Ancient Egypt Storytime

We just wrapped up our Reading Oasis book fair.  This Ancient Egyptian theme immediately excited the former science and social studies teacher in me because of the opportunities to incorporate so many subject areas into one brief unit.

Perhaps because of the current zombie crazy, my students were fixated on Egyptian mummies, so we dove right in.  With younger students, I shared Judy Schachner's book, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, in which Skippyjon imagines that he is mummified during a treasure-hunting adventure in an Egyptian pyramid.
After the story, students imagined what it would be like to go on a trip to ancient Egypt with Skippyjon.  Then they illustrated themselves in mummy trouble.

Older students learned about the mummification process by reading portions of DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Egypt.
The book's full color images grabbed everyone's attention immediately.  Students can continue exploring this ancient burial custom with Discovery Kids' Mummy Maker game

Students can create their own pharaoh headdresses just like the ones Pete and our other library cats wore for our book fair.
Visit First Palette to get the printable headdress template.  Then kids just color, cut, and assemble three pieces into the completed headdress.

For science and writing, we looked up the definitions of the word oasis.  Many students were surprised to discover that deserts contain wet, fertile areas.  Next we discussed why oasis can also refer to a refuge or pleasant place.  Finally, students brainstormed about their own ideas of a reading oasis and then wrote about and illustrated their perfect places.
Students' creative ideas included a cozy chair, a tree house, a football field, and a gold mine.

For more independent learning and fun, kids can check out Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles webpage. The Kane Chronicles series is based on Egyptian mythology, and the site includes information about Egyptian mythology and Egyptian magic as well as links to online games about Egypt.


Learning the Dewey Decimal System

To organize and keep track of a large collection of books, you have to have a system.  Which system you use, depends on how you will need to access and use your media.  Many classroom teachers organize their books by reading level or theme.  In home libraries, book owners can sort by genre or even cover color.

Dewey Decimal Classification is the most widely-used library system in the world.  Melvil Dewey's method was first published in 1876.  The system assigns a three-digit number to each book to represent its subject.  Decimal points are added when further division is necessary.  After they are grouped by subject, books in a category are sorted by the authors' last names.  This method allows users to find books about similar topics together on the library shelves.

In order to make the most of the system, most students need a little instructional orientation.  To introduce the Dewey Decimal System, begin by reading Do You Know Dewey?: Exploring the Dewey Decimal System by Brian P. Cleary & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.
This rhyming book succinctly describes the purpose of the system and the topics included in the ten major subject classifications.  After hearing the book read aloud, my students were immediately interested in exploring new areas of the library's collection.

Patrons can (obviously) practice the Dewey Decimal System by searching for and locating books on the shelves.  Learning stations are another way to help students review the new information.
Using the Dewey See It? poster from Demco, students can play an I-Spy game that helps them review the major Dewey categories.  You could also make your own poster with various magazine images at the top and item lists at the bottom.  Just be sure to include items from each of the ten classifications.

Students can also play Dewey Match, a game like Memory that helps students build familiarity with the Dewey categories.
Our set is another Demco product that seems to be out of stock.  But you could definitely recreate this idea by printing images on card stock.

Students can review the Dewey groups by playing Mike Frerichs' Dewey Decimal System Library Skills Game.

Above all else, though, my students' favorite activity for reviewing the Dewey Decimal System is watching and listening to the Dewey Decimal Rap.


Banned Books that Shaped America Checklist

Next week is Banned Books Week.  Learn more about the history of the event by exploring the American Library Association's interactive timeline, Celebrating 30 Years of Liberating Literature.  Then visit ALA's Banned Books Week site to discover which books were banned or challenged in the last year, and get ideas about how you can help protect the right to read.

One of the best ways to mark the event is by exercising your freedom to read. BannedBooksWeek.org shared a list of 30 Banned Books that Shaped America.  Use this checklist that I created to tally how many of these important books you've read.
Then pick out a few more to read this week.  Even the youngest readers can find some favorite titles to explore on this list of challenged books.


Football Fanfare

Football is such a big part of fall culture in the U.S.  In the library during this time of year, little football fans need no prompting to check-out and read books about their favorite teams.  But all the excitement is a great excuse to push readers into other genres and subjects through the football theme.
Encourage students to read player and coach biographies as well as football history books, picture books, and novels by displaying some of these less-often noticed titles in a high-traffic area.  The football vocabulary circles in this window display are from a free printable set (of coasters) at Design Sponge.

After spending some time reading, ride the football-season wave into other subjects.  For handwriting practice, check out this football printable from Paging Supermom.

Students can also practice music and math skills with Katie Robertson's Rhythm Football game for the interactive white board.

Older students can write predictions about how the season will go for their favorite teams.  Then they can keep track of statistics throughout the season and finally write evaluations of their initial hypotheses.

Taking advantage of students' intrinsic motivation regarding football can lead to an easy-to-promote interdisciplinary, higher-order thinking extravaganza.


Shark Week Stories & Crafts

It's that time of year that the Discovery Channel has turned into a national holiday: Shark Week.  Even if you're not that into sharks, it's difficult to avoid getting swept up by the annual excitement.  Dive into the fun with these shark stories and learning activities.

In Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton & Tom Lichtenheld, a fierce, underwater predator toy goes to battle against a tough, smoke-billowing train toy in competitions ranging from seesawing to pie-eating.  Barton's bestselling story will hold students' attention while the playful text introduces examples of pun and onomatopoeia.  Visit the Shark vs. Train website to find printable activities and other resources to go with the book.
Then read I'm a Shark by Bob Shea which uses humorous dialogue between the narrator and an almost-fearless shark to tell a story about bravery.
For more oceanic fun, read Down at the Seaweed Cafe by Robert Perry & Greta Guzek. This book's rhythmic rhyme will entrance little listeners as they learn about underwater life.
Although sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, find out what is bigger than a shark in I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.  In this story a squid compares himself to the sea creatures around him.

Shark Sculpture made from reclaimed hubcaps by Ptolemy Elrington - Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, 2012

After story time, allow students to explore Surprising Sharks from London's Natural History Museum and Discovery Kids: Sharks to learn more about sharks, their place in the ecosystem, and how human actions affect their health and safety.  Visit Ocean Portal to read about sharks' 3D sense of smell.  Then let students read and discuss the article, "How Kids Can Help Sharks" by The Humane Society.

After students have gathered some background information about sharks, they can present what they have learned.  Visit Welcome to Room 36 to find great ideas for comparing and contrasting sharks and whales.

Students can also make a simple shark hat using card stock and a few other basic supplies.  This shark hat craft idea was shared on Susan's Site after her trip to the Georgia Aquarium.  Students can review all their new shark knowledge and develop fine motor skills while making this craft.

To re-create this hands-on shark activity, you will need two sheets of grey card stock, scissors, tape, a ruler and something to write with.
  1. Cut three strips of paper, 2" x 11"
  2. Tape two strips end-to-end in order to create one long (~21") strip.
  3. If the hat is for a child, tape the other ends of the long strip together to make a paper ring.  If the hat is for a big kid or adult, wait for the next step before closing the ring.
  4. Attach the third paper strip perpendicular to the taped seam of the long strip.  Then attach the other end of the short strip to the other seam of the paper ring.  If this hat is for an adult, close the long strip by attaching the ends to the edge of the short strip as shown in the photo on the right.  Now you have the basic form for the hat. 
  5. Draw the two fin shapes onto the remaining scraps of card stock.  Be sure to include a small tab of paper that you will be able to fold over in order to attach the fin to the hat bands.
  6.  Cut out fins, fold tabs and attach to hat bands using tape.
  7. Use a marker to add eyes, teeth and gills.

After all this learning, your students will have worked up a shark-sized appetite.  Visit How To Garnish to learn how to make a healthy and impressive banana shark snack.
Or, carry the theme into lunch or snack time by using Fred and Friends Fish Stix to make tasty shark tail skewers that won't harm any actual sharks.


Walk this Way - Back to School Teacher Shoes

If you are a teacher, you know one of the "perks" of the profession is that educators get to buy a lot of their own supplies.  Trying to be frugal with my money, make sure students and I have everything we need to learn, and trying to teach students to be responsible for themselves are hard tasks to balance.  During my first few years teaching, I'm pretty sure I erred on the side of buying too much stuff.  The last few years, I have had a real buckle-down-and-make-do approach that has likely saved me hundreds of dollars each school year.  Instead of running out to purchase things, I look around at what the school and I already have that might be altered or reused to serve my purpose.  Food containers, broken crayons, and boring office supplies have been given new life through this method that has been wonderful in most regards.

However, with my 10th {Tenth?!} year as a public school teacher just a few weeks away, I am here to tell you that there are a few supplies that are absolutely essential and for which you should be prepared to spend a little money.  Most important among these items, in my opinion, is a good pair of shoes.  I have learned the hard way that there is only so much leading, circulating, delivering, meeting, monitoring, modelling, assisting, and ahem, running, chasing or wrangling that a set of feet can manage in a cheap pair of shoes.  Before you know it, those healthy feet that have taken you everywhere you've ever been will be riddled with aches, pains, and even injury.

In the interest of avoiding foot pain and injury (again), I have developed a few criteria for choosing work shoes.
1. They must have a flat or low heel.
2. The soles must be supportive and comfortable.
3. They can't have any spots that rub, even a little.  After approximately one million steps, a little becomes a lot.

On days when I can wear jeans and sneakers, I now happily wear the New Balance sneakers my doctor recommended and easily meet all of my shoe requirements.  For all other days, I need sturdy, reliable, supportive, comfortable dress shoes.  So far, I have only identified a few brands -- Merrell, Born and Skechers -- that have proven themselves in the line of duty, but I've been browsing around for others.  Here are a few contenders I'm considering for back-to-school.

Teacher Shoes

H&M loafer flat, $53 / Skechers nautical boat shoes / Nine West moccasin style shoes / Sebago deck shoes, $105 / Nine West moccasin style shoes / Sperry Top-Sider leather deck shoes / Merrell 'Zest Glove' Flat

Do you have any recommendations when it comes to teacher shoes?  What are your criteria for shoes that keep teacher feet happy?


Math Night

By hosting a learning night in the early fall, schools can get a jump start on developing good relationships with families while easing students' tension about challenging subject areas.  If you are helping to plan a learning night, check out my article for eHow-Tips on Having a Successful Middle School Math Night.  Once you have the event mapped out, find bunches of activity ideas and materials provided by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Find even more entertaining math ideas in Librarianism Chronicles-Math.


Happy Pollinator Week

This week is National Pollinator Week. Birds, bats, flies, wasps, ants, butterflies, bees and other pollinators facilitate the growth of 1/3 of the food and drinks consumed by people.  Unfortunately, many human behaviors threaten the health and safety of these important insects and animals, and many pollinator populations have experienced dramatic declines.  Learn about pollinators and their essential role in food production through these activities.

Use The Pollinator Partnership's 5 Things Kids Can Do Help Pollinators guide to start a discussion with children about how to help protect bees and other pollinators.

 Then read The Beeman by Laurie Krebbs who teaches lots of facts about bees through this story of a about a beekeeping grandpa.

My dad and his beehive.
Now that you've learned so much about pollinators, take a break for a local honey snack.  Visit the National Honey Board's website to use their Honey Locator.  This tool will help you find local beekeepers and honey suppliers in your area.  Many of these suppliers will allow you to tour their property and witness how happy bees produce honey, so checkout their websites or call before your visit.

After your snack, watch Sesame Street's  Honeybee Hullabaloo segment to learn more about honeybees while you buzz around and shake your thorax in a honeybee dance.

Find out if there are any Pollinator Week activities taking place in your area by visiting the Pollinator Partners NPW Events page.


Summer Reading Rewards: Books, Baseball Tickets, and More

Reading is an essential part of children's summertime routines.  An effect called "summer slide" threatens to deteriorate months of students' reading ability progress if they don't include reading in their summer schedules.  The importance of summer reading has led many organizations and companies to create fun summer reading programs to help motivate kids to keep reading when the school year ends.  Get your students involved in a summer reading program or routine to help them maintain and build their reading skills between school years.  Even if your kids are already intrinsically motivated to read, they can earn treats throughout the summer for the reading they would already be doing.

Barnes & Noble's Imagination Destination program offers kids a free book when they turn in a summer reading journal with entries for eight books they've read.  The journal printable and a summer reading kit and both available to download.

Half Price Books's Feed Your Brain program asks kids to read for 300 minutes during June and July in order to earn Bookworm Bucks ($5 store credit).  They can also compete for the monthly top reader prize - a $25 gift card.  Get a reading log, achievement certificate, program kit, and other resources at the Feed Your Brain Printables page.

Public Libraries in your neighborhood are likely to be hosting a summer reading program that may include reading incentives, reading lists, and free entertainment during the summer.

Houston Astros v. Oakland Athletics - Minute Maid Park, 2013
Major League Baseball teams across the country offer summer reading incentives for their fans, either through the local public library or the teams' own programs.
Arizona Diamondbacks - 500 Club Reading Program
Atlanta Braves
Baltimore Orioles - T. Rowe Price Summer Reading Program
Boston Red Sox - Read Your Way to Fenway
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds - Cincinnati Public Library Power Up Program
Cleveland Indians - High Achievers Club
Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers - Genesee District Library Detroit Tigers Promo
Houston Astros - Summer Reading Program
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels - Rally Readers
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers - Super Readers
Minnesota Twins - Summer Reading Program
New York Mets - NYC Summer Reading
New York Yankees - NYC Summer Reading
Philadelphia Phillies - Free Library of Philadelphia Summer Reading Program
Pittsburgh Pirates - Pirate Tales
Oakland Athletics - Oakland Public Library Summer Reading Program
San Diego Padres - San Diego Public Library Summer Reading Program
San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners
St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis County Library Summer Reading Clubs for the Whole Family
Tampa Bay Rays - Reading with the Rays
Texas Rangers - Kinsler's Kids Reading Club & Arlington Public Library Summer Reading Club
Toronto Blue Jays
Washington Nationals - DC Public Library Teen Summer Reading

Chuck E. Cheese will give kids 10 arcade tokens when they turn in a two-week reading log.

Ringing Bros. Circus - Houston, 2010
Ringling Bros. Circus has partnered with public libraries around the country to offer free circus tickets to kids who read during the summer.  Visit the Reading with Ringling page to find out if your neighborhood library has an existing circus incentive program or contact Reading with Ringling to begin your own program.  Get your kids excited about reading their way to the circus by visiting the exciting Explore the Show feature of the Ringling Bros. website. Find out about the history of Ringling Bros.  with their interactive timeline.

At Showcase Cinemas kids can turn in a book report on Bookworm Wednesdays in exchange for a free ticket to a kids' movie. Visit their site to see if there is a Showcase Cinema in your area.

Pottery Barn's Summer Reading Challenge includes lots of resources to keep kids reading all summer.  Visit their webpage to get summer reading lists, bookmarks, a progress tracker, a certificate, and more.  Also, contact your local store to get details about their weekly book club where kids can meet and talk with other children who are reading the same books.  Kids will earn a prize after reading all the books on the reading list and another prize after they record 5 book club story time visits in their Book Club Passport.

Will you be participating in any summer reading programs?  Do you know of any I missed?


National Wildflower Week

Did you know that this is National Wildflower Week? (Or it may have been two weeks ago if you're on Lady Bird Johnson Wildlflower Center time, but there's no time like the present!)  Get in on the fun with these wildflower activities.

First, get some background knowledge by visiting the U. S. Forest Service's Celebrating Wildflowers page where you can learn about wildflowers from around the country and find lots of wildflower activities.  Also check out their 20 Ways to Observe National Wildflower Week list and locate a botanical garden or arboretum near you.

Read Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America to learn about former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson's love for wildflowers and the work she did to share her passion with the people of the United States.
 After reading about this famous Texan, practice motor skills with a Texas wildflower craft.
Learn to make paper bluebonnets, Texas' state wildflower, in just a few steps in this previous article.

Explore and compare the 50 state flowers of the U. S.  Notice that some state flowers are wildflowers chosen because they are indigenous to the state.  After perusing the gallery, students can write a persuasive letter or essay about why their state flower is the best or why their state flower should be changed to a plant that better represents the state.

Visit the U. S. Forest Service Dyes page to learn about natural dyes made from native plants.  The page includes a list of plants that were commonly used for dye by Native Americans and a guide to plants by their dye color. Try making your own wildflower dye using this tutorial from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Sheepy Hollow Farm Life has a long list of plants and flowers that can be used to make the dyes.  Then, soak natural fiber (cotton, wool, silk) strings or fabrics in the handmade wildflower dyes.  After soaking, leave the dyed fibers to dry while you go read the first chapter of Lois Lowry's book, Gathering Blue, from The Giver series. 
This book's main character, Kira, is a skilled young embroiderer who learns the art of natural dye making in order to complete an important assignment from the leaders of her underdeveloped village.