Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Getting Artsy in Here!

We have the most fabulous art teacher at our school!  She is creative and fun, and I am constantly amazed by the creativity she is able to pull from the most unlikely students.  She came to me at the beginning of the school year to talk about how to integrate technology into her art classes, and we decided to use iPod touches for an elements of art project.  The students worked in groups of 4 to explore the library and the side yard of the school to find objects that represent the elements of art.  They saved their pictures, added text to label the elements and created a collage of their photos.  It was like a scavenger hunt to the students, and they absolutely loved using the iPods.  Each group used one iPod so it did not require an entire class set of devices.  The outcome of the project was great, and the students' enthusiasm for this project increased their knowledge and understanding of the art elements to create the perfect foundation for the nine week course.  We used the free apps Aviary (for taking the photgraphs and labeling them) and Photo Collage Free (for putting the photos together).  I saved them all to my computer and put them into a Dropbox folder that I share with my art teacher.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It is Going to be a "Wonder"ful day!

On the eve of our next book club meeting, I just realized that I never posted about our previous meeting.  Our faculty and student book clubs read Wonder by RJ Palacio, and it was a hit!  We met for an hour and fifteen minutes after school, and we could have stayed to talk longer.  I was so proud of the wonderful connections the students made between their reading and real life!  We began our discussion using the questions on the Wonder website.  The students were able to take the questions and run with them.  My favorite connection was between Julian's character traits and the character education program that we use at school.  Our current trait was nobility, or the courage to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  A quiet little sixth grade girl slowly raised her hand and said, "you know how we have been talking about nobility? Well, I think Julian is the opposite of nobility because he always does mean things when no one is watching."  This sparked a conversation about how we have all been in situations where people act differently depending on their company and how much that can hurt our feelings. 

The last twenty minutes of our meeting, the students created mosaics out of tissue paper that represented what Wonder meant to them.  We had a short period of time to work, but the students enjoyed creating their symbols and scenes.  Here are a few examples...
Wonder has taken our school by storm!  Since participating in the faculty book club, many of our teachers have been reading Wonder aloud to their classes.  It is a hot commodity in the library, and the hold list is a mile long.  Thank you Ms. Palacio for a beautiful book that transcends all things to make us see that on the inside we all have the ability to be the same no matter what we are like on the outside. 

Tomorrow, we will be moving on to Divergent by Veronica Roth.  This is another must read, for what my opinion is worth.  I spent my weekend re-reading Divergent, and I have loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around!  We will be wearing the colors of the faction we believe we would belong in so stay tuned for pictures! 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Want to know Smore about my library?

I always start the year with the goal of updating my website more often so that I can better communicate with my students and parents.  Somehow, in the rush of each day, this task always gets pushed to the side.  I will admit, my website was in dire need of an update, and I decided to keep it simple and informative.  I will add items for projects as they arise, but I didn't like how all of the links were cluttering my page when they weren't always in use.  So here is my new and improved Wren Middle Media Center webpage.  (But please keep in mind it is a work in progress!)

My favorite part of my new page is my newsletter!  In the past when I heard the dreaded word NEWSLETTER, thoughts came to mind of hours at the computer formatting and reformatting, typing lengthy articles and trying to get my logo positioned just right.  Those days are long gone thanks to Smore!  I learned about this website because Twitter was all abuzz with librarians across the country using this newsletter creator.  I learned about it from Tamara Cox, and you can read her blog post to check out the librarians she learned from.  I decided to give it a go, and I am in love!  It's simple drag and drop format makes it quick and easy to arrange and select a background and theme.  Simply upload your own photos, videos, links and text, and you have a beautiful newsletter that can be shared across platforms.  Embed it in your school website or blog, post it on Facebook and sharet it on Twitter.  Instantly, you will have given your library exposure like it has never had before.  I am also including a section each month with book reviews, and those books are already flying off the shelves!  Check out my newsletter, and sign up for your free account to start yours today!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Your Common Core Secret Weapon

I am so lucky to work with two fabulous librarians and friends, Tamara Cox and Monique German.  We have made it our mission to make sure that we are indispensible to our schools and our districts, and when we started hearing talk of the Commom Core Standards, we started listening closely.  Tamara invited herself to a meeting, we volunteered to lead staff development, and we started talking about how the librarian is really your secret weapon when it comes to implementing Common Core Standards.  This was the beginning of what has become a very fun ride!  Our district has started asking us for advice and help when it comes to all things Common Core, and we are happy to step up and offer anything we can provide!  We are quick to let everyone know we are not experts on every aspect of the new standards, but we are able to use our expert knowledge of inquiry, research, informational text and literature to help make the transition to the Common Core easier and less scary for our teachers.  When they come running, and often panicking, we are ready with a solution or a resource.

We presented at the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC to a group of administrators about how they can use their media specialist as their Common Core Secret Weapon.  Many were pleasantly surprised that they have a wonderful resource already waiting in their schools, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of the ideas that we offered!

We are excited to talk about how we are becoming the Common Core Secret Weapons at our schools at the TL Virtual Cafe on October 1 at 8pm.  We hope to "see" many of you there and hear about the ways you are helping to implement the Common Core into your own schools.  

Still wondering where you fit in the implementation process at your school?  The time is now!  Jump right in, and don't wait to be asked to join the party.  Bring the party to you!  You will quickly become the go to person for calming the fears of the new Common Core Standards.  You don't have to know everything about them, I certainly don't, but you can offer what you know best...inquiry, research, resources and literature.  You've got it all!

Check out this EdWeek article about the role of the school librarian in Common Core.  I think you will see that much of what is being done by librarians around the country is what we have always done, but now we are getting more attention.  We don't always crave attention, but that is what is going to make our jobs indispensable.  So I challenge you all to get out there, invite yourself to a meeting, talk to your principals and reassure your teachers.  Our time is now, and we can all work together to show the education world that we are an integral part of our school teams!

Happy planning!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pinterest Blew Up in My Library!

I am in love with Pinterest, which my husband would say is an understatement!  I started an account for personal use, and I pinned recipes, decorating ideas and craft projects.  Then, I began to see how I could use it in planning ideas for my library.  Today was the first day of school for my district, and many of my friends have made the comment, "You must have been on Pinterest a lot this summer!"  I will admit, Pinterest blew up in my library.  I found fabulous ideas for fun decorations, cute bulletin boards and new rules posters.  My library is now transformed!

All of the furniture in my new display and reading section came from Ikea, and it is the first thing the students have noticed!  I learned how to make tissue paper look like different types of flowers.  The desk organizer has come in handy for items that students always need, and now they have a go-to place to find it.  Since I am alone in the library, it is necessary to close the doors sometimes so that I can attend meetings.  It is not very often that we are closed because I always want to be available if my students need me, but my sign says closed on the reverse side.

I found these eye catching rules that were created by another teacher, Krissy Venosdale, who has tons of beautiful graphics available for download on her Flickr stream.  I loved these because they are not like traditional rules, but they show my students that I have high expectations.  The In Our Library board is also my message to my students that they are going to do wonderful things, but they are not alone--they have my support and the support of all of their teachers.  I can't wait to see my bird bulletin board fill up with tweets about my students' favorite books!  The final touch is the dry erase frame calendar that my wonderful colleague, Monique German, found on Pinterest.  If you look closely, you will see the letters for each day.  I love this idea because my students and teachers can see, at a glance, what is happening in the media center during the week.

Ok...I know you are thinking the library is not all about looks, and you are right!  But it goes a long way to have a warm, inviting space that your faculty and students want to spend time in.  When I began my job six years ago, I spent two weeks in my library painting, making curtains, cleaning and rearranging.  It all paid off because I had students and teachers who wanted to spend time with me, and I was happy!  After six years, I needed some change!  My goal was to make a space that is conducive to learning, creating and reading, and I am happy with the result!  I think my students are as well from the comments they have made about the "whoa that is awesome" decor.

My Pinterest Boards are not all about crafting and decorating.  I also have boards for the meat of our library program...learning and creating.

If you don't have a Pinterest account, I encourage you to sign up today and start pinning! You will find so many wonderful ideas that will benefit your students!

Happy pinning!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meet the New Kids...New Books for a New School Year

One of my favorite things about a new school year is new books!  My avid readers are always waiting by the library door on the first day of school waiting to see if I have the newest book in their favorite series.  I am starting this year off with a book display of new books titled Meet the New Kids...New Books for a New School Year, in hopes that my avid readers will find what they are looking for and my reluctant readers will be lured by the shiny new books and the promise that they are the first to ever check them out!

Feel free to grab this poster from my flickr account!

One great way that librarians and teachers can meet the new kids of the literary world is through NetGalley, a digital book galley website.  It is completely free to sign up, but make sure you give as much information about yourself as possible in order to be selected to receive a large amount of galleys.  I made sure to include my blog address, school website and detailed information about how I select books for my school, help teachers select books for their classrooms and provide readers advisory for our students.  This information lets NetGalley know that you are a real person, not internet spam, that will read their books and recommend them to people in your schools and professional circles.  Once you have selected books, send in requests and watch your NetGalley home page fill up with books.  These books can then be downloaded onto your iPad or e-reader.  I have never received unsolicited emails from NetGalley so it is not going to clog your inbox.  I highly recommend this website because what is better than a free book that is so new you can't buy it yet?!  

My first read from NetGalley was Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, based on a true story about a young Jewish boy who lives in Poland during World War II.  Yanek has lost all of his earthly possessions and every person that he loves.  He lives in ten different concentration camps, each of them increasingly more brutal than the last.  Can Yanek make it through the atrocities that he faces each day, or will he lose his desire to live?  This book is definitely worth a look.  It does not deviate much from what we typically think of when we talk about World War II novels, but your students, who are avid historical fiction readers, will enjoy hearing about the journey that Yanek experiences.  

I know you will all find something you will enjoy, and you will probably find many somethings!  Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

These are a few of my favorite fonts...and they're all free!

I have a bit of an obsession with graphics.  I love the colors, angles and most of all, the fonts!  A beautiful and unique font can transform an ordinary and forgettable graphic into an eye catching brand that will stay in the minds of your students and teachers for months to come.  

I have been pinning font boards on Pinterest for the last few months, and I have downloaded my favorites to use in the graphics that I create for my library and our staff development sessions.  I am not sure that I am a great designer, but I certainly have fun! I decided to try my hand at creating a font board of some of my favorite free fonts!  Here are a few of my favorites...

Download fonts here:  Mossy - Lemon Drop - Stars from Our Eyes - Things We Said 
Tall Dark and Handsome - Roskrift - Matilde - Skinny Jeans - Freehand
Petunia Bounce - Champagne & Limousines

Download a few of these fun fonts and start creating a brand for your library!
Happy designing!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Choose to Be Brave

Surfer Chick

Surfer Chick is stoked that her superstar surfer dad is going to teach her how to surf.  She is nervous and a little scared that she will not be a great surfer, but when she chooses to be brave, Chick learns that she might be totally awesome after all!

I met author Kristy Dempsey when I was presenting at the CERRA Induction Symposium a few weeks ago.  Her book Surfer Chick was published in May of 2012, and it is a beautiful book with an inspirational story for our youngest students.  Kristy is a native of South Carolina, and is now living in Brazil with her family.  She is also a teacher and next year will be her first year as a librarian!  How cool to have your own librarian be an author!  

I was so excited when Kristy mentioned that she offers free Skype visits!  She will visit with your class through Skype for 15 minutes for free or 45 minutes for $50 to talk about her books and the writing process.  Of course the time difference could pose a problem so if you cannot work out a good time, she will accept questions from your class and send you a video response.  Check out the trailer for her book and follow her on Twitter @kristydempsey

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wonder...Because Nice Matters

Choose Kind

Have you ever read the most wonderfully perfect book and wanted to share it with everyone?  I found that book in Wonder by RJ Palacio.  It makes me want to be a better person and gives me hope that there are still loving, caring and accepting people in our world.  

Meet August Pullman, an ordinary 5th grader with a severe facial deformity.  Until now, he has been homeschooled, but his parents will be enrolling Auggie in middle school at Beecher Prep in the fall.  He wants nothing more than to be just like everyone else, but he is used to the stares and unkind comments about his facial disfiguration.  Auggie's year is a difficult one, and Wonder is his story, told from the point of view of many people in his life.  Read this wonderful story to be mesmerized by Auggie's life and the people in his life who choose to be kind.

Get Involved in the Wonder of Wonder

Wonder is taking over the world of reading one student, teacher, librarian and book lover at a time!  I participated in a twitter chat tonight about #thewonderofwonder, and I came away with so many ideas about how to use this fabulous book in my school but more importantly, how to encourage my students to just be nice to each other.  

The book trailer for Wonder is the perfect way to introduce the book to anyone you are trying to entice! 

I am planning to use the trailer to introduce the novel to my student and teacher book clubs.  This is going to be our first read of the 2012-2013 school year.  Along with the book trailer, we will be reading and discussing the picture book One by Kathryn Otoshi as a tie in to get the discussion started about bullying and being unkind.

My new Twitter friend, David Etkin, created an iTunes playlist just for Wonder, and I love it!  Give him a shout out on Twitter @DavidAEtkin if you download any of these songs to listen to as you are reading!

Bullying is rampant in middle school, and as a teacher, it is my job to set a good example for my students and encourage them to be kind to everyone they encounter.  I want to instill the knowledge in my students that every person has something special to offer to my life, and every person is able to do the same for them in return.  The Pledge to Choose Kind tumblr encourages students to think about situations where they have been bullied and the effect this had on their lives.  The beginning of change starts with a conversation, and I hope this conversation will begin to change the way our students treat their peers.

If you are using Wonder in your classroom, I would love to read about your ideas!  If you haven't read Wonder, I look forward to hearing what you think!

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I am a Close to Famous...Chef Wannabe

Close to Famous
I love cooking, and I love pretending that I am a chef!  I was immediately drawn to the cover of Joan Bauer's most recent novel, Close to Famous.  I wasn't disappointed.  It has a wonderful combination of baking and heartwarming friendships that help the main character, Foster, overcome many fears.

Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show one day just like her favorite Food Network Star.  For now, she has to settle for baking cupcakes for anyone who will take them.  Foster and her mom are running away from their problems in Tennessee, and they run straight to the town of Culpepper where they find friendship, dreams and almost fame.  


The Fooducate app is available for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.  It allows you to scan the barcode on a product, and it will give you the nutritional facts of the item. Your food is also given a grade, and sometimes I would rather not know!  You can also search a database if you do not have a barcode to scan.  It is very interesting to see the grade of foods that are normally advertised as natural or healthy.  The app would be a great tool for health or nutrition courses.

Happy eating...and reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book-a-Day and My New Obsession

The last two weeks have been filled with wonderful staff development sessions that I have presented with my fabulous partners in crime and fellow middle school librarians Tamara Cox and Monique German.  We have had a wonderful time promoting librarianship and technology to the Foreign Language and Social Studies teachers in our district, attendees at the Upstate Technology Conference and administrators at the Upstate Technology conference.  

Now my summer can really begin, and I am so excited to read TONS every day!  The three middle schools in my district have a summer reading contest that we call the million page challenge, and we are determined to reach a million pages by the beginning of September. I was also inspired by the wonderful Donalyn Miller to participate in the #bookaday challenge on Twitter.  I began my first book on Saturday, and here is what I have read so far...

My newest tech obsession is Twitter!  Yes, I know it is not new.  I have had an account for quite some time, but until this week, I have not really used it.  I have been more of a Facebook girl, but my wonderful friend, Tamara Cox, taught me the ins and outs of using Twitter to create a Professional Learning Network.  I am making connections with educators across the globe, and I am finding wonderful ideas to use in my library as soon as we start back to school in August.  I also joined the #summerthrowdown, a reading competition between teachers and librarians.  I encourage you to read up on using Twitter to expand your PLN and try it for yourself.  Don't be afraid to sign up for an account, lurk, tweet, retweet and watch your follower count go up and up and up!  It is truly fun and rewarding!  If you decide to take the plunge...look me up @KHearne.

Happy reading and tweeting!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars 

by John Green
I read a review for The Fault in Our Stars, and it appealed to me right away.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January, and I was afraid this book might hit a little too close to home.  But I decided to go for it, and it is one of the most perfect books that I have read in a long time.  I loved the characters, and I found so many quotable lines as I was reading.

Despite the experimental treatments she is going through, Hazel has never been considered anything except terminal.  She believes her story was written at diagnosis, and it did not have a happy ending.  Then, she meets a gorgeous plot twist at her cancer support group, and his name is Augustus.  Her story is getting ready to be rewritten.  What does the world have in store for Hazel now?

The Image Language

One of my colleagues posted the perfect web tool for this book.  It is called The Image Language and it lets you write a sentence using images.  If you type a sentence into the search box, it selects the first image that pops up in a Google search for that particular word.  I selected one of my favorite sentences from the book to write my sentence with images.  Hazel tells her mom, "I'm like a grenade, Mom!"  She tries to distance herself from people because she wants to minimize the casualties when she dies.  This seems like such an odd concept, but it will be at least understandable to those who have had cancer.  So here is the image sequence that defines my lasting ideas of The Fault in Our Stars.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flip Flop Fly Ball

I love infographics! I had seen them all over pinterest, but I had not paid much attention to them until I got the book Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Adventure in my library. I enjoy watching baseball, but I definitely don't know everything there is to know! My visit to Yankee Stadium during Christmas break was very enlightening, and I learned a lot in the museum but learned even more from this book. Each page is a different type of graphic or chart that tells you everything you could possibly want to know about baseball. Some of which, as a baseball novice, I didn't quite understand, but I am going to one day! My husband is tutoring me.

Here are some of my favorite facts from the book:

  • There were 2,757 bases stolen during the 2008 MLB season. If they were actually stolen, MLB teams would have lost $248,102.43 worth of bases!

  • Barry Bonds holds the record for career walks. If you put them all together it would be 43.6 miles.

  • Only 7 MLB parks are smoke free.

  • Thirty-six world series have gone to 7 games. Eighteen were won at home and eighteen were won on the road.

  • Nolan Ryan's first MLB season was in 1966 and last was in 1993. WOW!

  • The New York Yankees have retired 17 numbers (including #8 twice). #42-Jackie Robinson-is the only one to be retired in all of baseball. This is my addition: Mariano Rivera is currently a Yankee, and he wears #42. He wore this number before it was retired so he can continue to wear it, but he will be the last! (Don't be intimidated by my baseball knowledge!)

I love looking at infographics so much that I started looking into how I can create my own, and I came across the website visual.ly. Graphic designers are able to upload their infographics here for everyone to share. They are in the beta testing stages of having a site for people like you and me to create our own infographics! I have signed up on their test page to recieve an email when it is ready to go. When it is ready, it will be great for so many things, but I can see limitless potential for our math classes! While you are waiting on this creation tool, check out
the Daily Infographic blog for a new infographic every day. Some of them are school appropriate and some of them are not so make sure to preview them before sharing with your students. Have fun learning!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the edge of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. If you enjoy books by Sarah Addison Allen, you will enjoy the magical aspects that Aimee Bender sprinkles throughout her novel.

I read this book in hopes that it would interest some of my 8th grade girls who love coming of age stories, but it didn't quite fit the bill. It was an enjoyable read for an adult, but I wouldn't recommend it for middle school or below.

My read shelf:
Kristen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Goodreads is a social networking site that is just for book lovers! You can friend request people that you know and see all of the books they are reading. You will also see the ratings that they give the books based on a scale of one to five stars. I often find the next book that I am going to read by looking at what my friends are reading. Who doesn't love getting recommendations from their friends? You can write reviews, vote for your favorite books of the year, create book clubs and much, much more!

Do you use Facebook? If you answered yes, then you can link your Goodreads account to your Facebook account and share the books you are reading in both places. I also share my Goodreads shelf on my school webpage so that my students can see what I am reading!

The possibilities are endless, and the process is quite fun! Happy reading!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Night Circus

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

The Alex Awards are given by the Young Adult Library Services Association to the ten best adult books that will appeal to teen readers, and after my sister gave me
this book, I decided I should definitely read it soon! It has a magical storyline that pulled me in right away, and I can think of many students who will love this book--especially those who enjoy fantasy romance.

In light of the recent focus on the implementation of Common Core Standards in my school district, I decided to find a web 2.0 tool that would help tie fiction together with informational text. This newspaper clipping generator is a simple and fun tool to help your students create clippings, with an authentic look, that include any information they would like to write about. This tool is a great way for students to create their own informational text pieces based on information they have researched and read. My summary is in the clipping that I created.