Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer's End

It's my last official day of summer vacation and I've been home with a sick little guy.  He has slept most of the day, so I was able to get a few items made that I needed for this year.

I had an empty area on my bulletin board where I usually put my Genre of the Month.  At the final Media Committee meeting last year, we decided to change things up a bit and so that section of the bulletin board was left for something new.

At the end of last year, we had a ton of lost or overdue books, so that got me to thinking about making some type of recognition for classes who did not have any lost or overdue books at all each month.  I decided to use that idea for the bulletin board space and created this:

I spoke with my NEW principal about it yesterday and she loved the idea.  I can't wait to get to school to print it off and laminate it.  I think it's going to be a great addition to the Media program.

This set includes a "Wild About These Homerooms" sign that can be printed using a poster printer for a larger size,

6 grade level mini signs to post underneath the title poster, 10 blank animal signs to write the names of homerooms on and hang on the mini posters each month (I am going to use velcro),

  and 3 different award certificates to give to homerooms who are recognized each month.  I am also going to do a monthly announcement and will give some small prize to the homerooms who receive this recognition.

I posted this set in my TpT store for $1.75.  You can get it here.

Once I get it all up, I will post pictures.  Can't believe I have to REALLY be at work tomorrow. I am so much more productive when I can go in at 10 am instead of 7:30 am.  LOL  Back to reality!

How about you?  When do you go back to work, officially?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back from Vacation

...but recovering.  Why is it you need a vacation to recuperate from your vacation?

I had a blast, but don't let the picture above fool you.  I am worn out.  And I have to be back at work in a week.  I'd rather not spend my last few days of freedom unpacking and cleaning sand out of everything, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I just wanted to let you know that I am working on answering comments and emails that I received while I was away.  So if you haven't heard from me yet, I am not ignoring you.  Just trying to catch up.

Thanks for being a loyal reader.  I promise to get some more great posts up soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Alternatives to AR

Another question I get sometimes is what are some alternatives to Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts?I personally have a love/hate relationship with Accelerated Reader and know many teachers who feel the same way.  It can be a great motivator for some, but it can also cause some students to hate reading if it is not used effectively.  And Accelerated Reader and Reading Counts can be quite pricey so many schools are getting away from it due budget cuts.  There are many schools in my county that no longer use AR, but they still wanted to do some type of reading incentive. Well, believe it or not, there are some alternatives out there that don't cost anything, except maybe your time.

Book Adventure is sponsored by Sylvan Learning and offers readers prizes for reading. Students earn points for taking quizzes and then spend their points in the Prize Library.  Prizes range from temporary tattoos to ebooks, to candy and even prizes created by parents or teachers like eat lunch with a friend or extra TV time. Parents can monitor their child's progress and even look for books for their child to read next. Teachers can create reading lists for their students, create contests and teams, make quizzes, and send reading reminders to their students. Reports are also available and can even be printed to send home to parents.  Book Adventure does not have as many quizzes as AR, but it is free and could still be a way to entice students to read.

If you are not a fan of quizzing students for every book they read, then Reading Rewards may be the alternative you are looking for.  Reading Rewards is a free website started by a mom who wanted to encourage her kids to read more instead of playing video games or getting on the computer.  She developed Reading Rewards as a way to reward her kids for the amount of time they read, and there is no quizzing involved. To get rewarded, users log and and record how many minutes they have read. Parents are then asked to verify that amount of time.  Once this has been done, users earn RR Miles which they can then redeem for rewards.  The rewards are things that parents and teachers can provide like a movie night at home, family game night, a sleepover with friends, prize from a treasure box, or extra computer time. To keep users motivated, they earn badges as they go through different reading levels.  It does require a bit more work on the part of the parent and teacher than AR or RC does, but Reading Rewards is free and it could be just the motivation a child needs to encourage them to read.

If you like the quizzing option, then QuizWik might be the way to go.  QuizWik was started basically by some disgruntled AR and RC customers who felt that AR and RC were getting too pricey. They developed a wiki of sorts to share and use short teacher made (TM) multiple choices quizzes for children's books and offer it for free.  (You can read more abot QuizWik here.) As of the day of writing this post, there were 43,852 TM quizzes available on QuizWik and it's a free site, although there is a sister site that has started up that is subcription based. It's called ReadnQuiz, and boasts that it is a tenth of the cost of AR.  It has 30,000 quizzes available.

While none of these three options provide everything that AR or RC did (how could they for free?), they could be decent alternatives, especially if you feel your students really need some type of incentive or way to keep track of what they are reading and how much they are reading.

What about you?  Are there reading programs that you use instead of AR or RC?

"AR" and "RC" are trademarks of Renaissance Learning and Scholastic, respectively.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Super Reader Bookmarks

I had so much fun creating my Super Reader Library/Media Center pack, that I decided to make some bookmarks to go along with it.  You know my students love bookmarks!

I created a pack of 28 "Super Reader" bookmarks.  You can get them HERE on TpT for $2.50.

I also created a free pack of 4.  You can get them HERE on TpT.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Classroom Organizer

I've had a couple of teachers ask about ways to organize their classroom library so that they can know who has what book when.  By far the most inexpensive and easiest way I've found is with Classroom Organizer.

Classroom Organizer is a FREE online program that allows you to enter the ISBN of books and store them for an online catalog of all of your classroom library books.  There is even a free app you can download to your smartphone to scan the ISBNs for quicker entry.

Once you've put in all your books, you can add your students. Then they simply enter their information into Classroom Organizer and the name of the book they are checking in or out.

There are even videos and PDFs to help you get started.  You can find those here

And now Classroom Organizer has added School Portal for bookrooms so that teachers can check out sets of books and even share their classroom library books within the school if they choose.

So if you or your teachers are looking for a way to organize classroom libraries, check out Classroom Organizer. It might just be what you need.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Internet Safety Games

To support the Internet safety lesson I taught, I often had links to Internet safety games for the kids to play once the lesson was complete.  I put these up on my website so that students could access them in their classroom and at home.  Here are some of their favorites:

This is a fun, video-game type adventure that teaches kids to recognize the ads all around them, both off and online.

Games, videos and activities inspired by the PBS Kids show Cyberchase.

This is a fun tic-tac-toe type game that asks players to answer Internet safety questions.

Help save Safety Land from the nasty character who is trying to make the town sick.

This is an interactive adventure that challenges players to answer Internet safety questions about the storyline.  It's a fun spin off of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf.

The adventure continues!  This adventure talks about netiquette and determining the difference between fact and opinion.

Another fun arcade like game about Internet safety.  Kids learn to be safe while playing.

Do you have some fun Internet safety games that you use with your students?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Free Internet Safety Curriculum

Part of my job as the Instructional Technology teacher at my previous school was to teach about Internet Safety, even to Kindergarten. It's never too early to start learning how to be safe on the Internet.

When I first started out, I had no curriculum to go by, but after searching the for resources, I soon found CyberSmart! It was a comprehensive FREE Internet safety curriculum that included parent letters, handouts, lessons and lots of links. They even offer online workshops for teachers. My county paid for one teacher per school to take the training. I was chosen for my school. I found it very informative and even fun.

I also learned about Common Sense Media about the same time and soon began to use it to look up information about websites, movies, video games, and books for my students and kids.  It gave reviews from CSM editors as well as it's users and I have continued to find it a valuable tool.  I often direct parents to this site when they are wondering about whether or not a book or a movie is appropriate for their child. It is a wonderful, free website that all parents and teachers should utilize.

CyberSmart has since merged with Common Sense Media, but the free curriculum has not suffered with the merge. There are still FREE parent letters, handouts, lessons and links to enhance lessons.  But now there are also videos to go along with each lesson.

If you have not checked out Common Sense Media's free curriculum, I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I know I just shared my obsessions with Pinterest, but I also know not everyone can access Pinterest at school.  Enter eduClipper.

Have you heard about eduClipper?  It's like Pinterest, but for education.  You just clip what you want to save to a eduClipboard.  You can reClip, share, like and comment on others' clips. 

There's a bookmarklet tool to make clipping easy.

What can you clip?  Websites, videos, documents like Word documents, PowerPoints, and Excel documents, Google docs, images from the web and even embedded images from sites like Prezi and Glogster can be clipped.  Here's an example of some clips:

There are collaborative clipboards and you can even add classes!  Yes, you can add your students to your eduClipper account!  You can then share sets of clips with students or mark your clips as private which will hide it from other people on eduClipper.

Why use eduClipper instead of Pinterest?  Well, many schools block Pinterest, but eduClipper is likely not to be blocked because it is education related.  It would be a great place to save sites for your students to use or even have your students use it to save websites, videos, documents, and images for research.  Or use both. Save Pinterest for your personal interests and use eduClipper for school related stuff.

Educlipper is currently working on instructional videos to show all the ins and outs of using eduClipper, but if you're like me, I learn best by playing around with stuff on my own.  However, it is nice to have help if you get stuck.

And just like Pinterest, eduClipper is free. So why not sign up and try it out for yourself?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Librarians on the Web

I am on vacation right now in Florida...wohoo!  (Praying that it doesn't rain the whole time we're there.)  But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy some good library/media center blog posts.

I have some posts scheduled, but you can also check out the library media blogs in my blog roll or on Sharing the Shelves.  And if you don't see yours listed, feel free to leave a link to your blog in the comments on this page or add your link on Sharing the Shelves.  Let's share our love of all things library!

P.S.  If you are interested in blogging for Sharing the Shelves, just shoot me an email. Sharing the Shelves is a place to share library/media center ideas with other teacher librarians and media specialists. I'd love to add you to the list of authors!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


So you've heard of Pinterest, but have you heard of Sqworl?  Sqworl is a bookmarking tool that bookmarks a website or blog with a picture of the website or blog rather than just a picture from that website or blog.

It looks something like this:

You can follow Sqworls that others have created, but you can't comment on them like you can on Pinterest.  And you can't copy them, but you can share them on social media including Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest.

I like to use Sqworl to bookmark websites for my students to use and then put a shortcut to the those Sqworls on the student desktops.  Sqworls are especially useful for the little ones who might not be able to type in URLs to go to specific websites.  But they can click on a Sqworl shortcut and then click on the website in the Sqworl.

I actually found out about Sqworl before Pinterest and was using it to bookmark things.  It is super easy to use and it's free.  Check out Sqworl for yourself and see what you think.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sharing the Pinterest Obession

Since we've been sharing lesson ideas this week, I thought I share my Pinterest obsession with you today.  Who doesn't love Pinterest?  I admit, I am a bit addicted to it.  I have to make sure I set a time limit when I start looking at pins and adding my own pins from blogs or websites.  In fact I have almost 6,000 pins and over 100 boards. I decided it was better to have more boards to spread out the pins rather than have 1,000s of pins on one board. Much easier to find what you are looking for that way.

I also admit that I don't always go back to everything I pin.  I see something that I think is cute or that I MIGHT use one day and I will repin it.  Thus the almost 6,000 pins.

But I do use Pinterest a lot when planning so I am VERY glad that our county decided to unblock Pinterest.  I pin ideas for lessons that I've seen on other blogs or decorations or clipart.  I've even pinned YouTube videos to use for my blog posts.  It's so much nicer than just doing adding a boring old favorites link on a browser tab.  

Here are some of my Library/Media Center related boards. Feel free to repin anything or follow any of the boards.

And just for fun...

Are you on Pinterest?  Join the linky below so we can follow all of your neat pins!  =)