Monday, August 31, 2015

Teachers and Librarians! Mark Your Calendars for Mrs. P's Annual Writing Contest!

It's that time of year!  

Time for Mrs. P's Be-a-Famous Writer Contest. And you sure don't want to miss it this year with the theme of Pets.    

The contest is for K-4 classrooms and the winning classroom is filled with books in every format from the generous sponsors of the contest.  

To get the scoop on the contest, I spoke with my dear friend Mrs. P and asked her a few questions. 
How did you come up with the theme of pets?

I picked this years theme because children enjoy hearing stories about pets.  They also love to tell stories about pets.  Whenever I am visiting classrooms via Skype, the students always ask me how many pets I have in my house.  The answer is 1547!  Yes, I know, it’s a lot but it gives me ample opportunity to demonstrate the art of storytelling.  I always leave the students with this message, “If you can tell a story, you can write a story.”  

What are some of your favorite books about Pets?

When I was young I can remember reading books starring animals and they have remained lifetime favorites.  Stories like, Charlotte’s Web, Old Yeller, Black Beauty,  Sounder, and The Yearling made a huge impression on me. I also loved Peter Rabbit, which I have in my Magic Library, and Winnie the Pooh.  Oh there are many.  But as you know, I am a lover of the classics.  

Any ideas to get students writing?

I’ve come up up with a few writing prompts: 

Write a conversation you would have with your pet if you could talk with animals.
What if your pet was a performer, what kind would they be? What tricks would they do?
What would your day be like if you were a cat? Or a dog? Or a fish? What sorts of things would you do? 
What would you say to your owner?

I also have my Imagination Launchers I created with my pet dog Spyri, named after the author of “Heidi,” a favorite book of mine when I was little. Imagination Launchers are meant to help kids jump-start their imaginations and get those stories started.   These are animated story prompts, and what kid doesn’t like something animated?  

I also have a a printable worksheet kids can color too.  Download Imagination launcher worksheet 

For your younger students using poetry as a way to get stories ideas flowing can be a good learning device.  I created several short animal poems you can share as examples with your students on my Poetry Fun Playlist

How does the contest work for classrooms? 

It is the classroom entering, not an individual student. This will be our 3nd year running the contest this way. The classroom will be recognized as the winner. For example "Mrs. P's 3rd Grade Class from Dreamy Valley" Everyone in the class that wins is winning books and prizes for their school. I make the winning story into a video for my YouTube site, so that they can share it with everyone they know. 

The video story is illustrated by Robin Robinson.  and I also read the story live to the classroom that wins, if they have Skype technology. 

Who are the judges this year?

The stories are judged by a panel of celebrity judges that includes Peter H. Reynolds , children’s book author, illustrator, bookshop owner and founder of FableVision.  I have been participating in Dot Day with classrooms every year, and was so thrilled that he accepted my invitation to be a judge.  He is such an advocate for creativity and children of all ages.  And I just love his book, The Dot, as it really teachers children that it’s A O. K. to make your unique mark on the world, and that’s what my writing contest is all about. 

And John Schumacher (aka Mr. Schu) a blogger and teacher-librarian at Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook, Illinois. The Library Journal named him "The Xtreme Librarian" for the high level of exertion and gears and stunts he uses to get kids reading, and Instructor Magazine named him a Cool Teacher for redefining what it means to be a teacher-librarian.

And of course, I also act as a judge.  It’s my favorite thing in the world to read the contest entries every year! 
What are the details of the contest?

The contest is for classrooms only and is FREE to enter. Parents you can still participate by telling your child's teacher about it.


Contest Closes: November 15, 2015

Winners Announced January 15, 2016

For classrooms K - 4th grade

I invite classrooms to write a story on the topic of PETS no less than 250 words and not to exceed 1,000 words. It may be fiction or non-fiction. Any classroom from Kindergarten through 4th grade may enter. Just one story per classroom! It can be a collaborative story, or teachers can have their class vote on which child's story to enter. Find all the details at my contest website. 

My amazing sponsors are providing books galore that will benefit the schools of the winners! 

Books in every format, real books, digital books and audio books! And what school doesn’t need books? See my prize page for details of what classrooms will win.  Meet my sponsors :Mackin Education Resources, Tales2GoFableVision Learning and Powell's Books.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Just Make A Mark For Dot Day & See Where It Takes You"....In The Halls & Library At Amana Elementary

When the students at Amana Elementary enter the library hallway next week, they will be excited to see a new display created by their teacher librarian Heather Fox inviting them to make their mark on the world! 
Her teacher smiled.  Just make a mark and see where it takes you! 
are from The Dot by Peter Reynolds.
Once in the library, they will be invited to make their mark by adding an illustration of their own....
 just like one of the 3rd graders at Amana Elementary did last year.  
And what makes it so special this time of year, is that we are all getting ready to celebrate International Dot Day September 15ish. 
And just look at how many are already signed up to connect and make their mark around the world!

If you haven't signed up for Dot Day this year, please register here.
And if you are looking for making connections with other students, libraries and schools to celebrate Dot Day with, please check out our Collaborative Google Doc.

There are dozens of teacher librarians and educators around the world planning their Dot Day connections and celebrations here....It is awesome!
You can connect to a lot of ideas for Dot Day here and Heather, the teacher librarian who created this beautiful display and who happens to be my beautiful sister....
shared the Google Doc of the materials to create this in your library and school too.
 She found that adorable fabric on
You can follow Heather and her Dot Day adventures on the Amana School Community Library Facebook page.  This is one of the things that she is planning before school starts next week....just wait until you see what else she has going on.
Dot Day and Peter Reynolds, a favorite in their library and all of ours, have brought all of us together in such a special way.

I can't wait to see where the marks of her students take them all year long.  

And those of your students too. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Smashing Smore and Canva Together....What A Beautiful Result!

Two of my favorite digital tools are Smore and Canva!   So being able to smash them together in one project is the best!

My daughter Brianna and I have been working on a new project all about being connected.  We decided to put it together using Smore because it creates such an awesome online newsletter that is easy to combine lots of elements that are easy to share, edit and embed.

One thing that I always want to do though is really spice up my projects and make them totally unique.  So this is when I turn to Canva, my favorite graphic design tool!
Within Smore, you are able to add Pictures....
either as a Big Photo or a collage of three in a Photo Gallery.

I wanted to add two different types of text boxes to the Smore, so I created Canva's to serve as big photos.
I wanted one to be square and hold lots of information, so I choose the Social Media Design within Canva.
This created a great Canva to be used!  I love how it turned out....and how it really completed my new blog design that I also created with Canva.
Next, I wanted to find a design that was skinny to be used as titles for each of the 12 ways to be connected. For this one, I used one of the new designs within Canva....Etsy Banner.
It created just the look I wanted.
You can see by smashing Canva into Smore it creates such a beautiful result!