Trekking through the wilds of library instruction, management, and fun!

Nov 3, 2013

Review: Classroom Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener

I, like most teachers, can rattle off a quick list of frustrations that result from the classroom use of electric pencil sharpeners:
  • overheating after repeated use, causing one to wait indefinitely for it to start working again
  • tips breaking off in the blades, with little to no hope for removing them
  • over-sharpening brand new pencils because there's no indication that it's finished, turning 8 inch pencils into 3 inch nubs
  • messy shavings that overflow because you can't tell when it's full
  • ragged edges after the blades get dull
For the past year or so, I've noticed more and more posts about a pencil sharpener by Classroom Friendly Supplies. I asked them if I could review one, and they gave me one like this to try out in my school library:
After it arrived in the mail, my first impression was, "This is it?" It was very light-weight, smaller than I expected, and uncomplicated, with no batteries to load or cord to plug in. I already knew it was a little different from a conventional sharpener, so I watched their instructional video, which took less than a minute.

Then I was ready to give it a whirl. First, I loaded a pencil with a broken point, and, with only a few turns of the handle, I felt a distinct reduction in resistance. Skeptical of the difference only a few turns could have made, I pulled it out to find...I am NOT exaggerating...the most beautiful pencil point I have ever seen. Um...I hope you're a teacher-type, because otherwise you're sure to think I'm a nut...
  • the wood of the pencil was smooth, as if it had been sanded
  • the tip was REALLY long, allowing it to be used longer before needing re-sharpening
Then I thought I'd try sharpening a brand new pencil.
It took more turns, but soon enough I felt the resistance lessen, and I knew we were done! I took it out, and there was an equally beautiful pencil point. 

Regrettably, the picture doesn't do it justice, but hopefully you can see the elongated point on that pencil. It's just BEAUTIFUL! Seriously, it elicited exclamations every time I tried it. It became entertaining - what else could I sharpen? It was so much fun to watch my colleagues faces when I demonstrated it for them. They were as excited as I was. I love this little gadget and look forward to buying one for my home, as well. It's such a pleasure to know that I'll never be at the mercy of an overheated electric pencil sharpener again!

If you're in the market for a new pencil sharpener, I highly recommend this one. It's available in red, green, blue, black and pink from Classroom Friendly Supplies for $24.99 with FREE shipping within the United States.

DISCLAIMER:  I received one of the pencil sharpeners mentioned above for  free in the hope that I would review it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal  Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sep 26, 2013

FREE Kindergarten Research Organizer

After spending over an hour trying to find the printable so many are using for those cute "All About" research projects, I gave up and made my own. You can find it by going to this link or by clicking on the image. I wanted to offer it to you, so you wouldn't have to suffer like I have. "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

I used this with my kindergarten classes this week as part of a research project I completed to model the Super 3 for them. It was extraordinarily simple and equally effective, I think. I plan to post the complete lesson plan in the future, but, in a nutshell, it went like this...

Lesson 1: "Plan"
I told them I wanted to learn what bats were like. We discussed what they already "knew" and why none of that information could be included because my facts needed to come from other sources. WE talked about the different formats in which sources come, and I told them that I'd only use books for this project. Then we looked at four bat books and discussed the characteristics of each (facts, fantasy, photographs, illustrations, etc.). We then categorized them into "fact books" and "imagination books," concluding that for my needs, I'd use the fact books.

Lesson 2: "Do"
I posted a poster of this chart and then completed the name and date. For the topic, I asked them what question I was trying to answer, and wrote "What are bats like?" We went ahead and wrote "books" in the source box - simple, but we're going to complete three of these this year, and I plan to ease into writing titles. I them read selected sentences from the bat books and asked them what facts I could write. After writing three (in our "own words"), I drew an illustration in the illustration box.

Lesson 3: "Review"
This is what we'll be doing next week. I plan to ask them, "How can I tell if I did a good job?" This will lead into a review of my research question, the sources I used, and the way I presented my information.

Super simple, but I think it is the beginning of my students being able to independently and effectively research topics in the future. Enjoy!

Yours happily ever after,

Aug 31, 2013

Teacher Treats - A Giveaway Linky

Enter these giveaways for teacher-types! If you have a giveaway and would like to add it to the list, it must end within 60 days of posting and include an end date.

$20 Amazon Gift Card GIVEAWAY (ends 9/9/13)

Woo-hoo!!! Library Safari just reached 100 Pinterest followers! I think this wonderful occasion calls for Krispy Kreme doughnuts for me and my family, and a giveaway for one of you!

Enter below to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Some entries are worth more than others, and some can be repeated daily.  Have fun!


Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 30, 2013

It's Back! Reuniting with A.R.

Well, it's Friday, the beginning of a long weekend, and I'm having a hard time winding down. I feel like I've just stepped off an Accelerated Reader roller coaster after a week-long ride!

Monday: Prepared to begin this year's A.R. program. Excited and focused.
Tuesday: Learned that we would not have A.R. this year. Sad and stunned.
Wednesday: Searched for alternatives. Anxious and overwhelmed.
Thursday: Formed a committee to help me figure things out. Calm and determined.
Friday: Learned that we WOULD use A.R. after all! Elated, disappointed, relieved, confused.

I realize this is probably not something you can relate to, but I felt compelled to let you in on the story, after sharing yesterday's post about how I'm not a fan of A.R. anymore. So, there it is. Now let's go enjoy our long weekend, but be sure to check back in Monday to see if we still have A.R. ;)

Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 29, 2013

Life After Accelerated Reader

If you'd told me three days ago that I'd soon be looking for A.R. (Accelerated Reader) alternatives, I never would have believed you. I was a real fan of A.R. - always had been. Even in library school when I was told that it worked in opposition to its intended goal. Even when my peers spoke ill of it at our district librarians' meetings. 

Recently, Renaissance Learning chose to add a mass of new features that reflect current educational trends (RTI, Common Core), which is a good thing, I guess. Unfortunately, they passed the cost of them on to the schools. That's one of the reasons my school decided that this is a great time to try something new, and I have to agree.

Now, pardon me if I boast, but we really "did it right" when it came to A.R. I set individual goals for each child, and we held the standard of 85 minimum % correct. I expanded their reading range as they progressed toward their goal. It was a very important part of our reading incentive program. My colleagues and I are discombobulated by this loss. We find ourselves asking questions like...
  • How will we determine students' reading ranges without STAR data?
  • How will we set goals without points?
  • How will we determine progress without those fancy reports?
And the BIGGEST question that haunts me is...How do I motivate these kids to read now that I no longer have my carrot on a stick? Yes, I know...these were some of the biggest reasons for not using A.R. Those reasons I'd heard during library school and librarians' meetings. 

So it would appear that A.R. is wonderful when you have it, but if you ever have to let it go, the upset is widespread, affecting teachers and students. Teachers will have to find a way to make sure students engage in recreational reading. Students will need to be trained not only in the details of a new program but also, more importantly, in reading for the joy of reading. This begs the question - Wasn't that what we really wanted all along?

I'm thinking I may never be a fan again...

Have you had a similar experience? I'd love to read how you handled it. Please leave a comment or contact me through my comment form.

I'm off now to start a new Pinterest board about A.R. Alternatives :) I'm sure this topic will be a huge theme on this blog for the rest of the school year! Like me on Facebook or follow me on Bloglovin to see how it goes!

Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 26, 2013

A.R. Quiz Tutorial Video

I have to admit - I was a little aggravated when the folks at Renaissance Learning changed their look in the middle of the 2012 - 2013 school year, after my students had become used to the look and process. I had really hoped that someone would have made an updated video tutorial by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So, here's my homespun A.R. Quiz Tutorial video. Short, sweet and seasoned with my southern accent! I hope y'all can stand it, but if not, just mute it and add your own narration!

UPDATE: What a difference a day makes! The day after completing this video, my school decided to take a year off from A.R.! For the past seven years, A.R. has been an integral part of our reading program, so this is a big adjustment. I'm looking forward to finding and employing other ways to grow our readers.

Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 18, 2013

Library Welcome Letter to Parents

I wanted to share with you the letter I'll be sending home to parents this week. This "Back to School" letter will give parents an idea of my schedule, what I'll be teaching, and how to contact me. Click on this preview to open the document.

I'm big on conserving my "copy count," so I tried to make the font big enough to be readable after I shrink-to-fit two of these on one page. After you click on the link and open the document, you can edit it by selecting "File," then "Download," then "Save File." Then click on the green arrow in the upper right corner of your screen. Select "Library Sample Letter" from the drop down menu, and click "Enable Editing" in the yellow bar at the top of your screen. If you have any questions, use my "Contact Me" form to let me know, and I'll try to help you!

Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 16, 2013

The Book Fairy at Back to School Night

I've never really been a key player on Back to School Night. While parents were intent on going to visit their children's classroom teachers, few ever made their way to the library. After reading the Back to School post at Elementary Librarian, I was inspired to make some changes this year! She created a fabulous AR Guide for Parents, which I downloaded, personalized for our school (some of her information was different from ours), and copied on shockingly bright paper. My principal suggested I leave the library and distribute them to parents in the hallways. So, I donned my Book Fairy costume, placed my brochures in a basket and went out to where the people were! I had such a great time meeting parents, answering questions, and entertaining the children, and I look forward to doing it next year, too!

Yours Happily Ever After,

Aug 14, 2013

My Book Fairy Costume

While not the most flattering costume you'll ever wear, this DIY "Book Fairy" or "Library Fairy" or (best yet) "Diction Fairy" costume sure is a lot of fun to make! After shopping a few yard sales and the thrift store, as well as raiding my mom's craft closet and dress-up box (for her grandchildren ;), she and I created this...


We basically followed the directions from the original post at  Lilliedale, and I encourage you to go see the original. As for ours...
  • The supplies used were a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, scotch tape, glue guns, notions such as ribbon, cording and beads, a belt, a  tiara, red glitter foam, a toy scepter (?)
  • The headpiece is an old tiara with a piece of glitter foam behind the rhinestones
  • The scepter is some strange toy I picked up at a yard sale. It has multicolored LED lights in both ends and has a disco ball effect when turned on. I covered it in ribbon.
  • There's much less fluff in my skirt than on the original - a good and necessary thing, since I have enough back there anyway!
  • The pages on the tutu is attached to a belt we found at the thrift store.
  • All of the pages came from the dictionary, the cover of which became the foundation for the wings.
You can read about how I used this costume by clicking here. If you've made a similar costume, I'd love to hear about it!

Aug 8, 2013

Pinterest Boards for my Library Curriculum Map

Great news! Now the Library Safari Pinterest boards are aligned to the lessons on my Library Curriculum Map! Here's a sample...

Happily Ever After,

Aug 7, 2013

My (FREE) Library Scope and Sequence

UPDATE (February 16, 2018): I created this scope and sequence in 2013, using the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. They are not aligned to the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.

As I formed my Elementary Library Curriculum Map, I also created a document detailing the scope and sequence of the lessons. The library scope and sequence at Bay Port Blue Point UFSD was a great help in putting this together!

This document includes objectives, focus questions, and AASL Learning Standards correlations. Basically, the only things missing are the procedures and assessments. You can open it by clicking the image above or by clicking the following link:

My schedule may seem strange to you (described here), and it requires a more succinct set of essential lessons than what most of us may be accustomed to. No matter, I hope it blesses someone out there!

Please forgive any errors you find and alert me to them. Also, please contact me with any questions you may have or if you'd like for me to email the original Word document to you so you can edit it to suit your needs.

Yours Happily Ever After, 

My (FREE) Library Curriculum Map

UPDATE (February 16, 2018):
If I could, I would adjust this curriculum map to better reflect modern reference sources (Items H-J). The prospect of that is very slim, as I am a now middle school librarian and have neither the time nor need to do so. Perhaps it will be useful to you as a starting point. 

As a classroom teacher, I depended heavily on my LRP's (Long Range Plans). But, somehow, as a librarian, I've never really been able to form a good LRP. Until NOW! After much study and revision, I've completed my Elementary School Library Curriculum Map for the coming school year!

In order to better understand it, you'll need to know the following:
  1. I teach kindergarten through 5th grade on a modified flex schedule. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I am available for collaborative units with teachers, which will be determined as we go along. This Curriculum Map is for my fixed classes that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  2. The numbers in the map indicate the week in which I'll teach the topic. I'm in each class's related arts schedule every other quarter. For example, if there are four 1st grade classes, I meet with two of them in the 1st and 3rd quarters, and I meet with the other two in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Therefore, I only see each class a total of 18 class periods, as indicated on the Curriculum Map. 
  3. During the first 2 weeks of school, I "pull" the "off schedule" classes and teach the week 1 and week 2 lessons, so that everyone is caught up on essential information. Then, when the 2nd quarter begins, I start that group with lesson 3, since that's where they left off. Clear as mud?
  4. The literature appreciation lessons are labeled for weeks 15 through 18, but I actually insert them as needed throughout the year. For example, during book fairs, the computers are inaccessible due to the book display cases. That's a perfect time to pull a literature appreciation lesson!
  5. While you may find that many typical library topics are not listed, please remember that I have flex days during which I could collaboratively teach lessons with the teachers.
  6. Some of the topics are very broad, and some may include different methods. For example, the lesson labeled "Research V: Do" includes several of the steps of the "Big 6" for the upper grades, while the younger grades are at different levels of the "Super 3." More details here! 
I found a great library scope and sequence at Bay Port Blue Point UFSD, which helped me discern the essential topics I should teach in my precious 18 weeks! It also helped me create a detailed outline of what each of the lessons listed above includes, complete with focus questions and AASL standards alignment.

As I'm certain there's room for improvement, I welcome your comments and questions!

Happily Ever After,

Jul 26, 2013

Organizing my Library Media Center Pinterest Boards

Upon overhauling my office file cabinets to better serve me as a school librarian, I realized my Pinterest boards could use the same treatment!

I now have a Pinterest board for each of the topics in my "Library Curriculum" drawer, as well as for each month in my "Monthly Activities" drawer. Now I can see at a glance if I have any Pinterest resources for a particular library skill I plan to cover. There are many more "drawers" to come, but I invite you to follow me on Pinterest and see what I've done so far!

Jul 23, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy! A Liebster Award!

Thank you, Mrs. Tretbar's Library for the nomination. I'm so glad we found each other, as I am already thinking of ways to implement the things I've found on your lovely library blog.  The Liebster Award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers but that "deserve to have many more."

The rules for this award are as follows:
  1. Thank the Liebster-winning blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Post eleven facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the eleven questions your nominator asked.
  4. Create eleven questions for your nominees.
  5. Nominate 5 to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
  6. Display the Liebster Award logo.
Eleven things about me:
  1. My husband is a pastor, and we strive to live our faith. For that reason, you'll find it peppered here and there in my posts.
  2. I'm the wife of a doctoral student and am thinking about starting a support group ;)
  3. I'm a mom to three beautiful children, ages 4-10.
  4. I've been an educator for over 17 years, as both an elementary classroom teacher and a school librarian.
  5. My favorite professional book is Harry Wong's First Days of School.
  6. My favorite fiction book is Anne of Green Gables.
  7. My favorite nonfiction book is the Bible.
  8. I love to read books by the two J's: Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood.
  9. I try VERY hard to work as efficiently as possible and employ as many strategies as I can find to free me up to teach and enjoy my students. I hope to share them on this blog!
  10. My favorite library subject to teach is text structure.
  11. I actually like the CCSS!
Answers to Mrs. Tretbar's Library 's questions:
  1. Do you have a TpT or Teacher's Notebook store? No, I don't have a lot of original content at this point - I'm a user rather than a contributor :)
  2. What is your favorite grade to work with? I really enjoy teaching 5th grade. 
  3. Why did you start blogging? I'd blogged for a couple of years on my primary blog, Mom's Best Nest,  when I realized that I could use a library blog to record and reflect on what's happening in my library. 
  4. What is your Pinterest username? Library Safari
  5. Name 3 of your favorite children's books? The Story of Ferdinand, Flap Your Wings, and Olivia
  6. Where is your favorite place to travel? The beach!
  7. Do you like to read on a tablet or book? Not really. It just isn't comfortable, neither to my hands nor to my eyes. 
  8. Do you have any pets? We have a Boxer :)
  9. Why did you become a teacher? It's thrilling to lead someone to an "Aha!" moment. 
  10. What is your favorite thing to do during summer vacation? Be with my children.
  11. Do you have something new you'd like to try in your classroom/library this year? I want to have a more thorough long range plan that is CCSS aligned. 
My eleven questions: 
  1. What age group do you serve?
  2. What is your favorite post on your blog?
  3. How may your readers follow you?
  4. Who influenced your decision to become a librarian?
  5. Would you rather read adult books or children's/young adult books?
  6. What library event/program are you most proud of?
  7. Could you share an idea for organizing a librarian's "stuff?"
  8. How do you encourage your students to read more and more and more?
  9. Which series does your students love?
  10. What's on your library wish list?
  11. Which standards (state, CCSS, etc.) do you address primarily?

My nominees:
  1. The Library Patch
  2. The Book Bug
  3. Lucky Librarian 
  4. The Book Fairy-Goddess 
  5. Library Au Lait 
Please stop by and follow these great blogs in whatever way they have available and that is convenient for you (Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, GFC, Facebook, BlogLovin, etc.)!


Jun 8, 2013

Free, Educational, & Fun Websites for Preschoolers

These free, fun, and educational websites are packed with online games and activities for preschoolers and kindergarteners. If you serve older children, see my list of fun, educational websites for kids. You can add to this list any you've found, too, pending approval.  Enjoy!

Jun 7, 2013

FREE, Fun, Educational Kids Websites

These fun websites provide free games and activities related to math, reading, arts, social studies, science and other subjects. Intended for preschoolers and elementary-aged children, they're sure to improve your children's skills during their free time. Add your own favorites by clicking on "Click here to enter" at the bottom of the list. Then just follow the Linky Tools directions. In step 4, I recommend selecting "Auto Crop" and "From Web." Thanks and enjoy!

Mar 9, 2013

A Librarian's Prayer

Years ago, God blessed me with a wonderful position as an elementary school librarian in a lovely media center. Along with that blessing came a 25 minute commute. From time to time, I lament the time I lose simply driving to and from my job.

But then God reminds me that my commute time is very special, for it's OUR time. I praise Him, thank Him, plead with Him, confess to Him, and express anything else that is on my heart. He reveals His presence by comforting me, accepting me, and assuring me of His care and love.

A while back, I was led to sum up my commute prayer in these words:

Lord, help me remember to do what You'd have me do, say what (and ONLY what) You'd have me say, and help me build relationships. Amen.

This week, He helped me see more clearly how important it is to build relationships. HE gave me this:
It's about the PEOPLE not the PROGRAM.
It's about the LIVES not the LESSONS.
It's about the BODIES not the BOOKS.
It's about the SOULS not the SCHEDULES.
This is actually quite opposed to my natural inclination, as I am a task-master and list-maker! But I did see, when I made this my prayer, that God gave me a heart to follow through. And the result was a very gratifying day! My sincere investment of time and concern for my students and colleagues blesses them and me. Oh, to be used by God in His plan!

I hope you have a lovely week and that you'll trust that God has a plan for you that includes being in His plan for others!

Feb 25, 2013

Common Core Library Display

My creative friend and colleague, Cindy (, along with her wonderful assistant, set up a beautiful Common Core area in her library. I'm inspired!

Feb 4, 2013

Read Across America Day: Dr. Seuss Parade, Costumes, and More

Every year, my school enjoys celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday with a variety of festivities geared toward reading and literacy. I'd like to share with you the highlights of our program , and I'd love for you to share yours.
Dr. Suess Parade
One of our most anticipated events on Read Across America Day is the Dr. Seuss parade. A few weeks before the parade, each class selects a favorite Dr. Seuss book, and the teacher and students determine the best way to portray it through costumes, props, etc. We play fun music over the intercom, and classes walk along the parade route to the delight of onlookers, who are seated along the walls in the hall. It's a lot of fun! Here are some great ideas that our teachers have given us from past parades:
  • Dress students in simple, similar costumes (possibly just matching the colors of the illustrations in the book, which were often limited to a few colors).
  • Have a few large props related to the book or have everyone carry small, everyday items related to the story.
  • Think about the storyline and “act out” a small but important event at some point along the route.
Our students seem to really enjoy how our faculty joins in the fun by dressing as a Seuss character.  Pinterest* and Google Images are great sources for homemade costume ideas. Here are some more...
Please Try to Remember the First of Octember: Main Character wears blue jeans, red/white striped shirt, blonde short wig.

Dr. Seuss’s ABC
Aunt Annie: Big hat, white wig, spectacles, fluffy dress, pumps (and an a stuffed or inflatable alligator) 
Barber: mustache, white lab coat, Yellow bow tie, black pants
King: crown, beard/mustache, robe, fur collar
Little Lola Lopp: Green dress, yellow wig, black shoes
Policeman: blue hat, blue coat, blue pants, yellow badge
Queen: crown, pearls, yellow wig, pink robe, fur collar, pumps
Rosy Robin Ross: Braided hair with a bow, plaid shirt, blue jeans, boots
Sleep Book: Red footed PJ’s
The Sneetches: See costume here

How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
1. Dress as the Grinch in green hair, face and hands, and wear a Santa Suit and fake monster teeth.
2. Check out the Cindy Lou Who costume ideas at or
My administrator's creative costume!

The Cat in the Hat:
1. Make this hat and wear with black sweats, a red velvet Christmas bow and white gloves.
2. Make a Thing 1 hat from bulletin board paper.

3. Be the Cat IIINN the Hat like in this costume.

If I ran the Zoo: 
Gerald McGrew: striped pants, black men’s coat, white button down shirt, red necktie, red police hat
Persian prince: baggy pants, genie shoe covers, white shirt, dark vest, turban, mustache
Cook: white shirt, black bow tie, black pants, white apron, chef’s hat (make this one)

Green Eggs and Ham:
Sam: Tall red hat and yellow clothes (gown, long t-shirt, etc.) and carries a platter with green eggs and ham.

More Ideas
1. “Who’s Who and What’s What in the Books of Dr. Seuss” An amazing resource! Be sure to scroll past the 3-4 blank introductory pages. May be helpful in determining your theme and costumes. 
2. Click here for great Seuss-centered lessons (with photos). It's also a linky, which means that other lovers of all things Seuss will leave a link to their great ideas! 
3. All about Seuss’s characters 
4. I have a Seuss ideas board on Pinterest. Let me know if you need an invite.
5. This is a  Daily Activities Sheet that we use all week long.
I'd love to read about and see pictures of your Seuss festivities and ideas. Please leave comments and links below!