Saturday, September 29, 2012

High Note in Library at End of Busy Week at PFTSTA

I can't believe how frantic it can get in a school library. You might think of libraries as the calm oases in the sea of children who move in out of classrooms and down the halls of a school, but the library at PFTSTA is often so busy that my head is spinning by the end of the day. 

We are currently in the midst of getting the middle school students ready to write the research paper for the annual social studies fair. That means I am teaching all the students about where they should look for resources and how to access and utilize those resources. I will also help them learn how to create citations for this paper, but we have not started our lessons on using Easybib yet. 

Along with teaching classes most of the day, I was preparing for the annual Open House for prospective students. Once all the preparations were in place, then I actually had to return to school on Thursday evening and give my two minute spiel about the library almost 25 times as parents and students moved in and out of the library during the Open House. It was exhausting. 

Then at the end of the week, I received an email from some favorite authors of mine. Jon and Pamela Voelkel's newest book in the Jaguar Stones' series was published this week. You can see the cover of this book in the above picture. I have an advanced reader's copy of the book, and I am in the midst of reading it. However, I knew that the Voelkels had named one of the PFTSTA students in the acknowledgements of this book, and the ARC that I received did not have the acknkowledgements printed in it. So I emailed them asking to see the copy with the student's name. They sent me a copy of the page that you can see below. Not only is Stefan named, but I am also. That was a very nice surprise, and a wonderful way to end a week that I did not think would ever end. Thank you Jon and Pamela for including me in your work. It is an honor to be acknowledged. If I wrote a book, then I would probably put the two of you in it because you are so supportive of my work. 
If you click on the above picture, you can enlarge and read the text
Stefan joins the Voelkels to describe his family's Mayan  ancestry during a  visit to PFTSTA in 2011

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Myra McEntire Visits PFTSTA

The author with Courtney, the president of Bookmarked,  on the left and Morgan on the right
School has really started with a bang this year. School begins, then we are out seven days due to Hurricane Isaac, then I am out of the building four days talking to librarians across the state, and when I return, Myra McEntire comes to town. I feel like my head is spinning, but the students were thrilled with our first author of the year. 

Myra talked to the students about her writing process. First she gets her kids off to school, when she returns home she likes to dance. She uses dance to get the ideas flowing. She explained how the ugly fuzzy socks that she wears helps her to zip around her kitchen. Then it is work time. She avoids social media in the morning because she doesn't want it to get her down or cause a writer's headache that stifles her creativity. About noon she takes a break for lunch and the laundry. Editing her work is saved for the afternoon. Her books are fantasies, but she likes to base all the time travel on real science. So she has lots of research to do to learn the scientific theories. She knew with time travel that she did not want a time machine because it has been done before, so she invented a new metal that would allow the characters to travel through time. 

Madison gets her book signed
Myra spoke for about 45 minutes then took questions for 15 minutes.The students were disappointed when she didn't share her dancing techniques with them, but she did share some of the music she liked. You can find all the pictures that we took on Monday here. We are so grateful to our angels (Tom & Judith) at Octavia Books who brought Myra to us along with her publisher, Egmont USA.

After the presentation, Myra sat down with a former student and a current student to discuss some of the things that have inspired her in her writing. You can view the interview below by playing this episode of Get Reading.

Get Reading Vol. 2 No. 1
from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

LA LAMP: Keynote Speech Reaches over 300 Librarians

2012 LAMP Keynote entitled -- define: Collaboration

LAMP Tour: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Rayne, and Ruston
Find the wiki filled with resources here
Here is the URL: 
Lisa Valence is on the left and I am standing on the right
This was taken after we finished the last presentation of the tour in Ruston, LA

On September 10th, I started my tour across Louisiana as the keynote speaker for the 2012 LA LAMP conference. LAMP is an acronym for Louisiana Association of Library and Media Professionals. It is free professional development designed for school librarians that travels to the librarians throughout the state. The vendors set up exhibits in the morning, and half the attendees attend the exhibits and half attend the keynote speech, and then they switch. Right before lunch, the vendors and keynote speaker pack up to go to the next venue. The local librarians have planned the professional development sessions for the afternoon, so there is a full day of programming. The conference is sponsored by the vendors along with the Louisiana Association of School Librarians (LASL).

Lisa is speaking in New Orleans
I have been attending LAMP in my area for years and was an afternoon presenter at the 2004 LAMP conference. Then two years ago, I was asked to be the site coordinator for the New Orleans area. I organized the afternoon sessions and all the paperwork that the conference entails. The Jefferson Parish librarians helped me tremendously with this task by agreeing to present and assisting with sign-in and evaluations. Then in February, I mentioned that the topic for the 2012 keynote should be collaboration. I was told that if I wanted a specific topic, then I needed to give the keynote. I was hesitant at first because it would mean a lot of planning, and I would need to be out of the building for four days.

The librarians in New Orleans
As I thought about it, I got excited. If I was going to talk about collaboration then I needed to bring one of my collaborators with me. My principal, Jaime Zapico, was reluctant to let English teacher, Lisa Valence join me, but with a little nudging, our principal agreed to let us both go. In April, I began putting together a wiki with resources to accompany our discussion of collaboration. In this wiki you can find websites and articles that relate to teacher-librarian collaborations, librarian-librarian collaborations, Common Core standards, and technology tools for the librarian. 

Here I am speaking at the Baton Rouge venue
Lisa and I knew that we were going to talk on collaboration. We wanted lots of examples of how we collaborated, but we wanted more than that. Then I opened the March/April 2012 edition of American Teacher published by the American Federation of Teachers. I found an article called, "Tap the School Library to Bring a Wider World to the Students" in the Tools for Teachers section. You can read this article by clicking the link above. The information for this article came from AASL, but it was written simply and outlined ways the librarian could collaborate to improve student learning. I realized immediately that it could be used as the back bone for designing our talk. So thank you to AFT for publishing such a timely article. 

The librarians at the LRCE in Baton Rouge
Lisa and I scheduled half a dozen meetings over the summer to work on our presentation and decide what visuals to use in the Power Point. We focused on the two most important jobs of the librarian: reading for pleasure and research. We had two major collaborations that fit into each of these areas: the novel study we did with Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes and the research unit that we did with the social studies fair paper. Lisa described each of these in detail. We discussed Common Core Standards, teacher librarian collaborations, administrator librarian collaborations, and librarian librarian collaborations. Since students at PFTSTA are graded on 21st century skills, we spent a portion of the talk explaining how the library helps provide students with the tools needed to hone these skills. 

Lisa speaking in Baton Rouge
The talk was 75 minutes long. We took turns speaking so neither of us would talk for more than 15 minutes at a time. If one of us forgot to mention something, the other one could interject. The audience was made up of school librarians serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Our collaborations were focused on middle school students, so we knew that we needed something special for the elementary librarians. We showed part of the wonderful video that described the collaboration at Winter Park Elementary in Wilmington, NC that won the 2011 Gale TEAMS Award. 

Librarians in Rayne enjoying our talk
We had to give the talk eight different times because we had two sessions at each of the four sites. It was an exhausting undertaking, but amazing at the same time. Several of the librarians told us we were inspiring. Another librarian said that she would love to spend a week at our school. It really was an experience like none other. We received many kudos. I was concerned that we might bore our audience because it sounded so dull when I practiced at home. The audience was very energizing to me and all the positive feedback that we received made me think that we did a good job. 

The librarians in Ruston are mesmerized

To listen to the keynote speech, please click the play button below:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Isaac Put a Damper on BRiMS

Enjoying lunch while chatting about the book
On September 7th, the members of BRiMS were finally able to have their first book group meeting of the year. The meeting was originally scheduled for August 29th, the day that Hurricane Isaac blew through town. The school system had closed down the schools for seven days because of Isaac, and we kept changing the date of BRiMS every time the district announced a new return date for the students. It was crazy not knowing day to day when school would reopen. On September 6th, we did get back to work. 

For this event we discussed the Richard Peck book, The Teacher's Funeral. I selected the book because I read it years ago and remembered how funny it was. The story is set in rural Indiana in 1904. This is like living on another planet to today's middle school students. Since I purchased the book for the library, no one had read it. Students at PFTSTA are not big readers of historical fiction. I knew that if I required them to read the book before they could join BRiMS, then they would actually read the book. I thought it was a book that they should read. 

Unfortunately, we had to reschedule the meeting for a day when a lot of other events were happening around school. These were all the events that had to be rescheduled due to Isaac, so turnout was not as high as I wanted. I am hoping that next month there will not be any obstacles thrown at us. 

BRiMS Members

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Learning How to Use Another Curation Tool

I have been having a lot of fun using the various curation tools that are available and trying to choose the best one for the job at hand. Last school year, I created a wiki for the school's annual social studies fair project. I spent so much time working with the middle school students that I felt that I was neglecting the high school students. The wiki allowed me to be in everyone's class at the same time. I even created some instructional videos that I embedded in the wiki so that the students could receive some direct teaching. The wiki was such a success that I used Livebinders to create a binder for the science classes as they navigated the independent research project (IRP) that was required in all high school science classes.

Open here to read 

Last week, I searched for a tool that would more visual and less dependent on text. The members of Bookmarked are writing reviews for SLJ Teen twice a month. I wanted to find a place online where I could save the links and then share with the students, parents and teachers. At first, I thought that Pinterest would work. It is so visual, and each review is accompanied by pictures. When I tried to upload the pages that I wanted to save to Pinterest, no images were found. This was a big disappointment because Pinterest is really beautiful, and I wanted the reviews to stand out. So I had to go back to the drawing board. I ventured to my Delicious to see what sites I had tagged "curation tools" to see what else might work for me. I had read about Sqworl, but I had never thought about using it. It is certainly not as beautiful as Pinterest, but you do get thumbnails of each saved website. After creating my account and adding a new group, it was a snap to upload the pages with the reviews. Now every two weeks, after I add the new reviews, I can share the link to my Sqworl group with the students. It acts as an archive, so anyone can go back in time and read every review that the students have written. Here is a link to the Sqworl. If you want to read only the latest reviews, then click on the box that says Book Reviews September 5 2012.

PS: The one thing that you cannot do is embed a Sqworl in your blog or website. Too bad, that feature would make it really awesome.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Orleans Almost Back in Business

All those green lines means New Orleans has rejoined the grid. Unfortunately, there are still areas waiting for power to be restored. Due to much damage and problems throughout Jefferson Parish, school will not resume until Thursday, September 6th. Crazy, I know. School has barely started, and we will be out for 7 days due to Hurricane Isaac. We are going to have to make up these days, but I am still going to spend the next two days catching up with some library work. I will be at school tomorrow with or without students. However, I won't be getting up at 5:30 to get there for 7AM. Now that would be ridiculous. 

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