Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week of January 21

This week began a very special time for our Liverpool School District family.  Last year, we lost a valued and much loved team member, librarian Lori Bresnahan.  To honor her and create lasting positive memories in her name, the district has begun a new award, entitled the Lori Bresnahan award.  Over the next few weeks, students will be introduced to ten different books and will vote on their favorite.  Their favorite will receive the award, much like the Charlotte Award (an award much loved by Ms. Bresnahan because the winner is decided by students).  Middle school district students are involved in creating the award that will be affixed to the book, and the high school students are creating an online voting website. 

Kindergarten through Fourth Grade-

Both because Ms. Bresnahan had such a beautiful smile and because I hope to instill in our children the idea of “paying it forward,” the story I started with was Because Amelia Smiled, by David Ezra Stein.  In this story, the children see how one kind act, like a beautiful smile, can travel all the way around the world and make many people happy in many different ways.  After we learned about the award, and heard the story, children began filling out a graphic organizer.  For each book, they will judge on the quality of the illustrations, the word choice of the author, how well paired the illustration and words are, the storyline, and the length.  They will use the same criteria for each book, so at the end of the process, they will have learned to be deliberate in their choice.

Fifth and sixth graders will be using a pair and share system in a few weeks to review the books and make their choices for the Bresnahan Award.

Fifth Grade- Last week I read the first chapter of Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast, by Jane Yolen.  This week, in a compare and contrast, I read The Race of the Golden Apples, by Claire Martin.  After we talked about some of the differences and similarities, we continued researching our Greek god/goddess.  Some students have begun their playing card.

Sixth Grade- Students have been working hard, combining elements of doing a close reading of a complex non-fiction text, practicing to create and share a project, and use the notecard function in Noodletools (see previous post).  Most students are now at the step where they have pasted in parts of the article into the notecard, and are now working in pairs to summarize the information in their own words in the appropriate part of the notecard. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Week of January 13, 2014

Kinder- We shared, reading together, the book Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep, written by Maureen Wright and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.  Students really enjoyed reading their part, which is to keep telling big bear to “sleep, big bear, sleep” in different volumes and with different facial expressions.  And they all laugh when bear finally says, “Well, why didn’t you say so?”  Then we talked about the role of the illustrator, and how Will Hillenbrand was kind enough to provide pictures that students can add to from the story, ( )
Students were allowed to draw in characters from the book, or make up their own.  Lots of them wanted to be in the jeep with Bear as he drove it around!
Then everyone picked out books for the week.

Second Kindergarten- We read Denise Fleming’s book Time to Sleep.  While the book takes place in fall, it still offers a great chance for us to continue discussing hibernation.  We then went back through the story to look closely at how each animal hibernates a little differently.  The students were especially excited to see the ladybug, as they are discussing them in class.  After we read the book, we watched the Bookflix version of Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson.  We were able to do a compare/contrast of the two stories and what animals hibernate and what ones do not.  Last but not least, everyone found a new book!

First grade- I have loved this book since it came out, and is one I enjoy sharing with first grade- One Cool Friend, written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small.  This book was a Caldecott honor in 2013, and after reading it through the first time, the students were amazed to go through the book again and find well-hidden clues about the ending!  We then discussed why Elliot likes penguins and why his father likes turtles, and the similarities each has to their favorite animal visible in the pictures.  Then students drew pictures of themselves and an animal they relate to.  They also completed a sentence of “I am like a ­­­­­­_______, because we both ___________.”  Their answers are so creative and fun!
Then we got books out!

Second Grade- I read One Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky.  We read this to explore how scientists view the world (in honor of the upcoming Science Fair!).  I also really wanted students to understand the underlying message that even if you are not doing well in school, or people don’t understand you, by always questioning and wondering about the world, you can be successful.  We then began researching Einstein, using PebbleGo.  Students (working in pairs) will be expected to find out three facts from each of the Intro, Early Life, Life’s Work, Later Years, and Contributions.  At the end, they will also end with some I wonder more about… I am focusing to second graders that when we take notes, we don’t have to use full sentences (!) and we should be pulling out just the important details.  They are doing an excellent job!

Extra Second Grade- I read another picture book about a famous scientist who was always questioning the world and exploring.  The book is The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Costeau, by Dan Yaccarino.  Students really enjoyed this book!  We then continued our research on Albert Eisnstein.

Third Grade- We continued reading I was a Third Grade Science Project, by Mary Jane Auch.  We also began doing a Dewey Detective project, where students write down all the subjects they find in one particular hundreds section of the non-fiction section.  Once they finish this, they will use those key words to create a word cloud that will be displayed in the library to help other students find books. 

Extra Third Grade- We continued reading I was a Third Grade Science Project, by Mary Jane Auch, as well as continued to our subject search for our Dewey Detective. 

Fourth Grade- All four fourth grade classes are working on different research projects.  One class has begun putting their American Revolution biographies into bio cubes ( ), one class started putting their American Revolution newspaper article into a powerpoint newspaper template (, and the last class began transferring their science topic notes into Noodletools notecards. 

Extra Fourth Grade (with a sub)- Students were read George Washington’s Teeth, by Deborah Chandra, and illustrated by Madeleine Comora and Brock Cole.  They then took the survey to find a good science fair project idea from

Fifth Grade- Students heard the first chapter of Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast, by Jane Yolen.  I introduced this book, part of the Young Heroes Series, for all my students who love Percy Jackson and are now really into Greek mythology and looking for a Percy Jackson-like read.  I was especially pleased that one of my reluctant readers, at the end of the chapter, exclaimed “You can’t stop reading now!”  Students then began researching a Greek god or goddess of their choice, and we will be turning their research into playing cards.  I had one student ask for extra graphic organizers so he could do more at home!

Extra Fifth Grade- I usually try to do a lot of internet safety topics on our extra day, but with the holiday break and snow days, etc., we have not covered the topic as recently as I would like.  As I quick review, I started the class period off with having students watch Information Privacy, a video on Brainpop.  After the video, we reviewed the ways to have a strong password.  We then looked at the passwords they had created for each other during an earlier lesson, and checked to see if they met all the criteria.  Most of them had missed one thing or another, which is why I wanted them to review it.  They caught on quickly and realized what they had missed.

Sixth Grade- Last week we did a close read of an article about students who choose online schools because of bullying ( ).  This week, students reviewed how to log into Noodletools, create a project, and share it with their teacher.  We talked a lot about how teachers will be using Noodletools until they graduate, so they can track and comment on student progress throughout the research process.  Then students used the notecard function for the first time.  They learned that the notecards have a space for cutting and pasting directly from the article, a space for summarizing in their own words, and a space for the URL.  We discussed that this way the teacher can monitor plagiarism (intended or not).  Students then practiced pasting sections of the article into the notecards and will work in teams to summarize the article.  The article is split into four sections, and within each pair, the team will split up the article, so one team mate will have sections 1 and 2 in two different notecards, and their team mate will have sections 3 and 4 in two different notecards.  

Extra Sixth Grade- (with a sub)- Students heard the first chapter of Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast, by Jane Yolen.  I introduced this book, part of the Young Heroes Series, for all my students who love Percy Jackson and are now really into Greek mythology and looking for a Percy Jackson-like read. Students then began researching a Greek god or goddess of their choice, and we will be turning their research into playing cards. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week of January 6

Kindergarten- The Science Fair is coming!  In order to promote the science fair, I read from a very interesting series by Vicki Cobb, called Science Play.  The book I read was I Get Wet, and is a just right fit for introducing the scientific method to kindergarten.  The book has us explore ideas as we are reading the book.   For example, throughout the book, I read a page, put the book down, and do a “see what happens.”  I think the students favorite part is always towards the end when they are comparing their own skin to wax paper and a paper towel, in how they absorb water.

First Grade- This year I tried a new book (to me!) called 11 Failed Experiments, by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter.   I wanted students to get excited about the Science Fair, but also to have fun and see that “failure” is OK in science experiments.  This book matches very nicely with the Brainpop Jr. video on Scientific Projects.  Both the book and the video emphasize key vocabulary terms important to the scientific process, such as hypothesis and conclusion.  Both book and video cover the topic in a very fun way.  We even did a quick compare and contrast as the book explored “watering” seedlings with perfume and the video “watered” them with milk, with similar results.  This book was a big hit and I will definitely be using it in the future!

Second Grade-  We read June 29, 1999, by David Weisner.   We briefly discussed Weisner winning the Caldecott for The Three Pigs, and the idea that he is both author and illustrator.  The Three Pigs was a nice way to stimulate prior knowledge as most second graders are familiar with this particular Weisner book.  They were very interested in the story and made the connection on their own to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Judi Barrett).  They seemed pretty fascinated with all the types of vegetables they had never heard of too!  I then showed them the science experiment called Dancing Raisins, where we put raisins in carbonated water or Sprite and watch the raisins dance!  The students were able to come up with excellent theories about why this happened.  We also discovered that while raisins dance in both carbonated water and Sprite, chocolate chips only danced in the Sprite (much more carbonated!).

Third Grade- I read the first two chapters of I Was a Third Grade Science Experiment, by Mary Jane Auch.  I was going to only “book taste” this book for the week, but students really enjoyed it, and the science fair is not till February, so I think we will finish it over the next few weeks.  I also showed third graders the Dancing Raisins and they were very enthusiastic.  Every science fair book from our school and two other district libraries have been signed out this week! I had to re-assure many more students that more science fair books are coming next week!

Fourth Grade- All of my fourth grade classes are in the middle of research projects right now, so we were not able to explore the Science Fair concept as much.  I did book taste two of the classes on the Jon Scieszka series Time Warp Trio and they really enjoyed it.  Several of the series are now in students’ hands- always proof positive to me that they really did like it!

Fifth Grade- In keeping with the science theme, I read them the book the Day Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton, a Sibert Award honor winner.  We activated some prior knowledge on the Sibert award, the research we did on that, as well as the other book we read that had won (Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet).  I then had students take the survey found at, to start thinking of what kind of project they might want to do.  Students completed exit tickets that included their name and a recommended project that looked interesting. 

Sixth Grade- I introduced the class to Jacqueline Woodson, and talked a bit about meeting her last year and how she talked about being a writer all her life, even though she was terrible at reading in school.  I also mentioned to them that she writes a lot of YA books that are realistic fiction, frequently about African-Americans.  I then read the very moving and powerful book, Each Kindness.  This story always stops everyone cold, and these classes were no exception.  After that, I did a first reading on a non-fiction news article about students who are turning to online classes to escape bullying.  The students then did a second close reading of the article, marking the article up with notes for connections, confusions, etc.  This lesson was adapted from the article entitled A Notable Process:  teaching Critical Reading via Note-Taking (Making) by Teresa Diaz, in LMC, January 2014, pages 18-20.  I found this article to be very powerful, as Common Core is really emphasizing non-fiction and close readings, but many students have not been given the skills unique to reading non-fiction (relative to fiction).  This is tremendously important in the research process, as students are required to go much more in depth, rather than scanning for an answer to a question.  We will be continuing our work on this informational text next week!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Week of Dec 16

Kindergarten- This week I shared two series that are always a hit with kindergarten- Froggy and Franklin!  First, I shared Franklin’s Christmas Gift, by Paulette Bourgeois. This is a great story that really emphasizes the giving and not the receiving!  Next was Froggy’s First Christmas, by Jonathon London, where we had a chance to talk about hibernation and predict what kinds of animals in the story would be hibernating.  The students and I both have a lot of fun reading Froggy, because of the sound effects!  After these two, it was time to get books out!

Extra Kindergarten- I read two more Christmas stories to end the week- one with a well known series character (Llama Llama) and the other with just a well know character (Santa!).  The first story, Llama Llama, Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney, was one all five year olds can relate to- the WAITING for Christmas to come!!  They could really connect with Llama’s frustration!  The second story was Jon Agee’s Little Santa.  Who has not wondered what Santa was like as a child, and how did we meet the flying reindeer and the elves?  Then, time to get books!

First Grade- I read the classic by David McPhail, Santa’s Book of Names.  I just love the way this story speaks to first graders, and their developing ability to read.  And I love that it still leaves so much mystery in the way Santa makes it around the world in one night!  After our story, we played a tic-tac-toe game, where teams could make their mark on the board only after determining if a book title was fiction or non-fiction. 

Second Grade- One class heard the Jan Brett classic The Three Snow Bears and completed a Venn diagram on this story and Goldilocks.  The other classes heard the Fright Before Christmas, by James Howe.  After this book, we played a Holiday Jeopardy game that was all about the songs, literature, and culture of the season.

Third Grade- I read Christmas Trolls, a less well-known, but still great, book by Jan Brett.  Students always enjoy Brett’s way of adding to the story in the side panels, and got excited to see Hedgie helping out!  We then played Holiday Jeopardy, about the literature, songs and culture of the season.

Extra Third Grade- First I read The Fright Before Christmas, by James Howe, and then students decorated and colored a Christmas tree with their favorite non-fiction subject (such as dogs).  They had to be sure to put the Dewey Decimal number for that subject on the tree stand!

Fourth Grade- For my two classes that have already started their research projects, I showed them how to cite the databases and books they have been using, and they continued to take notes and complete their citation pages.  The other class heard Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry and illustrated by Carol Heyer.  We then continued our work on summarizing Christmas paragraphs.

Extra Fourth Grade- I was at a meeting, so my sub read Henry and the Cannons, by Don Brown, to this class (they are heavily into the American Revolution in class).  It is a true story about New York and the American Revolution- again a perfect fit for fourth grade curriculum! Students then had time to work on the research.

Fifth and Sixth Grade- I started the class off by asking them to guess how many grains of rice I had in my baggie.  I assured them they would all want to change their answer later (though I did have two students who were right on!).  After guessing, I read them One Grain Of Rice, by Demi.  Then, after they changed their guesses, I told them there were about 1000.  I went on to explain that I like to read this book at this time of year, because the main character gives back to her community.  I then told them about, where by answering questions correctly, they can give back to their community, in the way of donated rice, through the World Food Programme.  Students accessed the site and everyone contributed!

Extra Fifth and Sixth Grade- We performed a reader’s theater of The Grinch, and then I allowed students about ten minutes of free app time on the iPads.  My Christmas gift to two great classes!

Week of Dec 9

Kindergarten-We started off by reading Polar Opposites, by Erik Brooks, about a polar bear named Alex that lives at the North Pole and a penguin named Zina from the South Pole.  It is a great chance to talk about opposites, friendships and of course deciding if we are morning people (or not), loud (or not), neat (or not), etc.  Students have great fun letting me know through physical actions (like patting their heads or rubbing their tummies) if they associate more with Alex or Zina.  We then watched two brief videos from NOAA, one on the polar bear and one on penguins.  We also compared the books and the videos to decide which was true and which was not true.  At book exchange I am trying something new with kinders- everyone searches for a book, even if they did not return one.  I then hold it for them and give them a paper bracelet with a sticker as a visual reminder that when they return the other book, they can get the one on hold. 

Extra Kindergarten- We read Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You See, by Bill Martin.  This series of books are well loved by all kindergartens.  They were excited to recognize this book from their classroom, and had a lot of fun “reading” along with me!  I then also shared another non-fiction book with them, called I am a Polar Bear, by Steve McLoud.  This is from a book series, and each book is also online with interactive videos etc. The students loved seeing the book on the computer and every copy of the I am a … series went out by the end of the period.  More are on order!

First Grade- This week I shared one of my all time favorites- Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.  He is so adorable!  And the students love re-enacting all of his tacky ways- especially loud, off key singing!  Then, as a large group, we compared and contrasted the characteristics of Tacky and his companions (using a Venn).  As students finished making their book choices, they had the opportunity to watch a book called Antarctic Antics (by Judy Sierra) come alive, via Bookflix, a database provided to us by our district.

Second Grade- I shared a book called Stranger in the Woods, by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick.  This book is a “photographic fantasy” and the students and I had a really interesting discussion about fiction and non-fiction.  They are so used to photos being non-fiction!  We agreed it was a really neat concept to use photos to make up a story!  After, the students went on PebbleGo, an awesome database provided by our district, and worked in teams to learn more true information about their choice of an animal from the story (deer, owl, mouse, cardinal, etc).

Extra Second Grade- I read Snow School, a newer book in our library, by Sandra Markle. Interestingly, this is a non-fiction book, but with illustrations instead of photos (a bit of a flip from Stranger in the Woods).  Then we watched a short video about expert photographers just trying to get a glimpse of these mysterious, elusive creatures. 

Third Grade- I shared the book Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  We talked about how Snowflake Bentley was a real person, and that the book is a biography (another nonfiction with illustrations and not photos!)  Students learned he was a scientist from “way back” before cars, and that he was very interested in all aspects of nature, especially SNOW!  We then had the opportunity to see where snow photography science has now gone, by watching a video from USA Today about a modern day snowflake photographer (  Then students took a few minutes to practice putting nonfiction books in the right order, using a game called Shelve-It ( ).

Extra Third Grade- Back upon popular demand, because we did not finish before Thanksgiving, we revisited the Turk and Runt (by Lisa Wheeler) Readers Theater.  Since we did not re-read the story, we had time to get all the way through the RT this time!  I can’t believe every student even remembered what part they had!

Fourth Grade- Two of my fourth grade classes started working on a collaborative research project on the American Revolution.  For these two classes, we saw a very short video introducing the research process ( ) and then I introduced them to the databases where they began taking notes.  They then spent the rest of the period beginning to fill in their graphic organizer on their chosen topic.  The other fourth grade class is also beginning a collaborative research topic, but students are still developing their essential questions with the classroom teacher.  With this class, I shared the book The Baker’s Dozen, a Colonial American tale, by Heather Forest- perfect for New York State history of the colonial period- part of the fourth grade social studies curriculum.  After, students and I practiced, together, in summarizing a short paragraph about Rudolph.  Summarizing is an essential skill needed for note-taking in the research process, as well as Common Core Standard 4. RIT.2.

Extra Fourth Grade-  time was spent continuing our note taking from our first source (Grolier  or PebbleGo database) and/or beginning to explore a second source (print).  Time went fast!

Fifth grade- I introduced the book City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau to the students, as well as the genre of Dystopia.  After reading the Introduction and part of the first chapter, students were hooked!  I had to order more copies from other schools I had so many requests!  I love ending the reading with the mayor looking Doon in the eye, and saying in a super serious voice, “I WILL remember YOUR name!”  Students then worked in small groups, sharing out at the end, on summarizing Christmas paragraphs.  This is a difficult skill, needing a lot of practice!  One student mentioned they were doing something similar in science right now, and it gave me a great opportunity to remind the students that “library skills” are found in every class- science, social studies, ELA and yes, even math sometimes!

Extra Fifth Grade- Students and I had a discussion about locking things up that we want to keep safe (both “real world” and virtually).  We talked about private information (what it means) compared to personal information.  We also talked about what may happen if someone gets your private information, as well as about websites that ask for this information, and why and when it is OK to share this info (ONLY with parent participation!).  We then talked about how these registrations require passwords, and what constitutes a strong password.  Students then interviewed each other for personal, not private info, like pet names, favorite colors etc., and came up with passwords that met all the criteria we had discussed to make a great password!

Sixth Grade- We finished reading the Librarian Who Measured the Earth, by Kathryn Lasky.  I was so impressed with the math skills of the students and their understanding how Eratosthenes figured it out!  The rest of the period was spent with students recording either each other on iPads, or their screens (for powerpoints) on laptops, to capture the book talks they had completed for ELA.  I will be turning these book talk videos into QR codes that will reside on the book itself, for other students to browse.

Extra Sixth Grade- Students and I had a discussion about locking things up that we want to keep safe (both “real world” and virtually).  We talked about private information compared to personal information.  We also talked about what may happen if someone gets your private information, as well as about websites that ask for this information, and why and when it is OK to share this info (ONLY with parent participation!).  We then talked about how these registrations require passwords, and what constitutes a strong password.  Students then interviewed each other for personal, not private info, like pet names, favorite colors etc., and came up with passwords that met all the criteria we had discussed to make a great password!