Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Will You Miss Us If We Go? - Great Book Review! :)

Our second children's book on endangered species has received another great review from a member of the KidLit exchange.  Thank you to RedCanoeReader (Instagram) This was so detailed that I thought I'd share her accolades!

Monday, September 23, 2019

PD Symbaloo for Tuesday!

Welcome to Strengthening You're Why!

It's my pleasure to be with you today to explore a number of different hot topics. 

I'm using this Symbaloo embedded below for URL simplicity.

Monday, September 2, 2019

DogZilla and the Common Core

Back in the 90's when I was an elementary librarian, the remake of King Kong was released, and so I thought we'd have a little fun with Dave Pilkey's Kat Kong and DogZilla.  I had to order multiple copies and couldn't keep them on the shelf!

Here we are almost 20 years later and the remake of Godzilla brings me Deja vu.   Blow the dust off your Dogzilla and order a few more copies.  The kids will go crazy for Kat Kong and Dogzilla, the "colossal canine" again!   Let's see how this literary wonder stacks up to the Common Core measuring stick:   

 'Not a very tough read. Sorry.  It doesn't take focus or sustained attention to get to the end of this lame literary gem. The Lexile, readability measure, comes in at a 720.  That is just perfect for your third and fourth graders. However, with only a few sentences on a page, we really can't call it "rigorous."  The vocabulary is what saves this book, if you are needing justification. Just look at the richly woven vocabulary from merely a handful of pages of this literary wonder: irresistible, annual, canine, crater, depths, mysterious, residents, colossal, residents, terrifying, creature, ancient,  and more!  Vocabulary is so rich that is trumps the lack of rigor.  Let the kids read!
  I would never use this book in a read aloud without an activity (task as in "reader and the task") which requires the kids to think.  Define the vocabulary words ahead of time and play a vocab game after the read.  Create a bookmark with your "Cool words to make you sound smart" on it and send it home inside their checkout book.  Let the parents see the words you tried to teach them that day.  Or, look at some of the suggestions below.  

Relevance ... 
It would be a far reaching claim to believe that we could use this text to solve a real-world problem, as the CCSS encourages us to have students do. Even though the reader is asked at the end of the book... how to save the town, this is not the type of problem that the CCSS expects our students to spend a great deal of time contemplating.   Genies, dragons, gargoyles, Neptune, megalodon, and other mythical beasts are just a few other terrifying creatures that have captured literary attention many times over, but don't qualify for "real world problems" that need to be solved.  However, we could use this book as a hook to have these third graders brainstorm what we are, or should be afraid of-- or need to solve.  

Reader and the task...
I would recommend this follow-up activity to justify the use of this book:

  • Gather newspapers and place them on a table(s). (Newspapers are typically above a third grade reading level, so they would qualify for a "stretch" read.)   Working collaboratively in groups,  have the children read newspapers for "real" problems or issues and contribute those to a graffiti wall.  During this endeavor, you will likely be asked meanings of words they read and you could practice decoding and finding meaning by surrounding words.  You could practice "vocabulary flooding" (synonyms) when they ask you.   You could have another graffiti wall of "new words in the neighborhood" which they could fill up as they read. The reading endeavor will likely by a close reading activity as you have given them a "reason to read."    
  • Have the third graders choose a topic from their real-world problem wall to investigate.  Tell them they will be investigators and will need to dig deeply to find out about an issue and make a "claim."  Their claim will be what to do about the issue.  High School students will have no problem with this.  However,  elementary students may need some guidance or some pre-chosen texts to examine.  In fact, you could even choose primary source texts from the 1800's (or another period they are studying)  and ask them to examine what the real problems were of the time.   
  • This research endeavor could lead to non-fiction reading (CCSS objectives) and text-based answers (CCSS objectives).   
So whether you are doing this with a classroom, or during your "scheduled" library time,  you can teach withstyle!   You don't have to be a classroom teacher.  If you really try this wacky-world problems unit, you are embracing some of the shifts of the Common Core.   Your students are likely to know 20 more academic vocabulary words than they did prior to reading this book.  You can build a rubric which requires them to use those words in their "claim."   This can be part of their writing or language presentation.  You could have a discussion and debate over real world issues.  What problems deserve the governmental attention the most? Kids could rank the "issues" based upon the evidence that teams present.  Which problem should be solved first?   

The creative possibilities are endless--even within the Common Core instruction.  So don't think all is lost within our new standards.  Just get to know the building blocks and embrace them.  If you were observed during a lesson like this, the principal would likely see your students concentrating on: vocabulary, building an evidence-based-claim, researching to build and present knowledge, and closely reading.  That is what separates you from a granny reading a nice book.  Plan your pedagogy.  Engage those students in reading, research, and academic vocabulary building. 

And they thought you were just checking out books...  Silly them.   

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Handouts for Spring Conference Presentations!

I'm happy to have the opportunity to share this message with y'all in NY, Texas, and my virtual presentation friends!  Remember....the next generation will grow up and run the world!  Let's prepare them:  to think, to assess, to wonder, to solve problems, to be responsible and more.  You have a very important job!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We are blessed to be a blessing. Please ponder this library cause:

Please Help Build a Library in the World’s Poorest Nation: Burundi
Give up one pizza for one small piece of this library?

Burundi is one of the world’s most impoverished  countries. Annually it places at the bottom of the GDP list competing with Congo, Liberia and other a handful of other struggling countries. Burundi lies deep in the heart of Africa, just west of Tanzania and neighbors with Rwanda.  Tribal warfare (Hutu and the Tutsi)  and AIDS have left orphans and widows behind.

Along comes Freddy.  This man had a vision to “rescue” orphans, build an orphanage and also a “first world” school in this struggling country.  Ten years later, Freddy has raised hundreds of Hutu and Tutsi orphans, (together, so they don’t even know to which tribe they belonged), a medical clinic, and an English-speaking school.    He believed that in order to positively impact the future and economics in Burundi, kids needed to know English to compete in our global society. Freddy knew that love and education would supplant the hatred and dysfunction that defined Burundi’s culture.
2018 Video - Look @ ten years later!  

When I met Freddy, I was so compelled by his cause, and convicted by my “privileged position.”  I am an educator, librarian, author, and I  give to many worthy causes. But, I eat pizza and buy lattes too.  

Would you consider giving up one pizza towards this school’s Library Fund?  We librarians and educators could build them their “Great Gitiga Library” if there were 2000 librarians willing to give $20.00 – that’s just one pizza pie each!   They need $37,000 to cover the construction costs of this building and that would about cover it.  I thank you deeply for considering this.  (Imagine building a library for only $37K?! - I've seen the architectural plans and can share them if you'd like.) 

For those interested in larger tax-deductible donations, you may give through this 501-C3 link – Choose “Other” and note it for the LIBRARY  - You will receive an instant tax receipt. 

 Still not convinced? Watch this difficult video in which they give statistics about our US money spent on cosmetics and dog food.  It's humbling. 

They are also in need of new books, if your organization or company would have inventory needing a write-off.   

My brother and niece are involved in this work as well as the work of Hope International in Bujumbura, Burundi. That is how we found out about this and met Freddy Tuyizere.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Join me for an SLC Webinar!

Power verbs for the new AASL Standards for School Librarians! 

I'll share some valuable insights and ideas to help you digest and embrace these new standards from AASL! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What's In A Name?

Harvey's Leaving A Legacy --What will yours' be? 

As we sit warmly in the Northeast watching devastating winds and water tumble homes and communities into a path of destruction, our compassion rises and we get frustrated that there's little we can do but contribute.  We applaud the schools all across America who are rising to the fundraising challenges. This shows Americans are truly generous and kind.  

As we daily view new Harvey devastation, and fear the impending Irma, I am reminded that these real life experiences should become a teachable moments. After the waters recede and communities are being restored, we can continue to weave these real-life connections into other assignments thereby elevating relevancy--all because our students know about them. The human brain puts more priority on material which is "real"or "connected to experience. 

Pulling on a previous blog posting, I'd like to share an example of how to weave Harvey and Irma into Ivan, Mitch, Sandy, Dean, and Katrina (who's remnants still cry out). These infamous names resonate destruction and fierce strength. 

In light of the recent Hurricanes, wouldn't it be nice Seize the Day! 

  • We could build a biography unit challenging students to leave behind a living legacy of good--not evil. 
  • We could Uncover and Discover who the wonderful aid workers are. 
  • We could research and vet a list of recommended Disaster Relief Organizations.  Find out what they are all about and how much of their contributions really go directly to help--rather than administration. Communicate this list of "approved" organizations and how they help victims, communities, and recovery efforts. This is real-life.  

When a horribly huge storm leaves marks on a community, its' reputation is not good. We can turn right around and ask our students:  What's your legacy? What are you known for?
Essential Question: Why should we care about what legacy we are leaving behind?  

This essential question is a figurative way to examine a life (biography) in an introspective manner.  All too often, when school "cover" biography units, the focus is meaningless.   Kids have to report meaningless details of the Bio's life without any introspection or application.   The facts are easily recovered on a simple Google search for a website which enables the students to avoid reading the book. The Common Core calls for "relevance" and this simple re-wording of biography units can help mold character in our students. 

If biographies are repackaged we could find more meaningful constructivist assignments that ask the students to find the meaning in a life, rather than the birth-date and date of death. I don't know when Nelson Mandela's birthday is, and it doesn't matter.  I can tell you however, that he was imprisoned for principles that we all should embrace.  I can tell you that he stood for peace and equality in a sea of inequality and injustice.   I can tell you that Irene Gut Opdyke helped resist the Nazi's in Germany even though she risked her own life when she helped and hid the innocent, spied on the enemy, warned of Ghetto cleansings, and saw relatives die.  I can tell you that Condoleezza Rice arose from a humble home to a level of international ambassador. Now, those people have left footprints on the world that will never be forgotten.  

A biography unit like this could accompany any history unit where remarkable people are studied.  A research reaction to Martin Luther King could send kids out to find remarkable people with remarkable footprints. A reader and the task, reaction to Cesar Chavez study on migrant workers could lead to a footprint examination of others who have fought for a worthy cause.  This could also parallel a SS unit on a decade of change where students search for impactors (i.e. those making an impact).    They would need to persuade me as to why their choice was nominated for our "Hall of Fame Footprints!" 

When a horribly huge storm leaves marks on a community, its' reputation is not good. We can turn right around and ask our students:  What's your legacy? What are you known for?
Essential Question: Why should we care about what legacy we are leaving behind?  


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

National Writing Day ...ideas for celebration!

I'm blogging for School Library Connection these days, but here's a short idea piece to lend ideas for celebrating National Writing Day...tomorrow!

Today is National Dictionary Day.  Who would have thought that we would have a day that would make Daniel Webster leap? Tomorrow is Writing Day.  Now that’s one day for which I will LEAP!  I’m a believer that the “pen is mightier than the sward.”  That’s my tool for passivism. 

Words are powerful, strong, long lasting, and able to change people and the world.  Thomas Paine held his mighty pen and proceeded to plant seeds of change (insurrection)?  Why not have your students hold pens tomorrow and celebrate this minor holiday. 

Here are a few quick ideas for elementary librarian to embrace with their classes tomorrow:

Write 6 word stories!  On Twitter the #NCTE is having a contest for 6 word stories.  Check it out!  Wouldn't this be a fun activity for kids to do collaboratively, or individually?  Here's the entry that I tweeted:   Fido whhhiimmmperred and died.  Mom Criiiiiieedd.  

·      Pen a Poem - Via a limerick  (rhyming pattern AABBA) have your students talk about “changes” they’d like to see in the world.  Here’s an example (‘Not too great, but you’ll get the point!)

Jot thoughts:  lack of water, waste, farms needing, twenty year low; wild fires raging;
We’re at a 20 year low
And have not enough water to grow
Think twice before you waste
That way they’ll be more moisture in this place
Farms, fires, and people too—need our water to flow!

·      “Model diplomacy” by writing letter to your Congressman, local official, etc..  Students should both commend and complain.  A commendation will make a complaint fall on receptive ears.  Most letters can be easily mailed via email—not even requiring a stamp.  

Years ago we did this with our 8th graders, after they had watched the Superbowl and made notes of commercials that portrayed either females or males in good vs. garbage roles.  They wrote physical snail mail letters as well as emails to companies, and the responses were amazing.   Almost every letter was responded to and the students received freebies, coupons, and individual responses.  They were thrilled!

·      Storybird  - For those of you with the technology to support online writing, Storybird will give your students the tools to write and concentrate on the words, rather than the illustrations.  Illustrations are keyword searchable and you could teach the simple: Beginning, middle, end, rising action, falling action, etc., elements of a story.  Check it out at

Friday, June 17, 2016

Read Like a Wedding Crasher!

Please check out the School Library Connection blog, as I will be blogging for SLC on their site.  If you have enjoyed the content (searchable) here, I encourage you to follow this SLC blog also: 

The latest piece I wrote was posted there today -  Read Like a Wedding Crasher: