Friday, March 20, 2015

More than Powerpoint, please!

Almost everyone uses powerpoint, but to what degree of success is hard to tell.  The beauty of online presentation tools is the fact they add a little pizzazz and sparkle to a presentation already built into their platform..well most of them do :)
Here's a list of 15 free presentation tools to integrate and use in your classroom but wait, there's more!  Give students these options too and sitting through an hour of classroom presentations will be a little more interesting too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sites and Apps to Create Digital Projects or Book Trailers

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Made for You by Melissa Marr

2014, HarperCollins

Eva Tilling is the girl who has it all…popularity, a good-looking boyfriend, and a family who is considered the top of the social echelon in the small southern town she was born and raised in.  Like most of her friends whose families are connected, she follows traditional Southern etiquette, including who she can date or be friends with. 

Nate used to belong, but something changed…now he’s a loner and a social paraiah, known more for his drinking and partying.  His family has slowly crumbled, reflecting his reputation.  He’s known Eva Tilling since they were kids and played together, but now as upperclassmen in high school, their relationship has changed.  It’s non-existent, with only furtive glances and cold shoulders.

But this changes the day of the accident.  Eva is now in the hospital recovering from a hit and run, trying to understand who or why it happened.  She also suffers from severe brain injury and can’t remember details afterward.  Her best friend has come by often to check on her, and unexpectedly Nate shows up, spending time with her.  Eva couldn’t be happier about this.

But something else is bothering and scaring her.  When she touches people, she can see their deaths.  She’s seen her best friend in danger as well as Nate’s, but can’t see the face of the person who is behind the shadow.  Then dead bodies begin to turn up, and all of them have one thing in common:  Eva Tilling.

The Judge is in control, knowing who and when to attack and kill to get Eva’s attention.  He knows she was made just for him and no one is going to get in the way of their love, even if it may seem maniacal and twisted.  He’s leaving her breadcrumbs, waiting for her to notice and understand them.  She needs to hurry or he’ll have to find another victim with another clue…

Melissa Marr has once again delved into the dark side and written a wonderful novel that will have readers asking  who the murderer is  until the end of the book.  And that is the one perfect reason that makes any mystery book an excellent one.  Marr builds suspense by making the readers continue to question if a particular character is the one, even as innocent as they seem.  Not only are the characters in question, but also family dynamics and expectations these teens are required to follow.  Excellent YA murder mystery and recommended for high school readers. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Hyperion, 2014

My students EAT UP Laurie Faria Stolarz books!  SO glad she wrote a new one!  Dark, creepy, mysterious, on-the-edge of your seat reading!

If you can't access Youtube, try this link:


Google Drive:

Enjoy!!  I know I did!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LitWeaver: Bringing Students, Teachers and Authors Together Virtually

It was during a #yalove Twitter chat one night that I happened to notice one tweet from author Will Weaver.  I always have an open invitation for authors to join, and we have had a few tweet with us, but to me, this man is a LEGEND!  He's been writing for well over twenty years.  He is also the author behind a new website entitled LitWeaver (

I had the chance to do and online interview with Will Weaver to learn more about this site pairing e-books, authors, and reader's guides.  After reading the interview, please take a look at the website to get the full experience of the awesomeness of what these authors are doing.

 How did LitWeaver come to life virtually?

WW:  I do lots of school visits, and over the years have seen the increasing pressure on ELA teachers and school librarians. Budgets always seem in decline– especially for classroom sets of novels and new acquisitions for libraries. Some principals and superintendents believe “technology is the answer”, and find money for tablets—but none for staff support or even curriculum. The Learning Management Systems from big publishers look cumbersome and expensive—so it hit me that there has to be a better way.  A middle ground, you could say, as schools transition from print textbooks to digital learning

 Give a brief description of what LitWeaver does

WW:  LitWeaver is designed to be a bridge from your five pound lit anthology to iPad and tablet-style reading and learning. We’ve purposefully focused on shorter, contemporary young adult lit—short stories, essays, poems, and plays—that teachers can “weave”  (get it?) into their ongoing curriculum. Teachers need a break from the same readings every year!  LitWeaver also includes a short lesson plan with with discussion questions and reading prompts.

How did you get the authors on board with this idea?  

WW:  You mean Katherine Paterson?  Jerry Spinelli?  Ellen Hopkins? Rene Saldana?  Nikki Grimes?  Those kinds of authors? (Shameless name-dropping here, ha). Actually it was easy to get our 50+ authors on board. They (we) have had such amazing support over the years from teachers and librarians who have bought our books and invited us to their schools, and here was a chance to give back.

Teachers and students will have access to e-books.  Are these all free to read and download?

WW:  We believe in free stuff for schools, and we’ll always have a nice batch (about 20 titles to begin) of free reading. But our website has bills to pay, so we’ll eventually add a low-cost subscription option for “more”—that is, access to our whole library plus some other cool teaching and learning tools.  FYI, LitWeaver will never have a huge library—that’s exactly what we don’t want.  We are curating (buzzword nowadays) a select group of really good readings for grades 5-12 so you don’t have to spend time looking online or through huge, publishers’ catalogs.  Our editor, Don Gallo, and the authors themselves have picked pieces we know students will read—and maybe even like.

Each book comes with a reading guide.  Who created those?

WW:  Current classroom ELA teachers. We have a great, small team of lively teachers dedicated to keeping kids reading and thinking (a big focus on the latter)!

Currently LitWeaver is in beta stage.  When do you anticipate it becoming a full site?

WW: Within 5-6 months, that is, in time for the new school year.  Our beta release is to gauge support.  If we get a lot of teachers signing up (for free), we’ll get investor funding. If we get investor funding, we can build out LitWeaver to provide LOTS of free and low cost YA lit for schools. Nothing not to like about that.

The cost of becoming a LitWeaver user is free right now.  Will free users be able to keep this status after LitWeaver is fully functional?

WW:  Yes.  We’ll always have a rotating section of “free stuff” by top, contemporary authors. If you only want to use these free readings, that’s fine.  But we hope you’ll find enough value and excitement in LitWeaver to eventually subscribe as a paid user. As I mentioned, websites like our are expensive to build and maintain.  Looking ahead to new features, we’ll be adding a student writing component, which will be a fun complement to the reading side.  

Thank you so much Will!!  I've already gone to the site and demo'ed it out and it's really pretty intuitive.  I'm SO glad there are authors like you and the several others who contribute their time and energy to create passionate readers!!

WW: One last thing. LitWeaver doesn’t assume that all schools have 1:1 tablet technology.  If you don’t, no problem. You can select readings and print them out for distribution in class.  We believe in access first, technology second.  And please remember that our site is in open beta right now, which means we’re still working on it–so we’d love to hear your ideas. And very important: if you like where LitWeaver is headed, please sign up and help us get there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Girls, Three Books, Three Very Different Lives

I've been a reading machine lately (yes, it has to do with setting a goal for the year and this year I VOW to make it!).  This is going to be a tri-review of three great books girls may love, relate to, or know someone who is going through these situations.  All of the books are different and all have a large dose of hope.

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic 2015, on-sale date 03/01/2015

Lara and Bree are sisters.
Bree knows her older sister gets all the attention, but the kind she's receiving isn't something Bree will ever want to have.  Her parents are hovering over the hospital bed, hoping Lara's attempt at suicide doesn't take her life...

Lara and Sydney were friends.
But high school changed that when Lara lost weight and became cheerleader.  Sydney feels used, but more than that, she's no longer in the spotlight.  But that's okay...she's got something up her sleeve just dying to come out.  All for Bree...

Sydney and Liam are brother and sister.
Liam doesn't know why Sydney has to be so involved in other people's lives, especially her obsession with Bree.  They used to hang out all of the time in the treehouse, where only a fence separated the families.  Not anymore.  Liam misses Bree the most and hopes they can start to hang out soon, even if their sisters don't anymore...

Lara and Christian, status unknown
They met on Facebook and Lara can't believe her luck.  He's handsome, cute and knows her so well.  They've been chatting for awhile and things are getting more personal.  She's hoping he'll invite her to his school's big dance.  She can't wait to meet him...

One is a liar, One is a lie; One is a defender, One is a protector.  All of their lives are about to change...  Recommended for JH/HS

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor.
Harper Teen, 2015 expected pub date 02/17/2015

Juliet Newman has two big goals she's working on.
Goal number one: make the perfect 2400 SAT
Goal number two: early decision into Harvard

But those are difficult to do after her parents divorce.  Her mom, always put together and totally supportive of Juliet's schedule and life, lays in bed most of the time with her pill bottles lined up on the bedside table.  Her father, always the handsome, well-dressed businessman, lives in Manhattan now where there is hardly any contact.

But that's okay because Juliet has the love of her life, Jason. They've been dating for four years and are both hoping for Harvard early decision together.  They just sync and Jason has been Juliet's rock through her parents' divorce.

Juliet has no idea that her life is about to be far from perfect....her mother is now in ICU from a drug overdose and this one incident creates a tailspin in Juliet's orderly life.  While trying to understand this devastating situation and how it will impact her, she literally bumps into Declan, a new student and amazing singer in a band.

Juliet must navigate through her now messy life and ask the hard questions:  What does she really want, and what does she really need?  She is in control of all of her relationships, including the ones with her parents, but will she make the right decisions? Cans her life be better than perfect? Recommended for HS

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
HarperTeen, 2014

Kenna has been Baker Acted, which means she has to spend 72 hours in a mental facility because she was caught.  Kenna knows the witch who narc'ed on her just wants her out of her best friend Rennie's life, out of The Sisters of the Broken Glass...

Now, Kenna has to face reality.  Her parents are going to know what happened and freak out.  Her perfect step-sister will only shine more, and her little brother Sean, so innocent to the situation...

Kenna knows she's not like the other patients who are here. There's Donya with the multi-colored hair and a penchant to deviate from normal; Skylar who's as tiny and fragile as a robin; and Jag, whose relationship with his father is rocky, at best.  At group, they talk about addiction, about goals to keep, about alternatives.  Kenna has learned which are the answers she needs to give, even if they aren't the truth.  Because she doesn't have an addiction...

"Elbow on the sink.
Right hand trembling."

"Lungs are feeling tight.
Heart is thumping hard.
Rennie's words are swirling in my head.

Just one cut to feel alive..."

What happens after 72 hours are over?  Recommended for JH/HS

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

G.P Putnam's Sons, 2014

Adelina and Violetta have the strong bond of sisterhood, but their lives couldn't be any different.  After being struck down by the blood fever, Adelina was became a malfetto, having the marks associated with them.  And because of those, she is treated differently not only by her father, but everyone else as well.  While Violetta escaped being marked, Adelina's father knew the only thing he could do with his ugly marked daughter was to sell her either for the powers some malfettos were known for, or sell her to get rid of her. 
And the night he decided upon her price changed Adelina's life...

Now, Adelina is on her own being hunted by the Inquisitors.  Not only is she a malfetto, she is also an Elite, someone known for their unique abilities acquired during the blood sickness.  Now in the hands of Teren, the Grand Inquisitor, Adelina looks across the crowd trying to find her sister so it will be the last thing she sees before she dies.  But at that moment, she is rescued by a band of malfettos known as The Daggers, where their goal is to create dissension against the crown.

Waking up in a strange place, Adelina learns more about The Daggers and the dangerous games they play for power.  Enzo, with his ability to release flame and fire, is the leader of The Young Elites.  Other members include Raffaele, Michel, Gemma, Lucent and Dante, all with their own unique abilities.  Together they are strong.  With Adelina, they are powerful.

Little does she know her own abilities could also be her undoing...

Marie Lu takes on the fantasy genre in a sweeping novel set in distant lands like Tamoura, the island of Kennetra and the faraway land of Beldain.  The conflict takes center stage, where good vs. evil is hidden and obscure as well as what the true definition of justice is.  The characters sweep back and forth against these tides and takes the reader down paths they don't expect.  At one point, I was taken by surprise by what Lu does with the storyline.  The characters are vibrant not only with what they can do, but also through their personality.  This is quite unlike her other dystopian novels (Legend series) and deserves a platform on its own, where the reader, like me, cannot wait for the sequel.  The epilogue will blow your mind...
Highly recommended for upper JH/HS

Monday, February 9, 2015

So, what did I learn at TCEA?

TCEA is always a great conference to go to when you want to fill your head, knowledge, and devices with educational technology in action.  From apps to Google everything; tools to pedagogy and everything in between, I absorbed as much as possible, hoping it will stick.

So, when I got back to work today, the first thing I did was start working with presentation tools in an amazing session I sat through in Library Academy.  This is just one of the 10 a librarian from Clear Creek (Shirley Dickey) shared.  It's called e-maze.  So, if you're tired of the same old powerpoint or Prezi, try this one.  It's a freemium, so you have access to it, you just can't download it (must have internet access).
This is a presentation I'm doing with the choir teacher tomorrow to show them different types of video creators they could possibly use :)  Love this site!!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tabula Rasa by Kristin Lippert-Martin

Egmont, 2014

Sarah is in a the Center, head clamped into a halo, waiting for the drilling to begin.  She knows this is all part of the process for her and others in the hospital suffering from PTSD.  She takes her meds like she's supposed to, until one day an orderly hands her a note that reads:

"Take one pill at a time, at 24-hour intervals.
24 hours exactly.
Remain still after taking."

And the chain of events to fight and survive begin....

Sarah doesn't know her past very well because they are being erased one at a time to ease her PTSD...or is that what's happening?  The Center is creating a tabula rasa experience by slowing taking all things Sarah may have known through interactions and previous knowledge and giving her a completely blank slate.  A new start in life.  What the patients don't know is this is only the surface of what the Center is doing for its patients.  Sarah was complacent, at the least, with her decision but the truth about what the Center is truly about begins to crumble and her past life and memories they are trying so hard to erase is coming back, making connections...

At first she only knows bits and pieces, but slowly she realizes why there are people slowly hunting her down, who will stop at nothing to see her dead.  As the bullets fly and the people she knows dies, Sarah runs for her life straight into a stranger named Thomas, who has his own reason for being part of the Center's takedown.  Their relationship is tentative at first, not knowing who to trust or why each one should but when the walls surrounded their mysteries come down, doubt is replaced by a solid partnership and assurance which grows stronger between the two.

Together, Sarah and Thomas make a formidable alliance against the adults tracking their every move through stealth and state-of-the-art devices.  With Sarah's strength and daring paired with Thomas's finesse with computer hacking, both prepare for the battle ahead.  They meet both friends and strangers who become enemies or allies, which only adds to the fury that burns in Sarah when she finds out what that initial first cryptic message really means.  But can she survive an army of mercenaries with the help of one?

New YA author Kristen Lippert-Martin writes a story filled with action, plot, motive and deceit. Readers will instantly get drawn into the chaos fighting alongside the characters while the plot will keep them on the edge of their seats, waiting for more of the truth to be revealed.  This book will attract readers who love high intensity situations.  Think of movies like Mission Impossible or Taken and that is the mood Lippert creates through words and what mental images come to the readers mind.  This is one considered an ultimate page-turner!  Recommended upper JH/HS

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Challenge 2015

When I started thinking about a personal reading challenge, I began to think about those books I kind of shy away from or don't read as much.  Once I started thinking about this, I decided to make a list and my 2015 reading challenge was born.  Here's the list that will not only challenge me to read, but also stretch my reading comfort level.  
Plus,'s fun :)  

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Little Brown, 2015

Hazel, Ben and Jack have grown up together in the town of Fairfold, knowing it’s the most interesting on earth to live.  Tourists flock to this small town to see the main attraction in the middle of the forest, and sometimes they don’t come back.  The children have been brought up to know they should never act like tourists or they too, may disappear.  They keep iron and oatmeal in their pockets and don’t venture into the woods on a full moon.  They hang special herbs on their lintels and wear them in small bags around their necks.  They do this because Fairfold is a truly different, one where humans and faeries live side by side.  There is a reason the residents protect themselves from the faerie folk as well as the other magical and dangerous creatures of the forest that are from another realm.  And the main attraction?  A beautiful boy with horns, asleep in a glass casket that is unbreakable.

Hazel and Ben are brother and sister and when they were little, they played at being a knight who kills evil creatures and the boy who can sing them into submission.  As they grow older, their child play is forgotten and other people and attentions take over.  Now as teens, they go to parties where Hazel kisses the boys and Ben hangs out with his best friend Jack, who himself has an interesting past.

But things in Fairfold begin to unravel, especially when the boy with horns wakes up.  The morning after, Hazel wakes up knowing she had something to do with his awakening but keeps her secret hidden.  When Ben and Hazel decide to search for the beautiful boy with horns, Jack warns them not to, asking them to take heed of his warnings.  They decide to pursue the object of their fascination regardless, not knowing that this awakening has also roused a most terrible monster of the forest who will wreak havoc and destroy anyone who stands in its way.  There is only one solution, but can Hazel and Ben meet the challenge or will they be destroyed as well? 

 A popular sing-song rhyme all of the kids in town know goes like this:
There’s a monster in our wood. 
She’ll get you if you’re not good. 
Drag you under leaves and sticks. 
Punish you for all your tricks. 
A nest of hair and gnawed bone.
You are never, ever coming…
And the one thing they’ve learned is to never ever say the last word.  It’s too late now….

Readers can tell with this novel that Holly Black knows how to write fantasy.  From the setting to the characters to the thickening plot, Black puts her special spin on the story, weaving a beautiful type of lyric onto the pages.  She makes her characters real but has a gift of also making things other than human come to life.  The forest and town aren’t just places, but living and breathing entities, just like the characters.  The main characters in this novel are dynamic and so different from each other but yet maintain a triad that can’t be broken without breaking the storyline.  It wouldn’t work without the trio…those three characters belong together.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read urban fantasy, and am glad this is the book to take me back there again.  Fantasy readers will very much DEVOUR this book and be satisfied with an ending to the tale without hanging on the strings of a sequel (although the adventures could continue in a completely different realm).  HIGHLY recommended for upper junior high and high school.  Even better, it'll be published January 2015!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Twelve Days of Tech-Mas

Taken by David Massey

Scholastic, 2014

Rio can't believe her luck.  Her dream job became a reality when she was chosen to work with the unique crew on Freedom, a custom outfitted yacht.  Starting in South Africa, the crews’ goal is to sail around the world.  Before Rio boards the yacht, she is caught off-guard by a bizarre man, rattling a dirty leather bag with his gnarled and stained fingernails, staring at her with manic eyes….

The crew consists of five veterans of the war, each with their own personality and abilities.  Ash has two blades instead of legs, and still has the strength and dexterity to match a man with legs.  Marcus has to be careful around the sun because of his severe burns to his body that are starting to heal, stretching the scars tight across his face.  Charis has a biotic arm, the first of its kind she can manipulate with her muscles.  Izzy fell from a helicopter and shattered her leg while also coping with Type I diabetes.  Rio and Jennifer are there as support for the team, and everyone is ready to take off. 

Then disaster strikes.  They only wished it had been a monsoon, but it is something much deadlier.  A group of pirates have seized the ship and ransacked it, taking them as hostages and sinking the yacht.  No one knows where they are or what has happened to them.  Now the crew is on their way to most savage part of Africa, where Joseph Kony and his army of children, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, awaits their arrival.

Surrounded by children with guns and blank faces and eyes, the group must be careful around these trigger-happy soldiers, who care nothing about killing a human.  Although Ash and most of the others are veterans, they face something much more difficult – being able to survive with their handicaps.  Mwemba, the leader, is asking for a huge ransom, but he is only part of the problem.  Rio keeps her eye on a girl she calls the Empty Child, a girl whom the others shy away from, even the Sangomo (witch doctor) and Mwemba.  Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer is the tactic of Rio and her mates live as they walk their way through desert and jungle hanging on to every shred of hope in order to survive.

This is unlike any other YA novel I’ve read because the storyline is so very unique.  David Massey does an EXCELLENT job at taking a serious world issue that has come to the forefront of many nations and building a fictional account of it specifically for young adults.  The characters become a cohesive part of the novel, showing both the hopeful and hopeless situation they are a part of, whether it's personal or not.  Within the larger story are smaller ones that deal with the relationships between the crew, especially Rio’s relationships.  Most interesting is that Massey incorporates the strength of individuals with handicaps, examples of true human endurance.  This is one begging to be read and excellently delivered.  Recommended upper JH/HS. 

Non-fiction pair: graphic novel, Army of God by David Axe.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Five Great Crafty Ideas for Librarians and Students

Each year, I ask my student aides to take time to make something to give to a teacher they admire, look up to, or just enjoy.  What we make are book wreaths.  While those take some time (and there are SO MANY to do!), there are others that don't take as long.  Here are five different projects you can make with students using old book pages to give to their favorite administrator, teacher, parent or friend....or even themselves!

1.  Book Wreath: directions for this can be found on:  Of course there are ALL sorts, but my first one I ever made was from this site.  This pic is the masterpiece :)

2. Decoupage Ornaments: This next one is from where you can take something as simple as a glass (I think plastic would work just as well) and decoupage pages over it, adding glitter or other types of shimmery effects.

3. Paper Christmas Trees: Christmas trees made from old discarded wrapping present cores can be made using book pages.  Think of other places as an educator to get those cardboard cores.  I've saved mine from lamination film.  Here are some simple directions:

4. Snowflake: Big or small, any book page will work well to make these beautiful snowflakes! Believe it or not, it took me about 30 minutes to make one of these.  I'm sure it'll be easier the more you make.


5. Book Beads: For the jewelry lover, try making book beads to string for a bracelet or necklace.  Or create bigger ones to use as tree garland.  Simply roll one inch strips using a toothpick for smaller beads and other cylindrical objects for larger beads and Modge Podge the outside.  Hint: spray whatever you're using with some spray'll help loosen up the beads when they're done drying. Also, if doing with tooth picks, set them in water about five minutes before using them


And of course, if you need some more ideas, just go over to Pinterest :)  I have a board called "What To Do With Old Books."  And there are plenty more!!!  Please share if you have one dedicated to creatively archiving old books 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

2014, Candlewick Press

It began with the beautiful marriage between Beauregard Roux and Maman in the mid-late 1800s.  He, with his big personality, and she with her small one.  Beauregard's dream was someday to move to the American city of Manhatine and eventually this became reality.  Between the dream and reality came four beautiful children to the couple.  Emilienne was the first and she would fall in love exactly three times.  Rene was next, and he was so beautiful people would stare when he passed by.  Margeaux was the third and devoutly followed Emilienne's footsteps.  Pierette was the baby and the tiniest fragile creature of the four siblings.

Reality hit hard when the Roux family moved to Manhatine.  Living in squalor and a filthy tenement, the children didn't understand why anyone would consider this paradise.  When you live in a place like this, things get worse most of the time instead of better.  Death took most of the family, and Emilienne knew she had to escape.  She found her way out of the tenements and into the lush, green world of Seattle,  where she started her own family in a periwinkle house on Pinnacle Lane.

Life didn't come easy for Emilienne but she braved through the storms and eventually had a baby girl named Viviane.  She was a bright and intelligent girl and was talented in many ways like her mother, but was especially gifted at being able to attune her sense of smell to not only people, but situations as well.  Rain would smell different during the seasons.  And the love of her life would always smell of soap and Turtle Wax.  Their love produced a set of twins, Ava and Henry, both of them carrying on the uniqueness of the Roux side of the family.

Ava was born with wings, and Henry was born not wanting to be touched or to talk.  Hers was a gift people could see, while his was a talent not fully understood until that tragic day....a very tragic day for the Lavenders...

Leslye Walton writes such a beautiful story filled with allegories, metaphors and lyrical writing.  It's in her writing that the characters fully form in all of their gloriousness as well as the juxtapositions she explores in the settings and personalities found in the book.  Walton's book is meant to be read, but it should be read not only with the eyes, but the soul as well.  Not only meant for teens, this is a novel that adults, especially those who enjoy depth, will love.  No wonder this is a finalist on YALSA's Morris List (new debut authors).  I LOVED this book!!  HIGHLY Recommended high school and up.

Link to a book trailer:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Six Sites to Create and Use Badges in Education

Badges have been around forever.  No matter what culture (or how grisly they are), badges are worn as a sign of importance with a focus not so much on the group, as on the individual.  The military is probably the foremost recognized badge creator/users in the world.  First of all, they're really impressive!  Secondly, if you're part of that organization, you instantly know what each of those badges mean and what you accomplished in order to wear them.

Today, badges have gone from physical to virtual.  Examples of virtual badges are ones gamers have depending on their skills in a particular game.  Then you have websites where you create something and are awarded  badges based on amount of views, longevity, etc (think about what has done with badges.  COOL!!)  Check out people's blogs and what badges they proudly display on their sidelines. 

What's so great about badges?  Why should I care about badges when I'm just an educator?  Here are a few reasons...they are the PERFECT vehicle to
1: display individual achievement
2: create a "want to, can do" attitude
3: they show how far a student has come from where they used to be. 

Think back to the days of stars on a posterboard showing classroom achievement.  Those who did well could swell with pride because they're always at the top of the charts.  But what about those poor souls who weren't able to do what needed to be done in order to get a star?  One word: humiliation.  And that's one powerful word!  When virtual badges are used, they are individually awarded, not grouped.  They can be shown on one person's site, not a chart.  Best of all, YOU get to create them so every student is capable of badges based on their personal strengths

So where do I get them?  Here are six sites I really like that are creative and useful.  Distribution is up to you (email, a curated site of badges, a teacher's website for students to download, et al).  It's worth a try to start making them :)  So, in no particular order:

change font, outline, shape and download. VERY simple to use

transparent badges, more logo than badge.  Many options to choose from.  Downloadable

Multiple tools from badge makers to logo creators and many more.  VERY elementary, doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.  Creates something simple Downloadable.  Registration required

banners, icons, and badges you can make.  Includes curved or straight text as well as color options Downloadable

Need to register for this site.  Add a badge from their design group, or search for a particular one you may need that isn’t shown. Create a class of students and award them indivdually and virtually.

Keep an eye on this site.  has an offline badge maker you can create hands-on.  Email for the kit.  Is in beta format…continuing to work on it for more options

Sunday, November 30, 2014

If You're Going to Surf the Web....Three Sites For Educators K-12 and beyond

Keeping up with tools is an ongoing pursuit because of the amazing turn-around (or turnover) of web tools.  Some are designed for the classroom, and those that aren't can be harnessed and adapted to use in the classroom, with the right amount of ingenuity.  Today, instead of talking about web tools, I'm going to direct you to three great sites instead.

1. wikiHow:
This site has saved me from wasting time trying to find out information from technology to making scones.  You put in a topic, and more often than not, wikiHow will have a step-by-step tutorial (along with images) to get you to the end.  What I like about this site is that it isn't as bulky as Youtube, where trying to find out information can sometimes be like pulling a tooth.  How many of us out there besides me gets frustrated with the length of time to watch it, only to find out that it's not the actual information you may need.  And to top if off, I have to wait for adverts to pop in at the beginning...You can avoid ALL of that unnecessary waste of time by using wikiHow.  Try may find it's your first go to when you need a quick answer

2. Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014:
I typed this in to search for new tools to try and lo and behold!  The Brits have uploaded their top tools list!  What's so great about this list is that it's a compilation of tools voted on by over 1,000 learning professionals from over 60 countries.  That's what I call global collaboration!!  You may know several of them, you may know a few.  It doesn't matter which side you may rest on, it's the fact that these ARE amazing tools and ones educators should get to know on a more personal level

3. Discovery Education Web 2.0 Tools:
We all know the amazing abilities Discovery Education has had on education for years.  The best part of Discovery Education is that it is constantly evolving right alongside the classroom to provide seamless integration.  This particular site is all about web tools but in different categories:  
 Presentation tools
Video tools
Mobile tools
Community tools
Related links
Each of these categories only have three or four sites except Related links, which has more, but that's MORE than a mouthful for anyone who wants to use them individually or in a mash-up (using two or more tools to create a product).

So when you have some time (break is just around the corner!!) hop on over to these sites and stay'll love what you see :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jackaby by William Ritter

2014, Algonquin Young Readers

All Abigail Rook wants is to live the life of adventure her father instilled in her.  When she leaves Europe to come to America in 1892, she finds more than she could have imagined….

Nearly penniless and without a place to stay, Abigail sets foot into the city of New Fiddleham hoping work is plentiful but finding nothing except the oddest man she’s ever met.  People tell her he’s a sham, others say he has a gift, still others won’t even say his name…Jackaby.  Abigail tends to believe what they say when her first encounter with him involves him seeing all sorts of fairy creatures hiding within the folds of her skirt.  With what little money she has, she finds a room for the night hoping the next day will prove more fruitful.

When she wakes up, the day proves just as dismal as her entrance, with little to no job offers available until Abigail notices an ad for an assistant for an investigative service.  Immediately going to the address all she can hope is that the job isn’t filled.  When Abigail rings the bell of the odd house she’s standing in front of, Jackaby appears on the other side.  It's explained to her he can solve mysteries and crimes using not only the power of deductive reasoning, but also his skills at detecting creatures from ghosts to trolls to banshees and more.  Both of them are uncertain about the other (Is he off his rocker? Can she handle the duties involved with the job?) but a murder of dire concern needs his utmost attention, and Abigail follows along, hoping to impress her potential employer.

At the scene of the murder, Jackaby realizes this isn’t just a murder, but one involving a dangerous creature others cannot detect.  Clues left behind are important, but more important are the auras Jackaby sees, leading him further down the dark and dangerous path to find the creature who is craving new victims and the reason behind it.  Along with a young police officer named Charlie, who hides a secret of his own, the trio begins this supernatural investigation that could lead to their untimely demise.  All isn’t what it seems and Abigail learns not only more about Jackaby and his peculiarities, but also something about herself as well. 

This is a brilliant book that entwines historical fiction with hints of mystery and fantasy all blended into one amazing adventure the reader becomes a part of right from the start.  The author, William Ritter, uses descriptive language to create a dark mood and setting but has the ability to use his main character for a slight comedic break from the dark and dangerous, creating a balance of edge-of-your-seat action with those smiles that occur when Jackaby shows his quirks and curiosities (for some reason I can SO see Johnny Depp playing this character :).  Along with the plot, Ritter creates a character with architecture as well, creating a mansion Jackaby lives in that more than meets the eye and mirrors his quirks and personality.  With all of this combined, it makes for a quick read and a hope that there are other adventures Jackaby and Abigail will share with new fans.  YA readers, meet historical New England's freshest new breed of Holmes and Watson!  Recommended 7-12 grades

Book pairs:
Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney

HarperCollins, 2013

Anthem Fleet has it all.  She lives in a penthouse overlooking the city of Bedlam where her father is a premier real estate investor.  She is on the prestigious ballet corps as one of the prima ballerinas, and she goes to Cathedral Day School, a private school for the wealthy.  Her boyfriend, Will, is the best-looking guy in school and Zahra, her best friend, absolutely despises him.  And whereever she needs to go, Serge will take her there in her family's private car, a beautiful and expensive Seraph.  But one event will change her life and make her see the city she loves a completely different way.

Anthem has always colored between the lines but one night she and Zahra go to the Southside to party.  Never having been there before, Anthem is filled with anxiety until she meets Gavin.  He's beautiful,attentive protective.  Anthem loves the way he treats her as a normal person, like casually going by school to pick her up on his motorcycle to take her to secluded and beautiful spots on an otherwise ugly Southside.  They are in love...then Alicia Roach comes calling.

In an instant, Gavin is abducted and Anthem has a few days to come up with a ransom for his release or he dies. She's desperate and devastated and while crossing the Bridge of Sighs, she get thrown into the bubbly chemical-ridden river and dies...only to wake up in a makeshift hospital with stitches running down her chest...

With days lost and a chimeric mechanical heart keeping her alive, Anthem has to beat the clock to save Gavin from the Syndic8 before it's too late.  Or is it already?  The city has gotten derelict and dangerous since The Hope disappeared.  No one knows why he did, but they're ready for a hero comeback..someone to take the city to expose the darkness and bring it to light.  But who will it be and how is Anthem, a beautiful rich girl from the city, involved in all of it?

Kahaney writes a beautifully descriptive steampunk novel that will draw the reader in with imagery, the societies within Bedlam and the dark underbelly of crime.  With street names like Hemlock, Catechism and Oleander and places like Morass Bluffs, Fleet Tower and Hades, the reader will feel like a comic book went rogue and became a  novel based on the grandiose world, characters and plots Kahaney weaves. The citizens of Bedlam can read everything going on through the Daily Dilemma or feed their addiction with drugs like Dreamazine, rollies, and Zenithin.  It doesn't matter which side of the Bridge to Nowhere you live, most lives are the same - duplicitous, carefully covered over and never what they seem.

Best of all?  JUST picked up the sequel this past weekend!  Highly recommended for upper junior high and high school.