Thursday, December 19, 2013

Swan Song in SLJTeen

Click here to read my article
Click here to read all five teen reviews
It has been a great run, but the December 18th edition of SLJTeen was Bookmarked's last contribution to the twice a month newsletter. I was pleased that we could end with a bang. The students submitted five reviews, and I wrote an article to say goodbye. In the reviews, you will find a student reviewed Noggin by John Corey Whaley; the same book that I reviewed in the December 4th edition. I hate to admit it, but I think that Vy nailed it better than I did. Click the links above to read the student's reviews and my swan song. 

Click here to read my review of Noggin

Early Christmas Present for the Library

BEFORE the holes were drilled in the counter
AFTER the holes were drilled in the back of the counter fro the cables and cords
Patrick Taylor Academy moved into the new building in Avondale at the end of July. School began on August 9th. The classrooms were ready before the library, and I couldn't open the library until August 22nd. Even then, there were still finishing touches that were not completed. I have been waiting since August for holes to be drilled in the counters for computer cables, shelving in the storage room, electrical outlets to become live and stool height chairs for students at the computer counter. Having the cables and electrical cords hanging in front of the counters looked ridiculous and also were a safety hazard. Wednesday, two days before our winter break, the stone man and carpenter came to drill the holes in the counters with the student computers and my circulation desk. I can go on break a happy camper. See for yourself in the photos above and below. 

The black grommet is the finishing touch

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Evaluation Done & I Hit Every Section on the Librarian's Rubric

I have been teaching for over 30 years. You would think that I would not get nervous about being observed by my principal. She has certainly popped in the library many times while I was teaching a class. However, having a formal teacher evaluation did make me a bit jumpy. If you would like to read the rubric used to evaluate school librarians in Louisiana, open here.

To plan for this event, I knew that I had to do a collaborative lesson with one of my teachers. I selected the biology teacher because we have worked together before, and she was going out on maternity leave. I knew that having me work with her students for two 90 minute periods was not going to eat into her teaching time. Together we decided to do a project on human diseases. Last year, after her students completed the Louisiana end of course test (EOC), they told her there were some topics on the test that were not covered in class. How technology is used to diagnose and treat human diseases was one of those areas.

We first talked about what kind of product the students would produce. The students in groups of two would create a brochure describing causes, pathogen, chain of infection, symptoms, treatment and prevention as well as technologies used for diagnosis and treatment. The teacher and I selected 8 different diseases with different characteristics, so the students could share their findings. Since I wanted the students to research electronically in reference books and websites, and I wanted them to visit sites that offered accurate and reliable information, I created a Livebinder that they would use for this project. See the Livebinder embedded below.

Click here to open this binder in a new window.

Then I created a pathfinder for the students to use that would lead them through the different resources for all the required information. The pathfinder is embedded in the Livebinder on the first tab, and you can download it. Within the pathfinder, I asked students to look at authority, currency and accuracy of the various websites. 

I knew some of the weak areas that the students had in information literacy. I had given them a pre-test on Trails to assess their skills. I developed a short list of high level questions that would help them with these weaknesses. I know that many teachers get points counted against them during their evaluation for not having high level questions in their lesson. I was worried that I would forget my good questions. I created a script of questions, typed them in Evernote, and then used my iPad mini with Evernote open to the questions, so I would have them at my fingertips. 

Students working on their brochures
The lesson began with the questions. Then I went through the Livebinder tab by tab very quickly to explain what the students would find under each tab. Then the students began the pathfinder. I circulated around the room answering questions, asking questions and helping the students with their searches. Then the next day the students returned to the library to take the information literacy post-test and complete their brochures. What a nice holiday gift to have this behind me. The lesson was very successful, too because the teacher remarked that she plans to use it again next year. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gig as Teen Reviewers Soon to End


Click the above image to enlarge and read
I hadn't read the amazing description about me that Dodie had written in this week's edition of SLJTeen until I received an email from a fellow librarian. She was sending me kudos about something that I hadn't even seen. Dodie, you had me floored. I just don't think of myself in that way. I do what I do to provide the best library program that I can physically do for the students at Patrick Taylor. The fact that I love it is a big plus in my book, and I realize this is not a given. It also helps to have supportive administrators, faculty members and parents, too. 

12413landrypark Teens Review 17 & Gone, Landry Park, and Whaleys Latest
1241317andgone Teens Review 17 & Gone, Landry Park, and Whaleys Latest

The students were a little light this week with their reviews for SLJTeen. So Dodie and I had an opportunity to wax eloquent about some books that we have been reading. Though I write in this blog regularly, which means I am published on the web, it still gives me a little thrill to see my own byline in SLJTeen. Read our reviews here.

12413noggin Teens Review 17 & Gone, Landry Park, and Whaleys Latest

Friday, December 6, 2013

Presenting at LACUE 2013

I am not going to bore you with the stress that I have had over the last three weeks. Just suffice it to say that life can hit you with some very difficult curve balls. What makes it nice is to have a collaborator who watches your back. In September when I decided to present at the annual conference for the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE), I had no clue that time would get away from me. Kelly Maher and I have presented together before, and we planned to do it again this year. I like working with Kelly because we are very different and each of us are able to make unique contributions to our presentations. So I am writing this and offering a HUGE shout out to Kelly for probably pulling way more weight on this presentation than I did. I really appreciate it because I think that we nailed it. 

This time around we wanted to inspire, share some of what we have done by telling stories and introduce some new web tools. We wanted to emphasize that most of the projects assigned can be accomplished across platforms. Patrick Taylor Academy is a 1:1 laptop school, but many of the programs that we use are also available on phones and tablets and different operating systems. We see the writing on the wall and don't believe that schools will be able to afford to continue purchasing electronics for the students. We think that bring your own device (BYOD) is going to be the next big thing in education and ed tech. If we set up our projects and assignments to make it easier for students to complete on a myriad of devices, then we are providing students both choice and a way to accomplish tasks more efficiently for the individual student. 

Kelly and I are Armed and Ready

We titled our presentation: "Be Armed and Ready for the Next Evolution in Educational Technology." You can find all of our resources on the wiki that we created here: Check out our links, you will probably find something that you haven't used before. Hopefully, I will have an opportunity soon to look at all the new tools that I encountered during this conference, and when I do, I will share with you on this blog.

As part of our presentation, we showed a short film of two students from Patrick Taylor Academy talking about the importance of technology in their lives. You can view the video below. Please note the problem solving that Paris had to do to overcome the lack of Internet access at home. You

Monday, November 25, 2013

Four Book Reviews by Teens for New YA Novels


Bookmarked will be ending its run as the resident teen book review group for the bi-weekly online newsletter, SLJTeen,  in December. If you enjoy these reviews by my teens, don't despair because I will be posting reviews from them in this blog. Watch when I tweet out those reviews, or just be sure to visit this blog every now and then to find out what the teens are reading and what they think about those books. You can see by the four book covers pictured here which books were reviewed this past week. Read the November 20th edition of SLJTeen here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Author, Todd Mitchell, Skypes with Bookmarked

On Monday, November 18th, the members of Bookmarked had the opportunity to talk with author, Todd Mitchell, via Skype. Todd's newest book, Backwards, was published last month. One of my students reviewed the book for SLJTeen, and the author and I made contact through that connection. I encouraged more students to read the book, and I read the book .

The students who had the chance to read the book were very curious about Todd's motivation for writing the story in the way that he did. In the book, the main character is living backwards inside a character who commits suicide. I am not giving away any spoilers because the book begins with the suicide. Todd told us that he will never write a book again with time shifting. He had to meticulously go through and add foreshadowing without giving away important plot points. There was lots of shushing throughout our discussion because the students who had not read the book yet wanted a chance to read it without knowing the final outcome. 

The author's main motivation for writing Backwards came about when a couple of young people whom he knew through teaching at Colorado State killed themselves. He wondered what fictional young adult ]literature was out there that addressed suicide. He found quite a lot, and he commenced reading. In his mind, all the fiction that he was reading either glorified suicide or was extremely depressing, there was not a story that emphasized the prevention of suicide. By writing this book, Todd became more compassionate towards the suicide victims whom he knew personally. He believes that anger from the family and friends of the victim does not help heal the hurt.  

The picture that you see below is the manuscript for Todd's newest book which is a paranormal romance with a guy protagonist. He explained that he thinks guys like that genre as much as girls but would prefer to have it written from a boy's point of view. He asked my students if they agreed. They did. This new book will run 500 pages or so which is twice as long as Backwards. Todd wrote Backwards as a way to take a break from this long one. My students were glad that he took that break.

Thank you Todd for allowing us to visit you and your office for 45 minutes. The students had such a great time and kept talking about you and what you said long after the Skype was over. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Selecting a Title for the Middle School Book Group, BRiMS

BRiMS, Books Rule in Middle School, met for the third time this year on October 30th. It was an easy decision to decide that horror would be our genre of choice for that particular meeting. Each student selected their own book. We went around the room sharing the titles of the books that we read and explaining why we liked or didn't like the book. Some of the shared books included: Mabury's Rot and Ruin about zombies; dystopian story, Monument 14, by Laybourne; Pit and the Pendulum by Poe, a classic; Croak by Damico which is not too scary but the characters are grim reapers; and the Harry Potter series, which the students thought the movies were scarier than the books. One student shared a story that he read online from creepypasta. He visits that site often to read stories that members can post. Since anyone who joins can post a story, not all the stories are quality, but he enjoys them nonetheless.

The next meeting is going to be in December. For the next scheduled meeting, everyone will read the same title. I hadn't picked anything when we met in October, so I decided to send out a survey to see what the kids would like to read. They really wanted an action/adventure story. 

You can see those results here:

I thought that it was interesting that neither romance nor realistic fiction had any interest at all. I had two write -ins for manga. There is no denying that manga is loved by the middle school students. Will I sound like a curmudgeon if I say that we won't read manga for book group?

Since I was creating a survey anyway, I decided to find out what made book group fun. I was happy to see that talking about books topped the list, and you can see their answers pictured below. I also asked the students to tell me what needed to be improved, and several students thought we needed more time for our meetings. We have 40 minutes for lunch, but by the time that the students get their lunch and bring it into the library, we only have about 30 minutes to talk. I think that since so many of them want more time, I am going to ask if we can meet during the study hall/lunch period. I agree with the students; we just don't have enough time for everyone to have a chance to talk and share. 

Our next meeting is December 11, and we are going to read Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider. I thought that I had the book on the shelves of my library. Actually, I don't have it in the library, and I am going to see if I can find a local bookstore this week that carries the book. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Teens Review New Historical Fiction and Thriller

When I asked the members of Bookmarked if anyone would be able to contribute to this week's SLJTeen, it was like pulling teeth. Sometimes the students get so overwhelmed with studies that they do not have time to read anything new. The president of Bookmarked realized that she needed to step up to the plate. So she chose a short book that was written in verse. She knew that she could read the book and get a review in to me in time. She is not a big fan of historical fiction, well, none of my students really are. You will be surprised by her review of Mariko Nagai's newest book. Another student was in her sick bed but was able to send me a review of Megan Miranda's thriller, Hysteria. The student didn't realize that the book's publication date was over six months ago. We try to submit SLJTeen reviews for books that have not been published yet. I have four students who promise me reviews for the next issue. SLJTeen is letting us go at the end of the year and a new teen book group will be begin publishing in 2014, so the students at PFTSTA only have three issues left in which they can be published. Open here to read the two reviews

Monday, October 28, 2013

Character Day for Spirit Week Brings Books to Life

Last week was Spirit Week at PFTSTA. Each day the students could wear outfits fitting the theme of the day. Thursday was Throwback Thursday. Those planning the activity envisioned students choosing a decade and dressing from the 60s, 70s or 80s or anytime before that. However, some of the students interpreted it to mean a throwback during their own lives. They came dressed in flannel pajama onesies. I thought that was clever and thinking outside of the box. 

On Friday, it was character day. Most of the characters that I saw walking around the building live in video games or save the world as super heroes. I grabbed a couple of pics of characters found in the pages of books. Of course, those would be my favorite types of characters. Below is a student who took her character from Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. She is a shadow hunter.

At every school, there are students who would like their school to be a little bit like Hogwarts. So when character day arrived, we were bound to see a Harry or two roaming the halls. Below is a senior enlightening his statistics class about the magical aspect of numbers and data. 

One of our new teachers, Maggie Grindstaff, really got into the spirit all week long. There were several Waldos lurking around the building, but I captured a pic of Mrs. Grindstaff who let us know that Waldo is hiding out at Patrick Taylor Academy. Where's Waldo was first published in 1987 when I was an elementary school librarian. I had all of the books in my old library. I don't have them on the shelves of the PFTSTA library, but I am happy to see that Waldo is still a well-loved character. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TRW13 was a Huge Success

Every year, Bookmarked helps me create and design all the activities that we offer during Teen READ Week. I see this week as a time to get students into the library who do not usually visit or visit rarely. I offer games that students can play daily as well as something special for each day of the week during lunch. The idea is to get them excited about the library. It is exhausting. Especially so this year because I was teaching classes on research to all the 6th and 7th grade students along with the lunch time activities. 

I am still waiting for the entries for the annual bookmark contest to pour in, but all the other events have been chronicled with pics on the library website. Open here to see all the fun the students had last week

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Busy Teen Readers Review New Books from YA Authors

In this week's edition of SLJTeen, four teens had their reviews published. The members of Boomarked are fans of a variety of genres and styles of writing. Find some of what they liked by opening the link here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Research Season has Begun

On Friday, I began teaching lessons on how to conduct good research. This is a yearly event where I spend lots of time with all the middle school students helping them to prepare for writing a paper for the social studies fair. This year, the students do not have to do a full blown social studies fair project, but all students are required to write a paper.They cannot get honors' credit for social studies without writing a research paper. Several years ago, the English department and I decided that we wanted the students to write quality papers for this project. If that was going to happen, then the papers needed to be started in English class.We have really developed a method for teaching research that we are proud of. It is truly collaborative. Since the paper does not have to be as long as in past years (social studies fair had length requirements), we have scaled  back the paper to make it more age appropriate.

To make the process more manageable for teachers and students, the sixth graders are selecting a person, the seventh graders are selecting an event in American history and the eighth graders are going to select a topic from Louisiana history or culture. Students will receive grades from both their English teacher and social studies teacher. The high school students are also required to write a paper for honors' credit, but those papers will be completed with the social studies teacher only.

As librarian, I am the go to person to help with the research process. I can teach lessons to classes on where to access quality information, but I can't be there 24/7 in person. However, I can be there 24/7 virtually. I had made a wiki for the social studies fair a few years ago that I was very proud of. It was a one stop shop for the whole process from start to finish that could be used by both middle and high school. For the current year, I realized that I had to revamp the wiki because the teachers and I had revamped the requirements for the paper. I was able to take the old wiki and copy and paste and edit to make it relevant for this year without spending hours. I was thrilled with the outcome. Open here to find the new and improved wiki. On the home page you can find the three different pathfinders that I created for the students in middle school so that they will get a chance to explore all the different resources that we have available for them. The rest of the wiki offers pages for students to  get help in selecting a topic, help in finding the databases, help with writing a paper and help with creating citations. With this resource, I know that students can find what they need to get this paper completed. By viewing the statistics available to me in wikispaces, I can see if the students are using the resource. I understand that students don't always want to come to me for help, so the wiki is available to give them assistance whether they need it during the school day or at home.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Giving Back to the Library Profession

I have been teaching for a long time. More than two thirds of that time has been as a school librarian. I spent 12 years in an elementary library and the last 10 in a middle and high library. I think that I have honed my skills to the point that I am at the top of my game. I have had several mentors that I looked up to over the years who helped me.through my journey, so now I think that it is important for me to help guide others. Of course, I think that I can learn from those just starting out, too. New librarians always have some new fresh ideas that I never considered. 

On the big screen is a view of the LSU instructor and the students in Baton Rouge
One of the ways that I have given back is to welcome students in library school to visit my library and interview me for class assignments. I have also had students completing a library practicum work in my library. I try to apply and make presentations at local and state conferences. This past Saturday, Charity Cantey, an LSU instructor who is also the librarian at the LSU lab school, invited me to speak to her class on school libraries offered at LSU in Baton Rouge. I didn't have to drive to Baton Rouge. There are several satellite centers at universities around the state where students can attend the class from afar. The University of New Orleans has one of those centers. So I spoke to a room with two students locally, and spoke to students around the state through a computer connection. It was kind of cool actually. 

This is what I saw as I talked: the two students and  a screen with the camera pointing at me
I spoke for about 30 minutes about how I promote reading, use electronic resources and collaborate with teachers in my building. I showed my library website and this blog and explained why I think that it is important to have electronic resources. Then I opened it up to questions. Someone asked who creates the content for my website. The answer is me. Anything coming from the library, I have to do or ask students to help me do. It is very time consuming but so worth it. Another student asked about my degree. I received an MEd from the University of New Orleans in Curriculum and Instruction. I told them that I was envious that they have the opportunity to get an MLIS without having to travel to Baton Rouge. That would have been my only option when I was attending graduate school. I definitely felt that I was prepared to work in a school library with my education, but I still wouldn't mind having a MLIS behind my name. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

JPPSS Librarians Meet in the New PFTSTA Library

That is me on the left with Terry Young from West Jeff on the right
The librarians in the Jefferson Parish Public Schools don't get many opportunities to meet as a group. However, it is important for us to network because most of us are the only librarian in the building, and many can use some support and assistance with the new evaluation system, COMPASS. Also, there are many new librarians in the district who need guidance with available resources as well as some of the job expectations and requirements. On October 3rd, I invited all 75 librarians in the district to meet at Patrick Taylor for an after school meeting. We had 36 show up, and considering that the school is located in the far reaches of the Westbank, I think it was a great turn out. Lindsey Vindel, the Follett rep, shared how ebooks on  Follett Shelf work. Terry Young from West Jeff High School reviewed the evaluation system and how librarians should design the all important student learning targets (SLTs). We have created a wiki so that we can have a home for resources and documents for every librarian in the district, and I talked about the wiki and demonstrated how all members of the wiki can post and add links and resources. I was pleased that the space worked so well with plenty of room for presenting, refreshments and visiting. 

Lindsey Vindel talks about Follett Shelf and Ebooks

 JPPSS librarians

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

PFTSTA Library is Ready for the 2013 Teen READ Week

Teen READ Week is always a busy time in the PFTSTA Library. This year will be no different. You can visit the library website here to see all the planned activities for the week. You can even find links to the pics and activities from past Teen READ Week celebrations. We are looking to a fun-filled week in our brand new library. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Two Reviews by Teens for Upcoming YA Books

The members of Bookmarked only have a couple of months left to read and write reviews for the online newsletter, SLJTeen, from School Library Journal. We started this gig in June of 2012 and will submit our last review at the end of December. Until then, enjoy two new reviews here

Sunday, October 6, 2013

BRiMS Talks about Wonder by Palacio

For the second meeting of BRiMS, the students sat down with their lunch and chips with salsa. We had selected the book, Wonder, by R J Palacio for everyone to read. Since some of the students had not read the book or had not finished the book, I found lots about the author and book to share with the group. Including the book trailer embedded below, an interview with the author by NPR about how she came to write the book and the website where students can sign the pledge to be kind, a movement that has taken off since the book was published. 

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