Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hearing and Seeing the Iowa Children's Choice Award

Now that the Iowa caucus is over let's focus on another vote coming soon (March 30th) - the Iowa Children's Choice Award. Before students cast their ballots I'm making a final push to promote these great titles. Thanks to the ICCA committee you can use the ready-made bookmarks (some assembly required), Youtube playlist of book trailers, or one of the MANY promotional ideas in this Pop-Up PD episode.

For this round of promotional sessions I'm relying on the resources in (You know we all have statewide access to this great resource thanks to our AEAs - right? ) After logging into Teachingbooks with your district email address the custom Iowa award lists are only a few clicks away. Here I use the example of the ICCA. All of the award lists are available.
Browse -> Booklist

click on Iowa lists

all lists are available including ICCA

We view the main landing page for the list. We discuss cover art (because kids DO judge books by the covers*) and what genres are represented.

partial screenshot of the main list page
In addition to book trailers and professionally produced audiobook excerpts Teachingbooks creates custom content in the form of Meet-The-Author Book Readings and Name Pronunciations.
Meet-The-Author  Readings offer us an opportunity to hear directly from the author.  In this recording Kate Messner talks about the inspiration for Capture The Flag and then she reads an excerpt of the book.

After we look, listen, and discuss a few titles I post the entire list to our Google Classroom and give students the opportunity to browse and discover.

*Speaking of book covers - have you seen this TED talk by Chip Kidd?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Join the conversation!

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!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Elementary Library Centers

You've read blog posts about them, scanned Pinterest boards featuring them, and attended conference sessions dedicated to them. But are you using library centers? Do you even want to implement library centers when they seem to be so much work?

Yes, yes, yes! Adding library centers to my K-5 library is one of the best decisions I've made, and they've become an integral part of my library.

What began as a classroom management tool has now morphed into dedicated time featuring STEAM and literacy activities. With very little money--and time!--you can include library centers for students, creating opportunities for them they may not have in the traditional classroom setting. Want to get started?

What are library centers?
•  They can be whatever you want them to be! In our elementary libraries, centers tend to focus on STEAM and literacy activities.

How are they organized?
•  My library centers are tied to students' table numbers, and each cycle students rotate through a different center. Other TLs I know set up centers as a "free choice" and work on the honor system. I use a poster as a guide for students.

When do students use them?
•  My students use centers during check-out time after they've renewed or checked out books. Centers also provide students an opportunity to be involved if they're unable to check out.

Where can I find ideas for centers?
• Pinterest is a great source--just search "library centers." TeachersPayTeachers is another great source. A few TLs who are leaders in library centers include Cari Young (, Carolyn Vibbert (, and Jessica Lodge ( You can also search Twitter using #librarycenters for ideas and pictures.

How do I get started?
•  Look around your library. . . do you have optical illusion, 3D, or I Spy books? Put them in a tub and you've got a center! Print bookmarks in black and white so students can color them as they'd like. Maybe you already have listening centers or tablets/computers students could use as a center. Do you have a puzzle or two you could set out? What about chess or backgammon or other strategy games? Look around your home as well. Is it time for those blocks, LEGOs or K'Nex to find new life as a library center?

How can I expand my centers?
•  This is where your own creativity comes into play. While centers don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money, it's possible that with grant opportunities or donations you can expand centers to include items you might not otherwise have on hand.

Are you ready to try library centers or are you using them already? We'd love to hear about your experience!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

World Read Aloud Day 2016


Do you enjoy read alouds?  Do your students and colleagues take part in shared stories? Did you know there is an ENTIRE day dedicated to the read aloud?

World Read Aloud Day 2016 is scheduled for February 24th.  An excerpt from the site explains the purpose of the day:

"World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their futures: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories."

Celebrations can range from in-house events (inviting other teachers, administrators etc to read to students) to high energy days packed with read alouds.  The World Read Aloud Day site provides classroom and community toolkits (PDFs) to assist with planning the day (or even a month of discussions and activities leading up to February 24th). Back in 2013 Prairie Creek Intermediate had amazing lineup of authors who visited via Skype.  Below is the smore flyer I used to organize and promote the day.  The site also provides helpful hints for planning digital connections. For 2016 I'm aiming to top our 2013 #wrad. Students are submitting suggestions and we are using email and social media to invite authors to connect with their readers.

How will you celebrate #wrad with your community?

~ Ernie Cox

We need YOU to attend and present at the annual IASL conference!

April is just around the corner, and we're gearing up for the IASL conference.  This year, we're celebrating the connections between technology and literacy, raised to the power of teacher librarians. And we want YOU to register to attend and submit proposals for sessions.

On April 3-4, join recent Library Journal Movers & Shakers Michelle Luhtala and John Schumacher for two days of learning and sharing at the Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center in Des Moines!


In addition to our invited speakers, one of the best things about the IASL conference is hearing from librarians, administrators, and teachers around the state about great works, important questions, and new ideas for quality literacy and technology programming. We invite you to submit your proposals for concurrent sessions and lightning talks now! Conference attendees appreciate sessions on a variety of topics, including:

  • Reading, writing, and research strategies and lessons
  • Interdisciplinary projects
  • Intellectual freedom 
  • Teacher leadership and advocacy
  • Collection development
  • other inspired ideas

Submit your proposal by February 1 and you'll be notified by February 8.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Conviction, by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Braden is a baseball-crazy teenager, good enough to go straight into the minors as a pitcher after high school, as his father did.  But a wrench is thrown into his plans when his dad is suddenly arrested, and his brother that he hasn’t seen in nearly ten years returns to look after him, or at least keep him from being sent into foster care.  Braden’s dad is being accused of running over and killing a police officer from a nearby town, and Braden is one of the few witnesses to the crime.  As baseball season starts, Braden is distracted by the trial, meetings with the lawyer, trying to get to know his emotionally-distant brother, and dealing with his life at school, where everyone knows exactly what is going on.  He will soon have to make some hard choices about his convictions that he will somehow have to live with.

Conviction, by new author Kelly Loy Gilbert, is an engrossing coming-of-age book that gives a peek into the mind of a boy wrestling with religious and moral issues in the midst of a personal crisis.  We see him grow as he comes to realize what kind of a person his father really is, getting to know his brother that he assumed had left for no good reason, and dealing with the pressures of the pitcher’s mound.  Some readers might be put off by the religious language and issues, but I found it to be very enjoyable and representative of personal issues that many students confront.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

CORRECTION: IASL Award Voting Due March 30th

Votes for the 2015-2016 IASL Book Awards are NOT due early this year - March 30th it is!

Thank you for helping us make the awards so much fun to participate in for students and for your fellow TLs!