Sunday, May 1, 2016

Middle School Book Group Ends 2016 on a High Note

Final meeting of BRiMS, that 's me in white

Even though it was standardized testing week, I held our last regularly scheduled monthly BRiMS (Books Rule in Middle School) meeting on Wednesday during lunch. It seemed silly to cancel it since the students' lunch period was actually longer than usual last week. I liked the fact that I didn't have to cancel just because testing was being held in the morning--in some schools I would have to do so. We did have a lower turnout than usual, but I had been reminding kids about the meeting in emails, the daily school memo, and signage in the library. I do believe that the students need to learn how to take responsibility and keep track of meeting dates and times. Some forgot, some didn't read the book, and others just chose to go to the cafeteria for lunch.

This year, I finally found a rhythm with the way that I organize what we read for each monthly meeting. For half the meetings, there was an assigned book and the other meetings were set by some sort of theme be it genre or time of the year. I think that this method has worked well. There is a BRiMS page on the library website that announces ahead of time all books and themes and dates. After the meeting, I post a picture of the day and a blurb about our discussion to document the meeting. 

Let me first talk about reading around a theme. At the first meeting, students brought in a book they read over the summer and loved, and for April, they had to select a book written by a woman for National Women's History Month. The students like selecting a book that is meaningful to them as well as a book that they like reading. That is the positive. The problem when we read on a theme is that the students all read a different book. If all 30 members of book group attend, there is just not enough time for everyone to share. When one of the kids tries to tell the whole story of their selected book and goes on for 10 minutes, the other members of the group get restless. The discussion for that day needs to be lively and needs to keep moving from one person to the next. If everyone feels like they could contribute if they choose to do so, then I think it has been a good day for book group. It takes work on my part, and some discussions have been better than others, but I see it as a work in progress. 

Gummy worms were the perfect snack to eat while discussing Rump

For the four books that have been selected for the year, I try to do the selections way ahead of time. I have selected books based on a skype session with the author like I scheduled this year with Jen Calonita. I have selected books that I have bought as a set with Scholastic Dollars from my book fair. I have selected books based on students interests. It is hard to find a book that everyone likes, but we have had some great conversations about these books. Our discussions always start around the book, but I try to maneuver the topic so that all can have a say even if they have not read the book. This happened when we talked about memory after reading Sonnenblick's Curveball: the year I lost my grip. It also happened the other day when we read Shurtliff's Rump and discussed mash ups and retellings of old fairy tales. Publishers and authors often post reader's and teacher's guides that I find helpful when I lead a discussion. There was a great resource for Rump that I found on the author's website. I don't usually plan much for the discussion, and I usually have no guide. I like to ask a lot of questions, and that is the basis of the meetings. I start asking questions based on what I thought about after I read the book, and then we go from there. 

I have been leading school book groups in middle school and high school since 2003. I think that these groups offer an opportunity for kids who do not usually join clubs or organizations. I like not having too many rules, and I am always willing to go off topic if need be. It is a group that is suppose to be fun for everyone involved, even me. It is a way that I get to share my love of reading with a group who also loves to read. This is something every librarian can relate to!

Monday, April 11, 2016

More on Poetry Month 2016

In my last post, I mentioned that the high school book group wanted to create poems in the style of Mad Libs as an activity during lunch in the library. Neither the students nor myself really have time to spend creating these pages. Looking online, I found a site that allows you to input words, and then a poem is generated for you with the words that you entered. We tried it during today's Bookmarked meeting. The kids liked the outcome, and it will be fun to do on the interactive whiteboard with a large group of students. This is the link from Language is Virus blog to generate your own Mad Libs style poems

Below is the poem that the students made today: 

blue rock's blue rock

patiently i have never murder, floppily beyond
any wall, your cake have their round:
in your most evil eyebrows are things which annihilate me,
or which i cannot imagine because they are too flabulously

your crazy look gracefully will unfeast me
though i have break myself as crossbow,
you ride always nostril by nostril myself as TARDIS buffalo
(pronounceing lovely, quickly) her superfluous lie

or if your ice cream be to chomp me, i and
my fork will talk very morbidly, well,
as when the camera of this wall squat
the panda horribly everywhere stabing;

nothing which we are to backhand in this pokemon punch
the icebear of your cold weasel: whose blood
torture me with the ferret of its fez,
sniffing noun and spoon with each deduceing

(i do not incinerate what it is about you that mutilate
and eat; only something in me carry
the fetus of your cake is catlike than all TARDIS)
baby bottle, not even the sponge, has such hairy mr. spock

- Bookmarked & e.e. cummings

Create Your Own Madlib on

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April in the Library and National Poetry Month 2016
By the time April rolls around I am exhausted. We have just celebrated Teen Tech Week in the library, and I am gearing up for all the end of the year tasks that I do that don't happen to relate to the library. These tasks include preparing for the induction ceremony for the National Honor Society, completing duties as AP coordinator that take a huge amount of planning and logistics, assisting the val and sal with their speeches, and getting the script for graduation ready for the big day. The class of 2016 graduates on May 14th which is very early, and the last day for the rest of the students is May 25th. 

If I want to celebrate National Poetry Month, we need to design and plan easy to do activities that the students can handle themselves or that take little work from me. One thing that I will do is send out a poem every day of the school week via email. I am not a big fan of email blasts, but I am careful to put National Poetry Month in the subject line. That means the students and staff members know exactly what kind of email they are receiving. They can choose to read or delete as they see fit. Usually, I just put the text of the poem in the email. This year I decided to change it up a bit. On Friday, I sent out the picture that you see at the top of this blog post. One day last week, I sent out a link to make your own poems online with magnetic poetry words. I asked students to share with me the poems that they created via email. I did not get many, but you can see some of the results below.

by Lindsey, 9th grade

by Nile, 8th grade

by Tyler B., 9th grade

by Tyler H., 9th grade
I have asked the members of the high school book group to volunteer one day in a week to read a poem over the loud speaker during the morning announcements. I am not sure if that will happen because I have let them know that they need to practice. I also need to hear the poem before they perform it for the whole school. I am still waiting. 

The book group members came up with a great idea to make poetry mad libs and invite students in during lunch one day to play them. We were going to create them ourselves, but I think that we might find some online to download. I will let you know.

To end this post, I am going to share a poem that I student sent to me. She wrote it and thought that I would like it because it was poetry month. She has been reading her emails!

Unexpected Love
By Nina, 7th grade

People say that life
Is full of open doors.
I just happened to be
Curious and loved to explore.
I opened a strange door -
The one that led to you.
I fell into a wonderland,
And my heart fell, too.

I never knew that the
Stars could shine so bright.
I never thought to think
In the middle of the night.

I never knew how easy
It was to make me cry.
I never knew how easy
It was to make me smile.

Life is a mystery -
One for us to solve.
But for this case,
It was no mystery at all.

As time and life went further,
I knew that my heart grew.
I was sure of everything,
Because I fell in love with you.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book, Movie, and Game Review Contest for Students 2016

For Teen Tech Week, I wanted to create some kind of contest where I would provide a grand prize. The contest would be designed to have students submit some sort of written piece, and then I would randomly draw two names for the grand prize winners, one from middle school and one from high school. I like the idea that the winners are selected randomly and that just by entering the contest all students had an equal chance to win. Thinking about it, I decided that I would ask the kids to submit a review of a book, movie, or game that they would like to recommend to their friends. I gave wide parameters of what they could review. The students had to submit one paragraph with a brief summary and one paragraph explaining why they would recommend the book, movie or game to their friends. I created a Google form for them to submit, so it was easy to share on the library website and in emails. The students chose from new and old and below is a pie chart showing what they chose to review. It was nice to see that 47% of the reviews were for books. 

Click on the image above to enlarge it and make it easier to read

I also asked the students to give "if you likes" about the book, movie or game. So, if you like action and adventure, then you would like the book that they reviewed. Here are the percentages of what the reviews were most like. 

Click on the image above to enlarge it and make it easier to read

Several students wrote multiple reviews, but I only published one review per child. You can read the reviews here on the library website. 

You will see that on the review page, I published a review by seventh grader, Julia Hutto, for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. She submitted several reviews to me, and I wanted to share one with you here because it says so much about how books touch the lives of the children who walk through the doors of our libraries every day. 

The Harry Potter series:

"Harry Potter is about a miraculous adventure of a boy named Harry attempting to destroy the great Lord Voldemort. Harry finds out how his parents died, how he's actually a wizard, and what's up with the strange lightning bolt scar he's had on his forehead since before he can remember. While destroying the great evil that is Voldemort, Harry finds the meaning of friendship, the power inside of himself, and the importance of being brave. Can Harry manage to not only save himself but also the rest of the wizarding world? The fate of an entire world rests on the shoulders of a small boy named Harry who lives in a cupboard under the stairs.

I cannot begin to express the importance of this book series and the impact that it has had on my life. I have grown and learned with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Without this book series, I would not be a reader, and I would not have half the friends that I do now. I would not know what I would do or be without having known Harry Potter. And for that, I am eternally grateful. The story of Harry, what Ms. Rowling went through to succeed with this idea, and how amazing her life is now because of it is truly inspiring. As a huge fan of this book series, I can recommend it to anyone brave enough to take the adventure. Put on your cloaks, grab your wands, and get ready for the experience of a lifetime."
-Julia Hutto, 7th grade, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Teen TECH Week 2016 Brought Many to the Library

Sporting one of the prizes for the Fast Finger Search

Our school has grown exponentially since we moved into the new building three years ago. This year was the first time that three lunches were needed in the schedule. With three lunches, I have lost the ability to have the older students help with the activities for the 6th and 7th graders. While the 6th and 7th grade are at lunch the 8th-12th grade are in the middle of 3rd period and vice versa. Before we just flipped study hall and lunch for all students, so I could get the older students out of study hall to volunteer in the library for the little ones. Lunch everyday is a very long process. The 6th and 7th grade go to lunch at 11AM and the 8th graders don't finish lunch until 1:10PM. I am open every day for all lunches unless there is a class scheduled with me.

Selecting a signed ARC by last week's visiting author for his prize
Even though I would be sailing solo, I still wanted to have a robust slate of activities for the students, but I needed to design all events that I could easily oversee without extra hands. Since simplicity was the order of the week, it turned out to be one of the best Teen TECH Weeks (TTW) ever with at least 100 kids a day participating. I will say this about the week; I tried not to schedule many classes because it did take me time to set up each day before the students arrived for lunch and clean up after they left. 
Students watched the movie and ate their lunch for the kick off of TTW in the library
I started the week off with the traditional movie and a sweet treat. For TTW we always show animated shorts nominated for an Academy Award. Not all of these movies are appropriate to show at school, so I have to work with films from the current year and earlier to get 30 minutes worth of film. The 2016 winner, Bear Story, was a stunner. Students could bring their lunch to the common area outside of the library to watch the films on the huge televisions.

Supplies for the spinning tops
Happy with his creation

The finished product
There is always some craft project planned for TTW. Since this year's theme was "Create it at your Library," we had two days of crafts. The first was a spinning top made from a metal washer, wooden bead, bamboo skewer and washi tape to decorate the washers. The whole thing was put together with glue from a glue gun. This was a quick activity as the glue sets so fast, and almost every student finished their top during the lunch period. The inspiration for the tops came from the PBS website here. One student had a blast getting his top to spin on his finger, his watch, and a penny. These tops really worked.

She made a beautiful bracelet
Posing with her hand-made bracelet

For the other craft, students made beads out of duct tape and made bracelets. The tape was wrapped around a plastic straw and cut to form the beads. The beads were strung on hemp string and tied to a jump ring on the end of a clasp. Though the beads were very fast to make, it took the students awhile to string their bracelets. I had the students save all their unfinished pieces in a ziploc bag with their name so that they can finish next week. The inspiration for this activity can be found here

Coloring the sheet for augmented reality

Accessing the sword to defeat the dragon

One of our parents, who runs the Learning Lab, gave me the idea for using the Quiver app for augmented reality. I went to QuiverVision to download seven different sheets for the students to color. I gave them colored pencils because I thought that they were more sophisticated than crayons, and using markers might make it difficult for the augmented reality to work. With the app on the iPads, the students could scan their sheet and watch the image come to life. The bird could be made to walk across your hand, the dragon flies and breaths fire, and the fireworks shoot off the page and into the air. Though simple in concept, the students of all ages were enthralled. Some wanted to take home extra sheets for younger brothers and sisters, and with a free app, it would be easy for them to recreate the experience at home.

Fast fingers at work to find the answer

Students thought they could find answers faster on their phones

On the last day of TTW, we played a game that I called The Fast Finger Search. I came up with a list of research questions (with help from some 8th graders) from popular culture, science, books, movies, history, etc. for the students to answer. I had a set of iPads, but I let students use their own device if they chose. For each round, the person who found the correct answer the fastest was the winner. Even if they already knew the answer, I made them find it online to be fair to everyone playing. I had a variety of prizes that I had collected for the winner to select. Students really got into this game. I think that I could easily use it again with a new series of questions. If you want to try this out, I have the slides with all the questions for you below. Please feel free to use if you have the opportunity to play the game with a group of teens. 

Game of the Fast Finger Search from Taylorlibrarian

I have planned one other activity that won't be completed until midnight tonight. I am going to choose a grand prize winner from middle school and one from high school. The students had to complete a form with a review of a book, movie, or game that they recommend to their peers. I plan to post their reviews on the library website. I will put a link to it here in my blog later in the week if you want to read what they have to say. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Raymond Arroyo Speaks to 6th and 7th Graders

I got a chance to pose with Raymond Arroyo just before he left

A couple of weeks ago, Judith Lafitte, from the local independent bookstore Octavia Books, and I were lamenting the lack of authors for tweens and teens traveling to New Orleans this past year. Since 2010, Octavia has sent many authors to my school to make presentations to the students. In October, we had someone scheduled who eventually had to cancel due to a family emergency. We were crushed but certainly understood. Since there are only two and half months left of the school year, I thought that this would be a year of no face to face author visits. The day after that phone call with Judith, she sends me an email saying that Raymond Arroyo, a native New Orleanian, would be visiting the bookstore and wanted to do a school visit. 

Even though I had little time to prepare, and I was out of the building two days last week for a conference and ended up out of school a third day due to weather, we were thrilled to meet Arroyo on Monday, March 14th. He is on the national news, but I was not familiar with him or his work before this. Will Wilder is his first book for kids though he has written many for adults. I have no clue how people who hold a full time job find the time to write. It takes me hours to compose any of the writing that I do, and I can't imagine starting a book much less finishing it. 

Arroyo spent seven years on his research in preparation for this series. He likes to compose detailed outlines so that even though the first book took many years, he will be able to complete each subsequent book in the series in less than a year because of his extensive outlining. 

Will Wilder is an action adventure story with a hero who makes a tragic mistake and must figure out how to rectify it to save his town. This is just the kind of book that appeals to the eleven and twelve year olds in middle school. Arroyo spoke to the entire 6th and 7th grade at one time which included just over 200 students. Even though I was concerned that the students were not paying enough attention to the presentation, later that day, many of them came up to me to ask when the library copy of the book would be ready for check out. I was thrilled to hear the students get excited about a book after an author visit. That is exactly what I wanted to hear. 

I thank Judith for giving us the opportunity to meet Raymond Arroyo. 
The students at PFTSTA ♥ author visits! See more pictures of the day on the library website here

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Link to my Post on WhoosReading The Blog

Blog post here

I was asked to write another blog post for the WhooosReading blog on a topic of my choosing. Again, I coordinated my content to a presentation that I would be making to librarians across the state of Louisiana. That was last week on March 9th at the annual Louisiana Library Association conference. In the blog post for WhooosReading, I limited my description to four web tools that I use over and over in the collaborative lessons that I create with the content area teachers at my school. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Teen TECH Week 2016

I usually like to participate in national events during the time that they are scheduled. This year Teen Tech Week (TTW) comes at a bad time for me. Two days this week, I will be attending the state library conference for the Louisiana Library Association. This is so inconvenient. At first, I thought of starting the celebration this week and finishing next week. When I mentioned this to some students, they said that is ridiculous, and so in the PFTSTA Library, we will celebrate TTW beginning on March 14th. Actually, I really liked that idea because it gave me some extra time to finish up the planning and to purchase the supplies. 

All events are scheduled during the students' lunch periods. The last activity is online, and the students can participate anytime. I plan to post lots of pictures of the week on the library website here. 

PFTSTA LIBRARY: All Reader’s Welcome

Monday:                     Oscar Winning Animated Short
Kick off Teen Tech Week and visit the library during your lunch period to watch a movie and eat a sweet treat. Showingwill be the Oscar winning animated short, The Bear Story, as well as several other animated shorts nominated for an Academy Award. 
Colorful Spinning Tops

Tuesday:                     Design a Spinning Top
Are you a designer? You can be today. Visit the library at lunch to create a spinning top.  All the supplies and instructions will be available for you.

Wednesday:               Create an Augmented Reality (AR) Picture
This activity is being sponsored by Learn Lab NOLA. Each participant will choose a sheet to design in color. Using the Quiver 3D app, the picture will come to life.

Duct Tape Bracelets


Thursday:                   Duct Tape Bead Bracelets
We provide all the materials including duct tape, straws, and yarn. You get creative and craft some awesome jewelry.

Friday:                        Game of the Fast Finger Search
Bring in your phone or device or use one of the iPads in the library. We will ask you to search for a picture or information on the Internet. The first one to find that item wins a prize.

                                      Write a Review Contest
Pick a favorite book, movie, or  game(it can be a video, card, or board game), write a review describing it and recommending it. Complete the form here to submit your review. Ms. Kahn will publish the reviews on the TTW website, and everyone who completes a review will be eligible for a chance at the grand prize. There will be two grand prize winners one from middle school and one from high school who will receive a $15.00 gift card to iTunes or Amazon.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ninth Ward Annual Trip with Seventh Grade 2016

At the spot of the levee breach in the Ninth Ward 

On February 29th, the seventh grade along with five teachers boarded two buses to head from Patrick Taylor to the Ninth Ward to participate in service learning and tour the area. We began this project several years ago when the students were asked to read Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. After reading the book, we realized then that the students had little understanding of how Hurricane Katrina affected this very low area of New Orleans. Three years ago, we added a service learning component. 

Our first stop this year was Dr. King Charter School. It should have taken us 30 minutes to get there, but there was horrible traffic on the Crescent City Connection bridge crossing the Mississippi, and one of the bridges across the Industrial Canal was closed. It took us over an hour to get to the school. When we arrived, a third of the students entered the school library to meet the 1st grade, a third went to two kindergarten rooms, and a third left to go to the Guerilla Garden. This was the service learning portion of the trip. One of the ELA teachers has written a grant for the last several years to pay for the buses, books to bring to the elementary school, plants for the garden, and some art supplies for us to complete the project at the schools. 

Student actors in The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
The first thing we do when we get into the school library is to pass out copies of The Sneetches to each 1st grader while the 7th graders find a seat at one of the tables and meet their book buddy. A group of students then acts out the story while a narrator reads out loud. The book buddies can follow along together in their copy of the book. 

When the play is over, the 7th graders and 1st graders read and write together. We give all the 1st graders a blank book which they can use to draw pictures or tell their own story. We bring pencils, markers, and Sharpies to use for this portion of the activity. We also share a snack together provided by Dr. King school. We are there for a little over an hour. 

1st grader makes presentation to me of a card they created for us

Mrs. Romero is the librarian at Dr. King school, here she is with one of her students

I wasn't involved with the planning or execution of the activity in the kindergarten rooms, but that activity centered around good nutrition and eating good food. The book that they read was Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham

Kindergarten class

Last year I met Jenga Mwendo who founded two non-profit gardens in the Ninth Ward. I thought that her gardens could be integrated into the service learning portion of our Ninth Ward tour. One of her staff members, Courtney Clark, met the students and teacher at the Guerilla Garden. We brought 15 students willing to work and flats of peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. The students had an hour to clean beds and plant the vegetables. It was a perfect spring-like day of 72 degrees, and the kids had a blast. Courtney was a great teacher, and we hope to include this stop again next year.

Courtney Clark with the student gardeners

Students get their hands dirty 

As I mentioned earlier, we had to curtail our tour of the area because traffic was going to make the students miss lunch at school. We did get to walk around the area developed by Brad Pitt's foundation that is called, Make it Right. 

The Make it Right houses were designed by different
architects and pay homage to New Orleans style architecture

Some of our students stop for a quick pic before heading back to the bus

I always love this project and taking this trip with the students. Because the service learning portion was divided into threes this year, it took a lot more planning and logistics to get everything in place. Two different English teachers work with the 7th grade, and a third English teacher writes the grant that allows us to make the field trip. She runs around town to purchase a lot of the materials that we need, though we order the books online.  I do all the background phone calls to set the date and plan with our point people at the sites. It is a tremendous amount of work to coordinate with everyone here at school and beyond. I believe that this project is worth all the effort it takes to get off the ground. Without collaborating and dividing up the tasks, it would be impossible for one person to undertake. I am glad as librarian that I can work with these teachers to make this happen every year.

Want to know more about how Hurricane Katrina devastated the area? Use this Livebinder to watch videos and read articles describing what happened in August of 2005.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Presenting at LLA: Have you Made the Digital Shift?

For the past several weeks, I have been using free time to prepare for the presentation that I plan to give at the Louisiana Library Association's annual conference on March 9th. In past presentations, I have just touched on all the digital tools that I use when I collaborate with the teachers at my school, but this time, I wanted to be a bit more specific. I wanted to give concrete examples of the types of collaborations that I do and exactly what kinds of resources I include in the various tools that I create to share with students. I am a blatant thief and love learning about new things when I attend conferences. Once I hear about something new and exciting, I figure out how I can incorporate it into my bag of tricks and make it my own. My hope with this presentation is that others will find uses beyond what I do to invigorate their own library program. I wanted to save you some time if you did not want to view the whole presentation. 

When I make a presentation, I usually use a lot of images in my PowerPoint and little text. Instead of sharing the presentation with attendees, I would use Wikispaces or Symbaloo to create a resource with all the links that I discuss during the presentation. This time I am trying something different by incorporating all the information within my slides. I used a bit more text to explain the images, and then I added two slides at the very end. One has the links to the tools that I discuss, and the other has links to several resources that explain how librarians need to be creating digital collections to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Below is the slide show, and under that is a copy of all the information and links that I have on the last two slides. 

LLA Presentation 2016: Have you made the digital shift? 
Learn to create virtual shelves of information for your school library

Collection of digital tools that can help support the school library program

Resources of articles  supporting need to create digital collections:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...