Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Cure for Writer's Block

Calling all writers! I definitely have writing on the brain, especially now that 4th graders across the state of Texas are writing their little hearts out this week with the debut of Texas' newest standardized test, STAAR.
Writing is something I've always enjoyed doing--whether it was helping my dad proofread and publish his poetry magazine when I was a kid, writing in diaries and journals (elementary school all the way through college), or more recently, blogging (thanks, Reagan!). Writing is a creative release for me.  Fortunately my two youngest children also love to write, and a couple of years ago they begged inspired me to create a student-made book section in the library. Here it is:
The Lonestar Library--an opportunity for students to get their books "published" and read by others!

The Lonestar Library bookcase is shaped like a huge book, so of course it needed a huge spine label. How cool is that?!

The Lonestar Library is designed for student writers in grades 2-5. We spend an entire lesson discussing writing and what real authors do when creating good stories.  The program is optional; students who are interested can submit original works of fiction to their teachers for review. We talk about presentation and how their published books might be read by lots of people in our school (not just kids--teachers, parents, visitors, and maybe even the principal will read them!), so only a student's best effort is accepted. Once a teacher approves a book, it is sent to me for final approval. I prepare each approved submission by laminating pages and binding the book, then I add a spine label and library card that goes in a pocket. I take a picture of the student author with his/her book to display on the inside of the Lonestar Library. Like in the real world, each author gets paid for having a published book (we use "Hawk Bucks", which is our school currency--used for purchasing items at our school store). The books can be read and enjoyed only in the library, and at the end of the year I send the books home with the student authors. The books they create are AMAZING! Such imaginations...

Cover details of the Lonestar Library. The budding authors pictured are
my 2 youngest children and the inspiration for the Lonestar Library.

Inside the Lonestar Library. Student-made books are organized in labeled
baskets alphabetically by last name. All authors and illustrators get
pictures taken with their books!

Each student-made book has a card with signatures of everyone who read the book.

Currently there are 9 books that have been published to the Lonestar Library, with 4 more waiting for my review and final approval. That's a pretty good amount, but just a few weeks ago there were only 3 books and I'll be honest--I was panicking about the low number of student authors. All I could think of is that last year we had at least 15 books in the Lonestar Library by March. Where were the student authors this year? Why weren't they writing stories? What if this year the Lonestar Library just kind of...fizzled? So out of desperation I came up with a sneaky little plan. The week before Spring Break I announced to the upper grade classes that our school was having...(drumroll, please) the first ever Annual Creative Writing Contest. The kids were so excited! And then I showed them the prizes--you should have heard the oooohs and aaahhs!
These are the prizes I used for the Creative Writing Contest. Who knew that huge pens and hamburger squeeze toys could be so motivational?
I explained that in addition to the standard Hawk Bucks payment, the first student in each class to turn in a story worthy of publishing to the Lonestar Library would win a prize. That was all it took. Within the week I had book submissions out the wa-zoo. And the good news is, students are still writing books for the Lonestar Library!
So there you have it--a writing contest and cheap prizes, the ultimate cure for writer's block!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Planning the Beginning of the End

After much cajoling, Chef Reid Moore has agreed to come back to my school! We're shooting for mid-April, but there are still lots of details to work out. (If you don't know the Chef Reid Moore story, see my previous post.)  Take a look at the cooking-themed bulletin board right outside my library:
I love it because it's designed to stay up all year!

Here's a close-up of one of the grade-level teacher pictures in the aluminum pans. Can you spot my wonderful friend Reagan of Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits fame?

And here is the menu used during library orientation way back in August:
Menu Cover

Inside the menu--things we covered during orientation (library behaviors, procedures, events, etc.)

Back of menu

The menu served as a fun way for Chef Reid Moore to cover all the important library orientation topics. I can't take full credit for the menu--it was created with my LBFF (that's Librarian Best Friend Forever, in case you were wondering), Stacy. She works at an elementary school in my district and we have planned many crazy library lessons together. Most of our planning takes place on the phone late at night for hours and hours. We get a little carried away with our lessons at times (one year she attached a rope to her library's ceiling so she could swing across a fake river during an Indiana Jones-themed orientation--really--I'm not making this up), but it's nice to have a kindred spirit to plan with AND she's just so much fun to be around!
LBFFs so happy to be at TLA last year! Stacy is on the right.

Most of the time we do similar lessons and activities, but customize them for our individual libraries. For example, my library is decorated in a rustic, western style, while Stacy's library is decorated with safari/jungle animals. This means that her Chef Reid Moore is not a cowboy chef; instead, he sports leopard print and paws. Her library "restaurant" is not The Giddy-Up Grill, but is aptly named The Wild Cat Cafe--you get the idea, right? Same content, slightly different look. Well anyway, she and I have been dreading discussing the return of Chef Reid Moore for some time now and are in the process of planning the lesson. The problem is we don't want just a ho-hum return of the chef. We want to really make an impact while tying together everything the kids have learned this year with a fantastic culminating lesson.
Hmmm, maybe we should have Chef Reid Moore make his grand entrance by swinging into the library...
on a ROPE attached to the CEILING!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Contemplating the Return of Chef Reid Moore

At the beginning of this school year, Chef Reid Moore attended the grand opening of the Giddy-Up Grill in our school's library. His job was to motivate the students to "read more", and encourage them to sample all kinds of delicious books in the library. Check out the visuals:

He was enthusiastic, energetic, and ready to kick off a fun-filled year of learning in the library. The students were delighted to have such a big-time celebrity in their midst!
He worked hard to introduce all things library to the kids--everything from library procedures and expectations to exciting events planned for the year. He gave countless tours of the library Giddy-Up Grill, endured pokes, tugs, and a few snide remarks about wearing "girl" shoes from some of the students.

Needless to say, by the end of library orientation week Chef Reid Moore had to really work to maintain a high energy level. He was tired. This picture says it all:

He hasn't been seen since. 

That's right, Chef Reid Moore is MIA. Not that the students haven't asked where he is and when he'll be back--they'd like to see him again, certainly. But is he up for another week-long visit at my elementary school? I sure hope so, because we're hitting the home-stretch of this school year. Not much time left, and his visit must not coincide with testing week, book fair week, or TLA's Annual Conference in April. 

So, if anybody has a great idea on how to convince Chef Reid Moore to come back, let me know. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my Spring Break by working less and reading more!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Check out THIS cool place to read!

Welcome to my new blog! For my very first post I am sharing a popular place in the library. The best spot to read at my school might just be in the Reading Wagon. It's real, it's old, yet it's sturdy enough to handle 650 elementary kids (not all at once, of course)! Students must have special "wagon passes" and good library manners to gain access to this cool reading spot!

And finally, a picture of me:

Happy reading, everyone!