Friday, November 30, 2012

Edublog nomination, Literary Cafe and "The Outsiders"

Edublog nominations were due last week and my friend & fellow SC library media specialist Tamara Cox nominated my little blog for 'Best New Blog.'  How cool is that?!?

I'm very, very flattered!!  I had to post a screenshot of her tweet just to make sure I was not making it up :)

Speaking of Mrs. Cox, she recently blogged about an activity in her library called a Literary Cafe.  After reading her post, I approached a seventh grade Language Arts teacher at my school to ask if she was interested in trying this activity out with her students.  Her class is reading "The Outsiders" and a literary cafe would be a great way to tie in videos & informational text with several of the topics addressed in the book.

Here are the stations and activities we came up with:

1. Crime- Our School Resource Officer (SRO) talked with our students about gangs, crime, and self defense.  Students wrote a reflection about what they learned.

2. Health- Students watched Brainpop videos about smoking and drinking.  Students took notes while they watched the videos.  After watching the videos, students created word clouds using the main ideas and facts about the health risks involved with smoking and drinking.

3. 1960s- Students watched video clips about life in the 1960s.  I found some great video clips on Discovery  Education about entertainment, sports, Science and government news during the 1960s.  While watching the videos, students took notes about important events and people from the 1960s.  Next, students went online to find images to create collages about the 1960s using PicMonkey.

4. High School Dropout rate- Students read articles from DISCUS and reviewed our districts' annual report card.  Students also reviewed the interactive dropout map on Boostup to learn the high school drop out rate for our state and nation.  After reviewing the website and articles, students created a graph to show the overall dropout rate of our country, state and school district.

5.  Family Court- Students read news articles and encyclopedia articles from DISCUS that shared information about juvenile court, child abuse and sibling guardians.  Students wrote a persuasive argument after reading the articles.

Students were engaged.  We were able to help students 1:1.  Students were reading, writing and creating visuals.  I look forward to trying this out with our sixth graders next.  Please feel free to share some ways you are tying fictional text and informational text in your libraries/classrooms.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Themed Book Trailers

Book talks, book trailers and book displays are rolled up into one with a theme.  I read this post by Mrs. ReaderPants that got me thinking about how I put together my book talks.  Today I came across this post on the same blog that inspired me to put together a themed book trailer.

We currently have up a book display of series similar to The Hunger Games.  We used this post found via Pinterest (of course) to help us put it together.  All I had to do next was find book cover images and write very, very brief snippets for each title.  Hopefully, after watching the themed book trailer on the morning show, students will come in to check out one or more of the titles featured instead of just one title.  I can save the full length book trailer for class visits or other activities.

I'm looking forward to creating more themed book trailers to help feature fiction and nonfiction titles in our collection.  Animoto definitely makes it easy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Smore library news...

The first quarter of the school year has flown by. As I thought about how to share with my administrators what we have been up to in the media center so far this school year, I remembered reading about Smore. Please check out these beautiful Smore pages created by fellow library media specialists: here, here and here.

The news letter below was quick and easy to create.  After sending a link to the newsletter to my administrators, they commented positively on what they read.  This is good stuff.        

Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting to know our students

We completed our library orientations our first full week of school.  It was great to see our students and talk about books.  So many of them talked about how much they enjoyed reading our SC Junior Book Award nominee books this summer.  We also talked about their favorite books and genres.  "Hunger Games" continues to be a favorite, along with mystery, sports, horror and drama books.

In an effort to learn the reading interests of our students, I asked them to fill out a survey.  I plan to use the data collected to help develop library displays, book orders, book talks and book trailers.  I started off by brainstorming some questions, reading this post and this post to help me develop my own survey.  I wanted to keep it short and sweet.  The students completed a paper copy.  I will enter the data into a Google form that I will share with our ELA teachers.  This may take a while, but it will be worth it.  It will give us quick access to student responses without having to shuffle around sheets of papers.

                             Reader interest survey from Lorena Swetnam

Please share ways you learn about your students in the library. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Getting the library ready

School started for us on Thursday, August 23rd.  On those two days, our media assistant and I browsed pinterest, worked on displays and other behind the scene stuff before library orientations brought 644 students through our library doors.  I read a blog post on my reader about "pinterest blowing up in my library."  Something similar happened in our library, too!  Pinterest has been a great tool for bookmarking library display ideas and quick how-to projects.  (I noticed that I pin almost an equal amount of recipes and library related stuff.  I love to eat and I love my job :))

I was also inspired by blog posts by SC media specialists Kristen Hearne and Tamara Cox with display ideas & graphics.  Reading their blog posts and viewing their images, inspired me to use my flickr account that has been dormant for a few years. I'm going to try to post pics from the library to my account.

Our media assistant is super crafty, creative & not afraid to use a hot glue gun (you'll see what I mean in a second).  I am so thankful to work with her and have her help in the media center.  Here are some pictures of our current library displays:
Pens & sticky notes are on the shelf for teachers & students to share books they read over the summer. 

Sports display with a sign that reads, "Kick it with a good book."
Lots of hot glue and pencils were involved in this project. This display will probably stay up till the pencils fall off.  We used sheets of loose leaf paper to cover the bulletin board.
Our SC Junior Book Award nominee list display.

Not everyone is on pinterest.  At least not yet.  Here is a short list of sites I bookmarked with ideas for future library displays:

  Library Displays 

This year I want to create more interactive displays and smaller displays featuring genres and read alike titles.  I think this will be easier to keep up with and will keep the library interesting for our visitors.  

Please share your library display ideas!  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Teaching teachers

Before school started, the art teacher and I worked together to present a 45 minute professional development session on media literacy, visual literacy, copyright, and DISCUS (our state's research database) during our teacher workdays.  Our art teacher did a great job sharing what she learned about media literacy during our district's SC Midlands Summit.  At the conclusion of her presentation, she had teachers participate in an activity inspired by Ken Shelton's visual storytelling session at the summit.  (To learn more about Ken Shelton's visual storytelling session, please visit media specialist Heather Loy's blog post about it here.  She took great notes.  I did not.)

In our PD session, the art teacher showed the teacher three slides:
slide 1. one picture - teachers had to give the picture a title
slide 2. one picture- teachers had to write a caption
slide 3. three pictures- teachers had to write a story

Our teachers wrote some hilarious stories and captions.  (I work with some really fun people.  Coming to work is never dull.)  Everyone had fun and walked away with ideas on how to use images and photography to help students write.

Here is a list of digital storytelling resources from our session & from the AASL's Best Websites for Teaching and Learning :

I followed up with information about copyright, fair use and creative commons.  My middle school librarian peeps pointed me to Ronnie Burt's blog post to help me with my presentation.  I also created a list of websites and web tools to help teachers learn more about copyright.

Over the summer, the South Carolina State Library held several training sessions to introduce the new research databases available in DISCUS.  I was eager to share this information with our teachers because the new databases are easy to use with our middle school students, include reference books, e-books, pictures and videos while including MLA citations for all of it.  With the focus on common core standards, I thought this was a great time to point out how the resources in DISCUS will help us provide students with a variety of reading & research materials.

I talked about the following research databases: Credo Reference, History Reference Center, Science Reference Center, NoveList K-8 plus, Bloom's Literary Reference Online and Newspaper Source Plus.

Discus 2012 2013 from Lorena Swetnam

As much as presenting in front of a group makes my heart drop down to my knees, it is definitely worthwhile.   Each time I've had to present about our school library, technology and research, it has opened lots of doors for new collaborations and learning relationships.

Hope your school year is off to a good start! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Movies

I know it is back to school time when I start making videos.  Animoto has been a lifesaver!!  Animoto is super easy to use and the final product looks very snazzy and professional.  I've used Animoto for just about everything- advertisements for school basketball games, AVID parent interest night, PTO fundraiser, school open house night, library orientation, news show intro, book trailers, book fine commercial, Women's History month, father daughter dance, and the list goes on.  I first heard about Animoto four years ago while working on my internship.  After that, I signed up for an Animoto educator account and have been a fan ever since.
It's been a great tool for sharing what goes on in our school and in our school library.  Here is the first video I created about my school.

To get started in Animoto, select a video style, import pictures, videos,  music and it does all of the work putting it all together in a professional looking video.  Animoto also has a selection of media you can use.  I usually select a song from the Animoto music library because it is royalty free and they have a nice selection of music without lyrics.

Here are some tools I use to edit pictures that I later import into Animoto:
Microsoft PowerPoint

Have fun making movies!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My brain on nonfiction...

I have recently read some interesting non-fiction titles with a lot of good ideas and information that I have found useful.  

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink 
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg 

Drive by Daniel Pink seems to be popular with lots of educational technology speakers.  Recently, I've heard the title mentioned during a keynote presentation and have come across various educational related blogs that mention the title.  It's been on my "to-read" list for a while.  I'm happy that I finally read it.  The book shares stories and research about how motivation works.  Pink lists three core factors that relate to motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  We are motivated when we feel we have control over our work situation.  We are motivated by "just right" tasks that are not completely brainless or nuclear physicist difficult.  We are motivated when we feel our jobs have purpose.  

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer was my favorite book.  As I read it, I kept stopping to share with my husband. Imagine shares lots of interesting stories about how creativity works using well known people, artists and businesses as examples.  I took a lot way from this book.  As I read, I thought "I do that", "I used to do that," and "I need to try do more of that."  Everyone is creative.  The book explains how creativity works in the brain, how we encourage/discourage creativity and how being social helps us be more creativity.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg shares stories about how we form habits and how we change habits. I did not read it as a "how-to" book.  Instead, it helped me understand how habits form in the brain which is interesting stuff.  The most interesting thing to me about habits are how developing keystone habits in a work place influences all aspects of the work environment.

Please share any nonfiction titles that you've read recently that you have found helpful & interesting. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Angry Birds in the Library

At the end of the school year, we hold a celebration to recognize the top fifteen readers for the whole school year.  In May, I came across this blog post on the Teen Librarian's Toolbox sharing how to put together a Live Angry Birds event in the library.  I love blog posts with easy to follow directions and lots of pictures.  To get started, I gathered all of the supplies. I asked for help from a couple of crafty teachers.  I received 1:1 instruction on how to make the little pom pom birds.  (I was a little nervous about the pom pom part.)  

On the day of our event, we set up the blocks & boxes with the Angry Bird dodge balls on one side of the room.  On the other side of the room, we set up the following three tables:
1. green balloon table where students blew up the balloons and drew pig faces on them. 
2. the pom pom table where students created red, black and green pom pom angry birds using yarn, googly eyes and a hot glue gun. 
3. paper cup table with rubber bands & Popsicle sticks to create sling shots. Students flung their pom pom birds at paper cup structures. 

The kids had fun!  As I helped them create the pom pom birds, a student said to me, "You know we're readers, not crafters." The best part was the students did not want to leave at the end of our time.  (Yea!) The Live Angry Birds event was held the last week of school.  We had lots of different events & activities going on around the school, so I was flattered that they wanted to miss out on the other stuff in order to stay &  play in the library. 
What crafty reading celebrations do you have at your school?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why I decided to blog.

"When you want something, the whole universe conspires to give it to you" -Paulo Coelho

During the last week of school, I came across this blog post by author Kate Messner introducing a virtual teacher writing camp called "Teachers Write!"  When I was in middle school and high school, I enjoyed writing short stories and poetry.  Back then, my head was full of fantastic stories and imagery that I had to get down on paper.

As an adult, I find myself reflecting often on experiences I have at work & home.  I compose in my head what happened, why it happened and what I learned.  The problem is that I never take time to capture those thoughts on paper.  As started to follow the virtual writing camp posts, I decided it was time I commit to capturing those reflections.

Another reason for starting this blog is to share with others.  The other night I read this post on "Venspired" where the author succinctly explains why educators should blog.  I've learned about new technologies, books and projects from blogs written by fellow educators.  As I write this, I recall this post written by Daring Librarian Gwyneth Jones. It's time for me to give back.   (It's all coming together!! )

The last push came last week when during a session about the Common Core standards our facilitator said we must encourage our students to write reflectively.  I want to encourage my students to write.  I want to be able to tell them that I write, not because I have to, but because I want to.  I want to be able to tell them that writing helps us all become better learners.

In my school, whenever teachers and students are on the hunt for an odd item, piece of technology or book, they start their search in the library.  We are the "go to" spot in our school for books and everything else. (I love that!)  So, what follows is a short list of my "go to" blogs for when I need to get inspired, learn about a new tech tool or catch up on what is going on in the library world:

The Adventures of Library Girl
The Daring Librarian
Eliterate Librarian
Free Technology for Teachers

Please share your "go to" blogs!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Professional Development

This summer break has started off with lots of professional development.  Our school district along with a nearby school district hosted the first ever SC Midlands Summit.  It was a great two days of learning.  I attended sessions about learning Chromebook ninja skills, how to use Picasa in the classroom, using photographs for visual storytelling and the programming language Scratch.

Starting next week, I am going to begin three PBS Teacherline courses.  I highly recommend PBS Teacherline courses for professional development.  It's not free, but definitely worth the investment.  So far, I have completed three online classes and always learn information & skills that I apply to my practice.  I've never taken three online courses at one time, so I may be MIA for a bit as I try to juggle online work & family life.

Along with reading blogs, Twitter and Facebook, I like to watch webinars to help me with my practice.  I usually sign up for email reminders and catch an archived webinar when I have a moment.  For example, this summer I want to learn about Common Core & flipped classrooms because those will be hot topics in my school this coming fall.  I'm going to watch a few webinars to help me get started.

Here's a list of sources for free online webinars:
The Future of Education
eSchool News
TL Virtual Cafe
NCompass Live
Library Journal
                                                     School Library Journal

Where do you go for professional development?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reading and Summer

Summer reading is on the forefront of my mind.  I’m seeing it everywhere.  Maybe it’s because I am a school librarian and my social networking tools are picking up posts about reading & summer.  

This past Sunday our local newspaper included this cover on Parade magazine.  I thought it was great that the cover story was about reading.  Earlier last week I also tuned in to watch Oprah’s Youtube video about her new 2.0 Book Club.  Oprah always pushing a good thing!  This year’s twitter hashtag #bookaday is in full swing.  Thank you author/teacher/book whisperer Donalyn Miller for encouraging us to share what we love to do! Earlier this week fellow librarian & friend Tamara Cox encouraged me to participate in a fun reading competition between teachers and librarians. Go #leagueoflibrarians! I don't have a competitive bone in me, but I'll support the cause.

My plans this summer include reading as much as possible.  I usually start off strong, but fizzle out.  Hopefully I will be able to keep reading until August 16th (the day we return to work) because I have a huge pile of books and audiobooks I want to get through (as pictured above).  Why do I put this pressure on myself?  Because I love reading stories and learning new things.  Reading young adult literature helps me recommend books to students and teachers.  I love a great story and talking about books is time well spent. Reading non-fiction helps me in my personal and professional life. In the past, reading non-fiction was not exciting for me, but now I pick up books about yoga, education, the study of habits and raising babies in France (my current non-fiction reading selection is pretty eclectic).

If you wonder what the big hype is about reading, read what author Walter Dean Myers has to say about reading.  He is the nation's latest ambassador for young people's literature.
I used to encourage students to read because it will take them to new places.  After reading Mr. Myers’s share how reading changed his life, I realized that reading should not be offered as an option to our students- it should be a requirement that is embraced because it will improve our lives, not burden it.

Are you reading this summer?