Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: Since You've Been Gone, by Morgan Matson

Sloane and Emily have their entire summer planned out:  find an easy summer job, hang out, take little road trips together.  But the plans are thrown out the window when Sloane and her family suddenly disappear without a trace.  Emily is at a loss of what to do without her best (and really only) friend, until she gets the List in the mail.  The List is obviously from Sloane, and has all the things on it that Emily has always been too scared to do, or never even thought of doing.  As she goes through the List, from riding a horse for the first time to sleeping under the stars to dancing until dawn, she finds new friends, new courage, and a new life.  But by the end of the summer, she’s still wondering: where is Sloane?

Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson, is a great book about friendship, courage, and finding your true self.  It’s a quick read with great characters, and the ending doesn’t disappoint.  If you have readers that love Sarah Dessen and John Green books, they will enjoy Since You’ve Been Gone.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cedar Rapids Public Schools face Teacher Librarian cuts

You may have heard the troubling news that two schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are cutting their high school librarian positions next year.  These cuts follow similar reductions at the elementary level in the district in which most elementaries share a teacher librarian with at least one other school. 

Cuts like these are not new in Iowa. The Des Moines Public school district recently removed the majority of their teacher librarians, and many small or rural districts already share one teacher librarian across multiple buildings.  However, the timing of these cuts is even more surprising with the support for school libraries being reinforced by ESSA at the national level, and the increased attention on student reading abilities and digital literacy.

Groups around Iowa are working to fight against these cuts. A petition is available from Everylibrary.org. 

From the petition
Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools, which together serve more than 3,000 students in Cedar Rapids, won’t have librarians next school year. To make ends meet, each of the district’s three comprehensive high schools had to cut four full-time staff positions as part of the district’s $2.3 million budget reduction. Kennedy and Jefferson High School administrators chose to eliminate the school librarians. The Washington High School principal didn’t consider cutting the librarian and instead made cuts in other areas.

The loss of school librarians at Kennedy and Jefferson come at a time when the state is emphasizing literacy and reading proficiency in K-12 education. According to 2015 Iowa state report cards, 10 percent of Kennedy’s 1,749 students and 25 percent of Jefferson’s 1,516 students do not meet reading proficiency standards. This is a disastrous and impractical decision that will stunt the education of the students and continue the downward trend of lower reading proficiencies.

The link between strong school library programs and student achievement is well documented. Over the past 20 years, numerous studies have shown that elementary schools with at least one full-time certified teacher-librarian performed better on state tests. In a 2010 study conducted in Colorado, more children scored "proficient" or "advanced" in reading in schools with a full-time, credentialed librarian than those without. In an article published in 2015, the authors reviewed a multitude of studies which consistently show that students who have a full-time librarian in their schools perform better on their reading and writing scores than those who don’t have one.  One study, "Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards", revealed that students with full-time librarians in their schools are almost three times as likely to have “advanced” writing scores, compared to those students without full-time librarians.

There is a board meeting on Monday 4/25 at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s Educational Leadership and Support Center (2500 Edgewood Rd. NW Cedar Rapids, IA 52405). Please attend and speak in support of our school librarians.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Connect with our Academic Librarian Counterparts at ACRL Conference!

The ILA/ACRL Spring Conference is just a month away but the registration deadline is approaching quickly!  Held at the sunny DMACC Ankeny Campus, our theme is Keeping in Step:  Libraries & the Institutional Mission.

We’re excited this year to offer a keynote by Megan Oakleaf, and conference sponsorship by bepress.  Dave Stout, rep for bepress, will be also present a session on Digital Commons.  

Enjoy dinner with your colleagues at the Thursday night dine around!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Think, Make, Innovate - Exploring Makerspaces

Grant Wood AEA is hosting a course devoted to exploring the makerspace movement.  Here at Prairie Creek Intermediate we're putting the pieces together to officially open our Creek Maker Lab in fall 2016.  As the Teacher Librarian I need some new learning to lead this effort.

Some burning questions/needs going into this course:

  • Managing 3d Printing:   Our first foray into 3d printing has been the Moat Boat Paddle Battle. 6th graders have worked in teams to design their boats.  I've struggled to manage/guide the workflow. 
  • Connecting to the Curriculum particularly new science kits/standards: With the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards and revised inquiry kits from GWAEA I want to find ways to connect the Maker approach to this content area. 
  • Tracking and Guiding Learning:  One criticism/question I hear from observers of the Maker movement is concern about "real learning".  I think behind this question is a need to show learning. 
Our GWAEA instructors quickly addressed these big concerns in our first class.  They talked about the many paths to learning (an idea I believe in deeply) and the role of questioning to guide this journey. 

slides from @abridgesmith and @jmarsh77

We were presented with a continuum of approaches for the makerspace and materials.  The remainder of our first class was spent in the open ended side.  Three stations were prepared for us with Little Bit kits, Makey Makey, and Make Do & cardboard. Our instructions: explore the station, document your learning, share insights then rotate.  

With my fearless learning partner, Alyssa Calhoun @alyssamcalhoun, we began at the Little Bits light station. 

It didn't take long for us to see how the colors indicated a function and that the right sequence of colors could produce something (e.g. flashing lights).  We added other sensors and triggers to activate motors and fans. Then we were on to the second station - Make Do Cardboard construction. The second station is where we began to see the cumulative potential of makerspaces. We had to pick up where the previous group left off.  I failed to get a picture of where we began (oops). Ultimately we decided to make a large clock. Our advice - know the varied skill sets of your group.  I have no business cutting with the Safe Saw tool!

The last station was the Makey Makey. The two groups before us had setup a highly functional control station. This left time for us to explore a wide variety of interactive sites that work with the Makey Makey.  I tried my skills at the Makey Makey Billy Jean (yes, it is the Michael Jackson song).  I don't want to brag but I might have a future in music mixing. 

Big takeaways from Day One:

Communal learning is a powerful approach when we ensure people are talking, sharing, and documenting the process.  A spirit of learning that supports a variety of skill and knowledge levels is important.

Exploratory activity can lead to questions and observations about content.  Several participants commented that they did not know (or remember) much about electricity before using the Little Bits. As we explored and more knowledgeable members shared out the electrical novices made connections. This is an example of making active learning a precursor to direct instruction.  Hands on experiences can spark questions and observations to hook students into content.

Thinking is at the heart of the maker movement.  

Connecting to the Curriculum is easily within reach.   One idea that our instructors offered to this approach were project cards to provide discrete maker experiences.  This is an easy way to extend learning in the sciences. I am already thinking about making cards connected to the Building and Structures unit in science. Here is a very rough sketch. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: Dangerous, by Shannon Hale

Maisie has wanted to be an astronaut since she was little, but doesn’t have much hope since she was born without part of her arm.  But she decides to enter a sweepstakes anyway for an “astronaut boot camp,” and actually wins!  Astronaut camp is much different than she expected.  It is very intense, with high-stakes competitions.   When Maisie’s team wins a competition, they get to go on a ride on the space elevator!  When they get to the space station, everything changes. Maisie and the other members of her team unexpectedly receive supernatural abilities, and must work together to save the planet from an alien invasion.  Will they be able to work together?  Or will this be the end of mankind?

Dangerous, by Shannon Hale, is a great science fiction book that will stick with you long after you finish it.  Although it takes awhile to get to the plot-altering gifting of abilities, the story moves quickly and is full of action and adventure.  This book is a must-read for science fiction lovers, and readers of Shannon Hale will enjoy it as well, particularly the character development and the splash of romance.  Check out Dangerous today!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Free Reading - A Snapshot

Readers of the IASL blog were very generous with details about free reading in their schools. THANK YOU.  Below are the high points.

*"Other" represents schools where free reading occurs but not daily.

No time - Free reading is not happening in high school. Only five of the 39% were middle or elementary.  What is going on in high school?!  One person explained it this way "We used to do this but the demands of Common Core and other district initiatives have made this no longer a priority" 

The good news - There are several schools that devote more than 25 minutes per day to free reading.  As one respondent said "We've made this a priority and I feel it will pay off in the very near future"

A hodge podge of priorities seems to be the story in this snapshot. How do we explain this inconsistent approach from one school to the next? How do we expand free reading across the grades and in more districts?

Monday, April 4, 2016

And the winners are....

The big announcements have been made! 

The winners of this year's IASL Book Awards are:


Goldfinch Award:  
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

Iowa Children's Choice Award: 
Duke by Kirby Larson

Iowa Teen Award:
Skinny by Donna Cooner

Iowa High School Book Award:
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Monday, March 28, 2016

the last book....

Books considered classics survive all the years and are still found in many school libraries. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind for high schools.
Middle grades?  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
What about picture books?  Blueberries for Sal, Where the Wild Things Are, and my favorite as a kid: Sam and the Firefly.

I am not sure how a book becomes a classic, but I’m willing to predict Elephant and Piggie books, featuring Gerald and Piggie and written by Mo Willems will still be popular in fifty years.  Kids LOVE these books, know where to find them in the library, and they are always checked out. Students immediately sit down with their friends Gerald and Piggie and giggle and laugh out loud.

Did you know, though, there are only going to be 25 of these books written?  I Really Like Slop was published in October 2015, and the last title, The Thank You Book will be released this May 2016. Even though I know the books will be around a long time, #25 will still feel like the end of an era. Like the last episode of Downton Abbey.

When I read an Elephant and Piggie book to kids, they are rolling on the floor laughing when it’s funny, and they have butterflies when it’s scary or sneaky.  The littles are concerned when the characters are having an argument or when Gerald and Piggie feel disappointed or sad.  According to Mo Willems, “They’re friends and they damage their friendship in some way, and then they have to find a way to undamage it.”  As early readers, many kids find themselves in these friend situations, and it’s validating (and sometimes helpful!) to see how two characters work it out, usually in a silly way!  

Mo Willems also says these books are “built to be little plays.”  I see this all the time.  As kids sit with their books, they immediately take a voice for one character, and a different voice for another.  Or they read the book with a friend, “You be Piggie!  I’ll be Gerald!”  They change their tones depending on the exchange.  It might be a funny tone, an angry one, or even a disappointed sigh.  Once a reader is more comfortable, they actually add the physical actions and use props!  It’s amazing to watch.

A last reason for Elephant and Piggie’s success in the library is simple: kids can, for the most part, read these early readers.  Willems keeps them short with about 50 distinct words. Students feel successful when they get to the last page because they’ve read most of the text in a fluent voice, they’ve understood the story, and they can relate to the characters.  

While I am looking forward to The Thank You Book, I am certain I will need a box of kleenex as I read it and say goodbye to two of my favorite characters!

What Elephant and Piggie book is your favorite?  

Works Cited:
Labrecque, Jeff.  “‘Elephant and Piggie’ author Mo Willems on his latest best-seller and his new Pigeon app.  Entertainment Weekly Books/Shelf Life.  27 October 2011.  Retrieved March
Norris, Michele. “ Author Mo Willems on ‘Elephant and Piggie.’”  NPR Books.  22 May 2008. Retrieved March 2016.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Seeking Presenters for ILA Conference

We need you! 

In an effort to make the ILA annual conference more relevant to Teacher Librarians, we are seeking presenters for some targeted sessions. This conference is a great opportunity to partner with other types of librarians, and to share our specific expertise across the state.

We have a few ideas to suggest, but are excited to hear your ideas as well!  

  • Using Technology to connect with patrons, students
  • Fostering partnerships between K-12 schools and academic librarians
  • Robotics in the library, connections to state STEM initiatives 
  • Teen and Tween programming for schools and public libraries.
  • Effectively communicating with adminstrators, city councils, boards, etc. for advocacy
  • Teaching and Learning about copyright, creative commons, fair use in the digital world

If you or someone you know would be willing to share their expertise on one of these ideas next October (or in the future), please contact Val Ehlers by Friday, April 25th!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Personalize your PD!

Looking for inspiration? Want to collaborate with colleagues? Trying to grow your PLN?

Join Teacher Librarians from around the Midwest the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month from 8 - 9 pm on Twitter!

Just search for the hashtag #mwlibchat to get in on the action!  

Topics vary each session, and draw in TLs from the Midwest and beyond. These chats are question and answer format - add your answers by Tweeting A1, A2, etc and be sure to include #mwlibchat at the end of each one.  

Too fast paced for you?  Check out the transcript of each chat here!