8.22.2015

Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang Have Arrived

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how Snoopy is the official spokesdog for National Library Card Sign-Up Month 2015.  If your library uses library cards, you have to check out the cooler than cool Snoopy library card artwork that you can request (by emailing LibraryCard@Peanuts.com) for your new cards.  All the stir about Snoopy, the upcoming Peanuts Movie, and a Snoopy t-shirt I just received from my dearest for my birthday all inspired me to deck out our library in Snoopy swag for the new school year.  I'm not sure that I'm completely done, but the library is ready for classes to begin on Monday.  Here are a few peeks into our space.

The Peanuts Gang's love of libraries is made clear through many of Schulz' comics.  Our entrance is decked out with favorite Peanuts library quotes paired with Peanuts character cutouts.  The quotations are typed using Peanuts font, which is available for free.

Above the double doors, I used the Peanuts die-cut letters to introduce myself.

Right inside is a bulletin board outlined in Peanuts border. This is where our rules, objectives, and other important classroom information are posted.

Snoopy labels are keeping us organized at centers and on the shelving cart.

I used characters cards to label our tables and my daily binders.

Snoopy bunting above the circulation desk announces the name of our library.

Still on the shopping list are the Snoopy hat I mentioned before, and this Snoopy flash drive.
Visit the American Library Association website to get more ideas about how to leverage Snoopy to promote your library and its programs.

Are you using Snoopy and friends in your library this year?  What are your ideas?

8.10.2015

Happy 65th Birthday, Snoopy!

Today is Snoopy's 65th birthday.  His career as the adorable, would-be-writer beagle in Charles Schulz' comic classic, Peanuts has been long and distinguished.  In addition to reaching this milestone and having a new movie debut this year, in November, he will also fill an important roll this September as the official spokesperson (spokesdog?) for National Library Card Sign-Up Month.

If you are a Peanuts fan, you know that Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the whole Peanuts Gang are not just adorable and funny, but they have been lifelong supporters of libraries.  Even though we don't use library cards at my school library, Snoopy and friends are going help spread the love of books and reading with our little readers.  You too can have Snoopy as your library or classroom's official advocate using these great resources and ideas.

Start by setting the scene with Peanuts decorations like these cardboard cutout characters, Peanuts border, and die-cut letters.

Then visit the American Library Association store to find bookmarks, stickers, and posters you can use and share with students.

Let Snoopy pay a visit to your learning space with this adorable hat from Oriental Trading.

Get inspired by this Unshelved Pimp My Bookcart entry that turns a red shelving cart into Snoopy's iconic doghouse.

Let students explore the Peanuts Gang's passion for libraries by sharing some of Schulz' original comic strips like the one when Sally declared that "happiness is having your own library card" and the time Linus proudly described to Charlie Brown about his first time checking out a library book: "There was nothing to it!  In fact, on the whole, it was a rather pleasant experience."  Read more Peanuts comics at Peanuts.com including those that specifically mention libraries.

Kids can find out more about Snoopy, Peanuts, and creator Charles Schulz by visiting the Charles M. Schulz Museum website.

Help students learn to draw Snoopy with this video from Fox Family Entertainment shared in celebration of his birthday.

After all that educational beautification and promotion, you will have worked up an appetite.  Why not try to reproduce this Snoopy breakfast masterpiece share by Instagram user, LilKimKay.
If you're not up to the challenge, never fear.  Just have a root beer, one of Snoopy's favorite treats, while reading A Flying Ace Needs Lots of Root Beer.
Also, Peanuts Movie cross-promotions by Nestle, Horizon Organic, and others will mean plenty of cute Snoopy snacks on the horizon.

6.19.2015

Happy Juneteenth! - Celebrating the 150th Anniversary

June 19, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the day Union soldiers arrived in Texas to announce that slavery had ended.  This historic occasion took place more than two years after Abraham Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation.

Learn more about the history of this important occasion by visiting Juneteenth.com, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Texas State Historical Association.  Then take a virtual visit to the Library of Congress to see some primary documents about the day.

Help children gain some insight about the day by sharing the book All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson.

After building background knowledge, find out if there is a Juneteenth event taking place in your neighborhood, or check out these ideas for creating your own commemoration.

2.10.2015

Valentine's Day in History


Valentine's Day will be here in just a few days.  Visit the Library of Congress' America's Story website to learn some facts about the origins of this sweethearts' celebration.  While you're there, check out some V-Day primary documents such as Thomas Edison's 1900 film, "The Kiss" or a 1940s Valentine store window photograph.

Then click your way to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History blog to see examples of Valentine notes and telegrams from the early 1900s.
Let students discuss what it would have been like to send and receive notes through the post office or a telegraph machine instead of today's rapid forms of communication such as text messaging and email.

Use students' enthusiasm about Valentine's Day to get them reading by creating a display of books about love and friendship.

After all that learning, it will be time for some sweets.  For an easy and impressive treat that children can help prepare, smoosh slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookie dough around store-bought sandwich cookies and bake in muffin tins according to cookie dough instructions.
You can make these cookie-stuffed cookies with any type of sandwich cookie, but using the limited edition Red Velvet Oreos and some seasonal sprinkles will make these extra festive.

8.13.2014

Save the Date - All the Calendars You Need to Write Your Long Term Plan

 At the beginning of the school year, it's time to write your long term plan.  This document is an ultra brief summary of what you plan to teach and do throughout the entire school year.  Before you can map out a curricular plan based on the required objectives or units for your class, it's important to know which days you will actually be at school and when major events, including national holidays and local celebrations, will take place.  In some cases, these events will cause interruptions in your normal schedule.  Other times, you will be able to use observances, celebrations, and seasons as a theme for your lessons.  For example, rather than trying to convince students to stop thinking about the Super Bowl, you can just use their interest in football to build investment in your lessons by letting them practice formulas like speed or investigate geography of past events, history of the sport, biographies of football players and so on.  Here are all the calendars you'll need to plan events and thematic lessons in the school year ahead.

District Calendar + Previous Year's Plan
Start by penciling in school holidays, early dismissal days, class parties, and other local events that will affect your planning.  If you are a veteran educator, also get out the previous year's long term plan (you had one, right?), so that you can remember when you did things last school year. 

Anti-Defamation League Calendar of Observances
The Anti-Defamation League provides dates for international observances and holidays for major world religions.  Use these calendars to become aware of religious events that may be important to the students in your community and to introduce students to different culture's traditions.

Days of the Year
This quirky calendar lists major as well as lesser-known observances throughout the year.  If you enjoy planning lessons thematically, this is a great resource to find out about odd celebrations such as Bad Poetry Day and Thank a Mailman Day.

Perma-Bound Author Illustrator Birthday Calendar
This interactive calendar lists birthdays for tons of famous authors and illustrators and provides links to books created by each person.  Every month also includes a mini biography & photo of a featured artist or writer.  These resources can be used for author studies or to create an easy and informative bulletin board featuring different authors each month.

American Library Association Celebration Weeks and Promotional Events
This page lists literacy-centered events including Banned Books Week, Picture Book Month, and Choose Privacy Week.  These celebrations can be the perfect basis for social studies lessons and reading promotions.

Library of Congress Today in History
This site features historical events for every date on the calendar.  Each date offers an article about a significant past event and includes primary documents related to whatever took place on the day.  This resource is one you can come back to throughout the year, even daily, to support social studies lessons.  LOC also provides a searchable archive of the articles which you can access by date or keyword.

Which resources do you use when creating your long term plan?

8.12.2014

Flora & Ulysses

"His brain felt larger, roomier. It was as if several doors in the dark room of his self (doors he hadn't even known existed) had suddenly been flung wide. Everything was shot through with meaning, purpose, light. However, the squirrel was still a squirrel." - Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo & K.G. Campbell

Kate DiCamillo received her second Newbery Award this year for the amazing novel, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a story about a young comic book fan who is navigating her parents' recent divorce and the general awkwardness of growing up when she witnesses the transformation of a squirrel into a poetry-writing superhero.  (DiCamillo's first award was earned a decade ago for The Tale of Despereaux). As a self-proclaimed cynic, Flora is initially skeptical but becomes cautiously hopeful about the squirrel's hidden abilities. As Flora starts to accept and appreciate the squirrel's unique talents, she also begins to view herself and her life through a less cynical lens.

In addition to offering an adorably quirky and heartwarming story, Flora and Ulysses features an innovative format that appeals to readers of all ages. Most of the book is presented through traditional blocks of text, however, line drawings and strips of comic action by K.G. Campbell are included to illuminate the written story.

This book is wonderful as an independent or small group read, but it also makes a great read-aloud, especially if you are able to show the illustrations using a document camera and projector. If you are sharing this novel with students, check out these resources for further exploring the book and the talents of its creators.

Kate DiCamillo, author
Visit Kate DiCamillo's site to learn more about her, her books, and her role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Read a Q&A between DiCamillo and publisher Candlewick to learn more about her inspiration for Flora and Ulysses. Then watch an interview of DiCamillo in which she discusses the novel.

K.G. Campbell, illustrator
K.G. Campbell is responsible for the illuminated qualities of this fantastic book as well as many other popular novels and stories. Visit Campbell's site to discover the beautiful illustrations he has contributed to Flora and Ulysses and his other projects including a lovably quirky picture book Campbell wrote and illustrated called Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, which is an enjoyable read-aloud for all ages.

Beyond the Book
Before beginning to read, build anticipation by sharing a Flora & Ulysses book trailer with students. As you delve into the novel, lead students to reflect on the story using the discussion guide provided by Candlewick.  Extend students' learning beyond the book with lesson ideas from The Classroom Bookshelf.  Then let students reenact the novel's opening scene using a reader's theater script from the Texas Bluebonnet Award committee. (Flora and Ulysses and Lester's Dreadful Sweaters are both contenders for this kids' choice award.)  Then, have some squirrel-centered fun in honor of Ulysses with these squirrel stories and crafts.  Finally, allow students to explore their own poetic creativity using the Squirrel Poet Magnetic Poetry Kit.

7.28.2014

Before School Morning Routine

With summer vacation winding down, it's time to begin easing into school-year routines.  We know children need to start going to bed and waking earlier so that the back-to-school transition won't be abrupt and unpleasant for them (or their parents and teachers).  These final weeks before school begins are likewise the perfect time for adults to develop meaningful morning routines.

Rise Early
During my career, I have gone back and forth in my feelings about the early start of my work day and the related early bedtime, sometimes enjoying the routine and other times feeling like I am squeezing my adult life into a child's schedule.  Nevertheless, experience tells me I should embrace the routine that fits my job.

To get your day started on the right foot, begin by waking early.  Yes, I know that teachers already start early, even if you do hit the snooze button until the last possible moment before jumping into whatever clothes are close and then applying makeup and eating breakfast drinking coffee at red lights on the way to work.  I have definitely employed this approach with moderate success.  But, often, this harried routine has left me to get through the workday lunch-less, simply reacting to each problem as it arises.  By waking earlier (about an hour earlier than it takes me to get dressed), I can begin my day prepared, confident, purposeful, and with a feeling that I have cared for myself before beginning to serve others. 

Stretch
Once your eyes are open and the alarm is turned off, it's time to wake up your body and prepare it for the rigors of the day.  You should customize this part of your routine based on what your body will be put through during the school day.  Since I have struggled with foot and heel pain caused by taking a zillion steps a day on hard tile floors, I begin flexing and pointing my toes while I'm still in bed, in order to stretch my calves and feet before they take their first steps of the morning.  Then, I focus on stretching the rest of my body.  I like to follow an extremely basic yoga routine called sun salutation.  Visit Women's Health Magazine for a written and visual guide to this series of basic stretches, or check out Portal Yogi for a slightly extended version of the stretch sequence.

Meditate
Now that your body is awake and alert, it's time to prepare your brain for the day.  As humans, we have some self-destructive mental tendencies.  In an article about mindfulness meditation, Psychology Today explains, "First, we cause ourselves suffering by trying to get away from pain and attempting to hang on to pleasure...Second, we cause suffering when we try to prop up a false identity usually known as ego."  Meditation can help our brains form better, more productive habits.  Once you get into this routine, you can customize this part of the morning to fit your goals, but to get started, consider following one of the short, guided meditations provided by UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center.

After this mindfulness practice, I shift my thoughts briefly toward gratitude.  Instead of letting your brain fill with worries first thing in the morning, spend a moment being aware of the people and circumstances that provide you with beauty, pleasure, comfort, and happiness.  We can all think of something to be thankful for, even on the groggiest, greyest morning.  This process will help you start the day with joy instead of stress.  Finally, I move my thoughts to my intentions for the day.  This is not time to make a huge to-do list.  Instead, focus on one or two things that will make you feel proud at the end of the day.  These goals can vary widely from tasks, such as getting to the gym after work, to intentions like treating others with a generous spirit or avoiding vocalizing mundane complaints throughout the day.  This entire brain-preparation routine will only take 7-10 minutes, but it can make an enormous difference in the remainder of the day.

Dress
Now it is time to complete the tasks that were formerly the entire "getting ready" routine.  Treat yourself well by using non-toxic cosmetics (check out the safety of your products using the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database) and dressing in comfortable, well-fitting clothes.  A tight waistband or lack of pockets can lead you to feel annoyed all day long as you sit uncomfortably or lose your keys repeatedly.  Why deal with that frustration?  Dress yourself in a way that is practical and that makes you feel confident.  For me, comfortable shoes are absolutely non-negotiable, due to the aforementioned foot pain.  (Read more about my thoughts on teacher shoes.)  This process is much simpler if you have pre-selected your clothes the night before.  More on this later in a discussion of evening routines.  Also, finish getting dressed now instead of planning to apply makeup or file your nails (or whatever) on the way to work or just after arriving for the sake of your safety and sanity.

Eat
A teacher's job is not for the faint of heart (or soul or body).  If you want to perform well, your body is going to need fuel.  During my first days working as a teacher, I developed a morning habit of feasting on a Nutrigrain bar and a ginormous diet soda.  Although this wasn't even a tasty breakfast, it seemed like the right menu.  After all, I didn't feel hungry at sun's-not-even-up-o'clock, and I just wanted to wake myself up.  Having learned more about the weirdo chemicals in factory-produced "food," I tried slightly healthier variations of this meal, such as a granola bar and a homemade latte.  However, I'm here to tell you, stuffing random food-like substances + caffeine down the hatch is not the most productive approach to your morning meal.  Build a habit of eating a nutritious breakfast, even if it's quick and small.  Some of my favorites are a bowl of real oatmeal (not the packet full of artificial colors and flavors) or a smoothie.  Both of these are great ways to sneak extra servings of fruits and vegetables and even dietary supplements into your day.  For example, a spoonful of ground flax seed, which is jam-packed with Omega-3s and other essential and often under-consumed vitamins, is basically unnoticeable once it's stirred into either of these breakfasts.

Also, drink water.  It's good for your everything.  You know this.  Just do it.  Consider having your first glass of water just after you get out of bed.  I keep a water bottle on my nightstand and finish whatever I didn't drink during the night as soon as I wake up.  Have another glass with breakfast.  With two down, you just have six more glasses to go during your bathroom-break-less work day.

Pack Up
You're almost ready to leave for work, and just look at what all you've accomplished!  Before you walk out the door, though, be sure you have everything you will need.  Yes, you are going to feel like a pack-mule as you walk to the car, but it is so worthwhile compared to feeling unprepared all day.  Check your teacher bag for your school ID and keys, so you don't have to beg a custodian to let you into your room over and over all day.

Fill up your water bottle - the big one.  Yes, I know you don't get to go to the restroom.  Just bring the water and drink it anyway.  Someone will watch your students for the 30 seconds it takes to run to the bathroom as long as you are willing to return the favor.  You're going to be doing a lot of talking and moving, and anyway, water's good for your everything, remember?

Get your lunch ready.  The food that is available for you to purchase at work is not good enough.  (It's not good enough for the kid's either, but that's a topic for another day.)  You are an individual with specific dietary needs and preferences, and a double side of soggy cafeteria fries or an overpriced candy bar is simply not enough - not enough calories, not enough nutrition, not enough enjoyment.  Get out your lunchbox, and fill it with enough nutritious, delicious items to feed yourself a meal and two snacks.  I always include nuts and dried fruits for my morning and afternoon snacks, and I usually pack leftovers and fresh fruit for my midday meal.  Trying to lose weight?  Pack even more fruits, so that you aren't tempted by the box of stale doughnuts in the teachers' lounge.

Morning can easily become a rushed and stressful part of the day if you don't pre-plan a routine and then loyally carry it out.  Trying to accomplish all the things on this list without a plan would be mentally exhausting.  By establishing a routine ahead of time, you can use your morning to care for yourself and prepare for your day instead of getting bogged down with decision fatigue or simply sleeping through this opportunity.

What are your best morning routine tips?