Updates/Blog

The Idaho Kids Bote Book Award has two goals: encouraging kids to read high-quality children's literature and giving them an outlet to discuss the books they read. I'll be using this space to post ideas that will help make your students' Idaho Kids Vote Book Award experience a success.

Student Blogging

posted Jan 16, 2017, 10:42 AM by Jim Windisch

Giving students a real audience for their writing is a powerful thing. Since my students began writing book reviews on our classroom blog two years ago, they have received feedback from commenters around the world. It's a cause for celebration each time a student notices a new comment from out of the area. Knowing that anyone could be out there reading their work inspires my students to do their best and reach for a higher level of excellence with each post.

Seeing the power of student blogging inspired me to begin the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. I hope to bring the transformative power of connecting to more students in Idaho, and give them the chance to see the great thinking that goes on in schools all over our state.

This year I began using Write About as my digital writing platform. I liked the way that it used interest groups to build connections and allowed teachers to create and share writing ideas and prompts. One of the first things I did after joining was create a group for the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. Our project caught the eye of one of their founders, Brad Wilson, and he offered teachers participating in the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award a 25% discount. If you're interested, please sign up for the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award.

As our project builds I hope that your students will blog their reflections and reviews of the nominated books. If you have a class blog featuring the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award let me know in the comments and I'll build a blogroll on this site. If you don't have a class blog but have students writing reviews and reflections, contact me at info@KidsVoteAward.org and we'll work together to find a way we can feature their work here.

Hopefully we'll be able to share some terrific student work in the Write About group and on this site soon!

Checkout management

posted Oct 30, 2016, 2:49 PM by Jim Windisch   [ updated Dec 9, 2016, 7:01 AM ]

My classroom library checkout system has always been pretty loose. I've come to terms with the fact that a few books go missing each year, but I'd rather have that happen than create barriers that keep kids from checking out my books.

Book checkout forms - single page

My copies of the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award books are a little different. Although I only have two copies of each book, I want to ensure that as many students as possible get to read them. My solution has been to create a binder with a checkout page for each of the books. I'm training my kids to write down their names and check the calendar above my bookshelf to give themselves a two-week checkout. If they need more time with a book, they can talk to me and get an additional two weeks. You can find one and two page versions of these checkout forms on the Helpful Documents page.

To further help us share these books, I'm emphasizing some further checkout guidelines. Students are encouraged to check out the Kids Vote Award books only when they are ready to read them. They shouldn't be checked out as an "I might read this next." book. I hope the two-week checkout will help with this, too. I'm also asking students to bring these books back immediately after finishing or abandoning them. If they want to re-read or come back to it, they can check it out again after other students have had the chance.

Do you have great ideas for managing these books in the classroom? Let me know and I'll share your ideas in a future post.

Kicking things off with your class

posted Oct 30, 2016, 2:23 PM by Jim Windisch   [ updated Oct 30, 2016, 2:30 PM ]

Now that we're two months into the school year and students are settled into routines, it's time to start getting kids excited about the Idaho Kids Vote Book Award.

I used an inquiry unit (available on the Helpful Documents page) with my 5th graders to get them thinking about choosing excellent books. The essential question for the unit is "How do we recognize great books?" The double meaning of recognize is intentional, because we started by exploring how book awards are determined and the criteria that different book awards use. From there, we tried to determine the difference between good and great books. Students looked at articles, engaged in personal reflection, and finally conducted a Socratic Seminar on the topic. Finally, students posted a short reflection on the topic to our Bryan Book Blog.

Inquiry Lesson Text Set


By the time we were done with our inquiry unit, students couldn't wait to get their hands on the nominated books and begin making up their own minds about which one deserves the first Idaho Kids Vote Book Award. Even though I don't have all of the books in my classroom library yet, kids are talking about the books and getting excited about which ones they will read first. I can't wait to see where they take this.

Stocking your library

posted Jul 9, 2016, 8:40 AM by Jim Windisch   [ updated Nov 5, 2016, 11:07 AM ]

Stock your library with multiple copies of as many nominated books as you can. When kids read the same book at the same time, spontaneous book conversations start happening. If your classroom budget doesn't support it, consider getting creative to fund it. 

Giving Tree tag
My school has had success putting up a "Giving Tree" during events when parents visit the school. The idea is to display tags (usually apple shaped) outside your classroom. Each tag has the name of an item you would like donated to your classroom. Asking for specific books is often successful for me; families buy the book, read it themselves, then donate it to the classroom.

Crowdfunding for classrooms is becoming increasingly popular. Both Donors Choose and PledgeCents are platforms built specifically for funding classroom needs. If you submit a project to one of those sites, make sure to highlight how the Idaho Book Award will give your students new opportunities to connect about the books they read.

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