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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Literacy Options Abound


It's almost summer break, so it's definitely time to think about how to keep reading all summer long. All Maple Street students are signed up for the Kalamazoo Public Library summer reading program, "Build a Better World." Students are encouraged to read at least 20 minutes each day. There are several resources available to help families find books for their children this summer.

KPL provides access to digital resources via Overdrive through the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services. There are both books and audiobooks that KPL that patrons can access using their library card numbers and PIN numbers and download to a variety of devices.

KPS Library Services has created summer reading lists that will go home in each report card. Below are the middle school lists:

Sixth Grade

Seventh Grade

Eighth Grade



Again this summer SYNC is offering free audiobook pairings for download all summer long. Each week there is a classic title with a young adult title that users can keep once downloaded using Overdrive.



Finally, our Teens Top Ten book club will continue at KPL this summer. We have been meeting all winter and spring at Maple Street and are now transitioning to the KPL Teen Services space at Central Library for the summer months. Upcoming meetings are June 19, July 10, July 24, and August 7, 4:30-5:30PM. Students may pick up pre-published books at any time and then read and review them. We will talk about what you have been reading at each meeting.

No matter where students choose to get the books they will enjoy this summer, we encourage everyone to read at least 20 minutes per day for their own enjoyment and relaxation, as well as to maintain the skills they have developed throughout the school year.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Invisible Emmie Becomes Visible for RAWKers

It's no secret that graphic novels are extremely popular among middle school students. When I first came to Maple Street, one of the fun activities we hosted was an arts-based summer camp. I spent one summer working with a Michigan graphic novelist who taught our kids about comic art. Later, he worked with me and a social studies teacher to create an elective class based on graphic novels and she fully integrated comics into her regular classroom curriculum. The kids were reading graphic novels, drawing their own comic strips, and we developed a massive book collection. When the elective ended, that collection was moved into the library's ever-growing graphic novel section where there is extensive traffic and I am always looking for the best new books to add to the collection.

With this background, I was thrilled when our local independent bookstore, BookBug, offered us a visit from Terri Libenson. The sixth graders in the RAWK program began preparing for the visit by learning about and writing their own graphic novels. Even so, it's hard to tell how these events will go: will the kids be engaged and polite? Will the author be comfortable with the nature of middle schoolers and their probing questions? It turns out that, yes, Terri was extremely comfortable with the nature of sixth graders and the students loved her presentation.

My favorite moments included a story that she told at the beginning about the inspiration for her story. Terri took the most humiliating day of her life and turned it into something positive: the book Invisible Emmie. It's so rare to meet people who have a sense of humor about themselves and their past experiences--especially when they are particularly embarrassing. Middle school kids often feel like they are alone in their experiences, so hearing a story they could relate to was fantastic. Terri also had a drawing contest with the students where they each drew a character and then exchanged the pictures at the end. It was fun to have the students participate and interact with such enthusiasm. In fact, later in the day when he back for his regular library time, a student was reading Terri's book and trying his hand at drawing the characters--the impact was definitely visible.

I would recommend booking Terri for an author visit. We have never had a graphic novelist as our author guest before, but the change of pace was eye-opening and well worth the time it took to organize and prepare the students. A huge thanks to BookBug, Terri Libenson, and Harper Collins for making our week!

Terri Libenson introducing herself to our students.

Terri and Invisible Emmie

Terri sharing part of her book aloud.

This scene cracks me up!

Terri drawing with one of our students--I loved that she interacted with our students.

Later, during library time, one of our students read part of Invisible Emmie and then worked on drawing one of the characters.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three for Thursday: Haiti On My Mind

I have been thinking about how books pair together for a while now. Often, a student will like X book and "want more like it." This level of reader's advisory forces a librarian to ask deeper questions: is it the theme that the reader likes? The setting? The characters? The author? I find myself asking a lot of questions and working through several Destiny searches in order to help students find the next great read. This inspired me to start a new feature, "Three for Thursday." I would like to regularly feature books that are related in some way. This week, it's books that feature Haiti and/or Haitian culture as part of the plot.

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat features identical twins Giselle and Isabelle. When their family gets into a car accident, one twin is mistaken for the other and the surviving twin faces difficult choices and a shattered family. With roots in Haiti, the family's cultural heritage is woven throughout this heart-wrenching story. This one flies out the door each time I do a booktalk.



American Street by Ibi Zoboi was part of Epic Reads First5 in February 2017. I was immediately sucked in: Fabiola and her mother are coming to the United States from Haiti and her mother is detained at immigration. Fabiola must continue to Detroit on her own to meet up with her cousins and aunt. What follows is the story of the struggle to create a life in Detroit, along with the story of how difficult it can be to assimilate into another culture while holding onto roots in another country.



Hold Tight Don't Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner follows Magdalie, a teenager in Haiti, whose life changes in the blink of an eye when the 2010 earthquake hits. The stark poverty Magdalie experiences as she tries to earn enough money to move to Miami is heartbreaking and will make the reader question the relief and aid work that is done in developing countries following a tragic event. The end is hopeful for a country that has seen disaster strike and is working toward recovery.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Immigrant and Refugee Experience

I can't claim to know what being an immigrant or refugee is like. I don't have that experience--and I feel fortunate to live in a safe and stable country. However, my students come from various backgrounds, so I'm always looking for the opportunity to learn more about them, as well as provide resources for their use and to help their peers empathize with their experiences. I wanted to look at what their lives might be like had they not come to the United States, so I spoke with our ESL teacher and looked up photos of the cities they hailed from prior to the upheaval that brought them to us. I tried to imagine what it would be like to raise my children in a region at war. It seemed unreal . . . picture after picture showed cities in ruin with buildings reduced to rubble.

Reuters file photo of Daraa Syria


As the events of this weekend unfolded, with the new president signing an executive order to halt immigration from certain countries, I thought about what libraries can do to welcome children and families as they establish themselves in new communities. At the request of my curriculum director, I created a book list that identifies books that support the immigrant and refugee experience and added it to my Destiny home page. Though the list is certainly not comprehensive, it provides students a place to start and challenges me to find additional resources as I continue to purchase new books.

In addition, I'm working on ways to add books in different languages to our collection. We have always had books in Spanish--popular novels that students are reading in English, as well as some options of classics and basic nonfiction texts that support curricular areas. However, I have not purchased books in Arabic or any African languages. The ESL teacher has written a grant to purchase some books and I plan to follow up with her to find out how that has worked out and what resources I might add to support her program. I'm also following We Need Diverse Books through social media and their blog to learn more about resources to support learning about diversity and seeing oneself in books.


It's an ongoing process that will likely change as events within our country unfold. What have you done in your library to support immigrants and refugees?



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Great Reading Log Conundrum

We all want to know what our students are reading. Although I talk to kids all day about books, it seems, there is still a lot that needs to be uncovered about what each reader prefers and how much reading kids are actually doing. In the past, I have tried reading logs with varying degrees of success. With over 800 kids in my building this year, paper reading logs would be a lot to keep track of. Instead of going that route, I am trying a Google Form.

I had several thoughts when it was mentioned that we should keep track of student reading with a physical reading log. First, I tend to use an electronic format (GoodReads) as an adult. I'm guessing that is a more natural behavior for students as well--social media as a reading log. I also considered the idea that I wanted a quick, "What did you read? Did you like it?" more than I wanted to create another assignment that needed to be monitored. Since we are moving to using Google Apps for most things in our district, I then considered what it might look like to integrate this into my students' regular use of technology.

After bouncing the idea off a couple of the ELA teachers I work with regularly, I came up with a basic form that might take a student five minutes or less to complete. I want to gather basic data, so I asked about grade level and team, but beyond that, I am looking for a more minimal approach to reporting what was read and liked or disliked. I have connected the form to my library website and am asking the staff to connect it to their blogs and/or Google Classrooms. Since the data comes in on a spreadsheet format, we should be able to look at data by grade level, as well as team. Kids can easily complete the form during their library time, as well as any other time they have technology in their hands.

I'm hopeful that this solution will give me a window into the reading interests of my students, as well as provide much-needed data reading patterns of middle school students in general. What format(s) are you using or have you used to collect reading data in your classroom or school?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tinker Zoo Was the Coolest

I'm always looking for an opportunity to participate in professional development activities during the summer. I especially like hands-on experiences--no sit and get for me! This summer I had the opportunity to attend Tinker Zoo Maker Camp at Kalamazoo RESA. The REMC has a great lending library of hands-on maker tools that are available to those who have attended this training. With all the hype about making, I was excited to have a chance to try out some of the hottest toys for myself.

What I liked best about the day was that we had time and space to play. There were stations with plenty of materials and some direction, but there was still lots of room for exploration, experimentation, and creativity. The set up got me thinking about how this can translate to libraries and schools. Where and when do we offer hands-on activities that allow students to work alone and/or collaborate? Are there opportunities to try and fail and try again? Has the messiness of creating and problem-solving been taken over by the scripted nature of school in the era of standardized testing? If so, are libraries, as many have suggested, one of the keys to bringing back more hands-on tinkering to schools?

I don't necessarily know the answers to these questions. My day of training got me interested in doing more exploring and learning. I would especially like to work on how I can support curricular needs, while offering hands-on opportunities within the library space. I recently viewed a tutorial on bookmark making. I'm considering that as a place I might start: simple sewing, gluing, magnets, cutting--with lots of options to create something both useful and personal. It requires a lower monetary investment, but allows for lots of hands-on work.

However, I'm also planning to borrow some items from KRESA and maybe even doing a Donors Choose fundraiser to purchase some items of our own. After all, look at all the fun we had:

We soldered our own blinky robot badges

I thought soldering was awesome. Had to hold myself back from purchasing and soldering iron.

Using straws and connectors to build in 3D. Apparently there is a diecut out there than can be used to create your own connectors. We drove robots over straw bridges.

I liked the littlebits the best. The pieces hook together to make actions happen: ring a buzzer, turn on a light . . . and my favorite: blow bubbles using a fan.



My bubble!

Snap Circuits are a cool way to understand the flow of electricity. 



Ozobots are tiny coding robots. We created color trails and the ozobot would follow our pathways.

The Osmo allowed us to use and iPad to teach coding and gaming. I didn't play with this nearly enough--lots of cool ways to use it.

We have over 100 iPads and I see the possibility of kids getting really into using Bloxels to create characters, worlds, and whole video games. This intrigued me and I saw applications for my students right away.

Dash and Dot are robots that can be taught actions through coding.

Tinker Zoo Was the Coolest

I'm always looking for an opportunity to participate in professional development activities during the summer. I especially like hands-on experiences--no sit and get for me! This summer I had the opportunity to attend Tinker Zoo Maker Camp at Kalamazoo RESA. The REMC has a great lending library of hands-on maker tools that are available to those who have attended this training. With all the hype about making, I was excited to have a chance to try out some of the hottest toys for myself.

What I liked best about the day was that we had time and space to play. There were stations with plenty of materials and some direction, but there was still lots of room for exploration, experimentation, and creativity. The set up got me thinking about how this can translate to libraries and schools. Where and when do we offer hands-on activities that allow students to work alone and/or collaborate? Are there opportunities to try and fail and try again? Has the messiness of creating and problem-solving been taken over by the scripted nature of school in the era of standardized testing? If so, are libraries, as many have suggested, one of the keys to bringing back more hands-on tinkering to schools?

I don't necessarily know the answers to these questions. My day of training got me interested in doing more exploring and learning. I would especially like to work on how I can support curricular needs, while offering hands-on opportunities within the library space. I recently viewed a tutorial on bookmark making. I'm considering that as a place I might start: simple sewing, gluing, magnets, cutting--with lots of options to create something both useful and personal. It requires a lower monetary investment, but allows for lots of hands-on work.

However, I'm also planning to borrow some items from KRESA and maybe even doing a Donors Choose fundraiser to purchase some items of our own. After all, look at all the fun we had:

We soldered our own blinky robot badges

I thought soldering was awesome. Had to hold myself back from purchasing and soldering iron.

Using straws and connectors to build in 3D. Apparently there is a diecut out there than can be used to create your own connectors. We drove robots over straw bridges.

I liked the littlebits the best. The pieces hook together to make actions happen: ring a buzzer, turn on a light . . . and my favorite: blow bubbles using a fan.



My bubble!

Snap Circuits are a cool way to understand the flow of electricity. 



Ozobots are tiny coding robots. We created color trails and the ozobot would follow our pathways.

The Osmo allowed us to use and iPad to teach coding and gaming. I didn't play with this nearly enough--lots of cool ways to use it.

We have over 100 iPads and I see the possibility of kids getting really into using Bloxels to create characters, worlds, and whole video games. This intrigued me and I saw applications for my students right away.

Dash and Dot are robots that can be taught actions through coding.