Ringworm and Lice

January has been the fastest and slowest month ever.  I feel like I should make an excuse for taking such a long break from writing, so I wrote a haiku:

Got ringworm and lice.
The teacher’s life isn’t all
apples and kids books.

Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year!  Today's celebration creates a perfect opportunity for a multidisciplinary story time.  Since many children are only familiar with the Western / Gregorian calendar, begin by introducing the lunar calendar, which is based on moon cycles rather than Earth's movement around the sun.

Then read aloud a story to introduce symbols and traditions of the holiday.  Students will love the alphabet-book presentation and detailed illustrations in D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Compestine.  Get more ideas for using this book and celebrating the new year from this earlier article.  After the story, students can listen to a clip of Compestine discussing New Year traditions on NPR's Morning Edition episode from this morning.

Students also enjoy the brief introduction to the holiday presented in Grace Lin's Bringing in the New Year.
Older students will finish this short picture book ready to dive into Lin's longer fiction like The Year of the Dog and the rest of the Pacy Lin series or Lin's Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

After the stories, encourage students to make text-to-self connections regarding the traditions mentioned in the books.  Students will discover that many cultures share similar traditions.  Then demonstrate how students can count backward to their birth year and learn about the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac chart is printed in the back of D Is for Dragon Dance, for the letter Z, and you can download and print a beautiful version created and shared by Jan Brett.  I've written about this printable before, but kids seriously love it and will practice patterns and arithmetic with this image for as long as you will let them.

Finally, let students practice creating similes by comparing the upcoming year to a horse, since 2014 is the year of the horse.  Kids can browse non-fiction books about horses to get ideas for adjectives to use in their similes.


Ancient Egypt Storytime

We just wrapped up our Reading Oasis book fair.  This Ancient Egyptian theme immediately excited the former science and social studies teacher in me because of the opportunities to incorporate so many subject areas into one brief unit.

Perhaps because of the current zombie crazy, my students were fixated on Egyptian mummies, so we dove right in.  With younger students, I shared Judy Schachner's book, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, in which Skippyjon imagines that he is mummified during a treasure-hunting adventure in an Egyptian pyramid.
After the story, students imagined what it would be like to go on a trip to ancient Egypt with Skippyjon.  Then they illustrated themselves in mummy trouble.

Older students learned about the mummification process by reading portions of DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Egypt.
The book's full color images grabbed everyone's attention immediately.  Students can continue exploring this ancient burial custom with Discovery Kids' Mummy Maker game

Students can create their own pharaoh headdresses just like the ones Pete and our other library cats wore for our book fair.
Visit First Palette to get the printable headdress template.  Then kids just color, cut, and assemble three pieces into the completed headdress.

For science and writing, we looked up the definitions of the word oasis.  Many students were surprised to discover that deserts contain wet, fertile areas.  Next we discussed why oasis can also refer to a refuge or pleasant place.  Finally, students brainstormed about their own ideas of a reading oasis and then wrote about and illustrated their perfect places.
Students' creative ideas included a cozy chair, a tree house, a football field, and a gold mine.

For more independent learning and fun, kids can check out Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles webpage. The Kane Chronicles series is based on Egyptian mythology, and the site includes information about Egyptian mythology and Egyptian magic as well as links to online games about Egypt.


Learning the Dewey Decimal System

To organize and keep track of a large collection of books, you have to have a system.  Which system you use, depends on how you will need to access and use your media.  Many classroom teachers organize their books by reading level or theme.  In home libraries, book owners can sort by genre or even cover color.

Dewey Decimal Classification is the most widely-used library system in the world.  Melvil Dewey's method was first published in 1876.  The system assigns a three-digit number to each book to represent its subject.  Decimal points are added when further division is necessary.  After they are grouped by subject, books in a category are sorted by the authors' last names.  This method allows users to find books about similar topics together on the library shelves.

In order to make the most of the system, most students need a little instructional orientation.  To introduce the Dewey Decimal System, begin by reading Do You Know Dewey?: Exploring the Dewey Decimal System by Brian P. Cleary & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.
This rhyming book succinctly describes the purpose of the system and the topics included in the ten major subject classifications.  After hearing the book read aloud, my students were immediately interested in exploring new areas of the library's collection.

Patrons can (obviously) practice the Dewey Decimal System by searching for and locating books on the shelves.  Learning stations are another way to help students review the new information.
Using the Dewey See It? poster from Demco, students can play an I-Spy game that helps them review the major Dewey categories.  You could also make your own poster with various magazine images at the top and item lists at the bottom.  Just be sure to include items from each of the ten classifications.

Students can also play Dewey Match, a game like Memory that helps students build familiarity with the Dewey categories.
Our set is another Demco product that seems to be out of stock.  But you could definitely recreate this idea by printing images on card stock.

Students can review the Dewey groups by playing Mike Frerichs' Dewey Decimal System Library Skills Game.

Above all else, though, my students' favorite activity for reviewing the Dewey Decimal System is watching and listening to the Dewey Decimal Rap.


Banned Books that Shaped America Checklist

Next week is Banned Books Week.  Learn more about the history of the event by exploring the American Library Association's interactive timeline, Celebrating 30 Years of Liberating Literature.  Then visit ALA's Banned Books Week site to discover which books were banned or challenged in the last year, and get ideas about how you can help protect the right to read.

One of the best ways to mark the event is by exercising your freedom to read. BannedBooksWeek.org shared a list of 30 Banned Books that Shaped America.  Use this checklist that I created to tally how many of these important books you've read.
Then pick out a few more to read this week.  Even the youngest readers can find some favorite titles to explore on this list of challenged books.


Football Fanfare

Football is such a big part of fall culture in the U.S.  In the library during this time of year, little football fans need no prompting to check-out and read books about their favorite teams.  But all the excitement is a great excuse to push readers into other genres and subjects through the football theme.
Encourage students to read player and coach biographies as well as football history books, picture books, and novels by displaying some of these less-often noticed titles in a high-traffic area.  The football vocabulary circles in this window display are from a free printable set (of coasters) at Design Sponge.

After spending some time reading, ride the football-season wave into other subjects.  For handwriting practice, check out this football printable from Paging Supermom.

Students can also practice music and math skills with Katie Robertson's Rhythm Football game for the interactive white board.

Older students can write predictions about how the season will go for their favorite teams.  Then they can keep track of statistics throughout the season and finally write evaluations of their initial hypotheses.

Taking advantage of students' intrinsic motivation regarding football can lead to an easy-to-promote interdisciplinary, higher-order thinking extravaganza.


Shark Week Stories & Crafts

It's that time of year that the Discovery Channel has turned into a national holiday: Shark Week.  Even if you're not that into sharks, it's difficult to avoid getting swept up by the annual excitement.  Dive into the fun with these shark stories and learning activities.

In Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton & Tom Lichtenheld, a fierce, underwater predator toy goes to battle against a tough, smoke-billowing train toy in competitions ranging from seesawing to pie-eating.  Barton's bestselling story will hold students' attention while the playful text introduces examples of pun and onomatopoeia.  Visit the Shark vs. Train website to find printable activities and other resources to go with the book.
Then read I'm a Shark by Bob Shea which uses humorous dialogue between the narrator and an almost-fearless shark to tell a story about bravery.
For more oceanic fun, read Down at the Seaweed Cafe by Robert Perry & Greta Guzek. This book's rhythmic rhyme will entrance little listeners as they learn about underwater life.
Although sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, find out what is bigger than a shark in I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.  In this story a squid compares himself to the sea creatures around him.

Shark Sculpture made from reclaimed hubcaps by Ptolemy Elrington - Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, 2012

After story time, allow students to explore Surprising Sharks from London's Natural History Museum and Discovery Kids: Sharks to learn more about sharks, their place in the ecosystem, and how human actions affect their health and safety.  Visit Ocean Portal to read about sharks' 3D sense of smell.  Then let students read and discuss the article, "How Kids Can Help Sharks" by The Humane Society.

After students have gathered some background information about sharks, they can present what they have learned.  Visit Welcome to Room 36 to find great ideas for comparing and contrasting sharks and whales.

Students can also make a simple shark hat using card stock and a few other basic supplies.  This shark hat craft idea was shared on Susan's Site after her trip to the Georgia Aquarium.  Students can review all their new shark knowledge and develop fine motor skills while making this craft.

To re-create this hands-on shark activity, you will need two sheets of grey card stock, scissors, tape, a ruler and something to write with.
  1. Cut three strips of paper, 2" x 11"
  2. Tape two strips end-to-end in order to create one long (~21") strip.
  3. If the hat is for a child, tape the other ends of the long strip together to make a paper ring.  If the hat is for a big kid or adult, wait for the next step before closing the ring.
  4. Attach the third paper strip perpendicular to the taped seam of the long strip.  Then attach the other end of the short strip to the other seam of the paper ring.  If this hat is for an adult, close the long strip by attaching the ends to the edge of the short strip as shown in the photo on the right.  Now you have the basic form for the hat. 
  5. Draw the two fin shapes onto the remaining scraps of card stock.  Be sure to include a small tab of paper that you will be able to fold over in order to attach the fin to the hat bands.
  6.  Cut out fins, fold tabs and attach to hat bands using tape.
  7. Use a marker to add eyes, teeth and gills.

After all this learning, your students will have worked up a shark-sized appetite.  Visit How To Garnish to learn how to make a healthy and impressive banana shark snack.
Or, carry the theme into lunch or snack time by using Fred and Friends Fish Stix to make tasty shark tail skewers that won't harm any actual sharks.