Monday, August 6, 2018

Preparing for the New School Year 2018-19

I have already sent this via email to all the teachers in my building, but I am also going to print it and put it in everyone's mailbox. I especially want the 15 new teachers to our school to know what I can for them and their students in our school library. I created this on Canva. Love that program so much and how it makes all my graphic designs look so awesome. Here's to the start of my 38th year of teaching, and my 29th year as a school librarian!

2018-19 List of PFTSTA Library Services by Ekahn6

Monday, July 9, 2018

Taking Students to #ALAAC18 was Amazing, BUT......

Loaded down with swag from ALA

I had been planning for the American Library Association's (ALA) annual conference in New Orleans for over a year. I was prepping the students in two of my book groups about what it would be like for them to spend a day with me at ALA, and if they wanted to attend, I made sure that they saved the date well in advance since many of them have camp, travel, or even work during the summer months. I was chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) local area task force for this conference, so I had many duties throughout the week. I had not attended an ALA conference since Chicago in 2013, so I had booked myself solid from a pre-conference on Friday, June 22 until the afternoon of Monday, June 25. Then life happened.

I had to put my 91 year old mother in the hospital on the Tuesday before the conference. We did not think she was seriously ill, but she had been feeling poorly for weeks. She knew about the conference, and we planned ahead who would visit her and help her while I was busy at the Convention Center for four days.Then very early Thursday  morning, I got a phone call from the hospital. The next thing I knew, she was gone. So many emotions and so much to do.

On Friday at the opening session Michelle Obama was speaking. My mother, a true blue democrat, knew that I was going to hear Obama. I decided that I would do as much of ALA as I could handle. I did get to see Obama, and she was amazing. Though I was only close enough to watch her on a screen. If you want to hear what Obama has to say, you can fast forward through this video to about 20 minutes in to see and hear the interview.

LaToya Cantrell, the first woman mayor of  New Orleans, opened the conference.
My mother worked very hard on her campaign and would have loved hearing about LaToya's opening remarks.

Michelle Obama on the screen

These nine students had no clue that they were going to be bombarded with books and more books
At the NASA booth, you could hold specimens from outer space 

Nine members from two of my book groups were going to spend the day with me on Sunday. My siblings were very understanding, and I was able to make good on my commitment to take my students. We met at 9AM in front of the exhibit hall. We had a little over two hours to spend getting books, meeting authors, and filling bags up with swag. As I expected, many of them wanted to go by themselves.Two of the nine hung out with me along with a librarian friend of mine and a parent who was helping me chaperone. The two hours passed in a flash, but everyone was loaded down with many, many signed books.

Waiting for the rest of the group to arrive so that we could go to lunch

Then we headed upstairs to a room for lunch around 11:15. That wouldn't have been a problem, but it was an extremely long haul from the exhibit hall. Everyone had so many bags and many pounds of stuff to carry. YALSA provided pizza, salad, cookies, and drinks. Several publishers provided authors who speed dated around at each table so that every group got to talk to every author. I was impressed how enthusiastic the authors were to talk about their newest book since they had to give the same spiel over and over. The authors did not hesitate to answer every question posed by the teens no matter how strange but in the process seemed to really relish time spent in the company of their readers. I really believe that my teens read more and enjoy reading more when they have had an opportunity to talk to the creator of the books. I thank all of the authors for taking the time to share and listen to the kids: Deb Caletti, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, Laurie Boyle Crompton, McCall Hoyle, C J Lyons, Allison McGhee, Andrew Smith, Caroline Tung Richmond, and Eliot Schrefer.

Laurie Boyle Crompton

My friend, Deb Caletti

Father and son writing team, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

CJ Lyons

Andrew Smith

Caroline Tung Richmond
At 1:00 we all moved next door. The students were going to be talking to the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee (BFYA). Every year this committee selects about 75 of the best fiction works geared to teens and publishes a best of list. During the Mid-Winter and Annual conferences local teens are asked to give their assessment of the nominated books. All of the teens there that day spoke beautifully, but I was especially proud of my students. The committee was blown away and asked if we would send comments from the teens throughout the year. The librarians on BFYA want the list to be teen friendly and not a list of books only liked by the librarians and adults who serve teens. Below are pictures of the students talking to the committee.

Teen Speaks Back at BFYA Session At ALA Annual 2018 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

It was all over about 3PM. Several of my students chose to return to the exhibit hall, but most of them left to go home to begin sorting through all their goodies. Once done, the students told me that I had not told them it was going to be like this. This meaning a chance to get dozens of free books and meet dozens of authors while becoming totally overwhelmed by the experience. I tried to tell them, but it truly is an experience that you have to go through to understand. Those kids are so lucky, and I think once it was over, they realized it.

All of the local teens who participated in the BFYA session

It was a looooong day, but so worth it.

One of my favorite books of the year ws the 57 Bus.
Here I am with the author, Dashka Slater.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blog for YALSA Hub in Anticipation of #ALAAC18

Read my blog post on YALSA's The Hub

I strongly believe that belonging to professional organizations is crucial to my development to be a better librarian. Some of the organizations that I belong to include: JSLA, LASL, LLA, LACUE, ALA, AASL, and YALSA. Yes, it can get expensive because I have to pay for these memberships as my school does not, but through these organizations, I can network with my peers, get professional development, and find materials online that can help me do my job. Because I get so much out of both the state and national organizations to which I belong, I also like to give back. So when I was asked to chair the YALSA Local Area Task Force for ALA 2018, I agreed. ALA is having its annual conference in New Orleans at the end of June. I am beyond excited because I have not attended since 2013. Though I belong to the school librarian's division of ALA, AASL, I have done most of my volunteering with the Young Adult division, YALSA. 

Part of my job on the committee is to write blog posts for YALSA to help get attendees revved up about visiting New Orleans. This week, my post about YA literature set in New Orleans was published in The Hub. You can read my post here

Monday, March 26, 2018

Teen Tech Week 2018 was Another One for the Books

With three lunches, it is no longer possible to plan activities during Teen Tech Week (TTW) that are very time consuming for the students or take lots of extra pairs of hands to pull off. That is okay, because I think that I have figured out ways to simplify our planned activities but still offer five fun activities in the library for each day of the week. Also, I had to move TTW to accommodate for the fact that I was at a library conference the week before. This meant that I had to have everything ready to go before I left town for the conference that included lots of advertising to the students so that they would be ready for TTW when I returned to school that Monday.

Garden Party

Students engrossed 

I plan a different activity each day at lunch and usually have some other passive game that might be available all week in the library or online. We always start the week by showing animated shorts. This all began because TTW is scheduled near the Academy Awards, and I like to show the appropriate animated shorts that have been nominated for an Oscar. The short that won the Oscar for 2018 was Dear Basketball by Kobe Bryant. The kids loved it.  It is only five minutes, so we also watched Lou and Garden Party which were both nominated for an Oscar as well as some other shorts that I thought the students would get a kick out of. Though this is a very simple activity to execute, it is quite popular with all grade levels.

A couple of months ago, I found a post on one of the librarian Facebook groups about a Rubik's Cube borrowing program. I thought that this would be an awesome activity for TTW. Educators and youth directors can borrow large sets of cubes for a six week period from, and all you have to do is pay the return shipping. It was so easy to apply to borrow a set. I chose 100 cubes because I thought that number would be easy to manage. The cost to return is going to be about $20. I downloaded several patterns for the students to follow and printed the patterns in color. The Mona Lisa and Starry, Starry Night have been the favorites. Two cubes have gone missing, and I am responsible for replacing the cubes if any are lost. I have two cubes that I ordered and are due to arrive next week. The 100 cube set works well on two library tables pushed together, and I have left them out beyond TTW since we only have them for a short period anyway. This also was an activity that all grade levels loved.

A few years ago, I did an anti-tech activity for TTW when I invited a friend who is an author and teacher of mindfulness if she would practice meditating with the students. I thought it was a hit, so I tried again by offering a choice of finger labyrinths or mandalas to color with colored pencils. I explained about how both activities can be relaxing an aid in  relieving stress. Though there were some students who really got into these, as a whole it was not that successful. I have left out the coloring sheets and colored pencils in our makerspace area for students to use, so I know that the sheets I printed will not go to waste. It just has to be the right time for the right student.

We always have some type of craft activity for TTW. I chose paper this year but wanted something that was movable. I found lots of cool ideas online, but we have 6th-12th graders and many students arrive in the library with less than 30 minutes to complete the activity. It had to be a craft that could be completed in one sitting and easy for all the grade levels. I found instructions for an origami cube which is made with six pieces of origami paper. That was doable in the time frame. Then I found instructions for an infinity cube that is made up of eight cubes. I figured that everyone could make at least one cube, and those who were interested could make eight and end up with an infinity cube. For these types of activities, I usually pull out the iPads and give the students a QR code to find the instructions. That never really works very well, so this time I copied the pictures from the websites and made an easy to follow sheet for the one cube and then the infinity cube. It took much longer than I anticipated for the students to make the one cube. So no one finished eight cubes in one lunch period, but I kept the materials available for the students. I have a 9th grader who is one cube short for his infinity cube, and a sixth grader who finished hers. Then there are other students who are in the process of creating eight cubes. The students who participated, and there were many, loved the colorful paper and the task even if they only made the one cube.

All team members sitting in one chair

Team members in the air

Team members in the air

Oh no, a meteor is approaching

For the last activity in the library, I scoured the Internet for ideas of a game or scavenger hunt using a phone or tablet. I have done something like that before, but I wanted it to be different. I finally found a photo/video scavenger hunt that I adapted to fit our situation. It was a huge success during 6th/7th grade lunch and 8th/9th grade lunch. The older high school students could not be bothered; I guess that it was too much work for them during a lunch period. The students had to form a group of three or four and take enough photos or videos to reach 1800 points. When the team showed me what they did to earn the 1800 points, then all team members could take a prize from the basket. I created this form for the students to use. I had iPads ready for those who needed them, but I let the students use their own phones if they chose. It was great when they used an Apple device because they could air drop a copy of the photos that they took to me. Some outlandish  photos and videos were captured. For the students who participated, it was a real crowd pleaser.

Origami cubes continue after TTW

I had one more activity online that I thought would be fun, and I got the idea from the Facebook Future Ready Librarians group. Someone had posted that she created a bulletin board with the first page of about 30 YA novels and classics. The students had to figure out the title of the book. She did not give a list of titles and neither did I. Because I don't have the wall space to create a display, I created a Google Form with name, grade, email, and then screenshots of the first page of 20 novels. I had gone to Google Books to find the first pages, and it was easy to capture a screenshot. I had never used the quiz function with Google Forms before, so I set the form to grade everyone's answer. Since the answers were text, and the answers I listed were case sensitive (unfortunately that is the only way to do it in Forms); I had to list all the possible answers for every title. Diary of a Wimpy Kid could be written many ways with letters in caps or not in caps. However, I still had to go through the answers because some of the misspelled or missed capitalized words were scored as incorrect. I was disappointed with only 40 responses, but it was the first time that I had done a quiz online for TTW. I think that some students must have gotten frustrated with it and quit before finishing. I didn't think that it was hard, but the students said it was.

You can find lots more pictures of the week on the library website here

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

LLA 2018 Annual Conference and Winning an Award

Louisiana Library Association always holds its annual conference in mid-March. This year it was in Alexandria, LA. Not much going on there, but the hotels were very convenient to the conference center, and I did not have to move my car until I was ready to leave for home. When LLA made the call for conference proposals, I applied to talk about tech tools for formative assessment. This was a presentation that I did for teachers and librarians in my district, and I thought it would be a good one for this conference.

Some of these tools you migh be familiar with, but I hope that there is something new for you there:

One of the tools that I discussed in my presentation was Padlet, so I asked those attending to post on a Padlet different ways that they could utilize the various tools in their library. Below are the suggestions that they posted. Use the slider bar at the bottom to see all of the nine columns. Please feel free to add your ideas to the Padlet also. 

Made with Padlet

One of the highlights of conference is the annual awards ceremony. For several years  I was chair of the committee that gave out the School Librarian of the Year Award. I loved being able to talk about the excellent school librarians in the state and bestowing the award. This year, I received an award, and it was almost as much fun receiving as accepting. I won the LLA 2018 James O. Modisette Award for excellence in a middle/high school library. Below is a video of Stephanie Wilkes presenting the award to me and my acceptance speech. It is about four and a half minutes long. If you don't want to listen to me, you might want to hear Stephanie. She makes me sound awesome. 

LLA 2018 Awards Ceremony from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teen Tech Week 2018, It's Going to be Fun

Teen Tech Week
March 12th – 16th

PFTSTA LIBRARY: All Reader’s Welcome

Monday:                     Treat with a Movie
Kick off Teen Tech Week and visit the library during your lunch period to watch a movie and have a sweet treat. Showing will be the Oscar winning animated short by Kobe Bryant, Dear Basketball, as well as several other animated shorts including Lou and Garden Party which were both nominated for an Oscar.

Tuesday:                     Mosaics with Rubik’s Cubes
Using 100 Rubik’s Cubes, you and your friends will have a pattern to follow to create a mosaic picture using all of the cubes. The library is borrowing the cubes so they will only be available for a short time.

Wednesday:               Anti-Tech Day
Put away the technology for a day. Visit the library at lunch to experience the calming effects of a labyrinth. Available will be a variety of finger labyrinths that you can color and use to relax. There will also be a variety of mandalas to color as they are also known to help you relax and relieve stress.

Thursday:                   Make 1 Origami Cube OR
                                       Make 8 Cubes & Create an Infinity Cube
We provide the origami paper and the instructions. You do the folding and create 1 colorful cube OR you can make 8 cubes that you will tape together to create a moving infinity cube. Your choice.

Friday:                        Photo/Audio Scavenger Hunt
You will have 15 minutes to take pictures and make videos listed on the instruction sheet. The more you take, the more points that you will receive. All teams that earn 1800 points or more will win a prize for all members of their team.

Daily:                          Read the Page, Guess the Title
Read the first page of twenty novels:
If you guess 15 or more titles correctly, you will win a prize.
When complete, visit the library to claim your prize.

Patricia Forde Talks with BRiMS

When I  discovered that Skype was not a tool that we could count on, I was worried that it might be the end of our virtual visits with authors. Skype itself was not the problem but the district filtering. Sometimes it worked, and it worked best if we were on the receiving end of the call. However, I could not count on it. We are now using FaceTime for our virtual author visits. This works great on our end with an iPad and is sufficient if the author also has an Apple product. When I was planning our visit with Irish author Patricia Forde, we were not sure if FaceTime would work. Since I discovered that it uses data not phone minutes; it did not cost anything to make the connection. I made a test call with Patricia a few weeks ahead of time, and I knew after talking to her that the kids were in for a treat. 

We always start our visits the same way with the author telling us about the book and their writing process. Patricia explained that until she was ten she lived in a very rural area with one school that had no running water or heat. They lit open fires in the classroom to keep warm. There were three classes in one room, and she adored her teachers. When she moved to a city and attended a convent school with a most imposing and stern nun, she began to feel differently about school. She did always have a strong imagination and loved stories. Her mother was very encouraging. It was inevitable that she would grow up to be a writer. 

She has written for television and written picture books, but the book we discussed is The List written for middle grade. She loves the characters in her books to take journeys. When she came up with the idea for The List, it took three years on and off to get it finished. There were many rejections along the way, and she even had to find a new agent as hers had retired. She explained that if you want to be a writer then you need to write. The first thing you get down on paper may not be the best but even writing down a bad idea is a start because most of writing is really revision. She also talked about the importance of reading. She shared a number of her favorite books. She also suggested that you write what you love. Her love is fantasy and building worlds that are different from our own. 

BRiMS is scheduled during the students' lunch period

We want to thank Patricia and Source Books for making this visit possible. It was loads of fun. Find more pictures from the event on the library website

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How Do You Book Group?

Find links to many of the presentations here
On Saturday, I attended a one day professional development sponsored by the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. I really enjoyed it and got some great ideas to use in my library.

For my presentation at this event, I chose to talk about an activity that is relatively low tech. Technology is exciting. I love learning new ways to use it in the library, but I also don't want to concentrate on tech and not spread the word about the merits of reading and finding great books. I have three book groups that I run in my library. The middle school group meets monthly, but the other two groups for older students meet every week. It can be exhausting but also exhilarating. We have had some amazing discussions. I want to tell you now that you don't have to run a book group where every student in the group reads the same book. It can be very freeing once you decide to break the mold of book groups.

Another big aspect of all of my book groups is to have the students connect with authors. Each group has at least one virtual author visit a year. It might be more if the opportunity arises. I also encourage students to attend author presentations that are scheduled around town after school or on the weekends. I have taken students to meet authors at the annual Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, ALA when it is in New Orleans (Annual is here for 2018), local bookstores, and to other schools hosting authors. This to me is a crucial piece to the puzzle of sharing books and reading to the members of my groups. 

My goals for these book groups include: 
1. Getting students excited about a variety of books, genres, and authors
2. Having great discussions, even if they are off the topic of books
3. Having a good time so the members want to attend the meetings
4. Building a community of like-minded students

That really is not so difficult. Sometimes I plan ahead for the meetings like when I have planned a virtual author visit. Sometimes I just wing it with a topic that comes to me right before the meeting is to start. The high school students don't have time to read a book every week, but they love meeting weekly. So we do. With the middle school, we alternate months between all reading the same book with all reading the same genre or theme. It works for us and maybe it could work for you too. 

Here are the slides that I used for my presentation. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Virtual Visit with Cori McCarthy was Wonderful

Today, Bookmarked, the high school book group had the opportunity to chat with YA author Cori McCarthy. She is delightful, and both the students and I were on the edge of our seats drinking in everything that she had to say. Though several of her books piqued our interest, we met today to talk about her contemporary novel, You Were Here. This one she said is the most personal to her. She lost a classmate when she was in 8th grade right before the school year started. The adults told them that his death should not be discussed. All these years later, her emotional connection to this former classmate was the impetus to write the book. 

This book is told in five voices. When she began writing, it was very difficult for her to put words on paper for the character who was mute for most of the story. She decided that his voice would work well in illustrations. She was able to convince her editor to hire an artist to turn his part of the story into a graphic novel. She was thrilled with the results. McCarthy believed that the illustrations did not need to be explained and that her readers were sophisticated enough to be able to follow what was happening. I loved reading some of the voices in text and others in pictorial form. It helped to mark  the different personalities of the five main characters. 

Seeking recovery from loss is one of the major themes of this book, and the characters engage in some very risky behavior that is called Urban Exploration to find redemption. McCarthy explains that she was hesitant to put real places in the book in fear that readers would seek out these abandoned man-made structures and possibly be harmed. Some of the sites mentioned in the book did once exist but are now gone like the amusement park. Others like the mental health facility was a place that she explored when she was in college. She did describe how students could go urban exploring right in their own home by visiting youtube or following Abandoned America on Instagram

Though McCarthy claims to be introverted and that early in her career she had difficulty connecting with other people, especially those in the arts. Her presentation to us did not reflect any apprehension  with socializing with people that you do not know. She was upbeat, answered all the questions that the students posed, and was extremely gracious. This was a five star virtual visit. We want to thank Cori for spending time with us today and her publisher, Source Books, for making it happen. You can find more pictures of this visit on the library website

Traditionally, after every virtual visit and before signing off, I have the students stand by the screen and get a picture of them standing "with the author". For some reason today, I totally forgot to do that, and now I am kicking myself. I can't believe that I didn't capture that picture. Those are some of my most favorite pictures in the library. 

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