24 September 2012

Emory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron

Emory's Gift
W. Bruce Cameron

If you happen to be one of the four people who know me and have not had to listen to me go on and on about the amazingness (it's a word) of A Dog's Purpose, then stop reading this post and read this one and then come back here.
If you aren't in the mood to blog surf, I'll just spit it out for you:  W. Bruce Cameron has written a book that changed my life.  I am a dog lover (not an animal lover necessarily, but definitely dogs) and A Dog's Purpose changed the way I view the mortality of the dogs I've loved in my life and why I keep the stinky little mutts around.
While at the library a few weeks ago, I decided to look for other books by Mr. Cameron, and that's how I came across Emory's Gift.
While the two books are very different, Cameron has a distinctive writing style that is enjoyable to read, and he definitely has a knack for plot twists.
Emory's Gift is about a thirteen year old, Charlie, and a grizzly bear, Emory.  Charlie's life hasn't exactly been a walk in the park - his mother recently died of cancer and his father is struggling to keep it together.  When you add the fact that he's in middle school, well, you can imagine how much life just sucks.  One day while fishing in the stream behind his house, Charlie not only sees a grizzly bear, he pretty much feeds the bear the trout he'd caught.  A few days later the bear writes the name Emory in the sand, and Charlie realizes that this bear is special, but he wants to keep Emory a secret.  Eventually, it is clear that Emory doesn't want to be kept a secret, and Charlie and Emory embark on an unbelievable adventure.
By the end of the book I could not read fast enough and could not put it down.  Cameron weaves a beautiful tale of adolescence, family and growing up in a small town.  However the ending? Meh.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad - it was actually quite good.  I was just expecting something more moving - the ending of A Dog's Purpose stuck with me long after I finished the book.
All in all, Emory's Gift is a great read - definitely something to pick up before going on vacation or a great read for a rainy weekend.  Unline ADP, I don't think it's necessarily an all-ages book.  It's more violent and I'm pretty sure it has a few four letter words.  I'd recommend it for middle school and older, and to anyone who loves the outdoors and the idea that the unimaginable is possible.

Happy Reading!

Confessions of a Grammar Ninja

I will openly admit that I'm really not a grammar ninja, but more of a grammar czar.  I choose not to use the term grammar Nazi - for one, I hate that term, and for two, I won't kill you if you use bad grammar, but I might try to banish you to Siberia.

Why this post today?  In a ten minute time span, I saw three different instances where people used then instead of than.  I was unaware that these two words were so difficult!  I get that people confuse there, their and they're, your and you're, accept and except, but then and than?  They aren't even homophones!

If you don't have to google the word homophone to continue reading this post, I love you.

Every morning when I wake up, I commence an inner battle: correct or not correct. As a teacher, I live in a very odd little world.  When I'm with students, it's my job to help them become productive, world citizens who don't sound like this guy.  When I was a classroom teacher, that was no problem - I spent the majority of my day working with kids, and since they're kids, I could correct their grammar with patience (usually) and understanding because they are/were kids -usually not old enough to vote or know who they wanted to be in twenty years. However in the library things are different (I bet you think you know where this post is going...I promise unless you know me well, you don't, so keep reading).

Now that I'm a librarian, I not only don't have as much time to help students with their horrific grammar and super smart comments, I am now often surrounded by adults with horrific grammar and super smart comments.  Back when I was teaching German, I could go DAYS without having to converse with or listen to dumb adults, now they come into my office looking for help all. the. time.  I spend most of my day helping adults with technology or listening (with a forced smile) to their opinions about books, libraries and the Dewey Decimal System (yes, we still use it. No, I don't know the exact number and classification for the random book you currently hold in your hand. No, I don't think it's outdated and I DEFINITELY don't think the IPAD CAN REPLACE A LIBRARY.  Sorry...rant over).

These days, I feel like I can handle the "super smart" comments with much more grace and patience than I can terrible grammar for two main reasons:  1. it's election season and everyone makes dumb comments about the candidate they adore/abhor. 2. Our media makes us stupid.  Don't even get me started - just watch as many episodes of The Newsroom as you can and we'll probably be on the same page. Love. That. Show.

But I'm still having a hard time with the grammar.  How is it possible that our generation grew up on grammar drills (sentence diagramming anyone? I loved that shit!) and most of us insist on using the word irregardless (I once heard a woman say "irregardlessly" and my head almost exploded)?  How can you be allowed to vote in this country if you say things like "Where's my phone at?" and use words like "excape" and "supposibly"?

Sometimes I'm pretty convinced that an intervention might be the only thing that can save me, but then I catch a glimpse of myself in  the mirror and remember that I'm so far from perfect, I really don't have the right to correct anyone...ever.  So I will continue to correct my students, and when I feel like it will be well received (a word I have struggled to spell correctly my entire life), I will gently correct my colleagues, friends, and family members.  Though I will say I have learned that correcting my sister's grammar will result in a sore arm from her punching me as hard as she can, and correcting my handsome guy's grammar will result in a deluge of nonsensical grammar-diarrhea that will make my head spin.

Just do me a favor: please remember that the words are disregard and regardless.  That's all I ask.

21 September 2012

Library Lesson: Tabletop Twitter

Not until I started teaching elementary, did I realize that technology can actually be limiting sometimes.  Now that I have no students old enough to use things like Facebook and Twitter, I'm faced with an interesting challenge:  teaching them to be responsible online citizens without violating COPPA.  It's not terribly difficult, but to maintain my "cool" image and teach them online responsibility is a bit of a challenge.  Yes, I could stick to the elementary friendly websites, but let's be honest, sixth graders are so over coolmath4kids.com.
Whilst perusing some of my new favorite websites for great library lessons, I came across this fantastic post about table top twitter, and I decided to give the idea a try.  So I created a lesson that taught my 6th grade students a quick history of twitter as well as the purpose of the at symbol (@) and hashtags (#).  Then I put a sheet of butcher paper on each table and asked the students to tweet either a response to the prompt or use the hashtag phrase in a tweet.  Usernames were decided simply by using first name and last name initial, and the students then completed a walkabout* that lasted about ten minutes (one minute per table to write and respond and some movement time).

The muffins LOVED IT!  They came up with some great tweets, and the teachers were completely enthralled (I didn't know that none of the teachers use twitter).  The best part of the lesson was the final result: they came up with some excellent tweets, responded to one another thoughtfully, and (most important in my book) didn't think the activity was "dumb" or "boring".

Here are some of their fantastic tweets (sorry the second one is difficult to read)

In response to the question "What advice would you give younger students about the library?" MylesR gave this great advice:

DuncanJ had great advice, and then MadelynR not only had a great response (@), she also made up her own hashtag that started popping up everywhere (man those little muffins are resourceful!)

Good lord I love it when my lessons are successful!

Happy Teaching!

*in a walkabout lesson, participants are broken up into groups and rotate through "stations" where they are asked to respond to prompts, questions, look at data, solve a problem, etc.  The stations rotate relatively quickly, and once every group has rotated through all the stations, a quick debrief/share out is done.

11 September 2012

Do Unto Otters: a Book About Manners by Laurie Keller

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners

Let me start off by saying teaching Kindergarten is an absolute trip.  I have NO idea how regular classroom teachers handle those little - albiet adorable - bundles of pure energy for basically 7 hours a day.  Kindergarten was definitely the grade that I was the most afraid of teaching.
Now that I have four weeks of "elementary teaching" under my belt, I realize it's fourth graders you want to avoid (I jest...mostly...).
There are two things that I find awesome about Kindergarten and two things that drive me batty.  Here they are:
Drive Me Batty:
1. the fact that most everyone refers to them as "kinders".  The German word for children is Kinder and I constantly want to correct people's grammar until I realize that they would have NO idea what I was talking about.  So far, I haven't corrected anyone, but just wait for the day that I am super tired and cranky.
2. All. The. Singing.  Ohmylanta they sing all the time.  There's a little Kindergarten song for every occasion of the day.  So far, I've abstained from the singing.  I just watch the teacher as she sings, trying to keep the smile on my face and the nausea at bay. (I know it's mean but I can't help it!  12 years of high school will ruin you for things like singing, clapping and sitting in circles)
Pure Awesome:
1. Their unrestrained JOY for library time and all things book.  When those little people - those Kinder if you will - come in to the library it truly becomes Magorium-esque and magical.  They may not be able to read the books, but by God they WILL check them out and they WILL spend hours "reading" them.  It's awesome.
2. Storytime.  I now love storytime.  I get to read the COOLEST books to the Kindergarteners.  One of the best I've read so far is Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.  Our first Kindergarten unit is on civics, rules and government.  So I found this book and read it to them and not only does it explain manners, it's HILARIOUS.  It's like a Pixar movie: it has everything the kids need and some entertainement for adults as well.  Two of the three times I read it during storytime I started laughing!  Twice because I noticed something new, and once because a little boy (the first one to notice it)  noticed the page where the otter passes and says "excuse me" and loudly exclaimed "The otter tooted!"
This book is not just for Kindergarten - you could read it to just about any elementary age - older kids can learn phrases in different languages (there's please, thank you and excuse me in five languages) and they can learn about play-on-words.  The younger ones can discuss manners and how we should treat each other.  The illustrations (done by the author) are wonderful, though it is quite busy for the little ones - there's a lot to see on each page.

It's an amazing book and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has or works with younger children.

Happy Reading!

10 September 2012

Long overdue update

Yes, I am still alive.
Yes, I'm terribly sorry I disappeared for, what, 3 months.
Yes, I have OODLES to tell you.
Yes, I've read some amazing books.
And again, I'm sorry I disappeared with no warning.

Here's the story.  See the cute boy in this picture?  He's my guy.  He's my dream come true, my knight in shining armor (cheesy but true).  The only bad part is that until July, he lived 4 hours away.  So this summer was spent moving from my home in western colorado to OUR home in the Denver area.  I can honestly say I've never been happier or more fulfilled in my personal life.
The only downside is that I had to leave a job I loved and most of my immediate family behind in order for us to start our life together.  I'm not worried about leaving my family anymore - I still get to talk to my mommy-lein and my sister regularly, and we're planning regular trips back for visits.

My job situation is a different situation.  Part of the reason I have not blogged about my job situation is because I wasn't sure I'd enjoy where my career was headed.  I have switched from a mid-sized school district in a fishbowl community to one of the largest school districts in the country in a very large city.  I've worked in big districts before and enjoyed it. 

However, I'm also working with a new age group: elementary students.  Those two words - elementary students - gave me the shivers until recently.  Don't get me wrong, I think they're cute, but the idea of teaching them?  Shiver.  That wasn't ever in the plan- it wasn't supposed to happen.  I'm a high school teacher for the love of Pete.  I work with students who don't want to go to school and think they know what cool is, not with small munchkin-like beings with snotty noses who want to hold my hand (ehhh...the germs!)
However, God makes the decisions He makes, and now - a mere two years after leaving the high school realm - I am the teacher librarian at a school in the Denver area.  No, I don't love it yet, but after three weeks with students, I can honestly say that I just might.

So for those of you who have enjoyed reading my blog so far, I want to warn you that there are some changes coming.  Being in the elementary library is an adventure, and since my little brain can't handle running more than one blog, I'm going to continue blogging about the amazing books I'm reading and I'll be blogging about my experiences in the world of elementary library science - the lessons I teach to my students as well as the lessons I learn from them.

I hope you enjoy the new direction my blog is taking.  If not, I'll completely understand if you choose to read other, better blogs about things that interest you.

Happy Reading!