Friday, February 26, 2016

Rewindable learning & the school library

As a school librarian, I have been aware of “rewindable learning” (also known as Flipped learning), but had never fully jumped in. I had made tutorial how to videos, but never tried to push the majority of my teaching or content to short tutorial how to videos instead of me standing in front of the classroom teaching.
After some encouragement from our technology teacher (and some necessity- multiple projects all falling at the same time), I took the leap and set up content through rewindable learning.
It has been a powerful learning experience for our students as well as for me, and I plan to continue to utilize this method as I collaborate with teachers.

Here are some of my tips for trying it yourself!
  1. How students access the videos and information you provide is almost as important as the videos and information themselves. If done well, when students have a question, you can refer them to the resource document to answer the question independently, and avoid repeating the same directions again and again.
  2. Using rewindable learning also meant that I did not have to be physically available during every part of the project. Classroom teachers became empowered and learned alongside the students. What began as necessity due to many projects being scheduled at the same time, also became a tool for teachers. They were able to refer students to the document where I had video and other directions to help answer questions.
  3. Students were put in charge of their own learning. First, instead of listening to me talk and model how to use 5 different resources, students picked what resources would be most helpful to them at the time of need. They then watched the “how to use” tutorial video and were able to jump into their research. They were not forced to sit and listen to instruction that was not immediately relevant to them. It was a better use of their time and made their learning more meaningful because it was relevant.
  4. Rewindable learning is perfect for when students are absent. It never fails that students will be gone during a research project. Even with our best plans, it always seems there is someone who needs to catch up. Having instruction in a video format makes this much simpler, saving the time of the teacher and the other students.

I first tried using rewindable learning with 6th graders working on a research paper, and shortly after was able to try it with an 8th grade research paper as well. It has gone over well with both students and staff. I plan to use similar documents for future research projects.


Here is the resource document I created for our 6th graders. There are links to the resource as well as video tutorials. https://goo.gl/JxYPbB

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Update to Iowa Department of Education includes School Libraries under Content Areas

Thanks to the advocacy work of Past-President Dixie Forcht, the School Library Program is now listed under CONTENT AREAS on the Iowa Department of Education website.  Just click on PK-12 to find us!  



Previously, school libraries were listed under "learner supports" alongside At-risk, PBIS, and other programs. Though this relocation may be a minor shift, it signifies that Iowa values School Libraries as a key element of a student's content learning. Perception is everything!

And that document we are always lookingfor, delineating the difference between Teacher Librarians, Para-educators, and Technology Specialists is now at the top of the Documents list.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Collaborate with other TLs!

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!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Love Your Library!

Who makes a month officially a “Love Your Library” month?  CEOs at Pinterest?  Are there hashtag gods out there?  I am not sure how all these official days (National Donut Day, National Dog Day) or months make it into society’s rotations, but they do.  Sometimes I find it all exhausting, “I didn't eat a donut today!  I DIDN'T POST A PICTURE OF MY DOG!”

But I can fully get behind “Love Your Library” month.









I love the library.  Not just my public library, but also my school library.  I’ll be honest and say I especially like the library when it’s quiet before school, but it’s the most energizing place when filled with kids and learning, too.
A bit of morning sun through the windows.

It’s my favorite spot in the school because while it is a place to find information for classroom assignments, it’s also a wide open expanse to find whatever information you’re looking for - even if it’s not related to school.   Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his book Between the World and Me, “The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books.  I was made for the library, not the classroom.  The classroom was a jail of other people's interests.  The library was open, unending, free.”  His words encompass exactly why I love libraries.

As a way to celebrate Love Your Library month, I decided to do a reading promotion here at school.  I created both a paper and digital copy of different reading people might do.  I always appreciate the summer reading programs at our local libraries as they encourage all kinds of text and literacy activities - blogs, recipes, street signs, messages to friends, and I copied their idea.  Kids have to choose 15 tasks, and adults choose 10.  Turn in the paper copy or submit the electronic one via Google Forms. The electronic format also has a spot for people to write why they love the library.  Some responses include,

  • Because reading is the key to imagination!  
  • Because it's a public space in which literacy is available and accessible to all people.  
  • For all of the activities and work they put into into enriching our city. 
  • I browse the newly returned shelf to see what kids love to read. 
  • It allows me to learn so many different things, experience so many different emotions, and travel so many different places.
  • Everything you can learn there.


All entries are collected and there will be a drawing for a Barnes & Noble gift card on March 4.

Why do YOU love the library?  
Do you eat donuts on National Donut Day?  Or would you rather celebrate National Cupcake Day?

Contact your legislator TODAY!

TODAY is ILA Lobby from Home Day!  Please take a moment today to contact your legislators and remind them how indispensable Libraries are to their communities and how important state funding is to maintaining that vital resource.   

  • More than 51,000 people visit Iowa libraries every day.   
  • Every State Senator and State Representative has one or more libraries within their district – this is a chance to remind legislators how essential libraries and library services are to their communities and their constituents. 
  • State funding reaches and benefits all Iowans through their School Libraries, Public Libraries, Academic Libraries and Special Libraries. 
  • It’s clear that Iowans depend on their libraries for internet access, early literacy programming for young children, homework assistance, health care information and, especially now, resources for job searches, career development, and education.  
  • To support these vital services, the Iowa Library Association asks the General Assembly to fully fund Enrich Iowa and retain their funding commitment for the State Library & Iowa Library Services.


During legislative sessions, Iowa state senators can be reached at Iowa Senate, Statehouse, Des Moines, Iowa 50319; call (515) 281-3371. Iowa state representatives can be reached at Iowa House of Representatives, Statehouse, Des Moines, Iowa 50319; call (515) 281-3221.

The Iowa Library Association, founded in 1890, is the organized voice of the Iowa library community. Its members come from every county of the state and sustain Iowa’s 1500 public, academic, school, and special libraries.

Alison Ames Galstad
President, Iowa Library Association

Be Tween Focused

As the Teacher-Librarian in an intermediate school library serving 5th and 6th graders I'm always looking to learn more about serving this unique age group. Here are a couple of recent resources for all those serving the tween set.

The brand new Be Tween newsletter from School Library Journal aims to
"explore middle grade books, library programs, and services for the tweenaged, helping librarians better serve their middle grade patrons. From collection development pieces and booklists to innovative programming ideas, this newsletter focuses on the unique challenges and opportunities around serving those kids who are not little children anymore—but not quite young adults, either." Sign up here!


Youth Media Awards Tween Round-Up - This post from January 2016 compiles all of the books with tween appeal recognized during the ALA Youth Media awards.  Search the archives for previous lists and tween relevant posts.

Where are you finding ideas for serving your tween patrons? Favorite programming ideas? What new books are tweens flocking to in your library?





Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Are you looking for a great realistic fiction read, or are your students ready to try something similar to a realistic fiction favorite like After Ever After or Runaway Twin? Dan Gemeinhart's debut novel The Honest Truth could be yours--or your students'--next read!

Mark is a regular kid in every way: he has a loyal dog that he loves, he enjoys the unwavering friendship of classmate, and he dreams of achieving great things. What makes Mark different is his cancer diagnosis, and it's back after he was in remission. With his recent relapse, Mark decides it's time to leave home with his dog and strike out on his quest to climb Mt. Ranier. His friend Jess knows of his dream, but will she reveal his destination and plans if it means breaking a promise? Or will she remain quiet, knowing that Mark could be in danger?

The story is told in alternating chapters--Mark's perspective, then Jess's and his parents' perspectives. The action includes elements of danger and adventure as Mark deceives those around him to travel the 200+ miles to Mt. Ranier. And for fans of books that feature the relationship between a human and his pet, this book won't disappoint. Reluctant readers, especially, will find themselves eager to learn if Mark's journey ends successfully.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Join #mwlibchat

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!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What's not to love? Celebrating Graphic Novel Memoirs

I have long been a proponent of graphic novels in general. I love that the graphic novel format has often engaged reluctant and struggling readers by helping to visually support their vocabulary and general comprehension and serve as a stepping-stone to other formats and genres. Reading graphic novels requires a sophisticated set of skills all their own, one that can be as complex and challenging as any other form of reading.

Needless to say, I'm feelin' the love.

I have been especially intrigued by my recent discovery of a new genre+format hybrid: the graphic novel memoir. I'm not sure if this is recent trend that has been slowly emerging or if my awareness of such books has just been recently heightened. Either way, I think the idea is absolutely phenomenal and am excited to see who will be next to share their story.

I'm sharing five of my favorites with you in hopes that you know just the perfect reader to share them with! Here they are:


Bell, C. (2014). El Deafo. New York, NY: ABRAMS.

This one has won much acclaim, and rightly so. El Deafo is Cece Bell's memoir about growing up deaf, but truly it's a story about growing up. Cece's choice to depict her characters as rabbits engages younger readers and adds a playful feel to serious issues.

Recommended for upper elementary through high school.




Gownley, J. (2014). The dumbest idea ever! New York, NY: Scholastic.

Students may recognize Jimmy Gownley's work with graphic novels through the popular Amelia Rules! series. The Dumbest Idea Ever! is Jimmy Gownley's own story of his journey to becoming a graphic novelist. Readers will appreciate how accessibility and humor of Gownley's story.

Recommended for upper elementary through high school.




Humphreys, J.D., & Chickwanine, M. (2015). Child soldiers: When boys and girls are used in war. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press Ltd.

Told with the held of Jessica Dee Humphreys (and illustrated by Claudia Davila), this is the story of Michel Chikwanine, who was kidnapped and forced to fight as a child soldier for a rebel militia in his native home of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Despite the violence and brutality of the events of Michel's life, the telling of the story remains hopeful and positive and is appropriate for younger readers. I especially liked the resources at the back of the book, giving ways for readers to help.

Recommended for elementary through high school readers.


Siegel, S.C. (2006). To dance: A ballerina's graphic novel. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

This was my first introduction to graphic novel memoirs, and is still one of my favorites. To dance is the story of professional ballerina, Siena Cherson Siegel. The story follows Siena from her native Puerto Rico to the United States, where she follows her passion to dance. Siena's story reinforces values such as hard work and the importance of education.

Recommended for elementary through high school readers. Younger readers may need support due to the complexity of the images (I read it to my daughter when she was 6).


Thrash, M. (2015). Honor girl. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

In Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash shares the events of the fateful summer when she was 15. While attending Camp Bellflower for Girls, Maggie has an seemingly innocent encounter with an older female counselor that leads to a budding romance. At a time when definition of self is difficult enough, Maggie is left struggling to deal with her new feelings in isolation. Her only reprieve is the rifle range, where she finds solace in her new found talents. Maggie's retelling of the events of the summer is brutally honest and very real.

Recommended for high school readers.


I'm sure there are other fantastic graphic novel memoirs out there. If you've read others, I'd love you to share!


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 Teachingbooks.net. (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?