Wednesday, April 5, 2017

We Received the #PattersonPledge!

February 2017 was a particularly exciting time in the Pioneer Middle School library!  First of all, this is the month where our school observes Diversity Month.  This month celebrated the achievements of different groups and individuals.  It also challenged us to think about what we can do within our own lives to be kind, caring, and accepting to others.

As usual, we displayed books by diverse authors.  The website was very helpful in gathering some amazing books for display!

Our regular offerings for Diversity Month received a serious boost thanks to James Patterson and the Scholastic Reading Club.  In March 2016, Patterson announced that he would donate $1.75 million to save school libraries nationwide in the second installment of his School Library Campaign.  As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, selected school libraries would receive grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.  Since the grant program's launch in 2015, Patterson has donated $3.5 million to school libraries nationwide, with all funds being personally donated by Patterson.  This is extraordinarily generous!

Pioneer Middle School Library applied for the grant and was one of the lucky recipients.  Our school library receive $8,750 to spend during Diversity Month.  With this funding, we decided to purchase books for each student in our school and host a bookmark making contest.

First, the books!  We were particularly interested in purchasing books by Kwame Alexander, an African American author and a 2015 Newbery Medal recipient for The Crossover, a novel in verse.  His books are engaging, exciting, and promote the power of reading.  Additionally, his books fly off the library shelves!  We knew that Mr. Alexander's titles would be a popular choice for our Pioneer readers.

Because our students have a variety of interests, they were given a choice of the following titles: The Crossover, Booked, Surf's Up!, Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in this Game Called Life.  What was even more exciting is that Playbook was recently released during this time!  This means that Pioneer students were some of the first people in the world to receive this book.

Once the books were ordered, they were organized and distributed through homerooms and ELA classes.  We have over 720 students at Pioneer Middle.  There were a TON of books to distribute!

Books ready to be distributed to sixth grade!

The books for our 5th, 7th, and 8th grade students.

After the books were distributed to the students, we heard some great reviews.  There were a number of students who read their book in ONE NIGHT and came back to the library for more of Kwame Alexander's titles.  It was wonderful to see this enthusiasm about reading.

Ms. Gates' class was thrilled to receive their books!
Mrs. Scheer's students got right into reading.
In addition to the wonderful books, the Patterson Grant also covered funding a Diversity Month bookmark making contest.  This contest was open to all students and prizes were involved.  The winning bookmarks would be professionally printed by the Warsaw Pennysaver (a local, woman-owned business) and distributed to students.

This was the design contest entry form that was distributed to all students.
The amount of amazing bookmark design entries was overwhelming!  It was impossible to choose just one design, so we chose eight winners.

Our winners from the Diversity Month bookmark contest.
When you see these entries, you'll understand how it was impossible just to choose one.  These students certainly were able to harness their artistic abilities and capture the spirit of Diversity Month.  Check out the winning bookmarks below:

Bookmark by Cortnee

Bookmark by Renee

Bookmark by Brady

Bookmark by Colin

Bookmark by Theresa

Bookmark by Cameron

Bookmark by Payeton

Bookmark by Ty

Nearing the end of Diversity Month, our students wanted to show their appreciation both to James Patterson (for supplying funding) and to Kwame Alexander (for writing such wonderful books).  Just a small sample of these thank you notes can be found below.  These notes will be passed along to Mr. Patterson and Mr. Alexander.

Pioneer Middle School certainly had an enlightening and engaging month of reading due to the generosity of James Patterson and the Scholastic Reading Club.  We look forward to celebrating Diversity Month again in 2018, but this one will be hard to beat!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Mrs. Leavoy's class has been busy learning about weather during their science classes.  In order to extend their learning on these topics, we spent the last two library visits looking at some wild weather: tornadoes!

We began our first visit by watching short video clips about tornadoes and storm chasers.  It was interesting to see tornadoes up close, but we all agreed that storm chasing looked like dangerous work!  After watching the videos, we then turned to Do Tornadoes Really Twist?, a nonfiction selection about tornadoes written by Melvin and Gilda Berger.  This nonfiction book was organized as a series of questions and answers.  The organization of the book made it perfect for students to browse through and focus on the questions they believed were most interesting.

Students got to work looking for some tornado facts from our book.

Reading through Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Once students found an interesting fact, they recorded it on their organizer.  Students made sure to find a great fact to write down because we were later going to share these facts with our classmates.

Finding tornado facts using nonfiction.

Students then illustrated what they would hope to find within their own tornado!

Illustrating tornadoes.
On the class's next library visit, students picked up where they left off.  Many students still needed to finish recording their fact or finalizing their illustration.  While we waited for everyone to finish, other students checked out library books and began reading.

The students then sharpened their public speaking skills by sharing their facts with their classmates.  All students did an excellent job explaining the fact they recorded.

Students shared their tornado facts with their classmates.

Here are the beautiful finished products.  Mrs. Leavoy's class did wonderful work on this short research project!

Tornado research by Logan

Tornado research by Vincent

Tornado research by David

Tornado research by Nick

Tornado research by Jasmine

Tornado research by Hannah

Tornado research by Evan

Here are the students posing with their completed work:

The students with their finished products!

Next week we will be continuing our weather discussion with a very silly story: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Making Friends with Billy Wong

It is no secret that I often use Twitter to learn what is going on in the school library world.  One day this winter, I logged in to Twitter to find that Augusta Scattergood was giving away a few copies of the audiobook version of her newest title, Making Friends with Billy Wong.  I was THRILLED to receive a copy of this audiobook in the mail from Ms. Scattergood just a short time later!  Free books always make for a happy librarian.

The audiobook Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood has many fans at Pioneer Middle School.  All fifth grade students read Glory Be, another one of her books.  Last year, Mrs. Rice's students took their learning a step further by creating book trailers centered upon the book.  These trailers caught the eye of Ms. Scattergood, who graciously agreed to Skype with our enthusiastic fifth graders. 

Needless to say, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Making Friends with Billy Wong.  This book did not disappoint!  Much like Glory Be, this selection has heart and humor, all while tackling difficult topics in a gentle and age-appropriate way.

This story centered upon young Azalea, a girl who was sent to care for her Grandmother Clark for the summer.  The summer arrangement gets off to a rocky start because Azalea doesn't know her grandmother well. Azalea also would rather be back with her parents in Texas instead of in the little town of Paris Junction, Arkansas.

Azalea soon meets other children in Paris Junction--a prissy girl, a bully, and Billy Wong, whose family owns the Lucky Foods grocery store in town.  Throughout the story, large topics such as bullying, civil rights, discrimination, poverty, family relationships, and friendships are deftly covered.  Like all of Augusta Scattergood's works, this title addresses tough subjects in a way that will be appealing to younger readers.  Above all, themes of kindness and understanding emerge as main takeaways from this lovely book.

This historical fiction story also introduced me to a portion of our nation's history of which I was not previously aware.  During the late 1940s through the early 1960s, hundreds of Chinese grocery stores flourished within the southern United States.  These stores served a vital need within southern communities, as Chinese grocers stepped in as old plantation commissary stores ceased to exist.  In Making Friends with Billy Wong, Billy's parents own a Chinese grocery store.  Their experiences within the story mirror many of the struggles and triumphs that these grocers and their families would have experienced in the past.

Although the book on its own would still be an amazing read, the audiobook version added richness and depth to the story.  The voices of Azalea and Billy were spot-on and really transported me to the American South in the 1950s (even as I listened to the book in my car near snowy Buffalo, NY!).

There is so much more that I want to say about this book, but I don't want to spoil any surprises.  Making Friends with Billy Wong is sure to be a hit with middle school audiences.  In fact, the book has already been checked out multiple times here at Pioneer Middle School.  Thank you to Augusta Scattergood for generously providing us with a free audiobook copy!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Thunder Boy Jr.

On January 6, 2016, we said goodbye to Mrs. Proudman, as she is leaving Pioneer to pursue other exciting opportunities.  Although we were sad to see Mrs. Proudman leave, it was great to see that her replacement was a familiar face: Mrs. Leavoy!  Wednesday, January 11th was our first library visit with Mrs. Leavoy's new class.  To make the day even better, we welcomed Jasmine to the class as well.

The library received many new books in December, so we wanted to take the opportunity to read some of these newer selections.  We read Thunder Boy Jr., a book by Sherman Alexie.  The main character in this book is Thunder Boy Smith Jr. (yes, this is his real name).  Although he loves his father, he isn't just like him.  He would like to have his own name, one based on something he has done in his own life.  The story goes through many potential new names until just the right name is chosen.  There were many humorous parts to this story!

Our first library visit with Mrs. Leavoy's new class.

Thunder Boy Jr. is a humorous story written by Sherman Alexie.

After reading the story, we discussed the many interesting things that Thunder Boy Jr. had done.  This led to the question of what makes each of us unique.  Each student discussed something that they liked or something they wanted to be known for.

We then took a moment to brainstorm the PERFECT nickname for ourselves based on our own unique interests.  I'm hoping that some of these nicknames will stick.  They are wonderful!

Inspired by Thunder Boy Jr., students created their own new names/nicknames.

After checking out books, students returned to the tables in order to create a self portrait that incorporated their new nickname.  The finished products were amazing!  Here are just a few examples of the finished portraits:

New Nickname: Fish Boy

New Nickname: Crazy Train

New Nickname: Tractor Boy

New Nickname: Slappy

New Nickname: Draw Girl

Next week, Mrs. Leavoy's students are beginning their unit on weather.  We'll be carrying this unit into our library visit with some weather-related activities!