Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Go Ahead, Judge a Book By Its Cover- Or Title!

This is about a girl changing who she is to fit in at her high school.

On Tuesday, January 29, 2013 the LMC hosted our first ever Book Spine Poetry Slam with the juniors from Mr. Kluch and Ms. Harris' classes.

Poetry frightens most people, including me. All that figurative language and evocative imagery can intimidate the most confident person. But poetry is really just a different form of story telling not unlike a novel or a painting.

The idea behind Book Spine Poetry is to let students participate in creating verse in a friendly, fast and fun way. Classes were divided into groups of 3-5 and given six books. They could exchange the books with others from the book bank, but could only work with six at a time. They were given five minutes to create a poem using the titles of six books, read top to bottom. No add-in phrases allowed. Each group read their poem aloud and explained its meaning and themes.

To say that Ms. Orest, Ms. Harris, Mr. Kluch and I were blown away is an understatement. We had no idea what to expect from the students, this being our first time using the activity. As is often the case when you work with youth, you end up learning more from those you serve than the other way around!

Not only were the students energetic in their approach to the challenge, they rose above our meager expectations and drew a few tears with their poems. (Not ashamed!)

At risk of beating a dead horse, I can't stress enough how an activity like this wouldn't be possible without books in the Library Media Center! Students touched books, moved about the LMC, engaged with other classmates in their randomly assigned groups and created stories where there were none. (Like magic!) Not one item used for this assignment involved a device, a battery or access to WiFi. Technology is wonderful, but hands-on physical materials are just as valuable for meaningful learning.

So sit back and enjoy the genius of our HHS students!

This is one of my favorites from third hour.

A soldier's battlefield message to his wife. (Yeah, got to me too.)

They went with Faulkner for the theme and look at all the titles they found to connect to that last book.

All about feeling like you don't belong, but knowing there is a place that you do.

 Down Under, but not Australia, if you know what I mean. 

Isn't this one beautiful?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Checked Out on Checking Out Books

A library without books. Looks a bit sterile doesn't it?

Last fall I watched an episode of MTV's  sitcom "The Inbetweeners." The show chronicles the lives of four high school boys who reside on the outskirts of all social circles at their public high school. This particular episode featured an energy drink company sponsoring a makeover of the school library. When the new library was unveiled, the students and distraught librarian discovered that all the books had been removed. In their place were vending machines for the energy drinks, video game monitors and a bunch of Art Deco furniture.

I certainly had a few laughs when I watched the show and felt especially proud that some of the students protested the absence of the books. Then I forgot all about it.

Well I'm not laughing today.

This week the library world is a-buzz talking about a high school that has in fact removed its print collection from the space. It's now a learning center with tables, chairs and computers. The few print books that remain on campus have been distributed to classrooms for teacher supervised lending libraries. You can read the details here.

When I Google searched to find the article again for this post, I was shocked at how long it took me to find it because this bookless library thing is happening in several places.  Rather than being seen as a cause for public concern, this new model is heralded as progressive.  The word thriving is thrown around a lot.

I'll spare you a rant here (you can read my thoughts in the comments section of the article) but I will show you what isn't happening in these libraries but is happening here in the HHS LMC.

One English class has begun their poetry unit. Every day this week we've had students coming in looking for a poet to read and study. Because we are a full service LMC I was able to do this on Monday-

First I asked the student what type of fiction she enjoyed. Using that information I suggested a contemporary poet, Lucille Clifton.  I handed the young lady a copy of Ms. Clifton's work and then referred her to You Tube, where she could view video clips of Ms. Clifton reading her work. The student sat down at a computer and fifteen minutes later she return to the circulation desk and declared, "I really want to read this book now!"

And I was able to let her take it with her that very moment.

Yesterday a boy came in with an list of classic novels. He needed to pick one to read and did not appear too happy about it. He admitted that he rarely read for pleasure. The only descriptive word I could get out him to describe the type of book he might enjoy was adventure. So I took him to the stacks (where the books are) and we wandered up and down the Classics section. At first I wasn't sure what to recommend, but being near the books immediately put ideas in my head and within a few moments I had four suggestions. He took home a copy of Frankenstein.

A school library is a gathering place, an information source and a support center. We would be half a library if we offered only digital materials or print materials. I was able to give my students exactly what they needed because we have integrated all platforms for materials here in the LMC.

So why care about what's happening in a Catholic school library in the Midwest? Because if we don't pay attention to trends in libraries, if we don't advocate for the services and materials to make students successful, the people who make decisions will make one without all the facts.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Books Come To Life

OMG we're at Hogwarts!
So I went on an adventure over Winter Break- to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. As a huge fan of the books (We named the dog Weasley for goodness' sake!) this experience took our love of all things Potter to a level that the films never could. Head buried in a book? How about your whole body surrounded by one?

 Can you read the sign?
This is the entrance to the village of Hogsmeade, where all good Hogwarts boys and girls get to visit on weekends during the school year. The village is a really a mashup of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, combining the shops known in those places, but that didn't bother me at all because I finally got to taste Butter Beer- the famous magical beverage, which is really a fancy soda. It's a cross between root beer and cream soda with a dash of butterscotch. Yummy!

The village of Hogsmeade.
As you can see it was very crowded the day we visited but that didn't stop me from shopping. I took my oldest son Conner to Dervish & Bangles and bought him a proper wand. Then we went to Filtch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, a dark shop filled with festive T-shirts and decorated with items Mr. Filtch has removed from students' possession. No trip to Hogsmeade would be complete without a stop at Honeydukes. The Chocolate Frogs were huge! I did not sample the chocolate covered flies though.

Another view of Hogwarts.
Hogwarts is really the star of this park. It's built almost to scale and is a magnificent sight in person. The ride inside the castle takes you through Hogwarts, the Quidditch field and the Forbidden Forrest. I'm reluctant to give too much away, but I will say that the most fearful creatures from the books make an appearance. So be prepared to run (or fly away on a broomstick) fast!

The Sorting Hat in all his glory. He spoke & moved!
The Sorting Hat is one of my very favorite characters from the books. He gets far too little screen time in the films plus they took out all his lyrical rhymes and songs. I found him to be quite dashing in person.

If you're a fan I highly recommend a visit if you can swing it. I know Universal Studios Hollywood is planning to add a Harry Potter section to the park in the near future, making easier for us here in Arizona. I can only hope that literary theme parks become a trend. I'd love to visit Jane Austen Land or Panem or Mount Olympus from the Percy Jackson series. As a writer I confess to a touch of envy toward J.K. Rowling. As if it's not enough to not only finish a book, but see it published successfully, but she now has had her work presented in all dimensions. Wow!

My trip was practically perfect in every way but one- I'd like to find the witch or wizard who put an Expecto Fizzious spell on my hair!*

*See the first picture.