Thursday, December 19, 2013

FAME Conference 2013

In November, I attended the annual conference of the Florida Association for Media in Education in Orlando.  As always, the FAME Conference was jam-packed with innovative ideas, trends, and best practices.  And as always, three days wasn't enough time to spend with my fellow school librarians sharing ideas, connecting with old friends and new, and celebrating awesome children's authors.

I was fortunate to present sessions with several friends this year.  For the fourth time, I was able to present ideas for promoting the Sunshine State Young Reader's Award program in our schools with fellow members of the SSYRA Committee.  These women have become such good friends, and I'm grateful to work with them on this awesome book award committee.

I also presented with my friend Raylee Fleisch, and elementary librarian from Pinellas County, and Michelle Jarrett, a middle school librarian from Osceola County.  Raylee and I went to the same middle school, and she had my dad as a math teacher!  We reconnected a few years ago at FAME, and both serve on SSYRA. We presented a session entitled Outwit-Outplay-Outlast: Surviving your first year (or two!) as a school librarian. We addressed topics that new librarians are often concerned with. Hopefully we were able to help the new librarians who attended our session.  After getting some feedback and doing some reflection, we have ideas for an even better Survivor session for next year's FAME Conference!

Michelle and I also did a session about how librarians use Twitter to build Professional Learning Networks (PLNs).  We "met" on Twitter months ago and planned our presentation electronically, but had never met in person until the day before our session at FAME.  We're a great example of how Twitter connects educators with similar interests across distance!

Monday, December 9, 2013

That's a fact, Jack!

Who doesn't love Uncle Si Robertson and his many Si-isms?  If you're not familiar with Duck Dynasty, you need to know that Uncle Si often says, "that's a fact, Jack!"  I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to display non-fiction books in the library, so I recently put these pictures of Si with his famous words of wisdom out on display with some non-fiction books.  Some of the books were about Duck Dynasty-related topics such as hunting, fishing, and animals.  Others were just non-fiction books that I thought would interest the kids but may not be titles that are highly circulated.

The books FLEW off this display.  We had to restock the display at least once a day while we had it up.  It sparked a lot of discussion among the students, and got a lot of attention.  Just what I wanted!

Fans of the show may catch my little joke in the pictures below: I put a book about beavers next to one of the signs. (The Robertsons have a severe dislike for beavers, who cause problems in the rivers where they like to fish.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

National Picture Book Month 2014

We celebrated National Picture Book Month in November.  Last year for Picture Book Month, we ran a special on picture books - check out at least one and students could get an extra book.  This year, we ran the same special, but added a challenge.  Elementary students in grades 1-5 were given bookmarks to track the picture books they read during the month.  (Kindergarteners got a pencil without having to fill in the bookmark.) Once they finished 10 picture books, they had to choose their favorite and explain why.  Once their bookmark was completed, they earned a special pencil that says, "I read picture books at FSUS!" 

I ordered the pencils in bulk from Oriental Trading Company.  For just over 600 pencils, it cost around $100.  Well worth it to encourage the kiddos to read picture books.

 I know some educators reading this post will be disappointed (or even angry!) that I required the students to earn an 80% or 100% on the Accelerated Reader quizzes for the books on the bookmark. Here's the thing: our students participate in the AR program. We're an AR school. For better or worse, that's the situation.  I decided to require an 80% or higher on each quiz so that students would take their time and really read (and enjoy!) the picture books.  If I hadn't done that, I worried that some students would race through 10 books (or not even read them) because they wanted the prize.  That's not okay with me.  Because our school uses AR as a supplemental reading comprehension program, I try to work within the system while still encouraging the children to read a wide variety of books at a variety of levels, and to read for pleasure.  You'll notice that for each book on the bookmark, the students also circled a thumbs up/side/down to indicate how much they enjoyed each book.

Many students read far more than just the 10 books to get the pencil.  That tells me they were reading for pleasure and enjoying the picture books.  That's really all that matters to me.

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Are Thankful

My friend's family always has a "Thankful Tree" at their house for Thanksgiving.  Each member of the family -- and friends who stop by -- writes down what they're thankful for on a leaf that is then added to the tree.  She offered to come to school and put up a Thankful Tree for us this year as well.  However, our high school art student (aka the Library Artist in Residence) really wanted to make the tree, so she and two friends created this beautiful work of art.  We put it up right at the beginning of November and left it up for the month. (In fact, it's still up. It's going to be hard to take it down!)

Students, teachers, staff, and parents all contributed leaves of thanks to the tree. It was really fun to read everyone's leaves. Some were heart-warming, some were funny, and all were truly sincere.  I lost a few Sharpies to the cause, but I'll take that any day when it means the students are digging deep and giving thanks.  By the end of the month, the tree was completely covered - and then some!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy (Belated) Halloween!

I'm a little late posting this, but I wanted to share how we used our Ellison Die Cut skeleton dies to decorate the entrance to the library for Halloween.  Some white cardstock, a few brads, and voila!  Friendly, book-reading skeletons!

How-To October

I posted before about how we run "Specials" in the library.  In October, we ran a special called "How-To October."  It was a big hit!  Students could check out an extra book as long as it was a book that taught them "how to" do something - cook, fold origami, draw, make crafts. The kids loved it, and it taught them where to find these cool books in the non-fiction section.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Dot Day 2013!

Last week we celebrated International Dot Day at FSUS. Dot Day is just too much fun for just one day - we need at least a week to celebrate!

After meeting author Peter Reynolds this summer at the American Library Association conference, I was so excited to get our kids and teachers involved in the celebration of such a wonderful book. (If you don't know the book The Dot, check out this animated version.) Dot Day is a celebration of creativity, courage, and collaboration.
Author of The Dot, Peter Reynolds

When we started school this year, I approached our awesome art teachers about participating in Dot Day activities.  [Side Note: our art teachers are really the best of the best. They're cool, they're hip, they're fun, they're amazing artists, and they LOVE what they do.  I really do want to be one of them when I grow up. I am always grateful when they let me hang out with them and pretend to be cool like they are.]

My dot, made with liquid watercolor paint and shaving cream!
All of our art teachers (elementary, middle and high school) got excited about Dot Day and worked it into their lesson plans. Elementary students painted dots on paper plates (some even used their handprints!), and middle school and high school students drew zentangles, and painted dots with paint and shaving cream!  The high school graphic design students created their dots using computer graphics programs, and hung them from the umbrellas at the tables in the school courtyard. (I made my dot with paint and shaving cream, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of it!)  High school art teacher Debi Barrett-Hayes made us all Dot Day t-shirts!

Even Cat in the Hat has a dot!
Beautiful window art
One of our high school students (also known as our Artist in Residence) created a beautiful Dot Day display in the windows of the library.  She left room for our students to make their mark by signing their names.

We wore dots, we ate dots, we hung dots all over the Library doors and windows... and we talked about how we can make our mark on the world.  What a great way to start our school year.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week!

It's one of my favorite weeks of the year: Banned Books Week!  I love the discussions with the students that are instigated by the display of their favorite books in chains.  This week will be full of great questions from the students, such as: "Why is _________ banned?  I LOVE that book!" or "Why wouldn't someone want us to read THAT awesome book?"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall Book Club

FSUS students in grades 6-12 and any teachers are welcome to join the FSUS Book Club!  Our first read will be Starters by Lissa Price, which is on both the Sunshine State Young Reader's Award list grades 6-8 AND the high school Florida Teens Read list. (Yes, it is THAT GOOD.)

We'll have our first meeting once the set of books arrives, which will be in the next few weeks.  See Ms. Underhill if you're interested in joining!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Last year during National Picture Book Month, I offered the students the opportunity to check out an extra item from the library as long as they checked out at least 1 picture book.  They were able to check out 4 items instead of just 3.  This was especially exciting for the students whose teachers require them to check out only Accelerated Reader (AR) books in their reading level, because their 4th book could be any book of their choice!

I don't know who enjoyed it more - the kids or me!  I was thrilled that they were so happy to check out more books than usual and that they could pick anything their heart desired.  It was F-U-N.

It was so F-U-N that I decided to do more of this. In January, I let them check out an extra book as long as one of their books was a graphic novel.  In February, we celebrated "Four Book Februrary" and in March we celebrated "Magazine March." April was "Actual April" - they could check out a 4th book as long as at least one book was non-fiction.

Fast forward to the beginning of this school year. During a back-to-school library orientation with a fourth grade class, a student asked me if we were going to offer any "specials" this year.  I had to think for a moment about what a "special" could be.  Then I realized what the student meant!  Yep, we'll be offering monthly "specials" again this year, starting with "How-To October." Think: origami, cookbooks, how to draw books...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What a Year!

Let's pretend that I really wrote and posted this post in June. Let's pretend I'm not horribly behind posting to this blog. Let's pretend that I did this during the summer instead of binge-watching shows on Netflix. Thanks for playing along. Now let's see if I can get caught up!

Last year was a great year in the FSUS Library!  Once again our circulation was high.  Students visited the library a record high 57,209 times during the year (this number doesn't include visits as whole classes).  I was able to collaborate with more FSUS teachers than ever before to teach information literacy skills to our K-12 students.  In fact, I taught collaboratively with every English/Language Arts teacher in our middle and high schools.  I'm thrilled about this and am really excited about this year's collaborations.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Last Thursday, we celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day in the FSUS Library. Several elementary teachers brought their classes to the Library to read poetry and share our favorite poems. We spent lots of time with our friends Silverstein, Prelutsky, Frost, and Foxworthy.  One 4th grade boy accurately analyzed "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. His teacher and I had to pick our jaws up off of the floor.

My friend and 5th grade teacher Monica Broome brought both of her language arts classes to the Library. They spent time reading poems in their classroom, and each had a poem to share. Mrs. Broome shared "Colors" by Shel Silverstein:

My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkist yellowish white.
My eyes are grayish blueish green,
But I'm told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it's silver when it's wet. 
And all the colors I am inside
Have not been invented yet.

The students' analysis of the poem was really interesting!  Some students thought the narrator of the poem was a girl, some thought it was a boy, and one student even envisioned a tiger as the narrator!  Mrs. Broome and I thought it would be so interesting to have the students illustrate the narrator of the poem and write a reflection that explains their analysis.  I suggested that we display their work in the Library on the windows.

My awesome volunteer and FSU school media student, Sarah Reeves, did a great job displaying the illustrations so the students can enjoy them.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's March Magazine Madness at the Library!

During National Picture Book Month in November, I let the elementary students check out 4 books (instead of 3) if they checked out at least 1 picture book.  They loved it. And I loved it because they were reading beautifully illustrated picture books; my students LOVE non-fiction, so it's sometimes tough to convince them to read anything but non-fiction.  (I know, I know... it's a great problem to have!)

After the success of picture book month, I was inspired to celebrate "March Magazine Madness" by allowing the kids to check out 3 books PLUS a magazine of their choice. You should see their faces when we tell them about it. Too cute!

We posted signs in the Library about MMM, and I also emailed this Smore digital newsletter to the elementary teachers. (SN: if you haven't used Smore yet, what are you waiting for? It's easy, it's free, and it's such a cool marketing tool!)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Authors Are My Rock Stars

I got a free t-shirt last summer at ALA Annual. It's green, has a drawing of Edgar Allan Poe on it, and it says, "Authors Are My Rock Stars."  I love this shirt. Because it's so true.

Last summer at ALA Annual, I met Sharon Creech -- Newbery Medal winner, amazing author, and my friend on Twitter.  I was star struck. I stood in line for an hour to meet her and have a book signed for my goddaughter (who is also a big fan), and tried to think of the perfect thing to say to her when I got to the front of the line. I was just hoping to be able to speak coherently.

I never got the chance to be coherent.  Because when it was my turn to meet her and have my book signed, Sharon Creech looked at me and said (and this is the truth!), "Hi! You're my Twitter friend! Can I take your picture?"  I was SO EXCITED that I did what I always do when I'm excited and posing for a picture:  I closed my eyes.  Here's the proof from her blog.  How utterly embarrassing. Oh, I also knocked over her water bottle, too. Luckily, she didn't have me removed from the line, and she did agree to have her photo taken with me.

I was star struck by many authors at ALA. (SN: My friend Bree and I photobombed the Fonz, who is also an author.)  But alas, many school librarians and library science students can't afford to travel to a national conference to meet Newbery winners. Luckily, many, many authors are ready and willing to communicate with us through this great invention known as Twitter. They probably even PREFER to communicate with ME on Twitter because I can't spill their water bottles on them through social networking sites.

If you aren't on Twitter, you're missing a great opportunity to expand your PLN (professional learning network) of amazing librarians who generously share their innovative ideas.  You're also missing a great opportunity to interact personally with the authors of the books you are recommending to your patrons every day.

Barbara O'Connor, author of such wonderful books as How to Steal a Dog, Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia, and The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis (a personal fave), interacts with her Twitter followers and fans daily.  Her book, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, is on this year's Sunshine State Young Reader's Award list.  When I booktalked it to a group of 3rd graders who had just started reading it as a class, they broke into applause.  Naturally, I tweeted her about it.  She wrote me back. Not only to say how much she loved to hear the story, but also to offer to email me photos of the actual mini submarine that she used as the basis for the mini sub in the book.  I showed the students and they were elated!  Not only did the pictures help their understanding of the book, they were thrilled that an author would send the pictures for THEM to see!  Now, students regularly tell me they love a book they've just finished, and then they say to me, "Will you tweet the author and tell them I loved it??"  As librarians, we know that reading is personal.  Connecting with authors like this reminds me of that regularly.

Twitter may be overwhelming. I know it was for me at first, too.  I started by following just a few people. And lurking. I think I was on Twitter for months before I tweeted.  Now, I've made connections with many school librarians, public librarians, and teachers, who have become an invaluable PLN to me.  If you aren't sure how to get started building your own PLN, check out Jennifer LaGarde's crowdsourced PLN Starter Kit.

If you're interested in simply stalking rock star authors, here's a very brief list of some of the authors I follow (and their Twitter handles):

Sherman Alexie - @Sherman_Alexie
Katherine Applegate - @kaauthor
Judy Blume - @judyblume
Harlan Coben - @HarlanCoben
Chris Colfer - @chriscolfer
Sharon Creech - @ciaobellacreech
Sarah Dessen - @sarahdessen
David Macinnis Gill - @thunderchikin
John Green - @realjohngreen
Jennifer Holm - @jenniholm
Maureen Johnson - @maureenjohnson
Jon Klassen - @burstofbeaden
Marie Lu - @Marie_Lu
Jonathan Maberry - @JonathanMaberry
Kate Messner - @KateMessner
Barbara O'Connor - @barbaraoconnor
Peter H. Reynolds - @peterhreynolds
Roland Smith - @RolandCSmith
Rebecca Stead - @rebstead
R.L. Stine - @RL_Stine
Adriana Trigiani - @AdrianaTrigiani
Deborah Wiles - @deborahwiles
Mo Willems - @The_Pigeon
Lisa Yee - @LisaYee1

Happy Tweeting, Rock Star Librarians!