Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 Mock BOB: Winners of Round 1

SLJ Battle of the Kids Books

For the 2015 Battle of the Books or Mock BOB, the students made their selections of their favorite books in Round 1 by completing a Google form that I created.  I was hoping to get more kids to participate this year by asking them to vote virtually rather than last year's battle when students made live presentations defending each of the titles. Only 45 students cast their vote in this first round, which is 10% of the school and about the same number as participated in each round in 2014. I sent the students a link to the form via email, put the link in the daily announcements that are sent to all students and teachers, and gave the students five days to make their selections.

The Google form was an easy way to set up the voting because I could insert a picture of the book covers with blurbs. I had students help me create the blurbs about each of the books. You can see two examples of the 8 battles below. 

Battle 4
click the picture to enlarge it

Battle 8
click the picture to enlarge it

I like using the School Library Journal brackets with 16 books for our battle because the Battle Commander always selects outstanding books. Some of the books we may have in the library, but if the book wasn't on my radar, it probably is a title that I should have on the shelf. There is usually a mix of middle grade and YA which suits the age level of my students, and the mix of genres means there is something for everyone. Also, the students can follow along to see if they make the same choices as the author judges of the SLJ Battle. 

Here are the students' selections in Round 1: 
Battle 1
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson1942.2%
Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett2657.8%

Battle 2
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander2351.1%
Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire2248.9%
Battle 3
El Deafo by Cece Bell2453.3%
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming2146.7%
Battle 4
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith2453.3%
The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos2146.7%
Battle 5
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis1737.8%
Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman2862.2%
 Battle 6
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin1022.2%
The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston3577.8%
Battle 7
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki2964.4%
A Volcano Beneath the Snow by Albert Marrin1635.6%
Battle 8
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart3475.6%
West of the Moon by Margi Preus1124.4%
Only two of the books selected by the PFTSTA students went on to Round 2 in the SLJ Battle. Those are El Deafo and This One Summer. These are graphic novels that several of my students have read and loved. 

Tuesday, SLJ will post their overall winner, but we will continue with our battles until a winning book can be declared. Round 2 will also be done virtually and will be sent out early next week. Follow at the end of the week to see the students' choices in that round. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Authors, J & P Voelkel Make a Third Visit to PFTSTA

On March 17th, the middle school students were treated to a performance by authors Jon and Pamela Voelkel that kept the kids enthralled from the moment it began to the action-packed conclusion. The Voelkels have become friends of mine as well as friends of our school. They were traveling because the last book in the Jaguar Stones series was published last month, but their publisher, Egmont, sent them to the West Coast, not New Orleans. Since both New Orleans and St. Louis are featured in the journey that Max and Lola take to save the world from Ah Pukuh in the book, The Lost City, the Voelkels decided to plan a trip to our area on their own. I am so glad that they did. 

Their visit began with dinner at Pascal Manale's. An uptown institution that specializes in delicious seafood. Not only did we have a great meal that night, but there was a celebrity sitting at a table next to ours. Singer, Harry Connick Jr., was enjoying a meal with his family. We really wanted to get a picture but did not want to intrude, so Lulu, the Voelkel's daughter, posed with the book she was reading. 

Lulu shares her latest read, while Connick shares his phone 
The Voelkels had warned me that many of the activities and bits that they were going to share with my students included much of what we had seen on their previous two visits. Since the audience was made up of students who did not attend PFTSTA in 2010 and 2011, all that the Voelkels said and showed was brand new to this crop of 6th and 7th graders. Pamela introduces the students to the characters, Max and Lola, and the fictional aspects of the book. Like when Max disguises himself as a member of a rock band to hide out in book two. One of the highlights of the visit was the chance for so many students to get on stage with inflatable guitars to act out a little of their inner rock star.

Jon shows the students some classic rock moves
Jon teaches a couple of students how to use a blowgun to destroy one of the death lords trying to destroy Max and Lola. 

Learning how to use a blowgun

The Voelkels also share information about the Mayan culture. Jon grew up in Latin America visiting Mayan ruins, but as adults the two have returned to Central America with their own three children to study, learn, and get some fuel for the adventures their characters encounter when they meet the Mayan death lords in the books. I really liked some of the enrichments and additions that they made to the multi-media of pictures and video that they present to the students. Pamela states that the fictional Indiana Jones is her favorite archaeologist, but then she introduces several real life archaeologists and shows video of these adventurers describing some of their real-life exploits while traveling through jungles looking for artifacts. There are also plenty of pictures and videos of the Voelkels' trips. Jon eats some interesting creatures on their travels. At the end of their presentation, I made sure the students heard how Jon passed on the creatures that I had eaten the night before when I had joined them for dinner. Manale's is known for their raw oysters, and I never pass up a chance to eat them. Jon declined to taste, but Pamela popped one in her mouth and declared them tasty. 

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Jon and Pamela, but I had to wish them well as they are going to be spending the next few weeks traveling and sharing with other students across the country. Find more pictures of this author visit on the library website here

More about The Lost City, the last book in the Jaguar Stones series:

When the Voelkels were researching for this book, they visited New Orleans to see where their characters would actually travel that made sense to the story and to the city itself. They really wanted to be true to the geography and culture of the city. I met with them on that visit, and I also consulted with them after their first draft on the pages about New Orleans. When the book arrived in its published format, I found myself in the acknowledgements.

Click the picture above to enlarge it 
While searching on the web, I found a blog post where Pamela Voelkel was interviewed about the new book. During the online interview, she describes how I helped her find locations for her book

Friday, March 20, 2015

Teen TECH Week 15 Was Huge Success

I think that this year's events for Teen TECH Week (TTW) were more successful than any other year. Not sure why, but I tried to simplify which made my life easier. Since the kids seemed to enjoy the daily activities, I am thinking that my plan worked. I designed one lunch time activity each day, and I sent out a research riddle by email each day.

One of our TTW traditions is to show the animated shorts that are nominated for an Academy Award. I started this a few years ago because TTW fell about the same time as the awards, so there is always some buzz in the media about the shorts. This is an easy activity to plan, and all I need is the movies and popcorn. I usually start the week off with the movie. 

On the second day of TTW, the students put on their engineering hats to design towers made from marshmallows and toothpicks. I was really hoping that the students would be inspired by the books that I had available, but none of the books enticed them. I am sorry about that because I think that design-wise the students structures may have stood up better if they had followed patterns used by real architects and engineers. It was a whole lot of fun for everyone who participated, and it is important sometimes to just play, so I am not complaining. 

I decided to take Wednesday and make it an anti-tech day. I invited my friend, Whitney Stewart, to school to teach the students about mindfulness. Taking their time to smell, taste, and eat chocolate chips seemed to be the highlight of this exercise. When students visiting the library the next day could be heard saying, "let's go to the back of the library and meditate," I knew that Whitney's visit had impressed them. 

Possibly the most popular activity of the week was our photography event. I am not sure how I came up with this idea because I found out about it in the fall and had been saving it for TTW. The students found books with heads or hands on the cover and filled themselves in with the rest of the body. It is harder to explain than show you. You can see some examples below. This was so easy and fast, but the kids really got into it. The only drawback was that I had to catch them quick with my camera because they were using their own cameras to grab shots, and I wanted to record each and every book cover for the library. 

On the last day, we played Game of Phones. It was a game I created, and I blogged about it here with detailed instructions. When I tweeted about it, I heard from someone who has created a card game by the same name. Their game is slightly different from mine, but the idea is similar. The kids had a blast with this game, and I am glad it was played on Friday because I needed two days off to recuperate. 

The research riddles that we play is also a TTW tradition. You can find pictures from the day and the riddles all on the library website here

Author, Peter Lerangis Put on a One Man Show

On March 9th, not only did we kick off Teen TECH Week at PFTSTA, but we also hosted our first live out of town author visit of the year. Though there have been several skype author visits this year, and I invited two local authors who are friends of mine to visit, Peter Lerangis was the first official author who is touring the country to tout his newest book. 

I was not too familiar with his work before I found out that he was available to visit our school, so I was surprised when I heard that he had written over 150 books. Some of his work was done under a pseudonym, and of course, I wouldn't know about those books. It was the fourth book in the Seven Wonders series that brought him to town.

Peter's presentation kept the kids on the edge of their seats as they laughed with him and answered his questions. In another life, he was a professional actor, so he used lots of different voices as he told stories about himself to entertain the students. My favorite stories were the ones that he told about some of his classmates in college who included Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and the one about his trip to Russia for the Russian Book Festival with Marc Brown and R. L Stine where he traveled on Air Force One.

You can visit with someone virtually, but it is the face to face contact that can really draw the students in. Days after he left I saw students around campus reading his books. Look for more pictures from the day on the library website.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Game of Phones

Prizes for the game

I have several posts to make about a recent author visit and all of our activities for Teen TECH Week 15 (TTW15) . Those posts will get written, but I really want to get the explanation of the activity that we did on Thursday for TTW15 posted first. This is the story of how it all started. 

Members of the National Honor Society (NHS) were going to help with the Key Club's family night. I am the faculty adviser for NHS, and the students and I were going to create a photo scavenger hunt using phones or another device with a camera. Initially, this group was going to run a game where players would be given a list of photos to take at the event. Once all the photos were taken, the players would come back and get a prize. In the end, it turned out that the Key Club was going to plan all the games and activities, and the members of NHS would help run those games. That was the end of the phone scavenger hunt for NHS.

When I was planning for TTW, I pulled out the idea of the phone scavenger hunt. The high school book group usually helps me devise the rules of our games, but I thought that they were trying to make it too complicated. I came up with a set of rules for the game where the players could come and go. We celebrate TTW during lunch, so the participants don't arrive at the same time. I also wanted the game to work with a small group or a large group of players. 

How to play the game:

Step 1: Collect Prizes
I save up swag from conferences, ARCs, and items purchased from the dollar store. I probably had about 30 to 40 items as prizes.

Step 2: Create a list of the types of photos that the players will need to find on their phone or device. You will see my list of 50 types below. Feel free to use. The students were allowed to bring in any device where they had saved photos. I am not sure how far down the list that the game moderators reached because I had to move around the library that day to oversee the students not playing the game. The students played for about 30 minutes, and everyone walked away with a prize. 

Step 3: The game moderator will read one type of picture at time. The players must find that picture and hold up their phone to show the moderator. It is at the moderator's discretion to decide who was the first to show that type of picture. Once a winner for that round was determined, the student could select a prize. So if the players are asked to show a picture of themselves with someone younger, the first one who can find that picture, holds it up, and the moderator checks the picture to see if it fits the category. 

Very simple, but I had two high school students running the game with about 25 middle school players. I had to intervene several times to remind the players to stay in their seats until the moderators picked the winner. I also had to make sure the moderators only asked for one type of picture at a time and waited until someone found that picture before moving to the next one. It got a little chaotic and definitely needed adult supervision, but everyone playing seemed to have a great time. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Getting Ready for Teen TECH Week 2015

Spring is upon us in southern Louisiana, and the azaleas are blooming. All this means that it must be time for YALSA's annual event to celebrate technology in the library. By this time in the school year, I am swamped in the library, and I look for ways to simplify my life. I still wanted to celebrate Teen TECH Week, so I needed to plan it all out in just a couple of days because I ran out of time (usually I plan weeks in advance) and I needed it to be easy to administer without a lot of help. We always do a set of research riddles sent via email that students must answer daily to receive a small prize, I used old questions from Google-a-day for the riddles. I found these questions in a lesson plan format from Google with hints which I am giving to the students because I think that many of them could use guidance on good search techniques. I devised one activity for each day that I could design and implement quickly. Putting on weekly events like this always take a lot of time planning and a lot of time in the marketing to make sure students and staff know what is happening when. To advertise Teen TECH Week, I put the list of activities on a poster on the door and on a sign right outside the library, on the library website, on the daily email announcements sent to students and parents, in an email sent to all students and all staff and the school and library Facebook pages. Below you can find what we are doing to celebrate. On Wednesday, you will see that we are having a visitor. That activity I planned with my friend and author, Whitney Stewart, over a month ago. I know that she gets very busy, and I would never be able to ask for assistance at the last minute. I think that it is going to be a fun-filled week, and there will be students visiting the library during lunch who I don't usually see. 

Monday:                     Popcorn and a Movie
Kick off Teen Tech Week and visit the library during your lunch period to watch a movie and eat some popcorn. Showing will be the Oscar winning animated short, The Feast, as well as several other animated shorts nominated for this year's Academy Award.  

Tuesday:                     Marshmallow Engineering
Are you an engineer? You can be today. Visit the library at lunch to build a tower using marshmallows, toothpicks, and skewers. You will need to think like an architect with your design and solve any problems like a construction worker as you build your structure. 

Wednesday:               Practice Mindfulness for an Anti-Tech Day 
Let’s put away the technology for a day. Visit the library at lunch to meet Whitney Stewart who will be talking you through exercises in mindfulness. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation, but thousands of studies have documented the physical & mental health benefits of mindfulness. Learn how you can achieve a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits by practicing this form of meditation.
Here are some apps for your phone or tablet that can help you get started on mindfulness:
Stop, Breathe & Think
Smiling Mind
Take a Break
Shop Wild Mind 
Open here for an article about teens and mindfulness.

Thursday:                   Picture Yourself on the Cover
We provide the books; books with faces on the cover that is. You provide the body. We will take your picture with the book covers in place of your face.

Friday:                       Game of Phones
We will play a game with your phone or other device where you have photographs. We will ask for a specific kind of picture. If you can show that picture on your device, then you will win a prize. 

Daily:                          Research Riddles 4 TTW 2015
Check out the daily emails from Ms. Kahn
A research question will be sent out via email every day during TTW. You can play every day and win something every day. You will need to write your answer and source on the form available in the library. This will be your entry for the grand prize. At the end of TTW, one name will be pulled from the middle school jar and one  from the high school jar. Each grand prize winner will receive a $15.00 gift card to iTunes.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Battle of the Kids Books is Returning and So Are We

SLJ BOB 2015 -- Book Covers

Last year my school participated in the School Library Journal sponsored Battle of the Kids Books. Any school or library or anyone can participate, but SLJ highlighted my school online as we put on an all out battle to the death among the 16 books.  It was a blast, and both the middle school students and high school students really got into it. This year we have started slow, and I am waiting for copies of all the books to arrive after ordering them last week. Today as I was reading the February 2015 issue of SLJ, I found a mention of my school library and myself concerning our participation in the BOB for 2014. That was a nice surprise. 

If you want to get your students involved, you need to have the following books available in your library: 
BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
CHILDREN OF THE KING by Sonya Hartnett
CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander
EGG & SPOON by Gregory Maguire
EL DEAFO by Cece Bell
THE FAMILY ROMANOV by Candace Fleming
THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS by Christopher Paul Curtis
POISONED APPLES by Christine Heppermann
THE PORT CHICAGO 50 by Steve Sheinkin
THE STORY OF OWEN by E. K. Johnston
THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart
WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus

Next post the brackets, set up a timeline, figure out a way for the students to participate, and then let the battle begin. I think this year we might go more low key with our battles. I am going to set up a display in the library, ask the students to write a blurb about why their selected book should win, and let all who enter the library cast their vote. Our debate style of presentations were scheduled during lunch last year, but it took two weeks just to get through round one. It was over a month from start to finish. I am happy to say that I found all of the books in the battle had a surge in circulation during and after the battle period. That is one of the main reasons for conducting BOB anyway; to get kids reading! 

Door sign from the 2014 SLJ BOB with the PFTSTA winner:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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