This Month in Photos: March 2016

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Spring is officially here, bringing with it all of the excitement of beautiful weather, bright flowers, and fun activities! Johnson is a flurry of excitement these days, and it’s all a librarian can do to keep up. March and April have been busy busy busy, and I’m happy to share a snapshot of some of the great things we’re sharing with your students.

March brought lots of excitement, with the Virginia Festival of the Book bringing some truly awesome visiting authors our way. Kevin Sherry, Timothy Young, and Julianna Morgan (with her rescue dog, Sashi) came to Johnson to share their books, while Johnson’s second and third grade students took the show on the road. We met with all of the second and third grade students in the city at St. Anne’s-Belfield to see Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, authors of the mega-popular books The Stinky Cheese Man and Egg Egg Egg!, among many others. Scieszka and Weinberg did not disappoint their fans, relaying icky sticky stories and delivering jokes like a weathered comedy team. Students loved hearing about Scieszka’s childhood road trips with his brothers (spoiler alert: lots of carsickness involved) and getting a sneak peek at Weinberg’s new book, You Must be This Tall. Special thanks to St. Anne’s-Belfield for welcoming us to their campus for this special event, and to the Virginia Festival of the Book for all of their hard work in arranging these unique literary experiences.

You can read more about the Festival of the Book events at Johnson here.

Following our author visits, many classes were so inspired and excited that they felt the need to say thanks. Above are two thank you cards by Johnson kindergarteners for author Kevin Sherry. These adorable cards were inspired by Sherry’s book, I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, which hasn’t stayed in the library for more than a few hours all month!

Fourth grade employees have really been proving their worth recently, completing more and more complicated library work during their lunch and recess shifts. Each day’s employees have different jobs – on Thursdays and Fridays you will find fourth graders checking in books, shelving, and delivering resources to teachers around the school, while Monday and Tuesday’s workers will monitor kindergarten and first grade classes, lending an extra hand to students in need. Above, employees show off their training with a first grade class; the first setting up the books for a first grade checkout period, and the next spending some special time reading with a younger buddy.

I love seeing the fourth graders take ownership in the library, and it has been so much fun to watch their library confidence and knowledge grow. Many are requesting extra shifts, extra responsibilities, and more extensive training. What started out as a small volunteer idea has now become one of the best parts of my day. Walker has some truly dedicated librarians coming up!

Speaking of mentors and helpers, have you seen the amazing videos that Johnson second graders created for their first grade buddies? I challenged second graders to think about the big changes that happen between first and second grade, and to create an instructional video to help first graders prepare for their upcoming transition. Second graders planned, wrote, shot, and edited the videos themselves (with just a little bit of help).

When the videos were finally finished, each second grade class hosted a special event for their first grade buddies, complete with a world premiere of their movies and a guided tour of all of the library’s best spots. You can learn more about this event and watch the videos here.

The Famous American Living Museum is always one of my favorite events of the year, and the fourth grade team knocked it out of the park this month! From Andy Warhol to the President and First Lady, Johnson’s fourth graders showed off their hard work and research skills with multi-faceted, engaging presentations about their Famous Americans. Posters, slideshows, monologues, costumes… you name it, our Museum had it. The traffic was heavy, but the exhibitions were worth the wait! Follow the link to view the PTO’s awesome blog post about the Famous American Living Museum.

Robotics, engineering, and Making are still front and center in the Learning Leopard Library, and it is amazing to see all of the things that our students can create. I can’t take any credit for the awesome light-up robot above, made only from tin foil, tape, and a watch battery – that was all HackMaster Jones! As an ITRT, Mr. Jones visits weekly with fourth grade classes to work on a STEAM and computer science curriculum. Their projects include amazing topics like Lego Robotics, circuits, MakeyMakey computer programming, Scratch, and more. I love my time meeting with Mr. Jones each week and hearing about all of the amazing things that our students are creating.

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Fourth graders aren’t the only one catching the Maker spirit. This Maker project was a creative gift from a growing mover and shaker! Second grader Alexis re-purposed items from around her house to turn them into a creative project. The end product is a fun and imaginative farm that makes me smile every time I look at it. Way to go, Alexis! You’re a true Maker!

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The beautiful weather has drawn us outside to talk about all things green and growing. Johnson students are so lucky to have our beautiful City Schoolyard Garden, and we love to peek at all of the plants growing in their flower beds. Above, pre-school makes observations about what they see, after reading a garden story about seeds and plants.

Pre-K isn’t just talking about growing.. we’re making things grow, too! This week, we read about Jack’s beanstalk and tried to build one of our own. In the story, the beanstalk is strong enough to carry Jack, the hen, the giant, and the giant’s wife… that is one sturdy structure! We experimented with what could make our beanstalk strong enough to stand, even with the giant making it shake. We tried lots of different bases and patterns to figure out, how can we make our beanstalk taller and stronger?

STEAM doesn’t have to involve fancy tools or computer coding. Sometimes it’s as simple as figuring out how things work, and then tweaking them to make them even better!

Lights, Science, ACTION! is still going strong on Thursday afternoons in the library. With help from our partners LightHouse Studio, students have been getting their feet wet in filmmaking AND their hands dirty in the garden. We are having a blast learning about camera and editing equipment and all of the work that goes into making a movie. And to put our new information to work, teams get to film our science experiments, documentary-style. On our last week in May, we will premiere the full film. I can’t wait!

Kindergarten is lucky enough to spend some quality time with the sisters of the Pi Beta Phi service sorority from the University of Virginia. Pi Beta Phi selected Johnson as the recipient of their CAR program (Champions Are Readers), which means that they come in every week to share their love of books with us. These ladies get cheers from the group ever week! You can learn more about our partnership with Pi Beta Phi here.

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Stop by the library soon to check out the next teacher featured on our Mustache board (hint.. he’s hiding somewhere behind that large paper mustache…) and see what he’s reading!

There are LOTS of exciting events coming up at Johnson, including the Principal Search Forum THIS FRIDAY and the PTO Spring Picnic next week! Don’t miss out on any of the fun – keep track of all of the events by following the Johnson Elementary School PTO on Facebook. Parents can also sign up to receive convenient PTO Newsletters in their email each week to stay on top of all of Johnson’s news.

See you all next week at the PTO Spring Picnic!

This Month in Photos: January 2016

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January has been one wild month. Robots, dogs, mustaches… we’ve seen it all. I don’t think I can even begin to describe this one well enough… so I’ll let the pictures do all the talking! Hold on tight…

It was a warm Fitz-welcome back from winter break with my new name all over the library to help remind students of the change. I got married in November and Miss Messham is so 2015. My new name is Sarah FitzHenry, but I’m inviting my Johnson family to call me Ms. Fitz. I have a new email address to match the new moniker – you can now reach me at FitzHeS1@charlottesvilleschools.org.

When we last left our third and fourth graders, they were working on our 2015 Hack-a-Thon and honing their computer programming skills. I was thrilled when many students rushed into the library the first day back from break to tell me how much they had coded over their vacation. Some even completed the courses at Code.org! Did your student use any of the digital resources mentioned in this post over the break? If so, brag about them in the comments!

No warm-ups or slow starts here – we didn’t waste a minute getting back into reading. From pre-k to fourth grade and everyone in between, we were all happy to be reading, learning, and sharing our love for literacy in the Learning Leopard Library. As you can see, Johnson students aren’t exactly shy about using their library resources and sharing their favorite books. On the right, a third grade student shares her most recent checkout with a very lucky Lego man.

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Students aren’t the only readers at Johnson. In our new I Mustache You… display, teachers get the chance to share their most recent read with the school. This week Mrs. Kamide rocks the ‘stache and tells us about the title she’s into right now.

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In Learning Leopard Library tradition, Johnson third graders are starting off the new year with the reference tool tango. To help them tackle this tricky SOL, we go over each reference tool in detail and get to know it in a unique and engaging way, like dictionary races and almanac scavenger hunts. These fun, low-pressure activities allow students to learn the tools inside and out in a way that is both fun and memorable. Above, third graders use thesauruses to re-write a silly short story – think Mad Libs crossed with English class. But funnier!

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Did you hear the one about the dog in the library??? Earlier this month, Luna the Therapy Dog came to visit Johnson’s kindergarten and first graders, and we had a barking good time. Read all about Luna’s visit – and see a short video of her presentation with her owner and handler, Stacy Diaz – here.

Have you heard? The library is hiring! Earlier this year, I quietly placed Help Wanted posters in the fourth grade classrooms. Students who took the initiative to ask were given a job application, complete with essays, scheduling requests, and character references. From there, applicants underwent a rigorous interview process (in the middle, you can see that this particular interview happened to fall on pajama day – I don’t normally interview in a tiger-striped onesie…) and only the most prepared, determined, and hard-working students were chosen. On the right, you can see fourth grade applicants checking the posted Hired list to find their names. Spoiler alert – every student that interviewed was hired – but it was only because they all did such an excellent job! I was blown away by how prepared, polished, and professional my applicants were. Special thank you to Chase and Sahana, my awesome Safety Patrol workers, who helped me to carry out the interviews (when you want the best results, you break out the big guns)!

Their start dates have been pushed back due to snow, but our new twelve-member team should begin their training next week. They’ll begin with shelving graphic novels and fiction chapter books, as well as helping younger students to find books that are a good fit and check them out independently. I love sharing the library with students, and giving them ownership in the space. I can’t wait to see what they can do – expect updates on this awesome team in the future!

Speaking of Chase and Sahana, these two have really stepped up their library game. This team is such an excellent help in the morning that they are now beginning to take on more challenging jobs, like cataloging, labeling, and processing new materials.

If you follow our library on Facebook, you know that we have recently launched a brand new program in the Learning Leopard Library – a MakerSpace! MakerSpaces are designed to get students dreaming, designing, and out of their comfort zone making anything and everything. Cardboard and duct tape race car course? Awesome. Magnatile neighborhood? Sounds great. 3-D printed jewelry? Bring it on! Johnson’s resident STEAM expert (and past HackMaster) Andy Jones helped me to transform a quiet corner of the library into a state-of-the-art MakerSpace and engineering corner thanks to the tools from our recent DonorsChoose fundraiser, the results from our Alcoa Grant, and a few generous gifts from Charlottesville City Schools. Along with a huge selection of beautiful, educational, and oh-so-enticing engineering toys, Johnson is now the home to a brand new Silhouette Die-Cut machine and a 3-D printer. I’ll be working with teachers soon to introduce them to these materials and showcase how they can integrate them into their curriculum. I can’t wait to show you all of the amazing things our students can do with these new materials!

Speaking of engineering and STEAM, I’ve been testing out our engineering toy selection on some very happy fourth grade guinea pigs. From Cool Circuits to K’nex, it’s been so much fun watching fourth graders use their imaginations and learn through play in the library. This is just a small taste of what the Johnson STEAM Team will be working on during our Friday after school meetings. Learn more about the STEAM Team here. If you’re interested in registering your child, let me know ASAP – we have four more spots remaining for this session.

Even with the snow days, it has been a busy and exciting month in the Learning Leopard Library. And with STEAM Team starting up, the Festival of the Book on the horizon, and our new MakerSpace ready to go.. something tells the that February is going to be just as good!

Stay warm and dry out there! See you soon!

 

This Month in Photos: 9/25-10/30

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WHAT A MONTH.

October is always a busy month at Johnson, but this month feels like it has been our busiest yet! From special guests and reading events to Creepy Carrots and engineering tools, October has been a blur. Take a look at some of the amazing things we’ve been doing in the Learning Leopard Library!

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This time last month, I was in Seattle, Washington in a room full of the best librarians from around North America and Canada. This fantastic opportunity to learn from the leaders in the library field gave me so many new ideas and so much inspiration! I loved hearing about how school library media specialists are making a difference in their schools and creating engaging, flexible spaces for their students.

It was also an excellent opportunity to share the message of the Books on Bikes organization to library movers and shakers to take back to their own hometowns. Above you can see me sharing Books on Bikes tshirts with famous authors like Jack Prelutzky (the inaugural winner of the Children’s Poet Laureate award!), Neil Shusterman (on the short list for this year’s National Book Award!), Susan Nielsen, and Leslye Walton. Plus a few librarians from Texas, Maine, and Washington state, who are eager to start their own Books on Bikes chapters this summer!

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It may seem like ages have passed, but our Fall Book Fair was only a few weeks ago! The Bedford Falls Book Fair saw huge amounts of traffic and record-breaking sales. I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful group of parent volunteers that made the experience so much fun for Johnson’s students. Thank you to everyone that helped to make the Fall Book Fair possible!

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Along with the Book Fair comes my favorite project… Book Fair Scholarships! Thanks to our highest raffle ticket sales ever, generous anonymous donations, and teacher sponsorship, we were able to fund 88 Book Fair Scholarships this year! That’s more students shopping, reading, and sharing the Book Fair Magic than EVER before. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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One last Book Fair update… this year, we raffled off our biggest Book Fair Raffle basket EVER! With more than 25 books, a selection of games and prizes, and a Books on Bikes t-shirt, the competiton was fierce. And we sold a record 75 raffle tickets this year… WOW! Congratulations to our winner, Ananda! Ananda is such a huge reader and supporter of our library, I know that those books will be well loved and put to good use. Hooray Ananda!

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What do librarians do on Professional Development Days, anyway? We get together to help improve our library programs, of course! Sometimes our Professional Learning Community discusses curriculum, new best practices in reading and literacy, or to present about fun literacy updates at our schools. On this particular PD day, we got together to learn about the art of book mending. Using a kit of specially designed glues, tapes, and tools, our instructors from the Jefferson Madison Regional Library can take even the most damaged book and make it look brand new again.

This Book Doctor, however, still has some training to do. It was wonderful to get some hands-on experience in book mending, and I look forward to getting some of our recovering books out of the Book Hospital and back into students’ hands! Thank you to JMRL for the awesome demonstration!

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As always, the library has been full of readers showin’ off their stuff. From Dance Mat Typing to Kahoot to exploring chapter books and everything in between, the library is busy and bustling every hour of the day!

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Chase and Sahana, my Safety Patrol experts, are busier than ever. In addition to assisting with open check out in the mornings, they have also started preparing and delivering educational resources to teachers. Here, they check out a pile of books on economics for Mrs. Schaaf to use with her students in her classroom. This big pile was hand-delivered just a few minutes later!

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Thursday, October 22nd, Johnson joined the national Read for the Record celebration by sharing this year’s selected Read for the Record story, Not Norman, to every student in the building. We had a little bit of extra help to celebrate from our friends at the UVA Football Team! Find out all about our special day here.

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Second graders are continuing their Library Superhero training, and you can tell they are really taking it seriously. In the photos above, Super Leo acts as my Sidekick for the day, assisting patrons at the computer and checking the library for evil-doers; and Keira surprised me by showing up to library class in her own personal cape! Library Superhero twins!

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Have you heard? Engineering is coming to Johnson! Last week, I posted a new project to DonorsChoose to bring an Engineering Club to our students. Before I even had a chance to post is on the blog, it was fully funded! Resources have been arriving all week, and I’m having a blast getting to know the materials and preparing them to share with students. I am working with engineering students from the University of Virginia to create a custom curriculum to challenge, excite, and inspire our students starting in January. Stay tuned for updates about the coming Engineering Club – and thank you so much to all of the Johnson families that made this project possible!

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For the second year in a row, Creepy Carrots busted out of the library and took over Johnson! Today, a brave pre-k class joined me on a carrot hunt to track down all of the escaped Creepy Carrots. Together, we counted SEVENTEEN CARROTS wreaking havoc all over the building! It was a great adventure for this pre-k group, and such a magical way to bring a favorite story to life for all Johnson students.

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Later that day, Mr. Harden found the creepiest carrot of all in the Johnson Garden! I had a great laugh when he brought me this monster. I might just have to keep this guy as my creepy carrot mascot.

This has been a fun and exciting month in the Learning Leopard Library with so many great experiences for Johnson students. And none of this month would have been possible without YOU! Thank you for being a part of our library program and for making these wonderful experiences possible. I love working with you on the Johnson Elementary Team and am so happy to be a part of this wonderful community.

Wishing you a safe and fun Halloween weekend! See you next week!

This Month in Photos – 8/20-9/11

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I think I speak for all of us when I say… How is it the fourth week of school already?! As usual, the days are flying by and I’m just getting Monday under my feet by the time Friday arrives. With four weeks under our belt, students are starting to get used to their classrooms, the cafeteria, and their Johnson family – which means the good stuff is starting! I am loving stopping by classrooms to see all of the creative, exciting, educational work being done. When it comes to learning, the the library is certainly bustling. Here’s a quick glimpse into some recent library happenings!

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The Golden Shelf competition kicked off last Monday (learn more about that here!) and it has been heated! Here the Shelf residing proudly in the classroom of its first winners for the 2015-2016 school year – the second grade Golden Knights. The Golden Knights team has students from Mrs. McKeon and Mrs. Machen’s second grade classes that attend library class together. Way to go, Golden Knights!

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Third and fourth grade got their tech on this week with Kahoot, my favorite new online game. Kahoot is an interactive competition that allows students to participate from their seats on their own devices, while keeping score and staging the competition on the Smart Board. Students sign into our class game using a special pin code, we share questions together on the board, students answer from their seats, and then the winners show up on the score board for the room to see. In this photo you can see some students that see their name in the top five… and some students that aren’t so happy with their scores!

Kahoot is my favorite new tool because it gets everyone in the class involved, for maximum engagement and maximum fun. You can play Kahoot from any device, and browse and play Kahoot quizzes made by other members! Check out the Kahoot quiz third and fourth graders took this week, all about online safety and being a good Digital Citizen, here. Test your knowledge and play at home with your Learning Leopard!

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To say that Johnson students were excited to start checkout again would be the understatement of the century. Second, third, and fourth graders are thrilled to be back in their old routines and bringing books home. We’re all a little rusty, so it’s a good thing we’ve been doing lots of practicing!

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Kindergarten and first graders are enjoying their checkout, too. I’m lucky enough to see kindergarten for a full hour each week, which means we get tons of time to check out and enjoy some quiet reading by ourselves and with friends. Our youngest students pick up routines so fast, I’m amazed by how much they can already do!

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A beautiful gift was waiting for me this week – brand new books for the library! A generous and kind Johnson family made me teary with their donation of these beautiful books for our collection. Each book has a valuable message; kindness to others, celebrating what makes you unique, dealing with bullies. These valuable titles are such an excellent addition to our collection, and I know that they will be beloved by students and teachers for years to come. Stop by and check them out!

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The library’s new Safety Patrol crew has started, and they wasted no time getting down to business. Above, you can see Sahana and Chase shelving books and helping kindergarteners to check out. These hard working students help to check books in, answer student questions, organize and shelve titles, and run computer stations, among a million other responsibilities. I couldn’t run morning checkout without this invaluable help, and I love getting to spend the extra time with two special fourth graders. You’ll see a lot of Sahana and Chase’s adventures in the library this year!

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We may do a lot of reading, but by now you know that our library is much more than just a book collection… above, my second Golden Shelf winning class, the fourth grade Waylanders, take a dance break in the classroom area. They’re ready for Let’s Move club!

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When you get this many awesome new titles to add to your library collection, it needs to be documented with a new book seflie. Hundreds of new books will be hitting the shelves next week! Check back for an update on the latest and greatest additions to the Learning Leopard Library collection.

I’m crossing my fingers for a sunny and cool fall weekend. Enjoy some time with your families, and hopefully a story or two!

Welcome to the 2015-2016 School Year!

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Brush the sand off of your shoes and start packing up those backpacks, because summer is coming to a close. I hope you all had a relaxing, exciting, and refreshing summer, and that you’re as excited as I am to get started with a brand new school year! My summer was filled with Books on Bikes, literacy projects, lots of relaxation, and some great reading (especially in my hammock in my backyard with a bowl of popcorn – my favorite way to spend a summer morning!). I love my time off, but I have to admit that by the time August rolled around, I missed my friends and family at Johnson and was ready to get back to work!

While I was at home relaxing, the library was hard at work. This space was used by several groups as a space to meet and grow professionally. Although the library is the center of learning and the heart of the school for our students, it also serves as a welcoming and invaluable professional development center for Johnson’s faculty and staff. From technology training to literacy development, the space is custom designed to be a collaborative learning environment for readers of all ages. In the photos below, Johnson staff attends a full day professional development session on reading strategies in the classroom.

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As usual, the Learning Leopard Library has big plans for this year. My main goal will be to continue supporting the love of literacy at Johnson by providing students with engaging, high quality, and high interest titles across multiple genres and platforms. The library helps students both to fall in love with reading and to become more confident, engaged readers. Along with supporting literacy, the library will continue to support and enrich curriculum for all grades and subjects, to increase material circulation, and to collaborate with teachers in the library and beyond.

The library will also continue to act as the technology hub for Johnson. This summer, I was busy behind the scenes redesigning the technology storage and checkout system to provide an easier, more streamlined system for teachers and staff. Laptops, e-Readers, iPods, digital cameras, camcorders, Chromebooks, Chromebases and Macbooks are all based out of the library tech system. You’ll see these tools used all over the school in interactive, challenging lessons and activities. I am looking forward to spending another year collaborating with Instructional Technology Resource Teacher Andy Jones (one of last year’s Golden Apple winners!) on new ways to bring technology and STEAM projects into Johnson’s classrooms. Keep your eyes and ears open for big initiatives involving computer programming, coding, and the infamous Hour of Code this year!

Kindergarten and first grade will continue checking out books that they choose for themselves twice a week, while older students will have the opportunity to fall in love with two new books everyday! I am hoping to top last year’s circulation numbers, which ended at nearly 18,000 books checked out over the course of the school year. The more we read, the better readers we become!

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This week, students have been getting to know the library – many for the first time. Older students have a hand in their library experience by naming their classes and creating their library rules, as well as getting to know their teammates. Younger students are learning about the special ways that we use our hands and feet in the library space, singing roll-call songs, and sharing stories about heading to school for the first time. Everyone has had lots of comments and questions about the library – “What’s this new display? What do I have to do to earn that privilege? Is that a new table?!”

I’m proud to say that there have been no tears in this room this week – and that includes the class of three year old preschoolers, who came to the library at 9:30 AM on their first day of school, ever! For many children, libraries can be overwhelming and scary places. Children that have a lack of experience with books don’t know how to unlock the magic inside; others have written libraries off after underwhelming or nervewracking experiences. One of the most challenging and rewarding parts of my job is taking the misconceptions about libraries that come through my door and turning them totally upside down. Students turn to me all the time and say, with disbelieving grins on their faces, “I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet?” Not this library, my friends. It’s impossible to be quiet when you’ve got passion this big and dreams this loud.

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I’m thrilled to be spending another year as the School Library Media Specialist and Technology Contact at Johnson Elementary School. I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences with you through photos, text, and samples of student work. Check back for content each week and watch carefully – you might just see a name or face that you recognize!

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If you ever need to contact me, I am reachable by both phone (434-245-2417, ext 2854) and email (messhas1@charlottesvilleschools.org). Due to my busy and ever-changing schedule, email is the easiest way for me to communicate. I also invite you to stop by before or after school hours with questions, comments, or just to chat.

Happy new school year! I hope to see you all soon!

Miss Messham

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Student Spotlight: Gloria

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This morning live on the Johnson morning announcements, I shared the winner of our Spring Book Fair Raffle. Just in case you forgot about all of the awesome stuff up for grabs, here’s a little reminder:

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Tickets were on sale all last week at the Spring Book Fair, and thanks to shoppers like you, raffle ticket sales and donations raised enough money to pay for more than 50 Book Fair Scholarships. And one very special Grand Prize Scholarship, which you can learn about here!

Lots of tickets, lots of prizes, but only one winner. This is normally the part where I try to explain to you how excited our winner was, to share how much prizes like these mean to the students that win. But this year, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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Thank you to Mrs. Rickabaugh for snapping these awesome photos of Gloria’s big moment!

If Gloria’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s been featured on the blog before. Gloria has written multiple Student Book Reviews that have made the cut to be published (you can read her most recent one here) and has had many Google drive files shared. You might recognize that smiling face from multiple examples of great behavior in our This Week in Photos posts, or from her sweet dance moves as a part of the Let’s Move club.

“I never thought I would win!”, Gloria said as I dropped the basket off in her classroom. “I never win anything.” When I asked her how she felt about being the big winner, she grinned so hard she could barely speak – but did manage to get out a quiet, “I am so excited.”

Gloria has been a big part of the Learning Leopard Library blog, and is a perfect example of the hard working, kind, and generous students that we have at Johnson. Congratulations, Gloria! (And congratulations to her little brother, Harrison, who I saw celebrating in the hall this morning. He was pretty confident that his big sister was going to share!)

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Thanks for all that you do to make Book Fair Scholarships, Raffles, and other fun library activities possible. If you’d like to get involved, contact me via email at messhas1@charlottesvilleschools.org!

Student Spotlight: Laniyah

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Welcome to a new series for the Learning Leopard Library blog – Student Spotlight. Check out Student Spotlight posts to learn more about some of the students that make the Johnson Elementary School Library so awesome!

Today’s spotlight is on Laniyah, a Johnson second grader. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Laniyah is one of the hardest working students I’ve ever met. Her teachers agree that her focus and determination are second to none. She worked on her Scholarship Essay for three days, and wrote it in her very best handwriting.

Laniyah is a dedicated reader, and she shared this in her Scholarship Essay. “Reading is fun and I love it so much,” she said. “Reading helps me learn.”

The Book Fair Scholarship Committee reads through student essays with names hidden for unbiased voting. Laniyah’s essay received the most votes, making her our Grand Prize Scholarship Winner! She was so excited, she was too speechless for an interview – but a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Congratulations to Laniyah, our Spring Book Fair Grand Prize Scholarship Winner! Your hard work and dedication bring so much to the Johnson family. Keep up the amazing work!

Thank you so much for your help in funding our Book Fair Scholarship Program. Thanks to your help, many hard working Johnson students like Laniyah will have books of their own to enjoy over the summer, helping them to become better readers and more successful students.

Second Grade Super Students

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This week, second graders continued their work on their Dogzilla-inspired superhero projects. Here’s a quick recap: We read Dav Pikley’s epic graphic novel Dogzilla together as a class, discussing vocabulary, characters, and setting. From there, we brainstormed some of the super powers WE think are the coolest in both heroes and villains – I never would have guessed, but the ability to read minds would be wildly popular among Johnson second graders!

Once our brainstorm had students feeling super inspired, they started on creating their own superheroes. The English Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools state that second graders should be writing stories, and including descriptive detail while they practice their writing. Students work on their superheroes and super villains while chatting with their table mates, explaining their projects and sharing ideas with each other. This fun atmostphere not only encourages teamwork and collaborative work, but students are also working towards SoLs in oral language as they go: like creating stories to share with others, participating in dramatic activities, clarifying and explaining words and ideas orally, and sharing stories orally with an audience.

Next week, we’ll be taking our Super projects even farther by using our homemade characters to create acrostic poems. These poems will push students’ vocabularies, and really encourage them to use creative and imaginative language. Plus, I’m giving them lots of extra space to create a battle scene between their super heroes and super villains!

Below, please enjoy a few samples of second grade students’ work on their super hero graphic novel projects.

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Student Spotlight: Raffi and Ryleigh

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Welcome to a new series for the Learning Leopard Library blog – Student Spotlight. Check out Student Spotlight posts to learn more about some of the students that make the Johnson Elementary School Library so awesome!

Today’s spotlight is on Raffi and Ryleigh, two Johnson first graders that spent Tuesday afternoon at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library with me for an exclusive VIP (maybe it should stand for Very Important Pipsqueak?) storytime. Raffi won the storytime as a prize from the PTO Bingo and Silent Auction Night. Raffi’s family donated to the Johnson PTO and as a prize, Raffi got to choose a friend to share a fun afternoon with me, some snacks, and some great stories!


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First, we had to have a snack. After a long school day, you’ve got to replenish if you’re going to have enough energy for stories!

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Next, we had to choose the books that we wanted to share. These two readers took this very seriously – we pulled three books off of the shelf at a time, and each one wanted one fiction, one nonfiction, and one chapter book. Between Magic Tree House, silly picture books, and nonfiction books about international cultures, we had quite a selection!

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Next, we had to find a cozy place to share what we found. There was a great sunshiney spot on the steps in the back of the chlidren’s section, so we sat there. Raffi and Ryleigh read their books independently, shared them with me, and we even had some read-alouds. The silly book in Ryleigh’s hand in that last shot, called Minnie’s Diner, was a big hit – and gave us a chance to practice our math facts!

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Before long, it was time to choose three more stories and head back to our favorite spot.

DSC02288DSC02290DSC02285DSC02287All too soon, it was time to go. But before we left, we had to share one last story with Raffi’s younger siblings. The last story was one of my favorites – a hilarious read-aloud called IT’S A TIGER! Warning, do not read this book unless you are willing to get silly!

Raffi and Ryleigh were way too busy reading to answer any interview questions, but I had a great time getting to know them better and sharing all of their favorite stories. Thank you for spending your afternoon with me, Raffi and Ryleigh! And thank you for helping to support the Johnson Elementary School PTO.

Interested in winning a VIP Story Time of your own? There will be one up for grabs in a few weeks in the Spring Book Fair Raffle! Find out more about our Book Fair Raffle, and the Book Fair Scholarship Fund that it supports, here. See an example of a past raffle basket here. And keep your eyes on the blog for more Spring Book Fair information, coming soon!

Visiting Author: Priya Mahadevan

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This afternoon, local author Priya Mahadevan brought the exotic and colorful world of India into the Learning Leopard Library! Mrs. Mahadevan’s new book, Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas, tells the tale of Fey Fey (based on a real Johnson first grade student!), who visits India and loves the colorful clothes she gets to wear to her cousin’s wedding. When she comes back to the United States, she’s not ready to put her beloved “putta puttas” (her words for the traditional long skirt and blouse) to rest. It’s fall and Virginia is getting chilly, but Fey Fey wants nothing to do with a coat – because princesses only wear putta puttas!

Priya with her beautiful family. Shreya, inspiration for the character Fey Fey, is in the front.

Priya with her beautiful family. Shreya, inspiration for the character Fey Fey, is in the front.

Mrs. Mahadevan shared her story with kindergarten and first grade classes this afternoon, and her multimedia presentation transported students into the busy streets of India, experiencing the culture and excitement firsthand. Students were delighted to learn exciting new Indian words, see photos of beautiful Indian jewelry and clothing, and experience other aspects of Indian culture through the story’s engaging writing.

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You can learn more about Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas or donate to the book’s Kickstarter page here. When you visit her page, pay close attention to some of the little faces in the video – can you recognize any other Johnson students who don’t want to wear coats over their putta puttas?

A huge thank you to Priya Mahadevan for generously donating your time and your wonderful story to the Johnson library this afternoon! We loved having you and can’t wait to have Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas in our library collection.

Learn more about Priya Mahadevan’s story, Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas, on her Kickstarter page. Or follow this link to find out more about one of Priya’s other passions, her delicious food!