Tuesday, April 28, 2015

American Girl Club: Best Friends

For this month's American Girl Club, I decided to focus on some of the lesser known characters in the American Girl universe: The American Girl's best friends. These characters mainly come from the original series of American Girls. For my purposes I classified this group as Elizabeth Cole, Nellie O'Malley, Ruthie Smithens, Emily Bennett, and Ivy Ling.

My display of books and handouts about each friend.

My main reason for coming up with this program is increasing the number of American Girl programs I am able to offer without repeating a character. This is important because this program has many repeat attendees, and many kids who stick with the program all through 3rd-6th grades. Even with putting the program on hold each summer, there are only so many available characters we can learn about.

Another benefit of focusing on the best friends is that it allows me to highlight different aspects of each original American Girl's story. For instance, when we learned about Julie (from 1974) I touched on her celebrating Chinese New Year with her friend Ivy. In this program I was able to focus a little more on Ivy and her Chinese heritage. This adds a little diversity to the program, which is especially important considering the fact that the rest of the American Girl line is pretty lacking in this area.

  • Two sessions of 12 kids were registered. 
  • Age group: 3rd-6th graders.
  • The only cost involved was for our snacks (about $10 for each group).
What we did:
  • We had a discussion about the best friends. Each girl received a handout with information about each of the five best friend characters (taken from the character information websites linked above). I was pleasantly surprised with how much the kids remembered about these characters. 
  • The kids took a quiz from the American Girl website: "What is your friendship style?". Unfortunately this game has been removed from their website.
  • Our active games included British Bulldog (for Molly's British best friend Emily) and Catch the Dragon's Tail (in honor of Ivy)
  • Our final game was writing a collaborative fairy tale, in honor of our fairy tale fan Ruthie. I wrote the first sentence and each child added a sentence on to that. I have to say I was quite impressed when they wrote in a trip to Hogwarts!
  • To close out the program we made Chinese lanterns. We also enjoyed a snack of scones, fortune cookies Fritos (invented during the 30s, Ruthie's time period) and lemonade. I offered  a wordsearch for them to do during this time period as well.

How it went:
American Girl Club is always a hit at my library. This was the first time I have had to do two sessions because the demand was so high. The second session didn't fill up as much as I would have liked, but overall I think the attendees had a great time!

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Library Bulletin Boards 2.0

Enough time has passed since my previous post about the bulletin boards I've done for my library that I thought it was time to share some more. Hopefully these ideas will come in handy in your library or classroom.

I'm still blocking out the memory of winter, therefore I will start with some bulletin boards I've made this spring.

Peeps promoted reading at my library this March:

April brought with it frogs:

And ducks:

 Here's one for summer (or any other time you are craving a little sunshine):

I've used this one for those August weeks between the end of summer reading and the start of the school year:

One of my favorite Halloween bulletin boards I've done:

This was one I put up for "No Shave November". I made it interactive by having the kids write their favorite books on the mustache.

That's about all the pictures I have for now. For more suggestions you can also visit my library display ideas Pinterest board. If you have any ideas for creative library displays I'd love to hear them!

Friday, April 17, 2015

ATLAS: Marble Mania

For my most recent ATLAS (At The Library After School) I was inspired by this Maze Maker program done by Anne at sotomorow. It sounded like a fun and easy way for my 3rd-6th graders to have a little fun (and do a little learning at the same time). I threw in a few of my own additions to the straw mazes Anne's tweens created and called the program Marble Mania.

Marbles courtesy of openclipart.org

Toilet Paper Tube Marble Run

Supplies needed:
Toilet paper tubes (cut in half)
Paper towel tubes (cut in half)

I instructed the kids to work together as a group. Their goal: Use toilet paper tubes to transfer a marble across the room. This was harder than they expected. We experimented with paper towel tubes as well. Most of the kids found the longer tubes a little easier to use because it gave them more time to move before the marble fell out. Side benefit: Figuring this out provided the tweens with a sneaky science lesson involving gravity and velocity.

Paper towel and toilet paper tubes, all ready to go.

Marble Mazes

Supplies needed:

About $5 for three bags of marbles and two bags of straws (purchased at my local Dollar Store).

This was the activity that took up the majority of the program time. Like in Anne's program, we used tape and straws to make a maze to blow marbles through. I provided several different kinds of tape in order to introduce the element of friction to the mazes. The masking tape seemed to be the most commonly used.

One of our maze makers at work.
Another maze maker decided to use my camo Duck Tape.

Marble Painting

Supplies needed:
Magnetic marbles (similar to these on Amazon)
Bar magnets
Paper plates

The kids put two colors of paint on a paper plate, and used a magnet to move a marble through it to mix the paint from underneath. Then they took the plate and turned it upside down onto a piece of construction paper to create their artwork.

A piece of our marble artwork.

Tips and Tricks:
  • The Dollar Store is a great place to buy supplies for this program. I spent all of $5 on marbles and straws, and that was pretty much the whole cost of this program.
  • If I were to do this program again, I might do the painting portion first, in order to give the artwork time to dry.
  • Some of the kids were a little confused about the Marble Run activity at first. Practice is definitely in order before any group competition!

All in all this program went pretty well. The kids seemed to have fun and were glad to take their mazes home to show off. I also think they learned a few valuable science related lessons along the way. 

Our next ATLAS (the last of the school year!) is an origami program. Any suggestions for easy origami creations?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

National Library Week Book Raffle

In case you didn't already know, this week is National Library Week. According to the ALA Fact Sheet National Library Week is a week to "celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support."

This celebration is a great occasion to do some passive programming at your library. Because passive programs are self directed and available for patrons at any time, they maximize impact with a minimum of staff time and resources. For some great passive programing examples check out this roundup by the ladies at Jbrary. I also have a passive programming Pinterest board, where you can see many more passive programming ideas I've collected from my favorite library related blogs.

Our passive program for National Library Week is kind of a simplified and shortened version of the Back to School Backpack Raffle we do every fall at my library. For our "National Library Week Book Raffle" kids can fill out entry slips for each visit to the library during the week. At the end of the week I will draw the winners and they will get a free book of their choice from my summer reading giveaway stash.

What I like about this program (besides the simplicity of it) is that it promotes books and encourages library use. It is also an opportunity to get a free "for keeps" book in a child's hand. This is something I strive to do as much as possible, because access to books is the first step to becoming a reader.

For more information about National Library Week see the ALA Press Kit. How is your library celebrating?

Friday, April 10, 2015

iPads in the Library: What I've Learned So Far

As I mentioned in my "Resolve to Rock" post, one of my goals for this year has been getting iPads in my children's area. We've had them a little over two months (long enough to discover and work out a few kinks in our system) so I figured it was about time to share.

A little background information:
  • These iPads are the 16 GB iPad Air 2. They were purchased thanks to the generosity of our Friends of the Library. Thanks Friends!
  • I've decided the goal of these iPads would be to promote early literacy. To get this point across more clearly, I have arranged our apps by the "Every Child Ready to Read" early literacy practices: Reading, Writing, Singing, Talking, Playing.
  • They are mounted on our children's tech center using this MacLocks security stand. These stands seem to work well, and I would definitely recommend them.
  • To set up the iTunes account for the iPads we used an old library gmail address we created when we first got our Facebook.

Here they are:

This half of our kids tech center includes our iPads and an AWE station.

A closeup view of the iPad.

It's All About the Apps:

There are so many apps to choose from, at first I didn't know where to start. I knew I wanted to start off with free apps only and build from there, but there are still so many to choose from.

Lisa Mulvenna of Lisa's Libraryland was nice enough to share some resources to get me started.  Based on a list of apps she provided I sorted out the free options and organized them by literacy practice. Here is the initial list of apps I came up with. 

Setting Restrictions:

The majority of restrictions you will need to set are found in the Restrictions tab. It is found under Settings > General. These restrictions will prevent children from downloading unwanted apps, deleting apps and generally doing things you probably don't want them to be doing. In order to access the restrictions you will need to set a four digit passcode.

Here are the restrictions we have set:

Purchasing/Downloading New Apps

To purchase new apps, I bought an iTunes gift card. I figured this way no credit cards would be involved. With only two iPads it has been relatively easy to download new apps individually to each iPad. The nice thing is that this can be done wirelessly, so the iPads don't need to come out of their cases. The only hiccup is that I discovered I needed to change the "installing apps" restrictions temporarily in order to do so.

The first new apps I chose were various Dr. Seuss book apps (on sale for his birthday!). Since then I've also downloaded a few of these apps Brooke recommended at Reading with Red.

For additional app suggestions, including reviews, there are several other places you can look. Little eLit is a great place to start. Digital Storytime also provides reviews and information on available deals. There is also a section of app reviews in each issue of School Library Journal.

What I've learned:
  • Keeping the iPads plugged in and unlocked during the day seems to work well. The stands we use allow easy access to charging and headphone ports, which allows this to be done pretty easily.
  • The restrictions you have set will get in your way when making changes. See my "installing apps" example above.
  • We found that iTunes Radio doesn't always filter access to explicit music. In order to prevent access to iTunes Radio, you must log out of iTunes and the App Store. This can be done once you "allow changes" to your account settings. This setting can be found towards the bottom of the restrictions tab. Don't forget to log back in next time you want to download apps!
  • Changing the passcode is more difficult than I expected. There is a restrictions passcode and a passcode to unlock the iPad. You can change the unlocking passcode under Settings > Touch ID and Passcode. The restriction passcode is harder to change. You need to disable your restrictions, set a new passcode and reset all restrictions.
  • Kids will change the names of folders you create on the iPad. This has only happened a few times to us, and I have not figured out a way to prevent it as of yet. 
So far, our iPads have been a big hit. Now that we have worked out the initial setup, they have been pretty low maintenance overall. I will definitely keep you updated on anything new I discover. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Kidding Around: Dinosaur Party

The theme for this month's "Kidding Around" (my monthly K-2nd program) was a perennial kid favorite: Dinosaurs!

As I usually do for this program, I registered 12 kids. It was so popular I ended up allowing in a few extra, bringing the total to 15. I also had a few younger siblings attend, who joined in the fun where they could. It was definitely the best attended K-2nd program I've done in a while.

Here's what we did:

I started out by reading Natasha Wing's book "How to Raise a Dinosaur". It has some fun lift-the-flap elements and mentions the word poop at least once, so I figured it would be a hit with this age group. They seemed to enjoy it, although I do think a little more of the visual humor is evident when reading it one on one.

Next we played a game I called "Dinosaur Tail Tag". It was basically a version of tag where as people are tagged they join arms with the tagger, leading to a large snakelike grouping. I said we were making a giant dinosaur tail.

Our second game was "Pin the Horn on the Triceratops". I used a picture of a Triceratops from openclipart.org and used Paint to remove one of the horns. I then copied and pasted the horn multiple times into a separate document. Here is what I ended up creating: Dinosaur and Horns.

After that we did our craft, which was reassembling a cut out dinosaur skeleton. I used a template from a previous summer reading program to cut out a complete set of skeleton pieces for each child. The children were then encouraged to reassemble the dinosaur and draw around it as they wished.

We ended the program with a snack, which is always a highlight for most kids. However this time it was particularly fun. In addition to Kroger brand dinosaur fruit snacks, we enjoyed eating "dinosaur poop" (a.k.a. chocolate covered jumbo marshmallows). This seemed to be a huge hit with the kids. I even heard positive feedback from parents about it the next day. Definitely something I would do again.

As the kids left they could take home a "If I had a Pet Dinosaur" worksheet I printed from Deceptively Educational.

Next month's "Kidding Around" will be our "Bubble Bash". As the name implies, the plan is to do some experiments and activities involving bubbles. Looking forward to updating you all about how it goes!