Monday, November 11, 2013

This Blog is Moving!

Hi friends!

It's gonna get ugly around fact, it already is. I'm making the leap from Blogger to Wordpress. And right now, I have two ugly blogs. But it will get better soon, I promise.

My new address will be If you head over there, you can see all of my posts and all of your comments, but the sidebar and header and background and menu, well, they aren't quite there yet. But I'm working on it!

(I'm also packing for Hartford, Connecticut and AASL 13! B-r-r-r, it looks cold up there!)

Please bear with me as I move our library centers community to a new and better neighborhood. I'll get the landscaping finished soon, I promise!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Fair Roundup

Hi friends!

It's book fair time again in our library!

No sooner did our pumpkin patch leave than those silver cases rolled into the building.

Once I set up the book fair, I snap a photo of each case with my smart phone. That way, when I suddenly see an empty space on a shelf, I can look back at the photo to see what book I need to re-order.

Here are a few things I've learned about book fairs.

1) I sometimes use the Scholastic theme, sometimes choose my own. Last spring, I decorated in a Seuss theme because our book fair fell on Read Across America Day. This week, I'm decorating in a pirate theme, because it fits with my library's ocean decor better than Scholastic's Egyptian focus.

I bought cute (not scary-skull) pirate tablecloths and pennants from Oriental Trading Company, and I'm playing the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack CD in the background.

2) I always give goodies to my volunteers. This year, I'm wrapping up a thank you note with a five dollar book fair gift certificate, M & M candy bars, and extra gum.

My thank you note says:  Thank you for lending an EXTRA hand at our book fair. You helped us make More & More for our school library and our students. And you can download it from my Google Drive, if you'd like.

3) I create shelf talkers to show the reading levels of the books. Parents want to choose an appropriate book for their students. I look the books up on Scholastic Book Wizard or Titlewave and put the reading level on a shelf talker by the book.

4) Buy the coin counter from the Scholastic Resource catalog. It will save your sanity if you encounter as many coin-filled baggies, pockets, and purses as I do!

5) I use the Signup Genius website to schedule volunteers. This is my first time to try it, and it seems to be going well...better than the paper sign-up sheet.

I hope the book fair odds are ever in your favor.  If you have great ideas that work for you, please share them in a comment!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Library Centers Organization

Hi friends!

I've had a few questions about how I organize my library center "stuff." It's an ongoing process, but here are a few strategies that work for me.

I use this monthly file folder organizer from Scholastic.

This organizer has a cute, colorful file folder for each month, and a sturdy cardboard box to hold them all. Mine are pretty full, as you can see, and I probably definitely need to throw out a few things.

I keep the signs and printables for centers that I know I'll only use in a certain month in the file folder for that month. For example, Halloween centers in the October file, Thanksgiving centers in the November file, and so forth.

You can order the organizer from Amazon.

Or you can buy it with your Scholastic dollars. Mine has lasted 4 years so far.

There are other centers I could use at any time during the year. I keep those signs in one big red folder on a shelf in my library closet. I also have the acrylic sign holders on this shelf.

After I print a sign on the color printer, I like to save it and re-use it. All of the signs are together in the big red folder. I glance through it as I'm setting up library centers on Friday afternoon for the following week.

I keep all the puzzles together on one shelf, with the puzzle center sign. If I have to grab a center in a hurry, the puzzle center takes about 2 seconds to set up.

I also have all of the supplies for the centers, like markers and pencils and glue. I keep those in plastic bins I ordered from Office Depot. My favorites are called Really Useful Boxes. And of course I labeled the bins with my trusty label maker.

Because everything is better with a label on it, right? Or am I alone in that obsession?

I can pull the items I need from a bin and put them in a small container (typically something colorful from Dollar Tree) for the center. If someone wants to be a library helper, I can have them go through the marker bin and throw out the dry ones, or sharpen all of the pencils.

I also have shelves in my closet labeled with months of the year, and I keep my larger seasonal items, like decorations and estimation stations, on those shelves.

Most of the fall decorations are out in the library right now. That folded up piece of muslin is our teepee, waiting for November. And yes, that is a solar dancing skeleton hanging out on the back of the shelf.

I think my system is pretty simple: put it in a bin or folder and label it.

I hope this helps for those of you just getting started with library centers. Please leave me a comment if you have more questions or if you have great ideas for organizing your library stuff!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jawsome Readers

Hi friends!

I stole borrowed an idea from our music teacher, and I love it!

You know that I'm always looking for a good way to encourage students to return their books, right? And I don't want to spend a lot of money, because I'd rather spend our budget on MORE BOOKS.

So, here's what's working for me...

When a class comes to the library for their weekly checkout, and every single student has either returned or renewed their books, we do a cheer and put a sign outside their classroom door. I chose "this class is jawsome" because my students are shark-crazy, and it matches our ocean theme.

I write the teacher's name and the date on this card with my trusty black Sharpie, and the teacher posts it in the hall, by the classroom door. It's not fancy at all! But it gets the attention of other students and teachers, and the competitive spirit kicks in!

When the class earns this award, we line up, we chant "our class is jawsome," and we make three big chomping motions (like the Florida Gator chomp) with our arms.

Here's what it sounds like:

(I couldn't video this because of student privacy. So you'll hear us doing our chant, but all you'll see is the jawsome sign.)

Of course I'll give you my sign for free, right here from my Google Drive. You can change it up to match your theme, or whatever your students particularly love. The fun part is celebrating together!

Our music teacher has an award like this that says "This class rocks" that she provides for excellent behavior in music class. When I saw how excited the teachers and students were about posting their music awards, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and create a library award.

This whole-class-reward is in addition to the shelf marker/library card/punch cards that reward individual responsibility. Our punch cards are still going strong, and even the fifth graders have been excited to earn a trip to the treasure chest to get a free pencil, eraser or bookmark!

I hope you are finding ways to make responsibility rewarding in your library! If you've found something that works, please share it in a comment!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Got Time?

Hi friends!

Do you have enough time?

At my recent presentation for the Region 20 Library Resource Roundup, I handed out exit tickets with a survey. I asked my librarian audience what three challenges they face in their libraries. Ninety percent of the librarians listed "time" as a challenge.

What about you? Yep, me, too.

I've been reading the book, 18 Minutes, by Peter Bregman. It's the book choice for the AASL 2013 Conference, and it's all about getting things done.

And I REALLY like it! I checked it out from my public library, and I took notes on my favorite parts so that I could remember them AND share them with you!

Here's a quote that really sums up the focus of the book: "So often we scramble to get a lot accomplished in a day and succeed--only to realize in retrospect that those things we accomplished won't get us where we want to go. It's not a lack of effort. It's a lack of direction and focus." (p. 41) Exactly!

I know that you teacher-librarians are working hard. No doubt about that! Your days are crazy busy like mine. But if you're not accomplishing what you want to, I recommend this book to you.

Here's some of the advice from 18 Minutes, comparing time to an all-you-can-eat buffet: "The secret to surviving a buffet is to eat fewer things. And the secret to thriving in your life is the same: do fewer things." (p. 101) Don't worry; he does explain how to do less.

Here's what Mr. Bregman says about boundaries. "Setting a rule and then letting people break it doesn't make them like you--it just makes them ignore you." (p. 193) Have you discovered that with your students? If you tell them to raise their hand for a turn to talk, but then you respond to someone who didn't raise their hand, suddenly no one raises their hand anymore! It works the same way with adults and boundaries.

If you can't find the book at your library, or you want to highlight in your own copy, you can find the paperback on Amazon.

Here's a two-minute video overview of the book, from the author.

I hope this book will help you as much as it's helped me. I'm really excited about putting these strategies into practice and accomplishing more of my goals!

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of the book.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Candy Corn Estimation Station

Hi friends!

This week I'm setting up a candy corn estimation station in our school library.

You can click here to get the sign I'm using as a free download from my Google Drive.

I've got my Estimation Station filled with candy corn (enclosed in a zipper bag, away from germs and prying fingers).  Whoever has the closest estimate will take home the candy corn.

It's a fun, colorful fall center. The educational part happens in the conversations we have as the students make their estimates. We talk about how they choose their numbers. Usually, different grades have different strategies. The important objective is that they HAVE a strategy for making an estimate, rather than just a wild guess.

I bought this Estimation Station from Amazon. It comes with a clear scoop that you can fill. You can tell your students that if ____ pieces of candy corn fit in the scoop, and 8 scoops fit in the container, how many pieces of candy corn fit in the container?

The container is a four-inch plastic cube (not huge) with a lid. The activity guide has ideas for more math activities to use with this station. 

This is my kind of math center...SWEET! And I will NOT snitch pieces of candy corn out of my library center! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turtle Library Center

Hi friends!
My turtle arrived today! He was bigger than I expected, and livelier too!

Yesterday I collected all of our turtle books, fiction and non-fiction. I'll display these next to the turtle's tank, and replace them as students check them out.

Then I wrote a prompt on butcher paper, and put it on the table, with markers. Today, our turtle arrived!

Here's what our turtle library center looked like after I set it up.

Simple, right? Turtle tank, markers, and butcher paper. Here's what it looked like once students arrived in the library.

This is the funny part. Although I wrote the prompt inside a turtle shape just to be cute, many of the students assumed that they should write their responses inside turtle shapes, too!

Like this...

They're so funny!

I hope you have the chance to try a live animal center in your library!