Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Booktalking 2.0: Books for 4th and 5th graders

It is finally time to complete one of my favorite series of posts, my second series of grade level booktalk suggestions. It is always a pleasure to share books I've loved with the kids I hope will grow to love them too.

Here are the books I recommended to 4th and 5th graders this year:


For 4th graders:

The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer Holm: A girl named Ellie must deal with her scientist grandfather being turned into a teenager. The idea of an old man in a teenager's body holds definite kid appeal, and it is a very well written book. It is also a great example of science fiction, and of girls demonstrating a love for science.

Eat your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds by Anne McCallum: This title fit the need for nonfiction title I thought kids this age would enjoy reading. It ties together food and science, two perennially kid approved topics.

Maryellen series by Valerie Tripp and Melody series by Denise Lewis Patrick: These new additions to the American Girl books allowed me to promote my library's popular American Girl Club.

For 5th graders:

VIP: I'm With The Band by Jen Calonita: Mac gets to live every teen's dream, going on the road with her favorite band. I like the humor in the book as well as the comic book elements that are included throughout.

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm: Sunny's family is going through a lot with her brother. To get her away from the situation she is sent to spend the summer with her grandfather in his Florida retirement community. While reading about Sunny's adventures in this community we slowly learn about her brother's behavior and drug abuse. This graphic novel treats a difficult subject matter in a way that makes it easy for kids to understand and enjoyable to read.

I Funny TV by James Patterson: Jamie's latest adventure involves creating a TV show based on his life. The behind the scenes drama is pretty funny, as the title suggests. Patterson's tween series continue to be extremely popular among kids in my community.


For both grades: 

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: This Newbery Honor winner was one of my favorite books of 2015. It will appeal to fans of historical fiction as well as fantasy lovers, and has a ending that just leaves you feeling happy. It is especially terrific as an audiobook.

Voyagers series by multiple authors: The premise of this science fiction series is that kids are sent to space to retrieve a much needed new energy source for Earth. The kids I talked to loved the concept of going to space, and seemed eager to volunteer themselves if the need ever arose.

I hope these titles will come in handy to anyone suggesting books for this age group. For more suggestions see last year's booktalks for fourth and fifth graders. If you have additional recommendations I would love to hear them too. I'm already looking forward to posting about booktalking again next year!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

ATLAS: ArtBot Tips and Tricks

For February's ATLAS we did something I've seen done on many blogs before: ArtBots. In case you aren't familiar with them, they are robots that make art. I've a few different types of ArtBots and they primarily vary in the type of materials used to make them. The most common materials I've seen used are cups and pool noodles. One thing most ArtBots seem to have in common is that an electric toothbrush serves as the power source. The ones we made looked like this:

I decided to model my ArtBots after Anne's at Sotomorrow. The basic idea is you push an electric toothbrush into the hole of shortened pool noodle. Next you secure markers to the sides with rubber bands to balance them so they hang just past the end of the noodle. Once they are balanced you tape the markers on with duct tape or masking tape. The final step is decorating your creation. When you turn on the toothbrush the ArtBot should move in a circle and create a Spirograph-like picture.

Since the basics of ArtBots are covered in detail by Anne and others, I figured I'd share a few new tips and tricks I discovered through my own experience.
  • The Luminant toothbrushes do fit pretty perfectly, as Anne mentioned. In my case I was lucky that they were very easy to find with a few calls to my local Dollar Tree. I didn't even have any duds in the 15 toothbrushes I bought.
  • If you are doing this activity in the winter make sure you have pool noodles ready and available because as seasonal items you will not be able to find them anywhere cheaply or easily. I had to rely on a children's librarian from my cooperative who happened to have some extra on hand to give me. Thanks to her kindness our program was able to go on as scheduled!
  • To make this a group art experience I covered our tables with butcher paper and used that as our drawing surface. It had the added benefit of keeping any marker from getting on the tables.
  • Balancing was definitely one of the most difficult parts of getting the ArtBots to work. Other blogs have mentioned balancing too well, but a couple of my kids had trouble getting theirs to balance at all. It may just be trial and error. 
  • 12 kids seems like a good sized group to do this project with. A larger group would most likely have made me feel spread thin when it came to providing the help some of the kids needed.
  • Precutting the noodles into the necessary smaller pieces was definitely a smart move. We filled the entire hour of the program making and decorating our ArtBots and would not have had time for this extra step.

I hope these tips come in handy if you choose to make ArtBots with kids. As an easy and fun maker activity I highly recommend it!