Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Trends in Middle Grade Books

I was excited to meet my Goodreads reading goal of 300 books in 2012 and I'm looking forward to many great titles in 2013. I hope to get my students excited about reading in this new year as well.
I saw this fun list from the Scholastic editors that predicts some of the book trends in 2013.  
I thought it would be fun to add more titles to their list and create a bulletin board. I put together these two posters and you are welcome to use them to talk about trends with your students. I tried to find recent or soon to be released titles, but threw in a few older titles that fit the trend perfectly.

2013 slide 12013 slide 2

My Flickr Photostream. I found the font on Urban Fonts. If you are a member of NetGalley you can find many of these titles online.

When we return to school the first visit with my 6th graders will include an introduction to Six Flags Read to Succeed.  I'll be showing them a video clip of a roller coaster ride from the passenger's point of view. You can find several fun choices on Youtube. That should grab their attention. Then we'll talk about the guidelines for the challenge and hand out reading logs. If you have students in 6th grade or lower you can sign up for free.

Enjoy the remainder of your holiday break and I hope you have a wonderful start to 2013.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Commercials and Propaganda

This week I've been teaching my 6th graders about propaganda using Christmas commercials. This is a lesson I've done for the past two years. Each year I tweak it a little and every year it is a big hit with the students.
We start the lesson with a fun, engaging warm up. I used the Retail Alphabet Game as inspiration to create an alphabet using letters from different brands, restaurants and stores. I put all the letters on one slide and ask the students to write the alphabet down the side of a piece of paper and write down as many brands as they can identify. After a few minutes we go through each one and find out which student had the most correct. I especially enjoy seeing students that are not necessarily the most "academic" show off their memory skills. I explain that we used this game to illustrate how advertising influences us and gets into our brain. This is why it is so important to understand the techniques advertisers use to influence your life.
We quickly review the five types of propaganda that they learned in class. The five techniques are Name calling, Fear, Testimonial, Bandwagon and Plain Folks. Up next is an informal assessment. We watch commercials that I found on Youtube and they have to identify which technique(s) were used in each one. I try to find Christmas commercials when possible, but for some techniques that is difficult.
These are the playlists I have compiled for this year.
Name Calling
Plain Folks
This is one of my personal favorites from the testimonial category and always a hit with the kids.

To wrap up the day we take a quick slogan quiz. I put slogans on the board and they have to identify them as quickly as possible. This year we're adding a project to the lesson. Students will be creating a virtual poster on one of the techniques using Poster My Wall. This has become my go-to site for replacing Glogster. This is also my opportunity to introduce them to proper image citation. I look forward to seeing the creative ways they illustrate their assigned technique.

Do you have any creative Christmas lessons to share? I'm always on the look out for how to make topics relevant and fun for our students. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Epic Fail

Ok, so maybe epic fail is a bit of an exaggeration. I usually blog about lessons or events that go well so I felt it was only fair that I share about my plans that don't live up to my expectations.
This year after being inspired by the Level Up Book Club I started a reading program with my 6th graders called Reader's Quest. It started out well enough with lots of activity on our Edmodo group pages and several students earning badges quickly; however, it has fizzled out as the year has gone on. The majority of this fizzle is due to my inattention. I could list the other things fighting for my attention and time, but we all have a long list so I'll spare you the details. Right now there is only one student that still actively tries to earn badges and a small group of students that consistently post on Edmodo.

Now I'm left to decide if I will continue the program after Christmas. Should I continue as is and just target those students that seem to be interested? Should I revamp it and have a "pep rally" meeting about it? Should I scrap it, think about it more and try again next year? Or should I focus on other activities that seem to have a larger impact? For example, this year I didn't have a student book club because of limited time. In that past I have had two book clubs: one book club that anyone could join and we met monthly during our Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) time and another one for male reluctant readers from each grade that met with me daily during SSR. I tracked benchmark testing scores and Lexile levels for my boys and saw a significant improvement (average of 14 point increase in MAP reading scores from Fall to Spring and every student increased at least one Lexile level). Should I focus on those activities where I can show my impact with hard data? Maybe I'm giving up to early. I need to think about this over the Christmas break.

This year we also utilized gaming elements in a new professional development course called Level Up Tech Quest. Librarians provide a great deal of the professional development for our district, something I'm very proud of. Each year we are asked to do more and more. In response Kristen Hearne, Monique German and I created this self paced online course. Teachers often complain that there isn't enough free, tech PD offered by the district, yet we had only 7 teachers sign up and 2 of those dropped out quickly! As of today only 1 has kept up with the challenges and turned in her monthly point totals. We are still going to finish creating the course and have plans to offer it again next year since all the work will basically be complete at that point. I have a few ideas about why so few teachers are participating.
1. Many teachers only complete the minimum number of hours to be renewed
2. Tech savvy teachers have plenty of hours from other activities and don't want to add more to their plate
3. Teachers that need the hours and are techphobic are intimidated by the self paced online course and prefer face to face sessions
I'm not sure why we have such a small group, but I still really like this course and have had positive feedback from our little group this year. Maybe next year we will have a larger group.

These disappointments are in no way a reflection of gamification. I still believe that injecting gaming elements in learning can benefit many students. Rather than a judgement of gamification, I believe these programs demonstrate a weakness is my planning.

When you are one person with limited time and energy it is hard to make these choices because if you are like me you see value in so many ideas. It can be difficult to decide where to focus your effort. After some reflection, I hope to make some decisions and do what is best for my students and me. Eating lunch and being able to go to the restroom are priorities that I need to make time for.

Edublog Nominations 2012

Every year I look forward to the Edublog nominations and awards. I always find more people to add to my PLN. And I like to pay it forward because I was fortunate enough to be nominated and it really encouraged me to keep learning, sharing and blogging.
Here are my nominations:
Best Group Blog: Nerdy Book Club
I love this community of readers and I'm constantly inspired to add to my TBR pile.
Best New Blog: It All Started in the Library
This blog is written by my fellow SC librarian, Lorena Swetnam. She has lots of great ideas and I am always excited when I have a new post from her in my reader.
Best Library/Librarian Blog: Mrs. Readerpants
This is always the hardest category because I love so many of them, but this year I want to recognize Mrs. Readerpants for her middle grade book reviews and creative ideas. I've used many lesson ideas from her blog.
Best Individual Tweeter: Nikki D. Robertson
Nikki has worked so hard getting #tlchat organized each month and she always has great library ideas and lessons to share. If there was a Pinterest category she would win that as well. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest for display ideas, resources and more.
Best Twitter Hashtag: #tlchat
This is a no brainer. I love this hashtag and have really enjoyed the recent addition of the live chat each month.
Best Free Web Tool: Edmodo
For this category I tried to think of the tools I use the most. I love Goodreads, Postermywall, Picmonkey, Big Huge Labs and more, but no site as much as Edmodo. We use it for creating a community of student readers and to facilitate PD in my district.
Best Webinar series: TL Virtual Cafe
I've been lucky enough to present as part of this series and each month I'm excited to "attend" the webinars to be inspired and make new librarian connections.
Best Mobile App: Remind 101
This app (and site) has been an excellent addition to our outreach to parents at my school. The tool allows you to create text notification groups without sharing your number or collecting student and parent numbers. I have a group for the library and many teachers have a group for their classes as well. We send homework reminders, school news, library program dates and more. If you aren't using it you should take a look.

Big thanks to Edublogs for sponsoring these awards each year. Good luck to all the nominees.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Read Your Way Across the USA

I loved this post and poster from Epic Reads.

While some of these titles are in my middle school library, many of them are for high school only. So my buddies and I were thinking of doing a middle school version, but we need help thinking of titles for each state. Please help out with a few suggestions. The spreadsheet is here.
We promise to share when its all together. Thanks for your help!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Faculty Book Club: Divergent

Today we had our faculty book club meeting to discuss Divergent. Everyone enjoyed the book and we had great discussion about the factions, how society today is divided, what we would see in our own fear landscapes and more. It was a lot of fun as always. The bonus was the delicious food our assistant principal prepared for the meeting. Yum!
To make the day fun we dressed as our favorite faction. There were several Dauntless, a few Candor and ,of course, the nerdy librarian had to be Erudite. I forwarded a link to this site to give people a few ideas before the meeting.
Have you read Divergent yet? I liked it even better than The Hunger Games.

For our next selection we are going to read a historical fiction novel. I'm putting together a list to vote on right now.
Here are a few contenders:

The nonfiction book, The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin, is also on the list. It was the winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.

What historical book would you recommend?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Hallow's Read

To celebrate Halloween the 7th graders came to the library for creepy book trailers and to share ghost stories. Middle schoolers love Halloween and love to be scared so we had a great time.
Here are some of the book trailers I shared.

I love this book and think the book trailer is one of the best I've ever seen.

This was one of my favorite creepy books from my summer reading.

A few years old, but still has a long waiting list at my school and when the movie comes out it will resurge in popularity. This is also a wonderfully made trailer.

You can't show creepy book trailers without talking about Mary Downing Hahn. Always a favorite at my school.

Another book that is a few years old, but the sequel From Bad to Cursed came out this year which generated more interest. Great cover!

I also showed this video just for fun.

We let students share their own ghost stories. The students with the best stories were awarded their very own scary book in the spirit of All Hallow's Read.

I gave away copies of The Seer of Shadows by Avi, The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki, The 39 Clues: Cahills Vs Vespers by Gordon Korman, Peak by Roland Smith, and a few others.

What do you do for Halloween?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Literary Cafe: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

After seeing this Nerdy Book Club post I knew I wanted to have a book cafe of my own. I asked my 6th grade ELA teachers if they would be interested and they said yes. Their first class novel is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. Some of the issues in the book include the Great Depression, school segregation, separate but equal, boycotts, and sharecropping. So I took those issues and tried to think of activities that would help prepare the students to read and understand the novel. The four stations that we agreed on were:
1) Read short articles about boycotts (both in the past and more recent) and create a Tagxedo using important words from the articles. I found articles on Tween Tribune and in our state databases. You can see in the picture below that this student read about Claudette Colvin and created a bus shaped Tagxedo using words from the article.

2) Preview books about segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, find pictures about events and people from the time period and create a photo collage using Students found the site easy to use and were able to explore many images from this time period.

3) Complete a sharecropping math worksheet and writing activity. I found this activity online and used it as a model. Few students were able to earn money at the end of the activity, which illustrated the vicious cycle of sharecropping. The reflection questions on the back helped students put themselves in the sharecroppers' shoes.

4) Watch a Discovery Education United Streaming video featuring interviews of those that grew up in a segregated South and those from sharecropping families. While watching the movie they enjoyed mini cornbread muffins (a food mentioned in the book).

The students were able to create several nice products, both collages and word clouds. Their reflections were thoughtful and reactions to the video were empathetic. I believe this was an excellent way to prepare them for reading the book. I look forward to hearing from the teachers about how the students are able to connect these activities to the novel when they begin reading this week. 

Have you ever had a book/literary cafe? I would love to hear your ideas.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Exploring the Role of Literature in Common Core Standards

These are the presentation slides for the Simple K12 webinar Kristen Hearne and I presented this week. You can view the full archived video and the other videos from the Common Core day of learning by becoming a full member of the Simple K12 community.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Day of Learning: Common Core

Preparing for the Common Core standards has become the main priority in my school and district and probably yours too. I was able to bring home several ideas from the NC conference and we've been sharing what we're doing through the TL Virtual Cafe, district training and conference presentations. Now I can add another webinar to that list.
 Kristen Hearne and I will be presenting a webinar on the Simple K12's Day of Learning this Thursday, October 18th. We are presenting "Exploring the Role of Literature in Common Core Standards". All of the webinars are free. You can see the full list for that day here.
We would love to see you there and hope that you'll check out the full list and help yourself prepare as the standards are implemented in your state.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Infographics Update

We have been steadily working on infographics with my 7th graders. They are amazing me with their creativity and talent. Several students are finished so I wanted to share more of their work. You can see examples on my Flickr photostream here and I've embedded a slideshow of the set below.

This project has been an excellent way to teach citation (and you can see from some of the examples we still have work to do), Creative Commons images, design elements, and research skills. Many students had so many citations that it was on a separate slide. When I printed them on the poster maker I combined the slides, but I didn't include them in the Flickr set.
At the end of this month several students from this class will be presenting to teachers from all over our district about the project. A few teachers have asked me about sharing the details of the project. The classroom teacher and I spoke about it and we wanted to include the students. Many of the students are excited about the project and they are busy planning how they want to lead the session. I will give an update after the presentation. Please enjoy looking at their work and feel free to contact me if I can be of help if you want to give this a try.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sharing and Learning

This month has been a busy one for presentations. We kicked off the month with our TL Virtual Cafe webinar, Your Common Core Secret Weapon. Monique, Kristen and I had a great time with that presentation. We were honored to be invited.
Then days later Monique and I hit the road to attend and present at the North Carolina School Library Media Association conference. The conference theme was the Common Core standards so we were excited to present and also learn from our neighboring librarians. We presented "Keeping Lit @ the Core" together and I presented "Learn to Love Nonfiction". We had a wonderful time, learned so many things we want to try at home, saw old friends and met lots of new ones.
A few highlights for me were:
1. Seeing my friends Jennifer Northrup and April Dawkins, conference organizer extraordinaire.
2. Meeting two of my heroes face to face, Buffy Hamilton and Jennifer LaGarde. And we were color coordinated:)

3. Leaving inspired by ideas shared at the conference like Jennifer L.'s gaming session with her math teacher Ryan Redd, Jennifer N.'s collaboration advice, a lesson on weeding with students from Heather S., showing instructional impact from two USC professors and many more. Conference handouts and presentations are shared online here.
4. Of course, it is always great to spend time with my PLN face to face. My partner in crime, Monique German, and our SC friends Fran Bullington, Cathy Jo Nelson, Heather Loy, Susan Meyer as well as meeting new NC friends Jennifer Abel, Tavia Clark, Deanna Harris, Paige Ysteboe and more that I probably follow on Twitter, but just didn't get to talk to. 

Monique and I presented "Keeping Lit @ the Core". We thought this would be a timely concept because so many teachers and librarians are worried that the emphasis on nonfiction in the standards could be taken to the extreme, leaving recreational reading out in the cold. We shared the fiction/nonfiction breakdowns from the standards, the part of the standards that mention student selected reading, expert opinions on the value of recreational reading and strategies for continuing to market and promote fiction to our students and teachers. Here is my Pinterest board of middle grade books that fit the CC evaluation guidelines and my board on CC resources.

Keeping Lit at the Core from bibliogerman

Immediately following this session I presented "Learn to Love Nonfiction". I thought it was funny that I presented one hour about how much I love fiction and then one hour about how much I love nonfiction. I do enjoy purchasing and promoting nonfiction to my students so this was a fun session for me. I shared strategies for preparing your collection for the Common Core standards, the importance of weeding, ideas for promoting nonfiction, why we should highlight nonfiction and suggested titles to build up your high interest nonfiction collection. I also spent a fair amount of time talking about how and why I ditched Dewey. The rabble rouser in me loves to talk about this and see the audience reaction. It is a mix of horror and intrigue. It never gets old. You can see my on the Dewey Free library here

Learn to love nonfiction from Palmetto Middle School

You can see the list of titles I shared on this Goodreads list. Feel free to download the slides and use as signs in your library. If you find either of these sessions helpful I would love to hear about it.

Thanks to all of the NC librarians for a wonderful conference, hospitality, sharing and networking. I had a great time. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Show Me Your Data: Infographics with 7th Graders

Last week I started working with two classes of 7th graders on creating infographics. This is a joint project with one of our related arts teachers that has daily access to the computer lab. I'm working on my National Board application this year and I've been trying to decide what student work I wanted to submit. Most of my student work comes from research projects, but I couldn't use those because the big research projects are done in the Spring when the application is due. So I had to think of other ideas. This teacher came to mind because we spoke before the start of school about increasing the rigor of one of her newsletter assignments. I've wanted to try infographics with our students for a while so this seemed like a perfect fit. All these factors came together with this project.
Only a few students are finished, but they are creating such wonderful products that I wanted to share the project with others. Students have already started newsletters on a topic of their choice. The related arts teacher helped them pinpoint a topic and begin gathering information. I came in and led the infographic portion which will be one page of their newsletter.
I started by explaining the concept of infographics and the steps they will follow to create their own. You can find my presentation, student research worksheet, rubric, templates and citation guide here. Feel free to use. I've cited my sources at the end of the Power Point if you want more information. My most invaluable resource was Kathy Schrock's page. After going through the steps with them we gave them time to explore all types of infographics online. This helped them find inspiration for creating their own.
The following day I came in and talked more about citation and showed them how to use Son of Citation Machine. They were mad that I had not shown them this last year, but I explained that the teachers' asked me not to because they wanted them to learn the old fashioned way first. I hope they will continue to use this site in the future. After a few practice citations we let them begin finding images and data that they could use for their infographics.
The third day we began creating the infographic in Power Point. That's right, Power Point. This is what I use to create library posters and even an infographic showing the steps of this project. I've looked at other infographic creators online and haven't found one that I really like yet. After showing them a few tricks like sending images to the front or back, setting a transparent color, changing orientation, and importing an Excel graph they were off. They are creating amazing products and seem to be having so much fun with this project.
Here is an example of one of the infographics. I'm so proud of these students and can't wait to share their creations with our administrators.

Anorexia Infographic

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Common Core: Love it or Hate It?

Whether you love the Common Core standards or hate them, this is an issue in which librarians need to be active, vocal participants. Thanks to Gwyneth Jones, my colleagues, Kristen Hearne & Monique German, and I were interviewed for an Edweek article. Kristen was our spokesperson and Monique was our lovely model. Overall I believe the journalist did a good job explaining how librarians play a role in the new standards. I do have one issue, the title.
Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

The leadership role we play in our district isn't a result of the standards. We simply used the new standards to highlight skills we already had. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if is wasn't for my bold, sometimes annoying habit of sticking my nose into everything we might have been left completely out of the implementation of the standards. When I look at the standards it screams librarian to me, but that isn't so obvious to others. Actually this is why we had the idea of calling ourselves a "Common Core Secret Weapon". Librarians are not the obvious go-to person, but we should be. The standards didn't inspire our administrators to think of us. We were left out of the initial preparations.  Our district administrators started scheduling Common Core training at the end of last year. I found out about the training from emails sent to the English teachers. Was I invited? No! Did I sit back and pout about how nobody ever thinks about librarians? No! I invited myself. I asked my school principal if I could attend with our teachers and he agreed. During the training I frequently raised my hand to share how librarians could fit into the implementation of the standards. Looking for novels that fit the new criteria? We can help with that. Looking for interdisciplinary projects? We can help with that. Looking for ways to integrate nonfiction? We can help with that. You get the idea. Even more important, the administrators leading the training got the idea. After the meeting ended she asked if I thought we should have a special meeting with the librarians to talk about the new standards. Yes, please!!

The librarian meeting was scheduled with our Director of Elementary Education who organized the Common Core training. We all had an opportunity to share our concerns, ask questions, and suggest ways we could help with the new standards. During the meeting our Superintendent and Associate Superintendent came in to see how the training was going for the day. He was surprised. He thought the only training that day was for the special education teachers. He asked why we were meeting? Surely not about Common Core. In fact, yes. So we had a few minutes to tell him how we fit in. Is this a poor reflection on him? No, we all love and respect him. He is a wonderful superintendent that has done his best to protect librarians and our budgets during these tough financial times. I tell this story to show you that we are a small part of a big education system. Classroom teachers are the majority and administrators have to focus on them most of the time. And rightfully so. That means we have to work extra hard to make sure we are not forgotten and that we share our contributions and impact. If that means you crash a meeting now and then, by all means, do it!
We have come a long way since that first meeting and we are looking forward to sharing what we have done at the next TL Virtual Cafe webinar.

If you read the Edweek article you may have seen the comments from Stephen Krashen. You can see them here as well. I highly respect him and can't think of a single time when I've disagreed with his articles, comments or speeches. The same applies in this case. I agree with his concerns over too much testing and that poverty is the real enemy of education, not teachers, old standards, or teacher evaluation. In fact I've written about poverty and the library before. The way I see it we have a few choices about what we do next. We can sit back, change nothing and feel sorry for ourselves that the standards have been forced upon us. Or we can take this opportunity to highlight libraries and librarian contributions. If you agree with Krashen's comments about the standards, take action.
Here are a few ways you can get involved in education and library policy.

  1. Sign up to receive the library text alerts so you can email, tweet, call and write your legislators when library legislation is under consideration. 
  2. Get involved with education organizations that speak on your behalf. Just joining an organization sends some funds to national advocacy efforts.
  3. Does your state library organization have an advocacy or legislative committee? If so, join. I'm on both and was the legislative committee chair last year. 
  4. Does your state send a representative to Library Legislative Day? Find out. Volunteer to go if no one else is representing your state. I've been the last two years and it is a wonderful experience.
  5. Get involved in state initiatives like our SCASL Snapshot Day. Nothing like that in your state? Start one.
  6. Vote! It boggles my mind that there are teachers who chose not to vote. These are the people that determine your salary and the policies that govern you. Do you need more reasons to vote?
You are probably like me, no one asked if you wanted the Common Core standards. Like most education policies it was decided for us. Now it is up to us to make the most of it. Love them or hate them, we have to act. You can continue to voice your issues with the standards and still use them as an impetus to do good in your own school. If they create some new kind of standards in a few years, you better believe I'll be searching for ways librarians fit in and advertising it to the administrators. We have two jobs, voice opinions about education policy and do the best with what we have right now.

Hope to see you at the webinar where you can hear about what we've done and share your own ideas.

Make Your Mark: Dot Day

I have the pleasure of serving two special education classrooms at my school, one class is for profoundly mentally disabled (PMD) and one class is for trainable mentally disabled (TMD). This week we had two fun projects going on. We celebrated International Dot Day and they conducted research projects.
For Dot Day, I read the book to the students then we used the Doodle Buddy app on the iPads to create our own dot artwork. I even wore my polka dot dress for the event. We had a great time and their artwork turned out so beautiful. You can see more Dot Day ideas on the Fablevision site when you sign up to celebrate or follow the #dotday hashtag on Twitter. Also check out Matthew Winner's Dot Day Connector's Map. I love the message of making your mark in the world.

The class conducted research projects this week as well. I pulled nonfiction books that were written at an elementary reading level range with lots of pictures. The teaching assistants read the books to the students several times and used an outline to fill in information about the topic. Posters were made using the outlines and pictures of the students being read to. The teacher recorded parts of the outlines on a speaker button. The students came to the library and presented their topics. The teacher's assistants held up the poster and the students touched the buttons to play the recorded reports. I can't take much credit for this project. The PMD teacher is excellent at thinking of ways to adapt assignments to fit her students' abilities. 

The class comes to the library once a week. Sometimes we have lessons or special activities. Next week we are making Fall trees. The tree trunk is pre-drawn on the paper and the students tear construction paper to make leaves and glue them on. We will read Fall themed books to go along with the activity. Sometimes we just have storytime. Occasionally I read to them, but my student helpers usually take over and want to read to them each visit. This year we are using genre cards to make sure the students check books out from each fiction and nonfiction area. We created a list of each area and printed one for each student. My library helpers mark off each genre when checking out the books. To make sure the students have choice we printed the sticker for each area and put a few out and have the students choose which sticker they like the best. For example, the teacher will hold up the Animals, Fantasy and Science stickers and the student will point to or grab the picture they like. Then we lay books face out on a table for that area. The student can look at the covers and pick a book from the table. This system is working great so far and it is helping the students read a variety of books instead of picking from the same favorite books. 
Do you serve any special education classes? If so, what types of activities or lessons do you do together?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Faculty Book Club: Choose Kind

We had another faculty book club meeting today. We had a great time with the 12 in attendance. This time we talked about Wonder by RJ Palacio.
We listened to the songs from the book and discussed the book. I used these questions on the Wonder web page and a few from the Sharp-Schu Twitter book club meeting to prompt discussion. I printed a copy of the precepts for everyone to take home. There are so many powerful lessons in this book that discussion was lively and engaging. Some of the highlights for me were hearing thoughts from one of our special education teachers and listening to our assistant principal's opinion of how they introduced Auggie to the students and how we would handle a situation like this at our school. I wanted to show the Choose Kind Tumblr, but it is blocked at our school. I did share the link with them and hope they take a look from home.
We will be voting on our next book soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Librarians: The Common Core Secret Weapon

Last year I had the pleasure of presenting a TL Virtual Cafe session, PD With a Twist, with my long distance librarian bestie, Tiff Whitehead. I was honored when I was asked back. This year I'm thrilled to be presenting a TL Virtual Cafe session with my best buds, Kristen Hearne and Monique German. I am so lucky to work with these two ladies and I can't wait for everyone to virtually meet them. We adapted the Common Core  presentation that we presented this summer at the Upstate Technology Conference. The original presentation was to administrators. We will be sharing how librarians can become Common Core experts and how they can play a leading role in helping their school implement the new standards.
If you would like to hear more, we invite you to attend. We would love to hear your ideas too. The wiki page for the session is here.

Be there for the first TL Virtual Cafe session of the school year, Back to School Special with Tiff Whitehead, Jennifer LaGarde and Gwyneth Jones. I look forward to hearing all of the creative ideas that they will share next Monday night at 8. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Crushing on the Romance Section

The kids have been back for almost two weeks and I FINALLY finished my first visit with each class. Hooray! It was fun to talk books with the kids and hear about their summer reads and what they can't wait to read this year. Now that each class has had an opportunity to come in and check out books, I can see what is in high demand. When I genriefied my fiction at the end of the year, my main motive was to make books easier to find for my students, but I never expected this arrangement to help me so much in creating a book order. My Thriller and Humor areas are almost empty, but nothing compares to this sad, lonely and barren Romance section. Untitled
I assure you these shelves were completely full on the first day of school. So full that I had books sitting on top of rows. These empty sheves tells me I have some work to do to meet the demands of my girls.
I've been hard at work this afternoon searching through Goodreads, Amazon, Follett, and some of my favorite book bloggers to find suggestions to add to this section.
Those of you who are also in middle school know how hard this is. We want beautiful covers, stories mature enough to keep the girls interested and engaged, but not too mature or sexy. We need sweet, innocent crush stories for our sixth graders and emotional drama for our eighth graders. I hope I've hit the mark with these titles.

This is what I plan to order in alphabetical order:
1. Beauty and the Beast: the Only One Who Didn't Run Away by Wendy Mass
2. Boy Crazy by Hailey Abbott
3. Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
4. The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
5. Freshman Year and other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zietlin
6. Friend Is Not a Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft
7. Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott
8. In Your Room by Jordanna Frailberg
9. Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti
10. Love? Maybe by Heather Hepler
11. Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
12. Pizza, Love and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams
13. Prada & Prejudice by Amanda Hubbard
14. Rapunzel: The One With All the Hair by Wendy Mass
15. Rumors From the Boys Room by Rose Cooper
16. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
17. Secrets from the Sleeping Bag by Rose Cooper
18. The Selection by Kiera Cass (2 copies)
19. Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby
20. Shug by Jenny Han
21. Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita
22. Sleeping Beauty: The One Who Took the Really Long Nap by Wendy Mass
23. So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti
24. Throwing Like a Girl by Weezie Kerr Mackey
25. Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
26. What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook
27. You Are Here by Jennifer Smith

Here are a few titles that have been popular, I've already ordered because I read and liked them or they are already on hold many times over this year:
The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers
Pinned by Sharon Flake
Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroder
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Boy Project by Kami Kinard
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Matched by Ally Condie
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Lots of Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks and the usual suspects, Twilight series, Shiver series, etc.

What romance novels would you recommend for middle school? What are your popular romance titles?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Impressions and the First Library Visit

The first time my new 6th graders see me is when I visit their elementary schools to talk about summer reading and share book trailers. I've even brought along the iPods with recorded book talks loaded so they can listen to them. It is important to me that their first impression and interaction with me is a positive one. I don't talk about rules, policies or procedures. I talk about how much fun we have, books I love and how excited I am to have them at our school.
I'm sure to include the library on the 5th grade tour in the Spring as well as the first day of school tour when they arrive. I'm there for assemblies and parent night so they get used to thinking of me as part of their team of teachers. Luckily I have several excellent teachers that go to extremes to include me so I am lucky. This year my best friend brought me two giveaway Hunger Games posters from the movie release and the idea to hold a drawing on parent night for those that visited the library. That was genius and so simple. I had 67 students and families stop by and normally I have less than 10. Definitely doing that again next year.
Here are my plans for their first official library visit. For every grade we talk about book trends and watch book trailers to build excitement about reading. This year I'm using slides that Kristen, Monique and I created for our novel staff development session last week. You may recognize them from our Nerdy Book Club post with our spectacular high school colleague, Jen Chesney.
This was one of our slides that I turned into a book display.

There will not be discussion of rules yet. The only policy I plan to share is the number of books they can check out and how to put books on hold.
Here is my book trailer playlist.
We are planning a library QR code scavenger hunt for the 6th grade's second visit. I used the cute graphic from the Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones, to make a handout. They will use the iPods to view our catalog, library website, and the site Your Next Read, in addition to exploring different areas of the library and answering questions about the room.
For another of the first visits we'll use this idea from Mrs. ReaderPantz. Students will use my version of her genre quiz to find their favorites. This is especially important this year because I genrefied fiction.
Soon we'll be doing a version of this book cover/book pass activity from Teen Librarian Toolbox. We'll also be signing up for Edmodo accounts and getting started on Reader's Quest with 6th grade. The teachers have already reserved a spot for me on their weekly homework handout. I'll post updates on that soon.
I hope you all have made a positive first impression with your students.
What do you do for your first library visit?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Library to Home Connection

I love working with middle schoolers, but it seems that staying connected with parents becomes more difficult at this age. Parents want to give their students more responsibility and independence and the students often sabotage parent involvement in order to protect their tween/teen reputation. One of my goals this year is to increase parent communication from the library.
I was inspired by Shannon Miller's beautiful newsletter created on Smore. Since then I have seen several other cute librarian newsletters made on this site including The Unquiet Library, my MLIS buddy Sharon Matney's newsletter for Lake Murray Elementary, and the talented and creative Valerie Byrd Fort at New Providence Elementary.
I plan to share our newsletter on our school Facebook page to keep parents and students updated on library events.

Another initiative I want to continue is Happy Calls. I read about this at the Shelf Consumed blog. I shoot for one positive parent phone call per day or five in one day for the week, but sometimes I'll admit I get busy and miss days. I try to chose students that are not always recognized and rewarded and compliment their reading, behavior and character. I've had lots of positive response from parents and students and it really does not take long.

Our first task in the Level Up Tech Quest is School-Home communication. I would love for you take a look at the page I put together and share some of the ideas with your own faculty or use them in your library. There are lots of good ideas that I've found searching through articles and blogs this summer.

This year I'm going to try for National Board certification. The convincing Tiffany Whitehead encouraged me to go for it with her this year and parent communication is one of the priorities in the porfolio. I'm hoping these efforts will help me with this portion and, most importantly, create a bridge between our library and student homes.

What do you do to connect with parents?

Are You Ready for the Reader's Quest?

This summer I participated in the Level Up Book Club. Our first read and Twitter chats inspired two new programs.  Our professional development program, Level Up Tech Quest, which you can read about here. The second idea was a reading program in the style of a game. I noticed that many games mentioned in our first read, Reality is Broken, were quests so I thought Reader's Quest would be a cute name. I started a Google doc to share with the group so that we could all share our ideas and my PLN delivered, as always. These are the current contributors:

Katy @katyvance - Secondary Librarian (6-12) at a Pre-K-12 school
Tamara Cox @coxtl- Middle school (6-8)
Jennifer Northrup @candidlibrarian - Middle school (6-8)
Tiff Whitehead - @librarian_tiff - Middle School (6-8)
Misti Sikes- @mistisikes - Elementary School (PreK-5)
Kristina Thoennes @kamtonnes - Intermediate School (4-6)

We welcome you to go and add your own thoughts and ideas. Special thanks goes to the amazing Tiffany Whitehead for creating this beautiful logo and sharing it with us. You can read about how she is going to use Reader's Quest at her school here.

My motivations for implementing a reading program include helping student set and meet reading goals, encourage reading a variety of genres and types of text, build a community of readers, and recognize reading accomplishments.

This year I'm going to use the program with 6th grade so that I can work out all the details and find out how to manage the additional workload before going school-wide. We will be using Edmodo to create Reader's Quest groups for each 6th grade team. Luckily the 6th grade teachers have already discussed using Edmodo in their classroom so we will be able to integrate this into the normal classroom routine pretty easily.

Students can earn badges to display on their Edmodo profile to indicate the challenges they have completed. Read about Edmodo badges here. You can see Tiff's badges on Flickr. These are the badges I plan to use.

  • Mustang Reader: Write a post sharing the first title you checked out from the library.
  • Summer Reader: Turn in a summer reading log.
  • Fiction Master: Read at least one book from each of the 13 fiction genres in the library.
  • Fiction Ninja: Read at least one book from 6 fiction genres in the library.
  • Nonfiction Master: Read at least one book from each of the 23 nonfiction subject area including biography.
  • Nonfiction Ninja: Read at least one book from 11 nonfiction subject areas.
  • Manga Master: Finish an entire manga series.
  • Review Master: Post at least three book reviews on Edmodo or share a book review on our morning news program.
  • Storyteller Master: Read to our special education students.
  • SC Junior Book Award Master: Read at least 3 SC JBA nominees (our state book award program)
  • SC Junior Book Award Boss: Read all twenty nominees.
  • Recommendation Master: Post at least 5 recommendations on our library displays
  • Secret Reading Missions: Complete challenges that can be found on ELA handouts or hidden in the library.
I have three library displays that allow students to contribute their suggestions.

On "Now That's What I Call Books" students can post their favorite books. It is taped on a door's window.
On the "Recommend A..." poster they can recommend a certain book like a sad book, book with green cover, etc. The full list can be seen here.

On the "Reading Takes You Places" map student put flags on the map indicating the setting for books they read.

I have ideas for the secret reading missions like rereading a childhood favorite and writing a post about it, reading a fiction/nonfiction pairing, carry a book to lunch to share at the table, take a picture of you reading in your favorite place, upload video book reviews, record Smartpen booktalks, and any other activity to reinforce lessons in ELA and the library.

A few other ideas I have to interact with students using Edmodo is to create monthly reading interview videos when teachers, administrators, parents or community members to share their reading lives, favorite books or how reading impacted their life.

I am considering having students set reading goals with me and their ELA teacher. The goals could be pages per week, books per month, time per week, benchmark testing, Lexile or anything the teacher feels they should focus on.

I'm looking forward to sharing the program with the students and seeing how the program affects our students' reading habits. I'll post updates during the year.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Read It Before You See It

My other librarians in the middle, Kristen and Monique, and I are putting together a presentation for our middle school ELA teachers to share the latest and greatest novels. You can see the list we're working on in Goodreads. We did a similar session in the Spring and we created bookmarks of trends. We were inspired by the Teen Librarian Toolbox and our high school counterpart, Jen Chesney, and decided to create a poster of the trends with book covers. I'm the graphically challenged portion of our trio so I'm not putting that together, but I did put together a poster for upcoming book to movie adaptations. Feel free to share and use if you like. We're going to print a few posters to give as door prizes at our session and I'll put up a copy in the library.

Books to Movies 2012-2013

Are you doing a similar session? How are you sharing new novels with your teachers? We will share our book posters soon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinterest Show and Tell

Today I was trying to come up with a few new ideas for professional development sessions that I could lead as part of our Tech Flex program.  As I wandered around online looking for ideas I remembered seeing something called a Pinterest party. Pinterest parties usually involve women bringing a dish made from a Pinterest recipe and materials to make a craft from the site. Some parties let people trade so they leave with the materials to make a craft, while others allow you to make a craft during the party. I have seen tons of teacher crafts on Pinterest, but I thought requiring teachers to bring materials would be too much for the large number of people that will be in attendance.
I love sessions like Appy Hours and Smackdowns, when participants share tools, so I thought I could apply that model to Pinterest. So my idea is to have a Pinterest Show and Tell.

I'll start the session describing Pinterest for those that may not be using it yet. Then I'll share ways that teachers can use Pinterest, boards they might want to follow, and share a few of the best ideas I've seen and tried. Then the sharing begins. Teachers will send pictures of projects they've tried ahead of time so I can display them or bring the project with them to show the group. I will invite everyone to share their Pinterest account names so we can connect with each other and create group boards.

I think this will be a fun session. I'll write another post to let you know how it goes. Right now it looks like I'll be doing this at the end of September. If you have a Pinterest Show and Tell I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PD With Two Snaps and a Twist

Any In Living Color fans out there? Anybody? Maybe its just me. You may remember the PD With a Twist session I was lucky enough to present with Tiffany Whitehead. I presented a modified version at the Upstate Technology Conference with my buddies, Kristen and Monique. The librarians have become a major force in offering professional development for our district and we have done several unique programs, many of which are mentioned in the presentation. This year we were asked by our district office to put together more professional development options for our teachers.
Our 21 Things program was extremely popular last year so we wanted to do another self paced option. The only downside to self paced courses is a lack of face to face time so we wanted to have a more traditional option as well. Luckily I found inspiration from my PLN. I'm excited about what we are working on and feel that it steps it up even more than what we offered last year.
Our two new programs are Tech Flex and Level Up Tech Quest.

Tech Flex
I attended an AASL Webinar called "Tech Flex: A No Cost Staff Technology Training Program Organized and Guided by the Librarian" after seeing it advertised on Twitter. The webinar was presented by the librarian and assistant principal at Peter Township High School. They shared their Tech Flex program here. I was inspired. Kristen, Monique and I worked on a similar program. The flyer is below, designed by the talented Kristen Hearne. We are still putting the wiki together and hope to have something similar in organization to the TL Virtual Cafe wiki. Teacher presenters will receive a badge to add to their web page that says "I flexed by tech" and receive additional renewal credit hours.

Tech Flex Flyer
View more documents from khearne

Level Up Tech Quest
My PLN came to the rescue again for this idea. I'm participating in the Level Up Book Club this summer. During a Twitter chat, fellow book clubber and librarian, Aimee Bartis, mentioned a gaming professional development course in the works at her school. I had already been brainstorming a reading program with a gaming model, but had not considered it for PD. This was great! Using ideas from the book and the gaming aspects of the book club we came up with a professional development gaming program that would work for our school. Check out the flyer below. Our wiki is under construction, but you can see it here. To see the other ten challenges, click on Pages and Files. We're only putting the pages in the navigation tab when we begin that challenge to keep our teachers together as we progress through the year. We're going to use badges in Edmodo to reward our participants after each challenge. You can see the other details on the wiki and flyer.

Level Up Tech Quest Flyer
View more documents from khearne

I originally wanted to wait until the wikis were complete to blog about the programs, but I thought these ideas might inspire some of you so I'm sharing everything in its is current state. I wanted you to have time to think about it before school starts. I was inspired by others and hope that I can pass it on by sharing here. I would love to hear about the PD programs you are working on and if you try something I've shared here please let me know. My administrators are very impressed when our ideas spread. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

RSS Reader Clean Up

My family will be traveling soon and there will NOT be internet access. Two whole weeks! I'm both nervous and excited about this. Who am I kidding? I'm completely nervous and unsettled about this. Maybe that is an indication that I need to get away from my social media habit for a while. I think I'll be fine without most sites for a little while, like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. There is no way to keep up with everything that goes on these sites so I think I can just pick up right where I left off when I return to civilization. I am most upset that I will not be able to check my reader for two weeks. I read so many blogs that I think there will be hundreds of posts waiting on me. I know that I can click "Mark all as read", but I NEVER do that. I might miss the next Comic Life Tutorial from the Daring Librarian, the awesome library program created by Jennifer LaGarde, the update on Tiffany Whitehead's new library or the best middle grade novels from Mrs. Yingling or Mrs. Readerpantz. I can't let myself skip them.
My solution was to take this opportunity to clean out my reader. I often read blogs on a mobile device so unsubscribing isn't very easy and I just put off cleaning out those that I lost interest in. Today I finally took care of it. I ruthlessly weeded my feed and even dumped a few blogs that are well loved in the library world. I kept the blogs that genuinely inspire me, motivate me, provide practical and useful ideas, and support middle grade collection development. If you didn't make the list. I am sorry! You're probably not reading anyway though:)
These are the blogs that I'm keeping:

Book Review Blogs:
Amity Middle School-Bethany Book Blog- Love this blog because it is geared towards middle school and they share a wide range of books, including YA that is still Ok for my kids.
BookTalk: KidsRead: This blog is maintained by the King County Library System in Washington. They have an adult and teen section as well, but I read this one for middle grade books and books for my young son.
Story Snoops Blog: This blog shares great lists of books based on theme, suggestions for promoting reading to your kids, and it is a non-library perspective. The bloggers are moms and I like having that perspective on reviews.
GreenBeanTeenQueen: YA book reviewer. Love her YA movie news updates.
Guys Lit Wire: Reviews of boy friendly books. Not always Ok for middle school, but I feel strongly about providing materials for my boys so I appreciate this blog.
INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids: Started following this blog because of the Common Core standards. NF authors write posts about research, their books, school visits and more.
Miss Christine: Middle grade book reviews from an Iowa librarian.
Mrs. Hill's Book Blog: Middle grade and YA book reviews.
Mrs. Readerpantz: Love this blog. She includes a Bottom Line, Readalikes and Content sections to her reviews. Also shares program ideas, top ten lists and more. If you are in middle school you must read her blog and...
Ms. Yingling Reads: Middle grade reviews. I like that she shares the strengths and weaknesses of each book and she often picks boy friendly books.
Talking About Teen Books: YA book reviews.
Teach Mentor Texts: Reviews of all levels of books. I really like that they give you the age range to read alone or with teacher, complementary books, reading and writing strategies to address, writing prompts and topics covered for each review.
The Nonfiction Detectives: Two librarians review nonfiction. Another addition for me since getting into the Common Core standards.
YA Love: YA reviews, but many are Ok for middle school.

The Life of a Librarian:
Better When Read- I like this blog because she is new to the profession, just finished her first year. She shares her challenges and thoughts as she begins her career (sounds like me:).
Library Displays: This blog shares displays ideas. A weakness of mine.
Love Chapter Books: Kelli Beason just started blogging and I found her blog after she commented on one of my posts. I like what she has written so far and look forward to reading more.
Mighty Little Librarian: I just <3 Tiffany Whitehead. I'm sure you do too. Great ideas for middle school, technology, and libraries in general. Reading her blog turned into a friendship that I hold dear.
The Busy Librarian: I "met" Matthew Winner through the Level Up Book Club. Can't believe I didn't know about his blog before this. Great stuff here.
The Daring Librarian: Gwyneth Jones' blog. Really...don't you read this already? Of course you do.
True Adventures of a High School Librarian: Nikki Robertson's blog. She is a co-founder of EdCamp Atlanta. She also has a great Pinterest collection that you must follow. Can't wait to meet her in ATL.
TLT: Teen Librarian's Toolbox: You should follow for the graphics she shares, but stay for the great ideas and content.
Try Curiosity: Elementary book talks and lessons from a librarian at an international school in Hungary.
Watch.Connect.Read: John Schumacher's elementary blog. Love his Newbery Challenge videos, book trailers, author interviews and passion.

Carolina Librarians:
Auntie Librarian: Jennifer Tazerouti's blog about her middle school library. She has an infectious attitude.
Cathy Nelson's Professional Thoughts: Cathy's blog is widely read and rewarded so she doesn't need my endorsement, but I love reading fellow SC librarian, Cathy Nelson.
Dear Diary, my teen angst has a book count...and a blog: The book review blog from Jennifer Chesney. A high school librarian that I am proud to work with in my district.
Informania: Fran Bullington has to be one of the sweetest people ever. She shares her thoughts, ideas and concerns about librarianship here. She is my advocacy guru!
It All Started in the Library...: This is my buddy, Lorena Swetnam's blog. She is a middle school librarian in SC. She just started blogging this summer and I've already learned from her. You should too.
Knight Reader: Kelly Knight is a voracious reader. She reviews YA books here but also has a Knight Reader Junior now that she is an elementary librarian. And one of the coolest blog names ever.
Tech Tips and Timely Tidbits: Our state organization's president, Heather Loy, blogs here. Love keeping up with her adventures and ideas.
The Adventures of Library Girl: Jennifer LaGarde's awesome, award winning blog where she shares programming ideas, advocacy ideas and more. I signed up to present at NC's library conference so I can meet her! Surely you already read this!
The Candid Librarian: Jennifer Northrup's blog about her middle school library. Can't wait to meet her soon and hang with her at the NC conference.
The Librarian in the Middle: Kristen Hearne's blog that mixes book reviews and technology. I love this concept and I'm privileged to be able to work with Kristen in my district. One of my favorite librarians on the planet.
This Space Reserved: This spot is reserved for Monique German. She is a middle school librarian in my district. I've mentioned her in blog posts before. She has spectacular ideas, an upbeat attitude, and she almost never tells me I'm crazy even though she probably thinks it:) Kristen and I have encouraged her to blog and she is such a perfectionist that she is still planning it out. Can't wait to add you to my reader one day, Monique:)

Librarianship- Big Picture:
District Dispatch: This is the ALA Washington Office's blog. They share legislation and other national issues related to librarianship.
Blue Skunk Blog: Doug Johnson's blog. His posts make me think and often laugh at his snarky sense of humor.
Neverending Search: Joyce Valenza's blog. I think it is a requirement to read this to keep your license.
Not So Distant Future: Libraries and technology. What more do you want?
The Book Whisperer: I'm putting Donalyn Miller's blog under this heading because I think her ideas and advice about literacy are so important. If you haven't read her book. Go now!
YALSA blog: Official YALSA blog. Great for Tweets of the Week and App of the Week.

Free Tech 4 Teachers: If I had to only chose one tech blog to read this would be it for me.
Toys to Tools: Liz Kolb's blog about using cell phones in education. This is my favorite tech topic so I love this blog even though she doesn't always post very often.
I Education Apps Review: App reviews by educators. I'm always on the look out for more apps.
Learning in Hand: Tony Vincent's awesome blog on all things Apple. If you have Apple products at home or at school you should look at his site.

Just Because:
Daily Infographic: As the title describes they share one infographic each day. I really like infographics. I learn something every day and sometimes they are directly related to reading or education.
J's Everyday Fashion: I found this blog on Pinterest and started following because I am fashion challenged. I would wear a uniform if I could. She has cute fashion ideas and they are affordable.
Level Up Book Club: I'm participating in this book club so I'm dutifully reading and completing my book club assignments:)
Nerdy Book Club: If you're reading this you are a nerd. You should join the Nerdy Book Club and make it official. Book reviews, book promotion, reading lives posts and more.

I know what you're thinking. I thought she cleaned out her reader! Well, I tried to warn you that I like to read blogs. Now you see why I'm panicked about a two week hiatus. I hope that you find a few blogs that you like from this list. What am I missing that I MUST add?
I was reminded how wonderful the librarians are in my district and state. Look at that list! Wow. You're right, Cathy, we need to give a blog award from our state organization.