Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Improving the Library Experience

I have been thinking a lot about customer service lately. Two of my favorite places to eat and shop are Publix and Chick-Fil-A. If you're not in the south you may not be familiar with these two chains, but I love them. Publix's slogan is "Where shopping is a pleasure." And for me I can say it is. One of the only things I miss from my previous home is a nearby Publix grocery store. The employees are so nice and they do not act irritated if you ask a question. Chick-Fil-A is the same. The employees are friendly and go out of their way to help you. After ordering they usually say "It's my pleasure." There's that word again.
The way these two businesses treat their customers and the way they train their employees does make visiting a pleasure. How can I translate this into the library?
Do I help every student and teacher with a smile? Or do I act annoyed if I'm interrupted?
I consider myself a patient person, but I know there have been times when I've probably acted annoyed. I think I'm going to put a little Publix and Chick-Fil-A logo somewhere near my computer to remind me how much my attitude can affect those that come into the library.
Are my library helpers pleasant to visiting students? Do I need to spend more time training them to be helpful and friendly?
We should all ask ourselves these same questions. Is your library a pleasurable place to visit?

Another customer service experience I've noticed in my family's life has been a more personalized shopping experience. In the last few months we've signed up for three different personal shopping subscriptions. I purchased a Birchbox subscription for my husband, my husband purchased a Surprise Ride monthly activity kit for my son and I signed up for Stitch Fix personal shopping for myself.
You're probably wondering what all of this has to do with the library.
The appeal of these services is personalization, delivery, packaging, fun and whimsy. How can I incorporate more of these qualities into library services?

I want library visits and programs to be more personalized. I love Nikki Robertson's personal book shopping program.  I'm already recruiting teachers that will let me give this a try with their class. If I can't find a willing teacher I may just leave out the surveys and tell the library visitors about it when they come in. I especially love the thought that went into the packaging with little tags that Cathy Jo Nelson created when she tried this idea.
We already have a frequently used holds process. My library helpers regularly check holds and deliver them to the students in class. I routinely put books on hold for students if I know they will love the book. They are usually pleasantly surprised when I deliver the book and tell them that I think they will like it. Maybe I can make the delivery even more special by including a book mark or a little note telling why I think they would like that book.
Another way to make the library more personalized is to have a way that students can request books then hold that book for them when it comes in. I usually keep this written on a sticky note on my desk, but I could find a more whimsical way to keep track of requests. I had a Google form on my website, but none of my students ever used it so I took it down. If we go 1:1 next year I have a feeling it would be utilized more often so I plan to put it back on the library site and have a QR code near the circulation desk so that they can go to the form easily and make a request. For those high demand books like the new Wimpy Kid I've seen librarians have a drawing or another fun way to chose the first person to check it out. I would like to try this.
I wish that I could add features to our catalog system. It would be so cool if a search came up with no results, the site would automatically link to the request form so that students could request the book right away.
If we go 1:1 I need to think of fun ways to deliver content to the students such as a recommended book lists based on different themes, holidays or events, links to book trailers, library program news, etc. I need to brainstorm ways that this would be possible with devices. From my conversations with 1:1 librarians it seems that I will need to work even harder at enticing students and classes into the library.

I would love to hear your ideas on how we can make the library more whimsical, fun, pleasurable, and personal.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hour of Code and Mustang Makerspace

Last week we participated in the Hour of Code, sponsored by We shared the introduction video on our morning news and invited everyone to try coding activities in the library during lunch. I had the free tutorials from the site pulled up on the computers in the library, Lightbot app on the library iPods and cups for the non-tech coding activity from the site.
I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out of students and enjoying seeing them explore the tutorials and activities.

One of my super smart tech genius students asked if he could stay and help through all three lunches. I made arrangements with his teachers and he proved to be a big help. I asked him to explore all the tutorials beforehand so that he could help the others. Now I know who to go to when I have computer questions.

On Wednesday of last week I tied our first Makerspace event in with Hour of Code. I promoted the activity with the Hour of Code kids. Our first Makerspace event was Legos. I created a Smore to explain the concept to my administration and teachers. I have lots more activities planned and I'll be sure to share here. The first event was great. I had many visitors that are not my normal crew, which was exciting. The hallways were abuzz with students talking about the events so it was well worth the time and energy. I have lots to learn about makerspaces and room to grow, but it was a successful start.

Aurasma Endangered Animal Projects

I had the pleasure of working with our gifted and talented students on endangered animal research. Students created a children's book in Book Creator after researching their South Carolina species. Upon completion of the book, students received a brown paper lunch bag and access to construction paper and other crafting items. Using only those items, they had to create their animal. I loved this mix of high and low tech creation and was so impressed with their animals.
The teacher and I had originally discussed using QR codes to record each student describing their animal, but after hearing about Aurasma I showed her the app. She was excited to give it a try.
I showed a few students in each class how to record the video and connect it to the image and they took over from there. They loved seeing their videos pop up when the animal was scanned. We used pictures of the paper bag animals to create a bulletin board near the front office to highlight and share their presentations. It was fun to see the reaction of other teachers, parents, and school visitors. We even had district administrators come to take a peek.

I plan to create a book cover bulletin board with student book reviews using Aurasma after our break. I have a few iPods in the library that I can loan out to students that would like to watch if they don't have their own device. I've heard others have success with the Layar app so I might look into that as well.
Have you tried any augmented reality apps yet?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making Ourselves Indispensable

Serving as member and chair of our state library association's advocacy committee the last few years has really opened my eyes about the importance of working advocacy into our daily lives. A few things that I've read lately have renewed my advocacy efforts this year. I've been thinking about how I can make sure the library program is indispensable, no matter what technology changes may come.

Just like other school districts, ours is investigating a 1:1 initiative. Everything is in the planning stages at this point, but I'm already thinking about how this will change our library programs. I'm reading blog posts and articles about it and considering proactive steps for me and all the librarians in my district. One post that really struck me was Doug Johnson's, The Librarian Bonus. I forwarded this post to all of our librarians and our district administrators. I feel like a 1:1 initiative is the perfect opportunity to discuss a change to the job description allowing for more instructional technology duties to be included. Many of us already fulfill this need for our schools. An updated job description would allow us to recruit librarians that are comfortable with technology and push all of us to step up our own efforts in this area. For our elementary librarians this could be a chance to revisit flexible scheduling.

A 1:1 initiative could be seen as threatening if you are an old school librarian, but I see this as an opportunity. We can make the library program more mobile. I'm envisioning an entire folder of library apps that would be standard on all devices. Students could have Follett's Destiny App, Enlighten ereader app, Easy Bib, Overdrive for public library ebooks, YALSA's Teen Book Finder, and many others. One of the AASL preconference sessions was on this topic, A Library in Every Pocket. I wish I could have attended, but I did check out their resources and recommend the same to you.  I'm looking forward to more learning from those that are already in a 1:1 school.

We have a librarian meeting with our district administration next month so I'm sure these questions are on all of our minds. I am excited to discuss the possibilities as a group. We recently started a book study together. One of our high school librarians recommended the book, Being Indispensable, after attending a state library supervisor meeting. I ordered the book and as soon as I started reading and noticing the exercises included in the chapters I thought it would be helpful if we read this together. I asked the others if they were interested and after a few positive responses, Monique set up an Edmodo group. We've only just begun because a few are waiting on the book to arrive, but already I've crafted a mission statement, core values and a tag line for the library program. It has been great to hear the opinions of the group as we go through the assignments together.

I would love to hear from you if you are in a 1:1 school. How did it change your library program? What advice do you have for us if our district decides to implement 1:1? Have you updated your job description to include more technology responsibilities? How do you make yourself indispensable?

Comics Corner Grand Opening

Today was the grand opening party for our new Comics Corner.  You can read all about the plans in my previous post. 
The kids had a great time exploring the new comic collection, eating popcorn, taking a few free comics and trying for prizes. I should have printed more Minecraft Steve and Creeper Cubees.
Here are a few shots with the photo props and my bulletin board city backdrop. I love the Superman stare. 

This is the table of free comics and Marvel themed candy I found at the dollar store. On the right is the prize table and homemade scratch off tickets. On the left is one of the students enjoying the comics. That's me popping popcorn and sporting my sister's pop art Boom shirt from Target. 

We had a great time celebrating reading. I have already had one teacher approach me about using Comics Corner time as a motivator for one of her math students. Yay! I love my job.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Creating A Comic Book Corner

Our graphic novels and manga are so popular that I decided to expand our offerings even more this year. Very soon we will have our very own Comics Corner.
In preparation for this I cleaned out an area in one of my office/closet areas. I heavily weeded the professional books that were housed there to make room for the comics. I knew that my students would be an easy sell, but not the teachers. In preparation for those that might question my sanity I put together this Smore flyer with lots of research about the benefits of comics. ABDO publishing has many excellent resources including a downloadable flyer and links to research if you're interested.

The comic book bins were very tempting from ABDO, but we have a local comic book store, Borderlands, that I wanted to support. The owner's son is even a student in my district. He put together a list for me using his comic expertise and discerning judgement as a dad. I highly recommend visiting a comic book store near you so that they can help you chose comics if you're not familiar with them yourself.  I ordered Star Wars, Avengers, My Little Pony, and Archie, to name a few.
I wanted to generate a lot of excitement with the kids so I purchased a cardboard cut out of Iron Man and put up a sign that read, "Comics Corner Coming Soon." Needless to say, that worked!
I used some of my Scholastic book fair money to order a few bean bag chairs and I found some really colorful bins at the dollar store for storage. Monique used Comic Life to make a Word Wall and Graffiti Board poster for the area. Students can use the handy dictionary, sentence strips and markers to share words they learn and quotes they like as they are reading.
I wanted the grand opening to be an event so I bought Marvel themed candy to give out and the comic book store donated some comics and a few sketches from local artists to give as prizes. I'm enlisting my assistant principal to pop popcorn that day with our PTSO's popcorn machine. Monique was kind enough to give me some of her left over scratch off tickets so that I can determine the winners of the prizes. I printed several comic book Cubees from Cubeecraft for more prizes. Finally I made several photo props for the students to use during the celebration. There are masks, word bubbles and superhero logos.
I've spoken with our self contained special education teachers about using this space as an academic reward for their students. I believe this will be a big motivator for them and the reward is something that will help them enjoy reading. The space will be available any time the library is open.
I am looking forward to our grand opening. I will share pictures soon.

Do you have comics in your library? I would love to hear how you use them with your students.

Virtual Book Club: See You At Harry's

Last week my little book club had the chance to do something really big. We participated in a virtual book club chat with other middle schools and the author of See You at Harry's, Jo Knowles. All of the middle schools and the author's home state of Vermont are on this map. This was so much fun for me and my students.

View Middle School Virtual Book Club in a larger map

Tiffany Whitehead put together this Padlet so that our students could discuss the book. 

We started our meeting off with ice cream, of course, and Padlet discussion questions. We also made a list of potential questions to ask Jo Knowles. Then it was time for our Google Hangout to begin.

I was very nervous that our network would block the chat, but I tested it twice a few days before and everything  went well.

Jo Knowles was so gracious and sweet. I loved hearing about the experiences in her life that inspired the story. She ended the chat with excellent advice for our students to read as much as they could and never give up because it took her ten years to publish her first novel. 

Our next book is The Wig in the Window, one of my favorites this year. We have a few more chats planned so that our students can discuss the book before our author chat in January. My group will be all sixth grade girls so I anticipate lots of giggling and fun. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Banned Books and Teen Read Week

In recognition of Banned Books Week, the 7th grade English teachers had their students read this article about censorship. After reading the article the students came into the library. I talked to the students about the purpose of Banned Books Week, how librarians are trained to protect against censorship, the policies we use for purchasing and challenging books, challenged books we have in our library and, even, challenges we have experienced in our district. The students had several excellent questions.
Our 8th graders read the Wall Street Journal article about how dark YA books can be and this response article.

To celebrate Teen Read Week: Seek the Unknown I placed books in paper bags. Students could check out one of the "unknown" books, write a short review and earn a free book. It was a fun, easy and popular event. It was hilarious to watch students try to find a strategy for choosing the books. A few students said they were too scared to do it because it made them nervous. It was NOT the silly sixth graders in my picture below.

I hope you enjoyed Banned Books and Teen Read Week at your school.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chomp: Preparing for a Reading Adventure

Last year the Literary Cafe that I hosted for the book, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, went so well that the 6th grade teachers asked if I would put something together for the students before they read Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
I love this book and had a blast putting this lesson together. Students watched the book trailer before coming to the library for this lesson.
The goal of the lesson was to provide the students with the background knowledge to understand the book. I created these four stations:
1. Poverty Infographics
2. Articles on Concussions
3. Survivalist Reality TV
4. Everglades Animals and Invasive Species

At each station I put books on display that relate to the topic. The students had a question to answer for each station. I created a different set of questions for the advanced class.

1. At the poverty infographics station, students examined infographics that I printed on our postermaker. I used these three infographics: Child Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Poor Enough. The instruction sheet reads:

Tuna and her father live in a camper in the Walmart parking lot. She is one of millions of children in the United States that live in poverty.

Poverty is the condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.

Examine these infographics on poverty and answer the questions on your worksheet.

*Infographics illustrate data using pictures and graphs instead of just words.

I put books on display that related to poverty or had main characters living in poverty such as One For the Murphy's, Dicey's Song, Surviving the Applewhites and Middle of Nowhere.

Students had to list at least two facts from the infographics that surprised them about poverty. The advanced class was asked to explain how poverty impacts children.

2. Students were asked to read an article about concussions. This is an excellent opportunity to differentiate for reading levels by choosing more difficult articles for advanced readers. I found all of our articles in the state funded database DISCUS.
The instruction sheet reads:
Wahoo’s father suffers from a concussion he received after a frozen iguana falls out of a tree onto his head.
Read these articles about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of concussions.

I put the books Second Impact, Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am, Full Impact and Fourth Down and Inches on display because they relate to head injuries.

Students had to list some of the symptoms of a concussion. The advanced class had to explain whether or not they thought sports should have more restrictions and justify their answer using the articles.

3. Students watched a short clip of Steve Irwin and several clips of Bear Grylls' show.
The instruction sheet reads:
The character, Derek Badger, is inspired by well-known reality TV personalities like Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls.
Watch these clips to learn more about these two stars of survivalist reality TV shows.

I put Bear Grylls' survival book, Man Vs Wild, and other survival and nature books on display.

Students were asked if they watched nature reality shows and to list their favorites. The advanced class had to explain whether or not they thought these shows should be called "reality shows" and justify their answer.
The students probably enjoyed this station the most because of the gross out factor.

4. At this station students learned about the animals in the book. The instruction sheet reads:

Chomp is set in the swampy Everglades of Florida and includes many animals in the plot.
Examine the poster to become familiar with these animals, then watch the clip to learn more about the Everglades and invasive species.

I created this poster illustrating the animals mentioned in the book. I included a map of Florida with the Everglades marked and a picture of an air boat.

Students also watched this clip from the Everglades National Park Service describing the problem of invasive species in the ecosystem.

I put lots of animal books on display for this station.

Students had to explain the term "invasive species" and give an example. The advanced class had to explain how rangers were tackling the problem of invasive species in the Everglades.

Students had time to check out books when the lesson was complete. I had a huge display of other outdoor adventures and Hiassen titles ready for them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dot Day 2013

This year I celebrated Dot Day with my PMD (profoundly mentally disabled) class and their teacher (and future librarian), Mrs. Shockley.
I donned my best dot clothing and we read Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This book asks readers, "How will you make your mark?". And it is an excellent, fun way to teach punctuation.

Then we watched The Dot video.

After the video my helpers and I assisted the students in coloring in their own dots that we put on display near the library entrance. Each students received a Dot Day certificate.

I love the message of The Dot and always enjoy celebrating with my students.

Navigating the Library: Teaching Genre

The genre lesson I'm going to share is one that I used for my National Board portfolio last year. It is an effective lesson for me that keeps the kids engaged and involved. I hope that you can take it and adapt it for your needs.
Learning genre is vital for my students because our fiction is arranged by genre. It is also one of their standards. I use this lesson with my sixth graders and they have fun while they learn.
I divide the lesson over two days. The first day I give them a modified version of the What's Your Genre? quiz created by Mrs. Readerpants. This is always fun because every student (and adult too) loves to talk and learn about themselves.
For the second visit I have small whiteboards and markers out at each table and a small printout of each genre sticker that I use in the library, one set for each table. I use these slides for the lesson.

What is genre? from Palmetto Middle School

Each student has a handout that they fill in as we go through the lesson. First we discuss and define genre. Then I show just the genre sticker and have them write down characteristics of that genre on the whiteboard and a book title that fits in that category. After we discuss it briefly and I look at their answers I show the description at the bottom. Then they fill in their sheet. We quickly go through each genre doing the same.
Then I do an informal assessment of their understanding using book covers. I show a book cover and they have to hold up the correct genre label at their table. I tried to choose book covers that would give them clues. We talk about how they decided on genre just using book covers. You could easily do this with a stack of books, but usually if I show a book they will immediately check it out so I didn't want to have to run around between each class to find another good example.
The teachers follow up this lesson by giving groups in their classroom a stack of books and asking them to sort by genre. That would be another easy informal assessment of understanding.
At the end of the lesson students check out books. It is always fun to see how they browse the library with a new understanding.
This lesson is simple, but effective.
How do you teach genre to your students?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Boot Camp Update

We have had 2 successful Twitter chats with Book Boot Camp and I'm looking forward to discussing historical fiction at the end of this month. I am really enjoying having this to challenge me to read a variety of genres and I believe I've read more this fall than in previous years.
The Book Boot Camp idea has morphed into an opportunity to encourage our teachers and students to read.
We have taken our Book Boot Camp idea and adapted it for the teachers in our district. We combined a few genres in order to fit into the school year and added a book related technology tool each month so that teachers can earn technology credit hours for participating. We're having our discussions on Goodreads instead of Twitter so that we can keep track of posts for earning credit. This is the flyer that Kristen made to advertise the course.
The tech tools include: Goodreads, Netgalley, Your Next Read, Fictfact, book blogs, Youtube channels for book trailers, and Sync YA.

All of the librarians in our district had a meeting and we agreed to create a similar program for the other grade levels too. The three high school librarians called their group the YA Hooligans and they are hosting the chats in Edmodo. Jen Chesney created the flyer. Instead of providing a list of books to read for a genre they selected a few titles for the teachers to choose from.

Our primary group for Kindergarten through 2nd grade called their club Milk and Bookies. They are using Edmodo for discussion. Here is their flyer. Another pretty Kristen creation.

Our elementary librarians are on a fixed schedule so I was enlisted to help put this one together too. I had a blast looking through picture books. The tech tools for this session are: Biblionasium, Day by Day SC, Storybird, book themed online games, reading apps, book bloggers and Youtube channels.  I signed up for this course so that I could read these with my son. We've already read 11 out of the 20 SC Picture Book Award nominees. If you want to see our book lists leave me a comment with your contact info and I'll share with you.
 Our fourth group is for 3rd through 5th grade teachers and they called themselves the Teacher Readers. They are using Goodreads for discussion.  They are using many of the same genres as Book Boot Camp, but adding the SC Children's Book Award nominees.

We just got started and we are already seeing a very positive and enthusiastic response from our teachers. We have several district administrators participating. Each of the four groups is also sharing hot new titles at a staff development day this month. 

Two SC librarians that are participating in Book Boot Camp tweeted to me that they are using a similar model with their student book clubs. I can't wait to hear how it goes.

How do you encourage your teachers to read? Is there a similar program in your district that gives teachers an opportunity to earn renewal credit for reading? I would love to hear about your efforts. If you would like more details about how we created these programs, leave me a comment with your contact information.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tweaking SSR this Year

I'm very happy that, even though our school day schedule was changed dramatically this year, our principal kept an SSR time built into the day. You would think that having the administrator stamp of approval on SSR would protect this time, but alas I must defend it each year. There are some teachers that think it is a waste of time and try to make up tests, make students complete missed homework or just continue class time during these precious moments.
In a faculty meeting before school started we were all given a moment to talk about how our subject area changed this year and how we were addressing the new standards. I took that opportunity to share a few facts about why SSR is important. I also sent out an email with a list of ways SSR benefits students. You can see some of the things I shared here.
After the success of the all boy book club, the principal and one of our ELA teacher leaders wanted to implement something similar for each grade in the classrooms. The boys that came to me showed large gains in benchmark testing for reading after coming to me all year and reading together. This year the teachers are surveying the students and organizing a male and female group that will go to a classroom for a read aloud each day during SSR. Our hopes is that this time will target those that we suspect might just be staring at the page instead of reading. I know read alouds work so I'm looking forward to seeing how this program benefits our students.
To kick start the program the teachers will be using books that I already have on Playaway so that they can connect it to the SmartBoard speakers. From my collection we selected three or four choices for each grade. I put together a playlist of the book or movie trailers to the books so that students could vote on the book they wanted to hear first.

Does your school have SSR? Are you involved with SSR implementation?

Getting the Library Gussied Up

If you're not fortunate enough to live in the South you may not know what it means to "get gussied up". Basically it means to clean up and make yourself pretty. I've been busy getting the library ready for school just like many of you.
I'm always impressed with Mr. Schu's library decorations and appreciate him sharing pictures so I thought it would be worth sharing what I have on display in my library this year.
On my board in the hallway I have the beautiful "50 States of Middle Grade Lit" created by Monique and several book related eCards from Pinterest.
In the library I have a poster size print out of Jennifer LaGarde's Declaration of Students' Rights to School Libraries and My Reading Life poster. This poster is a great way to showcase all the types of reading I do and start conversations with my students.

On the bulletin boards in my library I have three other posters created by Monique: Newberry Buzz, ALA Youth Media Awards and our state Junior Book Award Nominees.

Monique, Kristen and I are working on our middle grade literature trend posters. This is our post from last year. We'll share when the new ones are ready.

I have Loo reviews of our Junior Book Award nominees ready to hang in the bathrooms.

And I have SC JBA fliers in the mousepads. You can find picture mousepads on Amazon and put whatever you want in them.

I'm really excited about my new "How many books have you read?" board inspired by Jillian Heise. I've read 7 novels in the two weeks we've been back and I've already had lots of conversations with students about the board.

I'm working on getting a #bookshelfie from each of my library helpers and I'm going to put them on display soon. Here's mine.

I've had first visits with my 7th and 8th graders. They know the library policies so we go straight to book talks and book trailers. Here is the playlist of trailers I put together. I varied which trailers we watched each class so that the teachers and I wouldn't get bored. The favorites were 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Fifth Wave.

What new bulletin boards and posters do you have on display?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

50 States of Middle Grade Lit

You may remember the spectacular map created by Epic Reads showing the United States of YA. Inspired by their map I asked my middle grade lit readers to recommend titles for each state that would be appropriate for middle school. Here is the original post.

Several people gave suggestions and every state was quickly represented.

The fabulous Monique German has put the map together and it is so beautiful. Please go to her blog and check it out.
I know that I'll be printing this in poster size and hanging it up in my library. Will you?

Thanks to all of those that contributed titles and a special shout out to Monique for her hard work creating the map. I love it.

And I love the first two lines of her blog post:)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Upstate Technology Conference 2013

This week I presented at one of my favorite conferences, the Upstate Technology Conference, organized by Greenville County School District.
With such a young baby at home I could not commit to being there all day both days but I did present two sessions each day.
The first day I was excited to present with my favorite special education teacher, Candace. She teaches the profoundly mentally disabled students in our district. We work together very well and collaborate often. After a conversation about how few technology sessions there are for special ed I convinced her to present some of our projects. She is a genius at adapting lessons and tech tools for her students. We had a fun time presenting together and had lots to talk about with the teachers that came to our sessions.

The second day I shared ways that I've utilized infographics with our students. The sessions were well attended and I was able to chat with a few of the book boot camp participants. We even had a mini Twitter lesson between sessions. Thanks Keri, Carmen and Kathy for introducing yourselves and talking with me.

I missed being able to talk to my friends at lunch and missing out on sessions, but I was happy that I was able to still participate this year. Even if it was for a shorter time.

Now I'm looking forward to the first ever Edcamp SC and the Edtech conference this fall.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Trails to Tennessee

I was honored to be asked to present at the Tennessee Association of School Librarian's summer conference.

The two presentations I shared are Learn to Love Nonfiction and PD With a Twist.

Pd with a twist from bibliogerman

You can see Monique's presentations on her blog.

The three of us presented the keynote: The Care and Feeding of Your Administrators.

After our research, we decided to focus on these four rules: recognize what we have in common, communicate and build strong relationships, seek out principal's concerns and find out how to help, and let go of misconceptions and stereotypes.
We shared our efforts to find common ground with our principals and communicate to build that relationship. Try to keep communication positive, share what's happening in the library and be aware of nonverbal communication like dress, signs, and body language.
The portion of the presentation that I shared was to seek out principal's concerns and find out how to involve the library program. If you don't know what your principal's priorities are, find out and then determine how the library program can help meet those goals. Even if they are not obviously connected try to find common ground. For example, my principal focuses on reaching our students in poverty so I've done reading and research on the topic and I have library policies and programs that serve those students. For many principals the Common Core standards are a priority so we discussed some of our strategies for helping our schools and districts prepare for the new standards. No matter what the issue, there are ways that the library can be involved in the mission of the school.

We shared the results of our administrator survey and the top five priorities of administrators. We asked the librarians to think about where they spend most of the time and energy compared to what the administrators value. Do you spend most of your time checking in, organizing and purchasing books? Notice that none of those tasks are on the top five list. Of course, it is part of our job, but we need to be sure we spend effort and energy where it will be noticed.

We really wanted to emphasize that librarians have to be leaders in their school. Be bold and don't wait on them to ask. Step up and volunteer. We hope that we inspired them to think about how they can work on that relationship next year.

If you want to read even more about working with administrators please read this post from Doug Johnson.

We had a great time meeting the Tennessee librarians. Big thanks to Karen for inviting us and all of the TASL members that made our visit run so smoothly.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Fav Graphic Novels for Book Boot Camp

My reading has been mainly focused on graphic novels to prepare for our first Twitter chat and Book Boot Camp challenge in July. There are so many graphic novels for boot campers to chose from that I thought it might be  helpful if I shared a list of my favorites (so far).

To see the three lists for July's graphic novel challenge visit our Book Boot Camp wiki

I have to say that you can't go wrong with any of the choices from this Top 10 List from School Library Journal, but my top three choices would have to be:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (You must buy and read Smile and if you were a fan of The Babysitter's club like me then you have to check out her graphic novel versions)

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel (be sure to read his other books Bad Island and Ghostopolis)

Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre. It was the May selection for the SharpSchu book club.

I recommend that you consider purchasing books from both the 6-8 and 3-5 categories on this core collection list. 
A few favorites of mine from the 3-5 list are: Babymouse, Bake Sale, Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, Lunch Lady Series, Sidekicks and Zita the Space Girl. You should also purchase the Amulet series if you don't have it already. You may feel these are too young for middle school, but my boys and special education students LOVE them.

My top picks on the 6-8 list for purchase and reading are:

(Friends With Boys and Coraline are similar to Anya's Ghost)

A few new graphic novels I'm excited about:

Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks. Jane Goodall is my hero so I can't wait to read this!

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

If you want to see all the books I read for this challenge be my friend on Goodreads and look at my Book Boot Camp lists. I hope these suggestions help you decide which books you would like to read for our July challenge.

If you have read a graphic novel and would like to write a review for our blog, please leave a comment with your contact info. We would love to hear from you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/6/13

I've been trying to read as many graphic novels as I can to prepare for our upcoming Book Coot Camp. The titles that I've finished in the last few days are: Foiled by Jane Yolen, Hereville by Barry Deutsch, Little White Duck by Na Liu, The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, Big Bad Ironclad by Nathan Hale and my favorite, Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre. 

I'm looking forward to joining in the Sharp Schu Book Club discussion of this title in May. Read all about it here.

I've got lots more graphic novels in a stack by my chair so I hope to continue to read those and pick my favorites for the Book Boot Camp short list. We would love for you to enlist and join us. Teacher, librarian, parent, high school, middle school, elementary school, anyone!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Boot Camp 2013-2014

I'm continually inspired by my PLN. This idea is a direct result of the amazing librarians and teachers I follow. After reading this article about Teen Lit Boot Camp classes, taking part in the Shelf Challenge and following along with Donalyn Miller's Book Gap challenge, these three ideas morphed in my head to become the Middle Grade Book Boot Camp.


The Book Boot Camp is a combination of a book club and middle grade literature class. From July 2013 to May 2014 (with a December hiatus) participants will explore ten different book genres, one per month. We will read at least one book from a preselected genre list. Discussions will be held on Twitter using the hashtag #bookbootcamp on the last Monday of the month. We will share core titles in that genre for middle school, new titles, resources for the genre and ideas for promoting those titles.

Middle school collection development can be a real challenge. We want books that will interest and captivate our students, but it is difficult to meet that need without getting books that are too mature. As librarians we should be reading a large number of books to stay current and be able to made educated purchasing decisions and reader's advisory. However, I know many librarians need motivation to explore genres they do not personally enjoy. It is our goal for the Book Boot Camp to be that motivator. In addition to the obvious book focus, it is my hope that participants will be able to expand their own PLN through our online discussions.
I pitched the idea to my partners in crime, Kristen and Monique. With those two on board I started asking a few more of my South Carolina middle school librarian standouts to take ownership of one of the genres. I'm lucky to have so many close by.

This is the schedule:
July-Graphic Novels/ Manga with Tamara Cox
August-Mystery/Thrillers with Monique German
September- Historical Fiction with Kristen Hearne
October- Romance with Lorena Swetnam
November- Humor with Jennifer Tazerouti
January- Realistic Fiction with Michal Hope Brandon
February- Horror/Paranormal with Samantha McManus
March-Nonfiction with Tamara Cox
April- Fantasy with Randye Polk May-Science Fiction with Andi Fansher

Not only will librarians be exploring these genres together, but many of us are also adapting this to use with our faculty on a school-wide level. I already have a core group of faculty members in a book club so we will be participating in the book boot camp together next year.
I would love to see an elementary and high school version get started. If you are interested in starting one I will share more details about our planning process with you.

I'm really going to focus on recruiting as many South Carolina librarians as I can, but we welcome any and all that want to participate to join in the discussion. The more participants we have the stronger our list of resources will be.

I will be blogging about it here and will share links to other blog posts as we go through the months. I started a of the #bookbootcamp hashtag if you would like to subscribe here and a of the resources here. The hashtag isn't very active yet, but it will be.

In preparation for my July full of graphic novels and manga, I've been putting lots of links in the and getting the reading list ready. I've noticed there are lots of novels being converted to graphic novels. Here are a few of the most popular series in my library.
If you have any input or resources about graphic novels and manga, I would love to hear about it. I hope you'll join us for the Book Boot Camp this year. Mark your calendars and I'll be sharing more about it as it draws near. If you decide to host one at your own at school, please let me know if I can help.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Shelf Challenge 2013

I decided to accept the Shelf Challenge issued by Matthew Winner. The area I selected to read was my humor section. It has received a lot of love this year so I wanted to make sure I was familiar with the titles and be better able to assess the needs of that genre. It is so popular that it is hard for me to keep the shelf stocked enough for demand.
Ok, maybe I chose this genre because I knew I could actually finish it and just maybe the shelf is always skimpy because it is super popular, but don't judge. I knew this would be fun though. Where else would you find books about vampire weenies, Elvis impersonators, escaped pet snakes and pooper scooping brothers? (Attack of the Vampire Weenies, All Shook Up, Slippy, and The PS Brothers).
Here are a few of my observations while reading all of the book jackets:
  • the cover of Burger Wuss makes me hungry
  • Origami Yoda and sequels are awesome!
  • I love the Joey Pigza series, but they are not getting checked out much anymore.
  • I want to finish reading Guys Read Funny Business
  • I need more copies of the Wimpy Kid series
  • Rotten Life series by David Lubar is not popular despite the awesome combination of zombies and humor
  • Humor book jacket blurbs are really short
  • I'm glad I purchased the Big Nate series this year because it has been very popular
Here are a few titles that I've ordered recently for this section, special thanks to Mrs. Yingling for her many recommendations.
  1. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation
  2. Dear Dumb Diary series
  3. The Fizzy Whiz Kid
  4. sequels to The Fourth Stall
  5. all of the Middle School the Worst Years of My Life series
  6. I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President
  7. I Represent Sean Rosen
  8. The Lunch Lady series
  9. Wonkenstein and Potterwookiee 
The Shelf Challenge was really fun. I look forward to participating again and possibly choosing a larger genre next time. Thank you Matthew for organizing everything!

Summer Reading 2013

My mind is on summer reading because I'll be on maternity leave soon and I want everything lined up and ready.
Kristen, Monique and I are still issuing the Million Page Challenge to our students so they will be using reading logs to keep up with the number of pages read over the summer break. This year I added an additional layer for our faculty with a challenge to read 25 books from award lists.
Our rising 8th grade ELA honors students have a summer reading assignment. They have to read two books from a list of recommended titles. I was very excited that I was able to convince/beg/cajole the 8th grade teachers to modify the list. I took their previous list and looked up the Lexile level, and indicated genre and the gender of the main character for each title (F/M). I gave them more recently published options in the same genre and tried to stay near the same Lexile range and ensure that I gave them books with main characters of both gender.

The underlined titles were the titles on the previous list. The * books were my personal favorites. In the end they decided to remove Jellicoe Road, Finn and Paper Towns from the list and add The Running Dream, The Giver and This Dark Endeavor. They didn't change as much as I wanted, but I'm happy that they at least considered some of my suggestions.

Another summer reading project I am excited about is a grant from our district office to fund summer reading purchases for our neediest students. All of the librarians in the district received the good news that there would be funds available for us to purchase $30 worth of summer reading books for our students on the McKinney Vento list. If you are not familiar with McKinney Vento, you can read about it here. At my school the list consisted of 16 students. Then we received additional good news that there was enough money to pay for 10 more low income students. I should have enough money from fundraisers to add more  to the $30. Thanks to Follett we have reusable bags to put the books in. My plan is to have these students complete a wish list this week when the book fair arrives. I'll take their wish list and purchase as many of the titles as I can, pack the books in the bags for each student and before school ends I'm going to make a quick visit back to school to pass them out. I can't wait to see the kids reactions!

Every year I have a summer reading visit with my students and the rising 5th graders. This year those visits will fall within my maternity leave, but I have a plan. I'm going to record a video from home sharing all the summer reading details and have my substitute or the ELA teachers play the video for the kids. I already have the forms ready to share and I created a playlist of book trailers that the teachers can show to get the students excited about reading. You can see the playlist here.

I would love to hear about your summer reading plans.