Friday, May 17, 2019

End of the School Year Always Bittersweet

When May rolls around I gird up to do what is needed at my school. Most of those tasks do not really relate to the library. The seniors graduated this year on May 11th. I coordinate senior awards night, plan graduation, and help the students with their val and sal speeches for the graduation. For a long time, I was also AP coordinator, and that was a total nightmare because all of these tasks fell within the same few weeks. I would finish school totally wiped out needing my months off to regroup. 

Tyler speaking to the YALSA BFYA committee at ALA Annual in 2018 
During senior awards night, I give out something special to all graduating members of the high school book group, Bookmarked. Actually, over the last few years, there have been no seniors in book group. Students would join early in their high school career, but by the time that they became a senior, they would chose to get involved in other organizations. I understand, but I have come to realize that the students who do remain in Bookmarked until they graduate are pretty special kids, to me anyway. 

Standing in the stacks and ready to say good-bye
I want to tell you about one member of Bookmarked who just graduated but has spent all four of his high school years having lunch in the library on Mondays. He usually ate lunch in the library every day, but I was guaranteed to see Tyler every Monday. Since Monday was scheduled for the Bookmarked meeting, I always had time to talk to him. It took me awhile to really get to know him, and it took me a year or two to realize how deeply he thought about the books that he read. He was always a big participant in our discussions during Bookmarked, but it wasn't until we started talking one on one about what each of us was reading that I realized that Tyler really took what he read to heart. He wanted the good guy to always win, and he wanted a resolution for all the loose ends at the end of series that he had read and loved. He liked many of the books that I did including the Arc of a Scythe series by Shusterman. I am sorry that he won't be around when the third book in the series is released. Tyler had the good fortune to go with me and other members of Bookmarked to ALA last summer when it was in New Orleans. He was overwhelmed. of course, but he had the opportunity to talk to Neal Shusterman in person and many other others authors as well as bring home bags and bags of books. This is someone who will read those books if they look appealing to him. 

Tyler talks about diversity in books during a Bookmarked meeting

I always enjoyed talking books with Tyler, and we would recommend titles and series to each other all the time. I can tell you what many of the recent graduates plan to major in at college, but Tyler and I had so many other things to talk about that I never did ask him what he plans to do. He did win a POSSE scholarship and is heading to Case Western Reserve University in the fall, and I am sure that he will succeed as he was named a National Merit Scholar.

Tyler happened to be one person who always read this blog. He made many comments to me about it over the years and always got my jokes. I am sure that he will read this entry too.

To Tyler: 
I am really going to miss you next year, but I know that you are going to have many new experiences and opportunities that you have never had before. It might be that you do not think about us back at Taylor very often, but do know that I will remember you and all your amazing contributions to the many discussions that we had together and in Bookmarked. 
All my best, Ms. Kahn

Updated on May 18th: 
I sent an email to Tyler sharing this blog post. He was so touched that he wrote me a very long thank you note for all that I had done for him while he was at Patrick Taylor. I am going to keep his letter to myself, but I did want to share a bit here with you because it shows the importance of what librarians do everyday for their patrons:
"Without your club, I doubt I would have had the confidence to own my opinions as proudly as I do today, whether it's in reflection of a novel or in a debate in World History.  Your recommendations and willingness to listen really has helped me to grow as a person and as a reader, and I again cannot thank you enough." TB
I am a happy librarian right now. Though I feel that I am getting a little long in the tooth because I have been in this profession so many years, it does my heart good to know that I can still make a difference in a young person's life. Of course, they have made such an impression on me too!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Celebrating National Poetry Month

I like to celebrate Black History Month, Women's History Month, and National Poetry Month in the school library. April has arrived, and it is time for poetry. 

Click on the picture to enlarge it, the poem in the middle was written by a sophomore
One of the things that I used to do was send an email blast out to all students and staff with a poem every day of the week. The poem would be the body of the email. I would occasionally get replies back with comments about the poems, so I know that they were being read. Now, instead of the email blast, I find a poem that I like that is posted on the web and add the link to the daily Paw Prints that is sent to all students and teachers and parents who have signed up for it. I decided that I didn't want to flood in boxes with email that wouldn't get read. Anyway, I use poems from the Poetry Foundation or or even link to one of the poem generators that I have listed in this Symbaloo. Then I print out the poem and post it on the door of the library. By the end of the month, the doors are filled with poems. Sometimes students send me poems that they want me to post or even write poems for me to post. 

At a conference that I attended a couple of years ago, my librarian friends at St. Thomas More in Lafayette, LA talked about how they had students read poems to them to help erase overdue fines. When I first heard about this, I just thought that it was an amazing idea, and I think that this is the third year that I have done it. I give the students at least two weeks to visit the library to read poetry to me. If they find a poem online or pick one out of a book, they can reduce their fine by five cents for every line that they read. If they write a poem, then they can reduce their fine by ten cents. It still boggles my mind that students will pay me during this period rather than read poetry to me. It is their choice. I have students reading lines to knock out two and three dollars worth of fines. I love this idea, and I love the idea of giving students a way to work off what they owe. 

Last year, I made a station at a table where students could create black out poetry. I haven't done it yet, but I think that I will cut up some of the book pages that we used for the craft for Teen Tech Week and have students create poems from the words. That is a task for next week. If you want to know what we have done over the years for Poetry Month, check out this Wakelet that I made. (By the way, Wakelet is my newest favorite curation tool.)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Teen TECH Week 19 is Now Over

Birds of a Feather Flock to the Library
Teen Tech Week @ PFTSTA Library
March 25-29

I know that Teen Tech Week (TTW) and Teen Read Week (TRW) may not be long for this world. Both of these initiatives have been sponsored by YALSA for years, and I can hardly remember a time when I did not celebrate them in my library. In the future, it seems that YALSA wants to promote more activities for teens year round rather than just for two weeks every year. In my library, I serve tweens and teens all school year long. I like the idea of having a special week in the fall and one in the spring to highlight what the library has to offer. Even if these weeks are no longer sanctioned by YALSA, I expect to plan and execute a week's worth of fun twice a year anyway. Certainly, I can do that, but without other libraries doing the same across the US, sharing on social media does not have as big an impact when I am the only one sharing.

TTW had a national roll out on March 9th, but that week I was out of the building for a state conference. I needed a week to prep for all my activities which is why TTW was this past week. We always start the week with animated shorts and try to show the ones that are nominated for an Oscar. I had a link to all those nominated, but after the Academy Awards ceremony, free access to those shorts was eliminated. I did some searching and found seven videos that I thought the students might like with several of them centered around birds since that was our theme for this year. Since students visit for TTW during their lunch period, they do not arrive all at the same time. By showing so many short videos, everyone who visited the library that day had a chance to see some of what we viewed.

I like to use the same template every year for the planning of these special weeks. It just makes my life easier, and I can build on the successful activities that we have had the previous years. Last year, we borrowed Rubik's Cubes from You Can Co the Cube. We get to keep the cubes for several weeks, so we roll them out with TTW. Then, they remain out for a few weeks so that we can do many mosaics over the time that we have them. This time I borrowed 225 cubes. So far we have used all the cubes for Albert Einstein. It took them a few days. Currently, they are working on Abraham Lincoln. I have not made my own mosaic yet with Twist the Web, but I intend to. The downside of creating my own is the large quantity of paper that it takes to print out the pattern.

Quiver in action

Merge cube

I attended my state conference on the 14th and 15th of March and received a Merge Cube as a prize at one of the sessions that I attended. That gave me the idea to do augmented reality for one of the days of TTW. I purchased five more cubes cheap on eBay. I also printed out some of the free sheets from Quiver Vision to use too. A handful of students owned their own cube but most had never seen one before. I downloaded five different apps to use with the Merge all for free except one. Once TTW was over, the Cubes were added to our makerspace to be used any time.

There is always a craft for TTW, and actually it was the craft that help me come up with our theme for this year. I wanted to make something out of old library books. I found the directions for this bird in a blog post. I made one for myself to see how it easy it would be, and it was fast and easy. That is always a plus because these activities are all done during lunch. Sometimes students will only have 15 minutes to complete whatever we are doing from start to finish. I adapted the instructions in the blog to this. This was a craft enjoyed by all ages, and everyone made their own spin to what was given. Some older students ditched the template and made their birds smaller. One of the middle school students wanted their bird to be more three dimensional so they added wings to the back side, and then everyone added more wings,even me. There were a few who did not like the fact that I had cut up a book, but I was planning to discard the book anyway. It was free paper. Actually, this craft cost nothing because I had the paper for the bird, string to hang it, glue for the five glue guns, glitter glue which was purchased for a different project but never used, cardboard for the templates, and pencils and scissors. When I can design a craft project this popular without costing a dime, that is a real win.

We ended the week with an Internet scavenger hunt that I called Game of Phones. Though most of the students used the library iPads rather then their own phone. The students were given a list of pictures to find on the Internet. If they could find 15 pictures on the list in 15 minutes they won a prize. The middle school really got excited by this one but not so the older students. If I was going to do a scavenger hunt again, I would need to come up with something a bit more interesting.

Google form used for the quiz
I had an online quiz that students could play once during the week. I created the quiz in a Google form and designed it to determine the correct answers which saved me a lot of time. The students were shown the cover a book, and had to give the call number as the answer. I gave them the link to the library OPAC to find the call numbers. I wanted the students to practice using the catalog and finding exact call numbers. If they could answer 25 correctly, then they could select their own prize from the basket. If they finished with 15 answers correct, they received a miniature Rubik's Cube. Most kids tried for the 25 and made it, but a total of only 21 students completed the quiz. That was disappointing considering that the quiz was so easy.

I really like the idea of a week of special activities in the library. It highlights what choices the students have when they visit the library. It gets students to walk in voluntarily who don't usually choose to do so. For the regulars, it gives them a chance to find out something new about the library that they didn't know before. Visit the library website for more pictures of the week

Friday, February 8, 2019

Chelsea Sedoti Talks about her Books

Bookmarked Junior Edition or BJE is a later edition to the stable of book groups at Patrick Taylor. This group needed to be created once the school grew to include three lunch periods rather than two. Though the group meets weekly, there are usually only about four or five regulars. That is fine by me, but when I work hard to schedule a visit with an author, I want to see all the members attend. Yesterday, we had a nice turn out for author, Chelsea Sedoti

I scheduled this event through SourceBooks. This publisher has made it easy to schedule virtual author visits. Their one requirement is that we buy some of the author's books. That is not an issue because I want the students to have an opportunity to read a book by a visiting author whether the visit is virtual or face to face. For some reason this year, I had a hard time connecting with the sales department at SourceBooks. I planned this event back in September, and I wanted to order the books early. It wasn't until January that I connected with sales, and we did not receive the books until the week before the visit. I am all about getting things done way ahead; this did not sit well with me. Even so, myself and a few kids had time to read before the event, and others grabbed the book just as we finished talking with Chelsea. 

At every author visit this year, students have asked questions about where the author gets the names for their characters. Chelsea wanted the town in As You Wish to have an old-timey feel, so she researched common names from the Victorian era for her characters. The main character of the book is named Eldon. Except in fiction, none of us were familiar with anyone of that name. She also explained that she does not usually base her characters on people she knows, but she will pull bits of personality from those she knows for her characters.

How a writer gets their start can often make for an interesting story. When Chelsea began her talk to the students about her fourth grade self, I realized she did have a good story to tell. Writing stories has been something she has loved for almost her whole life. Her year in fourth grade was spent writing stories because her teacher wanted to keep her engaged. When it was time to make a living, she had to find other avenues beyond writing to make ends meet. She was a videographer for awhile which did give her a chance to tell some sort of story. She also worked as a copy editor which gave her an opportunity to write though not in a very creative way. She now has two published books, a book due next year, and she is working on her fourth. Like many authors, it took her some time to get established, but she is finally able to live the dream that all began when she was in fourth grade. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Just have not been feeling it, but this helps

This has been a hard school year for me. Besides the day to day of my job as school librarian, I have been trying to empty my mother's house since June that she lived in for 62 years. This has taken a lot out of me emotionally, and the act of sale is mid-January, so there is not much time left to finish it all. Also, the little aches and pains of aging are starting to catch up with me. I really need the two weeks off from school that starts on Saturday. 

As I was cleaning around my desk and filing some papers away today, I found this letter in the way back of my file cabinet. I don't remember the student or the year that she wrote this to me, but, boy, it has it put a smile on my face. Sometimes I forget the little things that I do have a huge impact on the students that I see everyday. To me this just helps reinforce that librarians do make a difference. 

If you click on the image of the letter, you can enlarge it to read
Bitmoji Image

I am going to take some time for myself over the holidays and also time to have fun with family friends. When I return to school in January, I am going to try and keep Sabrina's voice in my head so that I remember that what I do matters. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Virtual Visit with Author, Ashley Elston

It is always a great day when I have students visit with an author. I first met Ashley Elston at a state conference. Like me, she is from Louisiana. Her presentation to the roomful of librarians was hilarious, and I thought that my students would really enjoy talking to her. After the conference, we connected on Twitter, and I found out that she was happy to schedule a virtual visit with us. We agreed on a Monday in December during one of our regularly scheduled Bookmarked meetings. If I can schedule the author when the group is used to being in the library at that time, it is easier for the students to remember.

Ashley came to writing after she had her children. She explained that being a wedding photographer did not mesh well with being a mom with young children. She really did not know what she was getting into but just began writing. She has four published books, and a new one to be published in the fall of 2019. For this visit, we concentrated on talking about her two murder mysteries, This is our Story and The Lying Woods

Since she doesn't start writing with a detailed outline or a map of what is gong to happen, Elston finds that she is often surprised as to who the murderer turns out to be. She thinks this helps to make the story work well for her readers. I can say that of the four suspects in This is our Story, I could not figure out who had done it before she revealed it. No spoilers, but one of the twists in this story that took me by surprise was not in the original draft.

The students loved hearing how she came up with new ideas. She explained that she likes writing mysteries, but her next book, The Blind Dates, is a rom com. The story just came to her, and she went for it. I know after hearing her presentation at LLA this past March that she has a real comedic flair.

You can find more pictures and more information about the visit on the library website. The members of Bookmarked and I appreciate the time that Elston took to give us a peek into her writing process and motivation to write. Thank you, Ashley!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Geeking Out with Author, Claudia Gray

Two seniors designed this amazing welcome sign inspired by the book cover below

Book 2 in the Constellation series

That's me on the left

The young adult author Claudia Gray lives in the New Orleans area, and Patrick Taylor is located in the New Orleans area. Over the last few years, every time that I would see Claudia at a book event, I would ask if she would do a school visit. She always has said yes, but she is a busy writer and getting a time set on the calendar has been a challenge. On Tuesday, November 27th, the sophomores and juniors finally had a chance to meet her. I actually set up this event because I knew that the members of the high school book group, Bookmarked, would love her, but since this event was a long time in the making, I decided that every student in those two grades would benefit from hearing what she had to say. I was not wrong. The students were a great audience, and I think they all took a little something away with them at the end of the hour. 

Claudia came prepared to talk to aspiring writers, but when she realized that we were a STEM school, she switched gears. Members of Bookmarked had written questions for her on Monday at our regularly scheduled meeting. She decided to go with the questions as the outline for her talk. She took the questions created by the students and arranged them in a flow that made sense and worked beautifully for her presentation. The students were curious about how she got started writing the Star Wars' books and if she preferred writing her original characters and stories or someone else's, how her life changed after becoming a published author, if she based any of her characters on people that she  knew in real life, and what inspired her to become a writer. We did learn that when she was young she decorated her closet to use as an X-wing flight simulator. Though she never had a chance to leave Earth, you wouldn't know that from reading her sci fi series that begins with Defy the Stars. You can read the answers to these questions and see more pictures of the day by visiting the library website

We want to thank Claudia for taking time out of her schedule to talk to the students at Patrick Taylor Academy and to Octavia Books who helped make sure students could purchase books to be signed by the author. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Teen Read Week 2018 Brought a Crowd into the Library

Why do I bother to celebrate Teen Read Week (TRW)? 

Student interpretation of "It's Written in the Stars"

I have a steady stream of students in the library every day at all three lunches, and I do not need a special week of programming to encourage students to walk in the doors of the library. But TRW is an annual event, and I want my kids to have fond memories of all our TRW activities over the years that they attend this school. I like tradtions, and this tradition started when I came to the school, so it means a lot to me to keep it going. 

Playing the guessing game

Over the years, my students and I have developed programming for TRW that is altered and edited every year but always has the same components. As such, planning is pretty simple. We look at the theme set by YALSA and adjust all our activities to fit that theme. 

Crafting tissue stars

These are the events that are always scheduled: showing of an episode from Twilight Zone with treats, a simple craft that can be completed in about 30 minutes (length of a lunch period), a literary guessing game with sweet treats as prizes so many can win, some sort of picture taking to recommend books, guess the number of candies in the jar with the winner getting all the candy, a bookmark contest with a winner from middle school and one from high school, fine forgiveness for the week, and voting for Teen's Top Ten. Some years we have added events that included special visitors or authors, but that list is our general plan. It works for us, and the kids here seem to love it. I always ask members of my book groups to help with the planning and to give me ideas. If I need student helpers for any event, then I call on them. 

Below are just a few pictures to highlight the fun that was had during TRW 2018, but you can see a lot more on the library website here.

Focused on the video

7th grade helpers for the guessing game

Even the high school students like playing the game

Few came close to the number of candy stars in the jar

The tissue stars were easy but looked beautiful hanging in a window

We used star ratings to make book recommendations

High School Winning Bookmark
Middle School Winning Bookmark

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