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?