Wednesday, January 28, 2015

American Girl Club: Meet Samantha

Our American Girl Club met again this January, and this time we learned about Samantha. Samantha is one of the original four American Girls and her stories are set in 1904. She was one of my favorites as a kid and remains among the most popular American Girl dolls. I personally like the focus Samantha's stories put on equal rights, as a big part of Samantha's narrative involves fair labor conditions and women's suffrage.

We started out with a short discussion of Samantha's stories. We had some good sharing from kids who had read Samantha's books, which always makes things go more smoothly.

It is hard to come up with an active game to fit Samantha's time period because for the most part it seems very prim and proper. To get the kids up and moving I included two activities I thought fit: a note passing game and a relay race.

Samantha and her friend pass notes in school by wrapping them around a pencil and sliding them from one pencil to another. I had the kids practice this as a group, but it could also be done in pairs or as an individual center activity. I got the idea for this game from the Samantha Event Kit, which has unfortunately been removed from the American Girl website.

Because Samantha's social standing and time period involved a lot of etiquette training, our next activity was meant to demonstrate the idea of "proper" posture. We had a mini relay race that involved walking with books on our heads. In the past I've combined this kind of race with a short curtsey practice, but decided to skip that part this time.

I found the inspiration for our final game here. I modified the game "Please I've Come to Learn the Trade" by turning it into a game of what I called "Job Charades". I wrote jobs on slips of paper for each attendee to pick and act out for the others. My favorite was "rock star". This was a fun game and seemed to be the hit of this program.

We ended the program by making "calling cards" out of pieces of tagboard. The concept of having to leave a card for someone if they weren't home when you visited seemed to be a little hard for the kids to understand. They still seemed to enjoy decorating their cards.

While they decorated they had a snack of cucumber sandwiches and ginger snaps, both foods mentioned in Samantha's stories. These snacks were the only thing I spent money on for this program and cost less than $10.

For information on other recent American Girl related programs go to these posts:

Our next American Girl Club will focus on Grace, the Girl of the Year for 2015. Any suggestions for games or activities would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Booktalks with Third Graders: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

A new month means a new post about the booktalks I am doing at my local schools!

So far I have been very pleased with the results of these visits. As the year goes on, I find the school/library connections I am making are getting stronger. I also have had many children come to the library and tell me they saw me at their school. Quite of few of them have been asking about the books I've promoted. I'm hoping that this is a sign that my love of reading is wearing off on them!

In case you've missed it here are links to my previous posts about my booktalks. Each post contains the books I recommended for each grade, as well as tips and tricks about doing booktalks:

Here are the books I promoted to the third graders:

Cronus and the Threads of Dread by Joan Holub: Holub's "Heroes in Training" series is on the easier end of the spectrum for this age. I like to make sure I include a variety of reading levels for each grade and this one provided a much needed simpler title.

Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass: This title has an African American main character, which adds a little welcome diversity to my selections. It also includes zombies, which are a perrenial kid favorite.

Amber Brown Horses Around by Bruce Coville: I try to include at least a few different genres at each school visit, and I figured this entry in the "Amber Brown" series would be a good example of contemporary realistic fiction.

Beforever series (multiple authors): This new "choose your own adventure" series from American Girl gave me an opportunity to promote our library's American Girl Club. There is one book for each of the original American Girls.

Frank Einstein and the Anti Matter Motor by Jon Scieszka: Jon Scieszka is one of my favorites and this is the first entry in his new series. Frank Einstein, kid genius, is trying to win the science fair and get money to save his Grandpa Al's store. The climax of the story is written as a cliffhanger in the book's introduction and makes a great read aloud.

Tips and Tricks:
  • This is a great age to start promoting any of your library's digital offerings. We recently started lending music through Freegal and I got a great response from all the third grade classes when I mentioned it. Especially following the holidays it seemed especially relevant: when I asked who had iPods almost every kid raised their hands.
  • Genres become more identifiable as you get into chapter books.This makes it a good idea to include a variety of genres in booktalks for upper elementary grades.
  • As much as I hate to label books, at this age "boy" and "girl" books can be a little polarizing. This was as especially clear in the reactions of some of the boys when I mentioned American Girl. For the sake of balance I tried to include a mix of both.
I hope these suggestions, tips and tricks come in handy. As always any comments, questions or book suggestions are welcome!

Friday, January 16, 2015

ATLAS: Cooking with Chocolate

One of my favorite regular programs I do for my 3rd-6th graders is cooking class. It is a challenge because we have no stove, but through experience (and with a little help from Pinterest) I've been able to find some easy recipes that seem to work. I've also come up with a few tips that seem to make things go relatively smoothly.

For this month's ATLAS (At The Library After School), I decided to once again focus our recipes around a guaranteed crowd pleaser: Chocolate!

Here's what we made (recipe title links to my handouts for each recipe):

Chocolate dip:

This was the most complicated recipe we made at this program, so I made sure it came first. It basically involves mixing equal parts melted chocolate and whipped topping. For individual servings I had the kids use a 1/4 cup of each. The final addition is vanilla. My cooking tip to the kids: A little extra vanilla is never a bad thing! 

Chocolate Pudding in a bag: 

I'm sure many of you are already familiar with the idea of having kids make pudding in a bag. In case you aren't, the idea is to follow the directions for making instant pudding but mix it in a (well-sealed!) plastic baggie. I chose chocolate pudding and used half a small box per child. For 12 kids, the amount of milk needed was almost exactly one gallon.

Hot Chocolate Stirrer:

This recipe was a seasonal addition that I thought tied in well with our chocolate theme. The kids placed a marshmallow on a candy cane and covered it with melted chocolate and sprinkles. I  had extra candy canes left over from the holidays so this worked out perfectly! As an alternate option I brought graham cracker crumbs for them to make Smore's Pops.

Microwave Chocolate Fudge:

I've saved the best for last. This is the easiest and most delicious fudge recipe I have ever seen. All you need to do is microwave three cups of chocolate chips and a can of condensed milk. I did it as a demo for the kids and let each take a small bowl  home to refrigerate. This recipe is definitely becoming one of my new go to dessert recipes!

Tips and tricks:
  • 12 kids works perfectly for this program. Any more and I think time to fit in recipes would be an issue. Keeping it to 12 also limits the cost of ingredients (this program cost about $20).
  • It is a good idea to do any recipe demos first. It is hard to keep kids' attention once they've ingested a certain level of sugar!
  • Sometimes the simpler the recipe the more kids like it. Case in point: The kids at my program almost unanimously agreed that the Hot Chocolate Stirrer was their favorite recipe.
If you have any of your own tips or ideas for cooking with kids I'd love to hear them. Recipe suggestions are always welcome too :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kidding Around: Winter Beach Party

For this month's meeting of my K-2nd grade program, Kidding Around, I decided to hold a beach party. I figured it would provide a fun contrast to our winter weather. Little did I realize the extent of this contrast: Our beach party was held during a week where the temperature (not including wind chill) stood firm in the single digits. I'd say a little beach related fun was sorely needed.

To start our party I talked with the kids about what they like about the beach. We are a small town right on the water, so it wasn't surprising that the kids were all big fans.

Next we played a pretty laid back game of volleyball with a beach ball originally purchased for use with my parachute during storytime. With this age group I didn't bother with having them keep score. I just wanted them to have fun and get some energy out.

We continued the fun with game often played at beaches and pools: Marco Polo. To allow all kids to have turns I often had multiple kids being Marco at the same time. This pretty much wound up being hiliarious.

Our next activity was "Pin the Sunglasses on the Sun". I used images from OpenClipart and cut and laminated the pieces. I have adapted "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" for many purposes, and I have to say it is always a hit with this age group.

We finished up by watercolor painting seashells and having a snack of cookies, tropical fruit snacks, goldfish and Hawaiian Punch.

It was definitely a lot of fun, and did put us in a warm frame of mind for awhile. If only Elsa could do something fix our current state of deep freeze permanently.

Thanks for reading! Sending warm thoughts to you all :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolve to Rock in 2015!

Now that 2015 is here, Storytime Underground is encouraging youth services librarians to share their professional goals for the new year. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I've accomplished in 2014, and what I hope to work on in 2015.

Highlights of 2014:
  • Starting this blog! In February of 2014 I started this blog to build on my previous storytime blog. It has helped me grow as a professional and become a better librarian in so many ways. I've have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and appreciate you all for reading them.
  • Began a graphics novel collection.
  • Ran a March Reading program for the first time.
  • Had 1,200 kids attend programs for our summer reading program.
  • Started booktalking at local schools.

Goals for 2015:
  • Offer more night and weekend programming. In 2015 I definitely will be trying more to accommodate working families by including more programs that work with their schedule.
  • Expand our graphic novel collection. This is a popular format, and I am determined to find a way to overcome limited shelf space and make it more prominent.
  • I am in the process of starting a collection of Newbery winning books and hope to complete this goal in the next few weeks.
  • I want to try new preschool/toddler programming this year, such as a parachute play program and a dance party. I am going to try to combine this with my first goal by scheduling these as evening programs during storytime breaks.
  • Do more outreach to local preschools. I feel like I am developing a closer relationship with local elementary schools, but need to expand my efforts to younger kids as well.
  • Make changes to our summer reading program. I have been debating how I want to go about this, but haven't come to any firm decisions. For sure I want to make changes to how I do reading logs for the youngest participants. A greater variety of non-reading literacy activities will definitely be included.
  • Add iPads to our children's area. They are great tools to support literacy and technology skills at the library and would be a wonderful addition to our new children's tech center table.
Here's to a great new year!