Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#WeNeedDiverseBooks in the classroom

My colleague, Tifani Daly, conducted a character census of independent reading books in her 6th grade classes.  Take a look.

WOW!  Kids were really surprised to see white, straight guys as the most represented characters with straight, white girls a close second. I guess I was surprised too. Students expressed an interest in reading about more diverse characters. Looks like I need to do more to build and promote a collection that meets this need.

Some possible sources:

2016 Rainbow List

We Need Diverse Books resources

2016 Dia Lists

Do you have suggestions?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reading is the Talk of Iowa!

Chances are that you don’t have the time to listen to Iowa Public Radio’s 10:00 am weekday show, Talk of Iowa with host Charity Nebbe as it is broadcast live. Fortunately, episodes are posted the next day on their website for streaming and also on the the IPR mobile app.

You are definitely going to want to check out the archive because two of your IASL colleagues have recently done a great job representing Iowa teacher librarians during their interviews with the host.

In April, Marshalltown High School Teacher Librarian, Sue Inhelder shared her enthusiasm for the Iowa High School Battle of the Books.

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And as the current school year wrapped up, Prairie Creek Intermediate Teacher Librarian, Ernie Cox spoke passionately about the importance of honoring the reading lives of students.

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If you have time, drop an email or tweet a thank you to host Charity Nebbe for inviting Sue and Ernie onto her show. Do you have any topic ideas for her?

If you would like to learn more about how to locate and listen to podcasts, check out this short presentation from Kirkwood Community College’s Eagle Tech Land and Learn sessions.

Guest blogger, Kathy Kaldenberg, retired school librarian

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Write Stuff

by Kathy Kaldenberg, retired Librarian

When I see that one of Iowa’s own Teacher Librarians has published in a vetted source, I want to shout from the rooftop, “Hey, look at this awesomeness!”

I want their colleagues to share it on SLIK-12, tweet about it, post it on Facebook and blog it up.

I want their administrators to pass the article around at a staff meeting.

I want it to be read and to be noted.

And I want you to be inspired.

Because YOU can do this, too. And it important that you do...


1. For the CRED. 
Seriously, administrators WILL want to brag on you and what you are doing for the students and their organization. And it looks great on a resume.

2. To remember what’s it like to be a student
Writing an article for an editor is hard work. You will need to do some research, properly credit your sources and check the grammar. All those things that stress out your students and make them cranky. 
3. For the intellectual challenge
Publish or perish” isn’t really a thing in the K-12 library world, but the opportunities to stretch yourself and share your ideas are real. You don’t have to write to prove you are an asset to your school community, but it is almost guaranteed that you will feel a sense of accomplishment for doing so.

There are many publications just waiting for you and your well articulated ideas!

District Administrator (pair up with your superintendent or principal)

Feel like you aren’t ready for national exposure? Try writing for a blog! Pick your favorite and offer to do a guest post.

Too many words? Try 140 characters. Share with Twitter.

A note from the author:

In 2011, the local newspaper did a little blurb about the library and how we were using technology. I posted the link to the AASL email list and shortly after received a note from one of the editors about Teacher Librarian about doing an article. It was such an interesting experience, I found myself wishing that every teacher would give it a try.

When I saw a recent tweet that the IASL publications chair, Chelsea Sims, had recently had an article published, I requested permission to write something about the value of sharing via professional journals. She graciously agreed to post this even though I am officially retired.

Defined STEM at Grant Wood AEA

My list of learning goals for the summer continues to grow. One item is a new resource from Grant Wood AEA - Defined STEM (not sure if other AEAs are looking into this or not).

As explained on the site "Defined STEM is a web-based application designed to promote rigorous and relevant connections between classroom content, highlighting STEM content and real-world applications including career pathways, thus providing learning opportunities for students. Defined STEM provides teachers a resource where they can access highly effective media content and valuable resources to enhance the teaching and learning within the classroom. These resources and materials allow teachers to connect STEM with existing lessons, interdisciplinary content, and standards-based curriculum"

Grant Wood AEA will also host an half day workshop this summer (limited to schools in the GWAEA - sorry other AEA folks).

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sharing a Love of Reading

As librarians, we know that there is no greater joy than helping our readers connect with that perfect book. But when we can empower students to share their reading experiences with others, it's "goosebumpy!"

While I try to encourage and empower all my students to share and celebrate their reading experiences, two of my 5th grade classes (and their teachers) wanted to take their sharing to another level. As their Teacher Librarian, I was more than happy to oblige!

Using Padlet, I am sharing the Thinglink and Animoto book recommendations my 5th graders created. These book recommendations were also shared via our library website and through our Library Google Classroom in order to engage as many readers as possible! Below this Padlet, I have included a description of each tool (and how we used it)!

Created with Padlet


One of my 5th grade classes utilized a site called Thinglink. Thinglink allows students (and teachers) to create interactive images and videos. Students (and teachers) start with a base image or video. Once the base image has been uploaded, creators add "Tags," or the interactive touch points. Information added to the images includes text or links to sites or videos. Finished Thinglinks can then be shared multiple ways, including shareable links or embedding in sites/blogs.

I utilized the free version of Thinglink Teacher. This allowed me to create student accounts. The process of creating classes and student accounts was fairly easy, but tutorial videos are always helpful. While I am able to view my students' creations, I am unable to collaborate in the editing of the Thinglinks.


Animoto is a web-based video production tool, allowing for professional-looking video creation. To begin, students (and teachers) pick a theme (there are a variety of free ones to choose from). Each theme comes with a selected song, but Animoto provides a robust music library if creators wish to change. Creators then add a variety of text and images to create their video. The text slides are limited to a total of 90 characters each and videos must have at least one image. Pacing and transitions are automatically generated during the production process, but various slides can be highlighted during creation to ensure ample focus time. A preview option also allows for editing during the creation process. Much like Thinglink, finished Animotos can be shared a variety of ways, including shareable links, downloading, and embedding.

As a teacher or librarian, you can apply for an educator account. If approved, you are provided with a code that allows you to create student accounts. Both you and your students can then create videos exceeding the 30 second limitation of the free version. Animoto does provide detailed instruction in how to create the student accounts. 

There are a multitude of ways to have students extend their reading experiences! These are just two that worked really well for my students and allowed them to create a reading experience that could be shared with others!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Summer Book Boot Camp

A few summers back I ran across the idea of hosting a Summer Book Boot Camp for Teachers.  We are considering it again and I've been looking over the previous design.  Nearly 100% of our language arts teachers participated (we did use Teacher Quality money to fund this work).  Below is what we offered to teachers.  Our teachers read widely and created authentic products for classroom use. What would you change?  Have you offered events to boost teacher engagement with youth literature?  Please share.

The June Book Boot Camp

The Iowa Core states that students need to engage in the reading of increasingly complex texts. Research shows that students who read widely (a variety of text types and levels of complexity) have better academic outcomes (as well as developing the habits of lifelong readers). Determining the appropriate level of complexity for our students is left to the professional judgement of local educators. Finding the time and method to build teacher knowledge about youth literature can be difficult.  This Professional Learning experience will:
  • build (or expand on) an understanding of the need for wide reading across genres
  • provide classroom resources ( trade books, booklists, review sources) to support wide reading  in your classrooms
  • give time for you to read a wide selection of contemporary youth literature
  • facilitate the development of tools, guides, and teaching strategies to help students navigate their individual path to wider reading.


Learning Platform - Edmodo.com (School social networking tool)
Participants will have the flexibility of responding to readings and sharing authentic artifacts using the school social networking tool Edmodo. No need to come to an empty school building. Ernie Cox will support and moderate our experience.

Shared Professional Reading  (your choice)
reading ladders.jpg

Quantity and Quality: Increasing the Volume and Complexity of Students’ Reading by Sandra Wilde

Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading by Fisher, Frey and Lapp
or another title on text complexity/wide reading etc

Book Boot Camp Artifacts

Participants will choose titles to read from pre-selected genre lists.  We will share our reflections on these titles in Edmodo in the form of video booktalks or shelf cards recommendations.  
  • one video booktalk (Video Guide)
  • one shelf card recommendation
ONE of the following (you decide) :
  • Reading Ladder based on one of the books.
  • Analysis of the qualitative text complexity using the TeachingBooks.net tool.
  • Notice and Note inspired signpost guide to one of the books.
  • an original artifact of your design which will guide student wide reading of complex text

Genre lineup
  • Action & Adventure
  • History
  • Memoir & Biography
  • Sci Fi
  • Fantasy
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Historical Fiction

How the books were selected.

What is provided?
  • 8 hours of flexible work time
  • Trade book budget (approximately $60 per person = 5 books )
  • Copy of a professional text

What you will make for your classroom
  • a video booktalk
  • shelf recommendation card
  • Reading Ladder or a Text Complexity analysis or another artifact design by you.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Support Your Principal, Courtesy of Library Girl

While the news from around our state isn't always good when it comes to staffing our K-12 libraries with qualified teacher librarians, it would be irresponsible and short-sighted of us already in the profession to throw up our hands and believe that we can do nothing to affect the changes we want to see. As we continue to push for teacher librarians in our schools, how do we approach administration thoughtfully and with realistic suggestions that can impact hiring?

Librarian and advocate Jennifer LaGarde, Library Girl to many, has written about this on her blog The Adventures of Library Girl, and the post also appears in the May 2016 School Library Connection. In her open letter to principals, she recommends that they look for several things in their teacher librarian candidates:

  1. Someone who loves children more than books
  2. The right person vs. the right degree
  3. Data & outcomes
  4. Someone who can grow readers, not just improve reading scores
  5. A leader
  6. A learner
As you look at her recommendations, how do you see yourself reflected in them? What areas are your strengths? Or the areas where you could grow? 

While not every Iowa district is actively hiring teacher librarians to serve in their schools, we must continue to influence conversations as candidates do indeed meet with interview teams and administrators in this hiring season. As leaders in your buildings and districts, support principals and administrators as they search for your teacher librarian colleagues.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Review: Mechanica, by Betsy Cornwell

Nicoletta spent her early years by her inventor mother’s side, learning the basics of physics, engineering, mathematics, and some magical elements that her mother infused into her inventions.  When she was 11, everything changed.  Her mother became ill and died. After a short time, her emotionally-distant father brought home a new stepmother and two stepsisters. While traveling for business, her father died as well, leaving her to the mercy of her cruel stepmother, who released the other house staff and required “Nick,” as they called her, to care for their needs.  Fortunately, her mother had created ways to ease household chores through her inventions, so Nick was able to continue with her studies.

When she turned 16, everything changed again.  She received a mysterious note that led her to her mother’s hidden workshop, and her mother’s inventions came alive for her, both figuratively and literally.  She started making plans for a grand invention to show at the Exhibition, which is kicked off with an elaborate ball.  Will she be able to pull off her escape?

Mechanica, by Betsy Cornwell, is another iteration of the Cinderella story, but with elements of steampunk mixed with magic.  Although parts of the story are, of course, quite predictable, the author does manage to twist the story in a new direction, which allows Nicoletta to become independent, rather than relying on the rescue from a prince.  If you enjoy reading new versions of old fairy tales, you will enjoy Mechanica, by Betsy Cornwell.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

We Love Access?

"Stop Sign" by KT Ann from Flickr
The rare opportunity to leave campus for lunch - don't we all enjoy that little escape? It was a beautiful spring day in Iowa as I took my seat with a group of fellow educators.  The chips and salsa were delicious. The company was enjoyable. Conversations turned to our own children who attend several districts in the area. One colleague shared that their budding 2nd grader could only check out one book at a time during their once a week visit to the school library.  Similar stories came up at the table. My chips and salsa tasted a little less great. All I could say was "that is bad policy".  By bad I mean really, really bad!   In 2012 Jean Donham and Linda Johnson surveyed Iowa Teacher-Librarians and found that the majority (over 70% of respondents) had highly restrictive circulation policies such as the one my colleague described. Jean and Linda presented about this at an IASL conference and I had hope that there would be a shift in our practice.   Has that not happened yet?

Here are some questions of practice they offered:

"The results of this 2012 survey raise the question of whether school libraries are indeed contributing to early literacy. We often lay claim to our role in literacy. Questions for us to ponder might include:
 • What does it mean to “provide access”?
 • Is lending one book per week providing access?
 • Is one visit to the library per week adequate to make a contribution to literacy?
 • What steps can librarians take to ensure that children have ample opportunities to access school library collections? 
• How can we design circulation practices and policies to support literacy in young readers? 
• How can e-books compliment print text access within a context of equity across socioeconomic statuses?
 • How can we determine an appropriate threshold for loss of resources justified by the importance of access? 

In Empowering Learners, the AASL (2009) stated, “All children deserve equitable access to books and reading” (p. 12). This access is not dependent on age or reading ability. Free reading of books that children deem interesting is essential to developing a love of reading, both now and for future learning"

JOHNSON, LINDA, and JEAN DONHAM. "Reading By Grade Three: How Well Do School Library Circulation Policies Support Early Reading?." Teacher Librarian 40.2 (2012): 8-12. Academic Search Elite. Web. 4 May 2016.

Amid continued cuts to our profession I wonder if we realize the ripple effect of these policies.  I would add a few other questions:

  • Will parents believe we are serious about the need for a large volume of reading when these are the policies we enforce?  
  • From an administrator's perspective do these policies show our understanding of literacy development? Do these policies make us indispensable?
I'm sure there are more questions. People have reasons for hanging onto these policies but these stop signs mean kids are not getting a huge volume of reading (something Richard Allington points to as a fundamental piece of literacy development). If Teacher-Librarians are going to sing the praises of books, books, books let's be sure we are getting them in the hands of growing readers.