Global Poetry Collaboration

Check out this awesome feature about my collaboration with Canyon Creek Elementary!

I can’t wait to answer their questions about my amazing journey to Antarctica later this week.

I am so thankful for the Canyon Creek Librarian and the 5th grade teachers for making this project possible. I am looking forward to working closely with these students next year when they join me at the middle school – Go Grizzlies!


Monuments of Rome in English Culture

It is so rewarding when hard work pays off. I am excited to announce that the lesson plans from the 2015 Monuments of Rome in English Culture NEH Summer Teacher Institute have been posted to the institute website. If you are looking for ways to connect Rome to pretty much any part of your curriculum (at any age level) you will find it here.

As we conclude the Labor Day holiday, and now that the 2016-2017 school year is in full swing, I find myself longing for Rome… the daily gelato, the amazing architecture, and the slower paced way of life.  I am looking forward to taking a “walk” through the forum with my students as we complete the Monumental Literacy lesson I designed during the institute.  Check out the introductory video – I am SO impressed by the collective work of the team to produce such a high quality classroom tool for the lesson.

I am looking forward to remembering Rome as my students complete the lesson this November. It is also an excellent motivation as I plan my 2017 Summer professional development.

Where will the 2016-2017 school year take you?

Virtual Adventures with Google Expeditions


UPDATE (9/20/2016): I just learned that not only is Google Expeditions available to everyone, it is also available on iOS! I will be VERY busy this weekend planning ways to use this with my students. HOORAY!

Thanks to some financial assistance from my Instructional Technology Specialist’s budget, I was able to attend the Texas Computer Education Association annual conference in Austin for the first time this year. While it definitely isn’t worth replacing my annual attendance at the Texas Library Association annual conference, I found it a worthwhile event for exploring how to use technology with students in ways that are meaningful, easy to implement and productive. I recommend it for any librarian and educator, not only those teaching classes directly relating to the use of computers and technology.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the opportunity to experience the new Google Expeditions Program using the Google Cardboard devices. WOW. For someone who loves to travel as much as I do, this is an AMAZING resource and is going to make my Library THE place to be. It’s still in Beta right now, but I am very much looking forward to using it regularly with my students. We are already researching ways for students to construct their own Google Cardboard devices using our campus makerspace, and I absolutely intend to purchase additional devices for the Library. We currently have two, but they are getting little use right now. Trust me, as soon as I have full access to the Google Expeditions Program that is all going to change.

Our “guide” took us on a trip to Mt. Everest. Of course the virtual experience will never match a physical adventure, but this was AWESOME and will engage students completely. The 360 degree 3-D images are superb and the teacher scripts will make classroom “journeys” easy to lead – though it might be difficult to keep participants on track. All of us were looking everywhere but where our “guide” was telling us to look because we were in awe of the “view,” but it was nice to know that as teachers, we will have the ability to see where our students are focusing their attention and adjust our lesson accordingly. The level of detail is so precise that the viewer is truly immersed in the experience. I was a little nervous looking down from my perch on a rickety swinging bridge across an icy gorge, and could easily imagine the frosty wind tearing across the base camp.

There are still a few things on my list before fully executing the Google Expeditions Program on my campus (such as, you know, actually having access to Google Expeditions…) but once it is out of Beta I intend to take my students on virtual field trips regularly. I would like have a monthly featured destination where I lead “trips” and provide an array of resources about or related to that place. Here are some of the titles I would display (or add to an interactive ThingLink) for our “trip” to Mt. Everest:

Top of the World top of the world 2 peak No Summit out of Sight conquering everest climbing everest adventure gap Between Heaven and Earth

I encourage you to apply to the Expeditions Pioneer Program. I wasn’t selected, but you may have better luck (no hard feelings – I know the developers want the program to be top notch before the official public release).

Happy Adventuring!

“Second to the right, and straight on till morning.”

Big Ben - Our Favorite ClockBig Ben, London, England – taken on a side trip to London during my Gilder-Lehrman Summer Teacher Seminar in 2014

Recently, there has been a surge of fairy-tale retellings in YA literature, and I think it offers an excellent opportunity for students to explore the originals. I find that most of my students are familiar with the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, etc. but have not read them in their original format. Instead, the students are well versed in the various cinematic adaptations, particularly those of the Disney animated variety. These modern retellings provide an opportunity for teachers and librarians to expose students to the original texts and the authors who masterminded such intricate stories that linger in our canon today.

Peter Pan CoverMy Library copy of Peter Pan – it has lots of colorful illustrations, making it seem like a quick, easy read.

One of my favorites for this comparative adventure is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. There is literary magic in Pan’s whimsical character and his eternal youth as he is forever in the heart of a childhood adventure. However revisiting this familiar tale in its original form at an age slightly beyond Pan’s – mid to late teens, early adulthood, late adulthood – provides a different perspective on Pan’s actions. Sometimes we, as readers, lament not visiting the Neverland of our own, and other times we are shocked at Peter’s terrible behavior.

There are several retellings of Peter Pan, all adding something of their own to Barrie’s original, but today I would like to focus on a retelling from the perspective of Captain James Hook.

Never Never

My favorite retelling of the Peter Pan story to date.

Everyone knows and loves the story of Peter Pan. In fact, I like to love Peter Pan himself, often forgiving the arrogance or flippancy of such a quintessential literary character. Brianna Shrum changes all of that with her beautiful exploration of the mind of Captain James Hook. He is all pirate for sure: vile, aggressive, savage. But in this version of our well known Neverland tale, he grows from boy to man; a tender man, capable of love, honor, leaving us wondering if what we have always believed about Peter is really true…

While violent and bloody (this is no Disney version) Shrum captures the essence of innocence and savagery of the young boy’s mind while also exploring what it means to become a man. Brilliant, but not for the faint of heart.

Audience: Grades 9 and Up

Curriculum Connections/Lesson Ideas:

The obvious connection is a compare and contrast discussion/graphic organizer/activity of the main characters in Shrum’s story and J. M. Barrie’s original. This might be a nice way to explore the various interpretations of the Peter Pan and Hook characters over time. Of course, there are several film and theatric versions of the Peter Pan tale which would also offer additional depth to the exploration.

Display Ideas:
Create a display matching the original tales with one (or more) modern YA retellings. Here are a few ideas to get you started – I expect most YA collections already have these tiles. It’s also worth taking a moment to make sure that the collection has a copy of the original story in a format that is engaging to the reader. The Classics are indeed timeless, but the printed editions from the 1950s are not going to encourage our modern students to spend their weekends flipping through the dusty pages.

Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll / Splintered by A.G. Howard (a Spirit of Texas High School Author – go here for programming ideas)

“Cinderella” by Charles Perrault / Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

“Snow White” by the Grimm Brothers / Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli, Nameless: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow, Mirrored by Alex Flinn

“Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault / A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

“Rapunzel” by the Grimm Brothers / Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison, Cress by Marissa Meyer


Empowering Our Students to Change the World

IB MYP Community Project season is upon us at my campus so I have created a ThingLink interactive image to help students select their project topics and develop their action plans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the MYP, the Community Project is the culminating event of the MYP for programmes concluding in Year 3 (8th grade for my school). This project requires students to engage in service learning through direct service, indirect service, advocacy, or research; the process aligns with Catheryn Berger Kaye’s five stages of service learning.

The image is currently “on display” in my library on the Boxlight 84’’ Interactive Flat Panel screen. This screen is enormous, and the students absolutely LOVE it. Even the most basic tasks, such as searching the online catalog (which is available on FOUR dedicated desktop computers every single day), have students clamoring for a turn. It’s a great tool for engaging students due to its size and interactive capabilities. Of course, if you don’t have a giant touchscreen, the interactive image also works on tablet devices, phones, and laptops/PCs. I have a ThingLink Premium Plan for Education (Teacher) which I purchased for a reasonable annual fee, but ThingLink also offers a free version that is quite useful. I encourage you to create a few images to see how you like it before purchasing a subscription; I have used it several times with students and regularly post images on the interactive screen.

When selecting resources for this interactive display, I chose to focus on individual stories and/or the process of service learning (action) rather than the more academic texts that will be useful as students further investigate their chosen topic. I wanted to provide a selection of engaging books and inspiring role models to excite students about the project. Titles like Get Real or Your Water Footprint are certainly topic based, but they have lots of facts and figures presented in an easy to read manner, often through graphics, making the titles accessible to our reluctant readers. I also selected titles that my library owns (or can be accessed electronically) so that students can use the resources immediately. I think that some of our students, especially those who are reluctant readers or who don’t tend to be intrinsically motivated about school projects, will benefit greatly from the overview the display provides. While not as beneficial as reading one (or more) of the books, the videos and web resources on the interactive image will also provide a platform for independent investigation for those who struggle with the research process.

As you know, I believe that learning is always an adventure, and the Community Project offers our students a chance to explore a community of their choice (their neighborhood, and orphanage in Africa, a school campus, etc.) and design a way to make it better. Some projects will have an enormous impact and may very well change the way we live each day while others may only impact one or two people. Either way, the process empowers students to set attainable goals and work to positively impact their world, not just in 8th grade, but for their entire lives – an extraordinary adventure.

* The link to the Scholastic Action article about Paige Rawl on the interactive image refers to one of our subscription databases. Here is the citation so you may locate it if you would like to use it with your students:

Brian, S. J. (2014). Bullied by Her Best Friend. (cover story). Scholastic Action, 37(9), 4.

Adventures with Texas Authors: The Spirit of Texas Reading Program

IMG_0410[1]A selection of books by authors from the 2015 Spirit of Texas Reading Program Middle School List.

If you are not familiar with the Spirit of Texas Reading Program (SPOT), I highly encourage you to check out the program webpage for an array of creative programming resources, even if you are not from Texas. The program selects six authors annually at the middle school and high school level who are either from Texas, have lived in Texas, or write about Texas or Texans. While the relationship with Texas determines an author’s eligibility for the list, the lessons, resources, and activities do not necessarily relate to Texas and thus are a treasure trove for any librarian looking for engaging programming.

The 2016 authors were recently announced – you can check them out here:

Spirit of Texas Reading Program – Middle School
Spirit of Texas Reading Program – High School

As a member of the Spirit of Texas Middle School Committee, I can assure you that we work hard to provide a thorough resource package for each of the authors on the list including a passive program (one that it’s easy for students to do independently), an active program (like a library party or event), and a school program (linked to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS – for a variety of subject areas). Again, all of the lessons and activities could easily be modified for libraries outside of Texas. You will also find book trailers, author videos and extensive resource lists/read-alike suggestions. The programming from past years is also available.

It’s an outstanding resource for any librarian looking for some inspiration and tools to introduce students to new books and authors and I highly recommend it.

The Spirit of Texas Reading Program is a part of the Texas Library Association Young Adult Round Table. I am currently serving on the SPOT Middle School Committee.