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Helping a High School World Lit class consider alternatives to a dry PowerPoint over the next few weeks, and BlendSpace, among others is quickly becoming a favorite. Selfishly I’m trying out the embed code here too.  If it’s not seen below, it’s located at http://blnds.co/1hv81UT. Enjoy!!


First, if you are unfamiliar with the song, take a few minutes to listen and (maybe?) enjoy the music video I found. While listening note that this is cross-posted on SCASL.net in the online version of our SCASL Media Center Messenger.



[Verse 1]
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point

I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake your ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar…..

The Dorman High School Library – a view from upstairs

As I sit and ponder the many challenges facing school library media programs, I realize we as librarians must step up and become the change we want to see. Often we are excluded from the thought processes of decision makers, essentially unheard, and I blame no one but ourselves. At the forefront of most South Carolina administrators’ minds is the focus of fully implementing the Common Core. Where have you been in the discussion taking place at your own school? Are you even at the table of this discussion? No longer can we rely on bygones such as defined minimum programs or state department initiatives to guarantee we are part of the overall school picture, program, and more importantly a slice of the school funding pie. In this post, I hope to provide some action items librarians should ROAR to get a prominent seat at the table of learning in your school. Katy Perry’s song “Roar” has been playing over and over in my head with its ever popularity and serving as a theme song to the Winter Olympics. Now every time you hear it, remember you have the ability to bring your library program roaring back to life. And here are some sound tips and sage advice to get that roar going.


Limited due to Fixed Schedules

Fixed Schedules. Yes, it is a reality, and many schools, dominantly elementary schools use such a scheduling design to ensure common planning time. If you have an assistant, train the assistant to do common library skills and reading advocacy activities (read alouds, teaching students Dewey or how to locate books, learning about the ALA and SCASL Book Award programs, games based on skills.) While these activities are taking place under the direction of an assistant or volunteer, you as librarian are FREE to plan, collaborate, lead professional development, work with other classes, or do library managerial tasks, like review and order print and digital resources for your library. Your entire day should not be tied up with back to back classes. But the reality is the powers that be don’t see it that way. So roar to life a new reality for yourself. You may not be able to get an entire day to do all the activities outlined here, but working with an assistant or volunteers, you may get some part of your day flexible enough to  accomplish bits and pieces. Start small. If volunteers are a problem in your area, contact a local high school, and inquire about student mentoring programs or teacher cadets. Look at recently retired district teachers who may be looking for ways to fill their free time. But be careful not to overwhelm them. Instead train them to be your way to have flexibility in your library program. Accommodate their desires. Some retired teachers and retired teachers’ aides may only want to work with a certain age group–let them. If you have 50-minute classes, have collaborative meetings each period in your library, and invite your  your teachers to the library for those meetings. Then make yourself available for a portion of that meeting. You may have to stop each block to give twenty minutes or so to the students who need help getting that just right book while your assistant or volunteer mans the circulation desk, but any time given is a good time to make an impact, so take advantage.


Take it Flipped

Some library tasks can be done flipped right in your library program. What is flipped, you may be asking yourself?  Wikipedia defines Flip Teaching as follows:

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom,reverse teaching, and the “Thayer Method.”

A DHS Student watches a screencast with his own laptop while in the library.

Why not invest some time exploring screencasting applications, and recording some of the standard library lessons for a flipped library experience with your learners. Surprisingly enough, this is another way to carve out some flexible time in your library program so you might be able to do some of the other facets of your job (planning, managing, promoting reading advocacy.) Best, they are ready to go for point of need. Have a new student? No problem, watch these! Need to know again how to access our databases from home? Here you go, watch these. We often teach lessons that fall on deaf ears, simply because they are not relevant to the library member at that point. Having an archive of ready to go lessons could be not only useful, but also resourceful!


Professional Development – Our Standards Call for it!

As part of the school library program, the school librarian provides leadership in the use of information technologies and instruction for both students and staff in how to use them constructively, ethically, and safely. The school librarian offers expertise in accessing and evaluating information, using information technologies, and collections of quality physical and virtual resources.

 From AASL’s Position Statement on the
Role of the School Library Program

But when can the librarian meet this need? Juggling classes, teaching assistants and volunteers to take on some of the workload of a fixed schedule, working towards a more collaborative relationship with teachers and principals (all the school community) sometimes makes for a wickedly busy schedule. Many opt to let some part of our roles go. DANGEROUS! This sets a precedent to the decision makers. Do not let this role slide! Find a way to meet the needs for this responsibility in your job as well.


Professional Development Readiness – Are you ready?

Ask to be a source for staff development with your principal. Give a list of topics and technologies that you can introduce, and break it down into specific details. Provide the time frames as well, such as thirty minutes, one hour, half-day, or even whole day. You never know when your principal will decide there is value in something you want to lead. Try to tie it to ongoing school initiatives (i.e. Common Core, Bullying and Cyber Citizenship, Technology infusion, an author or guest speaker visit, etc.)


Get creative in the delivery

Sometimes short informal PD is better! “One Tool at a Time” is very effective for busy teachers who NEED their time. CJN’s Photo

Plan some “during the school day” inservices, where teachers can opt in during their planning period. The International Society of Technology Educators Library Library Group (ISTE SIGLIB) provides a webinar series for librarians titled “One Tool at a Time.” Designing school level inservice in this format is the perfect way to introduce common, regularly used technologies or newer technologies to the teachers. Offer a series like this to your teachers, planning a day where you schedule the same 30 minute session throughout the day. Advertise to teachers and see who shows up. If a single day is impossible, spread them across the week to match grade levels and common planning time, and schedule the assistant or volunteer to cover the library’s scheduled class. Ask your principal for a substitute for a day of learning like this, or ask that any substitutes already in the building for other absent teachers help cover a single library class each day of the week. Get creative in figuring out ways to carve yourself some time to work with your teachers.


Why not Flipped PD?

What about flipping PD? One way to ensure you are providing leadership in technology instruction to your teachers is to take it “flipped” as well. Using screencasting programs, create a series of videos that can serve as introductory or fully developed instruction into the use of new or common technology tools you want your teachers to use. Advertise these with your teachers, and allow them to consume when they have time. Make them short enough so that your teachers will not dismiss them as too time consuming.

A fellow teacher observes students learning how to use a webinar program for a book club.


Kill Two Birds with One Stone

During a visit to a class to talk about various research portals, the teacher learned about just as much as the kids on the importance of database search verses just Googling for research.

Try leading a collaborative lesson with a class, where you simultaneously teach the students and the teacher at the same time. The teacher in this case is assisting you, but more than likely unbeknownst to the students, learning a technology right along with the class. Invite administrators, program coordinators, and other administrative influencers to all of these types of lessons. Sometimes educating those key people can go a long way in helping decision-makers grow value and deepen respect for the program a current library offers the school community.


Don’t forget the data!

Find ways to show your decision-makers your data through numbers. How many classes did you teach last month? How many books circulated? How many teachers popped in for formal or informal training? How many resources circulated to professionals in your building? How many students did you serve before, during, and after the regular school day? What special library or school activities or events did you sponsor? What PD opportunities did you engage in to enhance your own skill set? How did you spend the library’s budget last month? These items make for a nice, informative monthly report to your administrator. Keeping the decision makers in the know of the continuous impact you have on a school program as a whole can have nothing but a positive impact. When is the last time you used a monthly report to make sure decision makers are informed?  If monthly is too frequent for you, find an interval that makes sense in the context of your school, such as bi-monthly or maybe matching the grading cycle for the school year.

What are the benefits?

There are many challenges to providing a balanced library program, and among them  winning the respect of the school community as a whole. Libraries support the curriculum, promote literacy development in students and teachers alike, and foster lifelong reading habits among children through the development of carefully selected print collections and the infusion of educational technology. If you do not already have a seat at the table where school decisions impact your program, using some of the strategies outlined here can be a beginning to gain that leverage. It may very well also be what saves your job. Now, let me hear you ROAR.



Katy Perry. Roar. Capitol Records, 2013. MP3.

 “Position Statement on the Role of the School Library Program”, American Library Association, February 9, 2012.  http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/position-statements/program-role (Accessed January 26, 2014)

Last year during the spring semester I swiped an idea from a neighboring district’s USC library intern (Karen Meharg, a now fully certified and working school librarian), and set to create a Library Book Tournament for my school. It was dubbed our “Library March Madness,” and patterned after the well-known NCAA Basketball Tournament (though a much smaller scale.)


Based on TRUE Circulation Data

I analyzed our Destiny Report to name the top 16 titles that circulated in our library, setting our parameters for the time frame of one year. Then I created my brackets, seeding the books #1-#16 based on where they fell in our circ data report.  I decided to make this a 16 team (book) tournament so that each week of the month  of March books in the brackets could advance. Going with sixteen meant within four weeks of the month our students could choose the “champion” book. Our “Library March Madness” was born.


From Experience

Last year I did not set books in a series together, and it made for an awkward championship, as two books from the same series wound up being pitted against each other. This year if two books were from the same series, the series was noted with the first book, and included reference to the series. This also allowed variety into the sixteen, and we have three titles this year that are referred to as a series.
Setting up the Brackets

Image from http://printablebrackets.net

One should have some understanding of brackets and seeds to set library books in brackets. My husband, a former coach, and my library assistant, a current softball coach had to help me understand how to set the brackets for a sixteen team tournament.

I learned quickly how to place the seeds in the brackets, and here is the basic outline:

Screenshot 2014-02-18 20.03.14

My own creation based on learnings about seeds in a 16 team tournament bracket.

I was shown that for each contest combined seed (rank) added together equaled 17, and knowing that and getting help from those mentioned above, I numbered the brackets. From my Destiny reports, I used each title’s rank to determine seed, only combining series when I decided to name a series rather than a book in a seed.


Rules for the Contest

Each week I will create a Google Form that will ask students to choose a title in each (remaining) bracket.

  • March 6 – Students vote to reduce the list from a “Sweet Sixteen” to an “Elite Eight”
  • March 13 – Students vote to reduce the list from an “Elite Eight” to a “Final Four”
  • March 20 – Students vote to reduce the list from a “Final Four” to the Finalists
  • March 27 – Students vote to select the “DHS Champion Book of the Year”

We are voting once a week on Thursdays so that we can reveal the newest brackets the next day, Friday.

The following are some of our March Madness photos from last year and this year. This year’s brackets are still in creation phase.


Fun, fellowship, and Rewards!

Using Google Forms, we will ask students to submit their name and their selections. This will make tallying results simple. We will offer paper ballots, but we will then turn and hand enter their selections into the Google form. Students names are requested just to ensure students only vote once. The names are also requested so that we can do periodic drawings for prizes. Prizes will range from cafeteria goody coupons, Barns and Noble Gift Cards, and free paperback books. We’ll do a drawing once a week (Friday) from the previous days votes, and then again at our “Championship” celebration.


In Celebration…

The “Championship Celebration” will consist of inviting students to a Donut Drop-in that will be scheduled the last Friday of March BEFORE school. These students will be the first to see the Championship Title before any other students. We’ll also culminate with a few other drawings.


A twist is planned

We are also going to invite students to fill out a bracket with predictions during the first week before revealing the week one titles that move on. Those will also be monitored for accuracy and integrity throughout the tournament, and students who still have a title alive each week will be in some of our drawings.


Who participates

Owly Images

Tiffany Whitehead shared her Library March Madness Tournament Bracket with me via Twitter! Thanks for the nod Tiffany!! Thrilled to know I inspired some of my friends.

Those who work on high school and public libraries know that by this age, you tend to have your regulars. We expect our regulars to be heavily involved. This year I am going to use an idea I am swiping from Tiffany Whitehead who has embraced our “Library March Madness” Book Tournament for her own school. Tiffany has placed her brackets out in the hall for better visibility. I had already made mine for a narrow column in the library, but I like the idea of better visibility too. So I am making a second one that is a larger scale representation for our hallway. Here is her bracket display:


In anticipation

I’m anticipating more participation this year with better visibility outside the library. I’ll keep folks posted on our results. 



Here is the description for a panel session I’m facilitating at the upcoming SCASL Conference (in just over three weeks, March 12-14, 2014). It is slated for 11:00AM Thursday, March 13 in the Columbia Convention Center. I am sharing this now in hopes that you SCASL Conference attendees will put it on your calendar, or BETTER, join the panel by adding your name and a topic here:

Session Title: Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy

Teacher-librarian practitioners will share their ideas relating to effective practice in use of 2.0 tools and mobile Apps to deliver the mission envisioned in our AASL standards document, a mission that resonates well with ISTE’s NETS*S. Tools and apps have exploded as educators embrace 2.0 and mobile devices, and this sharing session will help us all better understand thoughtful and engaging strategies for integration. No sitting on the ropes! You will need to participate to make this an awesome and exciting session. Be prepared to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE. (Panel session)


See you in Columbia, SC at our conference!!

PS – That embedded Buncee isn’t acting right so please click out here.

I think I need this more than many!!



First time EVER!

We return tomorrow to school after having Tuesday through Friday off for snow. I applaud my district for making the decisions daily early enough to have no worries about dealing with treacherous icy roads to and from school. Since I had an appointment Friday early, my hubby and I actually went out and scraped the snow and ice off one side of the driveway to make getting out the next morning easier. It was a solid sheet of precipitation. As a southerner, of course I am not equipped to shovel snow! Our tools? We used two dustpans. My forearms were sore for two days! But cleared it, we did. The rest finally melted away Saturday with our very temperate 55 degree day. There is still some snow around in shady areas, but I imagine today’s 58 degree weather will take care of it.

I used the snow days for a little work.

I accomplished a good bit during the snow days. I’ve read a couple of books, evaluated a class of projects for a collaboration, and worked on my monthly report for January, quite tardy!! I made a few helpful tip posts over at SCASL.net, and I re-planned the culmination of the current collaboration and pushed back the dates for the next one. Sigh. I brought home two potentiaL bulletin board type displays, one encouraging students to vote for our annual SCYABA Award, a simple sign, and then another, our Library March Madness, where students help us identify the top circulating books as we set up a Sweet Sixteen book tournament.

Happiness abounds

It really bothers me that so many students are so very flipping happy about the snow days. As I watched the news and sow so many newscasts feature the students in our area totally enjoying the snow, I did in a way understand their happiness. We only get snow once or twice a year. This snow event was a big one for us, despite the minor five inches of accumulation. I did find myself housebound for four consecutive days. But I began to see a trend. It mattered not what kind of student or school, most of the kids that news reporters talked to were ecstatic to be out of school.


i have a theory of why our students, no matter the age, grade,type of school, type of home life, socioeconomic background, treasured the days out of school. Overall, schools are failing to engage our students. Even the few classrooms that truly have engaging activities going on, overwhelmingly school is mundane, boring, and more about test scores and how well we stack up to other schools than about teaching students with authentic and engaging learning goals. Our kids are bored with school. And we as educators are a big part of the problem. Even those of us who want to do more still have to work mindful of our own school’s unwritten mission, that of raising test scores and providing our schools with more awards, accolades, banners, and bragging rights. And this saddens me.

Snowdays at the Nelson household.


Picture attributions:
All pictures used belong to me.
I used Canva.com to layout my pictures ins a creative way.

After the leak of what can only be described as a  bootleg video trailer for The Fault in Our Stars movie set for a June release, the official one is out! (When I say bootleg here, I mean “low quality cell phone camera recording from a video screen” quality.) Yep, I called it!  Love John Green’s description and use of the phrase, “in high glorious definition!”




As I’m working up an Oscars contest for our high school teens, using the many YA books going to movies as a baseline to draw interest, I must confess I’m really excited for John Green’s movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars.

Just saw this little Instagram vid posted today:

Recently I had shared a little snakiness related to the movie poster, and of course my teens were appalled.  Most simply said wow and lot of adults just can’t handle the hard truth.  We had a consensus of opinion that the naysayers just have not read the book, otherwise this would be a perfectly fitting byline.

From www.cinemablend.com

What I said at school:

So the movie comes out June 6, and there are some stinkers fussing over the tagline. They obviously don’t get John Green, Hazel, or Augustus. Grrr, just as I have to say (or think really loudly anyway) when censorship raises its ugly head about YA lit, just read the book. Please! Then the tagline will fit perfectly. Sigh.

As I read the other day that TFIOS is the number one selling book over at AMAZON, I also heard an official trailer was leaked today. I watched it but I’m not linking it here, since bootleg anything just doesn’t do it justice.  I figure now that it has been leaked it will be out in a few days so then I’ll share a much better quality trailer. But I am happy to report many are seeing the Divergent movie trailers in theaters now, and the same actress (Shailene Woodly) in in both TFIOS and Divergent.  SCORE!! [NOTE: TFIOS fell out of its number one status due to the ALA YMA from yesterday. But it remains in the top five. This is one of those books all teachers should read, no matter your grade level! )

Since I’m not sharing the movie trailer leaked for TFIOS, I will share the Divergent ones just in case you haven’t seen the,m. And I know many poo-poo the movies as never being as great as the books. I’m one of them too. But it does not make me want to see the flicks any less.



How many of us plan our instruction so that we get kids tapping in to these? Should be automatic, no?

Originally seen over at MindShift. Click the image for original source.

The ALA Midwinter Monday meeting is the annual announcement of the ALA Youth Media Awards. Just to clarify for those who don’t know, this is when the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are announced, among the other youth media awards. I’m especially excited because I actually KNOW a committee member (John Shoemaker).  

From SLJ:

The ALA Youth Media Awards honor children’s and young adult authors and illustrators, as well as producers of children’s audio and video materials. These include the Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Belpre, Carnegie, Geisel, Odyssey, and Sibert awards.

In the last few years ALA has streamed it out live for those not in attendance. For those in attendance, this is one hot event that is difficult to get a seat for–Let’s hope SCASL President Anne Lemieux and SCASL Pres-elect Diana Carr have set their alarm clocks or wake up calls for early so they get a good seat.  

No worries though as there are many online avenues to get the announced winners, including Twitter and Facebook.  But for those f us who love all the anticipation, nothing beats a live announcement. Your online portal to watch live is HERE.

Want to read up on each award? Check out this ALA FactSheet. Here’s a little promo video to get you excited!



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