Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sakai Reads 2012 -- My book talk on Prezi

So much has been going on since the start of school.  My annual all-school read is starting.  We are featuring books on courage.  I made a pretty good Prezi on it in an effort to get the word out about the choices. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

#DigiFoot12 -- Cyberbullying and Bill Belsey

Here I am back from a vacation where I got to sit on the side of a beautiful lake and also play a ton of Minecraft. Tomorrow, some of the technology people from my district will be meeting to talk about Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety to revisit our efforts on these two fronts in the last two years. 

So I am finally listening to an awesome Blackboard Collaborate session with Cyberbullying guru Bill Belsey.  A link to it can currently be found on the DigiFoot Wiki as a part of the 6 week MOOC course that ends tomorrow.  Bill Belsey is an educator who became concerned with the problem of bullying and.founded as a way of allowing students to share their experiences.  An off-shoot of this Web site is

Some of the things that I picked up from this very pragmatic 8th grade teacher are that most cyberbullying happens away from school but that schools and teachers wind up picking up many of the pieces after a cyberbullying incident has happened.  Kids often normalize this bullying by calling it just regular teen drama. 

He admits that the solution is not easy and that he feels that the key is to focus on prevention.  Helping kids realize that protecting themselves is their job.  He suggests reminding them not to share their passwords and private information and to use netiquette.

Another point that he made is that teachers can't plan for the technology because that will always be changing.

All good points.

This year I'm hoping to continue to refine our efforts to help students to be mindful of their own digital behavior.  I'm planning on talking about them about what they want their "online brand" to look like.  I'm hoping to use both popular company brands (like Nike and Coca-Cola) as well as famous people (like Justin Bieber) to draw some interesting connections about online reputations. 

I'm hoping to help students reflect on their digital footprint by creating some sort of infographic that shows where they've left a trail online.  I'm thinking of using a word cloud generator like Wordle or Tagxedo to help us do that. 

I'd love to help teachers give our intermediate students a chance to use social media in a more sheltered way.   This could be through using Moodle more effectively in the classroom or exploring the use of Edmoto. 

It's going to be a good year.

Friday, August 3, 2012

#DigiFoot12 and 3D GameLab

I'm making the most of TWO professional development opportunities now!

Here I am at the virtual opening session of 3D Game Lab Teacher Camp listening to Shallow, one of the founders, talk about how quest-based learning will re-invent education.

A few of us learned how to fly on that day.  I completed a lot of quests and tried to learn how to play Minecraft.

And I'm continuing on with week 5 of #DigiFoot12!  This MOOC is on Week 5 and celebrates student voices on the Web.  Our homework was to find a student blog, comment on it and tweet about it.  I found UK student Veg's "Never Seconds" blog on 

She started her blog in order to give photos and reviews of her school's "dinners." Intriguingly, her school attempted to shut down her blog, which has lead to greater notoriety.  Since then, other students have been e-mailing her pictures and information about their own lunches.  Her latest post was in August and featured a very attractive Bento Box.

Imitaz Mujeed's talk earlier this week about his own path towards entrepreneurship has stuck with me and I've been musing on it ever since.  He found what he was passionate about and had the abilities to make his goals a reality.  I wish to help support all of my students towards their goal but I sometimes wonder if self starters like Imitaz just need school to move out of their way.   I think that its great when a teacher can figure out how to best support very capable students so that they get the help that they need and the time to pursue their own path.

I was thrilled to be mentioned in Verena's daily #Digifoot12 newsletter!  Thanks Verena!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#Digifoot12 -- Students take Control and 3D Game Lab Quest Learning

Today is the start of "Teacher Camp" for 3D Game Lab, which is a new portal for quest based learning.  It is in beta right now and I've joined the beta along with two colleagues at my school.  Part of learning how to set up quests is to be reflective on helping students to think about their online reputation.  Here's one video that the creators of this initial quest suggested that we watch. 

Common Craft "Protecting Reputations Online" video

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#DigiFoot12 -- Savvy Searching

I spend most of my time trying to convince students of the need to search smartly and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate ALL the time.  Despite the fact that I front load my student's school year with activities that use their evaluation skills to identify the "joke" Web site, I have to continually remind them as they are searching throughout the year.

I'll be honest, I'm not so sure how much using fake Web sites helps in the end but I also have my favorites that I like to share with kids for a fun activity for a 5th grade library bootcamp, if nothing else.

My absolute favorite is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  Google It if you haven't about this amazing cephalopod!!!  It is highly endangered because of habitat loss around the Pacific Northwest.  Since my students live in the Pacific Northwest, we always have at least one kid who admits to seeing one in their back yard.

Using the Tree Octopus Web site with my kids as a joke at the beginning of school gives me the opportunity to establish a code word with kids.  For the rest of their time with me, when I'm looking at a Web site with them that I don't like... I'll ask them if they think that it looks like "tree octopus" information!!!

#DigiFoot12 -- Digital Citizenship

I'm trying to catch up on my #DigiFoot12 MOOC class.  We are starting week 5.  So I'm listening to Scott Monahan's Blackboard Collaborate recording from Week 3 of the #DigiFoot12 class.   Here's the direct link to the activities on the Wikispace.

Here are my two thoughts:
  • I like the idea of having "sheltered spaces" where students can practice their digital citizenship skills, especially when students are young.  I work with 5th and 6th grade students.  I think that if teachers can help students use more open social media outlets in a group or anonymous way.  I liked the idea of having students use Twitter on a class account instead of every student needing their own Twitter account.
  • I like the idea of creating Google Alerts to see in what ways your name is out there.  I started my own Google Alert to see how it works as a way of monitoring my own digital footprint. 
  • Two places that I want to go back to and explore more is and 
  • One person that I want to read more from is Danah Boyd.
  • One book that I want to read is: 
    Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out Mizuko Ito 

Review of Catalist Digital -- New audiobook software for Tablets

Check out my review of Catalist Digital.  Read it on VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

#Digifoot12 -- Twitter for Professional Development -- Do I dare???

I'm the person at my school who is responsible for planning six hours of technology training for the certificated teachers in my building.  This is not an easy task considering the fact that there are many different levels of technology capability.  My one guiding principle is that I never want to waste their time.  I want to give them practical ideas that they feel that they can immediately use in their teaching.

I'm taking a MOOC (Massive Online Open Source Course) this summer and I'm starting to see that this is the way that professional development should be.  Teachers need to be willing to put in the effort to find something that targets what they are interested in or helps them with a deficit in their own teaching.  Part of being in a MOOC is communicating with others and finding ways to be inspired by them.

Kim Gill gave a great presentation how how she uses Twitter in her classroom and also in her own professional development.

I'm debating about whether I take part of my six precious hours of technology training to introduce Twitter as a Professional Development tool to my staff.  The pros are that they would become familiar with another social network that I don't think they give a great deal of credibility to. The con is that they may think that I'm wasting their time with something that they never plan on using.

IF I did decide to make it a part of our professional development time, here's some of the points that I would bring out...

1.  Demonstrating my Twitter account, who I follow, my followers, the hash tags that I often search on.
2. I would talk about my experience tweeting during a conference and during sessions.
3. I would impress upon them the fact that I'm not following twitter every day but when I want to see what other teacher-librarians are thinking about, I search on the #tlchat hash tag or I see what the many teacher-librarians that I follow are tweeting about.
4. I would encourage them to try out creating a Twitter account and look at the #edchat hash tag.
5. I would encourage them to try out some of these other educational hash tags that Cybrary Man has collected.
6. I would also encourage them to think about the many large changes coming to our district including the Common Core and how these National initiatives require us to look outside of our district.  The Common Core hash tag seems to be #ccchat.

If you comment on this message, let me know what you think?  Would you feel good about spending some professional development time learning about Twitter?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

#DigiFoot12 Class -- Week 2 is on Twitter

Last week I started taking an awesome online course that is on "Digital Footprints."  I'm really excited about it because it is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).  This course is FREE and you get into it what you put into it.  And you don't have to go anywhere in order to meet up.  The course is using lots of aspects of social media to meet up, including Twitter, which is this week's focus. 

Here is my new Taxgedo on digital footprints.  I love Taxgedo and am thinking of having students create this digital footprint graphic that represents their digital footprint.


Kim Gill gave her Blackboard presentation.  I was really interested in discovering that she's a special education teacher for 4th, 5th and 6th and she does use Twitter with them! She has a Twitter account for her class and has them tweet from her iPads.  Her families then follow this Twitter account.   This is a good use of Twitter for students under thirteen.

For educational technology professional development, she does follow the #edchat hash tag and also the hash tag for events and conferences like #digifoot12.  

The after presentation Twitter chat included a mention of GroupTweet to make group tweeting easier.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Digital Footprints

Ahhh... summer.  Time for professional development if I can squeeze time away from my four-year-old who is also on break from preschool!  I'm taking part in two virtual courses.  The first started on Thursday and focuses on Digital Footprints.  Since I was not there for the actual Elluminate start of the class, I'm trying to ramp up by reading what everyone else wrote as well as getting access to all of the virtual places where people are meeting and talking.

The second course is on the gameification of the classroom as a part of 3D Game Labs. 

So here's the short list of all the places where this course seems to be taking place. 
  • Student 2.0: This is a learning network where people can follow their personal learning interests.  Check out the badge below.

Visit Student 2.0

 The course has a very large digital footprint as you can see.  

My big fun find is What About Me by Intel. 
 What About Me from Intel This online tool accesses your Facebook account and creates an infographic for you to consider.  It tags the words on your wall and assigns them to different categories.  What I discovered about myself is not surprising.  I use Facebook primarily for keeping connected to family and old friends and mainly share information about my travels with them.  So the infographic shows that 20% of what I talk about is travel (red). 

I could see using this with students who Facebook as a way to start a discussion on what they put out there for their friends to see.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tammy Worcester!

My school district invited Tammy Worcester to present on our island as a part of our STEM initiative.  She has all of these great Tech Tips that I'm really looking forward to reading further.

Here's the new stuff for me.

Google Search tricks
  • Use Google as a calculator.  It even does the correct order of operations. 
  • And as a conversion tool.  The key is to use the word "IN".  "As in 100 dollars in euros." 
  • And also using the word "Define" in front of any word will pull up the definition.  Sometimes there are pronunciations in there as well. 
  • When using Google Chrome, there is a a microphone on the right hand side of the search box.  You can click on this microphone icon to speak your search query. 
  • There are also now filtering by reading level if you look on the right for "More Search Tools." 
Blogger tricks. 
    • You can e-mail posts to your Blog by setting up this capability under the Settings Tab. This is cool for sending photos from your phone directly to your blog. 
    • Adding Audio to your blog. is a Web site that allows you to record your voice and embed it.  Record will allow you to link to an audio file.  Vocaroo allows people to embed the audio into the blog.  RecordMP3 links to it. 
    Google Docs
    • Within Google Docs, you can use the "Research" functionality.  This is in the tools menu.  It puts a left hand bar that allows you to research and cite information directly.  This is interesting and also TERRIBLY SCARY!!! To my mind, I'm happy to see that it will make it even easier for kids to cite sources.  But it also means that they will only be using the free Web to find stuff.   Once they become comfortable with this interface, will they ever be willing to go deeper with resources that are NOT available on the free Web?

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    "There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."

    Washington Irving

    I lost my job today.  Budget cuts.

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Social Learning Summit

    I'm really excited about virtually attending this Social Learning Summit which is coming up soon on Saturday, April 21st!  Check it out at the Classroom 2.0 Web site.  

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    "Net Smart : How to Thrive Online" by Howard Rheingold

    I AM GOING TO READ THIS ASAP!!! So this is not yet a review of Rheingold's book but is a collection of what I took away from his online talk that was hosted by Library 2.0 and Future of Education. Embedded above is the free first chapters from Amazon.  It just came out last week.  I chose to watch his session because his ideas really match my concerns for my students and the teachers that I help to teach.  This is the second online session that I've been a part of with Rheingold.

    There are five fundamental literacies that Rheingold highlights as necessary to be fluent user of social media and the network.  They are:
    • attention
    • crap detection
    • participation
    • collaboraton
    • network smarts
    The fact that the first one is ATTENTION is HUGE!  This idea of mindfulness and teaching kids how to fully focus their attention on anything (perhaps their teachers) is going to be very important as our schools begin to implement more use of student personal devices.  I appreciated the fact that he believes that teachers need to be reflective about their own use of communication devices and our own divided brains.

    (And as I'm saying this, I'm trying to take care of my 4 and 1/2 year old son who just woke up unhappily from an unplanned nap and I'm trying to sneak in this bit of my own online learning before I leave the session early to take him to T-ball practice.  And then had to make him dinner and navigate his dissatisfaction with that dinner all the while walking around with my laptop) 

    I really appreciated how much he's reflected upon how to get students to manage and train their own attention.  He coined a term "infotention" to talk about the quick decisions that we are starting to make online.  I also liked the fact that he's talking about helping students create a "tool set" that will help them to navigate information.

    Crap detection is is next literacy, although he calls this "critical consumption."  I feel like schools are doing a better job of helping students develop this skill.  Teachers are definitely on board with this but are often not as fluent with their own crap detector to assist the kids by modeling it. 

    Participation is the third literacy and highlights the fact that so many people now have the capability of creating their own content. He refers to Russ Mayfield's Power Law of Participation. 

    Cooperation and Network Smarts will have to be saved until I actually read the book.  I've got to go cooperate with the other parents at my T-ball practice right now.

    11:01 pm. Upon greater reflection, I think that we also need to be focusing on how to help students create their own internal motivation as well as teach them how to be mindful of their experiences.

    Monday, April 2, 2012


    This week is my spring break and I'm using the time to launch my new initiative to help readers to better enjoy this year's "IT" genre -- dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction!   Fueled by the wild success of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, lots of readers are getting into speculating about what the future will hold. Take a look at my list of activities that I have available for teachers to use with students. 

    The above image is from my new literature unit that gets kids talking about books while having them be accountable for independent reading. It also does not force them to all read the same exact book. By using these universal questions as discussion starters, you can have a productive mixed book discussion group with several titles in it.  It is called FUTURISTIC FICTION: Independent Reading and Book Club Support
    There are also resources for several futuristic fiction titles. For each title, there is a 10 to 20 question multiple choice comprehension quiz so that a teacher can ensure that students have read and understood the details of their book. There are also 8 to 11 discussion questions that are specific to one title. And then there is a core collection of universal questions to use.

    Additionally, there is some background information on the genre of science fiction and the sub genres of post-apocalyptic fiction and dystopian fiction as well as some discussion of the themes that are often contained in these books.

    Lately, I've been having a few conversations with parents who are concerned about the themes of these books.  Parents have been reporting that their students are having nightmares.  They are tracing back the nightmares to the dystopian fiction that they are reading and are requesting that the son or daughter be given gentler suggestions of books to read.  I am always willing to do this but I watched students gravitate right back to futuristic fiction.  

    When I think back to my own young adult and tweenhood, I remember being scared out of my MIND by the idea that the USSR was going to bomb us to bits.  I was a YA at the time when the made-for-tv movie "Threads" came out.  That movie stuck with me for some time.  I also remember being frightened of "Special Reports" that would cut into regular programming.  I always thought that they would contain reports of imminent doom. 

    I remember reading John Hersey's Hiroshima as well as a non-fiction book that told the story of the Hiroshima "maidens" who came to the United States for plastic surgery in the 1950s.   I remembering loving the The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson when I read it.  (Really excited about the fact that a manga version of it is coming out!!!) 

    I think that it is more likely that my fear was created not by the books I chose to read when I was a YA but more from the media and the world at-large. 

    What I want to do for my students is give them a chance to read what they want but in a more supportive, "you are not alone with your thoughts and fears" way.  I'm hoping to use what I'm creating to provide this support for my students.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012


    This week is my school's annual salmon release and I'm in charge of it!  The salmon tank lives in the hall right outside of the library.  The above photo is a picture of them as they are turning from alevin to fry!  You can still see their yolk sacs hanging down in the above picture.  This is before they actually started swimming.   The stream is right behind our school so we actually walk down there.  We've got this great ampitheater where the kids sit and then we send two kids down at a time.   Here's my challenge. I have to keep the kids who are waiting entertained and it is OFTEN RAINY!  So I've created this Jeporady game that is hopefully completely waterproof!  It uses macrame cords to connect sticks together to make the Jeporady grid.  I used a hot glue gun to attach wooden clothespins to the cords. Then I made and laminated question cards in four categories:  Salmon Spelling, Salmon Challenge (harder, multistepped questions), Know Your Fish, and Know the Puget Sound.  The "Know the Puget Sound" category allowed me to give the kids some greater knowledge about the problem of stormwater runoff.  I'm pretty proud of how it turned out and it looks great when it is hung on the tree in front of the ampitheater.  

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    DOCERI interactive whiteboard iPad App -- Review

    Doceri is an interactive whiteboard app for the iPad with the great $50 price point and the thirty day trial.  I recently saw it at the NCCE Conference, which is the Northwest region’s educational computing conference.  I decided to try it out in my library for the last two days.  This is what I’ve discovered: 

    1.        Doceri connects the iPad to a computer wirelessly.  It was reasonably easy to do this, although I kept on having to make sure that my iPad app had the right IP address for my computer.  The Doceri Desktop software did indicate what my IP address was at the connection screen.  I appreciated how simple troubleshooting this was.  There is also the potential to use a QR code for connection but I didn’t choose to do this. 

    2.       So once I logged on, it was pretty easy to use the Doceri iPad app as a mouse.  I was specifically trying to see how often I had to go to the computer to do something because I couldn’t do it with Doceri I was able to click around and play Safari Montage clips (my video streaming service) for students and only had to approach the computer at the end of the clip so that I could escape out of full screen using the escape key.  

    3.       I used my SMART Board Notebook slides that I already created as a part of the lesson.  What I discovered was that I couldn’t manage to manipulate the screen using the SMARTNotebook interface.  I couldn’t draw by selecting the SMART Notebook pen and I couldn’t drag elements around the Notebook screen.  BUT… 

    4.       I could add a Doceri layer on top of the Notebook screen and was easily able to write text upon the Notebook slide.  I could have saved it as a Doceri drawing as well.  I really liked writing on Doceri.  I did use a Targus stylus with the rubber tip but I can see where the Doceri pen would be a vast improvement upon this.  I did test this out at the conference and it was very responsive. 

    5.       I did use the built-in Doceri keyboard and it did work well.  It is smaller and with more keys on one screen than the actual iPad keyboard so a user will NOT be using ten fingers to type  on it but will either use the stylus or the hunt and peck method. 

    6.       I tried to do a lesson which required me to be able to copy text from one screen to another.  I could NOT figure out how to select text for copying and pasting.  I’d be very happy to learn how to do this but the Doceri help information didn’t seem to have anything on this one.  It’s my assumption that you really can’t do that on Doceri.
    7.       I did not test out the feature which basically records all the steps that you make when presenting a lesson so that the lesson can advance without you.  I did see that demonstrated at the conference.  There’s a great model lesson where the United States are slowly drawn in the order that they entered the Union.  I can see where this would be a nice thing but I’m trying to find an application for it in how I teach. 

    8.       Bottom line… for $50 bucks???  It’s AWESOME!!!! Especially if most of what you do is write on your white board.  I’m also thinking that it’s going to improve as well.  

    9.       I’m also thinking that this could be something that would be useful for the special education kid in the general education classroom who simply can’t come to the front of the room to present something on the whiteboard but yet wants to contribute.  Put the Doceri on that student’s iPad and occasionally say, “Okay, it’s your turn to drive.  Can you tell us what you think?”

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Things learned from the NCCE 2012 conference

    Our regional technology conference is called NCCE and it was held in Seattle last week. Here are some things that I learned from it.

    1. A new poet to follow: Taylor Mali gave the keynote address, which embarrassingly brought me to tears at points. "Let me teach... Like I'm on the edge of losing everything."
    2. Going beyond digital curation: ├╝ber librarian Christopher Harris challenged us with many ideas, some that I did not want to hear. One was the idea of producing more quality information along with others. The other was to hold off on attempting to get into ebooks as a school librarian. The large publishing house ebook market hasn't created great structure for us yet. Although smaller publishers like Rosen are doing amazing things as well as Mackinaw VIA. Rosen has a CyberSmart ebook series that is worth taking a greater look at. The idea of creating and sharing information and curriculum was something that I can appreciate. I enjoyed spending some time on and may go back again soon.
    3. A few new Apps to look at: I was thrilled to see others at the conference using Evernote to take notes on the iPad. I was starting to think that I was the only one using that robust and creative tool.
    Also downloaded iBook Creator. I am pretty disappointed in it after todays session. As far as I can tell you can't make the pages text wrap. I think that the best use of iBook Creator is for photo stories. I can see using it with a class where they have to take pictures with an iPad and then provide a narrative. After downloading iBook Creator and being disappointed, I went ahead and downloaded the open source ebook creation tool called Sigil. More on that after I finish my project on it.
    4. Twitter. Not wanting to feel behind the times at a Tech conference (fate worse than death) I finally signed up for a Twitter account. Really enjoyed using the conference hash tag to see what people were thinking about. Have plans to continue Tweeting and reading especially with hash tag #tlchat and #edchat. So much to read and learn.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Accelerated Reader's report on what kids are reading!

    Accelerated Reader's report on what kids are reading! 

    This is a really fascinating list.  It takes all that data from all that AR quizzing that is going on in the nation's schools and lists the books that are the most popular at each grade level and then breaks it down by boys and girls.  Not surprisingly, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a top of the list for 5th and 6th grade.  Hunger Games and Rick Riordan's books are also right up there.

    It was also interesting to see which books must be read as an all-class read.  One of my personal favorites, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, was highly ranked. 

    Worth glancing at and even sharing with students at your grade level!

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

    Here is my last minute Dr. Seuss costume since I planned a spirit day for my school with a Dr. Seuss theme! A wordle iron on of all the words in Green Eggs and Ham.  Here's the Wordle that I found.  All credit goes to the "Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzations."

    Saturday, February 25, 2012


    Last year my school's student council used some of their money to buy my library some Dr. Seuss bookmarks to hand out on his birthday.  They featured some illustrations from his books.  The idea, which came from my fifth and sixth graders, absolutely BOMBED.  The kids thought that they were too babyish.  Yet the kids still like the idea of honoring Dr. Seuss. 

    Other free stuff I added to my store today includes eleven meaty "Hound of the Baskervilles" discussion questions that I used with a classic book club at my school.  


    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Cyberbullying Smart Notebook slides for upper elementary and intermediate grades

    I work at a 5th and 6th grade school that has a weekly class meeting time where we are working on character education and our anti-bullying curriculum.  This week I'm in charge of the cyberbullying lessons.  What I found to use on the Web was either way too young for my savvy 6th graders or felt too old for them.

    So I created a SmartNotebook lesson for our teachers to use. It includes three scenarios to help the kids identify what cyberbullying is and a special "Cyber Cruel or Cyber Kind" self assessment quiz that helps the students identify which online behaviors are positive (like e-mailing a friend with a "Put UP" rather than a "Put DOWN") and which are negative (choosing to log into someone else's mail account because you know their password).

    I'm really happy with the way that it turned out because I tried to make sure that it was very positive and oriented on equipping each student with an action plan that they can use when they feel that they are being cyberbullied.

    It's available for a buck on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Who writes YOUR information? Getting students to quickly reflect on sources

    In my library for the past two weeks we've been focusing on the mandatory 5th grade science fair, gearing up for our annual Japanese Internment history day where we invite members of our community to share their stories of the time of internment... and raising over 1,000 chum salmon in a tank.  I really love my job.

    We've also been sneaking other research projects into the schedule whenever we can and this Jamestown themed information literacy idea grew out of my HUGE FRUSTRATION over trying to get students to spend time reflecting on who wrote their information.  They can talk the talk when I make suggestions about NOT using information written by other students but they actually don't walk the walk when they are out surfing the Web.

    Now I don't want to make research more onerous but I would love to see students giving more attention to identifying the author behind their sources, without having to drag out a Web site evaluation rubric (OH! How I hate those!)

    So here's my new thought.  It's an incentive chart.

    I created a chart with markers that were themed for their Jamestown research project.  Before starting their research we quickly discussed the positives and drawbacks to certain types of information.  Students were then divided into teams.  Each team wrote their team's name next to one of the marker colors on the right.  As they researched their topics independently they identified the type of resource they used and dragged a marker over into the graph. 

    At the end of the research session, we talked about which resources received the most users.
    You can download my FREE SmartBoard Notebook slide that I used for Jamestown from my Teachers Pay Teachers store but I'm really trying to throw out the idea that we need to find quick and creative ways of giving students more of an incentive to reflect on who writes the information that they choose to use for a project.

    Since I was uploading this Jamestown activity, I also uploaded the mini-novel study that I created a few years ago to help my teachers use three different Jamestown novels in their classroom. It focuses on the real historic character, Samuel Collier.  TWO authors used him as the basis for their historical fiction novels and their takes on his personality were very different.  This novel study is linked up at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Google Earth -- Japanese Internment Camp Locations

    This week in my library I've been introducing my sixth graders to our annual Japanese Internment novel study.  This is a lesson that is central to the heart of my school: my school is named after a man who's family of eight had to go to Manzanar during World War II.   We call our novel study "Leaving Our Island" and the entire unit culminates in the students having an opportunity to visit with some of our neighbors who went "to Camp." The oldest lady who comes back every year to visit is 101 this year.   Her name is Fumiko Hayashida and this is a historic photo of her carrying her youngest daughter:

    This is the second year that I've introduced the students to their book choices by giving them a book talk guided by Google Earth.  I put placemarks on the locations of former Japanese internment camps like Manzanar, Minidoka, and Topaz.  This year, I decided to make it a student centered assignment. 

    Instead of listening to me talk for the thirty minutes that it took for me to explain all of the books, I put an "in-flight" magazine for them to read as their Google Earth globe spins.  This is the in-flight magazine that is layered above Topaz in the Utah desert.  From above, you can easily see how the blocks and the barracks were structured around a central field.  While some of the sites have been turned into farms again, Topaz certainly has not.

    I provided students with this two-page note-taking sheet so that they could stay on task and check their understanding, as well as give stars to the books that they were most interested in reading. 

    This lesson integrates well into any novel study on Japanese Internment and is available for purchase on my Teachers Pay Teachers site.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois -- New Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction

    My little island in the has its share of authors and this is a new book by one of them.  The Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois starts with a father-son fishing trip to Minnesota but it quickly turns into a fantastic adventure complete with shape shifting creatures and dangerous villians.

    Sam Bixby accidentally falls through a cellar door while investigating a house that he should not have been in.  There he finds a different world with no easy way to return to his home.  The first creature that he meets helps him learn how to shape shift into different animals and objects but gives him the caution that he should NOT try to stay in that new shape for too long or to try to shift into another shape without returning to your own.

    It is up to Sam to try to use this talent to make his way in this new world and try to find the path to return to his own.  The best part of the story comes when the villains enter.  They are pictured on the front cover.

    Mr. Gadbois talent lies in his descriptions of place and action.  One of my other favorite parts of this story comes at the beginning, when Sam is testing out his new abilities and turns himself into a cloud. A teacher could easily use that section to spark some great student creative writing.  

    I have a few students who are reading this book right now with the plan that he will come on our morning televised broadcast and be interviewed. 

    For more information and to BUY A BOOK, please see Brett Gadbois' own site at

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Do you value SCHOOL LIBRARIES? The White House needs to hear from YOU

     MY DREAM IN LIFE HAS BEEN TO BE A SCHOOL LIBRARIAN... Please consider helping me to continue to live out this dream.  

    CLICK HERE to sign the petition that is going to the White House.

     Ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.

    Every child in America deserves access to an effective school library program. We ask that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provide dedicated funding to help support effective school library programs. Such action will ensure more students have access to the resources and tools that constitute a 21st century learning environment. Reductions in school library programs are creating an ‘access gap’ between schools in wealthier communities versus those where there are high levels of poverty. All students should have an equal opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to learn, to participate, and to compete in today’s world.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Wildwood Weekend -- Creating a Novel Study for Wildwood by Colin Meloy

    This is the view from my backyard window and that tree in the middle is the one that swings wildly during strong storms.  We had a lot of weather this weekend and we chose  to just stay inside in the Pacific Northwest where we are, admittedly "snow wimps."  When I took this photo the rain was beginning to fall on the snow, creating this gorgeously atmospheric mistiness that reminded me of the cover of Snow Falling on Cedars.   

    The weather made me really thrilled to have an amazing novel to focus on.  The book is Wildwood and it is by Colin Meloy, the lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists, a Portland art rock band. It features two unlikely heroes, Prue and Curtis who follow Prue's infant brother into the Impassable Wilderness in Portland after he is kidnapped by a murder of crows.  Who knew that this impassable wilderness was actually hiding a whole civilization complete with an evil queen, an avian crown prince, soldiers who are coyotes and bandit heroes.  All within a stone's throw of the Willamette River. 

    Sounds a little like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? You would be right in thinking that.  

    This book is very easy to like and it is quickly becoming a favorite of my fifth and sixth graders, who like quirky adventure stories with compelling heroes that are just average kids thrown into fantastic situations. The fabulous illustrations have been done by Carson Ellis, who is the wife of the author.  She's also known for illustrating The Mysterious Benedict Society. 

    I created a novel study so that teachers could start to use this book with their classes and small groups.  It is available for download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Right now, I've got it discounted to $2.00 because I'm hoping that people will take a look at it.  There are 43 pages worth of student activities, vocabulary builders and comprehension questions. The first 26 pages are a student packet suitable for guided reading. This novel study focuses on vocabulary building as well as analyzing story elements. The novel Wildwood has some great vocabulary! If your school is using NWEA MAP data, this lesson plan is suitable for students with RIT score levels 210-220 and 221-230. 

    The multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes which are a part of the novel study are also available for a separate download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

    The assignments include an informational text feature called “EVIL IVY" which talks about the problem of invasive English ivy destroying some of the prettiest forests in the Pacific Northwest, including the one that I live near.  Here's a photo of some evil ivy close to my home.  

    All in all -- a great weekend with a great book! I heartily recommend Wildwood to anyone who needs a good curl up read!

    Also, in surfing around in the blogosphere, I found a cool looking Readability Calculator from Joe's Web Tools.  Worth a second look!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    It's a SNOW DAY!

    Hello from the normally rainy Pacific Northwest!  This was this morning's view from the backyard and my son and I have been loving the four inches of snow that we've received.  I spent some time today using the app called "Pages" to create a special activity for upper elementary students that helps them to practice their note-taking skills while learning the process behind how their school or school district chooses to call an emergency snow day.  

    I think that it is important to give students a chance to be reporters and that being able to gather information from an interview is a skill that deserves greater work.  

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Martin Luther King Day -- What's in my front hall

    Happy MLK Day!  I put together this bulletin board display for the front hall of my school.  I found some historical images of MLK and colorized them.  I think that they're realy eye-catching when placed surrounding one of my favorite quotes from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

    "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

    It's available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Web site.

    A page of these bookmarks are available for FREE from the same site.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and Alice in Wonderland Book Club Discussion Guide

    I've been running book clubs during our lunch recesses for some of my students who need greater challenge.  I've had the most success with Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars which starts an amazing trilogy that is a take off on "Alice in Wonderland."  Only Alyss at the beginning of this story is a bored princess with a strong, but not very disciplined imagination.  Today was my second time running the club with my 5th and 6th graders. 

    The questions that seem to get the most discussion are about imaginations.  This is my favorite one:

    • Alyss’ magical gift is her imagination.  How do you know when a person is imaginative? What’s the opposite of imaginative? Does Alyss strike you as someone who is particularly imaginative at the start of this story?

     The kids really have strong opinions on the use of imagination in real life.  One student mentioned that, considering that air travel was once an impossible thing, could teleportation someday be possible.  Another student considered that even people who we think could have the most unimaginative jobs might benefit from highly inventive imaginations.

    I really enjoyed today's discussion and, since it went so well the last two times, I've decided to make my questions available for download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

    Here are some other resources:

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    The Liebster Award

    This is cool.  One of my favorite teacher bloggers and TPT sellers, Ann Marie from Innovative Connections has given me and four other people the "Liebster Award" with the understanding that we pay it forward.  

    Here’s an explanation of what the award is all about:

    Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve.

     In order to accept the award, the blog owner must do the following:

      1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.

      2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award.

      3. Pick our five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been nominated.

      4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

    The Liebster Award has spurred me on to work harder on reading other blogs and I'm working on improving my reading list so that I can enjoy other people's ideas and will try harder in the New Year to comment because I do think that comments can really give people a boost!

    Here are the five that I would like to offer the Liebster Award to -- in no particular order as well.  

    The Teacher Show
     Mr. G's Creative Classroom -- This is from Steve G. who is currently a newer blogger like myself as well.  I love the fact that he's working on root words and has a root of the month on his blog.

    Mr. Harvey's Literacy Solutions by Chadwick Harvey.  His blog is very new at this time but I'm always really impressed by what he offers on Teachers Pay Teachers, especially his MLK Day resources.  

    Mrs. Knapp's Sack -- Cristina Knapp is a fellow SmartBoard user like myself and has an amazing design sense.

    SciPi's mission is to cure math phobia.  She is also one of the most collegial bloggers and TPT sellers and is always willing to offer constructive suggestions.  I really like following her.

    And I'm returning the award to Ann Marie of "Innovative Connections" because she deserves to collect them... like a string of Oscars on her blog shelf. .

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    My HALF year in BLOG PICTURES...

    Posted by Picasa
    Jen Runde from Runde's Room offered the chance to make a collage of the images from your blog.  Here's my favorites from the half year that I've been blogging.  Good times, good times! 

    Thanks for the idea, Jen! 

    By the way, I created this collage in Picasa. 

    2012 -- My BEST year EVER!

    While I hope that 2012 is my BEST YEAR EVER, I'd also like to help the students at my school realize that they can make it their best year as well.  So I've created a collection of three activities that focus on goal setting and character education.  It's on SALE for a BUCK on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

    But I also made the third part of it available for free.  I'm calling that part "So This Year" and it asks students to consider a goal that they plan on achieving this year.  They need to consider the steps that they will take in order to achieve this goal.  Then they illustrate it as a comic strip. 

    Living it LARGE is my shot at getting students to consider which character traits they admire in their friends and adults that they look up to.  It's called "Living it LARGE" because I think that those traits should be lived as if they are written in ALL CAPS!  LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING!  OUT LOUD!  REALLY REALLY LOUD!

    My goals this year are to continue to love my job and to continue to come up interesting ways to help learners be critical of information as well as LOVE READING!