PostHeaderIcon Upgrading the Booktalk

Booktalking is a standard librarian activity and there are so many different ways to do it and I have done quite a few of them.  At the Middle School/High School Level this is one of the ways we can continue to inspire students to read for enjoyment.  I have tried the book cafe, musical books, book-tastings, book dating, lecture style book talk, book trailer stations, #booksnaps, and Peardeck Booktalks.  I will talk about all of them and the benefits and drawbacks for each one.  I love books and sharing them with students is the best but even better is when they share with me 🙂

Book Tastings/Dating

Let’s start with Book Tastings or Book (Speed) Dating depending on your grade levels.  I tend to call it tastings until grade 7 and then transition to calling it dating.  Book Dating occurs when you pre-select books for students to explore.  Students will sit down in front of a book they find interesting from the cover (I know never judge a book by the cover but come on we all do it!).  They will then read that book for 5-10 minutes depending on the age level of student.  At the 3/4 level I have even gone down to 4 minutes.  After the reading time they write down the title and author of the book and then they rate it via emoji.  Here is an example of a sheet I have used when I was not 1:1 Chromebook in my school.


  • Musical Books – each time the students have to move to another book play music and then when the music stops students have to read the book they are near.  This can be nice if students are reading the same books over and over.  It challenges them to get outside their comfort zone.  Hints:  Keep them moving and make sure they keep circling and not the same book 🙂

Lecture Style

I tend to use this style if I am given very little time to Booktalk.  This is the least interesting or interactive for the students.  They are passively listening and my non-readers just tune me out.  I also find this is extremely ineffective with Seniors.  I usually use book trailers in this style to change it up.

Book Trailer Stations (Great option if you are not 1:1)

This was introduced to me by a fellow librarian in another district and I did it with great success.  She utilizes Follett Collections but you could easily create a Google Website or Post in a Google Classroom.  How it works:  Create a list of books with great book trailers.  You should have at least 18 trailers in various genres.  Be sure to put in some diverse titles too!  A great way to get students to read diverse titles is through a book trailer.  Once you have those trailers you will put them somewhere that is easily accessible by the students.  Setup laptops or ipads with the links to the trailers on the screen.  Students will break into groups and choose the book trailer of their choice to watch an react to via a Google Form or Worksheet.  Example of a Google Form and Follett Collection.


Booksnaps (How to Video) were created by Tara Martin and you can see an entire blog post about it here.  According to Tara here are the reasons for using #booksnaps:

  • To annotate and share excerpts of the book you’re reading
  • Connecting ideas or thoughts to a visual representation and it helps the brain to remember key ideas with a visual
  • Diagram the rise, fall, and climax of the plot (see an example image below)
  • Highlight figurative language and imagery
  • Character conflict and internal struggles
  • Connect to the text on a personal level
  • Main idea or a supporting argument

Why do I use Booksnaps?  They are engaging to students and uses the technology that they are engaged in every day.  Use their powers for GOOD!  It takes a tool they already know how to use and use it for an educational purpose.  The best activities are those that they do not even think about as work.  I can tell you my 8th graders had a ball with this and wanted to do more than one!  It goes to show that if an activity is engaging a grade does not have to be tied to it.  Here is an example presentation I did for a Holocaust Novel BookSnap.  Here is the Google Form I used to collect the photos.  Not to grade but to be able to project all the cool work done by the students.  Here is a short presentation I have done to explain them to students as well.

Peardeck Booktalks aka Emoji Booktalk

Peardeck is an addon to Google Slides that allows you to insert interactivity into your presentations.  This is fantastic when you are trying to booktalk because it allows reaction to the book you are talking about.  I have created a hybrid of my Book Tastings and Lecture type to create the Emoji Booktalk!  Each student will need a device this could be an iPad, Phone, Chromebook, etc.

Librarians/Teacher:  Create your slidedeck as normal for a Booktalks but include a slide that looks like the one with emojis: Slide #5  You could do emojis, icons, bitmojis whatever resonates with your students. You will also insert the Pear Deck Temperature Check Slide (view it on Slide #4).  This gives you insight later on the books that the students enjoyed.  That data can be used for the next booktalk to help in choosing books.  This is a free addon that revolutionized how I instruct my students for literacy and research.  Giving them access to anything on their screens in real time freed up time spend navigating to websites and such.

PostHeaderIcon Gamification in the Library

There are so many ways to gamifiy your library and some of my favorite ways to do this include several relatively new tools.  I like to use scavenger hunts, QR codes, augmented reality, and classroom management tools to engage my students.

“The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. Gamification, broadly defined, is the process of defining the elements which comprise games that make those games fun and motivate players to continue playing, and using those same elements in a non-game context to influence behavior. In other words gamification is the introduction of game elements in a non-game situation.” “Gamification Of Learning”. 2018. En.Wikipedia.Org. Accessed July 23 2018.

In essence, gamification uses game theory and elements to increase the engagement and learning.  I have found that even the most reluctant student instantly becomes more attentive and interested in the content when you include some of these elements.  So let get started with the tools. Goosechase

What: An app for online scavenger hunts that combines news-feed, photos, pictures, Q & A, and text.  Each scavenger hunt includes missions that can be completed by teams or individually.   It allows students to get up and travel around your room or even the school.  One of my track coaches even used it for her team around the neighborhood.  I created my Scavenger Hunt on their website on a computer as I found it much easier.  There is a bank of questions that you can use if you need it, but you can also create your own.  Hunt questions include the team taking a photo, creating a video, multiple choice questions, and text answers.  Students can see a feed of items as each team completes the questions.  As the administrator of the scavenger hunt, you can reject any answer a student gives.  Each question is assigned a point value and the teams are competing to get the most points.  You can stop the scavenger hunt at anytime with the click of a button.

Free Version:  You can only have 5 teams or individuals

Applications:  So many assessments and lessons could be turned into a scavenger hunt.  It could also be used for library orientation and team building and developing a community of learners.


What:  Classcraft is a tool that uses a game environment to monitor class behavior and accomplishments and rewarding students for their efforts.  You can create teams within Classcraft which is quite an effective use of peer motivation.  Teachers can customize the environment and adapt it to fit their classroom.  However, you can use the presets within the product.  I have found that when used the most effectively the teacher creates content that is directly related to what the class is doing.  You can tie points earned to anything the students complete from homework to online quizzes and projects.  Behavior is only the tip of the iceberg.  It also looks cool like a detailed role-playing game.  When using teams, you can even give different members of the team different abilities.  It can be as complex or simple as you like.

There are five different point types found in the game. There are HP (Health Points), XP (Experience Points), AP (Action Points), GP (Gold Pieces), and PP (Power Points). Each helps student engagement and success.  The parent connection is great and gives parents the ability to award GP to their child for good deeds done at home.  Home connection!  With a coordinating Classcraft app (iOS; Android; Windows) and a Chrome Extension, you are able to manage your class with ease. This video helps describe a typical day in Classcraft.

Free Version:  You can utilize most of the product except some premium features like boss battles and Google Classroom integration

Applications: Depending on your level this could be used for classroom management of your information literacy skills classes or electives you are teaching.  It will definitely be something you can utilize if your teachers are it using during collaborations for secondary.  I plan to use it with my 6th grade classes and one of my teachers will be using it as well.  We shall see how it goes!  I will also use it in my Game Design class because why not!  Its use and function is another lesson within my class.

These are two products that I think you should consider checking out and integrating into your library.  They will engage and stimulate wonder in your classroom.  A library is a classroom open to the entire school.  Learning is just the beginning of what we can do!  I am in a 6-12 School Library in upstate New York and love technology.  Thank you to Richard Byrne at Free Technology 4 Teachers who inspired me to resurrect this blog to share my knowledge and love of educational technology.


PostHeaderIcon The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns by Leigh BardugoThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I received this title via @kidlitexchange for an honest review.

So what exactly do you get in The Language of Thorns? Leigh says in her interview with GdM: “These are the stories my characters would have heard growing up. Some of them deliberately evoke popular fairytales, others diverge more radically from the familiar. They come from different countries around the Grishaverse, so you’ll get slightly varying views on magic, heroism, and even beauty depending on whether the story is from Kerch, Ravka, Fjerda, or Novyi Zem. There are a few easter eggs for readers of the Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone series’, but you can also pick up the collection without ever having read one of my novels.”

I loved the Grishaverse and Leigh’s style of writing. It is very Russian and there are so few books that really transport me into another world so thoroughly unlike my own. The stories definitely gave me an original Grimm’s fairytale vibe and this was the author’s intent. The artwork is beautiful and although it it’s only a sample I previewed, the beauty of the book surpassed my expectations. Color is used to great effect with even the text changing color along with the illustrations along the margins. The artwork gives you a sense of the scenery and tone of the story.

Final Verdict: A+
I look forward to reading the book in its entirety.

PostHeaderIcon Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Wonder Woman by Leigh BardugoWonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I received this book via @kitlit exchange a fantastic group I found on instagram.

When I first picked up this book I thought it would be a movie tie-in for the summer blockbuster. Boy was I wrong. It is a standalone book that is fantastic. It is part of a series of books that are reimagining superheroes for a new generation. I am extremely excited about Catwoman coming out very soon.

I really enjoyed the differences in mythology that Bardugo chose. Although it had the heart of the film it really was very different in its mythology. I also enjoyed that the main character explored our world in her own quest rather than trying to save it. It allowed the character to grow in her understanding of the outside world.

Not only do we have Diana but we are also introduced to Alia who is the descendant of Helen of Troy and one of many warbringers. Her very existence brings war and strife to the world so Diana and Alia must work together to prevent chaos in the world. Diana is not the self-assured Amazon we have come to see but is unsure of her place in the world of the Amazons and being the bodyguard to Alia allows her to learn much about herself.

Final verdict? Loved it and cannot wait for more in the series!
Batman: Nightwalker by (2018)
Catwoman by Sarah J Maas (2018)
Superman by Matt de La Pena (2019)

PostHeaderIcon Innovation of Making

Presenting at YSS tomorrow on the innovation of Making.  I have been inspired by the likes of Diana Rendina and Laura Flemming who have given the library world fantastic resources on how to start a makerspace.  My main challenge with makerspaces is that I see them becoming a glorified arts and crafts experience.  There is nothing wrong with this but in the age of intense accountability it is imperative that we create experiences that engage deeper thinking.  Creation and innovation along with creativity and authentic experiences are paramount if we are going to gain a foothold in the educational realm.

Librarians are at a crossroads as to what they need to do to remain relevant in a world of eBooks, renting textbooks, 1:1 chromebooks, etc.  I think makerspaces could be a part of the solution.  We are really good at getting students to think deeper into inquiry and we need to market and develop those tools that are unique to librarianship.

Check out my presentation (Google Presentation).

PostHeaderIcon Many Faces of Google Searching

If you are like me you are constantly using the search function in Google Drive.  You are also a person that uses Google Chrome’s omnibar for everything.  Did you know you can type in and press tab and it creates a search of youtube for you?  Type away your search.


Now there are a lot of search engines listed in Chrome but you can create your own!  Thank you so much ShakeUpLearning for cluing me in.

How to Edit Your Chrome Search Engines:

  1. Right-click on the Omnibox, and select, “Edit Search Engines.” This will open your search engine settings in Google Chrome.
  2. From here, scroll down to the very bottom to add a new search engine.
  3. Name your search engine.
  4. Then choose the keyword you want to use. I use the letter “d.” It doesn’t even have to be a full word.
  5. Then just copy and paste this search URL:
  6. Click done.

untitled-gif-2Source:  Bell, Kasey. “Did You Know You Can Search Google Drive and Gmail From the Chrome Omnibox? | Shake Up Learning.” Shake Up Learning. Shake Up Learning, 28 June 2016. Web. 07 Oct. 2016. <>.


Searching Tips & Tricks:

When searching if you type in the following items you will get better results.  One of my favorites is Filetype: because when searching for images I usually need a transparent background.  This occurs with PNG images therefore I will search Filetype:PNG to get images that have a transparent background.  Also remember to search only Open Source images that can be modified when doing this though.

  • Filetype:
    • Add the type of file you are searching for such as PDF, DOC, PPT, PNG, etc.
  • Time
  • Weather
  • Define:
    • This will define any word within the Google Search
  • Translate
    • Translate any word
  • allintext:
    • Must have your search term in the website
  • allintitle:
    • Must have your search term in the title of the website
  • ~
    • Use the symbol to look for your search term and others that are related
  • ebook:
    • search for only ebooks
  • inurl:
    • Search term must be in the URL/Web Address
  • daterange:
    • Search for a certain time period
  • movie:
    • Search for movies
  • cache:website address
    • Search for the cached version of a website (cached=stored version)
  • site:
    • Search within a single site.  Put the site in and then your search terms

PostHeaderIcon End of the Year Review Game Madness

review_gamesThere are so many options for helping students review content for finals but which ones are the best?  I have used several and below are some of my favorites.

Flippity – create your own automatically score tallied Jeopardy Game.  Forever when setting up a Jeopardy game the students will bicker back and forth about the score. Take the frustration out by using Flippity which actually uses a Google Spreadsheet that is published.  The creators of the Jeopardy Game aka Quiz Show also have flashcards which are great for review.  Check them out you will not be disappointed.

Socrative & Kahoot! – Competition is helpful when trying to review with students and both of these sites help you easily great games to help review.  You can use any internet ready device to use both programs and students do not have to create an account to use them. – offers a free service teachers can use to create their own educational games.  You can get rid of the ads for a fee but they are not extremely distracting.  You can find a variety of tools on this site from fake facebook templates to arcade review games.  They are easy to setup and embed in your own site.

Purpose Games – is a free service that allows users to create custom games, share games, and play games. You can create multiple choice games or go deeper and create interactive images and maps that have the user name the correct places or names of images.

Triventy – Very similar to Kahoot! You can write your own questions or edit existing quiz.  All quizzes are presented on a large screen – just like you would run a presentation. Your students will use a short link ( to join the quiz from their laptops, tablets or smartphones – no need to install any App!  Students can login with Google which makes that process very easy.

These are some of my favorite review sites.  Do you have any you enjoy?  Share them in the comments.

PostHeaderIcon Live From Olympia

did-earthquake-destroy-ancient-greece-670x440-130426Project Inspiration: Students are fascinated with Ancient Greece and I thought it would be interesting for students to take their inquiry questions and interest video-making and combine it into a collaborative project.  This project could be for grades 6 and up depending on the curriculum.

Essential Question: What if we lived in Ancient Greece? What is the importance of Ancient Greece to us today? What can we learn about ourselves from the Ancient Greeks?

The Situation:  A film crew has been transported back in time to report on Ancient Greece.  It is your job to do research on an aspect of Ancient Greek life for the film crew.  You are also charged with creating the scripts the film crew will follow when they go live with a new program called: Live From Ancient Olympia.

Note: Prior to beginning the actual project students read some ebooks  (Rosen Publishings Interactive eBooks on Ancient Greece) on Ancient Greece to get perspective and background information.  These are fantastic ebooks that are simotaneous use with are my favorite!  Timelines and keywords defined.  There are so many resources.  Full Disclosure: I am good friends with one of the reps.  But it is still an awesome resource and there are no other eBooks out there like it.  The key to the success of the project is organization and the use of  jobs in each group.  The project began with the Marshmellow Challenge to get students to begin to work together and think about each person’s strengths.

Each group includes:

  1. Manager—keeps group members on task; communicates with teacher; provides leadership
  2. Reporter—keeper of all records; manages paper; tracks “who’s doing what”
  3. Techie—manages the group’s technology needs; knows how to use the technology or is willing and able to learn new technology as needed for this project.
  4. Archivist—organizes found stories, photos, and artifacts

Each class (of 4-5 groups) work on one news broadcast.  Therefore, in each class there was one video editor, one camera person, and two anchors.  This worked extremely well for creating the video.  Not all students are interested in video editing and it can be time-consuming so those students interested in the process can be involved.  The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive.  They enjoyed the process and learned a lot.

You can see some examples of the project here

PostHeaderIcon WeVideo & GreenScreen

maxresdefaultWith the shutting down of Jaycut quite a few years ago I was crestfallen to be able to edit videos with greenscreen (chromakey) online.  On the chromebooks this is challenging.  I did bite the bullet and purchase a pro-account because chromakey was extremely important to me.  However, if it is not the free version really works really well.

If you are a fan of Animoto it is a more robust version.  Students would sometimes get frustrated by the limits of Animoto but were not yet ready for a full-fledged video editor so there are two different modes – timeline and storyboard (easier).  You can easily toggle between both of them.

I have found this to be a superior product when trying to do Book Trailers with students.  The free version allows downloading of 5 minutes a month.  Book Trailers should be around 60 seconds so this works perfectly for me.  I do not have such restrictions with the paid account.

The Chromakey (green screen) is pretty good.  It is not Photoshop or Camtasia but it really does the job pretty well.  For student’s beginning experience with chromakey it works very well.

PostHeaderIcon Google Classroom: Share to the Classroom

google_classroom_logoI was very excited about Google Classroom when it first came out and was one of the few that got access pretty early on.  My Tech coordinator was intrigued as was I.  I started to play with it and found I could not do everything I wanted to do:

  • More than One Teacher
  • Online Rubrics (Goobric)
  • Comment on Documents when first created
  • Add students outside my domain

I am happy to say that these issues have been fixed.  It is not the robust LMS of something like Schoology but it really gets the job done very relative ease.  Co-teachers can now both be in the class (as educators/admins) within Google Classroom under About (button is Invite a Teacher on the left-hand side).

My biggest pet peeve was that you could not add students outside your domain.  Our district when creating our GAFE accounts decided to put students and adults in two different domains.  So we had to have two accounts if we wanted to use Google Classroom.  Thank goodness they have fixed this by allowing GAFE admins to add other GAFE domains to a whitelist.

Goobric now works with Google Classroom so all the online rubrics you created with Docotopus will now work with Google Classroom Assignments!  YES!!  Video on how it works.

Documents.  Comment access is available as soon as the student opens the document for the first time.  This is ideal when helping students in real-time.

adokjfanaflbkibffcbhihgihpgijcei-logoLastly, they recently added something that just blew my mind.  How many times have you had issues with students copying down URLs and messing it up?  Even if you used bitly or tinyurl or QR codes?  I have so many times I have lost count.  Now you can have your GAFE admin add the Share to Classroom Google Extension (How to add it to your domain globally).  Of course you can have your students do it individually as well.  This extension changed my life.  You can push out pages to your students!  From Google, “The extension allows you to push webpages to your any of your Classroom classes, so they open instantly on your students’ computers. With this extension, you can get your students on the right page, quickly and reliably every time. You can also post announcements, create assignments, or save webpages to post to Classroom later.”

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