4 Things I’d Love to Crowd Source (’cause they’re keeping me up at night!)


Image: 'Brain Fuel'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/64251830@N00/394740182 Found on flickrcc.net
Image: ‘Brain Fuel’
Found on flickrcc.net

OK…Here they are:

  1. A working, all encompassing definition of Literacy for educators. Finding many are too broad (such as everything in the CCSS!), too 21st Century (limited to global and  tech literacies) or plain old out of date!
  2. Synthesis: What it means and how to teach it so that students can do it! Is synthesis rooted in organizational strategies? How do we incorporate author’s intent in the synthesis process? Is Synthesis making personal meaning and if so how do we teach students to do it in test like scenarios?
  3. I’m desperately in “want” of developing a Teacher-Librarian’s Roles and Responsibilities document, or what admin calls a “job description”. I’d love it to be stakeholder friendly and so should be rooted in student learning.
  4. What exactly does CCSS mean when they  write short research projectsand how do we support deep learning as required by the CCCS in short research project? In my humble opinion, I don’t believe that it’s possible for students to develop deep learning if they are required to participate in all parts of the inquiry process during every “short research project”. I think that we would be better off creating learning experiences that highlight one piece of the process, as long as students are aware of where what their learning fits into the whole. However, this isn’t easy and I would love some assistance in making it happen!

I realize this is a lot in one post, but I figure if I write them down, they’d stop keeping me up at night! Well not really, cause I tend to fall asleep at the drop of a dime, but they do bounce around this crazy head of mine fairly often!

So…I created a google doc hyperlinked to each bold faced topic above for crowd sourcing. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and best practices about these issues; I’m thinking that I’m probably not the only one who could use a little help with this stuff!

Thanks in advance for sharing, because we are oh so better working together!





Late Night in the Library: “Genrefying” Fiction

Last night an awesome group of sixteen sixth grade girls, three of their moms and I, worked incredibly hard at “genrefying” our library’s fiction collection. Although our nonfiction collection has been re-shelved according to topics that are meaningful for our patrons, for over a year now, and we are more than happy with the results, I’ve been putting off similarly re-shelving fiction according to genre.  Although I wholeheartedly believe that the results would benefit our students in their quest to read, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do long before I ever even considered a similar scenario for nonfiction, I was apprehensive about the process. This is not to say that creating middle school thinking categories and sorting books accordingly for our nonfiction collection was an easy task, because it wasn’t! However, I knew that the most difficult part of genrefying our fiction collection would lie in deciding what genre a book best belonged; this part of the process was even more difficult than I originally thought!


Our first difficulty arose when the database I planned on using to help with this process, Ebsco’s Novelist K-8, became suddenly not available! (I’m still not sure what’s going on, but hopefully a call to Ebsco on Monday AM will help me out.). A quick connect with my PLN, through LM_Net, Twitter (#tlchat), Google+,  and e-mail helped resolve this problem; however, different resource gave us different answers! We ended up using a combination of  the following tools to help us identify genres:  the book’s summary, the book’s copyright page, Destiny  book record information, (including the 650 Marc record tag), Titlewave, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Amazon and even Wikipedia!

Our second difficulty emerged when I realized that we all had slightly different understandings about genre characteristics, and that we weren’t alone! With some cursory research, it seems that others who’ve published their findings also differ in their opinions. (The understandings where experts were far more in agreement, characteristics such as conflict source etc., were far too difficult for our group to identify and characterize, due to our ability level, our lack of experience with critical analysis of literary text,  our lack of familiarity with each book,  and most importantly, our time constraints! Plus, keeping in mind our 5th and 6th grade audience and why we were doing what we were doing, this kind of deep analysis seemed unnecessary.) For example, Mystery and Adventure genre characteristics often cross; where would you place A Series of Unfortunate Events or The 39 Clues? Where do you place something that just happens to be set in a historical period but the historical period is not significant to the story? What about stories explicitly set in other cultures? Is a separate Multicultural section the correct terminology? is it even politically correct? Our Realistic Fiction section is way too broad; however, are Chick Fic and or Relationships categories appropriate or even applicable for our 5th and 6th grade audience? What do you do with seemingly realistic or historical fiction that happens to have a scene with an angel or ghost? Is this considered Supernatural? Do we even have enough books to have a Supernatural section? Daunting to say the least!

During my first year as a teacher-librarian, our after school book club read the Newbery winning When You Reach Me and we were incredibly lucky to share a special Skype visit with its awesome author, Rebecca Stead. In answering one of our student’s question about the book’s genre, Stead answered that she was honestly unsure, and that it was too difficult for her to pick just one. In making that decision for her, are we inconsiderately not considering the author’s original intent? Also, are we unfairly pegging a book into a hole? By doing so are we limiting a book’s audience? I do think these issues deserve further review and consideration and I know that there are others who have done a good job of doing so. In this case, however, I decided that it was necessary to put my worries of unfairness to rest, in order to create as shelving scenario that helped to meet our goals fro the majority of students: fostering independent reading and enthusiastic readers.

The Learning Experience:

What our students learned through this experience far outweighed the problems we faced, and in reality, they learned more, precisely because of these problems! I came home feeling exhausted, but fulfilled, and by the hugs I received at the end of the night, I know that I was not alone.

I’m left wondering how we can duplicate the positive aspects of this learning experience in our classrooms?

  • True collaboration; we were a team, and as a team  figured how to work effectively as a team!
  • Problem based learning; even reaching outside our school walls for assistance with our problems.
  • Real world project with a real purpose.
  • Having fun while working hard.
  • Intrinsic motivation; no grades, no rewards. (If you don’t count pizza, snacks and good music!)

Of course all learning experiences can’t share these characteristics, but I do believe that there are more opportunities to create learning experiences that create change: where students are not just practicing for the future but participating in the now.

Library Orientation: Never Enough Time!

By far my biggest obstacle as a teacher librarian is not having the necessary time needed with students in order that they practice, and ultimately master, vital information fluency skills. As a teacher I know that I am not alone; for all of us, there is never enough time. Library orientations are no exception.
Buying used shelving just before the start of school put us back a bit on the whole orientation thing.  By the time there was some sense of order in the library, 5th grade LA teachers needed to start the DRA reading assessment process, which set us back even further. Students were visiting the library every day without a clue of how it all worked!
Library Orientation Instructional Goals:
Students will….
  • Practice the skills necessary to  independently access library materials (including locating books and self check out).
  • Gain understandings about library expectations and procedures
  • Folow written directions necessary for creating Destiny accounts and discover the possibilities of using this platform
  • Learn about library clubs & activities including te 20 Book Challenge.

After a short “Do Now”, giving students the opportunity to share their interests, and a fairly brief (I’m trying!) intro, we split students into three groups for 10 minute center activities.

1. Meet Mrs Schiano at purple couch for photo op and quick book selection review, followed by independent book choice and self check out.

2. QR code scavenger hunt for library procedure videos created by two awesom Lounsberry students!

3. Destiny account creation & discovery.

After finishing, we met back in classroom area and reviewed accessing library website and library clubs and activities, including the 20 Book Challenge.

What worked? Center based activities. Why?

  • 5th grade students are already familiar with learning in this manner,
  • students are learning independently,
  • it promotes small group collaboration,
  • it keeps students engaged through movement and a sense of anticipation,
  • and  it resembles the typical library environment, many students learning different things, in different ways at the same time!

What needed improvement?

  • Students needed time to sign up for clubs.
  • I needed to access student understandings of library expectations and procedures. How? Not sure best way to do this other than adding another station. I might have added an assessment element at the end of each video, such as a link that took students to a google form.
  • Students needed more instructional and practice time usinig Destiny.

Next post… Lounsberry’s Virtual Center Orientation with 5th Grade Math/Science Classes.

Are You Up to the Challenge?


Why Personal Choice Independent Reading?

We want you to enjoy the reading experience! The more you read the better you get at it and I promise, the more you’ll enjoy it!

The Challenge:

Read 20 books this school year:

ONE from each of the GENRES below..

  • Fantasy or Science Fiction
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Nonfiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Poetry or Novel in Verse

The rest are up to you. If you’re reading a book in class you may include it. If the book is 350 pages or more, it counts as 2!

We’ll figure out the best way for keeping track of our reading ASAP. Any ideas let me know!

Anyone else thinking party in the library to celebrate?

Challenge yourself and JOIN us below!

Personal Choice Reading in Content Area Classrooms

Top Shelf Library Guy: original source unknown
Top Shelf Library Guy: original source unknown

I participated in an great PD session on personal choice reading given by our district’s Director of Humanities, Kyle Arlington. In the vein of Reader’s Workshop understandings, personal choice reading is a powerful and authentic way for students to practice close reading strategies and develop a love of reading and learning.  An important strategy Mr. Arlington shared, more here, was creating text sets, electronic or paper, of reading materials grouped by topic, platform. reading ability, point of view etc. I especially love the idea of teachers seeing this as an opportunity for students to learn about topics that may not be covered well or even at all within the curriculum. (For example, presently  the Civil Rights movement  in our district is not covered at length until high school). When brain storming where to find reading materials, I realized the valuable role teacher-librarians can play in this process.

  • Teacher-librarians can share portals for finding text materials: (Wonderopolis, Finding Dulcinea, library databases, Newsella, Youngzine, Dogo News, copies of pages from informational books, primary source portals, picture books, curation sites and more!)
  • Teacher-librarians can create text sets!
  • Teacher-librarians can create portals for collecting text sets: (wikis, curation sites)
  • The library can act as a hub for housing and sharing text sets.
  • Teacher-librarians can use personal choice reading in content area classrooms as a way to foster interest for inquiry based research projects.

I’m reminded of an earlier post which also highlighted the role for teacher-librarians in creating text sets. For good reason, teachers no longer can rely on subject area textbooks as students’ primary resource  for learning. Students want and need to explore materials on varied topics, in various platforms and from varied points of view. Classroom teachers will appreciate the support from teacher-librarians now more than ever, and that’s a good thing!

Skyping with Candy Gourlay

Screen Shot Candy took of our students
Screen Shot Candy took of our students

Last Thursday our Nook Book Club kids skyped with Candy Gourlay, the author of one of our all time favorite books: Tall Story. We had a great time and learned a lot too!

We learned about:

  • Gigantuism
  • Yau Ming
  • Writing from what you know
  • Philippine history
  • Candy’s family
  • How to pronounce Tagalog!
  • How ideas for writing are born

We especially learned that talking with someone that rocked your world is way cool and pretty easy to do too!  Candy was great with our students; it’s easy to tell that she’s a born storyteller and someone who’s plain old fun to hang out with!

Thanks Candy for rocking our world!

Candy has an awesome website too. Check it out

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 9.20.30 AM

Check out her Slideshares too I Loved Tall Story What Should I Read Next  & Reading and Thinking About Tall Story: A Discussion Guide



Blogging About Books: Join the Conversation!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 5.22.39 PM

Share your summer reads by adding a comment to this post. Great book shares include:

  • the Book Title
  • the Author
  • a SHORT Summary without giving away the ending
  • What you liked or didn’t like about the book, and
  • What kind of readers might enjoy it.

Thanks for sharing! Don’t let your brain freeze; keep reading and learning all summer and be the best that you can be!






McKayla’s Super Long and Detailed Birthday List


 Nutella. Stephane .Jaspert. Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaspert-art-paris/6914886094/

Nutella. Stephane .Jaspert. Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaspert-art-paris/6914886094/

WARNING: A lot of stuff would never happen in a million billion quadrillion years!

SECOND WARNING: I have a weird taste in gifts. 😀

1. Minecraft Server

2. RPG Maker VX Ace


4. Cat Stuff

5. Tobuscus stuff

6. Minecraft stuff

7. Ryan C’s shoes

8. A decent video camera

9. Another pet

10. Accounts





11. New phone case


13. Gift cards (Apple)

14. iHop Dinner

15. Bacon

16. Cheese

17. Sweet Brown Shirt (Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That)

18. Cool Clothes

19. FaceTime your pet cat collar

20. Osiris


1. A pool

2. A trampoline

3. A room makeover

4. Lady Gaga concert tickets

5. AN iMAC!!!!!!!!


21. Lady Gaga stuff

22. Jewelry

23. Makeup

24. Uggs

25. Bathing suits

26. Chocolate

27. Candy Apple

28. Mustache stuff

29. Peanut butter stuff

30. Hot chocolate

31. MORE Nutella

32. New karate gear

33. More dresses

34. Hair flowers

35. Duct tape

36. Coolio school supplies

37. Even more Nutella

38. Giant cheese wheel

39. Domo hat from Walmart

40. Frozen Pizza

41. Breakfast sandwiches

42. Pancakes from ‘da diner

43. Chuck Glarman Hat

44. Into The Woods DVD

45. TV for my room


1. A dog

2. Trip to Atlantis

3. Trip To Disney

4. Trip to CA

5. Trip to NC


46. Hair highlights

47. Cat leash

48. Hamster harness


50. A bunny

51. PINK hair dye

52. Industrial sized Nutella

53. Fake eyelashes

54. Red contacts

55. Robot stuff

56. Cool YA novels

57. Fill the bathtub with Nutella

58. “Real” NOT Wheat bread 🙂

59. Pikachu Stuffed animal

60. NUTELLA!!!!!!



  • Snowboard

  • Sweet and Sour Twizzlers

…and my birthday isn’t until November 27! Do you start thinking this far ahead? Would your list look anything like mine?



 Heart-shaped Tree Trunk. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 11 Jun 2013. http://quest.eb.com/images/300_2267995
Heart-shaped Tree Trunk. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 11 Jun 2013. http://quest.eb.com/images/300_2267995


School’s almost over 

I wish everybody liked me

Rumors, playing games

Middle school love and drama,

it destroys people’s lives.

Yes, it happened to me.

You try to make friends

Kids think they’re popular

Call you losers.

Crazy right.

Popular kids leave you out 

Think you’re not worthy.

Mean, but its true.

Choosing to hang with popular girls

Never seemed to work out.

Girls fall in love with boys for stupid reasons 

Maybe date for one day or one month,

Have their hearts broken.

Nice  kids will be there for you.

Help: that’s what everybody needs.

Drama who would want that.

How does middle school love and drama affect you?

Am I the only one who feels this way?