It’s Completion, Not Pefection

Some may say that librarians fall into many stereotypes:  bun-wearing, shushing, antisocial, etc.  The list describing the stereotypical librarian could go on and on.  Most modern-day librarians do not fall into the descriptors of the stereotypes that have been written or portrayed by media.  In fact, there was even a film made on the subject called “Hollywood Librarians.”  Read more about the film here:  http://www.journalgazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070923/LOCAL0201/709230322/1002/LOCAL

One librarian stereotype that I have fallen prey to in the past is the stereotype of perfectionist.  Many librarians are guilty of this quality, or fault, depending on how you look at it.  In fact, I had a graduate library school professor who always made it a point to say, “Remember:  It’s completion, not perfection, that counts at the end of the day.”  Our desire to search until we get exactly the right answer, the perfect lesson, and the pleased patron drives us to want perfection. 

And that is the reason for this blog post:  How I gave up on perfection and learned to settle for an evolution of things.

Throughout my career, I’ve learned that nothing worthwhile happens overnight.  A quality school library program takes years to build, and must have full participation of other stakeholders (students, teachers, administration, parents, and community members) in order to be successful.  I have been blessed to know that I have the full support of my educational community in building a library literacy program that both meets and exceeds the needs of all of the necessary constituents.  However, it is still a work in progress, ever evolving and changing for the better.

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One way that I have learned to let things evolve is through the art of scrapbooking.  As silly as it sounds, scrapbooking is a largely organic process.  When I begin a scrapbook page, I have a relative idea of what I’d like to see happen on the page, but, it never turns out to be that vision.  Instead, it evolves as I work on the page.  Accidentally cut the wrong size shape with your Cricut?  Use it as a background shape for your page.  You see, it organically evolves to something unexpectedly beautiful.  It’s a process I’m learning to embrace, just as a successful professional librarian image and school library program takes time and unexpected turns in a charming manner.

My advice:  Keep working towards building your professional image, your library program, and your life.  The unexpected may be the best that will happen to you. 

TASL CO-OP Part Two: Battle of the Books and School Library/Classroom Promotions

This is part two of four that I promised to write about the TASL CO-OP 2013.  This post will mainly deal with hosting a Battle of the Books competition and other library promotion ideas that you can include at your school library.

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I admit that I’ve been curious and interested in hosting a Battle of the Books competition this past school year, but really had no idea where to start.  This session changed that.  Below are key points when preparing for your Battle of the Books competition:

  • Collaboration is key.  Collaborate with other teachers in your building to find out what novels they are interested in reading with their class to further strengthen your team.  If you’re brave and are doing a multiple building competition, be sure to collaborate with the school librarian and teachers at the other building, as well.
  • The presenters recommended starting the competitions with the 5th grade and older students.  Some attendees said that they start their teams as young as 3rd grade.  You know your students best and what grade level starting competitions would be appropriate.
  • If you don’t have regularly scheduled library course classes, start a book club where students meet once a month to discuss the required reading books.  Since I have regularly scheduled library course classes with my students, I intend to read the books with each of the classes and implement the Common Core State Standards throughout our studies.
  • Here’s my favorite part:  If you or your students don’t mesh with the recommended reading list of the official Battle of the Books website http://www.battleofthebooks.org/, then create your own reading list of required books.  My biggest criticism of the official book list is that it isn’t very multicultural or inclusive of the interests of urban students.  We will be using the book sets that we’ve recently purchased to include more close reading strategies in the classroom.  I plan on selecting 5-10 required books.
  • Have a traveling trophy made for about $20 that the winning team or class can have displayed in their room until the end of the year.
  • Make a display at the beginning of the year to advertise and generate student excitement about the competition.  Your display should be colorful and exciting looking!
  • Have a minimum of 15 questions per book, and avoid very specific questions during your competition.
  • Have a local public figure or celebrity emcee as a question reader for your event.  You need to have two non-partisan judges.
  • Have each team make t-shirts or come up with a unified design for t-shirts for students to wear on the day of the event.
  • Start early so students have time to read or reread the books.
  • You may take turns having teams answer the questions or invest in a set of reliable buzzers.  One set that was recommended was the 10 piece set of buzzers from Affordable Buzzers that includes software.  It’s available on http://www.amazon.com/10-player-Pistol-Grip-24ft-wires/dp/B00BQ26YTM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372009655&sr=8-1&keywords=affordable+buzzers for a little over $250.
  • Make programs for parents and community members who attend the battle.
  • Have a reliable and visible timer for students and the audience to see how much time is left to answer a question.
  • Students should not know what question is coming up next.  Keep them on their toes!
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I hope these suggestions will help you start a Battle of the Books at your school library, regardless of the grade level of the students.

Now, onto another popular topic:  School Library Promotions!

  1.  If your school library collects Box Tops for library funds, create a magnet to send home with every child to put on their refrigerator reminding the family to collect those Box Tops for school library funds.  Use fun fonts and graphics to keep this reminder of how important your child’s school library is front and center in the home.  Vistaprint makes great products:  http://www.vistaprint.com/category/magnets.aspx?txi=15187&xnid=TopNav_Magnets_Marketing+Products&xnav=TopNav
  2. In February, have a “Love Your Library” mini activity where students fill out heart cutouts with a reason that they love their school library.  Use these to select a student or two in a drawing to win a sweet candy prize.  Then, use the hearts to display on a Valentine’s Day bulletin board.
  3. Have a “Guessing Book” competition:  Wrap a chapter book up in wrapping paper and have students guess how many pages are in the wrapped book.  The student who guesses the closest will win the book!  (Note:  guessing jars and guessing book competitions are a great way to get reluctant readers more interested in library happenings).
  4. Host a World Book Night book giveaway.  This event will allow you to give away twenty free books.  Book levels that can be obtained are elementary through adult.  Find out more information here:  http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/
  5. For those of you who use the Accelerated Reader program in your school library, create genre or point paw tags to give to students who earn different levels of points.  Use http://www.cooketag.com/Tags/ to create fun tags that students can collect as they earn different point levels.  The tags can be made to resemble military ID tags, and students love to collect them on a chain to show off to their friends!  Another idea for AR users is to have a traveling trophy made that can go to the class with the top number of AR points each month.  While this goes on the inside of their classroom, also create a certificate that can go on the outside of their classroom door.  Let students be proud of their accomplishments!

I hope that you’ll consider using these promotions in your school library or classroom to help make our students lifelong learners!

Nashville International Puppetry Festival 2013

Today, June 22nd, 2013, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Nashville International Puppetry Festival at the main branch of the Nashville Public Library in downtown Nashville.  The festival was recommended to us by Heather Henson, daughter of the legendary Jim Henson, a fabulous puppeteer in her own right.  Check out her puppetry company, Ibex Puppetry, here: http://flavors.me/ibexpuppetry#c77/facebookpage   The day lived up to our expectations and more!

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As I am an advocate for puppetry in the literacy classroom, and use puppets quite a bit in the elementary school library setting, it’s always wonderful to see artists who practice the craft from other countries thereby offering a fresh perspective.  We saw two performances by two very distinct puppetry troupes:  Velo Theatre from France and Kawasemi-Za from Japan.  Overall, both performers were talented storytellers, but we were blown away by the Bunraku puppetry style of the Kawasemi-Za troupe!  If you ever have a chance to see them live, I would highly recommend it!

In addition to checking out the performances, we also got to view the beautiful Carnegie library of the main branch of the Nashville Public Library.  They have a children’s section that opens up to a lovely outdoor courtyard and fountain on the second level of library.

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Some fun things that were in addition to the performances:  stilt walkers, a maypole, and food trucks.  Very cute!

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Ultimately, I would recommend the Nashville International Puppetry Festival as a way to spend a day (or few) enjoying the art of puppetry from around the world: http://nashvillepubliclibrary.org/puppetfestival/

TASL CO-OP 2013

Today I had the pleasure of attending the TASL (Tennessee Association of School Librarians) Co-Op in Medina, TN at South Gibson High School.  Let me just say this:  I learned so much today!  Too much, in fact, to put into just one blog post.  So, in order to share what I’ve learned, I’ve decided to break it down into 4 different blog posts I’ll be writing over the course of the next week.

Oh, and before we begin with information from the first session, let me say that I won a copy of a picture book called “Pennies in a Jar” by Dori Chaconas.  It will go perfectly with my idea from my previous post about having students put a penny in a jar for each read aloud the class does together and then donating the money to a charity of the students choice at the end of the school year.  Serendipitous!

Okay, so if you’ve never heard Librarian Kristen Hearne present, then you are missing out.  She is breath of fresh air for the technology focus that librarianship now encompasses.  She was full of great, useful ideas for educators with her session entitled, “It’s all about the Graphics.”  Her Twitter handle is @khearne. 

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First, she noted that the educational presentations and professional documents we put out into the world need to be visually appealing to both our students and their parents.  This is particularly true since most of our students are visually-based learners in the age of technology.  One way to do this is to spice up your work with fancy fonts from www.dafont.com.  For backgrounds for things like PowerPoint presentations use www.fabnfree.com for papers (shapes are what you use for a blog).  Other backgrounds can be found at:  www.psd-dude.com and www.mygrafico.com.

For those of you who are tired of spending money on posters at the teaching supplies store, a better suggestion is to make your own.  Use www.teachfactory.com to find her printable and inspiring posters.  Posters can be printed up on a 24×36 poster for a few dollars if you don’t have a poster maker available at your school.

In search of copyright free photographs to use on your school website or page?  Check out www.morguefile.com for thousands of photographs to use for your webpage.  It’s also a great resource for students searching for copyright free photographs to use in their school projects.

Next, my favorite part of the presentation, was on the topic of digital newsletters.  Using the website www.smore.com, you can create beautiful, professional-looking newsletters that you can: embed into your blog or school webpage, share on social media, include text, photos, and video, and track statistics of how many people have viewed your newsletter.  This is an excellent communication tool that I will be exploring more of this fall for my own school library.

Another highlight was some of the apps that you or your students could use to spice up their photographs.  Apps available include comic book, aviary, wordfoto, snap seed, comic life, and free collage.  Check them out on the app store.

Lastly, she talked about infographics.  Infographics (the product of taking data, sorting it, arranging it, and presenting it in a visual way) are something that I intend to incorporate more now with the implementation of Common Core.  She recommended websites like www.infodoodle.net and www.glogster.com.  Other apps for inforgraphic creation include:  grafico, mindmeister, maptini, and photostats.

I hope by sharing these websites and apps from the presentation, that you can incorporate them in your teaching practices as either teacher or librarian (or both!).

A Penny for Your Thoughts

A great idea that I came across this week during training:  For each read aloud you do with your students, select one of them to place a penny in a designated jar.  The penny-placer should be a student who is on-task with the read aloud and is following all of your rules and procedures.  At the end of the year (or track with each nine weeks), count the pennies in the jar and post that you have read $X dollars worth of books that year.  With student input, select a charity to donate the money to in the name of the students (Ex. We are donating this money in honor of the students at George Washington Elementary).  As an extension activity, have students write the charity a letter describing what they had to do for their donation.  This helps them practice letter writing skills, reflection, and the building of empathy for others in their world.  I plan on implementing this activity with my students this year, because I know they will love it as much as I do!

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A Real Scrapbooking Station

I just had to write a blog post about the newest addition to my home office:  an official scrapbooking area!  My husband and I just came home from Big Lots with our newest addition, a long scrapbooking table.

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The table has a designated Cricut die-cutting machine area.  My Cricut machine is one of my favorite possessions.  It has digital capabilities to connect to my laptop which can download thousands of shapes and patterns that it can automatically cut.  It really is magical to watch it do its cutting jobs.

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Also, I’ve moved my three-tier supplies card into the room and next to the new table to have paper, accessories, and cutting mats close at hand while working on scrapbooking projects.

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I expect to spend many hours at this table this summer in order to scrapbook away!