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Revolutionize Your Reading Celebration

I’m thrilled to have Jennifer Drone here today to share how she revolutionized the mindset of her school from the idea that reading is a requirement to reading is a celebration. Jennifer has the stats to prove it. The first year she began the Sunshine State Celebration where she required students to read the Sunshine State books, she had 6 students participating. Last year over 400 students completed all 15 Sunshine State books and over 650 participated and read at least 5 books! Those are staggering and inspiring numbers.

First group of many getting into the limo with the teachers and authors.

I was thrilled to be one of the authors chosen to celebrate with the students at Jennifer’s school, Keene’s Crossing Elementary/.  These students blew me away at how excited they were about reading and being a part of this reading party. One of my favorite parts was when the whole school came out and cheered for the students who read all 15 books as they paraded to the limos.

If you are a teacher, media specialist, or librarian struggling to get your students to tackle required reading or a state reading list, check out Jennifer’s fantastic tips on how to revolutionize your reading celebrations.

What inspired you to create a Sunshine State Celebration at your school?

Jennifer Drone starting off a fun day celebrating literacy!

My inspiration for starting the Sunshine State challenge and celebration was to spark an interest in reading books that my students might not normally pick up on their own. My program is based around the yearly SSYRA titles selected by the state. It contains 15 titles of various fiction genres. To participate in the celebrations, students must read all 15 books. I needed a way to get the students to read books that might be outside of their comfort zone and introduces them to genres such as historical fiction or mystery that they would not have read by first choice. I also needed to show the students that they could read books that were longer and more difficult than they thought they could. Offering the celebration, gives the students the extra motivation to complete the SSYRA challenge and challenge themselves. 

Share with us what your Sunshine State Celebration looks like.

Limo ride to the restaurant!

My Sunshine State celebration is a full school day that includes visits with local children’s authors and lunch at a local restaurant with transportation via limousine. We typically have 3 authors. The students are divided into groups and rotate through the author presentations. Author presentations are about 40 minutes in length. We also have a local book store set up books written by those authors.  The students are allowed to choose one book as a gift from the school as well as preorder other ones. Following lunch, the students have the opportunity to have their books signed by the authors.   To honor the students who meet the challenge, families, teachers, staff, and remaining students come outside to cheer and take pictures as the students get into the limos. It is a community celebration.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to face? How did you overcome those?

Every student came away with an autographed copy of an author’s book of their choice.

The biggest obstacles are funding and organization. It takes a lot of fundraising through book fairs to raise enough money to pay for such a grand event. However, after the first couple of years, the school and community got behind the program and have been generous in donating to make sure it is able to continue.  The second obstacle is organization. Leading up to the event, you must have a plan in place for tracking student progress and be diligent about the accuracy of your records. You also have to plan for a restaurant location and a limousine service that can accommodate your group. You have to consider the dietary needs of your students and restaurants that have adequate seating. The day of the event has to be planned to the minute. There are so many moving parts. Students have to be divided into groups and move from location to location to hear the various authors. One group has to board the limos and be dropped off for lunch. While they are eating the limo has to return to pick up another group. 

What piece of advice would you give a media specialist, librarian, or teacher who wishes to follow the model that you run at Keene’s Crossing Elementary?

Each author shared reading and writing tips.

My advice is to start early and get a plan in place. Make sure you are very clear on the criteria for participation. And ask for help. Get volunteers to assist where you can. 

Jennifer and I all fancy for our limo ride!

Jennifer Drone is the media specialist for Keene’s Crossing Elementary. She is a master teacher, having been awarded teacher of the year for her school and one of five finalists for teacher of the year in the entire Orange Country Public Schools.

My Year In Review

What an amazing year! Each December, I take time to reflect over my year and the goals I set for myself the previous December. I always find that taking time to reflect helps me determine if my goals were on target, and it helps me figure out my steps for the next year. The biggest part of this though is a celebration. A celebration of what I did, learned, and accomplished.

So here’s my year in review:

Writer

  • Finished writing my young adult historical fantasy. This is in the final revision stages with my agent. (This book required a massive amount of research and is going on its 3rd year of work.)
  • Finished writing and revising my middle grade mystery/adventure. This book took me way longer to write (2 years!) than I expected, but I’m so pleased with the result.
  • Drafted over half of a new young adult contemporary. This has been a fun book to write.

Author/Speaker

I was thrilled to speak and teach at:

  • OCLS Writers Conference
  • SCBWI Workshop
  • Trinity Prep Author Festival
  • Winter Park Book Festival
  • Cape Coral Literacy Festival
  • OCPS Battle of the Books-Judge/Speaker
  • Lit Mag Judging
  • Keene’s Crossing’s Sunshine State party
  • Oasis 30 Con
  • Page 15 Young Writer’s Camp
  • Florida Writers Conference

Reader

I’ve lost track of how many books I read, but it was a LOT. I decided for next year, I really need to add the books I read to my Goodreads page so I can keep better track. I did expand my reading list to include adult books and graphic novels in addition to my young adult and middle grade stacks.

Traveler

As a family we headed out to:

  • The Florida Keys—I’m obsessed with lighthouses so we stopped at a number of these along the way. I definitely want to use some things here for a book. I took plenty of video and pictures.
  • Iceland—I fell in love with Iceland! The untouched beauty amazed me. It reminded me so much of New Zealand, and I’d really like to use a lot of its setting elements in the contemporary fantasy that I’d like to tackle someday.

Blogger

I started a new series on my blog called Teach and Write. It has been far more successful than I’d been expecting, drawing a huge readership. I’m thrilled to be able to help so many teachers and media specialists with tips and ideas for their classrooms and media centers. Also thank you to all of the authors, teachers, and media specialists who contributed. I’d love to continue this series into next year!

Check out these popular posts:

Bookflix. It’s better than Netflix

How to Run a Literacy Scavenger Hunt

Using FlipGrid to Connect with Authors

Tying Emotions to the Senses with Elle Cosimano

Hot to Put on a Killer Book Festival

The What If & Revision with Amy Christine Parker

Found Poems with Rebecca Behrens

Professional Writer

I work as an Engagement Writer for FLVS so I’m constantly being pushed to try out new mediums of writing that I’ve never done before.

Projects I worked on:

  • Video scripts
  • Graphic novel style storybooks
  • Picture books
  • Non-fiction stories
  • Fiction pieces

Learner

I’m a believer that one never stops learning. So this year, I took 7 Masterclasses, which were full of all sorts of nuggets of wisdom and inspiration for my career as a writer.

I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

“Imagination sees the things that are invisible,” Olafur Eliassan

Insider Peek on Literacy YouTuber MrsReadForFun

When I came across MrsReadForFun’s YouTube channel, I fell in love with her videos highlighting various books for kids. I chatted with her about her channel. I thought you’d love to hear her insider peek on how she runs her channel.

What inspired you to create your MrsReadForFun YouTube channel?

My son, a screenwriter, who knew about my passion for children’s books, came up with the idea.  His exact words were “Mom, one minute cliffhanger video reviews of your favorite books that are posted on your own YouTube channel.”

How do you create content? 

I look for books that I know will develop a passion for reading in each child. These will be books by Newbery winners, New York Times best selling authors, and new authors.  After reading each book, I write my review. I am blessed with a creative videographer who films me and inserts outstanding graphics and music.

What are some ways students, parents, and educators can use your videos?

My videos are a terrific resource to learn about outstanding books. Check out the video Dragonfell by Sarah Prineas!

 

About MrsReadForFun: 

Shendel Haimes was a reading specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland for 30 years and a reading specialist for a private school in Irvine, CA for 5 years. She has a M.A. in Education with specialization in reading from NYU.

Website: https://www.mrsreadforfun.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrsreadforfun/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mrsreadforfun

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrsreadforfun/

What’s On Your Playlist? With Rebecca Petruck

I’m a sucker for playlists. I have one for brainstorming, one for revising, and another for drafting. It’s fun and it helps motivate me as I write my books. That’s why I’m excited to have Rebecca Petruck, author of Steering Toward Normal and Boy Bites Bug along with Debra Rook and Molli Rose, the creators of the guide, share how to get into a character’s head by creating a playlist for them.

Character Playlist Activity

Create a character playlist for music or videos for five different characters from a novel of your choice.

  1. Each character’s play list must consist of five songs by title and artist or videos by title and main characters.
  2. Select three songs or videos from one character’s playlist. Use the guide to explain the reasons why you connect that character to the songs or videos you chose. If completing a song playlist, supply a description of the song and a section of the lyrics along with a justification for each song.
  3. Use textual evidence to support your assigning the song to the character. For example, if you choose a song for Diggy from Steering Toward Normal, you must explain why Diggy would connect to that song. You must use an example or quotation from the novel to support your answer.
  4. If completing a video playlist, supply descriptions of the main characters and basic video premises along with justification and textual evidence to support your assigning the video to the character. For example, if you choose a television show for Wayne
    from Steering Toward Normal, you must explain why Wayne would watch the show or connect to a certain character.
  5. Don’t forget to use an example or quotation from the novel to support your answer.

Check out the Steering Toward Normal teacher guide here for a complete resource.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Book Scavenger Book Swap with Jennifer Bertman

As a book fanatic, I fell in love with Jennifer Bertman’s Book Scavenger series. Reading, hunting and discovering clues in books? Sign me up! That’s why I love Jennifer’s creation of the Book Scavenger Book Swap. This hunt can be done in a classroom or even as a schoolwide project. It’s an incredible way to get kids excited about reading and books.

Book Scavenger Book Swap

How to Hunt:

After reading the novel as a class or as a read-aloud, prepare for a scavenger hunt book swap with these easy steps:

1. Have students bring in a paperback book they’d like to trade. (If the scavenging is to include the outdoors, consider using zipped plastic bags to keep out moisture.) Students should write the title on a sticky note.

2. Hide books around the classroom (students can do so one at a time as they come in from lunch or recess while the other students read silently in the hallway with independent books and wait their turn).

3. Create codes and ciphers using examples from Book Scavenger and The Unbreakable Code for ideas/as mentor texts, and add to the sticky note with the book title.

4. Put all the codes on a bulletin board for kids to choose.

5. Have fun deciphering the codes and finding fresh reading material!

6. Watch out! Kids will likely want to play again and again.

Check out her full teacher guide here and check out http://bookscavenger.com/ for more book fun. Follow Jennifer on Twitter here.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

CREDIBLE OR SKETCHY? with Dianne Salerni

Sometimes it’s hard to know if your online sources are the real deal or made up nonsense. Today, Dianne Salerni, author of numerous books, including The Eighth Day series, is here sharing with us a fantastic checklist to use when researching. This can help us determine if the information is credible or sketchy.

Checklist: Credible or Sketchy?

For more great ideas, check out her teaching guide for The Eighth Day. Follow her on Twitter here.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Using Pinterest with Kerry O’Malley Cerra

Using technology is a great way to get students excited about reading and encourages them to connect with books. Author Kerry O’Malley Cerra of Just A Drop of Water has a great way to use Pinterest to engage students.

Using Pinterest Writing Activity

Pinterest is a great tool to show visually what a story is about. It’s also a great way for your visual learners to connect with a book.

  1. Create a classroom Pinterest board (can be done on a bulletin board in the room if you prefer not to have kids go online) or have students create individual boards on a book they are reading.
  2. Students add character photos, icons (such as the medal in Just a Drop of Water), the settings, and images that relate to plot and theme.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Found Poems with Rebecca Behrens

I’m so excited because today we’re going to look at how to create Found Poems with Rebecca Behrens, author of Summer of Lost and Found, When Audrey Met Alice, and the Last Grand Adventure. Why create Found Poems? Rebecca believes they help us understand what is happening in a story or book to help find the theme.

How to Create Found Poems

Found Poems is a creative way to reinforce the meaning of key vocabulary words and ideas and to explore a literary work’s theme(s).

1. Each individual student chooses and writes down at least ten words, phrases, and quotations from their book such as Summer of Lost and Found. Students should cite this textual evidence with page numbers from the text, although citations will not appear in Found Poems.

2. Organize those ten words, phrases, and quotations into an outline of a Found Poem. For this and each subsequent step students could work individually, or could engage in a collaborative discussion with a partner or a small group to “share” or “trade” words, phrases, and quotations and then to organize them. Ideally, Found Poems will be tied to key words and important ideas in the text.

3. Return to the text and collect additional words to fill in gaps in the outlined poem that they just wrote. Remember, in Found Poems students can only use words that come from the text!

4. Resume and finish writing their Found Poems about Summer of Lost and Found.

5. Students share their Found Poems with the class. Students may do so by volunteering to read their Found Poems to the whole class, or sharing them with another student. Another option for sharing is to ask all students to write their Found Poems on large posters, which can be hung up throughout the classroom. Afterward, students can walk around between Found Poems as if in a gallery.

6. Through reflection and paraphrasing, students review the key words and important ideas expressed in the shared Found Poems. In doing so, students are able to identify a literary work’s theme(s). Students may do so through oral discussion or written reflection.

The activities contained in this section particularly address the Common Core State Standards: (RL.4– 7.1, 2, 4) (SL.4–7.1) and can be found along with more resources in this Educator Guide. 

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form. 

How to Raise Funds to Host an Author Event or Book Festival

Nothing makes teachers and librarians happier than to get their students excited about books. Last week, we got to learn how to put on an incredible book festival with Reba Gordan and Georgia Parker. But how do we make those dreams become a reality. Jamie Ayres, author and high school English teacher at Cape Coral High, has answers for you. She put on her own book festival and not only did she get 12 authors to come to her school, she raised $6000 to purchase books for her students. Today she’s here to give you tips on how to put the funds to your dreams.

Tell us about the Cape Coral Festival and the inspiration behind it.

Back in 2014, I did my first school visit as an author after my first book, 18 Things, was published. A month later, I received all sorts of letters from students who said my book was the first they’d read for fun and wanting to know what kind of books I’d recommend. I realized reluctant readers might pick up a book if they had the chance to make a personal connection with the author. The next school year I planned author visits at my school and then expanded it to a festival once more resources became available.

This year we hosted events each class period in our auditorium. Author Teshelle Combs was our opening keynote speaker, then we hosted two different panels of five authors with each panel lasting 30 minutes, and then Lynne Matson was our closing keynote. At noon, all the authors and students moved to the football field for the outdoor festival. Students participated in a scavenger hunt which includes interacting with the authors and other games/activities. The more points the students earned through their scavenger hunt, the more entries they received for prizes such as Starbucks gift cards. We had 40 gift cards for prizes! 

You raised $6000 in books to give out to students and brought in 12 authors. That’s incredible! How did you make this possible? 

We received $5,000 in grants from The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, a non-profit charitable education foundation which enhances and enriches the quality of public education in Lee County for students and educators through programs, resources and experiences made possible through corporate, individual and educational partnerships. We also received a $1,500 grant from Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral to purchase books by these authors. This is our third year hosting the festival and every year the grants are harder to attain because educational grant funds continue to be cut and competition has increased as the word gets out. In the past, we’ve also received grants through Dollar General, Target, Florida’s Suncoast Credit Union, and our local Chamber of Commerce. All twelve authors donate their time for the day; they are as excited as the students to talk about the power of books! And I think the fact that they’re guaranteed sales through our grants helps our cause too! 

When writing grants, do you have any advice for teachers and media specialists? 

Do your research! You could also reach out to your Grants department at your school district to see what’s available locally. It’s always easier to get local grants versus the big national grants because there’s less competition for those funds. Of course, the grants are also smaller. Some people may think the paperwork isn’t worth the time for just a $100 grant, but every little bit adds up! Each grant is unique with their paperwork, so unfortunately there’s  no template to start with.

One thing I plan on doing for next year’s festival is writing a grant on DonorsChoose.org, which supports classrooms all over the US. I’ve already utilized that site twice to fund my Classroom Small Group Book Clubs and both were funded successfully. My one word of advice is to start early! I just wrapped our festival on March 14th, but my work isn’t over. Now I’m wrapping up my reports from that festival and applying for grants for next year’s event. Sometimes it takes up to six months to hear if you received a grant. 

About Jamie Ayres

Jamie Ayres writes young adult coming of age stories by night and teaches young adults as a high school English teacher by day. When not at home on her laptop or at school, she can often be found at a local book store grabbing random children and reading to them. So far, she has not been arrested for this. Originally from Michigan, she now resides in Florida with her prince charming and two daughters. She loves lazy pajama days, the first page of a good book, stupid funny movies, and sharing stories with fantastic people like you. Her books include the three novels in her trilogy, 18 Things, 18 Truths, and 18 Thoughts. Visit her online via Twitter or Facebook.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Mad for Mad Libs with Sheila Turnage

Mad libs are so much fun, especially when Newberry honor, Sheila Turnage, is involved. She is the author of two nonfiction books, one picture book, and four middle-grade novels. Today Sheila is here to have a little writing fun with us by playing Mad Libs.

How Does It Work?

In groups of four, have students write a short summary of one of the chapters they have already read.

  1. After the teacher has approved the summaries, the students will erase at least 10 words and replace them with blank lines.
  2. Underneath each line, students should write the part of speech of the missing word.
  3. Groups will trade summaries and play Mad Libs.
  4. Students may read them aloud to class.

Integrate this activity with technology! Use this site to generate Mad Libs on the computer. Most importantly, have fun with writing!

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

 

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