Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Poetry Creation Stations Recap and Templates

Sometimes I'll be reading a post about an elaborate or complicated library program and wonder, "Gee, how did he/she manage to have all those things going on at the same time?" So today I'm going to do a recap of my Poetry Creation Stations program last week in our Kids' Writing Workshop, and start with how I set up the room.

We had four tables set up with the four different activities: Paint Chip Poetry, Reverse Poetry, Haikubes and Blackout Bookmarks.

Near each table, I put up a poster with instructions for what to do:

I created template handouts for the kids sitting at the Paint Chip Poetry and Reverse Poetry tables:

The kids had so much fun! Cleanup took a while, but I would definitely do this program again. The games and activities inspired a lot of great images from the kids. One child wrote a reverse poem about killing in self-defense:

Another wrote a reverse poem about telling the truth:

There was a Paint Chip Poetry poem about boundaries being a challenge "like a seedling" that has not ceased to grow:

Kids got a lot of great imagery from the games Haikubes and Paint Chip Poetry, including "red velvet tears" and "a pool of simple riches:

They had a harder time with blackout poetry. Some thought you were just supposed to find interesting words and others had trouble making their lines coherent. That's always been a challenging style for tweens and may be more ideal for teens. But they had fun doing it. I really liked this kid's poem:

Visit http://pasadena-library.net/kids/2018/poetry-month-creation-stations-kids-writing-workshop to see more photos and videos of kids reading their poems!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poetry Creation Stations

This Friday, I'll be trying something a little different for my obligatory National Poetry Month session of our Kids' Writing Workshop. I purchased a few cool items that I want to share with the kids:


These are cubes or dice that have a variety of words you can choose from to make a haiku. The game is that you are supposed to roll a red cube that will give you a prompt, but I might leave it more open-ended for the kids. I liked exploring what words were available to me and tweaking them until I felt I had made a satisfactory haiku.

moonlight dripping, shines
her precious fire, licks the
surface of your heart

Paint Chip Poetry

This works even more like a game: first, each player draws twelve paint chips from the deck, and then draws a prompt card. Then you use as many of those paint chips as you would like to make a poem that responds to the prompt.

Blackout Bookmarks

In a twist on blackout poetry, we will be trimming our blackout poetry and laminating them to make them into bookmarks. The bookmarks are larger than standard bookmarks, but still a great size for using with even a small paperback book.

When I prep this for the kids, I grab a few of my favorite middle grade novels and photocopy a few pages from each. I look for pages with a lot of dense paragraphs and rich diction. I always try to encourage kids to scan the page and simply circle a few words that jump out at them. Just make connections, and you don't have to find a relevant word or phrase on every line.

Once they've done their circling in pencil, and tweaked it until they feel they'll have a strong poem, they are ready for the black markers!

Here's my sample. I was so jazzed to find a page that had lots of references to books, stories, and even a library! (This was page 394 from Marvels by Brian Selznick.)

Kids will be moving from one station to the next. I don't have a room with tables to work with tomorrow but we'll use clip boards and try to make it comfortable. I hope the kids have as much fun with this stuff as I did!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Newly Discovered Music for Storytimes

Do you ever feel like once in a while you are just desperate to change up your storytime music? I get that way once every few years. So this year, in January 2018 I went through my library's CD collection looking for some new songs that would inspire me. The result was this list--maybe you'll find some cool new songs to try here!

Vamping Music

(these are the kind of things I play when families are arriving):

"Baby's Boat" from Baby's Boat by Kathy Reid-Naiman

"Listen to the Water" from More Tickles & Tunes by Kathy Reid-Naiman

"Sing" (Sesame Street cover) from Shining Like a Star by Laura Doherty


"Bubbles" from Bon Voyage by Jazzy Ash

Movement/Dance Songs:

"We Are the Dinosaurs," "Rocketship Run," "Boots," "The Goldfish," "Song In My Tummy," "Monster Boogie" from The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band

"The Tempo Marches On," "Toe Leg Knee," and "My Ups and Downs" from Jim Gill Sings Do Re Mi On His Toe Leg Knee

"Your Face Will Surely Show It," "Tickle Toe," "The Sound Effects Song" from Jim Gill Makes It Noisy In Boise, Idaho

"Razzama Tazzama" from More Tickles & Tunes by Kathy Reid-Naiman

"Put Your Little Foot," from Dancing Feet by Carole Peterson

"One Two Three Whee!" from Groovy Green by Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael

"Leap Frog," "Tandem Bike," "Firefly" from Bon Voyage by Jazzy Ash

"Quiet as a Mouse," "Hula Hoop," "Vegetable Party" from Shining Like a Star by Laura Doherty

Scarf Songs:

"Dancing Scarf Blues" from Dancing Feet by Carole Peterson

"Popcorn" from Shining Like a Star by Laura Doherty

Shaker Egg Songs:

"I Know a Chicken" from The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band

"Wake Up" from Chips and Salsa by Rolie Polie Guacamole

"The Shaker Hop," from Dancing Feet by Carole Peterson

Goodbye Songs:

(I don't necessarily have everyone sing these. But it's really effective to have them playing in the background when it's time for people to go)

"Goodbye in the Bayou" from Bon Voyage by Jazzy Ash

"Goodbye Song" from Shining Like a Star by Laura Doherty

If you're reading this and have a favorite scarf song or shaker egg song you'd like to share--or anything about storytime music--please comment below!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Announcing a Giveaway for Educators and Librarians!

Starting April 1st, I will be hosting a month-long contest giveaway for a free copy of my new book 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras, full of a school year's worth of weekly lesson plans for engaging primary-grade students with great picture books, using writing exercises and activities to spark their own creativity. I want to give a free copy of my book to one hardworking teacher, librarian, homeschooling parent or educator who works with kids under 10 years old. I'm thinking I will include a few other freebies, like a few copies of some of the picture books that the activities are based on!

Despite the plethora of writing workshops aimed at young teens and tweens, research has shown that children can write much sooner than that, and that kids as young as kindergarten feel the desire to tell stories or make up characters on paper. Kids learn to read and write by doing it, and by being exposed to it and surrounded by it from a very early age. So when I am working with kids between the ages of 5 and 8 years old, I start with a good book and use that to inspire kids to think further than the book--"What happens now?" or "How could you write a story like this?" Kids start with a concrete example or mentor text and then create their own. They start out listening to a story, and end as storytellers.

So if you are a teacher, librarian, or educator and you'd like to try some new ways to excite your students or patrons about reading and writing, enter my rafflecopter giveaway or visit 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing for more information and a free sample of the book!

Giveaway for 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing

Sunday, March 4, 2018

How to Make 3D Seussian animals

One of the workshops in my book involves creating a Dr. Seuss-inspired animal with a name that is a combination of different names from Dr. Seuss books. The handout gives kids a prompt to draw their animal, but if you want to get more crafty, you could also try making them in 3D!

You will need:
Pipe cleaners
Pom poms
Googly eyes

Show the kids how to wrap a pipe cleaner around a pen or pencil to create a "body" that has more substance (and spring!) to it than a straight pipe cleaner would. It also allows for lots of ways to tuck in feathers and other features you might want to use to decorate your animal.

In my example of a birdlike Seussian animal, I also used a short segment cut from a straw, for bringing all the different colored pipe cleaners together, for giving my animal a clear separation like a "hip" for her legs and back, and for giving me an easy way to insert a tail.

I used liquid glue to glue the pom pom balls and googly eyes on.

I think it's important to infuse these writing programs with craft activities, as time allows. For the outreach I was doing where families were coming and going, it was a fun way to get everyone involved and engaged.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Adoption and Families Storytime

Last night I had the pleasure of being a guest at Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, and doing a storytime at their Free Family Night:

They asked me to do a storytime about adoption and forever families. So I chose a few classic books that are wonderful on this theme, and one recent book that has a relevance to this theme or to the theme of a new baby.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora is a fun story about a bunny rabbit named Dot whose parents adopt a baby wolf, despite her protests that he is going to "eat them all up." She eventually develops a bond with him, though, and even risks her life to protect him from a bully. I love the character of Dot. She is a girl with a lot of spunk, brains, and courage!

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell is a beautiful, funny and touching book about a family's adoption story.

We Belong Together by Todd Parr just says it all, so simply and so perfectly. In this book parents (who are represented as diverse types of couples or single parents) tell their adopted children that they belong together because, for example: "You needed someone to kiss your boo-boos and we had kisses to give."

I found a lovely flannelboard idea on Story Time Secrets which I modified for last night's adoption storytime:

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Mommy.
Let’s give Mom a great big kiss, great big kiss, great big kiss.
Let’s give Mom a great big kiss.
Goodbye, Mommy!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Daddy.
Let’s give Dad a great big hug, great big hug, great big hug.
Let’s give Dad a great big hug.
Goodbye, Daddy!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Grandma.
Let’s give Grandma a great big smile, great big smile, great big smile.
Let’s give Grandma a great big smile.
Goodbye, Grandma!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Grandpa.
Let’s give Grandpa a great big wave, great big wave, great big wave.
Let’s give Grandma a great big wave. Goodbye, Grandpa!

I also played some of my usual favorites on CD and sang and danced to "Clap Your Hands" and "I Was a Bird" by the Old Town School of Folk Music, and "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi.

The storytime was packed! There were around 80 people in that celebration room. I think everybody had a good time. I hope to do something with Kidspace again in the future.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Article in Horn Book Magazine

My bilingual book club for 2nd and 3rd graders, Lucha Libros, was featured in Horn Book's "Field Notes" section of their magazine for the November/December 2017 issue! In it I write about how the program developed, and how it has changed over the years in response to feedback from participants and parents. If you have ever thought about starting a reading competition like Battle of the Books, I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Horn Book and turn to page 42 for the whole scoop on how we do it here!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Writing Magical Realism like Natalie Lloyd

Yesterday in our Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids, we did a writing prompt about magical realism based on the book The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. Normally we read a picture book but I just read a few selections from this chapter book which is the Young Reader's League pick for 2017. It's a beautiful book, and although ghosts are a major theme in the book it is more sweet than scary.

Natalie Lloyd is very skilled at coaxing readers to suspend our disbelief so that we can enjoy the magical events that are unfolding. She places those magical events in context with characters who all witness the event and interpret it in different ways. After I read an excerpt about the "Gypsy Rose Summer," I asked the kids how they know that (in the world of the book) this really happened. They said they knew that by how different people felt the petals, how many people saw the petals, how everybody heard the noise. A group of people are witnessing something extraordinary and unexplained, and they all have different interpretations of what's going on.

We did a group writing activity about how a ghost like the ghosts of Blackbird Hollow would get our attention. We listed our favorite things, voted on one, and then came up with a character description for a ghost who would haunt us by using that favorite thing.

Then we did a writing activity on our own, developing that idea further by adding what different people would say about the haunting.

Kids read their stories:

At the end of class two kids' names were drawn to receive a free copy of The Key to Extraordinary! And on Thursday, November 16th at 6:30 pm, they'll have an opportunity to get their books signed when Natalie Lloyd comes to Pasadena Public Library for our Young Reader's League celebration. We're flying her in all the way from Tennessee. We're so excited to have her. Please tell your friends--this will be an author visit not to be missed!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Spanish Chapter Books for Elementary School Kids

I recently got an email from a parent who was looking for some Spanish chapter books for her daughter who is in 4th grade and has to do three book reports this year on Spanish books. I often get requests like this from parents whose kids are in our wonderful dual-immersion Spanish schools at PUSD. As I was compiling my response, I thought it might be worth sharing for other people whose kids are in upper elementary school and able to read in Spanish.

We do have a lot of Spanish chapter books. Many of our most popular English series are available in Spanish translations. The ones that might work best for a fourth grader are the Clementine/Clementina books by Sarah Pennypacker or the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, or some of Roald Dahl’s books (such as Fantastic Mr. Fox/El Superzorro). We also have Geronimo Stilton books in Spanish (originally Italian).

But I also want to recommend a few authentic Spanish-only chapter books a fourth grader might enjoy. These have been published in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.

¡Zoé es lo más! – from the La Banda de Zoé series by Ana García-Siñeríz and Jordi Labanda -- Zoe runs for class president

¡Esta casa es mía! – by Ana Maria Machado. A family builds a house by the beach and has to learn how to share the environment with the animals that were already there.

The Candela series by Mónica Rodriguez – A funny, goofy superspy who goes around the world and even to different times and learns things about history

The Rino Detective series by Pilar Lozano Carbayo and Alejandro Rodríguez – A very richly illustrated detective series with a rhino that solves mysteries

The Mondragó series by Ana Galán – Another very nicely illustrated chapter book series, this one is fantasy/adventure about a dragon who can’t fly

El secreto del escritor fabuloso by Jordi Sierra i Fabra – A magical and mysterious story about the nature of stories—a boy moves in next door to a writer and starts spying on him.

Jordi Sierra i Fabra has a lot of horror books similar to Goosebumps, so maybe when she’s a little bit older she might enjoy those too.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Can an Aardvark Bark?

I've decided to take the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge presented by my fellow Pasadenan Alyson Beecher and today I'm sharing the book Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

The whole book is so beautiful and so simple that it could be shared in a storytime, and then pulled down from the shelf later by curious children who can pore over its information about animals in solitude and wonder.

What makes this book so perfect for storytime is that it lends itself to interaction and noise! You could ask the kids if they can bellow like a giraffe, or bark like a seal, or whine like a porcupine! You can find sound clips of the animals making these sounds too, but it might be better for developing preschoolers to start by using their imaginations to invent what they think a giraffe bellow sounds like.

Learning animal sounds has many benefits for early literacy. I've especially seen benefits for children with special needs. My son, who is autistic, was unable to say more than 30 words at age 2 1/2, but he could say many animal sounds. Animal sounds were a substantial portion of his early vocabulary.

Here is one of my favorite flannelboards dealing with animal sounds. First, I put all the sounds up haphazardly and incorrectly, and ask the preschoolers to help me put the words where they are supposed to go. Kids get print knowledge, phonetic awareness, and so much fun out of doing this!

Want to find more great nonfiction picture books? I post new nonfiction books to the Pasadena Public Library's Children's Book Suggestions LibGuide as we get them. I also have archived lists available for download as PDF files.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Benefits of Introducing Kids to Published Authors

Over the past few years of teaching and facilitating writing workshops for kids, I've noticed there are two kinds of young writers: the underconfident, and the overconfident. This is totally normal. Children lack perspective. (Even adults sometimes lack perspective!) Children often have difficulty imagining that the way they write now is not the way they will write always, and that the older they get and the more they practice, the more their writing is going to change.

(Personally, I was the overconfident type--I was the kid who was sending my handwritten manuscripts to Big 5 publishers and couldn't imagine why they wouldn't publish them! I may not have struggled with getting words on paper, but that didn't mean I was ready, and it was sometimes hard for me to see what improvement was needed. I didn't know any published authors, so I had no way of knowing what the road ahead would look like.)

Amazingly, for BOTH types of young writers, the same approach can work wonders: introduce them to someone who has lived longer and accomplished more, and let her tell them about the changes she had to make along the way.

This is why it's so vital to me in my work as a librarian to not only make a case for kids reading lots of books, but for meeting lots of authors. I do my best to bring published authors to the library at least a few times a year (given budget restraints). It's important to me that kids get moments like this, when they got to see author Kristen Kittscher describe the hardest thing she had to learn as a writer, and how learning this improved her plots.

Then she gave kids an effective, simple formula for crafting better plots:

What if...
And then...

You can read more about her plot exercise and view photos and videos of Kristen and the kids at Pasadena Public Library's Kids Blog.

And if you don't have the resources to be able to hire authors to visit your classes, that doesn't have to stop you from bringing authors to your library or school! Many authors are willing to skype with classes, or do chat interviews or Q&As. Ask around and find out what authors live in your area, and start there. Kristen Kittscher is a longtime Pasadena resident, so we lucked out there!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Writing Parties for Primary Grade Kids

Many children's librarians consider summer their busiest season, but for me I tend to do my programs during the school year, and I usually promote them at schools. I've been doing writing programs for kids of different ages for several years now, but this year I decided to get all of my programs for the school year on flyers, along with blurbs or details about what each workshop will be about. I'm using lessons I created for my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras.  It's going terrific so far! Last week, kids created a made-up language and then wrote dialogue for wordless picture books. They loved it. I gave them sticky notes shaped like word bubbles and they filled up the picture books with dialogue in no time.

They also took more picture books and sticky notes home to do more writing. They get so excited about writing at these programs! It's one of the most rewarding things I do!