Saying YES to Teachers

In our back-to-school meeting today at Vance Providence Elementary School, our faculty was asked to choose a watchword for this year. As the morning went on we heard from our principal, our guidance counselor, our secretary, and others on the faculty and staff.  As I listened and made note of the information being shared, the question lingered in the back of my mind: What word will define my attitude for the year? What word will sum up what I want my co-workers to notice about me?  What word can I use to remind myself of what is truly important this year?

The word I chose is Yes. That one simple word represents my desire to assist and support the teachers as I begin my education journey with them. So many times in the past I’ve had to tell teachers “no” when they needed something because my time was completely taken up with conducting Library classes. This year I have a flexible schedule, so I can be there with resources, with ideas, with collaborative teaching plans, and with technology innovations to empower them in their classrooms and beyond.

Whatever a teacher asks me for this year, I want to be able to say Yes to it. You’re having technical difficulties with your document camera? Yes, I’ll come look at it. You need enough folk tales for every student in your class to have one? Yes, I’ll bring a selection to your classroom. You want to use a Promethean flipchart to give students practice classifying different types of rocks? Yes, I’ll help you create that. You’re looking for a website to help students learn more about Greek and Roman mythology? Yes, I’ll find one for you.

Sometimes it will be yes, and … (here’s something more we can include)
Sometimes it will be yes, or… (we could try this idea instead)
Sometimes it will be yes, if… (it depends on someone else doing their part)
Sometimes it will be yes, after… (I need to finish something else first)
Sometimes it will be yes, when… (as soon as I can find the answer/solution)
But always Yes.

Yes, it will be a juggling act at times, but YES it will be worth it to help our teachers accomplish their goals!

What’s your word this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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Twitter Slow Chat: Let’s Discuss the New AASL Standards

  Hey, school librarians! Do you have questions about the new AASL National School Library Standards?  Want to share your ideas for implementing them?  Did you attend a formal training and now you have some insight to pass along to your peers?  Or are you just eager to connect with other librarians who are digging deeper into what the changes will look like in our schools?  If you said yes to any of these questions, please join the AASL Standards slow chat going on in the Twitterverse right now!

Each Tuesday, Amanda Kozaka (@BoomshakaKozaka) posts a question about the standards to get us thinking and planning for the upcoming school year.  We’re on Week 3 of an eight-week chat, so there’s still plenty of time to participate.  Here’s our current question:


The slow chat format means you have all week to tweet your replies, and if you’re a newbie who is not comfortable posting on Twitter yet, you can learn by searching for the hashtag #AASLowchat to see what others are saying about the standards.  You can also follow the hashtag #AASLstandards as well.I use Tweetdeck (free!) to set up separate feeds for the hashtags I follow; I couldn’t keep up with multiple chats and timelines without it!


  You can purchase a copy of the book online, and you can download the Learner Framework – which includes the Common Beliefs – for free.

Are you involved in other online discussions of the new standards?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share!


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Making a Difference for Children

Ever since I began reflecting and sharing online in 2007, I’ve adhered to a strict policy of keeping my private life and my professional life totally separated.  I have different social media accounts for work and family, and I will unfollow people who include too much “politics” in the education sector.  This blog post is my sole exception in my twelve years of writing about my experience as an educator.  You’ve been warned.

Normally I look forward to starting my mornings by fixing myself an iced mocha and perusing my news feed to find out what’s happening in the world.  Today I experienced only a sickening sense of dread as I powered up my ipad, and my churning stomach led me to skip the coffee altogether.

This article from USA Today that I read yesterday perfectly summed up all the troubling stories I’ve been following lately, and seeing details of these separate events compiled in one place just brought me to the point of feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in our government and in our country.

 I’m feeling profoundly sad (we took frightened children away from their desperate parents?), dumbfounded (we took these children from their parents with NO procedure for eventually reuniting them?), bewildered (we think this is okay because these aren’t American children?), outraged (we’re using the words of a loving God to justify destroying families?).  **And I intentionally use the pronoun “we” because when the rest of the world looks at what’s happening, they are watching what America is doing.**

And that list doesn’t even include…

…my contempt for those who would rip the blindfold from Lady Justice so as to twist the law to benefit themselves

 …my disgust for those who would take advantage of people’s media illiteracy to make up their own stories about real images in the news

…my scorn for the merging of Education and Labor into one government department – as if the only worth our citizens have is as part of the work force

 …my disdain for anyone who would use fashion to send tone-deaf (at best) or brazenly arrogant (at worst) messages at a time when we need compassion and concern.

As the kids say, “So many feels!”

 So what to do about it?  I confess to wondering, as Hamlet did, “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?”  Because I keep my private/political opinions to myself in the professional arena.  I don’t want personal beliefs to get in the way of valuable cyber connections and learning opportunities.  But in the end I realize that I must heed these simple yet powerful words also from Shakespeare, “This above all, To thine own self be true.”  So I’ve decided I can’t remain silent.

What I can do is stay informed, contact my legislators, raise awareness of these issues, and pray.  And even though I can’t directly touch the lives of the immigrant children who are suffering right now, I CAN touch the lives of the students in my school and community.

To bring all of this back to the original purpose of this blog, I can reflect on what’s really important each day that I’m in contact with the kids who show up at school looking for relationships, looking for validation, looking for someone who sees and appreciates and nurtures their potential.  What a blessing and a responsibility to be an educator!  I want to keep doing it better.


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Summer Reading Reminders for Students

I always like to plan end-of-the-year activities for my library classes that encourage students to keep reading over the summer. As someone who always has stacks of books around the house, as well as a public library card, I take it for granted that time off from school just means MORE time to read.  But I realize that for many of our students, the opposite is true.

Here are a few things I like to do:

  I usually do a book swap during the last week of school, but this year we made that one of our Read Across America Day activities.  Click to download the flier I send home for the summer swap.

 Summer Reading BINGO, except I don’t play it as a bingo game.  I give each student a copy of the grid showing all the reading possibilities along with some colored pencils.  I put on some upbeat music and students move around the room collecting signatures from their classmates.  Each student signs a square representing one type of summer reading he/she will participate in.  Not only does this get kids planning for their reading, but it makes a nice memento with everyone’s autograph.  I have also used this as a back-to-school icebreaker, where students sign a square that represents a type of reading they actually did over the summer.  You can download the grid I use for free on Teachers Pay Teachers from Create Teach Share.  (Also includes a Summer Reading Bucket List, which is cool for setting individual reading goals.)

  I also like to create a Summer Reading Brochure tailored to my students as a way to share a lot of info in one place.  I include a definition of “summer slide” and how to overcome it; information on summer reading programs hosted by the public library, the local bookstore, and online sites; and summer reading lists including our state book award nominees for the upcoming year.  Since many kids now have some type of device capable of accessing the internet, I also include URLs for websites with free ebooks.  I include our school library collection, and a link to DISCUS Kids, which includes a free subscription to Tumblebooks for residents of South Carolina courtesy of our State Library.  (Your state library may offer something similar.)

  And finally I entice them with the promise of our annual Summer Reading Celebration, an ice cream sundae party for students who turn in a reading log (signed by a parent) of books they enjoyed during the break or a certificate of completion from an official summer reading program.

How do you get students excited about reading over the summer?  Leave a comment and share!



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Steve Jenkins Books in the Elementary Makerspace

If you’re a follower of this blog, you know what a passion I have for collage art.  (I’ve written about it here and here and here.)  A favorite author/illustrator is Steve Jenkins, whose non-fiction animals book inspire me with both their facts and their art.

(Click the book covers to look inside.)

He’s the inspiration for our latest activity in the STEAM Makerspace this month.  First I share some of his books with my students, and we discuss how they think he created the art.  Then we watch this video on the Steve Jenkins website showing how he creates an illustration for his book Move.

Click to view the video.

I realize that kids can’t expect to measure up to his artistic standards, and I don’t want them to feel disappointed with their results, so I also show them some examples of animal collage art made by other kids.  Then I turn them loose with paper, scissors, and glue!

(Click the photo to enlarge)

I think the results were pretty awesome!  Do you use collage art and/or Steve Jenkins books in your library or makerspace?  Leave a comment and share!


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South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference 2018 Recap

  I’m still reflecting on everything I learned and experienced at this year’s South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference, which featured wonderful speakers and fascinating authors and illustrators.  My thanks to the conference steering committee, our SCASL officers, and the local arrangements committee for a fantastic conference!

Hearing Matt de la Pena read his Caldecott award-winning book LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET and talk about engaging reluctant readers was a highlight of the conference for me!

Later on I’ll be sharing more details about what I learned, and some of the new ideas I’m implementing in my library, but for now I’ll just post a copy of the report I created for my principal.  I wanted to give her a quick overview of the sessions I attended and my top take-away’s from each, so I created a google slideshow for my recap.

If you have published notes or a reflection on the SCASL 18 conference somewhere online, please share a link in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune.  You can also search twitter for #scasl18 to see what attendees have been tweeting about!


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Shopping at The Monstore on Read Across America Day

One of the best activities we did on Read Across America Day was our Book Switcheroo!  Each teacher selected a book to read aloud to a small group of students and prepared a follow up activity for them.  Students were sent a google form with pictures of all the book covers so they could choose the one they wanted to hear, and during the last hour of the day they switched to the classroom where that book was being read.  Teachers weren’t limited to only reading Dr. Seuss books, although many of them did.

  I chose the book The Monstore by Tara Lazar.  I thought it had a bit of a Dr. Seuss feel to it, since he was known for his imaginary creatures, it works with multiple ages, and I had a great idea for a follow-up activity that I knew the students would enjoy.  After all, who can resist designing and creating their own monster!

As the kids came into the library, they were each given three tickets to save for later.  Before sharing the book with them I asked who had younger brothers or sisters (most did) and we discussed how pesky they can be.  After the story – which they thoroughly enjoyed – the kids all sat down at a table while I explained that I had a Monstore set up for them to visit.  At my Monstore they could use one ticket for a piece of colored card stock, and with the remaining two tickets they could purchase “monster parts” for an original creation.

Choices included googly eyes, pipe cleaners, yarn, glitter, fancy-edged scissors, etc.  Each table was also given a caddy with regular scissors, markers, and glue.

As I expected, the students were wildly inventive with their monster ideas, and by limiting the number of add-on’s they could purchase we avoided copycat creations.  I realized afterwards that this would also be a great Makerspace or Learning Center activity for students.

Library bulletin board featuring our Monstore monsters. Click to enlarge.

If you’d like to use The Monstore in your library or classroom, visit the book’s official homepage for a free teacher’s guide, as well as additional ideas and links.  If you have other suggestions for sharing this book, please leave a comment!


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