Monday, November 26, 2012

Sending Home Good News: Postagram

Like many schools, my district encourages us to let parents know when students are doing a great job. As a junior high librarian, it can be difficult to make these connections with parents - in the past, I haven't had reasons to call home with good OR bad news. I see students in short, two week chunks of time as they complete projects, and then when they're done with their projects, I have only casual, informal interactions with them. I'm not assigning grades, and they don't stick around long enough in the classroom to become discipline problems, so bad news phone calls to parents are never a necessity.

I would, though, like to make an effort to let parents know when their child does something fantastic, even if I only get to know that student during a two-week project.  Although I haven't made an effort to do so in the past, it's great publicity for the library and way to build a base of parent advocates.

I just needed a way to share the good news with parents. I could make a phone call, but I'm not super comfortable talking on the phone, so I searched for an alternative strategy. Here was my criteria for a communication medium:

  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Affordable
  • Visual
  • Fridge-worthy
I ended up selecting an app called Postagram. Postagram allows you to send a picture postcard through the US postal service to any address for $1.00. The card features a photograph and a 180 character message. The photograph is perforated and can be punched out to display (perfect for hanging on the fridge). 

Above: A Postagram card - your custom photo goes in the white square. Image source.  
Postagram allows me to take a photograph of the child using my iPhone, and then add a short, personalized message about the student to the card. I type in the parents' mailing address, and a week later, it shows up in their mailbox. For me, the $1.00 cost to send a card is totally worth the convenience and customization available through Postagram. Before my maternity leave started, my goal was one postcard a week. It was relatively easy to stick to, and I've gotten some really positive feedback from parents. 

I originally struggled with what to send home as "good news," but I've found that it's easy to identify these kinds of students, even if I don't get know them extremely well during the course of a two-week project:
  • Students who are especially kind or supportive to other group members
  • Students who manage to focus and buckle down, even though they're typically easily distracted
  • Students who ask great questions
  • Students who go above and beyond the project goals
  • Students who persevere and maintain a positive attitude even when the going gets rough
Do you have any suggestions for sending home good news? What medium do you use?

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'm Still Around!

My apologies for the lack of posts for the last month and half! I've been busy with this pregnancy thing, and not had much time to blog. Now that I'm full term, it's just a lot of waiting around for something to happen. 

In the meantime, I've left my library in the hands of a long-term sub (it's a lot harder to let go than I thought!). Once the baby's born, I plan to take 12 weeks of maternity leave, which should put me back in action sometimes toward the end of February. 

Until then, I'll try to squeeze in a few posts and some great project updates, but hang tight as the blogging decreases while I start this new adventure. 

Enjoy your what's left of your short week and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Banned Books Week Bulletin Board

A quick post this morning. Here's a shot of our Banned Books Week bulletin board (which, after putting so much work into, we always leave up for the whole month of October). It features "Censorship Victims" - aka book covers cut into the shape of a dead body, along with postings and info about the Banned Books Week.

What kind of displays do you do for Banned Books Week?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Orientation iPod Video Tours

I don't know about you guys, but orientation is one my least favorite times of the year. I love meeting all the new kids, but I hate repeating the same thing over and over and over. With 5 eighth grade teachers, I do the same exact presentation almost 30 times each fall. Orientation requires a lot of talking - I have to convey loads of information, so even though I try to mix in other activities to keep everyone interested and intersperse some hands-on learning, I'm still exhausted by the end of the day.

So, two years ago, I smartened up. My goal was to create a library orientation activity that didn't result in permanent laryngitis. I had a class set of iPods at my disposal, so I developed a library iPod tour. Using my iPhone and iMovie, I recorded 1-2 minute clips about each section of the library. Students move from station to station around the library. At each station, they watch the corresponding video on the iPod about that zone. After viewing the iPod video, they complete a task.

Here's an example of what students watch at Stop #2 - The Computers.

This is the task they're asked to complete:

Task #2 – Computers: Locking your workstation keeps other people from using your computer account. Predict what might happen if you forget to lock your workstation.

And here's another example - Stop #3 - Graphic Novels.

And the corresponding task:

Task #3 – Graphic Novels: What are three characteristics or traits most graphic novels have in common? You can use the books to help you come up with a list.

When coming up with the tasks, I went out of my way to include questions that were higher level thinking, rather than simply recall. I ask students to rank things, make predictions, and categorize.

Overall, it works well. Students groove on the independence of the activity and the novelty factor of the iPods, and I'm able to convey all the important information without losing my voice.

How do you handle orientation? Any tips for making it easier?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Whispersync Voice and Visually Impaired Students

We seem to have an unusually high number of visually impaired students this year, so we've been working hard to help the classroom teachers meet their accommodations. Every 8th grader, including those with low-vision, needs to choose one of ten dystopian novels for an upcoming English project. The novels are all titles published in the last year or two, and I can't find enough ILL large-print versions to meet demand.

So, to solve the problem, I've been buying digital versions of the books and putting them on our Kindles. The kids can change the text size on the Kindle, allowing them to view the page at whatever size is best for their eyes. Alone, this solution would be adequate, but this week Amazon released a fantastic tool called Whispersync for Voice. This awesome improvement allows me to start reading the Kindle version of the book and then pick up where I left off in the audio version of the book on a different (or same) device. That means I can stop reading at the beginning of Chapter 2 on my Kindle, and pick up my iPhone to start listening to the book at the beginning of Chapter 2.

Here's how it works:

* Purchase a Kindle book that has an accompanying Whispersync narration. There are 26 free titles to pick from (classics like Moby Dick and Little Women) and almost 15,000 titles in total.

* After purchasing the Kindle book, you'll see a box that says "Now that you own the Kindle book, you can add the professional narration for $X.XX to switch between reading and listening without losing your place." Click the link, and it will take you to Audible.

* If you don't already have an Audible account, you'll need to create one. It's important that you link the Audible account to your Amazon account.

* Purchase the accompanying Audible version of the book.

* Download the Kindle book to your Kindle or other device (iPod, iPad, etc)., and download the audio book (if you're not using a Kindle, you'll have to download the Audible app).

It's pretty seamless. Read on device, and then pick up listening on the other device.

For our population, they're doing their reading AND listening on the same device. When their eyes get tired, they can just seamlessly switch to the audio version.

The only bummer is that it doesn't work on the Kindle Touches we bought 3 months ago, but it DOES work on the Kindle Keyboards we bought two years ago (once we upgraded to software version 3.4). Go figure. According to Amazon, the supported devices include: "Kindle Keyboard with software version 3.4 and greater, Kindle Fire 2nd Generation, and Kindle Fire HD."

An even cooler product with SO MANY educational applications is called "Immersion Reading." This works like the Whispersync Voice described above, but you can read your book as you listen to the audio version, and it will HIGHLIGHT the text as the author reads it aloud. How great would this be for students? The only bummer is that availability is limited to the latest versions of the Kindle Fire.

Have you used Whispersync Voice or Immersion Reading with your students?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Back in the Groove

It's September, so I'm back at my computer with the old to-do list posted in front of me. How is my desk already this messy on the fourth day of school?

Like most teachers, it's a little bit of a struggle to get back in the saddle after a couple months of vacation. This year, as an added bonus, I'm seven months pregnant, so everything I do seems to take just a tiny bit more effort than normal. Teaching requires physical endurance - I always forget how much energy I need to "perform" all day long. I always sound like a croaking, gasping frog the first few days until my voice and breath readjust to the routine.

Here are my tips for getting back in the groove after summer vacation:

* Don't wait until the night before school starts to re-do your routine. I find it a lot less stressful to ease into an earlier bedtime/wake-up schedule. If I've gotten up at 6:30 AM the last few days, I'm sleepier at a more "normal" time, and the shock of 5:15 AM is easier to handle when the first day does roll around.

* Pack some protein in your lunch. I'll admit that during summer vacation, I took a nap every day after lunch. It was wonderful. Now, back at school, 1:00 PM rolls around and I still have three periods to teach, with no nap in sight. I've found I feel noticeably different in the afternoon if I eat protein for lunch. I'm a big fan of cottage cheese or greek yogurt, but there are all kinds of high protein things that help prevent 7th period crashes.

* Squeeze in exercise after school. This is sooo hard for me right now, as all I really want to do is go home and sit (or rather sleep) on the couch, but thirty minutes of cardio gives me a time to reflect on the day, obsess over silly details, and then turn off my "school brain" for the rest of the evening. The exercise also gives me enough energy to make dinner!

* Turn off your electronics two or three hours before bed. Studies suggest that the blue light emitted by computer screens suppress your body's secretion of melatonin, which means staring at a screen may prevent you from feeling sleepy. Make yourself step away from the computer, TV, etc., at a reasonable hour, and do something crazy, like read a (paper) book to help you relax.

What are your tips for surviving (and thriving) during the first week back at school?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Setting The Tone

One more week and then it's back to school in New York State. I'm sitting in the lobby of my junior high pushing agendas and sketch pads from the school store during 8th Grade Orientation, so it's the perfect time to blog about setting the tone for a new year.

What is tone? It's the mood, attitude and atmosphere of a place and program. When it comes to the tone of my library, here's what I'm trying to convey:

  • Inclusiveness - the library is a place for everyone. We're a safe, comforting, welcoming and accepting environment. 
  • Creativity - this is a creative environment where you can explore and develop projects and ideas.
  • Respect - I expect respect to go both ways in the library. 
  • Information hub - it's one stop shopping for books, magazines, Internet resources, etc. If you're a student or teacher have questions, we've got answers.
  • Academic success - to be a successful student or teacher you need the library and it's resources.
In my attempt to set this tone for the school year, I've done some very specific things. For example, I made this pennant for above the circulation desk - it's the first thing you see when you enter the library and it's impossible to miss; it helps convey the message of academic success. When I was student teaching, I worked with someone who greeted all his classes with "Welcome, Scholars!" It's an awesome way to say, "You're here to learn, you have the capability to learn, and I have confidence in you" - that's what I want our students to think when they enter the library.

I'm also concerned about setting the tone with faculty. For new staff, I prepared a one page quick tips sheet with all the info they need about the library. At the top of the list was a section on collaboration and Common Core skills - I want them to know right off the bat that I'm the go-to person when it comes to those needs. I also publish a monthly newsletter for all staff and I'll include an overview of our new Common Core reading and writing resources to reinforce the idea that we're an information hub. To make staff feel welcome, I promote our well-stocked candy drawer - a necessity during the first few crazy weeks of school.

Any tips or suggestions for setting the tone in your library?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Joys of Summer Vacation!

Who doesn't love summer vacation? It means my mornings can start like this:

And my afternoons can look like this:

Summer vacation is essential for fostering healthy, happy teachers. It's a much needed opportunity to relax, recharge, and reevaluate. Some of my best ideas are generated over summer vacation when my brain has a chance to truly wonder - and I actually have time to follow those tangents.

Summer vacation also is a perfect opportunity for Professional Development. I co-hosted a fantastic workshop yesterday presented by the YA nonfiction author Marc Aronson and library system director Sue Bartle. It was an awesome immersion into the Common Core and informational texts. Can't wait to share all of their great insight and ideas with you!

If you're on summer vacation, I hope you're enjoying it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Year's Most Popular Titles

The end of the year means circulation statistics.

Image from here.
This time around, I've delved deeper into specifics, and I think I know a lot more about my user population and their reading habits. This week I learned the following:
  • Ninth grade boys don't very read much. I didn't realize that their circulation numbers were so abysmal compared to everyone else until I broke it down this spring. I **think** it's because most of my 9th grader ELA teachers don't require classroom novels, and fifteen year old boys just aren't that anxious to read for fun.
  • 8th graders and 9th graders read very different things. Books popular at the 8th level don't even break into the top ten at the 9th grade level. This could be because 8th graders are exploring titles that weren't available in the middle school library, while most 9th graders read these books the previous year.
  • Blockbusters, like Hunger Games, are popular with EVERYONE.
  • New books aren't always the most popular. Older titles like Twisted and The Lovely Bones were well-read across the board. This is probably the result of ELA teacher booktalks which get the kids pumped for specific titles.  
Most Popular Books Overall in the Junior High:
  1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  2. Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins
  3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  4. Numbers by Rachel Ward
  5. Twisted  by Laurie Halse Anderson
  6. Matched by Ally Condie
  7. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
  8. Fallen by Lauren Kate
Most Popular Books Among Females in the Junior High:
  1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  3. Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins
  4. Numbers by Rachel Ward
  5. Matched by Ally Condie
  6. Fallen by Lauren Kate
  7. Crossed by Ally Condie
  8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
Most Popular Books Among Males in the Junior High:
  1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  2. Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins
  3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  4. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
  5. Numbers by Rachel Ward
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by
  7. Football Champ by Tim Greene
  8. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

What titles drew top honors in your library this year?

Monday, May 21, 2012

May Book Displays: Roll Into A Good Book

Better late than never, right? For May, our book displays celebrated National Bike Month. If your school sponsors a "bike to school" day, this kind of showcase is a great way to promote it.

Because I was late taking photos this month, certain parts of our display are looking a little weary. Not everything we come up with is a home run - check out our sad "bike tires" - repurposed trufella tree trunks. Though, the bike was a hit - kids loved ringing the bell on the handle bars. Eventually we scraped the "tires" and just moved the signs to the columns on either side of the desk.

We used tricycles and scooter type toys on the display shelves, along with Fourth of July table decorations.

We used the theme to display books that in some way deal with wheels, including NASCAR, skateboarding, and cards.

We REALLY wanted to include a couple of stationary bikes, so kids could pedal as they read, but we couldn't find any, so we scrapped that idea at the last minute.

What are your May book display ideas?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SSL Conference Presentation

Over the weekend, I presented at the 2012 NYLA/SSL conference. It's New York's state level school librarian conference. I got to listen to some great speakers, including Joyce Valenza and David Wiesner.

I presented with my librarian co-worker (and neighbor), Leslie, on using apps for instructional purposes - our workshop title was App-ealing Instructional Practices - aren't we creative? :)

At the presentation, we handed out bookmarks featuring the apps we used. Here's Leslie's suggestions for elementary apps:
 And here are my suggestions for secondary apps.

Also, I did a guest post for the SLJ blog Touch and Go. I talk about applications for many of the above apps - check it out here.

Do you have a favorite app that we should have covered?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What do kids think about study skills?

Are you sick of hearing about note taking yet? If so, you're not alone - our students are right there with you.

We've finally wrapped up our study skills unit, and had the kids take a survey to assess the experience. We needed to know what was successful and what was unsuccessful.

So we asked.

When you ask a 9th grader to list the ways in which you bombed as a teacher, be prepared, 'cause they aren't afraid to tell you exactly what they think. Here are a few of my favorite gems from their survey:
  • "The entire system of SimpleMind [a concept mapping app] was, in my opinion, superfluous at best, and a waste of technological resources and time."
  • "...Grading the cornell notes on a RUBRIC is RIDICULOUS...I found that totally ridiculous, stupid, and unnecessary. like seriously, who grades notes?"
  • "Most students simply don't like doing the extra work that goes into study skills, so even though you taught us the information we will probably not use it later in life."
Honestly, though, their feedback is instrumental in perfecting our methods and fine tuning the experience for next year's classes. This quote pretty much sums up their overall sentiments:

"The cornell notes, while annoying, are actually useful for studying, taking notes, and planning documents." 

So although study skills aren't especially delectable (like brussel sprouts), students do realize it's good for them (like brussel sprouts).

Based on their feedback, we're going to try to do the following:
  • Start the year with a lesson on how to identify and differentiate between main ideas and supporting details in an argument. Some students complained that we asked them to do this, but they didn't know how. One said, "I would have preferred if you went over how to find key points and important concepts and details vs. unimportant details." Another said, "It would have been nice to have been given a lesson on how to properly identify the main idea and sub ideas of a paragraph." I didn't realize we'd need to teach 9th graders how to do this.
  • Teach the listening skills in October, at the latest. Many students suggested that we move this skill up. "Doing the listening first would help students listen all year long."
  • More technology with the iPads, and sooner in the year. More opportunities to use the iPads consistently in class. Introduce Evernote in the fall.  The kids LOVED taking notes on the iPad and most of them really liked Evernote, especially because it allowed them to see their peers' interpretation of the same lecture. "Using the technology helped because you can plan everything out right in front of you on an iPad and it made it a lot easier." "The Evernote app was good because could either get the app at home, or go on the Internet version." "I loved LOVED evernote! I went on it last night and doing the lisitening activity in class with evernote made it much more fun and educational."
Almost ALL of them HATED the fact that we graded their notes. Although they suggested we change this next year, we're not going to. We're teaching a skill, and we need to assess whether they've mastered the skill. Therefore, we grade the notes. We'll have to look for ways at making this more palatable - although they had the opportunity to re-do notes for a better grade, maybe giving them more time to practice before assessing them would be better. 

Overall, it was a great experience! I'm actually really looking forward to starting fresh with a new class and fine-tuning our study skills experiment. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Listening Skills in the Library

During the school year, I've chronicles my efforts to teach study skills to 150 AP World History students. At some points, note taking was kind of like eating brussel sprouts, and but we improved from there.

This week, we switched gears a little bit to talk about listening skills. Specifically, we focused on 8 habits of bad listeners and how to ID the important stuff in a lecture.

Bad habits we covered included:
We also talked about signal words - cues and clues that help the listener understand where they are in a lecture.

Following my 20 minute mini-lesson, the teacher delivered a lecture on Chinese dynasties. This was the FIRST TIME most students had ever taken notes purely from listening, without the help of a cloze or fill-in-the-blank activity (What's up with getting to April of your 9th grade year without taking lecture notes?!? Why did we phase that out - it's such a great critical thinking/listening activity?!?).

To help support the students, I took notes as the teacher presented, and projected them onto a side wall in the classroom. When they got stuck, they just glanced over to see if they were on the right track. On Monday, we'll continue with more of the same and teach them how to use the Evernote app.

Here's a list of the resources I used to help create this lesson:
Follow this link to my presentation -- feel free to adapt it for your own uses. 

Any other librarians out there teaching study skills?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Explain Anything with Explain Everything

At the junior high we're loving an iPad app called Explain Everything. It's $2.99 for a single copy, and the price drops to $1.49 when you buy 20 copies or more.

Explain Everything allows students to create a narrated slide show. In addition to recording the student's voice, the app also records any action that happens on the iPad screen. So, for example, if a student draws an arrow while they're narrating, the app records the arrow being drawn.

A 9th grade global studies class recently used Explain Everything to create vocabulary projects for 6th graders. Their format was pretty basic, and I think it translates well enough to work with vocabulary words in any subject area:
  • Slide 1: Provide a visual image of the vocabulary word, and ask the 6th grader to predict the word's meaning
  • Slide 2: Provide a definition of the vocabulary word
  • Slide 3: Explain a simile comparing the vocabulary word to a more familiar object or idea
  • Slide 4: Ask the 6th graders to write down their own definition of the word
  • Slide 5: Introduce yourself with a photo
We tried to incorporate higher level thinking for both sixth graders (making predictions based on images, re-writing a definition in their own terms) and ninth graders (simplifying complex terms and developing similes).

Both the 9th grade authors and the 6th grade audience really enjoyed the project. Here are a few samples of their finished products:

Vocabulary term: Qu'ran
Vocabulary term: Mosque
Vocabulary term: Ka'ba

How do you envision yourself using the Explain Everything app?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vacation = Disconnecting?

I’m on spring break this week, and I’m enjoying a visit to sunny Atlanta. It’s so nice this time of year because winter here is a distant memory and it’s a great change from Syracuse’s cool, rainy weather. 

Grandma's yard - April in Atlanta looks like June in Syracuse!
It’s a low-key vacation, as I’m visiting relatives with my Mom. I’m staying with my Grandma, and although she’s the proud owner of a much-loved Kindle Fire, she doesn’t have Internet access.

In preparation for a week off-line, I packed a stack of books – a few nonfiction and some other fun things I’ve been meaning to read. I admittedly spend way too much time online, so I figured I’d get tons and tons read without the constant distraction of blogs, celebrity gossip sites, and Facebook (that doesn't sound very librarian-ish, does it?). 

My best intentions.
This, sadly, is not the case. I’ve read exactly 78 pages, and instead spent much of my time staring at my tiny iPhone screen – which, admittedly, gets only spotty reception.

I. Am. Pathetic.

Anyone else have trouble unplugging and get back to basics, even under optimal conditions?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Google a Day

I'm always looking for little activities - AKA "bellringers" - to kick off a class period -- something for the kids to do while they wait for their classmates to log on, papers to be handed out, etc. Bellringers help ease the transition from the hallways to instructional time.  The best bellringers:
  • Require little or no instruction
  • Have directions that can be posted on the SmartBoard
  • Are engaging (a game, competitive challenge, relevant to teens, etc)
  • Reinforce information literacy skills (DUH!)
Recently, Google provided the EXACT thing to fit the bill. It's called "A Google a Day." Thanks, Geek Dad, for introducing it to me (I'm neither male, nor a parent, but I still dig the blog).
Google provides a daily question, and challenges users to find the answer. Users playing along search via a special interface that filters out results designed to specifically answer the Google-A-Day question. Google says, "to keep the game interesting for everyone, we created Deja Google – A wormhole inspired time machine that searches the Internet as it existed before the game began. Because nobody wants someone's recent blog post about finding an answer spoiling their fun."

Today's question is: "What continent has the most French speakers in the world?" I think this is one of the easier ones they've posted. Previous questions include:
  • "How long would it take to walk to all the cities that have served as capitals of the U.S. government since the signing of the Constitution?"
  • "I was celebrated as the paladin of Uruk, but my legacy is in the realm of ancient literature. Who am I?"
  •  "Rembrandt painted a philosopher looking at the bust of a Greek poet. The gold medallion on the chain represents another famous Greek. Who is it?"
When searching, Google times you (I can't believe how much pressure that little ticking clock adds!). When you think you know the answer, submit it in the box provided, and Google will tell you if you're correct.

I have yet to try it with classes, but I can't wait to roll it out. I won't use it all the time, but when I'm teaching lessons on Internet searching, it provides the perfect warm-up. (I also love that it challenges my "I can find anything" librarian ego.)

Check it out at

Can you think of ways to use a Google a Day in your instructional practice?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Displays: The Library - Your Shelter From The Storm!

 April displays are up! Once again Deb, our fabulous secretary, has taken creativity to new heights. This month's theme is The Library: Your Shelter from the Storm.We thought it was appropriate because, for many students, the library provides a refuge from all different kinds of storms, like bullying, overcrowded cafeterias, and bad days.
Above: The main circulation desk
We have no concerns about open umbrellas bringing bad luck, so we suspended them from the ceiling and hung rain drops stitched together along with 3D clouds - both inspired by Pintrest
Open umbrellas and stitched paper raindrop chains
 Here's another shot that shows off the open umbrellas from afar. 
A different view of the umbrellas.
And here's our nod to School Library Week. I know it's not much, but the sign's on the circulation desk where every kid can see it, so hopefully it makes a little impact.

What are you April displays like?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

April Showers Bulletin Board/Displays

We're in creation mode and gearing up to switch out our Read Across America hoopla with our April displays.This month's theme is "Rainy Days are for Reading." (Imagine the image below rotated 90 degrees - darn Blogger!) 

We're loving our Pintrest inspiration images, so here's the one that got our creative juices flowing:


Image via Pintrest from Etsy

This one also sparked a few ideas:

Image from Pintrest

Here's a peak at some of the things that are piling-up in our back room. Our main display involves many, many, colorful umbrellas. Obviously we don't buy into the idea that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck -- but we'll let you know in May if we see an uptick in uncooperative studyhall visitors. :)

An up close look at some of the separate elements. The clouds are multiple layers folded and stitched together on a sewing machine.

Raindrop chains were also made by stitching paper cutouts together with a machine.

The smaller display areas are going to sport origami umbrellas.There are all kinds of YouTube videos on how to make origami umbrellas - but we gave up on following tutorials when we realized our volunteers didn't have enough patience for the process. They ended up doing simpler folding, and just went crazy with the decorating aspect. Here's a sample (excuse the blown-out colors - it's not easy to see).

April is also national School Library Month. We weren't feeling the theme "You belong @ your school library," so we're only doing a small display with it (does anyone else feel guilty when they don't go over the top with big "library holidays?").

Image from AASL
What are your display plans for April?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Building an Insurance Policy

Recent budget cuts have come a little too close for comfort. Although I think my position is safe for another year, chances are good that we've got a ways to go before we get to stop worrying about annual layoffs. 

I think my building knows that I'm valuable, but I'm worried about people outside of my building that I don't interact with on a regular basis. Below is the list I've posted above my computer:


I'm hoping it serves as a constant reminder to make contact with these people on a regular basis. 

* The board - I'll make sure every member gets a copy of my monthly newsletter. Our library is also frequently featured by local news outlets, so I'll also include copies of these clippings in the mailings. 

* Parents - I've always found it tough to communicate with parents. Any other secondary librarians struggle with this? I see many different kids, but only in short chunks of time, so I don't get to know the students as well as other teachers do. Therefore, I don't feel like I have a **reason** to contact parents. 

At the moment, I currently maintain a Library Facebook page, which I encouraged parents to join during Open House back in September (only 1 actually did), and I always post updates and photos on our library Web site. 

I'm definitely feeling a need to bump this up, so my new goal is to e-mail three parents every week and share something great about their kids. I can access parent e-mails through our student data system, so it's easy to jot off something quickly. I frequently take photos of kids working on different projects, so I've been attaching those to the e-mails or including links to finished products. So far, I've only heard back from 1 parent. I think the parents just aren't checking their e-mails .  .  . Time for a new strategy?

* The Superintendent - I think she gets it, but I can do a better job communicating our activities in the library. She's also been added to the list to receive a monthly copy of our newsletter.

What are you doing differently to build your professional insurance policy in times of budget threats?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Considering Kony in the Junior High

If you're a 15-year-old, and you're on Facebook, chances are good that you've either watched this YouTube video or read a wall post about the Kony 2012 campaign.

There's lots to talk about when it comes to the Kony 2012 project. My global studies teachers plan to lead a discussion on Monday. 

Their main goals are to make students aware of the following:
  • Social media is a powerful tool, though not 100% reliable
  • To fully understand an issue, you need to look at it from multiple perspectives
  • Thorough investigation of an issue is necessary before donating $
  • There are MANY, MANY important concerns that deserve our attention
To facilitate discussion and raise awareness of the above goals, we put together a quick bulletin board today. 

If you want to put together your own Kony bulletin board, here and here are my text files. You'll have to find your own images. I included source information in the second file. Remember, these are quick summaries for a bulletin board - we may have oversimplified the issues, but we tried really hard not to make any political statements.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Read Across America -- A SUCCESS!

We're kicking off Day 2 of Read Across America this morning. Right now, Deb, our library secretary is in the back of the room reading Walter the Farting Dog -- junior high kids seem to dig it just as much as elementary students. Here's a few photos from yesterday's events.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE loved posing with the Lorax. It was a HUGE hit. We've got Lorax photos plastered all over the school.

Our readers did a great job. Kids love to read out-loud -- no shyness evident. We put a document camera next to the reading chair and hooked it into our ceiling mounted projector, allowing the kids to see the pictures as the book was read.

Lorax mustaches were the HOT item in the junior high yesterday. We had to keep making them, as they were in such high demand.

A reader enjoys a Truffula Tree pop as a reward for his reading efforts. 

The Cat in the Hat roamed the halls to drum up support and encourage students to visit the library. 

How did YOU celebrate Read Across America?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back to cookies (win) and trees (fail)

We're back from February break (a return made sweeter by the FOUR! boxes of Girl Scout Cookies that arrived on my desk), and it's full steam ahead as we finish preparing for Read Across America.

Yippie for Girl Scout Cookies!
I'm booked with classes all week (as always), so our other fantastic staff members are tying things up.

Students from SUNY's school of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) came yesterday afternoon. They helped our science club plant conifer seedlings. The planters are adorable, but have you ever try to find tree seedlings in upstate New York in February? Yeah, not an easy task. One of our aides had these trees stored in the barn on her farm. She's been saving them since last summer, and planned to plant them in the spring. We're hoping they're just dormant. Right now, it looks like we stuck some twigs in a little dirt. This is NOT an image that will end up on Pintrest:

Yes, that's a tree. Believe me.
On a more successful note, we've got a Lorax! Our custodian, Mr. Stanton, is a fantastic artist. He's responsible for this life size model. We're going to make it available to kids tomorrow, so they can pose with it in photos.
Mr. Stanton with his Lorax