Ms. Koyama’s Classroom Library

This summer I undertook an enormous project with an inspirational, equity-focused, growth-mindset colleague. We labeled, organized, catalogued, and PIMPED OUT all the books in her classroom library.

I say “all.” When I say “all” I mean “on the way to all.” She has a bazillion books, many acquired from a retired teacher, and we’ve still got a dozen or so boxes that we’re continuing to process.

This is me with Ms. Emily Koyama, taking a break from crazy room setup at the end of the summer. Emily inherited a mess of a room, through no fault of its most recent inhabitants (the talented and much-missed Shauna Iseri and Bree Howle). She was hired three days before students came to Wildwood in September 2011 and signed a one-year temporary contract, so she wasn’t really at liberty to clear out the room.

So she had books. They were everywhere. And yet nowhere at the same time, because they weren’t effectively getting into kids’ hands.

Emily is a strong woman. She isn’t afraid of big change. Or big projects. Or insanity. So this summer, we decided to give her library a makeover.

First we needed to know which books were hers. We put her name in every book. All of them. Hundreds of them. We recruited students. We returned missing library books to the school library (oops) and borrowed books to their rightful owners (oops).

We had a bajillion piles. Here’s what Emily’s room looked like. Sort of. A visual for the tl;dr crowd.

We had an assembly line.

1. Books lived here when they weren’t ready for any of the following steps because they needed their hardcover dust jackets laminated. We’re poor. We didn’t have book covers. So we laminated them. And then taped them on.

2. Here were the books that needed old owner’s name crossed out and Ms. Koyama’s name added. Neatly. Legibly. Kids get super excited to help and before long, you can’t read anything. Or spine labels are stuck on the wrong side and the books are taped closed. So, as always, setting expectations and creating exemplars is critical.

3. Books stayed here until one of us could find the AR level. Now. Before you scream at me, Wildwood uses AR. Although I admit that it’s a flawed system, I see NO PROBLEM in giving kids ONE tool to help them zero in on POTENTIAL good-fit books.

4. Books that were already leveled and taped (or didn’t have an AR level) waited here for Emily to enter the ISBNs into Booksource.

5. Books sat on a table off to the side while they waited for AR tape.

6. After everything was labeled and catalogued, I sorted the books by genre, series, or author.

Finally, we made book basket labels, numbered the backs of the books so they matched their corresponding baskets, and straightened everything up!

One wall of books.
Closeup of book buckets.

For a more detailed(!) account of setting up a classroom library, check out my sweet five-part series, culminating in a tour.

Classroom Library Instructional Series
Part 1: Supplies
Part 2: Getting Started
Part 3: Filling the Shelves
Part 4: Library Upkeep
Part 5: Adding to Your Collection

Classroom Library Tour

Oh, also, I just rediscovered this tip video for library book sales.

Phew. What have you found that works in your classroom library streamlining process?

In Dallas!

I arrived in Dallas yesterday evening.

This is an enormous city. I flew into the airport featured in Gila Monsters Meet You At The Airport. It is an enormous airport. I was met, not by a gila monster, but by the lovely educator-history-buff-museum-gal Elaina (Hauk) Carlisle, who I’ve known through MSU-genius-friend-and-roommate Franny Howes for close to ten years, but have never met in person. She has a fantastic house with epically tall ceilings and a friendly, happy mutt who looks like a Muppet. And a husband, who is accustomed to lengthy teacher-talk conversations.

We drove through Dallas. I saw the place where John F. Kennedy was shot, which is frankly still giving me extreme feelings related to creepiness and the power and gravity of history and all sorts of other random emotions. Yes, I saw the grassy knoll (it’s small). Yes, I saw the book depository (it’s ordinary). I am still processing how such a short glimpse — we literally just drove through the intersection, not stopping — of an historical site can have such a big impact.

WE ATE DELICIOUS FOOD. Lockhart Smokehouse is close to my hotel, so it was a perfect choice. A DELICIOUS CHOICE.

Then I came home, reserved my Wednesday shuttle to the convention center, and fell into bed to read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I’m trying to be reflective and thoughtful about tomorrow’s presentation without freaking myself out. I’ve been only marginally successful.

My most significant crisis of confidence came this morning, when I sat up in bed (or rather, flopped over in bed, pushing the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes volume off me) and said, “I can’t possibly read a book as a part of my freaking session; no one’s going to sit around and hear a whole book!”

I fretted. But I reread the speakers’ notes and focused on this bit, “Your presentation method should be consistent with and model strategies that NCTM advocates for classroom teaching (Example: Principles and Standards for School Mathematics).” Hm.

We’re always complaining about math standards going a mile wide and an inch deep, right? So I got myself in check. What better way to demonstrate the importance of deeper understanding by anchoring this brief (hour-long) session around one common text? After all, I told myself, THE TITLE OF MY FREAKING PRESENTATION IS DEEPENING LITERATURE CONNECTIONS. I mean, this way, even if they hate my presentation and the strategies presented, they’ll be able to bring news of a fantastic new picture book back to their schools.

So I’m sticking with sharing Extra Yarn and using it to illustrate how the language of teaching comprehension strategies used in literacy can be math. I’m sharing student-derived examples of how math can be taken from the book. People will be able to try out their own problems and I’ll post them on this site.

Additionally, I found this part of my speakers’ email useful:

New this year! Attendees will have the opportunity to rate presentations using the survey on the Dallas Conference App.

Using a 1-5 scale attendees will rate the following:

• Overall rating of session

• Presenter’s knowledge and understanding of the topic.

• Presenter’s use of appropriate and effective teaching and learning strategies

• Likelihood of attending another session by this presenter. (Yes/no/maybe)

 

I know I won’t be able to please everybody with my presentation, but JUST LIKE WITH OUR KIDS, it’s so helpful to know what I need to do with the end goal in mind, so seeing what I’m going to be rated on helps me narrow my mind from the bloom of concerns that are crowding each other out in my brain.

One last worry that remains is that I’m breaking copyright laws by projecting Extra Yarn. But… a picture book read-aloud isn’t a freaking copyright violation, is it? Lawd help us if it is.

Oh, also, I’ve been working to make sure I won’t be doing emphatic karate-chop gestures all presentation long.

Anyway. Enough. Time for lunch and reading.

Book of the Week: A is for America

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

A is for America, by Devin Scillian

I love pretty much anything published by Sleeping Bear Press, and the bazillions of alphabet books they’ve printed are, by and large, pretty wonderful. We have a mentor text copy of A is for America ready to go in the bookroom.

You can access an extensive activity guide for almost every Sleeping Bear Press book here.

The author of this book is also the nightly news anchor for Channel 4 in my beloved Detroit, and it’s pretty awesome to see a “celebrity” author who can write pretty darn well.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Back up and reread. This is a pretty dense text. I actually intended to post this lesson two weeks ago, but since then, *I* as a teacher have had to back up and reread the book several times. In the past, I’ve used Sleeping Bear Press alphabet books over several days, reading two letters (and reviewing each of the previous letters using call-and-response). Often, we talk about backing up and rereading if the text is CONFUSING, so it could be important to talk about backing up and rereading if the text is just plain DENSE.

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries as tools. In my time away from teaching social studies, I forgot about the fabulous tool hidden in the back of our textbooks known as the Gazeteer. A “geographical dictionary,” isn’t that brilliant? I know I often tell students to not worry if they can’t pronounce a proper noun in text, but wouldn’t it be great to give each student a letter from the book and have them investigate each of the locations featured in their letter?

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: The Runaway Dinner

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

The Runaway Dinner, by Allan Ahlberg

This is a great silly, nonsense book that reads like an extended version of “Hey Diddle Diddle” plus The Gingerbread Man.

Also, apparently I read this back in January 2011 and book talked it, whoops…

Allan Ahlberg has a bunch of other books, especially poetry books, that might be worthwhile to investigate.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Infer and support with evidence. At the beginning of the story, and several places in the middle, the author insists the story is completely true. Ask students if they agree, and ask them why the narrator would have purposely, blatantly lied like he did.

  • Reread text. A cumulative story like this has reread text kind of built into it. To infuse a lesson on author’s craft, talk with students about why the author may have chosen this device for the story. It’s not quite as sing-songy as “There Was an Old Woman,” so why does it still work?

  • Ask someone to define the word for you. Items like ketchup, carrots, and french fries can’t be easily defined using a dictionary. In younger grades, consider using realia to support this lesson so students will be familiar with the dining utensils and foods they encounter as they read.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: Er-lang and the Suns

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Er-lang and the Suns, Retold by Tony Guo and Euphine Cheung

Er-lang and the Suns: A Tale from China is a text from the SFA Roots program. There should be one master copy of the Roots lesson plans in the bookroom. There are check for understanding questions on post-its throughout at least one of the three teacher copies.

This is an origin story covering how the Earth finally got reprieve from its seven suns that shone nonstop. There are plenty of other origin stories to compare and contrast with. As always, pre-read these texts before sharing them with students, as they are appropriate for different ages.

The end of the book contains a brief history of China and the Han people.

As mentioned earlier, there are three copies of this book if you want to use them as a grade-level team mentor text.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Make a picture or mental image. At the end of the book, there’s a brief passage that talks about how the illustrations were designed to match the tone of the story. Ask students to pick and sketch 5-7 of the most important images that they think are critical to telling the story. To take this a step further, then have them write a brief caption for each picture. Huzzah! They’ve now also used the strategy of…
  • Retell the story. See above.
  • Compare and contrast within and between text. See above for plenty of other origin stories. Perhaps students could select their favorite and document the similarities and differences with Er-lang and the Suns.

 

 

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: Bats — A Nature-Fact Book

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

BONUS! This week also features all sorts of Common Core activity goodies! Wowie!

Bats: A Nature-Fact Book, by D.J. Arneson

At first glance, what a totally inaccessible book. The text is small and dense, there’s no organization, and the book itself is small and not ideal for a mentor text.

BUT! Each page is a different topic, so it’d be really easy to photocopy and enlarge a page, then have students break it apart. You could even do a class jigsaw, with different groups picking different sections. Look! Now you have a complex non-fiction text for students to read deeply, just like Common Core suggests!

Speaking of Common Core, why not extend this lesson and make it 23894678 times more interesting by including this story about a boy who used echolocation because he was blind. AMAZING! There’s a bunch of additional information and resources here. A gent named Dan Kish uses echolocation too:

Congratulations! Now you’ve provided your students with the multimedia resources CCSS encourages.

This book features an !!!OFFICIAL!!! FWPS lesson plan focusing on text features. The book actually doesn’t HAVE nonfiction text features, but the lesson explains that it can then be contrasted with Vampire Bats & Other Creatures of the Night published by Kingfisher. The lesson also encourages students to create their own table of contents for the book.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries as tools. Because there is no glossary included in the text, this might be a good time for a dictionary lesson. Alternatively, you could take the lesson in another direction if your dictionaries aren’t complex enough to include bat-specific terms. In which case you could talk about when it’s faster to look something up online and when it’s faster to use a hard copy dictionary.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Pathways to the Common Core: Writing PD Documents

Tonight is the second book study Twitter meeting for Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.

As a member of the FWPS CC Transition Team, I have a few documents that I think might be useful to districts trying to disseminate information about the standards.

For the three types of writing (K-5), here’s a concept sort I made using definitions, book covers, and writing exemplars from CCSS Appendix C.

Download it as a Word document here: ConceptSort Modes of Writing.

Additionally, we’re going to give teachers time to explore writing resources by doing a jigsaw WebQuest.

Download it as a Word document here: WebQuest Modes of Writing.

I’m posting these because I assume some of my book study peepz might want to see them. If you use them, please acknowledge somewhere that they were designed by MOI!!! Shannon Houghton!!! for Federal Way Public Schools.

Another cool thing our district did was put together an “Intro to CCSS” video. Check it out here:

Send a note my way in the comments if you found any of this useful! Godspeed!

Babymouse for President

Today we learned about the Marty McGuire Book Club on this Wednesday, as well as the #babymouse4prez photo contest. If you want to enter, you can tweet a picture of yourself with the hashtag #babymouse4prez, or you can e-mail your photo to babymouse4prez@gmail.com. I got some great inspiration from my students for what my picture might look like!

Book of the Week: Annie and the Wild Animals

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Annie and the Wild Animals, by Jan Brett

Before you get started on anything Jan Brett related, you’ve got to stop whatever you’re doing and go straight to visit Mrs. Eltrich or Mrs. Burn. They’ve put together a pretty fabulous Jan Brett author’s study that might be useful.This book has post-its with open-ended questions attached to several pages to use during reading.

This book was originally paired with Caldecott-winning book The Big Snow, but that text hasn’t been added to the mentor text library as of this posting.

You can see Annie and the Wild Animals read aloud here:

I’m pretty impressed with the literature guide here. I honestly don’t know that there’s much I can add beyond that!

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Compare and contrast within and between text. Spoiler alert! Annie’s cat has kittens. In the past, before Bob Barker’s daily reminders to spay and neuter our four-legged friends, this text might have been a great one to make predictions and confirm them at the end. Older students can discuss how the book would be different now that it’s nearly thirty years after it’s been written.
  • Infer and support with evidence. This strategy could be used regardless of whether students predicted Taffy would have kittens or not. If few or no students are familiar with the signs of a cat about to have kittens, it’s a great opportunity for a discussion of how difficult it is to infer if you don’t have much prior knowledge and how important it is to have heightened awareness of the world around us. If students DO pick up on the signs of Taffy’s pending delivery, proceed with a regular inference lesson.

  • Ample easy reading. If students have read this book (perhaps with Mrs. Eltrich or Mrs. Burn! :)), remind them that in a book as complex and detailed as Annie and the Wild Animals, there’s plenty to return to and explore, particularly if they first discovered the book a year or two ago.

  • Ask someone to define the word for you. Mrs. Eltrich has already printed out vocabulary cards for several challenging or uncommon words in the text. Talk with students about how if you know a word is particularly unusual and you don’t anticipate many will know it, you choose to give them the word ahead of time.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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