Scotch Laminator Fun

It's not a secret that teachers get a weird thrill out of laminating.  There is something so satisfying about making some flimsy piece of paper become sturdy and long-lasting by encasing it in plastic.  So, it's no surprise that I was ecstatic about being selected to try out and review the Scotch TL902 Thermal Laminator through House Party.
Last week a package arrived containing TWO new laminators, one for me to use and one to give away at school.  I had so much fun trying out the new machine which has a few improved features over previous models.  The TL902 is very slim and light.  Its cord and parts all fold up neatly into the machine, and the whole thing has a handle to tote it around.  It heats up quickly and laminates well.
I tested out the machine by laminating LEGO task cards for my new LEGO building center cart.  You can get these cool cards to use at school or home from Free Homeschool Deals.  This learning center will be part of my expanded library makerspace this year, and the cards will function as fun learning invitations for my students.

I will share more about my LEGO station and other makerspace excitement as they come together in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, what are you laminating as you get ready for school to start?


Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang Have Arrived

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how Snoopy is the official spokesdog for National Library Card Sign-Up Month 2015.  If your library uses library cards, you have to check out the cooler than cool Snoopy library card artwork that you can request (by emailing LibraryCard@Peanuts.com) for your new cards.  All the stir about Snoopy, the upcoming Peanuts Movie, and a Snoopy t-shirt I just received from my dearest for my birthday all inspired me to deck out our library in Snoopy swag for the new school year.  I'm not sure that I'm completely done, but the library is ready for classes to begin on Monday.  Here are a few peeks into our space.

The Peanuts Gang's love of libraries is made clear through many of Schulz' comics.  Our entrance is decked out with favorite Peanuts library quotes paired with Peanuts character cutouts.  The quotations are typed using Peanuts font, which is available for free.

Above the double doors, I used the Peanuts die-cut letters to introduce myself.

Right inside is a bulletin board outlined in Peanuts border. This is where our rules, objectives, and other important classroom information are posted.

Snoopy labels are keeping us organized at centers and on the shelving cart.

I used characters cards to label our tables and my daily binders.

Snoopy bunting above the circulation desk announces the name of our library.

Still on the shopping list are the Snoopy hat I mentioned before, and this Snoopy flash drive.
Visit the American Library Association website to get more ideas about how to leverage Snoopy to promote your library and its programs.

Are you using Snoopy and friends in your library this year?  What are your ideas?


Happy 65th Birthday, Snoopy!

Today is Snoopy's 65th birthday.  His career as the adorable, would-be-writer beagle in Charles Schulz' comic classic, Peanuts has been long and distinguished.  In addition to reaching this milestone and having a new movie debut this year, in November, he will also fill an important roll this September as the official spokesperson (spokesdog?) for National Library Card Sign-Up Month.

If you are a Peanuts fan, you know that Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the whole Peanuts Gang are not just adorable and funny, but they have been lifelong supporters of libraries.  Even though we don't use library cards at my school library, Snoopy and friends are going help spread the love of books and reading with our little readers.  You too can have Snoopy as your library or classroom's official advocate using these great resources and ideas.

Start by setting the scene with Peanuts decorations like these cardboard cutout characters, Peanuts border, and die-cut letters.

Then visit the American Library Association store to find bookmarks, stickers, and posters you can use and share with students.

Let Snoopy pay a visit to your learning space with this adorable hat from Oriental Trading.

Get inspired by this Unshelved Pimp My Bookcart entry that turns a red shelving cart into Snoopy's iconic doghouse.

Let students explore the Peanuts Gang's passion for libraries by sharing some of Schulz' original comic strips like the one when Sally declared that "happiness is having your own library card" and the time Linus proudly described to Charlie Brown about his first time checking out a library book: "There was nothing to it!  In fact, on the whole, it was a rather pleasant experience."  Read more Peanuts comics at Peanuts.com including those that specifically mention libraries.

Kids can find out more about Snoopy, Peanuts, and creator Charles Schulz by visiting the Charles M. Schulz Museum website.

Help students learn to draw Snoopy with this video from Fox Family Entertainment shared in celebration of his birthday.

After all that educational beautification and promotion, you will have worked up an appetite.  Why not try to reproduce this Snoopy breakfast masterpiece share by Instagram user, LilKimKay.
If you're not up to the challenge, never fear.  Just have a root beer, one of Snoopy's favorite treats, while reading A Flying Ace Needs Lots of Root Beer.
Also, Peanuts Movie cross-promotions by Nestle, Horizon Organic, and others will mean plenty of cute Snoopy snacks on the horizon.


Happy Juneteenth! - Celebrating the 150th Anniversary

June 19, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the day Union soldiers arrived in Texas to announce that slavery had ended.  This historic occasion took place more than two years after Abraham Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation.

Learn more about the history of this important occasion by visiting Juneteenth.com, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Texas State Historical Association.  Then take a virtual visit to the Library of Congress to see some primary documents about the day.

Help children gain some insight about the day by sharing the book All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson.

After building background knowledge, find out if there is a Juneteenth event taking place in your neighborhood, or check out these ideas for creating your own commemoration.


Valentine's Day in History

Valentine's Day will be here in just a few days.  Visit the Library of Congress' America's Story website to learn some facts about the origins of this sweethearts' celebration.  While you're there, check out some V-Day primary documents such as Thomas Edison's 1900 film, "The Kiss" or a 1940s Valentine store window photograph.

Then click your way to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History blog to see examples of Valentine notes and telegrams from the early 1900s.
Let students discuss what it would have been like to send and receive notes through the post office or a telegraph machine instead of today's rapid forms of communication such as text messaging and email.

Use students' enthusiasm about Valentine's Day to get them reading by creating a display of books about love and friendship.

After all that learning, it will be time for some sweets.  For an easy and impressive treat that children can help prepare, smoosh slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookie dough around store-bought sandwich cookies and bake in muffin tins according to cookie dough instructions.
You can make these cookie-stuffed cookies with any type of sandwich cookie, but using the limited edition Red Velvet Oreos and some seasonal sprinkles will make these extra festive.


Save the Date - All the Calendars You Need to Write Your Long Term Plan

 At the beginning of the school year, it's time to write your long term plan.  This document is an ultra brief summary of what you plan to teach and do throughout the entire school year.  Before you can map out a curricular plan based on the required objectives or units for your class, it's important to know which days you will actually be at school and when major events, including national holidays and local celebrations, will take place.  In some cases, these events will cause interruptions in your normal schedule.  Other times, you will be able to use observances, celebrations, and seasons as a theme for your lessons.  For example, rather than trying to convince students to stop thinking about the Super Bowl, you can just use their interest in football to build investment in your lessons by letting them practice formulas like speed or investigate geography of past events, history of the sport, biographies of football players and so on.  Here are all the calendars you'll need to plan events and thematic lessons in the school year ahead.

District Calendar + Previous Year's Plan
Start by penciling in school holidays, early dismissal days, class parties, and other local events that will affect your planning.  If you are a veteran educator, also get out the previous year's long term plan (you had one, right?), so that you can remember when you did things last school year. 

Anti-Defamation League Calendar of Observances
The Anti-Defamation League provides dates for international observances and holidays for major world religions.  Use these calendars to become aware of religious events that may be important to the students in your community and to introduce students to different culture's traditions.

Days of the Year
This quirky calendar lists major as well as lesser-known observances throughout the year.  If you enjoy planning lessons thematically, this is a great resource to find out about odd celebrations such as Bad Poetry Day and Thank a Mailman Day.

Perma-Bound Author Illustrator Birthday Calendar
This interactive calendar lists birthdays for tons of famous authors and illustrators and provides links to books created by each person.  Every month also includes a mini biography & photo of a featured artist or writer.  These resources can be used for author studies or to create an easy and informative bulletin board featuring different authors each month.

American Library Association Celebration Weeks and Promotional Events
This page lists literacy-centered events including Banned Books Week, Picture Book Month, and Choose Privacy Week.  These celebrations can be the perfect basis for social studies lessons and reading promotions.

Library of Congress Today in History
This site features historical events for every date on the calendar.  Each date offers an article about a significant past event and includes primary documents related to whatever took place on the day.  This resource is one you can come back to throughout the year, even daily, to support social studies lessons.  LOC also provides a searchable archive of the articles which you can access by date or keyword.

Which resources do you use when creating your long term plan?


Flora & Ulysses

"His brain felt larger, roomier. It was as if several doors in the dark room of his self (doors he hadn't even known existed) had suddenly been flung wide. Everything was shot through with meaning, purpose, light. However, the squirrel was still a squirrel." - Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo & K.G. Campbell

Kate DiCamillo received her second Newbery Award this year for the amazing novel, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a story about a young comic book fan who is navigating her parents' recent divorce and the general awkwardness of growing up when she witnesses the transformation of a squirrel into a poetry-writing superhero.  (DiCamillo's first award was earned a decade ago for The Tale of Despereaux). As a self-proclaimed cynic, Flora is initially skeptical but becomes cautiously hopeful about the squirrel's hidden abilities. As Flora starts to accept and appreciate the squirrel's unique talents, she also begins to view herself and her life through a less cynical lens.

In addition to offering an adorably quirky and heartwarming story, Flora and Ulysses features an innovative format that appeals to readers of all ages. Most of the book is presented through traditional blocks of text, however, line drawings and strips of comic action by K.G. Campbell are included to illuminate the written story.

This book is wonderful as an independent or small group read, but it also makes a great read-aloud, especially if you are able to show the illustrations using a document camera and projector. If you are sharing this novel with students, check out these resources for further exploring the book and the talents of its creators.

Kate DiCamillo, author
Visit Kate DiCamillo's site to learn more about her, her books, and her role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Read a Q&A between DiCamillo and publisher Candlewick to learn more about her inspiration for Flora and Ulysses. Then watch an interview of DiCamillo in which she discusses the novel.

K.G. Campbell, illustrator
K.G. Campbell is responsible for the illuminated qualities of this fantastic book as well as many other popular novels and stories. Visit Campbell's site to discover the beautiful illustrations he has contributed to Flora and Ulysses and his other projects including a lovably quirky picture book Campbell wrote and illustrated called Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, which is an enjoyable read-aloud for all ages.

Beyond the Book
Before beginning to read, build anticipation by sharing a Flora & Ulysses book trailer with students. As you delve into the novel, lead students to reflect on the story using the discussion guide provided by Candlewick.  Extend students' learning beyond the book with lesson ideas from The Classroom Bookshelf.  Then let students reenact the novel's opening scene using a reader's theater script from the Texas Bluebonnet Award committee. (Flora and Ulysses and Lester's Dreadful Sweaters are both contenders for this kids' choice award.)  Then, have some squirrel-centered fun in honor of Ulysses with these squirrel stories and crafts.  Finally, allow students to explore their own poetic creativity using the Squirrel Poet Magnetic Poetry Kit.