Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lexie or love reading levels?

I love to read!  It is my escape, my refuge, my adventure.  I have wonderful friends in the series books I read and favorite places I visit in stories I love.  So why is it I am avoiding 3 books I must finish?  Because these are books not chosen by me; these are books I am required to read.  No really, I am working with a class and need to read what the students are reading so I can write the comprehension quizzes (here's where collaboration starts, folks!)  I have been doing everything I can possibly think of NOT to read these books.  Why?  Because they are not books of my choosing.  When I found myself cleaning my bathrooms before I got started reading, it made me think, "Is this how students feel when they are told they must read a certain book, one in their lexile range or in a required genre?"  The light bulb came on and I realized how those students feel, the one's who are at risk so teachers  select books for them?  Books that will be just right?  I am not looking to start a debate about the merits of self-selection versus correct reading level, but I am concerned about student engagement.  I did read my three books, I finshed them, even.  But I don't look back and think about the characters I met, I don't wonder about will happen to them next.  They were an assignment, pure and simple, and that is sad.
So here's the discussion starter: what do you do when students come to you with a lexile range and say I have to get  a book at this level?

Just sayin', have you read "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller or "Book Love" by Penny Kittle?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Testing, or Tested, that is the question

Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight, if possible.
—Robert M. Hutchins

     I don't know about where you are, but here assessment, which should be spelling with a capital A, is taking over education.  Teachers as well as students are undergoing rigorous (yes, an other educational buzz word!) evaluation and another layer of assessment (also known as testing) has been heaped on students.  It all has me running like a hamster in its wheel, never actually getting anywhere.  We are in a time where there is so much to learn and so many exciting ways to teach it and it just seems a shame that we have this giant A hanging over our heads.  I am trying to continue with enthusiasm and encouragement for all.
      While I am fussing  over this state of education I decided to share a few books that deal with testing. I just finished reading "The Testing" by Joelle Charbonneau,  another dystopian novel in which w have almost destroyed the world with our wars and the authorities are looking for the brightest and best to help lead the world to recovery and further advancement. Students are chosen each year from their small communities, and if they can make it through the Testing they are admitted to the University. There is romance, treachery, survival and betrayal through the ordeal and in the end, your memory is wiped so you don't remember what you went through; or do you?
     In "Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo, all children are tested as small children to find out if they have a gift.  If so, they are sent to a special school to become a Greisha, a member of the magical guard that protects the country.Alina purposely fails the test as a young child so she can stay with her best friend, Mal. Eventually her powerful gift is discovered and Alina is tested on many levels, both with her gift and with the way of life.
One final thought about testing, what are you doing to improve the testing environment where you work? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The psyche behind book selection!

I have been working hard, as I do every year, to encourage my students to challenge themselves as they choose books to read. "Try something different," and "Haven't you read that already?" are comments I hear myself say frequently as my kiddos browse.
Over the weekend I found myself trapped at the hospital waiting for a family member to respond to treatment.  I was stressed out!  I pulled out my handy ipad and made a quick purchase from Amazon, not one of those many professional books on my list, not one of those front runners for &YA awards, not even a thoughtful (read as challenging) adult novel, but a trashy pulp fiction novel with no redeeming qualities besides the fact that it was pure entertainment and escape.
Now I am reflecting on this choice, and wondering if I do a disservice to my students when I do not encourage truly "free choice".  Shouldn't they be able to make the choice to read what they want for whatever reason they have to read?  Which is my higher calling, raising those reading test scores, or raising individuals who will read for the rest of their lives?
Does anyone else wrestle with this issue?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

What books are "hot trends" at my school this year!

The school year is underway, and I am ready for the wild ride!  It is so great when a student pops their head in to say, "Can I check out a book?"  Yes, folks, a book!  Just to read because they want to, and usually its a print format too!  After a few class book talks, books are flying off the shelf.  Here are a few of the books I have shared:
Sylo -  an island community is shocked by the death of a high school football player, followed by rumors of other deaths.  Suddenly government officials appear on the island to isolate the "epidemic", but nothing is what it seems.  A suspense thriller that provides quite a ride, you don't know what is happening until the last two pages.  This is the first in a series.
Period. 8 - another great book from Chris Crutcher!  During the 8th period study hall type class students under the guidance of a seasoned teacher in his last year before retirement meet to talk about whatever is on their mind.  One of their classmates disappears and suddenly you realize that you don't really know that person you sat next to in class for all of those years.  Plenty of thrill and angst, loved it!
A Thousand Words - a timely story about a picture, a thoughtless moment, and the ramifications of an action.  Realistic characters deal with the consequences of sexting, a good story that shares what happens without preaching.

After such a great beginning, I can't wait to see what the rest of the school year will bring.

Monday, August 19, 2013

New books to share with students this fall!

Ready or not, the students are coming back to school tomorrow!  Full of excitement and promise, it is bound to be a great year.  My goal is for it to be a wonderful year inside the media center as well.  How to do this?  Have trending book titles, cutting edge technology, and a welcoming space where students feel at home.
I am in the middle of reading "Boy Nobody", a thriller about a teenage assassin, its full of mystery and intrigue, with the required teen angst and romance thrown in for good measure.  Another mysterious book is "The Brides of Rollrock Island" a story of selkies and witches, told as a cautionary tale full of melancholy and regret, told in lyrical language and with a setting of times gone by. 
These are just two of the new books I plan to share with my students; how about you?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to school, are you ready? I am and here's why

It's that time of year, back to school!  How many of us are ready?  We've read professionally, learned new web 2.0 or technology skills to share, and took advantage of the myriad of PD available, live and online.  If you did, good job; now is the time to figure out how to most effectively share this with your teachers.  Will you have a 10 for tech, a ten minute overview of a new tool you have learned?  Or maybe an enticing email teaser, if you plan with me you will find out about .....?  Maybe you are like me and you are a blitz bomber; just bound in to a planning meeting with "Ooohh, look what I have to share with you!  And, I brought candy!"  Whatever your style, remember it is not really professional development unless you use what you've learned.
Here's one great tool I use: Scoop It (  You set up the topics you want searched, and this program culls the Internet for possibilities, puts them together in a magazine-like forum, and delivers it to your email box for you.  You then get to decide what articles/links work for you and you add them to your page.  People can follow you, I think this would be great to collect information for a particular course project.  In the past I have used it for "women in the military" when a student was doing a research project, I have a technology in education page, inquiry in library, and others.  I love that new material is collected and sorted for me; and it also provides a place to save this info so I can find it again!
Any great tools you have discovered this summer? Please share!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

10 on the 10th Picture books for High School use!

I love picture books!  I don't care what grade level I am teaching, it can always be improved with a good picture book.  Here are ten I plan to have in my collection.

10 the 10th  Picture books

While not the newest, it is still a powerful choice with which to begin the school year.  There is certainly power in a book. I love to use the video! Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert

This book shows us several things; the English side of World War II, and the softer side of Winston Churchill.  Every illustrated page includes Churchill’s beloved little poodle.  A great humanizing factor is demonstrated here. Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Love this one!  Great on so many levels.  One, how should you use that exclamation point? I love to overuse it, myself.  Could have students writing “books” for other punctuation marks, but I really like the underlying idea of finding your place – should spark great class discussion.

With the three parts to each page like a flip book, Chuck provides an interactive approach to sharing his art, and his disability.  Engaging and inspiring telling of the life challenges Close has had to make, but through it he continues to create art. Monsieur Marceau:  Actor Without Words by Leda Schubert

Did you know he worked in the French Underground during World War II?  He helped to move children to safety; using wordless gestures to show direction.  A very interesting biography, good for looking deeper at what we think we already know. Dark by Lemony Snicket

This is a powerful narrative about something we can all recognize, a fear of the dark.  A great mentor text if you have teachers who ask students to create picture books for a class project.  Of course, I could also love it because it is illustrated by Jon Klassen! A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Done is gray, with black pencil lines, this wordless picture book clearly demonstrates the power of humanity, one person helping others. by I. C. Springman

A fable for our time, this tale told sparsely with words and more with illustration, sends the message “too much stuff”. Sure to spark classroom conversation. Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems

William Carlos Williams’s famous poem ”This Is Just to Say,”,  models  fun, thought ful poetry  students can create.,TopRight,1,0_SH20_.jpgThe Fox in the Library by Lorenz Pauli

OK, I admit it; this book is here because it takes place in a library!  The fox did not come to read, but that may change.

Monday, July 29, 2013

10 on the 10th! Coming soon to a blogpost near you.

My friend Cathy Mere started this a few years ago and it has really grown.  (I will give you the link in my next post!)  I would like my 10 this year to be amazing informational (nonfiction, but with flair!) books for the high school library/classroom.  Any ideas?  I will give you credit if I use it.
Thanks in advance for the assist!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Today's mantra -- finish what I start!

Today's mantra -- finish what I start! I have so many half-done projects and this day the day I complete them. Or at least as many as possible! Those of you who know my great talent for procrastination will find this very entertaining, I know! 
How many of you are in the same boat?  Great ideas for you library begun but not finished?  That online book club idea?  A new book display?  Starting that dynamic web page?  It is so easy to let those things slide as you struggle to get the day to day job finished, but think for a minute; how do you feel at the end of the day?  Are you simply content with your accomplishments, or excited by what you have done?  Or more importantly, how do your patrons feel?  
August is right around the corner, let's use this time to try and create some fresh ideas ready for the start of school, or at least finish some you have started.

Ready, set, begin ......

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Reflection on Change

Change is uncomfortable.  Is that because we are creatures who crave the comfort of a standard form, or because we have that lazy gene and like it when we don't have to try hard?   I don't have the answer, and if you asked me last week  I would say that I liked change.  Maybe I am a rabble-rouser or an agent of change, or just an individual who is easily bored, but I would say change can be good.
Why am I thinking about change right now?  I think it is because I am currently taking a course that is causing me to question my status quo, and it is hard.  And messy.  And I am feeling uneasy about it.  Maybe it is more authentic to say that I like to be the one in control of my change; the setting, time, breadth and depth of it.  When I publicize what changes I have made, I am the change maker ready to help others rise to this challenge as well. 
But not this week, this week I am the squeaky wheel, the naysayer, the "but, what about ...." and I am distressed by this.  Does this mean I was fraudulent in the past, I'm not that change advocate?  Or maybe it depends of what I am changing, what area of my life is undergoing change.
Maybe by next week I will feel like a change maker again, ready to lead the charge, but not right now.  Not today...  today I need contemplation, and reflection, not persuasion and coercion.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Annual Report done, just in time for Summer!

Well, it's finished, my Annual Report.  Here is the link if you want to check it out!   I learned several things during the creation of this report, hope they are helpful to you.

1. Be sure to take lots of pictures and even video throughout the year.  I find you are either a picture taker or not. If you are not, find a student who can do it for you.  Photos share a lot of information that can't be adequately expressed in a formal report.
2. Find the human element.  Don't forget to add events or activities that show your media center as the hub of the school; not just the research center.
3. Let your personality shine through.  You are an educational leader in your building, show how.
4.  Toot you horn!  Yes, this is difficult, but your media center needs it.

Use your report "creation" as a time for you to reflect on your year; what went well, what you would like to revamp, what you may have missed.  Statistics can point out gaps, take heed of that information.  Did you neglect a content area that needs curation?  You may even want to take the time to do a computer evaluation of your collection; plans for building a particular section of your resources can be a part of your plans for next year.

I was reluctant to get this done, but I am so glad I did.  Here it is June and I already have some goals for next year based on what I learned.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The school year is over, is your annual report finished?

Great ideas for that pesky annual report 

The blog "Adventures of Library Girl" has some good points and great examples of annual reports.  I will confess that I do not have a good track record when it comes to this, but after reading this posting, I am off to school tomorrow to create mine, then I will share it with everyone I can.  It's true that others do not know what I actually do and why, and they won't unless I share that information.  I will have a new principal and superintendent, so this is the time to step up.  I will share it when it is finished.  If you have one, please feel free to share it with us!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

End of a school year, time for reflection

Only two weeks left with students!  Where did the time go?  I had plans to do so many things, was I successful or not?  Think it is time to do some reflection on the year; what things I did, what I didn't, and how did those decisions impact student learning.
This would be a good time to finish my annual report (must start it to finish it, though!)  Guess that is a good place to start, and I can use the report to guide my plans for next school year.   Stay tuned as I start this process; compiling my report and analyzing my results, and then making new plans.

I know there are things I am happy about; my Battle of the Books event, and new this year, a traveling BOB team.  The work I did with a special class for at risk students (it is a Read 180 class, Scholastic, if you know that) to make them more authentic readers and the work with my ELL classes because of the grant we received. 

I added new databases and some eBooks to the collection, as well as lots of fiction recommended by students, and put print magazines out as well; not sure that is curation, but it is collection development.

Areas I still need work are building a collaborative atmosphere with my content area teachers; Science and Social Studies are challenging; next year?

Looking over this rambling I realize I have a lot to do in the next two weeks! Yikes - I will continue to share what I am doing and hope you tell me how you are handling some of these things.

Bring on Summer!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where has the time gone?

What, Christmas and Valentine's Day have already passed? Where have I been? Well let me tell you. This has been my year of presentations, everywhere, on a variety of subjects. So I have been talking, just not to you. But I'm back and ready for conversation.
So many people are talking about Common Core being an opportunity for school librarians to take a leadership role, I am wondering what you think about that? Are you finding that teachers are coming to you for help? Do you know where to find great nonfiction texts that meet the diverse needs of their students?  And most importantly, are you keeping up with the technology your students are experts of?
These are are areas I am struggling through; 21st century learning, a place for books and literature, keeping students engaged and teachers supported, and meeting my own professional development needs.
Over the next few weeks I will delve into these topics, with more questions than answers, and hope you will join me with your own ideas and together we can create a professional learning network.