I’ve been desperately craving the feeling of success this school year, but I’ve found it a bit more difficult to come by than usual. Everyone who has been through changes at their school know how difficult and trying the can be — even if they’re very positive changes like moving into a new facility and gaining new administrators that you love. Thankfully, I am currently enjoying a luxurious two week holiday break so I can recharge and reflect, then gear myself up for the second half of the school year.

During the chaotic four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I was able to experience some of that success I’d been seeking. I’m an ideas kind of girl — I love an ambitious, sometimes out there idea/project/plan — but we all know those types of ideas don’t always work like we hope they will. It has to be implemented at the right time, with the right people involved. Definitely not as easy as it may sound.

I’ve been wanting to get our students blogging for YEARS. There aren’t many writing experiences that are more authentic and deep that we can offer our students than blogging. But blogging with students is a lot of work for all involved and you have to be committed to follow through with it. One of my awesome ELA teachers (who I was lucky enough to attend ISTE 2011 with in Philly) decided she was ready to get her students blogging. We got permission and made plans to have students blog through a book club/novel study unit. I wanted to be able to provide her with as much support as possible — this was the first time any students in our school would blog and we wanted it to be a success.

This was also my first genuine attempt at co-teaching a unit. I made a real effort to spend as much time as possible in her classroom each day. I also shared in the grading and conferencing on writing. It was definitely frustrating for me at times when I was deep in a great part of a lesson in her classroom and someone was trying to hunt me down because they needed something in the library. And I saw that if I had a clerk in the library I would be able to do a lot more of this type of thing, which is obviously so beneficial to the students and the teachers. I definitely want to do more of this type of thing, but finding a balance to make it work is not easy.

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve found success (YAY!) and I’m going to be REALLY reflecting on this unit over the next week as I write it up for one of my National Board entries. The big question is, how do you replicate projects like this? How do you pull off huge, long-term projects and/or co-teach on a unit (especially if you are the lone ranger in your library)?

Search Terms Lesson

I’m really excited to share a lesson over the next few days with my 7th grade students about how to make the best use of your search terms. After WEEKS of presenting introductory lessons to the new physical space (new library and it’s layout) and digital space (learning about how to use Schoology) to EVERY student in the school (that’s each lesson 42 times!!), I’m ready to start teaching something different! I asked one of the 7th grade teachers what a relevant topic would be for their students at this time, and she expressed that her students have been struggling when trying to conduct a web search. Guess what they want to do… They just want to type in their question verbatim and they are SHOCKED and CONFUSED when the response they want doesn’t appear in the first page.

So I started looking for lesson plans with ideas on how to teach this. Google has a whole series of lessons about searching, including a beginner lesson on picking the right search terms. Yes please!

I’m excited to have found these lesson resources. There’s so much great stuff out there, and I LOVE when I find something that fits my needs pretty well, which is exactly what happened with this. Apparently there are also “A Google A Day Challenges” that are little lessons created by Google to help students hone their search skills:

I’m definitely going to be sharing these with my teachers, as well as using some during library visits! This is something that our students (and if we’re being honest, many of our teachers) struggle with — and they need our help! Talk about a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives, this is definitely one of them!

I’m also going to share this cool infographic I found on Mashable about getting more out of your Google search:

I’m excited to see how these lessons play out. I hope that there will be lots of “Ooooohh, now I get it!” moments from my students this week as we have this discussion.

What tricks and tools do you use to teach your students how to conduct a Google search?


Overdrive – This is the comic that I created to introduce Overdrive to my students and teachers!

SO many of my students got eReaders for Christmas and came back to school so excited. Then a week or so in, they started to realize that ebooks cost money. And middle schoolers generally are unemployed, which will really cut into an individual’s book buying budget. My budget isn’t exactly full of oodles of money for ebooks, either. However, our school is lucky to be located in the parish (now you all know, in case you didn’t before, that I’m from Louisiana) with one of the best public library systems in the country! And our public library is always adding ebooks and audiobooks to Overdrive. So even though I’m not at a point where I can offer many ebooks through our school library, I can show my kids how to access Overdrive with their public library card.


I did a short 10 minute session during each of the lunch periods this week to show students Overdrive, what our public library can offer them, and how they can use it with their various devices. There were lots of excited students (and teachers, too) that came in to learn about Overdrive. I’m sure there will be lots of excited parents, too, when their kids show them that they have access to so many ebooks and audiobooks for FREE!

Ahhh…the perks of having a library card 🙂

Duh! Common Sense Curriculum Rocks!

If you haven’t really looked at the Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum by Common Sense Media, you need to get on that. I’m passionate about advocating the need for students receive instruction that helps them to develop their digital literacy skills. But with my teachers having so much pressure put on them to raise test scores and cover their curriculum (I’m not touching that one today), asking them to add something else just seems cruel.

A few weeks ago, I really started digging into the curriculum that has been created by Common Sense Media. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to find a reasonable way to start integrating these ideas into the lives of my students. The 6-8 curriculum has a total of 28 lesson plans that are extremely well written and have lots of great discussions and activities laid out. SCORE! I talked to a few of my fabulous ELA teachers and they definitely see the worth in this, so we decided that the best way to go about this would probably be to incorporate activities in during their library visits. My long-term goal is to develop this into sets of lessons that integrate well into the content/concepts they are learning in ELA and split the lessons among the three grade levels. I’m not one to hammer myself down to some seriously structure schedule, but I think I will be able to work and tweak things so that over the course of their time with me, students will get to experience most of the lessons in this curriculum.

So I started going through the lessons, adapting them to make them my own, and creating slideshows to guide the discussions for each topic. The more I get into this curriculum, the more I love it. It’s so well done!

So I’ve been DYING to try out one of the lessons, and today was the day! I had two of my 6th grade ELA classes scheduled (the other two will come in tomorrow) and we covered the lesson called ‘Safe Talk Online.’ What an awesome day of conversation! It was so interesting to see how the kids reacted to the different scenarios. I was really surprised at how cautious they were about the idea of talking to people they don’t know online. It’s definitely been drilled into them to be safe, but I think more of these discussions will lead them to a way of reasoning that will make them smart about their interactions. I can’t wait to do more of these lessons — I think it’s really going to give me a feel for what our students need to learn about, be aware of, and get more exposure to in the world of digital citizenship and literacy.

Common Sense has free curriculums available for elementary, middle, and high school settings. You can also order the entire curriculum on a flash drive for $25. They have supplemental videos, activity materials and everything! Their stuff is all Creative Commons licensed, so I’m planning to post the presentations that I’m adapting onto SlideShare at some point soon. AWESOMENESS!!

Here’s one of their videos to give you an idea of what their curriculum is about:

In Autumn, beautiful leaves fall.

Last week was blissful (or stressful?) madness as the Book Fair took over our school library. It was incredibly successful and our sales were the highest they’ve been in the three years that I’ve been at the school. The kids had an awesome time and bought some great books! Favorites included The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, and of course Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.

I took a wonderful trip this weekend to North Carolina. My BFF and I saw our FAVORITE band (Hanson!!!) play and then visited my beautiful nieces for the rest of the weekend. We were able to experience the beauty of fall that we miss out on in south Louisiana. The trees were incredible with their brightly colored leaves. Ours just turn brown and fall, we miss out on the vibrant colors.

Seeing all of these leaves made me think about how my kiddos at school miss out! So I brought a few ziplock bags full of colorful flowers home with me for this week’s lessons. Looking around made me think of one of my favorite fall stories — Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke.

This is a great story with stunning illustrations that just BEGS to be read aloud. Fletcher comes to understand what happens to trees in autumn. After our story, we are doing leaf rubbings with the leaves that I brought back from my trip. I’m telling you — the kids think these leaves are fake — most of them have never seen anything like them. It’s a fun activity and I used it for my formal observation today. It went very well and my assessor really enjoyed the activities. It’s great to have fun with my lessons the week before Thanksgiving break!

Cajun Stories

This was an incredibly busy week. Lots of exciting things are going on in the library.

For my Take One! lesson that I plan to video, I’m planning on using Cajun books. My third grade students are going to use the illustrations to make inferences and create their own readers theatre scripts. So this week, I read them a Cajun tale. I read one to my second graders too. They’re just so much fun! I read Petite Rouge and Three Little Cajun Pigs, both by Mike Artell and illustrated by Jim Harris.


I LOVE THESE BOOKS! If you have Cajun roots, then you need to buy these books for your children. They are so much fun to read – and they MUST be read aloud. It really captures the Cajun dialect and the rhyming scheme is great.  The characters are lovable and full of personality. The illustrations are so detailed and incredible. I cannot say enough good things about these books. They would be great for a compare/contrast lesson in a fairy tales unit.

Gator Gumbo by Candace Fleming is another great Cajun retelling of a classic story. This one is a version of “The Little Red Hen,” but with a very different ending. I read this one to a few of my classes to mix things up, and they really liked it.

I bought this one for my niece, but haven’t been able to part with it yet – I need to buy another copy. There Was an Ol’ Cajun by Deborah Ousley Kadair is a spin-off on the old lady who swallowed a fly. The whole series of the lady who swallowed the ocean/pie/snow/etc. is very popular with my kids, so I know they will love this one as well.

Lu and the Swamp Ghost by James Carville is a cute, original Cajun story. This one comes with a CD of the author reading the book, which I really enjoy. This is a really great story with fun illustrations.

Feliciana Feydra LeRoux by Tynia Thomassie is another favorite of mine. I love it because it captures the Cajun lifestyle with the big family full of silly nicknames. The illustrations by Cat Bowman Smith are really great as well…even the pictures have a Cajun feel to them.

I laughed through this entire story! It’s another one that really caputres the spirit of ol’ Cajuns. Four Little Old Men by Burton Brodt tells the story of four old men who play bouree together. This one has more fun names, such as “Rigger Moritz.” Like so many of these books, only an adult who has really been exposed to the Cajun lifestyle will completely appreciate all of the humor — but I’m sure the kids would enjoy it, too. Especially if it were being read to them by a parent/grandparent who could guide them through the humor.


Here are some more staples to any collection of Cajun children’s books. Mary Alice Fontenot has written 19 tales of Clovis Crawfish and his friends since 1961. Cecilia Castrill Dartez has written four stories about Jenny Giraffe and her adventures in New Orleans. Elizabeth Moore and Alice Couvillion’s Mimi and Jean-Paul’s Cajun Mardi Gras is a good one, as well.

Martin's Big Words

Being an “ancillary” teacher, I am on the DIBELs team at my school. We DIBELed all of our students on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of this past week. And second grade had a grade level planning time on Wednesday afternoon, so us ancillary folk covered their classes so they could meet. So I taught a whopping three of my classes this week and had subs cover them on the other days. I wanted to do a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King since we celebrated his birthday on Monday. I needed a lesson that would translate well for my subs. We read Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rapapport and AMAZINGLY illustrated by Bryan Collier. This is a great book that captures the essence of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This book has received many awards, including Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor.

After reading and discussing the story, we made a collage of words that come to mind when thinking of MLK.

It wraps all the way around my desk, and I really love it! They did a great job with their big words.

This is going to be a very busy week – really getting my Take One! lesson ready to video and the first week of our school Book Club.

Library Manners and AR Review

I’m blogging at home on a Friday morning because school is canceled today due to “potential severe weather.” I’m extrememly bummed out since this was going to be the only week that I would see all of my classes for the entire month of January, but I guess that’s life. I’m taking it as a chance to finish Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for Sunday’s book club meeting. I should really take this opportunity to get myself on the Take One! National Board train, but sushi lunch or dinner with my college BFF sounds more appealing. We shall see how the day goes!

Since this was our first week back from the holidays, I did a review lesson. I read Manners with a Library Book by Amanda Tourville.

It’s short and to the point, which is exactly what I needed for the quick review. It goes through a list of things that we do are considered “good manners” when handling library books.

Next, I spent a good chunk of time talking about AR and reviewing our goals. School wide silent reading time starts on Monday, so we needed to get pumped up! Then we did an activity that went extremely well. At each table, I had six books that had the exact same AR book level, but included picture books, a chapter book, nonfiction books, and a poetry book. First, the students had to find out how the books were similar, eventually discovering that they were all on the same level. Then they discussed differences and sorted them into fiction/nonfiction with their group. Finally, the group had to decide which they thought would be the easiest and most difficult books to read and take an AR quiz on. This lead to a really good discussion on how books on the same level can still vary. We talked about what makes a book more difficult (unfamiliar nonfiction topics, length of book, etc). Now getting those little guys to apply this knowledge when they look for their books is a whole different issue, but we’ll get there eventually!!


For shame, it has been a month since I’ve posted! With Thankgiving break, then jury duty the week after, I’ve been frantically trying to catch up at work. And I’ve been working on the yearbook quite a bit. I’m determined not to have a break down in February when it’s due. After Christmas break, I’m going to start really focusing in on my “Take One!” for National Board Certification, so I’m trying to get as much other stuff accomplished as possible right now.

Let me give the run-down on my library lessons for the past month:

The week before Thanksgiving, I had my last order of books come in from The Cookin’ for Our Kids fundraiser that was done for the libraries in our district last spring. Since I had an enormous amount of work to do (and I knew I wasn’t going to be at school for the next two weeks), I did something I hate to do – I showed a video. I found a really good one, though – William Bradford: The First Thanksgiving. It made for some really good conversation with the kids. I was shocked at how little they knew about the first Thanksgiving feast. Example: before starting the video, I’d ask, “Who was at the first Thanksgiving feast?” I got lots of “Jesus” answers. One girl even told me her grandma was there! So showing this video ended up working out. And I was able to get all of the new books processed and on the shelf! Yeah for Perma-Bound processing and MARC records – I don’t know how libraries functioned before it! They even put my AR tags on for me.

The week of Thanksgiving, I went up to school one day and put up my tree. It’s so cute and I’ve gotten tons of compliments. It’s a book tree, and my mom made the ornaments for it.

The week after break, I had jury duty, but great subs! And I didn’t have to go all week – thankfully! We read Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian. This is a book of poems about outer space. My subs didn’t care for it, but I had fun with it when I incorporated lots of discussion about poetry in general (rhyme, lines and stanzas, etc.), as well as discussion about their prior knowledge about outer space. I think this would be GREAT to incorporate into a science unit on space – very cross-curricular.

This week, I did The Mitten by Jan Brett. Such a fun story that completely sucks the kids in. They can’t believe when that bear crawls into that mitten!

After the story (which is pretty short), we played “Nanna Bingo.” I used to make the bingo cards with different names that grandmothers are called all over the world. The kids had a blast with this game. It was a good activity for right before Christmas, because they are full of energy at this point! Next week will be a challenge, that’s for sure.

Axle Annie & Alpha Betti

I’m doing another reader’s theatre from Read! Perform! Learn 2 with my third graders this week. I’m reading the story Axle Annie and the Speed Grump by Robin Pulver.


It’s a cute story that could lead to some good discussion about following the rules and consequences for breaking them, but doing the story, reader’s theatre PLUS book check out in 45 minutes doesn’t give any time for discussion. Ah, the joys of fixed schedules. But I digress! The kids love this story, they think it’s hilarious – especially since “Rush Hotfoot is plucking his nose hairs” and wearing “purple underwear.” (Insert hysterical fits of 8 year old laughter here). My third graders are really starting to get into their reading, showing some real feeling with their voices. I’m looking forward to the reader’s theater unit that I’m contemplating for my “Take One!” entry.

With second grade, I’m doing Alpha Betti byCharlene Morton.


This is another cute story that’s popular with the kids. The book came with a lesson guide that has some great ideas for activities use. But once again, there is no time for that this week. I’m reinforcing some things with AR, quiz taking, and finding books in their ZPD. After the conference last weekend, I’m really trying to see how we can get our program in the place that it needs to be.

We’ve almost made it to Thanksgiving Break!