Saturday, December 7, 2013

Voting is Open for the 2013 Edublog Awards

Last night I got a text from Nancy Jo Lambert, a fellow librarian and member of my Twitter PLN. She wanted me to know that the Curtis Library blog, which she had nominated for Best Library/Librarian Blog, had made the shortlist for finalists in the 2013 Edublog Awards. When I went to look, I was excited to see many of the people I had nominated in different categories had also made the shortlist, including Nancy Jo and her library blog, Ruth Borchardt Elementary Library.

There are so many incredible people that have been nominated in many different categories, that it is sometimes difficult to decide who to vote for! The good news is that you can vote for more than one in each category! 

Voting closes December 18th at 11:59 EST, so go vote at The Edublog Awards!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Beginning of Coding for Curtis Students

Ok, I have jumped off the ledge and into coding, thanks to the gentle nudge from a few of my Twitter friends! A week or two ago, Andy Plemmons, a librarian in Georgia, asked who was doing the Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week.

It all started with a tweet!

I have wanted to learn about coding so that I could teach my students, but had not done anything yet. I replied that I was interested in planning some activities for Hour of Code, which is an event that is taking place December 9-13th encouraging students to participate in an introduction to computer coding.

A Google Hangout was planned to brainstorm ideas and we met on Monday. Here is the recording of our planning session:

Librarians from Maine, Georgia, Iowa,  Indiana and Texas met together, along with technology people from Cathy Potter's district in Maine. They brought a wealth of information, which was shared with all of us. 

Most everyone will celebrate next week, but we got started this week due to our Lattes in the Library next week. I briefly introduced it to 5th graders on Monday, since I was excited after the Google Hangout!

Today I introduced coding to 6th graders & 2nd graders and they both did really well! We began by viewing one of the videos from the Computer Science Education Week site. Sixth graders were intrigued with the work environment that they should on the video! There are several  different videos featuring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and NBA star, Chris Bosh sharing the importance of learning computer coding. It was interesting to hear the statistics about the number of jobs that will require computer programming and the lack of qualified people to fill those jobs. Hopefully some of our students will be interested in learning computer programming and fill some of those jobs in the future!

While they were going through the tutorials that are provided on the CSED Week website with me,  they started working on creating a holiday card using Scratch. They were so focused that I didn't want to stop them! It was very exciting to watch their excitement and hear them work with their partners to figure out how to do things!

Sixth grade was able to continue working on coding when they went to the computer lab after library, and our computer teacher said that they were completely engaged!

Second graders came in during the afternoon and I scrapped my lesson plans and jumped in with them! I think they could sense how excited I was about sharing this with them, and of course their excitement rose. After introducing the concept of computer programming and sharing with them that I know very little about the subject, we watched the introduction video. I chose the 1 minute video for them. I liked having the option of a 1, 5 or 9 minute video to introduce the Hour of Code. With the different grade levels I am working with, it is nice to be able to pick the one that is just right for that group.

After we talked for a few minutes, we went through so of the tutorials for They explain the basics of computer programming, using Angry Bird, in such a way that even the youngest students can understand!  

And then off they went with their partners to practice what we had learned! Again, it was so exciting to listen to them try to problem solve when they would get stuck.

I can't wait to see how this goes with the rest of the classes! On Tuesday of next week, I will have 4 different classes come in for 1 hour each of coding. They will earn their Hour of Code certificate and hopefully create something that we will be able to share in the "Coding Smackdown" with our friends in Georgia, Iowa, Maine & Indiana.

Are you participating in Hour of Code? I would love to hear how others are using coding in their library programs or classrooms!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Celebrating Picture Book Month

It has been a fun month in the library as we have celebrated picture books by reading and connecting with others.

During their library time, we read some potential Caldecott winners like 

We read picture books with friends!

And we had a PICTURE BOOK SMACKDOWN with students in Georgia, Maine, Connecticut & Iowa, as well as authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman.  We all met on a Google Hangout and shared our favorite picture books and why we think picture books are important. Thanks to Georgia librarian, Andy Plemmons who organized this fun event! 

A student from Georgia begins the Smackdown with her favorite picture book!

Ame Dyckman shares a few of her favorite picture books! We were happy to see some of our favorites right behind her! 

Laurel Snyder talks about picture books with students. The students loved having authors share their favorites! 

Here, Parker shares his favorite book and how important picture books are for beginning readers.  You can see all of the other participants at the bottom of the screen.

Our students did a great job during the Picture Book Smackdown. I was so proud of how they voiced their thoughts about the importance of reading picture books! It was a fun way to end Picture Book Month! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 Edublog Awards Nominations

This is my first time to participate in the Edublog Awards, and I am excited to nominate people and sites that inspire me to be better at what I do.

From the Edublog website:

The Edublog Awards started in 2004 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes.  The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.

Although there are more areas to nominate in, these nominations are the ones that have impacted me the most this past year.

Best individual blog: Margie Myers-Culver's Librarian's Quest is a great source for book reviews & weekly Twitter wrap ups.

Best group blog - Definitely has to be the Nerdy Book Club blog

Best new blog- Cynthia Alaniz, blogs about being a new librarian at Librarian in Cute Shoes

Best class blog- Louise Morgan's Class at Mrs. Morgan's Superstars Second graders that connect and create

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - Todd Nesloney  great resource for tech tools and information on flipping classrooms.

Best teacher blog - Katherine Sokolowski's  Read, Write, Reflect Always thoughtful, heartfelt, well written posts

Best library / librarian blog  Nancy Jo Lambert's Borchardt Elementary Library blog is one I use almost daily to see how she is collaborating with her teachers.

Best individual tweeter - Nancy Jo Lambert @NancyJoLambert - I seem to favorite and retweet many of her tweets.

Best twitter hashtag: #tlelem A great place to connect & share

Best free web tool BiblioNasium My students love this site and the support you get from the people at BiblioNasium is incredible! Marjan Ghara, the founder even Skyped with our students!

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast Matthew Winner's Let's Get Busy podcasts

◾Best educational wiki- The Global Classroom Project is a great spot to find opportunities to connect students.

Best open PD / unconference / webinar series School Library Journal put on the webinar Be the Change during the spring. It was a six part series that was very motivating.

Lifetime achievement - Jerry Blumengarten His thorough lists of sites and Twitter chat schedules are referred to by many.

So there are my nominations of people and places who have inspired me in the past year. If they have also inspired you, feel free to leave a comment. Who would you nominate? You can make your own nominations at Edublogs Awards. Nominations are open until December 1st, so go nominate!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rising to the Challenge- AASL 2013

I had a wonderful few days recently, learning and connecting with fellow school librarians from all over the world. My path to getting there began last spring when I first started receiving notifications in the mail about American Association of School Librarians 16th Conference in Hartford, CT. It would be my first national conference to attend, and I knew a lot had to go right for me to get there. The stars starting aligning  pretty quickly, and I found cheap airfare to Hartford.

My roomie!
A roommate would be needed, so I posted on Twitter that I was looking for a roommate for AASL. Michelle Cooper, a member of my PLN responded quickly that she was interested. Now I had airfare and a roommate! Since it looked like I was going, I jumped at the chance to present in the eLearning Commons area when Carolyn Foote tweeted about signing up. I wanted to present on using Twitter to grow professionally. Of course, I looked for a co-presenter on Twitter and Cathy Potter, another member of my PLN, volunteered.

All of this planning came to fruition this past week and it was very exciting! While in Hartford, I connected with other members of my Twitter PLN, planned fun events for connecting our libraries, and learned from some incredibly talented people. 
Just a few members of my PLN!

I also met AUTHORS!

Author Seymour Simon

Laurel Snyder, my first author Skype
An exciting part of AASL13 was the "unconference" that was held Friday night. An unconference is like an edCamp, which is participant driven and led. Who could imagine that there could be so much energy at 9:00 PM after conference goers had already been going full speed all day? But oh my! The energy level in the room was incredible! One of the groups I sat in talked about Makerspaces, which I am trying to get started in our library. One librarian in the group shared about how she runs the makerspace in her library, and Andy Plemmons  talked about a 3D printer he just got funded on Donors Choose! It was a whirlwind of a night!

The organizers of AASL Uncon

Our Twitter presentation, which was my first time to present outside my district, was very fun and went well. I think we might have hooked a few new people and persuaded them to give Twitter a try for professional learning.  I've now made it a goal to present at a conference again in the future and am already planning with local members of my PLN for our state conference.

Cathy Potter & me before our presentation

As for takeaways, I will be considering genre-fying our fiction section of the library. This was a hot topic at AASL13, with some people having very strong feelings for or against genre-fying. For me, I want to be able to help my students locate materials quickly and easily in our library and think this might be a good way to go about it. As the only adult in our library, and often having up to 30 students in there at a time, it can be a challenge to get to all of the students and help them find the perfect book.  So for now, I will order genre spine labels and begin by putting those on books. I will see how that goes and then decide whether I should rearrange the books.

Another thing I will be working on is keeping the technology out and the projects going during our library times. Jennifer Reed presented an excellent session on using digital tools for promoting books. This was my last session to attend before heading home, and it was one of the most energizing ones for me! I took lots of notes and have already started to apply some of her ideas.

It was a wonderful few days, full of inspiring people sharing ideas on how we can rise to the challenges before us and be leaders and collaborators within our schools. I left feeling excited, energized and, of course, just a little overwhelmed, but definitely ready to Rise to the Challenge!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Media Maker Club, aka Digital Bookworms

As you can see by the title, our students exercised their voice and changed the name of their club. They decided, after some debate, that they wanted to be the Digital Bookworms, and so they are!

The club members first worked on creating an account on Biblionasium. We talked about what a great tool this is for not only keeping up with our books, but also recommending books to others. The students were very excited about logging in and making recommendations!

We have been connecting with my friend, Shannon Miller and her students in Van Meter, Iowa.  At our last meeting, we were able to connect again, which was a lot of fun!. After several students from Van Meter performed a song they were working on, we talked about ways we could connect and create. After some discussion & brainstorming, we decided to collaborate on a blog to share different types of projects. These two clubs have lots of great ideas, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Already, students have created videos to advertise our book fair, brainstormed questions to ask other students about making book trailers, and had some of our group members explain how to use Animoto.

At the end, we posed for a group photo that will be a part of our new blog that we are doing with our friends in Iowa. You will have to check it out!
Creative Connections Club

Our goals are to connect, collaborate & create and this new joint blog is sure to help us meet these goals!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Third Grade Learns About Biblionasium

Today our 3rd graders had an awesome opportunity to connect with Marjan Ghara, the founder of Biblionasium. I first learned about this site from my friend, Shannon Miller in Van Meter, Iowa. Her students even Skyped with our students last year to help us learn more about the site.  Biblionasium is a safe, online place for young readers to keep up with their books, as well as to recommend books to friends.  You can find out more about their site HERE.

After students sign in, they set up their shelf with book categories, such as Favorites, Recommended, and more. We can even set up challenges, so that we are reading a variety of books.

Biblionasium has offered support all along the way as we experimented with their website this summer. Several students enjoyed keeping up with their books and earning badges while reading during their summer break. And they also earned Book Fair Bucks for logging in!

I knew this was something I wanted to use more this year, so I planned on introducing it to my 3rd graders. Through Twitter, Biblionasium reached out and offered support, which is something I've noticed about their company. If I have a question, I only have to tweet or contact them and someone responds almost immediately! They listen to suggestions from their members and then make changes so their site is even better!

Mrs. Ghara shared with us how Biblionasium came to be, telling us about how her children were always looking for their next book to read when they were younger.
 She answered questions from our Curtis students, who asked some great questions, by the way!

Mrs. Ghara explained to students about how important reading is and also, why it is important to be safe online.

And then she gave us a peek out her window! The students were THRILLED to see a bit of
New York!

It was so great to connect with Marjan and to learn more about Biblionasium. We can't wait to start setting goals, logging in our books and making recommendations.
Thanks so much to Biblionasium and Marjan for helping us along in our reading journey!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Historical Fiction with 5th Grade

Monday, 5th graders looked at different genres of fiction, focusing on historical fiction for this week. After brainstorming some of the genres, we talked about what makes a book historical fiction.  I had started a Google presentation about historical fiction that you can find here and students would add information to it.  To make it easy to access, I added the link on the 5th grade Symbaloo here.

The students could click on the tile labeled "Historical Fiction" and easily get to the Google presentation. Each group had a laptop and a picture book that could be categorized as historical fiction. Their task was to type in the title and author of the book and then share what historical event or person was depicted. Time ran short, and we weren't able to get them completely finished, but will complete these in future visits and continue this process with other genres.
As students were choosing books for check out, I encouraged them to consider checking out a historical fiction book, reminding them of the 40 Book Challenge some of them are participating in. We even reviewed how to search for different types of books in the catalog, both by topic and by keyword.
My hope is that they will be excited about trying different genres of books when they are choosing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Character Pumpkin Patch

After the fun we had last year with our Book Character Pumpkin Patch, we knew we had to do it again! I had seen information about this on Cari Young's Blog HERE and after doing it last year, I blogged about it HERE. And, in case you want to see even more great pumpkins, check out Crockett Library's Pumpkin Patch. You can see it is a great activity that really makes the library festive! I mentioned that it was one of my favorite activities, and someone said it was because I didn't have to do anything. Hmmmm, they might be on to something there! ;)

We were clearing out our book fair when the first pumpkins started arriving. The creativity always amazes me, which is also why we changed it from a "contest" to a "show". It is really just too hard to choose a winner! Our families do an incredible job with these pumpkins! Here are some pictures to prove my point!


On Halloween day, we all dressed up to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. With a little inspiration from Pinterest and a lot of help from my Fairy Godmother, Mrs. Wilds, I was the Book Fairy!

Could you have picked a winner from the pumpkins above? :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Media Maker Club - First Meeting

During the Summer Library Check-out, a soon to be 5th grader dropped in to talk books with me (well, AND to check out books!) and shared with me that she consults a video book reviewer on YouTube when she is thinking about what to read next. My  question to her was "Why don't you do that for Curtis students?" Guess what- on the first day of school, Reagan handed me her very first video book review! And from this conversation, back in the summer, the Curtis Media Maker Club was born!

We had our first meeting this past Tuesday, with thirteen 5th & 6th graders in attendance. Just the day before, I had seen something I wanted to share with them. My Twitter friend Shannon Miller, who is a teacher-librarian (and more!) in Van Meter, Iowa, had presented a keynote along with one of her 4th grade students for the K12 Online Conference. The focus of the keynote was transform the way we do things by listening to our students.  You can see it here:

We just watched the beginning so that the students could understand that this was THEIR club and I wanted to know what THEY wanted to accomplish. They brainstormed ideas with other members of the MM Club, and then shared their ideas. I took notes! :)


Media Maker Club Notes
•Interview teachers & students about books
•Book trailers about new books
•Voice to be heard about my opinion about books
•Book trailers about favorite books, work in groups-Wonder
•Book trailers to encourage others to read books
•Get more people interested in books
•Expose students to creative way of thinking,
•Group, hands-on activities
•Recommend books to students
I liked what they were saying! The excitement was building and they kept sharing! It was decided that they would create book fair advertisement for their project of the day. Some wanted to do video and some wanted to do audio, so they split into groups and began scripting out what they would say & do. It was fun to watch the students take on the different roles. Some were comfortable in front of the camera and others were more comfortable behind the camera, but they all worked together and before the meeting was over, we had three videos and several announcements ready for morning announcements.
 You can check out our videos here:

The members of the Media Maker Club definitely let their voices be heard during our first meeting! I can't wait to see what creative ideas they come up with for our next meeting! We are hoping to connect with some of Mrs. Miller's students next week and begin collaborating on a project!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Keep the Main Thing the MAIN THING

This has been probably the best advice I have received during these first years of librarianship! Debbie, one of my more knowledgeable & experienced librarian friends reminded me of this again recently, during an especially crazy week, and I have now posted it in the library to help me stay focused on the main thing- students & staff at Curtis Elementary!


Yesterday, as I was wrapping up the day/week, and thinking of all the things I didn't accomplish, I thought about what I did accomplish- I worked with students and supported teachers. So, I was behind in all of the tedious little tasks, and there were books on the book carts, but I kept the main thing the MAIN THING.  
This week we:
focused on Texas Bluebonnet nominee books with 4th-6th graders and set a goal to read at least five of the nominees. The list of nominees for this year can be found here.
used the iPads & laptops with 6th grade to try out Geoguessr, a website where students look at a picture and tries to guess the location of the picture.  Since 6th grade studies World History, and will be learning about different parts of our world, I thought this would be very interesting to them.  They loved it, and would bring the iPads to me to show me how close their guesses were!  We were also able to mirror the iPads on the big screen, which was good practice for sharing future projects.
celebrated Jumpstart's Read for the Record by reading Loren Long's book, Otis, with over a million other children and adults all over the world.
Jumpstart's Read for the Record® - October 3, 2013
Jumpstart’s premiere national campaign, Read for the Record, presented in partnership with the Pearson Foundation, is one time of the year when millions of individuals come together to celebrate literacy and support Jumpstart in its efforts to promote early childhood education. On October 3, people across the country united to read the children’s book Otis by Loren Long in support of Jumpstart’s mission: to work toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.

All of first grade participated in this record breaking event, some reading with Ms. Fuller and some in the library, listening to the author read it to students all over the world.  After listening to the book, we talked about how Otis was a good friend in the book, and ways we can be good friends. Students then chose one way that they would try to be a good friend.

created student blogs with Kidblog with Mrs. Glover & Mrs. Wagner's 4th graders.  Students in 4th grade our participating in Genius Hour each week, and I thought Kidblog would be a great way for them to document all they are doing and learning. After talking with their ELA teacher, Mrs. Wagner, we set up blog account for each student.  Mrs. Wagner's class had seen it before, but this was the first experience for Mrs. Glover's homeroom. 

As we worked through the process of how to locate our class blogs on our library Symbaloo, (which sometimes is the lesson for the day ;) ) we first found our "4th Grade Resources" button on our main Symbaloo.


Then we located our individual class blog.  Students searched for their name, used their student ID to login and then began their first blog.  As mentioned before, the lesson was more on becoming familiar with the process, and future lessons will focus on content of blog posts, using mechanics when editing blog posts, etc.  I can't wait to read future posts!

One of the highlights of my week did not take place in the library. As I was delivering books to a classroom, I noticed this sign outside of Mrs. Palmatier's classroom door:

It of course made me stop and peek my head in to see what was going on.  Mrs. Palmatier shared with me that her students had written & "published" a piece of writing. They had also created an "Author's Bio" and were going to read these to their classmates.  The kiddos were very excited, so I asked if I could pop back in and listen to some of their stories.  When I came back they were all sitting in a circle on the floor, taking turns reading their stories.

 As each student finished, the class would clap and the child would beam with pride. One of the biggest smiles could be found on their teacher, Mrs. Palmatier's face! It was a joy to see all of this excitement and it made my day! Our goal now is to connect this young group of writers with a "real author" and let them see all that is possible through hard work and dedication! 

So even though there are books to shelve and repair, stacks of papers on my desk, and many more items on my to-do list, I am vowing to "Keep the main thing the MAIN THING!"

What is YOUR main thing? Do you, like me, get overwhelmed sometimes with all of the "little things" and lose focus of your "main thing?"

Happy Reading!