Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Back & Forward

It seems that each year goes by faster than the last. In looking back on 2010, I count myself very lucky that, despite how quickly the year went, I have a lot of positive memories:

  • Classroom Teaching and Blogging: Although it wasn't the position I chose, I truly enjoyed my year in the classroom with my 7th grade Language Arts and 6th Grade Computer Exploratory students during the 2009-2010 school year. The highlights for me, and, I think, for my students, were 1) my read alouds and booktalks and 2) my class blog and all the students' individual blogs. I learned so much and enjoyed meeting (both online and live) new blogging friends around the world. It was bitter-sweet for me to leave my classroom, school, and my class blog target="_blank" this fall.
  • CSLA: While I take advantage of all the professional development opportunities I can find, CSLA has always been my #1 source of professional guidance. I know that I couldn't be the teacher librarian I am without what I learn from CSLA conferences, workshops, publications, networking, and the friendships I have gained through this organization. I feel so fortunate that I was able to serve as CSLA Southern Section President during 2009-2010, and am now continuing on the Southern Section and State Board as 2010-2011 Southern Section Past President. Some highlights of the Southern Section year were our first-ever webinar target="_blank" on Web 2.0 Tools for Learning with Super TL Joyce Valenza, coordinated by our own tech guru Marie Slim, and our March Workshop at Palms MS, which featured keynote speaker Stephen Krashen and our first-ever Smackdown. And, thanks to lots and lots of hard work by many, many CSLA folks, the California State Board of Education passed the Model School Library Standards in September. This is wonderful news, and I know all of us need to work to promote and implement these standards in every way we can.
  • Teen Learning 2.0: This self-paced tutorial authored by Connie Williams and the CSLA 2.0 Team, served as the curriculum for my 6th Grade Computer Exploratory Class last school year, and I also wove each of the activities into the various blogging assignments I gave to my 7th grade Language Arts students. Along the way, it was helpful and fun to compare notes with Sheryl Weiss, who was also teaching a 6th Grade Computer Rotation class at her school. The students especially enjoyed when we held Skype/Elluminate sessions to share with each other. After using the tutorial throughout the school year, Sheryl and I offered to do an updated version based on our experiences. CSLA is now promoting the new tutorial. Please give it a try with students and promote it to others! 
  • New Job: After submitting lots of resumes and getting more than my share of interview practice, in August I was offered the position as TL at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. My "to do" list gets longer every day, but I love my new job! I feel so lucky to have joined a very supportive staff and a great school and district. 
  • CSLA 2010 Conference: As always, the annual conference in November was incredibly energizing for me. I came away with lots of great new tools, knowledge, and ideas. I also had the pleasure of participating on a Smackdown panel with the super team of Marie Slim, Deb Stanley, and Janet HasBrouck, and in a session on Teen Learning 2.0 with Sheryl Weiss. On my own, I also did a session on VoiceThread

I'm a nut for new web tools, so I am constantly bookmarking new discoveries I hear about through Twitter, blogs I follow, and leads from groups. All too often, though, I don't really have the time to try them all out. A few tools I did get to play with and have worked to incorporate into my "repertoire" this year include:
  • - many of my students enjoyed using this for an assignment after they read The Giver. There were some issues distinguishing the free and paid content, but it's definitely a fun site for both students and adults.
  • - I made an online library orientation with this fun movie-maker, and plan to use it for more.
  • - After experimenting with a wiki as my library website, I changed gears in November and built a new website using Weebly for the first time. While it won't let me do everything that a full html tool does, I'm quite happy with it and enjoy how easy it is to use.
  • - I saw my first Prezi while being a remote attendee at NECC in 2009 and sitting in on Steve Dembo's Top 10 Web Tools presentation. I was blown away by how engaging and flexible it is, but didn't really get to play with it until my fellow teacher Jani Nelson and I used it for a wrap-up review of our school's EETT grant activities last June. Since then, I have used it whenever I can for presentations. I like how it frees me from the sequential nature of PowerPoint, helps me avoid getting caught up in long bullet lists of texts, and allows for very effective zooming in and out of layers of content. 
Just as there's always something new to try, a few tools I have used and loved disappeared this year. I had become a big fan of, and was very disappointed to learn that it was purchased by Facebook and would be discontinuing. Although I had tried Google Reader a few years ago, I was devotee of Bloglines, and was crushed when I read it was discontinuing. Fortunately, that decision was reversed, and Bloglines is still available, but by the time I learned that, I had made the transition to Google Reader and decided to stick with it for the time being. I was also very sad to see Delicious announce it was discontinuing, although I've been a fan for some time. I guess the lesson here is to always back up content and never become too dependent on any one tool.

Some plans and goals for 2011:
  • Build my new library website, especially the reading and pathfinder areas. Please help me with suggestions!
  • QR Codes and Signs: I currently have one QR code on my library website that takes users to my mobile site, but I plan to create a lot of new, engaging signage for my library this coming year and to include QR codes with these signs. 
  • Build video skills. I would like to add a lot of videos to my library website, and want to experiment with a variety of different types of video.
  • Get students at my school doing the Teen Learning 2.0 tutorial. 
  • Present at CUE 2011 in Palms Springs in March. I am looking forward to working with Sheryl Weiss on a Teen Learning 2.0 session and with Jani Nelson on a Prezi session.
  • Present professional development sessions for my school and district staff. I've volunteered to do after-school sessions on Classroom Learning 2.0, Copyright and Creative Commons, Prezi, VoiceThread, and Google Docs and iGoogle.
(Avatar from with thanks for Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian, for the idea.)

Wishing everyone out there a happy, healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Greetings

I first learned about last summer and was immediately taken with it. It's (as you can see below) an online pop-up book creator with lots of fun options. I think it is a great choice for digital storytelling I would like to take more advantage of and share with teachers and students. Here's the holiday card I just made for my school library:

Be sure to the click each of the ! bubbles and use your mouse to rotate the book around to enjoy the entire message.

I created the card to extend warm holiday greetings to the Mira Costa family - and to you, but also in hopes that it will inspire some of the teachers to use with their students.

While readers of this blog probably won't be visiting the Mira Costa library to borrow a winter break book, I bet you will be reading. Do share what your winter reading plans are.:)

Library Featured in Student Newspaper

I feel like I have soooo much to do to begin making the Mira Costa High School Library program do all I think it should. Each day my "must do" list gets longer and progress seems all too slow. It was very exciting and heartening, though, to have a reporter from La Vista, our student newspaper, come by recently to interview me about the library and write a complimentary article about the changes I have made so far. Here's a link to the article on the paper's online site. It is wonderful to feel like what I am trying to do is appreciated by the students! I couldn't be luckier being in an environment with such supportive stackholders.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Trying Out for Flickr Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons BBBphoto © 2008 Steren Giannini | more info (via: Wylio)

I just saw a tweet from Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian and an awesome teacher librarian, blogger, and tweeter, about All too often, I bookmark good ideas to diigo to try later, but then forget about them. I decided to try Wylio out right away. Here's what it does: It searches for Creative Commons images, and then lets you size the image and get embed code to include it in a website or blog. There are a number of sites out there that will search for Creative Commons for you - I've used a lot - but this has the added advantage of automatically capturing the image, adding the credit and link back to Flickr, sizing, and preparing the image for the web. Pretty cool! This could become part of my regular toolkit. Thank you for letting me know about Wylio, Gwyneth. One thing I don't understand, though, is why the image has photo ©, since the Flickr page shows that it is definitely Creative Commons-licensed. I thought © meant a traditional copyright. Any thoughts? I also need to experiment a bit more with the sizing and placement of the image options -- they aren't coming out in my blog exactly as they appear in edit mode.

This little experiment is also reminding me that I need to put the use of Creative Commons high on the list of what I teach and in the library. I have been seeing when I mention it to teachers and classes that both students and teachers are unaware of how important this concept is as they all move towards becoming publishers of websites, etc. I've also seen when I worked with students at Lindero blogging and completing the Teen Learning 2.0 tutorial that the lesson of not using copyrighted material in published works without permission needs to be reinforced over and over again with most of them before they really incorporate it into their regular practices. We are so fortunate to have great resources like Flickr and tools like Wylio to make these lessons fun and easy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Navigating the New and Building a New Site

The CSLA/CLA "Navigating the New" conference was wonderful! All three sessions I participated in went without hitches, and the audience participation and feedback was very rewarding. Here is the Google Docs slideshow link for the Teen Learning 2.0 session Sheryl Grabow-Weiss presented and here is the Prezi for my VoiceThread session. While neither of these stand alone without commentary, feel free to contact me with questions about either of them.

My only problem with the conference is that I promised myself I'd spend part of my Thanksgiving week off digesting and organizing what I learned, and, here its already Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), and I have so many miles to go. However, I made one resolution while I was there to scrap my new library wiki, which, for whatever reason doesn't seem to be working for me, and create a new library site. I kept fretting about changing gears after I have been trying to "sell" the wiki, but I figure it is better to change early if I am sure I need to change. Yesterday, I got down to it, and now have a "beta" version I would love feedback on. Here's the link. I still have lots to do, but am putting it "out there" now, since I would love feedback. So please do check it out if you can. Also, I really need to give it a rest and get going on my Thanksgiving dinner! I am so thankful this Thanksgiving for my family, my wonderful network of library folks and teachers, and to my school for hiring me and supporting me in my new job.

I am determined to get through my conference thoughts and post more soon, so stand by. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Navigating the New

I just arrived in Sacramento tonight for CSLA's first "Navigating the New" joint conference with CLA. I'm very excited to be here and to experience this first collaborative event. Tomorrow, I will be attending the CSLA State Board meeting, and the conference starts on Friday. I am a panelist for the "Smackdown! Fast and Furious Web 2.0" workshop on Friday at 1:30, along with Moderator Marie Slim, Janet HasBrouck, and Deb Stanley. I am also presenting two concurrent sessions. The sessions are on "Bring Asynchronous Conversation Alive with VoiceThread" at 3:45 Friday and on "CSLA’s Teen Web 2.0 Tutorial: Blogging to Build Web 2.0 and Digital Citizenship Skills" with Sheryl Grabow-Weiss on Saturday at 3 P.M.

Here's a ZooBurst I made that we will be using to introduce the Smackdown:

This is my first ZooBurst, and it was a lot of fun to make. I hope to learn more about it and use it for digital storytelling myself and with students.

Please come to the Smackdown and my concurrent session presentations if you can.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Web Tools Come and Go

I was so sad to learn last night that, a Web 2.0 tool with some unique features I have been enjoying using, was just purchased by Facebook and will be shutting down. It's the only site I know that will allow users to create a page for uploading and downloading files without first creating an account. It also facilitates group meetings and chats. I have helped a couple of students use it at school, and now I really won't have a replacement. This news comes not long after announced that it was stopping its RSS aggregator service. I already had a Google Reader account, so have switched to that, but I really liked Bloglines!

Fortunately, I still have a lot of other favorite Web 2.0 tools. Right now,, a presentation software site i learned about from Steve Dembo while being a virtual attendee at NECC in 2009, is one of the tools I am determined to become more savvy with. I used Prezi for my first monthly status report at the Mira Costa High School Library. I meant to post and provide the link to it earlier. It's already time to start working on my October report (how did that happen?), and, although I don't know if I'll use Prezi every time,  I have to decided to continue with it for this month. I hope that Prezi stays around!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Library Orientation Video

Here's the library orientation video I created for 10th-12th graders:

I have asked all the English teachers to show it to their students. I hope the students don't find it too corny. It was my first attempt at a GoAnimate video, and, while it was fun, there was a definite learning curve getting it all to work. I also thought of a lot of tweaking I'd like to do, but needed this time to wrap it up quickly. I'll be working to refine my GoAnimate skills on the next one. There's always a next one. :)

The version of the video you see here is the HD version I created and uploaded to youtube. I think it loads a lot faster than the original copy on the GoAnimate site, but the opening image didn't come out the way I intended. It is a picture from a later slide rather than the first slide. And, I think I am also losing potential points I could use toward future GoAnimate projects by not having the viewings from the GoAnimate file. Oh well! It is possible to create free GoAnimate videos, but I found that I had to upgrade to the paid version and pay for some "Go Bucks" to accomplish all that I wanted to.

Thanks so much to Marie Slim and Pam Oehlman for letting me borrow the concept they used in the GoAnimate video for Pam's library.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Library Orientations

Goodness, how time has been flying as I have been getting going with my new position. I can't say that I loved spending almost two weeks on textbooks, but it is basically behind me for the semester now. Hooray! And, I now have lots of ideas about what could be tweaked to streamline the process next time.

School has been in session for six days now, and I can already see what a very busy place my library is going to be. Students are pouring in to do homework, get books, and use the computers. I still have so much to learn, but, ready or not, I am starting my first 9th grade orientations on Monday. I'm using the same theme I tried in the "demo orientation" I created as part of my application process. I'll display an "iphone" with "apps" on it, describe an app representing a feature of the library, have students guess which app it is and what it's called, and then give more detail about each. Before we start the "game," I'll have them all write their response to "I wish the library would ..." and "My favorite book is ..." on a card.

The poster I created for the demo fell apart on me before I could get it lamenated, and I really wanted to put it up on the wall, so I recreated it as a single file I could get printed at Kinkos. You can see a copy at the top of this posting.

And, while it's not self-explanatory without my commentary, here's a link my presentation prezi.
I keep tweaking it, but I think it is basically done now. In any case, I have to move on since I have more prep to do for Monday! If anyone is interested in my script file, let me know. And, of course, send me any feedback on the graphics, flow, etc.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flipped - The Movie

Yesterday, I took some time off from prepping for my new job and reading Mockingjay, to go see "Flipped" with my daughter. It was a real treat for both of us. It's true to the book, while offering some new insights and a delightful late 1950's/early 1960's setting. Wendelin Van Draanen's book was a huge hit at Lindero Canyon MS I booktalked many, many times, and she is a wonderful speaker and human being I had the delight to host as a visiting author, so I was anxiously awaiting the film release. I wasn't disappointed, as I so often am when I loved a book.

I learned from teacher librarian George Pilling that the film is just being "platform" released in six major cities. Its success in these cities will determine whether it gets further releases. Please go see it, both for your own pleasure, and to boost its chances of getting a well-deserved nationwide release. If it's not in your city, visit the Flipped Facebook page and ask why. In fact, as George noted, it will probably appeal to small town audiences more than in the big cities, but this "big city girl" loved it.

Here's the trailer:

You can read Ebert's enthusiastic three and a half star review here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting Going at Mira Costa

Nearly three weeks have now flown by since I accepted my new position as teacher librarian at Mira Costa High School, and I've already spent four days on the job this week. The list of things to learn about, decide about, and set up seems to be endless, but I'm reminding myself to take it one step at a time. To add to my personal "to do" list, my family and I are working on trying to sell our home and move closer to my new job to reduce what is currently a very long commute. So, I certainly have my plate full right now, but all with exhilarating tasks. Everyone I have met at Mira Costa and in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District -- administrators, teachers, parents, and students -- has been incredibly nice, helpful, and welcoming. I'm even delighted to be getting a "welcome" visit from the other Manhattan Beach USD library staff. They will be coming to visit me at my library after work on Tuesday.

I will be going over goals with my principal next week, but here is my preliminary list for the first month:

  • Learn all the ins and outs of textbook distribution, and get the textbooks out to all students the first week of school.
  • Establish library policies.
  • Create a library brochure.
  • Develop and deliver a live orientation for all freshmen.
  • Develop a recorded orientation for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
  • Organize routines for library volunteers. 
  • Develop a lively web presence, along with a library blog and wiki.
  • Begin collaborative lessons with teachers. 
  • Finish Mockingjay. (I couldn't resist throwing that in, since I just got my copy this week and have been savoring each chapter so far. :) )
Do please feel free to comment with advice on other goals I should be including. 

You'll notice that I still haven't decided how to rename or morph this blog. Ideas? 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My "Orientation" Poster

I forgot when I did my posting last night to include this photo of the poster I created for my "orientation" demo. (Sorry the quality of the iPhone-captured photo came out rather fuzzy.) As part of my application process at Mira Costa High School, I was asked to do a 15-minute library orientation demo for a class of students. I did the demo in order to qualify for an interview. The demo took place in a classroom of summer school students, and there was no projector or Internet available. I could have brought my computer, but I was dubious that asking 30 students to hover around my Mac Air would work well. So, I went low tech with a high tech theme using this poster, which I asked two student volunteers to hold for me. Each of the icons you see on the "iPhone" represents a feature of the library program (technology, librarian, research, procedures, virtual library, books, and fun programs). I described each feature in "random" order, then had the students guess which "app" it was and what it would be called. They wrote their answers on an index card, and then I asked volunteers to share the answer. Once I confirmed each answer, I also elaborated a bit more on the feature.

I also got some input on what students want from the library and what books they like. Before I started the features "game," I asked them to quickly write the following on their index cards:
"I wish the library would..." and "My favorite book is ..." 

Many thanks to my great friend and super TL, Marie Slim (Marie's blog and Follow Marie on Twitter), for all her great input as I prepared for my demo. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TL in the Classroom Moving Back to the Library! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Almost exactly a year after I started this blog to help reconcile myself to becoming a "TL in the Classroom," I am incredibly excited to report that I am returning to a school library the end of this month! On Monday I was offered a position as the TL at a wonderful high school, Mira Costa, in Manhattan Beach. I am still trying to process the news, but can't wait to get going on another new chapter in my life. I feel confident that the experience I had in the classroom will only enhance my preparation for my new position. And, with a year outside the library, I've had a lot of time to rethink my philosophy about a whole variety of library issues. What will be brand new for me is moving to high school after spending 8 1/2 years in middle school. I really love the quirkiness of middle schoolers, but I feel ready and able to "graduate" to the next level. Please send me good thoughts as I embark on this next chapter!

As for this blog, I need a bit of time to figure out what its future will be. I haven't managed to blog as regularly on it as I would like, but I've enjoyed the experience when I have. I am also rather sad to know that I will have to abandon, which was my daily companion during the last school year. I kind of hate the idea of leaving not just one, but two blogs behind, so I am hoping I can figure out how to morph this one into "TL Back in the Library," or something like that and also start a new blog for my new library. Please stand by as I sort this all out.

And, if you are one of the TLs in the classroom out there, please take heart from my news and don't give up!

Teen Learning 2.0

I don't know where the time has been going this summer! I have been intending to post about Teen Learning 2.0, the CSLA tutorial my friend Sheryl Grabow-Weiss and I completed last month as a teen introduction to the world of Web 2.0 tools:

It's an updated version of Middle School Learning 2.0 developed a while back by Connie Williams as a student version of CSLA's School Library Learning 2.0 and Classroom Learning 2.0 tutorials. (Check this link for information about all the CSLA tutorials developed by the CSLA 2.0 team under the able leadership of Jackie Siminitus and Connie Williams.) Sheryl and I volunteered to rework the tutorial after "test driving" it - and modifying as went along - with several hundred students during the 2009-2010 school year.

The tutorial not only walks students through a variety of fun and useful Web 2.0 tools; it also emphasizes good digital citizenship. In addition, we included a teacher's guide, sample parent permission letter, and correlations with the draft of the California Model School Library Standards.

You can use the tutorial in a variety of ways:

  • As a self-guided tutorial for library aides.
  • As curriculum for a computer class. (Both Sheryl and did this.)
  • As a library club or other extra-curricular group activity.
  • As material to be included in student blogs in English or other subject area classes. (I did this with my language arts students.)
There are probably other ideas I haven't thought of. Please share them and feel free to give us feedback! 

Thanks so much to Jackie Siminitus and Connie Williams for giving Sheryl and me the opportunity to work on this. Thanks also to Sue Waters for offering a free Pro account of, the platform on which we built the tutorial.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Trying Out an AnswerGarden Poll

I just learned about AnswerGarden through a tweet from Kathleen McGeady (@kathmcgeady), an Australian primary school teacher with a great class blog. I can imagine using it a lot for quick polls with my students next year. While there are a number of nice polling software options out there, what I like about this one is that it instantly shows the results in a word cloud, with the size of the cloud text weighted by the number of times the answer is selected. When you respond, you can either type your answer or click on an answer that is already displayed. So, here's my first attempt. Please respond so we can see what it looks like with lots of different answers! I have set this one so you can answer more than once. By default, though, it allows only one response from an IP address per day.

Share a favorite book you read this summer.... at

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Join the Virtual March for Libraries

Although I wasn't able to make it to Washington, D.C. for this year's American Library Association conference, I am there in spirit! Please join me as a virtual member of National Library Advocacy Day by going to this link and contacting your legislators to support school and public libraries. Our children's futures depend upon it. As I write, the live March for Libraries is going on, but you can contact your legislators any day this week.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some Year-End Reflections

I am finally beginning to wind down from all the end-of-school-year grading and other chores. What a relief to have some time to regroup! Having summer off is a tremendous blessing I truly appreciate. And, regrouping is a big item on my list for the break. I want to rethink almost everything I did in the classroom this year, from what kind of writing assignments I give, to what we read as a class, to how I handle the students' blogs, to classroom management. To start the process, I just read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, and am determined to do all I can to carve out more independent reading time for my students next year. If you haven't read her account of how she successfully challenges her students to read approximately 40 books each year, do add it to your summer reading list for inspiration. She also has a blog I am now following. Her book is just the first in a long list of materials I want to get through and work I need to do to improve my teaching next year. But, rather than share my "to do" list in this posting, in the spirit of Peggy Klaus's Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, I am going to try first to review some successes I feel proud of accomplishing this year. Here goes:

  • Reading: I felt sad that I didn't succeed in turning every student into a book lover. Still, I am confident that my enthusiasm for reading, book talks, read alouds, and personal suggestions got almost all of them reading more and with more engagement. For next year, I am making it a goal to build even more enthusiasm for reading in my students.
  • Blogging: When my students completed their final blog posting assignment, many of them wrote with great enthusiasm about the blogging experience. Some of them even enjoyed the excitement of having their blogs read and commented on by readers from around the world. I am hoping that a number of them will keep blogging. While I was disappointed by the quality of some of their writing, there are a lot of blogs and postings in which both they and I can take pride. 
  • Technology: My students all became very skilled in using a wide variety of software applications, especially Web 2.0 tools, this year, and I got lots of feedback indicating that they enjoyed that opportunity. The technology engaged them and helped them get more from their assignments.
  • Digital Citizenship: Our emphasis on blogging and communicating in a public environment gave me many opportunities to discuss digital citizenship. The students developed a sound understanding of copyright and how it applies both online and in print and a strong sense of what is and isn't appropriate to share about themselves in public and how to practice good online etiquette.
  • My Own New Knowledge: As for me, I learned a lot about teaching, grading, and classroom management. I also learned new classroom technology skills myself, including how to use responders and interactive whiteboard hardware and software, and how to administer more than 200 student blogs. So, while moving to the classroom was never in my plans, it was a year of great growth for me. 
  • Remaining a Teacher Librarian in the Classroom: And, finally, I think I am most proud that I feel like I never stopped being a teacher librarian to the students in my classes. While I had a lot to learn about classroom teaching, being a teacher librarian also meant that I had something special to offer my students. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Updated My Booktalk Blog

Well, I should be embarrassed how long it took me to accomplish this task, but I just finally finished adding 45 VoiceThread booktalks to my booktalk blog, Lindero Loves Books. It's been on my "to do" list for several months. I started Lindero Loves Books a while back when I was still in the library in my teacher librarian role. I wanted to develop a collection of booktalks for students at my school. I started recording a number myself, all using VoiceThread, one of my favorite Web 2.0 tools, and then encouraged any students I could to contribute. Those who participated came in and recorded them using my account. When I began working in the classroom this year, I decided to make a VoiceThread booktalk a class assignment and to have students set up and use their own accounts for the project. They all embedded them in their personal blogs and their classmates saw them there, but I wanted to also add them to the booktalk blog as another way of sharing them. From about 125 different booktalks, I chose the 45 best to add to the booktalk blog. I plan now to promote the blog in class to encourage my students to use it for summer reading ideas. I am also hoping that it will be a good source of ideas for the next school year.

Do visit some of the booktalks and feel free to leave comments. The student booktalkers will enjoy comments on the VoiceThreads themselves. You need to have a VoiceThread account to comment, but accounts are free and just take a couple of minutes to set up.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Furlough Ending, Year-End Approaching

Due to the dire budget situation, our district added four furlough days to our four-day Memorial Day weekend, giving us a total of ten straight days off. And, here I am on the last day this furlough/vacation, trying to get myself ready to return to the final three weeks of school tomorrow. How did I spend my time? Well, I definitely enjoyed the unexpected time off to catch up at least a little on sleep, stuff around the house, and connecting with friends. I also, though, spent an awfully lot of it grading and worrying about those of my students whose grades are in danger. I started off the year so determined to engage every student and help each and every one succeed. It’s truly disheartening to realize that I haven’t been able to reach every student.

I am very much looking forward to the long summer break coming soon, and the opportunity to rekey for next year and think of more strategies to connect the reluctant students with a love of reading, writing, and learning. Other goals for the summer, along, of course, with doing lots of reading and exploring new tech tools, are improving my teaching of writing, finding ways to better embed the teaching of grammar into reading and writing, and figuring out how to fit in more time for reading and research in the curriculum. I also need to do a lot of thinking about the individual blogs my students have all been maintaining. I do want to continue that activity, but need to work on ways to convince students to use formal English and carefully edit their online work. Many of them have done great work. Others, though, don’t seem to get that the writing they are doing in their blogs needs the same careful attention as traditional writing assignments. I also suspect that some of my students who fail to complete blogging assignments somehow take online tasks less seriously than traditional work. I did just read an interesting article from The Independent in the UK that cites research demonstrating that blogging and social networking improve students’ attitudes about and confidence in writing. It's good to read about research confirming the value of something I am doing!

And, as much as I am feeling ready for the summer break, I am also looking forward to some of the remaining class activities. Tomorrow, we will be discussing the final chapters of Lois Lowry's wonderful book, The Giver. I will be interested to learn how they interpret the ambiguous ending. I believe that most of them found this book engaging and thought-provoking. I plan to do a lot of book talking during the remaining days of school to inspire them to read over the summer, and I will include a number of books on utopian/dystopian themes. Hunger Games and Catching Fire are already popular favorites among my students, and we are anxiously awaiting the release of Mockingjay, the third book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, on August 24. I am also looking forward to having them present projects they have been working on using two new fun Web 2.0 tools, and Working with a partner, they had to identify one of the community rules in The Giver and create a short film in which two characters debate the pros and cons of the rule.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Top 100 Children's Novels

What a great Animoto movie by Maggi Idzikowski. I'm going to share it with my students at school next week:

The Top 100 Children's Novels

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love This Neil Gaiman Video on Libraries

"Libraries are about the most important things there are."

"...the thin red line between civilization and barbarism. Librarians are that line."

"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one."

Thank you, Neil Gaiman. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The Jabberwocky" Successes and Failures

I really created this blog to chronicles my "adventures," successes, and challenges as a teacher-librarian who suddenly found herself in the classroom this school year. It seems, though, that I am always so overwhelmed with prepping and grading, that I don't get to chronicling. So today, before I get going on grading, I'm determined to write a little about my class's recent activities.

With the dreaded STAR tests looming in just over a week, I have felt obliged to do some review and to try to fill in at least a few of the items on the standards that I haven't had time to address directly in class. One big item I wanted to review was parts of speech, since it's been clear that my students need more practice in that area. At the same time, I am behind on getting to work on poetry. So, somehow I got the idea that we could review parts of speech while studying poetry. To try this idea out, I picked Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky."

While the poem is a tour de force of nonsense words, the part of speech of each word is clear from its context. Here's what I did over several days to study the poem:
  • I introduced the poem with one of the recorded readings I found on youtube. 
  • I walked through the first stanza with the class as a whole, identifying the parts of speech of the various nonsense words and the meanings we could extrapolate for each word based on it part of speech, root syllables, and sounds. We also talked about how Carroll uses a lot of onomatopoeia and portmanteau to give meaning to the words.
  • Then, I had students work with partners to decipher parts of speech and meanings for words in the following stanzas and report back to the class as a whole. We also discussed the meaning of each stanza and the poem as a whole, themes, literary devices, and rhyme scheme and meter.
Successes: I had a lot of fun, and my students made it clear that they did, too. I think they were pretty surprised to realize that they really could understand this nutty-sounding poem once they took the time to explore and work on deciphering it.

Failures: On Thursday, I wrote and gave what I thought was a very easy online Quia quiz on the poem. I was sure that I had covered every question in class. While some of the students did very well on it, there were a lot of low grades and complaints that the quiz was too hard. So, I'm left pondering what I could have done to reinforce the lesson points better.

In the meantime, enjoy the fun Muppets video of "The Jabberwocky" I played for the students when we finished the poem:

School Library Advocacy Continues

Everyday now, we hear more depressing news about cuts to education and school libraries. In the midst of it all, we need to remember to keep on advocating and keep being positive.

Here's a couple of positives I just heard today:

  • LASLA, the library group within Los Angeles Unified School District, is hosting a booth called "Ask a Librarian" at the Festival of Books at UCLA this weekend. Yesterday, they got so many visitors signing letters asking to restore library funding, that they ran out of copies and had to send someone to photocopy more. Way to go, LASLA!
  • Marie Slim sent an email to the CALIBK12 listserv letting us know about a great new advocacy logo donated by illustrator Kazu Kibuishi. You can find it on the School Library Advocacy wiki Marie set up. Many thanks to Pat Nelson of Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Bookshop for contacting authors and illustrators and getting us great images for our campaigns. That's Kazu Kibuishi's art you see in this posting, and you can get it and information about him at this wiki page. Thank you to Kazu Kibuishi and to all the book illustrators who donated their work to the school library cause. 
While I was at the Festival of Books yesterday, one stop I made was the Target Stage where I heard Jacky Davis and David Soman (husband & wife  author/illustrator team) read from their delightful new book Ladybug Girl at the Beach, and I was able to have them sign the book for me.  I was lucky to win a piece of artwork for the book signed by David Soman at CSLA Southern Section's Silent Auction at our workshop March 27, and I wanted to get a signed copy of the book to go with the art. Here they are on the stage with a life-sized Ladybug Girl :) 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Circulate This! Stories from the School Library


I am guessing that if you are reading this blog you already know about CSLA's wonderful new audio magazine, "Circulate This! Stories from the School Library." But, just in case you haven't discovered it yet, I want to make sure you do! Please make your way directly to this CSLA website link, and get ready for 45 minutes of wonderful stories about why we so desperately need school libraries for our children.

The project came about through the collaborative efforts of Connie Williams, Teacher Librarian and CSLA Past President, and Joe McHugh, songwriter/storyteller/public radio producer. They recorded stories from teachers, school administrators, children's authors, legislators, parents, and students, all sharing about the impact of school libraries on students' lives. The images I reproduced above were created as CD covers courtesy of Paula McHugh.

After you listen, please also pass on the great recording and these stories far and wide!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Great Day at CSLA Southern Section Workshop

We had a wonderful day on March 27 at the annual CSLA Southern Section Workshop at Palms Middle School in Los Angeles. Dr. Stephen Krashen, one of the library world's very best advocates, was both an inspiring and highly entertaining keynote speaker. Our concurrent sessions were also great, as were our wonderful vendor exhibits, raffle baskets, silent auction to support our library advocacy cause, and our first-ever Web 2.0 Tools Smackdown. We also conducted our first book drive for local students in need, and collected over 250 books! Thanks to all the presenters, board members who put on the event, our always-generous vendors, and our fabulous host TL, Caroline Gill. And, here's the photo I was shameless enough to grab of me with Dr. Krashen:

3-27-10 SS Workshop006

Saturday, March 13, 2010

School Libraries Need Your Support!

You would have to be living on another planet right now not to know what a dire financial state our public education and school libraries are in in the United States. In my state of California, which should be among the very most prosperous, education in general, and school libraries in particular, are at dire risk. Many of our best teacher librarians could be joining me in the classroom next year, leaving their libraries without adequate staffing. Our students are our future, and they cannot afford to lose their library programs and information literacy instruction!

Please support the campaign launched by CSLA members Marie Slim, Tom Kaun, and Pat Nelson to fight for the survival of school library programs. Buy or make and wear buttons, and visit Jackie Siminitus' Library Advocate blog posting for ideas of what you can do. And, if you are in or can get to Southern California, be sure to attend the CSLA Southern Section Workshop on March 27 at Palms Middle School. We need you there, and I promise you will come away enriched with all the practical ideas that will be shared by keynote speaker Stephen Krashen, our great lineup of concurrent sessions, our exhibitors, and at our first-ever Web 2.0 Tools Smackdown. Check the workshop wiki for all the details, then register today.

Two milestones passed!

Since my last posting, I have passed two milestones, the State Writing Assessment and my CUE presentation.

My students completed the California State Writing Assessment for Seventh Graders! What a relief! I am excited to be able to turn class attention to some activities other than writing. We basically spent two months focusing entirely on writing prompts and grammar. Now, I feel like we can return to a more balanced curriculum.

I am also relieved to have my CUE VoiceThread presentation behind me. Here's a download link to the handouts on the CUE Community Forum. I am extremely grateful to everyone who came and supported me doing it and gave me positive feedback. Although I have presented before, I never had at CUE, so that was a new experience. I learned a lot! Unfortunately, I had major Internet and computer issues, and wasn't able to go through nearly as much material as I intended. Next time, I need to prepare by downloading all the material I am planning to demo so I can work offline if necessary. One of the great CUE sessions I attended was on screencasting by Robert Craven. I could make screencasts of my online demos as a backup if I have problems with my live demos.

As I always do at a conference, I came away invigorated with many wonderful ideas I want to apply in my work with my students. I am especially keen to apply some of the storytelling techniques I learned about in Steve Dembo's session on "Storytelling for the YouTube Generation." I have also been intrigued with his use of Prezi ever since I saw a video of his NECC presentation, but I haven't had time to try it. I plan to put that high on my "to do" list for my next presentation. I just need to find a session on how to make all the grading go away. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting Ready for CUE 2010 VoiceThread Presentation

CUE 2010 is just around the corner, so, along with preparing my students for the writing assessment, I have also been busy getting ready for my March 5 presentation on VoiceThread. I discovered VoiceThread in one of Joyce Valenza's blog postings back in 2008, and it is still one of my favorite Web 2.0 tools. If you are attending CUE in Palm Springs in March, please consider attending my session. Here's the shameless self-promotion "ad" I just recorded and uploaded to the CUE forum:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Please Vote for My Students "Novels"

Yet again, I've failed to keep up with this blog. Since school resumed in January, it seems like my life has been almost entirely taken up with preparing my students for the 7th Grade State Writing Assessment the beginning of March. In addition to working on formal writing, though, we have also done some fun blogging assignments. For the most recent assignment, students imagined that they had just published a novel. In their postings, each of them shared the book’s title, first paragraph, and a typed or recorded “booktalk” promoting it. Then, students in each class read all their classmates’ postings and nominated their favorites, from which I created a finalist list for all four classes. We are now inviting any other interested readers to enjoy these delightful finalist postings and vote along with my students on the top novel from all four classes. I know my students would enjoy knowing that they had visitors outside our school participating.

You can see links to all the finalists' work and the voting ballot in my class blog posting.

Please consider participating. Voting will close on February 25.

Many thanks!

Outside of Work

While life seems to be taken up almost entirely with work right now, I have also enjoyed some activities outside work. I was thrilled to be involved in CSLA Southern Section's webinar with Joyce Valenza, one of the school library field's brightest stars, on January 23. If you missed out on this event, check out the webinar wiki set up by Marie Slim, our terrific event organizer. I am also looking forward to Southern Section's PARTY (Palms MS for Advocacy, Reading/Research, Technology, and You!) workshop on March 27. If you are in Southern California, you won't want to miss the chance to hear Keynoter Stephen Krashen, attend great concurrent sessions, participate in our first-ever Web 2.0 Tools Smackdown, visit with terrific vendors, participate in our popular raffle basket drawing, and socialize with old and new friends. Check the workshop wiki for details. With ugly budget cuts threatening us all around, we need more than ever to stick together and advocate for the school library programs our students need. Attending our workshop is one opportunity to get together and build strength. Please come!