Month: February 2013

Reel Reading for Real Readers: Bad Girls Don’t Die

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Teens love horror.  Is it because they are adrenaline junkies or truly that masochistic? Either way, they flock to the latest slasher/ paranormal/ serial killer flick like bees to honey, drawn by the promise of a horrifying and thrilling time.

I find that with many of my teens who are brought, most of the time unwillingly, into the library to check out a book, I’m able to hook them with the promise of “this is so scary!  Don’t read it at night or you’ll have seriously crazy dreams!” 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake has opened my eyes to the realm of teen horror.  This morning I was reading it while standing at the circulation desk (no judgment, I’m in the last few chapters), completely engulfed by the action and drama, when I (very loudly and unaware of my surroundings) let slip “oh my god this is so freakin’ scary!”  Sixty senior heads popped up from their workstations and stared.  “Well it is!” I shook the book at them, “I mean just check out the title and book cover!”  They nodded in assent and returned to their research, sharing a brief moment of understanding of how one can become totally involved in a scary moment that leads to such an outburst.

Later, I spent some time walking around looking for titles that I knew my horror-loving students passed around and recommended and found Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender.  When I book talk this one all I have to say is, “Look at the cover.  Doesn’t it remind you of The Grudge or something?”  And, that’s all I’ve been able to get through–the cover.  I’m such a scaredy-cat.

The sequel was released this year, From Bad to Cursed.  Creepy!

Sometimes it helps to remember that the way to some teen readers’ hearts is through a little bit of creepy-crawly.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 2/25/13

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Thanks for joining me for another #IMWAYR! 

With my 2 year old’s birthday party, a parent night for the big grant project, and major iPad woes at work all added up to reduced reading time 😦

But!  I did finish one book that I promised to last week, continued on my audiobook adventures on bomb-making, and even found some courage to start a truly frightening book.  Here’s my reading report:

Books I Finished:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.  I gotta say I saw it coming!  (Okay, so maybe I had a hunch, accidentally dropped my book, which happened to land on the last page of the book and my eye naturally caught one word…which is all that it took!)  Can’t wait to see how Lena continues to evolve and how the series concludes.  I’ve read parts of some reviews from ARCS, carefully avoiding spoilers.  But, I know that Oliver really comes into her own in the final installment, Requiem.

Books I’m Reading:

Today, I sat outside while my toddler played with bubbles, trucks, and sidewalk chalk and devoured the first 100 pages of Anna Dressed in Blood.  Now, I’m the girl who has to plug her ears and closer her eyes when a teaser for a horror film that is rated pg-13 comes on during Once Upon a Time.  The cover of Anna alone is enough to give me nightmares.  During bathtime I managed another 15 pages, but it was getting to dark for my scaredy-cat heart to pick it up again later.  I might be such a wuss that I even stowed it in my bag in my car so I don’t accidentally glimpse the floating white-dressed girl with inky-black hair.  Other than being scared of a book in broad daylight, I’m really enjoying Cas and his quest.

Books to Read:

Amy over at published a retro review over at Nerdy Book Club introducing me to Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray.  My nerdy heart goes bonkers over literary adaptations, and I’m really looking forward to this modern re-telling. 

Now, I’m expecting a HUGE order from my jobber anyday now, which will bring with it many of the 2013 YMA winners and honor books.  Where on earth am I going to begin???  Spring break is two weeks away; I think my TBR pile is about too take on a life of its own in preparation.

What are you reading?

Reel Reading for Real Readers: And the winner is….

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Welcome to Thursday’s meme Reel Reading for Real Readers started by Amy and Heather over at! I love book trailers and believe in their power to build readership for certain books and engage ALL readers, no matter their reading habits.

Celebrating Books Awards With Teen Readers

The 85th Academy Awards are this Sunday night.  The Oscars trumpet the peak of awards season in Hollywood  following the Golden Globes and Grammys with flair, pomp, and fashion.  Growing up, I loved watching the Oscars.  Dressed in my finest wares, I’d lounge for the four hour awards show in front of our box t.v., slices of pepperoni pizza in hand and a 2-liter of Coke. I loved everything:  the orchestra, the dresses, the speeches, the movie clips, the hosts. 

For book lovers, we  feel similarly about the ALA Youth Media Awards in January.  Although we may not be decked out in fashion-forward formalware and most of us are streaming the event live through our computers or following the Twitter feed, there are just as many raucuous rounds of applause, audible gasps of shock, and even a little flair at the event. 

Readers, just like movie-goers, love to celebrate their favorite books, put them on display, slap big metallic award stickers on their covers, and collect them.  IMDB, TCM, and many other Hollywood afficiando sites provide lists of the top 100 films.  Film followers find pride and enjoyment in having watched all 100 of those films just as readers find a sense of accomplishment and pride in having read all the Newbery award winners since 1929 with the Twitter meme #nerdbery.

This week in the library I am unveiling our latest special display:  2013 Book Awards.  Books featured in the display are recipients of the Newbery, Printz, National Book Award, Morris Award, Pulitzer, and Nobel just to name a few. 

Take time to celebrate books and authors who have been recognized for their contribution to children’s and teen literature with book trailers from some of the 2013 recipients:

Newbery Award Winner
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Morris Award Winner
by Rachel Hartman
Printz Honor Book
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 2/18/13

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

Be sure to stop by Teach Mentor Texts for a list of participating bloggers and even more great reading ideas from Jen and Kellee.

Read more:

Books I finished:
Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi–Yes!  Wow, what a ride.  This girl knows how to spin a story and paint such a dark, twisted world with beautiful language.

I spent my life folded between the pages of books.

In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.

Lovely, lovely, lovely!  I’m not sure if I can wait for my jobber to send me the sequel, Unravel Me.  It might be a Nook purchase this week.
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver–I haven’t quite finished it, but tonight when I get home it’s me and Lena and we’rre gonna do this thing!  I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a sophomore sequel as much as I have this one.  Delirium was nice.  It was slow but sweet.  Oliver’s second installment is a character power-house complete a non-traditional plot twist:  “then” and “now.”  I love seeing Lena develop, fight, and claim her own path.

Books I’m reading:

BombThe Race to Build–And Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin–I never thought I would enjoy listening to a nonfiction book as much as I do this one.  Reading it in print would be just as pleasurable.  I’ve already passed the library copy onto our AP World History teacher, and I have two more teachers in line to read it.  I’m excited to hear their reactions.

In Darkness by Nick Lake.  I have to digest this one in small doses.  It is just like it sounds, dark. 

Books to read:

Decisions, decisions…

Hopefully, Unravel Me, will show up on my library door step.  And, poor Anna Dressed in Blood is still sitting on my bedside table.  This week is a busy week as the Boy is turning 2, and we have a wonderful Winnie the Pooh party planned for Saturday. 

Introducing Blog-of-the-Week

I read so many wonderful blogs each week from colleagues, librarians, and book-lovers that I want to start adding a blog-of-the-week for #IMWAYR.

How often do you hear from students and colleagues, “I don’t have time to read?”  Jennifer over at Empathic Teacher has a response to that!  Check out her blogpost reflecting on all the creative ways she finds time to include reading in her busy day

Happy reading!

Reel Reading for Real Readers: Maggie Stiefvater

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How excited am I about this new meme, Reel Reading for Real Readers started by Amy and Heather over at! I love book trailers and believe in their power to build readership for certain books and engage ALL readers, no matter their reading habits.

Today, I am featuring two book trailers for my author BFF, Maggie Stiefvater.  Don’t believe we are BFFs?  Check out this awesome pic from NCTE of the two of us. ‘Nuff said.

Maggie is a master at fantasy, folklore, and mythology.  Check out the trailers  (illustrated and produced by Maggie herself) for two of her books.

Wolves of Mercy Falls: Shiver

Scorpio Races

The Raven Boys

School-Wide Wednesday: Found Poetry

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Tagxedo Word Cloud of My Found Poem

Today, for a special School-wide Wednesday post, I’d like to share a poem I wrote inspired by Jen over at  Last week, Jen shared a strategy she used in her class involving old issues of Upfront magazine, a nonfiction serial publication for teens spanning relevant news, issues, and current events and topics of interest to teens.  Her goal wasn’t for students to think about the main idea and supporting details and then write a five sentence summary of an informational article.  Her goal was for students to play with language and create a response to the test in the form of a poem.  

Found poems are deceptively simple:  they require that the reader glean words, phrases, and sentences from a text or multiple texts in order to compose a poem using the author’s language.  In my experience,  using found poems in response to literature, they allow students to let down their guard and throw away inhibitions about writing poetry.  Found poetry also allows students to gather and collect details that “stick with them” without having to worry about why.  

One of my favorite uses of the found poem in an English classroom is in response to difficult texts such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. After reading an excerpt from “Pearl,” I invited students to highlight adjectives and phrases that Hawthorne uses to describe Hester’s strange daughter.  Then, they went back to the text to glean the language that they felt was most important to create a poem using Hawthorne’s own words to represent Pearl.  

We shared our poems, talked about the patterns and dug deeper into the “so what” or “why” in regards to the author’s purpose and style.  Then, we moved into a formal analytical response.  Since we took the time to play with language and form creative responses, students were ready to think analytically.  

Levels of comprehension with found poetry:

1)  Literal –What’s the gist?”

2)  Interpretation– So what does this mean?

3)  Application–Now what do I understand about the author’s purpose or craft?

In content areas other than English, found poems are a quick, accessible tool to engage students in thinking about themes and topics found in expository and informational texts.  I decided to take an emerging text form, tweets, to create a found poem in response to last week’s Digital Learning Day #DLDay and the plethora of information I received at TCEA in Austin.  

Here was my process:

Step 1–Read my tweets and notes that I took on Digital Learning Day and during the conference.

Step 2–Pull out words, phrases, and quotes that “stick with me.”

Step 3–Draft a poem by rearranging phrases, creating repetitions, thinking about form, etc.

Step 4–Publish poem:

“I can’t create my future with tools from your past.”
Personalized learning
Collect Consume Create Communicate Collaborate
Student-centered, relevant
Podcast, publish
Digital advance team
New tech adapters
Problem-solving, inquiry
Envision, re-vision
Student-student collaboration
Tech risk-taker
Student-teacher collaboration
Teacher-teacher collaboration
Envision, re-vision
Application of innovation, not acquisition
Culture of collaboration
Pedagological shift leads to real transformation
Collect Consume Create Communicate Collaborate
Tipping point
“It’s not you teaching the children; it’s the children teaching you and one another.”
If I can create a found poem out of Twitter-text and tweets, then it can be done in response to ANY text in ANY content area.  

What are your thoughts?  How could students use a found poem in your content area?  What types of texts could they respond to?  

Infographics: Going Digital with Data

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Tech Tuesday:  Students as Information Consumers and Creators

Inviting students into the research process is sticky, I know.  Most of the time we shy away from research, dreading that inevitable paper to grade.  But, what if we approached research with our students from a different stance?  What if– instead of the monster once-a-year Research Project–we considered an embedded approach?

When we invite students to adopt an inquiry stance in our classroom, research becomes a part of our daily dialogue.  Asking questions, searching for information, browsing, collecting, evaluating, publishing–these are all processes in the inquiry classroom that work on varying scales.  

Our students are bombarded with information 24/7/365.  They forget (never learned) how to be curious and critical consumers.  An inquiry stance to learning taps into our natural curiosities, building upon content area knowledge in relevant and authentic ways.   A simple infographic (informational graphic) might make more of a lasting impression upon a student and his learning experience than a five page research paper or report. 

How is it done?  Invite students to collect and categorize data for authentic purposes.  In science, what if a lab experiment resulted in a graphic representation of the reactions, observations, and data students collected?  In English, invite students to identify a problem in their community, create a survey, and then publish their findings through a dynamic, visual platform.  Math lends itself particularly well to integrating infographics through embedded bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, and percentages.  Pose a problem for students to consider, asking them to transfer their findings into a digital display, or invite them to be problem-posers.

Created at to publish the library’s statistics for January

Free Infographic tools such as Piktochart provide templates and tools for students to synthesize information and publish it digitally.  Not only are they collecting and consuming information, but they must synthesize what it means in order to create a visually dynamic representation. 

American Association of School Librarians (AASL) NETS-S

3.1.1 Conclude an inquiry-based research process by sharing new understandings and reflecting on the learning
3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 2/11/13

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

Be sure to stop by Teach Mentor Texts for a list of participating bloggers and even more great reading ideas from Jen and Kellee.

Read more:

Books I read:

Amazon speedily delivered the following award-winners for 2012 to my home for my son and I to enjoy together:

Austin’s lovely, reaching live oaks provided a peaceful and tranquil canopy as I enjoyed the new memoir, Just Keep Breathing by Joan Scott Curtis.  I’m glad I bought two extra copies, because this is a  pass-it-on read.  

Books I’m reading:

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (audiobook from…there are moments listening to this book when I am in awe at the author’s style and use of language.  I don’t know if this will be an audiobook purchase for the library, however.  The text employs strikeouts to convey narrator’s thought process, which is relayed through an annoying pen scratch sound in the audiobook.  And, the narrator sounds too young and girl-y for my interpretation of Juliet.  The story is fascinating;  think Rogue from X-Men meets Juliet Capulet. 

Bomb: The Race to Build–And Steal–The world’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (audiobook from  I’m really enjoying the vocal talents of this narrator as he captures the international personas of scientists who sought to steal from one another to be the first to create the atom bomb.  There are numerous threads that run through this spy-espionage-historical-nonfiction thriller.  Some readers might prefer the print version so that they can re-visit passages.  The audiobook is working well for me especially with all of the European and Eastern European names that I would have no clue how to pronounce for myself. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot…ahhhh, HeLa.  I’m still making my way through this fascinating read.  Nonfiction is most definitely my book gap for a reason.  My fluency slows down and my stamina while reading it.  Whereas I am perfectly content to read an entire novel in the course of a lazy afternoon, my mind just doesn’t want to commit to long reading bursts of nonfiction, no matter how interesting the subject or eloquent the writing. 

Books to read:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake still scares me.  I think I’m still recovering Libba Bray’s The Diviners, but I have promised a pair of my most loyal patrons that I will read it! (But only in daylight.)

In Darkness by Nick Lake (Printz Award winner next up in my Audible queue). I’m not exactly thrilled about this one.  I’ve been admiring the cover all year, but the synopsis just hasn’t compelled me.  I think I’ll spend a little quiet time with this one today at the circulation desk once lunchtime madness winds down. 

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver…is still sitting on my nightstand, winking at me.  This week I learned that the first installment Delirium has been optioned for a Fox television series with Emma Roberts!  

What are your reading plans for this week?

The "True" Wave of Digital Natives

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Today in a session with Project Tomorrow’s CEO, Julie Evans, we were treated with a sneak peak at some of the data trends from the last Speak Up survey administered this past December (2012).

Now, data and I have had a rocky, tumultuous relationship.  In my early teaching years, data and I weren’t too familiar with one another–passing ships in the night.  As a graduate student, I started to flirt with data a little bit once I caught a glimpse of what he could do for me and some of the practices I was researching in my classroom. But, we hit a major roadblock in our relationship the year that data was wielded like a thick, leather belt, snapping and cracking down the hallway, forcing data-driven instruction down our throats, angrily pushing us towards practices that  did not align with our beliefs and better intuition.  Data and I broke up that year, and I admit I talked trash about data behind his back.

There was no magic moment when data came back into my life and the past was erased.  It took a lot of coaching and mentoring from leaders, friends, and mentors who had healthy, constructive relationships with data.  Today, we’re cohabitants of the same house, focused on the improvement of learning for everyone on our campus; we relate easily, flexibly, and without judgment.

So, today when Julie announced she was giving us a preview of the yet-to-be released data, my nerdy heart skipped a beat.  Our campus participated in the Speak Up survey–a difficult task in a campus of 2200 students.  Individual campus and district results will be made available tomorrow, 2/6.  I appreciate having the national trends to compare our local results to and anticipate that we’ll fall in line with those trends.

Three Key Trends for Educational Technology
1) Students want devices that allow them to personalize the educational process, the same way that they personalize their social media and web presence.  They want devices that help them be more productive and allow them to CREATE and ADAPT.

2)  We’re at a BYOD/BYOT tipping point.  The stage is set for integrating personal devices into learning.  Administration has turned a corner with its willingness to allow personal devices, teachers are curious, and students are willing and able.  How can we take advantage of the growing momentum and be thoughtful, reflective and strategic in our visions and action plans?

3)  The “true” digital natives haven’t even arrived yet on our high school campuses.  According to the findings of Speak Up’s yearly survey assessing the rolling of technology in learning, a shift has occurred in the readiness, access, and skills our 9-12th graders bring to the digital table and their middle school counterparts.  They are coming to us very soon; how will we prepare for tomorrow’s learners?

Wow!  I’m excited.  I’m ready.  I’m curious.

Now what?

What are you reading (listening to) Monday? 2/4/2013

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You know how the saying goes, “the best laid plans…” and all of that. Last week I had a wonderful reading plan, and then something monumental happened; I discovered that the Season Pass for Downton Abbey allows you to download the remaining episodes for season 3.  Whoops.  Needless to say my TBR pile only grew this past week, especially following the YMA announcements. 
But here’s my report:
Books I Read:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  2013 NEWBERY AWARD winner that is as much a kid-pleaser as an award-commitee pleaser.  Since reading it Monday night, I’ve had several discussions with librarians and teachers about its content.  We feel that this is definitely a read-aloud or read-along book for upper-elementary to middle grade students due to the obvious issues relating to animal ruelty and abuse.  But, we made it through the heart-breaking pages to a beautiful conclusion that is both real and magical.
ummm…yah, that’s all I finished.
Books I’m Reading:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  I’m on my second week with this book, not because I don’t really enjoy it and find it fascinating, but because–once again–my obsession with period drama t.v.  I finally feel cool when talking to my science-y friends.  I’m like, “so, He-La. Those are some crazy cells, right?”  Henrietta Lacks reads like a novel that weaves together the narratives of multiple Lacks generations and a science-fiction thriller. 
yah.  that’s it.
Books to read:
Here’s where I get really excited!  A dear friend and colleague published her first book for adults this past week and I have a copy tucked away in my bag to read in the hotel while away at a conference this week.  Just Keep Breathing by Joan Curtis is a memoir chronicling Joan’s life following the death of her husband Dennis.  Knowing the background of this book and witnessing her journey writing the book over the past seven years that I’ve known her, I believe that it will be one of the greatest reading experiences of my life.  I don’t say that lightly.  Even though I never knew Dennis, anyone who knows Joan and hears her talk or reads her writing feels like they know Dennis;  her love for him is that powerful.
For the road-trip to Austin for my conference, here’s my Audible listening TBR stack (inspired by last week’s award announcement and one book that I’ve been promising my students I would read):
Happy reading!
Be sure to visit Teach Mentor Texts for a list of participating bloggers for #IMWAYR!