Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free Online Story Sites

While out on mid-Winter break last week, I picked up a lovely inner ear infection, so I am a bit behind on my blogging.

This is just a quick post of some free sites with access to online stories and books.  I have used many of them with my interactive white board in my Media Center, especially for books that we don't have in our collection.

What are your favorite online book/story sites?  Did I leave any out?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Just a quick post to let you know or to remind you about my freebies page.

I have tons of freebies available right here on this blog and I add more all the time.  Just click on the freebie link at the top of the page to access them.

Many of them are Google Docs.  You do not need to request that they be shared in order for you to download them.  Just click File, Download, Keep, and Open. Then you will be able to save the open file wherever you wish.  Below is a picture that shows where to click.

Hope you have fun looking at all the freebies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Read Across America Week

We're on mid-Winter break this week, but before I left on Friday, I set up my Dr. Seuss centers for Read Across America Week.  I am so glad that I laminated and saved the centers I made last year because it only took about 30 minutes to set everything up this year.  (You can read more about where I got these centers on this post.)

Here are some pictures of the centers I choose to use this year:

At table 1, I have a 100s chart hidden picture.  I still had plenty of copies left from last year and I'll I had to do was put the center directions in a frame and add some crayons to complete the center.

At table 2, I have the "Fishy Antonyms" center set up.  There is an easy sheet where students just draw a line to match the antonyms and a challenge sheet where students look up antonyms using a thesaurus.  Again, I just used copies that I had left over from last year, popped the directions in a frame, added some pencils and a thesaurus and the center was complete.


At table 3, I have a number word and numeral matching game to go with the book "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish."   I had everything I needed already made from last year so it was super easy just to tape down the pieces to the table and set up the directions.

At table 4, I have some Dr. Seuss word searches in two version...easy and challenge.  Again, left over copies from last year made for a quick set up.

At table 5 I have a fact family center set up...one for addition/subtraction and one for multiplication/division.  No prep work thanks to saving everything from last year.

At table 6 I have a dictionary center set up.

At table 7, I have the Readers' Pledge poster printed out and ready to be signed.  The pledge was written by Debra Angstead of the Missouri NEA.  You can find it HERE.   (Thank you to am anonymous blog reader for letting me know of the original source.)  I added a frame and clipart and printed it with our poster printer.  Unfortunately I cannot share anything with "Seuss" clipart because Seuss Enterprises does not allow it, but I will share the un-Seussified version.  I actually made a couple of different versions to appeal to both  younger and older students.  Just click HERE or on the pictures below to get your copy.


I couldn't decorate as much as I did last year because we have a new fire marshal and he will be touring our school soon, so I had to be sure to comply with the fire regulations and not have more than 20% of my walls covered. This is kind of hard to do when the top part of my walls are covered in a carpet like wall paper. Crazy!  Anyway, I can't hang up a lot of decor any more, so I have resigned myself to putting things out of the tables instead.  I even had to take down some of my decorations that I've had up all year. Boo!  I understand the reason behind the  safety rules, but seeing how it's the library, I don't think having a few extra decorations up is going to make it any less dangerous.  Let's face it. It's one big fireball waiting to happen with all the books lining the walls.  I wonder what the fire marshal will say about that.  Anyhoo, I've set up the best I can and I hope the kids will enjoy it.

Do you do anything special for Read Across America?

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

One good thing about holding a Book Fair is that you get to find out about new books.  Some of the books I've currently been reading came from our recent Book Fair.  They are so new that there isn't even an Accelerated Reader quiz yet for many of these books.  I am excited to be one of the first to read them.

So here's what I've been reading...

Lawless by Jeffrey Salane
The cover is actually what drew my attention to this book.  The girl in the purple jump suit crouched down with laser beams shooting all around her is M, a twelve year old girl whose parents are art thieves working under the cover of being art dealers, but she is unaware of that fact until she is recruited to join the Lawless School, a school for criminals.  Actually recruited might not be the most accurate word to use.  You see, anyone whose parent or parents attended Lawless is expected to attend as well.  Lawless teaches these legacies all they need to know to be successful thieves.  As M was unaware that her parents were thieves, she is finding that she has a lot of catching up to do with the other students whose parents have been giving them firsthand knowledge of the Lawless ways.  Not only does M have to keep up with her studies, but she also is uncovering the truth about her father's life and his mysterious death.  At first I was questioning why I was reading a book about teaching kids to be thieves, but after only a few pages, I was actually rooting for the characters in the book.  They really are likeable despite the fact they are learning to break the law.  And the story is action packed!  However, I did find that the ending drug out forever.  I found myself wishing it would just hurry and wrap up.  I did like the ending, once it finally did wrap up.  It was a nice twist to what could have been a predictable story.  I won't ruin it for you by giving it away here.  Buy a copy for your collection. You won't be sorry!

Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates by Eva Gray
Lousia and her best friend Maddie live in a future United States that is at war. Maddie's parents are fighting in the war and Louisa's parents have taken her in.  The story opens with them saying goodbye to Louisa's parents as they board a bus to their new school, Country Manor School, which is supposed to be a safe place for them to live as the war wages on.  Only the most elite can afford to send their children to this prestigious all girls boarding school.  Louisa's parents were able to secure a spot for Maddie at CMS by changing her identification to say she is Louisa's twin, a move that later proves dangerous for both girls.  On the way to the school, Louisa meets a girl named Evelyn who questions how safe the school really is and believes there is something actually more sinister afoot.  Evelyn's fears are somewhat confirmed when the girls have all their digital devices and their ID braces confiscated upon arriving at the school.  Louisa, Maddie, and Evelyn end up as suite mates at the school along with another girl, Rosie, from the bus who seems to be a troublemaker herself.  Together these four girls find themselves in an adventure that they could never have expected. Will they trust each other enough to be able to survive the tests they are given?  And is CMS really what it appears to be?  The first in the series is a definite attention grabber. 

Tomorrow Girls: Run for Cover by Eva Gray
The second book in the Tomorrow Girls series proves to be just as exciting as the first.  This book is told from the point of view of Rosie so you get a different insight into who she really is.  This book finds the girls on the run from their boarding school and back to their hometown of Chicago. Along the way they run into some guys from the boys boarding school and together they make their escape, straight into a training camp of the enemy.  They manage to escape on a food truck, but without their ID bracelets which were confiscated from them in the first book, how far will they get?  This futuristic fiction novel is full of action, suspense, and even a bit of humor at times. I'm very happy I picked this set up at the last Book Fair and will be looking into getting the next books in the series.

The Resisters, book 1 by Eric Nylund
Another action/adventure futuristic fiction story, the Resisters is a story about a boy named Ethan who lives is a storybook neighborhood.  He is a typical teenage boy who seems to be living in a typical town, but soon finds out that his neighborhood and the entire world is not what it seems.  One night after the big soccer game in which he scored the winning goal, he runs into Madison and Felix, two teenagers who are part of the Resisters, an underground organization fighting the alien invaders who have taken over the world.  Apparently these alien invaders have mind control over anyone who has hit puberty because of the way brains work after that age.  The adults in the Resisters live underground so that they are protected from the mind control of the aliens.  Ethan, of course, believes none of this until he sees it for himself and is attacked by one of the aliens large insect robots.  In order to save himself he climbs into a large wasp robot stolen and reprogrammed by the Resisters to fight the aliens.  After this adventure, he decides he would rather just go back to his normal life and flies the wasp robot back to his neighborhood. But unfortunately, things will never go back to the way they were because the aliens know that he is aware of their mind control and send in adults to capture him.  Will Ethan escape and decided to join the Resisters after all? Well, this is the first book in the series, so you can probably guess what his choice is.  A fun science fiction novel tame enough for elementary students.

Clone Codes by P., F. and J. McKissack
Another futuristic fiction book, this one is set in 2170 where clones and cyborgs are considered second class citizens whose job are to serve others without pay...basically they are futuristic slaves. The main character, Leanna, discovers that her mother is a part of an underground abolitionist movement called the Liberty Bell Movement which aims to help free the cyborgs and clones.  Leanna's grandfather was actually the scientist who discovered the technology to develop clones, but never intended his discovery to be used to create unthinking humans whose genes are manipulated to create different skin color based on what their job is to be, no hair, and no thoughts of their own.  Cyborgs don't have it much better as they are humans who have had surgeries to replace at least three fifths of their insides due to life threatening injuries, but because of these surgeries, they are no longer considered human.  Leanna's mom is taken away because of her part in the Liberty Bell Movement and Leanna is forced to hide from the government. Along the way she meets a cyborg teen and the two eventually become friends. Together they narrowly escape being captured by the government, but now where will they go?  The next book in the series is sure to answer that question. Looks like I have some book orders to make.

Have you found any great books at your Book Fair this year or in the past?  Where else do you find good books for your patrons?

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So here's a look at what I've been reading...

The Genius Files: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman
The second book in the series, twins Coke and Pepsi are back to save the world, or at least themselves, from the creator of the group called the Genius Files, even though they supposedly killed him in the first book. There aren't any codes hidden in the spine of the edge of the text like in the first book, but there are still ciphers in the story and the action continues throughout the book with just a few slow part.  I think fans of the first book will enjoy this one, too, especially the ending. But you'll have to read the book to found out what that is!

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
An exciting book for young readers who are fans of adventure stories mixed with a bit of mystery.  Find out how a couple of young preteens save the country from another young teen who just also happens to be the best friend of one of the kids who is after him.  Sound confusing?  Read this book and all will be revealed!  I am sure that fans of Origami Yoda will love this book by the same author.  I wonder if there'll be a sequel?

3 Below by Patrick Carman
The second book in the Floors series packs just as much excitement in it as the first!  Leo and Remi are left, once again, to save the Whippet Hotel from the clutches of the evil Ms.Sparks who can't wait to tear the building down once the boys fail to pay the taxes owed on the property.  This time the boys explore the basement floors in the hotel,but just because they are below ground doesn't mean they aren't just as exciting as the crazy rooms in which guests in the Whippet get to reside.  Readers of the first book won't be disappointed in this sequel.  It's packed with just as much mystery and action.  Looking forward to reading the next one!

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
I was so excited about ordering this book. The description looked promising and I had a few choice readers in mind when ordering it, but I was extremely disappointed after reading only a few minutes to come across useless cussing in the book (one "damn" and three occurrences of "ass").  It's really too bad, too, because it would be a great mystery/action/adventure book otherwise.  What young reader wouldn't love a good spy novel, especially when the main character is a young boy?  Such a shame!  If you can get past the unfortunate cussing (which I can't...it did not enhance the story at all and I don't think the parents of my elementary students would appreciate the cussing,either), the story is full of action that will keep even the most reluctant reader glued to the page.  It has suspense, mystery, and adventure, and you're left wondering if there might be another book. Maybe Mr. Gibbs will do a rewrite of this book (I did find a few typos as well), and edit out those four little words that are keeping this book from being accessible to younger readers who would appreciate the action-packed plot.

My Big Mouth: 10 Songs I Wrote That Almost Got Me Killed by Peter Hanman
Davis Delaware is a ninth grader who has transferred to a new school after his mother died and his father got a new job.  In a way, he is looking forward to starting over with a clean slate.  He was kind of a loser in his old school.  He gets his chance when he starts a band with the coolest girl in school, Molly, who also happens to be the girlfriend of the biggest jerk, er, uh, jock in school.  Of course Davis is gaga over Molly so he tries to impress her by telling all kinds of lies which gets him in all kinds of trouble.  I especially appreciated that the action picked up at the end and that Davis seems to learn his lesson about lying.  Some kissing scenes, but they are mild enough for fifth graders to read.  Reluctant readers will appreciate the drawing and "notebook fiction" feel of the songs Davis writes.  Not bad for a "boy"book. 

So have you read any good books lately?

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Tasting Anyone?

A couple of  weeks ago I tried out something I've seen on several TL/SLMS blogs within the last year...a book tasting.  It was a fairly easy lesson to create, but it does take some time to plan.

First I created a short PowerPoint about how to browse  or "taste" a book. 

Then I put together a "menu" for the tasting based on a menu created by Mrs. Lodge of Mrs. Lodge's Library blog.  You can see her post here.  

Next I ran a STAR Reading report for each 2nd-5th grade class and divided them into four to five like reading ability groups.  This is probably the most time consuming part of planning/preparing this type of lesson.

Finally, I pulled 6-10 books for each group that would fit their reading ability and placed them on serving tray on a table along with a flower vase and some battery operated candles, just to set the mood.  I pulled non-fiction books since that is our Genre of the Month.  Also since most students don't usually go straight for non-fiction, this was a great chance to show students that non-fiction can be enjoyable, too.

After the first book tasting lesson with a second grade class, I realized it might be helpful to have a list of adjectives to help fill out the menu, so I created a list of adjectives, laminated it and placed several copies of it at each table.  It took the second grade class longer to fill out their menu, so I also thought it might be better to do a guided "tasting" and only "taste" one book.  So I created a shorter menu for 2nd and 3rd graders.

You can get a copy of this pack here or by clicking on the picture above.

If you're interested in how other TL/SLMS have done their book tatstings, you might like to check out these blog posts:

Mrs. Lodge's Library: "Book Tasting"  (This is the blog post that the book tasting menus are based on.)
The Unquiet Librarian: Book Tasting posts
Barrow Media Center "Book Tasting"
Miss Liberry Teacher "Book Tasting"
Tree Frog Blog "Welcome to the Book Tasting"
Liquid Literacy "Book Tasting"

So have you ever done a book tasting?  If so, how did it go?

UPDATE:  I was a guest on Jocelyn Sams' Elementary Librarian's podcast and I shared all about my book tasting experiences. You can listen to the podcast here.  I had so much fun and hope to be a guest on her podcast again soon.  =)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spring Book Fair

The Book Fair is here!  The Book Fair is here!

I wish I could keep up this momentum and excitement through all of the Book Fair!  LOL  Yes, it's that time agian. Time to get books in the hands of the kids and time to find out what books I need to add to our collection.  I love the Book Fair...mostly.

The Spring theme as set by Scholastic is "Story Laboratory: Reading Give You Super Power!"  To decorate for this theme, I found some cute science clipart online and traced them onto bulletin board paper.  I cut those out and taped them up on the windows.  I also cut out some slime splats from brightly colored paper. 

Scholastic has some cute "Readioactive" signs available to print out from the online tool kit.  I printed some off on bright yellow paper.

I used some of the same decorating techniques that I used in the Fall 2011 Book Fair to create the laboratory door on the outside of the Media Center by making a secret code number pad out of a tin tray from the dollar store.   I used some "caution" tape that we had left over from a yard renovation we did a few years ago to add a little something "extra" to the doors.  Something similar comes in the Book Fair decorating kit you can purchase through the Scholastic Resource Catalog.  I think the scholastic tape might have "Readiacitve Books" on it rather than caution.  To save money, I just used what I had.

The teacher wish list board was easy to make with one of the files on the Scholastic Book Fair toolkit.

For poster numbers, I used the teacher Wish List pocket clipart and added a number over it. Then I just copied those onto bright paper and cut them out.

For the guessing jar, I used gummy worms and the sign provided in Scholastic's fair files.

I am hoping that all this decorating gets the students excited and that they come ready to shop for books.  To help keep them from being distracted with the "doodads," I am again using the "doodad" board idea that I got from this post from the Three Ring Library as well as from this post from Mrs. Reader Pants.

I am also using a tip I saw about providing a free "goodie" to those who buy at least one book from the Book Fair, to encourage students to purchase books rather than the junkie stuff.  I can't find where I read that tip, but so far it has been a bit hit.  If you remember seeing this little tip somewhere, please let me know and I will add a link.

In fact, I am down to two bins of free doodads after just one day.

Thanks to a tip from Jenny, a blog follower, and this post on Mrs. Readerpants, I was able to get the Book Fair delivered a few days early so that I could still have a Preview Day on the Friday before. Yay!

I am hoping that this Book Fair is a bit more successful that the Fall Book Fair.  I am trying to promote it more this go 'round and I hope that it helps.  The first day our sales were up a bit from the first day of the Fall Book Fair, so that is encouraging.  

So are you excited about your next Book Fair?  Got any great Book Fair tips to share?