Thursday, January 31, 2008

Censorship - AGAIN

John Green is talking about a book banning - specifically some parents at a high school near Buffalo, NY.  I have posted the vlog below, but just have to say, WHY people WHY - if you don't want to let your teenager read the book, tell them why (and then they will immediately go out and buy the book - hey, maybe this is a good idea..) On a personal note, I just LOVED the book Looking for Alaska - and the reason why I first picked it up, a friend asked me to read it because a parent at her private high school wanted her to take it out of the media center.

here's John:

Author Visits

This week my library had an author/illustrator/musician visiting our school and he was just AWESOME!  

Before I tell you about our guest, I wanted to point you to a FANTASTIC  post by Camille at Bookmoot  about hosting and BEING a visiting author/illustrator.  I have hosted a few authors and illustrators in my five years of being a media specialist and the one thing I have come to learn is, I do not book ANYONE unless I have heard them speak before or I have gotten at least two or three endorsements from other media specialist or teachers.  There is nothing worse than bored kids listening to an author who is not exciting them to go out and read or write or draw or do all three. Actually there is something worse, knowing how much you PAID for this person to bore your students!

Now I get to brag on the guest I had in my media center the past three days - Chris Rumble, the Reading Guitar Man.  He is a local GA author/illustrator/musician and he wrote and illustrated a series of books about a mountain man named Uncle Stinky, think Captain Underpants meets a Southern Mountain Hillbilly - Uncle Stinky likes the word YEEHAW a lot!  He is not a world-famous, well known award winning author, but he got my students so fired up and excited to read and write that you would have thought he just won the Newbery and the Caldecott!  He starts his show with his guitar and sings songs to the kids about reading, taking classic songs (My Girl, Sweet Home Alabama) and changing the lyrics to lyrics about reading.  He gets the kids involved singing - and even the teachers (I had the camera the whole time, so I got out of subjecting anyone to my singing!) Then he puts the guitar down and talks about his books and about writing.  He changes it up, depending on who his audience is, my favorite part was when he showed a group of fifth graders a story that he wrote in fifth grade, complete with illustrations (note to self, make sure I save ALL my kids work, in case someday they are a published author!) he usually finished with another song and then sends the kids back to their classrooms a little hyper, a little loud and really jazzed about reading and writing.

I am VERY lucky that I had a PTA who paid for him to be at my school for three days and every student got to see his presentation (even our special ed students, and he was GREAT with our special ed pre-k students!). I am also lucky that I have two more authors coming in this year, Melinda Long, author of How I Became a Pirate will be visiting for one day in March and Coleen Salley, author of the Epossumondas books will be visiting in May. I hope these visits go as well as the ones this week went.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kids and the Internet

I sent the following out as an e-mail to my staff this morning, thought that some of you out there might find it useful as well.

Last night I watched the Frontline program about kids and the internet, while the program focused on kids using social networking sites (like MySpace and Facebook) it did have a lot of interviews with real kids and their views on social networking sites and the internet. You can watch the whole show on-line here:

Also out this week, a British study about Kids and internet researching skills. Basically it found that kids may be internet savvy, BUT they are not skilled when it comes to filtering information or searching smartly for information on the internet. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Just because today’s kids grew up using the Internet doesn’t mean they’re adept at using the Web, says a new British study.
"Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future" says that although there’s only patchy knowledge about how children and young adults become competent using the Internet, some clear news has emerged. Most notably, the information literacy of young people hasn’t improved with the growing access to technology.
In fact, "their apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems." For instance, the speed with which students search the Web means that "little time is spent in evaluating information, either for relevance, accuracy or authority," says the report, commissioned by the British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) []. JISC is an organization that supports education and research by promoting innovative technologies.

To read the whole article go here:

I think this study reinforces what I am trying to teach in the media center, that you cannot just ask kids to go home and go to Google, they need to be TAUGHT how to access the information that is out there!

I did not put this in the article, but I think that some TEACHERS and PARENTS also need to be taught how to access and evaluate information. Like the old saying goes, knowledge is POWER!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

literacy + science + media center = SNOW FUN!

I had a BLAST this week with my students - we made SNOW - and it just so happened that even though I had planned to do this lesson this week WAY back in December, wouldn't you know that we actually got some SNOW in Georgia this week (although not enough for a snow day on Thursday) and we are in the middle of a snow storm as I write this - what timing I have!

But anyway, on to the lesson.  This was my story time lesson this week, so I did it with Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd graders, although really, I think I might use it with 3rd grade next year and do a little more on the science end of the lesson.  

I read the book Snow Day by Lester Laminak, which is a short book about looking forward to  having a "snow day" off from school.  You think that the narrator of the story is one of the children portrayed in the book, but the surprise at the end is that not only do they NOT get a snow day off from school, but the narrator ends up being the Dad, who is a teacher.  The kids loved that surprise at the end and I talk to them right before I turn the page where the  narrator is revealed and I ask them WHO they think is narrating the book (and of course with K students I have to explain about what a narrator is!)

After I read the book, I pull on my lab coat (a freebie I got as part of being a Discovery Educator) and tell them that we are going to conduct a science experiment.  I ask them to tell me what snow is made up of and then I ask them if it is cold enough in the media center to make snow (NO) and then I tell them that we are going to make snow using a polymer - I explain what a polymer is and then I ask them which of th
e three liquids I have will make the best snow - water, milk or lemonade - we start with water and I LOVE the reactions from them as I hold the cup up ( a clear plastic cup) and they see the snow puff up.  I tell them this is like Colorado snow, light & fluffy.  Then we add milk, and it takes longer for the reaction and I tell them that this is East Coast snow - wet and sticky - then we use lemonade and it is in between the water snow and the lemonade snow and we talk about reasons why that might be (I talked more about the "science" of this with my 1st & 2nd graders than I did with the K students).  Then I have the kids come up to my table individually and I make some snow in their hands.  See the video below for how cool it looks.  

The kids LOVED this, and the teachers loved it because not only did I tie literacy in with science, the kids had FUN learning.
I got the Insta Snow classroom kit from Steve Spangler Science, and by adding another tub of the Insta Snow I was able to do this lesson with about 200 kids! I spent about $50 on this, but it was WELL worth it! The other great thing is, the Steve Spangler website has lesson plans and even videos that you can use with your class also.

I've included some pictures below, I just wish I could include the pictures of the kids and their faces when the snow started to erupt - priceless!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

100th day of school

I look good for 100, don't I??
Today is our 100th day of school, only 80 more school days to go until Summer Break - YIPPIE!!!!
I dressed as a 100 year old woman today - I had fun, but BOY wearing a cheap wig all day sure is uncomfortable!!
We were already reading a snow book this week (more to come on that in a later post), but one of our most popular 100th day books is Emily's 100th Day of School by Rosemary Wells, which, unfortunately is out of print. Another 100th day of school book that IS still in print is Jake's 100th Day of School by Lester Laminack and this book goes well with classes that are asked to bring in "100 of something" to celebrate the day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And the Award goes to....

here is video from the TODAY show this morning with the winners of the Caldecott and the Newbery Awards - I do feel bad for the ALA president, I think she says 3 sentences the whole interview.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Book PR

There was an interesting blog post by Alison at Shelf Talker today about how "hand selling" a book can go along way in sales for a book, especially for those books that are not "main stream" or award winners. I feel the same way about using pr in the media center to "sell" a book to my students that they may not have otherwise picked up.

SO how do I promote a book?

Well to me, the best way is to hand it to a child, let them see the cover (VERY important to a student - as Fuse #8 would agree with me!) and let them read the back. Of course many times I link it to another book the student may have read and enjoyed. I ,of course ,do book displays, sometimes having a picture of the author on display or some of his/her other books. The biggest problem with this in a library setting is, if you do too good a job with the PR, your book display is reduced to nothing after all the books on display are checked out by eager students. I always make sure I have either more books to add to the display or another display idea waiting int he wings! In my old school I did a lot of book talking, at this school I have not had many takers in this service I can provide, I am hoping to hook a few teachers in to let me come into their classes and book talk some of our new books.

Part of being a media specialist is being a PR wiz - doing things so that the teachers come in and see what you have going on, doing things so that the students want to come in and see what's going on and also doing book PR so that a great new book that you just purchased gets used and does not just languish on the shelf, with the spine barely cracked.

I think that the best thing an author can hope for is to get their book not only into the hands of reviewers and book sellers, but to get it into the hands of school librarians, we really can be masters of PR, especially if we like a book!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Growing up Privledged

I got this meme from Liz at Tea cozy, who in turn got it from E. Lockhart (which reminds me, I have to read Dramarama again, I lOVED that book!)

Ok, here it is:

From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.(note from Kathy: like others, I'm commenting on the statements, using italics. . So, this is probably a bit different from the original meme.)Bold the true statements.
1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college (and grad school)Actually, he started grad school but never finished
3. Mother went to college (she went to nursing school, does that count?)
4. Mother finished college (and grad school)
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. a cousin is a lawyer
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children's books by a parent. by both parents ALL the time

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned took dance from the time I was 3, also had short lived stints with piano and soccer, oh and swimming lessons too.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18. see above

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively. unless you count people making fun of a Massachusetts accent!

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs. undergrad, YES, grad school, NO

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
undergrad yes, grad school, no

16. Went to a private high school.I went to Catholic high school.

17. Went to summer camp. I went to day camps but never sleep away

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18. for math in high school

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. most of our vacations were at the family house on Cape Cod, but when I was in High School we started going away a little more and staying in a hotel was part of that.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. I was the oldest, so most of my stuff was new, my sister was not as lucky.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. NO, I bought my own beat up thing when I was 17, although my Dad did help me get a $1000 loan from his bank, but I paid off every cent myself.

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child. unless you count children's art!

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house. my family moved into the house when I was a year old, they still live there.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

25. You had your own room as a child. only for 2 years until my sister came along, then we shared until I went to college!

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18. I don't have a working phone in my room now!

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep I think I did somehting offered through my high school, but can't remember the specifics

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school. nope

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 went to Disney World when I was 10

31. Went on a cruise with your family

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. we went to Boston alot growing up and visited museums, although mostly the Children's Museum.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. Well, I do know that my father complained alot about the heat being set at 68 and we were NOt to touch it, but I am not sure i knew EXACTLY how much it cost

So that is 21.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mac vs PC in Education and beyond

In the past month or so I have seen the Apple vs PC war in full force in our school district and I am wondering what other schools are doing out there.

Two teachers at my school came to me in the beginning of the year. They had this idea for a project that would take students from the gifted 5th grade class and students who are in math and reading resource classes (5th graders also) and have them come together to write, shoot and produce some short video "commercials" advertising our new school motto "Respect the Rock".

They came to me to ask what I thought would be a good platform for them to use to have these students produce these videos.  I have a clunky, hard to use (in my opinion) Casablanca editing system, but between the expense and the real world applications (how many kids would have access to this kind of machine at home - ah NONE!) I sug
gested to them that they look into getting a Mac - for what they wanted to do, I thought iMovie would be easy for these kids to learn, easy for them to use and it would result in some pretty good 1 minutes commercials that we could save to DVD and play over our close circuit morning news show (which I coordinate).  the teachers wrote up a grant, were awarded the grant and then the fun started.  The district said NO, they could not purchase a Mac system with the grant money, the district would not support it.  They tried having everyone from the Principal down write letters about how easy this system would be for our kids, how they could take what they learned here and apply it in "real life" situations (while I think that more kids in our district have PC's at home, I am sure many have Mac
s also).  But the answer was still NO.  Then I found out that even in high school level graphic arts classes they are not allowed to use Macs - I used to work in
 the graphic arts industry (I was a print production manager) and although I have been away from the industry for seven years I am pretty sure that the industry is still DOMINATED by Macs.

So the end result of this is, the teachers are using their grant money to buy a PC with some extra memory and a DVD burner.  We are going to teach the kids to use Windows Movie Maker and that is how they will create their videos.

Do I think that this stinks - well, YES.  I know that our district has a HUGE amount of money invested in PC's - I am not asking them to switch the WHOLE system to Macs, I just think that giving students the opportunity to learn BOTH operating s
ystems is a great learning opportunity, and in this case, the learning opportunity comes without the district having to spend a DIME of their money. and, lets face it, Macs are COOL. I look at many of the bloggers I read and they seem to be powered by Macs.  On TV and in the movies, Macs are everywhere (although I do suspect that this comes from a good marketing team at Apple that lends their machines out to production companies!) And lets not forget the iPod (I think almost every kid in my school, whether they have one or not, knows what an iPod is.)

So I have a little poll, and even if you have never commented here 
before, I would love it if you would comment on this.

Do you use a MAC or PC at home?

If you teach, does your school and or district have :
a. just PC's
B. just MAC's
C. a combo of both

My answers are:
We have been PC for a LONG time in our house, but this Christmas Santa brought us an iMac - so now we have both in our house. My ten year old is already a wiz at iphoto and imovie - and she basically taught herself!

As I stated in the post above, my school and school district is PC only.
My daughter and I clowning around with Photo Booth on the iMac