Friday, January 19, 2018

If You Build a Green Screen, They Will Come

In November, I decided to add some new items to the library makerspace. I dedicated $350 to buy materials and games that we did not already own. Everything would be new not just more Lego or more K'Nex. While I was in the process of compiling my list of items to purchase, everything I bought on Amazon, I was following tweets from the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) conference in Phoenix. I was intrigued by the session on green screens from prominent librarians Michele Luhtala, Jane Lofton, and Deb Schiano. I looked at their Google slides and realized that my students would really love trying out a green screen. These librarians inspired me to order the green screen with my new makerspace items. Open here for a link to the slide show they used in their session at AASL maybe it will inspire you, too. Then I attended the LACUE (Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators) conference and went to a session on green screens with
Janet Corder and Joan Gore where I got to see the screens in action. By the time that I went to LACUE, I had already ordered my $100 green screen. This session was just what I needed to get started. 

Open here for link to item on Amazon
When the green screen arrived, I was taken aback by its size. It was huge. I had no clue where it could go. For about 10 minutes, I had it in a corner by the study carrels that I realized would never work. Then I moved it in front of the magazine rack. (When we moved into this building in 2013, they built me a beautiful and very large wooden magazine display rack. It was obsolete the day we moved in. Though, I have been using it to display those over-sized, coffee table types of books.) I set it up one day during a lunch period with student help and then left it. 

The very next day some 6th graders started taking pictures with their phones. They didn't say anything to me as they just got to it. I had downloaded both of the Do Ink apps (cost $) to the library iPads, so I was wondering what app they were using. (We have had Stikbots (app is free) in the library for a couple of years. Stikbots have a mini green screen that is made out of cardboard.) The students were using the Stikbot app with our green screen to make their still photos. It was so easy to use. I put up the screen, and they began using it without any introduction. Amazing. 

The students only made still shots, no video. They were working during the lunch period, and it gets very noisy in the library. It would be impossible to do video at that time. That gave me the idea to start a green screen club for them. I have a list of interested students. We have had three days unexpectedly off from school due to inclement weather. I have not been able to get the club off the ground. We will meet weekly for four weeks, and I will pull them from PE. Their task will be to make a 2 to 3 minute video with the green screen. I can't wait to get started and show you their creativity. By the way, I am so glad that I got a big screen. The students want to take pictures of 4 or 5 people at a time. That just wouldn't be possible with a smaller screen. Also, you need a large section  of fabric on the floor, and the size that I bought works perfectly. It also comes with lights which we have not put together and used yet. When I ordered it, I bought extra clips so that we could make the fabric as taut as possible.

Let me know how you have used a green screen with your students. I am fascinated by this technology. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Virtual Visit with Author Jodi Lynn Anderson

In July of 2017, I served as moderator on a panel of four authors at a local bookstore. It was great fun, and I used the opportunity to ask all of the authors if they would be willing to schedule a virtual visit with one of my book groups some time. I think that all of them said they would, but I was such a fan of Midnight at the Electric that I choose to schedule Jodi Lynn Anderson with the 8th/9th grade book group, Bookmarked Jr. Edition. I will save the other three for another school year. 

Bookmarked Jr. Edition meets at lunch

Though she was very willing, it took some work to make it happen. First, I scheduled the visit in November, but then I forgot, and the day before I realized that I hadn't prepared the students and asked them to read her book. She was happy to reschedule, but had to do it in January once the holidays were over. Then school started late after the holidays due to a day off due to bad weather. Then, we had to scrap using Skype because the district can't decide whether it should be allowed or it should be blocked. On January 10th, we did have a virtual visit with Anderson, but we used Apple's Face time to make it happen. 

Just so you know, if you use Face time, you are either using it over wifi like we did with an iPad or you are using your phone's data. Face time does not use minutes on your phone, so you can make Face time calls internationally without costing an arm and a leg. We have a virtual visit planned for February with an author who lives in Ireland. I did a test today, and it will work fine for that visit. 

First, Anderson discussed how she got into publishing before becoming a writer herself and then about her first experiences as a writer. Finally, she gave us some specifics about Midnight at the Electric when she responded to the students' questions. As a writer she wants to find magic, not the magic that characters can do like in Harry Potter but the magic of a story. With this book, she decided on electricity as a theme throughout the three stories that are told as she needed a connecting force. Also, she believes there is some magic in electricity.The tortoise serves to connect the three stories as well because she wanted a living creature to help glue them together.  She also likes to write characters who are hard to love. Audry, the girl who is slated to travel to Mars certainly is prickly, but she learns to warm up to her elderly relative, Lily. 

Student walks up to microphone to ask a question

Anderson explained that writing a book is like putting a puzzle together. She starts with the pictures in her mind, and then writes a detailed outline. In this book with three separate story lines from three different time periods, some of those puzzle pieces had to be moved several times before the book made sense. She alternated the three stories so that the reader is not reading about the events in chronological order. 

Thank you, Jodi Lynn Anderson, for taking time from your schedule to speak with us. It was a great experience for my students. You can find more pictures from this visit on the library website

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Find Out What Has Been Happening in the PFTSTA Library

I have taken a short break from posting in this blog, but that does not mean that I have been negligent in the library. October and November saw many classes in all grade levels visiting the library for research for a social studies paper. Our students must submit a paper to receive honors' credit for any social studies course. I also spent $375 of library funds on new materials for our library makerspace. I will probably do a separate post about those new items, but I am definitely going to write about the new green screen. It was up in the library less than 24 hours before students started using it. I will write a post just on that. 

For now, I thought it would be fun to post a bunch of pictures so that you can see what my students have been up to. 

We are a 1:1 school but when laptops break down, students use the library computers

This student is focused on building a bridge with K'Nex. It is still in the works, 
The Keva Planks were a real hit and students began building as soon as they hit the shelf

We may have lots going on in our library, but books still play a major role

Students collaborating on a project with K'Nex

There was a very short learning curve for figuring out how to work Bloxels

Students made origami "balloons" to cover the ligths decorating the doors

This is a close up of the decorated lights on the doors

Students set up for a photo with the green screen

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A School Librarian's Reading Life

My Reading Life 

Sign I created for the door to my office
I was inspired to write this blog post after seeing the infographic created by Library Girl Jennifer LaGarde called, When Adults Don't Read, Kids Lose. I remember years ago when I was an elementary school librarian talking to a fourth grade teacher who admitted that she never read. I couldn't imagine that and was horrified. Reading feeds my soul and though my reading habits have changed over the last 25 years that I have been a librarian, I still really value reading in my life. I think everyone should. How can we expect our students to value reading if we don't read? 

I have a motto for my library: All Readers Welcome. I tell my students that I chose that because unlike an English teacher who wants you to read specific books, I don't care what you read. I want you to read what brings you pleasure. It is important for these young people to find what types of reading brings them enjoyment now before they begin to believe that they don't like to read. 

I got to meet author, Jeff Zentner, in October
I am a huge fan of his work!
I began my library career working in an elementary school. Then, for school, I would read lots of picture books which took about 10 to 15 minutes to read to myself and middle grade chapter books which usually took a couple of hours to read. Most of my reading time was spent on books written for adults. I am a big fan of mysteries, but I would read other genres too but almost always fiction titles. I always had a book on the nightstand and would often spend hours and hours on the weekends curled up with a book After twelve years with younger students, I made the move to a grade 7th-12th school. I had taken adolescent lit, but I was way behind in my exposure to the depth of young adult (YA) literature. To catch up with the students I was teaching, I read less and less adult fiction and more and more YA. This was all before social media became big, and the Internet did not do much to entice me away from the reading that I so loved. 

My reading habits have definitely changed due to social media and smartphones. I don't find myself reading for hours and hours on the weekends. As I have gotten older it just seems that it takes me longer to get my weekend chores done. If I get a two hour block on a Sunday for reading, that is a real gift. Also, if I want to relax, instead of picking up a book, I very often pick up my phone and start reading Facebook or looking at pictures on Instagram. When I do that for any length of time, I start to feel guilty and try to regroup and pick up the book that is on my nightstand. There is always a print book that I am reading. Nowadays, I have either a YA or middle grade book to read. I just don't have time for adult books as I need to keep up with the students. 

I keep a record of all the books that I read 

It does seem to take me at least a week if not more to get through most YA books. I don't think that I am a slow reader, just a distracted one. This is probably very much like the students who I teach. In 2013, my school moved to a new facility and instead of a 30 minute round trip commute, I now have an hour round trip every day. At first, I continued to listen to NPR or the occasional podcast on my way to and from school. Then I realized that that hour could be utilized in a better way. I could be listening to audio books. By downloading audio books from the library on my smartphone, I could listen during my commute and my exercise walks. This was a breakthrough in my reading. My local library does not add enough YA titles that interest me. Eventually, I needed to subscribe to Audible so I could find books that I wanted to read/hear. This has been really helpful when it comes to getting through a whole series that I want to read.

Students enjoying time to read in the library
I still review books for School Library Journal and School Library Connection. With those reviews, I don't get to choose what I want to read, and there are deadlines. Sometimes this can be a burden, and I have thought about dropping both of them, but I can't bring myself to do it. I also have books to read along with my library book groups or because we have a scheduled author visit. There are deadlines for those books too, but usually, I have enough lead time to get all the pages read in time for the meeting or the visit.

On Instagram, I saw a display that a librarian had created to showcase the books that she was reading. I decided that I could do that too. On the door to my office, I am putting up pictures of book covers of all the books that I have read since school started. I am also giving each book a star rating so the students get an idea of what I have really liked. You can see below where I am so far this year, and I believe this is a way to truly model by example.

All the books that I have read since school began in August
I worry that my students are not spending enough time reading for pleasure. Though, I may always feel like that, I am going to continue to find ways to let them know the importance of reading. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Teen Read Week 2017 has Come and Gone

Teen Read Week (TRW) happens during lunch in the school library. Since there are three lunch periods, we celebrated from 11AM to 1:10PM every day. In years previous, we had two lunches, and  it was so much easier to schedule students to help run the activities, but now it is just more difficult to manage multiple activities on one day like we did in the past. Also, with the number of students growing to 700 this year, it means that I have to simplify the plan for TRW to make it work and keep my sanity. 

The theme of TRW this year was "Unleash your Story." We put the focus on character through all our activities. We started the week with a showing of a Twilight Zone episode. This year we showed "100 Yards to the Rim." This episode is all about the main character who travels in time from 1847 to 1961. All he wants is to find a new home out west for his family. His travel through time allows him to do just that. It was a hit. We also showed an animated German short called Cats & Dogs. If you find it, it is a delightfully simple animation that takes place entirely within the pages of a book.

For two days, we played a guessing game that we called, Who am I? We always play some sort of version of this game. All I had to do with the questions was use the ones from last year and switch them around so that every answer was a character's name either from a book, movie, or television show. I also tapped the members of the high school book groups to help create some new questions for the game. Students love to help run the game, and we set it up at the table situated right where you enter the library. This means that almost every person who enters stopped to play the game. 

For our craft activity, I chose something that needed few supplies--a mini origami book. It was super easy to set up. I had instructions displayed on the interactive white board, but I also put iPads out at each table so the students could see the instructions up close. In this activity the paper has to be cut in half, and though I have plenty of scissors, I chose to cut all the paper ahead to save some time. Students visit during the 40 minute lunch, but some get here with only 15 or 20 minutes left in the period so speed is important. I loved watching the creativity that the students employed choosing certain colors, folding the paper in the opposite direction, or making patterns where none was necessary. Whatever they did, the books that they designed were amazing. 

For the photo op activity, I thought of a way that students could weigh in their feelings about books that they have read. I found some emoji paper plates. I glued a stick on each plate. The kids selected a book from the shelves or the book covers of favorite series that I printed out ahead of time (so many popular books were checked out already); then they selected an emoji plate to match. They could show their face or cover it with the emoji. The photos were simply awesome, and so many kids participated at all of the grade levels. 

The book fair was scheduled the week before Teen Read Week. One thing that I did this year to lessen my stress was to order all of the supplies that I needed on Amazon two weeks ahead of time. Not only did this save me from having to physically shop, but I didn't have to schlep all the items from the car to the library. The boxes arrived in the school office, and someone would deliver them to the library. i don;t think that I spent any more than I usually do for this event. I had to buy candy for prizes, candy for the guess the number of lifesavers in the jar game, origami paper, glue sticks, emoji plates, and craft sticks for plates. I ended up having to make a Michael's run because I misplaced the solid sheets of origami paper that I had ordered. I now have a ton of origami paper, and I will probably add it to the library makerspace next week. 

Guess the number of Lifesavers in the Jar
The only part of TRW that is not completed is the book mark contest. The forms are not due until the 24th. I will make a blog post with the winners later in the month. If you want to see more pictures of the week check out the library website.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Teen Read Week 2017

If it is mid-October, then that means Teen Read Week must have arrived. We have been celebrating TRW at PFTSTA in some fashion since I became librarian there in 2006. Every year, I tap the library book groups in high school to help me plan. We take the activities we did the year before and fit them into the theme that YALSA has set for the year. There is always a video showing of an episode from the Tiwlight Zone, a guessing game, a craft activity, photo op, and guess the number of candies in a jar. It makes my life easier to have programs that work repeated every year, and the kids have something to look forward to that has generated some excitement the year before.

You can find a list of all the activities that we have planned on the library website. When the week is over, I will post pictures from TRW on the same link.

Happy Teen Read Week!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Time to Celebrate our Freedom to Read, Students Weigh In

Every year, I conduct a lesson for the English I students to celebrate ALA's Banned Book Week. This lesson has grown over the years, and I am very proud with what the English teachers and I have done with the topic.

I will introduce the lesson using the slide presentation below. Please feel free to make a copy and adapt it for your own library. 

We want the students to take a stance by writing a well constructed paragraph using the resources that I pulled together for them as concrete evidence to support their stand. We also want this to be a real world experience. Meaning we want their responses to be published on the web for anyone to read. Last year, we had the students post their paragraph in the comment section of the BBW post on this blog. This proved to be an issue because some of the students' comments were posted immediately while others were sent to me to be moderated before posting. Students were frustrated not knowing where their paragraph had gone so some submitted multiple times. On the positive side, all comments are time stamped so the teachers knew if the students completed the task by the deadline. This time around the students will post on a Padlet created for the period in which they have English. The posts will not have a time stamp, but I can stop accepting anymore entries when the deadline hits. See the padlets below. I hope that you enjoy reading the students paragraphs and feel free to add a comment  of your own in the comments section of the blog or even the Padlet if it is still accepting comments. . 
Made with Padlet
Made with Padlet
Made with Padlet
Made with Padlet

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nancy Cavanaugh Gets Students Excited about Historical Fiction

On Monday, September 25th, we had our first author visit of the school year. Author and former 3rd grade teacher and librarian, Nancy Cavanaugh, came to talk about her newest book, Elsie Mae has Something to Say. The book is set in 1933 in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Nancy explained to the students how she was inspired to write the story--a television documentary. However, it was a trip that she took to the swamp 20 years ago that gave her the push to write a book about a place and time that doesn't exist anymore. 

It took her a long time to get the story right because she started her research two decades ago, and the book was published in early September 2017. At first, she was going to try and write a non-fiction picture book about the swamp because her inspiration began with a documentary and book called Okefenokee Album by Francis Harper. When that didn't work she tried her hand at a book called. Henry James and the Hog Bandits. That never got published either. When she created Elsie Mae, she hit on a character with such spunk and sassiness that she became the main character in her book about the swamp. Henry James made it into the book, too, as Elsie's cousin. Yes, there are hog bandits on the loose, too. This is a book filled with adventure, mystery, and humor. The author's attention to detail about the swampers' lives paint a picture in your mind that made all of us want to take a trip to see the alligators of the Okefenokee.

After her visit, the students had lots to say about the program. They didn't know that it took so much effort to get a book written including both research and experience. They really liked hearing about her trip to the swamp to see it in person and how what she experienced there made it directly into the book. Much of the action takes place on the front porch of Elsie Mae's grandparents' house and that porch looks just like the front porches of the cabins that Cavanaugh saw on her visit. Also, some of the swamp is made up of islands that are dry land where the swampers built their homes, but there is also lots of boggy land that has to be tread on carefully. Swampers would use the pole that helped propel the boat as a plank to walk on when they encountered marshland. Cavanaugh explained how this trick worked when Elsie Mae did it in the book. Not only did she write a good story, but she also gives the readers a glimpse into what life was like almost a 100 years ago on the islands of the Okefenokee. 

You can visit the PFTSTA Library to check out the book or your own local school or public library. We want to thank local booksellers Octavia Books and the publisher Source Books for making this author visit possible. You can find lots more pictures of Cavanaugh's trip to PFTSTA on the library website.
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