The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Sunday, May 1, 2016

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Recently I read two social media posts and decided these would be great together; kind of like chocolate and peanut butter! Also, they merge perfectly with Teacher Appreciation Week!

Ginger Lewman posted about the hashtag, #eduhero. This is a hashtag you can use to celebrate the #eduheros in your life.

Matthew Winner, Andy Plemmons, John Schu, and and Jennifer LaGarde all posted about Mo Wiilems’ new book that has the hashtag #ThankORama attached to it. #ThankORama gives you the opportunity to thank people, cats, dogs, pizza for being AWESOME! I used the activities included on Mo Willems’ site with our special education self contained students last Wednesday and we will be doing #ThankORama activities all month long in the JCHS Library. I think it is the perfect end of the school year activity!

The JCHS Library has set up the green screen so student can make the subject of their #ThankORama the background with speech bubble added later. We also have space for student to fill out Post It Notes with their #ThankORama pick! I can't wait to see the wall grow!

Jennifer jazzed up her #ThakORama posts with her great Library Girl avatar! If you don't yet have an avatar challenge yourself to create one with one of these avatar maker sites (courtesy of the amazing Gwyneth Jones) and then create your own #ThankORama/#EduHero message!

Who will be YOUR #eduhero/#ThankORama?!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Breakout EDU & the JCHS Library!

Thanks to Olivia Karr's courage and willingness to try something different in learning, we broke open the JCHS Breakout EDU Kit today and it was so much FUN!

A few weeks ago after reading the Tech Tips of the Week S'more that talked about capturing the excitement of the new Huntsville Escape Room our students were flocking to, Ms. Karr consulted with the JCHS Library about trying the Unlocking Shakespeare Breakout EDU game.  

We plotted and planned for two weeks, printing out and laminating clues, preparing the boxes and locks and found some medieval music for ambiance.  

The big day came today and Ms. Karr brought seven students to the Harvard Room where their Unlocking Shakespeare challenge began.  We read through the "setting the story" introduction, got the Google Form that went with the game pulled up on laptops for the students and set the game timer.  Ms. Kristi Combs, JCHS Instructional Partner and former AP English Teacher, joined in the adventure as well.

It was fun watching the students naturally merge into the various roles needed to solve the clues.  Ms. Karr, Ms. Combs, & I gave a few hints to help keep the momentum going, but really, we didn't need to provide much encouragement as the thrill of the challenge took over and the kids were off!

Even with one student being checked out before the game was over (she did not want to leave) the team still finished the 45 minute challenge with 6 minutes and 45 seconds to go!  The next "team" from Ms. Karr's class will come to the Harvard Room on Thursday to compete against the time set by today's students.

The great thing about Breakout EDU is that EVERYTHING is laid out in a very easy to follow and understand form, including a Flow WORRIES!

If you are still looking for reasons to try Breakout EDU take a look at Sylvia Duckworth's 10 Great Reasons To Play Breakout EDU

Here are a few pictures and videos from our first Breakout EDU!

Breakou EDU 4/26/16 Karr

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Essays & Research Papers Made Bearable N. p., 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Co-teaching with the talented teachers at James Clemens High School this year has been a big highlight of my 24 year career as an educator.  Yesterday I spent the day with Ms. McLaughlin's classes helping them out with their big research paper by showing them a few tips and tricks to making the research/essay writing process a little less tedious.  This co-teaching experience also gave me an opportunity to show Ms. McLaughlin a cool tool to make the grading processes less daunting.

Ms. McLaughlin's students are lucky to have her as their teacher. She is very organized and has really embraced using Google Classroom.  We started the lesson by having students access their Google Classroom and open the pre formatted MLA document provide by their teacher.  Google has a dizzying array of templates to make student and teacher lives a little easier.  Below are just a few templates that are available in Google Documents.

Although Ms. McLaughlin had already provided students with a pre-formatted MLA template I took time to show the students how to find the template on their own so they could use for other classes.

The next tidbit I shared was the relatively new Voice Typing feature in Google.  This is more of a "fun" feature that I like to show students but it actually really helped one student who had had quite a gruesome encounter with a chainsaw.  

Next, we moved on to the nitty gritty....research!  Google has a built in research feature right inside of Google Docs.  You can choose to search all of Google, Google, Scholar, Images, and more. Once you have put in your search term and websites have been pulled up you have three options: preview, insert, & cite.  Preview allows you to see a thumbnail of the website. Insert will insert the website link into your document wherever your cursor is located. Cite will add all related footnote features. The video below walks you through this great tool.

The one thing I wish this tool would do is add the Work Cited information. We circumvented this minor flaw with the Google Add On, EasyBib.  

From there we moved on to reviewing the best databases available through the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL).  Students and teachers are fortunate that our legislature has seen fit to fund the Alabama Virtual Library which is filled will a large number of databases for all age levels, including college and the general pubic.  Most of the databases inside the AVL also connect to Google Classroom, making the task of note taking, highlighting and accessing previously viewed resources later so easy!  Below is an AVL Tour Video. It is a bit dated so it does not show some of the awesome Google Classroom integration features.  AVL databases now also all have a "listening" button which is extremely helpful for students with dyslexia or other reading challenges.

The final tech tool, JoeZoo Express, will help make the grading process easier and more streamlined for Ms. McLaughlin.  JoeZoo Express analyses the student's paper and looks for the following errors: formatting, grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and structure.  Feedback included tips and hints that teach students how to correct their own mistakes. All of this is automated and teacher created. JoeZoo also contains a feature for seamless interactivity with Google Classroom.

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Not About YOU!

As I attend professional development sessions in person and/or online I keep noticing a common trend among teachers to either disregard or not even take into consideration whether the technology or innovative ideas being shared is what STUDENTS want or need.  The concern is about what the TEACHER thinks or feels is important or even worse.... what they have the time and/or interest to learn and apply.

One example of this came up in the #TLChat LIVE! Twitter Chat this evening as a librarian shared that her district supervisor would not allow her to genrefy the library collection.  The reasons given included, “No one else in the district is doing this”, “How would we address this in the computerized system”, and “This isn’t the way we do things”. My question to the administrator would be, "Have you asked the kids what they think?"

Jennifer Lagarde nearly caused an oxygen shortage when she addressed a room full of school librarians and stated, “The Dewey Decimal System is not a life skill”. Needless to say the shocked sucking in of air nearly depleted all the oxygen in the room.

When sharing how Google can automatically format papers in MLA format and the EasyBib Add On can format work cited information I am often meet with protests from teachers claiming students need to know how to do these tasks on their own. I summon my inner Jennifer Lagarde and ask, “Is MLA formatting a life skill”?  The answer is a firm NO.

Recently my heart broke as I sat in a PD session that featured a very real and poignant student panel. Instead of taking what the students said to heart and determining to make changes in the way we approach the educational process, many in attendance chose instead to fall back on the old adage of, "We can't do ____ because of time/technology/lack of training/testing/grading/pacing guide/common core/etc/etc/etc requirements".

Last week a student shared the video below with me.  Certainly not my taste in music but the words..the message...SPEAKS what our students are thinking.  Our students FEEL these words. Our students are BEGGING us for relevance in what they are being taught and are angry and offended when we don't pay heed to their voices. We have to let go of "traditional" teaching and start engaging students with real world authentic learning. Forget standardized tests because those monstrous wastes of time, money and student and teacher sanity will take care of themselves IF we throw fear aside, step out of our comfort zones and forge ahead with innovative techniques touted by the likes or Sir Ken Robinson, Eric Sheninger, Marc Prensky, and so many more!

In the end, the very least we can do is give credence to what our students are telling us in so many different ways and internalize that school is not about is ALL about THEM.

I wasn’t taught how to get a job
but I can remember dissecting a frog
I wasn’t taught how to pay tax
but I know loads about Shakespeare's classics

I was never taught how to vote
they devoted that time to defining isotopes
I wasn’t taught how to look after my health
but mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell 

Never spent a lesson on current events 
instead I studied The Old American West
I was never taught what laws there are.
I was never taught what laws there are.

Let me repeat - I was not taught the laws for the country I live in,
but I know how Henry the VIII killed his women.
Divorced beheaded died, divorced beheaded survived
glad that’s in my head instead of financial advice

I was shown the wavelengths of different hues of light
but I was never taught my human rights
Apparently there’s 30, do you know them? I don’t
Why the hell can’t we both recite them by rote?!

I know igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks
Yet I don’t know squat about trading stocks
Or how money works at all - where does it come from?
Who controls it? How does the thing that motivates the world function?

not taught how to budget and disburse my earnings
I was too busy rehearsing cursive.
Didn’t learn how much it costs to raise a kid or what an affidavit is
but I spent days on what the quadratic equation is

negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared 
minus 4ac over 2a
That’s insane, that’s absolutely insane.
They made me learn that over basic first aid

How to recognise the most deadly Mental disorders // or 
diseases with preventable causes // How to buy a 
house with a mortgage // if I could afford it
‘cause abstract maths was deemed more important 

than advice that would literally save thousands of lives 
but it’s cool, ‘cause now I could tell you if the number of unnecessary deaths caused by that choice was prime.

Never taught present day practical medicines, 
but I was told what the ancient hippocratic method is
“I’ve got a headache, the pain is ceaseless
what should I take?” umm... maybe try some leeches?

“Could we discuss domestic abuse and get the facts
or how to help my depressed friend with their mental state?”
Ummm... no but learn mental maths
because “you won’t have a calculator with you every day!”

They say it’s not the kids, the parents are the problem
Then if you taught the kids to parent that’s the problem solved then!
All this advice about using a condom
but none for when you actually have a kid when you want one

I’m only fluent in this language, for serious?
The rest of the world speaks two, do you think I’m an idiot?
They chose the solar over the political system
So like a typical citizen now I don’t know what I’m voting on

which policies exist, or how to make them change
mais oui, je parle un peu de Francais
So at 18, I was expected to elect a representative 
For a system I had never ever ever ever been presented with

But I won’t take it
I’ll tell everyone my childhood was wasted
I’ll share it everywhere how I was “educated”
And insist these pointless things

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Library Aides: An Essential Part of a Well Balanced School Library Program

Ms. Kimberly Johnson, Library Aide at James Clemens High School

It has been a trend among school districts across the country to either cut funding for school libraries, eliminate funding for library aides, replace certified librarians with a library aide, or completely do away with school libraries altogether. At the same time school districts are also working towards implementing 1:1 Digital Initiatives, providing differentiated technology professional development for teachers, establishing MakerSpace, and creating STEM programs and then flounder to find personnel to head up these programs and make them an intricate, viable part of the school culture.

The school librarian should be the person administration looks toward to spearhead these innovative programs  

What I think school administrators misunderstand is the roles of school librarians and library aides. School librarians in Alabama must have a teaching degree and classroom experience before seeking a Master's degree in Library Media.  As part of this degree school librarians are proficient in curriculum, common core, the latest in educational technology, and are prepared to be leaders in the school with regards to innovative educational programs.  

Library aides are essential support staff that, among other things, tend to clerical tasks that must be taken care of from checking books in and out, cataloging new and donated books, preparing overdue slips, to name just a few time consuming tasks. 

This year I have established a MakerSpace, ditched Dewey and genrefied our collection, taught classes ranging from Google basics to eportfolios and everything in between, and offer professional development.  It would simply be IMPOSSIBLE to have accomplished ANY of this without the support of my library aide, Ms. Kimberly Johnson.  Without her support I would be buried under clerical tasks with little to no time to devote to developing an innovative library program.

I have been fortunate in my 24 years as a school librarian to have some of the most amazingly talented library aides that have been the "wind beneath my wings" that has allowed me to excel, develop professionally, and most importantly, positively impact student learning and teacher instruction.  

Ms. Gabriella Dubose was my library aide the first year I was a librarian. Without her help and guidance I don't know that I would have survived that first year.  Years later Gabriella got her teaching degree and then her Library Media Degree and we ended up working together as co-librarians which was a great treat.  Later, when Gabriella moved off to her own school library I had the great honor of joining her and the inspiring Sharon Draper for a day.  

Me, Sharon Draper, & Gabriella Dubose

Ms. JoAnn Jones was the library aide for both myself and Ms. Dubose.  Ms. Jones was a seasoned veteran at the school and helped to orient us to the ins and outs of the school, teachers, students and administrators.  Ms. Jones was and is an inspiration to me and I am so proud of her and her amazing daughter, Juanita.  Ms. Jones demonstrated every day the value of hard work, personal sacrifice for the betterment of her child, and leading the way through her actions.  If I could even be 1/10th of the person she is I would be a better person.

JoAnn Jones & Juanita Jones

This year I have been fortunate to have yet another extraordinary library aide, Ms. Kimberly Johnson. Ms. Johnson couldn't have been more perfect for the changes we have implemented together in the James Clemens High School Library.   Her artistic talents have been invaluable as we have redesigned, repurposed and established a MakerSpace in the JCHS Library.  In fact, Ms. Johnson has an Esty site and sells her crafts on the weekends at art fairs and other venues.  

The past week Ms. Johnson taught Ms. Shamwell's Fashion Design students how to make jewelry from recycled items, items from nature, and items inspired from a hardware store.  The kids were excited about learning from Ms. Johnson and have already been creating some beautiful items!

Ms. Johnson also continuously creates examples of items students can create in the arts and crafts section of the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  Below is just one example of many.

I am grateful everyday that not only do I have an amazing library aide, but a true friend. 

Jewelry Making w/Ms. Johnson

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Read Across America 2016: 24 Years and Counting!

Read Across America Day this year was perhaps the best, most active and diverse day in my 24 years as an educator.  What made this year stand out from all the other years boils down to one word: CONNECTIONS.  

The day started with Ms. Crouch's students (JCHS Spanish 1 & 2) connecting with Harry Brake's students in Mexico City.  Mr. Brake's students read passages from both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman to generate conversation about how these passages relate to our current lives and topics like racism and power.  I really enjoyed the comparing and contrasting of the two stories by Harry Brake's students in regards to the portrayal of Atticus Finch.  Which was the more "true to life" Atticus?


After spending time with Ms. Crouch and Mr. Brake, I connecting using Google Hangouts on Air to read with students from Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Georgia, and Connecticut.  We read "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt; by far the most popular book this day and all last week for World Read Aloud week.  I also got to connected with one of my very favorite library friends, Donna Macdonald! YAY!

As if that wasn't the best treat ever my next connection was with Emmanuel Faulkner's (Librarian at The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School in Baltimore, MD) 4th Graders who I had connected with during World Read Aloud Week!  This time these wonderful students choose to read ME a story! They choose to read, "Peanut Butter and Cupcake" by Terry Border.  It was such a fun book and the pictures were delightful...but made me hungry! I can't thank Mr. Faulkner's students enough for such a lovely treat!

Later in that day two of our JCHS Debate Team students served as judges for the Somerville Middle School 7th Grade vs. South Orange Middle School 6th Grade Class debate along with Brad CurrieNicholas Diaz's 4th Grade class, and others from around the country through the magic of Google Hangouts arranged by my friend, Elissa Malespina and Melissa McEntee.  We were quite impressed with the 6th & 7th grade students as they debated a hotly contested topic of gun control.  

After the debate it was straight into the Harvard Room for our weekly story time with the JCHS Special Education Self Contained classes.  Mr. Watters presented the library with a copy of the book, "Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Peña, a gift from the Alabama Education Association.  Then Mr. Watters read "My Many Colored Days".  It was an extra special treat to, for the second time that day, be read to! 


I can't wait to see what Read Across America 2017 will bring!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

World Read Aloud Week 2016

Last week (February 22-25) I participated in my first World Read Aloud Week thanks to the leadership of Shannon Miller and Andy Plemmons.  Shannon and Andy started what was a one page Google Document encouraging educators from across the world to use to make connections for World Read Aloud Week.  By the time World Read Aloud Week arrived the Google Document had blossomed to 106 pages, countries spanning the globe, and incredible educational connections made from PreK to high school seniors and beyond!  I finally created my own Google Document so that I could better keep up with the connections made just with my school.

While Skype was touted by LitWorld as the suggested medium of connection, the James Clemens High School Library choose to use Google Hangouts on Air for three reasons. First, Google Hangouts on Air allows up to ten classes/schools to connect at one time for free.  I thought not only would this be fun to help connect other classes but to also accommodate more space to make more connections.  Second, Google Hangouts on Air allows you to record the session, automatically uploading the recording to YouTube.  Third, Google Hangouts gives participants the ability to share their screen. This allowed me to share on the screen to participants the pages of the story I was reading.  

In all, the James Clemens High School Library connected with 70+ classes/schools across the nation. For many of the sessions students choose to have me read a story from the collection I have built this year for our special education self contained classes.  Each Wednesday our special education self contained classes come to the JCHS Library for story time, occasional arts & crafts and to spend time exploring, discovering, tinkering, and creating in the MakerSpace.  Because several of our students have sight deficiencies, I take pictures of the book pages and then transfer theses images to Google Slides.  Then during story time we use the Harvard Room as it has three large projection screens on which to display the book pages.

National English Honor Society reading to Special Education classes in the 
Harvard Room and across the country

Even better than me reading were the opportunities our high school students had to read and connect with classes in grades PreK-5th.  JCHS students involved included student library aides, the Not Your Average Book Club members, Ms. Mendez's 9th grade English students, the National English Honor Society students, and Ms. Courtney's Teacher 1 & 2 students (a class for students who want to be teachers).  

The best part of each connection made wasn't the reading of the stories, but getting to talk with the students, teachers and librarians we connected with.  I even got to see my new best friend, Melissa Ray, that I met while at METC at the beginning of the month! One of the funniest moments was when Ms. Mendez's 9th grade class read The Big Wide Mouthed Frog to a Kindergarten class in Wisconsin.  After the story we took turns being the "big wide mouthed frog" and asked each other, "Who are you and what do you like to eat."  Brandon, a tall baritone voiced 9th grader asked a cute little curly haired girl the question.  In turn, she asked Brandon the same question.  His response was, "My name is Brandon and I like to eat little children".  Both classes erupted with laughter!  Not missing a beat these clever Kindergarteners responded that they liked to eat BIG KIDS! 

I was so absorbed in the moment while connecting with classes that often I completely forgot to press the record button in the Google Hangouts, but you can see what session were captured on my World Read Aloud Day Youtube playlist.  You can also view images and video uploaded to my Flickr account below.

If you missed out on the opportunity to connect this year for World Read Aloud Week go ahead and set up a reminder for yourself next January to be on the look out for World Read Aloud Week information to start circulating!

World Read Aloud 2016