This was an adventure for the books! It was a two-month long collaboration that culminated in a museum walk of artifacts created by Division 2 & 3 (Grade 4/5) during their exploration of Canadian Immigration.
There were many lessons, books, and activities that occurred during classroom time, I’ve only documented the parts I was involved in below.
The teachers and I started the unit off by presenting a short dramatic piece for the students. We collected an assortment of artefacts representing Immigration which would be used by the students throughout the unit.
The two teachers acted like delivery workers, walked into the library. and dumped the artefacts haphazardly in front of me and the students. I was dressed in a lab coat pretending to be a museum curator, and I lost my mind when I realized that all the objects were missing identification tags and were mixed up in boxes. I sought the students’ help in identifying the artefacts and hypothesizing their connections to immigration.
Artefacts: rope, blow up boat, soldier hat, immigration papers, Charters of Rights, shawl, potato, life jacket, sandal, railway pick, shovel, cell phone, teddy bear, religious book, fishing pole, old family photo, basket, water jug, suitcase, paddle, beaver pelt, newspaper, fishing net, mining pan
Students worked in pairs to choose an artefact and create an identification card. The artefacts were used during the following weeks as the students attempted to make connections between their artefects and the stories they read in class.
We read Danny Ramadan’s beautiful book, Salma the Syrian Chef, and brainstormed ways Canadians, young and old, can welcome and lovingly “make room” for newcomers. The students used word bubble charts to explore the idea of “Making Room” for Canadian refugees. Then, I took all their ideas from the four charts and amalgamated them into a “Making Room” flow chart using common heading such as “education”, “jobs”, etc.
Using the lists, students brainstormed artefacts that would represent all their ideas. i.e., cell phone = maps, direction to work, finding their away around new home
Next, we read Nicola Davies' incredible book, The Day War Came, and we researched the #3000chairs project that came out of the story of the refugee child who couldn’t go to school because there wasn’t a chair for her.
It was from the #3000chairs research that we created an art installation of chairs entitled “Making Room”.
"Making Room" Art Installation
Students worked in groups to sand a wooden chair and paper-mache a maple tree branch wrapping around it. (Chairs were donated.)
The students painted the maple branches and chairs using acrylic and random leftover wall paint.
Tip: Paint outside and wear smocks!
Each group chose three artefacts that represented the concept of making room for Canadian refugees to them. The artefacts were the ones brainstormed from the original list (see above). They brought these items from home or created them during class.
The artefacts and maple leaves were attached to the branches/chairs using wire or hot glue. Groups wrote an explanation of the artefacts that was placed on the seats of the chairs
It was truly a celebration of learning as we used the chairs, original artefacts, and student classwork projects to create a museum in the gym for the school to enjoy.
Two classes went on a Stop Motion adventure with me in Term 2 (January 2021). We used our classroom iPads and the Stop Motion Studio app to create our own short films.
Division 1 (Grade 4/5) spent nine library blocks creating LEGO stop action films while Division 5 (Grade 2/3) used a collaboration block to create stop action films using toys from home.
First, both classes watched the Youtube tutorial, How to film Lego Stop Motion! Beginners Tutorial. Drew from Nation of Bricks explains the concepts of lighting and flicker simply and with great examples.
Next, we practiced using the Stop Motion Studio app with rubber ducks as props. Students moved their ducks across the screen and quickly came to understand that smaller movements over many frames was ideal for creating a smoother duck walk.
Division 1 went on to create LEGO walls and props on base plates. Walls were limited to three colours so that the props and mini figures of different colours would stand out. Walls ten-layers in height prevented the library from showing in the frames... if students were careful and remained aware during filming.
Each group brought mini figures from home as the library figures have disappeared over the years. Groups discussed plot lines as they created their LEGO sets.
Surprisingly, set and props creation took four 30-minute classes leaving five classes for filming and editing.
Division 5 shot their films in one day using 2.5 hours of collaboration time. The classroom teacher divided the long library counter into small working areas using painter’s tape.
Some groups brought homemade backdrops while other groups simply used the blank brick wall behind the counter. The students were encouraged to rest the iPad on the counter to prevent shaking in the frames. Once a group decided upon an angle for the iPad, the classroom teacher marked the iPad's spot on the counter with painter's tape so that the group knew where to reposition the iPad if they had to remove it from the counter for any reason during the filming.
We were not entirely successful in preventing flicker (inconsistent light changes over a series of frames). However, we learned that adding a desk lamp helped and taping the LEGO base plate on a stationary countertops using painter’s tape reduced the flicker considerably. One group brought their own desk lamp from home!
The groups added sound effects and dialogue during the editing process and some more experienced students added title frames and credits.
We hope to use these skills to demonstrate learning in other academic areas during the following year. It was so much fun!
The compilation videos can be viewed here:
Division 1 Stop Motion Videos
Division 5 Stop Motion Videos
Can Grade 2/3 students “bind” their own books?
Yes, they can… with a little scaffolding and a whole lot of creativity!
This project was inspired by the bookbinding workshops I took with Nancy Dawes. Nancy is an incredible and inspiring artist, a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT), and a trained bookbinder. Nancy was so methodical in breaking down each step of the process that I knew that one day I could teach my students to bind their own books in the library.
Fast forward to Spring 2021, and such an opportunity presented itself when the Grade 2/3 teacher enlisted my help in making writing “fun”. We wanted the students to have a special place to free write that wasn’t in their typical half-lined journals.
So, we made our own writing books.
We “cheated” by buying colourful lined notebooks from the dollar store to save time and avoid using sewing needles. I would do this again in a heartbeat for any primary grades.
I found "free" fabric in the art room and the students chose from three colours.
Students also chose inside front/back cover paper.
I traced and cut out the front/back covers and spine pieces out of chipboard and fabric to speed up the process.
1. Front and back OUTSIDE covers
1. Attach spine to covers
1. Glue writing pad on back INSIDE cover
2. Add bling to the front OUTSIDE cover
The students thoroughly enjoyed the process. I even found a few of them during recess writing poems and stories in their new books!
In November 2020, I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher® through Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas’s CZT Seminar held on Zoom.
I was introduced to the Zentangle Method® by CZT Natasha Dash (Dashtangles.com) in June 2017. The Zentangle Method® has brought me much peace in times of anxiety, especially during the current pandemic.
As I continued my tangling journey, I realized that my students could greatly benefit from learning and participating in tangling. This is one of the main reasons I decided to be certified by Zentangle Headquarters.
My grand plans of afterschool tangle clubs and rainy day tangling in the library have been put on hold due to COVID-19. Instead, I’ve scaled back and started by introducing tangling to one class, Division 4.
During our collaboration time, the Grade 3 and 4 students eagerly participated in my very first Basics 101 class. For over an hour, the students eagerly tangled their first tiles. It was so quiet; you could only hear the scratching of pens and calm breathing. I've taught many of the students for several years now and I know which ones lack perseverance, focus, and self-confidence.
However, none of these traits made an appearance during the class.
Instead, students enjoyed the process, and more importantly, they were proud of their work. This was most evident when the students placed their tiles together in a mosaic. The students congratulated each other and offered warm praise.
The students created tangled ornaments a few days later as gifts for their parents. I wasn’t there for the ornaments, but the classroom teacher remarked on the intense focus and pleasure the students had on improving the same tangles learned earlier in the week.
We Did It!
Where has the time gone? I thought I would surely have more time to blog now that my Masters was completed. However, COVID-19 has kept me busy and preoccupied.
(Shout out to Marie-Josee for reminding me to finish this post!)
With every change in your library you will see both good and bad results.
Personally, the good has far outweighed the bad as we watched our school family enjoy the genre-fication of the library!
b) book talk among peers is increasing, and
c) excitement over new titles in the genres is becoming a new trend.
And The Not-So-Good...
I am a bit of a rogue teacher-librarian and I have begun allowing my intermediate students to checkout books during the pandemic school closure now that I have a strict book quarantine procedure in place.
Genre-fication has truly saved me during this time.
The first two classes were able to search the Destiny catalogue remotely based on genres. An online search of “Scary” listed every single scary/horror title available, which allowed students to select books they couldn’t see, touch, or flip through.
I’m not sure how students would have searched titles if they didn’t have a grasp of genres.
School wide events give the community shared experiences that bond everyone together. Mystery Month was such an event.
Lady D and I first created a CLUE scenario that would be appropriate for all ages including our Kindergarten students:
Ms. Nobody disappeared from the school on Friday afternoon and hadn’t been seen since.
It was important to us to stay away from the murder theme from the original CLUE game, as we wanted it to be as PG as possible.
Next, we approached 6 staff members to become the suspects in the crime. We took “mug shots” and made up damaging profiles that were hung in the display case outside the library. One suspect was introduced per day at the very beginning of the month along with the possible tools and crime scenes:
Professor Plum: Music teacher
Lady Lavender: Art teacher
Miss Scarlet: Drama teacher
Mrs. Peacock: Wanna-be librarian
Mr. Green: Tech teacher
Major Mustard: PE teacher
6 Tools: candlestick, skipping rope, guitar, paintbrush, iPad, book
8 Crime Scenes: library, gym, computer lab, music room, dance room, kitchen, hallway, office
Then, we came up with clues that were posted one at a time on the hallway bulletin board outside the library. The students read the suspect profiles and the daily clues and through a process of elimination they decided “who, with what, and where” on their CLUE ballots that were kept in division bins in the library.
To receive extra ballots for extra guesses, students could read mystery books from our display (picture books, and short/long novels).
Lady D and I filmed an iMovie trailer that introduced Ms. Nobody and the crime. We showed it at an assembly and it was a hit.
Tip: Looking back, I would have filmed a less scary version for the Kindergarten classes.
Each division watched the Prezi presentation during library time that outlined the guidelines of the game more clearly.
For the rest of the month, students pondered and worked together to solve the crime. I used library classes to work through the new clues with the Kindergarten, Grade One and Grade Two classes. We discussed and voted on our choices and I filled out a class ballot for the younger grades. Students in grades Three, Four and Five either could either work alone or with other people (including their families).
We ended the month with a wrap up video and prizes were awarded.
The students’ critical thinking blew me away during the event and some students discovered a new genre to enjoy!
It was definitely a success!
A New Blacklock Literacy Initiative
A dream has become a reality for our fabulous Grade 4/5 teacher, Queen Troll, as she and the rest of the Blacklock staff premiered their bedtime story Youtube channel last week.
With our students' reading scores on the rise, we were concerned that the scores did not reflect the students' enjoyment of reading. This year, Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary's goal is to instil a love of literacy in all of our students, staff, and the community.
It is our hope that Blacklock Bedtime Stories will provide our community with a opportunity to cozy up with loved ones and enjoy a special story read by one of our passionate staff members every Thursday night at 6 pm, PST.
I'm honoured to help Queen Troll get this project off the ground by filming and editing the video clips. (The videos become less "cringey" over time, I promise!)
Please enjoy our bedtime stories and share our channel with other families and educators!
Youtube: The Mischievous Librarian Channel:
In the words of our amazing Blacklock Bedtime Stories creator, Queen Troll:
A Million Reasons Why
Actually, not a million. That would dramatic!
Lady D and I have contemplated the idea of genre-fying the intermediate fiction section for over a year and we finally decided the bite the bullet and do it.
Two high schools in our district made the change and are still riding high on the increased circulation of books, Not to mention the empowered students who are able to navigate the shelves with greater ease and success.
Potter’s (2016) survey of elementary students and the recent change to Bookstore Model of genrefication of the library resulted in 84% of students responding positively to the change (p. 52). Book selection was faster and more successful with books shelved in genres (Potter, 2016, p. 53). I, myself, find it much easier to browse the shelves in Indigo/Coles when I can beeline right towards the genres I know I enjoy.
Tip #1: It's All in the Timing
We chose to start this endeavour at the end of June when most of the books were being returned before summer vacation. Secondary teacher-librarians swear by exam times or before winter holidays when students are busy with festivities.
Tip #2: Genres
As Sutton (2006) states, "You know your galaxy best!" (p. 561). This is especially true when deciding on the genres for your students. We have taken some licences with the term "genre" because Blacklock Library has a large population of humor and animal lovers. Our finalized list of genres includes:
Scary (aka. Horror)
Horning's (2010) From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books, and Vardell's (2019) Children's Literature in Action: A Librarian's Guide, are excellent handbooks for genre descriptions.
Stay Tuned for Part 2...
Horning, K. T. (2010). From cover to cover: Evaluating and reviewing children’s books. [HarperCollins e-Books version]. Retrieved from http://www.harpercollinsebooks.ca
Potter, J. M. (2016). The effects of genrefication of fiction on the book selection process in elementary schools (Masters Starred Paper). Retrieved from https://repository.stcloudstate.edu/im_etds/7?utm_source=repository.stcloudstate.edu%2Fim_etds%2F7&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
Sutton, R. (2006). Stars. The Horn Book Magazine, 82(5), 557- 561. Retrieved from http://www.mediasourceinc.com/
Vardell, S. M. (2019). Children's literature in action: A librarian's guide, 3rd edition. [Libraries Unlimited e-Books version]. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Pod Show Time
Contributions to student learning by libraries and teacher-librarians should extend beyond the library's four concrete walls; every day, all year long, we are impacting and facilitating 21st Century education (Levitov, 2017, p. 30). Being involved in all areas of the curriculum is essential and sometimes that means getting out from behind the circulation desk and picking up a paint brush.
It's spring and that means Pod Show Time at Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary.
The fabulous Grade 2 and 3 teachers are writing, directing, and producing "I Want Candy- Broccoli vs. Candy", a show about nutrition. I was fortunate enough to be asked to help out with the backdrop.
Alongside the Art Teacher, Duchess Udders, I got to take a break from university papers and get creative!
Duchess Udders, being the fabulous artist that she is, free-handed the team mascots, Candy and Broccoli, for the main part of the backdrop. Mrs. Heavy-Hitter, our super-fantastic SEA, expertly wrapped a large pile of bon-bon candies. Personally I love the unicorn treats!
I love working in large scale.
Pool noodles, white duct tape, broom handles/doweling, clear plastic gift wrap, and ribbons (metallic ones work the best under the stage lights).
The lollipops are taped to an adjustable tripod pole, which is normally used with the library's green screen.
Ice Cream Cones:
These are my favourite.
As you may know from my other posts, I LOVE spray insulation foam. I used cone-shaped tomato plant supports with brown mailing paper for the cones. The scoop of ice cream is a hanging basket (including moss liner) flipped upside down and covered with spray insulation foam and a styrofoam ball for the cherry.
Interlocking pool noodles from the dollar store, a plastic bag, and a homemade Twizzlers sign.
Roll of Lifesavers Candy:
I taped five protein powder containers end to end to create the cylindrical shape of the roll. Poster paper and tin foil decorated the outside.
Helping with the backdrop gave me the chance to support students as they demonstrated their knowledge through the fine arts. The school saw me as not only as a promoter of reading and literature, but also as a promoter of artistic expression.
My collaboration did not stop here through. I worked with individual students and Mr. T to create an iMovie of their Minecraft Candyland creations that was played before and after the show.
Stay tuned for more details in "A Minecraft Screencast Adventure"!
Levitov, D. (2017). The school librarian as the advocacy leader. In S. Coatney & V. H. Harada (Eds.), The many faces of school library leadership (2nd ed., pp. 29-42). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
The Big One...
So, I turned 40 last week.
Wow. How did that happen?
In an attempt to avoid a full blown mid-life crisis, I turned my attention to my library. For who better to focus on than my kids?
This is how "Help Read Mrs. Huang Over the Hill" was born!
Shamelessly Promoting Reading...
As with many of my more elaborate schemes, this one was birthed during my monthly float.
(Quick plug for Floathouse South-Surrey; May their float tanks and senses deprivation change your stressed-out, information overloaded lives!) It's amazing what 90 minutes of peace can do for you!
I pulled 39 of my favourite picture books from the shelves and put them in clear bins outside the library doors. I constructed a modest-sized hill out of cardboard and a green plastic table cloth. The following sign stood beside the hill:
Each book that was read was placed on the hill creating quite a large stack of books by the end of the week. It was a slow start at first, trying to convince the teachers to read the books among the million things they are expected to do in a day. Along with a few keen teachers, it ended up being the students who led the charge. They snuck in at recess, selected books, and brought them to their teachers to read.
The results were more than I could hope for:
And so much more...
On Friday morning, I read the final "40th book" aloud to the entire school in a mini assembly, Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis. I purposefully selected a book from my private collection that was new to everyone including the staff.
With a caterpillar puppet on my hand and with Lady D (my library technician) ready to flip the pages under the document camera, I introduced the book as a sweet love story.
Now, I don't want to ruin the story for those of you who haven't read it.
However, it was spectacular when the entire audience of 300+ students and staff GASPED and went silent at the sideways turn of events. The silence was broken by the laughter of the Kindergarteners who found the humour too much to hold in.
It was magical.
I love my job!