Monday, December 22, 2014

Thankful Tree 2014

Last year, we put up a Thankful Tree in the FSUS Library, and the kids LOVED it. The kids (and adults) were very thoughtful when writing what they're thankful for, and it was nice to see how those around us feel.

This year, of all the wonderful leaves on the Thankful Tree, this one was my favorite:


Here's this year's tree after just a couple of days (I missed getting a pic of it the day we took it down):

And meet our new friend, Elliott, created by my assistant Mrs. Beck and named by a couple of our football players:

See ya next year, Elliott!





Friday, December 19, 2014

1st Grade Animal Research Projects

I just LOVE collaborating with the first grade team. They are always game to do inquiry-based projects with the kids. And the kids ALWAYS love doing research.

Last year, the kids researched careers in the fall, and animals in the spring. We decided to move the animal research project to the fall this year because the kids really enjoyed it, and they are really inquisitive about animals. We'll do a second research project with them in the spring... topics TBD!


The students used PebbleGo Animals database to do their research.  They spent the first class period (approximately 45 minutes) exploring PebbleGo and reading about at least 3 different animals.  While they explored, they read text, listened to the text read to them, watched videos, and examined maps of the animals' ranges.  They also listened to the animals' noises (if their animals make a noise!). 

It was awesome to watch them explore and learn.  I always get excited to hear them tell each other things they've learned, or show each other something cool they've found.  I heard one student explaining to another that he could tell from the range map that his animal lives in warm habitats; then he exclaimed, "I just learned something!"  I could not have been any happier when I heard him say that.  It's so important to let them explore topics of their choice at their own pace.  It would take a lot less time to assign the animals to them, but they would miss out on these self-directed discoveries that make the learning so much more meaningful.

At the end of the period, they decided which animal they would research for their project.  The next week, they took notes about their animal's body, habitat, life cycle, and food.  They also wrote down a "wow fact" - something that they learned that could be considered their favorite fact.  We tell the kids that a wow fact is something that makes you say "wow" and that makes you want to tap your neighbor and tell them.

The third lesson we did with the kids was on identifying keywords in their research notes.  We modeled the skill on the Smartboard in the classroom with a sample set of research notes.  I showed the kids how to circle (or highlight) the keywords in 3 sentences I wrote about my animal's body.  Then together, we practiced finding keywords about my animal's food, habitat, and life cycle.  One of the teachers wanted to take it a step further (and we had time to do so), so we had the students circle their keywords and then use a piece of lined paper to list the keywords out - one on each line.

In the fourth lesson, students used tagxedo.com to create word clouds in the shape of their animals.  Prior to this lesson, I saved clip art shapes for each of their animals to a flash drive.  Once we were in the lab, the teacher and I loaded their animals' shapes into their computers so that their word clouds would be in the shape of their specific animals.  It's a little time consuming, but well worth it.  The students used their keywords from their notes to create their word clouds.  They're still learning to type on a keyboard, so it does take a little time and a lot of effort, but the end result is well worth it.  The students were so proud of themselves and anxious to see their word clouds printed in final form.  Several students said they wanted to give them to their parents for Christmas.

I printed each word cloud and gave them to the teachers for the students to take home. In class, they've been working on writing reports about their animal using their research notes.  We're planning to create an e-book for each class after the winter break with their word clouds and written reports. 

Here are a few of the students' word clouds:





What I love most about this project is that because the kids enjoy it so much as first graders, they are excited (and actually begging) to do more research! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just joking around

Last year, I bought this awesome sign for our library. We usually use it for announcements or countdowns to the next school vacation :) ... But this year we've been posting jokes. Sometimes my awesome assistants pick the joke, and sometimes we let the kids come up with them. It's been a lot of fun!




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Keep the books where they are."

Last week we celebrated Banned Books Week in the Florida High Library. I always love BBW because it sparks awesome, deep, interesting conversations with the students about censorship and what makes literature great.  My favorite thing to hear is "[Insert title of favorite book] is banned??  WHY???? That book is AWESOME!"  This year, some students even thanked me for having their favorite books in our library, since they're banned in other places.


As usual, we put up a big display of highly challenged books and chained them together. We also strung caution tape across the front doorway and on top of some shelves.  Then, we hung quotes about censorship by famous authors in the windows.  We put out the set of window markers and posed 2 questions for the students to respond to: What does Banned Books Week mean to you? and What is your favorite banned book?

I wanted to take photos of the responses to post here, but the photos didn't turn out well.  Instead, I'll just post the children's responses and let their words speak for themselves.

What is your favorite banned book?  (each was written several times)
  • Harry Potter 
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Captain Underpants
  • Divergent
  • The Giver
  • Huck Finn

What does Banned Books Week mean to you?  (Posted here exactly as they appeared in the window)
  • A banned book is a book where the book takes you to a whole diff. world.
  • It means that you can't express yourself like you should be able to do.
  • Banned books makes me die a little inside.
  • I'm glad our library doesn't ban books.
  • No banding books.
  • Most of these books are my favorite! Thanks for having them.
  • Great books that are misunderstood.
  • Keep books
  • They can not be alowed any more.
  • I love the library.
  • Keep the books where they are.
Well said, kids.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chicken Pops

I bought some cute window clings at Joann Fabrics (using my teacher discount, of course) to celebrate the beginning of spring. The bunnies looked so cute smelling these spring flowers.  A student took all the centers of the flowers and put them on a bunny to make it polka-dotted.  Later that day, a 2nd grader told me, "Ms. Underhill, I think that bunny got the chicken pops!"  So cute.


Poem in Your Pocket Day 2014

One of our favorite library events is Poem In Your Pocket Day. Celebrated during National Poetry Month in April, it's a day to keep a favorite poem in your pocket to share with friends.  Students and teachers really enjoy sharing poetry, and it's a great way to encourage creativity and appreciation for literature.

We used the windows of my office for the PIYPD display (we also had many poetry books on display in another area of the library). We hung pairs of real children's jeans and shorts and put some poems in the pockets. We also hung lots of cool paper pockets designed by my library assistants, my intern, and some students. Each pocket held copies of fun poems that the students could carry with them on PIYPD.

Our 5th grade classes connected with classes in Texas and Jacksonville to share poems and celebrate PIYPD. It was a blast!



New Library Sign!

Inspired by many of my librarian friends on Twitter, I purchased this awesome sign from Demco. It's really affordable, and we've already found that it's a great way to communicate library events to the students.  We have been advertising a library event or news on one side, and then putting a book quote on the other side.  The senior class even changed the message for us on their senior prank day!



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Post It Art

I have wanted to do some Post It Art in the library ever since Sherry Gick posted pictures on Twitter of the awesome Post It Art in her library.  Here and here and here.  So much awesomeness.

Naturally, I turned to our 11th grade Artist-in-Residence, who designed this beautiful, yet simple, Valentine's Day Post It Art.  On the windows on either side of the heart, she wrote "Who's Your Boo?" Students wrote the name of their girlfriend, boyfriend, parent, or friend on a heart die cut and posted them in the windows.  One of my favorites simply said "bacon."  (Makes sense to me. I love bacon.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lissa is Priceless!

Don't you just love it when you meet an author (or talk to them, or Tweet with them) of a book you absolutely love, and they are every bit as awesome and amazing as you imagined?  Yea. Me, too.

My school book club read Starters by Lissa Price last fall, and of course fell in love with it like I did.  It's a great book with an unusual concept and a suspenseful plot.  [Side Note: she got the idea for the book during a visit to Costco. No lie. Read this.] We loved discussing it in book club meetings because there were so many deep issues to think about and discuss.  I rarely had to lead the discussion because the students had so much to say about the book.  On their own, they made predictions, asked questions, and pushed each other to think deeper.

I tweeted the author and asked if she would talk to the book club about it.  (They had so many good questions for her that only she could answer.)

Not only did Ms. Price agree to talk to my students, she talked to them TWICE!  We have 2 book clubs - one during each of the secondary lunches - and she spoke with BOTH of them!  She was soooooo generous with her time, and answered every question they had.  She even gave them a little hint about what might happen in the sequel, Enders, which was published the same week.  They felt like they were real insiders getting highly confidential information that no one else had.  It.Was.Awesome.

It won't surprise you to know that Starters is on the Florida Sunshine State Young Readers' Award list (grades 6-8), the Florida Teens Read list (grades 9-12), as well as many other state award lists.  It's just that awesome.  And so is the author.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Does the Fox Say?

Oh how I love this song.  If you haven't heard it yet (and subsequently got it stuck on replay in your head for hours), you should watch this now.

I thought I would take advantage of the song's popularity and create a book display.  (This was the display that greeted the kids when they returned from Winter Break.  I'm just a little behind on blogging, as you can tell.) We displayed non-fiction books about each of the animals mentioned in the song.  It was a huge hit. We had to replenish the display at least once a day.  We put books on the shelf under the windows as well as on top of the Junior Non-fiction section. 

It's hard to see in the pictures, but I used Crayola window markers to write all the noises that the fox says in the song.  You can see it a little better in the picture in the bottom right corner of the collage below (I put white paper behind it so it would photograph better).