Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where Are the Stories?

Ever have an idea or words just connect with you?  This past fall Lynwood Tall Bull came to our school and talked with our students and staff.  He believes that everyone should have a rock.  We should keep it with us when we are sharing stories, because rocks remember.  Later the rocks will help us recall the stories that are important to us.  I tried to envision the rocks listening as the wind whispered.

This picture (Jan 2013) is of the cliffs in the Four Dances Recreation area across from Coulson Park (Billings, MT).  For me this is the picture I see when I think of the rocks listening to the whispering winds. 

My life is intertwined with stories.  As a high school student Grandpa Watson, then 94, told me about coming by wagon and settling in Idaho when he was twelve.  He told me about the first airplane he saw - it was the first that flew over the divide, and his thoughts when they walked on the moon.  My mother told me stories about growing up.  I remember all the children's toys and antiques at my Grandma Chandler's home.  Mostly I remember the old hand pump in the kitchen, the wood stove and the old oak table with a built in Lazy Susan in the middle.  I remember the late night dashes to the rough planked privy outback.

When I look at a historic item - I want to know its story.  I have always been inquisitive so it came as a shock when I realized that many students glance at pictures, artifacts etc and never ask for the back story.  I have come to understand that students need scaffolding to become critical thinkers.  Part of that progression is learning how to ask questions.  How to make observations.  These are the basic keys to unlocking the hidden stories.  The stories that help us understand who we are and who we want to become.

Have You Been Grokking?

Girl Scout Cookie | Learn about Girl Scout Cookie on instaGrok, the research engine 

Grok is a research tool. You can set it for easy or Einstein.  It is a great place to start learning the basics of  key word research.

How would I use it in the classroom.  I would take a topic and brainstorm as a class.  Then I would use the Grok website and compare your findings.  You could even use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast your findings.

The Grok will bring up keywords, websites, videos.  This is a site with great potential.  Have fun Grokking.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Would Your Answer Be?

Hectic times! As I talk to friends, everyone is doing so much.  Sometimes I feel like the little gerbil running in his wheel - going fast and getting no where.

Hubby and I will leave today and head to Helena, MT for the 7th Annual Indian Education For All Best Practices Conference sponsored by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.  Last year was the first time I attended.  It was marvelous.

I have been working on a website as part of my presentation.  It has been challenging to put the information into a logical and easy to use format.  I feel nervous.

This morning the dogs got me up and I decided to do some surfing before I started packing.  I found a great blog "The Show Me Librarian"   I love her post "Reading Then and Now"   She took several sentences and answered them from her 10 year old self and also from her adult self.

As I read I thought about not only her answers but the questions themselves.

  • Sentence #1: I think everyone in the world should read...
  • Sentence #2: If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be...
  • Sentence #3: When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...
  • Sentence #4: The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is...
  • Sentence #5: The last book I wish I'd written or inspired me to write my own story is...
My answers:

Sentence #1:  365 Thank Yous:  The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed my life by John Kralik

Sentence #2:  James Earl Jones - I once heard a commentator make the comment that he could sit and listen to James Earl Jones read the New York phone book.  I agreed.

Sentence #3:  Alexander from " Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad  Day" by Judith Viorst

Sentence #4:  I guess that would depend on which room and which shelf or box.  I like fantasy, mystery, education, inspiration and history and ....

Sentence #5:  The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

What are your answers?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Loving Gestures

What loving gesture has your sweetheart made for you?  For  my birthday my hubby ordered a gluten-free cake from our favorite baker.  Jayne at Jayne's Signature Sweets puts our cakes on her calendar.  She made our wedding cake.  Her chocolate cake is to die for.

She thinks my husband is cute, even though he tends to not giver her much notice that he needs a cake.  Hence she puts it on the calendar.  This year I am not eating wheat or gluten.  She made a gluten-free chocolate cake.  She told me if she didn't tell, you wouldn't know.  She was right.

My hubby at times can surprise me with very loving gestures.  On my birthday we went to supper.  He wouldn't tell me where,  he wanted to surprise me.  When we got there.  He gave them our name.  The young hostess smiled and said "Oh, we have your table ready."  She just beamed, several of the servers followed us.  As we approached the table I noticed there was a bouquet of flowers in the middle of the table.  Our young server, grinned ear to ear as she whispered "They delivered them earlier today."

When we sat down, I thanked my hubby for the flowers.  He commented, "I know you like your thistles.  The girl at the shop said this was a romantic bouquet.  I told her that would work."

I feel so loved and cherished when he makes these loving gestures.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Exactly Is a Graphic Novel?

I came in the other morning and talked with my principal and several colleagues about my desire to add graphic novels to the library.  The look of horror and disbelief was evident.    I could see by their raised eyebrows they wanted to know why I wanted to add "smut" books to the collection.

When I was a kid someone gave my sister a stack of comics.  I remember reading through all of them. Veronica, Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker and many others.  It was a rare comic book that crossed the threshold of our home.  My mother viewed comics as a major corrupting vice, at best junk literature that would rot my mind... "Most comics do not use good grammar.  They misspell words.  They are not quality literature."  I grew up believing comic books were not for real "readers".

As a librarian of an elementary library I have been slow to add graphic novels to my collection.  One reason, my belief that all graphic novels were adventure comics with scantily clothed females.  From their my imagination visualized angry parents storming the library holding offending graphic novels in their hands.  That image fueled my bias against this genre.

There are as many types of graphic novels as there are genres, many are kid friendly.    Research shows using graphic novels and comic books in the classroom is a powerful reading tool.  I even discovered that Maryland has a Comic Book Initiative.
Columbia University Teacher College has the "Comic Book Project" a national comic-based after school program.  Denver, Colorado has "Comicbook Classroom"

I was surprised by my research results.  There are lots of reasons to use them in the classroom.  Here are resources for choosing age appropriate graphic novels.
There's more to comic books and graphic novels than the stereotype of yore.  When asked, "What exactly is a graphic novel?"  My short answer - "The cousin of the comic books of my youth." The long answer - "An important piece of literature that needs to be available for my students."  Comic Books and Graphic Novels are important components for teaching reading.  

And to think I almost missed the boat because of my own misinformed bias.  Graphic Novels are more than stories with scantily clad ladies.  They are a multi-layered form of literature.