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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Snapping Up Lyric Cafe

-Last year, I posted something to our SCASL list-serv about our Lyric Cafe. There were so many questions that I decided to make a blog post about it. 

Dale Anthony, the former Literacy Coach at our school showed me how to do Lyric Cafe. I have always enjoyed it. And, it has always been held in the library.  Here's how it works. Lyric Cafe is a celebration of student writing. What better time to celebrate than the end of the year?   After testing is over and you sometimes hear people say, "We took the test, the kids are done. I'm done. Why do we have school for so many days after testing?" we invite students to read at least one piece of  their writing from the school year.  Some choose poems, some choose short stories. Teachers read too.  In order to participate students  must agree to get up in front of their fellow students, use the microphone and read their work. Those that do not wish to read cannot attend. Four classes come at once, so students will be reading in front of people who are not in their classes. Scary! 

We (8th grade ELA teachers and I) do this with our eighth graders only. Some sixth and seventh grade ELA teachers hold their own lyric cafe event in their rooms. At one time, when our school was just grades seven and eight, we had two days of lyric cafe, one for each grade. We are now home to grades six, seven and eight. With the end of the year being so packed with events, it is almost impossible to find three free days after testing. 

  We aim for a "coffee house" atmosphere and serve hot cocoa, cappuccino, danishes and cookies.  We play music while the students are getting seated and getting their refreshments. It has been challenging to find places in the library that make the best staging area. This past year, however, we came to the conclusion that we didn't need a stage as much as we needed a decent backdrop. Our art teacher uses these black doors connected with hinges to display art in the hallways of our school. These made a perfect backdrop. We draped white twinkle lights over the top, bought balloons and got out the laser lights. Wow! The students loved it. 

We turn off the lights, cover the windows and doors and close the blinds. Students come up to the "stage" in groups of four. This is so they don't feel all alone "up there on stage." One of us always gives each group of students "directions" before they start reading. No laughing, no clapping, no negative comments. Instead of clapping, we snap. Cool, man! Cool. 

 Last year was the first year we had Lyric Cafe without Dale. We weren't sure if we would be able to make it as nice as she always had. We even thought about not having it at all. But my colleague Ruth insisted on carrying on. I am very glad she did. Even though we have been doing this for years I am always surprised and impressed with what our students bring to read. What a great way to end the school year and send students that I have known since they were in sixth grade off to the high school. 

It's Been a While - Unpacking the Summer

June, July and August. Gone.

It feels as if I have lived a lifetime within those three months.

It's been a full summer. I have eight thousand more miles of travel under my belt now, along with countless memories, wrinkles and gray hair. I've vacationed in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.  My sisters and I sold my mother's ancestral home and its contents.

We sold my mother's home.

It was heartbreaking.

There's been a staggering amount of packing and unpacking this summer. We've packed and unpacked everything you can imagine: emotions, relationships, suitcases, boxes, cars, moving vans, furniture, dishes, clothes and ancient family artifacts. The summer has been beautiful and brutal.

 I am not the same.

Soaking up my nieces and nephew was a wonderful part of my summer that helped me through the tough spots. We ordered room service, sang, laughed and giggled, watched movies, shopped, kayaked, ate ice cream, swam, had our nails done,  participated in a fun run/walk, and watched fireworks together by the lake.

Being with my sisters was great too. We did a spa day,  I tried raw oysters for the first time, and we pulled up to the Ritz Carlton in Cleveland in a U-Haul.

Since one of my sisters lives in Chicago I managed to squeeze in a day at the ALA  convention where I met Alice Walker and Oliver Stone. The atmosphere there was electric. It was worth going even for only a day. It was worth going even if the only thing I did was listen to Alice Walker read to me.

 Alice Walker read to me.

 I love that.

 After Chicago, we headed South so I could open our school library for two days. This is the second year I have done this. We had more people come to the library this summer, but still no more than ten people took advantage of the summer hours.  I heard about another librarian having "Summer Fun Days." I am definitely going to call my summer library days something like that instead of just saying the library will be open.  

 Before I started my summer adventures I sent my principal and superintendent my annual report. This time I used Comic Life. I am not sure I would do this again. It may be too much visually. I may need to do more explaining.

So, now that we're all unpacked and settled in, a new school year has begun. I think my experiences this summer have strengthened me. I feel ready to take on challenges with a positive attitude. Here's to a fresh new start and the promise of more adventures all packed neatly into the space of a school year.