Saturday, December 6, 2008

Literacy Themed Saturday School, November 6, 2008

Well another Saturday School has come and gone. Usually I get to roam around, take pictures, shoot video footage of families, and help out here and there. Today, I stayed with our visiting author, David Schwartz. He presented to the upper grades and then the lower grades and their families. I always dread family presentations at schools. I have not seen a time where parents supervise their children when teachers are present. I spent my time asking parents to quiet down, chasing small siblings of our students and then matching them with their families, and asking students to pay attention to the speaker. It was pretty exhausting. The worst part was watching parents have full conversations on cellphones and with each other while the author talked about writing, his books, presented an interactive readaloud. I will never understand the lack of empathy I witnessed today. How do we teach our students to behave in social situations when their parents are modeling a non-example?

*Exhale*. It's over.

Lessons learned/Things to consider/Reflection:
*The author speaks for no more than 20-30 minutes when families are involved.
*Students will sit on the floor in front of the author (parents in chairs behind) instead of students sitting with their families.
*Start searching for an author 6 months to a year in advance. It's impossible to book an author, in less than 2 months, who is bilingual and/or who writes about the Latino culture...oh...and for $1000 or less.
*Scratch author visits during family days/nights and save them as a school day assembly for students and teachers.
*Make an announcement at the beginning to remind parents to pay attention to the speaker stop talking on their cellphone not allow their children to run around and scream during the performance set an example for their children by listening to the speaker...sigh... I'm too frustrated to come up with a PC way to say this to a grownup. Any ideas?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Enough THINKING. Time for ACTION.

I spend a lot of time in my head about everything. My son broke his arm last week and had surgery to realign his bone, which gave me LOTS of time to sit and think about things as I nursed him in the hospital and at home.

I thought about what I am doing with my students. I have 6 computers that they only use when they are looking for library books. I have students for 50 minutes per week where 20 of those minutes are used for check out. What can I do with students for 30 minutes, 1x per week, that allows them to CREATE and PRODUCE, and allows me to TEACH. I am currently focused on retelling techniques. A few of my classes are doing puppet shows and some are learning to retell a story with string. I always feel that what I do is not enough. I want to have time to talk to them about searching the internet, taking notes, using reference sources, finding what they need in the library, current events, etc. etc.

This week I thought about focusing on those 6 computers and how I can engage the other 14-22 students in some other independent activity. I have been researching implementing library centers for a while. I think its time to stop THINKING about it and time to DO it and see what happens.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Time to take a step back and THINK.

It's so easy to get caught up in the American public school system. I recently had a conversation with one of my coworkers who grew up overseas. She told me stories of small class sizes (10-12 students), experiential learning, in-depth social studies lessons from the perspective of several different cultures, art classes where she drew her own Picasso painting, PE, library classes, computer classes, and field trips. Am I part of the problem as I teach from within this system? I always tell my students that 1 person can make a difference. Sometimes its difficult to be the 1.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Underground Railroad and African-American Spirituals

I would love to teach a unit like this!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I need to post this next to my computer

Internet Love Gocco print, originally uploaded by Chris Piascik.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to decrease your lesson planning stress on a fixed schedule in 3 steps.

My schedule this year makes it virtually impossible for me to collaborate with classroom teachers or to push into classes so I had to think of a way to teach quality lessons without burning myself out. I do not in any way advocate for fully fixed schedules and/or how I am going to have to run my library this year, but...sometimes when you are given lemons, you make lemonade.

How to decrease your lesson planning stress on a fixed schedule in 3 steps:

1. Read only "QUALITY" books during readaloud. This sparks curiosity about the subject which leads to students their own self-motivated research. Last week I read the Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter.

2. Plan lessons where students do ALL or MOST of the work. Once you have sparked their curiosity, provide them with a variety of resources to conduct their research: reference materials, non-fiction books, articles, magazines, videos, audiobooks, etc. Have students jigsaw and then share their findings to the class.

3. Have students create something that can be shared with an audience: An ABC book on any curricular topic, a student-created audio book, a videotaped puppet show, etc.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I just received my Califone MP3 Center!!

I ordered a Califone MP3 listening center for the library. The only thing is...I can't get my computer so recognize the device. The software that came with it is from Lexmark and I don't see anything in the software that resembles an MP3 driver. The website is no help...sigh. I will figure it out by the end of the week...hopefully.

I am so excited about starting library centers with my kids. I know that we will be working on procedures for quite some time before I introduce and open our library centers. I have been reading Debbie Diller's book, Literacy Work Stations. I am so grateful that there are educators out there who are willing to share their methods. I plan on having a computer center (using ReadAbout software, tumblebooks, or create a Moodle...if I am ambitious), a vocabulary center (students will play Scrabble and look up and record the words from the dictionary), a drama center (story retelling), a newspaper center, a poetry center, and maybe a video center if I can figure out how to make that work. If I can get my students working well in centers, that leave me with a small group of students to work with using reader's theater.

My goal is to get my students speaking with feeling this year and using their entire body to communicate. My ultimate goal is to get my students taking a more self-directed role in their learning. I want them to tell their stories and share them with with world. When I shared the idea of my kids podcasting with a K/1 teacher, he told me that I am being ambitious. You bet I am! My kids know that I believe they can do it. The real question is how long will it take to perfect the flow.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

Well, I ran my class, Harry Wong-style, and guess what? It worked! My students knew exactly what I expected of them because I told them, I modeled it, they performed it, and then we all practiced. I broke down every procedure to the greatest detail. I made visual reminders of the procedures. I even created physical samples of how the completed task should look. What happened in there was the magic that I see in so many classrooms. Procedures are truly the key to success. After about three weeks of setting the tone in this way, I should be able to do some really great things with my kids this year. I want my kinders podcasting and my 5th graders videotaping reader's theater performances.

Tomorrow I will have six classes. I am already feeling the tingling in the back of my throat. It never fails, every year, I get sick and lose my voice. I promised myself that I would do minimal talking this year. I am really trying to take care of myself this year. I promised that I would never leave after 4pm. Today I left at 4:59...I'm improving.

Louise Hay would say that I should pay attention to what my body is telling me. In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, she wrote:
The THROAT represents our ability to "speak up" for ourselves, to "ask for what we want," to say "I am," etc. When we have throat problems, it usually means we do not feel we have the right to do these things. We feel inadequate to stand up for ourselves...Sore throats are always anger....LARYNGITIS usually means you are so angry you cannot speak.
I definitely feel angry. I do not feel a part of our school community. I can never collaborate with my teachers because I am a part of the "integral" loop (the kids come to me in the library, the music teacher, and the PE teacher, so they can have their grade level planning meeting). I barely have time to take care of myself during the day, and I do not have time to plan the type of quality lessons that I know I am capable of (22 lessons/week, K-5). I try to avoid complainers like the plague...and now I have turned into one of them.

I am feeling unsupported by my principal, who is well intentioned, but has no expectations for implementing a curriculum-involved library program. You know the saying, "There is no I in Team?" Well that person was right, because I am in the library and I am not a part of the curricular team at my school.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Same actions, same results

My students have successfully completed their first week of school. I spent my week preparing the library, "Harry Wong"-style, for my upcoming schedule of 22 classes per week. I still can't figure out how giving up Read 180 turned into 6 extra classes and not enough prep time to plan any of them.

Albert Einstein defined "Insanity" as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Is that why I've been feeling so crazy?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The School Year Approacheth

So here I am 2 weekends away from the new school year. I feel totally unprepared. I wonder do all teachers feel this way. You would think that I would have it all together considering this will be my third year at Monarch. When I think about my first weeks worth of lessons, I keep feeling that I will forget to give an instruction or that I will forget to mention something important in the lesson. The great thing about teaching is that I am always learning...learning about the kids and learning about myself.

I promised myself that this year I would do everything that I could to create a work/life balance. Will someone please tell me how to do that.

On another note. I found an old photo as I was cleaning out my email. It is a 2005 photo of my workspace as I created my culminating papers for San Jose State University (a requirement for the MLIS degree). Not everyone works well at a desk. I am notorious for working on the floor. My son has also inherited this habit. I have always wanted my kids to take a picture of their work space. I think it would make for an informative conversation about creating comfortable work spaces at home as well as an opportunity to create an interesting display.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Read 180 Conference Sessions- Day 1, Sessions A & B

So far, I have attended 2 sessions (1 full session, .2 of a session, and .8 of another session) today. I walked into my first session, Scaffolded Writing in Whole- and Small-Group Instruction, presented by READ 180 Certified Instructional Coaches, Pam Crowley and Jane Balash. From this session, I learned from the teachers at my table. We shared successful classroom strategies. After talking to one of the teachers, I am going to look into the Step Up To Writing Program and the use accordion method of organizing writing to create paragraphs. Another teacher mentioned creating a word/definition poster with her class that breaks down the language contained in reading comprehension questions into kid-friendly definitions. She learned this from a PD given by Larry I. Bell who spoke about the 12 Powerful Words. I would also like to create a page with a combination of information from this one (parent suggestions at the bottom) and this one (English/Spanish words and definitions) on my own blog in order to give parents a way to reinforce the use of the words.

I signed up for Powerful Phonics for Older Struggling Readers-Accelerating Beginning Readers. I saw the logo for the System 44, Scholastic's newest technology program geared toward beginning readers. So instead of learning about Read180 and how to improve my instruction, which happened to be my entire purpose for attending this conference, the workshop's aim was to sell the System 44 product. I left 2 minutes into the presentation.

I walked into a session called Maximizing Learning for Special-Needs Students Within the Instructional Software and thought I would learn new ways to instruct my students on the proper use of the software or even ways to control the software to promote certain reading skills with my students. Instead, I heard a presentation, very similar to the introduction to the Read180 software presentation that I received when my school first purchased the Read180 package.

Scholastic was smart. Create a conference and tell the participants that they will learn new and exciting ways to use their existing resources. When you have their money and they physical presence, use them to promote the existing products through videotaping their testimonials (everyone want's to volunteer to be on camera right?). Use the workshop sessions to introduce the new software line and voilĂ : instant consumers of the new product.

When I attended ALA's conference, I could count on the fact that the purpose of the conference was to develop my skills as a professional librarian. At this conference, the only thing that I can count on is my ability to see through the marketing bubble that I am trapped in. They will release me on Saturday.

The one presentation that I am looking forward to is seeing Kate Kinsella. I have heard great things about her methods and how they work with EL students.

First day at the Read180 Conference

I'm so tired but I needed to get this out before I turn in. I feel deceived. When I walked into this conference I really believed that I would learn something that I could take back to my Read180 class. Instead, I feel that I have been used to create a marketing campaign for Scholastic and that this entire conference was created to inform Read180 teachers about a new product that they want us to purchase, the "L-Book".

My evening began with a reception of 800 educators. The Read180 team created a talk show that resembled the set of Oprah in order to present the Read180 speakers. Now I am a huge fan of creating entertaining ways to present to audiences, but when I looked around and saw all of the cameras, I realized that we were all props in a marketing campaign. We should have been notified in advance that they would be video taping the conference for their own purposes.
We were provided a wonderful dinner spread and free drinks. During this time, again, the cameras were everywhere. They also had Scholastic representatives rounding up educators to give a brief testimonial about their Read180 experiences. At my table, they approached my Polynesian colleague and asked her to speak on camera. She declined. Then they asked me. I declined. There were six other people at my table, but none of them were asked to speak (they were Caucasian). Then they walked around a bit, found a table with an African American man, and asked him to speak. He agreed and was walked over to the interview area. The Scholastic Rep returned, searched around the crowd and approached an African American female, who agreed to speak on camera. Why were they singling out the minorities? Was I the only person paying attention?

Tomorrow will be my first conference session. I really hope that I learn something that I can take back to my classroom. Right now, I feel like this conference was not created for the educators, but it was created to collect a bunch of Read180 users in one place in order to build a marketing campaign.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A funny thing happend on the way past the Ellison Die-Cutting Machine Table

So, there I was walking around the Exhibitor's Hall, looking at hundreds thousands of books and library materials, when I sneak a glance at the Ellison table. I have been severely underutilizing our Die-Cut machine! The sales person showed me how to fold the paper and make a notepad, connected paper dolls, a wreath, a booklet, a standing sign, and more. She also told me that the machine can cut more than paper. It can cut felt, fabric, pop-up sponge, and laminated paper! She directed me to their website where I found even more ideas. I can't wait to create new projects for next year!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

ALA Session: Sisters' Act

Sisters' Act: Learn How to Make Your Library Lessons Award Winning and Generate Enthusiastic Readers
Presented by sisters, Brenda Copeland and Pat Messner.

This session was a breath of fresh air. I love watching presenters who are obviously passionate about what they do and know how to present at a rapid pace to keep the audience interested. In addition to providing a handout with standards based lessons, resources, and a bibliography, the presenters offered to forward the lessons presented if you send them an email.

Lessons learned from watching these presenters:

  1. Show the audience, don't tell them. I love that they both became the character during their book talks (Rosa Parks from the book Rosa and the student from the book Sister Anne's Hands.
  2. Use realia. They showed several ways to incorporate the use of objects from the story into library lessons. Examples:
    1. Reading with Mr. Dewey using a vest, glasses, umbrella or cane and a briefcase. Put books in the briefcase and have students figure out where they belong in the library.
    2. Atlas Review Lesson- Cut a map like a puzzle. Groups assemble the puzzle and answer the questions about maps (Ex. Where is the nearest school to...., How many parks are in the city of..., How far is it from...)
    3. Dress up like Fancy Nancy and make fancy and plain word cards for students to match (Sample words: Limousine and Car)
    4. Use a backpack to become the student from Sister Anne's Hands.
    5. Make a photo album about myself (from birth to now) and pair it with That's Our Librarian to do a compare/contrast lesson at the beginning of the school year. (another option: collect baby pics from the teachers/staff and make a school book of then and now describing what kind of kid they were on one side and describe their job and duties at the school today).
    6. Use seed packets with character names taped to them and match the character with the problem and solution cards, or setting cards with the book Muncha Muncha Muncha.
    7. Brave Harriet by Marissa Moss. Create the English Channel using a large sheet of blue paper, provide paper and directions to make paper airplanes, fly the planes of the English Channel and provide prizes for the plane that goes the farthest.
    8. Mr. Wiggle's Book. Fill a backpack with "good friends" and "bad friends" (Ex. Soda can, water bottle, soap, gum, candy, bookmark, etc.) Each child will hold a GOOD sign and a BAD sign to hold up when you pull an item out of the bag.
    9. Skeleton Hiccups. Use physical props related to parts of the story for a sequencing lesson.
  3. Give away free stuff! Everyone loves to pause for a free giveaway.
  4. Have fun! Enough said.

Friday, June 27, 2008

ALA Preconference: Eating the Elephant 2.0 with Doug Johnson

Today I attended my first conference presentation by Doug Johnson called, Eating the Elephant 2.0 One Bite at a Time: Using the Read-Write Web in Classrooms and Libraries. I am one of those librarians who is determined to keep up with all of the free technology tools. I have so many things in my head that sometimes I think I might burst. It's inspiring to watch Doug present because he has taken some of the popular web 2.0 tools and presented them in a very accessible and non-threatening way. I was familiar with 90% of the tools he presented. Although I was familiar with the topic, I viewed it as an opportunity to learn.
I learned:

  1. Introduce 1, 2, or 3 new web 2.0 tools to my staff per year. Don't overwhelm them with too much too soon.
  2. Show teachers exactly how they can use these tools with the students.
  3. Talk about responsibility and privacy issues with the staff as well as with the students before problems arise.
  4. Use problems that arise as teachable moments. Learning from mistakes is a powerful metacognitive behavior.
  5. Use videos, comics, and/or images as transition tools (ImageChef, Big HUGE Labs Motivator, Web Crash 2007 Video . He used a variety of Common Craft tools to introduce the concepts of blogging, wikis, social networking and RSS feeds.
  6. People like to receive information in list format ;) ex: "Top 10 things you should know about... and 23 Things on a Stick (and the California Version)"
  7. I can convince my teachers to create a Professional Learning Community on a small scale through the use of social bookmarking tools like, FURL, and Blinklist.
  8. Use screensavers as a learning tool or to relay library and/or school news. (This one I came up with myself as the result of being hypnotized by his pre-conference "Doug's T-shirt says..." slideshow)
I have so much information inside me. When I look at Doug and think about Joyce Valenza and David Loertscher and I look at myself, I think...I need to step out of my comfort zone and start writing and presenting in front of adults.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Overachiever vs High Achiever (Ms. K vs Keisa)

Overachievers are unconsciously fulfilling a need they have for approval and recognition. Their desire to get the approval from other people prevents them from living the life they want to live. It's all about proving themselves to someone else verses building their own lives. Overachievers do not believe that who they are is enough, so they go looking for achievements to make them feel better about themselves. Overachievers focus on what's still missing.

White, J (1999, March 12). Stop Overachieving! Be A High Achiever . Retrieved June 8, 2008, from The JWC Group Web site:

High achievers are confident of their talents and are able to enjoy their hard work and the success it brings.
Grabmeier, J (1998). Overachievers find success comes with a psychological price. Retrieved June 8, 2008, Web site:

Today I stumbled upon these two terms and had an a-ha moment. I definitely fit the profile of an "overachiever" with a twist of "impostor syndrome". I never feel like I am done with anything that I do. And then when I finish, everyone loves it, but I secretly believe that anyone could have done it. Last week, one of my colleagues called me obsessive compulsive. I was initially offended...until I thought about my problem-solving approach: I NEVER give up until I solve the problem.

I love being a school librarian. I get a rush when I witness my students learning. I love researching and finding resources for my teachers. What I can't figure out is how to turn work off when I get home and how to push that overachiever to the side to make way for the real me underneath.