Thursday, November 12, 2015

Happy (late) Veteran's Day!

This post is a day late, but I did want to take some time to thank our veterans for all that they have done for our country. Both of my grandparents served in the armed forces. My maternal grandfather served in Korea. My paternal grandfather also served overseas. Many of my uncles and cousins are in the National Guard. My father was in the guard for 20 years. He didn't serve in any foreign conflicts, but he did get called up a few times to go help with flood control in neighboring states. I remember when he would go away for Guards on the weekends. I never really understood what that was about until I was in high school. When I was in high school, my uncle was called up to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His daughter, my cousin, is quite close to me in age, so I remember imagining how hard it must have been without her dad around. I could really put myself in her shoes at that point. I remember at our family reunion that summer putting together letters and a large poster board of memories to send to him. Someone even rubbed a little hot dish on the poster board and wrote "scratch & sniff!" Gotta love my family of goofballs! I have to say that I really respect my uncle for his service. I have another uncle that served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I was two at the time, so I don't remember this, but I am thankful for his service as well. Currently, my brother is signed on with the National Guard as a fuel supply specialist. I also have a cousin who is deployed. I am thankful to all of them and all other veterans for their service.

Left to right: Brian Wensmann, Jim Wensmann (Operation Iraqi Freedom), Daniel Yorek (deployed), Marvin Wensmann (my dad), Andrew Wensmann (my brother)

Yesterday morning,  I woke up to a text from my brother reminding me to thank a veteran. I assured him that I would be working hard to thank a lot of veterans at school that day. Pinewood Elementary had a fantastic Veterans Day program yesterday. It made me proud to be a part of this school. It began with a breakfast for our veteran guests and the students who invited them. I helped by setting up a video playlist to be played continuously throughout the breakfast. I rushed back after 45 minutes to transfer the projector set up to the other gym across the school for our school wide presentation. This presentation included the principal sharing a video and a book, our 5th grade choir singing a few songs (beautifully!), and students sharing essays that they wrote.

The local VFW Color Guard presented and retired the flag.

The essays that were written by the students brought a tear to my eye. Two students wrote about veterans in general. They wrote that they are our superheroes and they hold our country together. Another 5th grade student shared words beyond her years about her grandfather and his service to our country. Finally, another student shared about her aunt. These essays and the singing of the choir were highlights of the program today.
I hope you enjoyed the clips of the program. Thank you to all our service men and women! Happy late Veteran's Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Student News Has Taught Me and My Students.

This past month, I have started working on daily video announcements. These video announcements begin as a script typed in Google Docs. The script is printed and two 5th grade students practice for a couple minutes before they are recorded using an iPad Air 2. The video is then edited and additional videos are added in iMovie on the iPad Air. This project has been a learning experience for my students and for me.

I began this project by working with each 5th grade class on how to collect the information for the script. Students learned where to find the weather forecast, school lunch menu, and Monticello sports schedule. The students then got into pairs and practiced by using these tools to create a mock script. The students created these scripts on paper, but the actual scripts are recorded in Google Docs.

After each class created their practice scripts, students were chosen based on their effort to write out the script or record the video. A schedule was also created of when each pair of students would do each job. This was another learning opportunity for students. As pairs they began to learn how to log in to Google Docs and edit the script for the next recording. Some students quickly logged in and got to work. Others had some technical difficulties. Over this process, I have realized that it is important to get the typers set up sooner and with more guidance.

As we began recording the videos, we noticed that some students were a little more enthusiastic and artistic (you know the ones born to be goofy actors/actresses) while others were a little more hesitant.
This is one of the more interesting recordings:

We started out with sound issues. The iPad Air took great video, but some students were really quiet and the sound effects that were later added were almost deafening in comparison. We tried a couple microphones, but have ended up using an iPhone 6 to record the sound and adding it in later. I also learned how to adjust the sound in iMovie so that sound effects aren't as loud. The students also began to realize that they needed to speak more loudly and not read off their scripts by simply watching the way the students before them handled the announcements.

As we continue learning how to create quality student announcements, I am hoping to move into having students do some editing. I would like to see these kiddos take as much ownership of this project as possible. I believe that one of the best parts of a Media Program is empowering children,

Library Catalog 2.0

Many people know that the library catalog is what is used to keep track of books. In the old days, we had card catalogs. I'm not going to tell you how those work because I have no idea. Those are before my time, but Pinterest certainly has some interesting ideas on how to reuse those cabinets. We have been using online catalogs for as long as I can remember. I'm sure you all know that the catalog can be used to look up books, place books on hold, and add books to a list, but were you aware that with Destiny Library Catalog you can review books, recommend books to friends, and add books to "Want to Read", "Now Reading", and "Have Read Shelves." The library catalog has become an interactive reading tool.

This past month I have begun using ChromeBooks in the Media Center. I began with the third graders. My goal was to get them oriented in using the Chromebooks. I thought about different ways I could get them started. I also wanted to show them all the things that they could do on Destiny. It was a perfect time to do both. I created a guide for the students to follow in logging in to the Chromebooks and finding their way around Destiny.

When students first enter Destiny, they see 3 lists. The first list is the most popular books right now. The second is a list of resource guides to different topics. The third list is 15 of our newest books. This gives students some suggestions on what to read.

Once students log in, they see their inbox if they have any personal requests and see their updates if they do not. Their inbox will have the recommendations from friends and invites to be friends. In updates, the students see book reviews their friends have made and which books they have put onto their shelves.

Students are able to search for books and drag them to their shelves. There is a shelf for books you have read and books you want to read.

This was an amazing experience. In other schools, I have seen kids try to send messages to each other about what they were going to do after school, but this group of kids was talking about their books! Students were sharing the books they loved and other students were asking questions about these books. One student moved a Goosebumps book to their "Have Read" shelf. Other students were immediately asking if it was a good book, if it was scary, and questions about the characters. Students were able to get an idea of what books to read next.

My next goal is to create a screencast for the teachers explaining how to use Destiny to interact with their students. I know many of them will not have the time to go into Destiny, but it means a lot to the students when they see what their teachers have read and when the teachers comment on their reviews. If taking 5 minutes of the day to log in and comment will encourage a student to read more, it is worth it.

Author Study: Duncan Tonatiuh

Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. His father was American and his mother was Mexican. He attended art school in New York and began his career as an author and illustrator. Tonatiuh models his art after ancient Mexican art.

The style is called Mixtex.
. His goal in writing children's books is to have picture books that Latino children feel connected to. He has already received the Thomas Rivera Award. I am very excited to now have these books in our Media Center.

Book Reviews of Some of his Books:
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. This book is written as letters between cousins. One cousin lives
in America and one cousin lives in Mexico. Throughout the book various common Spanish words are introduced. This book is a great introduction to the Spanish language and the differences between life here and life in Mexico. It would be the perfect read for a kindergarten or first grade Spanish class.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours. This short book gives the background on Diego Rivera. It tells about his art education, his artwork, and what he might paint if he were alive today. The book encourages young artists to create their own murals. This book could be useful to discuss culture in a Spanish class or as an introduction to Diego Rivera in an art class. It is best fit for first through third grade students.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. This book tells about the difficulties Mexican workers face in Mexico
and the challenges they face on the journey to the United States for work. The story is told using animals and is easily understandable for elementary students. Because the content can be somewhat scary, I would recommend the book for grades 2 and up. The last two pages of the book give some information about the author and the journey many Mexican migrants face. This would be a great book to share with students, especially in a Spanish class or in a community with many Mexican immigrants.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation. The book itself was written at a level that a 2nd or 3rd grade student would understand. I believe this story is an important story to tell. It is relevant to many students as the Hispanic population grows in Minnesota. I like that this is a story about Mexican Americans integrating the school system. We often hear about the African American students in the south, but rarely about the struggles other Americans went through. I like that this book also has more information, sources, and definitions in the back.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Legos in the Library

Over the weekend, I attended the 2015 Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota Conference. I came back with many ideas for how to make our Library Media Center into a fun innovative learning space. One of the ideas I loved the most was the idea of Legos in the library. Legos are one of my favorite toys. I love to build with them. I really believe they can inspire students and help to build their creativity and imagination. I learned that Lego even has an education branch with lesson plans and curriculum using Legos to support the Science and Technology standards and the English Language Arts standards. I suppose I should have realized this since we hear about Lego robotics competitions all the time, but it just never clicked for me.

As a School Library Media Specialist, one of my most important roles is to collaborate with teachers to support reading and writing skills. I am very excited to have learned about Lego's Story Starter Kits! These kits contain over 1000 pieces selected and sorted in a large bin to support the creation of a story with Legos. There is also optional software that allows students to create books with their creations, or even stop animate their stories. The kits come with a curriculum pack and lesson plans to support the English Language Arts standards and reinforce skills like beginning, middle, and end. I am so excited to use these kits with my students. I can just see this opening up a whole new world of learning for my third and fourth grade students, especially the boys.
If you would like to learn more about the Lego Story Starter Kits, visit*

*I am not an associate of Lego and am not paid to endorse their products. I just think this is super cool!*

Who is Roald Dahl?

I love Roald Dahl. I mean, who hasn't watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory more than once! Not to mention Matilda, one of my childhood favorites! (I still jokingly threaten to put kids in The Chokey, although most of them are too young to understand the reference.) And what about James and the Giant Peach? All of these movies are based on books written by the wonderful, whimsical Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in the United Kingdom. Roald was named after a famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, as his family was of Norwegian descent. Roald moved around quite a bit as a child attending a number of different schools including Llandaff Cathedral School. You can read about his childhood adventures in his book Boy. When Roald grew up, he worked for the Shell Oil company and joined the Royal Air Force during World War II. Roald began writing in the 1940s, but it wasn't until the 1960s when Roald published James and the Giant Peach, that he began to be noticed as a children's author. Roald Dahl's repertoire of children's books includes: James and the Giant Peach (1961), The Magic Finger (1962), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972), Danny Champion of the World (1975), The Enormous Crocodile (1978), The Twits (1980), George's Marvelous Medicine (1981), and many more. Roald Dahl passed away in 1990.

This year my second and third grade students enjoyed a reading of The Twits. This book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Twit. As you can tell from their last name, the Twits are terribly stupid, mean, and foolish people. The story begins by describing how rotten and foul this couple is. From Mr. Twit's beard filled with sardines and moldy corn flakes, to Mrs. Twit's unbelievably ugliness, the students were absolutely disgusted. The story then moves into these two disgusting people doing disgusting things to one another. Mr. Twit puts a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed. Mrs. Twit puts worms in Mr. Twit's spaghetti. The children were thoroughly disgusted and laughed hysterically at these antics. The story wraps up by telling how the Twits' monkeys outwitted them with the help of some birds. This book was so much fun to read aloud and perfect for this grade level. I know my students are anxious to reread it.

Our school also puts on a "Read and Run Club." Ironically, this group also chose to read a Roald Dahl book. The book that they chose to read was The BFG. This is another hilarious story. It is the story of the little girl Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant (BFG) that steals her away from the orphanage. In this story, Sophie learns all about giants and experiences some of their disgusting habits. These habits include the BFG eating snozzcumbers that look and taste disgusting, and drinking frobscottle which is like soda except that it's bubbles float downward causing farts instead of burps. What third through fifth grade student wouldn't find that funny?

If you are ever looking for a funny and imaginative story, be sure to find a Roald Dahl book.

Maud Hart Lovelace Award

In 1892 in Mankato, Minnesota, a children's author was born. Maud Hart Lovelace grew up loving to read and dreaming about someday writing books of our own. Maud grew up on a hill in Mankato across the street from her best friend. The memories of her childhood fun inspired the writing of the classic Betsy-Tacy series. In this series, the character of Betsy is based on Maud and the character Tacy is based on Maud's friend Frances Kenney. The series tells of the adventures of these two little girls and their friends.

In 1979, the Minnesota Youth Reading Awards started a program named after Maud Hart Lovelace. The program is the Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award. This Minnesota state book award honors children's chapter books. The best part about this award is that it is run through school libraries and the winning book is chosen by students. There are two divisions to this program. Division 1 books are appropriate for grades 3-5. Division 2 books are meant for the middle school audience in grades 6-8. Students who fall in to the specified grade level and read 3 of the 12 nominated books by March are able to vote for the book they believe should win the award. You can check out this year's nominees here:

This is our first year participating in the Maud Hart Lovelace program at Pinewood Elementary. This year we are simply focusing on reading 3 books and voting in March, but I have some very exciting ideas for the years to come. After attending the ITEM conference this past weekend and talking to other Media Specialists about how they run their system, I have come to the conclusion that this program can be one of the most motivating reading programs that these students will be part of.
In the years to come, we will continue to have students read at least three books to qualify to vote, but we will add even more to this program. For starters, we will be adding the 12 book challenge. Any student in grades 3-5 can sign up in September to be part of the 12 Book Challenge. As they finish the book, they would come talk to me to answer a few questions and receive a small prize for finishing that book. If they complete the 12 Book Challenge by the end of the school year, they would get their name in our student announcements and receive a larger prize. Another program that the students in grades 4-5 could take part in would be the Muad Hart Battle of the Books, students would form a group of four and decide who would read which books. Throughout the school year, they would make time to meet together and discuss the books. At the end of May, there will be an after school battle of the books. This would be a trivia game that consists of questions about the nominated books. All participants would receive a small token, and the winners would have their choice of Maud Hart book to take home.These programs along with other reading programs will create a love of reading in our upper elementary school students.

In order to make these programs a success, community support is a must. If you are part of the Monticello community and would like to support our Maud Hart Lovelace Program, please contact me, Mrs, Newhouse at Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why is it important to investigate and vote on your school's referendum?

There are times when our schools ask us to vote on their operating levies. Many times when we hear that the school is asking for more money, we grumble about raising our property taxes and the schools not handling money correctly. We wonder why they would need money for such silly projects. I'm just as guilty of doing these things, but this year I am working in a district that has an operating levy on the ballot. After walking through some of the schools, listening to the superintendent explain the needs (not wants) that the money would cover, and how taxes would not increase, I've changed my mind. I never got informed about the school levies I voted on in the past. I would consider the little bit of hearsay I had heard and vote based on that. I have voted yes, and I have voted no. Now that I have actually gotten some information on the levy in my current district, I have come to the realization that we need to be more informed when voting on these levies.

When you are considering whether to vote on a levy, it is important to gather some information: How will this affect my tax rate? What will the money be spent on? Is this a need or a want? Is this something I would support? What are the plans to accomplish the goals of this levy? These are all important questions to ask of the district officials and of yourself. To gather answers to these questions, visit your district website. More than likely they will have some information posted in regards to the levy. If they have information meetings regarding the levy, attend several to get the most information and best understanding. Talk to your neighbors and friends and get their thoughts. Finally, spend some time thinking about what your answer will be.


If you live in the Monticello School District, please vote yes for our operating levy. All of the items it would cover are needs. You can learn more here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pinewood Elementary Named a "Reward School"

The school I am now working at was just named a Minnesota Reward School! I am so excited to be working in such a great school! The designation of "Reward School" is given to Title I schools that score in the top 15% of the Multiple Measurements Rating. This means that our students have scored well on tests demonstrating exceptional student outcomes. This also means that the school has been successful in closing achievement gaps. There are a number of reasons that schools reach this achievement.

Title I is a federal funding program that provides funding to help provide for academic support for students that may be at risk for any number of reasons. This funding is mostly based on the socio-economic status of the area. Title I funds are used to purchase books for schools, provide trainings, and fund salaries for reading teachers. Title I teachers help the disadvantaged students to succeed. Title I was developed in 1965. These funds certainly help our students to perform better, but there are other factors as well.

In the week since I started working in the Monticello School District, I have seen how all the staff are committed to providing students with the best education possible. This starts with the very dedicated superintendent and goes all the way down to the cafeteria workers, custodians, and paraprofessionals. The district is determined to hire the only the best individuals. I think they have succeeded. This dedication to building a positive learning environment no doubt makes a huge difference in helping the students to achieve.

Other factors that I believe make a difference in schools includes various specialists carrying on the teaching from the classroom, a supportive curriculum director, lots of staff development, and community involvement.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Inclusive and Diverse Summer Reading: Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books

If you haven't downloaded your copy of the We're the People Summer Reading List yet, do it now! Here is a brief review of all of the books under the Picture Book section of the list.
  • A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. I like the idea of sharing your beliefs with your children, but I think this book is slightly ridiculous. Number one, this is a board book. The words on the pages are very high level words. I read this book with a third grader and she didn't understand what was going on! If you want to make a board book touching on social issues it should be understandable for young children. The only thing the third grader liked about this book was looking for the cats hidden on each page. I liked that it provided a learning opportunity with a third grader. I would not purchase this book unless it was in regular book form or made more understandable. 
  • Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall. Rubina is invited to her first ever birthday party and she is beyond excited! Rubina's mom doesn't know what a birthday party is and insists that Rubina takes her little sister Sana. Sana is a pain at the party and a pain when they get home. Rubina doesn't get invited to more birthday parties for a long time. One day Sana comes home from school with her own birthday party invitation. Will she have to bring little Maryam with? Or will Rubina save the day? This is a wonderful story of sisterhood and forgiveness. I would recommend this book for older picture book readers. 2nd and 3rd grade students would enjoy the story and empathize with Rubina.
  • Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng This book tells the story of little Hana. Hana has just begun to learn how to play the violin. She has also just signed up to play her violin in the talent show. Although her brothers laugh at her, Hana perseveres. She practices every day and on the day of the talent show, the memory of her grandfather's encouraging words pull her through. This is a great story of working towards your goals. I would recommend it for a read aloud with kindergarten and first grade students.
  • Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema and Wesley Ballinger. This was a very sweet little book about a boy named Johnny. Johnny is Ojibwe and his community is going to have a feast. The problem is Johnny likes to eat, eat, eat! At the community feast, Johnny learns that it is important to let the elders eat first out of respect. Johnny finally gets to the table to eat when his grandmother's friend arrives. She is an elder. Johnny jumps up and gives her his chair. She lets him sit on her lap and they both eat their fill. The story teaches respect and patience.

  • Imani's Moon by Janay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell. Imani is the littlest girl in the village. Everyone teases her about her size, but her mother believes she can do anything. When Imani doubts that she will succeed, her mother tells her that she believes in Imani. Imani wakes each morning more and more convinced that she will be able to touch the moon. Because her mother believes in her, Imani is finally able to touch the moon. She comes back with a lovely story to tell. This story about overcoming fear, believing in yourself, and reaching for your dreams is beautifully illustrated and well told. It will certainly inspire students to reach for the moon.
  • Jonathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls and Michael Hays. This book is about a young African American boy and his mother taking a walk around town. They make all kinds of crazy steps as they walk around what appears to be New York City or maybe Chicago. They make reggae steps and bunny steps, running steps and crisscross steps. This book is a sweet story and easy read. I would recommend it as a book for moms to read with their little boys in preschool, kindergarten, or first grade. After reading the book, maybe you can walk about town and see what kind of steps you can make.

  • Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. I read this book with a third grade student. She absolutely loved it. She enjoyed how the grandma was preparing for something, and in the end, it turned out to be the grandmothers birthday party. Unfortunately, she didn't catch the trickster part of the story. The story begins with Grandma getting a knock on the door and telling the visitor to wait just a moment as she does a number of small chores to prepare for the party. The visitor is unaware of what is about to happen. He is invited to sit down and enjoy the party. At the end, the visitor has simply left a note that he will not miss Grandma's next birthday party for any reason. Grandma has tricked death into giving her another year to live. The student did not catch that the visitor was death. If I were to read this story to students aloud, I might consider including it with a Dia de los Muertos lesson, or at least giving some clue as to who the visitor is. Either way, this book was certainly a fun, quick read.
  • Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon. This book is a great way to introduce the concept of Ramadan to elementary students. I read this book with a fourth grade student who understood that it was about being thankful and fasting. This book would be great to include in an upper elementary classroom, especially one in which there are both Muslim students and students who are not Muslim.

  • Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios. This was a fun little story of a little girl who just doesn't seem to fit in. She is different from everyone around her. She has red hair, but dark skin. She never wears matching clothes. One day she decides she wants to match, but in the end, she realizes that being different is the best. This story has a great message that most kindergarten through second grade students would understand.
  • My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best and Vanessa Brantley Newton. Zulay is blind, but her Mama just bought her brand new pink running shoes. Zulay cannot wait to try running. When the classroom teacher announces the upcoming field day, Zulay quickly announces that she wants to run in the race. This class doesn't believe at first, but with the help of her special teacher, Zulay is able to run the race. I appreciate the message of overcoming obstacles that this story tries to communicate. Unfortunately, I felt the story was very bland and went very quickly from the new pink shoes to the race without much depth in between. This isn't a book I would be excited to read again.

  • One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon. I read this book with a third grade student. There was some challenge reading the African names, however she really enjoyed this book. She liked that these women were clever enough to solve the problem of plastic bags laying around in their desert home. I loved that this book was easy enough for a second or third grade student to read and interesting enough to keep their attention. I also loved the extra information at the back of the book. I would recommend this book to second through fourth grade students interested in Africa, recycling, or crafts.
  • Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz. This book was very sweet. It would be a great book to read aloud with a class. It teaches the value of hard work and waiting for something good. The story of the little girl helping to raise money for a car for her aunt also shows children can make a difference. This would be a great book to share with children living away from their family and those who are immigrants.

  • The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park and Bagram Ibatoulline. This books tells the story of a boy and his father walking through the desert collecting tears of sap from trees. At the end of the story, we find out that what they were harvesting was myrrh. Three men meet the boy and his father at the market to purchase a gift of myrrh for a baby. This book is a subtle twist on the story of the three wise men and includes information in the back about who the three wise men might have been. The information page also tells a bit of information about what myrrh is and what it was used for. The pictures in the book are not photographs, but they are very detailed and realistic.
  • We March by Shane Evans. This book is a simple, concise description of the Civil Rights March. It is easy enough for a kindergarten or first grade student to read and understand on their own, but it could also be used to lead to deeper discussions or lessons on civil rights. The best part about this book is that it leaves the reader feeling hopeful in the end.

These books were not yet available at my local library. I will review them when I am able to get a copy.
  • Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J. L. Powers, George Mendoza, and Hayley Morgan-Sanders
  • I love Ugali and Sukuma Wiki by Kwame Nyong'o
  • Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers
  • My Colors, My World by Maya Christina Gonzalez 
  • The Phoenix on Barkley Street by Zetta Elliot

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Are your students represented in their reading material?

Students are more likely to read and enjoy a book if they can relate to the characters. This means that white, female students are often able to find books that they enjoy. Many books today are written about white, female characters. So what about those other groups of students that we may be leaving out? Well, it is important to seek out books that fit with the population at your school, and some that have characters from outside that population. When I was in Willmar at Kennedy Elementary, I did this by selecting books in Spanish and Arabic (for our Hispanic and Somali students). In Prior Lake, I purchased books in Russian for our Russian immigrant students. While these books did help the students feel more at home in the library, the problem still remained that many of them were simply translated books about a white, female main character. Each year, while ordering books, I made it a priority to purchase books that covered a variety of topics and viewpoints. I would do this by looking for suggested book lists, finding books that had won awards for representing minority or diverse cultures (Coretta Scott King Award), and talking to other librarians. A great blogger, Ms. Debbie Reese, with the help of Edith Campbell, Sarah Park Dahlen, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Sujei Lugo, Nathalie Mvondo, and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, created and shared an inclusive and diverse summer reading list. I am currently reading many of the books on this list. I am enjoying them and will post follow up blog posts with reviews of these books. In the meantime, hop on over to and download the reading list for yourself. Then take the list down to your local library and check out the fantastic books on the list.
Get your summer read on!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Using YouTube as a Resource

How often do you teach a lesson only to be asked a million questions about it by students and parents? I find this to be particularly true of research lessons I teach. When I teach these research lessons, students are often at different places within the research process and need a chance to look back at the skills they have been taught. Although I am available to students as a resource, teaching a lesson over and over wastes time that could be spent on other important tasks. Aside from the lack of time, how many times does a student get home just to realize they need help and have no way to contact you? This spring, I began working on a YouTube channel to provide students, staff, and parents a resource that can be used anytime. This YouTube channel currently has 4 videos teaching basic research skills. I plan to add book talks and book trailers, technology reviews, and further lessons as time allows. I am currently down to using my iPhone for recording and a very outdated laptop for editing. This means I will be slightly limited in the videos I can put out, but as I go into fall and get a new computer to use, I expect this YouTube channel to be filled with great resources for all to use.
Do you use a YouTube channel for your school library? How do you advertise it? What kinds of content do you include on it? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Transitioning Between Schools

I am so excited, because I have accepted a Media Specialist position at a new school! When I was in college, I really felt that middle school was my sweet spot for teaching, but as I have gone forward in my Media Specialist career, I have found that the elementary level really fits me best. I have worked at both the middle school and elementary levels, but truly have enjoyed the elementary level most. I am excited to start this new job in the fall at a Kindergarten through 5th grade elementary school closer to home. As I transition into this new position, I have been reflecting on the job transitions I have made in the past. What was hard? What was easy? What would I do differently and encourage others to do?
The hardest part of job transition for me is leaving behind the students I have come to love. Without any children of my own (read about that struggle here), I really do develop a love and attachment to these children. They are my kiddos and all I want is to see them succeed. I know that consistency is important for children and I hate that change seemed to be such a common thing in the schools I have taught in. These kids really needed to know that someone would be there to help them throughout their school careers. They needed someone to depend on, and I really tried to be that. When I chose to leave, I felt a bit of guilt at turning my back on these children. The hardest school for me to leave was Kennedy Elementary in Willmar. The students and staff there had created a true community. Everyone had a place they fit in and we were all working hard toward the same goal. I cried as I left the school that last day.
The easiest part of the job transition for me was knowing that the school I was going to would really fit the type of environment that I needed. Almost every job transition led me to a school that was a better fit for me. I loved my first year at Epiphany Catholic School. I was able to discuss the Catholic faith with students and incorporate it into daily lessons. I felt like I was truly making a difference in the same way that I felt our community had made a difference at Kennedy Elementary. I look forward to continuing to build up students at Pinewood Elementary this coming school year.
Finally, if I were to do things differently, what would my job transitions have looked like? As I reflect on this, one of the things I would do differently is be more selective on the jobs I chose to apply for. Each year when it comes time to get an updated contract I begin to panic that I haven't done enough to merit another year in my current position. I should have updated my bulletin board more. I should have followed up with parents more consistently. I should have... I should have... I should have... In my panic, I begin to apply for any open position I find. Now that I'm married and own a home, it has become anything within an hour of home. Prior to that commitment it was anywhere in the state. This lead to a lot of wasted time and miles driven. In the future, I plan on doing the best job I possibly can. If I do receive that pink slip, I'm going to apply for schools within a reasonable distance that will fit with my strengths. I know that I have plenty of great references, so I have no reason to panic.
 If you are looking for that perfect job, hold out for it! Don't apply for and accept a job you are going to hate! Apply to jobs you know you'll love. Put together a great resume. Research the school and do a practice interview so you can put your best foot forward. Spend a little money on the perfect interview outfit and set aside extra time to get ready. The right job will present itself at just the right time. It might mean that you have to work as a substitute for a year, but that can be a great learning experience and a foot in the door. I thought I had interviewed for every possible position when I finally got the call from Pinewood. After the interview, I am convinced it is a perfect fit. The wait is definitely worth it. Good luck in your job search,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Where do I see the Media Specialist/ Teacher Librarian Profession in 5 years?

As I interview for various jobs in my area, a common question is: Where do you see the Media Specialist profession going in the next 5 years? The common follow up question to this is: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Now I am the type of person that hates personal questions and tends to be sarcastic, so when I am asked things like this, my mind automatically goes to responses like: Well, I believe the Media Specialist profession will be going to Alabama. OR Well, books are going to die and so will librarians. Over the years, however, I have learned to hold back my sarcasm and answer with something a bit more genuine.
So where is it that I see the Media Specialist profession in 5 years? Well, unlike some people in our world, I do not believe that books will be going away anytime soon. I believe, that in 5 years, there will still be children and teachers coming to the Media Center to find print resources. I do, however, believe that the majority of the books housed in the Media Center will be for leisurely reading rather than information. I believe that the majority of our research materials will be coming from an electronic source. Electronic sources are easier to keep up to date and often either free or subsidized through state programs. With the majority of research sources going online, and new technologies entering the education field all the time, the Media Specialist will become more of a trainer and technology integrationist. The Media Specialist will spend more time on teaching staff and students how to use technology, especially how to do so ethically. The Media Specialist will collaborate more with classroom teachers to teach students critical thinking skills of evaluating and using information sources. It will be a fun and interactive position to be sure.
Personally in 5 years, I wouldn't mind doing a job like this. More interaction between staff, students, and the Media Specialist really excites me. However, I also have some personal goals that might mean I am not a Media Specialist in 5 years. My husband and I lost a baby a year ago through miscarriage. Since then, we have been fighting my body for the chance to have another child. If we are given that chance, my biggest desire is to be home with him or her. So answering the follow up question in interviews is hard. If I am still a Media Specialist in 5 years, then I definitely will be doing more staff development and technology integration. However, if I am a mom in 5 years, I hope to be home spending time with my babies. Of course, given that I am trying to get a job, I leave the second half of my response out.