Monday, September 18, 2017

Setting the Tone - Better Off Together

It’s a new school year and establishing the kind of learning environment you want to have from the get-go is important. Classrooms imbued with qualities like a safe space for taking risks and  trying new things, being respectful, curious, and determined are but a few of the many that will help with classroom management issues, as well as, learning.

And that brings me to today’s words: cooperation and collaboration.

Here are a few picture books that could be used at the elementary level to illustrate and initiate conversations about students working together, the importance of team work, communication, and being responsible.

The Whale by Ethan Murrow 
I love the black and white illustrations in this one. They work well to convey the wordless story about an adventure to confirm the existence of a mythical whale when two children come together (as in literally crash into each other) and work with each other to make the experience that much more rewarding.

The Red Apple by Feridun Oral 
A group of hungry animals figure out how to work together to get the only food to be found in winter, a red apple hanging high in a tree.

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares 
True collaboration happens between two children when each brings their abilities into play while trying to construct a tree house together. The illustrations have a strong retro feel with a fairly simple colour palette with mostly black and white drawings and touches of colour appearing as they begin working together.

Ewe and Aye by Candace Ryan
I love this one for the word play and that these two animal friends, Ewe (sheep) and Aye (lemur) with very different skill sets (one likes wings and one likes wheels) eventually building the best-ever flying machine. The illustrations are very cartoony and fit the story perfectly.

Up the Creek by Nicholas Oldland 
With a definite Canadiana vibe, a bear, a moose and a beaver must work together to paddle their canoe through fast running white water rapids safely. The humorous elements are a treat.

Give a Goat by Jan Rock Schrock 
A group of fifth graders are inspired to raise funds to support a charity that looks to give livestock to impoverished families in third world countries. This is a good title for raising issues of being a global citizen, community service and fund raising. The book will be best used in upper elementary.

A Warm Winter by Feridun Oral 
Another selection by the same author of The Red Apple. He’s obviously big into having animals come together, helping one another overcome some challenge especially in winter. In this case, it’s a small mouse trying to keep warm and discovering his load of wood is too heavy for him to carry home. His friends come to his assistance to the benefit of all.

Going Places by Peter Reynolds 
A contest to build a go-cart brings together two unlikely classmates who dare to dream big and go beyond the norm. They build the ultimate go-cart that totally blows the competition away with a very innovative flying-cart.
Three Monks and No Water by Ting-Xing Ye  
An oldie but a goodie.  This lesson-bound story again reinforces the benefits of group responsibility and cooperation. A mountain-top temple is at risk when three monks try to shirk their responsibility of bring up pails of water from the base of the mountain. Only by working together do they advert disaster. This title is best suited for upper elementary.

These are only a handful of titles that embody the qualities of working together.

Monday, September 11, 2017

It’s a new school year!

Welcome back, Everyone.

I’ve been pretty quiet over the summer except for participating in the Ten for Ten in August (check this out if you haven’t already) so I’m itching to get back into recommending resources that have come my way over the last couple of months.

But, I’ll do that next week.

This week, as a welcome-wagon kind of gift to the new school year is an invitation to check out a fun exhibit that the Doucette Library has installed commemorating the 20th anniversary of the publication, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. (Yup. 20 years!)

So, step right up and see the amazing


These three large, brightly coloured boxes  with various sized openings showcasing artifacts from the Doucette Library’s collection and random objects from home that have been given Harry Potter-esque backstories. 

Some examples:

 The Cursed Belt has been written up as a device of revenge that must be used cautiously as both the cursee as well as the curser could end up with an unwanted muffin top. In fact, this is 5lbs of replica fat that can be strapped around the waist and would likely be used in health or science classrooms.


Insta-Cow  is a  plastic, brown and white toy taken from the Doucette’s farm animal kit, becomes a way of conjuring a cow by adding a drop or two of milk for a full cow. Or add chocolate milk for a chocolate cow. Or half and half cream for ½ a cow 

A replica 16th century, French playing card becomes a portkey for time travel.

Tears of Mandrake : Be Careful! Extremely Rare & Toxic are a few glass beads placed in small bottles.

Trump-Eyes skewing everyday reality are actually prism glasses which would be great in a science classroom.

Anit-Noxious Nose Plugs is written up as an advertisement: “Circa. 1960s – Ad – Does your senior dragon often fart without warning? Are you caught unawares by the “Silent-But-Deadly” ones? Is it deflating your affection for your aging beast? Help is here. One pair of the Anti-Noxious Nose Plugs will rekindle your close relationship with your sulfurous emitting boo-boo dragon. Time to cuddle up!”

These are just a few of the 83 items that populate these giant knick-knack boxes. But not all of the artifacts have write ups. A number of them invite students to create their own Harry Potter-esque descriptions. Postcards are supplied and welcomed.

Besides being a fun display to welcome students, showcase some of the Doucette’s resources and celebrate the Harry Potter 20th anniversary, this also becomes a way to demonstrate to student-teachers ways of using space within classrooms. This type of display could be replicated in a school classroom, artifacts derived from home or school and children encouraged to use their imaginations to create their own magical devices.

If this does appeal to you, you should visit Pop Goes the Page – Muggle Studies 101  to see the artifacts and backstories curated for this Harry Potter Museum. It was reading an article about this exhibit that inspired me to try for something similar but on a smaller scale. Being on the smaller side makes for a perfect tie-in to how we like to inspire our student-teachers with possibilities for their own classrooms.

This corner of the library has been a “paint corner” where students were invited to paint on the glass window with acrylic paints. This was a total hit!

Also, we set the area up as a relaxing tropical ‘beach’ with comfy beach chairs, fake palm tree and sun, beach towels, sunglasses and the piece-de-resistance, crashing wave sounds (sound machine). This was to encourage students to take a few minutes to kick back at a very busy and stressful time of year.

We’ve got a few more ideas to try out in this corner of the library over this next academic school year.

Stay tuned!

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