Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Library Love

Oh, how I love our library team. We work together so well, and they always have my back. Eternally grateful for lovely library assistants.

Speaking of grateful, I am over the moon with a group of 4th and 5th graders who helped me build our library Christmas tree. So far, this is the best way I've found to use outdated reference books and weeded materials. I showed them a picture, they worked together beautifully, and now each time I walk in the Hub, I am filled with joy.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mother/Daughter Book Club

Way back in January, my virtual library friend Becky Maher posted about hosting a mother/daughter book club in her library. I knew then and there that I had to find a way to make this a priority in our Hub this school year. After much reading, I decided on The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner. It is filled with such beautiful writing and a bit of mother/daughter conflict, and it proved to be a great choice for discussion. This time around, we invited 4th and 5th grade girls and their mothers to be a part of the evening. There was so much love in the room that it had me choked up as I welcomed everyone.

Part of the Gianna Z book is about how Gianna and her friend Zig look at everyone and give them tree names depending on their personalities. Our homework was to bring a photo of a tree that represented each of us, which we then added to our group mural. We even had one grandma who sent leaves all the way from Germany to her granddaughter so she could scatter them on our mural.

Our evening schedule was set up like so:

1. Eat Italian wedding cookies (they feature in the book often), drink hot chocolate and add your tree picture to the mural.

2. Have your photo taken with mom

3. We then broke into small groups of six and answered the questions we provided. Our idea was to ensure that everyone was comfortable and providing questions is a good way to do that. The back of the book had amazing questions, and we used those.

4. After about 20 minutes or so, we gathered as a group again to list some comments and questions for Kate herself. She graciously donates 10 free minutes on Skype, and we were set to meet with her the following week. The girls had thoughtful questions and tons of them!

Now for the father/son book club planned for the spring. I imagine it will look much different than the girls' group, but I still can't wait to spend the evening with all of them.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Skype & Connections

I am downright amazed at the power of Skype in schools, especially for those of us so far away. A simple conversation with a classroom teacher about how her class had so deeply connected to Barbara O'Connor's book Greetings from Nowhere led to an intimate Skype call with Barbara less than a week later. The students had so many thoughtful questions to ask her, and she was delightful and dynamic. It was the perfect way to wrap up a powerful read aloud.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Hubmobile

Sadly, most of Bangkok is underwater at the moment, and our school was closed unexpectedly for two weeks. Even though our area is dry (thankfully!), the students were going a bit crazy without any new books from the Hub.

Some quick thinking created the Hubmobile. Our fabulous yellow golf cart became an old-fashioned booknmobile set up right next to our neighborhood grocery store. It quickly became a fun way for kids to come and check out some books to replenish their supply. I loved every second of it!

An extra bonus was that my daughter loved being the announcer. "GET YOUR BOOKS!" Beyond cute!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Branching Out

I've been a big fan of Wallwisher for some time now, but one drawback has been the limited number of characters allowed. As I am preparing for an upcoming presentation on the power of Destiny Quest book reviews, I needed something with more space to showcase some stellar book reviews the students have been doing completely independently (oh, how I love that they are so thoughtful when they are working on their own).

Enter Corkboard. Love it! It has the cool, old-school bulletin board look and enough space for me to include all their thoughtful words to share with librarians soon.

Here is the actual link to see all their writing.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Double the Fun

A while back, I ordered a book called Not a Box and loved it. All that creativity in one short book was great, but how would I use it in the library when it was just a quick book to share?

Enter the fabulous website called Draw a Stickman, recommended by my friend Laura. Since both the book and the website are all about creativity, it was a perfect combination. I read the book*, we brainstormed some activities that make us feel creative**, and then I showed them the website and did it together. (I won't spoil the fun here as surprise is everything, so please try it yourself!) We then had enough time for everyone to play on the site themselves before checking out. Double the creativity. Love it!

*What took me by surprise is that I read this all the way up to 3rd grade, and everyone ate it up.

**Their answers for what makes them feel creative were so cool. My favorite was a 1st grader who said, I feel creative when I ask questions. Like when I asked my mom why the walls don't just fall down. Then I felt creative."

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Pre-K Class Books Gone Viral!

This year, my daughter is in Pre-K, and it's so fabulous seeing her around school and even better having her in the Hub once a week. Little did she know that her nose-picking would inspire what has become a series of hilarious class books at our school. I decided to make a class book with the Pre-K classes called Don't Pick Your Nose. We brainstormed all the places we shouldn't pick our noses--on a rocket ship, in the swimming pool, in the library.

Well, it turned out to be such a fun and funny project (even the 5th graders love the books!) that I did it with the kinder classes as well. There are murmurs of 2nd graders wanting to do the same project. Fun, fun, fun! It also made me realize how fun it is to make a finished product in the library that then goes into the classroom library. I want to do more of that this year! Maybe something with taking pictures next...

Don't Pick Your Nose by Ms. Jennifer's PreK

To display the book online, I used Youblisher. J'Adore Youblisher, and all you need is all the photos on one big PDF file. Simply upload when that is ready!

*To turn the pages on this book, click on the cover and then place your cursor on the page and click. Turns just like a real book, complete with page-turning sound (love that part).

*Above photo is one of our Kinder teachers who made her own groovy cover for the book. She says it's one they are reading over and over!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

e-Browsing Across the Ocean

I'm absolutely fascinated by all the excitement that e-readers are generating for kids and adults alike, and I love talking about how libraries are beginning to play a crucial part in all this. Despite my excitement, I've always been a paper book gal myself.

Until recently, that is.

My local library in the US now has Overdrive, the e-book platform that is super, duper cool. It took me a while to figure out how to use it (hint: download the free Overdrive app), but once I did, there was no stopping me. I now spend my Sunday nights browsing the shelves of my favorite small-town library all the way over here in Thailand, reading blurbs of new books or putting books on hold or downloading books to my iPad. And it's free! FREE! I say this because every time I am in the States, I am downright shocked at how many people do not use their public libraries. Free books! You simply can't go wrong.

Did I mention that Sunday night browsing takes place during a foot massage? Thailand is the land of fabulously wonderful and affordable massage. Combining massage with book browsing is a slice of heaven for me.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Books Too Good to Miss

As most librarians do, I host a teacher coffee morning with books every now and then. In getting ready for the morning, I spend some time writing sticky notes on the covers about how I would use the book with students or why I thought the book was so great. As I was setting up for one last school year, a parent walked by and said how much something like that would help her with her book choices.

Such a smart mama. Because of her, "Books Too Good to Miss" was born.

Our literacy coach, Tammy, and I wanted to keep the morning simple and casual--give parents time to look at quality titles and take some home with them. We chose four major areas and set up tables filled with titles related to those themes:

Reluctant Readers, Non Fiction, Early Literacy and Family Readalouds.

The morning was a smashing success! Over 65 parents showed up, and after a short introduction of reading aloud the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds (parents love to be read to as well!) and an overview of the themes, most of the 90 minutes were spent browsing books and talking, talking, talking. My big aha of the morning--parents are hungry not only for good books, but also for time to talk to librarians. Time to talk about their child who only reads Junie B. Jones or to deeper understand the importance of reading in their home language.

Two more "Books too Good to Miss" are scheduled for this school year. Hoping that is enough!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Digital Book Trailer Keynote

I've finally managed to drag myself away from the depths of summer vacation long enough to post the information that I presented at the ECIS conference. It was such fun to share this with others, and I loved hearing from librarians who went back to their respective schools and gave it a try right away. My hope was to share something practical and do-able, and I felt that came through.

Feel free to share the digital book trailer love.

In addition, my wiki for detailed info on how to create a trailer is found here.

Now, back to summer vacation!

Friday, 20 May 2011


One of the things I love about the digital age is all the sharing. What we used to call copying is now called 'being inspired,' and I have been buzzing with inspiration since returning from the ECIS conference.

When I read this post on one of my favorite blogs, I was immediately inspired. We read Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis (check out her website--very cute!) and then brainstormed all the things we thought rocked this year in kinder. We made a quick Voicethread recording afterwards and will now share this with our Pre-K students who are heading to kinder next year. Super fun activity that wasn't too taxing at this time of year when energy is waning!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Summer Reading

It's that time of year again. Time to start thinking of the lazy days of summer when the extra time allows for tons of reading. As I began to put together a list for each grade level, I started thinking that there should be more than just me recommending books. Kids recommend books to each other all the time. Then, a tweet about kids helping each other find books using a google form* inspired me to make my own google form and put it on our Destiny homepage. Yet another use for that homepage!

*To make your own google form, look on your gmail account under google docs. There are so many fun choices of templates. Make sure to remember to change the setting to make it public.

90 responses and counting! Top winners so far are Children of the Lamp, Quantum Prophecy and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

ECIS Library/Tech Conference

Imagine 200+ librarians in one room, all excited and buzzing and sharing and learning. That would be the ECIS Library/Tech conference I attended last week. It was hands-down the best library professional development I've had. Of course, the conference being held in Istanbul was the icing on the Turkish delight. We were wined and dined on the Bosphorus by the book companies and were saturated with awesome information from the keynotes, Doug Johnson and Joyce Valenza.

It was also my first tweet-up (this is when you meet people from Twitter in real life!) with @sducharme, @librarydonna and @librareanne. It was great to meet them all and learn from them. Amazing connecting all around, and I'm already dreaming of the next one three years from now.

My big takeways from the conference...

1. Only2Clicks--using this to house the game and sites allowed in our tech zone. The visual part is so appealing.

2. Sqworl--Love this for finding age-appropriate sites quickly. Again loving the visual aspect of this.

3. QR codes--I am finally setting up my own QR code station (blog post to follow!), inspired by Book Trailers For All.

Last takeaway is that Istanbul is an amazing city. Cannot wait to go back one day!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

iPad Apps To Love

It's been a while since I've posted about iPad Apps we are loving, and the list is growing!

I Write Words is the best handwriting app I have come across. What I love most is that it requires kids to trace the letter the proper way, and the little crab that guides you squeaks if you go the wrong way. Plus, it has a few extra features that make it engaging for little ones doing handwriting practice.

Little Explorers ABC Go is another favorite. The entire app is various forms of transportation, organized in abc order, and the bonus is there is a YouTube video demonstrating each and every mode of transportation. We are big fans of the ice skating and unicycle examples.

Little Things is a fun finding app that has a nice twist to it.

For the adults, I am loving the Zinio app. It gives me access to tons of magazines, and I get a full article from about ten features magazines a month. If I choose to purchase the magazine, great. If not, I can always wait until next month to read more articles for free. Just love this one.

Lastly, I must forewarn that Chicktionary is a bit addicting, especially for those who love word games. Anything that has kids playing around with words is a good thing.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Twitter Love

More and more, I find myself loving the connections that Twitter provides me. Whether it's a link to a tool that is perfect for a librarian or a book recommendation to add to my order, I'm starting to "know" some of the people out there and am so grateful for what they add to my professional life.

And then there is just the "How cool is that?" connections like what happened to me yesterday. I tweeted out a book trailer for the newest in the Pinkalicious series because our little ones are nuts over these books.

This is what came back to me a few hours later. It made me smile for hours.

New to Twitter? Ready to take the leap? The best way that I find to keep up with it is to install a Tweetdeck where the tweets pop up in a window rather than always logging in to Twitter.

Looking for librarians to follow? Check out this list.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Keith Baker, author/illustrator

Last week, we had the extreme pleasure of inviting author and illustrator Keith Baker to ISB. It was such a fun week of drawing and sketching and feeling inspired, and I had more than one parent tell me that their dinner conversation was all about the visit. Other parents told me that their child immediately wanted his or her own sketchbook so they could always jot down ideas in that moment. One of my favorite pieces of feedback was this picture sent from the Pre-K teacher. This little cutie spent her choice time drawing all the expressive faces that Keith showed us. Keith hides tiny things in all of his books, and it doesn't matter how old you are, the concept of finding something on each page appeals to us all. These 4th graders were clamoring to find the green worm on the pages of Little Green.
My personal favorites of Keith's books are the Mr. and Mrs. Green series. As a teacher, you know a book is magic when the exact same story can make the first graders guffaw as loudly as the fifth graders. Most unfortunately, this amazing series is going out of print, so if your library doesn't have them, I would highly recommend the series. I use it as a mentor text to show the use of the 'power of 3' in writing and also for character.
If you are looking for a visiting author, I'd recommend Keith Baker!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Embedding in the Destiny Home Page

I use my Destiny home page a lot. Once I figured out that I can embed anything or I can simply write a message on it, I knew it was the best place for me to communicate with lots of students at one time. Typically I use it to share book trailers, and it seems like there are more and more great book trailers out there every time I search.

Here's how to embed a book trailer on your home page in four easy steps:

Step 1: Log in to Destiny. Your home page will be blank, while mine already has the trailer on it. Click 'edit page.'

Step 2: Click the edit button on this page (one with the piece of paper icon)

Step 3: Copy the embed code from Youtube or whatever program you are using (this can be found directly under the Youtube video with the word 'embed') and paste it in the box. I unclick the 'add related videos' button. Don't forget the title on the top. Then save.

Step 4: Click on the 'close' button. Your video will show up now on the home page.

That's it!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Cool Tools

Every Monday and Wednesday after school, Chrissy and I run after-school tech sessions. And while we generally focus on any and all tech questions, we have been thinking of ways to expand our offerings and share some fun tools to try in the classroom. Today was our first "Cool Tools" session, and I made this quick speech bubble photo of us using Big Huge Labs (LOVE this site--use the 'captioner' selection when you scroll down).

I sent the photo out as the body of the email letting teachers know about the session, and we had such a lovely response. Such a fun way to make your message stand out in this age of email overload.

Monday, 7 March 2011


Nothing like a morning meeting with our fabulous tech lady to get the ideas flowing. Chrissy showed me Fotobabble, a tool that allows you to add voice to a single picture. Quick and easy, I made one to add to our Destiny homepage as a way of advertising our upcoming Celebrating Characters We Love event. Just upload the photo and record your voice.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Celebrating Characters We Love--Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I've held the 5th graders off long enough--they were ready for their own Celebrating Characters Day back in December, but I asked them to wait just a bit for me to catch my breath after Star Wars. What I love about the big kids is that they already formed an organizing group and came ready with ideas for our Diary of a Wimpy Kid Celebration that will take place on March 18. We're making advertisements this week, and we have written a letter/plea to Jeff Kinney to tape a short message that we could play at the celebration. It's a long shot, but they feel strongly that I should send it (we're including the photo of us with our Greg and Holly masks on).

One big change we are making this time is to not have food at the event. It was simply too crazy, and the kids had no problem with this. Instead, it's shaping up to be a pretty creative afternoon. Another change is that the organizers want to run a center instead of simply attending the event. Here are some of our centers thus far:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid website in the tech zone
2. Drawing tutorials in the Smartboard area--one girl is filming herself drawing Greg and Holly and will also wander around to help others
3. Cheese Touch game--this will be a version of the traditional Heads-Up 7Up game, but with the cheese touch
4. Trivia tests, both easy and hard
5. Unfinished Comics from the Do It Yourself Wimpy Kid book

The only bummer is that there are no costumes this time. I do love a good excuse to dress up!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Skype an Author--Todd Parr

Every now and then, I peruse the Skype an Author network to see if there are any new contributors. Imagine my utter joy to find one of my very favorite authors, Todd Parr, on the list. We are huge fans of his work at ISB, so we arranged a time to have him meet with our kindergarteners. The whole experience was nothing short of magical.
Todd is one of those people who is a natural with kids, and he had them howling with laughter at just the right times. I mean, how can you not when you read a book about Underwear?! He read us two books and then showed us how he does his drawings (very cool Skype feature!). This part was great because we are going to use Todd's books as mentor texts for our kindergarten illustration unit next year. Actually, the whole experience made me smile all day long.

And the icing on the cake? We made his Facebook page!
Now onto finding a way to get Todd Parr to come visit us in Thailand next year...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Youblisher & Keith Baker

My friend Chrissy shared this cool tool called Youblisher with me, which allows you to take PDF files and read them like an online magazine. One of our 4th grade teachers is sharing her class magazine this way with parents, and I loved the idea. Easy storage, better for the environment and quick delivery. But, how to use it in the library?

Enter our class letters to our upcoming visiting author and illustrator, Keith Baker. Our Pre-K through second grade classes did a shared writing lesson with me and we wrote about how much we are loving Keith's books. Youblisher is a perfect way for me to share these letters with him, and I love seeing their work displayed in this format! Already picturing Keith leafing through our words over a cup of coffee and getting excited for his visit to Thailand in March.

Please Add a Title
Just click on the link and then drag a bit to turn the page.

One quick note about Youblisher...

You can only upload one time, so I made a word document with all the pictures of the letters we wrote and then turned it into a PDF document.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Online Reading Subscriptions

Finding online subscription sites that teachers and students actually love using is not always easy. Just recently, through blogs and recommendations, I've come across three sites that are working very well for us at ISB. The first two have free trials, and I highly recommend giving them a go.

PebbleGo has been amazingly successful at our school, and we are just now finishing our 2-week trial period. I've had the computers booked often in the last few weeks for classes to use this, and it's perfect for supplementing our non-fiction units of study. Plus, it's incredibly engaging with short text, a video component and very relevant but fun games. Thanks, Franki, for the tip!

Since PebbleGo was so successful, I decided to trial Capstone's site for older readers called Capstone Digital. The feedback I have from 4th grade students was very positive: they said it was easy to find something that interested them, they loved the choice of having it read to you, and the scary books and graphic novels were their favorites. Personally, I can never seem to have enough scary books to meet the demands of readers. The only negative feedback, from only a few kids, was that they thought it went too slowly when they turned the page. That being said, a good test of anything, in my opinion, is if it hooks the reluctant readers. One of the kids I always have an eye on could not stop reading the graphic novel on Pearl Harbor. That sold me!

The last one is called Our Little Earth, a current event site that a 5th grade teacher told me about it. For $40.00 US a year, it is definitely worth trying. I will get an email once every two weeks, which I will then forward on to the teams in our upper elementary. The samples on the website looked interesting, relevant and at a good reading level.

Anyone have any other suggestions of sites that are super successful?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Connecting in a Big School

Working in a big school sometimes makes it tricky to connect with kids as quickly as I'd like about new books or new websites to try. So, when our mid-year book order arrived yesterday with all these titles I knew the kids were waiting for, I decided to make a quick movie of me just talking to them like I would if I had them all in the same room.
I also added the movie to my Destiny homepage (love the Destiny homepage for advertising!) and I only have 4 new chapter books left out of the 20 I had yesterday. Not too shabby!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Our Favorite iPad Apps

To say that our two iPads in the Hub are popular is an understatement. Somehow getting our second iPad has caused even more kids to spend their recess time vying for a chance to play on it. Today, I did an informal data collection of what the favorite apps of the moment are. I love that wordle is such an easy tool to use to show data and that it always is pleasing to the eye as well.

4th & 5th grade results:

2nd & 3rd grade results:

I love that although Cut the Rope is a game, it's so fabulous for angles and geometry and physics. My next task is to see what their favorite apps are at home. Prediction: Angry Birds. Or at least that is what is crazy popular in our house.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Finnish Have it Going On!

I came across this video the other day on Twitter, and I just love it. It was put out by the Finnish library system, and I think they rock. Short and sweet but also powerful. I'd love to make one with students to promote our library.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Book Challenge of 2010

88 was my final number of the 100 Book Reading Challenge of 2010. Before leaving for the December holiday, the students suggested that I start reading picture books towards the end just so I could make 100, but I opted to stick with what I originally planned: kid lit and adult chapter books.

I loved the challenge, and I often found myself reviewing all those great titles I read in 2010. Now onto the challenge of 2011.

Image Attribution: minusbaby