Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dr. Joyce Valenza

Keynote speaker this morning at NJASL was Dr. Joyce Valenza. What an amazing woman! She provided us with her first singing keynote presentation down the yellow brick road to search for the Wizard of Apps. She led us on the road to many online resources to provide our students with tools to build their digital citizenship, information literacy and foster their creativity. As she provided examples through video of her students living out their research, I was in awe of her work and wanting to move to her district for my son. Her presentation will be on Slideshare and her Wiki is a path of resources that she discussed. I was brave at the end to ask for a picture. She obliged with a kind smile.

Dr. Valenza is such an empowering woman in our field and I feel fortunate to have been one of the lucky ones in the audience. Last year, it was her annual report that inspired me to write my own at the end of my first year. I am trying to slow my brain down to one thing to take away from her keynote, besides the Wizard of Oz theme song that is still playing in my head. I think what I am walking away with today is the message to be a leader in my school for the benefit of the children. Be knowledgeable of the tools that they will be using and get them to dig deeper in their research process. So much to think about!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Collaboration - A Journey

The library has been quite a buzz this year! We have hosted our book fair, begun our "Geek" campaign, started our morning book club "Book Chomp" and continue to be knee deep in many collaborative projects. At Allen, I have the benefit of having a both a fixed and flexible schedule. This assures, I meet with each class for an isolated library lesson and have open spots for collaborative lessons during classroom teacher's content times. Isolated library lessons would include book talks, Destiny instruction or lessons on the Dewey Decimal system. Collaborative lessons include the classroom teacher's content area being infused with the research process. When this happens, students benefit from a team teacher model and are able to make real world connections to the content. I am thankful that our school's technology teacher, Maureen Schoenberger and I work very closely. In most of these collaborative projects, Maureen is the facilitator of the end products that make us all go WOW! There are many librarians out there that also fill the tech teacher role. Not having to wear this hat all the time, allows me to dive deeper into the research process and continue to make sure meaning is in the front of our research goals.
Collaboration has not always been a part of our curriculum at our school. We have experimented with different models, created a planning form and had some bumps along the way. Our school is not at the point of true collaboration, but we are definitely headed in the right direction. We have a supportive principal, who makes collaboration a priority and a knowledgeable staff, that seeks ways to improve student achievement. Maureen and I were asked to clarify our collaborative journey with the staff at a past faculty meeting. We wanted to share our presentation to others on this collaboration journey.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I geek mha library

When I moved into this position, I was unaware of the amount of marketing came with the job. I was so amazed with the amount of literature and conversations in the library community about how important it is to promote your resources. I really thought people just knew about the library and of course they would come. So naive!
In August, Buffy Hamilton brought the geek campaign to my attention. I have been thinking "geeky" thoughts ever since! It is a brilliant campaign that I have tried to embrace at my school. I slowly started to use the term, hang signs, place "geek" stickers around and definitely created a buzz. We officially unveiled the geek campaign this week and it was the talk of the school.
Here is an outline of the geek lessons
1. Shared why I geek mha library.
2. Led them to define geek using site.
3. Viewed a slide show of what their teachers geek from my geek website.
4. Students then created black signs to display in the library to share what they geek.
5. Challenged them to find their geek at our library!
The kids were excited about the geek idea and were proud when they found what they geeked on our shelves. It was such a valuable way to gain insight into their interests! Teachers told me that the students were coming up to them and saying, "I didn't know you kayaked." or "You geek bats?" "Why?" It created a lot of dialogue and excitement. Some students reported talking about it at dinner with their parents!
I am thankful the the library community at large is creating these tool kits to help librarians like myself. I feel that even my little school is doing its part to promote the importance of libraries on a larger scale. My hope is to carry the theme throughout the year and keep the excitement going! So look for more "geeky" posts.

Kathleen and I finding our Geek @MHA Library this Halloween!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Making a difference

Throughout my teaching years, I have had the experience of feeling I made a difference in a child's life. I have to say it is one of those things that keeps me going when I am frustrated with the "details" of being a teacher. When I was a classroom teacher, I had parents tell me their kids constantly talk about my class, loved a lesson or were so happy their kids could read now. I am finding you don't always get that immediate feedback from parents as a specials teacher. Recently I did and I wanted to share!
Kate Fitzgerald is my contact at the public library near our school. We collaborated in June in hopes of increasing the number of students participating in the "Be Creative @ your library" summer reading program. Two students from my school logged over 124 hours of reading and were honored this week for their accomplishment! Kate and I were thrilled for many reasons. We are both looking at the success of our collaboration and making plans to continue the relationship between the school and public library. We also have formed a relationship with these girls around the love of reading. Getting to discuss books with kids is a perk of the job! Kate and I love to hear their thoughts, opinions and suggestions about books. One of the girls is even interested in "working" in the library for a girl scout badge!
This little interaction has helped me to see the stepping stones of making a difference in kids lives one book at a time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Library Goody Bags

I am always impressed by the creative ways librarians get the word out about what their libraries have to offer. A request on Twitter is met with so many replies from generous librarian willing to share their ideas in hopes it will help others reach their patrons. Two such people from my PLN have been instrumental in helping me prepare for my upcoming year. Fran Bullington is a librarian in South Carolina. She sent me a pamphlet example of what she distributes to her teachers. The layout was simple and clear, just what I wanted. Fran outlined resources the library could offer, along with how to schedule a class, and where to find materials. With her permission, I tweaked it to meet my needs and could not be more pleased with the results. Buffy Hamilton is an amazing librarian in Georgia. Recently she wrote about goody bags for her teachers. As soon as I read her post I knew I wanted to do this for my staff too. However, Buffy had started collecting in May from her vendors, I had two weeks. Before I even finished gathering items for my bags, Buffy introduced me to the Geek The Library campaign happening in the Georgia libraries. So I did my best to combine the two.

The Goody Bags contain:
My pamphlet about the library
Lanyards from Britannica Online - New for us this year!
EBSCO stickers and magnets
Apple candle in a reusable wicker basket
Hersey kisses

I followed Buffy's packaging with brown bags with self adhesive book pockets on the front. I created stickers from avery labels that said I geek mha library. In the pocket, I created another label with our contact information to affix on our old library cards. My six year old son was such a trouper! He helped with the stickers and loved filling the bags.

Thanks to Buffy, Fran and all of the many librarians who share ideas through their blogs, twitter and nings. Look for more GEEK stuff soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

End of the Year Report

I was encouraged to complete an annual report from my Rutgers classes. Joyce Valenza shared her report through Twitter and I was just amazed. Dianne McKenzie wrote about the importance of creating these reports on her blog. I wholeheartedly agree with her reasons. She asked for other librarians out there to share there reports, so I am bravely answering her request. At the end of her blog post is a site she set up for all librarians to post their reports.
For my annual report, I collected student and teacher data from surveys I developed through Zoomerang. Questions for the surveys were based on research articles from my Rutgers class and conversations with classmates. I used my Destiny software and Titlewave resources to help gather collection statistics.
The process was time consuming, yet so beneficial. I feel I have a strong foundation on which I can build from year after year. Thank you Dianne for creating this valuable network tool. I already see things that I will include in my report for next year. Learning from each other will make our profession stronger and will benefit our students.
My report can be found at

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Evidence-Based Practice in the library.

I am ending my class at Rutgers this week. No surprise the last topic is assessment. How do we document the learning that takes place in our libraries. One of the many interesting articles I read this week comes from the Library Media Connection "Can You Find Evidence-Based Practice in Your School Library? (Geitgey & Tepe, March 2007). The authors discuss the turn from statistical collection data to data that documents student learning and achievement, Evidence-Based Practice or EBP. They outline three steps for beginners, like me, to realize about EBP. I want to share what those steps are and how I plan to address them in my library setting.

#1. Know the research that demonstrates how school libraries affect learning. Being in the middle of finalizing my library certificate I am surrounded by library research. Will this always be the case? I have set up a google reader account to ensure that I continue to follow blogs that discuss library issues and assessment. I have key journal alerts set up through EBSCO host that bring library information to my inbox. I also follow librarians like Christopher Harris, Joyce Valenza and Michael Stephens on Twitter that provide links, ideas and transcripts from library conferences. Surrounding myself with current research is a must for this profession.

#2. Mesh this knowledge with your own wisdom to build student learning. The authors point out that the data that is collected must "relate to instruction much more than the program." They encourage the librarian to view the item analysis from the state tests to look for correlations from the content standards tested to the library standards. By meeting with my principal later this year to review this data, I will be able to make collaborative unit recommendations that will allow me to focus library instruction on those standards that are tested.

#3 Work with your own school library to collect edvidence that shows you do make a difference. I was already planning on having library skills be included in collaborative project rubrics next year. However, after reading the authors' suggestions, I am now designing student reflection sheets, surveys, exit slips and checklists as well.I will start with a student reflection sheet before this year ends about how students felt the library helped them this year.

The authors do not stop with encouraging librarians to gather data, but to create a plan to share that data. They encourage us to share the evidence with teachers, administration, parents and the community. I will start small this year and present this the data I have from reflection sheets and teacher surveys to my principal. At the meeting where we discuss the test standards, I will share next year's plan to show Evidence-Based Practice in the library.

I welcome any suggestions you may have to guide me along this path. I promise to post my plan as soon as it is outlined.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Furniture!

The couches from Ikea arrived not too long ago. It really helps make the room more cozy! The kids love them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brandon Mull

When I found out that Brandon Mull was coming to my school, I quickly went to read his books to prepare my students. I am not a fantasy reader at all. My feet need to be on the ground. Therefore, I bypassed the book with the witch on the front and began The Candy Shop War. I finished it in two days and my appreciation of Brandon Mull and his craft began. I told everyone I knew about this book! To me, Brandon's writing was J.K. Rowling with a dose of Stephen King. The characters he created were so lovable and realistic you felt as if they were your friends. The idea of magical candy was just comical to me. What kid wouldn't do anything to have some candy with magical powers? I then moved to Fablehaven. The concept behind the book is that the magical creatures, like fairies and dragons, do exist but they are endangered and now live on wildlife preserves. There are strict rules that must be obeyed and in this way all is kept in order. Enter two children Kenrda and Seth, whose curiosity over their grandfathers property soon threatens to overturn that law of order. Wow! I am in awe of imaginations that can create entire worlds but even more in awe of the visual images that are created through Brandon's words.

Brandon is continuing an extensive New Jersey school tour promoting the fourth book of the Fablehaven series. He made an appearance at our school today and the kids went nuts! Brandon's message for kids was just as inspiring as his writing. He encouraged all of them to use their imagination. Brandon pointed out that when children watch TV or video games they are using someone else's imagination, but when they read they are using their own! He outlined two ways to make your imagination stronger. 1. Read 2. Create Simple yet powerful! Brandon also encouraged the kids to write about their lives, pointing out that they can be more descriptive when they write from what they know. Brandon explained that even in a fantasy book, such as Candy Shop Wars, the town where the story takes place was based on a real town that he lived in as a kid. It is this personal connection, he said, that allows his writing to be more descriptive and believable to his readers. I agree! Brandon also encouraged the children to value the feedback they receive from their teachers and peers. He displayed a copy of a page from Fablehaven with all of the revision marks from his editor. The children gasped! Brandon shared that it is this feedback makes him a better writer.
I was so impressed with the powerful messages he gave to our students today. I feel that his message came from his true passion for wanting children to read and create using their imagination. It was an honor to meet him at what is certainly the beginning of a long creative career.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

EBSCO Search Engines for K-5 students

By exploring EBSCO’s Searchasaurs, Kids Search and Student Research Center a definite developmental continuum between the three search engines emerged. Not only does the amount of information found increase through each database, but the features grow to meet student’s needs as well. Each search engine layout builds upon the previous site. This guarantees that children will locate information with confidence and a sense of familiarity. Searchasaurus is a great place to begin with second and third grade. Young students are able to navigate through the pages easily and they will be able to read most of the content. The topic search feature helps to further visualize the concept of sub categories. Having children visualize the relationship between topics and subtopics is so important in building a solid searching foundation. The children will click on the animal dinosaur to learn about animals. The screen then reveals several sub topics like birds, mammals and habitats. The children will then be able to choose birds to narrow their search. Once on the bird page several topics are listed. At the top of the screen the pictures of the source choices are shown. Teachers are able to show how to reduce the number of results by asking the students what information they want to know about birds. By selecting animals at the top the results go down to 1,078. The children will also see specific birds listed. With Searchasaurus, teachers are able to begin search strategies such as terms in quotes, and Boolean terms. Third graders will find more information is needed as the year progresses and will find by the end of the year that Kids Search meets their needs more than Searchasaurus.

Kids Search contains more advanced searching options to help narrow a topic for fourth and fifth graders. There are now side tabs as well as filters on the top. The Detailed Search option allows the children to see how Boolean terms are added as well as filtering results before hitting the search button. Primary Source documents have been added to the sources as well as folders to save the search results and documents. In this way, children can access the documents from their library, classroom or homes. The Primary Source documents allow for more discussions to take place about the different kinds of sources students come into contact with and how to evaluate those sources. The folder feature takes into account the growth of the searching process. It acknowledges that children at this age need more than one source for their research and provides a tool to help keep the children organized. Students are also able to see the title list of the databases and search exclusively from one periodical if they desire.

Right away, Student Research Center looks more grown up. The cartoons have been replaced with photographs and the screen is filled with type rather than pictures. Student Research Center allows students to filter and narrow their topic from the homepage. Their choices are now more reflective of a middle school environment. Title lists reveal that Health Source - Consumer Edition, MAS Ultra - School Edition, Biography Collection Complete, and TOPICsearch have all been added to provide more “grown up” results. The topic of Animals is replaced with a sub-topic Wildlife under the science heading. The topics such as literary criticism, current events, and careers also suggest articles that stimulate discussion and points of view rather than simple fact-finding. Within Student Research Center, students still have access to sharing, printing and saving the information they find. When students save the articles, they are able to choose the proper citation format they need, greatly helping them document their sources properly. Taking the time to view these search engines side by side reveals how powerful searching instruction could be when Searchasaurus, Kids Search and Student Research Center are used as a developmental continuum with students.

Friday, February 6, 2009

African American History

Today we had a celebration in the library to end the 5th grade Famous African American unit of study. The students learned about accessing information from the biography section and the EBSCO databases. The children took the information they found into the computer lab where they created booklets. They were really amazing! Today the three classes mixed together to share their findings and enjoy some hot coco.
Our students live in a suburb where there is not a large amount of cultural diversity. I wanted to give the children a sense of the discrimination the people they researched went through without putting a negative slant to the celebration. I read the book Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles. It is a beautifully written story about a little boy realizing some people feel others are different because of their skin. After the story, I showed a movie created by students at Skyview Elementary.
It was quite a day! I love my job!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Boolean Searching

To kick off my new class at Rutgers. Our professor directed us to this funny and informative look at Boolean searching.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Media Center Space

These are some of the pictures of our new space.