Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thank You Harry Wong

Years ago, I was the Susan Lucci of education. Every year I was nominated for Teacher of the Year and every year I lost. Then I earned my library degree. After that, I was nominated for Teacher of the Year and Media Specialist of the Year, and lost. Again and Again.

Then I read Harry Wong's The First Days of School. my classroom management was transformed. I taught more because kids knew what to do. I learned the difference between rules and procedures. Rules have consequences. Procedures get practice. If a student runs, he practices walking. Eventually he learns to walk.

Wong also teaches that students are our customers. Especially in a secondary library, we need to remember that. In a flexible schedule, students can and will go somewhere else, if their needs are not met or they don’t feel welcome. That’s the beginning of this story…

So we need to teach the rules and share the consequences. One way to do that is the yakking power point. You can improve that by adding photographs of students demonstrating the rules. Maybe they even do them incorrectly.

Now take this a step further. Save your power point presentation as jpgs. Then create a Photo Story using the rule slides that are now picture files. (See my blog article about Photo Story if this is news to you.) You will have to go into the motion feature and adjust the time and movement on the word slides. Choose start and stop in the same place and make sure the movement is the whole frame.

Narrate the slides. Add some opening and/or closing music and TA DA! You have an interesting movie to share with your students about rules. You’ve used technology that will capture their attention. Students like to see themselves “on camera.” And you save your voice. If you ever need to change it, and you will, you can just change or add pictures. Re-record the voice over and save your new production.

Now for the rest of the story…
After I learned the difference between rules and procedures and practiced. I was not only voted Teacher of the Year, but also Media Specialist of the Year for my state. Harry Wong made a difference in how I taught. My kids learned more, because I was able to guide them more when less time was wasted. How about you? Couldn’t you use more time to guide your students? Check it out at your library.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay Day

Today is Mockingjay Day. A day that Hunger Games’ fans have been anxiously awaiting. The third in a series staring a strong female character who lives in a dystopian world, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins has been kept under lock and key. Today the bird is released.

No. I did not get it early. Yes. I went to my local bookstore first thing this morning and got my copy. No. I left it in the car so I would actually work today.

I gave one of my theater friends (a fifty-ish male) a copy of Hunger Games last year to read on a transatlantic flight. When he got to his layover, he called me. “This is a kid’s book?," he said. “Yes,” I told him. “It’s what we call a YA (Young Adult)," which for elementary means R rated movie- run away.

“It's like a car wreck," he said. "You know you should look away but you can't help yourself. So...(big pause) do you have the sequel?” he asked me next. I smiled. “Of course I do.” Another reader hooked I thought to myself.

That’s the beauty of a really good book. It spans the ages for which it was written. Look at the success of Harry Potter. It almost became an offense to people if you hadn’t read it or a guilty secret for some of my librarian staff. "What do you mean you haven't read it?!"

A good read captures your audience on the first page. Sorry, this is so short. I have to get something out of my car...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coffee Klatch

The SDUSD Teachers' Media Center
My staff and I, along with support from the TMC staff, are teaching a Back to School Coffee Klatch next Tuesday morning. In a fast one hour session, we will provide tips for classroom management, ideas for instructional/management bulletin boards and best uses of the Teachers Media Center. And yes, there will be coffee.

For those of you who haven’t been to the TMC or if it’s been awhile, the TMC is a make and take it area of the Instructional Media Center. SDUSD staff can visit during our regular hours to cut out letters, bind books, laminate or make posters for their classrooms or libraries. It’s our very own do-it-yourself-without-spending-as-much-money Teacher Store. You are only charged a small amount for anything consumable.

It’s a little overwhelming, so we decided to offer this in the morning, so that people can have the rest of the day to work. We’ll start in the lab to show online resources, but spend most of the time giving ideas and demonstrating how to use the TMC. The IMC/TMC is much like your first visit to DSW (shoe warehouse). There is so much to choose from, it’s hard to start. Our thought is that if we can get you started, you will be able to take it from there. Handouts will be posted on our website.

For example, every room in the school should have rules- even the library, which, as you know, is the largest classroom in the school. We will teach you that the rules should be less than 5, positive and posted. (We are disciples of Harry Wong for a reason.) Rules might be:

1. Take care of classroom/library materials.
2. Use quiet voices.
3. If you use it, put it away.
4. Stop, look and listen at the bell.
5. Mind your manners.

At the Coffee Klatch, we will show you how the rules can be made into a power point or Photo Story. Then we will take you into the TMC and show you how to make a great poster that can be posted in your classroom or school library. You could also take the same rules and/or procedures and make a Jeopardy power point game.

So many ideas, so little time. If you belong to SDUSD, join us on August 31 from 10:00 to 11:00 in the Lab, Room 3. Register at ERO so my numbers look accurate. If you haven't gotten a PIN number before, you'll have to sign up. Then search "coffee."

“The Powers That Be” need to know that Library Services does more than check out books. Help us toot our horn. Tell your principal, parents, school board members and upper administration about what we can do with and for you. Don’t know? Just ask…

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who is Aunt Betty?

Aunt Betty Takes Time to Read
Where I come from, our grandma’s go to the beauty parlor, not the salon. They get a curly perm and often, a rinse. Sometimes the rinse is blue, sometimes lavender or pink. It’s called a rinse for a reason. If you don’t wear your little plastic rain bonnet and you happen upon a little shower, your hair color is coming right off your hair and onto your lovely cardigan sweater. (This is the voice of experience talking.)

So, many years ago, I was at a yard sale in Mt. Pleasant, SC. In a box of costumes, I saw a blue curly wig. I thought, “Oh my. It’s like my grandma’s hair gone too long in the rinse.” But, since it was a quarter, I bought it. You never know when you might need a bright blue wig.

I took it to school and put it in a box of costume pieces and forgot about it. Almost a year later, our school decided to have school-wide rules (which is brilliant, by the way). On our daily news broadcast, one rule each day would be taught. The committee asked me to go on TV on the day of “respect” and sing, Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I said, “No, I don’t think so.”

But about ten minutes before we went on the air I thought, “A little old grandma lady- she would do it.” I grabbed that blue wig, a pair of my grandma’s ear bobs (earrings for you non-Southern folk) and Aunt Betty was born.

After that, Aunt Betty made periodic appearances to remind children to mind their manners- push your chair in, don’t say huh? or don’t wash your hands in the drinking fountain. From there I began to do Storytimes and class visits. After that I realized I could use her for staff development. Back then it was a lot easier to be someone else and do books talks about poop and snot than for me to do it.

Now Aunt Betty is an international speaker. Sometimes if I have been to a place as Aunt Betty and return another day as myself, people are disappointed. It’s amazing what you can do with a 25 cent wig.

Aunt Betty visits Field Elem School.
A couple of years ago I told a group of children about having lavender hair. I said that I would just keep it blue, since it matched my eyes. Five minutes into our visit, a little girl raised her hand. She said, "Aunt Betty. I don't think your hair has to match your eyes. You should just do it." So, I've had a makeover. We call it Lightly Lavender. If my Grams had worn glasses, I would look just like her. It's scary.

Where did the Betty come from? My nephew, who is now in his twenties, gave me the name when he was 3. He could say “Debbie,” but chose to use his own nickname. (By the way, very few people call me Debbie and I like that!!) So, it was a perfect choice, since all my family calls me Betty.

Having another person to do storytelling, staff development and other trainings works for me. Maybe it will work for you. Don’t we all wish there were two of us sometimes??

Great Beginnings

So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed by a cult of evil librarians…. (Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians)

If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it. (Richard Peck, A Teacher’s Funeral)

Mom and Dad had known about the wedding at my uncle Autry’s ranch for months. But with the date set for a mere ten days after my thirteenth birthday, my family’s RSVP had remained solidly unconfirmed until the last possible wait-and-see moment….In my family, thirteenth birthdays were like time bombs, with no burning fuse or beeping countdown to tell you when to plug your ears, duck, brace yourself, or turn tail and get the hay bales out of Dodge. (Ingrid Law, Scumble)

I love a good hook on the first page of a story. How can you read any of the above without reading on? They get you from the start. That’s one of the criteria I use when I am choosing books to recommend. If it doesn’t have a good hook, right at the start, how can we expect that a young reader, especially a struggling one, will persevere?

Teaching Tip
So the first sentence, the first page of a book is important. Try this out:

Great Hooks Graffiti:
Post a large piece of bulletin board paper in your library or classroom. Start it off by writing your own favorite first sentence. Write it in quotes and underneath write the author and title of the book.

Ask your students to add their book graffiti as they read books that have a great first sentence. Nonfiction, picture books and fiction… any kind of reading works. Collect good first sentences or anything on the first page that grabs and hooks you into the next page.

After you have collected a fair number of starters, categorize each quote. Did the author start with dialogue? Setting? Character? Problem? Is there a pattern? Does one technique seem used more than others? What feeling does the author create with that technique?

Then have kids use these ideas to do their own writing. Getting started is the hardest part. By having concrete examples and starting a story in a given method, students who struggle can worry about other important things. How to end it, for example? Ah, but that’s another problem.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

They have done it again. The team that brought us Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! have joined forces again to bring us another tale that will keep you turning pages and clapping your hands at the end.

All the children in the kingdom have been invited to the birthday party of the princess. Jack, a poor child, cannot afford to buy her anything. So, Clever Jack, barters and trades for the makings of a cake. His problems really begin when he has to travel from home to the castle to take the cake to the princess. It seems that everyone wants some of that cake.

Will Jack be clever enough to get the cake to its destination? And what will the princess think? Find out yourself in the newly released picture book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. You will clap your hands in delight. It's a great read aloud for all ages.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Want S'More?

Recently I attended an author visit at our local independent bookstore, Yellow Book Road. Helen Foster James was doing a talk about her book, S is for S’Mores, illustrated by Lita Judge. Just like any teacher or librarian, Helen welcomed children and parents as they entered and began by introducing herself and her book. Immediately she drew the children in and managed behavior with a trick of her hand.

Helen talked about camping and what you might need when you camp. Then she read from her book, which is a rhyming alphabet book about camping. It can also be used as a picture book for older readers, as each page also has a sidebar of more information on the topical letter. The illustrations are beautiful. Be sure you check out Lita's books too. She's writing her own books and illustrating them too.

G is for the Gear you’ll need
To organize and pack
To keep your camping full of fun
And bring you safely back.

Then she brought out a plastic container and took the lid off with a penny. Kids guessed about what its’ use might be. She said, “What do you think you might put in here?” One kid said, “a gun.” Well, probably not. In the end, we learned that it was for keeping food away from bears. She told us that we need to be careful when we are camping so that bears can’t get our food. How will they feed themselves from nature if they learn that they like Snickers bars better?

A is for adventure.
Let’s camp from A to Z.
On mountains and deserts or beaches,
If you want to have fun, follow me!

The author told us that the last line of the A page came from something her friend used to say when she was a little girl. One of the best things about going to an event like this is that you learn about where stories come from. You learn that authors are real people too. Certainly Helen Foster James is joy to listen to. Her final triumph was a folding paper story. Children were mesmerized and of course, wanted to learn to fold and tell as well.

The best thing is that this event was free. Check out your local children’s book store. Are you on their email list? Make time to visit the store. Listen to an author. Browse the shelf. Take home a few unexpected treasures. (Who can leave a bookstore without buying something??) What do you know? Sometimes you might even get to eat a S’more.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Amos who?
A mosquito bit me.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Andy who?
Andy bit me again.

Knock Knock.
Who’s there.
Betty who?
(Smack your arm.) Bet he won’t do that again.

May all your camping adventures be fun- and bug free.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My 15 Minutes Plus

It looks like perhaps I hit on a popular subject with my Comic Con gig. Word got to my school district. The media was alerted. The next day my office was filled with reporters and news cameras. The district gathered all the footage into one video clip that runs about 3.5 minutes. School Library Journal called me for an interview. The article will come out tomorrow.  Library Media Connection wants me to write an article, “Redefining Reading.” I was invited to speak at the SLJ Leadership Summit in Chicago. I have answered mail from all over the country about using graphic novels in the classroom. I stand amazed.

I was even more amazed at Comic Con. For those of you who are out of the popular culture loop, San Diego Comic Con is the place to be for popular culture, comic books, all things Star Trek and the like. It’s a place to see and be seen. 130,000 people attended this 4 day conference. The SD Convention Center main floor is completely covered with vendors, while break out sessions start in the morning and end at “prevening.” Costume balls, movie and TV premiers… So many costumes that you sometimes think you could be on the back lot of a movie production company.

I spoke on a panel with 3 university professors on the topic “Comics in the Classroom.” The room was set up for 260 people. I thought, “hmm, going to be a lot of empty seats.” Was I wrong! The room was full with standing room only. The hour passed quickly- I had so much more to say. Afterwards, our table was mobbed by people who wanted to ask questions, get our cards, or ask for help. Chris Butcher, our moderator, posted our handouts on his website. If you missed it, you can at least see these.

I did walk the vendor floor on Preview Night. I have to say, it was much different than a library conference. (Can you see my sign?) I am afraid that even though I had on my cowgirl boots for bravery, I was still very anxious. I was delighted to see publishers I knew. My sister’s big question was, “Did you see any stars?” I am afraid not.

Despite the crowds, the traffic, the unfamiliarity, a funny thing happened. I usually avoid downtown like the plague during the Con. Too many crowds, etc. But I have to say this. The folks who go to Comic Con are passionate about what they love. They love the characters. They love the buzz. They love the comics. I, too, fell under the spell. I went there to preach redefining reading, but left as a fan of Comic Con.