Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fired Up About Summer Reading

Today is the first day of our summer reading program, the Middle School Million Page Challenge. Our Edmodo book discussion group is going strong already. We have 193 members and growing. Students are posting favorite books, recommendations, asking for recommendations, and today started posting the number of pages read. It is great to see middle school students so enthusiastic about reading. I hope to sponsor a few trivia contests on our discussion page and reward the students that are active online. We will also give prizes for those that read the most and a drawing for those that participate and turn in a reading log. Today I visited more fifth graders to tell them about summer reading and our book club. One of our book club selections is Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. I shared the book trailer and one of the videos that serve as part of the plot. They were begging for more information about the story and asking where they could buy the book.

If you are looking for an exciting book to draw in reluctant readers this is a great choice.
I believe that Edmodo is an excellent addition to our summer reading plan. Have you used Edmodo for your book club or are there any teachers using it with their classes in your school? Do they like it? How do they use it?
I have a big stack of books I have been waiting to read. Our challenge starts today so I better get to reading!

Tooting Our Horn

Trumpetphoto © 2007 Jon Nicholls | more info (via: Wylio)

Tonight was a big night for our media specialists. We were added to the agenda for our school board's May meeting. Many of the media specialists were able to attend the meeting which really makes me happy. We received a lovely introduction from our Director of Elementary Education. She mentioned our district technology professional development and how well our group has worked together and inspired her this year. I told the board about the state Library Snapshot Day, our 100% participation for our district and a brief explanation of the day. We shared the Animoto video created that includes data and pictures from our Snapshot Day. I explained that research shows a school library staffed by a certified media specialist has a positive impact on student achievement and that we see this illustrated in our libraries every day with our students. Finally I thanked the board, our district administration and our school administrators for supporting school libraries and our efforts to serve our students. Our superintendent stated his support for the media center as the hub of the school and thanked us for our hard work. Several board members reiterated his thoughts. There were three members of the press present and taking notes so hopefully this will make the school report in our local papers.
Overall I believe our presentation was a success. We only took about five minutes of their time, but I feel we made a positive impression. I even had a few administrators asking how I made the video.
I encourage others to share their Snapshot data with the school or district administrators. They love good news and it showcases our value and contributions. I would love to hear how others share their Snapshot data.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Middle School Million Page Challenge

One Million Dollar Bill from Turkeyphoto © 2011 Eli Christman | more info (via: Wylio)

Our three middle schools have joined together to create a summer reading program for our students. After the elimination of our school library representative at the state Department of Education it was uncertain if there would be a state-wide program. Finally it was recommended that we try to model our program after the public library. Our million page challenge asks that students, teachers and staff record the pages they read during the summer and invites them to join our online discussion group on Edmodo. The students and teachers with the most pages will receive prizes such as books and gift cards to Barnes and Noble.
I introduced the 7th graders to the program today and some of the students have already gone online to join the group. As part of my summer reading introduction I showed the book trailers for the book club selections next year, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman, The Roar by Emma Clayton and The Heist Society by Ally Carter. Students also listened to the SC Junior Book Award booktalks on the iPods.
We have plans in the works for our middle schools' book clubs to use Edmodo next year for discussion and we will Skype with authors together. We are excited to be Skyping with Maggie Stiefvater and Patrick Carman. Lessons in netiquette and digital footprints will fit easily into these activities. We collaborated on a few grant applications and hope that one comes through to fund the purchase of the books and other activities.

What are you doing with your students for summer reading?

Showcase Your Library

This week I requested that librarians be added to the agenda for our school board's next meeting. After participating in the SCASL Library Snapshot Day, I compiled our district data and pictures to create a short video about our library program. You can access it here if you can not view the video below. The plan is to show the video, share a few research findings that illustrate the value of school librarians on student achievement and thank our district office and board for their continued support.

My original plan was to write this post after our visit, but after reading this article about a nearby school district cutting librarians I thought maybe I should post this now. The reaction on our state listserv was fearful, until a few of our SCASL leaders reminded us that this is a call for advocacy. Read my SC library heroes thoughts on it here, here and here. They are spot on.

We must showcase our library program to our students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community. Every month I submit reports to my principal and he loves them. I have already started working on my annual report a la Buffy Hamilton. I will share when it is complete.

What are you doing to showcase your library program?

Readicide: Our Summer Reading Assignment for Teachers

reading by the poolphoto © 2011 merri | more info (via: Wylio)

Four of our nine English/Language Arts (ELA) teachers are leaving our school at the end of this year. This mass exodus may make you wonder what is wrong with our school. Actually they are leaving for different reasons, but it just seemed to happen at once. One is taking a position in children's ministry, one has accepted an assistant principal position and two are going to the new high school in our district. What does this have to do with me? Tons! I've spent a great portion of this year building and nurturing relationships with our staff. Even though I have been at our school for six years this was my first as a librarian, requiring me to work more closely with everyone. I work with all of our subjects, but ELA the most. These changes will require a shift for me as well. Three of the new ELA teachers are first year teachers and one is a social studies teacher making a switch. I want to be as supportive of them as possible. I must admit I am excited about the change even though I will miss the teachers that are leaving. I am hoping for enthusiasm, energy and a willingness to collaborate with me.
As soon as the hiring process was over I contacted the teachers and invited them into the library for a tour and to talk about collaboration and preparation for next year. I invited their input and ideas for our summer reading program. I tried to think of something that would bring the staff together over the summer and help them get ready for the year. I decided on a summer reading assignment. I had recently finished the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher and thought it would be perfect. The Michigan Reading Association used this book for a virtual book club if you want read about it here. After getting the principal's approval I created a group on Edmodo so that we could discuss the book over the summer and purchased the Kindle version of the book for our school Kindles. The teachers will take the Kindles home over the summer and we will talk about the book on Edmodo. I found a few quotes and videos to support the book's suggestions that I will post online for their responses. If this goes well maybe I will choose books for other subject areas next year.
Anyone else using summer reading groups?

Salem Library Blog Awards

Wow! I'm honored to be on the nominated list for Newcomers on the Salem Library Blog Awards. Thanks to Fran Bullington for her nomination. I began my blogging journey as a way to reflect on my first year and share my experiences so that others could learn from my mistakes. As my first year draws to an end I am grateful for the gifts this blog has given me, including connecting me with other librarians, encouraging me in those moments of fatigue, and allowing me to prepare for another great year in the library.
If you are looking for an update to your blog roll these lists are a helpful resource.
Thanks to everyone in my PLN for their support and encouragement this year!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1 of 361 at NLLD

I was honored to represent librarians, educators, South Carolina, and my state organization, SCASL, at National Library Legislative Day in Washington, DC. According to ALA there were 361 in attendance. There was a delegation from SC of nine librarians representing public, academic, and school libraries.
On Monday the ALA staff presented briefings on recent library legislation and informed us of what bills we should try to address with our representatives. Of main concern for school librarians is the Library and Technology Services Act (LSTA), the Improving Literacy through School Libraries (ILSL), E-Rate funding and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, formerly NCLB). Monday evening I chatted with three staff members from Senator Jim Demint's office at a reception hosted by ALA.
On Tuesday we stormed the Capitol to meet with our legislators. I was prepared for these meetings. At the advice of the wonderful Fran Bullington, I created a cheat sheet of our SC legislators that included a photo, title, district served, committees, and any other pertinent information that would help us tailor our message to their goals and priorities. For example one of our representatives is married to a retired librarian, while another boasted a 100% voting record on social issues. This information helped me to prepare and our delegation leader even had copies made for entire delegation. Next year I want to add information from the ALA scorecard webpage and a district map of our state. The sheet also had statistics that I could use in the meetings.
For our meetings we came bearing gifts. I brought notes from my students and elementary students from West Pelzer Elementary. Thanks to the awesome Carla Nash for getting those! Our students wrote notes about why libraries were important to them on little dollar bill notes. I wanted to make the point that these funding decisions are about our students and their votes impact SC children. This was another great idea from Fran. I also found a statistic that states "Americans spend more than two and a half times on salty snacks than they do on libraries." I printed this on address labels and stuck it to little packs of peanuts. I found more statistics about the cost effectiveness of libraries on the ALA Advocacy page and printed those on a notecard that I attached to a little bag of "gold" gum.

My first meeting was with the office of Representative Jeff Duncan and my fellow school librarian, Kathy Sutusky, went to Representative Tim Scott's office. The student notes were a big hit with the staff and I hope that it helped us make our point. I can't say that we had any major revelations about libraries or concrete assurances regarding funding, but I do feel good knowing that we voiced our concerns for libraries. Unfortunately due to travel arrangements I could not visit more offices, but the delegation took the notes and gifts with them to share. They reported to me later that they were a great tool as the visits continued. One of the public librarians said he was inspired by our visual aids and had ideas for next year.
One of the major issues that has haunted me since I left is that we are not doing enough to show the non-librarian community what we do. We must do a better job showing the impact we have on student achievement.
What can you do?
Write your legislators requesting that they fund LSTA, ILSL, E-rate and that they vote to include school librarians in the reauthorization of ESEA.
Create a monthly report to share with your principal.
Create an annual report to share with teachers, administrators, district personnel, school board, local government and community.
Use assessments like TRAILS to show your impact.
Participate in Snapshot Day and use that data to highlight our services and impact.

What other ideas do you have?

I'm a Winner!

Abriendo el pack del Smartpenphoto © 2009 Antonio Domingo | more info (via: Wylio)

I am very excited to be one of the winners of an Echo Smartpen education bundle from Livescribe. To celebrate Teacher Appreciation week Livescribe hosted a contest on Twitter. Winners had to be the first to answer a trivia question about the smartpens. To see all of the winners check out the bios here. Follow them @Livescribek12 because they plan another contest this summer. Their site has many useful and short videos about how to use the pens and suggestions for using them in the most effective ways.
I have written about my desire to use smartpens and now I am thrilled to give it a try. Sixth graders are currently working on booktalk scripts that I hope to turn into pencasts for our state junior book award nominees. I plan to train our teachers on using the device and hope that it will circulate throughout school and help our students learn many different subjects. You do not have to wait on the summer contest because the pen is not outrageously expensive. Last check on Amazon was $121.
Anyone else out there using this nifty tool?