Thursday, 27 May 2010

Coming Soon...

A few months ago, International School of Bangkok's very generous PTA offered to donate a Kindle to our Learning Hub. And while I think the Kindle is a great reading tool, the iPad offers much more to a larger community of readers. I could easily picture a small group of students huddled around an iPad more than I could the Kindle, and the PTA agreed to the change. Since it is not yet available in Thailand, I had the iPad sent to my parents' house in the U.S. Lucky me gets to familiarize myself with it this summer, add apps, order some books and somehow figure out a way to fairly share one iPad with a whole lot of students during recess time.

Image borrowed from here

Monday, 24 May 2010

Family Blogging & Summer Writing

Still on a high from the summer reading workshop, a friend stopped me the other day to pitch an idea:

What if I held a tandem workshop on summer writing, but from the perspective of setting up a family blog and providing this fun, authentic opportunity for kids to continue their writing over the vacation?

Needless to say, I loved the idea and set out to find Chrissy, our soon-to-be tech gal in elementary. She was keen as well and we dove right into the planning.

Keeping it simple, we focused on three things:

Why? (why would you blog? what kind of blog will you have?)

How? (getting them set up from the ground up--we used Wordpress because it's the platform our students will use in school)

What? (what will kids and parents write about?)

Creating the list of cool things to blog about was fun and gave me ideas for my own family blog this summer. Our main goal here was to really encourage the family aspect of the blog. What kinds of memories are families creating and wouldn't it be awesome to have them all written down as a digital scrapbook? Why not all take turns writing a post?

Here's what we came up with:

1. Places You Are Visiting

2. Good Books You've Read

3. Day Trips

4. Reflections (my favorite part of the day)

5. Top Ten (things to do on a rainy day, restaurants in my hometown, ways I annoy my brother during the break)

6. Best and Worst of the Summer

7. Artwork

8. Photography piece (how to start noticing things more)

9. A Day in the Life of...

10. In My Own Backyard (science, flowers, wondering--use video for this)

11. Visitors

12. Mapping Out Your Special Place (draw a map of finding small moments in the map)

13. Things To Do In Our Town

14. Food

15. Small Moments

We had about 25 interested and engaged parents in attendance this morning. The workshop was fun and parents gave us tons more ideas about what they want to learn next.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Percy Jackson Day

Wow! Our Percy Jackson day was a huge hit. Over 100 kids descended upon the Hub after school, where the organizers and I (as Medusa!) met them at the door with a ticket showing all their choices. Something we found that worked really well was promoting the event about 2 weeks before it happened--it really created a buzz of excitement. I literally had kids stopping me in the halls to tell me how many days were left before Percy Jackson day. My advice to anyone hosting their own character day is to keep it simple. I did at first, but then about three days before, I started to panic and think the activities weren't exciting enough to hold their attention. A sweet 5th grader was talking with me, and I asked his advice about the various Greek god and goddess coloring sheets in one center (I thought it would be boring). He kindly told me that kids don't really care--they just want to be together and having fun. And during the event, he sought me out to give me a big "I told you so" when we saw that the coloring center was filled to capacity!

The students and I are already planning next year's Celebrating Characters We Love events. Garfield is one they are thinking will be fun. Whatever will I wear?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Power of 10 Minutes

I've used the Skype An Author network three times this year, and each time has been nothing short of amazing. Ten minutes of time with an author always seems like it's going to be too short, but it ends up to be perfect.

This morning, a 4th grade class met with the fabulous Bruce Hale. He was funny, down-to-earth and instantly connected with the kids. Plus, we were all cracking up at his jokes and anecdotes.

In 10 minutes time, we had a bunch of great student questions answered and even got to listen to Bruce read the first part of one of his books. Hearing the words from the author himself is magical, and I become downright giddy when I see authors talking about their work. It was easy to see that Bruce would be a great visiting author at a school--another reason I love Skype An Author. To get a taste of what an author would be like as a potential visitor is invaluable.

The second we finished, a ton of kids ran to check out his Chet Gecko books. Thanks, Bruce Hale!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Summer Fun-Making Book Baskets

I loved talking with parents yesterday about tips on how to keep kids reading over the summer. Every time I think reading with kids is pretty straightforward, I am reminded that parents still welcome all the advice they can get. One of the ideas I talked about as a fun idea for summer was to create book baskets with your kids. Here are some tips I shared with parents on how to do that:

For Younger Readers

1. I don't use any bookshelves for my daughter's books; instead we use various baskets. They are placed in many rooms in the house (1 in the living room as in the above photo, 2 in her room and 1 in our bedroom) so we never have to go far to find a book. Plus, baskets look lovely.

2. I keep a bunch of books in the closet and 'freshen' the basket every now and then. My daughter helps me with this, and even at the age of 3, she knows what she is tired of having in her basket.

3. I add a few non-fiction books to give her a variety of choices. She tends to not gravitate towards these herself, so I put these books on the outside of the basket to hopefully capture her attention.

4. Definitely put some beginning chapter books in there, even for the wee ones.

For Older Readers (I tied this into how we set up our classroom libraries and how easy this is for kids to make book choices)

1. Take all the books off the bookshelf and dump them on the floor. Kids love this part!

2. Have all your empty baskets lined up.

3. Start looking at the books with your child. What do you notice goes together? Begin making categories like "Books with Strong Girl Characters" or "Science Books" or "Books That Crack Me Up." The ideas kids have are great, plus it's using the math skill of classifying.

4. Make the tags either by hand or on the computer. Place the baskets wherever your child can have easy access to them.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Storybird & First Graders

In trying to provide students with ideas of fun ways to read and write over the summer, I decided to create a Storybird with each first grade class this week. We had a blast choosing pictures, (the art is beyond fabulous on this site, and all you do is click and drag your choice to the story) and it was a bonus writing lesson. There was definitely enough excitement created that many kids will be going home and sharing the site with their parents tonight. At the end of the story, I was able to email the creation to their classroom teacher at that moment, even adding a personal message from us to her. Love, love, love this site!

Love it even more at the end of the year when attention spans are shorter! They were mesmerized the whole time.

Here's the link to the full story, Dali, the Mean Monster. Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Summer Reading

Aaah, summer! Here you are again! Energy levels are rising, vacation plans are being made, and it's the perfect time to talk about summer reading with kids. We have made some changes this year to our approach to summer reading. Last year, we had classroom teachers help students set summer goals, but there was no way for us to check in on that progress since they go to different teachers the following year. Enter the librarian...

Since I am the only one who sees all the students in the elementary, I am helping them brainstorm and set reading goals for the summer holidays in these last weeks. It has been wonderful and eye-opening. There is a tendency to automatically set a number goal, so we spent some time stretching our thinking to think of deeper ideas. Above are some of the great ideas they had. After brainstorming, each child chose a goal or two and recorded them on a paper star. I'll keep these over the summer, and we'll revisit them again in August.

In addition, I'll be hosting a parent literacy morning next week on tips for summer reading. My plan is to have five areas of focus--Access, Togetherness, Fun, Extension and Modeling. I'm again using the Presentation Zen approach and had so much fun locating images that pop. The cover slide is my favorite, but that might be because I am anxious for my own summer hammock reading in just four short weeks.