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 :)