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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!



Going Flipped

I was asked today what programs I was looking at for taking our professional development flipped.  I’ve been looking at a few, so thought I’d share them here. Actually I think I misnamed the one I’m liking the best the the fellow librarian who asked, but she reads the blog, so I can rectify that here.

My favorite:  ActivePresenter by AtomiSystems

Screenshot 2014-01-23 20.12.58

Screen shot from my desktop tonight.

Why do I like it?  Just as the pic here shows, you capture, edit, and export.  It is really intuitive. I’ve only just begun using it, but so far I ‘m impressed.  Anyone who has dabbled in editing videos using a standard digital editor (think iMovie, Windows Movie Maker) should feel right at home with this one. Best, it’s new to me.


Others I looked at:

  • Jing
  • Screencast-o-matic
  • Promethean’s ActiveInspire (May as well check out it’s screen capture capability since we are a Promethean district.)

Richard Byrne has reviewed some over on his site, so I won’t bother to try and out do him, but it is worth providing a link so you can see yourself.  Go there using this link. I’m still testing

In recent days I’ve been mulling over what is the best way to present professional development for educators. As I’m scheduled this week to give an after school PD, I am reflecting on recent conversations about what is most effective. I have come to the conclusion that PD cannot be standardized, and there will always be those who consider PD a classic #fail.  How do we get our PD? There are plenty of models that have there own degree of effectiveness.


One size fits all

In this model, educators all attend the same PD opportunity. In my own experience, this generally happens in schools when there is an initiative being rolled out and administrators want to make sure teachers understand and hopefully embrace or buy-in whatever is the said program or concept. From my own teaching context, I can think of several: Olweus, a bullying program, High Schools That Work, Assertive Discipline, a guest speaker, “Working on the Work”,  Common Core, and so much more come to mind.


Beat it to fit, paint it to match

Sometimes I think some PD is the same as previous PD, just repackaged. I like to call these kinds of training sessions “beat it to fit, paint it to match.” Initially we all think of these staff developments as something new, but it doesn’t take long to realize it’s the same ol’ thing with a new package or name. Sigh. These kinds also build anger or resentment.


Training specialized for teams or departments

Often times the PD is channeled toward groups. Fine Arts and Physical Education teachers often have their own kind of PD that wouldn’t always be relevant to core content area educators. My own specialized group, Librarians, often get left out of specialized PD. I feel wronged when this happens, as I think especially for a position that serves the entire school, I should be aware of changes, what is new, or focus for these groups too. I like to know so I can work towards relevancy with these groups and their students using their initiatives.


How long is right?

Often teachers and other educators argue over the length of PD. In my very recent past, I have seen teachers bring to PD sets of papers to grade. In a way it’s insulting, particularly to the one leading the PD, but on the flip side of that, nowadays people multitask and do it well. When someone one is struggling to understand a concept, there comes a point in the learning called “information overload,” and it’s not the same for everyone.  When an attendee reaches that point, they potentially become a distraction. There are often quite a variety of levels (just as there is in a classroom full of students) and so if there isn’t any accommodation for differentiated learning (in levels and styles) many leave a PD session frustrated, resentful, and sometimes even downright angry. Especially with professionals, it is challenging to plan for the different levels. What is the prefect solution?


My own situation

I am involved with offering technology training in my working context. I get an additional stipend if it takes place outside of the normal school day. In the past we have provided two day summer opportunities, but attendance has been optional, and often it shows with moderate to low attendance. I am also slated to lead a couple of two-hour after school events, but again these are optional, and yes, it shows. The last one I led was on file management, and targeted teachers who are still struggling with understanding digital files on the network. This was advertised throughout the entire district. Many admitted they desperately needed the info. There was a large number who expressed interest, but contacting me only to ask if there was a way to get the information since they could not attend an after school session. FIVE actually attended, despite a great response to the advertised after school PD session. Bummer. 


Why stay when I can get it during the school day….

There are also those teachers who won’t attend an after school gig that will specifically address their needs (in terms of tech training) but will instead come to the library during the day to request the same information since they work in the same building with me.  My dilemma here is that I’m fighting resentment over the teacher blowing off a set time for specific training only to come and request it during the school day. Of course I generously provide the information and assistance, but it does bug me that a reason said teacher did not attend was because they knew I would give it anyway at some point during the school day if they didn’t attend. PD training is a part of the regular job of a school librarian, and to refuse (because they didn’t attend the after school thing) would be wrong. Out of professional courtesy, a desire for collegiality, and professionalism, of course I go through the training with teachers who ask for it during the school day. I do consider it a part of my “day” job. Not all feel that way though. And their negative feelings show sometimes.


A new approach – effectiveness to be determined

After discussing this with colleagues who are tasked with the same responsibility of providing tech training to our district, we have come up with something to try. We are going to continue offering our two-hour sessions scheduled for after school spread across the district calendar. Attendance has been widely scattered but overall POOR. In our discussions, we decided to rethink our delivery, and accommodate those with high demands on their time and availability. We will start making videos and screencasts of our training materials, breaking them up into five minute intervals. Our group is going to create a district Youtube Channel to store these videos. (I’m not sure I agree with this, as my suggestion was to use a Google Drive, and share them appropriately–we are a Google Apps for Education District.) We will then begin a marketing campaign of this stockpile of training resources so that teachers can on their own partake of the offerings–during a time when it suits and better, when it is a need.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about addressing library learning standards, they only “stick” when they are needed.  So I set off some after school time this week to create a series of five minutes screencasts based on some of my topics–> file management in our district network, Socrativee, Todays Meet, and Padlet. Some of these only need five minutes. Yay for me.

Maybe this is the best way to approach Technology Training. Time will tell.


File Management Training Session – Agenda

There is quite a buzz in school library land regarding the massive librarian cuts to the Philadelphia School System (from 200+ school librarians down to now just around 15.) My friends  Joyce Valenza and Jennifer Lagarde have both provided us with great action items to ensure we “educate” those powers that be who are making these drastic decisions.  Instead of responding with an outcry (kneejerk, I like to call it), we are given some goals, or rather a “to do” list for 2014:

Joyce says:

In 2014 and beyond, make sure you

  • connect with your school’s goals
  • focus on solving the problems of the people you serve (what keeps them up at night?)
  • focus on enchanting the people you serve
  • focus on learners
  • identify how your work makes a difference by collecting artifacts and evidence
  • grow (with the help of a PLN)
  • lead
  • share in noisy ways

And here is Jennifer’s interpretation with her own suggestions, again written in action statements:

Originally posted on Jennifer’s blog and licensed to share – http://www.librarygirl.net/2013/12/joyces-story-ending-is-up-to-you.html


How are YOU doing?

If you are not sure what the temperature is in your own teaching context, then use Joyce’s  and Jennifer’s lists as a litmus test of sorts. Assess your own situation, and give yourself either an S for satisfactory or a U for unsatisfactory.  Don’t gloat if you have more S’s than U’s. Be worried about even item you have assessed as unsatisfactory. Both of these posts are excellent motivators, and best, filled with action items to fix any U’s you may have score yourself with. Get ‘er done, folks. get ‘er done!

What you should be doing:


connect with your school’s goals

focus on solving the problems of the people you serve (what keeps them up at night?)

focus on enchanting the people you serve

focus on learners

identify how your work makes a difference by collecting artifacts and evidence

grow (with the help of a PLN)


In the very least, this makes for a nice set of goals for the New Year, no?


Perception Image Licensed CC by Jennifer Lagarde

We ended our latest Lunch Book Club last week, and we are in the process of selecting our books for next semester’s clubs. Our school has designed three book clubs that align with our three lunches at school, and students who sign up (in time) get a free catered lunch. This is not the only book club we do, as we also participate when able with another group (known as the Somewhat Virtual Book Club) that meets after school and online.


In the beginning

I feel though I need to explain our lunchtime book clubs, maybe to inspire others. I have done these in different ways, but I like the current format the best. I have done book clubs where students signed-up and then brought their lunches to a location, usually the library. These were well attended but had an exclusive feel to them, like I was leaving a group out (primarily those whose only choice was to eat a school-provided lunch.) I’ve done book clubs IN the cafeteria where the students eat, but felt that some students opted out due to peer pressure–they actually felt they were abandoning friends by coming to my table for the book club meeting. I had some good participation in both of these scenarios, just not what I wanted.


Taking it to them…accommodating all the lunch options

I then changed it up to arrange for “bagged” cafeteria lunches, and students who planned for a school lunch could pick up a “to-go” bag lunch and bring it to the meeting location. I even arranged for a free-no-questions-asked-cut-in-the-lunch-line option for them. The problem with this format was that the book club had to compete sometimes with hot lunches that were more alluring (pizza or other hot food items) that couldn’t be brown bagged or made for transport.  I lost kids to the “good” lunches regularly.  (And who says kids don’t eat school lunches?)

How About Now?

Photos made from CJN’s photostream; using http://www.fotor.com.

Fast forward to the current format. Now we (with administrative blessings) advertise our book clubs WITH a free catered lunch. Sometimes we order out (like Pizza) but other times we use our very own cafeteria service to get a catered lunch, like chicken strips, deli style sandwiches, and/or desserts. We  offer a lunch that is competitive with our cafeteria and the assorted vending machines, and best, it’s FREE for our groups that sign up in time. Note: Those who sign up late are reminded to bring a lunch.

Funding is for the most part, local

We use local fund raising and fines to offset costs, though at times we have to ask for a little help from our admin. This last time we wound up purchasing around 60 paperback books and lunch enough to feed that many. We sell flash drives and ear buds to help, and I’m amazed at how many ear buds we have sold this year (at $2 each.) Being a high school, we are allowed to charge overdue fines, but every penny is funneled into our book clubs.  If students sign up by a cut off date, they get the free, catered lunch.  And this year it seems to be doing the trick! We are very excited with our numbers so far this year. Best, each of us, myself, my co-librarian, and our assistant, are taking a lunch group. So it works out well.


Plans are underway for January

We are each talking about a book to use for our January clubs. My lunch is considering the book Butter by Erin Jade Lange.  The other two are looking at Matthew Quick’s Boy 21 and S.T. Underdahl’s No Man’s Land. Al three of us leading book clubs will read all three titles, as we never know when we’ll possibly have to cover another’s book club group. So here’s my Christmas reading all settled. I’ve already read Butter, which was a great book! As I was working with a class on writing reviews and making book trailers using Animoto recently, I made the following as a “how-to” example from start to finish. I think I’ve made them hope they have first lunch next semester when we change schedules.


So, what works for you in your teaching context? I’d like to know.


Sometimes I share ideas with my favorite art teacher at school (Mrs. S. Eleazer), and then she amazes me with the class interpretation. She surprised me last year with some, and one of her students even won a Scholastic Art contest award with their weeded book project.

 She just runs with it!

A gift to the DHS Library from Mrs. Eleazer’s Art Sculpting class.

Fast forward to this month–again, the Art Sculpting class took on a discarded weeded books project, repurposing these books into art. I am once again amazed at the work of my friend and art teacher’s class. So of course I want to share here. I have two sets; one set is the Christmas tree, and the other set is just book sculptures. So very beautiful and we are featuring them in the library once again!

Sharing here!

So it is with pleasure that I share this year’s projects in two sets, one featuring a Christmas tree complete with “presents” made from recycled books, and then a second set of various items, including a dress, Rapunzel’s tower, and more!  we plan to “dismantle” the tree after Christmas, and try it again next year–or sooner if we feel inspired. Enjoy.
Set one: A very Merry Christmas Tree!

Set two, just as special!!:

Last year’s projects, just in case you missed them:


Picture Attributions:
All the pictures featured here are from my own Flickr Set.

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