Tuesday, April 8, 2014

TLA Session

Thank you for coming to our TLA session! Here is our Haiku Deck presentation:

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

Here is a link to our extensive bibliography of picture books that we have used or want to use in lessons. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

World Read Aloud Day at MHS

Wednesday, March 5th was World Read Aloud Day, which is a day created by LitWorld to bring global attention to the human right of reading and writing. I love what is posted on their website to explain the meaning behind this movement:

“World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.”

We had about 20 teachers participate in WRAD, which I think is great for the inaugural year on a large high school campus. Many teachers read their favorite picture books to their classes, but I had the privilege of sharing one of my new favorites with several classes: 

 My librarian partner shared one of her favorites with several classes:

 Our dance teacher shared this one with her class:

She even had a student take a picture while she was  reading. I just love this! 

But my favorite is that our principal joined in on the fun and shared one of her beloved books with students: 

 And this picture says it all. The kids wanted to sit on the floor and she even got them to sing the song: 

This just proves that picture books can be enjoyed by people of all ages! 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Reading Life

I am so thankful to be collaborating on this blog with my colleague and dear friend Marnie because I am desperately behind on my World Read Aloud Day posts (WRAD was actually yesterday, but I don't think it's ever too late to celebrate reading). Rather than try to catch up, I will just focus on one--my reading life.

Obviously, I love books (duh). But I'm a s-l-o-o-o-w reader, which people usually find surprising. Most people assume that librarians are super-human speed readers, and while that might be the case for some, it's NOT for me. It's hard for me to turn off my writer brain when I read, so I read like a writer--I notice sentence structure, word choice, figurative language--all of those things that English teachers geek out on. 

Because of this fact, I have piles of books that I want to read all over the place--at school, at home, in my car, everywhere.

And this stresses me out. There are so many books that I want to read that I feel anxiety creep in if I look at the number of books in my piles. Right now, my Good Reads To-Read Shelf includes 523 books. (Deep breaths...)

But slow and steady will win the reading race (Is it really a race?). So I just keep plugging along, relishing the words at my leisurely pace. But the key is that I am always reading--whether it be a REAL book, one on my Kindle (I like to alternate between reading on my device for convenience and reading a physical book because I like the way it feels and smells) or occasionally listening to an audio book (I prefer reading rather than listening).  The key is to just keep reading.

I am most proud of the fact that my husband and I are raising two readers. Our daughters LOVE reading, as if they have a choice, but I guess they do. I think the secret to instilling a love of reading in your own children is to be a reading role model, let them choose what they want to read, and keep it fun and easy--free of pressure. We have family reading time each night after dinner--a time when we turn off the TV and devices (unless we are reading on our devices) and have silent reading time. I love it, and so does my family.

The truth is that I can't imagine my life without books. I crave them. I savor them. I adore them. They bring me comfort, joy, hope, and a little understanding in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Year of the Jungle

I shared this book with three Senior English classes for several reasons. First of all, these students are about to embark on a big "Romantic Project" in which they will apply one of the tenets of Romantic literature to a poem from that time period, a modern song, and a picture book. Mrs. Farris-Hill, the fabulous teacher, and I saw this lesson as an opportunity to expose her students to the depth that can be found in picture books so that any stigma that they are "only for little kids" would be removed. It was a great way to get them to start thinking about the project without the students even knowing it (we are sneaky like that!).

The second reason I shared this book was in preparation for a presentation that I did for the Abydos Teachers and Trainers Conference in San Antonio. As an Abydos writing trainer for my district, I have to recertify every three years by presenting to a large group of literacy educators at the annual conference. This was a lesson that I modeled in my presentation, so I obviously needed to try it with kids. If you would like to read the rationale and research behind YNG @ <3 (Young at Heart): Engaging Teens with Picture Books, then you can click here for my handout, which includes an extensive bibliography of picture books to use in the secondary classroom.

Back to the lesson: First of all, the students made a tri-fold and labeled the columns as follows: Pictures, Words, Emotions.

We then accessed some background knowledge about the author Suzanne Collins. (Yes, THAT Suzanne Collins has written a picture book.) We made predictions about what the book would be about based on what we knew about Hunger Games. 

As I read the book, I paused in key spots for the students to reflect through writing. The book has four key pictures of a changing jungle scene. The students wrote their observations of the jungle scene and then wrote the emotion that was being expressed through the picture. The book also has several postcards that are shared, so we stopped and reflected on these in the words and emotions column. Here are some student examples:

Year of the Jungle generated a great deal of thought and emotion because it deals with heavy themes of how war affects children. The students told me that they were shocked that a picture book "could get that deep." When the students found out that Collins wrote this book based on her own childhood when her dad went to the Vietnam War, they connected it back to The Hunger Games. "Maybe that's why she writes such dark books," one student said. It was AWESOME to see them put the book in the context of the author's life and understand that we have to examine what is going on in an author's life in order to gain context, which brings more layers to a work.

After we discussed the book and it's circular structure (it's so important to analyze why Collins begins and ends the book in the same way), I showed the students the following video of the author and illustrator talking about the process behind creating this book:

The students enjoyed hearing about the collaborative efforts between the author and illustrator. Many of them said that they had no idea that so much thought went into making a picture book.

Remember that we were being sneaky about the Romantic Project? The students analyzed the imagery (pictures), diction (words), and tone (emotions) of Year of the Jungle, which is exactly what they will be doing with a poem, modern song, and picture book for the Romantic Project. This lesson served as a scaffold and also introduced them to the depth and richness that can be found in picture books.

As a former AP English III teacher, this lesson reminded me of teaching The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. If you teach this book, then Year of the Jungle would be an excellent pairing. Also, The Wall by Eve Bunting and Patrol:An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers would be excellent text sets.

I just finished reading The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favorite authors. This book connects perfectly with Year of the Jungle and would be a  fabulous YA Contemporary book to recommend to students or teach as a whole class novel.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Knit Your Bit

I love this story!

I was looking for a way to use it with a class and found a willing participant in our Academic Decathlon teacher. He wanted something for the students to do after competition that would build teamwork and I wanted a way for our kids to give back to the community. We settled on this story and a project.

Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson (illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia) is historical fiction about a real "knit-in" event in Central Park in 1918. The story is cute, but also shows how we can do even small things to make a difference in the lives of others.

After reading the book, the students were given a crochet hook (because I don't know how to knit), a skein of yarn and an iPad. They were instructed to find videos on YouTube that show how to crochet and try to teach themselves. I was on hand to help out as well...most were chain stitching by the end of the period and had the assignment to bring back a very well-crocheted chain by the next class. We will then move on to single and double crochet so they can create something to give away. We will be donating what we make to the nearby hospitals.

Here's a good basic video on how to crochet:

Here is a collage of the students and the teacher working with their yarn. Note: The teacher tried to "cheat" the photo by using a crocheted piece I'm working on so you'd think he already knew how!

On a side note, I decided to start a crochet club in the library last semester because I couldn't wait to do this lesson. I had a small group of girls that were obsessed with making hats after I showed them how. We turned it into a competition to help the DECA group in our school. They had asked for hats to donate for cancer patients. My girls crocheted over 150 hats during the Winter Break! I was so proud of them!

Black History Month and "A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin"

As part of Black History Month and the ongoing lessons for ESL and the STAAR writing classes, I used Jen Bryant's book A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (illustrated by Melissa Sweet). This is a wonderful story about a young man who is a talented artist, but becomes injured during World War I. He is not able to paint when he returns from the war until he finds a way to express himself again and regain his strength.

I printed off copies of his first major work after his injury and the ESL students pasted it into their booklets to refer to at a later time.


The students really enjoyed the story and found many points of interest they could write about. When we were done reading, I gave them all iPads and had them complete an Infuse Learning Draw Response activity. They had to draw a picture from the story that was important to them, to the reading, or something that stood out that they remembered. We then posted the drawings from the projector for everyone to see and discuss what was drawn.

It was fun to do something beside write about the story we had read, and I was amazed at some of the detail the students put into their art.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tito Puente: Mambo King

So, I have another lesson I'm supposed to post before this one, but I'm riding the high of this last one and couldn't wait to write about it!

  Ms. Greene's ESL class came to the library to hear about another person for their biography notebook. We read Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown. One of her students, read the Spanish parts of the book for me.

 As before, the students took notes on the important parts of Tito's life. We then listened to Tito Puente's orchestra play Oye Como Va.

The kids were listening to the music, but didn't know what song it was until the singers yelled out "Oye como va" and some of the students yelled it out in surprise! It was such a wonderful moment!

 Next, we watched Tito and his percussionists perform Five Beat Mambo so the students could see him dance and play on stage. They found him very entertaining.

The students took a moment to write down some characteristics of Tito while I got out their surprise...I had asked our percussion teacher, Mr. Kath, for some instruments the students could experiment with for this lesson. After we passed them out, I let the students just have time to make some noise...

then we turned on the music and they REALLY got into it! It was so much fun! Students headed back to the classroom to write an original story of their meeting with Tito for our POTEET WRITES!

The best part, is that one of the girls has requested that I find a bilingual book in Arabic so she can read aloud with me next time! WooHoo!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

WRAD #3 -- My Reading Life

Yep, this is me...cat in lap, stacks of books...audio book playing...full digital library at my fingertips. I usually have four books going at once!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Preferences -- WRAD Blog Week #2

This week, we're supposed to answer five questions and have a student answer the same questions about reading aloud...

I chose one of my sophomores who is in the library EVERY DAY....I'm not exaggerating....she spends her lunch reading....it makes me happy to see her.

Here are the questions and answers color-coded for you (mine; hers):

1. I think everyone in the world should read... as much as they can; whatever suits them.
  •  Perfect response from her, she reads voraciously!

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be...Mike Rowe (let's face it, he's not hard to look at either); Morgan Freeman.
  • Totally agree with the Morgan Freeman answer...he could read a cereal box and make it sound interesting!

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...any Southern female (my grandmother was from Georgia); the ones I don't like so I can make their voices annoying.
  • This answer cracked me up because I feel the same way sometimes.

4. The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is...mystery (if there's a cop and a dead body, I want to read it); science/science fiction.
  • I wasn't surprised by this answer...she volunteers at the Perot Museum AND when she was working on her science fair project I think her question dealt with thermonuclear dynamics and black holes (What does that even mean?!)

5. My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is...it works for everyone (you're never too old or young to have a book read to you); I can do other things while I listen.
  • One of my favorite things is listening to an audio book while I drive, workout, clean house, etc.!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alfred Nobel AND John F. Kennedy

As in my previous post for English Language Learners, I brought in two more books to help them learn about historical people they could use in their writings. Each lesson was a little different in the content, but the framework stayed the same...I read aloud, the students watched the teacher model note-taking on important information while taking their own notes, we discussed the book and then they wrote down the characteristic and qualities the person displayed in the story.

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin is a beautifully illustrated story (by Zachary Pullen) about Nobel's dynamite invention and how/why he established the Peace Prize.  I gave each student a small color photo of the Peace Prize to paste in their writing journals.

After the reading, I shared a QR code with the students that took them to the Nobel Prize website where we learned about the different types of medals and recipients over the years. We then took the quiz about Alfred Nobel to see if our little picture book had given us enough information to really know who he was. With much discussion and inferencing, the students were able to get all but three of the questions correct even though most of the information was not blatantly written within the book. It was rewarding to hear the students work out the answers to the questions. Even when they were wrong, their arguments were sound based on the little knowledge we had.

The next book we read was Jack's Path to Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy (which I've mentioned before). The difference with this class lesson was the focus on his character and also the prior knowledge the students had in reference to JFK. One of the students posed the question of why he was assassinated, so we talked about the theories and about Oswald for a few minutes. 

One of the quotes in the book is from JFK's television speech asking Congress to enact laws to help make everyone in the United States free during the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. After the reading, we were able to show the students the exact footage from our NBC Learn
subscription and give them a printed transcript of the President's speech. What we all found interesting and discussed after the video was this quote:

"Therefore I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and provide the kind of equality of treatment, which we would want ourselves. To give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents. As I've said before not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal motivation. But they should have the equal right to develop their talent, and their ability and their motivation to make something of themselves." -- JFK June 11, 1963

It would do us all well to remember these words and act accordingly.

"President Kennedy Addresses the Nation on Civil Rights." NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 11 June 1963. NBC Learn. Web. 22 June 2013.

WRAD Raising Our Voices Blogging Challenge

The fact that I'm a week behind, doesn't mean that I didn't accept this challenge, it just means I've got too many sticks in the fire and can't remember what day it is if I don't look at the calendar! :)

With that in mind, I begin the "Week 1" Blog to answer this question:

What is your earliest or fondest memory in which someone read aloud to you?

When I was young, growing up in Tennessee and Alabama, my daddy would read the Disney versions of the Uncle Remus tales with Br'er Fox, Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Bear. These stories came alive because my daddy would do all the voices...he has a beautiful bass voice and Br'er Bear's voice was my favorite. It sounded like my daddy was speaking from a basement!

My brother and I laughed and laughed when Br'er Rabbit played his tricks on Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. They never did learn their lesson when dealing with that crafty rabbit! My brother and I couldn't wait for Daddy to read them over and over again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Helping Struggling Writers

One of my teachers works with students who need extra practice with their writing skills. She was looking for a way to expand their knowledge base so that they would have more people to write examples of in their essays. We know, as teachers, that students use the same examples over and over again. If you ask them to write about someone who has overcome adversity or shown courage, you get Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan. Nothing wrong with those stories, but the repetition is enough to have readers weeping with monotony. Our goal was to showcase others they may or may not know about and get them thinking beyond the elementary examples they've clung to for so many years.

We will be reading several books and making connections in a variety of ways....the first two books were 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport.

Both of these books have beautifully illustrated pages and rich content throughout the stories. We discussed author's purpose and main idea after reading each story and then had the students explain how they could use the readings in their persuasive writings.  This wasn't easy. The students tend to be vague in their explanations and the teacher and I had to constantly remind the students to answer "why" or "how" or "give details about that situation". We used a Padlet to allow the kids to read each others ideas and allow the teacher to interact with their statements.

I think the thing the students enjoyed most was allowing them to sit in the "soft seating" at the front of the library while we worked. It was interesting to hear which book the students preferred and why. Some really liked the story from Kenya and others wanted more information about JFK when we were finished. It was a productive experience. The teacher has them filling out a chart back in the room so they can revisit the stories and remember what we've read before they take their next writing exam.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inference Lesson

An English I teacher asked me to help her design a lesson using picture books to make inferences. Because of a busy week of teaching English II classes how to create a ThingLink   over To Kill a Mockingbird, I did the lesson with one class as a model for the teacher, and then she did the lesson with the rest of her classes without me. I think this works brilliantly, especially when librarians serve a large 5A campus.

I started the lesson by explaining the metacognition that goes into making an inference. I used the example of seeing a girl crying between classes (a common sight in most high school hallways). Here's how it went:

Me:  "Before first period, you see the girl smiling and holding hands with a boy. After second period, you see the girl in tears and no boy in sight. What happened?"

Student: "She got dumped by her boyfriend."

Me: "How do you know this? What's your evidence?"

Student: "She has tears on her face and her boyfriend isn't around. So that makes me think she got dumped."

Me: "You just made an inference and you weren't in an English class! And we don't know if this really happened, but you have very strong evidence to support your prediction."

I made sure to explain to the students that we make inferences ALL THE TIME. It's what smart people do, and it is a MUST for good readers:

We INFER when we take the FACTS from a piece of text (or from a situation) and we add our BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE about the situation in order to come to a prediction, which is an inference.

The Inference Equation: 

The teacher wanted to break down this process for the students, so we used a wordless picture book to model this thought process with the class, and then the students worked in groups, each with a different book, to show how they make inferences while reading.

I shared Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole as the model.

Students folded a piece of colored paper into a tri-fold and labeled the three columns as follows:

  • FACTS about the pictures
I purposely did not tell the students about the second part of the title (A Story from the Underground Railroad) because I wanted them to get clues from the book to come to this conclusion. We "read" the entire book by analyzing the pictures and using this process to make inferences. I picked five key pages to write down the facts, thoughts, and inferences in the columns. If we had done this with the entire book, it might have been really tedious. Here's what our paper looked like:

The students LOVED the book, which is extremely powerful and thought-provoking. We discussed author's purpose (really illustrator's purpose in this case): Why did the author use pictures instead of words? Would the book have the same impact with words? The students all agreed that using only pictures made the book better because they had to THINK and MAKE INFERENCES themselves. (They really said this!)

We broke the students into groups of 3-4 students and gave each group one of the following wordless picture books. You can click on the image of each book if you would like to read more about it on Goodreads.com: 

The students turned their tri-fold over and did the same process for the book that was assigned to their group. They "read" through the book first as a group and then picked five pages that required them to THINK more than the others. They filled in the columns to show how they came up with their inferences. It was wonderful to walk around and here the conversations that were going on. All students were engaged. All students were thinking. All students seemed to be having fun with a book. In my opinion, that's a Teaching Trifecta. 

I asked one group if they liked reading picture books in class. Here's what they said, "I like picture books. They are not boring, not stressful, and FUN. And they kind of make me think." 

Picture books for the WIN. 

Friday, January 31, 2014



Back to my geometry classes....the students have moved from triangles to polygons and I read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns to seven classes.

We started with 10 different polygon shapes cut out of construction paper (I have them with my die-cut machine in the workroom). Each student got a shape and had to glue it to a piece of computer paper, then create a drawing incorporating the polygon into the drawing. We got a LOT of houses and stop signs (even though some had hexagons and heptagons instead of octagons), but some students were very creative with their vision (see pictures below).

After reading the story we discussed what the book was trying to teach besides shapes and most of the students responded with answers like: friendship, being yourself, don't be greedy, love the way you are, etc.

Quadrilateral makes a bird beak.

Student creativity at work!

I then reminded the students that math was not my favorite subject and I always wanted to know WHY we needed to learn things like polygons. I found two video clips that showed how polygons are used in the "real world." (Note to self...ALWAYS bookmark the video you find, when you find it! I only used one, because I couldn't find the other one!)

I explained to the students that one of the videos showed how polygons are used to create the three-dimensional gaming worlds they compete in at home. When you take the coloring away, you see polygon on top of polygon building the blocks of the virtual world. It's very cool (but I can't find it!)

The second video clip showed how polygons are used to build recording studios and help with the perfect sound quality of a song. I had no idea polygons could be used that way! I accessed this video from our PowerVideo database.* I like being able to make those connections for the students when I can!
*Polygons. Distribution Access Inc. 2002
  Learn360. 31 January 2014