Tuesday, November 8, 2016


We enjoyed a rather summery October this year with highs in the mid-80s.  Whew!  Hot! However, I went ahead and pulled all the fall books and eventually sipped on a pumpkin spiced latte.  :)

Our "Fall" display of books, made its way into the window, since we'd been running out of space on top of our book shelves.  I had to turn down 5th grade for displaying their Civil War projects, because PTA's Reflections (student art) were already going to be using the space.

I made some new shelf labels to replace old ones and to help students locate books on their own.  These also assist me when I shelve books during my classes.  After 3 years, I've almost memorized where everything is located, but these visual clues are quite helpful.

(On my "to-do" list are visual clues for the "E" and Non-fiction sections.)

I did do a fiction lesson with first grade on different series found within the "E" for everybody section on the first grade readability level.  Some were to focus on series that students didn't naturally gravitate toward, or weren't aware existed.

These yellow "1st grade" labels were on the shelves, temporarily. 

It was also good to review how to choose a "just right" book, as I've noticed that students aren't attempting to read the first page before deciding if a book is one they could read independently.  Lots of judging a book by its cover and size instead of content or first page appeal.

Kindergarten lessons had been focused on story elements.  We first did a lesson on characters, defining them as "who or what the story is about".  We then did a lesson on settings, defining them as "where and when the story takes place". 

Students got to practice applying these concepts by using PicCollage on iPad.  They did a wonderful job learning to use this app.  

In the picture to the right, students photographed and identified a pond, "gras" (grass), an "oshen" (ocean), and a "frist" (forest) as different settings in a book, since settings can change in a story.  Their reward for taking a picture walk through the entire story was to add a background and digital stickers.  

Kindergarten students just recently started working on plot, defining it as "all the events, or things, that happen in the story".  This, of course, is a newer/more challenging concept, but exposure to the correct terminology is vital in growing as a reader. We worked on a story map together as we listened for the main characters in the introduction, what they wanted, the conflict or problem that they had, how they tried to and eventually solved their problem.  We will continue to work on these story elements as we delve into the Georgia Picture Book Award Nominees for 2016-2017.  

At home, I worked furiously on creating different centers for each of the Georgia Picture Book Award nominees, not only so that I could use them with students, but also so that I could post them to My Dear Watson.

My favorite creation was this lap book (pictured left) for 28 Days:  Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr.  My husband, Michael, was happy to draw and create the shuttle foldable.  I love it when he makes items for our TpT store!

Second grade started learning about the different topics in each of the Dewey Decimal periods.  Then we started rotating through 10 Dewey centers.  Each center had two different activities, so students could choose what they wanted to do.  Many gravitated toward the 100s where they read a book about thankfulness and created a thank you card for either an adult at school or an adult at home.  (I tried to tie in "Attitude of Gratitude" since our school just started 7 Mindsets Academy.)  They also loved the 300s, where they read books about holidays, preferably one they don't currently celebrate, in an effort to learn more about another culture.  Then they used items in the Makerspace to create a decoration for that holiday.  (The other option at that center was to record facts about a holiday, but no one yet has opted for that!)

Above left, students created flags for Memorial Day, and above right, a student created a candle for Diwali.  LOVE their ingenuity!

In a fourth grade lesson I taught, students learned about the "Architecture & Construction Career Cluster", and had started drafting and planning a building/structure of their own.  I created a worksheet where groups of 6 students were each assigned a job.  I provided structural requirements and items in the Makerspace, and they planned accordingly. After I approved their plans, they began working, each contributing his/her own part to the project.  As supplies dwindled, or plans went awry, students had to re-think, persist, and create different solutions.  They loved this activity and have asked that they have more time!  It makes this librarian's heart happy to see them critical think and use the library for more than a place to get books.

Third graders had started a project with a partner or small group to choose a country and formulate some guiding research questions.  Loved seeing them explore places all over the world through CultureGrams!  I even tweeted about the group (pictured right), as I overheard them saying, "Dude! Did you know there was a country named Hungary?!?"  CultureGrams replied and retweeted!  #socool

Lastly, I wanted to share this quote from my teacher calendar.  It's a good one!  It comes at a perfect time, as book fair started this week.  I'm so fortunate that even though I'm teaching all day, the parents at our school support the library by running the book fair.  We wouldn't have books without them!

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Look at that shelf.

Such disarray.  That's kind of how I felt around mid-August.  Pulled in too many directions.  On overload.  In need of a bookend to hold me up and set me straight.  (or, in need of more time in my day)  One week, I tried staying no later than 4 PM, and leaving undone what I couldn't accomplish, but that was stressful, too!

I currently spend around 30 minutes everyday, either during classes, during planning, or after, afternoon car duty, to keep all of the books shelved.  I'm doing a better job of preventing the shelves from looking like the one pictured above.  (We've had 3 different moms come a collective six times to volunteer to help with shelving. Yay for Mrs. Stratton, who has come back multiple times!)  I implemented a new change this year, to allow 4th and 5th graders to re-shelve their own fiction or everybody/picture books.  That has helped!

I also started a 5th grade program called "Castle Apprentice" (since our library is painted to look like a castle) in which three to four 5th graders come during the morning to help younger students with check out, to sharpen pencils, and to turn on all 32 computers in the computer lab.  Fifth grade teachers were wonderful to support this and allow students to come help between 7:10 - 7:50 a.m. Students have been a TREMENDOUS help to me, since I'm also trying to co-run the morning news during that time with our school's ITS, Angela Wilson.  That's one of our peak circulation times, so having reliable, extra help has been wonderful!

This year I set up a "New Books" area for our (JLG) Junior Library Guild books that arrive monthly.   I already called our book representative, because I don't know that we can continue to fund that option, though I have loved that new books come in every month instead of only from our twice-a-year book orders.  It's hard to wait until mid-November to see how much money is raised through the Scholastic Book Fair.  Our current Follett book wish list is hovering just above $3,000 - SO many good titles that teachers, students, and I want for our library!  Here's hoping the book fair goes well...

 This easy "Author Spotlight" is definitely a lesson I need to work in again this school year.  I just need to find time to start it sooner.  It might become part of a choice board...time will tell.

I publicized all of our awesome summer readers again this year! Kids loved seeing their names up on the board!
First through fourth graders got to fold an origami bookmark, as an introduction to our new Makerspace, and as part of a review for how to care for our library books.

Kindergarteners learned about book care by working on creating their own book jackets, similar to the one in The Jacket by Kirsten Hall.  I also started a book bin that I keep under our ActivPanel, and I rotate out different titles.  Kindergarten students who don't want to do the activity, or who finish early, can simply go to the bin to get a book to read.  We've worked on how picture books have a picture on every page, so even if they can't yet read, they can read the story by looking at and thinking about the pictures.

I've started using the career lessons that I made this summer to sell on My Dear Watson.  Second grade did some writing about their favorite "Health Science" career,
Students looked back through the PowerPoint to find how to spell different careers.
 and they categorized "Arts, AV/Technology, and Communications" careers into categories of their own choosing.

Fourth graders have been crafting something "useful" or "beautiful" for an activity for the "Manufacturing" career cluster.  They each had access to the same amount and types of materials, and they worked in small groups to plan and create their idea.  We utilized materials from our Makerspace.  The kids took to it so easily, and really seemed to love it!  The very best ones from each class are on display.  

Third graders have been working on one of 4 choices as an extension activity in the "Hospitality & Tourism" career cluster.  Students could choose one of the following:
  • Plan and design a roller coaster model
  • Plan and design a museum exhibit
  • Plan and advertise a party event
  • Plan and advertise a travel destination

Most of them have been building a roller coaster or a museum exhibit.  One teacher's kid even brought his mom into the library to see his project - that's how excited he was about his Makerspace project!

And, just this last week in celebration of The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, kindergarten through fourth grade experienced the Quiver app to "make their mark", be brave, dream big, embrace creativity, and have fun!  (Unfortunately, as part of my six period, fixed rotations, I see 5th graders significantly less times than K-4th, so we have to focus all of our time on the Georgia Career Portfolio.  Hopefully this year, with our writing coach's help, 5th graders may be able to finish their projects earlier and utilize the Makerspace or something fun before the school year's end!)

It's been a whirlwind.  But, if I stay focused on successes and the growth of 'trying something new', even if my lesson looks like a bedraggled shelf of books, I always end up with a smile.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A New Year

Made it successfully through the first full week of my third year as an instructional media specialist, kicking off the 15th year of my teaching career!  Started a bit early by attending a Code.org workshop with these lovely ladies before summer's end.  Learned about the importance of teaching computer science in our schools, and began pondering how to incorporate it into my already-packed library and literacy skills lessons for the year.
During pre-planning, received a package at school containing this advanced reading copy of Grace Lin's soon-to-be-published book When the Sea Turned to Silver.  (Thanks to Mrs. Weng, a former parent and friend of Mrs. Lin for connecting me with this opportunity!)  I'm not gonna lie.  I've been reading it as slowly as possible.  I don't want it to end!  I LOVE her stories and the way she writes stories within her story.    Her books are GREAT for teaching figurative language, too!  So beautifully written!  (Also very excited about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon being on this year's Battle of the Books reading list!)
Crafted this trifold board for Open House in hopes of gathering some donations for our library's upcoming Makerspace.  Thanks to Mrs. Cooper, our Science Lab teacher, for her help in getting an idea of how to make our board cute!  Thanks also goes to her for donating tangram shapes and building materials!  Got 12 library volunteer names, and have already had one mom come in twice, to help students with checkout.  She also helped me change out a bulletin board.  We've had several donations come in so far, so stay tuned to see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Brain & STEM

In the summertime, I usually follow this pattern:  stay up super late into the wee hours of the morning, sleep in until around 10 a.m., and then mill about all day.  As the days tick by, I then stop knowing what day or date it is and stop remembering the things that are told to me.  My husband and I go for a week to some beach, and I typically spend a week at home in Alabama with my family.  I do try out lots of new recipes from my Pinterest board, and I do catch up on reading all the books I want. I also stress out a bit about the impending school year, knowing that 40+ hour weeks lie ahead of me, yes, even as a librarian!  But typically, the highlight of my day is going to the mailbox to get the mail.  Three glorious minutes in the sunshine.

However, this summer is completely unlike any of the ones before.  My husband, Michael Daniels, is currently out of a job due to a lay off.  He has been out of work since April.  We decided to put his amazing graphic talents to use, and we opened a Teachers Pay Teachers store, My Dear Watson. He worked for much of June on an editable planner. I set up my folding table, usually reserved for 1,000 piece puzzles, in the guest bedroom, and in my "office", started working on my career cluster lessons.  And while I hear your thoughts, as they are likely the thoughts I used to think - 'WHY are you working in the summer?!?', it's because it is supremely nice to have actual time to ponder, question, write, and re-write lesson material.  There's a feeling of luxury to have time and not have to rush.

Which, leads me to the STEM part of my post title.  I did find so many cool websites while working on the STEM Career Cluster lesson, but I couldn't include them all.  Here are the ones* I didn't end up using in my lesson:

This website has over 1,000+ ideas for science fair projects.  It also has teacher, parent, and student resources.  I like it for the numerous STEM-related career pages.

This website is a great resource if you need a fun project idea, nonfiction article, or an online activity for your students.  Their subjects include:  crime scene investigation, extreme weather, medical innovations, robotics, space, the animal kingdom, under the sea, video games, and wind energy. Each subject has related articles, online activities, local events, and related careers.  There is a "Location" page to find STEM related attractions near where you live or groups to join.  

Like Science Buddies, Curiosity Machine is a non-profit with lots of corporate sponsors.  There are over 80 design challenges, perfect for a Makerspace.  I signed up for a free account.  In doing so, I could add students to any group that I create.  Granted, students would have to sign up for a Curiosity Machine account too, but then they use a group sign-in code to add themselves to the group you create.  I suppose this is so you can assign them a design challenge. That part seems unclear. Their challenges fall into these categories:  aerospace, art of science, biometrics, biochemistry, civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, food science, materials science, mechanical engineering, neuroscience, ocean engineering, robotics, and satellite systems.  So, basically, a GREAT and easy way to link what students learn at school with how it impacts their home, their community, and the world

As for me and my summer brain, I am still staying up quite late into the morning, and sleeping in, but I am also trying to make good use of extra time to read, learn, and create!

*As is professional, you should explore and decide on whether these websites are appropriate for your students.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fond Memories & On to Summer!

As always, I'm very far behind on posting, but I've finally combed through all of the photos and put them into Layout to share with you.

Created a "Reading Helps Your Mind Bloom" book display, to leave up as state testing started.  I pulled lots of gardening, bees, and butterfly books. Plus, lots of potential parents came through at the end of the year for tours, so it was good to have this out to keep it from being too sterile as all the library books started coming back.  

I did a "Hop Into a Great Book" display here to put an emphasis on some seldom-circulated books as well as to highlight nonfiction, though I also put out some fiction books too!

Kept on teaching kindergarten and first graders about different authors.  I did create some very fun centers for Mo Willems.  As one paraprofessional said to me, "You're brave to do Play-Doh on carpet."  However, we didn't really have any issues when I gave the kids clear expectations for use.  They're such sweet students, and they made it work!  LOVE the different ideas they came up with giving Naked Mole Rat clothes!  (see bottom left) 

Held a successful Battle of the Books for our school groups with the help of Mrs. Tate. Already looking forward to next year.  I went ahead and pulled all of the books we already own for the 2016-2017 list.

Look which book won the 2016 Georgia Book Award!  I was quite surprised. Not a lot of our students voted for this one, though it is an adorable story.  In this Layout, I also added a picture of "Celebrating Women's History" month and "Music in Our Schools Month".  My husband and I had just been to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to see an ode to Robert Shaw (my fave!) concert, and I read in the program about how it was "Music in Our Schools Month".  I immediately pulled books to do with music and songs and lyrics and put them on display, in addition to the display I was already planning to celebrate strong, brave, intelligent women of note.

We got in a HUGE order of new fiction books and books that support our teachers' standards!  Lots of student and teacher input went into this order, as well as a need to add books that match the shift in our school's cultural make-up.  Having desirable fiction titles is an easy way to keep kids coming back to check out another book to read!

I didn't get a chance to snap a picture of our third grade team at the county Battle of the Books competition, but I did snap one of our fourth grade team.  There are also a couple of shots of how ornately Haw Creek decorates its halls and doors for the competition.  I dressed up as a Hogwarts witch, as did Ms. Grimes, and we volunteered in the snack room.  The kids had lots of fun and friendly competition!

Here are just a few photos of 2nd and 3rd grade students' Passion Projects.  I had students choose a topic that they were interested in, but knew little to nothing about.  They investigated on Galileo and through Britannica online.  They chose whatever type of product they were willing to create, though I did show all of them Google Slides, and many opted for that choice.  We toured the room to learn from what others created.  Josh (top right) even brought a gargoyle statue in to accompany his project.

Bresden (bottom left) brought in a Polish flag, since he wanted to learn more about Poland, where his grandparents originated.  Other students (bottom right) made 3D informational cards.  It's difficult to see, but in the (bottom right) image, students included their Cornell Method notes.  
LOVE when they really take to a note-taking method!

More Passion Projects!
I also included a picture of me and Mrs. Johnson (bottom middle), all dressed up for our school's end of year celebration day!  It was a "Zootopia" theme this year, so we snapped a picture since we were both giraffes.  (I just chose giraffe since I'm so tall.)

Told my students all about Barnes&Noble's free book for summer reading program.  Added a link to the "reading journal" on our library ItsLearning course.  Also shared Get Georgia Reading and our new Follett eBooks with all students, K-5, before the summer break.  
Additionally, had our local, public library come and do 30-minute assemblies for each grade-level to entice students to get a library card and participate in some fun, summer programs. 
And, finally, did some weeding of unused reference books to teachers at our school and to a new elementary school opening in the county next fall.

One of the first things I've done this summer was go out and read a good book in the backyard with my dog, Brodie.  Our flowers in the yard are in full bloom and beautiful!  
And, my husband and I formally opened our Teachers Pay Teachers store, "My Dear Watson".

Here's to more sleeping in, reading kids' books, and more sunny, sunny summer days!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A HodgePodge

This is how all of the student work from our Georgia Book Award Centers came out.  Again, some was digitally created, some was paper pencil, and some was crafted from their own imaginations.  Next year's goal:  Centers could be less teacher-directed, and more open-ended.


Reflection:  So, as you can see, I did put up all the hearts that students created for why they love the library.  Obviously, next year, I need to make better paper color choices, like yellow or light blue.  But, I also need to figure out what else I can do for that day or entire week.  Within my all-day, fixed, 6-day rotation, I did do lessons that involved Dr. Seuss' books, but for his actual birthday, it was back to regular library lessons.  I had read collaborative ideas from other media specialists within our county, and even created a page on our county's ItsLearning platform for sharing past ideas, but I didn't invest time (that I don't have!) in actually promoting anything at my own school.  I did not realize the disappointment until meeting with a small group of friends after school for Mexican, and one of the kindergarten teachers had said how much she wanted to have done some dress-up days (crazy socks, wacky clothes, etc.).  So, this is on my calendar for next year, and putting the week of days before Leadership Team before it's too late. 
(Our media paraprofessional and a parent coordinate our book fairs and other parents volunteer to assist.  The blue page is the book fair flyer that I found in my box, so I put it up.  I then created multiple days of morning news slides with colorful images and scripts to tell students about the upcoming book fair and to tell them that by buying books, they were giving our school library the ability to buy books!  I also did a count down of days left to purchase books.)  

 I had to share this image from my Battle of the Books after school clubs.  One of the students in this group of 3, was out sick, but the girls figured out how to FaceTime her, so she could be "at the meeting".  A transformative event!  I was so proud of them!!  

This was a lesson for kindergarteners on generatingkeywords/categorizing.  Students then had to think of and illustrate another image to go with each category.  We also looked at how to access and use the "Visual" search in Destiny.

 This was a lesson with third and fourth grade on how to search the Internet.  (Ya know, instead of typing or speaking your entire question to the Internet. Haha!)  Kids LOVED seeing how many hits/websites their search string pulled back, and they really loved when they were the ones to think of something that pulled down only a couple thousand results instead of millions of results.  (We had previously looked at evaluating online sources for reliability and trustworthiness.) 

Teaching actual library lessons has made me feel SO much better about my job!  I've started sharing different authors/illustrators with kindergarten and first graders.  This was an extension activity that kindergartners did after reading through several Lois Ehlert books.  They searched through the library for different birds.  It was FUN!  I even had one student say, "I LOVE this!"

As I was taking down Black History Month books and wondering "What will I put up next?!?" #frazzled, in walked Mrs. Matthews, a paraprofessional who works with our special needs students.  She asked if the special education department could put up a display of exceptional children books.  Perfection!  A true God-send!  I pulled some additional books after school to fill out the books she had found and added a fun quote.  :)

While visiting a sister school in our county for an elementary media specialist meeting, their teacher librarian shared some of the library Makerspace centers that she had purchased.  I loved seeing kids having time to create, build, and stretch their imaginations!  I will have to look at how to organize these in our library, to make them accessible.  Currently, almost all of our tables and chairs are in one corner of our library, so we would need to think about moving some furniture...

I also LOVED this idea for our very blah 
computer lab!  I had decorated the bulletin board in the computer lab last year, but I did not this year. #notenoughtime Our ITS, Angela Wilson, did say she has a vinyl cutting machine, so maybe she can make these for school...?  They are completely adorable, and would be a cute addition to our stark computer lab!

A big THANKS to Susan Grigsby, for always treating Media Specialists like professionals and for getting us together for media specialist county meetings.  Getting to visit other schools is a HUGE piece in collaborating on best practices and seeing how other schools are successful, and then building on those successes at your own school.  #thanksKellyMillElementary

Lastly, I've recently attended two trainings provided by Promethean through our county.  One was for ClassFlow Connect, which our school will start to have access to this year. The other was on the TIM (Technology Integration Matrix).  I won't go into the TIM right now.  I will suffice it to say, that it has really helped me think about my own teaching and integration of technology.  A real, shot in the arm, if you will.  And, even though some of it will be more work, it will be worthwhile work that will benefit our students in a truly authentic way!

 On an ending note, a while back, I attended a very cool Sunday School lesson about using your God-given creativity to create and to let those creations reach out into the world.  I guess as a librarian, my creations are my students.  I do hope that they all go out to create a more beautiful world!