When Magic Happens

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I am pretty sure that I was born to be a librarian. I read at all hours of the day and night. I can’t eat breakfast without reading something to keep me company. I read on vacation in really peculiar places.

I love also teaching, but we all know that even though you may have a dream job, every day in the classroom isn’t a perfect day. Some days are trickier than others. When you step through the front doors of the school, you can never be sure of what kind of day it will be. Will it be good, okay, or one of those you need to forget?

Today was one of those days. No, not the bad one. The kind where you sit back, smile, and pinch yourself that you are lucky to be a teacher. The magical kind of day.

The day actually started a couple weeks ago when one of the teachers at school walked in the library and asked if I had any recommendations for a read aloud for her class. She was hoping to start the year with fantasy, but didn’t want anything super long.

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It just so happened that I had just finished reading The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading. I handed the book over, with a brief overview and off she went. Periodically I would see her in the hall and she updated me on the book. Each time I heard the comments, my day would get a little brighter. Her students were LOVING it! I was thrilled that my suggestion was working out so perfectly. That, however, is not my story.

My story, my magical story happened this afternoon at about 1:30 in the afternoon. I was knee-deep in paperwork and trying to make sense of the mess that was my office when a group of girls ran in yelling, “Mrs. Hembree, Mrs. Hembree, you’ve got to come see our dragon!”

I stepped out of the room to see a group of giggling and ever so proud girls. They were tumbling their words over each other in their excitement to show me what they had made. In their hands was a brown cardboard dragon. More specifically, it was a Dell Technology Dragon made from the left over cardboard they found outside the computer lab. It had a wavy long tail with a wide point at the end. The mouth opened and closed. The body was made from the packing material covered with a wide set of wings.

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Inspired by the dragons in the book, they had decided to create their own Dragon of the Month. The magic of the story for me at least was to see a group of girls, take a book they so clearly love and make something original and creative. They made a made project, and NOBODY asked them to! It wasn’t a homework assignment. It wasn’t something they had to make for a book project. This was a dragon born from love of reading, a bunch of trash cardboard, and a big slice of creativity!

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I quickly grabbed my cell phone and captured photos of the designers and their Technology Dragon. I sent them back to their after school class and got back to work on my mess with a big smile on my face.

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At 4:00, I was still there (although the mess was manageable now) when the girls ran back inside the library again. This time, the dragon was decorated with brightly colored duct tape on the wings and a silvery tape for the body. They found hot pink tape for the tongue and while they only found one wiggly eye, they figured out how to craft another one that looked almost the same. This Dell Technology Dragon had bloomed into a vibrancy all its own. The girls were on cloud 9 too. They showed me the hand signals they created for the dragon (something from the book). They told me about their plans to write to the author and tell him about their dragon.

As they left the room, I was given the responsibility of Dragon-sitting for the evening. In the morning they would be back to bring the dragon to their classroom and show their teacher.

I have a feeling that she is going to have a magical day tomorrow…

iainI hope too, if Iain Reading ever reads this post and finds out how special these students think his book is, that he too will have a magical day as well.

This is the power of books. They can bring the magic out of students in ways you would never believe could happen.

 

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Advertising Books Thru Media

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Since 2012, my 4th grade students have created book trailers for favorite novels.  In the past four years these student trailers have had thousands of views. Video is an amazing way to promote reading and advertise fabulous books to other students.

We’ve also had the ability to connect with students around the world. For the past two years, we’ve partnered with Angels Soriano in Valencia, Spain. This year her students made hand-drawn book trailers of local fairy tales in their native Catalan language. You can view them here.

Here are the latest book trailers we have published. The students made them on Photostory3, which is a Windows 7 program for the PC. I hope they inspire you to go to your local library this summer and check out these books for some fun summer reading!

Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

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City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

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Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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A Dog’s Way Home  by Bobbie Pyron

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If you would like to read more about the trailers we have completed in the past with Angels Soriano, this Sway showcases our program in the 2014-15 school year. You can also find our complete list of book trailers at the top of this website on the Book Trailers tab.

 

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A Year in Review

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It’s celebration time! Another year is over. The library is shut down and it’s time for some quiet. Before I forgot what I did this year, I made a Year in Review report using Sway. A friend of mine Sony Evans published his annual report using Sway. I also usually  make a report, and using Sway is a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration Stony!

I happened to finish my report almost a week after school ended, but a late report is better than no report at all.

Now I can concentrate on getting ready for the Microsoft US Forum and ISTE conference in Denver!

Happy summer reading!

Julie

 

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Book Dilemma Solved

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Lately I’ve been feeling like this even though I am a librarian. I have a number of bilingual students who would really like to read stories in their native language occasionally. Who wouldn’t? The problem is when they ask ME for that book. There isn’t really a “bilingual section” in the library where I can send students to browse for that just right book. I’ve spent the last 8 months coming up with a whole lot of nothing to offer, except for a couple translated Dr. Seuss books.

Out of the blue, our ELL teacher asked me if it would be okay for her to purchase some bilingual books and donate them to the library. What? Was I hearing that right? She would spend her PTSA money and give us the books? I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Then last week I went searching for a favorite Cinderella book, only to find that the 398.2 section was a miserable mess. The next day, I took every fairy tale book off the shelves, did a fast and furious weeding of the most ugly and awful books, and re-shelved everything. It was four hours of singing the alphabet song through dust and stinky pages. Definitely not fun. At times I felt like I was buried in the stinky book muck.

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Not my library, but how it feels to weed a collection sometimes!

What did I discover in the process? A whole bunch of bilingual fairy tale books! I was delighted by the news. Granted some kids don’t consider fairy tale books the top-tier of reading, but I had at least something more than Green Eggs and Ham to offer my bilingual students. Plus those new ones were arriving soon. Things were great, until they weren’t.

What would I do with them?  Where would I put everybody and non-fiction bilingual fairy tales where they could be found together easily and logically by students? I decided to ask Mary Schroeder, my “Batwoman” a librarian friend who also ponders the answers to these types of questions. Her answer? Put them in the 400’s – the language section. That’s what she has been doing. Language dictionaries, children’s stories and fairy tales will be shelved together by language in the 400’s.

Easy. Problem solved. Whew! Is it June 16th yet?

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Surface to the Rescue

Every teacher knows how frustrating it is to teach at the front of the room, tethered to the computer without ability to move around freely.  Sometimes you need to walk around the room and help students, without having the lesson come to a complete stop. Not any more, at least not for me! My FREE new Surface Pro4 is here to rescue me!

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Yes, I did say FREE. In December I submitted my application to become part of the 2016 MIE Surface program. The purpose of the program is to learn and share how the Surface and digital inking can evolve the teaching and classroom experience at Cougar Ridge Elementary. In early March I received the news that my application was approved.

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In late April my Surface Education Training Kit arrived. I put the box at the front of the library and waited to see if any of the students noticed.

One class came and left. Not.a.word. The next group of 5th graders came in. Within 15 minutes one of the girls asked me what was inside the box. A couple other students asked too. They got to be the ones to open the box. They were even more excited than I was!

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The box was filled with the typical promotional goodies like posters and a wrist bracelet USB filled with information I will be able to use in the classroom.

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Want to know the VERY  best part?  I am able to  connect my Surface to my projector. What’s more – I did it myself. Once our district tech person gave me the directions, I was determined to figure it out. It took me an hour, and some frustrating moments, but as you can see, IT WORKS!

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Having the ability to move around the room, between tables and anywhere I want with a device is priceless. I don’t do it for every class, but love the ability to use it as I need it.

Am I an expert? No way. I’m working through the tutorials, so I’m definitely not an “expert” by any stretch. However, I am learning from the Microsoft materials, colleagues, social media groups, Surface group connection calls, and from good old trial and error. I like it. A LOT! Especially the new digital pen. I’ll have more stories coming in the months to follow, but right now I am one happy Surface educator! Thank you Microsoft!

 

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Learning without Borders

This has been a very special couple of weeks for our books to Africa program.Our international reading project was featured in the first issue of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator magazine last week. This magazine is filled with stories, tips and helpful information from teachers. Our article is on page 35 and showcases the impact this project has had on  the teachers and students receiving these books.

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Technology really works wonders with tearing down the classroom walls and bringing the world inside our classrooms. Last week we Skyped with some of the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. We shared facts, we had an impromptu recorder mini-concert and students shared poetry they had written.
Seeing the faces of the students 10,000 miles away made the connection personal and real for the students on both sides of the world. Suddenly they understood how relevant our project is and how we both benefit from it.

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Next week we are Skyping with Thejane Malakane in Maseru, Lesotho using his mobile phone. He doesn’t have internet at his school, but he doesn’t let that inconvenience stop him. A phone with a camera can bring us together as well. In a few days 300 more books will arrive at Thejane’s school where the students will use them for lessons and free reading. It would be quite the miracle if they arrived in time for us to  see his students open these boxes.

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I sent off 4 boxes on April 30th.   As you can see below, the box went from Issaquah, to Kent, to New York, then Dubai, Johannesburg and hopefully to Maseru for its final stop. The tracking information is so helpful because I can see where the boxes are, if they are together and when they arrived at the destination. Sometimes communication between the post office and the schools needs a boost, so I try to let teachers know when the books are there.

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Whether they get there in time for our call or not, we are having a great time packing up and sending off the boxes. We raised about $1500 and roughly speaking that means we will be able to send about 1500 books this year. Since our program started I estimate we have sent about 6,000 books to Africa. We are changing lives one book at a time!

 

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Singing with John Farrell

The singer/songwriter John Farrell entertained our kindergarten students this week with a fun program promoting peace, friendship, books, fun animals and caring.

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Everyone participated with hand movements and singing about ants, libraries, feelings and other fun topics. Here is a short video of his visit.

I am so grateful that John was able to visit our school and I could finally meet him face to face.John Farrell is also the founder of “Bridges of Peace and Hope,” an international, non-profit organization of teachers and students dedicated to promoting education and understanding through collaborative, creative arts exchanges and service learning projects. I joined the Bridges of Peace and Hope non-profit group in 2015, but hadn’t met John yet. When I went to Budapest, some other members and I visited a school also very involved with the program.

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Now I’m looking forward joining the “We Care Because We Care” book project. I think it would be an awesome addition to our Books to Africa project.

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John Farrell has fabulous school programs. If you would like to learn more, visit his website http://johnfarrell.net/ or the Bridges of Peace and Hope website. http://www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.info/

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More Poetry to Celebrate

For National Poetry Month, my students have been composing poetry individually and in groups and sharing them in our Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote notebook.

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This notebook is kept online and is a way for students to share their writing with a global audience. We have poems published from different US states, as well as Canada, Spain and South Africa.

Here are some of the 5th grade Origami Inspired poems:

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My dream is to have at least one poem from students in each continent, but it may be a bit of an ambitious dream! These are busy times, and teachers often don’t feel that they have the extra time to take one more step and publish their student work. I understand their feelings. I get completely overwhelmed at times as well.

Yet, that one step to bring social media into their classrooms, is one that may make all the difference in the world to a student. In a recent blog post, 10 Cools Ways Teachers Bring Social Media into their Classrooms, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) showcases how different teachers use social media to make sure their students have a voice. I urge you to read her post and then visit the classrooms where teachers are harnessing the power of social media. In particular, view the PS22 Chorus video and see how these children know in their hearts that the work they are doing matters for one of their teachers. (have a hanky nearby) Yes, I’m honored to be included with such an amazing group of educators.

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I know that when I show my students their poems in our notebook, there are always quite a few who smile and are excited to see their work. They like just as much to read the poems others have written. They keep asking if other teachers will join in. I keep telling them I hope so.

If you have student poems that you would like to publish in our notebook, click on this link. Publishing on OneNote is easy and there are step-by-step directions to guide you. We are looking forward to reading your student poems! Happy writing!

 

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Sports Section Makeover

Since the winter break I have been focused on updating the non-fiction area of our library to make it easier for students to access the books they want in a quick, independent and efficient manner. I wrote about the first part of the process in this blog post.

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Last week I finished the Sports Section. My library assistant changed the call numbers on the books and in the system and I worked on the re-design of the shelves.  To make space, I weeded, weeded and weeded some more. If a book was published before 2000, it had to have a really good reason to be kept on the shelf. Otherwise, it got the heave-ho to the weeding pile. The extensive weeding gave me four shelves to use for our new Sports Section.

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All call numbers have the Dewey number 796 and then the three letters following that are the actual sport.  796 BAL for Ballet  796 FOO for Football books. I used dividers I purchased from Demco and made labels for each sport. The bottom shelf got tricky as the dividers don’t work there. Instead we found old VCR plastic boxes, wrapped them in some paper and added the label on the outside. It’s not perfect, but until I figure out a better way, it works for now.

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If you look closely you may find a few books that don’t have the new call number label yet. Instead of waiting, we moved forward and will catch up this week on the few remaining titles.

The student reaction proved immediately that the work was worth the trouble.

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One girl exclaimed, “I didn’t know we had camping books! My family loves to go camping!” The camping books are checked out and have gone home with a happy student.

The labeling system worked well with my young, intermediate and ESL students. The clipart and the sport clearly indicate each sub-section of sports books. I also found holes in my collection. We have a LOT of baseball books, but absolutely no track and field books. I don’t think I would have easily figured that out without this system in place.

Of course, this is a work in progress. We need to go back to the land mammals and finish that up. I had the chance to visit the library in Budapest that I based the system on. I’ll be writing more about that in an upcoming post.

 

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Global Poetry Unites Project

Happy April! I am launching a brand new project today called the Global Poetry Unites Project. I hope you will join me in celebrating the wonder of poetry during the month of April and beyond.

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I’ve had the great fortune to attend three major conferences this year. In the fall, I went to our state librarian conference in Yakima, Washington. In February I attended the NCCE conference in Seattle. Then in March I had the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft E2 conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Some common themes emerged from all three conferences. From fellow teachers and librarians I learned that teachers need to:

  • Collaborate with other teachers beyond our classroom and building walls
  • Give our students a global voice to show them that their work matters
  • Provide opportunities for students to create while learning
  • Remind students that failure is really an opportunity to learn, not something to be feared

I was particularly struck by this slide at the E2 conference. It made me stop to think about how I could expand what I am doing in my library classroom to the next level.

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I believe the E2 conference gave me the final push to innovate in a different way. Inspired by global projects I’ve seen other teachers and librarians start, I decided it’s time to try something new with one of my favorite units – poetry.  I decided I would like to try a crowdsourced project. A project like this would help students meet both Common Core and American Association of School Librarian Standards (AASL), build connections and leverage technology to enhance my poetry unit.

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While I think I am a bit of a risk-taker, this new project is a gigantic step down a brand new tech road. I have never started a global, crowdsourced project. I was at the tulip fields this weekend and was intrigued by how stunning they are in these giant fields. As in the photo above, I don’t know if the project will be numerous teachers coming together to create something wonderful, or the empty trough dry and barren. I was so nervous at one point, that I had to reach out to some fellow teachers to get feedback on whether this idea had any merit at all. Thankfully they all encouraged me to take the leap.

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This Jamie Foxx quote is so appropriate. My greatest fear is that the project will be a complete flop and nobody will participate. And…the fear is all in my head. If this project flops, then so what? Nobody will be hurt. Also, if I am going to ask my students to take risks in their learning, then I need to make sure I take some big ones myself and remember what it feels like.  If the project succeeds, then a community of teachers and students will have a new way to share their love of writing and poetry.

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The Global Poetry Unites Project is a group project where teachers can publish their student poems. In the US, April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. I would love to see the celebration of poetry be a worldwide movement, hence the reason for launching this project in April. I understand that sometimes students and teachers are intimidated by writing poetry, so I have included some sample lessons for you to try in your own classroom. We are not analyzing anything. We are creating and sharing new ways to communicate through verse and technology.

Please join in the project. Spread the word. My goal is to have teachers from every continent participate! Access the Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote Notebook here. Teach some poetry lessons in April and share your student work in our OneNote Online Notebook. Give your students a voice and let us all celebrate! The Global Poetry Unites Project link will take you to our crowd sourced notebook.

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I have designed the project to be primarily for teachers within the Microsoft Educator Community because I am very involved with the group. However, if you are reading this post and wish to participate, feel free to do so. The project is built with OneNote Online and is cloud based. Anyone with internet can access the notebook with any device. All I ask is that you take care and respect one another’s work. The instructions are in the beginning of the notebook. If you have any questions, please ask them on the Feedback page. I’ve also created a #gpup16 hashtag to follow on social media.

Maybe when you see the work of students and teachers around the world, you will be inspired to join the Microsoft Educator Community. Click on this link to see how you can connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to participate and give your students a voice? As Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!” I hope you will give your students the opportunity to share their genius with us in our poetry project.

 

 

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