Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Notes from the AASL Fall Forum

Henry Jenkins, Kristin Fontichiaro and Barbara Jansen helped school librarians develop a better understanding of transliteracy and reading in a participatory culture in a warm collegial atmosphere at the AASL Fall Forum this past Friday and Saturday. David Lankes had an emergency that forced him to cancel. He was missed.

Here is a list of general big ideas, quotes and resources that I came away with and you might find useful too.

*Henry Jenkins’ definition of Participatory Culture – “1. Relatively low barriers for engagement. 2. Strong support for sharing creations with others. 3. Informal mentorship. 4. Members believe their contributions matter. 5. Care about others’ opinions of self and work. Not every member must contribute, but all must believe that they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.”

*Transliteracy Definition - I latched on to one of the definitions  that Kristin Fontichiaro had in one of her slides: “Transliteracy describes a set of skills to “read”, create, negotiate, interact with, and understand content in many genres or formats and the ability to move between them.”  Visit her blog to view her slides. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what transliteracy is!

*The Chicago Public Library’s You Media does an excellent job of facilitating learning experiences and mixing books and technology. School librarians can get plenty of ideas and inspiration from the YouMedia programs and physical space.

*School librarians are in the perfect position to “bridge the gap of participation” in reading and online communities. Participating is creating.

*Check out the You Tube Video of the Professor and Participatory culture and the  Project New Media Literacies website –Lots to get here!

*Jenkins’ Four C’s of Participatory Culture = Collaborate, Circulate, Connect, Create

*Fontichiaro re-mixed the Four C’s above into six, adding cogitate and comprehend

*Check out the Harry Potter Alliance at

*We can learn a great deal from remaking, mashing up and rewriting. An excellent example of this is Ricardo Pitts-Wiley’s work with incarcerated and at risk youth re-writing Moby Dick. Read Henry Jenkins’ blog post to learn more about this and check out MC Lars’s Moby Dick Rap,  “Ahab.”  

*An idea for active novel reading: give each student a photocopy of a page of a book and let them annotate and illustrate it.

* Teach students that Wikipedia is a process not a product.

*If a student’s only audience is his/her teacher, authenticity and learning potential becomes limited.

* Charles Friedman’s definition of Informantics is person plus computer is greater than person.In this same spirit, student plus computer plus school should be greater than student plus computer. Are we using technology in a way that makes this true? Is technology use in education enhancing our students’ content knowledge? Fontichiaro asked:  “How far have we come in using computers to promote cognitive growth in the past 35ish years?” 

*My understanding of the culminating point that  Fontichiaro made in her presentation is that Vigorous learning with technology should: focus on content and curriculum, move students toward synthesis, be authentic and meaningful to the student, require a strong understanding of the genre or format being used to demonstrate learning, be as student-centered as possible, be greater than or enhance what a student could do without the technology.

*We looked at an entertaining YouTube video of a student’sHamlet report and discussed whether there was evidence of any of the elements above.  Can you spot the learning?

*What does a good technology project look like? Attendees worked collaboratively in three different states to explore this question. See the documents here :

Barbara Jansen and Henry Jenkins wrapped up the forum together. I appreciated their uplifting and thoughtful messages.  My head was spinning with all the learning! I know my students and faculty are going to benefit from everything I learned from this experience. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We should all be #Wonder Schools

I have blogged about my experiences with our school-wide read aloud of Wonder twice before in this blog. We began on August 23rd. Here are some of the most memorable parts of my experience with this school-wide read aloud:

Farting and the Superintendent
It was day two of our read-aloud.Our school district's superintendent was in our building to meet with the principal. Of course, this is when we are reading the story of Auggie's birth, over the intercom. Those of you who have read this book will probably remember the farting nurse. Did I tell you we were reading over the intercom and the Superintendent was there?

It was so funny, but I was so afraid! Were we going to get in trouble? How could I have forgotten about this part?  I thought about it some more. That's when I remembered how important it is for our students to see reading as something that can be hysterically funny and entertaining one minute and serious or sad the next. Reading is not boring! We used that part and the part about Mr. Butt and Mr. Tushman to discuss comic relief with our students. How heavy would this story be if there weren't some really good funny parts mixed in?

Going Long
We had 20 minutes each morning for reading Wonder. This is our school's SSR time. We decided to read for as close to 15 minutes as possible to allow time for discussion. One day, one of our two awesome readers, who are now known as "The Wonder Girls", said she wanted to read up to a certain point in the book, the part where Auggie and Jack end up getting in a fight while they are at camp. She said we might end up going over our time. I knew this might be trouble. But, how could I say no? How could we stop at such a pivotal point? Big mistake. Never mess with teacher's planning time. At least give advanced notice if you are going to eat into someone's planning period. Everyone knows that! When our time was up, even though we were still reading, one or two teachers released their classes. I was so mad. How could they?  I composed an angry email, Before I sent it, I asked my teacher-friend Ruth to read it.

Ruth read it and turned to me. She said two words, "Choose Kind." Then she giggled.

I said, "Yeah, they should have!" I put my hands on my hips and turned to look at her, nodding. Righteous.

She said, "No, you should."

What could I say to that? This middle-aged Jedi still has a lot to learn. Wonder has been great for me. I deleted the email and felt better immediately. Yes, I am the owner of several Wayne Dyer books and CDs. I guess it's time to re-visit them!

The End
We finished the book this past Friday, September 27th. We had outstanding teacher and student participation. The book got rave reviews. The readers got rave reviews. Students and teachers are blogging about the book on our Wonder Blog. Reading those last few chapters was not easy for the Wonder girls. Such an awesome, moving ending. We played snips of the songs that Auggie mentions, like "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" and "Light and Day" it was beautiful. Will we ever do anything that awesome again?

Now, our teachers are returning their copies of Wonder and students are clamoring to check them out.
To read the book again. To bring it home to their family. To share it. They are still talking about this book. They want a sequel. They are asking me for "books like Wonder." Is that a Nerdy Blog post yet?

They are still writing about this book. Many teachers had their students journaling in reader's response journals. Now, we are having a writing contest called "The Daisy Chapter". Students are writing a chapter from Daisy the dog's point of view.  This was a student's idea! How awesome is that?

The goodness of Wonder lives on, even after we are finished reading it. We are all better for having read it.
Having read it together, like a family, makes us even better still. The world would be a better place if we were all #Wonder Schools.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Mobile

The mornings are a crazy time at my library. Crazy in a good way. Busy. Busy with students using their library in ways they choose. I wish we could accommodate more students. With MAP testing and classes, and oh my! here comes the book fair next week, sometimes students don't get an opportunity to come check out a book. I thought I would try sending a book cart full of books down the hallways during that oh-so boring time in the morning before homeroom starts.

I heard another librarian mention this on Twitter, Facebook or a list-serve somewhere, so it is not an original idea. This is how our new "book mobile" was born. We have a two sided, six shelf book cart and library helpers push the cart down the halls in the mornings. They also have a wheeled crate-style basket that we are using as a mobile book return bin. Check outs are recorded by hand and transferred into the computer by me, later. The students and teachers like this.

Might I lose a book or two in this process? Yes. Might I gain more readers and keep my students supplied with books? Yes. Getting books into students hands is always going to trump the possibility of loss.

The library helpers love running the book mobile and have even decorated it with duct tape. When the newly remodeled book mobile debuted, the library helpers told me some of the students applauded them! Wow! How awesome is that?

The book mobile also helps divert some of the books that are waiting to be shelved to another "purpose".

The Daisy Chapter

Here is an update on our school-wide read aloud of Wonder.

A student said, "Wouldn't it be neat if there were a chapter from Daisy's point of view?"

Of course! What a wonderful idea?  And who would be the perfect people to write that chapter?
Our students!

And so, "The Daisy Chapter" Writing Contest was born. We have already received one entry!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This year is off to a great start. Showing the laminator who's boss certainly helped get things going in the right direction. But, I have to say the one thing that has truly made a difference to me this year is our school-wide reading of the book Wonder. I simply cannot say enough about it, and it is all good. Deep down good, warm fuzzy good, jump up and holler good, macaroni and cheese good.

I start off every school day with pure, wide-spread goodness. It is so awesome.

You think I am over-reacting don't you? That's okay, because you don't know the details. Why am I so happy about a school-wide read aloud?

I think it is because I work in a middle school. Do you know how hard it is to impress middle schoolers? With anything? And unfortunately, for the most part, the magic of read-aloud fades away at this level.
There are many reasons for this.

The Wonder Girls 
But, at my school, every morning for twenty minutes, it is story time. And I am a kid again.

And it's magic.

Because so is everyone else.

The story, of course, is great and perfect and powerful. But, I think much of the credit for the success of our particular project goes to the two teachers who are reading to us each morning.

It just so happens that two of the most amazing read-out-loud teachers on the planet work at my school. (pictured)
I begged them to read Wonder for us because I know how incredibly important delivery is when someone is reading aloud. They are doing a phenomenal job. I don't think a day has gone by since we began reading four weeks ago, that someone hasn't said something positive about the read-aloud. It makes my heart sing to hear people say these things. We cry and we laugh. We talk about it at lunch and in the halls.

I am not forgetting the teachers who dutifully follow along with their books in the classrooms. The whole idea would go kaput if they didn't do their part.  ELA teachers are using the book in their lessons. The students are listening and following along. It's all so yummy good.

But wait, there's more! There has been almost no complaining. (Again, unprecedented at the middle school level.) The only down side is that it will end soon. Will we go back to normal SSR?  How can we? We're all  spoiled brats now. I picture teachers and students reading their own books for a minute or two and slamming their book down in disappointment, shaking their heads, wishing for the "storytellers" to re-emerge.

This is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done at school. Ma would be so proud. She would cry if I told her about this. Happy tears. We used to watch Oprah! together and just boo-hoo over all kinds of stuff. Ma would know that Mr. Browne's first precept about choosing kind is from Wayne Dyer whom she loved.

If you've read Wonder you may know the song that August and his dad sing together in the car. "I'm the luckiest guy on the lower east side."

Well, I'm the luckiest girl in the upstate, cause  I've got a story and you want to read for a while.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stay Thirsty!

Thought of this while I was pulling weeds today in my back yard. I couldn't get it out of my head, so I had to make it.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I read the book  Wonder by R.J. Palacio  after hearing Donalyn Miller book talk it at the SCASL conference.  I enjoyed the book and especially loved the quotes at the beginning of each section. Of course, I passed the book on to my students and teachers, urging them to read it. Not long after I finished reading Wonder, our school began forming and training an anti-bullying committee. I knew this awesome book would  perfectly compliment our school's anti-bullying efforts.

I recommended it to the principal for a school wide read, and he thought it was a fantastic idea. We pitched the idea to the faculty at our beginning of the year anti-bullying training. The faculty liked the idea of doing a school wide read-aloud too. We purchased a copy of Wonder for every homeroom teacher.

Every morning at 8:00, teachers fire up their document cameras and LCD projectors and display the book on their whiteboards so students can follow along as the book is read to them over the school's PA system. The whole school listens and reads the book together. It's magical on a level that is usually lost in middle schools.

The principal read the introduction. 

I read the first chapter.

Mrs. Sommer-Gough and Ms. Sommer, two teachers, who were hand-picked for their excellent talents in reading books aloud, have been taking turns reading the rest of the book. They read for 15 minutes each morning, stopping five minutes short of the end of the period to give time for discussion. 

We have been doing this for a seven days now, and already this has been an amazing experience. It feels powerful and good. The students and the teachers love the book. They love reading it together, and now we all have one more thing in common with each other, which strengthens our school community. It is an excellent way to begin a school day.

Teachers tell me how much they love the book, how much the students love the book, they tell me how much they enjoy the way Mrs. Sommer-Gough and Ms. Sommer read, and they share insightful student comments and connections their students are making. Students tell me how much they love the book. Do they know how happy it makes me to hear this?

I am creating a blog to serve as a place for more discussion. This school wide read-aloud  is Wonder-ful on many levels.  It makes me feel the impact that books can have on people. I want more of this.

I think everyone else does too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flipping the Classroom Lodge McCammon Style

Dr. Lodge McCammon was a featured speaker at the Upstate Technology Conference in June. I enjoyed his keynote address as well as his engaging enthusiasm and energy. While I had heard about the concept of flipping the classroom before, I had never been presented with compelling data to support it, and I had never seen it done in McCammon style. Flipping the classroom essentially moves the lecture to being homework and the application, drill, practice and activities to being classwork. It makes sense. In a flipped classroom the teacher spends more time with students practicing a skill or concept and less time lecturing. The lecture is video recorded using a simple flip camera and white board tiles or chart paper rather than power point or movie maker slides as seen in the video clip below. No fancy technology is needed.

After listening to Dr. McCammon speak I think that even if a classroom or a school isn't completely flipped, there are benefits to using McCammon's flipped classroom techniques to improve teaching and learning. According to McCammon, a 60 minute in-class lecture is equal to an eight minute video lecture. This is purely due to classroom management. I am not saying poor classroom management either. It is simply the regular management of 25 or more students in a classroom that makes delivering content take a long time. Most teachers know this as their daily reality.

In a truly flipped classroom students view lecture videos at home as their homework. Let's just say the  issues of students choosing not to watch the lecture or being unable to watch the lecture due to lack of technology at home make doing this unrealistic for you. Even recording lectures and playing them during class is  worthwhile.  If a teacher video recorded her lesson and played it to her students even during class, this would reduce lecture time, enable easy repeat viewing in class or at home, and allow the teacher to spend less energy giving the same lecture four to six times a day. In addition, there would essentially be two versions of the same teacher, one that is live and one that is on video. This would enable the teacher to be the ultimate zen master of classroom management during the lecture. The lecture would be able to be paused, repeated, forwarded, and used again. This approach would lessen teacher fatigue and enable the teacher to use her energy in a more meaningful way.

One of the points that McCammon made that really stuck with me was that the relationship with the classroom teacher has a direct influence in the student's learning and performance. McCammon provided convincing evidence that content is much more meaningful and powerful when it comes from the student's own teacher. That realization makes teacher-student relationships in traditional classrooms something to emphasize and re-evaluate. It gives weight to that old saying, "Your students will not care what you know, until they know that you care."

After hearing Dr. McCammon speak, looking at his website and videos, I am convinced that teachers can benefit from learning about this concept even if they have no intention of trying it out in their own classrooms.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Auntie Librarian vs the Evil Laminator of Doom

It's back to school time. It's that time of year when we teachers converge on the lone laminating machine in the teacher work room with a powerful desire to coat countless documents in shiny clear plastic.

In the final day or two before the students return, during that push to create vibrant, colorful learning spaces for our students, the laminator ALWAYS runs out of film. Someone must load the machine with new rolls of laminating film, quickly. It's an emergency. Today, that someone was me.

I was working in the library when the summons came. It was only a matter of time before it happened. The person who had changed the film on the laminator for over 20 years had retired.  And now, the duty was falling to me.  "Mrs. Tazerouti, the laminator is out of film and the sixth grade teachers need to laminate their id cards!" said the teacher. I put my stack of books on the table and headed to the teacher workroom.

"Wish me luck. I’ve never done this before." I said nervously as I walked past the teachers in the work room remembering the laminating disasters of years past that sent teachers flocking to other schools to use their laminators.   “Good Luck,” they said. 

Evil Laminator of Doom
I looked at the machine.  I studied how the film passed through the rollers, over and under the rollers, and out the back of the machine.

Then, I turned around and went to the front office to make an announcement on the school’s PA system. “If there is ANYONE in the building who knows how to load film in the laminator, please come to the workroom now.”

No one came.  

“Is there something wrong?” my fellow teachers asked with concerned faces. “No” I told them, “I just don’t want to mess it up.” 

I load the film and turn on the machine. Another teacher helps. The film wraps around the middle roller several times instead of coming out the back of the machine.  I had failed to use a piece of cardboard or a manila folder to thread the film through the machine. The other teacher leaves, and I spend the next 45 minutes using an exacto knife, scissors, pliers and big tweezers from the science lab to pull and cut away the thick layers of laminating film from the middle roller. I am sweating. Teachers pop into the workroom to check my progress.  “What will we do?” I hear one teacher whisper to another. “Where will we go?”

Jumbled up words! Oh No!
After de-laminating the middle roller, it is time to try again. This time I have the necessary manila folder, but I am scared. Google. That’s it, I’ll search up a step by step guide or even watch a video showing me how to do this correctly. I do a quick search.  Access Denied. The sites are blocked! The phone rings, it’s someone from the high school, their laminator is out of film too.  Like me, the person at the high school has just freed their middle roller of laminating film and wants to know how to access an online how-to guide that is not blocked by the filter. We laugh and swap stories. It is good to know someone else shares my struggle. But secretly I worry. “What will we do if I can’t fix this? We can’t go to the high school now, and those elementary teachers will never let us near their laminator!”
Today is the last work day before the students return. I keep digging online until I find an unblocked “how to load your laminator” web page. When I print it something makes the words jumble together, making it impossible to read the crucial steps two and three. I copy and paste the web page into Word and print it. Then, I fax a copy over to the high school and head to the workroom to conquer the laminator.

With the help of the principal and another teacher, I thread the machine. We’ve done it. The machine heats up and it actually works! The squeaky sound of the plastic feeding through the machine is music to my ears.
Victory! Word gets out that the laminator is fixed and happy teachers flood the workroom. Let the laminating begin!

Welcome back to school! Happy laminating everybody!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Upstate Technology Conference Wow!

In June I  attended the amazing and free Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC. Of course, I learned about the conference through my invaluable SCASL network. Silly me, I neglected to register for the conference. I heard rumors of a limited amount of first-come-first-serve onsite registrations. So, I decided to get up at the crack o' dawn and head on over to Greenville to see if I could snag one of those onsite tickets. Lo and behold, I was one of the first people there, which means I also got an awesome parking place. I enjoyed the oatmeal and coffee I brought while I waited for the conference folks to get the tickets. I later learned that they turned away over 100 people after the onsite tickets were gone.
I got a golden ticket!
Now, would this conference be worth the early morning rise? I had never been to one, so I was was eager to find out. It was most definitely worth getting up early for. The conference is extremely well organized, and the variety of sessions offered are unbelievable. Below are some session notes.

The first session I attended was presented by Lisa Fisher and Jared Johnson  of Orangeburg 5 and  Lexington 2 School Districts. Their session focused on using iPods and iPads in the classroom. Our school just got an iPad lab, and this session was very helpful to me. What I learned will help me create an iPad policy for the use of our new lab. Here are some of my favorite take aways:
  • screen shots - capture research, pictures using a screen shot on the iPad by pressing power and the "home" circle button on the bottom of the iPad, also a good tool for classroom management use to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Have students stop and take screen shots to document that they were on task. 
  • reset - resetting the iPad will not erase the content or apps on the iPad. Teachers may find this useful when students have made changes to the iPad that they cannot undo.
  • Teachers using the iPad lab will have to teach their students the basics of the iPad before any real instruction can begin. 
  • Use EdModo with iPads to help organize instructional content such as websites, videos and documents.
  • Socratic is a great app to try that makes your iPads into student response systems
  • Use Interactive White board apps such as screen chomp, educreations and show me to have students record what they are doing. For example, while recording, have students work a math problem and explain the steps on their iPads using one of these programs. 
I also attended a session on Google Sketch up which is now called Trimble Sketch up. Presenter Josh Loso who teaches math at Hillcrest Middle taught participants how to use Sketch up and modeled an excellent math lesson. I am now confident that I can help my faculty learn to harness the power of Sketch up in their classrooms. I need to find out if the program is still going to be free for our schools after Trimble purchased it.

Cathy Jo Nelson presented a session on the 2011 AASL's Best Websites for teaching and learning. She showed us the sites and gave us tips on how to incorporate them into lessons. Cathy also gave us tips on how to use Twitter to find out about good websites and apps. 

The most influential, sticky aspect of UTC was Lodge McCammon and his keynote and session on Flipping the classroom. My next post will be dedicated to this concept and its possibilities.

Many thanks to UTC and its organizers for presenting a great conference for FREE!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reasons why I am opening the library and checking out books over the summer

This year I decided to check out books to students over the summer. "You'll never get 'em back!" says the wicked witch in my head. It reminds me of the "You'll shoot your eye out! You'll shoot your eye out!" sass from Ralphie's teacher in A Christmas Story. I thought it was a revolutionary idea, because all I ever heard was, "You'll never get the books back." Well, it's NOT a revolutionary idea and lots of great librarians do it. I posted a query to the SCASL list-serv asking, "Do you check out books over the summer?" and one person replied "as many as they want. . " that's when I knew I had to do it. Here are some other reasons:

1. The only students who are going to check out books are the ones who love to read, those are my regular customers and they are pretty reliable about returning their books to the library. We need to make more students who love to read. But for me right now, the number of students interested in summer book check out is not overwhelming.

2. Which is more important? Getting all the books back or kids reading over the summer? Students reading over the summer is much more important than the potential loss of a few library books.

3. I used it as an incentive for students to clear their library account and return all of their books on or before the last week of school. Students could not check out books for the summer unless they had no check outs or overdue books or fines on their library account.

4. Checking out books over the summer helps build a culture of reading.

5. I decided to allow only the 6th and 7th graders to check out books because they will be returning to the school next year. I did check out a few books to 8th graders who asked about checking out books and told them to return the books to the High School library or our public library.

All in all this has been a positive experience that I will almost certainly repeat next year. I started a summer book club with four books to choose from and scheduled meetings on the two dates I opened the library.
Even if we don't get many people, this is a start. I will be able to kick the year off by continuing the summer book club into the first two weeks of school.

Check out the SMS Library Blog to see what we read and some of the activities we tried.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Beautiful Sculpture

We just hung a beautiful sculpture in the library. There's a story behind it, and in honor of my Mother I am going to write about it.
I went to Florida the summer after my mother passed away. I drove down by myself. I guess you could say I was looking for my mom and for myself too. The trip was magical. Weird things just seemed to happen. Beautiful things.
One of my first stops was Anna Maria island, a place we often went as a family. It's been over twenty years since I was last here.I passed by the house we used to stay in. I sat on the pier I used to fish from as a kid. I took a walk on the beach my sisters and cousins used to play on. My head was filled with so many wonderful memories. It was sunset time, and the water was smooth. I couldn't help but roll my pants up and walk into the water. Like the air, the water was quiet and warm and still. When I saw the dolphin fins emerge from the water, I could not believe my eyes. At first I was terrified, thinking, "shark!" I was delighted when, silently and slowly, a mother dolphin and her baby swam so close to me I could almost reach out to touch them.
My next stop was Longboat Key, another special place full of memories. While I was there, a manatee swam along the shore of the beach near my hotel.  This rarely happens as manatees prefer mangrove areas and channels. I spotted its dark shape from my lounger, threw down my magazine and ran to the shore line. A crowd of people began to form around me as I pointed to the manatee. 
I have never been so close to dolphins and manatees before.
St. Petersburg was the last stop on my trip. My mother used to live there.  I visited Mary Ann,  a longtime family friend. Mary Ann took me to to see the Morean Arts Center's Chihuly Collection. I have seen a few of Chihuly's pieces in hotels and Casinos and loved them all, but not to the point of emotion.  I had never seen a whole collection exhibited. I was deeply engrossed in the beauty of the glass pieces featured in the collection when I came to the last part of the exhibit, the Fiori. Chihuly makes large pieces of art called fiori, which is Italian for the word flower. These particular pieces are so large they take up an entire room.  I walked into the black room where the fiori piece was. It was like a spectacular glass garden laid out before me. Beautiful, bright colors and shapes sprouted from the ground.  I was so blown away by the beauty of it I had to sit down. It literally brought tears to my eyes.
         I have never seen such vibrant colors and fantastic shapes before. 

Mary Ann and I  also visited a hot shop, and watched a live glass blowing demonstration. The whole time I was in St.Pete looking at all this art, I was thinking of my friend Amanda, who teaches art at my school. I snapped photos and took video clips and sent them on to my art teacher friend. I knew she would love to see all of this. She sent me a text saying, "more!"
      Seeing how much I loved Chihuly's art, Mary Ann gave me a 
    Chihuly poster and Chihuly books and postcards. I put them in 
    my car and headed back home.  
As I am driving home from this wonderful trip, barreling down one of those lovely flat, smooth Florida highways with the music turned up loud, up in the horizon, dozens of colorful hot air balloons are lifting into the air. Another magic moment. This turned out to be an amazing trip.
When I get back home, I bring the Chihuly books and poster to my art teacher friend Amanda to use in her classroom. Soon after, Amanda comes up with this great idea for a Chihuly-like  sculpture for her students to make. 
Amanda and I plan a virtual Chihuly tour in the library's computer lab to introduce the sculpture project to the students. We turned out the lights and tried to replicate a gallery setting. We showed the students examples of blown glass. We watched videos and played music softly in the background. The students loved it. They were excited. The lesson was a wonderful collaborative effort. 
         The art students work on the sculpture. Collecting bottles, 
       painting, assembling.  Two years go by.
Today, a gorgeous sculpture hangs from the ceiling in the library I work in every day. What a gift! The art project started and ended in the library. How cool is that?
And it reminds me of my mother.
And Amanda the art teacher reminds me of my mother.
Because she sees something and she lets it inspire her into creating something beautiful. Just like my mother would. She makes beautiful things. 
The trip I took to Florida was surreal. I felt as if my mother was blessing me with these beautiful treats in the forms of dolphin, manatee, the warmth of childhood memories, Chihuly art, sunsets, good friends, and hot air balloons. I had nothing to show for it but a few pictures, memories and stories. 
Not anymore.
       Most people will look up at this sculpture and see only a 
       beautiful sculpture. When I look at it, I see a journey, a gift, a 
       wonderful collaboration, friendships, and a little magic.

       And I see my mother.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mapping the Library

While reading another school librarian Tamara Cox's post on non-traditiional shelving, I began thinking about how I can make my library more user friendly. Sadly, I keep trying to think of ways to help students use their library on their own without assistance from an adult. Students have recently been practicing ratios in math. Maps and map reading are always a part of social studies and even language arts.
                              © Qtrix & Dreamstime
I came up with the idea of making a map of the library and having several copies of it available near the sign in area to help students find materials independently when necessary. Then, I thought, "Why not have students make the map?"  And so the "make a map of the library" contest was born. Entries were due March 30th and only five maps came in despite the prize of book fair bucks. I think I made my requirements too detailed. I had over twenty required items for the maps.

In any case, if none of the student made maps work out, I will make my own and see what the response is like. Even if I don't make copies, I can post the map for student reference. I definitely see myself using it with my new 6th graders during orientation. This would even be a great project on the school level. What a better way to help school visitors find their way than with a student made map.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Read! Write! Win!

I did a book review program last year that I would like to share. I was certainly inspired by someone else, but I cannot remember who or where.  I do not claim that this is my original idea.  It was fun and I am going to do it again soon.

I called my version of this sticky note book review program, "Read! Write! Win!" students had to read a book, and get a numbered sticky note from someone at the circulation desk. Each sticky note had a different number on it. On their sticky note they had to write the title of their book, the author's name and a review of the book. The review had to assign a number of stars to the book with five stars being the best.

I did this program for a month. Each week we drew a number and matched that number with the number on the sticky note to determine who the winner was. The sticky note reviews kept coming in and brought a nice pop of color to the library. They filled up two doors and a door sized column.

When I do this again I will keep a running list of titles and star ratings and post it somewhere in the library and on the library blog. I enjoyed watching students read each other's reviews and use the reviews to get reading suggestions. .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Head is Swirling

I stumbled upon a great math/art/science YouTube channel by Vihart that has dazzled me.

Flocabulary is also awesome if you don't already know about it.

And the possibilities of iBooks author? Wow, my head is spinning.

Notes from an Apple Presentation

Below are my notes from an Apple presentation: 

Apple TV is a device that sells for $99.  It can be used to connect an iPad to a projector allowing the teacher to be free to move about the room.  An HDMI cable is needed to connect Apple TV to the projector. Apple TV is for home use too.  Use it to display iPad content on your home TV.

iBooks Author – This is not for iPad, only for Mac. However, iBooks Author allows users to create course content with embedded multimedia that can be pushed out to iBooks on iPads. Users can even drag and drop a whole keynote (PowerPoint for Apple) presentation into their book. WOW. 

iBooks 2 - Be sure to upgrade to iBooks2. Users can highlight content and create notes. Some books enable the notes to be put into flashcards. 

Did you know that all iPads have accessibility features that allow users to be able to make the iPad read to them or add closed captioning to videos? I have been playing with this feature and find it is not super easy to use, but impressive. 

Download the free iBook titled Life on Earth to explore the amazing features of the text books. I have downloaded all of the free samples of the textbooks. They are stunning. Not at a one to one school? No iPad lab? I think there are benefits to just the teacher having an iPad 

iTunes U – wow. Free courses! I knew about iTunes U already but did not know about the difference between courses which are spiral bound and collections which are not spiral bound. I also did not know that these courses came with video, audio and image content that teachers may find useful.
There is an iTunes U course Manager which is web based. Already K-12 institutions are publishing course content to iTunes U. People and institutions who want to publish should check out the apple site.

Friday, March 16, 2012

What I Learned at the SCASL Conference

I went to the SCASL conference this past Thursday and Friday. The conference was awesome. It was time and money well spent. I am up to my ears in technology at school and I have been neglecting the book part of my job. I chose to attend sessions without a technology focus as a librarian-chakra balancing prescription. I think it worked.  Here are a few of the tools, ideas, tips and tricks that I will be returning to and sharing with my fellow teachers.

At the Reimagining Education @ Your Library session with Janet Boltjes & Valerie Byrd-Fort:
  • Check out the Bud the Teacher Blog. Wow. (I needed a Kleenex for his provocateur video.) The post the presenters featured, Safe Places and What is Yet to Come is about School Libraries. I think I may have to dedicate a post to this article. Powerful Stuff.
  • Reimagine Ed, coolness! Check it out. 
  • Libraries need to be the place where students go when they want to create something.
  • Improv rules can help you. The ones I learned about at this conference are: 1. Listen, 2. My idea is good, your idea is better, 3. Say YES, AND. 4. Ask What if? 5. Agree.  (Game Changer!)
  • Marker boards as creative spaces in the library
  • A stage in the library? Hmm. Cool idea.
  • Must get furniture sliders!

At Martha Taylor's session, "Feeling Overwhelmed? Apply the KISS Principle"
  • A way to practice citations with class check outs or orientation is to have students create simple citations of one of the books they are checking out. Put names on the citations slips, use them in a drawing.
  • Book citations can be exit slips
  • I need to be using student and teacher evaluations for every unit I teach with one of my colleagues. This documents what was taught, and the results, and gives feedback for improvement. I can see where this would be very helpful for advocacy efforts. (instructional evidence)
  • After working with a class, look at students finished products and determine the percentage of students who used high quality sites in their research. (instructional evidence)
  • Provide a generous circulation allowance for non-fiction items. 
  • Check out those live scribe pens.
At "Research, Welcome to the Big Easy" with Connie McClanahan & Denise McDougal
  • Think about offering a proofreading service to my students. Require papers to be submitted 24 hours in advance. At least offer bibliography checking.
  • Try starting with books first when researching because the information is limited and not as overwhelming. This will help students select a focus and refine what they want to discuss in their paper or project. 
  • When collaborating with teachers on class research projects we must teach the research process.
  • We need to go back to "old school" style research projects and require note cards to discourage plagiarism.
  • Copy four note cards on a piece of paper to eliminate the lost note cards problem.
  • Consider limiting students to one sheet of paper per source.
  • Students can cut up the paper and organize note cards into topical sections when writing.
  • Check the source cards and then let students go on to the next step.
  • I think I'll use these suggestions with my "mini research paper" and see what happens.
At Dr. Berkowitz's Keynote, "Change or Start Looking for a New Job"
  • We should discourage overuse of  topical research.
  • Librarians should keep a lesson plan book.
  • Document and report the student work that was done in the  library.
  • Use assessments to evaluate successes of instructional strategies. 
  • Programs should be defined, predictable, measured and reported
  • "We teach success.", "We teach process."

Donalyn Miller's Keynote - check out the slide share. How do you get your students to read over 6,000 books using no extrinsic motivation (grades, AR, incentive parties)?

  • Dr. Shannon's introduction of Donalyn Miller made me cry. 
  • Donalyn Miller is coming out with a new book called Reading in the Wild!
  • Great idea, have students make signs at the end of the year with the number of books they have read.
  • Krashen - The single most important factor in reading skill is independent reading.
  • University of Oxford study - Reading books is the only out of school activity for sixteen-year-olds that is tied to getting a managerial or professional job.
  • Reading fosters empathy
  • We need more reading time beyond SSR. 
  • During SSR, everyone needs to do nothing but read . That is not happening.
  • Allington - higher achieving students read three times as much as lower achieving students
  • To carve out more reading time: eliminate bell ringers and fast finisher activities, make explicit reading plans.
  • We must increase students access and exposure to books. Don't look at classroom libraries as threats. 
  • Reading doors - great idea. All faculty makes one showing what they are reading.
  • Donalyn Miller helped create the Nerdy Book Club! Look for my post in April!
  • I need to read The One and Only Ivan. ( I needed a Kleenex just listening to her talk about it.)
  • I also attended one of her sessions and met a couple dozen new books that I can't wait to tell my students about.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What this Librarian Looks Like

This is the photo I submitted to the This is What a Librarian Looks Like  blog project.  Bobbie Newman and Erin Downey Howerton are "challenging the librarian stereotype one post at a time."  I really enjoyed looking at the pictures on the site and I bet you will too. I have yet to spot a bun I tell you! I am proud to be included among such a lovely group!

Middle School Teacher-Librarian Jennifer Tazerouti is ready to assist students and teachers with their information and technology needs at Sims Middle School in Union, South Carolina. Check out the SMS Library Blog at:
The librarian also keeps a professional blog at:

Monday, February 27, 2012

I bought two iPads for the library

A few weeks ago I purchased two refurbished iPads for the library. The iPads are now available to students for in-library use and are soon to be available for teachers to check out. I purchased Otter Box protective cases, screen protectors and an App Store gift card to load the iPads with a few apps. I called Apple with my questions about setting the iPads up and creating a library account. They were very helpful. My School Librarian guru Cathy Jo Nelson was even more helpful with a few tips. I am especially thankful to know that the Apple login remains "open" for window of about 15 minutes after each session. I must be careful not to lend out the iPads immediately after I have been logged on with our account, especially if there is money left in the account.

We will be having the first iPad workshop for teachers after school on Wednesday. Teachers who are interested in checking out the iPads will be required to attend one of the workshops that will be offered and sign a copy of the iPad policy. Teachers who are not interested in checking out the iPads are also encouraged to attend. The iPads will be checked out to teachers in a neoprene zipper case with the charger, an iPad to VGA cable and a 6ft VGA cable to act as an extension enabling teachers to connect the iPad to their Smart Board for display purposes.

 Students have been checking out and "playing" with the iPads during their lunch periods. The students with iPads must sit and stay at a designated table while they are using the iPad. Once I have checked out the iPads to students during any given lunch period, it is not long before there is a small crowd surrounding the two students. I have loaded strictly educational apps onto them. I enjoy watching the students use the iPads, thinking they are just playing. It also makes me smile when I see the students show each other how to use the iPads. Hearing the astonishment in students voices as they say, "We can use those iPads? You bought them for US to use?" (translate: Really? You trust us? They are not just for teachers?) has made me feel rich (and daring) like a king presiding over a feast.

I remember reading somewhere that one thing that shaped Bill Gates was access to a networked computer at school, where the thirteen-year-old Gates learned to program. Two iPads may not have a tremendous impact on my entire school, but the possibility that it might impact one or two students is the reason I made this leap. Some of my students have their own iPads and iPhones. Most of them do not. There are schools where every student has their own iPad - right now. My school is not one of them, but my students will have to compete for the same jobs and opportunities as the students who come from these schools.

I have been partnering with Pam Fowler, a technology teacher at my school in setting up the iPads, planning the training and learning about the educational possibilities these iPads could inspire. It is our hope that teachers will check out the iPads, recommend apps for downloading, and offer students the option of using an iPad in a future project or assignment. I think it has been a good move to start off with just two iPads while we learn the ropes. If all goes well, we will apply for grants and look into purchasing more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Family Night: Inspiration, It's a Beautiful Thing

My sister and I were out shopping a few weeks ago when we stumbled upon a store that specializes in paper goods, invitations, scrap booking, wrapping paper, stationery and other paper crafts. Their window display featured some of the most adorable valentines I had ever seen. Not only were they adorable, they were hip. They were cool. They were perfect for my middle school students.  As soon as I saw these  were part of a make your own valentines kit, I knew I had to have them for my upcoming family library night.

My mother used to let herself be inspired by things she saw on TV, in magazines or on display at a shop. After preparing the most delicious dish for dinner, or creating a gorgeous centerpiece for her dining room table I remember her saying, "I saw it, and I said to myself, I can do that!" and she did.  I felt just like her as I delighted in making valentines with the parents and students who attended family night at my library.

It was a true family night indeed. Parents brought their children, along with their younger siblings and we all had a grand time making valentines together. The parents made valentines, the little brothers and sisters made valentines, the students made valentines, we all talked and enjoyed refreshments. About 20 people came in all, which was perfect. If there were any more people, I don't know if the event would have felt as intimate.


The more I reflect on the event, the better it gets. The simplicity of it is what makes it great. Here is a school event that does not require team or club membership; it is open to everyone. There is no practice or competition, and no grades. Students participate alongside their siblings and parents and teachers. What a great way to build a sense of community.

As I cleaned up after the event, rather than feeling tired and worn out, I felt energized by how well the event went. There is something therapeutic about sitting around a table with other people, cutting and gluing together, and making something for someone else. When my mother was inspired by cooking shows and magazine covers, my whole family enjoyed the results. It is a great feeling to allow myself to be inspired, silencing the negative, nay saying voice in my head , and watch others enjoy the results of my inspiration.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Duke Ellington and Data

Today I worked with a special needs class studying biographies. Every time this class comes I do a read aloud and we have so much fun talking about books and laughing together. Working with these students is always the highlight of my day, and I look forward to it. Since the students were working on biographies I selected some biographies about Duke Ellington along with a poetic picture book featuring Duke Ellington titled Ellington Was Not A Street to use with my mini-lesson.  When the students walked into the library I had a video playing of Duke Ellington performing "Take the A Train" and "It Don't Mean A Thing." The sound was turned up nice and loud. We danced over to the biography section and watched a video and danced some more. Then, we looked at biographies. I told the students about Duke Ellington and showed them the books about him, and then read Ellington Was Not A Street. We danced again as we watched another video. Then the students checked out biographies, and left me . . . better than they found me.

Being the first of the month, it was data day! I sang to myself, "It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing" as I tallied and compiled the monthly numbers for my principal and was relieved to find the circulation numbers for January 2012 were the same as last January. I am happy not to be seeing lower numbers as I did with December's depressing circulation data. I added a "professional development" category this month to document the number of workshops or presentations I make to our faculty. This month, in addition to e-mailing my report off to my principal I decided to take some advice given by Jennifer LaGarde aka Library Girl and actually post my data. While, my data posting is on a much smaller scale, it is a start. I plan on adding more data that students will find interesting such as most popular books.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Empowering Students with Choices

I have always been encouraged to give students choices for class projects and grading opportunities. Whenever I get the chance, I try to encourage others to give their students choices. In my opinion one or two of those choices should always be a technology related choice such as create an Animoto or a Prezi. Lots of students come to the library to work on Power Points for their assignments, however. This is something I think we need to get away from.

When I say that we should allow students to use technologies such as Web 2.0 programs for assignments and projects it is easy to imagine having to drag classes to the library or check out the laptops spending an entire day teaching students how to use the websites or programs. That is not how it has to be. These days teachers are far too pressured to show testing gains and have little class time to devote to a new venue of expression.

Giving students the choice of creating a Prezi, Storybird, a wiki or any number of Web 2.0 options or even just a video does not mean you have to be an expert on using any of them. It does not mean teachers must give instruction on how to use them either. As a matter of fact, your assignment description can have a statement saying students may choose one of these options for their project, but the teacher will not be giving any instruction on using them. Interested students will teach themselves and their friends how to use a tool.

By providing our students with a variety of choices for their school projects and assignments teachers are casting wider nets. We will engage more students and get better results by giving them more choices.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gifts from Auntie Librarian

What do the nieces and nephews of a librarian often get as gifts? Books! I have long been gifting my nieces books they ask for and books I think they will enjoy. Not long ago I gave my niece a copy of The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger She loved it and of course I was thrilled since I selected it for her. She loved it so much that she even made each of her friends an origami Yoda and asked for a light saber for Christmas. Of course I have already given her the next book, Darth Paper Strikes Back. If you are looking for an entertaining read for a young person, check out these books. The author's website is worth a visit.

The Mini Research Project

Teaching middle school students research skills can be like pulling teeth.  I worked with our Language Arts Teachers on note taking lessons recently. The lessons went well, thankfully.  The next step is the research project. I suggested different approach to the research project this time. Baby steps: before doing a big intense research project, try a "mini" research project. This will enable students to practice gathering and recording source information, taking notes and writing to inform. The finished product will be notes, one citation, and one paragraph of information. Once these are graded and returned and the teacher is ready for another research project, students can be required to submit more notes, more sources and more paragraphs. Taking a baby steps approach like this may lead to less frustration and more success for students and teachers and possibly a better view of research projects in general.

Check out this link to an idea page from the IRA/NCTE.
More ideas can be found here.

No E-Readers? Librarians Should Still Be Savvy

After reading some of my colleagues' responses to Travis Jonker's  SLJ article "Fine. I Got an Ereader. Now What?: A newbie to digital reading gets his first Kindle" and Doug Johnson's blogged response:  "Reactionary librarians aren't cute" I feel the need to confess: my school library does not own any e-readers yet. Buying e-books and e-readers is not absent from my list of things to do and I feel that e-readers and books are important.

It is incredibly important for school librarians to have a working knowlege of e-readers even if they do not make personal use of these devices and even if their library does not own any.  I personally own an iPad. I can show you how to use the Kindle app, use ibooks and I have purposely familiarized myself with other e-readers. In partnership with our State Library, I hosted a "Technology Petting Zoo" for my faculty. The "Petting Zoo" featured e-readers, iPads and cameras.

A few students proudly brought their new e-readers to school with them after winter break to ask me questions about their devices. Of course, their librarian would be able to help them with their new e-reader! A couple of my students were upset. "I got an e-reader for Christmas, but my family doesn't  have a credit card. How can I get books?" Another student got a Dell tablet, "How do I get books onto this thing?" she asked. Who else would a student ask? The librarian! We are now planning our first e-reader club. Students will bring their own devices and we will share tips and tricks with eachother. I regularly share free e-book titles with my students and faculty.

Budget and staffing challenges currently make purchasing e-readers and e-books something I am just getting ready to do. I am depending on the trailblazers to help me make the best choices in the near future. However, I know it would be a disservice to my students and faculty if I chose to remain uninformed about e-readers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Auntie Librarian and the Case of the Missing Mojo

Each month I present my principal and assistant principals with a library data spreadsheet which provides comparative data on book check out, class use of the library, individual student use of the library, days of direct instruction and days of testing. I also provide a list of the month's highlights which includes book club meetings, promotions and other things I am doing.

In October, November and December book circulation has been abysmal. December's circulation was down 900 compared to last December. What is going on here? Is three months of low numbers a trend? What am I doing wrong? One major difference between this December and last is that we had Winter MAP testing in December this school year as opposed to January. This probably impacted circulation, but not by 900. Another variable is that we stopped date stamping books at check out. Is stamping the due date in the back of the book related to the decline in circulation? Who knows. We are now date stamping again! Just in case!

Thanks to my library gurus, I realize that book circulation is not what makes or breaks my program. However, last year, I was extremely proud to turn in an annual report that showed a 30 some percent increase in circulation. A decrease in book circulation is certainly not going to help me get a full-time library assistant either. I can only hope to "break even" by the end of this school year. I have been book talking like crazy on the morning news program.

As if the circulation decline were not enough, participation for my Winter Reading Program was awful compared to last year. I am beginning to think I have lost my Mojo.

"Oh dear." Winnie the Pooh would say.