Friday, March 17, 2017

Creating a Student Centered Library

Students are the reason. Voice and choice in our schools is essential for motivation and student success. They are not here for us.  We are here for them!

I was honored to speak with Vicki Davis, @COOLCATTEACHER, about our student centered libraries in Lancaster! I encourage you to subscribe to her podcast for ten minutes of inspiration each day. It is a fantastic way to begin your day. As you will be able to tell from my initiation into the podcast world, I had a difficult time holding back my passion and excitement for the things we do in our libraries.

10 Minute Teacher with Vicki Davis Creating Student Centered Libraries

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lancaster Middle School Mock Newbery

Students from Lancaster Middle School applied to be members of the first Mock Newbery Club in May 2016.  An early list of possible contenders was generated and students verociously started reading. We were able to meet during our WIN time to discuss books and debate Newbery merit. Students were given a taste of the authors' thoughts and writing reflections when we skyped authors Melanie Conklin, Lois Sepahban, Dan Gemeinhart, and Susan Vaught.  This personal connection with the authors has really transformed the book club experience.

Wednesday we held our final vote and chose our Mock Newbery winner. We are thrilled to share our reading recommendations with you!

Receiving the LMS Mock Newbery Award was Paper Wishes by  Lois Sepahban.


During World War II, Manami and her parents and grandfather are forced to relocate from Bainbridge Island in Washington to Manzanar, an internment camp in California for Japanese-Americans.
As they’re about to leave behind everything they own, Manami snatches Yujiin, their beloved dog, into her coat before anyone sees. Sadly, a soldier catches Manami, and Yujiin is left behind in a crate. Heartbroken, guilt-ridden over Yujiin, and fearful of their Manzanar “prison-village,” Manami loses her voice. The relentless, swirling red dirt that coats her throat with mud worsens her silence. Her parents try to make a home in their one-room barrack, while their son, Ron, leaves college to join them. A breath of fresh air is felt when Manami meets her teacher, Miss Rosalie, who doesn’t make her speak but offers Manami plenty of paper and pencils. When Manami sends hand-drawn messages via the wind to Yujiin, she hopes that the little dog will get them and find his way back home. Hardships, injustice, and the emotional truth of Manami’s camp life are thoughtfully portrayed through simple and heart-rending prose. Despite the barbed wire fence and harsh climate, Mother’s garden, mounds bearing garlic and onion seeds, becomes a symbol for resiliency. Graceful moments between Manami and Grandfather shine, giving hope to an unbearable situation.
This historical debut speaks volumes of love and longing. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Receiving Mock Newbery Honors from our Lancaster Middle School Mock Newbery Club were 
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart and Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin.


Twelve-year-old Joseph Johnson searches the Northwest frontier for his missing horse and a new family.
When first his mother and beloved little sister die of typhoid, and then his father dies in a wagon accident, Joseph is left in the care of a drunkard, his Indian pony, Sarah, his only remaining family. When the drunkard sells Sarah to a swindler, Joseph reclaims his father's pistol, takes the money given for the horse, and sets out in pursuit, on foot, through unforgiving wilderness. He wants Sarah back more than almost anything—but he sees the stars as the campfire his family members sit around, and he plans to be the person they taught him to be. So when he finds a starving, abandoned Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, Joseph spends part of his horse money to feed him. Ah-Kee joins him on the trail, and together they battle grizzly bears, survive river rapids, cling to the outside of a steam train, and deliver a pioneer woman's baby—all without speaking a word of each other's language. Told in Joseph's authentic voice, this is true adventure with strong underpinnings of moral courage and love. Gemeinhart shines truth on difficult situations, such as Joseph’s shooting an outlaw, and the ending brings Joseph home: "There was plenty of sadness in the story, I reckon, but it wasn't sad all the way through."
Poignant and real. (Historical fiction. 8-12)


Her younger brother’s critical illness and a transcontinental move create upheaval in 11-year-old Thyme’s life.
In the nine months since her brother, Val, was diagnosed with cancer, Thyme’s family life has been in turmoil. Her family’s relocation to New York from California, for a new treatment to prevent the recurrence of Val’s cancer, leaves Thyme feeling conflicted. Conklin sympathetically addresses Thyme’s struggles to reconcile her longing to return home with her growing awareness of the significance of Val’s new treatment. While depicting the complexity of the family members’ reactions, from older sister Cori’s increasing rebelliousness to their mother’s distracted preoccupation, Conklin also reveals their unwavering support for Val. Despite her determination to remain aloof, Thyme soon becomes attached to her life in New York. She joins work on the school’s spring performance and develops fledging friendships, including one with Jake, who she learns has also experienced grief. Thyme’s efforts to cope with the constant uncertainty and her feelings of insignificance in light of Val’s health issues illuminate the emotional impact a sibling’s serious illness has on the family. Although Thyme may feel invisible next to Val’s illness, when a medical crisis occurs, she realizes her vital importance to her family. Though Thyme and her family appear to be white, her classroom is realistically diverse.
Thyme’s remarkable perseverance and resilience will inspire readers of Conklin’s compassionate tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

The following books were part of our Mock Newbery List. 
We enjoyed discussing characters, plot, authors, and storyline of each of these books. 


We are eager to watch the live broadcast of the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017. Students will be arriving at school at the early hour of 6:20 a.m. to celebrate with breakfast in their pajamas! 

American Library Association Youth Media Awards

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nerd is Synonymous with Love

As I reflect back on my Nerd Camp Michigan 2016 experience, I can attribute all that I witnessed to love

Love for words.
Love for story. 
Love for a passion shared among many.
Love for learning.
Love for community bound by a common thread.
Love for the craft of creating books.
Love for connecting readers of all ages to literature. 
Love for advocacy. 
Love for for healing the world through many voices. 

nErDcamp MI 2015

Kindred spirits are a treasure. I discovered this treasure this summer in Parma, Michigan at nErDcampMI. My kids and I made the trek from Wisconsin to engage in a two date literacy event.
The journey began in January when I was eagerly looking for the registration to open. I knew that I needed to be at nErDcamp. I was being pulled to it through twitter, through books, through my need to connect with people who were as passionate about books and enjoying them with kids as I was.
As soon as I saw the nerd rock, I knew that I had found my people. The anticipation was killing me. You see, authors and illustrators are my rockstars! I walked into nErDcamp MI with Cassie Beasley, author of Circus Mirandus. nErDcamp MI awarded me the opportunity to be inspired by the best including Donalyn Miller, Pernille Ripp,
Day 1 consisted of Ignite talks, short talks full of passion and fire! Motivation to advocate for kids! Support to continue to fight for what we know kids need when it comes to reading!
Attendants then were to choose sessions with expert speakers, otherwise know as our peers. I must confess that I am a twitter groupie and I rushed to attend a session with Hiesereads to learn more about "Book-a-Day." I then went to a Genius Hour session so that I could learn  from Sherry Gick! My day was complete after visiting the library with Mr. Schu! There truly CANNOT be another person who loves books more than Mr. Schu. These three people have been a Godsend for me this year. As a new librarian, I have followed them on twitter. They have guided me and challenged me to be better each day. They have helped me break the glass ceiling in our schools and pushed me to take risks, make mistakes, and believe in the power a librarian has in connecting kids with books, technology, and knowledge.
This would have been all I needed to feel complete in my nErDcamp MI experience, but there was oh so much more! I was able to share this experience with Tina Stimpson,  our district reading specialist, and  my passionate elementary principal, Leah Whitford , and her fabulous family.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What Do You Want to be When YOU grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  How many times have you been asked this question? Do you find yourself asking children this? As I look back through my life experiences, I realize that so many of my life experiences have led me down this path.  I was destined to be a teacher.  However, it wasn't until this year that I truly realized what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I want to be a learner! You see, I think being a learner gives us permission to try new things. It sets up the expectation that we are in a growth mindset. It gives us permission to fail!  Being a learner allows us to give away some of the power. Giving up power to students can be scary! But let me tell you, it opens up doors! And with each door that opens, it gets easier to take that next step.


Technology opens up many doors for learners everyday!  Technology can be scary!  It can also be empowering!  What we need to realize is that there really is no way to be an expert in technology! It changes every single day.  Being a learner helps us embrace that technology is a tool that creates more questions than answers.  Isn't that what we want from our students?  We want them to question the world! We want them to discover their passions and forge down their own path.  Perhaps asking students what they want to be when they grow up is an antiquated question! The US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology is imploring that our students are "Future Ready."


As a learner and as a parent, I want my children to be "Future Ready." I want to give them the tools they need to innovate, to explore, to connect, to fail! I am willing to admit my weaknesses in the areas of technology and innovation so that I can reach out to my peers to find the support and answers I need. I am willing to be uncomfortable in front of staff and students if it means that our students will be closer to being "Future Ready."  I invite you to join me as a learner!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR

Fall seems to give me permission to spend more time reading.  I don't feel the guilt that I should be doing something.  It seems more acceptable to curl up with a book or two.  Today I gave myself permission to indulge!

I sat down for the second time with Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  It didn't take long to whiz through this book.  I literally couldn't put it down.  Tears were streaming from my eyes as I finished and I continue to process the history and deeper meanings hidden in this beautiful novel.  The combination of a trying time in our country, during the Freedom Summer, and a girl struggling to define her family and her world can be a lot to process emotionally. Although it appears that our country has come so far, you can still see glimpses of the "Revolution" still occurring every day!

I attended the Lancaster Art Department's craft show yesterday.  Local author, Dan Bomkamp, was there proudly displaying his books.  My daughter was dying to read one of his books after perusing his stories and talking with him. He recommended that she start with The Adventures of Thunderfoot. She proudly took her personally autographed copy home and began reading it.  Each chapter is a new outdoor adventure with a slight twist of humor.  I'm anxious to read about Thunderfoot and discuss my perspective with Sophie!

Leah Whitford was the first person that put Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg on my radar.  I started following posts on facebook.  I put myself on the hold list at the library. I couldn't wait any longer. I needed to have this book in my hands.  I carry it everywhere because I may have a moment or two to fit a page or two in.  As Donalyn Miller would say, this book is  part of my current book luggage. It was obvious to me after a few pages that this would be one of those books that I wouldn't be able to share with anyone. It would be full of notes, reflections, and highlights. This would be a book that would cause me to look inside myself. It would be the book that would push me forward. I know that I will encourage others to read this book.  Unfortunately, I will not be sharing mine! 

Professional reading is always part of my day to day reading life.  Some days it might be a blog or twitter.  Today I spent a lot of time with Implementing Effective Instruction for English Language Learners by Suzanne Wagner and Tamara King.  Although this is required reading for a graduate class that I am taking through Edgewood College, it is a resource I would definitely recommend to anyone working with ELL students. The book focuses on twelve key practices for schools to follow to implement a supportive instructional environment for English language learners. I will be adding this resource to the school resource section.  It is full of strategies, checklists, and planning templates to use when planning and advocating for student needs. 

To give myself the book buying rush that I needed today, I was able to purchase a variety of Halloween titles at a Post-Halloween discount. Although they won't be appreciated until next year, they were too great to pass up!  

I must ask you, "It's Monday, what are you reading?"

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Monday. What are you reading?

Battle of the Books is in full swing at Lancaster Middle School. Let's just say that I'm a little behind on the book list! I am currently reading Doll Bones by Holly Black. The eerie cover drew me in at once. This feeling continues as the adventure unfolds.

Check out the Battle of the Books on WEMTA. How many of the books have you read?