Especially at the end of this very emotional Teacher Appreciation week, there are so many things I could write about this unreal time we are experiencing. We have been out of school since March 13 and will not be going back this year. My job changed in a moment, from being with students & teachers, sharing books and inquiry, to almost completely tech support for teachers and families. I have been struggling with ways to connect my students and teachers with books. Doing everything virtually has provided big challenges, but also some amazing things have come out of it. Publishers, authors and illustrators are creating ways to connect via YouTube live, FB live, Instagram live and more. Thanks to my great librarian friend Melissa Thom (@msthombookitis) who created a calendar of events and shared it with me so that I could make an elementary version. I'll update as I find things! They've been so much fun! Enjoy!
Click on the calendar to go to the actual doc.
Sometimes I am lucky enough to go to a conference where I can get my hands on a book BEFORE it is actually published and sometimes they come to me in an undistinguished yellow envelope or a super amazing box or even something shiny and sparkly. Sometimes the books are book birthday brand new. Either way, I get a little shiver of excitement every time because there is not much better than a new book. It is so much fun to read them and then share them! I'll admit, I'm a little behind on sharing them here, but better late than never.
-War in the Ring (Macmillan - May 2019) was unlike most books I read. I'm not much into boxing or war, but I was intrigued how these boxers connected with America and Hitler. I am so glad I read it because I learned so much! I spent the next few days sharing facts with my family. I appreciated the clear explanations of the choices Joe Louis and the others made. The authors were also honest about Joe Louis' treatment because of the color of his skin. Fascinating!
All the Impossible Things by Lindsay Lackey makes you fall in love with the main character Red. Everything always seems to be going against her and finally she finds a little calm in her life, only to be interrupted by her mother. Bittersweet with a little magic thrown in.
Kids will love The Bone Garden for its spookiness and edginess. I was never quite sure what was real and what wasn't, but it doesn't matter. Irreelle is a true heroine and her friends, including The Hand are with her all the way.
I can understand why Wunder Ellis of The Miraculous stops believing in miracles. I think many of us have thought about this at one time or another. When someone precious is taken away, it's hard to keep believing. I loved how unique characters are brought together and ultimately go on a journey which changes their lives. I think this has great read aloud potential.
The Biggest Little Farm - Saving Emma the Pig tells the true story of Emma who had 17 piglets!!! Not only that, but she was sick and the farmer had to do some problem solving to figure out how to help. I can't wait to share this one with my students and talk about perseverance!
Sarah Stewart and David Small have created a special book celebrating the power of reading. This Book of Mine reminds us that books can be so many things for so many people. A fantastic one with which to start the year!
It's all about perspective in Little Juniper Makes it Big. Everything is too big, until Juniper visits her friend Clove's house. Sometimes you need to live life in someone else's house to appreciate what you have. Great discussions will be had with this one!
One of my librarian mentors, Paige Jaeger, shared a new book that she wrote with me and I can't wait to share it with my students and teachers. Who Will Roar If I Go? is a terrific way to get kids asking questions. There are so many animals, some familiar, some less-known, that kids will want to find out more about. Use this book to support NGSS standards and ELA standards. I think the title will grab them too!
Listen - Just reading the title and seeing the cover draws you into this gorgeous about the senses and the earth and all that connects us!
The Last Peach was my first week of school read aloud for my 2nd and 3rd graders. We loved the different voices seen in the book with different colored words. My students also enjoyed looking at the illustrations which were made out of all different papers. The bug characters cracked us up!
Many thanks to Macmillan Publishing for providing review copies.
It's been a while since I've posted as I have thought about the best use of my website and blog. I've got some ideas and I'll be slowly working it back into use for my students, staff and my PLN. I'm excited to start sharing again!
With an intriguing title and a first line that reads, “It started with a flash,” The Train to Impossible Places is a book I can’t wait to share with the readers in my library. Your fantasy/sci-fi and adventure lovers will be wanting more!
P. G. Bell creates a world full of trolls who run the Impossible Postal Express, talking underwater ghosts, a frog trapped in a snow globe and many more! Suzy is human from Earth who is passionate about physics, but her mind can’t quite understand what is happening as the Impossible Postal Express is inside her house! It’s explained to her as “simple fuzzics.” “Fuzzics. Like physics, only fuzzier.”
I loved how Suzy’s curiosity overcame her fear --- there was no way she was going to have her mind reset --- she just wanted the world to make sense again. So instead of taking the easy way out, Suzy jumps onto the train and finds more than she bargains for. This is a mindset that we talk a lot about in school - try something and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, try it again a different way. The design process is also evident in the amazing creations that the trolls make. When something breaks, the trolls do “what trolls always do”. “Taking what they have and making something with it.” I can imagine some fun creating as students read this book!
The mystery continues as Suzy becomes a Postal Operative and must deliver a package to the evil Crepuscula. Of course nothing is as it seems and it takes her quick thinking and commitment to keeping her word that make all the difference. With twists and turns galore, Suzy and the crew of the Impossible Postal Express will take readers who love adventure through exciting new worlds and I feel that this train will keep traveling through even more adventures in the future.
Students in grades 3-6 will enjoy this one! Find it at your local library, your independent bookseller or from Amazon.
Visit the other stops on The Blog Tour to Impossible Places September 17 - 27.
Post Master (Conductor) - Cindy Minnich on the Nerdy Book Club blog
Engine Room - Maria Selke on Maria's Melange
Mail Room - Cynthia Alaniz on Librarian in Cute Shoes blog
Antique Goods Coach - Jenny Lussier
Caboose - Alyson Beecher on Kid Lit Frenzy blog
The review copy of The Train to Impossible Places was kindly sent by the publisher, MacMillan Children’s. I received no compensation for this review.
Chapter 3 - Being Candid
The word Microaggression was new to me, but once I understood, I knew exactly how they felt. Each of the author's teaching strategies that are embedded are really helpful for me as I think about how to go about this work. Subtle differences, such as just asking if someone has HEARD the word versus knowing what it MEANS can mean a lot. I really liked how even when working with a word like that, she brings it back to "What does it mean in your experience?". To me, this brings together inquiry and personalizing the learning and as the author tells us, it helps everyone to work from the same understanding.
Being candid, honest with intent to evolve - this is the part that always stops me and makes me think. What if kids don't want to do this? What if they don't see a need? This is hard work and emotional.
The author uses stories a lot - personal ones, stories from poems or books. I think for all kids, but especially for elementary students, story is a really great way of talking about this. Whether it is a personal story of your own or from a book, it allows them to peek through a window into that world.
After reading the part about implicit bias, I began noticing all kinds of little things that my kids and I were saying or doing, even just with each other. Awareness is so important!
This section also helped me think about how to talk more about bias with my library students. When we evaluate a resource, one of the criteria is Bias, but I've never been really sure how to talk about it with them. I think I now have some really really great ways to begin the conversation. Drawing the doctor, pilot, etc I think will be very powerful. I can't wait to try it on my own 2 children. I'll post the results.
Chapter 4 - Becoming Better Informed
I have absolutely been there when kids just need to talk about something. I only see my students once a week for 45 min., so it is really hard when they come in because many times they are just bursting to tell me things. Sometimes it is about a birthday or other event and sometimes they are bigger questions or topics. Some days I tell them that I want to hear about _________ and can they talk to me at check out time. Sometimes I know I need to abandon whatever we were supposed to do and focus on what they need. I love how she calls it "student news".
I think the chart that is created is terrific! I love the column that is for their thinking. I have been working to add more reflection into my students' lives and this is a great way of doing that. It is really helping to make their thinking visible and it might take a lot of modeling and practice. So worth it.
I've used a tool that may have come from Smoky Daniels originally when we notetake - Fact / React.
I love it because it isn't just about kids writing down a fact about their animal, but they need to DO something with that fact. Ask a question, realize that it is important, something new they learned, etc. I have them code it using little pictures. It has helped move kids from just regurgitating facts.
The mini-inquiries that come out of the taking action column are a great way to give kids an outlet. My daughter (she's 11) has been struck by many things she's heard about plastic straws harming animals and even did a writing in school about it. She didn't get to the point of taking action, but almost. I was happily able to tell her about Starbucks working to get rid of plastic straws by 2020 and McDonalds moving on this too. She was thrilled!
So many things to think about from these two chapters! I love that the library is a place where I can create space and time for dialogue and questions. I hope so much that I can provide kids with what they need. I do worry too - Am I forcing my beliefs on my students? Will there be backlash? Lots of questions.
The survey about ranking what is most important to you really made me stop and think. Only 20% of those students surveyed ranked caring for others as their top choice?!? Modeling compassion is more important now than ever before if we want to change this.
Don Graves' challenge - do we see kids as they want to be seen or how we think of them? This is a tough challenge in that I see almost 400 kids between my 2 schools, but I'm going to work on it - maybe instead of 10 things, I'll go for 5 or as many as I can and keep adding over the years. One of the best parts of library is having kids for 5 years - K through 4 - and watching them grow over that time.
Decenter your normal - this is so hard for me to do after living in "my normal" for so many years. I am curious how kids do - it really takes some work to think about what someone else's normal is like. I can't wait to dig into this more.
Enter with humility - So interesting to see this written down. I wrote in my notebook: "...our culture values knowing over messing learning is evident in the way we revere experts and correct answers" (xxix). In my library world, we make time for kids to explore, play, get messy as they read, use items in makerspaces and take charge of their own learning. I hope that by providing times for there not to be an answer, kids are learning that it's ok.
All of these ideas I've written about seem to be to be about listening to others, which of course flows into the ideas in Chapters 1 & 2. I'm excited to hear from others about how they are tweaking lessons like Identity webs, Stories of Our Names, and Where I'm From poems with K-2 students.
Identity Webs - Reading aloud picture books are a great way for me in the library to include Identity Webs. I was thinking too, that I could partner with classroom teachers on this.
Stories of our Names - This resonated with me so much! I had all kinds of trouble with my names growing up. First, my first and middle names are considered nicknames to many - Jenny Kate. So many teachers would start out the year calling me Jennifer. And my mom worked in my school! Then, my last name was Wajda. Vida. It was always mispronounced and mixed up. Names really do matter.
I am From poems - I have written these with students in the past and they are amazing. It takes time sometimes, to think about something beyond just the obvious, something that really gives the reader/listener a sense of who you are. Like the Identity Webs, perhaps the I am From poems can continue to change as the year progresses.
Listening is so big! So important! Really listening, not just thinking about what you are going to say next when that person is finished speaking. I am so excited to use the strategies in this chapter, including the sentence starters. Because some of this is new to me, I may not catch some of the great things kids say, so having models for myself is important. But I bet my students will have their own amazing versions to share.
I want to add that I appreciate so much the two sections that are included at the end of each lesson and chapter: Addressing Tensions and Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible. Both of these give tips and suggestions of problem areas and also ways to keep reflecting and growing as we do this work together.
Each summer for the past few years, I have joined an amazing group of learners as we read, wonder, and share about a book together. This year, Sara Ahmed's Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension was selected. I am really excited about this title and it's timeliness. I have been thinking about social comprehension a lot this past year and have attended a terrific workshop entitled Opening the Book on Equity - Representation in Your Library given by Michelle Gohagon of Middletown Public Schools. I believe that libraries have a huge impact and am eager to learn more!
Local author Leslie Bulion has done it again and will be sharing her newest book of poetry at the Durham Library during her book launch party! Come and meet Leslie, play critter games, decorate worm and snail cookies, get bacteria tattoos and even purchase a book and get it signed! Come join the fun on March 14 at 6:30pm.
"I just can't pick!" "Can we pick 2?" Every week we added a new book or 2 and every week my 1st and 2nd grade students fell in love with another book on our Mock Sibert nominee list.
Here's what we read:
Snow days and delays limited our nominees to only 9 choices, but we loved them. The titles came came the list author Melissa Stewart posted on her blog. Focusing on the Sibert Award (pronounced Sigh - bert) was a perfect fit with the nonfiction unit my students were experiencing in their classrooms. So not only were we able to read and enjoy these terrific books, but students were thinking critically about the authors' choices of nonfiction features too. One of the criteria that was new to my students was about backmatter. Backmatter are things like author's notes, resources, recipes and more.
So here are the results so far (I have 2 more classes to vote next week, so I'll update then):
First place: The World is not a Rectangle
Second place: Tied between Grand Canyon and The Youngest Marcher
Mrs. Lussier's pick - Grand Canyon
Each Wednesday morning I work with one of the 1st/2nd grade classes as part of an enrichment block. We have explored a variety of makerspace materials during our first rotation, built structures with only tongue depressors, binder clips and clothespins next, and started using Codestudio during our third rotation. For this rotation I wanted to do something hands on again. I remembered creating a binary bracelet when I was at ISTE at couple years ago and thought that it would be perfect! (I also have a large supply of perler beads from my daughter! Yes!)
I found the actual lesson from Thinkersmith's Traveling Circuits and tweaked it a little due to 45 minute time blocks. It was a lot of fun having kids think about exactly how computers communicate. We have done quite a lot of coding together, but I think this was the first time they really thought about what happens to make the code work. I don't have a computer to take apart right now, but they provide pictures.
After taking a quick peek at the inside, we moved on to the challenges of binary. It is a little bit of a stretch to think about how computers actually understand the keystrokes/mouse clicks, but overall we got the idea. The kids loved trying to figure out the letters in ASCII. I put a code on the chart paper and gave each student a decoder card. Some of the kids noticed that A-O started with the same pattern while P-Z do too.
After we did a few together and most students felt pretty comfortable, I showed them how they would create a bracelet using beads that represented their 2 initials. They used a strip of paper (provided in the lesson) to record the code for their initials and chose 2 colors for on / off. The perler beads worked great, but I did need to use thread, not a thicker string. We also had to try different ways to tie the beads on (we did have a few whole codes just fall off), but the kids were patient with me. Pictures will be coming soon!
If they finished, they could wear their bracelets home. If they needed more time, I put their materials into a baggie and either sent it home to complete or they will finish it during their next library class.
The best part was on Thursday morning, some students came down to the library to show me what they created at their afterschool program! They had shared with their teacher what we had done and she looked up binary codes, found beads, and helped them create even more! They came back Friday morning too! It was so exciting to see the kids take what we had done and extend it and teach others.
Mrs. Lussier is a Library Media Specialist at Brewster Elementary School in Durham, CT. I am passionate about getting kids reading (ok, everyone!), wondering, using technology and having FUN!
The Nonfiction Detectives
A Year of Reading
Great Kid Books
Free Technology for Teachers
The Styling Librarian
The Book Whisperer
The Busy Librarian
Barrow Library Media Center
Watch. Connect. Read.
Kid Lit Frenzy
The Daring Librarian
Librarian in Cute Shoes
Read Write Reflect
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