Monday, December 28, 2009

Setting up My Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard

While I am sure I should be grading and doing all sorts of other things instead, I've been spending a lot of the last few days investigating interactive whiteboards and tablets for my class. Then, on Tuesday, I found the site where I could order all the parts for making Johnny Chung Lee's homemade version. On a whim, I called Penteractive for some advice, spoke to a very helpful gentleman, and ordered the needed parts (Infrared Pen with CR1-, Intec Wave Remote "wii", Table Top Tripod, and Wiimote Versiclamp) for a total of $72.20 including shipping. They arrived all the way from Tennessee in two days! So, time to get to work...

I downloaded the software to my Mac and read a number of website accounts and watched some YouTube videos for help setting up my wiimote on Thursday. One problem I kept running into was that my bluetooth setup wizard never seemed to actually "save" my device. Still, I thought I had it working, but, of course, I really need it projecting to the wall, which takes a projector. So, on Friday, I went into work to try it out with my projector. Although the computer and wii had "talked" at home, they weren't at school. I went home and fiddled some more, getting the wii and computer talking again, and "testing" it with the computer screen. Back to school on Saturday, and, again, the wii and computer wouldn't "talk." How frustrating! I did, along the way, learn about another cool feature of my new wii remote: I can use it as a programmable remote control for my computer with the help of a downloadable program called Remote Buddy. I have never been able to get my projector's remote to work properly, so this was a nice side discovery. I may just buy another wii (i.e., Intec Wave) remote for that.

Finally, I figured out my problem. I had been trying to set my wii up using the Mac's bluetooth setup wizard. The wiimote software I downloaded for my Mac, though, does the setup itself and using the setup wizard actually interferes with that process! Yesterday, on my third trip to school, everything worked! It took a lot of experimenting to figure out where to place the wii, and I still am not sure if I have the best spot. Right now, though, I'm going to place it on the little tripod right on top of my projector.

The next step, of course, is figuring out how to use my new tool effectively in my lessons. I want to give all my students opportunities to come up to the board and get involved. I will be focusing on writing and grammar in January and February in preparation for the 7th grade writing assessment the first week of March. I am hoping we can use the wiimote for interactive lessons in writing and revising. For help setting up lessons, I downloaded and started experimenting with the free version of Promethean's ActivInspire software, but I also liked the suggestion I read somewhere to use the Elluminate whiteboard feature. As a member of the site, I have used the free vRoom several times and experimented a bit with the whiteboard. Using Elluminate would mean that I would have to be online, but would have the advantages of letting me use a tool I already have some familiarity with. I could also record lessons with it for absent students.

If anyone out there has suggestions, both for software to use with my wiimote and for lessons that will work with my students, please send them my way!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Animals Opening Presents

I just loved this Paws and Presents series from National Geographic:

I learned about it from a tweet by Larry Ferlazzo, whose blog and Twitter tweets are always great sources for inspiration. I don't really know how I can fit these videos into my curriculum, but it's sure tempting to try. Any ideas out there?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Break Is Here!

by Leo Reynolds at

I made it to winter break! Can I ever use a couple of weeks of quiet and relaxation. Of course, I have a long list of stuff to do, including lots of grading and prepping for my students, but at least I can mix it with catching up on household chores, some recreation, not waking up to the alarm, and, of course, indulging my addiction to checking bloglines, Twitter, and email for great new and fun ideas. You can see that I am either really determined to procrastinate that grading and those household chores or that I must have way too much time on my hands when you see the Scrabble piece "Happy Holidays" I put together up above from flickr images. I discovered these graphics from a tweet by russeltar, and figured I just had to use them for something fun! (I did sort of save myself a little time downloading each of the letters, I think. I just downloaded the complete alphabet image, then used Cmd+Shift+4 on my Mac to create a png file of each letter and renamed it the name of the letter. I'd be happy to email anyone the png file set.)

I am excited to have learned that a lot of blogs and sites I follow were winners or runners up in the Edublogs Awards, including two that I included in my nomination list. Mrs. Yollis' Class Blog was first runner up for best class blog, and Joyce Valenza's Never Ending Search won best library/librarian blog. Hooray! I also discovered some great new blogs to add to my Bloglines subscriptions as I went through the winners.

Wishing anyone out there a very happy holiday season and New Year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Visiting Another Blogging Classroom

Last Tuesday, all the coach/mentors for our district EETT grant had the privilege of visiting Mrs. Yollis' third grade class at one of the elementary schools in my district to learn about their class blogging process. Every student contributes to the Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog, with Mrs. Yollis as the publisher. Students write articles by brainstorming on paper, composing on their alphasmart computers, peer editing, then going to their teacher for final edit and approval. As part of the process, they hold class discussions about articles and critique each others' work. They also rate incoming comments and decide whether they are publishable. They only approve well written comments. Comments get a rating of 1 if they just say they like the post without giving any details. Comments get a 2 if they compliment, ask a question, or make a suggestion. I have sent them a couple of comments so far; I hope my comments were 2's! The class has also collaborated with other blogging classrooms as far away as Australia, and has held Skype sessions with them and commented on their blog postings. It is very clear that these students are learning excellent writing and evaluation skills, as well as becoming astute digital citizens.

I had already been reading the class blog and Mrs. Yollis' wiki about blogging before our live visit, but the in-person opportunity helped me to process some of these ideas better. I plan to take advantage of a lot of them in my own classroom. One change I made in my class already last week was asking students to address comments like a letter, including both a salutation and a closing and signature. I hope this requirement will help them to better understand that I expect their comments to be written like good letters, not text messages. I am also going to be encouraging my students to comment on Mrs. Yollis' class blog, with, of course, the goal of being rated with 2's. I hope to process and implement more ideas from this vibrant teacher, class, and project soon.

Do visit this outstanding blog, as well as Mrs. Yollis' wiki. The blog is on the Edublogs Awards nomination list for best class blog; you have until December 16 to visit the nomination page and consider voting for it.

Finally, CSLA folks won't be surprised that Mrs. Yollis is one of the graduates of CSLA's Classroom Learning 2.0.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Edublogs Awards

For at least a couple of years now, I have been enjoying reading about and voting on the annual Edublogs awards. This year, I have been intending to take some time and add nominations for several of the categories. But, here I am less than an hour away from the deadline, so my list is going to be shorter than I intended. I don't want the nominations to close without at least listing these three blogs:

Mrs. Yollis' Class Blog Mrs. Yollis and her third grade students do an outstanding job of blogging and commenting. This class project exemplifies how the integration of technology in the classroom can really enhance the development of students' writing, inquiry, and online citizenship skills. I am nominating this blog for best class blog.

Joyce Valenza's NeverendingSearch blog is always my number #1 source for discovering new web tools and how they can be used in the library and the classroom. I am nominating this blog for best librarian blog.

Jackie Siminitus does a great job of finding and describing new web tools in her 2CoolTools blog, which I am nominating for best resource sharing blog.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book talks and individual student blogs

It’s hard to believe that there are just two weeks left until Winter Break. I am torn between being so relieved to have a two-week break coming and fretting that I won’t have accomplished as much as I intended with my students by then. Nevertheless, I am trying to tell myself that there is a lot to feel good about. Here are a couple of accomplishments that I feel pretty good about:
  • With just a few exceptions, my students are all engaged in their independent reading and finding good books they will enjoy. I learned pretty early in the semester that my plan for reading aloud at the end of each period just wasn't working; we almost always ran out of time before I could get to it. About a month ago, I tried a new idea suggested by my friend Jody, a teacher at one of the other middle schools in my district. I am starting the period on most days with a book talk, and then I read a few pages of the book to get the kids hooked. As much as possible, I choose books the library has multiple copies of, but I am also including recently published books. I have had the students start a "Reading Ideas" sheet; if they like what I book talk, they add that book to their list. I am also encouraging them to add books that their friends suggest and those they learn about from other sources. My hope is that they will all have a list of at least several "next read" ideas ready whenever they finish a book.
  • I am also proud of most my students for the work they have done on their individual blogs. I can't say that all of them are into blogging, and most still have a long ways to go improving their writing, editing, and proofing. That said, though, most of them are really enjoying the opportunity to learn Web 2.0 skills, to write for an authentic audience, and to read and comment on each others' work. This weekend, they are completing their third blogging assignment. For this posting, they are responding to a choice of prompts related to our current reading of Where the Red Fern Grows. To check out some of their blogs, go to my blog/webpage, select the Period 1, Period 2, Period 3, or Period 7 Class Blog from the sidebar, then select any of the student blogs links from those class blogs. You will also notice that the Period 1, 2, 3, and 7 blogs have student entries for each (or some) class days. I'm afraid that project -- of having a "guest blogger of the day" -- isn't producing the results I had hoped for. Too often, students forget to post on the day they volunteered for, or, when they do post, they don't take seriously the need to write well, tell about something interesting, and proof their work. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CSLA 2009 Conference Thanks

The CSLA 2009 Conference has now come and gone, and my duties as conference chair, other than a few wrap up items, are now over! We should have the evaluations and online handouts out to attendees by early next week. Be sure to also check our conference wiki for links videos, slideshows, and more assembled by Marie Slim, our terrific Social Networking Chair.

The conference provided a HUGE self-esteem boost for me, both getting to hear so much positive feedback about the conference as conference chair and winning the Technology Award sponsored by Follett Software! I have also taken note of all the comments I heard requesting improvements in the future and will pass them on to the next committee.

Please excuse this duplication below of my posting in CALIBK12, but I want to reach people in as many ways as possible to thank all the countless people who contributed to the conference's success.

While the conference is now over, I feel confident that the knowledge, great ideas, and camaraderie we gained from it will last us all long into the future. In addition to outstanding selection of general and concurrent sessions and terrific exhibitor offerings, we had a number of firsts --our first Book Cart Drill Team Competition, the world premiere of John McGinnis' "Library Follies," the MTV "Meet the Vendors" Scavenger Hunt, our first "Brag" session at the membership forum, live poster sessions, and the LAYAPALOOZA game show.

It all happened thanks to the hard work and support of so many people:
  • Rosemarie Bernier, our wonderful new president, whose vision and wisdom set the theme and tone and whose hard work never stopped
  • the outstanding conference committee members who worked long and hard both in planning and during the conference
  • the CSLA State Board and the Northern and Southern Section Boards who supported the conference in so many ways
  • our office staff who went the extra mile over and over again
  • all the terrific presenters, authors, and illustrators who attended and so generously shared their wisdom and enthusiasm with us both formally and informally
  • all the CSLA Committees that sponsored events and sessions
  • the many loyal exhibitors who shared their products and support with us
  • all the many attendees who came and supported our organization and volunteered in so many different ways while they were there
Thank you all for being there and making it a conference to remember!

FInally, I would like to thank Rosemarie for offering me the opportunity to serve as this year's committee chair. It was a true honor and privilege.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Keeping Busy with Blogs and My New Computer Rotation

While I have been furiously working away on the last fazes of the conference planning in the evenings and weekends, my classes have been busier than ever.

With just one or two exceptions, all my students have their individual blogs going. They have done their first posting about creativity. Their second posting is due tonight. Some of them were away for three days last week for an honors trip to Catalina. Those students are writing about that experience. The rest are responding to a choice of prompts about a recent book. The assignment also calls for inserting an image reflecting the post. I used that component as an opportunity to teach them about Creative Commons, how to find Creative Commons images at, and how to create a link back to the flickr page to give credit to the creator. I'm looking forward to reading the posts. Only problem is that I don't even have the creativity posts graded yet! Grading is definitely the hardest part of this job.

Another change in the last month is that, due to budget shortfalls and less than expected enrollment at my school, one of my five language arts classes was eliminated and most of my students disbursed to my other four sections. I am now also teaching a sixth grade computer exploratory rotation in place of the fifth language arts class. While I hated seeing my fifth period class eliminated and my other class sizes grow, I am excited about the computer exploratory class. I had a curriculum all ready to go: CSLA's Middle School Learning 2.0 tutorial! I had tried promoting this "beta test" adaptation of CSLA's highly successful SSL 2.0 and Classroom Learning 2.0 tutorials last spring in the library. And, my friend Sheryl (see the October 5 posting) has been using it as the basis of the computer class she is teaching at my neighbor school with great results. I had my first round of students for just 3 1/2 weeks at the end of a rotation, so they only had time to get their feet wet with blogging. Nevertheless, they really enjoyed what they did. Here's my "cover" blog with links to their blogs. Last Monday I started a 10-week round with a new group of students, so we will have lots of time together to work on blogs, and I will also have a chance to incorporate lessons in various information literacy skills.

To introduce my students to the what they will be doing with their blogs, Sheryl and I had a "webinar" using Elluminate* and Skype* between the two classes. Several of her students, who are now a few weeks into their rotation, walked my students through their blogs and what they have most enjoyed working on. Both sets of classes loved it. :) My kids can't wait to be the demonstrators in December when Sheryl has new students starting her class.

* You can get a free Elluminate vRoom for up to three people through That worked fine for us, since we were at just two sites. We used Elluminate to share our browser screens with each other. We could have also used Elluminate's built-in audio, but when we experimented in advance, we found that the quality of both the video and audio on our free Skype accounts was better. We want to learn more about Elluminate in order to take advantage of more of its features and may figure out how to tweak that. In the meantime, the Elluminte and Skype combo worked very well for us.

It's almost time for conference!

CSLA's annual conference is just around the corner! If you haven't registered yet, it's not too late to come and do so on-site. Check out our website and wiki for all the details. You can also start following the conference on Twitter at csla2009. What you learn in the sessions you attend will more than pay for your conference registration. For example, sign up for Sandra Yoon and Sarah Baron's "Successful Strategies for Grant Writing" workshop on Thursday, and you will come away with the tools you need to get your school or district a grant to support your library programs. I look forward to seeing you in Ontario November 19-22!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading and Blogging

I had a great resolution to use this blog as a regular journal on how my classroom teaching is going. So far, I have been doing a terrible job keeping up and contributing regularly. I am finding that doing my prep for each day and trying to keep on top of all the grading is all-consuming. And, my time outside of school is also filled to the brim with planning for CSLA’s Annual Conference November 19-22 and year-round planning for CSLA’s Southern Section. Please don’t miss the CSLA Conference! We have a wonderful line-up of presentations and special events. It’s not too late to register. Visit the CSLA site for registration information and our wiki for all the latest information. CSLA Southern Section also is making some terrific plans this year, including a Webinar with Joyce Valenza on January 23.

While I have been overwhelmed with prepping and grading for my classes, my students and I have been involved in a number of engaging activities. I am heartened to see how much they enjoy the reading that we do in class together, both the stories we have been studying and analyzing and those I have read aloud to them purely for pleasure.

Here’s a quick summary of some of what we’ve been up to. I started off the year with plans to read a story or book outside of our curriculum studies for a few minutes at the end of each period. It seems that I never have enough time for all the things we need to do, and I let that quickly drop off the list unintentionally. This week, I was determined to build that back in. My students were really excited when I got out Richard Peck’s Present Tense, Past Perfect to start another story. I’m really impressed about how good their attention is when I do read aloud to them; I’m going to do all I can to restore these read alouds as a regular activity.

As part of my technology-integration planning for the year, I started students off doing some assignments in our Moodle course. There clearly has been a learning curve for a number of them logging in and uploading files. Some of them have also experienced challenges using their flash drives and converting file formats from their home computers to .doc files that can be read on our school computers. I think that almost everyone is now up to speed on all these skills. A lesson in this for me, though, was that I couldn’t expect everyone to master all the procedures through just one assignment; a good percentage of the students needed several walk throughs to get it down.

The second technology tool I introduced the students to was blogging. My intention was to have a blog for each class period as well as an individual blog for each student. The period blogs are a place where students take turns being the guest blogger/reporter of the day, giving an account of what we do and learn. The students will use the individual blogs to respond to writing prompts, reflect on their reading, and add optional additional journal entries. I thought that starting with the period blogs would give them the experience of creating postings before we embarked on the individual blogs. I have, frankly, been disappointed in the period blogs so far. Some of the students have written lively, well-constructed postings, but a number have failed to check their work for good grammar, spelling, etc. Some have simply failed to post on the day they signed up for. I did keep getting questions from students about when we would start the promised individual blogs. I realized that I couldn’t wait until everyone did a good posting on the period blogs before starting the individual blogs. It took me a good chunk of time to get everyone’s screen name/blog name requests and generate all the blogs, but I did get that done last week. I used to create all the blogs, and set myself as a second administrator on each blog. I spent two class periods helping the students access their blogs, customize them, discuss what makes a good posting, and create a first posting about creativity. I am in the process of reading these postings. So far I am very pleased with their work and the variety of their responses to the questions about creativity. My next task is to link each of the individual blogs to the period blogs so the students can visit each others’ blogs and comment on them. I plan to do a lesson next week on what constitutes a good, constructive comment. Perhaps next I will backtrack and re-teach what constitutes a good “reporter” posting for the period blogs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sheryl's guest posting

Seems that time flies when you are having fun ... or are buried in paperwork and grading. I have actually been doing some fun stuff with my students in the month I see has now gone by since my last post, but I've also spent a lot of it trying to get organized, learn our new online gradebook, and grade, grade, grade. I promise to try to catch up on writing about the interesting parts soon. In the meantime, I'm very excited to have a guest posting by my friend and fellow "TL in the Classroom," Sheryl Grabow-Weiss. Sheryl and I were colleagues in the library in our district for years and are now colleagues in the classroom. Sheryl sent me two paragraphs for her guest posting. The first paragraph is from her own blog in late August. The second paragraph is one she just wrote this month. .... Here goes ....

"Summer is over: ( Time to face the reality that I'll be a classroom teacher this year. I am fortunate that I'll be at the same school I've taught at for 12 years. Instead of being the Teacher Librarian, I'll be teaching two sections of LASS (6th grade language arts and social studies) and a computer research elective for 6th graders. The elective is part of the 6th grade rotation; a 5 week long course covering a variety of topics including languages, computer graphics, art, music, drama and my Computer Connections unit. I've decided to utilize CSLA's Middle School Learning 2.0 for the elective. I plan on having students work on 2 "Things" per week, with an emphasis on web site evaluation, cyber safety and being a good online citizen.

"It is now the beginning of October and I’m settling into the routine of being a classroom teacher. It is a challenge, one that I struggle with every day. Being in the classroom has definitely given me a new perspective of what my teachers go through on a daily basis. I love the time I spend with “my” students. The planning, grading and classroom management tasks are the challenges I struggle with. I’m truly enjoying the elective I teach. This first group of students has taken to blogging like a duck to water. They have enjoyed learning about all of the web 2.0 tools introduced in Teen Learning 2.0 and have found other tools and gadgets to embed in their blogs. They have added gadgets I have on my blog, discovering and utilizing these gadgets without prompting. They love Shelfari and enjoy making VOKI’s – activities that were not part of the original program, but should be included. Introducing students to blogging has given them a voice – a place to explore their creativity.

Sheryl Grabow-Weiss


You can follow Sheryl's blog "Keeping Up" with her students at Thanks so much for posting, Sheryl!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Week 2 - Biopoems and Wordles

Made it through another week! Both the students and I are still working on settling in, and I am still trying to learn all the names. I think I've made good progress, though, thanks in part to my photo seating chart. One thing I am finding is that, no matter how simple I make the lesson plan for the day, there is never enough time to talk to all the students who need help or are behind on something. That's definitely going to be a big challenge, trying to cover enough material and still keeping all the students on track.

Our main activity this week was having students write biopoems, formulaic autobiographical poems that encouraged them to describe themselves and their passions. We talked about using concrete nouns and vivid adjectives. The students completed this assignment and uploaded their poems to Moodle. I am now experimenting with trying to grade them in Moodle. Thank goodness for the long weekend! I am determined to try grading online, but am beginning to wonder if the "old fashioned way," marking on a printout, would actually be easier. Fortunately, I also had the students print out a copy for display in our room, since a number of students saved their files in formats such as .docx and .pages, and I can't easily read all of these formats on my computer. I advised them to select Save As and save their files in .doc format, but it looks like I am going to have to go over that concept more thoroughly, and probably type up some instructions.

Once the biopoems were complete, we had a day with the laptops and I showed the students how to paste their poems into and create cool word images with them. They really enjoyed this activity. Wordle images never repeat the same word twice, but the size of the text is dependent upon how many times the word appeared in the original text. It gave the students a chance to view their biopoem thoughts from a different angle. Here's one example:

The students really enjoyed this activity, and practiced altering the size of words, like their names, by typing them more times. They also enjoyed adjusting the layout, fonts, and colors. I can see using wordles for other activities this year. One other teacher already told me she wants to use them for themes in history her social studies class is studying.

Outside of school, the CSLA Conference Committee is hard at work on all the details of the conference. Please be sure to come. It's going to be terrific, and we need all California school library people there. Also, invite English/Language Arts and Tech Teacher friends. There will be tons of sessions for them, too. Visit our wiki for all the details.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week 1 Complete!

It's Saturday afternoon, and I survived Week 1 -- three days with students Wednesday-Friday. The kids have really been terrific. It is so painful knowing the library is a few doors away and won't be staffed as it should be, but I truly believe I will enjoy working with my five classes of students. I must say, though, that it has been exhausting work so far!

Using the Google form I mentioned in the last post to acknowledge the class welcome letter has gone well. Some students were a little confused and turned in the printed form as well as completing the online form and or didn't understand how to complete the online form, but most of them had no trouble.

On Friday, I had the students use the laptops, and I think the students really enjoyed getting their hands on the computers. I reviewed the rules for handling them, then walked them through how to access our school Moodle site and enroll in my Moodle course. Moodle is a protected online enviroment which we will use throughout the year to submit assignments, participate in discussion forums, create glossaries for vocabulary, and other activities. The students' task for the day was to enroll in the Moodle course, take a Photobooth personal photo, rename the photo using a standard naming convention, and upload the photo to Moodle. Not all of the students were able to complete the task in our short, 45-minute periods, but most did.

Then, today, I downloaded the photos from Moodle and inserted them in a table in a Word file to create a photo seating chart. I am not good at remembering names, so I am hoping this chart will help me learn the names more quickly.

Now, I have promised myself a full afternoon and evening of R & R -- a movie and reading! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 1

Our class door

I survived Day 1 of school! I didn't even feel too exhausted until I got home and ended up taking a short nap before dinner.

I greeted all the students one-by-one at the door and let them know where their seats were. As a start-up activity, all the students completed short forms letting me know something special or unusual about them and something that could help me remember them and their names. I got some great answers. I also asked them to indicate whether they had Internet access at home, and I was happy to learn that almost everyone does. That will make it much easier for us to do projects online and to maintain a "green" classroom. I also asked on the form if they had email addresses and knew how to access them from a web browser. Some do, but I will definitely have to suggest to many of the parents that they help their children get access to an email account for easy transfer of documents to and from school. I also did a short introduction to the class and my background, and I distributed of our literature textbook for home use. Student homework for Thursday's class is to make a name tag tent card to place on each desk tomorrow. I wish I were better at learning names. I know almost all the students by sight from seeing them in the library last year, but learning names is another story for me.

Tomorrow we will go over the welcome letter for parents and students about class expectations. I am planning to have a printed class set of the letter for students to read during class, but not send home the hard copy unless a student needs it, since the letter is on my class blog. And, instead of having parents and students sign and return the letter, I am going to have them fill out a Google form as acknowledgment. The form will also allow me to capture student and parent emails in a spreadsheet document. Hoping this goes well!

I didn't sleep well anticipating the first day with students, but I think I will sleep well tonight!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Work starts tomorrow!

I am definitely not ready to have work start tomorrow. We get two days of prep and then students start on Wednesday. I feel like I have already been doing all sorts of prep for the start of school - lesson plan for first day, parent letter, technology letter, decorating my room, and on and on - but I haven't actually finished anything. So, while I should be working on all those tasks, instead I am sitting here procrastinating by checking my email, bloglines blogs, and Twitter. And, I just found a great wall-writing tool called Wall Wisher that I think I'd like to try using with my students. Check out and join my first "wall" experiment by adding a note about a favorite book.

During my prep for work, I have also been very busy with CSLA (California School Library Association) planning in my two roles as Southern Section President Elect and 2009 Conference Chair. The Southern Section board had a summer retreat a couple of weeks ago and the State Board met last week. We have lots of great activities planned for the coming year. Be sure to be checking the CSLA site, reading the members' newsletter, and subscribe to CALIB to keep posted. If you are in California, please stay active in this organization even if you aren't in a library position right now. CSLA is doing lots of work to advocate for building strong school libraries. We need your support, and you need ours! And, if you are a TL not currently working in a library position, you can join/renew at the lower rate of $45. The conference is also a must-do activity. It will have sessions for everyone -- wonderful authors, sessions on reading, technology, information literacy, and much more. Please come yourself, and also encourage English teacher and tech teacher friends to come with you.

Now, I am going to try to drag myself to school to paint one more wall...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Countdown to Day 1

I just returned yesterday from the State Board meeting of the California School Library Association in Sacramento. We have such an awesome group of board members dedicated to carrying the message of why school libraries are so vital for our students. We did some great planning, and I got such incredible support from all of them for this new blog. I feel blessed to have so many of them and all of you wonderful teacher librarians who may be reading this supporting me as I launch my “new adventure.”

I can't believe there is just a week until I officially start back to work! Teachers go back next Monday, August 24, and school starts for students on Wednesday, August 26. I have already spent so much time getting ready for my new position as a 7th grade language arts teacher, but I still have so much more to do!

Here is some of what I have done already and what I plan to do:

  • I have met with several classroom teachers for advice on curriculum and classroom management. They have all been wonderfully supportive. I am very lucky to have outstanding teacher colleagues at my school who want to help me with my new work.
  • I read Harry and Rosemary Wong’s First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher and watched Harry Wong’s The Effective Teacher videotapes. I have also been working on my own classroom management “plan.” My “MO” is that I never actually finish anything until just before it is due, but I feel like I have my plan well along the way so it will be ready in time for school. I am working on a complete script and PowerPoint - or a Prezi if I have time to learn how to use it - for the first day of school, a list of rules and procedures I want to follow in my class, and a parent letter to send home. I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking, along with hard work. I am telling myself that I will be a good classroom manager as long as I do the important prep work!
  • I have been working on plans for curriculum and lessons. There is a lot to prepare! My current idea is to work out two weeks of lessons before school starts and then plan the rest as I go. After I introduce myself and I go over all the rules and procedures with my students, I am planning to use my colleagues' biopoem assignment as the first student project.
  • Today, I painted my classroom! One of the teachers convinced me that it would be much quicker and easier to paint than to put up colored butcher paper. I hadn’t painted a room since I was a graduate student! I decided to go with blue and green, and I alternated those colors on the panels that go along one wall of the room. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be a perfectionist, and it definitely isn’t perfect. But, I think it’s pretty bright and lively. ☺ Here are a couple of photos:

  • I have been working on setting the technology I will use with students in the classroom. Here is my current plan:
  • I have created an blog as both a blog and homepage. It will be my main communication about class activities and assignments for both parents and students. I have been using Google’s blogger for all my blogs in the past, and for this one you are reading; I thought it would be good to try this other software option that is specifically designed for education. My blog is still not ready for the students and parents to see, but feel free to take a sneak peek and give me feedback.
  • I am setting up a blog for each class period. In these blogs, students will take turns being the “scribe” of the day who will record what the objective of the day and what the class did and learned.
  • I am going to ask the parents to help their children, most of whom will be under 13 years old, to set up a gmail email account that will allow them to send and receive emails from school and to use Google docs. Thanks to our district's EETT grant, we will have access to classroom sets of laptops on a regular basis. I want the students to be able to easily access their work both at school and home. While sending documents back and forth through email and using flash drives are definitely viable options, I think that Google docs will be the easiest way to accomplish that.
  • I have created a class wiki for various class projects that will allow each student to create his/her own page. I'll include the link to that once it is more fleshed out.
  • I am going to have every student create his/her own personal blog. I am still waffling between using or Google Blogger for these, but am leaning toward Any thoughts? In these blogs, students will write about what they are reading, what they are learning about language arts, and the technology tools they are using. Last school year, I had some students “beta test” CSLA’s Middle School Learning 2.0 tutorial with a slightly modified clone site. I plan to have my students complete all those activities during the course of the year.
  • I am going to ask the parents to help their children set up a VoiceThread account. We will use VoiceThread to have asynchronous conversations about literature and to allow students to create their own VoiceThread booktalks to add to my existing booktalk blog. I also hope to use VoiceTheads for other projects I develop along the way.
  • I will also be using a Moodle course as a protected, private environment where students can upload assignments and participate in forums. I think it is incredibly important for students to learn how to behave appropriately and protect their privacy in public on the Internet. That is why I want them to participate in public blog, VoiceThreads, and wiki project. I think it is also important to provide protected environments where they can be free to participate without the worries of protecting their identities. I believe that balancing assignments in public blogs and wikis with those on a private Moodle site will allow them to learn the difference between public and private Internet environments and the appropriate behaviors in each.
  • I am, frankly, overwhelmed, about the amount of grading I will need to do. I know I will have to be grading many writing assignments. I am planning to set up quizzes in Quia for most of the non-writing assignments. I am hoping that my students will enjoy online quizzes and the other activities that Quia makes possible, and that using this software can both engage them and alleviate the load of grading for me a bit.
  • I learned about Edmodo from my friend Marie's CSLA conference proposal. I’m wondering, though, if that is perhaps one more tool than both my students and I can incorporate into our repertoire. I guess we’ll see as we go along.

I know this plan is ambitious, but I am determined to use my new classroom position to take full advantage of the technology tools available. I have been promoting the integration of technology into the curriculum to teachers to enhance student learning. This is my chance to really test out my ideas to the fullest. Please wish me luck, and, please, please, send me your feedback and suggestions!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Welcome to my new blog!

My story:

For seven and a half years I worked as the teacher librarian at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills, and I loved sharing my passion for reading, research, information literacy, and technology with my students and staff. I am also an active volunteer in the school library field and thrive on the interaction and camaraderie with other school library people. I am incoming President of CSLA (California School Library Association), Southern Section, and Chair of CSLA's annual state conference coming up in Ontario in November. I'm also a school library advocacy zealot and nuts about Web 2.0. :)

Sadly, like so many other teacher librarians this year, especially in California, my position was terminated in June and I was reassigned to the classroom. However, unlike most teacher librarians in California, I never did work in the classroom other than during my student teaching. I found my way into the field with my M.A. and M.L.S., and then earned both my teaching credential and my library media credential once I was already working in the library. So, here I am beginning a brand new career as a seventh grade language arts teacher this year. I am, of course, incredibly disheartened, and, yes, angry, not to be working in the library this year, and I know that I will find it especially painful working at my same school and watching my library program atrophy. I am, though, excited in some ways to begin a new adventure in which I will be able to implement all of the reading, research, information literacy, digital citizenship, and technology programs with my own students that I have been advocating and encouraging to classroom teachers over the last few years. I decided to start this blog to chronicle my new adventures. I hope that those of you who are in the same boat as me – being reassigned to the classroom – can relate and share your own experiences carrying the school library message in the classroom. “Guest” blog entries will be very welcome. I also just started a ning group for those of us who might refer to ourselves as "TLs in exile" as a forum where we can give each other advice in a positive, supportive environment. Those of you still working as teacher librarians, please cheer me on and support me with this new challenge and feel free to let me be your “guinea pig.” When you have an idea (as all of us TLs so frequently do) that you just know would work great in the classroom, but you don’t yet have a taker, please consider sharing it with me, and I will do my best to try it out and see if it works as a model for your own classroom teachers.

So here, goes! Please wish me luck! And, now back to watching the next tape on classroom management by Harry Wong :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jane Lofton's Information

Jane Lofton
Teacher Librarian
Mira Costa High School
1401 Artesia Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Manhattan Beach USD
310-318-7337 x5048

gmail (backup):



Career: Teacher Librarian at Mira Costa High School since August 2010. Before that, I was the TL at Lindero Canyon Middle School for 7 ½ years, then in the classroom at Lindero for a year. Prior careers included being a public library reference librarian and technical writer in the computer software industry.

B.A. in English, Stanford University
M.A. in English, University of Toronto
M.L.S. (Master of Library Science), University of Toronto
Teaching Credential, National University
Teacher Librarian Credential, Calif. State University, Long Beach