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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Long term impact of reading to children

I saw this article from BBC--"Reading to children has long impact"-- and my first reaction was "duh....."  But then I stopped to consider maybe everyone wasn't as atuned to reading problems and difficulties as I am.  I see this every day.

The article talks about when parents or caregivers read to children early on, the impact lasts well into the teen years,  The difference can be reading levels as much as 6 months ahead  for those who had been read to.  And the parental involvement in reading overrode other social difficulties that could be present.  That fact alone speaks volumes.

I know it's hard to find time and energy to read and read again.  I was a single mom when my daughter was young and I can tell you some nights it took all I had just to read a few stories.  But I did it.  The house was a disaster and papers needed to be graded, but my daughter was my priority.  I don't want to sound like I was a saint.  Not at all.  But I did try to make reading a fun, special Mommy/ daughter time.  And now I have proof those exhausting nights of "just one more story, Mommy" were worth it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Using Google effectively

I read a lot of articles from Mashable--a site devoted to new ideas in cyberspace. And I found this great infographic on using Google properly. I think I might make it into a poster to display in my library.

The page covers all the basics like using quotation marks, not asking full questions and the Boolean terms. But I especially like the section that says to be sure not to rely on Google alone--you need to check library databases as well.

Too many students these days just try to find information through Google and that's it. This article says that less than 25% of students can perform a well executed search.  And especially for academic research, the results can be less than spectacular.   Students don't seem to realize there's tons of info out there just waiting to be found but it's sorted and indexed through a database.

Hope this helps you too!

How to Use Google infographic from Mashable.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Similes and Metaphors in Music

Stumbled on the cute idea via Pinterest--great website but the biggest timesucker of all times!! You can "pin" pictures and videos to a virtual bulletin board to hang on to them. As I said, great but you get started and all of a sudden, WOW it's HOURS later!

Anyway, I found this great little video lesson on similes and metaphors. I worry about the copyright issues of the songs and lyrics since it's posted on the web. I didn't time the clips but if they are less than 30 seconds, it's okay. You could do the same thing and house it on a district server.

Such a cute idea! Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Break!

Our school district generously gives us the whole week off for Thanksgiving.  Actually when we had the last three days of the week off, our Mon/ Tues attendance was so bad, it wasn't worth being there.  So now we have the whole week.

I think I'm going to take a digital break too the rest of this week and recharge my batteries.  I love my blog, but I feel like I'm becoming too negative in some of my comments so perhaps it's time to step back and chill out for a few days. 

I don't know about you, but I am so anxious for the break......have way too much to do, too many books to read and too many places to be, but isn't that what holidays are for?

Talk to you next week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hunger Games movie trailer

Okay, I'm sure by now you've seen this movie trailer, but on the off chance you haven't, take a look. I like the scenery and costumes and the young lady playing Katniss might actually do better than I originally thought. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this movie--it looks good so far. This is one story that Hollywood better not mess up!

Take a look--what do you think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gaming in the library

As much as I hate to disagree publicly with a fellow Texas librarian, this blog post really irritated me.  His argument is that a permissive gaming policy is a good thing for libraries, especially high school libraries, to adopt.  I really couldn't disagree more.

He mentions concerns I would immediately raise--the lack of computers, ditching class to spend the hour playing instead of working.  My library has 44 computers on the floor and most mornings all of them are full with students who need to finish something before the bell.  How can I justify letting a gamer hog a computer when a student needs to complete a graded assignment?  And I spend a good portion of my day --way too much of it, in fact, sending kids back to class who were sent here to finish an assignment and instead they choose to play Minecraft (the game the blogger addresses.)

With all the concern about testing and dropping scores and lack of time for students, is this the best use of our time?  I know--there's the argument about games teaching leadership, cooperation, etc,etc, etc.....  Okay, I can see it being a part of a teacher supervised lesson. I've used them myself!  But I don't want the library to turn into a gaming parlor.

Part of my hesitation is what I've had to deal with at my school.  When I first came here, this library was a zoo.  Students wouldn't come in here to work--it was loud, students ran around yelling, throwing things--you get the picture.  It was worse than the behavior in the commons.  Every computer was taken up by a gamer.  And because games were allowed, kids would try to see where else they could go on the computers-porn was rampant in here.  The library was the joke of the school.

Now five long years later, this library functions as it should.  Students come in here to work and yelling is not tolerated.  Gaming is also not tolerated.  And because trying to get to a game is "against the rules," I don't have any trouble with anything worse. 

And I have another serious problem with saying games are okay--if students have enough free time in the day to play games (that aren't part of a teacher designed lesson) then perhaps their schedule isn't rigorous enough.  Aren't we all trying to add rigour to our curriculums? I mean, after all, America is falling down in the ranking worldwide in terms of education.  Or perhaps we need to look at the grades of those very students.  I would imagine there's room for improvement.

So count on me to firmly say,  "NO games in my library."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reading fiction

Okay, I love it when an article comes along right when I need to read it. After my ranting about "books dying", I found this essay about why we read fiction.   The author talks about a book I've not read but the ideas about are universal.  Why read fiction?  Too many people think it's a waste of time.  But the details, the stories, the universal truths found in fiction stories bring us together, remind us to be human. 

Too many times I feel guilty at the end of the day if I want to read.  I mean, I'm around books all day, right?  But as any librarian can tell you, there's little, if any, time to read at work.  I read less now than I did when I was a classroom teacher and most people don't believe me.  But this author shows how--even as a busy father with two children under the age of two, he found time to read a book.  And if he can then some can I.

It reminds me of something I saw years ago.  If a person reads just 15 minutes a day, you can finish a book.  My math skills are poor so I don't remember all the numbers, but it was something like 15 minutes times 60 words per minute times four for an hour........or close to that. (I wish I  had known how much math I would really need in my life--I would have paid much more attention!!!!)

And I could have used this article with my boss--not only are books not dying out, we should all be reading every day.

Monday, November 14, 2011


So the purpose of a blog is to share ideas--both professional and personal--and today I need to vent some personal anger. I wasn't around school one day last week and my boss brought a community member by to see the library. My principal asked my assistant to explain to our community member what we did in the library since "books are dying out." WHAT???

And of course, I wasn't there to defend my job, my profession and my passion. The first question I would have asked him was if he ever even looked at the circ reports I send every six weeks. The first six weeks this year we checked out 900 more books than the first six weeks last year. 900!!! Doesn't seem like books are dying out to me.

Granted, most of our research takes place digitally now. I'm teaching a series of lessons to some freshmen about the digital resources we have available. Some of our resources are databases and some are online BOOKS!!! Again, doesn't look like books are dying out.

And the other comment that really irritated me was that kids were using "Kindles and those kinds of things." Excuse me? Has anyone looked at our student population? We are not a wealthy school, and I don't see too many students using Kindles, Nooks or any ereader device. Phones yes--ereaders no. Ask any librarian about the current ereader issues--those devices are made for libraries to use easily and we are trying to figure out which way to go. But with our limited funding these days, we can't afford to make a mistake so it's worth the time to investigate. And therefore, the public perception is we are out of date and useless since we only have books......sigh.....

I tell people over and over again--the stories will be there; it's the delivery medium that's changing. We're in the midst of as big of a change these days as in the days of the printing press. Some people believed it would signal the end of mankind as we know it. And we survived. As we will survive the digital age. Even after things settle in and a standard of digital writing is set, books will still be around--and must be interesting to hold our attention.

I can tell I'm angry about this topic--I'm rambling. But it's very disheartening to feel like your boss doesn't support-- or even care-- about your job and how librarians can help students. I know what I can do and I spread the word as much as I can through reports, stories and collaboration with teachers. But I'm at a dead end now.

What else can I do to share what I can do as a teacher librarian to help our students?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Thank you to everyone who has ever served in our nation's armed forces. We owe our freedoms to you all.

US Department of Veteran's Affairs website--with lesson ideas and information.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sad news and budget cuts.....

from the Austin American Statesman dated 11/1/11:

More cuts to school jobs expected
More than 60 percent of Texas school districts expect further staffing reductions next year as they grapple with state budget reductions, according to a survey by school finance consultant Moak, Casey & Associates.
Almost 9,600 school district jobs — one-third of which were classroom teachers — were eliminated this year by the survey respondents, which serve 39 percent of the state's students. More jobs are expected to be lost next year because schools are relying on some one-time federal money to prop up their budgets this year and some districts will lose additional state aid next year, the school districts report.
The Legislature this year underfunded schools by $4 billion in basic aid and cut $1.3 billion from grant programs that paid for full-day prekindergarten, assisted students struggling to pass state standardized tests and more.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  We're already struggling this year to stay at the same levels of service and proficiency as in the past and now we may be facing more cuts?  As my dad used to say, "You don't need more people; just get bigger sticks."  Maybe not politically correct but appropriate for this situation.

I'm seeing classes of 30 in English and English teachers about to drop from trying to keep up with grading.  I see our elective teachers without a conference period every other day.  And for me, I'm trying to run a library for a school population of 2000 with one assistant.

 I should consider myself lucky.  I hear of too many other schools where librarians have no help, including our middle schools.  I used to be a middle school librarian, and I don't know how in the world those librarians are managing to function.  I know they must grudgingly close the doors some days so they can go teach.  Which is worse?  Not being able to teach a class? Or going to teach but closing the library to do so?

Yet on the flip side, some of our reorganization in our district seems to me to be counter productive.  I'm now considered a part of the tech department, and I've been requested to attend functions that pull me out of the library at least three times already this semester.  The number of subs needed to cover these meetings could have paid the salary for my assistant. I'm left to wonder--where's the logic in this?   

I sometimes wonder if this is the handwriting on the wall--how people see the library and how we function.  Or is it part of a bigger picture--the lack of support for education in general?  I'm not sure, but I know teachers and librarians are stretched to the limit at this point.  Our children deserve better than we are giving them. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

LibGuides growing

I saw a great article on the forum for Springshare, parent company for LibGuides.  At this point in time over 200,000 LibGuides have been created with more than 1.3 million pages of content.  I've talked about LibGuides before, but these statistics just reinforce my love for the site.  This many librarians can't be wrong!

In this day and age of Internet access to information, librarians need to be able to help kids and adult patrons find the kind of information needed to solve reference issues.  I know I've seen a huge upward swing in the use of our databases since I've been using LibGuides.  And in this time of budget issues, the more I can prove a site is being used, the more likely I'll have the money to keep using it. 

And for those times when I don't have a database site handy, I can search the Springshare site for suggested resources from other campuses.  I have an IB Spanish class that has a unit on Chicano artists.  I really don't have the specialized resources for this type of assignment.  But a few minutes on Springshare enabled me to put together a detailed, professional website for the project.  Teacher was happy; kids were happy and I was happy.  Win/ Win all the way around!

Thank you LibGuides--here's to more continued success.  And I'll keep doing my part to get you to 300,000 guides!  :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Importance of Punctuation

Here's a cute 30 second video illustrating the importance of punctuation.  I used to have students do something similar to this by acting out the punctuation from a piece of poetry or prose.  It was always a great lesson!

 But in our digital times, you could have students do something similar to this with Animoto or Photostory.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yet another reason I love Noodletools!

This article from School Library Journal describes a presentation from Debbie Abilock, co-owner of Noodletools, the premier citation site available as far as I'm concerned. Not only does Debbie help students understand the basics behind citations instead of focusing on the trivial details like punctuation, the site also offers search tips and lesson ideas for teachers who teach research lessons.

This particular presentation  talked about using specific search engines to find answers to specific questions rather than just relying on Google for everything. Teaching kids to think about their research before they start searching is another tip. This is probably the hardest part of a research lesson. The computer is like a siren calling to students to jump on and find the answer--when sometimes they don't even know what the question is!

The presentation gave some specific helpful hints even for a search engine like Google. For example I didn't know this--When searching for information between a number range, use two dots between the years or numbers rather than a hypen. So for example, if you want to find out the number of major hurricanes that took place in Florida, type in "major hurricanes Florida 1996..2010" into your search."

All in all sounds like an excellent presentation and I'm sorry I missed it! Thanks to SLJ for the write up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spy School

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs--my most recent book review submitted to School Library Journal

grades 6-10

Ben Ripley, self described nerdy math genius, receives a mysterious summons to join the Spy School, a secret recruitment arm of the CIA. Since his life’s ambition is to become a spy, he is thrilled by the offer. But once at the school, Ben finds it to be a very different sort of place than any other.

His introduction and initial assessment upon arrival involves ninjas, flying bullets, and Erica, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. His first encounter with a fellow student is a request to hack into the computer mainframe because the rumor mill says Ben supposedly has great cryptography skills. Later that night another secret agent breaks into Ben’s room to kidnap him.

It turns out someone keeps leaking sensitive information and Ben’s recruitment to the spy school was set up as a ploy to find the leak in the CIA and the school. Using a cover story of cryptography makes him a perfect target for SPYDER, the organization of rogue double agents, who have infiltrated the school. Most of the adults at the school are so inept and clueless that Ben and Erica, working together with the help of their fellow students, find the mole and save the school from being destroyed by a giant bomb hidden in a secret passageway.

Twists and turns in the plot keep the reader guessing the identity of the mole until the very end. The story, over the top funny, combines Alex Rider’s espionage skills with a huge dose of the sarcasm of Artemis Fowl. Subtle digs at the stuffiness of a federal agency and the romance of spying abound throughout the story; at one point Ben is called a “Fleming—someone who comes here actually thinking he’s going to be James Bond.” Readers looking for a funny story, even if they aren’t fans of spy novels, will enjoy it. The book ends with a letter, fully redacted of all sensitive information, to the Director of Internal Investigations recommending Ben’s continued attendance at the school, leaving room for a sequel or two in the future.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Endangered Minds

Nicholas Carr's article yesterday reminded me of a book I had to read for my NJWP certification.  The book was called Endangered Minds by Jane Healy (link courtesy of Amazon). It was originally published in 1990 and I'm not sure how many people read it today.  But that long ago, Ms. Healy was talking about some of the same issues as Carr's current article.

I remember the one point that stuck with me had to do with television viewing habits of kids.  My daughter was young at the time and I had let her--matter of fact, encouraged her-- to watch shows like Sesame Street if she watched tv.  Well, Healy's assertion about these sorts of shows contributing to our changing brains really scared me!  All I could think was "What have I done???"  The short, quick bursts on these shows are  not allowing developing brains to grow and develop the plasticity needed for long term concentration and reading.  And I had thought I was being such a good mom by only letting her watch educational tv!

The short catchy bits of Sesame Street and shows like it were just the beginning.  This same generation now uses the Internet regularly and now the Internet is being blamed for the same thing.  This generation doesn't stand a chance!  Too much skimming rather than long, deep reading prevents us from developing the skills we need to read in depth.   Our reading skills are wide rather than deep.  And while skimming is a valuable skill for researching, it isn't always going to work for reading. 

So the question for me remains---what have we done to our children?? Do we need to worry about what sort of brains are humans going to have in the near future?  Will we lose the ability to think deeply about topics? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nicholas Carr keynote speech at AASL

While I wasn't able to attend AASL this year, I followed along via Twitter.  I was interested in the responses to Nicholas Carr's keynote speech with a title similar to his recent article in Atlantic Monthly--Is Google Making Us Stupid? Some interesting points in his article do make one stop and think about what's happening to our brains in the age of the Internet. 

Most people find it hard these days to concentrate on reading for long periods of time.  I know I see this in kids every day.  "Reading is hard," and "I don't like books--they're too long" are comments I hear on a regular basis.  Carr's article points out that people tend to skim when reading online--bouncing along the surface like "a jet ski" as they look for information rather than reading something indepth.  Hyperlinks added to text don't help either--those tempting links are more than one can resist sometimes and then the distractions begin.  I can't count how many times I've been looking for one thing and ended up somewhere else---and still don't know what I originally was looking for.

Carr ends his article with a comparison to the hue and cry that resulted from the invention of the printing press--people in that time thought the world was changig and intellectual laziness would result.  And we know that didn't happen.  So maybe this is the same thing.

But I must admit I see changes in children's reading habits and not for the better...

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm going to try again....

I think I finally figured out why I haven't been able to embed videos! So here's the Poe video once again!

The Tell Tale Heart - UPA (1954) from glasscapsule on Vimeo.

The Tell Tale Heart--animated video

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite writers especially at Halloween.  I would always try to schedule my short story unit around October just so I could end with Poe's stories.  I found this little video through a site called Open Culture --it has audio books, video, full length movies, courses--some great stuff! 

This is an animated version of the story The Tell Tale Heart.  To show you how long I've been in education......I used to show the 16mm version of this on a threaded film projector....sigh.....

Happy Halloween!

The Tell Tale Heart

Friday, October 28, 2011

Red Ribbon Week

In Texas our schools celebrate Red Ribbon Week, an anti drug promotion.  I always want the library to participate in whatever the schools doing, so I found this cute list and I always send it out to the faculty

26 Reasons Why Books are Better than Drugs.

1.      Books are available in clean, well-lit libraries and bookstores.  You don’t have to go to dark, smelly alleyways to get them.

2.      No one ever had to have rehab from reading too much.

3.      While it’s not impossible to be arrested and imprisoned for years for mere possession of a book, it is very difficult.

4.      Good books can be enjoyed forever; they don’t disappear up your nose.

5.      Books do not have seeds that explode and burn little holes in your clothes.

6.      You can read books without having to burn expensive incense to cover up the odor.

7.      Although driving an automobile while reading is dangerous and not recommended, at least, there isn’t an organization called Mothers Against Smart Drivers running noisy picket lines outside the courthouse.

8.      A book is self-contained—there are no needles, pipes, papers, spoons, screens, razor blades, straws, mirrors, or other “extras” to buy.

9.      Books allow you to enter other realities and visit other worlds……..and come back again.

10.  Nobody ever read too many books and then jumped off a building or walked through a plate glass window.

11.  You don’t have to flush all your books down the toilet when there’s an unexpected knock at the door.

12.  Books enable you to enter other people’s minds.  Drugs only allow you to enter your own mind and stay there.

13.  It is extremely rare that anyone gets machine-gunned to death in a book dispute.

14.  Your friends won’t desert you when you run out of books.

15.  Dogs won’t slobber all over your luggage at the airport sniffing for books.

16.  You can proudly display books on your coffee table, even when the preacher visits.

17.  You cannot get AIDS, hepatitis, or cirrhosis of the liver from a book.

18.  You can read all you want, and it won’t show up on a urine test.

19.  If you miss reading one day, you won’t go into painful withdrawal. (well, most people won’t anyway……………..)

20.  No matter how many books you have, you can’t be charged with “intent to distribute.”

21.  Books don’t have negative interactions.  You never have to worry about what’s going to happen if you mix two or more books.

22.  The supply of books is not governed by unpredictable circumstances, such as the weather in South America.

23.  Courtroom and hospital stories are always more fun to read about than to participate in.

24.  Books don’t make your nose run.

25.  If you sneeze, you won’t blow your expensive books all over the floor.

When you expand your mind with books, it stays expanded.

Happy Red Ribbon Week!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm writing a novel....

Okay there I've said it out loud--I'm writing a novel.  Just starting actually....but I'm trying to write a YA novel.  My goal is to write a series that appeals to kids but won't make librarians nervous to put it on the shelf due to language or content.  Not sure I can pull this off but I'm going to try. 

I'm always nervous about telling people I'm writing something--I don't want to be one of those folks who says, "I'm an author" but haven't published a thing....or have self published something because no company would pick it up.  That, to me, isn't a real author.

I have been published before--my reviews for SLJ still give me a thrill everytime I see one in print.  And I never will forget when my principal came into surprise me with the publication of my first journal article--he had seen it in the journal and interrupted my class to tell me.  I didn't even know it had been accepted, and I was so excited!!! 

But writing a book is a scary proposition.  Just about anyone thinks they can write a book.  Some can; some can't.  I've seen some pretty poor ones over the years.  And I think how did they get a publishing contract???  And then I think, if they can, so can I. 

I once read a quote--I can't even remember who said it--that writing is easy; you just sit at the typewriter (well, computer these days...) and bleed.  And that's so true.  I know when I've written something good because it flows out of me like blood on the page.  And I know when I'm not thrilled with something because it's like pulling teeth to get the words out.  And that's a good scenario to share with our students, I think.  They need to know that even professionals have to think, plan, struggle and work to get a piece of writing done "right."

So now that I've taken the first step and said the words out loud, I need to get busy.  Once I have a substantial start to my book, I'll post it here so I can get some feedback.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Zealand has the right idea!

I ran across this website from New Zealand recently and it really got me to thinking about the way libraries offer reference services these days. This site offers real time reference help from librarians during the afternoon--prime homework time.  Or if it is after hours, then the site offers suggestions of other sites to visit for answers.  This is such a good idea!  Instead of the traditional reference librarian on the phone, let's go to where our patrons are these days--online.  I wish more libraries could offer this service.

I think there was initial reluctance to the site on the part of librarians who were afraid the impersonalness of the Internet would impede their service.  Librarians can learn a lot about what a patron needs just by talking to them and trying to determine exactly what sort of information is needed.  And talking via the Internet just isn't the same. 

But students don't have any qualms about talking via the Internet--matter of fact, most think it's no big deal.  So shouldn't library help be offered so it's no big deal either? 

Now if I could just figure out the time difference so I could catch the site while someone's online..........

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

History of ebooks and readers

I found this very interesting powerpoint on SlideShare and it talks about the history of ebooks and ereaders.  Did you know Project Gutenberg started in 1971?  I didn't realize it was that long ago.  And do you know what was the first entry into Prject Gutenberg?  The US Constitution.

 But the timeline of ereaders is really fascinating. 1993 was the year Apple introduced the Newton--remember those?  I didn't either.  They didn't last long.

Sony's ereaders came in 2006 and the Kindle came along in 2007.  I've owned mine since 2008--I have the second generation one. I love the cover from Newsweek magazine the year the Kindle was introduced. On the Kindle it says "Books aren't dead; they're just going digital."

Watching this powerpoint is a bit like time travel for me--I remember these devices and now to see they are considered "antiques".....well, it blows my mind.  Just goes to show you how fast technology is changing these days!  And it seems to be getting exponentially faster!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Texas Book Festival

So according to this article in the Austin American Statesman, 35,000 people attended this weekend's festival.  I was one of them!  I love the book festival and the numbers show me many others do as well. 

I didn't really get to sit in on any authors this year--I volunteered and got to work outside the Senate chambers talking to people waiting in line for the sessions.  My second session was an author who had researched Warren Jeffs. a polygimist who ran a compound in west Texas and the session was packed! 

I was amused by the number of questions people asked me --like I was a Capitol tour guide (I know where the bathrooms are now!)  Good thing I've spent lots of time going to the festival in years past!

I must admit it makes me proud as a literacy educator to see so many people gathering to talk about stories and books.  My favorite part of the festival is to stand outside one of the many children's tents and watch.  To see kids loving the storytelling, the music and all the events just for them makes my heart happy and somewhat hopeful for the future.  Reading and writing, storytelling and sharing--these skills aren't going away any time soon.

And a side note to my librarian friends.....have you seen the new crowd sourced, free ebook distributed by Kristin Fonticharo and Buffy Hamilton? It's called School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come. Download your copy here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shelter by Harlan Coben

I recently reviewed this book Shelter by Harlan Coben for School Library Journal. (link courtesy of Amazon.)  Today I saw a book trailer for the book.  The trailer does a good job as a teaser for the book.

I thought this was a really good book--I believe it's the first YA book from this author.  I was investigating his website and saw my review as a pop up on the site!  Actually it was listed as being from SLJ but I recognized the words and knew it was mine!  As long as I've been writing reviews for SLJ, I still get goosebumps when I see a review of mine in print. 

Coben writes other adult books as well as YA.  Think I'm going to have to look for some more of his books--if they are as good as this one, it will be well worth it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

National Day of Writing

I would be remiss as a literacy educator if I didn't mention today is the National Day of Writing.  Here's the link to the NCTE website about it.  What are you writing about today?


We have found a great concept we use to help our students understand the types of questions they need for their research --red light/ green light questions.  I first read about it in Kristin Fonticharo's book 21st Learning in School Libraries (link courtesy of Amazon).  Red light questions are the yes/ no questions students tend to ask which prevents them from gathering any  more information.  Green light questions are the open ended type of questions they need to help them focus their research.  And the concept of red light/ green light is one students seem to grasp.

After doing some searching on the Internet, we found this great powerpoint on SlideShare which we have been using with our students when they begin their research.  Our seniors are almost finished with their senior projects.  When they are finished, I think I might survey their teachers and see what they thought about using the red light/ green light concept.  I'll let you know what I find!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wrong technology focus in the classroom

Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology 

An article I read in Leader Talk from Education Week discusses the idea how education is putting technology in the wrong hands.  Instead of teachers having all the "toys" and all the fun, we should be putting the "toys" in the hands of the students.  Aren't they the ones who need to learn how to use it?  Sure, it makes for a great lesson when teachers can use white boards and clickers but isn't it a better use of the technology to give the kids access to laptops so they can search and type their assignment?

I see this happening all the time.  The current theory is "let's give teachers this tool" but no training or not enough time to learn it.  So instead of the money being used to buy items for students' use, the money goes for something teachers don't have time to learn to use.  And in these current budget times, is that the best use of our limited funds?

Another comment in the article is about the theory that teachers have to learn how things work before they can give it to the kids.  I don't think so.  Kids these days can figure out technology way much faster than any adult I know.  And I get so tired of trying to undo a problem for a teacher who is trying to use a piece of technology or equipment and that teacher has no idea what to do.  I want to say, "Don't use it if you don't understand it!"

A wiser use of teachers' time is to design a better context for learning.  Then let the technology function as a support mechanism--as it should.  In other words, don't design a cool lesson for a powerpoint--design a cool learning experience where one option for a product is a powerpoint.  But don't make the focus of the lesson the technology--unless you are teaching a computer skills class!

What do you think?  Are we putting the technology into the wrong hands?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gaming to teach literacy?

Interesting article here entitled Is Gaming the New Essential Literacy?   At first I read the article to find fault with it but the author has a point.  "They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges."  And for someone interested in literacy education, I cannot ignore this growing trend.

Games do a good job of teaching problem solving.  But their content is sometimes severely lacking.  And the English teacher in me can moan about the lack of depth and content all day long-- the fact remains kids love to play games and we as teachers would be remiss not to capitalize on that love. "Although video games have great potential to be powerful vehicles for learning, there is no guarantee this will happen. Just as there is no guarantee that someone will understand the themes and symbols of The Lord of the Flies by simply reading it"  I've never of it in this way but this is very true.

I am still bothered when I see kids just sitting in front of a computer screen staring seemingly mindlessly at a screen.  I am sure their brains are working on the problem solving end of the game.  But I would rather see them reading and thinking about what they are reading -- developing the long term thinking skills rather than the short term, quick attention spans kids seem to all have these days.

The article concludes with a good point about adults getting involved in games, too, so we know what is out there.  He compares it to not being able to discuss Lord of the Flies if you haven't read it.  Guess that's true!

So I'm curious--what's the status of gaming in your school?  My library has a strict no games policy but only because of the lack of computers.  I can't justify someone playing a game when I have kids who need to finish homework in the mornings before school.  But maybe when it's not terribly crowded in the mornings, I need to start turning a blind eye --I'll just have to remind myself they are learning to problem solve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ebooks and libraries--my rant

I saw this article from Publisher's Weekly this weekend and it sparked the following rant!

Etailers and ebooks move ahead

I get so angry when a teacher tells me I need to look into ebooks for our library....whatever do they think I am doing these days?  Sitting around bemoaning the fate of paper print books???  Ppplllluuueeeezzeee!!!!!!!!!  I'm still so irritated--I've been thinking about this for several days following a confrontation with a teacher.

Does this teacher use any of the current ebooks we subscribe to?  Does he look at the science books online and share that info with his class?  Has he ever used his projector to show graphs, pictures or stats from any of our current resources? I know that answer to those questions--NO.  But yet he wants to stand there and proceed to tell me I really need to get with the times and buy some ereaders because he uses one and therefore knows all about them.
I wanted to say, "When you've done the amount of research I have done on ebooks, then we'll be on a level play field and can talk."  But I didn't--I was so stunned at his arrogance.  Does he know anything beyond being an individual reader?  Does he know anything about the roadblocks publishers are throwing up for libraries because heaven forbid, they might have a cut in their precious profits!  Has he considered the logistics?  Who's going to monitor the content?  Who's going to pay for it? Does he have any idea how much Overdrive wants to charge for their service?  Way more than our district can begin to afford!

 And not to mention what sort of platform should we go with--Kindles? Nooks?  Ipads?  Or should we concentrate on a platform that can be downloaded to individual's own devices?  If we do buy devices, how do we protect them from damage?  What happens if one is broken, lost or stolen?  What happens if someone downloads inappropriate content? 

I wish publishers would realize how publishing is mirroring the music industry--once the music folks found a cheap easy format for distributing their music--it's become a universal standard!  And I'm not seeing any muscians or music publishers losing money these days.  We need a simple way to distribute books to whatever reading device people own.  And yes, that means Kindles should be able accept the same sort of download as a Nook.  And until the publishers and distributors realize that simple fact, the ebook battles will continue.

But the next time some smug teacher tries to tell me I really need to get with the times, I won't stand by stunned into silence.  I will pull out my research and facts and clobber them with information.  Because after all, knowledge is power.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How a one year old sees a magazine

A video making the rounds this week shows a one year old with a magazine and then with an Ipad....the baby seems to think the magazine "won't work" because she can't turn it on.....

Way of the future?  I'm still wondering why a baby is playing with an ipad--isn't that a rather expensive toy??

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I just finished reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver, a popular YA book. (link courtesy of   It's an interesting look at the future--another sort of dystopian society ravenged by war.  It is reminiscent of Hunger Games and The Giver.  The premise of the book is when the young adults of the society reach 18, they are "cured" of the disease of love through surgery before the "deliria" sets in.  So you have a society of basically zombies who don't show emotions or feelings, even to their children.

So of course, the main character, Lena is scheduled to have her surgery soon after she graduates from high school.  But before then, she falls in love--or as the book puts it--she becomes "infected" with the disease.  Her mother had the same "illness" so all her life, Lena has dreaded it.  But the "disease" allows her to see the world in a new light--she realizes colors are brighter, sounds are clearer and her town looks very ragged and run down.  Maybe the government control isn't all it seems. 

She makes a visit to The Wilds with Alex and finds a whole society living outside the law.  And she begins to understand everything she has been taught and everything she has believed has basically been a lie.  The ending of the book wasn't what I expected.  But I was hoping for a happier outcome after the sadness of the book--although that wouldn't have really been fitting.

I find it interesting how popular these dystopian society themes are right now.  These books are flying off the shelves.  Are kids --and adults--feeling things are so out of control in our world right now?  Does reading about a worse society make us feel better?  Or is it a warning of what people fear will come?  I'm not sure--maybe it's just a marketing trend like vampires and werewolves--the latest "hot" topic.  I do know I enjoyed the book and will be recommending it to my students!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Web 2.0 in libraries

So how many of these Web 2.0 terms do you know?  How many do you use in your classroom/ library?  It's getting increasingly harder to keep up with it all but keep up we must....or go the way of the dodo bird......

School libraries and the future a slideshare presentation by Anne Robinson,

Also, check out this page from joyce Valenza--School Libraries Teacher Librarians--a page of news and information for school librarians.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A book that belongs in every professional library is called Mindset by Carol Dwick.  This book had a profound effect on my thinking about every detail of my life.  Dr. Dwick's premise is the way you perceive events or your mindset about those events can be the difference between success and failure.  If you look at  events as growth opportunities, whether or not it was a success or a failure, you will be more successful at whatever endeavor you choose--whether it's school related or personal. 

She give example after example of famous people who choose to learn from mistakes rather than sit and brood over them.  She also gives examples of people who sit and pout, those who don't learn from their mistakes.  I know of many people personally who fall into both of these categories.  There's the "it's always someone else's fault" type of thinking and then there's the "what can I learn from this?" type of thinking.

I try to be the latter but honestly, sometimes it's hard.  Making mistakes is not fun, but I used to always tell my daughter, "A mistake becomes a problem only if you don't learn from it."  But the self analysis the growth mindset requires can be painful; however, the rewards can be immense.  To keep tweaking details until a situation works just like you want can give you results beyond measure.

Teachers especially can learn from this mindset.  Our district believes in continuous improvement--a perfect example of the growth mindset.  One of our favorite sayings is that we "fail forward." --in other words, we are free to try new things and learn when those new things don't work.  Not every district is this supportive but our teachers are supported and encouraged to try--to "fail forward" with great results.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Normally on Mondays I like to share a teaching tip for teachers and teacher librarians to give you something new to try for the week.  Today, though, I want to ask a question.  Our district technology people want us to buy some ereaders.

 I'm a proud Kindle owner but I don't think they are designed with libraries in mind.  We have a rep from Barnes and Noble coming to show up their Nooks. And there's always the Sony ereaders.

 But our technolgy people want Ipads.  I tend to think while the Ipads are a multifunction device, it's a bit like giving a kid a Game Boy.  I see what takes place on our computers on a regular basis-- and a lot of it isn't educationally related!  I see the Ipads having the same sort of problem.

 Unfortunately I'm not sure the librarians will have a whole lot of voice in the decision making process so I'm looking for some ideas from people out there--what is your opinion of the various ereaders?  Have you had success with any certain ones?  Do you have problems with Ipads becoming gaming devices rather than ereaders? 

And what about the whole idea of checking out an expensive piece of equipment to students?  I'm more in favor of an electronic platform where kids can download material to their own devices so I'm not constantly worrying about breakage, loss, damage, etc.

Any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Goodnight Ipad

A new version of the classic children's story.......:)
Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hunger Games again.....

You know I've been thinking more since I wrote about Readicide and what we as teachers do to kill the love of reading in kids.  I always worry when teachers want to take YA novels and turn them into in class reading.  Take for example, the Hunger Games trilogy.  I've already talked about how popular the series is with students so in some teachers' minds, these books would be perfect to use as class novels to teach literary elements.


Sorry for yelling.  But I get tired of great books being "read to death" in class, picked apart by teachers and turned into worksheet answers.  Nothing kills the love of a great book any faster.

And I can say this because I've DONE it!!!  Okay, embarrassing confession time is over, but I have.  I've really great books and made kids hate them.  And the sad fact is at the time, I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Well, now as a librarian, I can tell you what I was doing wrong.  Instead of letting kids read and enjoy a great story, I was picking it to pieces.  Details, literary elements, themes....I turned a fun story into an assignment.  Of course, we need to be sure kids understand the things they are reading.  Of course we need to instruct our students in literary elements, themes in literature --all the reasons we all became literature teachers. 

But we don't have to do it to every great story that comes along, especially at the moment the story is popular.  In a few years, when the excitement over the Hunger Games has died down and another series is popular--maybe?  maybe not?  I still hate to see YA literature turned into an assignment.  Some books are just meant to be read and enjoyed.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My love for LibGuides

Not sure if I've talked about LibGuides before.  But if I haven't, then it's time!  LibGuides is probably the best website design tool ever made for librarians.  I don't know what I did before I found it....well, I do...I stumbled along trying to make something work.  But this tool has literally changed my library world!  For the first six weeks this school year, we had 10,717 hits on our LibGuides pages.  I know our library webpage has never had 10,000+ hits in any six weeks!

Springshare has done a good job of making a "plug and play" website specifically with librarians in mind.  I've seen lots of differenct uses by lots of different libraries.  Most university/ college level libraries use it to design course guides--help for students enrolled in different courses. 

At the high school I use it more to design specific project pages for different teachers.  This way, I can tailor it to the specific project.  I add the teachers' assignment, due date and whatever library resources are pertinant to that project.  I send the link to the teacher and link it to our library page; however, the class doesn't have to be in the library.  And I know the pages get used because I can see the statistics.

Before LibGuides, I know our library databases weren't used to their potential.  Now I know they are being used and I can tell you how much.  I can add a link to our Destiny catalog and I have a standard page to add with all our Noodletools information.  I add this page to every project--even if the teacher doesn't plan on requiring a citation page--sort of a "peer pressure" to encourage it anyway!  We can also add links for Google books, Google scholar, embed videos, add documents and files or even ask survey questions.

I know I have not tapped the potential of the site--I'm still at a beginner level.  But I tell you what--if I only had $500 in my budget--I would purchase LibGuides before anything else! 

Here's the link to if you want more information from them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I would recommend that every person involved in literacy instruction read the book Readicide: How schools are killing reading and what you can do about it by Kelly Gallagher.  (Link courtesy of  Amazon)  This book describes what we as teachers are doing to extinguish the love of reading in our students. 

Now I never thought what I was teaching would extinguish the love of reading, and I'm sure you don't either.  But have you ever interrupted students in the middle of a passage to ask if they knew what was going on?  Have you ever given study questions to "help" with understanding?  I have --lots of times.  And while there is a time and place for that sort of instruction, we don't give enough time to reading for reading's sake--the sort of pleasure reading you and I do automatically. 

Kids don't get the time now to just read for fun.  If it's not going to be tested, maybe we don't have time for it--that's the prevailing attitude.  And with good reason--we teachers are scared to death of test results.  Our jobs, our livelihoods depend on these tests--often with circumstances we can't control.  So we control what we can--our instructional time.  Time must be alloted to those test skills.

But what about the good old fashioned notion of reading something because we love it?  I hear kids say all the time how much they "hate" to read.  I think it's a matter of they haven't found the right materials yet because I also have seen a student pick up the right book--whatever it might be--and read it straight through.

For some kids the right book is a novel--a sappy romance or a mystery.  For some, it's a nonfiction book on sports, cars or animals.  For some it might be graphic novels.  None of these books lend themselves to being tested so we try to restrict our students to the "classics", the ones we've always taught.  The ones we know we can ask questions a test......

Now don't get me wrong. There's a time and place for this sort of instruction.  As an educated society, we all need to know what references to Shakespeare mean.  Or we need to have read certain novels to have a cultural basis together.

But my point is don't let the fun reading get lost in this instructional time.  Make it a point to give kids time for pleasure reading so you're not guilty of Readicide like I used to be.