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Showing posts from 2016

Ruta Sepetys Skypes with BRiMS

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I love author visits either face to face or virtual. Authors are my rock stars, and I love making connections with them that I can then bring back and share with my students. On a recent face to face visit at our school by T. A. Barron, one of the teachers came to school the next day and explained her surprise when she went home to tell her son about our author visit. Her son was a fan of Barron and had read every one of his books in his school library. She had no clue that the author who was at our school the day before was nationally recognized. I only want the best for my students.



I first met Ruta Sepetys in 2011 at ALA, but that was only for a simple book signing for her first book. In 2013 when her book that took place in New Orleans came out, I figured out a way to get her to visit school when she hit New Orleans on her book tour. She was a phenomenal speaker and had the juniors eating out of her hand. We met again in 2014 at the Louisiana Book Festival and at the Internationa…

The PFTSTA Library Makerspace Grows

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When the library received grant money last school year to begin a makerspace, I chose not to spend all the money at once. I was not sure which items would appeal most to the kids, so I took it slow. Though our school serves students in grades 6-12, it is the middle school students who spend the most time using the makerspace equipment and materials during their lunch period.

There are class sets of iPads that live in the library, but I needed iPads that stayed in the library and would always be available to use in the makerspace. I bought 5 initially and added 2 more this time around. The iPads are used to watch videos detailing projects that can be constructed with LittleBits. Lego Wedo, or K'Nex or to find instructions for those projects. The tablets can also be used to make stop motion videos. The Sphero robots are powered by an iPad as well as the new Lego Wedo 2.0.


I added some items that were additions to materials that we already had. Another Sphero robot was purchased bec…

T. A. Barron Pays a Visit

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Many months ago, I received an email from Octavia Books asking me if I wanted to host a visit with author T. A. Barron. I had met Barron two years ago when the International Reading Association was held in New Orleans. Penguin held a dinner for him and two other authors, and I got an invite to this intimate gathering. So I knew that my students, as lovers of fantasy, would welcome Barron to our school. They were a wonderful audience, but the visit certainly did not go as planned.



This story is a lesson in the need to be flexible. Initially, our school would see him first, and then he would travel to two other schools before visiting the bookstore at the end of the day. I like morning author visits. Then I got an email asking if we could fit him into the afternoon. I agreed, but I was concerned because he was to arrive at 1:30, and our students leave school at 2:40. He would not have much time to set up and speak and sign books. In the weeks prior to his arrival, I alerted the teacher…

Middle School Students Write Letters to the Next President - a Collaborative Lesson

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A few months ago I found a website where students could post a letter expressing their opinions about how the next president should deal with issues plaguing American society. I shared the link with our English and Social Studies departments. I regularly send out links and websites of interest to my teachers, and sometimes I get a response sometimes not. In this case one of our middle school teachers of English language arts new to our school said that she wanted me to work with her on a lesson around the Letters to the President 2.0. We batted around some ideas back and forth through email--face to face collaboration is nice but not always possible. She talked with her classes about the issues and the election on many occasions as preparation and asked her students to watch the debates and comment on them for extra credit.



Planning and executing the lesson: We finally decided that students would weigh in on three different issues that we would select for them including immigration, …

Visit with Mark Alpert Via Skype and Solving Tech Issues

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Bookmarked Jr. Edition had a skype planned for November 2nd with author, Mark Alpert. Alpert requested that I do a test with him the day before to make sure everything was working. On the 1st, students had the day off, but teachers were at school. About 30 minutes before the appointed test skype, I booted up my laptop to open skype. There was an error message, and so I went to I. T. for a fix but found it closed. Since I couldn't use skype on the laptop, I grabbed my ipad and plugged it into the interactive white board to call Alpert. The audio was good on both sides as well as the video. We chatted a bit about the students and his books. I knew that the 8th graders were going to find his interests in science and the way he melds it into his science fiction fascinating.



On the 2nd, I found out that I could use skype on the laptop, but I had to type in the password for the school system's filter to access it. I set up my laptop in the usual way ten minutes before our scheduled…

Louisiana Book Festival 2016

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Last year, I had planned to take members of Bookmarked to Baton Rouge for the annual book festival. The predicted rain storms kept us away which was a good thing because the festival closed early due to the rain, and the book tents had ankle deep water. For 2016, I again planned a trip to Baton Rouge for the festival, and the day was glorious with sunshine and warmth.
Four students met me on the steps of the State Library of Louisiana to begin our day. We started in the cooking demonstration tent where Shelly Rushing Tomlinson was reading a story from her cookbook. She is a humorist, but I don't think her funny family stories were appreciated by the teens. They did eat her crackers and pimento cheese, though. 
Next we went to hear authors Susan Vaught and Rita Williams-Garcia. This was so cool. We walked into an almost empty room where Susan was sitting and waiting to begin. When she started, it was like we were getting a very personal presentation. Rita Williams-Garcia walked in …

Book Fair and Teen Read Week are Both a Memory

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I really did myself in by planning a book fair one week and Teen Read Week the next. Unfortunately, both weeks were out of my control. We now schedule the book fair during the two days that the grandparents visit the school for breakfast. This has proven very lucrative for the library, and I like promoting a fund raiser that promotes books and reading. The grandparents like buying books for their grandchildren. It is a win win situation. This year we grossed $300 more than last at the book fair, and the library received a net profit of $1500 plus just over $300 in Scholastic dollars to spend on new books for the library. This is the only fund raiser that the library holds during the year. I also raise a few hundred dollars a year in fines which I strongly believe in. More on fines at a later date.



I always try to schedule Teen Read Week (TRW) during the week that YALSA has it on the calendar. I know that really isn't crucial, but it is what I like to do. Most of the TRW activitie…

Students Weigh in on Banned Books and the Freedom to Read

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Every year, for Banned Book Week, I prepare a lesson for our 8th graders. It was always teacher directed with discussion until last year. The English I teachers and I created a lesson for the students that included research and writing. I pulled the materials that I wanted them to read, and the students would write a very short essay declaring their belief in the need for teens to be able to exercise their freedom to read what they want to or the need for certain books to be taken off the shelves of the library or pulled from the English curriculum. 
Above is the slide presentation that I have made for the students. Included in the slides are several videos that I thought would get the students thinking. There are slides with links to specific articles that we want the students to read and use for the concrete evidence to support their stance. A rubric is included at the end so the students know exactly what is expected. The teachers and I want the writing to have a real world applic…

Getting Ready for TRW 2016

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When October nears, I know that it is time to plan for Teen Read Week. We have been celebrating this YALSA sponsored festivity in the PFTSTA Library from the first year I was there back in 2006. We started very small with one or two activities until it has grown to be a big deal at our school. However, I have developed a game plan that we use yearly for this activity so that I don't have to start from scratch each year. When I ask students, if we should make changes they let me know that they like things just the way they are. Some of our events are passive and can be completed any time during the week, but we also have a special event each day during lunch which requires active participation. Sure the regulars visit the library, but this is also an opportunity to have visitors who don't usually walk through the library doors. That is a very good thing. Visit the library website for more info and pictures after the fact. Want to know what we are doing? Read below.



Looking for …

Being a School Librarian and Why I am Good at What I Do

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I just started my 26th year as a school librarian. and lately, I have been reflecting on my work. I worked for 12 years with grades K-6 and the last 13 with grades 6-12. I have supervised several pre-service librarians and talked to many library science students over the years for their class assignments. One of the major reasons that I think that I am good at what I do is because I have been doing it a long time. I am not one of those teachers who learned how to teach one way and have kept at it the exact same way year after year. I consider myself a lifelong learner. I have tried to keep up with current best practices throughout my career. Since I have taught from pre-kindergarten through high school, in terms of skills, I know where the kids came from and where they need to go before they graduate. A lot of this I have learned through experience and the many years I have been teaching. In a recent social media post on a librarian group, a librarian asked others to post about the c…

Ten News Sites to Find Paperless Current Events

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Periodically, I will write a blog post for the Whooos Reading blog. They ask teachers across the US to contribute to their blog with information about edtech, libraries, and tools to support learning in the classroom. This blog post is all about finding current events and newspaper articles online. These are sites where you can send your students or you could select specific articles for them to read and all content areas could find use for these web tools. 
Read my blog post here.

How a Build-Off Builds 21st Century Skills

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Lately, I seem to write more in this blog about makerspaces in the library over books and reading. Yet, reading is still a focus in my library. You can catch pictures of students reading in the PFTSTA library by visiting the library on Facebook or Instagram and please follow us, too, so you don't miss any of the action. Back to the makerspace--it is so engaging, and if it is the robots, Lego, and a 3D pen that draws the students into the library, then I am all for it.
About a week and a half ago, some 7th grade boys came to me and said that they wanted to do a Build-Off. Never heard of it, I told them. They wanted to create teams and have each team build a structure and then have me and a couple of 6th graders serve as judges to determine a winner. Okay, I thought this was a great idea. I suggested that they come up with a set of guidelines for the structures and rubric for the judging. Three teams were formed with two students on each team. They would each build a catapult that …