You are currently browsing the archives for August 2011.
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Online Children's Stories

  • Posted on August 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

I recently shared this list in my newsletter for my teachers. I’d love to see your examples of items included in your newsletters. Links would be wonderful.

Looking for some great places online for READING CHILDREN’S STORIES?  Try these: Story Time for Me StoryLine Online Actors like Elijah Wood and Hillary Duff read aloud stories in their own voice through streaming. Mrs. P’s Magic Library StoryNory Story Cove International Children’s Digital Library (remains one of my favorites!) Smories are original stories for kids, read by kids Free Children’s eBooks for the iPad, nook, and other readers; and even some books for adults too! Aesop’s Fables includes a total of 655+ Fables, indexed in table format, with morals listed. Magic Keys Children’s Storybooks Online Mee Genius! s a reading application for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, Google Chrome Web Store, and the Web. The iPhone/iPad app is free as are the introductory books. Readeo offers a free 14 day trial to enable parents & children to read together virtually when they must be apart. Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories which reverse the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside.

What is a STEM Magnet school?

  • Posted on August 30, 2011 at 7:53 AM

I am working with preschool through fourth grade at Hattie Cotton, 99% free and reduced lunch so very high poverty. We are a STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) magnet school so in addition to the local population, we have students who entered the lottery process for the opportunity to attend our school.

Each week scientists from Vanderbilt come to work with our students. We are all about problem solving, interactivity, creativity, and using the engineering approach to all areas of education. We are a very unique school and I am rushing to get up to speed. We don’t use worksheets. We approach everything as “little scientists” and there is great administrative support for hands-on activities. They delivered bricks, straw and sticks to the kindergarten classes last week. I simply contributed various versions of the Three Little Pigs and puppets.

Interestingly the school has about 6,919 titles – many of which are older and in poor shape. If I showed you the science collection, you’d be grasping your chest and staggering around. Students seem desperate to read and need lots of guidance in making choices. They were accustomed to choosing from baskets by series.  With no assistant, I’ll be hopping to keep these 500 students’ needs met. I’m excited at the challenge and the opportunity to provide multiple hands-on activities in the library while students are there one hour each.

In addition, I’m in charge of text books and new STEM materials, web pages, the conversion to web-based Accelerated Reader, and a few tiny activities. I won’t be bored this year.

Library Cards

  • Posted on August 30, 2011 at 1:31 AM

Middle School spoiled me with their fancy ID machines that printed ID badges to use as library cards. Now that I’m back in elementary I’m doing what thousands of you have done. Printing out barcodes;  attaching them to paper cards, adding in all the information the school needs to see like ZPD’s, Internet Permission status, room #, teacher, AR login names, etc.; cutting them out; laminating them; cutting them out again; and then distributing them.

If only the barcode printouts would have aligned right on the labels! Instead, my team of friends helped me cut out the barcodes, glue them on the photocopied bar code sheets, then continued the process. Ken was our photographer and also the one glueing 500 plus labels.  He had these tiny labels laid out upside down on the table despite the fans, cats, and 8 dogs in the house.

Brian controlled the paper cutter. Jimmy organized and cut out all those tiny barcodes.  Carefully being sure the barcodes fell upside down so Ken could glue and Jimmy could attach.

I informed them that I was the supervisor. LOL! I did a little bit of all of their jobs, but then sorted all the cards into grade level piles, sorted through cut paper to claim the edges for bookmarks, and then cut all the tiny scraps into confetti sized pieces so we would have colorful material for collages. Nothing was wasted and now I have supplies for more projects.

Guess how many hours it took to do this?! I’m still recording information at school on the cards before laminating. One of our problems is that class sizes vary so much from those anticipated at the beginning of the year that six weeks into the school year, some teachers will change schools, grade levels, and classes. Students will be shuffled to balance the loads. So if I record the homeroom and teacher now, it may change next week.

I haven’t determined our mobility rate but at two of the other schools in the district it was over 35%. So I have already printed another 200 cards. One of my friends suggested he bring over his friends who are thinking about becoming teachers so they can experience the behind the scenes experience of teacher prepping. I did mention to them that we’d be cutting out cat and dog shapes next and all three of them groaned!

Top Teen Titles #7

  • Posted on August 23, 2011 at 6:19 PM

#7 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic, 2008. ISBN: 9780439023481, 374  pp.

Publisher’s Description: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts.  The Capital is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the death on live TV. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play.  The winner brings riches and favor to his or her district.  But that is nothing compared to what the Capital wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rules.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister,  regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her impoverished district in the Games.  But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature.  Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.  But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Quotes from Readers:

Excitement, danger and a girl who kicks butt. Wins on all accounts.

A great fantasy adventure that is sure to keep the reader’s interest from start to finish!

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari,  TeensReadToo.

Awards: A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2008); Amelia Bloomer List (2009); ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2009); Locus Recommended Reading (Young Adult, 2008); Cybils Award (Fantasy and Science Fiction – Young Adult, 2008); ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2009); School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2008); ALA Notable Children’s Book (2009); Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (Young Adult Novel, 2008); Rhode Island Teen Book (2010); Utah Young Adults’ Book Award 2010 (Beehive); South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee (2010-2011); South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee (2010-2011); Red House Children’s Book Award (Overall & Older Readers, 2010); NPR Top 100 Killer Thrillers (61); Locus Nominee (Young Adult, 2009, 9); South Carolina Junior Book Award Winner (2010-2011); South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Winner (2010-2011); Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award Nominee (2011); Abraham Lincoln Award Winner (2011)

Diane’s note: I remember reading The Hunger Games and feeling like I’d been playing with a bunch of mismatched puzzle pieces until Suzanne Collins stopped by to help me put them together. Much of Hunger Games feels like old movies and new reality shows intertwined. Suzanne Collins was able to bring the pieces of child combatants, Theseus mythology, fractured American culture, and a desperate future together into an engaging story that I couldn’t put down.

From the Scholastic guide: “It’s hard to choose one element that inspired The Hunger Games,” says Suzanne Collins. “Probably the first seeds were planted when, as an eight-year-old with a mythology obsession, I read the story of Theseus. The myth told how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur. Even as a third grader, I could appreciate the ruthlessness of this message. ‘Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.’

“Other early influences would have to include watching too many gladiator movies, which dramatized the Romans’ flair for turning executions into popular entertainment; my military specialist dad who took us to battlefields for family vacations; and touring with a sword fighting company in high school. But it wasn’t until the much more recent experience of channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage that the story for this series came to me.”

Joni Richards Bodart wrote a booktalk which helps create excitement for reading.

Happy Happy Joy Joy! Paradise Re-Found

  • Posted on August 16, 2011 at 11:43 PM

This past week I have been teaching fifth graders reading, language arts, and social studies, but I’m counting the hours until:

I’m going to be the school librarian at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School!!!

My current principal called me out of faculty training to tell me last Friday and now I’m simply waiting for Human Resources to send a replacement reading/language arts/social studies teacher so I can return to the wonderful paradise of an elementary school library. Since the system lists me as a librarian, I cannot get a substitute yet and am “patiently” biding my time teaching as much as I can until I get the moving orders.

The good part of this experience has been creating a classroom atmosphere that was inviting and made kids want to curl up with a book. I was able to begin reading FRINDLE aloud as we studied nouns, verbs, pronouns, vocabulary, and the concept of students making a difference. I could celebrate my love of words. Students looked forward to reading in the reading corner and I was able to experience that moment when you show them class magazines you buy like “Automobile” and hear their excitement.

I’m particularly excited to be moving to a STEM magnet school with the focus on science, technology and mathematics with an engineering approach. I just cannot wait to meet the first class of students and the teachers there.

The missing review for The Missing Heir

  • Posted on August 7, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Tracy Barrett’s Sherlock Files #4 The Missing Heir was so quick moving and fun that I could barely tear myself away to take advantage of tax-free shopping for teaching supplies.

Can you imagine my horror to return and find this?

The remains of The Missing Heir strewn all over two rooms  (pictured to the left after we swept it  into a pile). How will I know what happens after page 80?

Who would believe these two sweet 22 week old puppies could so utterly destroy a book?



The Rumors Are True

  • Posted on August 7, 2011 at 11:59 AM

This year I’m headed to the classroom. I’ll be teaching fifth grade reading, language arts, and social studies at the same school where I was the librarian for the past 3 years.

Why? I’ll just grit my teeth and remind everyone that sometimes upholding the values of intellectual freedom and the best interest of the students carry costs – like the wrath of an administrator who has the absolute power to reassign teachers to any classroom for which they are certified.

Now what? This year I plan to keep my eyes open for school library positions or Ph.D. programs elsewhere while I become the absolute best, most connected fifth grade teacher possible who helps her students succeed.

The first thing I unpacked in the classroom was the computer and connected it to the digital projector and internet. Second, I unpacked 1/10 of the books I intend to introduce throughout the year. I need to purchase many more book shelves including face-out spin-arounds in order to display a portion of the other titles. Third, I put up motivation signs. Fourth, I signed up for Scholastic Book Clubs. Fifth, I opened the teacher guides and looked at state standards. Then, I panicked on how to setup the pacing guides. Sixth, I began preparing innovative technology connections to inspire readers.

The good: I have wonderful teacher colleagues who share everything from resources to discipline strategies. My students will be excited and become the best readers I can help them to be. My friends will help me pace instruction since I demand high standards of attempting tough challenges, being creative, and learning how to survive socially in middle school.

The bad: I will be in the same building where I helped create the largest collection of nonfiction titles in Nashville, but I won’t be able to work with every student like before. There are a few more items in this column, but to prevent my eyes from suddenly springing leaks, I have decided to focus on the good.

Interestingly in the fourteen years I have taught as a library information specialist (AKA school librarian) in Nashville, I have had grades PreK-4, and 6-8. To remember teaching fifth graders I’ll have to think back to my time with DoDDS schools in Germany and with the super-talented teachers at Sherwood School in Highland, Park, Illinois. I wonder if Carl Berg and Martha Henderson are still teaching because they were inspiration fifth grade teachers.

Readers, I am still a librarian. That is my profession, my passion, and my love. I will continue to review books and actually have several presentations on “Making Nonfiction Exciting to Tweens and Teens” planned for this fall.

Since I haven’t been in a classroom since the four-year old program on Fort Campbell, Kentucky, fifteen years ago, I will be seeking a great deal of help. I hope this experience will help me become a much better librarian for the future.

If you see me on facebook or in person, please note that sometimes my demeanor may seem as if I have been banished from paradise (the library), but I intend to create an alternate world of library love in a fifth grade classroom. Wish me well and stay tuned for updates.

Top Teen Title #8

  • Posted on August 7, 2011 at 10:20 AM

#8 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Tor, 1985. Tor Science Fiction, July 1994. Revised Edition, ISBN:  9780812550702, 324 pp.

Macmillan Publisher’s Description:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Quotes from Readers:

Classic and brilliant.

The USMC (Marines) train leaders with this book.

If you really want students to experience science fiction, you’ve got to read this.

The following books were not exactly my taste, but I may have been slightly young for them. This one, on the other hand, was only slightly disturbing amidst the space-having.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari.

Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel, 1986; Nebula Award for Best Novel, 1985; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1985; ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2000; The Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels: The Reader’s List; ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound, 1999; Tähtivaeltaja: 1900-luvun tieteiskirjallisuuden TOP-50, 2000; 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All Time; Locus 1998 Poll, All-Time Best SF Novel Before 1990; Classics of Science Fiction; ISFDB Top 100 Books – Critical List; ISFDB Top 100 Books – Popular List; The SF Book Club’s “The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years From 1953-2002”

Diane’s note: Card’s novels Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead both won Hugo and Nebula Awards in consecutive years. Card is the only author who won the two most prestigious awards in science fiction consecutively. When I went back to reread Ender’s Game, I found myself contemplating other science fiction and fantasy titles that throw children into combat situations for the entertainment or salvation of the adults. (Hunger Games, Starship Troopers, Alex Rider books, etc.)

What would it take for society to rely on children or military dictators? The famous essay by Elaine Radford comparing Ender to Adolf Hitler adds to intellectual curiosity and controversy. It’s easy to find her essay, but not Orson Scott Card’s response unless you access the database for: Orson Scott Card, “Response”, Fantasy Review 102 (1987) pp. 13-14, 49-52.

Another article worth considering is by John Kessel “Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality” which appeared originally in Foundation, the International Review of Science Fiction, Vol. 33, Number 90, Spring 2004. If you follow the blogs from Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River website, there are passionate rebuttals to both essays.

Ender’s Game consistently appears at the top of greatest science fiction lists. I’ve seen requests from teachers for resources to teach Ender’s Game for 10-12th grade and even some for sixth graders. The SparkNotes from Barnes & Noble remain one of my favorite sources in contemplating which titles I want to share with students.

My question for you, oh wise readers, is how do you share Ender’s Game? Do you include copies in your libraries and classroom libraries for recreational individual choices only? Do you read-aloud and to what age group? Since Ender’s Game doesn’t appear on the or website, is Ender’s Game still drawing rabidly passionate readers or has it been shoved to the side? If it truly is a #1 Science Fiction title, why isn’t it more popular now?

Your turn, readers. How about some answers?