My Spectacular, World-Famous Fiction and Nonfiction Song!

Well hello! You’ve stopped by at a fabulous time because I am about to reveal my SPECTACULAR, WORLD-FAMOUS Fiction and Nonfiction Song!

(Please keep in mind that “spectacular” might be a tad bit generous, and that it is only “world-famous” because I am publishing it on this blog, right now, which could, in theory, be read by people living around the world.)

I sing this in my school library when it’s time to review the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I teach fiction and nonfiction in kindergarten library each year in December, so I borrowed the “Jingle Bells” tune when I wrote the lyrics for this little gem.

Ahem. Here we go!


Fun, right? (By the way, I did have to adjust the Jingle Bells melody a little to make it work, so “We” in lines 2 and 6 is a little grace note, and “don’t want them to end” and “love nonfiction too” pick up the “jingle all the way,” if that makes sense.)

Feel free to sing it in your classroom or library to help your students learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction!

(Sorry, but please DO NOT feel free to make a recording of it and/or turn this song into the top forty hit that it clearly has the potential to be.  Hee hee.) 🙂

Fantastic Read Alouds for First Graders


(Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links, so if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive compensation at no additional cost to you.)

Reading aloud to my students is one of my favorite parts of being a school librarian. I love trying out funny voices and dramatic faces and making the kids laugh. As a result, I typically pick light and fun books to share with my students. While I admit that many of my read alouds might not be great literature, I think that one of my primary goals of reading aloud is to sell reading as something that can rival video games and Netflix in terms of entertainment value. And based on the enthusiasm I saw with some of these read alouds, I think I’m on the right track!

Back in June, I asked the first graders to name their favorite picture books that we had read together in library class throughout the year, and the zany, silly ones were well-represented among the ones they chose. Here are their picks.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems

This book shows the quirky genius of Mo Willems at its best with his version of the classic story of “be careful what you wish for.”

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy

Mr. Wiggle’s Book by Paula M. Craig and Carol L. Thompson

I read this with kindergarten, first grade, and second grade every year as the first read aloud of the year in order to get kids thinking about how they should treat the library books they are about to check out. You would think I’d get groans from the kids who have already heard it, but actually, nope. The kids look forward to hearing this story at the beginning of each school year, even in second grade when it’s their third listen. It’s out of print, so if you can get your hands on a copy, hang on to it!

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas

This story is perfect for this time of year. The kids find it hilarious, and it’s a very short book which works well for a library class since us librarian-folks are usually trying to squeeze a read aloud, a lesson, an activity, and book checkout into a short amount of time.

Pumpkin Trouble

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk

I just read this book with my new first graders and they loved it as much as last year’s group. I love (attempting) to do different character voices and accents. In my version of the read aloud, I decided that Lady Pancake speaks with a bit of a Southern drawl, while Sir French Toast obviously has a French accent (my rendition sounds kind of like Lumiere from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast…well, at least, that is what I’m going for). It’s one of those situations where I’m not quite sure if they are laughing at me or with me, but the kids like the accents and love this book!

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast

Burger Boy by Alan Durant

Benny overdoes it with the hamburgers, spontaneously transforms into a large hamburger, and has a chaotic adventure. I’m not sure exactly why first graders love the idea of a person turning into food, but my first graders found this book delectable.

Chocolatina by Erik Kraft

This story is similar to Burger Boy, but Tina’s got more of a sweet tooth, and one day she wakes up to find herself head-to-toe chocolate. Read it after Burger Boy for a perfect opportunity for compare and contrast.


There Are Cats in this Book! by Viviane Schwarz

This one is a fun and interactive book that combines cute kitties and flaps to flip. I had a library volunteer read it to smaller groups of kids so that they could all take turns lifting the flaps. They loved it!

There Are Cats in This Book


Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

Warning: Do not read this one to the kids unless you are okay with A LOT of laughter. It’s the story of a bear who finds a little boy and decides to keep him as a pet, and ever since I discovered it a few years ago, it has definitely been a fave every time I read it.

Children Make Terrible Pets

Principal Fred Won’t Go to Bed by Carolyn Crimi

The first graders loved this silly rhyming book. Maybe it’s because kids love to think about what their teachers (and principal) are like outside of school, and it’s always fun to think of grownups acting like kids. It’s another fun read.

Principal Fred Won’t Go to Bed

Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel

This is the story of two best friends, a caterpillar and earthworm, and how their lives change as the caterpillar does his thing and becomes a butterfly. I read this book to the first graders in the spring when the class was learning about butterflies in science, and they loved this sweet book.

 Bob and Otto

Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland

Michael Garland’s illustrations are always gorgeous, and this book is no exception. It’s the story of a teacher who loves to read aloud from a special book, and the characters in this book always jump out of the book and become real as she reads. One day, someone else reads the book, and chaos ensues! It’s fun, and the kids love to think about story characters that they would like to see in real life.

Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss

What first grade book list would be complete without something by Dr. Seuss? The kids loved this one and most had not heard it before, which is always nice. It’s great for Dr. Seuss’ birthday (or anytime!)

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

What are your first graders’ favorites? Feel free to share other fabulous first grade read aloud ideas!

My #1 New School Year Tip: Join Teachers Pay Teachers!

I think most teachers would agree that the real “New Year” begins in August or September when the school year starts. New students and new policies and new schedules are bigger changes than what we see when the ball drops between December and January.

From planning to cleaning to decorating to organizing to copying, there is a ton of work to do as the school year starts, and I’m going to suggest that you add one more itty bitty thing to your list. But it’s a thing that will ultimately make some of the other things easier. AND make the rest of the school year easier.


Really. Do it. Yesterday.

What It Is…and What Else It Is

Okay. So I had heard about Teachers Pay Teachers long before I actually tried it, and waiting so long to give it a go was a MISTAKE. Basically, before I registered for TpT, I used to spend a lot of time on Google trying to search for “free” lesson ideas and worksheets and coloring pages for my students. Sometimes, a search result would pop up that said it was on Teachers Pay Teachers and I’d be like, “Oh, that sounds great!” but then I’d be like, “Oh, it’s on Teachers Pay Teachers. And I don’t want to pay for anything right now. So, no thanks.” To be honest, something about the name Teachers PAY Teachers irked me a little at first and made me feel like everything was going to be really expensive.

As time went on, those Teachers Pay Teachers items showed up more and more. Meanwhile, I also found that more often than not, randomly searching the rest of internet brought me to a bunch of weird spammy sites. I eventually concluded that I WAS going to end up paying SOMEONE, and it was beginning to look like the money would be going to a tech-y dude who gets spyware off your computer. I figured I was better off giving money to some fellow teachers than having my computer infected with internet gunk.

So I joined the site and accepted that I would, in fact, be a teacher that was paying other teachers.

But in my first few minutes looking around the site, I found out something very important about Teachers Pay Teachers. Yes, it is a site where you can purchase fantastic resources created by other teachers. But IT IS ALSO a place where teachers GIVE AWAY FABULOUS FREE PRODUCTS.

Yay TpT! SO MUCH is Free!

There are FREE lesson plans, FREE coloring pages, FREE classroom posters, FREE fonts, FREE videos, FREE printable worksheets, and much more. Get this- every single person who sells on Teachers Pay Teachers MUST have at least one freebie (really – it is a requirement in order to be a seller!). So we are talking about THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of FREE products.

So I went on a free downloading spree. It was basically what I had been TRYING to do many times before during my Googling sprees, but SO much easier and more successful. I can’t even believe how many free worksheets and other resources I have found for free from the talented sellers on TpT.

And If It’s Not Free, It’s Probably Worth It!

If I have a very specific need and I can’t find something free, I can usually find something inexpensive and worth every penny. I really would rather not pay for resources, of course, but then I stopped and realized that I never hesitate to spend $5 here or there for office supplies, stickers, or prizes for school. So, why not pay a couple of bucks for something that is actually designed to help my students learn something? And it is fun to know that a purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers will help support a teacher.

So…Who’s Paying Whom?

Ultimately, I’m less than a year into using TpT, yet I have downloaded a ton of resources and spent a pretty tiny amount of money. For all these years, I stayed away from Teachers Pay Teachers, when all along I didn’t realize it was like a dollar store / FREE store for teaching resources. Almost every time I visit the site, I get paid in freebies, which leads me to wonder – are the sellers or buyers really winning out here? Or is it just a fantastic partnership for everybody involved?

Check It Out Today!

If you haven’t joined yet, go for it! Joining is free and as I mentioned, there is a ton of great stuff that is just waiting for you, no matter what subject you teach! I am so happy that I joined, and I loved TpT so much that I opened my own store there a few months after making my first purchase.

So…all that free stuff we were talking about? As soon as you sign up, feel free to start your own personal free download spree with some of my free products!


The (FREE!) Review Game That My Students Beg Me to Play!

Kids can be pretty tough critics these days when it comes to educational games, so when I found a (free!) online game that my students love, I had to share! Kahoot is by far my students’ favorite way to review any school library lesson! (And it can be used in ANY subject area!)

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How it Works

It’s unbelievably easy to get going with Kahoot. You just go to, set up a teacher account (free and no hassles!), and are ready to roll.

A little info you should know before we go farther: Kahoot is usually played as a whole class game. In an ideal setup, you will project the Kahoot questions on a smartboard and each child will participate by entering answers on an individual tablet, phone, or laptop. There are ways around having a device for each child, but the idea is that everyone is engaged in and participating in the same game at the same time.

So to set the scene…as soon as you start a Kahoot review game, your class starts jamming out to the fun, groovy soundtrack it plays. First, the kids will need to sign in by entering a pin on their devices that will appear on the big screen. Once everyone has signed in, a question (which could be supplemented with diagrams or graphics if you choose) will pop up on the big screen. On the bottom of the screen, up to four answer choices will appear.  

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The kids’ devices show four colored squares which correspond with the four answer choices on the big screen.

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The children try to select the correct answer as quickly as possible and receive points for the correct response, and once everyone has answered, the big screen displays a leaderboard so the kids can keep track of who is earning the most points. The kids have each picked a “Nickname” to display in the leaderboard…which, of course, adds to the fun.

How to Prep for Your First Kahoot Session

The first step is to find or create a Kahoot quiz for your students to play. There are eleventy jillion Kahoots already out there, so it’s possible that someone else has already created a Kahoot that you can use for your students. With a quick search on site, you can find out.

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If you find one that is sort of what you are looking for, but not quite, one fantastic feature is the “Duplicate” function.

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This makes a copy of someone else’s Kahoot and then allows you to add and subtract as much as you would like until the Kahoot is perfect for your class. If you’d prefer to start from scratch, just click on “New K!”

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and then “Quiz” and the Kahoot site will guide you through the lovely and simple process of creating your own Kahoot quiz.

Why It’s Such a Hit

The game allows for a competitive but not TOO competitive atmosphere as kids work to make it on the leaderboard. The kids’ made-up nicknames (which, don’t worry, are censored by the game!) and the funky, video-gamey music help cultivate a vibe that is relaxed and fun. And possibly the best feature is the way the game has been designed to force the whole group to look up at the big screen. Each student participates individually, but it’s a group experience, and in my classes, EVERYONE actually wants to participate and be a part of the fun.

How Teachers Are Really Using Kahoot

Kahoot can easily be used to review any subject area, and educators are utilizing it from kindergarten on up. From second grade spelling to high school physical education, the game can be customized to meet the needs of different students across the grades. In my library classes, I have used it in grades 2-5 to review information about the Dewey Decimal system, the Caldecott Award, MLA Citations, and more.

In addition to functioning as a way to review facts or concepts, Kahoot can also be used to introduce new concepts, as explained here in the Kahoot blog’s post about “blind kahoots.” I haven’t tried this method of Kahooting yet, but I’m looking forward to giving it try at some point.

The “Survey” function of Kahoot adds even more possibilities. When you want to collect data about student understanding or opinions without making it a competition, you can use Kahoot to set up survey questions. For the school-library-dwellers like me, this allows for creative possibilities like the March Madness-style book tournament that Erin from Erintegration explains in her blog. Fun fun!

What Might Go Wrong…and How to Fix It

Okay, so literally nothing out there has a 100% approval rating, and even though it’s pretty fabulous, a few of your kids might raise some objections to Kahoot.  Here are a few things to watch out for and some ideas for how to combat them:

  • Getting kicked out.  I have had a couple of situations where some kind of sneaky internet glitch has caused a student’s Kahoot game to go kablooey. Creating a quick partnership between the kicked out kid and a neighbor usually does the trick better than trying to fix the error.
  • Too much pressure.  While I think the game does a nice job of creating a FRIENDLY competition, the ticking clock sound and time limits could be a bit anxiety-provoking for some of your kiddos. Turning the sound off could help, and a sneak peek at the Kahoot or a rundown of some of the questions could be a reasonable accommodation for kids who need it. I also highly enjoy the “Team Mode” of play, which gives the kids a couple of seconds of processing time before the counter starts so that they can, theoretically, discuss the answer choices with team members. During the last couple of times I have used Kahoot, I put it on Team Mode and allowed students to decide whether they wanted to work alone or with a buddy.

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  • Bad sportsmanship.  I definitely recommend reminding kids about how to be good competitors before beginning the game. Emphasize that this is just a FUN way to review and learn, and be proactive about sharing your expectations for appropriate behavior during a Kahoot. If you think Kahoot is a tool you might use regularly, you could work with your students to come up with a Code of Conduct to be used during Kahoot time so that everyone understands the dos and don’ts of Kahoot etiquette (Kahootiquette, if I may) in your class (sorry…but c’mon, it was right there!).
It’s Time to Get Kahooting!

If you haven’t tried this fantastic tool, how about giving it a go now in preparation for the school year? Whether you are a Kahoot newbie or have been using it in your class for a while, feel free to add a note in the comments to let me know how you like it!

Throw a Book Tasting Party in Your School Library!

I had seen them for years – those awesome blog posts and Google images showing adorable book tasting parties in school libraries and classrooms. A book tasting looked like a great activity, but I was afraid it would be a lot of prep for a short event.

Then, this past May, I finally got my act together and joined in the fun!

And…it WAS fun!

And really not that much work after all.  Here is what I did.

First Things First

First, I decided on the details of how I would run my book tasting, since there are lots of ideas floating out there. My school has preschool through eighth grade with only one class per grade level, so for my very first attempt at a book tasting, I just planned on one sitting for my fourth grade class and one sitting for my fifth grade class. I decided to put one book at each seat, give students a chance to browse through that book for a few minutes, and then have the students write briefly about the book on a record sheet. Then, they’d pass the book to the right and repeat.

For the inevitable “I already read that book!” comments, I would place a pile of books in the center of the table so the kids could swap them out as needed.

The Prep Process

So I wandered around my library looking for books that my fourth and fifth graders might like but that are usually overlooked. I made sure to get enough for each student in each class and a bunch of extras for the middle of the table.

Next, I made up the handouts I would use. I made a record sheet for students to fill out with info about each book (and printed them out on red paper to add a little more color to the tables).  I also typed out the directions for the activity so I could put a copy on each table as a reminder. (And…those handouts are available below for FREE! Just keep on reading!)

The weekend before my book tasting party, I hit up my local public library to get some CDs of easy listening / jazz music to play in the background during the event, and then it was time to go shopping! I purchased tablecloths, circle placemats, snazzy glasses, and battery operated candles at the dollar store, and I also picked up some lollipops to make the event a little more exciting for the kiddos. (I figured lollipops were a non-messy, allergy-friendly treat, and that if the kids had lollipops in their mouths, they might focus on reading instead of chatting!) 🙂

On the day of the party, the setup was pretty quick and easy since I had the help of a fabulous library volunteer. Each table got a tablecloth, a circular placemat in the middle, two battery operated candles, a fancy dollar store glass full of lollipops, a little cup with pencils in it, a stack of books, and a sheet with directions. Every place setting got a record sheet and one book.

The Big Par-tay!

At party time, it was so cool to watch the kids’ faces as they came in and saw how I had decorated the library. I had the kids sit on the rug first so I could explain everything before they got to the tables. I gave them procedures for what to do during “tasting time,” “rating time,” and “switching time.”  Once the kids knew the plan, I sent them to their seats and they began the browsing/writing/passing process, which went quite smoothly. The pile of books in the middle of the table was definitely helpful because it seemed like each table did tap into those at least once.

As for the lollipops…I had mixed feelings about them. I had made them the centerpiece of each table by placing a bunch of lollipops inside one of my fun dollar store glasses. All the kids seemed excited that they were there, and one class did pretty well with them, but they did cause a distraction for the other class. I haven’t decided whether I would use them again…and if so, I might ditch the centerpiece plan and just place one at each seat.

Ultimately, the book tasting party did what I had hoped it would…it added a new energy to library class for the day, and it gave kids a chance to try out books that they normally would not have tried.

And now that I have all the materials made up and the supplies purchased, I plan to throw a book tasting party at least once a year, and maybe involve some of my older and younger students too.

Thanks for the Inspiration!

I want to take a sec to thank other teacher bloggers who have shared their fabulous book tastings. I have read numerous posts about book tasting parties over the last few years, and these are the ones I consulted when putting together my book tasting party:

A Wrinkle in Tech; Expect the Miraculous: Barrow Media Center; Teaching with a Mountain View; Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching; The Book Bug; Miss Liberry Teacher; Where the Magic Happens Teaching; and Three Ring Library. Check out those posts for some more fun book tasting ideas.

And Now…a Freebie for You!

Ready to party it up at your first book tasting? Let me take one step out of the prep process for you. Click here to download the record sheet and directions sheet that I made for this event.

Have you held a book tasting in your classroom or library already? Share the details of your book tasting party in the comments below!