Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shadow Puppet Shows

Check out just a few of the fantastic literature-based shadow puppet shows created in library by 6th graders! These were performed during our Family Reading Night to the delight of all! Thanks to the great Mr. Lafferty for taping and compressing so we can enjoy them again. I am so proud of our students and all the skills, ingenuity and hours of work they synthesized to bring these works of art to life! Bravo!!!

Based on Falling for Rapunzel, by Leah Wilcox:

Based on Arrow to the Sun:  A Pueblo Indian Tale, by Gerald McDermott:

Based on Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola:

Based on mythology from the "Warriors" series by Erin Hunter:

WOW! Pretty beautiful, kids!!!  I hope to have students who did not perform on Family Reading Night to showcase their mad puppet skillz for classes during the school day, as they are available.  We had so many incredible shows!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Make your own...


The second grade so enjoyed Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Elise Primavera that we determined in the interest of spring, our own beloved resident library dragon, Dusty, should have a nest of eggs. To that end, here are directions for second graders (or students at any grade level) who have free time over the break and would like to make a dragon's egg and participate in the activity!

SAFETY CHOICES:  A grown-up must help you make the paper maché paste on the stove, and please wait until it is fully cooled before touching.  Please also be careful to keep the balloon away from babies and small children so they don’t choke.  Thank you!

Step 1.  Make the paper maché paste!  With the help of a grown-up, measure 1 cup of flour and 3 cups of water.  In a saucepan or pot, mix a little of the water with the flour to make a smooth paste.  Add the rest of the water and have the grown up heat the mixture until it boils, stirring all the time.  Turn the heat down and simmer until the mixture thickens.  Then, turn off the heat and leave the mixture until it is completely cool.  You can also keep the paste covered for a couple of days in the fridge if you need to. (Recipe from The Paper Book by Hannah Tofts).

Step 2.  While waiting for the paste to cool, rip a newspaper or several pieces of newsprint into long strips, like Ms. Esme demonstrated in class. 

Step 3.  Blow up the balloon and tie the end (a grown-up can help with this, too).  Dip a strip of paper in the paste and make it very wet all over.  Then, pull the wet strip of paper between your “scissors fingers” over the bowl (like Ms. Esme showed you) to get rid of the extra paste.  Lay the wet strip on the balloon, and repeat until the whole balloon is covered and you can’t see any of it except the tied end.  Then, cover it all again in a second layer, which will make it stronger.  Smooth out your layers.

Step 4.  Leave the newspaper-covered balloon in a cool, dry place.  In three to five days, it should be very dry, and the balloon will have likely lost its air.  Once it is completely dry and holds its shape, pull the balloon out from the hardened shell (gently pop if necessary). 

Step 5.  Paint or decorate the egg until you can no longer see the newspaper.  Acrylic, poster paint and “Modge Podge” all work well.  Be creative!  Please remember to cover all surfaces and wear a smock or apron when using paint or glue, and again, let a grown-up know what you are doing.  Let it dry, and bring it in to the library so we can make a lovely nest of eggs for Dusty, our own resident dragon! 

This craft is not required, but it is fun!  All kids who bring in an egg the first week back from Spring Break will be entered in a surprise drawing for participation and will receive extra credit if they are receiving anything less than an A!   Plus, did I mention it is fun? Can’t wait to see what you make! 

Spot illustration by Elise Primavera, all rights reserved by the illustrator, used for one time non-commercial educational purpose. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Curious George College dissertations

It's that time of year again: in spring, the primary library program turns to thoughts of the work of artists H.A. and Margret Rey.  Curious George College has 100% admission rate for kindergarten, and the free tuition can't be beat!  One of the culminating activities is the "dissertation," also known as a Curious George adventure written by our youngest scholars who have experienced weeks of literary monkey business.  Since some of the graduates-to-be read pictures instead of words, so how grateful we have been to the patient and cheerful upper graders for their help in taking dictation.  Multi-age activities are always so meaningful and memorable...what fun to wave to our new big-kid friends in the hall!  We look forward to reading aloud our finished and work after spring break.  We are learning about the difference between authors and illustrators, and in this project the children get a chance to try their hands at both.  The results are bananas!  Please come and check them out in the school library on Arts Night in April!

Until then, check out this great teamwork:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Culturegrams for state and country research!

I notice many students are coming to the library looking for printed books to assist them with research for reports about states and countries.  In fact, for this kind of nonfiction that has information that changes regularly, databases and online resources are often far more current than books in the case of looking up this information, since libraries rarely update these expensive collections annually. 

Double-in-fact, Stone has subscription access to one of the most comprehensive and most crazy fun databases about states and countries!  CultureGrams will address all your homework and "armchair travel" needs.  A step-by-step "beeline"is always available in the library with all passwords (sorry, I'm not allowed to post them here), just grab one off the library desk and go to town (or country).  You'll be able to access CultureGrams from any computer at school or home. There is a "Kid's Edition" as well as a "World Edition" suitable for upper grade students, and both are very easy to navigate.  Absolutely everything you would find in an encyclopedia or single volume resource can be found here, and then some! At CultureGrams, you can listen to the national anthem of any nation, access maps and flags, cook a recipe, find famous and notable people from everywhere, look up sports teams, learn to say a few friendly words in a foreign language and so much more...I like to peruse this resource just for fun. I always learn something new and you will, too!

Whether you need to learn about a state or country, please ask for CULTUREGRAMS!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss, born March 2nd, 1904 and living on well into the 21st century through his books!  First graders will be celebrating the work of this seminal children's book author/illustrator throughout the month of March.  Students have enjoyed the story Bartholomew and the Oobleck (pronounced "ooooOOOOooobleck!" by most of the kids) about a mysterious kind of weather that drops green glop on everyone.  The storytime integrates first grade knowledge of liquids and solids, currently being studied in the classroom in science, as we play with our own gooey oobleck in library.  (Thank you to Ms. Faulkner for her help in its messy manufacture.) The story also gave us a chance to talk about Dr. Seuss's big idea in the book:  how important it is to say and show we are sorry when we make a mistake, which everybody does, sometimes...even the King of the Kingdom of Didd.

Continue the exploration by making your own oooooobleck at home! Three recipes to try here

Monday, March 11, 2013


Oh, my goodness, it's that time of year again, time to spring forward into a lifetime of great reading thanks to the wonderful wonderful wonderful SHARE A STORY, SHAPE A FUTURE online campaign.  Parents, pour yourself some lovely hazelnut coffee (biscotti optional) and peruse these marvelous articles from experts and enthusiasts from all around the country waxing poetic about early literacy!  Click here for a free education on the subject.  What a great resource for parents and teachers!  I just love this annual initiative and its themes, and the clever use of the internet to bring together all different bloggers under the umbrella of learning.

Another favorite is the "10 for 10" initiative, I participated in 2011 under the theme "10 Picture Books We Couldn't Live Without" (click the "jog" on the left side for more book suggestions than you can shake a bookmark at), and this year's "10 for 10" focuses on nonfiction, just in time for Common Core, the new education standards that encourage reading about what's real! I might have to add my own list (better late than never), though I have already posted beaucoup nonfiction favorites in my roundup at The PlanetEsme Plan

So many books, so little time, or so they say...I say, let's make time for books! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Literary Square Dancing?!

With high stakes standardized testing upon us, we in the library wanted to make sure students had plenty of good books to read, to enjoy during down time and to help them relax.  We were so fortunate to have a student teachers with a public library background and a special interest in young adults, who introduced a kind of reading "round robin"or "literary square dancing," in which the upper graders sat at a table and looked at books from a particular genre, during which time they were allowed to judge a book by it's cover (and synopsis and a few pages), filling out a simple rating form. 

Then we rang a bell about every five minutes, and they changed tables.

After all the tables were visited, students were encouraged to check out books that they rated highly.  Wow, what a hit!  Almost all the kids checked out books outside of their usual comfort zone, and by the pile!  They really got into it!  Thanks for a great idea brilliantly executed, Ms. Crowley! 

As for us grown-ups, we started to get a little jealous...this is a fun activity for anyone who wants to become familiar with many books in a short amount of time.