Monday, September 29, 2014

Lone Star Storytelling Festival

On Saturday evening, my husband and I attended the Lone Star Storytelling Festival in Frisco. It's been quite a while since I've gone to a storytelling concert, and I've missed it. The three tellers were Reverend Robert Jones, Jr., Angela Lloyd, and Willy Claflin.  What a variety of storytellers!

Rev. Jones started the evening off with a bang. He shared stories of how he came to play the guitar and how he learned to play the blues. I never would have thought one could combine the theme from Gilligan's Island with the blues, but Rev. Jones did! He also shared what it's like to go to a storefront church in Detroit. He was just terrific! He finished his set with a song, and Angela Lloyd joined him on the washboard.

Ms. Lloyd's performance was almost childlike. She shared a story of sitting and drinking coffee, meeting a train jumper, helping him to buy $10.00 worth of food, and listening to the train whistle. Different, but enjoyable.

Mr. Clafin was also a hoot. He shared how he tried to understand the lyrics of "Louie, Louie" when he was a kid because the song had been banned from the airways as well as how George Washington invented the kazoo? Then he shared a story with his puppet, Maynard Moose. This was an inventive retelling of the classic Greek myth which he called "Pegamoose and the Gorgonzola Medusa."

It was a fantastic evening of stories, music, and jokes. Hope I can go again next year!

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

"That little girl does not want a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird," Mort tells us.

"She doesn't know what she wants," says Elena. That's why she needs us."

"Yes," says Mort, "but we must use our power for good."

"What power?" I ask.

Mort takes out his Cub Scout knife and begins to cut the empty cardboard boxes into pieces that will fit into the recycling bin beneath the counter. "It's the books that have power," he says, "but a good bookstore will influence what a person chooses to read."

I think for a moment. "Does it have to be a good bookstore?" I ask.

Mort considers the question. "Probably not," he finally admits.

Last week was Banned Books Week. While I didn't address it in the blog, I did address the issue in several tweets. (See the Library's Twitter feed @library_buzz) Sometimes I think that when people try to "ban" books, they are really doing the exact opposite. More people become interested in the books and read the books to see what is so controversial.

In I Kill the Mockingbird, Lucy, Elena, and Michael decide that they want everyone to read Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird for their summer reading. Instead of getting the book banned, they decide to "hide" copies of the novel in bookstores and libraries. When the book cannot be found, it will create interest and readers will clamor for the book. They also create a web site and social media sites to garner interest in their endeavor. Because they live in small state, Connecticut, they can easily travel throughout the state and perform their "literary terrorist" mission.

What they don't think about, however, is the "copy cat" phenomenon and that others are not simply "hiding" the book, but stealing it instead. They also don't realize the power of social media getting the word out.

I Kill the Mockingbird had some provocative chapter titles such as "Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia," "Holden Caulfield is Undead and Other Things We Learn at the Mall," and The Second Most Exciting Funeral of All Time." I thought the premise of the novel was clever, and I really wanted to fall in love with the book.. However, I felt that the characters were pretty flat, and the backstory of Lucy's mother's cancer survival didn't quite make it for me.

I did, however, really like this quote:

..."You should write a book," I say.

"About what?" she asks.

"How to fight cancer with colored pencils."

Mom doesn't look up. "Who says I was fighting cancer?"

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"Lucy," Mom says, "I'm not one of those people who think that cancer is some kind of jousting match. People live or die based on good medicine, good luck, and the grace of God. The people who die from it did not fail. The people who live will die another day."


Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Books

Receiving new books in the library is like celebrating Christmas or your birthday. Each box I open, I ooh and ahh.  This year we are outsourcing the processing of our books. While this will help with the workload, it will slow the time it takes to get the new books to the kids. There are some books, however, that I cannot send to be processed because they are either: 1. so popular that the kids would beat me with a hammer if I didn't get the books to them ASAP or 2. they don't need covers.

Because I like to advertise books to the kids to try to stimulate interest, I decided to try something a bit different. I'm going to try a different tool as often as possible to make the books look more enticing. Book covers are cool, but they are bit static. This time I decided to try PhotoPeach.

Here's what I came up with:

New Titles for the 40 Book Challenge on PhotoPeach

You can also "spiral" the slideshow. I think I'll try that on the large screen downstairs. We'll see if anyone notices.

New Titles for the 40 Book Challenge on PhotoPeach

Monday, September 22, 2014

6th Grade Parents

If you recall my blog post in the spring, Cindi Timmons organized a jaunt to the library for some fifth
Photo courtesy of Cindi Timmons.
grade parents to discuss summer reading. This fall, she organized the same group, but now they are sixth grade parents to come to the library to learn a bit about research and NoodleTools.

Besides being a parent, Cindi tutors some Greenhill students as well. Because she often works with students on research projects, she's very familiar with NoodleTools and how we research in the middle and upper schools.

Prior to going over NoodleTools, I discussed the Carol Kuhlthau's Information Search Process and showed the parents examples of the LiveBinders where we curate all of the information and sources that the students will be using on the particular research project.

We did a small sample of a citation and then discussed notecards, bibliographies, outlining, etc. that can be done with this wonderful tool.

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

I just finished reading Colin Fischer last night. Colin is a freshman with Asperger's Syndrome. He is quick to point out, "It's a neurological condition, related to autism..." Like many of the other books that I've read where the protagonist has Asperger's ( House Rules by Jodi Picoult, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool), there seems to be some incident or problem that is solved by the one with Asperger's.

In this book, a gun goes off in the lunchroom at school, and Colin is the only one to take the time to figure out what really happened. Wayne, one of the school bullies who taunts Colin, has been accused, but Colin knows that he is innocent. The rest of the story unweaves how the incident occurred.

Throughout the book, Colin refers to a guide that was developed by his behaviorist, Marie. This guide helps him translate facial expressions into emotions that he cannot read. The end papers and the cover of the book utilize these facial expressions as well. Colin also carries with him a notebook where he records his thoughts and his take on things. His entries are interspersed throughout the chapters as well. Due to his analytical nature, ideas or concepts are included in footnotes to add additional, if not necessarily needed, information to the story.

While I liked the book, I didn't think there was a lot of new going on here. The book was pretty derivative of other books with Asperger characters.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


5th Grade Science

For the past couple of days interspersed between Biblionasium presentations to the middle school students, 40 Book Challenges, etc., I've been working with Megan Van Wart's fifth grade science students. The students had a task to ask a question they had about science. Megan submitted the questions to me, and I selected three for each class that I felt the students could actually find information about and be successful in a short period of time.

Here are the questions that were submitted by the two classes:

1. How did the crystals get in the Interspace Caverns?
2. If there are so many trees in Colorado and trees give oxygen, how is it harder to breathe?
3. Why does fire coral sting you when you touch it?

1. How many types of leaves are there and how many types of trees are there?
2. Why would such a rare sea turtle be swimming around right next to the shore where 500 people are? Why is it not in the middle of the ocean?
3. How did rocks get to the place where they are now?

During the three days we had in class, I taught the students about plagiarism, how to take notes, and citing sources. This is challenging for fifth graders. A number of them still have difficulties logging onto the computer. They have very rudimentary keyboarding skills. (Keyboarding is not taught in the Greenhill Lower School.) Several freak out if they click in the wrong place and an active link takes them to another page. Invariably there's a late student who wants everything to stop until s/he "catches up."

In a nutshell, this is what we did.

Plagiarism: We discussed what it is and how to keep from doing it. After watching a short video, the students took notes from our class discussion. They also had a short Socrative Quiz about what they learned.

NoteTaking: I show the quiz a short Read Write Think video about utilizing Fact Fragments to take their notes. We also practice using a sample paragraph. (While a good introduction, the kids still need time to work on this.)

Fact Fragment Frenzy from the Read Write Think website.
Information Gathering: I have several sources available on the LiveBinder that I curated for the students. They used an encyclopedia article and a web site article. Had we had time, I would have also used a video for them to gather information. The kids took notes to answer their question using fact fragments. Having the resources already prepared kept the focus on information gathering rather than searching for information which is quite challenging for fifth graders.

A screen shot from the LiveBinder where the students' resources are curated.

Citations: The kids haven't had formal bibliographies before coming to fifth grade. I walked them step by step through finding each part of the citation. They then transferred the information into NoodleTools to create a Works Cited page.

A fifth grader's first entries into NoodleTools.

I was pleasantly surprised with this group, however. Although several of the students didn't know their lunch numbers, one intrepid little scholar announced that "it's on your schedule." The kids were quiet and attentive. They worked hard. While I would have liked more time with them, we pretty much accomplished what they needed to do the task.

I hope I get to work with this group again. They are going to be outstanding researchers!