those times. I am also incredibly lucky to generally have myself, the assistant librarian, and two to three classroom teachers during the preschool storytime. We kept a watercolor paint tray and very wet paper towels inside of Ziploc bags at each station. The adult helped to guide the kids' thumbs to the paper towel and then to the paint (we made sure to get it very "goopy" with paint). After the classes left and their trains dried, I added the small details and painted the smoke on using leftover water color. The preschool teachers were thrilled when they would see the finished product. VERY successful!

 Credit: CrafttoArt and Ed Emberley


Name That Character

Today, second graders listened to several character traits while tuning into their inner illustrator. They used the character clues, plus their imagination to illustrate a secret character. We talked about how each person has their own imagination so the pictures may look different, even though we all hear the same clues. I was very impressed! Any guesses...


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Animoto for Educators

I recently shared my introduction to Animoto, a video creation tool, and have been playing and creating ever since. In an effort to help teachers bring Animoto into their classrooms, I've put together a quick step-by-step tutorial.

Step One: Check out this tutorial video:

Step Two: Sign up for a general Animoto account here.

Step Three: Apply for the Animoto Educator benefits here. It can take a bit for education accounts to be approved, so I suggest starting with the basic account while you wait for approval. The educator account allows you access to more templates and offers more sharing options, while still being free. Yay, free!

Step Four: Time to start brainstorming! What would you like your video or digital story to be about? What would you like your students' videos to be about? Jot down ideas and then start to put them into a storyboard. Saskatoon Public Schools has posted some great storyboards, check out some examples here (lower school) and here (upper to middle school).

Step Five: Time to compile your images, Creative Commons is a great place to find tons of media that is copyright-friendly, start your search here. New to using Creative Commons or searching for images that are "copyright-friendly"? Talk to me about how to get started!

Step Six: Go to your Animoto account and click "Create."

Step Seven: Select a theme for your video. To preview the various themes, click and watch a short demonstration. Remember, until your educator account is approved or you pay to upgrade, many of the themes are unavailable to use.

Step Eight: Select your theme and click "Create Video."

Step Nine: Click the plus sign to add photos, videos or text. Remember to give credit when using the work of others.

Step Ten: Put your slides in the right order, add captions (if you'd like) and choose the song you like best.

Step Eleven: Preview your video and if you like it, PUBLISH!

Step Twelve: Share your video with others!

Check out another example I whipped up below or click here for some student examples.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Yet Another User-Friendly Tool

As I continue my journey of discovering exciting new-to-me tools, I was thrilled to get a crash course on Animoto, a web-based video creation program. In an attempt to harness my hope to prompt my students to explore topics they're interested in, I created my own little promotional video. I plan to use the video to open the unit and then move into a discussion about formulating research questions based on our own curiosities. Check out the video:


Poetry for Our Toughest Critics

Working with Americorp, I met more than a handful of students that long ago lost faith in the good of the world and here I was, just another "adult" trying to engage them in topics they could care less about. Fresh out of college (with the face and energy of a 12 year-old), I had no idea how to earn the respect of these "kids" who had experienced more in their 16 years than I could ever imagine. With histories of juvenile detention, abandoned parents and looming bills, I knew it would take more than a well thought-out lesson plan to connect with these young people. After listening to their stories, I discovered the power of poetry. Now, I'm not a poet myself. I hated the very idea of poetry. To me, there was no meaning. I never understood it. I never connected with it. Well, perhaps, I was just never presented with the "right" kind of poetry... Together, with a room full of rough and tough teenagers, stemming from a conversation about our favorite music, we explored the idea of music as poetry. And it changed everything. It opened their eyes to poetry, it opened my mind to poetry and it opened my heart to teaching through understanding, connection and compassion. What sparked it all? Daniel Beaty's "Knock Knock" piece with Def Jam Poetry. Not song lyrics per say, but powerless, nonetheless.


Podcast Practice

I've spent the last few weeks learning about fantastic digital tools to be used in the classroom through Tamritz Badge Learning and was recently introduced to the art of podcasting. Though I can't claim to be an artist, I do see a lot of library podcasting potential in our future! I think our kiddos would have a blast promoting the favorite books using PodOmatic, a easy-to-use podcast creation program. Check out my very first attempt at podcasting, using Gorgonzola: A Very STINKYsaurus by Margie Palatini:

P.S. - Just as a heads up, if you're recoding in the closet as an attempt to record without the interruption of spouses, children, pets or ... washing machines, your podcast will have a loud echo. And even after all that, they will still find you! :-)


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School Books

It's that time of year again... The beach gear is getting packed up and the house smells of freshly sharpened pencils and new sneakers. I think the perfect way to celebrate new starts and prepare for the unknown is through... You guessed it, BOOKS!!!

One of my favorite back to school books is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and Judith DuFour Love. Sarah Jane Hartwell is not quite ready for the school year to start, it's scary to be new! Find out how Sarah gets through her first day and watch out for a fun surprise ending! Busy Teacher's Cafe has put together a ton of great resources to go with First Day Jitters.

Looking for other back to school books? Parent's Choice has put together a great list of books for all ages of first day-ers.

Have a wonderful first day of school!

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