Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Reading Challenge for the New Year

I'm starting my first reading challenge, thanks to my friend Colleen's posting about J. Kaye's Book Blog. The gist is to read 100 books starting on January 1, 2010 until December 31, 2010 (check out the site for all the details). I've been devouring books anyway this year, so why not jump into a challenge?

The idea of recording all the books one reads makes me think of my very treasured book journals. For many years--15 to be exact--I have kept a journal of every book I have read. I write down passages that spoke to me and how I felt about the book at the time. When I finish a new book, I love to go back and read what I wrote about other books. A dear friend who was my inspiration to be a librarian started hers in 1975 (!) and looking through hers made me want to start my own. Of course, I always look to see how many books I read a year, but it's never been a challenge before. I've also never made it to 100 prior to adding kid lit to the pot, but I love the idea!

I'm thinking of modifying it a bit for kids at school and seeing if any of them want to join. Say 40 books? I'll invite teachers to participate as well. I know you'll be game, Chrissy!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Reading Over the Vaca

I have a gorgeous pile of books (how I love how they look all piled up...) ready to be read over the upcoming vacation. When I organized the pile last night to take a picture, I realized that all but one book are recommendations from either kids or teachers. There is such power in having kids put a book on my desk and tell me I have to read it.

I'm a bit late in doing this, but I posted my picture of the books this morning on the last day before break, encouraging kids to take a picture of their own reading pile over the break. If there are enough photos, I'd love to make a Voicethread of them. If not, I'll put them up on a bulletin board outside the Hub.

Next year, I'll definitely do this before the last day when things are crazy. But I still see kids gathered around the door looking at the picture, which is making me smile.

Happy Reading! p.s. I'm always open to recommendations...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Twitter, Take Two

It took me so long to fully digest the benefits of Twitter. At first, it was hard for me to sift through all the tweets and make sense of what was pertinent to my own learning. So I took a break from it and thought it was simply a tool that wasn't for me.

Enter the lovely Lesley Edwards who oh-so-gently posted about the benefits of Twitter every now and then (smart move to not just do it once, Lesley!), which was just enough to get me thinking about diving back in.

And dive back in I have, and I can now truly say that I am loving Twitter. Why the change? Well, I've narrowed down my field of who I follow to librarians and tech teachers and just a few extras for good measure. In essence, now I'm learning from the people I wish were in the same room as me many times. It feels a bit like that feeling of sitting across from someone while working and one of you says, "Wow! you should check this out. Let me send you the link." Whether you choose to tweet or just be a lurker on Twitter, there is enough great stuff being shared out there that it's worth the leap.

One more reason Twitter is better for me is having a Tweetdeck. This is a site that arranges the new tweets to come up all the time on your computer screen (kind of like a ping for an email) so I'm not actually going to the twitter website.

And if there is anyone wanting to get Twitter a try, I found this little nugget on Twitter today from Librareanne out of Tokyo: a list of librarians on Twitter. I just added a bunch to my account. Plus, you can't beat how cute the Twitter bird is. I've added a "Follow Me" button on the side. Jump on in the Twitter pool!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Lighter Side of Weeding

Get ready to bust a gut on this one! I was recently turned onto a hilarious blog called Awful Library Books, which is a list of archaic and hilarious titles found by librarians while weeding books. These two ladies, Mary and Holly, give librarians such a good rep as being funny and witty while doing the somewhat tedious task of weeding.

This year, I have added something new to my own weeding. To help deepen teacher's understanding of the process, I wrote up a detailed and lighthearted rationale of why I weed and how hard it really is for me to get rid of some books. My hope is that it helped a bit.

I came across this gem from a pile of donated books. Printed in 1985 and still in pristine condition, Read About Computers seemed a perfect choice to submit to the Awful Library Books website. Even if it's not chosen, it cracked me up.

It's worthy of a mention that this book was donated to a center for children in downtown Bangkok where I was working. I find it so strange that a book so old could not just be thrown away. Do poor people not need current reading material? I'm just saying...

Ok, that last part was worth digging through all the dusty boxes of donated books. I was in my junior year of high school when this book was published. Egads!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Paperless Planning

When moving from the classroom to the library a few years ago, I discovered that lesson planning was much trickier. Once so neat and clean and organized and color-coded as a classroom teacher, all of a sudden I had a completely different kind of schedule that changed everyday. There were a lot of sticky notes, Word documents and way too many pieces of paper.

Enter paperless planning from Planbookedu to bring me a sweet sigh of relief. It is nothing short of brilliant, and I don't think it takes that much longer than traditional planbook planning. The overwhelming benefit is that everything is in one place, stored forever, and with the oh-so-amazing features of linking to websites and attaching documents right to my lesson plan. For example, if you look right there on Friday's lesson, the paperclip shows that all my notes about the lesson focus, youtube links, and everything needed for the lesson is just a click away. Now, if only it could only help me figure out how I am going to be in two places at once on Wednesday...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Many Books, Many Voices

Being a librarian is, for me, the most amazing job. The fact that I am surrounded by books and by kids who are clamoring (yes, some days clamoring!) to get to many of those books is pretty amazing. And I am grateful to the bloggers out there who share so many great titles to add to my collection. I am forever finding amazing literature, and it's all about the sharing.

So, that is why I have started a collaborative blog for ES librarians sharing books that work well with kids or titles we must have in our collections or really anything worthy of library conversation. So far it's just me and my good friend Colleen who works in Vietnam, but even our two-way conversation is stimulating.

If you are an ES librarian, international or not, and would like to join the blog, Many Books, Many Voices, feel free to comment and include your email. I will contact you with details about how to join the conversation.

A peek into my RSS reader for some favorite book blogs.

Mother Reader
A Year of Reading
A Sweet Read
Kids Lit

image taken from verseguru, flikr creative commons

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Changing Things Up a Bit

A while back, I read a great article on Choice Literacy called "A Workshop Model in the Library: Time For More Than Book Checkout" by Franki Sibberson. I will say that the Choice Literacy site is worth every penny of the membership fee, especially for a librarian. (Thanks, Lesley, for finding the public article!)

In a nutshell, she talks about setting up library time like we do the reading workshop. Start with a mini-lesson, have kids choose their books and THEN come back together to share and read a story. I thought it sounded like a great idea, but I was a bit chicken to shake things up now that we have our routine established in the Hub.

But, shake it up I did today. I talked with the kids about doing a flip-flop of what we normally do, with the caveat that if it really flopped, we'd change back to what we normally do.

It was beyond wonderful. Having the mini-lesson first (today we talked about what it is that draws us to a book when we are in the library and how we make our choices) calmed us down and got us on track. After checking out, we all met back on the stairs for our story. This allowed us to end on a great note together instead of the normal routine of me herding kids from all over the place trying to get them in line, which always felt quite chaotic to me. This is also almost exactly the feeling Franki got when she did it. I tried it with kinder, 1st and 2nd grades today, and they were all successful. And that was on a Friday afternoon, so that's saying something.

Just because it was awesome to hear them articulate their reasons for book choice, here is the list from one second grade class:

1. The cover is fab!
2. It's about something you love, like an animal
3. It's a just right book
4. The title looks good
5. You want to try something new that looks good
6. You like the author
7. The character is good
8. Reread a favorite
9. It's something you love to do, like a craft
10. The inside pics look good and funny

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Big WOW!

Oh, I love days like today! This morning, a small group of 4th and 5th graders met with Mary Amato for our first Skype An Author visit. It was beyond fantastic! Let's just say it's 2 hours later, and I'm still on a high from how incredibly powerful the experience was.

Skype an Author is a program where authors donate time to talk to students. Mary donated 15 minutes of her time to meet with us and talk about her book called Please Write in This Book. The group of kids had met with me to generate questions ahead of time, and we were very organized and ready to go. I liked that Mary had sent me guidelines ahead of time so we could easily follow her expectations.

Mary was so gracious and warm. Even when we lost electricity (aagggh!) in the middle of our time with her, we all gathered around the laptop in the dark and she loved it, saying it looked like we were gathering around a campfire to talk to her. We even got to see a sneak peek of her newest book, Invisible Lines, which was very cool. But most exciting for me was the energy in the room--it was the coolest buzz from the kids and me about the fact that we had just talked to the person who wrote the book we love. A 5 star authentic experience for us all, and we can't thank Mary enough for meeting with us!

Feedback from the kids is the best way to sum it up:

*I never knew that she made a lot more books.

*I never would have thought it took 6 years to write a book.

*She was nice.

*You know when you are reading a book and you have questions for the author. We always put post-its in the books, but we got to actually ask her the questions. (this one really hit home with me!)

*It was cool when the lights went out.

*Writing takes time...actually, good writing takes time.

*Even if you don't like writing like Ms. Amato didn't like writing, if you keep writing and writing, you can learn to be very good.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Wordle and Books = Groovy Stuff!

I love the idea of leaving kids with one "cool tool" each time they visit me. During my second session with the grade 3-5 students, I modified an idea I found on Chad Lehman's website using Wordle. In a nutshell, Wordle creates a word cloud out of the text your provide. The more frequently a word is used, the bigger it becomes in the cloud. We began our Wordle lesson by modeling the process, and I had kids quickly brainstorm reasons we love Thailand. Yes, the beaches truly are amazing here, but I did cheat a bit when we made this. When one kid said 'beach,' I asked who else liked the beach and then added a bunch more to give them the idea.We then broke into small groups and listed 6 favorite book titles or series, which I then input into the program to create our Wordle. (It is always cute to hear the 'oohs' and 'aahs' of kids viewing the Wordle). Going one step further, I talked about how our Wordle is actually providing us with data about our class as readers, and we tried to extract the data we could find.

I put them together in a Voicethreadand found myself very interested to see how readers matured greatly from grade 3 to grade 4. There was a leap from mostly predictable series in grade 3 to more individual, meatier books in grade 4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid was overall the most popular, and our friend Garfield was found to be king at all levels.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


One of the best investments our school has made for our greater community is buying a site license for Tumblebooks. The concept is simple: quality titles read to kids with illustrations using a tiny bit of movement. It's magic, and it is becoming a wonderful tool for parents to use at home. I believe the cost for a school is about $1000.00, but it's so worth it if your budget can handle it! We are finding it especially motivating for the ELL population as it allows students to hear English at home.

Free trials as well.

Easy, cheesy tech tip: To do a screen capture (photo of a website you are on) like I did of this photo attached, simply click shift + command + 4 on a Mac. Drag the crosshairs over the area you want to take a picture of and let go. An automatic picture!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Keeping Current

Keeping current with technology is fairly easy: read a lot of blogs that tech-savvy folks are writing, watch your tweetdeck for new cool tools and spend a lot of time with techies. But keeping current with reading strategies and pedagogy is not as easy, in my opinion. Sure, I read book blogs (almost obsessively), but I've been out of the classroom for a few years now, and I simply don't want to lose touch with current ideas on how to use mentor texts and how to implement good, solid strategies when I'm meeting with kids.

For that reason, I put some of my yearly PD money to good use. And Amazon kindly delivered these awesome new books in just under a week's time. Certainly not bad at all for being all the way over here in Thailand. I can say I'm already so pleased with my well-researched choices. Lots and lots of deeper understanding already on my part about choosing and using mentor texts.

The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard
Non-Fiction Mentor Texts by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capelli
Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray
Mentor Texts by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capelli
Teaching With Intention by Debbie Miller

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Skype an Author

A big thanks to Joyce Valenza for sharing a site called Skype an Author.

The concept is simple: a number of authors have signed up on this site and are willing to donate (free!) 15-20 minutes of an author visit via Skype. Being that we are in Thailand, this is a phenomenal way for our students to have contact with writers and get a taste of mingling with authors. I immediately sat down and scrolled through the list of authors to match books we have in our collection with available authors. One of our first mini author visits will be with Jessica Harper. I just read A Place Called Kindergarten this week, and the kinders loved it. Coupled with another of her books called Lizzy's Do's and Don'ts, which they also loved, we will now write a few questions to ask Ms. Harper when she meets with us on the computer.
I can't wait!

Monday, 14 September 2009


I heard about Glogster a while back, but I never seemed to find the time to sit down and experiment with it. For me, the playing around with themes and fonts and style is the fun part, and so I dove in feet first this past weekend. For my first attempt, I've gone quite simple, but you can add links and all sorts of goodies. My thought is to make a few glogs showcasing authors that are not the 'biggies' used for author studies. By adding these to my blogroll on the sidebar of Great Reads!, it becomes one more resource for teachers. And a pretty funky-looking one at that!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The ISB21 Team

I feel so fortunate to work with so many talented individuals in both the tech and library fields at ISB. A few years ago, the two areas joined forces and the ISB21 team was created. As a librarian who is keen on technology and relatively new to the library field, I am soaking up all the knowledge and experience I can from both sides. Check out where we house our all our team thinking.

Our team decided last year to do a group book club, and our choice was Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen. Using the final word protocol was a great way to facilitate the discussion of the first chapter today. Only bummer for me is that I was home sick. In true ISB21 fashion, I sat in via Skype and was able to participate in the great discussion the team had. Looks like it was a great book choice.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Book Trailers

Lately, I've come across a number of great book trailers for kids, and they are such a creative way to grab someone's attention. Some of the best ones out there, in my opinion, are the ones that take a Presentation Zen approach to the trailer: few words and beautiful images that speak volumes. My goal as a librarian this year is to work with students to create some of their own book trailers for books found in our Learning Hub. I'm thinking a lunchtime group of interested 4th and 5th graders is the place to start.

Trailer from one of my favorite new character series for young readers, The Adventures of Max and Pinky

And talk about a book trailer that is simple yet powerful. All I want to do is run out and buy this book when I see the trailer...Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor.

I'm finding that it's hit or miss when it comes to finding trailers for books at this point. Perhaps because it is a new medium? This site, Book Screening, has about 80 good trailers. Hopefully we'll be on our way to creating our own soon. Anyone doing this already who can share?

Sunday, 6 September 2009


Groovy way to get a message across, eh? You can make one of your own here.

I really did spend the entire weekend pouring through the archives of A Year of Reading. Franki and Mary Lee are have put an amazing amount of work and research and passion into their book blog, and I am beyond excited to order and read many of the titles they suggest. What I really want to do is get a huge latte and hang out with the two of them for about a week and talk nothing but books.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Online Catalog, 21st Century Style

I spent my first year (ok, first two years) using Destiny in a pretty basic way, but this year I'm determined to have the kids use it in a way that makes it authentic for them. So, we're diving into Destiny Quest, a very cool part of the catalog that gives it all a more current twist that appeals to students (and librarians). Here is a snapshot of my Destiny Quest page showing a fabulous book called Odd Velvet. Check out how many things I can learn about the book just from this page: the summary, a review, other books I might like, put it on hold, and the list goes on.

Cool features we are loving

*Ability to check your own account to see when things are due

*Checking out the lists I've created of book recommendations

*Changing the background theme to something groovy

*Putting their own books on hold

*And my personal favorite--the "You May Also Like..." feature, similar to what Amazon has. It's not on every book, but enough to make it very, very cool!

One question for the library world--how can I give kids access to make more than one resource list? It appears that they can only make a personal list, but they want to make more. One list for books they want to read later, one list for favorites, etc.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Rethink, Reinvent, Rejuvenate

Kim and I had the pleasure of hosting over 30 librarians from the Asian region here at ISB. A few short months ago, we met Kevin Hennah as he was passing through Bangkok, and his presentation of redesigning library spaces struck a chord with us. We immediately asked him to come back and do a presentation in Bangkok.

Not only was it wonderful to connect with so many librarians, Kevin's presentation was engaging, practical and inspiring. Since his background is in retail, he looks at the books as products and how to make them move just like a bookstore would.

Or, as he put it,

"What would you do differently if you were given one dollar for every book that left the library?"

Great way to look at it. Here are a few things I took from the presentation:

*Use vinyl stickers for areas where you would normally use a poster. They look better and add a bit of coolness to the library. These are the types of stickers you see on the sides of busses or on store windows. Luckily, we live in Bangkok where this is quite affordable.

*Uniformity of signage is key and also professional. I was drooling over this funky signage that Kevin brought. You can find it here.

*Come up with a brand for your library. It can then be included in the letterhead for notices, up on the walls, and it ties the whole thing together. We are already putting our heads together here to come up with a cool brand that incorporates Thai culture.

*The focus is on books. Getting them out the door, displaying them in such a way that kids are drawn to them. And as many front-facing shelves as possible!

Looking forward to implementing many of his ideas in our Learning Hub. Interested in having Kevin come to your school? I know he's keen on doing more presentations!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Visiting Authors

I vividly remember being a classroom teacher and being envious of the librarian while s/he was hosting a visiting author. With a dynamic speaker and a good author, there is such palpable inspiration that it's more than a bit intoxicating.

So lucky me to have hired Sheree Fitch, a Canadian author and poet, as our visiting author at ISBangkok coming up in March of 2010. She comes highly recommended as a passionate writer and speaker. Plus, she has one of those vibrant personalities that I feel like I already know her just from emails going back and forth.

Doesn't she look just fabulously fun?! I can't wait until March.

Check out her interview on Just One More Book

image taken from

Monday, 10 August 2009

A New Year

The new school year has begun, and oh, does the second year feel smoother than the first! Always the case, I think. I love seeing faces I recognize and knowing many of the students as readers.

A goal of mine this year is to advertise books more. Here are a few things I'm working on this year to be more visible in promoting literacy: (first two ideas taken from the AAIE conference last summer)

1. Wearing a lanyard around my neck and sticking a book through the lanyard as a book necklace of sorts. (this can be painful with thick books!) Kids now know that whatever I am wearing is something I recommend, and they can ask me for the book. It's working well so far as it gets people's attention.

2. Having a sign on the library door showing what I am reading. LOVE this idea, and then I take the book cover and add it to my recommendation bulletin board when I change it. In the future, I'd love to get more teachers to put something like this outside their classrooms.

3. And lastly, I'm trying to house all the books I recommend for various units of study and genres in one place. I tend to come across something wonderful and then forget what it was later on. Hopefully, my new Fabulous Books wiki will be utilized by teachers this year. I'm still using 22books as the platform with which to add the book covers. Easy, cheesy!

Feel free to share any ideas of how librarians are promoting books in school.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

My Own Summer Reading

Ah, summer! I have been reading some rave reviews of The Book Whisperer, so I put that on the top of my summer reads. To say I loved it is putting it mildly. It was both inspiring and validating, and I'd recommend to any elementary teacher and definitely to librarians. The premise is simple: read and read and read, and kids will become better readers. But it adds the important element that I think some of us forget--if we, as adults, are readers ourselves--passionate readers who talk about reading and share our love--then it's almost impossible for kids not to catch some of the reading fever.

For me personally, the book inspired me to get off my butt and do some serious summer reading. I have found that there is this weird pressure for librarians to have read all the books in a library, and while that is completely unrealistic, I know I can do better. I see how kids LOVE when I recommend a book to them, and I listen to them talk to each other about what to read. It truly is the best way to get kids to find a book that fits them. So here is the first of my summer reading pile. Living just a few blocks from the local library means this pile can be replenished over and over. Check out my book recommendation blog, Great Reads!, for the reviews.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fun and Learning

Lucky me to have received a DVD gift from a friend who is a parent at the Singapore American School. The principal, David Hoss, has created characters called Hop-a-Long and Shoo-Fly (played by himself and vice-principal, Ken Schunk), and these characters put on an educational variety show for students. Dancing, songs, literature and just plain fun are included, as well as a central theme. The primary librarian at Singapore American School is also a part of the show, and he looks like he is having a blast playing Mr. Bookman. Another character on the show looks like she might be a relative of his. This was the absolute perfect way to end a year in the library this week. Kids loved that there was a real principal and a real vice-principal and a real librarian and real science teacher making a movie. This is a great addition to any elementary library collection for both the information learned and the fun had.
Permission granted by Mr. Bookman to show his image online. Image taken from

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Summer Reading

I had so much fun creating our summer reading wiki for ISB parents. For some time now, I've wanted to have a central place for parents to go for book recommendations, and this wiki is perfect for that. Plus, it can also be for so much more than just summer reading. My hope is that it's a place parents keep coming back to time and again to see what is new in our Hub.Discovering 22 books really made it easy for me to get this finished by the deadline. It's definitely not an exhaustive list, but it's off to a great start. And I love that every time I make a change to my 22 books list, it automatically changes it on the wiki.

image taken from

Monday, 25 May 2009

Fresh Eyes

A few weeks ago, we were so lucky at ISB to have Doug Johnson and Ann Krembs visit our school as consultants for the redesign of our MS/HS library. We borrowed them for a short while to give us some tips on how to better use our space in the Learning Hub. It's a funky space with great seating, but we are always on the lookout for ways to utilize the space that works best for kids and for easy access to books. Simple suggestions like opening up our non-fiction area, moving some tables around and bringing in some chess boards (wow, these have been a hit!) helped us re-energize at this point in the year. Thanks, Doug and Ann!
And lucky us...more fresh eyes are coming our way in August. Kevin Hennah, a library design consulant, came to visit us here in the Learning Hub last month. We hit it off instantly and loved how his retail background helped us understand things like "hot zones" and fabulous display options. In fact, we liked Kevin so much that we asked him to come back and do his presentation for the librarians in the region on August 22. There are 40 of us signed up to attend Rethink Reinvent Rejuvenate: An Interior Design, Layout & Merchandising Workshop for Libraries. I can't wait!

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Making a 'wordle' is so fun. Simply take a text you already have and paste it into the wordle website. It automatically takes the words in your text and arranges them by frequency--the bigger the size, the more frequently used in the text. My example below is taken from a letter on our summer reading wiki, crafted for parents of younger readers and how summer reading helps them maintain their growth. Seeing those key words like open-ended questions, reading and children jump off the screen and makes it a visual delight. Plus, being somewhat font-obsessed, the font choices are great as well.
And the reason I am inspired to write about Wordle today is an article I saw from CBS News. Both Obama's speech and Dick Cheney's speech were turned into wordles. Again, one is struck by the key elements of a text and what is emphasized in each.

Monday, 18 May 2009

22 Books + Wikis = Easy

Little by little this year, I've been working on a wiki to house all the great books I come across in our Learning Hub. I got tired of random scribbles on pieces of paper of books that were perfect for one unit or another, so a wiki sounded like a great place to put them. My plan is to unveil it to teachers at the beginning of next school year and have it be a resource for them, a place where they can go to get ideas of mentor texts for our reading and writing units of study, as well the must-reads I come across while browsing the shelves.

One of the reasons it was taking me so long was that I was adding each of the titles in a rather complicated manner--making a table on each page, writing the title and author, finding the image online and then addding it to the table, etc.

And then I read on Lesley's Web-Footed Booklady's blog about 22Books. Now all I do is make a new list, type in the titles, and it creates a smart-looking list for methat embeds directly into my wiki.

I love when things make my life just a bit easier. And I think I might be officially addicted to making book lists now.

image taken from

Thursday, 30 April 2009

A Wealth of Books

Somehow I stumbled upon Esme Raji Codell's website the other night, and it's become my new favorite read for book recommendations. The amount of work she has put into these lists of favorite fiction, picture books and others is astounding, and I spent some time today pulling some of them off my shelves for future read-alouds.

Also thinking I must read her account of being a first-year teacher, Educating Esme. And next on my list is her stories from fifth grade, Sing a Song of Tuna Fish.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

TechTrain 2010

I'm bubbling with excitement here in Bangkok. My fab teaching partner, Kim, and I have just been approved to host an EARCOS weekend workshop that we are calling TechTrain 2010: Beginners Learning Technology Together.

The idea came from a conversation about how we didn't know of a workshop that was designed solely for beginning tech users. This area is a huge interest of mine, and I love helping newbies with questions and going super slow to give them the confidence they need to begin embedding digital literacy skills in their existing curriculum. Kim and I talked about the possibility of putting something together in the Asian region, and before we knew it, we had submitted a proposal to EARCOS, got accepted and Kim created this snazzy wiki (if I do say so myself).

Our main goal is to go slow and give individual attention to the participants. We want everyone to increase their confidence and leave with some concrete tools under their belt: their own RSS page up and ready, perhaps their first blog post, a sample Voicethread, and ideas of how to use these tools in the classroom.

Feel free to pass on the TechTrain 2010 info to any colleagues you feel might benefit from this workshop, even though the wiki is still a work in progress. The workshop is scheduled for January 30-31, 2010. Can you tell we are excited since we began planning today for a workshop that isn't for another 9 months?

original image by Dan Kamminga

Sunday, 5 April 2009

FBA Poetry

As April in Poetry Month, it's the perfect excuse to really take a look at what is in the collection I inherited this year. One of my favorites is Love to Langston by Tony Medina, a gorgeous compilation of Hughes' poems that are appropriate for upper elementary. An added bonus is a short summary of the history of each poem, which is perfect for teaching points. I can hardly pick my favorite, but this one stands out in the crowd.

A Bag of Oranges by Langston Hughes

A bag of oranges is
What she brings me

With a great big dimply grin
Sweet as a georgia peach
Come to see me on my death bed

With her hand outstretched
Palm up, orange big and bright as the sun
As if death to her is a new day
She brings the sun!

That child
Makes the pain of my illness
Go away
This day

Dear sweet Alice Walker
One of my favorite young writers
Brings me a bag of oranges

Brings me oranges like
A bag of sun

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Just Cool

It would be weird to wallpaper the library with this, right? Very cool.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tracking Our Thinking

This month, I've had the pleasure of facilitating a 3rd grade reading group for an hour each morning. We're reading Silverwing, which is absolutely an amazing book to read, and it's rich and complex and leads to great discussions.

After about a week or so, I realized our group had a ton of papers and sticky notes all over the place: a character chart we were all adding to, a paper for our new vocabulary and then a million sticky notes about our questions as we read. I started thinking of a more organized way to track our thinking.

Enter the Silverwing Readers wiki, a lovely little work in progress. One stop shopping for our growing character traits, vocabulary added to our 'batpack' and a place for us to document our discussions. I absolutely love it and see huge potential for it as a practical way of using technology in the classroom. Just imagine how authentic and organized a student-led conference would be if a student showed their parents how they are tracking their thinking this way.

The only downside to this that I see is the legwork involved in getting kids set up on the wiki and teaching them how to use it. My thought is to work with interested teachers and set up small groups of book clubs to get them started.

Here's one more example of a 5th grade teacher here at ISB, Chrissy, who is already using wikis for book club thinking.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

My Own 21st Century Kid

My two year old...
In her short life, she has only used Skype to talk to her grandparents.

She sees computers in ordinary things. A play garage becomes a computer station to her as she pulls up a chair and works at her 'computer.'

She builds them out of Legos.

And finally I found kid headphones for the plane. Trying them out here (big hit!).

What I wouldn't do for a kid-friendly Kindle for traveling with big color pictures and big font. Maybe someday soon...

Friday, 6 March 2009

Easy, Cheesy Book Reviews

Our school made the switch to the Destiny online catalog this year, and I am starting to work with classes to teach the students and teachers how to do online book reviews and ratings. It's one of the best features of the new system, and I am finding that it is also one of the easiest and most successful ways to teach some 21st century literacy skills. A one-hour commitment from start to finish, it's doable with a teacher's busy schedule and a very authentic way to have students communicate with each other.

I loved to see how the kids were so jazzed to get their reviews posted and approved by me. A 3rd grader put it best: "It was great to not have to work two or three days to finish something, but instead I got to finish it quickly and see it on the computer."

A little instant gratification does us all good every now and then.

Next stop, 4th and 5th grade classes. Ultimate goal: kids finishing a great book, grabbing a laptop and writing reviews. And I'm promising myself I won't get obsessive about correct spelling.

Friday, 13 February 2009

The 21st Century Poster Child

While searching for an image of a book cover today online, I stumbled upon this--an incredibly cool 21st Century Learner poster! The creation of author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (same guy who does the amazing children's books Ish and The Dot) and actor Eric Close, they came up with it at the National Educational Computering Conference in San Antonio while leading a session on the characteristics of a 21st century learner. The tiny print says it can be used for educational purposes, so I'm already planning where to hang them around the school and in classrooms where I know kids will love it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


It's been a while...

When I reflect on why it's been a while since I've posted, I know the reason. It's because I feel that what I am learning is still so basic. Maybe it's because I spend too much time with my groovy colleagues, Jeff and Kim, who are somewhat famous in the blogosphere. I tend to start thinking that everyone already knows what I've just discovered.

But I'm wrong. Today, as I sit in a room full of librarians all working in international schools in the Asian region, I see that so many librarians are just now dipping their toes into technology. There are some, of course, who are charging ahead, but many are still just getting started.

And this is why I started this blog in the first place. To share with those who are just starting out, to make it less scary for those who know they have to get on the tech train now.

So, I'm back on track, writing for the audience much like the woman working in Myanmar whom I met at this conference today. In the lunch line, she asked me, "Do you know of any websites where I can learn some activities to do with elementary kids?"

Why, yes I do. Here's the perfect introduction to any conversation with students regarding online safety. It's called "Think Before You Post," and it's incredibly powerful about how permanent things are that we post on the web.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Voicethread and Kinders

Voicethread is still one of my favorite tech tools to use due to its simple format and its appeal as an easy, fun way to record kids' voices.

Inspired by Mrs. Gamache's kindergarten class, I met with one of our kindergarten teachers here at ISB and suggested we do something along the same lines of taking a familiar nursery rhyme and changing the words. She loved the idea, and so did the kids.

Here is the kindergarteners' final project. Quick, easy and great fluency practice. Embedding something like this into a class blog would be a fabulous way to share with parents.