Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teen Tech Week 2017

I always schedule a week's worth of activities for YALSA's Teen Tech Week (TTW). This year TTW was scheduled at the same time as the Louisiana Library Association annual conference. That meant I had to move TTW to the next week. I had work to do to prepare for conference, so I did not have time to plan TTW. Of course, that is no excuse, but I felt slammed. I like to have the students help me plan, but the school schedule seemed to be changing daily, and I did not see my book groups every week like usual. Then I returned from conference exhausted, and I ended up with the flu and missed two days of work. I finally was able to find three days in a row in March when I could offer activities in the library at lunch. 

Day 1:
We always have a day of movies for TTW. Since it falls after the Academy Awards, we usually schedule a showing of the animated shorts that were nominated for an Oscar. This year, it was much more difficult to find the movies except Piper. I did find some Pixar shorts that I thought the students would like. They were all a hit. 





Day 2:
I saw a post on Facebook about this company called Stick Together that makes giant posters for students to sticker by numbers. It is the same concept as the paint by numbers kits from years ago, but there is no mess of paint. The students use stickers. It was addicting, and the students completed the piece in about a week.




Day 3:
A couple of months ago members of National Honor Society and I took the Marshmallow Challenge to 4th graders at a nearby elementary school. I thought this activity would be ideal for TTW. Since I was running this activity at three different lunches, I had each team use their own iPad for their 18 minutes of work. That way the teams did not have to start at the same time. I bought individual prizes and had winning teams for middle school, 8th grade, and high school. Those are our three different lunches. The kids had such a blast that many returned the next week to see if they could improve the height of their free standing structure. 





Monday, April 17, 2017

Annual 9th Ward Trip with 7th Grade is Another Hit


 I have blogged about every field trip down to the 9th Ward in New Orleans that I have made with the seventh graders. The very first one  in 2011 was the best field trip that I have every been part of as a teacher, and over my many, many years of teaching, I have been on lots of field trips. This year, we made some changes to both the unit that is taught at school and to the trip itself.  This unit with the trip is very intense because there are so many pieces and parts, and there are several teachers handling the various responsibilities so that it all gets done on time, but this also is tricky making sure that all the loose ends are tied up by the time we board the buses.

Musicians' Village
We have a 7th grade ELA teacher on staff who is not only new to the school but also new to New Orleans. She was more than willing to be part of this project, but she had some ideas of how the unit could be better incorporated into her ELA program. First, she wanted the students to create a digital slide show with what they would learn about Hurricane Katrina and the Ninth Ward, then she wanted the students to learn how to conduct an interview like a journalist and talk to a family member about their Hurricane Katrina story, and then she wanted to change up the literature that we share with the first graders at King Charter School in the Ninth Ward. Those were a lot of changes, but all great ones that would help enrich the historical aspect of this unit.

Playground, Musicians' Village
The unit begins with the reading of Jewell Parker Rhodes' Ninth Ward. Jewell was scheduled to visit New Orleans in October and come to our school to talk to the 7th graders. We had the students read the book in anticipation of her arrival. Unfortunately, for us, her first grand child arrived just when she was scheduled to visit. The students had read the book, but the unit didn't start until after winter break.There was a bit of a disconnect to the literature when we started the unit. We were able to surmount that, but we plan to do better with the literature part next year. The students came to the library do begin research on Hurricane Katrina. I have created a Livebinder for this activity, but I remade it this year to change the focus. In the past, the Livebinder's focus was on the places where we would tour during our scheduled field trip. Since we were only going to make two stops before visiting King Charter School, the new Livebinder was designed to give historical background to the Hurricane's devastation rather than a focus on the stops of our tour of the Ninth Ward. Our current 7th graders know little about Hurricane Katrina as they were infants at the time, so this unit allows them to learn about an event during their lifetime but one they don't remember.

Look who we met!
Another aspect of this unit is our collaboration with students at a school in Iowa. Several years ago, I met Shannon Miller from Van Meter, IA at a conference. Ever since we have been making connections with the middle school ELA teachers at Van Meter School. Shannon is no longer the librarian there, but we have kept up the connection, none the less. We were able to Skype a couple of times with the students. The students in Iowa completed the Livebinder that I created, and all of the students made comments on three different Padlets that you can find on the Livebinder. We plan to share some of the slide shows created by my students with the students in Iowa.

Seventh Grade
Many empty lots are still visible where houses once stood

Construction zone
The Field Trip:
We thought the changes that we made would make the trip work better in terms of the teachers monitoring the students as well as for the students who would be making videos at the two tour stops. We also changed the literature that we were going to bring to the 1st graders at King Charter School.

Outside the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of the New Orleans Public Library
In the Ninth Ward, two of the most significant changes to the landscape since Hurricane Katrina can be found in the Musician's Village in the Upper 9th and the Make It Right houses in the Lower 9th. The students may be close to being teenagers, but they still love the chance to play on the playground in the Musician's Village. The houses created by Brad Pitt's foundation are so unusual that the students are captured by the unusual colors, shapes, sizes, solar panels, and levels that make each house unique. At both stops, students worked in threes to create video segments describing what they saw. I will share some of these video segments in a later post.

Students rendition of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter

Cast of Marvelous Cornelius
Finally, we reached King Charter School where the students performed Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner. This book is about a real man and tells what happened to him in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The backdrops that the students painted were amazing especially considering the short amount of time that we had to create them. This field trip was made possible by a service learning grant from the local Brown Foundation. We were able to bring a copy of Marvelous Cornelius to all 78 first graders along with crayons and a blank book. The 7th graders helped their "book buddy" write a story of someone who is a hero to them. The teachers at King shared their snacks with our students.

Book Buddies

Writing about a hero




It was another outstanding activity that is a total collaborative effort. I hope that we can continue this unit and improve on it as the years go by.

We had fun!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Author, Jen Calonita, Shares Stories on Becoming a Writer

I am the one on the left!
A month or so ago I heard that we might have a visit from author Jen Calonita. Then I didn't hear anything confirming the date and time. I got so busy that I forgot to email or call to make sure we were on her schedule in New Orleans. Then it got to crunch time, and I was heading out of town for two days to attend the Louisiana Library Association annual conference. I needed to plan our visit. I don't like to do things last minute. It all worked as we were well prepared for her visit, but I did only have a handful of days to get ready. That just makes me crazy. 





I certainly like meeting new authors, but since BRiMS had skyped with Jen in 2015, I was pumped to meet her face to face. When we talked to her in 2015, only the first book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series had been published. For this visit, Jen was kicking off the publication of the third book. After hearing her talk, the students who bought the first book went home that night and promptly finished it. I had purchased multiple copies for the library for our skype session, and all of those were checked out the next day by students who couldn't wait to begin reading. I love how an author has that effect on the students. Every time an author comes to our school, students will hesitate about buying the book before the big day. I always tell them to bring their money and decide after the talk if they want to purchase the book. Invariably, they choose to get the book. 




The students enjoyed what Jen had to say about her journey from young reader to writer. She left time for many questions at the end of her talk. The students asked great questions. Why does she have to rename the fairy tale characters? It is a shame to me that students tend to think of fairy tales in terms of the Disney versions as definitive. Of course, copyright law will not allow her to use the Disney name for any of her characters. Same goes with the question about putting a Harry Potter character into her story. 

Happy Readers!



When the talk was over, there was time for signing books. Many of the students who attended last year's skype went up to Jen to ask if she remembered them and their question. She didn't remember them of course, but she did remember many of their questions. One student had asked her about Bluebeard the Pirate, who she was going to include in a later book, and because they student had read widely on the subject of the pirate the two had discussed what is known about him. Another student had suggested Cursed as a future book title as all the titles were going to be one word and verbs. Though Jen loved the idea of Cursed, it hasn't made it on the cover of a book, yet. 




Getting authors to our school would not be possible without the kind generosity of the publisher (in this case Source Books) and a local bookstore (in this case Octavia Books). Patrick Taylor Academy is author friendly, and we love having visitors to our school who get to meet and learn from our awesome students. See lots more pictures of the day on the library website

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lesson in the Library on How to Spot Fake News

I know that my students need help in assessing the validity of information that they find on the web. So I approached one of the English I teachers to see if she would like a lesson on how to discern the difference between fake and real news. Her students were starting Animal Farm by George Orwell. We thought this would be the perfect place to insert my lesson as propaganda plays a key role in the story as well as the Squealer's ability to adjust the facts to fit his own logic to get the animals to do his bidding. 

Designed using results from Media Bias/Fact Check
So I created a slide show that would direct students to various tasks using web tools that would allow them to look at websites and news feeds in a new way. I like to start a lesson with something to grab students attention. I have used giphs or memes, but for this lesson I found a fabulous video that you will find linked on the second slide. The author of Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz, put together a seven minute video about his book using excellent vintage photos and videos to evoke the feel of the 1938 War of the Worlds' broadcast. To find the web tools, I started with a Huffington Post story and then moved on to tools promoted by November Learning. Then I read about the Media Bias/Fact Check website. I don't remember how I found that one. Maybe it was on the New York Times. Finally, I found a great infographic where they had used the Media Bias//Fact Check website to fit different news media on a continuum from left to right. You can see that infographic pictured above.



In some of the tasks that I give to my students, I use two of my own websites as examples. I ask them who has registered our school library website: pftstalibrary.com. It was me. Also, I ask them to find out who has linked to this blog talesfromaloudlibrarian.com, and if they think those links give the blog that I write credibility in school library world.

Student response on Padlet

Below is my slide show. Please feel free to copy it and make it your own to use at your school. You may want to edit the links for my library to something that you own. I have also included Padlets at the end of the slide show for the students to reflect on what they learned and what else they might like to know. Those Padlets are now closed, but you may read them or you may want to create your own for your students.The lesson in its entirety took about 75 minutes. On the slides where the students had to open links and read articles, I gave them plenty of time to read. Also, we were having some Internet issues, and so you will find screenshots embedded in the slides just in case the students could not open the links. I wanted this to be a hands on activity, but we cannot always count on the Internet when we need it. I was thrilled with how this lesson turned out, and I had my principal observe me during one of the presentations for my official spring observation. 


Open here for a link to the Google Slide Show. You may make a copy and edit to fit your needs. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Presentation on the Research Process for Louisiana Librarians

When March rolls around, I better be prepared for the annual Louisiana Librarian Association Conference. This year, I will be heading to Lafayette on Wednesday. I am going to be presenting twice.


The presentation that I planned is how to manage the research process for middle and high school students. I have given this presentation before in a bit different format to teachers but never to a group of librarians. I am sharing the slide show for this presentation with you below, and you can find links embedded in the slides to view all the tools that I have created for my students. Please note that many of the points that I make in the presentation may be something that we take for granted as librarians. My point in reiterating them in the presentation is that it is important to teach both your teachers and students the importance of following correct format, using varied sources, citing correctly, etc. If we know how to follow correct research practices, it is our job to teach it and make sure that our teachers follow through in the classroom. 
This is how the presentation reads in the conference brochure

I don't like to do anything at the last minute, but I really wanted to bring the teacher's voice to my presentation on research and the importance of collaboration. Today, the day before I present,  I recorded Cheryl Bordelon, the chair of the English department. I asked some questions about the importance of research, and she kindly answered. 
Hear her answers below. 
English teacher talks about research and collaborating with librarian from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.
The other presentation that I will be doing is for the Louisiana Teen's Reader's Choice Awards. This session is designed to present the books that were selected for the 2018 awards. I am on the state committee to select the books, and I will help by booktalking Nimona by Stevenson, All the Bright Places by Niven, and Dumplin' by Murphy. You can find download the full list of the 2018 LTRC books here

Friday, February 10, 2017

Revisiting Blind Date with a Book


In 2014 was the first time that I set up a display for Blind Date with a Book (BDWB). The kids loved it. When I set up the display the following year, I had students add some information about each book on the wrapping so that students could make an informed choice. This really improved the whole blind date experience. 
What will this new read be?

Then I said the heck with this, it is so difficult to wrap the books and keep wrapping additional books after the books get checked out that I stopped putting up the display. This year I have seen so many cute displays on social media, and Pinterest is filled with BDWB display ideas. I decided it was time to bring it back to my library.


She is a happy camper!
I needed to figure out a simpler way to package the books, list some qualities of the book, and be ready to add new books to the display as they get checked out. I made a nice design on Canva to print out, and you can find it here and feel free to copy and use. I glued the 8 1/2 by 11 sheets that I printed onto manila envelopes. Then I put the envelopes through the laminator. I carefully scored the envelopes at the opening to keep the lamination in tact. Then I printed out the hearts with the details about each book and cut those out. The details I did not laminate. I just carefully taped them to the back of the envelope. I figured once the book is checked out I would need to add a different one to  the display, and it will have different details. The tape comes off of the lamination very easily. The only downside is the envelope is open at the top, and the students could look in if they wanted.

Details of each book to put on the back

I trust my students not to peek. On the flip side, I do want them to find a book that they will enjoy, so I don't worry if they have taken a quick look. This display always seems to encourage kids who might not usually check out a book to take one. They might not always like the book, but at least they tried. I am all for making the attempt to be the book matchmaker for my students. 


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Makerspace Addition of Ozobots Keep Students Engaged

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One of the parents at my school encouraged me to write a Donor's Choose grant at the beginning of the school year. She just knew that the Chevron Fuel Your School program would fund the grant idea that I had for robots in the library. I was thrilled about that because I hate having to beg friends, family, and parents for the money to fund projects on Donor's Choose. I think that Donor's Choose is a great way to obtain new materials, but I am not always comfortable soliciting donations. For some reason Chevron passed over my grant and another at my school. I still wanted the Ozobot robots for the library, so I rewrote the grant with less items costing less money in hopes that it would be funded quickly. It was. We have had the Ozobots only about a week. They are delightful little "creatures" and keep the students busy before school and during lunch in the library.





The library has had three Sphero robots in the makerspace for about a year. The students love how fast they can travel. They will have them on the floor weaving in and out of each other's path, up and down the ramp, and singing and dancing to a catchy tune. The Sphero robots are controlled by any of several free apps found on the iPad. Some of the apps just control the robots' movements, other apps offer more in the way of coding with blocks very similar to Scratch. As popular as the Sphero are in my library, I wanted to buy another kind of robot that might appeal to a different kid.



The Ozobots are cute and tiny. They are only about one inch by one and a quarter inch. I said that they were small. They would work great on a table or desk, but my students have them running on a huge sheet of bulletin board paper about 3 feet by 5 feet, so the floor is the only place for this to work.

 
Ozobot in Action 3 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

The Ozobots are programmed to follow color codes to make them change speed, alter direction or blink lights in various colors. The idea is to "build" a track that the Ozobots will follow. They can be controlled by a free app on an iPad with many possible tracks that the user can pull up and use with the Ozobot. Some kids like pairing the iPad and robot together. Since the iPads we have are minis and the robots are so tiny, this a one person endeavor.



Several students are working as an unofficial team to design a track on large paper. Regular markers in black, green, red and blue are used to create the codes. If the line is too thinly drawn, the Ozobot stops moving. That is an easy fix. The starter kit that I got had some code on vinyl, but those would only stick on the laminated cards that I made not the huge sheet with the track. Cruising Amazon I found some stickers just for the Ozobot. An eight year old came up with the idea after receiving a robot as a gift, and he developed the stickers into a product to be sold. The stickers with the color codes can be added to the track drawn by the students. The sticker packages have just over 200 stickers, and I bought three packs. They should last for awhile.

Ozoeasy stickers



Ozobots may have been designed for a younger user because the coding is so easy, but my middle school students have really taken a shine to them. Even one of the 9th graders said that she would like to have one of her own.

 
  Ozobot in Action 2 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Everyday it seems that the kids have figured out something new about how they move or how they can manipulate their movements. At $59 each, they are affordable, and you really don't need much extra gear to have fun just paper and markers.


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