Interacting with Nonfiction Text

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of my 7th grade library visits, I asked the teachers what a good topic of focus would be for an activity. They said they were working on nonfiction text. In my searching for lesson ideas, I came across a post called Non-Fiction Know-It-Alls on the Create Teach Share blog.

One of these printables was very close to what I was looking for, but not quite. I wanted to have students work in pairs and give them a variety of our nonfiction library books to choose from. They selected a book and completed this Nonfiction Response:


My 6th graders are about to start working on a research project, and I purchased several ebooks on MackinVIA that they will be able to use as references. I wanted the students to have a chance to get familiar with MackinVIA, identify key components that will be used in citing their sources, and also notice the text features and how they help us interpret nonfiction text. I revamped the document again for them:

NonfictionEvaluation copy-page-001

Both of these activities have been successful. I think taking the time to identify and discuss the text features in nonfiction has been valuable. And I’m really excited to kick off this research project with 6th grade ELA and Social Studies!

PDF of Nonfiction Response

PDF of Nonfiction Evaluation

Posted in Library Lessons, Middle Grade Books, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Resources & Links | Leave a comment

Blackout Poetry

This week during 8th grade library visits, students created blackout poems. They are just kicking off their poetry units, and the awesome ELA teachers and I thought this would be a fun activity for them. One of the teachers suggested we try this as she’d seen some examples on Pinterest. I immediately knew what she was talking about and was excited to give it a try!

I took some of our weeded books, cut out the pages, and gave students markers and pens for to create and design their poems. I created a looping slideshow to project on the screen with some examples to inspire them. Here are some of the favorites that were created this week:

I’m going to pull some of these together to create a fun display in the hall outside the library, but until then I wanted to share their awesome work here!

Posted in Library Lessons, Makerspace | 5 Comments

Collection Development

Since we’ve been back to school this year, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time assessing our collection and planning for improvements this school year. At the end of last year, I ran some reports and compiled some data that kind of surprised me. I would never say that using and leveraging data is a strength of mine; I work more in terms of if things “feel right.” We all know that administrators speak and listen in terms of data — and mine is no exception.


When I looked at annual circulation reports at the end of last year, it was obvious that our circulation has risen dramatically over the last several years. The year with the “dip” was the year of our move from one campus to another, so that was a year of major transition and I understand that trend in the data fully. I attribute a great deal of our circulation increase to both genrefication and implementing our self check-out procedure.

Right before our move, I finished the process of ditching Dewey. That process included EXTENSIVE weeding of our collection. Since then, I really hadn’t done much weeding. When books were returned at the end of last year, I noticed that our collection was starting to look a little sad. These books are circulation often and being read by many students. After the first rounds of library visits and book check-out this year, the shelves were just looking sad. Our students are readers, as evidenced by our circulation numbers. I also knew that quite a few of the books left on the shelves hadn’t moved since we did back in 2012. Once again, it was time to weed.

I let my principal know that our collection would be needing some funding to help bring it up to a higher standard. He knows that circulation is up — he’s seen the data shown above — but he wanted a more formal assessment of our collection and a plan for moving forward.

First I weeded. And weeded. And weeded. Nonfiction — easy. Fiction — a little more painful and personal. If a book hadn’t circulated in over three years (unless I knew it had potential tie in to curriculum, special interest, etc.), was in poor condition, or had otherwise outdated information, it was out. I weeded just over 1,000 books, bringing our total collection copy count to 8,614 after weeding. Our collection is very small compared to our student population (just at 1,000 students), but I don’t see the point in having books that aren’t being read.

After the weeding was complete, I started to look at my numbers. I uploaded our collection info in Mackin for collection analysis. Since we don’t use Dewey, this gets a little iffy and the “recommended” numbers don’t necessarily match up to my categories. I took that analysis and made the “recommended” column to the best of my ability. The other columns show what we have — copy count for each category, percent of circulation, circulation numbers, and the that category makes up of total circulations. I was able to gather this information from a Collection Circulation Report (Summary Only) and a Collection Statistics Summary Report in Destiny.


Then, I looked more closely at the sections that had a higher percent of circulation than the percent it made up of the collection. These are the sections that would be the main focus for new purchases. I looked at the average of what I usually spend on nonfiction and fiction books when ordering. I also based our need on having 10 books per student — which would bring our collection to 10,000. These numbers aren’t exact, but an estimate so I could have conversation with my principal about finding funds to help us improve our collection. CirculationStatistics2015-2

My principal was impressed with the data (speaking his language makes a difference) and we are working on finding funds to help us fill the gaps in our collection. I’ve been working on lists, building one for each category so I can look more closely at what is being spent on the different genre sections. I’m excited about the potential to grow and expand our collection this year!

Also, through the process of weeding and assessing the collections, I did a little re-arranging of genre category locations in the library. I moved some books to different genres. I reorganized some of the nonfiction sections and the graphic novels. And I finally decided to make a permanent Humor genre in fiction and pulled books from a number of categories to build it.

It’s been a busy start to the year, but a good one!

Posted in Genrefication, Middle Grade Books, Reflections, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

Library Procedures

Spending time at the beginning of the year practicing library procedures with students is essential for a successful year. I love my 8th graders this time of year, because they’ve got the procedures down. They know exactly how our library functions and they’re leaders who model the procedures to new students.

Particularly with self check-out and return in place, I really have to drill those procedures with students so things run smoothly. It’s just me running the show in our library — no assistant with over 1000 students at our school — so self check-out is the only way that the library can stay open for circulation all day every day.

Every year, I like to schedule my 8th graders for the first library visits. I feel like it’s only fair that they have first dibs on checking out books (because once 1000 students come through, the shelves start looking a little bare). Instead of droning on about library procedures with my 8th graders this year, I had them help me put together a video to review procedures with 7th grade and introduce them to the new 6th graders.

I let the students break into groups of 3-5, giving each group a camera and a procedure to film. Some of the submissions were hilarious — I was highly entertained by what they submitted. The video and audio quality left something to be desired; it was a little hectic and loud with so many students working in the same space to record. I was pleased, though, with the final product:

I showed this video 33 times over the course of two weeks for back to school library visits. I only got a little tired of it. :)

My 6th graders came in this week for their second visit and they’re starting to get the hang of our procedures. I used this Kahoot to review with them. I will continue to review them and sound like a broken record (“Scan your ID first to check out”) until this library runs like a well-oiled machine.

Posted in Library Lessons, Library Procedures, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Resources & Links, Technology | 3 Comments

Making Connections

Every year, I like to have a guiding goal to focus my practice and teaching in the library. Trying to consciously focus on doing one thing really well throughout the year helps me to push myself and make our library great in that specific area.

This year, I’m going to put a of focus on making connections.

With my students, I plan to do more connecting via Google Hangouts. Mystery Skypes and Virtual Book Talks are always so much fun, and I plan to incorporate them into library activities as much as possible (if you’re interest in connecting your students with mine, please let me know!). I also want to use Google Hangouts to connect students with authors and experts that relate to what their learning about in their core classes.

I plan to make an effort to do more collaborative planning with my ELA (and hopefully other content area) teachers. For the past several years, I’ve put myself on a pretty fixed schedule to see my ELA classes on a regular basis (every other week for 6th and 7th and every third week for 8th). I did a lot of lessons and activities on digital citizenship, Google search lessons, and activities to connect students with books during these visits. With 40 ELA classes, this pretty much filled my schedule. We have added five more ELA classes to the mix this year, I was struggling to make a schedule that would work. I’ve decided to have regularly scheduled monthly library visits for all ELA classes. The rest of my schedule will be filled by visiting PLC meetings and planning lessons and visits through those connections. With self check-out in place, students are able to take care of circulation business all the time, which makes me okay with the idea of classes not visiting so frequently.

Alaina and I decided this summer that we were going to come up with a plan to boost faculty morale and help our coworkers connect and build relationships throughout the year. We told our principal that we were forming the F.U.N. (Faculty Unity Network) Committee and planning monthly gatherings for our faculty members. Here’s our F.U.N. Activity Schedule:

We had our first event last night and I was so excited to see some of our new and old CMS faculty members show up after the first EXHAUSTING full week of school. I think these events are going to be a great way to help our teachers — especially those teaching different subjects/grade levels who rarely see each other on our large campus — build relationships and feel valued in our school community.

Another great way that our CMS teachers are connecting is through Twitter…awesome, right?! I hosted our Twitter Boot Camp at the start of school last year, and we’ve had some great buy-in from a number of our teachers. During one of our in-service meetings before the start of school this year, our principal shared this:


We are using the hashtag #CMSdaily to share what we are doing in our classrooms and discover what’s happening around the school. It’s been so much fun to see what awesome activities are happening around campus and I know this is a great way to start conversations and sharing between our teachers.

I cannot wait to see what’s in store for this new school year!

Posted in Library Procedures, Making Connections, Reflections, Resources & Links, Technology | 4 Comments

Library Wall Quotes

Three years ago during July of 2012, I posted about our library wall quotes and word cloud that I put up when we moved into the new library. Just three years later, and I felt like it was time for a change.

For the past several years, the library has been decked out in neon colors and zebra print, which I loved and has been a lot of fun. A few things lead me to the decision to redecorate the library. First, I was lucky enough to hear Erin Klein speak at the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference this spring. Erin also did a TL Virtual Cafe webinar on Classroom Cribs. She talks a lot about creating an inviting space where all students feel welcome and comfortable. Although my students absolutely loved our library as it was, I knew that I could do more to make it more appealing to both genders and not so “girly.” I’m also currently reading Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate. He talks a great deal about incorporating your passions into your teaching practice as much as possible. I took inspiration from both of these awesome educators and decided to revamp the library with a travel theme — anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about travel. Plus reading and travel are a perfect pairing, don’t you think?

So now for the part that everyone’s curious about — “How did you do those awesome wall quotes?!”

Our PTO purchased a Cricut Expression machine years ago. I used it the first time we put up quotes. It is great for cutting vinyl and crafting with card stock.

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Purchasing a USB cable and downloading Cricut Craft Room saved me a lot of time in the layout and cutting process, but this is still VERY time consuming. I brought the machine home and cut out the quotes over the course of about a week — and I spent MANY hours working on it during that time.

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I prefer to use the 12×24 mat and order sheets of vinyl that size from They have a large selection of colors and I’ve been more than pleased every time I order from them.

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In the picture above, you can see that blade of the Cricut wasn’t set very deep — it didn’t cut through the backing, just the vinyl. When I cut out the quotes, I had it cut deeper so I could lay out the quotes and make sure none of the letters are missing.

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It’s kind of crazy how trying to fit as many letters as possible on a sheet and make sure you end up with all of the right words and punctuation can blow your mind!

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I’ve purchased the vinyl transfer paper before, but never actually used it. Instead, we invested in this handy little laser level. We use 3M Command Strips to stick it to the wall and shoot a line.

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Then the letters go up one by one.

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They peel back up from the wall pretty easily without tearing if you have to adjust them…which you will. Often.

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I spent pretty much an entire day up on the ladder putting up the quotes with the help of my awesome mom. I’m so happy with how they all turned out!

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I went with these five travel and reading themed quotes…I love each one of them dearly and hope they will speak to my students, too.

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We even changed some of the font and color of the words in the word cloud above the circulation desk.

The finishing touches on the rest of the space are still underway and I can’t wait to post again soon with the rest of the details!

Posted in Decorations & Displays, Resources & Links | 5 Comments

The Sting of Rejection

I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post. I don’t want to come across as a complainer…I am incredibly blessed to have a career I love, and I feel that my hard work and commitment to my profession has paid off tremendously in the past few years. We all go through slumps at some point, and I feel like I’ve been having one these past few months. As I reflect on what it feels like to not have the success that I’m always striving for, I think about what it feels like for our students. When you try so hard, give something everything you’ve got, and then come up short, it’s hard to stay positive.

Often as educators, we don’t put ourselves out there and apply for grants/awards/etc. because we might not get it. And when you don’t, it stinks! It hurts! It’s upsetting!

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This year, we submitted our entry for the Follett Challenge and worked our tails off to promote our entry. We were so close! If we had been just a few spots higher in the voting, we would have won something. But we didn’t. I gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough in this case. We put together a great video and it was great publicity for our library program, but that doesn’t help with the sting of not winning. This was our second time entering the Follett Challenge.

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My best friend (who is also an ELA teacher at my school) and I wrote a Fund for Teachers grant this year. For almost two months, we stayed after school for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to research and write our grant. We put so much time, effort, and energy into writing this and were so pleased with what we submitted. We wrote this grant because we got an email about the seven submissions that were funded from our state the previous year, and they were seeking more entries from our area. We were very hopeful and anxiously awaited the email that would let us know if we were funded. Alaina and I travel together every summer and were excited about the opportunity to travel and put together an awesome cross-curricular unit with the help of this grant. We didn’t make other travel plans for this summer, because we knew if we got the grant we wouldn’t be taking another trip. When we got this rejection letter and found out that only two projects were funded from our state, we were heartbroken.

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Last year, I was selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders…an incredible honor. I thought I would apply one last time (this was my third year applying) for the Outstanding Young Educator award. I’ve been very involved with the Librarians Network with ISTE for years. Our group is large and very active, so I really wanted to see a librarian recognized for one of ISTE’s big awards. Even when you aren’t surprised or devastated by a rejection, it still doesn’t feel great.

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This one stings the most! Two years ago in Hartford at AASL, was part of four awesome, packed out presentations. It was overwhelming to do so many presentations at a big conference, so I only submitted one proposal for AASL in Columbus. I thought it was a great session proposal and it included some of my library friends that I love and respect the most in our TL community. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be presenting in Columbus this fall. AASL is my absolute favorite conference and speaking is one of my favorite things to do (especially with a group of other awesome library leaders), and I’m beyond bummed that it won’t be happening this year.

I think it’s important to be thoughtful and reflective at a time when pushing on and dusting yourself off just doesn’t feel so easy. At times like this, do I feel like I want to back off a bit and quit trying so hard? You bet I do. But what kind of example does that set for my students? How many of them feel like this all the time? They try so hard, put in their best effort, but they still fall short. How can we encourage those students to keep trying? So while I’ve experienced this feeling of not quite making it several times in the past few months, I’m trying to use it to gain some perspective. Relate this experience to my students so I can better connect with and encourage them. And most importantly…I’m going to keep trying and putting myself out there because that’s what I want them to do.


Posted in My Ramblings, Reflections | 15 Comments

Think before you post!

Last week in the library, we did an activity that fostered a lot of great discussion and serious thoughts about posting on social media. Students honestly don’t put much thought into the things they post — and it’s scary how quick and easy it is to post something, and how difficult it is to recover from something harmful to your reputation and online presence. I work very hard to serve as a positive digital role model for my students (and coworkers, for that matter). I’m very transparent with everyone about how active I am online through social media and this blog. Sharing about the positives that come from my professional online presence and how it impacts my life is a big part of who I am and what I do. For most of my students, I may be the first POSITIVE digital role model that they have…because I see some of the things their parents are posting online on toxic Facebook groups within our community.

Some of the ideas for this activity came from the Common Sense Media lesson called Private Today, Public Tomorrow. We started with some discussion on what happens when we post things online. I used these slides to guide the activity:

Students were broken into groups and each group was given an article about the consequences of using social media in a harmful way. You could either have students access these articles online or print them. I decided to print copies, and I formatted them so they wouldn’t look wonky. Here’s the PDF:

Here are links to the articles:

Pittsburg High School students suspended for inappropriate comments on Instagram

Recruit Yuri Wright expelled for Tweets

Students arrested, expelled for making violent Twitter threats

They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets

Social Media Shocker: Twitter and Facebook Can Cost You a Scholarship or Admissions Offer

Texas teen tweets herself out of pizzeria job

High School Coaches Back UGA’s Social Media Scrutiny

Concord coach invites Twitter to ‘burn down’ RFRA-supporting pizzeria

Students read these articles, discussed them, then came up with questions that people should ask themselves before posting on social media. Depending on the amount of time I had with the class, they might make decision trees or a list of questions. Here are some of their products:

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We ended with a whole class discussion. It was really interesting to see where the discussion went with each of the different classes. We talked about what they read in the articles (some were shocked that these were TRUE stories) and they shared their group’s questions (or decision tree). Lots of discussion was had about how “appropriate” is a subjective word. This is one of those lessons that will be referenced regularly, especially since a number of administrators popped in during these discussions.

I did this activity with all of my 7th and 8th grade students — 24 times total in four days! I plan to do it earlier in the year next year with the incoming 7th grade students. This activity would be very relevant to high school students, as well!

Posted in Digital Citizenship, Library Lessons, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Reflections, Resources & Links, Technology | 7 Comments

Battle of the Books


Today we hosted the first Battle of the Books at CMS! I’m beyond pleased with the way the event turned out and know this is going to become a favorite tradition at our school. I have to give a HUGE shout out to Sherry Gick who has been talking about her Battle of the Books for years, which inspired me to bring this awesome idea to CMS. Sherry and Megan Scott gave an ISTE Librarians Network Webinar on the Battle of the Books, which I recommend watching if you’re considering hosting this at your school.

I started advertising for this event back in November. Students could get together teams of up to 10 students for the competition, then find a teacher to serve as their sponsor. I used funds from our book fair to purchase sets of the 10 titles for each team. A total of 13 teams signed up for the competition and they received their books in early December. Many of our team sponsors set up Schoology groups for their team members to discuss the books on the list. Students traded the books with team members to read. Some teams were very ambitious and tried to get as many students on their team to read as many books as possible — there were a number of students who read all 10 titles! Other teams assigned team members to be an expert on two or three titles. The winning team actually met after school several times to discuss the books and come up with their strategy…and clearly it paid off!

Teams received this list with information and guidelines about a month before the competition:

Each team was allowed one computer for responding to the Kahoot and Socrative questions. I told them up front that if any monitoring teachers saw them with other windows/tabs open OR they had any of the books in sight, they would be disqualified from that round. We didn’t have any problems.


Rounds 1 and 4 were Kahoot rounds — 20 multiple choice questions where speed and accuracy helped them earn points. Points were awarded based on final ranking after the round. The team in first place got 10 points, all the way on down to just one point. You can check out the Round 1 Kahoot here. The Kahoot rounds were so much fun and brought a lot of energy to the competition.

Rounds 2 and 5 were Socrative rounds — short answer questions with a 90 second time limit to answer. I had this set up with 20 questions for each round. After round two took FOREVER and the students got a little restless, I cut down the questions for round five to just 10 questions. We had some issues with groups getting kicked out of the Socrative room, so I’m not sure that this is what we would use next time. However, it was nice to be able to check the short answer questions after they were populated in the spreadsheet, so there was some benefit to using Socrative. These were my questions for Round 2:

Round 3 was a puzzle. Teams had to match the title, author, and main character(s) from each of the 10 books in 5 minutes. We cut out each piece individually and put them in an envelope. Each team received an envelope, paper grid, and glue stick. Teams earned a point for every title/author/main character that was matched correctly.

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I can’t express my excitement enough over the success of our Battle of the Books! With the help of my awesome administration and super supportive coworkers, things went even better than I hoped. Next year, I plan to move this event to the fall semester and maybe host the battle after school. I’ve already heard talk of recruiting and strategizing for next year’s teams. In the words of a student who sent me a message on Schoology after the battle…It was EPIC!

Posted in Middle Grade Books, Reading Promotions, Reflections, Resources & Links | 3 Comments

Librarians as PD Leaders

As librarians, I believe it is essential that we view ourselves as leaders in our schools. We all know the best leaders lead by example (not with a do as I say, not as I do attitude). Not only must we be digital role models for our students, showing them what strong digital footprints and a positive online presence looks like, but we must also do the same for our fellow teachers as well. One of my favorite things to do in the library is to promote technology through professional development for my teachers. This isn’t necessarily a role that was expected of me as the librarian, but it is one that I’ve created and developed for myself because I felt it was so important.


When I took my current position as middle school librarian, one of my first PD offerings was a Library Tech Petting Zoo. I share this PD idea often, because for me it really helped to set the tone for myself as a leader and collaborator in my school. Numerous collaborative technology projects were born from this fun and informal professional development, and it helped me to lay the ground work for some great relationships with my new coworkers.

I’m also a strong believer in embedded professional development. Library visits are a great time to introduce teachers to new tech tools and ideas, because they get to see them in action as I facilitate students in using those tools to enhance their learning. I like to think of this as scaffolding for teachers — they may not feel brave enough to try something new on their own, but with the support of the librarian they are often willing to try a new tool or idea that they’ll later use with students in their classroom. I’ve done this with numerous tools, such as KidBlog, Google Forms, PicMonkey, and Kahoot (which has been a big hit this year!). Using video to create tutorials for teachers and students is another great way to encourage the use of new web tools and resources. I love using the Flipped Classroom model with students and teachers for PD. Creating video tutorials, such as this one about PicMonkey, is an easy way to demonstrate new tools:


The 2014-2015 school year has been a great one for PD at CMS. This fall, I offered several sessions of a Twitter Boot Camp for my teachers. I did short, 30-minute sessions that gave teachers time to get their feet wet with Twitter. We talked about the basics — hashtags, general Tweets vs. Tweeting to specific people, following people to build a PLN, and Twitter chats. My goal was to introduce teachers to the wealth of information that’s constantly being shared by educators on Twitter without completely overwhelming them. Even though it’s been several months since these Boot Camp sessions, I had a teacher come into the library just this week to thank me and tell me that she’s been getting some great resources and making connections on Twitter. As the only Spanish teacher in the building, the idea of creating her own Professional Learning Community online really resonated with her. #WINNING!


Another huge PD win this year at CMS has been EdCamp. Back in 2011, I worked with some awesome New Orleans educators to help host the first EdCamp in Louisiana. One of my goals for 2014 was to host an EdCamp in Baton Rouge. With the help of my principal and some great CMS teachers, we hosted EdCamp Baton Rouge at the end of September. This was the first EdCamp for all of my CMS folks, including my administrators, so they were unsure of what to expect. Thankfully, some of my NOLA friends came up Baton Rouge to support us and our event. It was a great day of learning; many of my coworkers said it was the best professional development they’d ever experienced.

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My principal liked the EdCamp model so much that we recently used it to host a mini-EdCamp on our February teacher-only PD day. Our teachers loved the opportunity to take ownership of their learning and participate in facilitated discussions on topics that were relevant and timely for them. After the rave reviews of this PD model, I know that we will host more of these events on school and district PD days. I’m also looking forward to an even bigger turn out for our 2015 EdCamp Baton Rouge that we will host again in the fall.

In the last several years, I’ve taken my love for PD and sharing beyond the walls of my school. I love to learn and share with other educators, evangelizing about the use of technology in education and the constantly evolving roles of libraries. I’ve been honored to speak at a number of state library and technology conferences, sharing the importance of librarians being technology leaders and role models in their schools.

One presentation that I think is worth revisiting that’s relevant to this topic is the TL Virtual Cafe webinar that the fabulous Tamara Cox and I presented on PD with a Twist. I’ve also presented on this topic several times at conferences, because I think it’s so important for librarians to be professional development leaders in their schools.

Another presentation that I’ve done several times and plan to share with my teachers this spring is on Tech Tools:

An important part of my job is to stay on top of current tools and resources available to teachers and share those resources with the teachers who need them. With the stresses that my teachers are facing with curriculum changes and new assessments, I feel like making their life a little easier by sifting through tech resources and sharing just the best tools with them is so important.

(All of my past presentations, links, and resources can be found on my presentation wiki.)

Is the position of school librarian viewed as a leadership role in your school? What are some creative ways that you’re stepping up your game as a leader and offering great PD and resources to your teachers?

Posted in Professional Development, Reflections, Resources & Links, Technology | 2 Comments