U-Pick TpT Projects

U-Pick TpT Projects
These research projects are perfect for Common Core Writing Standards 7 and 8. Each animal themed project has at least nine printable pages that will guide you and your students through the research process. ~$3.00

Do your students need to write a REAL report with an introduction, detail paragraphs, and conclusion? Challenging isn't it? This twelve-step program simplifies the entire process. Tools include a Smartboard introduction, notefact pages, roughdraft, final copy pages, and more. $6.00

A Smartboard presentation, group activity cards, and printables ... An all-inclusive unit teaching the difference between the dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus, and atlas. $6.00

Are you looking to add interest to student research projects? A lapbook with foldables is just the way to do it! ~$2.00

Country reports don't need to be boring! This project provides students with the task of creating scrapbook pages for famous landmarks. $3
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Don't just research the famous landmarks and symbols of the USA ... create a fun flipbook! This product includes EVERYTHING that you need! ~$4.00
Each and every year, I present a lesson on "Just Right Books."  Each and every year, I feel that it falls just a little bit flat. I continue to see kids choose those GIANT books that I just KNOW are not a good fit. I really don't want to become the book patrol and force each kid to read out of their books, just so that I can ensure that they have a good fit. I want the kids to choose just the right book independently.  I have scoured the Internet for ideas. Here are a few of my favorite finds ...

* readwritethink.org has THIS lesson comparing book choice to Goldilocks.

* BrainPopJr has THIS video and lesson suggestions.

* Jo Nase, The Book Bug, wrote THIS great post about using Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians. She has some great freebies to go with the book!

* Scholastic promotes the PICK strategy in THIS article.

* The 2 Sisters uses shoes as the foundation for their discussion.

Over the years, I have tried several of these strategies. I compared book choice to Goldilocks, but the kids seemed too focused on Goldilocks and her porridge. I created a PPT describing the IPICK method, but I seriously lost the second and third graders part way through that. I knew that I needed something different. Thus the birth of "If the Book Fits ... Read It"

I used a combination of the shoe analogy with my own version of the PICK Strategy. I have found it to be the MOST effective lesson yet. I loved it. Maybe you will too. Here goes nothing ...


Introduction ...
Begin your presentation by asking kids what it might mean to have a book fit “Just Right.”  Allow kids some time to talk to each other as you circulate among the discussion.  Ask kids to share one criteria for a “Just Right book.”

Now ask kids to think about what makes a pair of shoes "Just Right." What do they take into consideration when choosing shoes? Lead students to realize that there is generally more than one criteria. The same thing goes for books. We need to keep several different criteria in mind when choosing a "Just Right" book.

Introduce the acronym PICK for both shoes and books. This is NOT the usual acronym that you see with Just Right Books, but my very own version. "P" is for Purpose. "I" is for Interest. "C" is for Comfort, and "K" is for Keeper. Be sure that kids know what these words mean in general.

Continue the lesson by comparing shoes and books.


"P" is for Purpose ...
Show pictures of shoes that have specific purposes: i.e - ballet slippers, rain boats, and scuba flippers. Ask students to share how each pair of shoes is used. Ask them if they have a certain pair of shoes for a certain purpose at home. Then, initiate a discussion on why kids read books. Be sure that students mention both entertaining and informational purposes. Further discuss how the purpose for reading influences the types of books that you might choose.


"I" is for Interest ... 
Ask kids if they have ever been shopping with a grown-up for shoes. Does the grown-up always agree with them about the shoes that they like? Does the grown-up want you to try on a pair of shoes that you don't like? Lead the discussion towards the idea that everybody likes different things. What interests one person doesn't interest everybody! I show pictures of flip-flops, cowboy boots, and clown shoes. Then I discuss that I really only like one pair of these shoes. I don't mind if someone else wears cowboy boots; they look great on some people. They just aren't for me! Further explain that books are EXACTLY the same way. Certain people love certain books, but they may not be "just right" for everybody. I then give the kids the following tips for finding books that interest them.

1. Look at the front cover. I talk about both the quote, "Don't judge a book by its cover." AND "A picture is worth a thousand words."

2. Read the blurb on the back. This short summary will help a reader get the gist of the story.

3. Flip through the pages. Pay attention to the size of the text and illustrations.

4. Think about whether you have enjoyed this series, subject, or author before.


"C" is for Comfort ... 
Both books and shoes should be comfortable. Ask students what makes a pair of shoes comfortable. Then, I show the kids a picture of bunny slippers and explain that there isn't anything as awesome as your favorite comfy slippers. However, I then pose the question of whether I should wear my slippers everywhere. There is usually instant laughter. What a perfect opportunity to talk to kids about that favorite book of theirs! We all know those kids that choose the same book EVERY time they come to the library. Yes, it's comfortable, but you can't read it all the time.

Now show pictures of sneakers or another pair of comfortable shoes. These are perfect for wearing all day!

Then, show a picture of a pair of high-heeled shoes! Explain that these shoes sure look good ... at least on me! But, that I can only wear them for a short period of time. They pinch, and rub, and hurt my feet. They aren't good for the long haul.

Pose the question to the kids, "If books were like shoes, which pair should we be reading most of the time." 

Follow up by asking students what makes a book comfortable. Then introduce, or reinforce, the Five Finger Rule.

Five Finger Rule ...
0-1 Fingers: Too easy ... Like the bunny slippers! Nothing wrong with a little cozy and comfy, but we shouldn't read it ALL the time.

2-3 Fingers: Just right ... Like a pair of sneakers. Books that are just right are best for reading. They are comfortable enough to stick with for a little while.

4-5 Fingers: Too hard ... Like a pair of high heeled shoes or new dress shoes. Challenging can be TOTALLY worth it ... if you LOVE the book, but it won't always be comfortable.

I think that the Five Finger Rule is a great tool to teach kids. It can help them to be more independent and reflective in their book choice, but I believe that it should be taught as a guide only. If a student is genuinely passionate about a subject, series, or title, and the text is deemed too hard, they should have the opportunity to try to wrestle with it!


"K" is for Keeper ...
I think that once a student chooses a book, they need to consider whether that book is a keeper. There are too many books in this world to stick with one that is not interesting! That is not to say that we don't need to "encourage" kids to give a book a chance or get heavy-handed with those perpetual book bouncers, but more that sometimes we DO pick books that aren't "just right" for us! It's okay to not finish a book. A kid who doesn't like reading simply hasn't found the right book yet. Kids need to ask themselves the following questions as they begin reading a book.

1) Has the story hooked you? caught your attention?

2) Do you understand the story?

3) Can you tell a friend about the setting, main character, or problems in the story?

4) Would you recommend this book to a friend? or read another book by this author?

Well, there you go ... a unique way to tie together the Five Finger Rule and the I PICK strategy! My kids have really been able to relate to the shoe/book connection, and it has been great fun to present it in this way! 

A huge "Thank you" to Annie Lang at http://anniethingspossible.com for the wicked cute bookworm clipart! 

I have outlined my "If the Book Fits ... Read It" lesson plan here for you. If you are interested in purchasing the Powerpoint presentation of this lesson, head on over to my TpT store by clicking on the pix below!


Happy Reading! I am off to find my bunny slippers and a historical romance novel. Don't judge - Even librarians need some comfy and cozy :)

I believe that an elementary library should be a bright, colorful, and inviting place. Kids should come in and feel welcome there. One of my ultimate goals as a librarian is to create a warm and comfortable space; one in which kids look forward to visiting and want to hunker down for a while. Not all of my teachers love that the kids don't want to leave, but I certainly do!

I also want to create a space that is just a bit different each year. I want there to be an element of surprise in the library. I want them to wonder what their crazy librarian is up to now!

That's why I love decorating the library with a theme!  I can't move around bookshelves, as we would NEVER find what we are looking for. But, I can change the decor. Each year, I chose a theme for the coolest spot in school.

Last spring, I decided on "Camp Read S'more" and, over the summer, I did some hardcore research on camping theme decorating ideas. This research MAY or MAY NOT have involved only one site ... Pinterest. Personally, I believe that Pinterest should count as professional development. However, I have to say that I may have a Pinterest Problem. The first thing that I do in the morning is pin, and the last thing that I do at night is pin. I have yet to be found pinning in the closet ... but my husband is ready to have an intervention for me!

Here is a collage of some of my "pinspiration" research. A click on the collage will bring you to my Pinterest board, where you can find the source of each picture.


Now, comes the unveiling! Drum roll please ....


This fun log-themed front entrance greets the kids as they come in. I made the logs on each side of the door out of an 8.5 x 11 piece of construction paper. I simply rounded the right edge of the paper and drew squiggles to create the appearance of bark. The sign on the door was made with my handy-dandy Cricut, some scrapbook paper, and tent clipart from Whimsy Primsy.


I created this display for the bare wall behind the circulation desk. Each letter was created with a wood-type font and enhanced with more of Whimsy Primsy's great clipart and the fantastic images of Amanda @ www.amandacreation.com. After printing and laminating each letter, I hot glued some burlap type twine to the back to recreate a rustic type of sign. I love how it turned out.


In all of my Pinterest stalking, I fell in love with several different rustic looking sign posts; however, none of them quite suited the library. So, I created this fun piece titled Our Neck of the Woods. Each wooden sign post has a different genre with a description of its unique qualities. 


The sign-posts and this Back to Basics bulletin board greet my students as soon as they walk in the door. One on the right ... the other on the left.


As soon as I had decided upon a camping theme, I knew that I TOTALLY wanted to have a tree in the library. Really ... who doesn't want a tree in their room? So, a few weeks before school started, I started researching how to create a paper mache tree. I found THIS awesome tutorial on a blogger's site. It walked me step by step through the process. However, it took me WAY longer than I ever expected it to take. 

This crazy tree took over my house and my life for two weeks. My poor kids walked around it in my living room while giving me that look ... you know the one ... the one that says, "My mother is crazy." My dog eyed it suspiciously, and I feared that she would pee on it. But, with some patience and a whole lot of hard work, it made its way into my library. 


Every library has a special spot where ya read to the little people ... Mine has traditionally been called the Reading Corner. I know, you are utterly amazed with my creativity. Well, this year it is Campfire Corner. I made each letter to be about 5 inches around, so it's actually a pretty good size display. I REALLY wanted to make a fake fire with rocks and pretend flames, but I really couldn't seem to find a good spot for it. I could only imagine stubbed toes and tripped up kids. So, instead of a fire pit, I have a garbage pit.



What is a camping theme without a working campsite? There were SOOO many great ideas out there, but I needed to choose something that would work easily in the library. It had to be both kid-friendly and utilitarian, as I don't have much space for "decoration" only. This new space has become a favorite for readers. I love seeing the kids curled up in the camp chairs with their books. Nothing could warm a librarian's heart more.


This next display is MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE one! So simple ... but there is something about these bears that makes me smile everyday. I did an all call to my teachers looking to borrow some "realistic" looking bears for the year, displayed them on some rustic crates, and used simple black letters for the title. 


If you would like to recreate this display, click HERE for a .pdf file of the letters and footprints. Bears not included :) I didn't want to use all of my black ink on these letters, so I simply created an outline of each letter. Then printed, cut, and traced around the outline onto a sheet of black paper. I used a white colored pencil to trace ... worked like a champ! I then printed the paws on both white and brown paper. Don't tell me that you aren't in love with my bears too!!

Thanks for stopping by my campground! If you would like to recreate any of the displays that you see above on a maroon background, swing on over to my TpT store where you can grab the bundle! Click on the image below to be instantly transported!


Off to read smore ....


Ahh ... Orientation. The very word makes me smile. I have a quick story for you. As an undergrad at college, I was short a PE class for graduation. So in the spring of my senior year, I signed up for this weekend orienteering class held off campus. It was the only crazy thing to fit into my schedule. So, on Friday, I hop into my car and head out to Timbuktu to find this "off campus" class. Let's just say that what was supposed to be a 45 minute drive ended up taking me 2 hours. I was hopelessly lost on a network of backroads. I had to walk into this Orienteering class late and explain that I got lost on my way!! Needless to say, the professor exclaimed that there was NO way he would trust me with a compass in the deep woods :)

I have to admit that orientation is my least favorite time in the library. Sometimes it can feel like a day in the Groundhog Day movie ... the same thing over and over and over. BUT, there isn't anything as fun as reading to my kindergarterns for the first time.

I love The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. It is just one of those books that begs to be read aloud for an orientation! One day a lion wanders into the library. He pads around a bit and then plops himself in the children's story corner. He likes story time soooo much that when its all over, he begins to roar! The librarian hustles out and chastises him, but she does say that he may stay as long as he is quiet. And quiet he becomes. Come to find out, he is a perfect fit for the library. That is until the poor librarian has a bit of an accident.


Miss Merriweather is the perfect quiet librarian and Mr. McBee is such a tattletale ... it is so easy to do completely different voices for them! The story is a bit long, but I have found that my littles CAN sit still through the whole reading. Especially when I get them involved in the action. When the lion roars, I ask them ... "What do you think THAT sounded like?" They always do a little quiet roar because this is our first time together, and they are sure that they must be quiet in the library. So, then I ask, "Is that as loud as you can roar?" Then they roar REALLY loud. They love it and perks them up for the next time that the library roars. After the story, we discuss what it would be like to have a lion in our library. I often ask them, "What would a lion do in our library?" One little boy raised his hand this year and said, "He'd eat me for a little snack." Yes ... Yes ... He probably would! What a great segue into fiction vs. nonfiction. Then we always end our time together with the following coloring sheet. Go ahead and click on the pix. It will take you to Google Drive where you can download it for yourself. Enjoy!

A typical conversation heard in my library goes a little bit like this ...

Them: "Mrs. Dykeman, Do you have any Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?"

Me: "Did you check the basket?"

Them: "Uh Huh."

Me: "Were there any books in it?"

Them: "Nuh Uh."

Me: "Guess we are out right now. Check the basket next time that you are in!"

Kids love series! They love the consistency of characters and plot. They are deemed comfortable and often seen by kids as an old friend. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with series.  I love them because kids love them, and I am all for anything that gets kids to read! But, sometimes, I do find that kids can get "stuck" in a series and are unwilling to try something new. Some of the best books ever written are "one shot deals." Sometimes, they can be a harder sell to a kid who wants to read his way through a series.

Nonetheless, kids love series! When I first started working in the library, I felt that I spent half of my day directing a kid to where a certain series was located on the shelf. Not that I minded, because I cherish any one on one time that I can garner with a reader. However, I was really looking for my kids to be more independent.  I did some research in the archives of library forums to see what other librarians did with their series.  None of the suggestions seemed quite right for me!

So I came up with the concept of the series baskets, and I have never looked back.  Here's a snapshot of my Junior Fiction section.


Series are kept in colored baskets.  Each basket (well, almost every one) is labeled on the front with the name of a specific series.  Series baskets are kept in alphabetical order.  So really the books are exactly where they belong ... they are just in a basket.  I have discovered over the last few years the the very best baskets are those from Really Good Stuff.


Here's a link ... http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/category/organizers/plastic+baskets.do?nType=1.  Personally, I love the 9" x 91/2" x 5" size.  They fit perfectly on my narrow shelves without any overhang, and books fit inside perfectly without any rub on the side.

Why series baskets?

1) They are easy for kids to find!  I generally only have to have the typical conversation as heard above with students once!

2) Kids love the fact that they can "flip" through the books to see the covers.

3) They are easy to put away.  Often, I will have student helpers return them ... a job that even my youngest helpers can do!

Now, if only I could master a way for kids to independently answer the question, "What book comes next in the series?"  Any suggestions?  Do any of you have a tried and true method for listing series in order?
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My name is Sonya Dykeman, and I am an elementary school librarian in upstate New York. I taught third and fourth grade for 12 years, and then I went back to school, so that I could get my dream job. I have been in the library for 5 years, and I can honestly say that I LOVE it! Feel free to message me at sjdykeman@gmail.com.

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