Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back to cookies (win) and trees (fail)

We're back from February break (a return made sweeter by the FOUR! boxes of Girl Scout Cookies that arrived on my desk), and it's full steam ahead as we finish preparing for Read Across America.

Yippie for Girl Scout Cookies!
I'm booked with classes all week (as always), so our other fantastic staff members are tying things up.

Students from SUNY's school of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) came yesterday afternoon. They helped our science club plant conifer seedlings. The planters are adorable, but have you ever try to find tree seedlings in upstate New York in February? Yeah, not an easy task. One of our aides had these trees stored in the barn on her farm. She's been saving them since last summer, and planned to plant them in the spring. We're hoping they're just dormant. Right now, it looks like we stuck some twigs in a little dirt. This is NOT an image that will end up on Pintrest:

Yes, that's a tree. Believe me.
On a more successful note, we've got a Lorax! Our custodian, Mr. Stanton, is a fantastic artist. He's responsible for this life size model. We're going to make it available to kids tomorrow, so they can pose with it in photos.
Mr. Stanton with his Lorax

Friday, February 10, 2012

Read Across America: The Lorax in the Junior High Library

Our library celebrates Read Across America every March. This year, the NEA has teamed with the new Lorax movie, and the theme is green.
Image from NEA

Plans are already in the works for our March 1 and 2 celebration in the junior high library.
Deb, the library's creative genius, hard at work.
Here's what we've got planned:
Truffula Tree Tops
Finished Truffula Trees

* We're making life-size truffula trees for the month's book display which will feature "green" books about the environment. We don't have a perfect prototype yet for the tree, but the top involves tissue paper balls, and the trunks are the inner cardboard tubes from carpet roles, painted yellow with brown stripes.(Update: We've got finished Truffula trees! Instead of cardboard tubes, which were 12' tall and didn't fit in the car, Deb used foam pipe insulation and wrapped it with yellow ducktape to form stripes, then glued the tissue paper tops to the "trunks.") I also like this idea for trees below - they used pollyfill pinned to styrofoam and spray painted it.

Image from McLellan Style
Image from Pintrest
* We've gotten our science club involved, and we're going to hold a tree planting event. A local nursery has offered to donate baby trees. Before the trees get transplanted outside, they'll live for a week or so inside the library on display shelves in planters that looks like the one to the left. Instead of terracotta pots, we're using #10 cans we got from the cafeteria.

* The Lorax's mustache is fabulous, and our junior high kids still love playing dress-up. We'll be making mustaches on sticks modeled after the Lorax's iconic 'stache. We're jumping on this wedding trend, and setting up a "fauxto" booth area where students can pose with the mustaches and Dr. Seuss' red and white stripped hat.
Image from The Prippy Handbook

* It's not an event without food! We're going to have a make-you-own truffula tree option. Kids can dip the top of their pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and then in colored sprinkles of their choice. We've had popcorn in the past, but it's super messy, so pretzels and sprinkles can't really be any worse. Is it healthy? Ummmm, it could be worse, right?

* As we always do, we'll have a read-a-thon featuring teachers and students. I plan on purchasing Dr. Seuss' eBooks. We'll hook an iPad up to our ceiling mounted projector, allowing students to see the illustrations as the book is read.We've also invited students from ESF, a local college for Environmental Science and Forestry. They're going to help us plant the trees, and hopefully also read.

What fun ideas do you have planned for the event?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Updated Facebook Template

For the last couple of years, we've been using a PowerPoint Facebook page as a final product for a research unit.

When we used the template last year, my students were quick to point out that the template was "old school" - Facebook has made major tweaks to the layout and design of its site, which weren't reflected in this version.

This year, I finally got around to updating the template to reflect Facebook's current look. Click here to download the  new template for PowerPoint 2010. No, it doesn't have the timeline interface (I'm not using it yet on my own personal Facebook page, so I don't feel comfortable enough trying to recreate it), but otherwise it reflects many of the recent design changes. It is hyperlinked, so when you're in "View Show" mode, you can click on "Wall," "Info," and "Pictures," and go directly to those parts of the PowerPoint - making it behaving like a traditional Facebook page.
Heads up - I did customize parts of the template to meet our research project needs, like adding a "Resources"/"Favorite Sources" section to the Info page, and including captions underneath photos in an album.

[UPDATE: Here's a link to download the rubric we used to grade the project. Obviously, you'll need to modify it for your own needs.]

[UPDATE 5/1/12: Here are more versions of the page, plus the "extras" we use to support the projects:

World Religions Project
 Global Studies VIPs Project

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Poetry Event: The How-Tos For Success

I just hosted my first ever Poetry Celebration in the library. I can't claim any credit for it - it was totally the brainchild of a fabulous English teacher I work with.

Her 8th grade classes just completed their poetry unit - they learned about different styles, different literary devices, completed a poetry scavenger hunt, and wrote four poems. To celebrate the conclusion of the unit, she decided to hold a poetry event. Here's what we learned to make it go smoothly:

  1. Close the library. Kids are shy enough as it about getting up in front of their peers. An extra audience of 20 noisy, distracting study hall students doesn't improve their self esteem or willingness to participate. 
  2. Review proper etiquette before the event begins. The teacher reminded the students to be respectful of their peers, and also taught them to snap when they liked something the poet was saying or at the end of the poem instead of applauding.
  3. Serve snacks. It helps the event feel more festive and clearly says, "This is a special thing we're doing." It's cheap (and semi-healthy) to do hot chocolate or herbal tea and big bowls of popcorn or pretzels.
  4. Have paper towels on hand for when the hot chocolate inevitably spills. Plastic tablecloths and a jumbo garbage can are also useful.
  5. Provide a sign-up sheet when students come in. If they want to participate, have them add their name to the list.
  6. Don't force students to participate, but don't be shy about offering bribes. The teacher gave her students an extra 5 points on their most recent exam for participating in the event. Additionally, we had some donuts and banana bread that we handed out to the first volunteers in the morning periods. 
  7. Give students the option of reading a poem they wrote themselves, or a poem written by another author that they found inspiring. 
  8. Scatter poetry books around the table. Take an intermission half-way through to allow students to refill their drink, and spend 5 minutes looking through the poetry books. Students who didn't come with a prepared poem often find one on the fly and are then willing to get up and share.
  9. A portable microphone or mini sound system is a big help for students who speak softly.
  10. Have poems prepared yourself - if students are reluctant to participate or they need a little inspiration, be ready to jump up and model how it works. 
  11. Be ready with back-up activities if you don't have enough readers to fill the whole period. We used this time to introduce our kids to slam poetry - they were really into it. We showed a few different examples, and then compared them to the more traditional poetry they studied in class. It was fabulous because it helped expand their definition of a "poem" and most of them grooved on the format. 
Note: It wasn't necessarily easy to find engaging yet appropriate slam poetry on YouTube - it probably took me more than a hour to put this list together. I'd get half way through a poem, be totally grooving on it, and then the artist would drop an F-bomb, making it unfit for school. If you're looking for great poems to share, here's a list of what we used (we spent the most time with Sarah Kay's Hands and Noah St. John's Capoeira:)
It turned out to be a great event -- I'm looking forward to doing it again with other English teachers. It was easy prep work, low-key, well-received and special - everything I look for in good library events.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Book Dispays : Inspired byJ. Crew and Pintrest

Some of the best ideas for our book displays come from non-library sources. This month was no exception.

Image from here.
The inspiration? J. Crew's current window featuring accordion pleated circles. I'm digging it 'cause it's festive and special, but it's not overly sicky-sweet and cutesy.

Here's our interpretation of the display:
 It was a great way to use up back issues of magazines, and we had an assembly line going with study hall kids. There's a small frame on the right side of the desk (made out of rolled up magazines) with a sign that reads: Books We <3. The books we picked were just ones with pink and red covers. Here's another view:

For our secondary display I found inspiration on Pintrest. I've been meaning to make paper garlands like these for my Christmas tree.
Pin from this Etsy store.
Here's how my version looks:
It was an easy project to cut out a bunch of paper hearts and then stitch them together with my sewing machine. I like the way the hearts twist and shake with as the heat comes on.

Here's an up close view: