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.

Last Book Club Meeting

Time is flying by, and I can hardly keep up! I’ve been in a funk lately, so I haven’t been posting. A lot has been on my mind, including make the decision to withdraw from the Take One! program. I may see about deferring to next year, but I’m definitely not going to submit my entry this year. This has been a very difficult decision, but I was unable to really commit myself to doing this whole-heartedly and I cannot scramble to get everything submitted in the next month.

Today was the last meeting of our after school book club. This was really an incredible experience for all involved. I am so happy that my principal suggested this and that we were able to make it happen. I think the students really got a lot out of this experience. My group read Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Cricket in Times Square, and A Good Night for Ghosts and loved them all. They made commercials, informational videos using PhotoStory, newspaper articles, and book reviews. We are going to have another round after Easter break and testing, but this one will be 4 weeks (which I think will be better). I’m not looking forward to the pressure/stress of choosing the students to invite for this round, but I know those students will be so excited to get an invitation letter!

Tomorrow is a conference day, so I should be able to get my book orders done…YAY!

I'm going to ISTE!!!


I am so unbelievably excited! This week, my principal invited me to go to Denver this summer for the ISTE 2010 Conference. Um…yes, please! I’ve been trying to expand our uses of instructional technology in the library, and in the process encourage teachers to bring it into their classrooms.

I’ve had some success, but it’s a slow process since teachers already have so much on their plates. I did work with one class in doing a “commercial” about the Haiti earthquake using Photostory, and it was a great success. I’ve been using the heck out of Photostory in the library – I think it’s the bomb dot com. I desperately wanted to create a blog that is affiliated with my school, but that was shot down due to a rediculous Lousiana law (watch for a post about this soon, I’m really fired up about this one). I know what I’ve been doing is barely scratching the surface, but I’m trying to just start somewhere. I know I’m going to get so much out of the ISTE conference and come back completely pumped up. I just hope I’ll be able to actually use the ideas I get, not be shut down by district/state restrictions.

I know this is going to be an incredible experience. My principal, assistant principal, technology teacher, and myself will all be attending. This makes me so excited for next school year, and I can’t wait to start putting things into practice. And the tech teacher and I are planning to go early and do some sightseeing in Denver, so I know this is going to be a fun trip!

National Board Certification funding to be cut

I’ve written quite  few times about my National Board Certification aspirations. In fact, I’m planning to video my Take One! entry lesson tomorrow. And I have a meeting on Monday about the grant available for those taking part in the National Board Certification process for next school year. NBC is an intense process that requires a lot of refection on teaching practices.

Today, this article ran in the paper.

I knew this was a possibility, as funding has been cut in some other states recently. I was hoping that this wouldn’t happen here, because I was planning on using that extra stipend to go back to grad school. My own personal disappointment aside, this is a really outrageous move on the part of Superintendent Pastorek. The statement that certification does not equate quality teachers is infuriating. Someone who is able to meet the NBC requirements and successfully complete all aspects of the portfolio and testing sessions is capable of delivering high quality education. The committment required to complete the program speaks to their drive to go above and beyond. Could someone be a high-caliber educator able to succeed in the program, but not put forth the effort everyday in their classroom? I’m sure that’s possible, but is that possibility a reason to deem the program is not successful? I think that it’s the school and district’s responsibility to make sure their teachers are doing their jobs! There are so many educators who are constantly seeking ways to grow and improve, and the removal of an incentive that promotes this is disheartening.

My Direct Route to Librarianship

I follow the amazing blog of The Unquiet Librarian, who posted her story yesterday for the Library Routes Project. This project collects the stories of librarians and the path that they have taken into this wonderful profession. I really enjoyed reading Buffy’s story, and I hope that you will enjoy reading mine!

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember – in fact, my mom just found a picture of me standing over the crib of my infant brother, reading a book. I always took my learning seriously and growing up I wanted to do it all – astronomer, artist, meteorologist, actress, and of course a teacher.

In third grade, I moved from the urban school I was attending (due to the long-standing desegregation plan) to my community elementary school in the small town in the suburbs of Baton Rouge where my family lived. In fourth grade my love for reading became obsessive and I devoured any book I could get my hands on. That year, I also became a Library Aide at my elementary school library. My school had a wonderful librarian who was an incredible storyteller. Her reading of The Cajun Night Before Christmas is something I will never forget. I remember being in awe of that library, with its wonderful books and beautiful wall murals of the Milky Way galaxy. The library and it’s sights, sounds, and smells has always made me feel safe. I spent many recesses in 4th and 5th grade helping out in that library.

As they were for many, middle school brought on a series of awkward years. I fully embraced my nerdy persona as I settled into my group of friends in the same gifted/honors classes as me. And then in 7th and 8th grades, something great happened – my P.E. teacher noticed my non-athletic plight and let me spend half of the school year helping in the library during my assigned P.E. time. I did it all – checked books in and out, shelved and straightened, and fell in love with the Dewey Decimal System. During summers, I spent a lot of time at the public library, living and experiencing through what I read. In those difficult pre-teen years, I remember my mom punishing me by not bringing me to the library!

The library at my high school was not a welcoming place, as it was run by two very traditional, stern-faced librarians. As a junior, I went out in search of an after school job, and I was lucky to snag a position as a page with the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Library System, which is one of the best in the nation. At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have such a great system in my area. I learned the ropes of the library and gained some amazing mentors. As began to send off my college applications, I decided that I would get my degree in Education. I loved the public library, but knew that I did not want to spend the next 30 years working nights and weekends.

I was given a full scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana University, which has one of the best Education departments in the state. I commuted the 45 minutes to school so I could keep my job at the public library. I also learned that SLU had an add-on program for School Library Certification, and I began taking the graduate level classes my sophomore year. In January of 2007 I had to leave the public library after over 5 years because my school schedule wouldn’t allow me to work my required 20 hours/week. I spent that summer before my student teaching doing my Library Practicum at the Lab School Library, and it was a great experience for me to really experience the differences in a public and school library. After 4.5 years, I graduated (Fall 2007)with a 4.0 GPA and received the President’s Medal along with my degree in Elementary Education: Grades 4-8 ELA/Social Studies certified and my School Library Certification.

A job as a School Librarian was my dream, but I thought that opportunity would come many years down the road – after I had the chance to go back for my MLIS. I accepted my first teaching position at my community’s middle school – the same one that I had attended years ago. The schools in my community had broken off from a larger district to form our own community school system. Still in its first year, I was excited to get on board. I finished off the school year with them, teaching 6th and 7th grade ELA. Our district was growing at such a rapid pace, that the schools had to be restructured for the next school year, adding another elementary school (going from having PreK-2 and 3-5 schools to having three: PreK-1, 2-3, and 4-5). You know what that meant…they needed another librarian! I put in my application but refused to get my hopes up. I was called in for an interview, and my youth and enthusiasm got me the position over the more experienced candidates! I could not believe I had come into my dream job so quickly.

I’m now in my second year as the librarian at my school. I am so proud of the things that I’ve accomplished and how far our library has come. That first summer, we had to the materials from our two original libraries to serve three – this was quite a task that produced three inadequate collections. Our community came through for us and a fund-raiser provided us with the money to develop our collections. I have a wonderful administration that supports my ideas for library programs. I’m truly blessed to be part of such an amazing school in a great district – all of that and my dream job as a librarian!

That’s my story, and I know there are many great years to come in my library career!

Book Club

Between yearbook, being sick, Mardi Gras festivities, Take One, and the everyday library chaos, I have not been able to blog about Book Club! The kids are having such a great time with our after school Book Club, and I am too! I’m learning a lot about managing a program like this during our first 6 week run of the Book Club. We have 5 groups of 8-10 students that are meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for an hour. Each group is reading a different book and at meetings the students are working on creative/research oriented activities.

The first book that my group read was Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.

My group really enjoyed this book, and several of them have already started reading other Ramona books. For our activity, they split into two groups and made a commerical for the book. They were slightly silly, but had a lot of fun doing it. I videoed them and they weren’t overly proud of their final product to the point of wanting to share it with others, but it was a good time none the less.

Yesterday I introduced our next book – The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden.

I’m really excited about our project for this book – we’re going to make our own newspaper! In the paper, each student will have two articles featured. One will be about an attraction or event in NYC, the other will be a book review. I have high hopes for the outcome of this project. I’m hoping we’ll come out with a much more polished finished product this time! I think this is something my group could be really proud of. And I really hope they enjoy this book as much as I did!

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.