First Lines: Can You Name the Book?




How many times has a book grabbed your attention from the very first sentence?

Students can peruse this interactive bulletin board and test themselves on their knowledge of opening lines to popular books, as well as be inspired to find a particular book in the library, after reading an opening line that sounds appealing to them.

On the front of the card, I printed the opening line from a book, and on the inside, I printed the title, author, and call #, to aid students in finding the book.  I also added a small piece of Velcro to hold the flaps down, since laminating them caused them to not fold tightly.

My criteria for selecting the quotes:  It had to be a fiction book currently owned by the school library, so students can check the book out.  (Sadly, this eliminated quite a few stellar first lines.)  The selections must have a variety of appeal to both boys and girls, and include reading levels grade 2 – 6.  I included some books that I know are read as part of grade-level classroom assignments, some award winners, some new books I wanted to attract interest in, and some beginning chapter book series.

     IMG_6274 IMG_6276 IMG_6275

 Take a minute and have fun seeing how many opening lines you can match up
with the book titles shown below them.

 Opening Lines:

     IMG_6265      IMG_6267

     IMG_6289     IMG_6288

      IMG_6269      IMG_6271

     IMG_6272      IMG_6273

     IMG_6277      IMG_6278

     IMG_6279       IMG_6281

     IMG_6282      IMG_6284

     IMG_6285      IMG_6286

     IMG_6287      DSC04854

     IMG_6296      IMG_6297

     IMG_6298      IMG_6299

     IMG_6290     IMG_6293

     IMG_6294     DSC04834



Book Titles:

     IMG_6300      IMG_6301

     IMG_6303      IMG_6304

     IMG_6305     IMG_6302

      IMG_6306      DSC04884

     IMG_6309     IMG_6307

     IMG_6308     IMG_6311

     IMG_6312     DSC04874

     IMG_6313      IMG_6314

     DSC04885     IMG_6326

     DSC04883      IMG_6318

     IMG_6319      IMG_6320

     IMG_6325      IMG_6321

     IMG_6322      IMG_6323


Creepy Carrots!

 Creepy Carrots Book Cover

Need a slightly scary story to read aloud in October, but don’t want to seriously frighten your little listeners?  The 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds is the answer.

Jasper Rabbit had a passion for carrots, and liberally helped himself to the carrots in Crackenhopper Field…until they started following him.  Dun, dun dun!

Readers are led to wonder whether Jasper is imagining the appearance of scowling carrots in various locations. He sees them in the mirror of his bathroom while he is brushing his teeth, but when he turns around, there are only three orange objects sitting on the bath tub ledge.  Were three creepy carrots glowering at him?  Or was it just an orange washcloth, rubber duck, and shampoo bottle?  Each sighting is similarly vague, with a variety of orange objects providing just enough doubt that only at the end of the book do readers learn the delightful truth about the carrots.

Creepy Carrots!

Creepy Carrots!

IMG_5971[1]  IMG_5982[1]

After I read the book, students made their own creepy carrots, and had the option to take it home with them, or tape it up in the library anywhere they chose (except ON a book).  If they had time, many made two–one to take home, and one to decorate the library with for the month of October.  The library has creepy carrots peeking out of all the bookshelves, and the students are loving seeing them all around.

Student:  “My sister made one yesterday and hung it up on in the dining room at home!”

Me:  “Was it really a creepy carrot, or was it just an orange vase?”



Speedy Book Check-out with Personalized Shelf Markers

How do you quickly check out books to students, and avoid having a long line of noisy, wiggly students waiting?

How do you make them use shelf markers when taking books off the shelves?

Here’s an option that, in my opinion, is the most efficient, least expensive, and — full disclosure — most labor intensive start-up method.

I use Destiny, and there are a number of options for checkout, that I am aware of:

1)  When students say their name, type it in Destiny.

2)  Print bar codes, by classroom, and keep in a 3-ring binder in page protectors.  When students say their name, scan their bar code from the sheet.

3)  Print labels, put on plastic library cards and cover with a clear label.  The plastic cards were $.10 each from Demco.  They are reusable year-to-year, as student bar codes/numbers don’t change.  At the beginning of each year, I printed the incoming kindergarten name/bar code labels and put them on top of the outgoing 6th grader cards.   (These were often lost in the classroom, or in student desks, so I kept them in the library.)

4)  Combine the name/bar code label with the shelf-marker!

Number four is the option that I’m currently using, and I love it for these reasons:

1)  It forces students to use shelf-markers.  No shelf-marker, no check-out.  Books go back where they belong.

2)  It solves the problem of not being able to hear the student say their name, or not entering it in Destiny the unique way their parents decided to spell it (Rylie, Rilee, Riley, Rylee).

3)  Students can scan their shelf marker and books — they love this — under my supervision, and I don’t have to handle every book that gets checked out.

I found the inspiration to do this here.

I approached my favorite local paint store, Vista Paint,  and asked for a donation of paint stir sticks.  I went back several times, because the sales person said they could give me about 50 at a time.  I have 750 students, so this looked like it was going to take some time.  After 3 visits, they just handed me a box of 1,000!  Thank you, Vista Paint!

One of my lovely daughters, who has spent too much time on Pinterest, exclaimed that I could NOT just use bare paint sticks, and that she would help me spray paint them all, so they would be pretty for the students.  (I’m going to prove she doesn’t read my blog, because she would hate this picture being posted.)


We started with solid colors, but when we got down to the bottoms of the cans, we started splatter painting.  My original intent was to make one entire class the same color(s), but later discovered that Destiny had not been updated yet with the current year of classes when I printed the labels, so I had to re-sort all of them, and they were no longer color-coded by class.  (Let that be a lesson to you.)  As it turned out, having uniquely painted stir sticks made it easier for students to quickly find theirs on the table when they enter the library.

Her cat helped by supervising.


I had a cupboard of miscellaneous acrylic paint, leftover from various craft projects, and I used these up as well.  I painted spots, dots, stripes, splatter, and every other combination I could think of.

 photo 4-2 blurred

I purchased magazine holders from Ikea, and keep them stored by class.  I set them out on a table before a class comes in, and I put the empty container at the circulation desk.  After students use their shelf marker to check-out, they put it back in the container.

photo 3-2

photo 2-5

Additional labor I didn’t anticipate:  The paint stir sticks are two-sided, and needed two coats of paint, in addition to a primer layer.  The labels had to be cut down to fit on the sticks.  The label adhesive didn’t stick to the wood, nor would clear tape hold them on, so I used two coats of Mod Podge to adhere them.  It was a major time investment, but I was too far gone to stop.

If you are ambitious enough to try this, I recommend not painting them like I did.  I did not want students to decorate their own using markers, because I planned to reuse them for their entire elementary school career, and the drawings a kindergartener puts on a shelf marker are not ones they will appreciate having on their shelf markers as a 6th grader.  Collaborating with an art teacher to do a directed painting project using the stir sticks, and allowing them to paint their own in a separate area would be one possible solution.

This was a huge, summer-long undertaking, and had I known the extent of time involved, I’m not sure I would have attempted it.  Having done it, however, is AWESOME!  I never, ever have to say, “Use a shelf marker!” to students, they never get left in the shelves for me to collect later, and I don’t have to stress about remembering all the students names.  That’s worth a lot to me.

In hindsight, I might have purchased the plastic shelf markers, and added the name/bar code label to one end, with a clear label on top.  This would be more costly than donated paint stir sticks, but spray paint isn’t free, and neither is your time.  (Well, technically, mine was.)

I’d love to hear how you handle check out and shelf marker use in the comments.

Here are more helpful resources for using shelf markers.


No Worries About Back to School!

Worry Stones

Who doesn’t get the jitters about the beginning of school?  Not just students, but parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff too!

I read back-to-school favorite, Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes, with two Special Ed classes, and we read about all of Wemberly’s concerns.  Then we talked about things we might worry about; I went first to break the ice.  I confessed to worrying about whether I would remember teacher and student names (my first year at the school), and if students would like the books I read aloud.  I didn’t know if any students would want to share their own worries, but I was surprised at how candid they were, once we got started.

Worry stones are typically a smooth, hard, polished gemstone with an indentation for rubbing the thumb across, used to relieve anxiety.  They were used in ancient Greece, Tibet, Ireland, and in Native American Tribes.  (What do you suppose they worried about?  I’d love to know!)  Read more about the history of worry stones here.

This website shows excellent pictures on how to make worry stones using Fimo Clay.  Fimo Clay is inexpensive at Michael’s (you never go without your 40% off coupon, right?), and it takes very little.

I divided the clay into small segments in advance, and students selected three colors to make their unique worry stones.  Students carved their initials on the bottom using an opened paper clip.  I brought my little toaster oven from home (perhaps your staff lounge has one already), baked them for 20 minutes, and delivered them to the classrooms later.   When we made them at the hour-long public library story time, children made the worry stones first, and I baked them while I read a few back-to-school books, so they were able to take them home with them right away.

Tip:  You may want to have a few extras made, so students who are absent are able to have one, even though they weren’t able to make their own.






Dung Beetle Tunnels: Most Fun Storytime EVER for Transitional Kindergarteners

Did you know that a dung beetle eats dung?  Ewww!

Did you know they roll it into a ball with their legs, and roll it through underground tunnels, to save for a snack later, and to lay their eggs on so the newly hatched larvae have their first meal waiting for them?  Ewww!

Did you also know that if you buy 5 yards of knit t-shirt fabric, it comes on a bolt in a tube that a child can crawl through?  And, did you know that if you tell a 5-year old Transitional Kindergartener that they can pretend to be a dung beetle and imagine that an inflatable beach ball is a ball of dung, and they can push it through a knit fabric tube that is like an underground tunnel, they will almost burst with delight?

Dung Fun 2 Dung Fun 1 Dung Fun 3

This book has The Ewww Factor, without overdoing it.  This is an important distinction to note, because it can mean the difference between keeping the group focused on the story and dissolving into who-can-be-grosser side conversations.

I subscribe to a wonderful monthly book review and delivery service, Junior Library Guild.  Books are sent based on the criteria I set up, such as humor, sports, non-fiction, fiction, biography, etc., and also the grade level desired.  Their vetting process is impressive.  I can be assured that every book they send is top-notch, and I don’t have to spend hours-that-I-don’t-have researching books to order.  Many of the books they choose end up being Caldecott and Newberry winners.  I have the option to view the titles and descriptions of upcoming books, and make swaps if I choose.  Frequently I do, depending on whether I think a book will circulate well within my school’s population, or if there is a particular book I’d prefer to have from their selection.

Somehow, this one slipped by me, and when the book, Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, arrived in my monthly shipment, I made a mental note to be more on top of previewing all the selections in the future.

With a heavy sigh, I reluctantly previewed it as I prepared it to be shelf-ready, and discovered it is marvelously illustrated, and goes into great detail on a topic that is near and dear to every elementary schooler’s heart:  dung.  Well, they didn’t actually call it “dung” until I read the book to them, but they do now!

Oh my goodness, this was The Most Fun Story Time of the Entire Year.  How do I know this?  The TK’s told me so!  They were each able to go through the tunnel at least twice, some forward, some backward, always emerging laughing and rushing back to the line to go again.

In the 30-minute time slot, I had time to read two other books on tunnels, before we read about dung beetles tunneling, which segued nicely into the activity.

Dig a TunnelTunnels

The Head Children’s Librarian at the public library has asked me to reprise this storytime there as well, repackaged slightly as The Scoop on Scat.  I will be adding content when I host it, to fill the longer time period of an hour.  Watch this blog for a future update on the fun activities I’m going to add.  Hint:  I bought a bag of tootsie rolls to experiment with.