Monday, March 17, 2014


I signed up for the SCASL Preconference session called iLead with Ann Martin and Gail Dickerson. We explored the topic of leadership and leaders. One recurring message I kept hearing Ann Martin say was that our students learn from us when we choose to take on leadership positions.  Because I was a candidate for SCASL's President Elect, I nervously listened to the messages about being a leader.  I have been in what I consider a leadership position at my school for a long time and it just feels natural. Being the SCASL President is another story.  I was worried that taking on such a position  would take me away from my students and end up not being such a good thing. So, I found it comforting to think that my decision to accept a leadership role might just wind up being good for my students.

As I walked in to school this morning  that message hit me smack in the face as I looked at signs and decorations that welcomed me back. I am still absolutely bowled over by the balloons, cake and signs posted all over the building. I don't think I will ever forget today.

Students did not make the signs or hang up the decorations, but they certainly were proud and impressed and curious about SCASL and my role in the organization. They made me laugh with their questions about Secret Service Agents and motorcades.

Wouldn't it be something if all of this inspired one of these students to someday accept a leadership role? I will carry my students with me on this journey. I can't wait to see where it takes us.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Unpacking SCASL '14

I always look forward to our SCASL Conference because I come away with so many nuggets of insight, innovation and inspiration that excite me and improve the library services I offer my students. This year's conference experience was nonstop action for me, like a bullet train.

Of course, we have been preparing for SCASL's annual conference long before last week.  The IT Committee prepared  a session and display board on our new membership management software: Memberclicks, readied the Guidebook Conference App and continued to update our website as needed by our conference planners.  Memberclicks sent a $50 Amazon gift card, as well as some pens and stickers. It was great fun giving them away. Cathy Jo's idea to put the names of all members who had updated their memberclick's profile was genius. It thrills me to no end that Judy Garner, the librarian who won the $50 gift card, is buying books for her library with it! Next year I'd like to put another of Cathy Jo's ideas into action by giving avatar awards like, cutest avatar, most mysterious avatar etc. 

As a candidate for President Elect, I was required to prepare a short talk to introduce myself after our first keynote address. In addition to this I was asked to  "unveil" our new site during the first General Session.As I prepared my presentation, it was inspiring to look back at when she was just a baby. Isn't she adorable? This picture was taken 13 years ago. 

Book Boot Camp had a session, so I prepared an Animoto on humorous books at the middle school level and lined up with the other middies to talk about books. Tamara Cox and Monique German are like rock stars to me, so I was thrilled to actually be presenting with them! They are so professional and polished, and they take everything they do to the next level of awesome.  
Ain't no party like a middle school party baby!

 Can you believe I happened to luck out and get a ticket to the sold out Taste of Columbia Tour? That was simply amazing. Our guide, Dawn, was wonderful. We spent the evening laughing, singing, eating and drinking. What's not to love about that?  My favorite restaurant was Pearlz where we had Oysters on the half shell. Here we are at the Tin Roof. 
I'm gonna whoop somebody!

It felt good to relax after all that hard work, but I still had one more session to go the next day.  Friday morning, my colleague Pam Fowler headed to Columbia with a car load of students to do a 9:45  iMovie presentation with me. By the time I made it downstairs from the second General Session and Toni Buzzeo's awesome keynote, our session was full. Not only that, but I had just learned that I was President Elect and had to plan the next conference. My head was spinning!  Our students did a fantastic job and most people seemed to come away with at least one thing they could use. I think the green screen app we shared was impressive to many people. So, we shared it in Cathy Jo Nelson's "Don't Worry Be Appy" session and then  took our students out for cupcakes! This made for the perfect ending to an amazing conference experience. It seems that I am going to get off this bullet train for a few days and then get right back on another one as I take the reins of SCASL's President Elect and begin to plan the 40th Annual Conference. 
Students make the best technology presenters!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Half Highlights

At our annual holiday faculty lunch in December before we all headed off for break, my principal did something different. He recognized the teachers who had perfect attendance so far this school year.  I was inspired by this idea.  I thought, "We should do this for our students too!" 

 Next year, I am going to plan to recognize our top readers in December or January. I think this may promote participation in our reading program. It definitely can't hurt right? I don't necessarily mean prizes or awards, I am just thinking of recognizing them and telling them to keep up the good work. We had a Super Reader event in December, and that would have been the perfect opportunity to recognize the top reader from each grade level. Next year, we'll do that.
Half year perfect attendance also caused me to reflect on the highlights of my school year from August until December. I try to take pictures of everything I do. Looking back though the pictures helps me review and remember. I often use the pictures in my annual report.  So, over our break I put together a photo collage of the highlights.

We got some cool new seating in the periodical area. Now students can sit down and browse through a favorite magazine. I wanted to play off of the bright colors of our Chihuly type sculpture and capitalize on the green tones of the library, so I got some Granny Smith Apple chairs. They are modern looking and the kids love them.    We also got an end table that flips up to double as a laptop or table stand. That is not seeing much action yet, but I hope it will. 

The Day of the Dead Family Library Night had all the right ingredients: a craft, refreshments, we even had authentic Mexican bread, a writing activity and a presentation about the holiday by one of the Spanish teachers at the high school. Despite the fliers, announcements and advertisements in the local paper, student and parent attendance was really disappointing. Maybe our community is just not ready for something like this. However, the faculty came out for me. I was blown away to have eight teachers attend the event. What a heartwarming treat that was.

I am pleased with how well the Super Reader Program has gone and the Divergent book club was fun. We are excited about the movie premiering in March. Our school wide read of Sharon Draper's Out of my Mind was wonderful and extremely worthwhile.

One of my favorite new additions to our library venue is Chess Club. I am proud to say that I now know how to play chess. I am not that good at it, yet, but I can play. I am also proud to say that my teacher was and still is - a student! Emily is so patient with me! I really enjoy our games. We now have tournaments almost every week and our principal has agreed to purchase some new boards and even a timer for us. We plan to have tournaments between the three grades as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Here's a blog post I made on our #bookbootcamp blog about middle school humor.

I am having a fantastic time learning with this excellent professional development opportunity.

I find myself visiting the wiki and twitter hash tags when purchasing books. I can't believe all the titles I would be missing out on if I did not participate.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Super Reader Card Program Taking Off

It's working! The Super Reader cards are starting to come in. Students are having conversations with their teachers and with me about the books they are reading.

 I am enjoying these conversations.  There have only been a couple of students who needed to go back and re-read because they could not have a conversation about one of their books. After discussing the book in general and delving into deeper questions, it is quickly obvious if we have a faker. At that point in the conversation, usually the student is quick to fess up that they did not read or did not "finish" the book they were talking about.  Because of the nature of these conversations it has not been awkward to have to tell a student to go back and read and try again. I usually ask them if they didn't finish the book and tell them to, "Go finish that book and come back to talk to me." 

The students took me by surprise and I had to put a rush order in for the level two cards. I did not think they would be ready for them so quickly.  I think I like the level two cards even better than the level one cards. I love seeing all the writing on the cards that have been submitted, the combination of two or three people's writing, page counts and so on. It feels good to see something I made being used and enjoyed.

 This is definitely getting a better response than the reading log based programs I have done in the past. I am looking into doing a book fair sneak peak as our first reward for those who have already finished the first level.  Here's what I think is making a difference aside from the cool factor of the cards. 
  • The program keeps moving, the students can turn in a level one card and move on to level two at anytime during the year. Rewards are scheduled, but also unannounced or random. For example, I am sending pencils, erasers and grippers to all the students who have already turned in a card. Anytime a student turns in a card they will get a "treat" sent to them in homeroom. They will also qualify for other rewards. The new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book coming out in November? What a great way to draw for a copy of the book or first check out rights! 
  • Book length. There was some debate over whether we should use 250 pages or 200 pages to count for a book. We decided on 200 pages and I think that is helping. Students have to read six books or a total of 1,200 pages. This is an obtainable goal.
  • Portability. Many students carry their card in their plastic lanyard along with their school id.
This is just the beginning. Hopefully we will see more success with this program as the year progresses.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Testing in the Library? What's a Librarian to Do? The MAP Meltdown.

It's three weeks into the school year.  Orientation is done. Your new and improved reading program is launched, you're doing book talks on the morning news program. The books for book club just arrived and you are ready to start your lunchtime book club. Research projects are being planned and reservations are being made. The music is playing in your head and you are getting into the groove. It's going to be a great year. Everything's off to an awesome start, the ball is rolling and things are going so smoothly.

This screen times 75.
And then, Uh-oh!  It is suddenly time to have some MAP testing in the library for about two weeks. Proctoring, computer crashing, score reporting, makeup testing, that's what we're talking about here. Not quite what you were all excited about.  Time flies when you are having fun, so MAP testing can sneak up on you and pop you in the head like little bunny foo foo.

This could put a wrench in your excitement  or cause you to have to up your anxiety meds. But are you going to let that happen?
Are you feeling blue? Too bad! You've got work to do!

Don't waste more than an hour of your time and your energy whining, complaining, feeling defeated and compromised. You get one hour and one cream-filled donut. Then, you have to move on and figure out how to turn the tables on this situation.  Here are some suggestions from someone who has already used up her annual hour of MAP meltdown time:

Focus on the people.

Your lovelies are going to be visiting your library for testing. Let them check out books after they've finished their test. Make sure your displays are fresh and your promotional materials are ready for work. Push that new reading program and work off that donut!

Teachers will be bringing their classes to take the test. What a great opportunity to collaboratively plan those research projects, show off new resources and build relationships with your faculty. Maximize that MAP testing time. Share that donut with the collaborating teacher!

Your principal is so thankful that he/she can depend on you to make MAP testing go smoothly. Just know that even if it isn't said. It is good to be needed. Eat that donut, you deserve it.

Take your show on the road and get out of the library. (Not for first timers)

While the library is being used for testing and everything is running smoothly, try to get out of the library, if possible, and make some class visits to do book talks and activities, plug your new e-books and show everyone how to use them. Find opportunities to teach research skills and cyber safety.  Consider asking the teachers whose classes will be in the library testing to check out books and confirm tests.

Take a break when the test crashes. It is going to take NWEA a few minutes to get that server back up anyway. So, instead of stressing out and going mad trying to get all the students logged back into the test right away, stop for five minutes after you have recognized that MAP has crashed. You needed a break anyway right? Encourage teachers to have their students bring a book to their computer so they can read if the test should crash or if the students finish early. Usually MAP isn't down for long, so plan on being back on track soon.

Before you know it, this round of MAP testing will be over,  and you will be getting back in your groove. It's better for you and everyone else when you figure out how to manage the MAP meltdown instead of allowing it to shut down your program completely and give you the blues.

Turn the beat around
Love to hear percussion
Turn it upside down
Love to hear percussion
Love to hear it!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Let's Get Excited! Big Plans for the New School Year

Here are some things I am excited about this school year.  

1. My new orientation video. I was looking for a way to freshen up my sixth grade library orientation spiel, so I made this video. You only get one chance to make a first impression! The response of the students really made me glad I did. You can make your own video at GoAnimate! There is a free version and a paid version. I wanted my library pictures to be in the backgrounds, so I signed up for a paid account. In addition to the students really loving the video, it helped me not to be so tongue tied after repeating myself for four days straight. The video also helped me remember to hit most of the points I needed to and not leave anything out. This is also convenient to use for new students.   It's not perfect, and I will be tweaking it to re-use next year. Since the students enjoyed the video so much I may create other videos. Check out Go Animate at


2. The Super Reader Card. Instead of a full page reading log, students will use a business card to record their titles. The reading program last year just did not bring in the participation I want. I think something like this will generate more interest and give the reading program a coolness factor. Plus, I am adding a level-up feature where students who fill up the first card get a new different looking level two card which get more rewards and privileges. Eventually, at the end of the year, our level four card holders will qualify to go on a special field trip to Barnes & Noble and the awesome Spartanburg Public Library where they will have activities waiting for us! I am thinking of more ways to use the card. One of our ELA teachers saw a classroom incentive card and thought the card concept would make a great idea for our reading program. Our students have lanyards and ID badges. Hopefully students will find that these cards will conveniently slip into their ID badge sleeves. 
3. Divergent Book Club and Hunger Games Hype. I have plans for a Divergent Book Club for my 8th graders. Although it looks like the movie may be a bit more edgy than the Hunger Games was. I love using the movie trailers to fuel reading hype. 

4. School Wide Read Aloud. We are reading The Running Dream as our school wide book. Last year we read Wonder and Schooled and had fantastic response from our students and teachers. 

5. Technology Club. Last year we took a group of students to present an iMovie workshop at USC Upstate's Inaugural QEP  Technology Symposium. The students got rave reviews and really enjoyed the experience. They were really excited that they were teaching university professors! USC has some amazing things going on taking technology integration to the next level. Many teachers are using social media to meet their students needs. It was awesome to be a part of this symposium. Hopefully we'll be taking our show on the road again this year. Someone once told me that students should be a part of all professional development for teachers.   I have always believed in this and tried to involve students in the trainings and presentations I do at school whenever possible. After this experience I am even more convinced that students belong in the PD picture. Where technology is concerned, students are definitely  an advantage. Here are some of the Tweets from our day at the QEP Symposium. 

 In addition to these five things I am also very excited that I have fixed the "broken" iPad lab which would not sync with Apple Configurator. After hours on the phone with Apple Tech Support I researched the problem and fixed it myself!  AND - I successfully loaded that laminator with new film without jamming up the machine.

The year is off to a great start at our school library.