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.

Web 2.0 Tools and Gifted Students

I have been harassing teachers for years in a sad attempt to convince them to try blogging with their students. Until this year I have been unsuccessful. I'm very excited that I finally found a teacher that is adventurous enough to give it a go. Last week I introduced blogging and Smore to her 6th grade gifted and talented related arts class. We are using Kidblogs and so far it has been super easy to set up for us and easy for the kids to get started. They will also be using Smore, Google Sketchup, Gamestar Mechanic and other web 2.0 tools for some of their projects.
My favorite quote from their first blog posts is "We are finally moving on from Power Points and Movie Maker."
Kelly Knight was kind enough to share her lesson on blogging so that I could adapt it to use with my kids. We talked about what a blog is, looked at a few examples, discussed netiquette, proper commenting and reviewed how to use the Kidblogs site.
This collaboration came about because this teacher wanted to try something different the last nine weeks of school. Normally our gifted and talented class has its own curriculum separate from the standards addressed in the core classes, but the teacher and I talked about how we could address standards and integrate technology.
My first step was to get a roster of her students and look at their test data. Even though these students are in the gifted and talented class they still have their weak areas. I looked at how many did not score examplary in each tested area of our state standardized test. Writing had the most with 6 students not scoring exemplary, which is why we wanted to focus on blogging as the core of the new assignments. Social Studies and English Language Arts (ELA) each had 5 students not scoring exemplary and 2 in Science.I looked at each student's Fall benchmark testing results. Benchmark testing is only done in Math and ELA. There were 3 students below grade level in reading with scores in the 5th grade RIT level (reading norm score) and 2 on grade level. The remaining students were above grade level in reading. The teacher and I talked about incorporating literature circles into the nine weeks to target this area. Using this data we could divide them into groups and better select reading material for them. When reviewing the Math data we found that only one student was on grade level for Math, while the remaining students were above grade level by at least one grade. Using this information we knew we could really challenge them in this area. This is why we wanted to explore Google Sketch Up even though both of us are considered beginners with this tool.

In addition to looking at their test scores I surveyed their teachers about which standards or topics they felt could use the most review before state testing this Spring. The math teachers asked for review in measurement and geometry, the science teachers answered plants and weather, social studies requested review of Mesopotamia, Ancient Africa and the Aztecs, and ELA requested help with research. Students will use Google Sketch Up projects to address measurement and geometry.

Students will be using Gamestar Mechanic to create games that will review plants and weather for science.

Students will use Smore to create flyers about one of the social studies standards that they wanted reviewed.

Everything they use from the web for these projects will have to be cited. I reviewed citation with them and taught them how to use Son of Citation Machine to create citations.

They have only been working for two days, but when they finish I will be sure to share some of their work. I'm looking forward to seeing what they create.
The content area teachers are very excited about these projects. One of the science teachers came into the library and asked me if I had lost my mind. I told him, "Yes, a long time ago. Why?" and he said he had never heard of a librarian that tried to help teach science. I'm hoping that these projects will lead to more collaboration with some of our content teachers when they see what the students are capable of and learn more about these tools.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/15

The past two weeks I have been busy finishing up the last of the 20 books on our state award list. These are the titles I finished. City of Orphans was my favorite from these four.

I also finished one from the early Newbery prediction list.
Now my goal is to work on the Shelf Challenge issued by Matthew Winner. I challenged myself to read the book jackets from my Humor shelf.

Book Tasting in the Library

I was inspired by Kristen Hearne to organize an event to highlight my new book purchases for the year. She called her event a Sip and See. You can read all about it here. I decided to call my event a Book Tasting because the visitors would be getting a taste of the books (and hopefully want more) and we would have refreshments.
This event served many purposes: highlight and share the books, build collaborations, showcase what I have to offer the teachers as they adjust to Common Core standards, thank the district administrators and school board for additional book funding this year, and invite many of our stakeholders into the library.
I had tables set up for different categories of books including: fiction/nonfiction pairs, history, literature, mythology, high interest reading, health, argumentative writing, space and science, professional development, careers and biographies, bullying, and the arts. I also set up a table with books that my teachers could check out for our summer reading challenge.

I had signs on display indicating Common Core standards addressed by different books, lesson plan ideas and websites to complement the books.
All three of my administrators stopped by and 28 teachers.
A few of the highlights were:

  • One special ed teacher was excited about the high interest nonfiction she can use for research next year
  • A resource teacher was excited about the hunting series I purchased because she has boys that will only read Outdoor Life
  • Several ELA teacher were interested in the Both Sides of the Story nonfiction series
  • Lots of teachers checked out books for the faculty summer reading challenge
  • I had to fight the kids off of the books especially the Good Sports series, Gearhead, and hunting books

Overall it was a successful event and I plan to do this again next year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April is School Library Month

To celebrate school library month our district office is displaying library pictures on the home page. You can check it out here. This was the idea of one of our high school librarians after seeing music pictures last month for Music in Our Schools month. I thought it was a wonderful idea.
Of course if you haven't looked at Jennifer LaGarde's awesome resource for this month, please do that right away. I sent this to our school and district administrators.
To celebrate go out and buy yourself something cute like this necklace from Forever 21. I'm wearing mine today.