Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finally ... a day of reading!

It has been a busy break, lots of cleaning and cooking, then cleaning some more!  At last, a day with no obligations but one, to start/continue reading the books that have been on suggested Newbery lists.  I am currently reading, "Keeper" by Kathy Appelt ~ not far enough along to make a judgement but I do like what I have read so far.  I like her descriptive language, I can see those blue crabs with markings on their backs, and the dark swirling waters.  (I still don't know why she is called Keeper, hope there is an answer!)  I am finishing the "Night Fairy" by Laura Amy Schlitz which was very different than I expected.  Usually fairy "tales" (sorry, couldn't resist!) are light hearted, even if the fairies are mean or indifferent; but this one is darker, and yet intriguing in a fairies version of survivor way.  Left in my stack are "One Crazy Summer" by Rita Williams-Garcia and "Out of my Mind" by Sharon Draper.  Other titles I need to at least skim are "Just Like Falling off the World"  (I have it somewhere in an ARC) and "Dreamer" by Pam Munez.  My now lofty goal is to have all of these read completely before I get to the ALA Awards ceremony on Monday, January 10th, but if I can't read them all, to have at least skimmed them so I have an inkling of what they are about.  Of course, I am prepared to be totally surprised if some book comes out of nowhere to win, isn't that the fun this whole thing, but at least I can chat and commiserate with other folks in the awards audience.
So, if you don't hear from me for a while you know I am happily ensconced in front of my fireplace (on or off) indulging myself in my own read-a-thon! 
And if you are in my Librarians Who Read book club, you can probably guess what titles I will be talking about at our next get together!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Basking in the glow, or wallowing in complacency?

I don't make New Year's resolutions.  But I do like to stop, step back, and reassess my goals.  These are both my personal and professional goals, and require some serious reflection on my part.  Over the next few days I will be "talking" through my thinking and welcome your comments. 
For today, Happy Christmas to everyone!  I hope you recieved all the books you wished for!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

One week left before winter break!

It is cold and snowing and is expected to be this way all week.  For those of us in education we know this to mean the dreaded " indoor recess!"  I am actually excited for this because I am hosting a pre-Caldecott viewing and voting.  Students will be able to visit during recess to read and evaluate 2010 titles that were chosen by the public library next door and the titles I have in my collection.  I have been working with 3rd grade on an extention of the idea "what makes writing worth reading" to include "how do illustrations tell the story."  We have been looking at past winners in small groups (differentiation) and are critically viewing these to help decide what makes an award winning title.  I am opening up my library to grades 1-5 at recess, and am really curious to see if the 3rd grade vote is any different than the rest of the grades because of this study we have been conducting.  Then in January the library next door will post both the winners from our school and the winners according to the ALSC Caldecott committee.  My students are excited, my question is: will this impact their book selections in the coming months?  Will they take the time to review and analyze a book once they choose it?  Will they think more critically about the choices they make?  Only time will tell.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reaching the whole child; beyond differentiation

It is early on this snowy morning and I am mentally going through the day ahead, what still needs to be done, how will I approach this group of learners?  I am having some real issues trying to reach the whole child while racing up the mountain of "race to the top."  Because our media centers have several purposes, reaching and supporting individual students as well as whole teaching class/grade/department standards/indicators we have multiple levels of instruction occuring often at the same time.  I can handle that, I was given my super librarian cape along with my degree, didn't you?  My struggle is in another arena, supporting those disconnected students during the all too brief time I have them in a class setting.  With one eye on the clockand the other moving that lesson along so it gets done in the alloted time, how do I quietly move to that student to find out exactly where the disconnect is?  How do I find the time to pull that student back in to find another way to provide the necessary teaching and learning for that one or two?
I am exceptionally lucky, with a flexible program, and a supportive staff.  I can usually carve out a mutually acceptable time to work with those students.  I guess my question is this: what can I do while I am teaching the FIRST time to keep that reluctant learner engaged during my teaching, so I don't need to find that time.  How do you handle the able student who is just disengaged from the whole learning thing?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best books for holiday gifts?

I am preparing to write an article for my school newsletter listing some "must" book purchases for households.  Beyond the regular, good dictionary, classics, I would like to suggest a few great destined to become classics titles.  I am considering "Ruth and the Green Book" by Calvin A. Ramsey, this is a very thought-provoking text about what it was like to travel during the days of segregation, and  "Chalk" by Bill Thomson, an amazing wordless picture book that elicits a great response from students.  Do you have any titles you would add to this list?  Maybe we can create a list we can all share!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is my job getting in the way of my real work?

Ever tried not doing your job for a few days and just be an available presence in your library?  Last week, I did just that.  The bookfair had been scheduled for the media center but at the last minute it was moved to an empty classroom; so I had not planned with any teachers for this week.  Instead of rapidly filling my time, I decided to just "be" in the library and see what happened.  What a great week!  I had time to talk with students about what they were reading, what their projects were, and what they liked about the library.  Because I was in the library by myself, my assistant was in the bookfair madness, I asked students for their help on various things that came up, and they were so glad to help!  They were thrilled with the time for a one on one conversation with me, excited to be given trust and responsibility, and the week was a joyful one!  I made movies with  Pixie, edited narratives, searched for websites, and read books. Now I know I can't just abandon my work, but I will make time to just be; it is too important not to be too busy to spend quality time with students.  Now I remember why I went into this line of work!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankful for books even more than for pumpkin pie!

In light of the season, I am thinking of all my reasons to give thanks. There are so many this may take a few posts.
  • First of all, I am thankful for having a job that I love.  Putting books into the hands of students and having them come back to say it was the best book ever ~ what other career rivals this? 
  • I am thankful that my teachers are wonderful people who want the best for their students and love to plan with me to create lessons to engage students in learning.
  • I am thankful for the amazing books being published right now, and that I can have access to them.
  • I am thankful for my colleagues and friends across the country that I have gained because of professional organizations that have allowed me to meet others with like interests.
My hopes for the coming weeks:
  • A room full of new books to read.
  • A snow week to read them all!
  • A fireplace, cozy chair, and hot chocolate for the proper atmosphere.
  • Friends snowbound with me.
What are you thankful for?  I would love to know.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where does the time go?

November, Really??  We are into our third month of school, and what have I done to positively impact student achievement.  This is a time for some reflection; I have assessed my students with the TRAILs, but have I used the data to plan with teachers?  When I do plan with teachers, am I making sure that the library skills are included in the unit?  Am I moving to be involved throughout the project, not just the research phase?  Do my teaching colleagues feel the library services I provide are invaluable?  These are all issues I must keep on the forefront of my thinking while I am instilling upon my students the 21st century skills they need to thrive.
How about you?  Do you continue to reflect on what you are doing, and why?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ohio librarians and teachers, feel free to share these with your students!

OK, be patient, this is new for me!  I am attempting to link to the Buckeye Children's Book Award powerpoints created by my students.
These 5 powerpoints are advertisements for the 5 books nominated on the K - 5 ballot.  If you would like more information about this election, voting windows, when to nominate, requirements, visit this website:

Bringing in the New Year
Duck! Rabbit!

Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Mercy Watson: Something Wonky
The Mitten

Please respond about how this helps  your students, or what you have done to prepare your students to vote!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reader's Advisory?

How do you practice Reader's Advisory?  Do you do regular book talks with classes?  Write a blog or a column for your library?  One to one at reader's point of need?  Even all of the above.  Is what you do effective, or are you looking for a change?  I do most of the things listed, and I like to, but what I am noticing now is that my students are beginning to do their own Reader's Advisory.  There are more conversations in the stacks, many more students bringing back books saying, so and so wants this book when I return it, and even more students offering me suggestions of books to purchase!  What is causing this change?  Maybe it is because I offered my intermediate teachers a chance to provide their students with book stacks, a supply of a great variety of books to stretch and broaden each student's reading diet.  Each class visited, and after a talk by me about trying new things, suggestions, and encouragement, the students took the time to make individual choices.  Each stack needed to be approved by myself or the teacher, mostly to be sure they were trying something new, not The Lightning Thief for the third time!  The first time we did this, alot of the books came back within a week, but we met again and talked some more about what we, the reader, wanted from our book choices. These books were checked out to the teacher, to be kept in class, so the students could still check out those favorites on their own card to take home and read again.  Now, conversations are happening, informal book groups are forming, and students are reading what they are checking out!
Have you tried something new that is working for your students?  Tell me about it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The school year is galloping on!

Well, here we are in the middle of October.  How did we get here already?  I hope yours is going well.  I am working hard on integrated those 21st century skills; but I actually find myself doing more reader's advisory than ever!  Nothing beats an excited student running up to you to say, this book was great, do you have any more?  I am getting ready to start my family book club, anyone have a good idea of a classic chapter book that would span the interest of students,  K - 5?  In the past I have used, The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, Everything on a Waffle, Box Car Children, and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency.  I would like to find one about a library sleep over, spark any ideas?

Technology speaking, I have given my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students the TRAILs assessment to determine what kinds of skills need to be integrated this year.  My teachers are pretty excited about this, it should make for some powerful collaborating.

I am also continuing my yearlong focus on inquiry, and thinking.  We have had some great conversations about thinking, and I feel it may be raising the quality of questions my students are posing!

I will be busy the next two weeks, getting ready for our state conference, OELMA.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Buckeye Children's Book Award promotion ideas!

Here are a few ideas to promote this award with your students!  Here's the website:

Purchase the nominated books

Work with teachers to promote the books

Set up a voting booth for kids

Use displays, booktalks, and other activities to promote the books & election

Work with local businesses (newspaper, radio)

Host a BCBA “Character Day”

Feel free to share your ideas, or email if you want my actual lesson plans, with relevant Ohio Standards.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lessons I didn't learn at school, but hope to use them there

6:00 a.m.- Yes, I am up; but is it because I am so excited to start the year?  Well, a part of me is, just not the part that dislikes the alarm clock sound.  As I am sitting here in the quiet, dark morning sipping that first cup of coffee, I am making my back to school resolutions, they remind me of things I learned from my family!

1.  Try not to offer unsoliticed advice!  "Don't you think if you just add ...."(my mother)  or "I would do it this way." (my little brother)  We have several new teachers in our building this year, and I so want them to have a good year.  But, in my zeal to help then out, I don't want my suggestions to sound like either criticisms or expectations.  Baby steps, Liz, baby steps.

2. Remember that not everyone sees life as a series of adventures.  Me- "come on boys, let's go on an adventure!"  Boys - "The last time you said that we went to the grocery store."  I have always felt like adventure is what you make it, and I have adventures every day both large and small.  I need to step back and recall that some people see a day of hills and mountains to climb, and are not as eager to try that something new.

3. Not everything has to be good for you, all the time!  Meaning, find the joy in your teaching and learning!  Have some fun.  "Try this, it's good for you."  I hereby swear on my stack of SLSs that I will not make a face everytime someone checks out "Captain Underpants."  Just because we have to teach things like multiplication facts or the Dewey Decimal System doesn't mean we have to do it all the time, sometimes we can just share a book because we love it. 

I hearby resolve to:
  • Wake up every morning and give thanks for my job, my wonderful, my unpredictable, engaging students, my supportive, hilarious fellow teachers, and the starting of another day.
  • I will try my best to make every day a little bit better for each person I interact with, and in turn they will improve mine!

I will find joy in everyday.                                         I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 on the 10th?

Alright, I follow Cathy's tweets and blog (Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community).  She is a friend and former literacy coach, and great early morning debater of topics large and small.  For details on this event, check out Cathy's blog.

Liz's Pick
1. The Napping House, what is there to say, critical viewing, change of prespective, amazing cumulative text.
2. The Other Side.
3. Tuesday.  Wordless books offer so much to the reader.
4. We had a Picnic This Sunday Past, Jacqueline Woodson.  Voice, characterization, sense of place, and great language
5. The Curious Garden
6. The Straight Line Wonder by Mem Fox
7.The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen
8. 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore.  Definitely a conversation starter
9. Diary of a Fly
10. The Rescue of Aunt Pansy by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Addicted to technology? Or super shopper? You decide.

While attempting to organize my home office and get ready to take some things back to school, I realized that I have purchased a lot of new technology this summer.  I love it, it's great, but am I letting technology drive what I do?  Because of this question, I went searching for answers, and yes, I turned to the Internet.  I entered the phrase, "design 21st century learning environment" and got some interesting responses.  Of course, there are companies designing pre packaged learning under this new label, but I also found this.   It is the latest white paper from P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning), 34 pages long, but a wonderful read!  We can't just buy all the new stuff, throw it at teachers and say, now you are a 21st century teacher. 
Back to the Innovation conference last week, I listened to a presenter who said, before getting any new piece, ask yourself, how can this be used to enhance education for my students.  Not just how can we add "razzle dazzle" to our final report.  With all that said, here are the items I purchased that I am betting will engage and deepen my student's learning and/or my teaching.
1. Flip camera. ($159) These are not new, but I really want to turn mine over to students to help us document what we are learning as we go though a study together.  This will help me as I reflect at the end of a unit, what worked, or more importantly, what didn't, and why.
2.  Pulse pen. ($129, plus $$ for the peripherals) It's the pen that will upload notes to your computer, and record the talking that went with it!  I want to share with teachers, I see lots of classroom application, but for the library learning center, I am going to challenge the kids to help us discover its best uses. 
3.IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera  ($67 dollars on Amazon, new.)  It attaches with a USB connection, does NOT use the expensive bulbs that Elmo's use, and can be attached to lap tops around the room to design more "student at point of need" learning.  (Disclaimer:  I saw this at a conference, have not yet used it with kiddos, but I will as soon as I have some when school starts and will update!)
4.  Smart board.  OK, I had this last year, but this year I want to "re brand" it as a student used learning opportunity, not my glorified white board.

All of these tools should help me use inquiry in my daily teaching; small groups, at point of need, as well as using inquiry as my foundation on which I will design all of my teaching for this year.

My next blog I will share the next step of my journey toward an inquiry based library instruction.  It has already become a collaborative event, planning with another media specialist in my district to design a reciprocal communication between our students as we design this.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I have spent the last three days (plus one more day tomorrow) at a Conference co-sponsored by our district on Innovative Learning Environments.  I am energized and recharged.  The common threads from this conference on 21st century learning are: student choice for passionate learning, moving beyond standards, individualized learning opportunities.  How to do this?  Inquiry and projects, student-led learning, collaboration, utilizing 21st century tools to use strengths to enhance their learning.  My thought is this;  where in the school building can we do this?  The media center, of course!  But wait, this is 21st century learning, so let's use the 24/7 knowledge building center (online media center, and more!) to create, build upon, and share these learning opportunities.  I have found my goal for this year -- to guide  my students, staff, and extended learning community to contribute to and own this endeavor. 
To forward this goal, I am revamping my library home page (housed on my Destiny webpage), using Google Docs, wikis, Livebinder, flip cameras, and whatever else allows me to engage my students.  My physical space has already been revamped as best as can be in a 50 year old building (I like to call it the warm and cozy welcoming sanctuary), and I have just ordered a new $60 document camera (that is not a typo), and a few more tools to encourage these projects.
What next?  Think up some content and interest-driven projects and invite teachers to join me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Most people make their New Year's Resolutions in January, I make mine in August as I resolve each year to  make this the "best school year ever!"  (Does that sound familiar to anyone else?)  Anyway, I am reviewing standards and scores in preparation for our building improvement meeting, browsing the AASL's Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning for appropriate tools to share, and reading multiple books that I have picked up over the summer.
Over the next few weeks I will decide what I want to do about that dreaded library orientation -- is it really necessary? Could my students orient each other? What could I do to assure the success of this idea?  Is there some way to demonstrate evidence of student learning during this process?
Once again I resolve to grab my camera more often, catch those iconic moments of spontaneous sharing, then share them with others as a demonstration of the learning that occurs in the media center.
What is the best way to share the Web 2.0 finds with my teachers?

I will be attempting to answer these questions over the next few weeks.  Feel free to offer your suggestions!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

AASL Standards for 21st Century

In anticipation of a presentation I need to do in August about the Standards, I am going back to the beginning to study them and figure out how, when, and if I really use these standards.  This is requiring lots of reflection, pulling out lesson plans and projects, and reading the many books and journal articles I have collected.  My essential question for this exploration is "How do the AASL Standards improve the teaching and learning I do with my students?"
Today, inquiry.  I feel very competent in this area, but am I really?  time to read, and find out.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Rainy Day Fun

Finally, after so many days of hot, hot, hot it is raining and cooler!  What a great day to catch up on reading.  I am reading "The Surgeon" by Tess Gerritsen (in anticipation of the new TV show, "Rizzoli and Isles" based on her recurring characters), "The Burning Wire: A Lincoln Rhymes Novel by Jeffery Deaver, John Grisham's book for young people, and Kristin Fontichiaro"s newest book, "21st-Century Learning in School Libraries," a complication of articles about, you guessed it, our role in teaching and learning in the 21st century.  It is just lovely to be surrounded by books (some on my Kindle) and having the time to really read and enjoy them.
What you are reading right now?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Librarian in Every School..

While surfing the net (a.k.a., avoiding work I should be doing!) I came across this article in Rethinking Schools.  Take a minute to read it and respond.

A Librarian in Every School..

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Reading Underway

I am almost finished reading "the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate."  This was an award winning book that flew under my radar.  I received it just before school ended this year, and decided it was one to take home for summer reading.  I am so glad I did; it is an interesting look back to life at the turn of the century, what things are the same and what things are different for girls today.  Each chapter has a heading that is a quote from Charles Darwin, Callie's grandfather is doing his own study of wildlife and corresponding with Darwin, a new voice that not everyone agrees with.  This would be a great read aloud for middle grades, as a subtle introduction to plant and animal classification and the importance of study through the naturalist lens.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer time!

Summer is here! Well, actually tomorrow morning at 7:30, but close enough for me to talk about what I plan to do with my summer vacation. To begin with, I am not taking or teaching classes; I am taking the summer off. What I am doing is: catching up on my reading, if you follow me you can find out what and if I liked it.
I am also organizing my professional thoughts, ideas, and ideologies. Follow along with me as I explore ways to embed 21st century skills into my teaching.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wow! 2010, already. What I will do this year to make the world a better place? Starting at school I will:
1. implement a series of reading activities to engage students;
2. find ways to make my students more self-directed learners;
3. visit grade level meetings and design more integrated lesson/units to meet the needs of students & teachers to allow them to be effective 21st century learners.

In my professional life I will:
1. organize my calendar and prioritize my deadlines;
2. decide what extra activities I most love to do and filter out the rest;
3. enjoy myself as I do what I love!

In my personal life I will:
1. actually start to have a personal life!

How about you? What will you do to make the world a better place?