Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This week there was news of a very disturbing incident of cyber-bullying incident involving threats to a respected adult blogger. As a result, Andy Carvin, a noted educational blogger has declared today, Friday, March 30, 2007 as STOP CYBER-BULLYING DAY. All over the blogosphere people will be posting about the critical need to stop the unethical uses of blogging, specifically cyber-bullying. Much as I hate to say it, this entire incident has given me reason to pause in my enthusiasm for this amazing new technology.

As teachers and parents, we need to take this very seriously. If you read this post, please talk to your children about the devastating effects of cyber-bullying, the dangers of revealing personal information on the Internet, and most importantly what it means to be ethical, both online and in the "real" world. We need to teach children how to use this technology, not block it. We need to discuss the problems, educate them to the danger, then show them how to be safe and responsible. This is no longer something we can just hope they understand. We must teach it, and teach is as soon as possible at the earliest age they can comprehend it.

There are many resources but here are few of the ones I have found valuable:

Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet

Alice Yucht, a librarian and respected blogger said, "Bullying and social cruelty is hateful behavior, no matter what the format or the age of the instigators. As educators (and parents), it is imperative that we do whatever we can to make sure that it does not happen to
anyone, child OR adult."

Do your part today. Talk to a child about Cyber-bullying.

Thanks to Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy
and Administration for the image.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Strikes Again!

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Finds a New Fan!

This week I read the third graders one of my favorites from my own childhood--Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. It's amazing how a classic remains fresh and engaging from generation to generation. I read a chapter called, 'The Radish Cure" which is Mrs. Piggle Wiggles' cure for a little girl who didn't want to take a bath. Logical consequences prevail and at the end she finally acquiesces, but the journey to that end tickled the funnybones of the third graders. We talked a bit about what makes a book a "classic" and how a good story can appeal to children for many years and in many different times. They were very interested to know that the book from which I read was published in 1949!! And even more interesting was that I was only a year old when it was published!!! All the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books flew off the shelves and I actually ordered more copies for our library and several on loan from the County Schools. The power of a good story.....

Also in the Library this week....

Kindergarten--We read Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson in January and now it was time for the sequel Bear Wants More. In this charming story Bear wakes up and is hungry, hungry, hungry and eats so much he can no longer fit back into his den!

First Grade--What happens when you have something really, really, really wonderful to share at school, but it's not sharing time? Poor Lily finds out the hard way in Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Her movie star sunglasses, her three shiny quarter, and that purple plastic purse....ah, they are just too much and she just has to share them. Mr. Slinger, her teacher, has to take them, of course, and then Lily exacts her "revenge." But all works out in the end and Lily still wants to be a teacher when she grows up....unless she decides to be a scuba diver.

Second Grade--I must be nostalgic this week because in Second Grade I read one of my favorite fairy tales and one I remember had an effect on me as a child. Toads and Diamonds retold by Charlotte Huck is a great example of how fairy tales were used to teach lessons to children. First written in the 1600s, this tale graphically delineates the different results of kind words and mean words. Perhaps this is something that we should all read again from time to time....

Third Grade--see opening post

Fourth Grade--Continuing our Tall Tales unit, fourth graders heard Steven Kellogg's rollicking version of Paul Bunyan. We recognized the characteristics of a tall tale and students are beginning to come up with great ideas for their own tall tales which we will begin writing after Spring break.

Fifth Grade---Fifth graders were at Catalina Island this week for CIMI.

Sixth Grade--We continued working on our research for our research blog postings and some students began their draft posts this week. In the next few weeks, we'll finish our posts and then comment on them.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Librarian of Basra

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

This week fifth graders heard The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter. First I presented a Keynote with some actual pictures of the Central Library of Basra which was destroyed during the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003. Then, using Google Earth we started at our own school library and traveled to Basra, Iraq. The difference between our locations was sobering.

This interesting picture book tells the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker who saved over 70% of the books in the Central Library of Iraq by removing them night after night in her car and hiding them in her house and the houses of friends. Even though the library was destroyed by bombs, Alia managed to save over 30,000 books.

Books "are more precious than mountains of gold" says Alia, and the message of this book is both the great importance of books in our lives and the terrible effects of war on everyone. A portion of the book's sales will go toward helping rebuild Basra's library and if you are interested in helping this worthy effort you can do so by contributing to a fund administered by the American Library Association. Make checks payable to ALA with "Basra Book Fund" on the memo line, and send them to International Relations Office, ALA, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611. (For more information, contact the ALA's International Relations Department at 1-800-545-2433 x 3201.)

Also in the Library this week....

Kindergarten--What happens when you forget to wear green on St. Patrick's Day? Jeremy Bean finds out in Alice Schertle's delightful book Jeremy Bean's St. Patrick's Day. Even though Jeremy plans to wear his green sweater on the morning of March 17, it ends up in a lump in his bed and when it's too late to go back for it he has to endure the taunts of his schoolmates. Fortunately Mr. Dudley, the kind principal (who has an uncanny similarity to our own principal, Dr. McCabe) helps Jeremy by sharing some of his own green.

First Grade--Jack, the cat, would love to make an omelette for dinner so he decides to build The Perfect Nest. But when first a chicken (who speaks Spanish), and then a duck (who speaks French) and then a goose (who speaks...well, American) all vie for the nest and lay their eggs, Jack has a problem. He gets rid of the birds but not soon enough and all three eggs hatch, dashing his hopes of an omelette or two or three, but giving him three new friends instead. This charming book
by Catherine Friend and John Manders has delightful full page illustrations and it was a big hit with first graders.

Second Grade--We played "Name That Book" this week and second graders got very good at figuring out the characteristics of reference books in our library. Using a Keynote, we play the game by identifying books after clues are shown on the screen. After the game, each child was given a real life "research scenario" and they had to tell in which book he or she would find the answer. The books were the encyclopedia, the thesaurus, the dictionary, the atlas and the almanac.

Third Grade--What's great about our state? Third graders learned how to use a U.S. Atlas this week to find out interesting facts about our state. After learning how the atlas was organized, students filled out a questionnaire about our state including our nickname, our motto, our total population, our area in square miles, and other interesting facts. Two students had so much fun doing this they filled out questionnaires about other states as well!

Fourth Grade--This week we started a multi-session unit on American Tall Tales. After viewing a Keynote about the characteristics of a tall tale, I showed the two tall tales that were composed by last year's fourth grade classes. These were done by the students using Keynote complete with illustrations and music. This year, students are going to make actual hardbound books using iPhoto and the books will be cataloged and put in our library for students to check out! We watched a video of one of my favorite tall tales, Swamp Angel by
Anne Isaacs, and illustrated in an award winning way by Paul O. Zelinsky. In future weeks were are going to read more tall tales and after Spring Break we'll start our books.

Fifth Grade--see opening post.

Sixth Grade--Sixth graders continued their research for their blog posting about civil rights leaders. Next week, we'll begin composing our blog posts.

Stay tuned next week for the results of our voting for the California Young Readers Medal.....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

One Happy Bookworm!

One Happy Bookworm!

Our Bookworm Club has been a rousing success this year with first and second graders eagerly "devouring" our early reader books. Over the last few weeks, several bookworms have completed the first of their reading logs, proudly finishing 18 books. In addition to reading the books, the club fosters the skills of checking out books at the right level for reading with pleasure, practicing fluency, checking out and returning library books, and just the joy of reading! Keep on reading, bookworms!

Also in the Library this week....

Kindergarten--Bear's New Friend is the delightful sequel to Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. Bear wakes up from his long winter's nap and wants to play. Whooo is that new friend he discovers?

First, Second and Third Grades--At last it was voting day!! After hearing our final selection Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, primary students cast their ballots for their favorite among the nominees for the California Young Reader Medal Award. We are eagerly awaiting the results after all the votes are counted. (Mrs. Villa's class will vote this coming Tuesday. Sorry I missed your class last week but I was called for jury duty)

Fourth Grade--Fourth graders went on a "scavenger hunt" in the library this week. After breaking into teams of two, they were given slips of paper with call numbers. They had to figure out if the book was fiction, non-fiction, or a picture book and then locate the book as quickly as possible. And the librarian would only answer questions with "yes or no" if help was needed. So, "Where is this book anyway?" wouldn't work, but, "Is this book in the non-fiction section?" would do the trick.

Fifth Grade--Fifth grade played a rousing game of "Library Jeopardy" this week. And I shared with them an interesting insight I had. I designed our Jeopardy game about six years ago. I used note cards with the questions and answers for me to read, and sheets of paper with the categories printed on them and taped on the library cupboards. At the beginning of this year I decided to make a "high-tech" version on my laptop and project it with my projector. After playing it once that way, I realized we had a lot more fun and it actually worked better to do it the "low tech" way. A good lesson for all of us. Although we love those laptops, sometimes the "old" way just works better. Technology is wonderful, but it isn't always the best way to do something.

Sixth Grade--We started a multi-week lesson on Research which will culminate with the students posting their work on a new blog set up just for them. If you'd like to see the lesson, go to our Library Skills Blog and follow along. We are slowing down a bit for this and taking our time to really do the research and understand the different kinds of resources and the values of each one. Then we'll learn how to make a blog post, and comment on each other's work. Stay tuned....

A special thank you, to parents Rachel Moore and Nancy Eaton and all the parent volunteers who put on a spectacular Book Fair this week. And special thanks to the families who bought all those wonderful new books for our Library.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Wires and Lights in a Box

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck.”

~Edward R. Murrow in a speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (15 October 1958)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Computer Using Educators Conference in Palm Springs. After three full days of very worthwhile sessions I was lucky enough to finish up with a session by Gary S. Stager entitled “If Blogging is the Answer, What was the Question?” Mr. Stager is a provocative speaker, putting forth questions about the real value of our use of technology in education. It was very valuable for me to step back, so to speak, and look at the larger picture after attending a conference of great sessions with practical applications for teaching and a mind-boggling exhibit hall filled with over a hundred vendors displaying the latest new technology. Mr. Stager urged us not to passively accept this latest new technology, but to really evaluate how we can use it for truly innovative teaching and learning. We should not, in his words, deliver “old wine in a new bottle.”

He concluded with the above Edward R. Murrow quote, which is about television, of course, but could easily apply to computers today. It lingered in my mind as I drove home to Santa Barbara. And yes, I used some of this amazing new technology (Wikipedia) to find the quote this morning and to be sure I had it correct and the context in which it was spoken.

This is a challenging new world for education. And I’m glad to be a participant.

Before I left, we had two busy days in the Library.

Kindergarten—Mrs. Sickafoose’s classes was transfixed by the 1948 story by Dr. Seuss entitled Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose. It’s always amazing to me that our present day students with all the electronic and visual media available to them are still completely engrossed in the wonderful language and rhythm of Dr. Seuss’s words and the quirky originality of his illustrations.

First Grade—We read the fourth in our California Young Reader Medal nominees, The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle. When a boy wants a dog for a pet his mother tells him to find a dragon instead with hilarious consequences. The illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama are most intereting and have a decidedly mid-century modern feel to them.

Second Grade and Third Grade—Our fourth nominated book this week was Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown. When the bookmobile goes to the zoo, the animals pick out books that match their interests perfectly and end up building their very own “Zoobrary.” Judy Sierra’s rollicking rhymes have just a touch of Dr. Seuss in them and the pictures from Marc Brown of the “Arthur” books add to the fun.

Fourth Grade--In preparation for Dr. Seuss' birthday on Friday, March 2, we read one of my favorite Dr. Seuss Books, The Lorax. While enjoying the eccentric story and illustrations, the fourth graders were able to see the message Dr. Seuss had in mind, and considering this book was written in 1971, it shows how prescient Theodore Geisel was. The current concerns about global climate change and our urgent need to take action were discussed by students. Ideas they had ranged from using alternative energy sources, to buying and driving hybrid cars, to recycling clothes. Some even hope they can someday design cars that could run on water!