Book Club Round 2

Yesterday, we kicked off round 2 of our after school Book Club. We have a whole new group of students who are just as excited as the first group! This will be a 4 week session (still meeting twice a week)  since the school year is quickly coming to an end.

This session, my group is reading Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

For our first meeting, my crew made Spy Journals so they can observe the world around them just like Harriet.

Their journals looked so cute. I had one student come back this morning and show me what she’d written in her journal. I love the enthusiasm of 7-9 year olds…it’s infectious! I’m planning to have the students create a comic based on Harriet, and maybe a song or poem too. Whatever we do, we will have loads of fun.

Librarian Tiff's Top 15 iPhone Apps

A coworker just got an iPhone and was asking for my recommendations on apps. Here’s my list of my favorite 15 free apps.

1. MobileRSS – for your Google Reader

2. Facebook – Addictive, so beware!

3. ShopShop – for your grocery shopping list

4. CheckPleaseLite – tallies tips, divides checks

5. Echofon – for twitter

6. Goodreads – keep up with books that you’ve read, good source of book reviews

7. Pandora – free radio

8. YellowPages – phone book/location finder

9. Yelp – similar to YellowPages but has good customer reviews

10. Urbanspoon – for when you don’t know where to eat

11. AllRecipes – kind of like urban spoon but with recipes

12. Now Playing – movie times

13. Shazam – can figure out the name/artist of a song that’s on the radio

14. KAYAK – flight info/last minute travel deals

15. ISTE – quick links to their resources

Now it’s your turn to share…what are your favorite apps?

"The Tyger" by William Blake

When I was in college, I had to do an independent study course because of scheduling issues. The professor and I sort of made up our own class, and it was really great. One of the books she had me read was Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? by Kenneth Koch. When I taught middle school, I did my entire poetry unit using this book. My favorite poem and activity from it was “The Tyger” by William Blake. I thought I’d give it a shot with my 2nd/3rd graders. It’s a pretty intimidating poem, but I approached it in a simple way so it could make sense to the students. First, we viewed this reading on YouTube:


Then, I used the picture book of “The Tyger” illustrated by Neil Waldman and we broke it down line by line. We talked about how Blake is actually talking to the tiger and asking him questions about how he was created. We talked about the language and the meanings of a lot of the difficult words. They really got into the discussion, especially after I told them when they interpret poetry, there is no wrong answer.

Then, they have a chance to write their own poem, with the following instructions:

“Write a poem in which you are talking to a mysterious and beautiful creature. You can ask or tell that animal anything, because you are able to speak its language.”

Nearly all of the students got really excited and dove right into writing. Some were hesitant and needed coaxing. They really came up with some great stuff! In one class, some students wanted to share. When they read their poems, it gave me chills! Their innocent minds can come up with some incredible things. Next week, I plan to use Photostory and have each student record their poem. I plan to use Creative Commons to have pictures of their animals, which will be quite an undertaking with 500 students. I’m really looking forward to next week and creating some finished products! Watch for it, I plan to share some of their work.

Here’s another video I’d like to use:


Sharing the link between music and poetry really brings it home to many students, and I think using this video would do that so well.

Google Reader Workshop

I am pumped about next week., here’ s why:

1.  Testing is over, so we’ll be back to a normal schedule.

2. Round two of Book Club gets cranked up.

3. We’re going to write some poetry in honor of National Poetry Month!

4. I’m doing a workshop for my coworkers on using Google Reader.

5. There’s a webinar on Monday Night, and there are always some of my library idols that host or attend them 🙂

I’m really looking forward to putting on this Google Reader workshop. I’m hoping for a good turn out and some enthusiastic teachers! Surely some of my excitement will rub of on them. Watch for some posts throughout this very exciting week!

Here’s the PowerPoint that I’ll be using for my workshop, for anyone that’s interested…

[slideshare id=3760866&doc=googlereader-100417164755-phpapp01]

Laptop Rant/Call for HELP

I’m so frustrated with my laptop situation! For Christmas (I think 2007, but maybe 2008? Sad that I can’t remember…) my darling husband got me this laptop as a surprise.

I loved it! It was PINK! My old laptop was starting to flake out, so I was excited about this gift. Then I turned it on and started using it. It had Windows Vista and I HATED it. It would freeze up and act like it had a mind of its own (with sub-par intelligence, of course). After about a month I reverted back to my old laptop. About a year later, old faithful kicked the bucket so I was forced to start using the Vista infested computer again. It works well about 70% of the time…when the mouse isn’t freezing up, etc. So I should buy Windows 7, right? Well I haven’t done that because I’m still bitter about Windows Vista. Just because I got a new laptop in this particular window of time means I get the short end of the stick.

So here I am with ISTE coming up this summer, as well as my launch into my Masters program. I need a piece of reliable equipment. What should I do? What I (think I) really want is a MacBook. Mostly because I can get the extremely cool Book Book cover to go on it. Yes, I’m that much of a dork.

Part of me is afraid of getting a Mac because its so different from what I’m used to. Another part of me wants to just go for it since I’ve heard so many people who love their Mac.

So what should I do??

1 – Keep this Dell, suck it up, and buy Windows 7

2 – Buy a netbook because they’re cool

3 – Try to buy another PC brand laptop that will fit in the Book Book case

4 – Go for the MacBook

Adults MUST learn from kids!

You must watch this video:

[ted id=815]

Adora Svitak has some really strong ideas in this TED talk and they are definitely things that educators need to hear. I especially liked the part about internet filtering, but that should come as no surprise 🙂

Did you notice, though, that she used a Prezi?! I love it!

I got this from the Free Technology for Teachers blog, which is in my opinion the most awesome blog out there for educators.

Internet Safety

It’s been a while, folks! That’s because I’ve been on Spring Break. It was fab – the hubby and I visited our nieces in North Carolina, then I spent a few days relaxing with my mom in Gulf Shores, AL. I definitely needed some travel and relaxation to get me ready to push through these last weeks of school which are promising to be hectic and chaotic to say the least.

Next week is iLEAP testing, so I’m doing some last minute reviewing with my third grade classes. We are doing some practice questions on PowerPoint that I found here.

Photo by rightee, Creative Commons liscense

The review only took a little while, so afterwards we did a lesson on Internet Safety. It’s so important that we start teaching kids how to realistically be protective of their identities online. I used this really great website created by the Virginia DOE and the Professor Garfield Foundation, which you can check out here. There’s no doubt that my kids love Garfield, I mean, he’s a pretty witty cat. I really like the way this site is set up – for the topics of Internet Safety and Cyber Bullying there’s a 5 minute cartoon followed by some interactive questions. I did just the Internet Safety activities with my 3rd graders because of the review time we spent, but I did both with my 2nd graders. I think they really got how they need to not share their “yappy.” Good stuff, man!

Photo by gadgetdude, Creative Commons liscense

In other news, I’ve applied to grad school! I’ve been trying to convince my college BFF to go back with me, but she’s just not ready yet. So I bit the bullet and applied to go back all by my lonesome. I’ve found a really great program at Northwestern State University here in Louisiana that has a 100% online program in Educational Technology Leadership. Yep, that’s all me! I’m nervous, excited, and can’t wait to get started.

Read Around the World

Shame on me for not posting yet about my “Read Around the World” program. I’m considering it to be one of my biggest successes this year. Why? Because my students are starting to read outside of their comfort zone!!!

“Read Around the World” may not have been the most fitting name, but it’s what I went with. Here’s the scoop on what we’re doing:

Students who are interested in participating picked up a “Reading Passport” from me in the library. I made it cute and colorful. On the inside is a 3×3 grid with different genres. Students are to read one book from each of the following categories: a picture book, a chapter book, an award winning book, an animal book, a science book, a book about a place they’ve never been, a folk or fairy tale, a biography, and a free book of whatever they want. So many kids were stuck in a series and weren’t reading anything else. My great geography, folk/fairy tale, and biography sections were getting so little love. I made a few catchy videos to promote the program, and let them come to me if they wanted to do this. It has been such a wonderful experience for the students, teachers, and myself. Are they all participating? No, but many (if not most) of them are and they’re actually reading some variety! So many times a day I’m asked where the biographies (pronounced beeographies by so many of them) are. And they love it! They’re telling me about the things they’re learning about other states they’re reading about. Teachers are commenting on how much this is expanding their knowledge base and how they hear them talking about what they’ve read with other students. The first week in May I’m going to have a drawing of all of the completed passports and a student will get the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid set. Plus I got some bookmarks from Raising Canes for a free kid’s combo, so I’m giving those out to students who turn in their completed passports.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m so proud and totally pumped about the results from this program. My awesome assistant principal shared this new free tool called Prezi with me the other day. I had to play around with it, of course, and I created a little Prezi for read around the world — check it out below. You’ve got to click here and actually see how Prezi works. It’s quite a nifty presentation tool.

Teaching Information Resouces

In preparation for the upcoming iLEAP testing, I’m trying to prepare our students for the information resources section. I’m trying to expose students to the types of resources they might see on the test, but I’m trying to pull it together in a relevant way. I know they’ve been practicing for this section in class a little bit in class. I also know that these resources really won’t mean much to them if they don’t actually put their hands on them.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to pull in some books relating to geography and different cultures. I heard the teachers talking about what a hard time their kids have with understanding how life is different in other places around the world, so I thought it would be good to pull in some multicultural literature.

Last week, we read Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say. It’s a beautiful book and wonderful, simple story. It’s a Caldacott winner, which we talked about in relation to our “Read Around the World” program (I’ll write about this later on this week). After reading the story, we talked about the geography of this story. I really honed in on talking about continent, country, state, and city because I found this was something the students were struggling with. Then, we started talking about reference books and how they help us. I introduced the atlas, put them in their hands, and let them explore. We used the table of contents, looked and different kinds of maps, found Japan & California from our story, and talked about real life situations where an atlas could be used. Kids love maps, so giving them a chance to explore was fun for them. I think it was a pretty successful lesson! I did it with both grades, but pushed it more with 3rd grade. It was less structured with the 2nd graders, but I think they benefited from the exposure of this lesson.

This week, I’m planning to read When Marion Copied by Brook Berg. I read this one with my 3rd graders last year, and I really love the Marion series. My plan for this week is to read this story with both grades. Afterwards, we are going to look at some copyright pages and the sample bibliography page that is provided on iLEAP.  Once again, I’ll push the activity further with 3rd graders, but I want the 2nd graders to get this exposure now.

Next week, I’d like to pull in some magazine articles somehow. I’m still in the thinking process on how I’m going to pull it all together. I’m sure I’ll read a fun Easter/Spring story to 2nd grade since we’ll be off for Easter break the following week.

I’m really in shock over how quickly time is flying by. We have Easter break right around the corner, we come back for a week, then we have testing. After that, we only have 6 more weeks! It’s going to be overwhelming with DIBELs, DRA, inventory…and packing up the entire library since they’re redoing the roof at school. You heard me correctly. We are packing up the library. Please pray for me.

The Help

I’m so far behind on my posts. Lately there has been too much going on in my crazy little head for me to communicate coherently. I’m trying to get my brain back on its tracks.

Here’s my post about my March (grown-up) book club meeting. For February, we decided to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The date we had originally scheduled ended up being the day that the Saints went to the Super Bowl, so we just pushed our meeting back to March. I actually read the book in February, so there was a long wait between then and this meeting. I absolutely adored this book. It’s a weighty topic – the role of black maids in high society white families in 1960s Jackson, MS.

Kathryn Stockett did an amazing job with this topic. The characters in this book made the story. They were all so real and complex and (most of them) lovable. I laughed, I cried, I was angry, I was filled with joy for the characters. This really is a beautiful, well written book. I highly recommend it.

This was a very good discussion book, as well. My book club consists of a small group of 20-somethings. Most of us were raised here in the South, but we do have a dear friend who was raised up yonder (shout out to Belle!). We can’t identify with the way of life that is described in this book, it seems so…fictional, I guess. But many of our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, coworkers, etc. remember this from their childhood. I think this book really opened up some interesting converstations with people from older generations that we all have in our lives. And could you really ask for anything more in a book? I think not. So you really must read this one.

I’ve already passed my copy along to a coworker. Being the librarian makes me the resident book guru, which I obviously love. Not only do I have teachers coming to me for recommendations on books to use with their students, but I even have some coworkers who come to me asking for suggestions on good adult fiction for themselves. (See, darling husband, my personal excessive book collection is completely necessary!!!) I love nothing more than loaning out a great book, and having it returned with a big smile because it was loved!

So I’m going to try and catch up with my posts…look forward to hearing about two great things this week: my success with “Read Around the World” and the ways I’m trying to pull in reference resouces to prep students for iLEAP.