Friday, December 17, 2010

Connecting with our Brook Forest Friends Using Edmodo!

On November 24th I wrote about connecting with John Schu and his amazing students at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ever since I met John at the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago this last fall we have thought of fun ways to connect our students in the library.

In this project we focused on the 4th graders at Brook Forest and Van Meter. We both have two sections of 4th grade in our school so it worked out perfect having two groups....Fourth Grade Reads 1 and Fourth Grade Reads 2.

The students started out by introducing themselves and posting something of their choice about school, their town, what they liked to read, favorite authors, and more.

The next time they came to library it was fun to see them read about their new friends and reply to comments. They were excited when they read about similar interests and hobbies.

Today in the computer lab, I loved watching them also respond to their classmates at Van Meter. The conversations are growing in our two groups and this is becoming exciting and challenging to the students to think about what they are writing. The connections they are making mean something to them and give them a VOICE in their learning.

We created this Animoto video as a THANK YOU to Mr. Schu and all of the 4th graders at Brook Forest Elementary. We wish you a very happy holiday season and cannot wait to connect again in 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Edublog Awards Meets the Geek Tribe!

Posted by joycevalenza on December 5th, 2010 on the Neverending Search Blog from School Library Journal

Yesterday, the Edublogs folks announced the short list for the seventh annual Edublogs Awards. As I examined the list, I began to realize how far we’ve come as a tribe. It probably started just over a year ago when we first got together as a group to prepare for AASL Charlotte.

This morning Gwyneth and Shannon and I Skyped about our upcoming Educon2.3 session, but the conversation kept returning to the presence teacher librarians have developed in the larger edtechosphere.

Awards are really nice. Personal recognition is really nice. But you can’t help but notice that it has been a year of serious accomplishment and dramatic school library creep across the board. My hope (always) is that a rising tide lifts all boats.

So explore ALL the wonderful contributors who made a difference and were nominated for an Edublogs Award. But also take a good long celebratory look at this Google Doc and see what a difference our own Geek Tribe has made. And then vote for your favorites!

The three of us starred all the library/librarian-connected projects we recognized. Please add stars to any we may have missed. (23 blogs in the official category of best librarian/ library blogs were nominated this time around!)

Congratulations all. Great work, tribe!

And as Gwyneth says, let’s embrace & welcome our new voices and recruit new Geek Tribe members! And no matter who wins the Edublog awards — really, we all win!

We are stronger when we share!

~ Gwyneth – Joyce – Shannon -

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrating Ivy + Bean Day with Brook Forest Elementary

This month in the Van Meter Elementary Library the second graders celebrated Ivy + Bean Day! Ivy + Bean are two wonderful characters in a series of books by Annie Barrows.

To make the celebration even more exciting we connected to Brook Forest Elementary Library in Oak Brook, Illinois. Mrs. Miller met their librarian, Mr. John Shue when they attended the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago at the end of October. They just knew that all of the students would have a GREAT time connecting and sharing their celebrations with one another.

During the celebration, we created Double Dare Cootie Catches, designed Ivy's bedroom just like we wanted, dressed Ivy + Bean in awesome clothes, and shared the seven books with one another. As a special surprise, Ivy + Bean even left us tiny cupcakes in the library for us to eat. Everyone had an awesome time and it was so much fun getting to know more about Brook Creek Elementary too!

You can find out more about Ivy + Bean on the Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech Voice Google site at on the Second Grade page.

And don't forget to check out the library for all of the Ivy + Bean books!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Power of the FIRST Connection With Merton Community School!

On Monday morning before school, 2 kindergarten teachers, 2 second grade teachers, 2 third grade teachers, the Merton technology teacher, the Van Meter Elementary principal, and the Van Meter teacher librarian sat down to talk about how they could start connecting their two schools and the different classrooms. The meeting was so exciting and everyone enjoyed the conversation of how the two schools could connect, learn, and create with one another. The unique piece of the meeting is that we were over 300 miles apart in two different towns.

On this day, Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa and Merton Community School in Merton, Wisconsin were collaborating through Skype and taking their students' learning outside of the school walls. Lisa Morowski, Merton's technology teacher, and myself, the district teacher librarian, connected on Twitter a few weeks ago and soon after started planning our first activity to kick off this new partnership. We shared the idea with the teachers, collaborated on times that would work, and set our plans into motion. What an exciting week this would be!

Today was the first day our students connected! It happened in the two kindergarten classrooms. As I watched our kindergarten students being read Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak from the classroom in Wisconsin, I could feel the connections starting. The students were engaged, excited, and sharing. It was hard not to smile as I watched them meet their new friends. And I loved it when one asked, "When are we going to get to go and visit the Wisconsin students?"

I have had people ask me before, "What is the power in these Skype connections? What do students really get out of them?"

After school my son Hagan, who was one of the lucky kindergarten students at Van Meter today, came up to the library and got a new book from my desk. Hagan and I had read it together last week and he knew there was a map of the United States inside the front cover. Hagan got up on a chair where I was working and said to me, "Mommy, I can show you where our new friends live on this map. They live in Wisconsin. It is right here by Iowa."

There is your answer! Our students are gaining knowledge, experiences, and relationships that they might not have had before. Hagan not only learned where Wisconsin and Iowa were on the map, he was now able to make a personal connection to this knowledge. And he also has a whole other classroom full of wonderful children and teachers that he will be learning with throughout the year. This is something that I want for not only my own children, but for all the students at Van Meter and around the world.

That is the POWER of the first connection!

You can follow the story of these two schools throughout the year at the Van Meter Merton Connect blog!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why I Love Being A Teacher!

Yesterday I was showing the 5th graders the new Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Google site. On the "Important Information" page I posted a video called Be The Change You Want To See, which I used in two library presentations last week. When the kids saw that it was a YouTube video of our library they all wanted to see it, so I played it for them.

As the video and Hey There Delilah started playing the students began to sway back and forth while singing the popular song quietly. When it got to the chorus, everyone of the students in the lab were singing the song without any hesitation with their sweet little voices. It was just beautiful to hear and to see how happy that song was making everyone of them.

I am so happy I got this moment on video. And the best part...everyday I experience little moments like this with the kids at Van Meter and with my own children. I might hold the title of teacher librarian and mom, but they teach me more than I have ever learned in a classroom, online, or from a book. They teach me to embrace spontaneity, to find fun in little moments, to be noisy, to smile even on the worst day, and most of have a VOICE all of your own!

And this is why I love being a teacher.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Announcing the NEW Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Site!

This year I am teaching technology to 3rd through 5th grade at Van Meter School along with their library time. The students come to the library and computer lab for 45 minutes once a week for this collaborative time.

With these changes and a focus on technology in our district, Jen Sigrist, Van Meter Director of Teaching and Learning, and I have been working on my curriculum. The library and technology curriculum includes four different strands: information literacy, technology literacy, digital citizenship, and love of reading.

After a couple weeks of school behind us and lots of time working together in the library and lab, I saw a need for a new site just for the elementary. I have created a new Google site called the Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Site. This site will be geared towards elementary students but has a ton of fun things on it for everyone! There are lots of awesome fun brain and game websites; reading and book resources; typing games; Iowa AEA Online resources; and much more.

Since the has been taken by the Van Meter Library VOICE Site, I asked the students at Van Meter what address they thought I should look for at A few suggestions were littlevanmetervoice, vmvoice, and voice. We decided on for the Elementary VOICE site. This will be easy to remember and share with everyone.

The Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE is a great place to connect, create, collaborate, and be HEARD! So check it out today and please let me know if you have suggestions of other wonderful resources to add to VOICE.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You Need to Visit Mrs. P's Digital Library

I hope everyone is having an amazing summer! I am enjoying spending time with my family and friends, traveling, and learning new things.

This week my friend Kyle told me about a fun interactive digital storybook website called Mrs. P's Magic Library. Mrs. P, also known as actress Kathy Kinney, has created an amazing site that contains a Magic Library to listen to stories, fun activities, annual writing contests, and other learning resources. While you are listening to Mrs. P read a story, you can even play a spelling game or stop to send her a letter. And one thing I loved...she even has her own dictionary for help!

Mrs. P's stories are free on her website. Hagan has loved listening to Mrs. P read Jack and the Beanstalk and The Frog Prince this week. You can also purchase and download her wonderful stories to take with you too from iTunes, kidthing, or Audible Books. I have already downloaded several onto my iTouch for Hagan to listen to and I can't wait to share these with you in the library too!

Mrs. P has also included valuable teacher and parent resources on her site.

Have fun checking out Mrs. P's Magic Library and remember to KEEP ON READING this summer! I will see you all soon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Van Meter is Going Someplace Special!

To celebrate Black History Month, I share a lot of books and resources about the history and lives of African Americans in the United States and around the world with our students and teachers at Van Meter. Being a small school in rural Iowa, we do not have a lot of cultural differences so this is something very important to me to bring inside of our school. Our students love embracing the history and stories from other cultures and books are one way to accomplish this.

One book that I always read is Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissak and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Goin' Someplace Special is the story of Tricia Ann (who McKissak tailored after herself) growing up in the 1950's at the time of segregation in the south. Tricia Ann took a journey by herself through several tough situations while going to her someplace special. At the end, we find that it is a big white stone building with "Public Library: Everyone Welcome" chiseled on the outside of the library above the welcoming doorway.

I love the message in the book, because not only is this a true story from the life of an African American growing up as a child in the south, it also shows that libraries are a place for everyone to feel welcome and safe. I read this book every year during Black History Month, because I want all of our students at Van Meter to know how much they are always able to come to the library to feel safe, wanted, and especially to have a VOICE and be heard. This is true with our entire school.

This year Staci Braun and I thought it would be fun to incorporate a fun technology into the lesson. I read the book over Skype (a teleconferencing tool) from my office in the secondary library and it was watched by the 4th graders in their classroom downstairs. Not only did I share the book, we also had a nice conversation about Black History month, segregation, and McKissak herself through this Skype experience. It really made me think about how lucky kids are now. I hope that our students have dozens of experiences such as this by connecting with people all over the world. This is a great way to bring various cultures and experiences into our school. Something that we would not have been as easy to do in the past.

And a powerful way for their VOICES to be heard all over the world....Van Meter is going someplace special!

You can watch Patricia McKissak read the book from the Scholastic Book website here.

Also, here is a list of resources to use and share for Black History Month from my Diigo Library.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Van Meter Elementary Kids GO WILD!

I have been teaching the students about the various awards given by the ALA (American Library Association) each year. We discuss the Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Caldecott, and others during their time in the library every January.

One of my favorite awards is the Caldecott which goes to the illustrator of children's picture books. I share several of the books that I had as a child such as Make Way for Ducklings, Drummer Hoff, Miranda and Brother Wind, and of course my all time favorite Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak who was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964.

After I read Where the Wild Things Are, I introduced Build Your Wild Self (a fun web 2.0 tool that I shared in my last post) to the students. They had a BLAST making themselves wild over and over. The cool thing about Build Your Wild Self is that once they are created the wild things can be easily shared to any email address.

I will continue to add Slideshows to this post as our kids GO WILD at Van Meter over the next few weeks. Enjoy and try this great web 2.0 tool out for yourself!

Here are the 4th Graders GOING WILD! You can watch this here too!

Mindy Doggett, a second grade teacher at Van Meter, had her students make themselves WILD after a writing activity. You can see a few of their creations here!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snow Day Web 2.0 Fun!

"Mom! I'm bored!"

"I want to do something fun!"

"Mom, I want to play on the computer!"

"I can't watch one more movie!"

Hum....does this sound familiar to you? :) While at home today from school due to the blizzard I have heard Hagan, my 4 year old, say all of these things. He loves to watch movies with his big brother and sister, but like he can only watch so many movies. He loves to play games, but that fun only lasts so long.

Most of all...Hagan LOVES to play on the computer! He has his own little folder on our bookmark bar marked HAGAN. In Hagan's folder he has bookmarked TumbleBooks, Nick Jr., PBS Kids, Kids WB (his favorite here is Batman), GameGoo, Roy the Tale of a Singing Zebra,
and ABC Ya!

Hagan is able to go to his bookmark folder on our iMac anytime. Usually he could play forever, but today he wanted to "make something like Brianna does." So this afternoon we set off to find some brand new Web 2.0 tools for Hagan and I to try.

We went to my Diigo List of Elementary Web 2.0 Tools and checked out quite a few. Hagan created a Wordle by typing words that he knew. We created different animals at the Switcheroo Zoo. And we made Hagan into a Super Hero in The Hero Factory.

The WINNER OF THE DAY was Build Your Wild Self! created by New York Zoos and Aquarium. With this fun Web 2.0 tool you can create a person to look like you and then WILD YOURSELF by adding horns, tails, snouts, wings, tusks, and much more!

Hagan created himself as a Cob-Ele-Ark-Torto-Tiger and me into a Hii-Fro-Ingo-Monarch Butterfly! We laughed and laughed creating funny WILD THINGS out of everyone in our family. He even sent his Wild Self to Brianna and Grandma which is easy to do once you have one created.

We added my Diigo List of Elementary Web 2.0 Tools to Hagan's bookmark folder today and these new favorites. I am excited to see what he will create next!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Van Meter NEWS Heard at VOICE!

There are so many exciting events taking place this week at Van Meter, I thought that all of this news should really be HEARD!


My 7th graders in Technology and Information Literacy will be learning about YouTellYou from its creator Ruggero Domenichine! We are going to Skype with Ruggero who lives in New Zealand. YouTellYou is an amazing web 2.0 tool that lets you create photo stories about your life and share them with others through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other places. The 7th graders are very excited for learning experience and cannot wait to create their own YouTellYou stories with Ruggero. We will post our YouTellYou stories later this week.

Later in the week...

On January 28th Van Meter superintendent John Carver and Clayton Ridge Community School superintendent Allen Nelson have been invited to give testimony before the entire House/Senate Education Appropriation Committee. John's post from his Van Meter Think, Lead, and Serve Blog entitled Be Part of the Educational Transformation Proclamation will give you more details.

This important event will begin at 10:00 am (Iowa time) on the 28th. We are hoping to get as many SHOUT OUTS as possible on Twitter to #vanmeter throughout the morning to show world wide support of educational transformation! To learn more about Van Meter School you can visit us at the Think, Lead, and Serve Google site . Also, the ThinkLeadServe Wiki will begin to fill up with information throughout the week.

This will be our chance to be HEARD so mark your
calendars and make a difference!

Also in the news....

Last week Van Meter had our 6th snow day of the school year. A lot of students, teachers, and parents are questioning what these snow days will mean for us! Watch and read how the laptops and technology will give us an advantage to continued learning through snow days at Van Meter...

Schools Face Growing Snow Day Dilemma - Education News Story - KCCI Des Moines

Saturday, January 23, 2010

And the Winner is.......

As a little girl I was surrounded by a wonderful collection of books. My Mom taught my sister Heather and I what the bright, gold and silver circles were on the beautiful picture books that we read with her. When Heather and I were in college at the University of Northern Iowa we looked forward to adding these Caldecott Medal books to our growing collections to use in our classrooms and read to our own children someday. And now as a teacher librarian I love hearing the books that were awarded special honors at the beginning of each year and sharing them with the students at Van Meter and my three children.

On January 18 the American Library Association announced the 2010 award winning books at the Youth Media Awards Ceremony in Boston. There are dozens of awards that books can receive, but I must admit I have two that are my favorite!

Being an artist and lover of picture books, the Caldecott Medal is always the first that I look for. The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Several of the books that we read as little girls won Caldecott Medals and Honors such as Where the Wild Things Are by Maruice Sendak who was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964; Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey who received a Caldecott Honor in 1949; and Ed Emberly who was honored with the Caldecott Medal in 1968 forDrummer Hoff.

This year the Caldecott Medal was awarded to Jerry Pinkley for his brightly colored textured watercolor illustrations and story of The Lion and the Mouse. This amazing story of friendship between two unlikely friends will surely be a favorite in the Van Meter Elementary Library and my own home. All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee and written by Liz Garton Scanlon along with Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Joyce Sidman received Caldecott Honors this year.

My second favorite American Library Association award is the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature. I got hooked on this award after Looking for Alaska by John Green won the Printz Award in 2006. Looking for Alaska is one of the my favorite all time books that made an impact on me as a reader and person. Year after year I find that the Printz Award is given to similar books that truly leave an impression on their readers heart.

This year was no different! Excitement filled the air when Going Bovine by Libba Bray was awarded the Printz! That day I picked it up at Barnes & Noble to dive into the world of 16 year old Cameron. I am enjoying the adventure he is taking me on as a reader! I love Bray's books and loved the YouTube interview for Going Bovine.

Check out Going Bovine and the Printz Honor Books below and go to ALA's site for a complete list of looking for the 2010 awards. I promise that you too will look forward to the announcement of these awards every January too!

2010 Winner
Winner imageGoing Bovine by Libba Bray Sixteen year old slacker, Cameron, sets off on a madcap road trip along with a punk angel, a dwarf sidekick, a yard gnome and a mad scientist, to save the world and perhaps his own life.

This wildly imaginative modern day take on Don Quixote is complex, hilarious and stunning. The hero’s journey will never be the same after “Going Bovine.”

2010 Honor(s)

Winner imageCharles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman, published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Winner imageThe Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Winner imagePunkzilla by Adam Rapp and published by Candlewick Press
Winner imageTales from the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes and published by Viking Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Reader’s Grou

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Have a Dream...

And then I show the students his amazing I Have a Dream speech and watch their faces as these listen to these words...

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This week take time to look at the resources I have gather for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month in February. You can find these in Shannon Miller's Diigo Library List-Black History Month & Martin Luther King, Jr.

And please take time to watch the video of Martin Luther King, Jr. as he gives his I Have a Dream speech. Post the words of his speech so others can read them.

Most of all, reflect and remember that everyone should have a dream and follow their passion! This will be one of the most important lessons you ever learn or teach a child.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Voices from the Van Meter Students!

Over the last month, there have been several AMAZING blogs created by students at Van Meter!

In the 7th grade Technology and Information Literacy Class I teach, the students are using their blogs as a digital portfolio of what they have created, learned, shared, and enjoyed throughout the seven weeks of class. When class is over, these students will continue to add to and share their blogs.

I would like to share these blogs with you now and encourage everyone to check them out! :)

I also have to share Emma D's Blog again. She is a 5th grader at Van Meter collaborating with me to create a blog for her class called WeTalk! We are working on digital book talks right now during library time and will add these soon to WeTalk. Emma also writes about technology and asks questions to get us TALKING on her blog.

All of these new blogs are SUPER examples of how we all have VOICES and something to share with others. I am proud of our bloggers at Van Meter. As more are created throughout the year, I will continue to add more to this list.

Let me know if you have a blog to share too! You can email me at or stop in the library to let me know. I would love to feature your blog on VOICE too!