Friday, October 9, 2015

Legos in the Library

Over the weekend, I attended the 2015 Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota Conference. I came back with many ideas for how to make our Library Media Center into a fun innovative learning space. One of the ideas I loved the most was the idea of Legos in the library. Legos are one of my favorite toys. I love to build with them. I really believe they can inspire students and help to build their creativity and imagination. I learned that Lego even has an education branch with lesson plans and curriculum using Legos to support the Science and Technology standards and the English Language Arts standards. I suppose I should have realized this since we hear about Lego robotics competitions all the time, but it just never clicked for me.

As a School Library Media Specialist, one of my most important roles is to collaborate with teachers to support reading and writing skills. I am very excited to have learned about Lego's Story Starter Kits! These kits contain over 1000 pieces selected and sorted in a large bin to support the creation of a story with Legos. There is also optional software that allows students to create books with their creations, or even stop animate their stories. The kits come with a curriculum pack and lesson plans to support the English Language Arts standards and reinforce skills like beginning, middle, and end. I am so excited to use these kits with my students. I can just see this opening up a whole new world of learning for my third and fourth grade students, especially the boys.
If you would like to learn more about the Lego Story Starter Kits, visit*

*I am not an associate of Lego and am not paid to endorse their products. I just think this is super cool!*

Who is Roald Dahl?

I love Roald Dahl. I mean, who hasn't watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory more than once! Not to mention Matilda, one of my childhood favorites! (I still jokingly threaten to put kids in The Chokey, although most of them are too young to understand the reference.) And what about James and the Giant Peach? All of these movies are based on books written by the wonderful, whimsical Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in the United Kingdom. Roald was named after a famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, as his family was of Norwegian descent. Roald moved around quite a bit as a child attending a number of different schools including Llandaff Cathedral School. You can read about his childhood adventures in his book Boy. When Roald grew up, he worked for the Shell Oil company and joined the Royal Air Force during World War II. Roald began writing in the 1940s, but it wasn't until the 1960s when Roald published James and the Giant Peach, that he began to be noticed as a children's author. Roald Dahl's repertoire of children's books includes: James and the Giant Peach (1961), The Magic Finger (1962), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972), Danny Champion of the World (1975), The Enormous Crocodile (1978), The Twits (1980), George's Marvelous Medicine (1981), and many more. Roald Dahl passed away in 1990.

This year my second and third grade students enjoyed a reading of The Twits. This book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Twit. As you can tell from their last name, the Twits are terribly stupid, mean, and foolish people. The story begins by describing how rotten and foul this couple is. From Mr. Twit's beard filled with sardines and moldy corn flakes, to Mrs. Twit's unbelievably ugliness, the students were absolutely disgusted. The story then moves into these two disgusting people doing disgusting things to one another. Mr. Twit puts a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed. Mrs. Twit puts worms in Mr. Twit's spaghetti. The children were thoroughly disgusted and laughed hysterically at these antics. The story wraps up by telling how the Twits' monkeys outwitted them with the help of some birds. This book was so much fun to read aloud and perfect for this grade level. I know my students are anxious to reread it.

Our school also puts on a "Read and Run Club." Ironically, this group also chose to read a Roald Dahl book. The book that they chose to read was The BFG. This is another hilarious story. It is the story of the little girl Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant (BFG) that steals her away from the orphanage. In this story, Sophie learns all about giants and experiences some of their disgusting habits. These habits include the BFG eating snozzcumbers that look and taste disgusting, and drinking frobscottle which is like soda except that it's bubbles float downward causing farts instead of burps. What third through fifth grade student wouldn't find that funny?

If you are ever looking for a funny and imaginative story, be sure to find a Roald Dahl book.

Maud Hart Lovelace Award

In 1892 in Mankato, Minnesota, a children's author was born. Maud Hart Lovelace grew up loving to read and dreaming about someday writing books of our own. Maud grew up on a hill in Mankato across the street from her best friend. The memories of her childhood fun inspired the writing of the classic Betsy-Tacy series. In this series, the character of Betsy is based on Maud and the character Tacy is based on Maud's friend Frances Kenney. The series tells of the adventures of these two little girls and their friends.

In 1979, the Minnesota Youth Reading Awards started a program named after Maud Hart Lovelace. The program is the Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award. This Minnesota state book award honors children's chapter books. The best part about this award is that it is run through school libraries and the winning book is chosen by students. There are two divisions to this program. Division 1 books are appropriate for grades 3-5. Division 2 books are meant for the middle school audience in grades 6-8. Students who fall in to the specified grade level and read 3 of the 12 nominated books by March are able to vote for the book they believe should win the award. You can check out this year's nominees here:

This is our first year participating in the Maud Hart Lovelace program at Pinewood Elementary. This year we are simply focusing on reading 3 books and voting in March, but I have some very exciting ideas for the years to come. After attending the ITEM conference this past weekend and talking to other Media Specialists about how they run their system, I have come to the conclusion that this program can be one of the most motivating reading programs that these students will be part of.
In the years to come, we will continue to have students read at least three books to qualify to vote, but we will add even more to this program. For starters, we will be adding the 12 book challenge. Any student in grades 3-5 can sign up in September to be part of the 12 Book Challenge. As they finish the book, they would come talk to me to answer a few questions and receive a small prize for finishing that book. If they complete the 12 Book Challenge by the end of the school year, they would get their name in our student announcements and receive a larger prize. Another program that the students in grades 4-5 could take part in would be the Muad Hart Battle of the Books, students would form a group of four and decide who would read which books. Throughout the school year, they would make time to meet together and discuss the books. At the end of May, there will be an after school battle of the books. This would be a trivia game that consists of questions about the nominated books. All participants would receive a small token, and the winners would have their choice of Maud Hart book to take home.These programs along with other reading programs will create a love of reading in our upper elementary school students.

In order to make these programs a success, community support is a must. If you are part of the Monticello community and would like to support our Maud Hart Lovelace Program, please contact me, Mrs, Newhouse at Thank you for your support.