Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 30, 2011

Literacyhead Revisited---Great Links

On Monday of this week I posted about a fantastic site that combines the best in reading and writing practices with art and children's literature, Literacyhead.com.  This online magazine is a treasure waiting to be discovered and used with our children in the classroom. 

I liked their page on Facebook and have been getting additional suggestions to use in the classroom.
This is just one of the great links that they posted this week, Kidszone, Learning with NCES, National Central for Education Statistics, Create a Graph. 

At Create a Graph there are five different styles of graphs from which to choose, Bar, Line, Area, Pie and XY.  When a selection is made the tabs are Design, Data, Labels, Preview and Print/Save.  For graph novices there is a tutorial in PDF format for viewing or printing. 

Go, go graphs!

Myth, Truth and Mystery Combine to Make History-Amelia Revealed

Before I write a review I like to become as acquainted with an author or illustrator as much as possible by reading interviews and the bios they may have on their blogs or web sites.  Sometimes knowing what makes them tick; their source of inspiration, gives insight into why their talents manifest as they do.

Candace Fleming was a storyteller from age seven.  Encouraged by her parents her storytelling was fueled by her discovery of the magic of words in second grade.  Much like a gourmet savoring a new dish, she tasted  words with all her senses and emotions.  In college a new love was discovered, history.

It is the blend of these two, chronicling history and a zest for storytelling, that brings her biographies to that sweet spot.  I truly love nonfiction that is so well conceived that it reads like fiction; incorporating truths so seamlessly with intimate detail using a deliberateness that completely ensnares you until the finish.

As I stated in my review of Amelia Earhart:  The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka; illustrated by David Craig, I grew up hearing my Mom speak quite frequently of Amelia Earhart.  Her impact on the roles of and for women, young and old alike, then and now, has been and will continue to be significant. 

Author Candace Fleming in her title, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, begins:

Sometimes it's hard to tell fact from fiction.  Time and again, I unearthed a telling incident or charming anecdote only to learn that it wasn't true.  Frustrating?  You bet.  But it was also enlightening, a reminder that it is often difficult to find the history in the hype, to separate truth from myth. 

With that being stated and expanded upon in her two page introduction, Navigating History, let's for a moment go back to the Contents page.  It is here that the writing technique that lifts this book to brilliant is revealed.  Fleming begins on the morning of July 2, 1937, the date that Amelia Earhart was to land on Howland Island for refueling.  She had nearly completed her around-the-world flight.  The Coast Guard cutter, Itasca, sat near the island waiting, hoping to see her plane come into view.  Ending that initial chapter with the words, Where, they wondered, was Amelia Earhart?, readers are then taken to the second chapter, to Amelia's birth.

It is the alternating between the narration of Amelia's life and the accounting of those days on and after July 2, 1937, sometimes broken down by hours, that gives this book its edge, ever compelling the reader forward.  Even though we all know the outcome I found myself wishing, as my admiration grew when each segment of her growing from child to youth to young women to aviatrix extraordinaire was shown to us, that the outcome in those July 1937 chapters would be different.  Fleming's research is impeccable revealing a depth to Earhart's life, not glossing over her frailties nor magnifying her strengths; so personal that at times we feel as though we are one of her closest friends.  To me, at least, new revelations about her family, her relationship with George Putnam and the promotion of her career were enlightening.

So as not to confuse readers, the chapters relating the days after her disappearance are set against a gray background.  Those relative to her life up to that point are set on white. Each of the chapters are filled with memorabilia whose placement is timely and does not deter from the text nor diminish its impact.  Set within the chapters are informative sidebars explaining such items as radio call letters, Morse code, a brief history of flight, or what Amelia might eat on a flight.

I did not want this book to end.  It is an extraordinary title about a woman of incomparable value written with care and passion.  Lucky us!  Newbery contender? Without a doubt. This is being added to my personal bookshelf.

 Check out this video interview with Candace Fleming on why and how she writes nonfiction; biographies.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Up Close and Personal

Microsoft has developed a free application, Zoom.it,  that allows users to view graphics in detail.  It is ridiculously simply to use.

Go to the site.  Enter in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of an image, web page or PDF file.  Image formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF and SVG are supported.  Any size image can be referenced and loaded into this service.

Copy and paste the URL link into the space and click CREATE.  Your image now appears on the screen.  When the cursor is moved over the image four icons appear in the lower right hand corner.  These icons give the user the ability to zoom in, zoom out, go home or toggle full page.  At the bottom of the image there is a URL link to the image, or the code for embedding.  This can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Reddit.

The image below is a map of the Iditarod, The Last Great Race, a dog sledding event in Alaska beginning the first Saturday of March each year.  It becomes the focus of numerous educational projects across the grade levels in our library media center.

This is an image of Xena running out at Fisherman's Island State Park after a major snow storm.

Thanks to Richard Byrne of Free Technology For Teachers, for his post about Zoom.it on January 25, 2011.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where Would Superheroes Be Without Them

I first became acquainted with the art of author/illustrator Dan Santat when I read and reread the title, Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed The World) by Mac Barnett which I reviewed on this blog.  Since that time I have tried to make myself familiar with his other works either as an author and illustrator or as an illustrator for another author's title.

His new graphic novel which he wrote and illustrated, Sidekicks, is pure Santat from start to finish. It
is steeped with his own special brand of humor and characters that are larger than life. His bold color choices tending toward the primary, firmly drawn lines that shape his signature images and the expressive eyes that depict a total spectrum of sentiments, are the best of the best. 

As soon as the cover is turned our eyes are greeted with a wordless picture of a box with large holes around the perimeter, a single eye peeping out, FRAGILE stamped across the side, foreshadowing the arrival of an occupied container.  The two page spread of a caped man flying through the tops of city buildings is the title page.  The first series of four panels, beginning the story, again are wordless but clearly convey a dog waiting not quite patiently for a walk gazing at the door.

Harry, Harrison Blake,  (aka Captain Amazing) is down for the count; a victim of his peanut allergy.  He decides to hold auditions for a sidekick; he is not getting any younger.  What he does not know is that his faithful companions, a dog named Roscoe and a hamster called Fluffy have ambitions to use the super qualities of their own, the least of which is the ability to talk.  Sidekicks indeed!  Each of them seeks to raise their abilities to noteworthy attention.

A delivery arrives.  It seems that the owner of the mysterious gazing eyeball is a chameleon, Shifty by name.

Manny, a former family member known as Static Cat, now roaming the streets as The Claw comes on the scene when he saves Fluffy and Shifty in the nick of time as the first of their heroic escapades goes sour.

In a short amount of time the characters and their personalities have become well known to readers.  The stage has been set.  Thrown into the mix is a snarky villain, Dr. Archibald Havoc, recently released from prison on parole.

A rollicking adventure of the highest order ensues replete with action that explodes off the pages and does not quit.  Varied panel placement and size heightens the mounting tension and tightens the storyline to a fever pitch.  Dialogue is snappy; sound bites completing the pictures.  Santat is truly gifted at word choice.

What ties it altogether are humor and heart.

To date I've read this twice; before I've hardly begun I'm smiling and I don't stop until the final page is turned.  More than a couple times I laughed out loud, even the second time through.  As soon as page eleven when Roscoe and Fluffy are trying to clean up the popcorn covered floor before Harry walks in, the text and graphics could not have been combined better. 

 (Permission was graciously granted by Dan Santat for me to post the two pages above.)

I promise you that there will be stretches of time, so expertly fused are the narrative and visuals, that the characters will no longer be on the page but lively animations with you ; it's as if you can hear their voices in your mind. 

Running beneath all the heroic action, life questions are addressed.  What is family?  What can be accomplished when you believe in yourself?  Should you do the right thing?  Is teamwork important?  What is the impact of forgiveness?

The final zip, zap, zing of the whole shebang is the last page; a sidekick application to the Society of Super Heroes completed by Dan Santat himself giving us a glimpse into his accomplishments and those people who he thanks.

Our world could use more laughter and love.  Sidekicks written and illustrated by Dan Santat delivers it in spades.  I am ordering several more copies for our library media center and I just ordered one for myself.  This is a keeper and I love it!

PLEASE NOTE:  Click on the link above to Dan Santat's web site.  He has loads of extras for this book including a 275 page PDF file on the making of this masterpiece as well as numerous images that can be downloaded.  This is most generous and what readers crave.

(I am one of those librarians who not only has stacks and shelves loaded with books throughout my home, but also a good sized comic and card collection; mostly Marvel but some DC, too. Trust me, this is a classic.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creeping, Crawling...Then Taking Flight

Bill Martin Jr. is a household name in the field of children's books.  His Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? was the springboard for three additional similar titles.  His collaboration with author/illustrator Lois Ehlert on Chicka Chick Boom Boom, garnered the duo numerous awards.

Once again they have paired to produce a picture perfect title, Ten Little Caterpillars.

With every other line rhyming Martin created counting verses with a catchy cadence.  Readers follow each of these ten caterpillars into their habitats of flowers, fruits, vegetables, a pool, weeds and even the sea matched by close encounters with fowl, fish and feathered friends of the backyard, woods and field.  They are never idle, always in motion; crawling, wriggling, climbing, falling or scaling.  When the number ten is reached that little caterpillar hangs in stillness awaiting the change the spring will bring---miraculous metamorphosis.

Lois Ehlert is without a doubt the reigning queen of collage.  Before beginning her illustrations she immerses herself in the subject; she walks, wanders and observes absorbing textures, colors and individualistic details. 

The three word title, Ten Little Caterpillars, is immediately elevated to the potential for exceptional possibilities with the cover illustration of ten different caterpillars merrily munching around the heart-shaped leaf.  The hue and feel of the leaf is carried to the endpapers.  The body of the book bears her bold, bright realistically shaded watercolor images meticulously layered.

Ehlert's interpretation of the text is to give readers a tour of the flora and fauna as if it is a biological/botanical collection spread before them delicately labeled.  One of my favorite illustrations is of the line:  The fifth little caterpillar sailed a garden pool.  She choose to picture maple leaves colored by fall floating across the pool; a caterpillar atop one gliding along. 

At the book's end she shows the passage of time with three separate two page spreads of the same apple tree branch in summer, fall and then spring. 

Ehlert extends the narrative by closing with the number, caterpillar, its eating habits and the winged beauty each becomes.  She is ever the educator making information accessible to younger readers.

The work of Bill Martin, Jr. has been continued since his passing in 2004 by Michael Sampson a long-time collaborator.  Ten Little Caterpillars brings together two of the best in the world of children's literature.  It is a gem to be treasured.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Get Ahead With Reading and Writing at Literacyhead.com

On July 27, 2011 I read a blog post at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Julie Danielson titled Seven Crazy Realities Everyone Should Know about Literacyhead.comThat post was just the invitation I needed to explore the site and what it offers to those of us that are completely and totally immersed in the world of words, language, books, and reading and committed to bringing the joy that we have for those powerful treasures to the children that we teach.

The home page itself at Literacyhead.com is a visual feast for the soul but it does not stop there.  The team behind the development of this site is committed to combining the teaching of reading and writing with the visual arts.  They love children's literature and expose its hold and lure on our minds whenever possible to enhance literacy. 

Across the top of the page, tabs call for exploration which I did for most of Sunday afternoon and early evening.  In fact, as I type here, it's all I can do to not babble incoherently about the depth and breadth of all the fantastic, stupendous resources at this site.  It's not just a visual feast; its an educator's literacy dream banquet.

The Features tab alone can keep one occupied for hours.  The sixteen features shown on this visual cut cover:  thirty-seven children's books with read aloud discussion lessons, multiple graphic organizers in thirty-seven categories, an amazing alphabetical visual vocabulary, a thirty-four themed writer's workshop, images to teach the use of high frequency words, visuals used to get writer's imaginations clicking, letters and their sounds, comprehension four by four (four images with a common theme and four text images from children's books, using visuals to practice for standardized tests, a series of essays, reviews and interviews to get those creative juices flowing, thirty-three themes containing ten titles reviewed to spark your interest, inspiration for literacy coaches, Pen & Ink comic strips to instruct in a variety of reading and writing concepts, graphics that promote and prompt literacy, twenty-two themed lists of web sites, and for the sheer joy of it---artwork of ten artists. 

Within the Themes tab are thirty-four issues; some of them are storytelling, reading habits, poetic science, mood, listening, less is more, economy of words and anticipation.  Each includes a variety of the aforementioned features revolving around that particular theme. 

Currently there are thirty-four individual titles highlighted under the Books tab.  This places in one spot all those books used under the Features tab The Art of Teaching Reading.

At this time Author Studies covers the works of five author/illustrators, again combining many of the sixteen features in one issue.  Authors included are Jon J. Muth, Shadra Strickland, Leo Lionni, Robert Burleigh and David Wiesner.

Please investigate all the information under the About tab; what it means to be a literacyhead, the site team which are a highly educated, dedicated, motivated group of individuals, their friends, social networks, great videos about Literacyhead.com on YouTube and a set of frequently asked questions. 

One more, as if all of the above were not like a slice of heaven, item of note is the My Literacyhead tab.  This gives each user the ability to design their own collection of items from one, some or all of the sixteen features.  What a great way to personalize the various aspects of this web phenomenon for use with a specific lesson or unit in the classroom!

PLEASE NOTE:  The cost of a Literacyhead subscription is going up on Tuesday September 27, 2011. 

For any readers that comment on this blog post by Friday, September 30, 2011, their names will be put in a random drawing for a free one year subscription to Literacyhead; a value of $99.00.  Please be sure to include your email address in the comment so I can contact you.
This is courtesy of Rachael Watkins, Assistant Editor on the Literacyhead team and my official welcomer as a new subscriber.

Literacyhead.com is not an additional tool for your literacy toolbox; it is the toolbox.  Read the interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast linked at the beginning of this post.  Explore the site and join me in bringing this into the classroom as the best that we can offer our children.  It's got a definite WOW factor.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Twitterville Talk #15

There never seems to be a lack of constant information coming over the wire via Twitter.  There are some really good tweets this week. Enjoy.

Interview:  Dan Santat and John Rocco is both an informative and hilarious video.  Both are well known illustrators/authors.  Rocco's newest title is Blackout and Santat's new title is Sidekicks.

An Author in Every Classroom: Kids connecting with authors via Skype. It’s the next best thing to being there. is a very informative article by author Kate Messner.

Thanks to School Library Journal for these great links.

Just in from The Pigeon---NPR is interviewing Mo Willems and Katherine Paterson at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2011.  Now that's what I call an interview!

Pamela Paul has written a wonderful article, The Children's Authors who Broke the Rules.  She speaks to the influence of Sendak, Seuss and Silverstein and how they redefined children's literature.

Shel Silverstein Comes Alive in a New Book, 12 Years After His Death reports The Atlantic.  Try out four of the new poems here.

Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for these links that give us much to mull over.

7 Curious Facts About 7 Dr. Seuss Books by David K. Israel covers little known tidbits about these titles.  Who knew?  Thanks to Publishers Weekly.

The 2011 National Book Festival takes place on the 24th and 25th of September on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Oh, how I wish I could be there.  This links to lots of good information about this stellar event.  Check out the spot spoken by one of my heroes, Clint Eastwood.

Larry Ferlazzo of Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day weighs in with The Best "Fun" Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too-2011 (So Far).  One of the suggested videos is right here in Michigan. 

Check this out---YouTube Launches Site Specifically for Teachers.

At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Julie Danielson conducts an interview, Seven Impossible Questions Over Breakfast with Beth Krommes.  This Caldecott award winning illustrator show no signs of stopping. Each work is more beautiful than the last.  What a wonderful woman and interview!

Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers hosted a great post this week, Three Good Sites Where Teachers Can Learn Tech Skills.  Check these out.

Now this is a very good idea.  Booklist Woes-a Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place? by Laura Perenic at The Hub shares a plan for getting the best to readers.

Update to the post at Librarian's Quest last week.  Read this article, Paper sculpture whodunit solved, by Dawn Morrison.  Thanks to Shelf Awareness.

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Be Scared or Not To Be Scared...

On the farm, the critters knew,
At night, while they were sleeping,
Past barn and pens,
Past lambs and hens,
A HAMPIRE went out creeping.

What a delightfully, shivery beginning to this barnyard tale of dread during the dark.  From the pen of Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen jaunty rhyming five line paragraphs weave the story of a porker with peculiar nighttime cravings, Hampire! 

Critters cower each night as the caped figure lurks in the velvet blackness leaving drops of red sprinkled about for them to examine wide-eyed and suspicious in the morning.  Sleepless one evening, regardless of the peril, Duck seeks a midnight snack to quell his hunger. 

Quickly and quietly he raids the refrigerator inside the farmer's home.  Laden with goodies he treks back to bed when a shadow crosses his path, it's none other than HAMPIRE!  It seems that the relentless snout has sniffed him out.

Soon Duck and a few frantic farm animals flee with the hungry hog in hot pursuit.  They hide but are discovered with an abrupt bang.  Quaking with fear eyes closed they anticipate his first bite; but wait...what's that?  He's not eating them!  He's...

Yes, this tale has a delicious twist perfect for reading aloud to the crowd not quite ready to be too scared.  Not only do readers rhyme their way through the terrifying trio's trauma but puns push the action forward with perfect timing.

Howard Fine's characters explode off the page in humorous exuberance.  Fine begins his visuals with a multitude of sketches done in pencil filling in more detail as they progress toward the finished piece.  He states on his web site:  My drawings are the footprints that I leave on the journey from blank paper to finished artwork.  In this title his choice of acrylic paint colors reflect the hidden unknowns in the dark of night as well as the hilarious plight of Duck, Red and Pony. (I thank Dr. Howard Fine for his response to my email questions.)

Bardhan-Quallen and Fine paired together spell splendiferous, spooky shrieks of silliness.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Student Blogging Using KidBlog

Based upon a parent recommendation and loads of favorable reviews, I went to Kidblog to give it a try.
Truthfully, I am blown away by the ease of setting up a safe, secure environment for blogging with students in a classroom setting.

In the words of the designers of this web 2.0 application:
Kidblog.org based in Minneapolis, MN, was founded in 2007.  The Kidblog Development Team is committed to providing the most effective, efficient student-blogging tool available anywhere.
Kidblog's founder and lead developer has 18 years of combined web development and classroom teaching experience.  This experience offers a perfect blend of programming and pedagogy.  

Kiblog is meant to be used by elementary and middle students with their teacher.  As the administrator/teacher you have complete control over the posting of comments and who sees the comments.  By default only the student, their classmates and their teacher can participate in the blogging.  When adding students to the classroom list only a username and password is necessary eliminating the sharing of personal information.

Registration to use Kidblog could not be simpler.  At the home page click on the words, Click to Create a Class.  The next page asks you to enter in a username, password, email address and your class name.

When you have completed filling in the blanks and read the Terms of Service click on the Create Class button.  To Create a Class enter in the class name and a description.

This next page, your dashboard, pops up.  Your dashboard/control panel is your work area for posting, commenting,  adding users and controlling your settings.  It is at this page created classes can be viewed or deleted.  New classes can be added.

When clicking on the New Post button this screen comes into view.  As you can see from this image the posting can be as simple or sophisticated as the user desires.  Images, video, audio, files and links can be added to posts.  After completing a post it can be saved as a draft, previewed, trashed or published from this point.

This next graphic shows the extent of your control of posting and comments which can be very secure depending on the administrator/teacher settings.

I can hardly wait to use this forum for the discussion of the title, Wonderstruck, that my third grade Flex Friday students are going to be reading together.  This will increase the students' comfort in commenting as well as their writing skills.

Many thanks to Heather Sape, Charlevoix Elementary and Middle School parent and Charlevoix Elementary School Library Media Center volunteer for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back to the Ballad

On the first Saturday of March 2011, the Last Great Race, the Iditarod, began in Alaska. That year marked the 39th race. Unlike past years, the Iditarod Trail Committee created a page on Facebook for fans unable to be there in person to share the experience with one another. It was an unprecedented gathering full of tension, laughter, educational comments and insights by people from around the world from all walks of life. The one commonality shared by all was our love of the Iditarod. On the evenings and weekends during the race, I rarely left my computer; it was such an engrossing, virtual, communal conversation.

As a result of this, friendships were made and I discovered a wonderful book, Ballad of the Northland, written by nine time Iditarod musher, Jason Barron and illustrated by his wife, Harmony Barron also a veteran of several Iditarod races.

Within just a few months I had read and reviewed Barron’s title, self-published in the fall of 2010, here on Librarian’s Quest.  By following this link you can read my review in its entirety.  Below is an excerpt.

But readers least you think this is only a story of The Last Great Race be advised it is more, so much more. It is a story of determined triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity. Reading this will raise you up where you are acutely aware of that wellspring deep within us that longs to make us free. Ballad of the Northland is to be savored again and again for the sheer beauty of its characters and the landscape that surrounds their journeys.

This summer I took my own advice to savor this gem again, listening this time to Ballad of the Northland read by Jason Barron. Barron has that rare gift of a natural storyteller not only in his writing but in his speaking. It’s as if the blood of ancients runs through his body giving him the ability to mesmerize his listeners with the tale he tells.

As different characters flowed in and out in the storyline Barron’s inflections varied appropriately; it was uncanny how much he sounded just as your mind pictured those people. If a particular emotion needed to be conveyed volume and pitch were perfect. As a listener there was never a doubt as to the mood or thoughts of a specific personality. One of my favorite passages is when The Whaler begins to mentor The Boy describing his experiences of running the race. The image of them sitting together around a fire is extremely vivid; the true essence of The Whaler comes to life and you as the listener are sitting in the shadows leaning forward not wanting to miss a single word.

Having spent a good portion of his life living in the Alaskan bush, Barron is able to describe the wilderness in which the story is centered beautifully with intimate knowledge and passion.  The intonation in his speaking mirrors his written word in such a way as to create a true movie of the barren and rugged vistas in the listener's mind.

I found myself sitting in my car although having arrived at my garage or in a parking lot, completely taken with this version of Ballad, not wanting to leave until a disc was finished. Barron completely captivates you. 

Added to this audio version at the end is a series of comments by Barron relative to the writing of Ballad offering further insights into his motivation and answering some questions in which we readers/listeners crave answers. His remarks include his recording process for this edition which was no easy feat but nevertheless done with meticulous care.

Each of the eight discs is illustrated with eight different pieces of artwork from Ballad of the Northland by Jason’s wife, Harmony. Included with the set is a map of Alaska with two insets as well as illustrations along the side from the title worthy of framing and drawn by the talented Harmony Barron.

When a flower arrangement is made from a gardener’s own gardens and taken to someone in need, that is a labor of love. When an intricate cutting board is painstakingly made with small fitted pieces of wood and gifted to a neighbor, that is a labor of love. When a quilt is pieced together over the course of years to give to a friend on their 60th birthday, that is a labor of love. When a meal is prepared from scratch to serve to family or friends, that is a labor of love. Jason Barron’s audio version of Ballad of the Northland is a labor of love, you can hear it in every syllable he utters; listeners are keenly aware of his very personal investment in this story.

Even though I took great pleasure in the reading of Ballad of the Northland, hearing it read by its author took this story to a whole new level. I loved it and truly look forward to making that journey with The Boy yet again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Power of Voice

In 2009 AASL selected Voice Thread as one of the Top 25 Web Sites for Teaching and Learning.  It best fulfilled the requirements under Media Sharing, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use and assess, 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world context and 4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.

As stated on the web site:  A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways-using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via webcam). 

VoiceThread has a doodling feature that allows one to draw on top of the media as comments are made.  The doodles are synced to the comments.

VoiceThreads can be embedded in twenty-three social networks by clicking their button, by coping HTML code for placement in a blog or web page or by a link. 

As a creator you are allowed to moderate the comments that are shown regarding a particular VoiceThread.

As an educator this feature of VoiceThread is a definite plus:  One VoiceThread account can have many identities (commenting avatars) associated with it.

VoiceThread has numerous types of security as to who can view the completed VoiceThreads.

For each of the features mentioned above VoiceThread has a short descriptive video making this application a breeze to use.

Per the Terms of Use users must be 13 years or older to register for using this service.  If users are under 13 years of age, they must use an account created by a parent or guardian.  Permission to use that account must be explicitly given by that parent or guardian.  There is a product called Ed. VoiceThread which costs $60 per year per teacher and 50 students.  The students would be working in a secure environment.

To register for an account give your first and last name, email address and password.  Once registered sign in and click on the Create button that appears at the top of the screen.  This page will appear.

To begin click on the upload button.  The next screen looks like this.

After images are uploaded the order can be rearranged by a simple click and drag method.  Each image can be titled and have a link applied to it.  The image can be rotated or deleted.  At the bottom of this screen please note that you can select varied and specific playback and publishing options.

Once you have the images, documents or videos in the order make sure that you give the VoiceThread a title and description.  Click on the Comment button.  At this time you can make comments as the slide show gives you a preview.

 Once the preview is complete and comments have been made the following window will appear.  This gives you a variety of ways to share the VoiceThread.  Or you can click on the Share button for even more opportunities to share your creation.  All VoiceThreads are private until you change the settings. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The A's Have It!

Friends come in all shapes and sizes; the least likely friendships pop up out of discovering those common interests not initially visible.  Horray for Amanda & Her Alligator with words and pictures by Mo Willems brings together another delectable duo of a girl and her stuffed animal. 

True to the promise posed by the book's endpapers Amanda and Alligator have a happy, harmonious companionship full of surprises; six and one half to be precise.  These unexpected outcomes are brought to readers in concise chapters with Willems' impeccable, deliberate tempo combining words and illustrations conveying a full range of thought and emotion through specific word choice or subtle shift in his drawing.

I do not like it when Amanda is gone, thought Alligator.  I am no good at waiting.

Amanada is off to the library for her weekly visit.  Waiting Alligator hopes that Amanda will bring him a surprise.  She does but surprises, like friends, come in all shapes and sizes.  Amanda keeps life interesting.

When Alligator wishes to reciprocate his attempt falls flat until he digs up his Old Thinking Cap, then a double dose of the unanticipated strikes.  A mirror and an attack reveal startling and laughable results.

Truth (When friends ask you to tell the truth, you tell the truth.) and the traits of a true friend shine in Alligator's search to find out what tickles.  Did you know that Amanda's head tastes better than a book?  Alligator knows but he discovers what else a book can do.

When Amanda brings home another stuffed animal, panda, from a trip to the zoo with her Grandpa, a startled Alligator and readers will be pleasantly amazed at the unpredictable ending.

Clearly Alligator, the workings of his mind, how he verbalizes his ideas and the comical expressions despite what he may be feeling , is the character that the intended audience will gravitate toward.  But Amanda has that rare wisdom of the young which is missed if you are not looking for it; her truthful answers to hard questions and bringing the panda home to Alligator. 

Mo Willems, you have another winner.  Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! is a fun-filled fable on friendship.

The space on my personal bookshelf for Willems' books keeps getting larger and larger.   His fans at our school will love this new title just as they do his others.  During the school year there is a huge gap on the shelf where his books would normally be found.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Twitterville Talk #14

These are the tweets of the week that I think will appeal to my students, staff and parents one and all.  We are lucky to have a social networking resource such as this with so much happening in the world of literacy.

Publishers Weekly hosts an article by Sally Lodge, New Peter Rabbit Tale to Be Written by Emma Thompson.  I can't think of a better person to do this. 

National Book Award Finalists to be Revealed at Oregon Literacy Arts Center, with several firsts.  This will be the first time these have been announced in the Pacific Northwest, the first time live over a public radio venue and the first time with a literary presenting organization.

Some great titles are listed in this article, Mythology in YA Lit,  by Faythe Arrendondo.  I've read a couple and give them "thumbs up".  Thanks to The Hub.

Richard Byrne at Free Technology For Teachers posted some great stuff for teachers this week:  12 Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students and 77 Educational Games and Game Builders to name two.

A Fuse #8 Production via School Library Journal posted in their blog, Video Sunday about the book trailer for The Chronicles of Harris Burdick found on YouTube.

A Fuse #8 Production also includes in her news post a great link to Read Around the World.  This is a fantastic source of books, recipes and activities plus it gets you thinking about other titles and their possibilities for a similar project at home or in the classroom.

Also check out Newbery/Caldecott 2012: The Fall Predictions found at A Fuse #8 Production by Elizabeth Bird.

At the new blog, Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog, don't miss the article by Jonathan Hunt, Is This Absolutely Necessary?  This is a readable opinion on the very real,  increasing length of tween and teen books.

Joyce Valenza, blogger and librarian, posting at School Library Journal in the NeverendingSearch has a great resource in Fifty Ways to Leave Your Term Paper/Book Report & Tell Your Story.

Children's Bookshelf from Publishers Weekly Kids has loads of good tips and links this week.  Check these out:

Two links regarding Brian Selznick's new Wonderstruck are found showing him pictured in front of the bookstore, Books of Wonder, renamed Books of Wonderstruck this week and a link to an article in USA Today, Literary game will leave Brian Selznick fans "Wonderstruck" in new book.

Chris Raschka, best known in the picture book world, has written his first novel, Seriously Normal.

In an article by Rohan Preston, Letting pigs fly, we discover that Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books have been adapted for the stage.

Daniel Pinkwater has a new book out this week, Bushman Lives.  It will eventually be published in print but for now it has its own website where it can be read bit by bit.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Curation Sensation

For many months now I have been coming across articles about curation and education on Twitter and by visiting my favorite bloggers.  Curators have been around for centuries but the idea of people being curators of digital information and designing applications to assist them in this endeavor is not that old.  After reading several articles my composite definition of digital curation is the ability to select content relative to a specific topic, organize, maintain and preserve it for sharing.

Still in beta format one such online application for curation is Scoop.it!  It is an information location tool centered on a subject of your choice.  You pick and choose what appears on your page after Scoop.it! has browsed the web based upon your interests.  You can add and edit topics.  A completed Scoop.it! theme can be shared with others of similar passions enabling them to suggest other possible resources that can become part of your site.

To begin using Scoop.it! click on Get an Invite.  Complete the form filling in your full name and email address.  Optional blanks are listing your Twitter account, the topic you might create, and what your take on blogging and other social media is. In their Terms policy they are firm in that this service is not to be used by minors under 12 years of age.  If minors over 12 years of age use the service they are to do so only with parental permission.

When you have received an invitation by email go to the link sent to you.  At that time you can sign on with a Facebook or Twitter account or create another one by filling in a short name, password and uploading a picture.  By completing the new account information and accepting the Terms of Use, the next page offers hints about topic selection.  Click on CREATE A TOPIC.

From there the work space for designing your Scoop.it! topic is seen.  You are asked to enter in a title, description, select a language, and any keywords associated with your subject.  You can also upload an icon to represent your choice.  Then click GO

After reading a couple of thoughts on curating click NEXT.  The following page offers users the opportunity to add a bookmarklet to their browser.  When surfing the Internet if a good site is found that you want to add to your topic just click on the bookmarklet and it will automatically be added to the topic page. Select the NEXT button.  At the following page select the START CURATING AND HAVE FUN tab.

On the left side of the screen SUGGESTED CONTENT is listed that has been found by Scoop.it!.  On the right side of the screen items added to your topic will appear.  If you want to add one of the content items on the left, click Scoop.it!.  A frame pops up on the screen allowing you to view the posting as it will appear.  You can upload additional images at this time. When you are ready click PUBLISH.

Once published small icons come into view in the lower left and right sides of the latest scoop.  These represent:   force to the top, edit, tag.it!, delete, share and rescoop.  When your cursor is placed over the image on the scoop, a small tool bar allows placement of the image within the text and adjustment of the image size.

As you are working on your topic you have the ability to toggle back and forth between VIEW TOPIC and CURATE.

This a view of what your dashboard would look like.

This online tool is a step toward a new generation of web applications that will benefit users personally and in the education field.  For our 21st century learners this offers them the perfect opportunity to think, create, share and grow.