1st & 2nd Grade Picture Book Spine Label Scavenger Hunt

I have a goal of enabling students to find their own books by author. To practice the skill of finding picture books in alphabetic order by author, I printed and cut strips of paper as shown below, with various call numbers:
I chose authors that I have multiple books by (Brett, Carle, Numeroff, O’Connor, Shannon, Willems, etc.), to minimize the likelihood that all the books by that author would be checked out. Just in case, I printed some blank spine labels also, for me to write on at the last minute.

I folded the strips, and put them in a bowl for students to pick from.  I thought making it feel like a secret drawing might add some suspense/interest. I set out pencils, and invited 1st and 2nd graders to “earn” a bookmark by locating a picture book with a matching spine label, writing down the title, and bringing it to me when they check out their books.

Most students wrote a book title down, as instructed, but quite a few BROUGHT me the actual book–which I did not want to happen because I didn’t want to make more shelving work.  Oh, well.  We are making progress toward having empowered book searchers!

Book Displays

Sharing a few book displays from the past and present.

IMG_1255What’s better than a picnic with books?  I used green indoor/outdoor carpet, a picnic tablecloth, picnic basket, some napkins and plastic ware, and made a few Styrofoam and pipe cleaner ants.


I wanted to showcase the many sports-themed books I have in the elementary library, with authors like Matt Christoper, Jake Maddox, and Mike Lupica, among others.  I used my Silhouette Cameo to make a volleyball, baseball, volleyball, football, soccer ball, and basketball.  I printed a couple of referee shirts, and then added a base of green construction paper with yardage lines.

photo 2-8

photo 1-12

A little something pink and girlie.


Genre Identification Game

The free website, www.classtools.net has a selection of pre-made game templates that can be easily tailored for library learning activities. I used the “Random Name Picker” option, which creates a colorful spinning wheel with names or a word list that are entered.

I tried it for the first time last week, and made this literary genre identification game.  Before 3rd grade classes entered the library, I set books of various genres on every chair.  Students investigated the book on the chair where they sat down, and looked for clues to determine what genre the book was.  Either I or a student touched the iPad screen to spin the wheel, and students who felt they had the genre that was selected stood up to tell why they thought their book belonged in that category.

Could you do this activity without a spinning wheel?  Of course, but I think the fun and suspense of wondering what  genre it would land on next kept students more alert and engaged.


The game also has the option to remove a name once it has been used,
which is ideal for this activity, so that genres aren’t repeated.


Check out the ClassTools website and see what games you are inspired to create!

Create-a-Snowman Game

Here’s an easy, no-mess, low-prep story time activity that was plenty of fun.

This activity would work with almost any snowman book you have, but I used Just a Snowman, by Mercer Mayer.  The kids love looking for the little mouse and the spider that Mayer is known for including in not-so-obvious places in his illustrations. (In fact, it became so disruptive when kids continued to point them out on every single page, I suggested that instead they could put their hand on their head to indicate they spotted them.  Much better!)

IMG_6982I used some blank white dice that were leftover in some dusty boxes of math manipulatives.  No one I asked seemed to know what they were originally intended for, so I re-purposed them for this drawing game, by drawing snowman parts on them with Sharpie markers.  Regular dice could be used if you draw on adhesive labels, cut them to fit, and stick them on top of the dots.

DSC04973Each student had one page with a blank snowman outline.  They took turns rolling the three dice together on the tray, and could choose one item to draw on each turn. For some, it was their first experience rolling dice.  Their teacher must be doing a great job teaching them to take turns, because they nailed that part.  They demonstrated great self-control too, drawing only one snowman part on each turn.  In addition to the hat, scarf, arms, buttons, eyes, mouth, sunglasses, carrot nose, and mittens, they really loved having the “?” symbol on the dice, which meant they could add anything they wanted.

IMG_6980 IMG_6981I have so many more of these blank white dice, I’m pondering what other ways I could repurpose them.  Suggestions welcome!

Put the Animals in the Mitten

If you are a fan of Jan Brett’s many beautifully illustrated books, you could spend hours on her website, www.janbrett.com, looking at all the resources she has provided to accompany her books.


The  Mitten, Jan Brett’s charming adaptation of a Ukranian folktale, is about a boy who loses one of the white mittens his grandmother knit for him, despite her prior admonition that white mittens are easy to lose in the snow. Forest animals crawl inside, one by one, until the bear sneezes them all out, and the mitten goes flying through the air, to be found by the boy just in time to show his grandmother that he can be trusted not to lose them.  They are both left wondering why one mitten is so much larger than the other, and only the amused readers and the forest animals know the answer to that question. This captivating story provides the perfect opportunity to encourage re-telling a story with paper props to help with recall.

You can find all the animals and mittens to print at Jan Brett’s website here.


I printed the front and back of the mittens onto construction paper from her website (not pictured), pre-stapled the front and back together, and let students cut around the edge of the mitten. Since it’s pre-stapled, it’s great for those new to cutting, since exact accuracy doesn’t affect the desired outcome, which is to be able to put the animals inside the mitten. Animals can be colored, or not, and students can use them to re-tell the story to family and friends later. We practiced together once, and they were so proud that they could recall the order all eight of the animals crawled into the mitten.

These die cut mittens (pictured below) are good for practicing fine motor skills, but if you don’t have the die cut, and still want to do it, you could cut the mittens out of construction paper or card stock, and use a hole punch around the edges.  Wrap a small piece of tape around one end of the yarn, to provide a firm tip for easier lacing.

Some of the 5-year olds whip-stitched (shown below), some laced up and down, and some did a combination of both.  And of course, some went randomly back and forth from right side to left side, and needed lots of extra guidance to stay along the edges.  All the more reason to practice lacing!


Scrabble Library Bulletin Board

Scrabble Bulletin Board DSC04964

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fortunate to work with some insanely creative co-workers in Youth Services at the public library. They are such an inspiration to stretch my bulletin board making skills, just to do my part to keep up the high standard.

Nearly every shift I work there, patrons exclaim their delight at the many whimsical bulletin boards, and tell us how much they appreciate them. After they are taken down, I’ve been permitted to re-install some of them at the elementary library where I also work, so they are given a second life, with all new patrons to appreciate them.

Today, I’m sharing this Scrabble board display with you, created by one of my co-workers to go along with the current game theme.

Happy Birthday, Mo Willems!

Mo Willems is a beloved, best-selling children’s author and illustrator, whose silly sense of humor hits kids right on their funny bone. He gives adults a few chuckles as well.  His books are some of my favorite read-alouds.

Mo Willem’s birthday is February 11th, so I hosted a birthday party story time at the public library in his honor.  We had a great turnout:  60 kids and parents/caregivers!  We started by learning about him from this biography.  Did you know he used to be a writer for Sesame Street?

Mo Willems Biography

It wasn’t easy to pick just three of his books to read, but I settled on That is Not a Good Idea!, Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.  By the way, if you’ve ever wondered if you are pronouncing Knuffle correctly, here’s the scoop:

Q. How do you pronounce “Knuffle”?

 A. You can pronounce Knuffle however you like, but I pronounce it the Dutch way (it means “Snuggle” in Dutch) with a hard “K” like “Krackle”.

That is Not  Good Idea  Knuffly Bunny   Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Our elementary school-age patrons have informed me that they love story times that include food, which is admittedly not my favorite story time activity to shop for, prep, host and clean up after.  Still, I couldn’t resist this super cute food craft, that can be found on the Juggling with Kids blog.  A pigeon driving a bus that kids can make and eat!

Pigeon Graham Cracker Bus

I made it just as described in the blog, except I used frosting instead of cream cheese, and just broke a little piece of the Oreo off to make the pupil of the eye instead of buying a bag of mini chocolate chips.

IMG_6946I made these instructions and left copies on the tables.


Graham crackers (the bus)
White frosting
Yellow and blue food coloring
Chex or Life cereal (bus windows)
Mini vanilla wafers (the pigeon)
Mini Oreos (wheels)
Yellow Starburst candy (beak)
Mini chocolate chips (eyes)

Plastic knives for spreading frosting
Clear plastic cups for frosting
Paper plates

For those who finished early, I left these drawing pages and crayons out.  They can be downloaded here, by selecting Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 10th Birthday Celebration Activity Kit.  (These are also great to have at the elementary school library for after book checkout, when I read Mo Willems’ pigeon books.)


Here are two very special, regular story time attendees showing their creations, just before they ate them.


This was one of my favorite story times to host, and I would definitely do it again.
I’m even willing to rethink my feelings about story times with food.

Students Declare Their Love for These Books

I Love This Book display

A quick and easy student-decorated display for Valentine’s Day:

Wrap red paper around the circulation desk.

Set out markers, tape and paper hearts.

Ask students if they’d like to write the title of any book they’ve ever loved–from Hop on Pop to Eragon and everywhere in between–and tape it to the desk.

Listen to all the conversations it generates.

That is all.