Saturday, December 5, 2015

Consider Coding in Your School Library!

With the Hour of Code celebrations kicking off next week in coordination with Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13), students across the nation will be exploring the basics of computer programming and get an introduction to computer science.

Will your school library be part of the celebration?

Why Hour of Code?

The statistics speak volumes.

According to's site, right now there are 3,930 computing jobs waiting to be filled here in Iowa. Nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as found via, "67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing."

In a society which grows more and more dependent on technology, we need people who can "speak" the language of computers in order to not only keep up with the technology we already have, but, more importantly, to create the technology we've never imagined. How can we expect this to happen if we aren't offering our students the opportunity to explore the skills they'll need? By hosting Hour of Code events, we are allowing our students a deepen their understanding of our technological world and unlock hidden potential and interests that have implications for their futures.

And beyond the implications for our students' future (and our own), there are additional benefits to hosting Hour of Code events for our students. I love this infographic created by Sylvia Duckworth:

Image via @sylviaduckworth

I can bear witness to the "hidden" advantages of providing students the chance to explore coding. As I watched my 2nd through 5th grade students work their way through our Hour of Code events last year, I saw them engaged in authentic and meaningful problem-solving, critical thinking, analyzing and collaborating practices. Students who often hesitant to try new things were willing to take a risk and learn from their mistakes. Students who often rush through work were engaged and determined to finish each challenge placed before them. That's learning at it's best!

So why should libraries be involved in the Hour of Code?

Libraries have always been about empowering our students, encouraging exploration of interests, and supporting literacy. Hour of Code provides our students with an opportunity to do all three.

As a side note, some might argue the coding is a far stretch to literacy. I would argue that your definition of literacy might need to be redefined. Coding is a literacy that requires students to be fluent (read and write) in the language of computers in order to embrace the future and be part of developing the technology that is so much a part of our lives.

Libraries are uniquely situated to serve the needs and interests of all students.  Libraries are intended to support, extend and enhance the traditional curriculum delivered in the regular classrooms. Hosting Hour of Code events is just another extension of these principles.

And like any librarian, you know that you don't have to have all the answers. You just need to know where you can find the resources!

Hour of Code Resources:

Image of the Lewis Central Hour of Code Symbaloo (linked below)
My colleague, Josh Allen, the Technology Integration Specialist was kind enough to create an Hour of Code Symbaloo (pictured above) for our students at Titan Hill Intermediate full of links to online coding games. tutorial videos and information about coding apps. Feel free to use the link to explore with your students as well!

And as an ultimate collection of coding ideas and resources, our friend Shannon Miller has put together a Coding Padlet as a place to reference and share all things coding, just in time for Hour of Code next week! 

Created with Padlet
Padlet created by Shannon Miller

*Note: This blog was originally written and published (by me) via the Iowa Association of School Librarians Blog:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Connecting, Collaborating & Creating in a Winter Wonderland

Sometimes the stars align in such a way that you're left thanking every single last lucky one of them. My students and I have been lucky enough to have this experience recently. Little did I know that a simple Twitter invite would set my students and I off on an amazing Winter Wonderland adventure of connecting, collaborating, and creating! 

It all started when the amazing Shannon Miller sent me a message on Twitter wondering if my Titan Hill students and I would be interested in participating in a "little" project she was putting together called Winter Around the World . The whole project was inspired by a Cantata Learning book called Winter: The Coldest Season of All and was meant to bring together students from around the world to share stories, artwork, music and poems celebrating winter in a collaborative eBook.

When Shannon asks, it's a no-brainer! You know it's good stuff. However, as if being asked by Shannon to join in a project with her weren't enough, the added incentive to join this project was the opportunity to collaborate and publish that it presented for my students. One of my school's goals (and one of my own as well) has been to increase collaboration and publication of student work as a means of engaging students with authentic tasks and providing authentic audiences. 

This project was so absolutely perfect!

As soon as I read a little bit more about the project, I immediately thought of the fabulous Kasey Bell, whose amazing work had previously brought my students such activities as last spring's Collaborative Magnet Poetry and this fall's Halloween Magnetic Poetry. I was hoping she'd be on board with what I had in mind . . .

What ensued was pure awesomeness.

It started with a Twitter Exchange . . .

Which led to a Skype session where the stars aligned . . . And a plan was formed!

Kasey was on board with creating a Winter Poetry Template. My Titan Hill 5th graders were asked to help brainstorm a list of words that Kasey could use to create her interactive Winter Poem! I shared the Winter Around the World project idea with them and asked for their help. They were totally on board!

Following Shannon's suggestion, I had my students generate a list of winter-themed words using Padlet (which I had linked for them via my 5th grade library Google Classroom). Each class generated a list, which I then pulled words to share with Kasey. They loved generating their list of words, especially knowing that the list they were helping to create would have a greater audience. And, of course, I shared our journey with both Shannon and Kasey via Twitter and Periscope!

We then submitted the list of words to Kasey for her to work her magic.

In the meantime, I had shared the book Winter: The Coldest Season of All with several of my other classes, particularly four of my 2nd grade classes, as part of our celebration of National Picture Book Month. And another amazing opportunity arose for my Titan Hill students to connect and collaborate . . . This time by Skyping with the author/composer and illustrator of the Winter book. The students thought it was so cool to hear Lisa Bell and Emily Brooks talk about their journey to creating this particular book!

Shortly after the Skype session, Kasey shared with us the Winter Magnet Poetry template she'd created for us using Google Slides! My 4th and 5th grade students were so excited to get started creating! During their library specials, they used Kasey's poetry template to create their own winter poems. As an added bonus, we were able to explore more deeply how to use and create within Google Slides, a commonly used presentation tool for our school.

Here's an few example poems we submitted:

Not to be left out, one of my amazing 2nd grade teachers, Nancy Walker, and her students created a song inspired by the book entitled "We WIN in Winter." Our district's amazing Technology Integration Specialist, Josh Allen, filmed her students in front of a green screen and created an amazing music video showcasing the song their created!

Here's the complete music video:

Needless to say, it's been quite the Winter Whirlwind over the past month! What amazing opportunities for my students to connect, collaborate and create! I'm absolutely grateful to both Shannon and Kasey for letting my students and I tag along on this amazing winter adventure! 

And the best part of all of this . . . It's not too late for your students to join in the Winter fun! To make your own copy of Kasey's Winter Magnet Poetry, click here! To find out more information or to join in the Winter Around the World project, click here!

Winter Challenge for Google Classroom

Last year several  of my Nebraska educator friends put together a #12daystwitter challenge (click the link to find out what they're up to this year!) meant to encourage fellow educators to explore the connective and collaborative power of Twitter.

Inspired by the fun and collaborative nature of this challenge, a fellow Titan Hill teacher, Laurie Kammrad, and I wanted to find a way for our 2nd through 5th grade students to participate as well. However, Twitter didn't seem the right medium. Although we have several teachers using Twitter within their classrooms, we wanted a way for all students to be able to participate on a more personal level and our students are (technically) to young to have Twitter accounts of their own.

We'd just begun utilizing Google Classroom and thought this would be a perfect way to allow our students to continue to explore this new tool, to connect with other students in and outside their own classrooms and to actually practice some of the digital citizenship skills we'd been discussing.

And so the "12 Days of Google Classroom Challenge" was born!

So how did it work?

The first thing I did was to draft an email to our staff to share about the idea Laurie and I had created, sharing the Google Classroom codes with the teachers. At the time, I hadn't previously required all of my students to join my Library Google Classroom (this has since changed). I set up a Google Classroom for each grade level (2nd through 5th).

Google Classroom Sample E-mail sent to 4th grade teachers:

The next thing I did was to create graphics for each question. To do this, I used one of my absolute favorite tools, Canva. I wanted to create some visuals to go along with the questions, similar to what was being done with the #12daystwitter challenge. In drafting the challenge questions, we went for a variety: some questions that allowed for individual responses and some that would stir up a debate. Ultimately, the goal was for students to share their ideas and respond to their classmates!

Sample graphics:

The final piece was to put the questions into Google Classroom and allow the students to respond using the commenting feature available within Classroom. At the time, I used the "Announcement" feature to post the questions and images.

Starting on December 1, I began to post the questions. Just like the #12daystwitter challenge, I posted them Monday through Friday (no weekend posts) for 12 school days. Students would access Google Classroom and post their response in the comments and reply back to others when they could. If they missed a day, it was no big deal. They could easily catch up when the opportunity presented itself!

Example Google Classroom announcement post:


So how'd it go?

It was absolutely incredible to watch the students' response flow in . . . and to take advantage of the teachable moments!

The participating teachers and I were able to have some fantastic conversations with our students about a multitude of topics. On the educational side, we discussed things such as formulating appropriate responses to the prompts, editing their responses before publishing (hooray writing skills in action!), using the "reply" feature to enhance and continue conversations (besides responses of "Me too!"), and practicing good digital citizenship (this was a huge one for them to explore in a safe environment)!

More importantly, this gave our students a chance to exchange ideas with other students beyond their classroom walls and practice all the skills we'd been addressing in an authentic way.

What's in store for this year?

This year, the Titan Hill students will be given the opportunity to participate, although I've decided to rename it the "Winter Google Classroom Challenge." I wanted my teachers to have a little more flexibility to extend this activity throughout the winter season if they chose. 

I'm also excited about some of the Google Classroom updates that have happened since last year and the potential implications for the challenge this year: 
  • This year, there's a new Question feature that I think will work wonderfully for this challenge! 
  • There's also the "Draft" feature which will allow me to get everything set up beforehand and have all the questions ready for me to post quickly! 
  • I'm also excited that since last year, Google Classroom added the ability to add fellow educators, which means I can add the question prompts and images for any teacher wanting to have their students participate within their regular Google Classrooms (as opposed to a school-wide Classrooms). Any time I can do some of the "behind-the-scenes" work for my teachers is a win.
  • I'm extremely excited to take this Winter Google Classroom Challenge across school districts. We have recently launched several cross-district (which happen to be cross-state) Google Classrooms. I'm excited for our students to be able to interact with students outside of our school and to see what conversations are sparked with the responses!
So can your students participate too?

Absolutely! Here's a link to this year's Winter Challenge for Google Classroom. Feel free to use and share with your own students! Happy winter!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude: Why I'm Thankful to be a Teacher Librarian

Although I’m not new to education, I will tell you I’m fairly new to this whole Teacher Librarian business. I’ve been in my current position as a Teacher Librarian for approximately a year and three months. But my short tenure has given me a whole new appreciation for the truly incredible opportunity that being a Teacher Librarian has to offer, an opportunity I am now deeply grateful to have embraced.

You see, I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a Teacher Librarian. I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave my classroom. I loved my students, I loved my job (I taught 7th grade reading for 13 years), I loved my colleagues. But I thank my lucky stars for Dr. Rebecca Pasco, the Director and Coordinator of the Library Science program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She had the wisdom to know that despite my reservations, I belonged in the library. So, when Dr. Pasco called and told me about my current position, my choice was made. When Dr. Pasco calls, you listen.

And I’m so grateful that I did. So in the celebration of the season and celebrating an “Attitude of Gratitude,” here’s why I’m so thankful to be a Teacher Librarian:

The students

As I just mentioned, one of my biggest concerns about leaving my classroom was leaving my students. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to build the same kind of relationships I had with “my” 7th graders. I saw this same group of 125(ish) students every other day all year long. That’s a lot of contact time to truly get to know a group of students. I was afraid that a change to the library would inhibit me from making deep connections with my students.

I was right . . . and so wrong.

Although it’s a little more challenging to build relationships with 900 students than it was with 125, I quickly came to realize that I have the benefit of expanding my potential to build relationships, to support literacy, to ignite passions, to be the “cheerleader,” and to watch the growth of every single student in my building because they’re all “mine.” It may take me longer to get to know my students, and I may not know all of them the way I did my 7th graders, but being their Teacher Librarian throughout their four years in my building means I have time.

And the added bonus: I get to be the one to help them celebrate, to help empower them, and to show them that the library can be their safe place where they are always welcomed and respected, no matter what.

The collaboration with fellow educators

Collaboration is empowering for everyone involved.

In my previous position, I worked closely with a group of 5 other teachers, all of whom taught different subjects, but were all 7th grade teachers. I loved working with my fellow 7th grade teachers, especially when it came to planning cross-curricular units. I always loved sharing new tools or resources I’d discovered that could help enhance our students.

My position as a Teacher Librarian has increased my opportunities for collaboration exponentially. . . . literally. I now have the opportunity to work with 50+ teachers in my building to help support their curriculum, technology integration, and literacy. I could write an entire blog post--a love letter, if you will--dedicated to how grateful I have been for my staff. Time and time again, they’ve welcomed me into their classrooms with open arms and don’t run screaming for the hills when I whirl-wind in with another idea!

The opportunity to work with so many amazing educators within my own building, the opportunity to extend the impact of the library beyond the physical walls, the opportunity to help students see a transfer of skills and information have all been absolutely amazing.

The books

Okay, so let’s be real. Many of us became teachers because we wanted to share our passions (or at least that’s one of the reasons). One of my passions is literacy, particularly the access to information and ideas. Reading is empowering. There is no greater feeling that connecting a reader with that perfect book, that perfect resource. And as a Teacher Librarian, I’ve got a lot of books (and access to resources) that allow me to share my passion with every student (and adult) in my building!

The change

Teacher Librarians are Teacher Leaders.

My role as a Teacher Librarian has allowed me to have an impact on all facets of the educational environment not only in my building, but also in my district. As a classroom teacher, my interactions were often limited to only the other members of my grade-level or subject-area team. Being a Teacher Librarian has opened up the opportunities to interact, which has meant that I have the opportunity to communicate and initiate change.

Teacher Librarians are perfectly poised to be the force of change we want to see in the world (particularly the educational world). We have the resources and the access to multiple classrooms in multiple grade levels to truly be a voice for our students and teachers. We see the “big pictures,” we offer support, we are all about making the world a better place.

To reference my favorite Spiderman quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m just grateful to be in the position to advocate for my students and staff..

My fellow Teacher Librarians

Of all the things I’ve appreciated as a Teacher Librarian, I am probably most appreciative of my fellow Teacher Librarians.

There’s just something about Teacher Librarians. Maybe it’s because we want to help, we want to support, we want to empower others,  but I have never met a more caring and supportive bunch of educators. The relationships I’ve built with my fellow Teacher Librarians over the course of the last year have been some of the deepest and most empowering relationships in my life. Whether in person or virtually, I know that I have an incredible support group, a group always ready to help, to share ideas, and embark on crazy journeys! That means more than words can possibly express.

So in the spirit of the “Attitude of Gratitude,” when times are tough and days are (metaphorically) long, I challenge you to share what blessings have come your way because you are lucky enough to be a Teacher Librarian.

*Note: This blog was originally written and published (by me) via the Iowa Association of School Librarians Blog:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Building Empathy through Books

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. With campaigns like STOMP Out Bullying drawing attention to the issue on the national level, school libraries can help on the forefronts throughout the school year by not only modeling that the library is a place of acceptance, but also by helping students connect with books that raise awareness of issues that demand understanding, tolerance, and acceptance.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer in the power of bibliotherapy. I’m a firm believer that books help us not only find ourselves, but also allow us to understand others. Books allow us to a glimpse of life through someone else’s perspective and allow us to begin to embrace experiences beyond our own. Books help us gain respect for those who are different from us. Books build empathy.

Although there a numerous books that could make the list, listed below are some of my go-to books (some old, some new) that promote understanding and empathy:

Picture Books:

When the other kids in her class bully the new kid, Ellie takes a risk and reaches out

Although others judge her size, Molly makes a big impact.

Chloe and her friends won’t play with Maya, but after Maya quits coming to school Chloe regrets her actions.

Chapter Books:

Albie has a whole list of things he’s not good at, but with the help of his babysitter, Albie learns to take pride in himself and celebrate his successes.

When Capricorn (Cap) is forced to attend school for the first time, he realizes he is very different from his middle school classmates.

Auggie’s facial disfigurement makes attending public school for the first time even more difficult.

And my current favorite . . .

Ally hides behind her behavior until Mr. Daniels helps her discover that she’s more than the labels she’s been given.

Like many librarians, my list could go on forever, but these are my top books (for now) for building empathy amongst my students.

What books are on your list?

*Note: This blog was originally written and published (by me) via the Iowa Association of School Librarians Blog:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Married to the job?

My husband Nathan and I are moderating #nebedchat this evening, a Twitter chat meant to bring together Nebraska educators. The whole idea for this particular chat jokingly came about in several previous #nebedchats when Nathan and I noticed the sheer number of education couples participating (in fact, we even joked about starting an #edcouplechat). Nathan and I regularly participate in Twitter chats, he sitting on the love seat and I sitting on the couch. We most definitely have a Growth Mindset at the Kleinmeyer household.

This observation got me to thinking about how educators gravitate towards other educators, and how many educators often come from a long line of previous educators or even marry other educators. 

And it really got me to thinking about how being an educator really does impact your life.

I truly believe being an educator is so much more than a profession, more than a calling. It's a lifestyle.

Perhaps unlike any other vocation, being an educator often permeates every aspect of your life. It becomes who you are. Good or bad, it often influences your relationships with others, how you behave in public . . . It can even influence the way you dress!

I know being an educator is part of who I am. Because I'm an educator, I'm much more aware of how I speak to others, I am much more empathetic, I am always looking for the best ways to support my students and staff, always looking to better myself for those around me. And let's face it, because I'm an educator, I see the potential in every single scrap of paper and used paper towel roll.

How has being an educator influenced the core of who you are?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Welcoming Parents Back to School . . . And the Library!

All across Iowa, the halls of schools have echoed with the chorus “Welcome back!” as teachers smile and eagerly greet their new students. The first few weeks of schools are full of procedures and answering questions, some from students, some from teachers, and many from parents who want nothing more than to ease their child’s (maybe even their own) transition back to school and to support their child’s academic endeavors throughout the year.

Everyone extols the importance of the home-to-school connection. It’s a connection that we all know makes a huge difference in our students’ success, not only academically, but also emotionally. As schools look to support that connection and answer those questions and support our students’ learning in their home environments, school libraries are uniquely posed to help strengthen this connection beyond individual classrooms.

School libraries can offer the resources and supports parents seek. Not only are school librarians themselves often a wealth of information, but, because we are all about access to information, we are often the “keeper” of the resources. Between resources provided by the state’s AEAs and the various services schools and libraries subscribe to, librarians can be the link and support teachers and parents often need.

We all know that the impact of the school’s library reaches far beyond the walls of the library themselves. This year, parent outreach is one of my biggest goals. It is my mission to ensure that not only do my teachers and students know about the wonderful resources we subscribe to, offer, and utilize, but I specifically want to ensure that our parents know that their students have access to most of these tremendous resources from home!

Last year, I put together a Parent Resources Page via my school website and sent a letter home outlining various resources offered by the AEA and our school, but this year I want to be much more intentional about sharing information with my parents. At my school’s “Meet the Teacher” night, I began this endeavor as I greeted many in the hall outside my library, inviting them into explore and shared a bookmark with the link to Parent Resource page (pun totally intended).


However, I’d love to go beyond just sharing the information, I’d love to actively support my parents with ideas like hosting special library hours for parents (possibly during Parent/Teacher conferences or during a Literacy Night) and PTA presentations and special events that promote literacy in general (perhaps a Books & Bingo Night hosted in the library).

I know all across the state of Iowa (and the nation, for that matter) there are teacher librarians who are actively engaging and supporting parents in hopes of strengthening the home-to-school connection. 

What do you do? How do you connect with parents and offer your support?

I hope you consider sharing your ideas and the incredible things you’ve done. We can learn so much from each other!

*Note: This blog was originally written and published (by me) via the Iowa Association of School Librarians Blog:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

This Ain't Your Grandma's Library

Maybe you're a veteran librarian. Maybe you're a new librarian. Maybe you're not even a librarian. Maybe you just like to visit your school's library from time to time, either to find a book or to cut through to your ultimate destination.

No matter what your connection is to your school library, when you cross the threshold, I'm hoping you feel it. Can you feel it? 'Cause you should. Can you?

Feel what precisely, you ask?

The energy.

The potential.

Times. They are a changin'. And they are exciting!

Today's libraries are no longer a quiet place dedicated to housing books. They are dynamic places dedicated to the exchange of ideas, the sharing of passions, the uniting and collaborating of learners. They are often noisy. They are often messy. They are no longer about just books. 

They are definitely not your grandma's library.

Our school libraries and our role as the teacher librarians who work from them have evolved rapidly in the last several years. The changes occurring within our spaces require a mind shift for all parties involved: administrators, staff, students, and sometimes even fellow librarians.

When Cynthia Stogdill and I decided to join forces to begin our Twitter chat #mwlibchat, we did so with the intent of not only bringing together fellow Midwestern Teacher Librarians, but also with the intent of celebrating, promoting, and advocating for the changes that are happening (or should be happening) in our school libraries. 

I'm so excited that we are officially launching this adventure this evening (August 11, 2015). Together we can do amazing things.

So I invite you to join in the conversation. Let you library's voice be heard loud and clear. Help extend the impact of your program well beyond the walls of your library. Let us learn from and support each other. After all, 

#mwlibchat official promotional graphic for the 2015-2016 school year created using Canva

Friday, May 22, 2015

Telling My Library's Story

A picture is worth a thousand words.

There is a need right now for librarians to tell their story, or rather to attempt to show others the amazing things that are happening in school libraries across the nation.

And this year has been absolutely amazing. I sound like a broken record, but I am so blessed to work in a school district that understands that the library is more than just a place to house books and that the impact of the library reaches well beyond the physical space itself.

There were so intangible things that we did in the library this year, but I did my best to document some of the major events and to celebrate the wonderful things happening in my library this year. Here is my attempt to tell our story:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why #mwlibchat?

I had never met her in person, but I knew from our first Twitter interaction that Cynthia Stogdill and I were kindred spirits. From our adoration of Scooter's coffee and scarves to our love of the same obscure children's book about a beloved squirrel named Miss Suzy, Cynthia and I are cut from the same cloth. But of all our connections, our passion for our calling and our desire to connect with and celebrate other teacher librarians was what connected us most.

Thinking about connecting with other kindred spirits like Cynthia got me to thinking. I had been thinking that I wanted to continue to reach out and connect with my fellow librarians through the medium that has changed my professional life: Twitter. Twitter has been one of the most powerful tools I could have ever hoped for as a Teacher Librarian. I am an island unto myself sometimes. Although my school district is fortunate enough to have three other librarians (in the lower elementary, middle school, and high school) and I have a part-time retired teacher who supports our 2nd and 3rd graders during specials, I found myself constantly wanting to know what others are doing. I'm not satsified with the status quo. I want to provide every opportunity for my staff and students' success! Twitter has been my life saver. Through Twitter, I've cultivated relationships with other TLs who share my passions, shared (and stolen) brilliant ideas to support literacy and reinforce learning for my students, and celebrated the awesome opportunity I've been given. And I wanted to pay that forward.

There are some great Twitter chats for Teacher Librarians. I have loved participating in many of them, especially #tlchat and #txlchat, but wanted to celebrate librarianship and my fellow teacher librarians a little closer to home. As a Teacher Librarian who lives in one state, but works in another, I wanted to celebrate librarianship in both places. Hence, the idea of a midwestern teacher librarian chat. But who did I know who would be on board?  My kindred spirit: Cynthia!

When I messaged her about starting up aTwitter chat for Teacher Librarians in the midwest, Cynthia quickly responded "Me too!" And so the brainstorming began. 

When we finally met face-to-fact at NETA in April, no introductions were necessary. We hugged. And then we got to it. We spent an ample amount of time holding down the NETA's Social Butterfly Lounge. And #mwlibchat was born.

Cynthia and I will be launching our first chat tomorrow evening. While we hope to launch fully in the fall, this first chat (and the few to follow this summer) are meant to be a bringing together of our fellow teacher librarians, whether from the midwest or not, to celebrate the beauty of our roles and to connect to each other. Because as (a very wise) Helen Keller once stated, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Cynthia and I hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reading Resolutions

Anyone who thinks that librarians just sit around and read books all day has clearly not stepped into a modern library lately. Those who think there's even such a thing as down time in the world of a librarian make me burst into a fit of maniacal laughter. Silly people.

In my former life as a reading teacher, I often found time in my day to sit and read with my students. After all, isn't modeling a behavior one of the most effective ways to demonstrate it's importance? In order to recommend books, I needed to be in the know. I needed to read what they were reading. And it justified my love for YA lit (as though it need any justification in the first place). It would be no big deal for me to crank out a few YA books a week, sometimes (okay, quite often) more.

Little did I know my position as a Teacher Librarian would severely cramp my reading style.

I am now the Librarian who doesn't read.

Okay, okay, I read, but nothing like I did before. My "To Read" list and the subsequent pile it has created on my nightstand (and the floor next to my bed and under the bed and on the coffee table and the kitchen table) has become a bit of a hazard and a had prompted me to take a stand. It's not okay. Something must be done.

So, as we start this new year, I'm having my students write their own Reading Resolutions and take on a Reading Challenge (Reading Resolution and Reading Challenge). I am a firm believer in doing everything I ask my students to do before I ask them to do it, so here are my resolutions and my commitment to them (and myself):

1. Read one professional article a week and one (whole) professional journal a month

I'm an avid Tweeter and definitely get my fair share of professional development via my beloved PLN I've cultivated there. However, I'm horribly guilty of seeing a Tweet about a great article, saving the links of these great articles I want to read . . . and then not quite getting back to them.

I also have quite a collection of library journals (School Library Journal, American Libraries, Knowledge Quest to name a few) just begging to be devoured. Sure I've thumbed through them, perused an article here or there, but there's such a wealth of information and inspiration to absorb, I'm missing some good stuff.

I owe it to myself and to my students to constantly grow as a professional (and as a person). I used to read articles and journals constantly. It's a practice that I sorely miss, and I'm publicly recommitting myself to it!

2. Read more Children's Lit

This is the challenge part of my Reading Resolution. I taught 7th grade Reading for 13 years and proudly proclaim my adoration of YA Lit. However, my role has changed. I now serve roughly 950 readers in 2nd through 5th grade. I have discovered that I've got a major deficit with Children's Lit (for the purposes of clarity, I'm referring specifically to those early chapter books) which is a disservice to my 2nd and 3rd graders. I intend to remedy this one very quickly.

Having my own children (ages 6 and 9), having been a Golden Sower reader for the Primary Grades while teaching in Nebraska, and the Children's Literature classes I took while getting my Reading Master's and Library Science degrees, have given me some familiarity with Children's Lit. However, I need to be in the know about all the new good stuff that's out there! Luckily, thanks to my solid Twitter and librarian PLNs, my monthly deliveries from Junior Library Guild, my own children, and all those library journals I've amassed, I'm fairly certain I can choose some quality reads to start with.

My plan is for every YA book I read, I will read two Children's Lit books (they do tend to be a little shorter and quicker reads). I'll feel okay if I can read 4 Children's Lit books a month to start. Not ideal, but it's a start.

3. Increase my literacy promotion

As a librarian, one of more important roles is to build a culture of readers. As I'd mentioned in my previous post, I feel like I've done a fairly good job of increasing literacy promotion at my school, but there's so much more that could be done.

The biggest thing I want to accomplish is to create a group of student reviewers. I have a library website that I maintain (not always well) and had originally intended to post recommendations weekly for picture books, early chapter books, and more advanced chapter books. I admit this endeavor has been an epic fail. So I want to turn over the power to a group of students I've been slowly nurturing during these last few months. The plans are in place, so be on the lookout for the student reviews to begin to appearing by the end of the month on the Titan Hill Library page.

I've also got some great book displays, Tweets, and some literacy celebrations still up my sleeve!

Are those the only reading goals I have for 2015? Absolutely not, but in trying to find balance with every aspect of my life, I figured these were the most important for me at this very moment.

So there you have them. My Reading Resolutions for 2015.

So the question is:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflections and Renewed Resolve

It's the last night of break, and as I sit here contemplating my return to my responsibilities as a Teacher Librarian, I can't help but pause and reflect on how the first few months of my tenure have gone. Clearly from my lack of blog posts, to say that I've been busy and it's been eventful might be the biggest understatement of the century. But when I really attempt to articulate to myself what I've accomplished in the last 5 months, I can honestly say, I feel like I've made tremendous headway.

So what have I done?

1. I completely overhauled a library space.

My predecessor, to her great credit, truly built a tremendous collection for our students. However, as things came in, nothing went out. I inherited a collection of baskets scattered around the library, the organization of which was known by only one. And I wasn't her.

In order to familiarize myself with my newly inherited collection and to truly make the library space someplace accessible and functional for all, I spent countless (and by countless, I mean simply that I quit counting after I hit 100) hours weeding, reshelving, and rearranging.

My library serves roughly 945(ish) 2nd through 5th graders. In addition to adhering to the teachings of Lucy Calkins, the staff had recently adopted the Fountas & Pinnell leveling system. All this meant that it was vitally important to ensure that our students could find a "Just Right" book. While I don't believe in strictly adhering to a reading level (insert my belief that students can often read about their assigned level if the subject matter truly engages them, and that it is equally okay to read books that are "below" students' reading levels from time to time), I did want to ensure that the students weren't entirely overwhelmed when they walked into my library and that they had a sense of where to start. To this end, I divided my fiction section into three subsections, simply labelled "Section 1," "Section 2," and "Section 3." Anyone who has ever worked with any leveling system knows the variance between systems, but roughly each section corresponds to a group of Fountas & Pinnell levels (with some overlap between sections).

Needless to say, my work in overhauling the library is an ongoing process (isn't managing any library space?). I've already got visions for reorganizing the physical shelves (right now, the Fiction Sections are split apart and there are quite a few supervision blind spots), reorganizing the fiction section (to start) into a bookstore/genre format to further allow for students to find their "Just Right" books independently, and to create a more inviting atmosphere in general.

2. I have promoted literacy.

Okay, so this one most librarians might read and scoff at . . . after all, that's truly why a majority of us got into the business of librarianship. We love reading. We love books. We want our students to experience the same positive experiences we've had. We know that knowledge is power. And we know that reading gives us the keys to the kingdom . . . it allow students to live multiple lives, to view the world from multiple perspectives, to stretch their imaginations and to broaden their horizons.

We know all this, but from what I've gathered, literacy promotion wasn't necessarily a previous priority for my students. Sure students checked out books, but literacy promotion wasn't a big thing.

I believe strongly that the library should be a place where every child can find themselves, to cultivate a love of reading and the power of knowledge. To this end, I've been very intentional about promoting literacy in general (via various writing activities and vocabulary activities . . . my library has a "Word Nerd" that my 3rd graders "feed" words they encounter in their reading), but I've worked especially hard with book promotion. I always share the books I've been reading or books that correspond with the curriculum our students are working on in their classrooms via book talks and recommendations via my library site. We've done several book "tastings" and "samplings" (beyond their normal visits to the library), we've taken part in numerous literacy celebrations (such as National Picture Book month), and we have student and staff recommendation displays.

I have so much more I want to do with this, but it's more than there was before. And it's just the start. I can't wait for some of the literacy promotions I still have up my sleeve (think student recommendations and book clubs).

3. I have promoted information literacy via technology.

Prior to my arrival and that of another recently hired colleague, the integration of technology to enhance students learning was both desired, but was often hindered, whether by access, apprehension, or a combination of both. As a librarian, I understand that access to information, no matter the format, is integral to our students' success. I also know that our students and staff are inundated with technologies that allow them to access, manipulate, and share information. The demands on a teacher's time make it difficult to keep up with all the potential ways to utilize technology in the classroom and the astronomical amount of choices of apps and websites available. Now, more than ever, it is essential that they have someone to help them navigate the sea of infinite possibilities. My colleague and I have worked very intentionally to be supportive guides.

We have worked with our students and staff to create lessons and units that allow students to explore technologies that support and enhance their learning, that allow them to acquire and explore the curriculum in new and different ways, to reflect upon and share their learning, and to do both of these in ethical and responsible ways. We've helped our students and staff integrate several Google apps, we've helped them utilize Google Classroom, we've promoted various apps that support literacy, we've explored information literacy and the requirements of responsible online citizenry via authentic learning experiences. We created experiences that have allowed our students to interact with others beyond their classrooms, to explore coding, and to publish their writings. We've helped acquire additional devices for our students and we've implemented professional development for our staff to explore ways to enhance their curriculum via technology.

We've worked very hard to make technology a regular and authentic part of what we do.

3. I extended the reach of the library program beyond the walls of the library.

I have never liked conforming. I've always liked to make my own path. And, although I do love traditions, I am by no means traditional (an eclectic mix of irony and oxymoron right there). I have never wanted to be a traditional librarian. I don't want to spend my days in quiet isolation, keeping watch over the books that line my shelves. I want to be out among my students and staff. I want to promote literacy. I want to promote technology. I want to support learning in any shape or form.

Libraries should be the heart of the school, and I want to ensure that I have a firm grasp on the pulse of my school. And to do that, I have worked extremely hard to show both my students and staff that I'm there for them. I have made it my mission to constantly seek out opportunities to demonstrate what my library and I have to offer. I created a "Library Services Menu" for my staff that showed them what I could do for them (anything from pulling resources to co-teaching lessons), I have made it my mission to learn the standards and know the curriculum, I have attended leadership meetings, I have attended grade-level meetings. And I will continue to do so, because it's what I believe a librarian should do.

So overall, I look back at my first few months with a sense of pride. Not too shabby for a newbie. And, of course, I have so much more I hope to accomplish by the end of May (creating a MakerSpace, additional technology professional development, actually keeping up my blog).

As I return to school tomorrow, there will be a schedule change that will limit my amount of time outside of my library. My reflections on the first few months of my time as a Teacher Librarian have filled me with a new sense of resolve. I am resolved to keep moving forward. I'm resolved that I will continue to work for my students and staff. I am resolved that my reflection on the last few months of my first year will fill me with as much of a sense of pride as the first few have.

I'm proud to have joined the ranks of Teacher Librarian.