Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm going to be off for a few days here at the end of the year.  I'm going to clean up the Christmas mess, work on my novel and kiss my grandson and tell him Happy Birthday!  Just generally get ready for the new year.

Have a happy and safe New Year.  Talk to you next year!! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Perfected by girls

My most recent review submitted to School Library Journal:

Perfected by girls
grades 9-12

Melinda Radford is a pretty typical teen age girl. She loves designer clothes, hanging out with her best friend and participating in school sports. Trouble is, her sport is wrestling, and she’s the only girl on the school’s championship wrestling team. She gets crude comments from classmates, and members of opposing teams refuse to wrestle with her. But she hangs on because she really loves the sport. Off the mat she has the usual teenage girl problems—her best friend and her older brother are making eyes at each other, and her grandmother insists on a boring summer internship at her company for Melinda. And then to top it off, her mother forbids her to see her hot new boyfriend! What’s a girl to do? Melinda has to navigate the normal pitfalls of high school with the added burden of being the lone girl in a boys’ sport. Her situation turns even uglier when she makes an off-hand comment to a writer who turns out to be a reporter for the local newspaper, and she’s seen as not being a team player or supportive of her coach. The article causes a bad situation to turn even uglier, but by the end of the story, when Melinda starts to question her commitment to the sport, she gets a surprise chance to move from the JV to the varsity team and really compete instead of warm the bench. The story has an authentic female voice and shows the loneliness of being the sole girl on the team—the lack of dressing facilities, the opposing teams that forfeit rather than wrestle with her, the ugliness of some of the fans. At one point Melinda attends a girls’ wrestling clinic held at a local college and she, along with the reader, gets a much better picture of the world of female wrestling. Readers will empathize with Melinda’s isolation throughout the school day, although some may tend to gloss over the detailed wrestling descriptions, especially if they aren’t familiar with the sport. But the romance and other aspects of Melinda’s life will outweigh the unfamiliar parts of the story. It should strike a chord with girls, even those who don’t participate in athletics.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Too true to be funny!

Okay found this video via a friend--is it scary that I knew exactly how the conversation was going to end up?  I've had this conversation way too many times and I bet if you've been teaching a while, you've had it too.

Try to laugh.......

"I'm worried about my grade."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The best holiday gift for your children

This is the season of finding the "exact" perfect gift for everyone in your life.  Kids, especially, get innudated by toys, toys and more as parents, grandparents and relatives want to show their love.  However, this article from Business Insider struck a chord with me. "A Holiday Gift your Kids Will Still have in Twenty Years" talks about the most important gift you can give a child--the gift of your time and undivided attention.  Making memories to last literally a lifetime is by far the most important thing a parent can do for children.

I was a single mom for many years and didn't have a lot to spend on Christmas.  I also never knew from year to year if my daughter would be home with me or at her dad's.  So I tried to make the holidays meaningful in different ways--we'd bake cookies together and make decorating the Christmas tree a big day.  She would get so many gifts from all the family I would hide some to make New Year's presents so she could open them later and enjoy them.  I don't know if it was the right thing to do but I do know it's still a memory we have together.

I would love to see more parents reading to their children over the holidays--share the poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" or as it is more commonly known, Twas the Night Before Christmas

 Sing carols together or drive around looking at lights. These activities share the true meaning of the season--time for your family.

But too many people these days buy, buy and buy for their kids.  I know when school starts back we'll see the proliferation of new gadgets, clothes, shoes, etc (these are the toys of high school kids!)  I would ask how many of the kids got time with their folks but I'm afraid the answer would be too depressing.

So just for this year, let's all make a pact to do something for our family to make a memory.  I'll share mine--my grandson is far away from me so I bought some some books that I can read and record for him.  Right now he's still a toddler and Gramma isn't all that important, but hopefully "reading" with me over the years will help bridge the distance and make a memory for the future.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Year in Review from Goodreads

With an eye toward the end of the calendar year, I found an interesting blog posting on Goodreads--the Year in Review in Books!  I especially like it after the comment from my boss about "books dying out."  Still makes my blood boil. 

But this infographic shows reading and books are still a powerful force.  I still say stories will be around --the delivery medium is just changing!  Just like the changes caused by the printing press, the digital revolution is causing great upheaval in the whole publising industry.  But I think, in the end, it will all be for the better.  More words shared with more people.  And as this infographic shows, 2011 was a year for books!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Week in Rap

This might be more history related than literacy related, but I like this site and want to share it.  It's called the Week in Rap.  Each week the site puts together a short video of the events of the week and sets them to a catchy rap tune.  And at the end of the year, there's a year end review.

I could see English teachers using this as a model for a writing assignment or for vocabulary development.  For history teachers, it's an obvious current events tie-in. 

The site used to be free, but now there's a subscription charge.  I wondered why I wasn't seeing it in my email much any more.  They do offer a free trial, and the rate looks to be $45 per year.

Check it out.  Let me know if you can think of other ways teachers could use this site. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

100 posts

Well today isn't a regularly scheduled bloging day, but I have a milestone I want to celebrate--this is my 100th blog posting!  I have only been working on this blog for a few months and I've already reached 100 postings. 
I enjoy this blog--it gives me a creative outlet to write and it's showing me what it's like to be a "professional" writer.  I put that in quotes because while becoming a writer is my goal and dream, I have no illusions this blog is professional.  When I have a bogging spot on School Library Journal or another educational publication, then I'll call it professional!

 I am learning some important writer's tools.   It forces me to write on a schedule instead of when I want.  And it's helping me to learn to structure a topic --in this case,  literacy education-- rather than posting whatever strikes my fancy.   (Okay, so the Year in Legos wasn't really on topic, but it was so darned cute!!!)

And I hope in some way I've been able to share with some in the literacy community--teacher-librarians, teachers or other educational professionals.  If you've read this far, thank you for your support and interest.

Here's to the next 100, and the next and the next.....

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011--the year in Legos

Okay this has nothing to do with literacy education, but it's so darn cute, I couldn't resist!  2011--a year in review all done in Legos!  Enjoy!

Here's the first one--the Royal Wedding.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You tube for schools

I read with great interest the news that You Tube is starting a new site--You Tube for Schools.  I know there is a great deal of information on You Tube teachers can use but in most districts (including mine) You Tube is blocked because of the other content available.  And I know kids try to find that other content so I see the need for it to be blocked.  But this site is supposed to have the best educational video material available to teachers without the concerns of the rest of the site.

I know sometimes when teachers need to access a video link and can't to it through You Tube, I suggest they try Teacher Tube.  But hopefully now this will give them another avenue to find the information they need.

Here's the promo video from You Tube:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fewer students reading for fun

I found this news article from Ottawa, Canda about a report showing fewer children read for fun these days.  The article points to standardized testing as a major culprit.  Teachers spend so much time "teaching the test" that the fun of reading gets lost along the way.  The research shows by 3rd grade students are losing interest in reading--which at least in Texas is about the time students start preparing for our state tests. 

Another point from the article that got my attention was this line: "The report points to a reduction in the number of teacher-librarians as a one reason for the decline." Oh really, you think??

I'm afraid of what we will see in the future.  And I'm not trying to sound like one of those old ladies who complains about the younger generation-- you know..."back in my day.....".  But I am concerned with the stress on kids and teachers with testing and the way districts are considering librarians as dispensable, reading skills will start to deteriorate. 

This quote from the report echoes what I think:
“Regardless of form, reading for the joy of it, for its capacity to broaden our horizons, use our imaginations, think creatively, understand ourselves and others better … must be a vital component of what we encourage in our schools” ...

So as we approach our upcoming winter breaks, we should practice what we preach.  I intend to read several books for fun.  I have three I've started and need to finish as well as one for a review.  What are you planning to read over your break?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

LibGuides for Christmas!

Okay this is the cutest LibGuide I've ever seen!  Loyola University has put together a Santa Claus LibGuide!  They've put links to NORAD, Letters to Santa--even how to track Santa on your mobile phone! 

I especially like the page on the Dark Side of Santa--some of the legends and myths of the "not-so-nice" side of Santa.  The Occupy North Pole is the best! 

Besides the over-the-top cuteness factor, I think this is a great sample of the versatility of LibGuides.  Have I mentioned I love LibGuides???

Monday, December 12, 2011

Teaching with QR codes

QR codes are hot items these days.  QR stands for Quick Response codes.  They are being used all over the place these days for marketing to give "additional" information on products.  The codes can be lined to webpages, text, pictures, lots of things!  Just google "QR code generator" and you can find lots of sites.  I like to use to shorten URL's and make QR codes.

Of course teachers want to tap into this technology.  This article from Edutopia gives 12 ideas for using QR codes in a classroom.  My favorite is to have students build a 21st century resume.  My current business card is a QR code leading back to my Linkedin profile. 

Another great idea is to use a QR code to show examples of quality work.  I've used them to display book lists and summer assignments for our AP and IB students.

Now on the flip side, I've read several articles about QR codes not catching on with the general public.  If someone doesn't have a smartphone, I'm not sure how a person could read a QR code.  And at my school, kids have phones in large numbers, but even so, I did a survey using a QR code and only had about 40 responses.  Several kids asked, "What's that cool design?" 

I love to keep abreast of current trends and this is one to watch.  Will QR codes catch on?  Or is this a passing fad soon to join the Beta video players?

Friday, December 9, 2011

TED talks -- 5 million books

Here's a great video on the digitization project at Google. They scientists are looking at words used though history and using the data to analyze historical trends. Fascinating stuff!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What do TL's teach?

Speaking of infographics, I love this one from Joyce Valenza. I have it posted on my office door as inspiration for me and as information for anyone else who comes in.

I've also used this on my LibGuide for teacher inservice to try to show teachers all the things I could help them with.

Love this one!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 alternative to blogging with students.

Okay it seems funny to say that blogging is getting "old" but sometimes teachers and students are looking for alternatives.  Here is a listing from HP Teacher Exchange of some other sites which offer alternatives to blogging if you are looking for a change of pace.

The first site mentioned is Tumblr.  Tumblr allows more text than Twitter but not as much as a blog so this might be perfect for reluctant writers.  Now I must admit when I tried to look at it here at school, I was blocked and the reason was "pornography" so you might want to check it out before you turn your classes loose on it.

Storify is another suggestion.  My sister sent me a great story written by my nephew on this site.  It combines the best of writing with social media allowing students to put together a great story. 

Anything that gets students to do more writing is a good thing.  If you're feeling brave and are ready to move your students out from blogging, give one of these sites a try.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cybrarian's infographics

I found this listing of 24 infographics for librarians or cybrarians.  These are great!  Good visuals if you need to display information in a graphic format.  I especially liked this one:  Anatomy of a Librarian. 

++ Click to Enlarge Image ++
Anatomy of a Librarian | Infographic |
Image Source: Online Masters

Monday, December 5, 2011


A grest resource for primary source research material can be found at this site Newseum. This site shows the front pages of newspapers from around the world. And they have a great database of historical events--the royal wedding, the Libyan uprisings, the resignation of Egypt's president, even the winners of the Super Bowl!

This site would be a great way for kids to find out exactly what happened on a certain day and a great way to teach primary sources.  There is a disclaimer on the front to be sure to ask for permission before copying any pages--also a great copyright lesson.

Besides it's fun to see what was going on your birthday--especially for old folks like me!

Friday, December 2, 2011

TED talks--The Technology of Storytelling

A great video representation of the power of storytelling in the past and the present. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Why Johnny Can’t Search (with shout-outs to Francey & Buffy!)

Joyce Valenza is one of my library heroes.  She knows everything and shares with everyone!  Her blog posting from November 6 was entitled On Why Johnny Can’t Search (with shout-outs to Francey & Buffy!) .  She talks about an article in Wired magazine about students and their lack of search skills.  She points out the areas where the librarians get some love for their work in teaching kids how to search.

Every librarian I know wants to teach kids search strategies.  Watching them struggle to find information is painful at best.  But in my experience, kids don't always want to take the time to learn searching.  They are so accustomed to clicking and finding something, the idea of having to search for something bothers them. 

I wish I knew the magic formula to help kids.  They have to want to know the best way to search and until that time comes, I'm not sure anything we say can help them.