Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays from BRiMS and Bookmarked

I run two book groups at Patrick Taylor. My high school book group, Bookmarked, was created in the fall of 2007 which was my second year as librarian at the school. The students really wanted a library club, but the square footage of the library was so small that I could not imagine how any students could do any actual library work. Instead I created a book discussion group. Not only did we meet to talk books, but I tapped these students to help me with fundraisers and special programming like Teen Read Week. Helping me with these special activities seemed to appease the members. I waited until February of 2009 to institute a book discussion group for my middle school students called BRiMS, or Books Rule in Middle School. Both of the groups meet during lunch, and this year, the school added a third lunch. Now BRiMS is made up of only 6th and 7th graders. Bookmarked has 8th-12th grade students. This has actually worked well because in 2014 and 2015, Bookmarked lost a lot of members who graduated. We needed to recruit new members, and the many 8th graders who are into books have blended just fine into the club. 

I try to do some special activities with both groups that revolve around reading but might be a little outside of the box. When BRiMS met for their last meeting of the year, we wanted to create a video that celebrated the new year. 

This is what we came up with:

BRiMS wishes you Seasons Readings 2015 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Not to be outdone, members of Bookmarked, decided to create a holiday video, too:

Bookmarked wishes you Happy Holidays 2015 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

In October, I got an email from the author, Chris Grabenstein. He was asking for kids to send him short video clips to be included in the book trailer for his newest book, Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics. BRiMS filmed their run outside, and we sent it to the author. It seems that we did not make the final cut. Grabenstein did, however, make a slightly longer trailer with the out takes. It is still less than two minutes. BRiMS can be seen in blue shirts running in front of a bunch of trees.

I do wish everyone a loving, peaceful, and happy new year. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings to us in all things book related. Who knows, the next Harry Potter could be on its way to  the publishers right now. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sharing Resources for a Conference Presentation

When I go to a conference, I hate when someone hands me a sheet of paper with a list of links. What do I do with that paper? Usually, during the presentation, I will mark the sites on the paper that might be useful to me, my teachers, or my students. Then I have to bring the sheet of paper back home or to school and sit and type out all the URLs so that I can see if the sites really do interest me as something that I want to save. If I like what I see, then I save them in Diigo  and add lots of tags to each site so that I can find them again  at a later date. This is time consuming, and I have found that it may take me months to find the time to sit and go through all the websites. What a waste of time for me. I appreciate when you walk in to a conference session and are handed a paper or card with a link or QR code that points you to a website with all the resources that the presenter will discuss during their talk. I can open the resource site on my iPad during the session and decide their and then what sites are worth saving. I also know that I can go back to the link that the presenter shared with the audience. I save the presenter's resource list in my Diigo, and it is easy to go back and view and review at any time.

I have used Wikispaces many times to post my contact info and all the electronic resources that I share during a presentation. It is easy to create a wiki, but I never really use it fully. Though it is easy to make, it takes some time to flesh out and add the text.

Wiki I created in 2012
I have also used Slideshare successfully as a tool to house all the links for a presentation. By using Slideshare, attendees will get my presentation slides along with my links to resources. The downside to Slideshare is that you cannot add any links until the fourth slide.

This past October, I presented at a state conference for school librarians. I decided to submit the same presentation for our state conference for computer using educators called LACUE which is an affiliate of ISTE. On Tuesday, I will again be presenting: "Where Reading and the Web Collide." I reviewed my PowerPoint presentation and added a couple of new slides because I was short about 5 minutes when I initially made this presentation. Most of the 51 slides in this PowerPoint are screenshots of the various websites that I selected that support or enhance reading for students grades K-12. Instead of using Wikispaces for links to these resources, I created a Symbaloo. It was a breeze to edit the Symbaloo and add the links for the additional resources that I put in my presentation yesterday. It was so much faster to build a Symbaloo than  a wiki. Symbaloo doesn't allow any text, so all I need to do is put in the URL. It does take some work to make it look pretty with pictures, but I can get that done fairly quickly now that I have built so many different Symbaloos.

Symbaloo for Where Reading and the Web Collide
One downside of using Symbaloo is that there is no place for me to insert my contact info. That is an important piece because I have been contacted after speaking at conferences numerous times. I decided that by creating a personal page using I could list all my contact info and social media connections that I want to share with those attending my talk. I could add the link to the Symbaloo just like I added all the other links. Creating that page and adding it to the Symbaloo solved a problem, and now I have a personal page that I can share in my email and in other presentations that I might make in the future.

My AboutMe Page

I just love technology. I like it for how it can teach problem solving and creativity. I like it because it means I can keep all learning in one place rather than have numerous paper files saved in a file cabinet that I will never open. By tagging all resources in Diigo, I can go back again and again to see what was shared with me at past conferences and conventions.

Let the learning begin! I am looking forward to finding new tidbits that I can incorporate into my school and library after attending LACUE next week,

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Holiday Decorating in a Public School

Tree of Peace & Love
I work in southern Louisiana where many people working in public schools don't understand the separation of church and state. Thirty years ago I remember being horrified when the principal read a Christian prayer over the intercom right before the holidays. I didn't say anything because I was young and was not going to antagonize my principal, but I did not think that it was appropriate. Many of the public schools where I have worked have had Christmas trees gracing the halls. Those were usually decorated with ornaments created by the students. The halls of many of these schools had other Christmas style decorations, too.

I would compensate by bringing in a menorah for the library. I would also have dreidels available with instructions on how to play. The students loved playing the game even if they didn't win any chocolate.

The librarian in this library (not mine) found a way to make an inclusive holiday display 
Finally, I decided that having a few Chanukah symbols didn't really compensate, and I never brought anything in representing Kwanzaa. There are a significant number of Islamic children at my school now, and there is nothing comparable for them during the December holiday season that I know of.

Still, I like the idea of having some sort of decoration to mark the season since everyone celebrates the new year. A friend of mine brings a small artificial tree into her high school library. She provides various colors of chenille stems. She asks the students to decorate the tree with peace or love symbols. Okay, that would be a way to make the holiday season inclusive. For a couple of years, I have wanted to do something similar, but I didn't want to buy a tree, nor did I really have space for it in my library. 

This is how the process began

I had an idea light bulb go off when I created a make-shift bulletin board on a wall using post-it notes. I realized that I could use post-its for my holiday decorating. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I put a sign in post-its on  a wall saying: A Tree of Peace & Love. The students would use Sharpie pens to design a peace or love symbol on one square of a green post-it note. With these designs, the students would build a paper tree. 

Students start adding their symbols

One of the eighth graders who practices Islam at home asked what I was making. I explained to her that it was a tree of peace and love for the holidays, and then I asked her if she thought that would offend anyone. She didn't answer me right away and after some thought finally said that she really liked the idea. She believes that so many Muslims get a bad rap because of ISIS and this would be a way to include everyone in the decorating. I was thrilled to hear that from her. 

I am excited to share my students' creations with you. As you can see, there is definitely a way to get creative even on a piece of paper that is only three inches by three inches.

The finished product
Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate) 
Season's Readings! 
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