Thursday, March 29, 2012

Super3 to the Rescue. (2nd Grade)

I love Super3!

I love that my friends Danielle and Annette made him into a caped crusader of information literacy and the greater good. I especially love that their superb book, The Adventures of Super3:A Teacher's Guide to Information Literacy Grades K-2 (Big6 Information Literacy Skills), has amazing comics introducing each lesson and starring the red numerical wonder.

I love this so much, in fact, so emphatically that I thought I would test out the concept with my 2nd graders... and it worked!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shelf Challenge 2012.

Earlier this week I mentioned a certain Shelf Challenge I'm challenging myself and others to take on for AASL's School Library Month in April. We're each going to read a sample of our library collection (such as all of the "L" authors in the Picture Book section), or at least try, by the end of April.

You've got a week to think about it and I know some of you are struggling with saying yes to the dress, so to speak.

That said, I'm going to let you choose your own adventure for this post.

If you want to know 7 Reasons Why You Should JOIN the Shelf Challenge, read below. If you'd prefer to read 7 Reasons Why You should AVOID the Shelf Challenge, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Books for Us: Good Little Wolf, I Want My Hat Back


Here are two great books that, for us, were perfect for the exact same reasons:

  1. The illustrations were character-focused with little or not background, which meant that our little guy could point from page to page at the main characters. Sometimes less is more. In both of these cases, that couldn't be truer. 
  2. The ending was so wickedly funny I couldn't help but for teacher after teacher to read it. Seriously, who are these authors and why aren't we hanging out yet?!
Good Little Wolf
by Nadia Shireen

Published Sept. 13, 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (978-0375869044)

The Story: Good Little Wolf is friends with pigs, loves Granny, and exudes good behavior. A visit from Big Bad doesn't deter sweet Good Little Wolf from the straight and narrow. It's a cute twist to a familiar cast of characters.

What He Loves: Good Little Wolf, of course. Who wouldn't want to cuddle a soft, gray, smiling pup. In fact, wolf always elicits a couple bounces and "woofs" from our toddler. Adorable.

What I Love: The only word I can even think of to describe the ending is wicked, and I love this book so much for it! Our story finds a resolution, but then there's still a page spread remaining. What to do... what to do... I won't spoil it for you because I, too, am a good little wolf.

And look... Here a video of Nadia drawing a chance encounter of wolves on a humongous canvas!

I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen

Published Sept. 27, 2011 by Candlewick Press (978-0763655983)

The Story: Bear goes in search of his missing hat. He encounters each of the forest animals, but none have seen a missing hat. That is, until bear describes his hat to deer and realizes that bear himself has actually seen his missing hat.

What He Loves: With so many different animals reacting in such funny ways to bear, it's hard not to give voices to each creature. Our boy particularly likes the animals he's familiar with. (And saying the word "hat".)

What I Love: You know how sometimes kids take things from you and, when you ask them innocently (and perhaps unknowingly) if they've seen the missing object, some kids overreact in a way that almost convicts them of the very crime they're trying to lie their way out of? Yeah... this story has that and a whole lot more! Payback comes in such a delightfully sinister way, it's hard not to share this book with other adults, too!

Here's a book trailer to entice you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SLM 2012 Shelf Challenge

April is School Library Month.

This is a big deal! It's when we celebrate our libraries. We celebrate reading and access to good literature, inspiring stories, and captivating prose. We honor the role school librarians play in supporting education, adopting new technologies, and leading instructional practice through innovation.

But for me, it's the time when we celebrate being an "us".

Friday, March 16, 2012


I'm feeling like I need to share some love today.

Over the past two weeks I've come across some amazing teacher librarian bloggers. Moreover, I've read about a hundred inspiring and creative posts that are already influencing my library program and lessons. These bloggers have a voracious appetite for sharing what they do best, capturing brilliant ideas through photographs, and advocating for library media programs in ways that no colleague, administrator, student, or parent could ignore.

I should explain.

I read lots of blogs.

Many on writing for children.

A handful on the experience of being a mommy (yep... I said it. It's kind of a guilty pleasure, but these mommy blogs are just so sarcastic and hilarious I can't possibly turn them down! See: Motherhood: Truth and The Bearded Iris).

But most related to the school library media profession. The majority are professional blogs with a strong focus on advocacy. This is great for all of the obvious reasons including library media programs being eliminated across the nation, book budgets being slashed, and, who could forget, the general perception the public holds of our profession.

But what the world of elementary school teacher librarians? Must we always feel so isolated? Are we bound to identifying and adapting online lessons and activities intended for the general education classroom? Where are the TL's? ...and why aren't they blogging?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Picture Book Nominees.

The nominees in the picture book category of the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award were announced this week! While colleagues out of state may be scratching their heads, this is definitely something school librarians throughout Maryland look forward to. 

State book awards are as unique as the state awarding them, as is the process for selecting the titles. The Black-Eyed Susan Award has been given to authors each year since 1992 and the award recognizes outstanding literature for children in the categories of Picture Book, Grades 4-6, Middle School, and High School. Book nominees are selected in each category by committees of active and retired school librarians from throughout the state. The nominees are announced in March for the following year. Winners are student-selected in April of the following year. 

Announcing the nominees now gives us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the books, start planning lessons and activities for the following school year, and earmark money from our book budgets to purchase the nominated titles. 

Personally, I really like scouring the list of nominees to see if an author of a nominated book could visit our school. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Forward.

Technically... we move our clocks forward by one hour at 2am on the second Sunday of March (that would be tonight).

Technically... we lose an hour. Gone. Forever. So much for extra sleep, extra time to get work done extra time for, well, whatever it is you'd use that hour for.

So I had this spur-of-the-moment thought as I was dishing myself a heaping bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, already mourning the hour I've been robbed:

No DeLorean needed for this time travel.
Why not list all the things you accomplished in that hour?

You're thinking: But I didn't do anything in that hour. My clock was set at 8pm. I turned it to 9pm. Viola. It was suddenly an hour later.

Since this, at present, is the closest any of us will get to actual time travel, I've decided to take the leap one hour into the future and let you know what busy things my former self was accomplishing while I was springing forward. I invite you to do the same by commenting to this post, tweeting, posting to your blog, or whatever other means you have of communicating adventures in time travel!

In the hour I sprung forward...

- I caught up on 30 Rock and laughed so hard at that thing that Liz said to Jack. You know... that line that made her seem even more desperate and unusual compared to the rest of the people in the universe.
- I did 400 squats. Yes, my calves are killing me... but, seriously? I look like Rambo from the waist down!
- I ate all my vegetables. Twice! Including all those gross ones that feel like your eating a crunchy finger. You know the ones I'm talking about.
- I re-alphabetized our books. You never can have too much order on a book shelf, am I right?!
- I finally finished reading that e-book that Barnes and Noble was featuring this week. And all I can say is "wow"! I really didn't expect the author to go there... and all within the last 20 pages!

No one else will ever know what happened to me during that hour we all sprung forward. I certainly was busier than usual, but I'm glad I got to share the experience with you.

So, what were you up to? Comment below. Tweet me @MatthewWinner. Post to your blog and then share the link. I can't wait to hear all about it! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lost Book Algorithm.

I am a kid. This is my candy shop.
Here's a scenario for you to consider:

You walk into a Gamestop to trade in some of your used video games and you're decidedly underwhelmed at the unimpressive offer the manager makes on your games.

You think:
...But I paid $60 for this game just last week!
...But my son only played the game once!
...But this is a really popular game! You must be able to offer me better than that!

Sadly, as with most retail items, a video game's value drops drastically after you've removed the plastic wrap. If you're stuck selling a game back, you may get upwards of $30 for a new or popular release, but most games for current consoles come in somewhere around $10 or less. If you accept store credit, your games are usually valued a little higher.

("Hang on!", you say. "Isn't this a library blog? Aren't we supposed to talk about library things?" We will, my friend. We will. Just hang in there. We'll get to the library-relevant meat soon.)

All Gamestop stores offer the exact same amount for a given title, regardless of what location you visit. It's consistent. It probably saves them a lot of trouble.

But it got me thinking, How do they determine how much your game is worth?

I'd like to think it's some complicated algorithm with values that changes on a weekly basis based on supply and demand. Perhaps something like this:

But then you'd actually try to use the formula and realize that, while in concept it looks pretty cool and mathy, this algorithm would actually pay out higher for games that are returned more frequently, which completely rejects the concept of wants/needs.

And in truth, Gamestop probably just pays a person to adjust the values on the used games on a weekly basis based on what's selling and how many of particular titles gets returned.

No matter.

The whole reason my brian ruminated over Gamestop's buy-back practices was because I began to ponder whether or not you could create an algorithm to determine the value of lost books.

(Ah ha! Finally!)

But wait! Don't we already know the value of the lost book by looking up the retail value of the title through sources like Amazon?

I'm not sure we do. It seems to me like a book such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is checked by one student after another, rarely ever making it back onto the shelf, is more valuable to the collection than, say, a book published in 1968 with the title Robotic Innovations of the Future. To me, this makes Wimpy Kid more valuable to our collection.

And if the book is more valuable to the collection, shouldn't we be able to ask a greater fee if the item is lost or damaged and needs to be replaced?

Of course not! That would be ridiculous! 

But you have to admit that it would be a little fun, if only to see the students reactions as you start dispersing bills for lost books that start to more closely resemble your heating or phone bill!

Yeah... sorry Jimmy, but that Babymouse book you lost is very popular. Had you just lost your own copy, you could probably replace it for around $6.99. But because you lost the library's copy, and because that copy is always being checked out by our students, you now owe us $239.65. I know that's a lot, but think of all of the kids who now won't be able to read that book. You've lost Babymouse for all of them, too!

Monday, March 5, 2012


It's so lovely... and pink.

I personally couldn't think of a better first award for this here blog than to be recognized by someone as cool as Cari.

Cari Young of The Centered School Library blog showed some love for a certain busy librarian and I wanted to be sure to pay it forward. After all, I don't think we as teacher librarians do enough talent spotting. There are some blogs we should all be reading. There are some ideas we should be sharing with everyone (and not being so shy about it). And there are some people everyone should know, because knowing them would just rock your world.

I stumbled upon Cari's blog over the weekend and was amazed by the incredible vision she has for her library. She's clearly kicking butt and taking names in her school library out in Texas. Thank goodness that, through the magic of the interwebs, we can bring Texas and Maryland so much closer. Otherwise I'm sure I'd be knocking on her door to shadow every other day just to be amazed by the new and inspiring things I'd pick up.

Go check out Cari's blog right now.

I'll wait.

Did you check it?

Did you love it?

I personally love the Comics Library Center, but there are so many gems here I just know I'll have lots and lots to try out as my fandom for Cari continues to blossom.

So, as promised by accepting the One Lovely Blog Award, here's a couple of friends that I think you should definitely visit.

1. 100 Scope Notes is an amazing source of children's literature news and reviews. If you're not already reading Travis' regular posts, do yourself a favor and follow him pronto.
2. The Daring Librarian is an outstanding teacher librarian, a Library Journal mover and shaker, an innovative technology leader, an a really incredible human being. Gwyneth, you know I have nothing but love for you, buddy!
3. The Adventures of Library Girl is where middle school teacher librarian Jennifer LaGarde calls home. She's got an amazing sense of advocacy and a talent for the right words. Since recently nerding out with her over math and video games, it's probably also safe to say she's my TL BFF.
4. The Bearded Iris is a mommy blog, without doubt, but, as blogger Iris knows, it's also my most guiltiest of Google Reader pleasures. Her wit cracks me up and her storytelling is top notch.
5. Art Projects for Kids is inspiring every single time I visit! Kathy is a truly gifted art teacher who seems to want nothing more than to share her talents with the rest of the world. She's the first place I turn to when I want a cool arts-integrated idea to use in our library.

Okay, blogger pals. If you choose to accept this award, do me a favor and stick to the following three simple rules.

1. Keep them away from bright light.
2. Don't them feed after midnight.
3. Never, ever get them wet.

Oops... try these:
1. Link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Follow the person who sent it to you.
3. Pass on the award to five other bloggers.

To me, the things you do and the person you are is worth celebrating!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Big Day.

I feel lighter and today's rain gave me chills. 

Our Read Across America day was packed with tons of amazing celebrations of literacy. Nothing directly Seuss-related, but memorable nonetheless.

Our 5th graders spent the week practicing read alouds and then stopped by the PreK-4 classes today to share some good reads with small groups of children. Each 5th grader had a 15-minute moment of authority, entertainment, and, hopefully, fulfillment with their group of 4-5 students, circled close together throughout the classrooms and pod space.

We had an author visit by fav Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, author of Hampire! and Chicks Run Wild. This is her second visit to our school and that made a huge difference to our students. I think that meeting an author is cool, but not always memorable in the way we'd like it to be. Students typically get between 30 and 45 minutes with the author during his or her presentation. Past that, the rest of the time is spent reading his or her books. Seeing Sudipta again today not only reminded the kids of all the great things she shared two years ago, it gave them the opportunity to learn from and ask questions of someone who is not only skilled at what she does, but, now, also familiar to our boys and girls. She's also fabulous at what she does and genuinely passionate about sharing her craft with kids. I'd say she's kind of a no-fail author visit.

Good barbers are hard to come by.
Thankfully, I've got a friend I can trust
 in 4th grade.
Of course, what Read Across America day would be complete without a good ol' fashioned head-buzzin'?! Thanks to the results of our coin drive at this year's book fair, I had to say goodbye to my lovely locks. Our administration decided it best to make a huge event from the occasion, so, 15 minutes before the end of the school day, the whole school building made their way into the cafeteria to watch a memorable haircut. Amid chants of "shave it off" and a couple of tears (yes, tears) from a few students at the thought of my near-bald head, we got down to business. In the end, it wasn't all that bad. A few kids were spurring me on to go down to skin, but I thought better of it and decided to hold onto the little I had before appearing at Common Ground 2012. I have the esteemed honor of accepting the award for Maryland Outstanding Educator Using Technology, a flattering award under any circumstances and one that feels  like a victory for the School Library Media profession. (Better to have a little something on top so I can look decent for my colleagues and other Maryland technology-using professionals, right?!)

Of course, this isn't to say that I didn't enjoy myself. Here's a video of the big buzz captured on my iPhone:

I'm thankful to be a member of a profession that encourages being a little ridiculous, a little daring, and a lot selfless for the greater good.

...and if it means cutting off my hair to promote literacy, I'm game (so long as you give me the week leading up to it to go a little wild with what hair I have left). 

It grows back.

Day 1: Easy, Normal

Day 2: Spiked, Out of Control
Day 3: Hat, Smooshed

Day 4: Wave, Attempted Fohawk
Day 5: Mullet, Wig
END: Spoils, Buzz

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