Showing posts with label Elementary school library. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elementary school library. Show all posts


Teaching the Mystery Genre to Elementary Students

Mystery books are one of my favorite books to read!  Since I want to share my love with students, I came up with an amazing way to teacher the mystery genre to my K-3 students.  


To really sell this lesson, you will have to put on your best acting!

Prep Work/Materials
  • caution tape around the 'crime scene' (for me, it was the top of a shelf in a window to the hallway that was easily viewable by students)
  • 3 stuffed animals- I used a dragon, a teddy bear and a lion (you may neet to adapt your story if you don't have these animals, especially the dragon)
  • a baby blanket
  • (optional) magnifying glasses
  • (optional) detective outfit
  • a 'burned' piece of paper (a pictured I downloaded from online)
  • iridescent paper cut into small pieces
I had students enter the library and sit in our story area as usual.  I got in front of them and said "I have a little problem.  I had picked out the funniest book to read to you.  I put it in the window so I didn't lose it, but it's missing! Do you think you can help me solve The Mystery of the Missing Library Book?"

When I did this, students were so excited, they screamed and cheered!  You have to really SELL your story with your best acting!

Next I said "Ok, I knew that if we were going to solve this mystery, I needed to gather some clues.  Let me tell you what I found.  First, I found these 3 suspects (dragon, bear, lion) and isolated them from everyone else so you could question them.  I also found a piece of burned paper and some weird things that look like scales." Then we lined up and walked by the crime scene so students could get a look.  

(I took ZERO pictures, but if I redo the lesson this year I will take some!)

Then we sat down and talked about the questions we should 'ask the suspects'.  I had to do a some guiding and leading, especially with the Kindergarten and First Grade students.  We eventually worked out that we would ask the following questions:
  • Where were you last night?
  • Did you see anyone near the book?
  • Did you take the book?
We started by questioning the teddy bear.  I ask the questions and pretend he whispers in my ear.  I report to the class that Teddy Bear said "I was curled up in the corner with that baby blanket! You know, I'm supposed to be hibernating right now but it's hard to sleep during the school day! I didn't take the book and I didn't see anyone near it.  I fall asleep as soon as the kids leave."

Then we questioned the lion, who said "I had a bad case of the zoomies last night.  I ran circles around the shelves for most of the night.  I didn't go anywhere NEAR the book because you remind us every night to leave the books alone while you aren't here!"  (Here, I nod my head and say "It's true!  Remember how we talk at the beginning of the year about taking care of your library books by keeping them away from animals?")

Then we question the dragon.  He talks in my ear for a much longer time.  I occasionally stop and look at him with various looks- shock, anger, sadness, understanding.  Then I give him a big hug and say "Let me talk to everyone else and see what they say."  

I turn to the class and say "OK friends, here is what happened.  Library Dragon said he was bored last night.  He tried to take a nap but he wasn't tired.  He tried flying laps around the library but there wasn't a lot of room to spread his wings.  He knew he wasn't supposed to touch the books... but he couldn't help it.  Unfortuneately, the book was SO funny, he accidentally snorted fire and burned the book up.  He is very, very sorry and promises never to do it again.  Should we forgive him?"

By this point, students are so enthralled, most of them call out "YES!" Although a few of them say "No!"

I wrap up the lesson by pointing out that mystery books will often have a detective or other problem solver, a crime or problem to solve, suspects and the clues that are collected may not have anything to do with the crime.  Then I show students the mystery book display and book talk a couple of my favorite mysteries.  If there is time, I read one.  I really like Seven Ate Nine!


The #1 Reason I Am Sticking (for now!) with Scholastic Book Fairs

There has been a lot of discussion about book fairs in the school library circle lately.  Scholastic has long been a favorite book fair vendor, and for good reason.  It's a well known company and the bright red cases calls forth nostalgic feels for many people.  

However, Scholastic is also missing a few key ingredients.  People have complained about difficulty with restocks, customer service and registers.  A key complaint this year was the $150 delivery fee due to increased gas prices.  

I have been less than impressed with the quality of binding from Scholastic books, even the library bound ones.  I find that after just a few circulations, spines need repaired.

I did an interest call with Literati, because that's the new vendor on the scene.  I was excited about all the good things I had heard and was looking forward to doing a Fall Scholastic Fair and a Spring Literati Fair.  

In the end, I stuck with Scholastic and here is why!

It's really all about their Scholastic Dollars Program!  

1.  Putting books in the hands of kids!

My #1 goal during book fair is to put books in the hands of kids. Period. End of story.  Do I also make money and buy books for the library? Yes, yes I do! 

However, I want staff and students to buy, buy, buy because books in homes and books in classrooms are important.  I use my Scholastic Dollars to help stretch student and staff budgets.  

For staff, that means an automatic 25% discount on all purchases.  

For students, it means upselling until students are just over the amount of money they have and using Scholastic Dollars to cover the difference.

Not only does this put books in the hands of kids, but by upselling purchases, I'm doing more in sales.

2.  Rewards & Celebrations!

It is impossible for me to run a successful library program without help and support from other school staff.  I use book fair time as a time to reward and thank staff for their support.  I routinely hand out coupons for $$ off their purchase at the Scholastic Book Fair when they do things that benefit me and the library program.  

I used Scholastic Dollars to take off those amounts. It makes everyone happy!

3.  The school!

Additionally, I use Scholastic Dollars to purchase things for our school store.  Many of our students want the journals and expensive books that come with the fair. I use Scholastic Dollars to purchase highly popular but seldom purchased items to donate to the store.  Students can earn a school-based currency to purchase those items at the store.

When I spoke to a rep at Literati, they did not yet have a program similar to Scholastic Dollars.  At some point, I probably will give other companies a try!  It's just not yet!

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    5 Ways to Create Habits in the School Library

    Over the past few years, I have discovered that I am really a project person, not a habit person. I love to tackle new things, even if they are hard and time consuming. Completing projects excites me.  Completing daily tasks... well, it bores me.  

    This became clear while I was in grad school getting my MLS degree. You want me to read two chapters and take a quiz every week? No, thank you!  You want me to create a policy manual from scratch? Absolutely!

    I choose to view being project oriented as a strength!

    However, the downside is that I tend to forget about the day to day things that have to get done.  It's why I will suddenly realized I haven't shelved books all week.  Or I have a stack of book requests from teachers to fill. Or worse! It's time for check-out and the computers need to boot up!

    I've worked on creating small habits in my day to better ensure that I keep on track.  

    Here are 5 things that have helped me create habits and stay on top of running the library!

    1. Use a Digital Calendar to keep track of my library tasks.

    The digital part is important for 2 reasons!  The first is that I can set reminders.  The second is that I can reschedule things easily.  I really like to use my Google Calendar.  I color code all the different aspects and anything that is red is school related.  

    This means that if I find myself out of the library when the reminder goes off, it is really simple to edit the time of the task so I can reschedule it for when I will be back in the library.

    2. Habit Stack. 

    Habit stacking is adding a habit to something you already do.  

    For example, I already walk into my library and cross the room the flip on the lights.  However, I was constantly forgot to turn on and log in to the circulation computers. I pass the circulation desk to get to the lights, so I stacked checking to make sure the computers were on and signed in to my morning walk across the library. 

    Another habit stack I created is that when I'm scanning book room books back in.  I used to scan them and toss them in a crate to carry back to the book room.  Now I scan and organize.  I create a different stack on my library cart for each section of the book room.  It's easy to put away 10-15 books that are on the same shelf!  I can do that in one of my small sections of time. 👇

    3. Utilize small sections of time to complete a specific task or activity. 

    I run 40 minute classes all day with 5 minutes between each.  Those 5 minute breaks between classes gives me 35 minutes! There is a lot of time to complete small tasks.  In 5 minutes, I can shelve a few books. Or sharpen pencils. Or restock the book marks.  I can straighten ONE row or basket. Use the time you have to its fullest so you can do bigger things in bigger blocks of time!

    4. Teach students to do things.  

    I really strongly dislike many shelf management tasks like making sure all the books are lined up and turned the right way.  You know who likes to do that? 7-8 year olds! 

    I work at a K-3 school.  There are a lot of things that primary aged students can do. I teach First and Second Grade students how to read the shelves to make sure everything is turned the right way and facing the right way. 

    I teach Third Grade students how to read call numbers. When they find one they think is in the wrong place, they pull it out a little bit and I come behind them to check.  If it's in the wrong place, I take it and put it in the right place.

    5. Set a timer.  

    This has been a lifesaver.  Timers are especially beneficial for habits you need to build but do not like to do. 

    Currently, I'm trying to create a better habit for evaluation and deselection.  Three times a week I set a 20 minute timer and work through sections of the library.  Last year, I focused on picture books and the biography/autobiography section.  This year, I'm going to focus on chapter books and the 500 section of nonfiction. By setting a timer, I make myself accountable and set aside a specific amount of time to work on a particular task. And 20 minutes is a short enough time that it goes by fairly quickly and I don't dread the task, even though it is routine.

    Are you a habit person or a project person? What tips do you have for building habits? Drop me a comment below!


    5 Positive & Powerful Affirmations for School Librarians at Work

    What are positive affirmations?

    According to, positive affirmations are "positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts".  If you repeatedly think and believe positively, you can improve your actions.  

    Think of it this way. If you want to have a healthy body, you have to exercise repeatedly.  I can't go to an exercise class or the gym and expect that one action to have a repeated effect on my body. I have to work out over and over for the exercise to have an impact.

    The same is true for positive affirmations.  The more we repeat them, the more we believe them until the positive affirmations come through in our actions.  

    I have a personal story about positive affirmations.  I am a single mom of a teenager.  When puberty first started to rear it's ugly head, I was also having a really rough year at work.  I was constantly on edge, yelled more than I liked and felt like I wasn't actually doing anything to make my life any better. I was just bouncing around from one dumpster fire to another.  

    I taped the positive affirmation "I will respond calmly and patiently to everything that happens today." on my bathroom mirror and read it each and every time I went in the bathroom.  After a week or so of reading it and repeating it to myself, the phrase started appearing in my mind on it's own- right when I needed it!  As time went on, I noticed that I WAS handling everything that came my way calmly and patiently.  

    You can find this image and others in my blog post on positive affirmations for teachers.

    Why should I use positive affirmations at work?

    Using positive affirmations at work can have long lasting impact.  If there is an area that you would like to change, adopt an affirmation that addresses that area.  You might choose to work on creativity, productivity, confidence or negative self-talk or when setting goals.  

    For example, if you set a goal to increase circulation of graphic novels, you may choose to adopt a affirmation like "Graphic novels are an important part of the collection, children love to read them and they have powerful benefits." Purposefully affirming graphic novels will keep them in the forefront of your mind.  This will lead to actions that may include recommending graphic novels to readers, creating displays that highlight graphic novels or advocating for the purchase of more graphic novels.  

    How can positive affirmations help during a global pandemic?

    The world is a crazy place right now.  School plans for the fall change regularly and some librarians aren't even sure they will have jobs in the fall. 

    Navigating these changing times will require librarians to think flexibly, collaborate in new ways, add value in ways that we have not previous, and maybe even advocate to keep our jobs.

    Pre-Corona Virus Pandemic, I operated on a fixed schedule where I saw 8 classes a day and rotated through the whole school within a week.  Post-Corona Virus Pandemic, I don't actually know yet.  I know that my district is starting back virtually and I will have virtual classes, it will not be on the same schedule as face to face.  When we do go back to face to face learning, I will most likely operate on a cart.

    What are some positive affirmations I can use in the library?

    #1 I am a valuable and important member of this school.

    With all the focus on classroom teachers & students right now, it's easy to feel overlooked. This is a great affirmation for you if you are feeling unimportant and left out. 

    #2 I make a difference in the lives of my patrons in both virtual and face to face learning.

    This affirmation is for you if you are worried about continuing to make a difference. 

    #3 I have valuable insight and play an important role in collaborating with teachers.

    Collaboration with teachers is a huge part of our job as Library Media Specialists.  Personally, I am on a fixed schedule so it was difficult to collaborate with others as much as I would like. I am choosing to look forward to using my time in a different way so I can collaborate with other teachers.  This affirmation is for you if you are worried about being able to collaborate with others with blended or virtual learning.

    #4 I can help patrons find resources in a virtual or blended learning design.

    It's hard, for me, to think about being a librarian while I'm not in the library with patrons.  This positive affirmation is for you if you are also struggling with this issue as well.

    #5 I will think flexibly and creatively when challenged with new problems.

    This affirmation is for you if you need to remember that you ARE a problem solver and you DO have the ability to be a successful School Library Media Specialist.  

    What positive affirmation am I adopting for the library this year?

    This year, I am adopting "I will think flexibly when challenged with new problems." as my positive affirmation.  

    I moved from the classroom into the Library Media Center a year ago.  I had previously taught for 17 years in grades K-2.  I was burnt out and looking for a change. I have been extremely happy with my decision.  However, this year was not at all what I thought it would be!  I feel like I barely got my "library legs" when we closed down.  This year will give me the ability to grow as long as I remember that I am a problem solver and that I am capable of being a great librarian in an uncertain world.

    Next stop on the blog hop is Mrs. J in the Library with some advice about teaching library lessons from a cart!

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