Twitter Curator Google Add-On

Twitter chats are a great resource for educators. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of Twitter chats, they are regular conversations on Twitter between different users on a particular topic. There are many different education chats that occur on a weekly or monthly basis. As a librarian, two of my favorite chats are #tlchat (Teacher Librarian Chat) and #titletalk. You can find many resources as well as a schedule of educational Twitter chats on Cybraryman’s Educational Chats on Twitter page.

Google Docs now offers a Twitter Curator Google Add-On. This would be a great tool to use to search for resources to share from a Twitter Chat or from a conference hashtag. You can save resources for later, but I think an excellent application would be to use Twitter Curator to share the power of the Twitter professional development community with educators who are not ready to take the plunge and join Twitter itself.

Watch the video below to see how Twitter Curator works. I used #nerdcampmi as my sample search.

Categories: Writing with Google Drive | Leave a comment

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


Last Week’s Reading Adventures

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson – Jackson Greene has sworn off elaborate pranks and plans. He’s held out for four months, but when his ex-best friend faces unfair competition in the school elections, Jackson’s particular talents may be needed. Loved this middle grade heist-style story. It is one of the books being discussed in this week’s #sharpschu book club (Wednesday at 7:00 PM CT)

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough – Nonfiction picture book about an influential children’s librarian. I wrote more about this book on my #booksmiles post last week.

Dash* by Kirby Larson – This excellent middle grade historical fiction book comes out in August. Mitsi is forced to leave her home and beloved dog Dash behind when her family is forced to move to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. A kindly old woman took Dash in when Mitsie moved. I’m about halfway through this book.

This Week’s Reading Adventure

The class I’m taking is heavy on the textbook reading this week, but I would like to at least:

  • Finish reading Dash
  • Read The Julian Chapter

*I received an arc of Dash as part of attending Nerd Camp Michigan.


Categories: It's Monday What Are You Reading | 6 Comments

#booksmiles 2: Miss Moore Thought Otherwise


Today’s #booksmile is Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough. Debby Atwell created the illustrations. This picture book biography recounts the life of Annie Carroll Moore, who was influential in the development of children’s librarians. She became a librarian at a time when many libraries did not allow children to check out books (or even enter libraries sometimes). One thing that made me smile in this book is that she was urging librarians to pull down their silence signs and read stories to children.

I was amazed at what Annie Carroll Moore accomplished with the Children’s Room when the New York Public Library opened in 1911. Children gathered for reading clubs, to see authors such as Dr. Seuss and even meet the king and queen of Belgium on a visit. What I liked most was how the Children’s Room remained a bright place for children even when hardships endured outside the libraries walls, such as wars and depressions.



I borrowed this book from my local public library. It is one of my lifelong favorite places. Some of my earliest memories are visiting the public library while it was tucked inside a corner of city hall. I would pick out books from square bookcases covered in bright letters of the alphabet. My teddy bear spent an accidental night in the library during a blizzard after a visit (quite traumatic at the time). Whenever I walked in, I could count on finding books that I would love and discovering ones I would not have otherwise tried. I shared a bit more about that public library in my #whylib post.


Share what books make you smile using #booksmiles on Twitter.

Categories: #booksmiles | 2 Comments

Create Simple Graphic Organizers with MindMeister in Google Drive.

I love using Google Docs for writing with its ease of collaboration and access. Google Add-Ons bring new functionality right into a document itself, without having to go to an external Google Drive App, Chrome extension or Chrome app. Google Add-ons are still relatively new so some features are still being fine-tuned, but they can have great functionality in the classroom or for writers in general.

One great Google Add-On is MindMeister. This Add-On can take any bulleted list and create a simple word web. If your bulleted list has different hierarchical levels in it, those levels become different sections of the word web. I like this tool as it is a quick introduction to creating graphic organizers. Students would not be faced with an onslaught of design choices from fonts, colors, text box shape, etc.

Let’s say I wanted to flesh out one of my characters more. I could start by creating a list in Google Drive of what I do know about my character.

  • Chance Mateer
    • High School Senior
    • Trombone Player
    • Sketch Artist
    • Dyslexic

Then click the Add-Ons tab on Google Drive and select ‘Get add-ons’. Search for MindMeister and then add it. Once you have the add-on, it will be a choice on any Google document you create.

Select your entire bulleted list. Then click the Add-Ons tab and select Mind-Meister. Choose Insert As Mind Map.

The word web is then inserted into your document beneath your list.

Screenshot 2014-07-14 at 10.03.57 PM


If I wanted better organization, I could brainstorm about different areas of my character’s life and create a list and web like this:

  • Chance Mateer
    • Hobbies
      • Trombone Player
      • Sketch Artist
    • Family
      • Kindergarten sister Annie
      • Mom
      • Stepdad

Screenshot 2014-07-14 at 10.14.35 PM


Once I had a web that I was satisfied with, I could delete my list and leave the web at the top of my document. Underneath I could write a character interview, a dossier or a piece of a scene.

Watch my screencast below to see MindMeister in action.


Categories: Writing with Google Drive | Leave a comment

Stories on My Mind: #teacherswrite Week 2

Today’s Monday Warm Up for #teacherswrite resulted in the creation of this graphic:

Screenshot 2014-07-14 at 11.11.15 PM

If one thing is clear from all those ideas, it’s that I have a story finishing/rewriting issue to work out. I revisited a main character from one of the stories last week because of a Teachers Write prompt which is a baby step in the right direction at least. You’ll find that scene below.

“You’re here late,” Mrs. Carlson said as she carried a large stack of books into the English office. “I thought Nigel had the latest issue of The Bent Quill all sorted out.”

“What?” Chance said. At least that’s what he tried to say, but the pencil eraser between his teeth got in the way. He dropped the pencil onto his sketchbook.

Mrs. Carlson let the books drop onto her desk with a thud. “If your magazine isn’t having kittens, why are you here, Chance?”

Oh. He pointed down at his backpack, “I had a lit question. My tutor’s got midterms this week so I thought maybe you could help. Got bored waiting so I was drawing.”

“It’s Tuesday, Chance. There was an after school staff meeting like usual. That’s why it is the one afternoon week no one’s up here for student help.”

Chance shrugged. “No big deal. I can come back in the morning.” He started to close his sketchbook, but Mrs. Carlson pulled it out of his lax hands. He jumped up, trying to snatch the battered book back. “Give that back,” he demanded hotly. His brain sluggish, it took several awkward moments to realize he shouldn’t yell at his teacher.

Mrs. Carlson closed the sketchbook on Chance’s half-finished zombie. What existed of the creature was morose and a lacrosse stick without its webbing lay at its feet. The teacher offered the sketchbook back to Chance spine-up. She frowned in concern as he took it back and shoved it into his backpack so fast that the corners bent. “Not your usual work, Chance.”

He shrugged. “Some pictures are harder than others,” he mumbled. This had been a bad idea. He should have just gone home and asked about his essay tomorrow. It wasn’t even due this week. He started to pick up his bag. “See you tomorrow.”

His teacher crossed her arms. “Is your friend Vic in some sort of trouble?”

“Vic?” Chance repeated, his heart starting to pound.

Mrs. Carlson nodded at Chance’s backpack. “The lacrosse stick. Last semester you told me one of your former teammates would be in my creative writing class this semester.”

He had? If he said such a thing it would have been a ten second conversation. He’d played lacrosse all through middle school. He’d been forced to stop freshman year. Sure, he called Vic a friend, but their schedules just didn’t mesh. But their moms still talked. He’d heard things, but they weren’t things he wasn’t supposed to know. Not exactly. Doctor things. Med things. Psychiatrist things. He picked up his backpack and slung it across his shoulder.

“Yeah, I know Vic,” Chance said, searching for words to say. Something about how he said it must have worried Mrs. Carlson even more. Her face was starting to look pinched.

“He’s been sleeping in class,” she said, no longer dancing around things. “When he isn’t sleeping, it’s like he’s still not there. Do you know what’s going on with him?”

“He’s not on drugs.” At least, not those kind of drugs. The frustrating thing was that the doctors didn’t know for sure what was going on yet either. And while they fiddled around trying to figure it out, Vic was pretty out of it.

Mrs. Carlson raised an eyebrow, obviously expecting more. Chance shook his head. “Sorry, Mrs. Carlson. I can’t say anything more specific. I heard it from my mom who heard from his mom.”

“I can see not wanting to tell secrets, Chance, but if your friend is thinking of hurting himself.”

“No,” Chance said. “Nothing like that. He’s got a doc–help.” He was probably making things worse, but he was between a rock and a hard place.

His teacher closed her eyes. She was frustrated with the secrecy, but so was Chance. She chose her words carefully. “Seems like Vic needs a friend right now even if he can’t be much of a friend. You’d be good at it.”

I’ve got practice is what she means, Chance thought. It was shaping up to be a year of challenges. First the whole debacle at summer camp, then helping his girlfriend catch an identity thief followed by one of his longest friends ever going missing for a time.

Chance walked out of the English office, torn somewhere between amazement his teacher remembered one tiny conversation from last semester and concern for his old friend.



Categories: Teachers Write | Leave a comment

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading from Picture Books to YA?


With Nerdcamp and a trip to the CCBC, my summer reading finally got a bit of a boost.

Last Week’s Reading Adventures

Graphic Novel

El Deafo by Cece Bell – This brilliant graphic novel recounts in fictional form how Cece Bell lost much of her hearing and her experiences throughout elementary school. At times this book left me smiling and aching.  This is a must have for school libraries. I received an ARC of this book at Nerd Camp Michigan.

Young Adult

A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss – An excellent young adult historical fiction account of Sarah Emma Edmonds, better known as Frank Thompson of the Second Michigan. Sarah serves as a soldier, nurse, spy, orderly and postmaster. Flashbacks reveal Sarah’s experiences with her abusive father.

Nonfiction & Nonfiction Picture Books

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Gibbs Davis – My favorite nonfiction picture book read of my afternoon at the CCBC. Filled with captivating illustrations, this book demonstrates how George Ferris struggled to create the first ferris wheel for Chicago’s World Fair.

Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss – My second Marissa Moss title of the week. This title recounts how Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura brought baseball to the Japanese internment camps during World War II. It’d be great to pair sections of this book with A Diamond in the Desert in introducing what happened in the US during World War II.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson – Kadir’s illustrations bring so much to the depiction of Nelson Mandela’s life. The simple biography on these pages would be a great discussion starter on the struggles for equality around the world.

Who Was Ulysses S. Grant? by Megan Stine – A new entry in the Who Was? series. This one did a nice job of showing all the different jobs Grant tried in his life and some of his faults.

Locomotive by Brian Floca – One portrayal of the Transcontinental railroad with Floca’s beautiful illustrations. In a classroom, I would pair this with other accounts of that experience for those who built the railroad.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock – Thomas Jefferson’s books become the foundation for the Library of Congress after the first library burns.

Gravity by Jason Chin – Text layout and illustrations make this a great title to share with science classes when introducing forces.



Picture Books

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan – Imaginative and perfect for having students write a ‘what happens next’ story.

Journey by Aaron Becker – A red crayon leads to unexpected destinations and adventures in this wordless picture book. I need to get this book for my school and think it would be great to pair with Chalk.

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Erik Stein Lunde – A gentle, sad story of a child and father dealing with the grief of losing the mom.

The Bathing Costume: Or the Worst Vacation of My Life by Charlotte Moundlic – One boy’s experiences spending  a week at grandma’s.

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara – This fun picture book about a library run for animals at night was my #booksmiles post.

Next Week’s Reading Adventures

For this next week, I would love to read:

Dash by Kirby Larson

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson


Categories: Uncategorized | 14 Comments

#Booksmiles from the CCBC: Library at Midnight



My first #booksmiles post comes from a visit to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center yesterday with two other teachers from my school. The CCBC is a phenomenal resource at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They are a children’s and young adult book preview library that also provides great intellectual freedom resources. They run a spirited book discussion listserv as well. Each year the CCBC puts out an annotated selection of best books called Choices. They also run the Charlotte Zolotow award, given to best picture book text aimed at ages 0-7. Later this month they are moving to a new location on campus. If you are in the Madison area after August, make sure you stop by and check it out.

My colleagues and I spent a few hours reading picture books, many of which were this year’s earlier award winners. We also read a selection of newer picture books at the CCBC, which is how I stumbled across my booksmile title for this week:




Many different animals visit the Midnight Library. Squirrels rock out with a band and a wolf’s tears threaten to flood the stacks. My favorite though had to be the tortoise determined to finish 500 pages of his book right then and there. It was a perfect opportunity for the unflappable librarian to gift the tortoise with a library card.

Being a school librarian, it probably comes as no surprise that a book about libraries would make me smile. Other library-centric stories that make me smile include:

Library Lion (picture book)
Bats at the Library (picture book)
Malcolm at Midnight (middle grade animal mystery)
The Grimm Legacy (young adult fantasy)

Share what books make you smile using #booksmiles on Twitter. I learned about booksmiles from @daydreamreader @libraryjo92 and @KingandKids

Categories: #booksmiles

#nerdcampmi Day 2 Reflection


My second day of Nerdcamp began by completing the first Teachers Write mini-lesson outside the school. Tuesday early birds were able to pick from advanced reader copies of Cece Bell’s El Deafo or copies of Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Garderner or Tom Angleberger’s Qwikpick Papers.

Nerdcamp was amazing in its sheer geographic pull. If you look hard, you may spot pins on the map below that were marking the hometowns of our Nerdcampers. 20 different states were represented. We had elementary school teachers, middle school, high school and some university level instructors. There were teachers, librarians, volunteers and a few students.



At Nerdcamp, there are two idea-board sessions where campers can propose what they would like to learn about. Before we started brainstorming, Colby Sharp had some announcements for us, such as the book birthday of Comics Squad: Recess. We also had two special guests in the house: Babymouse and Arnie the Donut.



We had two morning sessions with 19 choices to pick from! It was hard to pass up the Best Books 2014 session, but I headed over to the Genius Hour session instead. I would love to implement some aspects of Genius Hour with my fifth grade library classes. People shared some management ideas for Genius Hours, such as projects cannot be easily Googleable. A great number of professional development books such as A Place for Wonder. A plug was also put in for #GeniusCon. What I enjoyed most about this session was that we were all circled up and numerous people shared both questions and answers.




The second session I attended was about teaching how to read graphic novels and picture books as well as how they can be complex. After this session, Adventures in Graphic went on my lengthy to read list. This text talks about how to use Graphic Novels to teach comprehension. I spent most of the following lunch time reading El Deafo.

During our afternoon idea board session planning, another 20 sessions were proposed. During the third session, I went to a session on using Google Drive at the elementary level. The new suggested edits feature in Google Drive is one I look forward to exploring for my teachers. Then came a session I proposed on Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and writing clubs. Last year I had a small group of students from one homeroom participate in Nanowrimo. I would like to offer a better organized writing club for more students this year. Of course, I thought of a number of ways to make this session better after it was finished.

The day ended with a recap of the day where people could head to the microphone and share what they were taking away from this day of learning. Positive, enthusiastic messages were the norm. Several spoke of how wonderful it was to be around enthusiastic educators because their home teaching environments are not in a good place right now.




At the end of the closing session, the Nerd Crew (volunteers extraordinaire!) unveiled the dates for next year’s Nerd Camp. Join in this wonderful experience July 6th and 7th, 2015. Two goals I have for next year: participate in the Nerd Run and schedule better so I could stay and help out with Nerd Camp, Jr.


If you missed out on Nerdcamp, check out the notes from our different sessions. I hope to return to this learning extravaganza next year and hope more of you can join us as well!


Categories: Professional Development

Teachers Write Mini-Lesson 1

Teacher’s Write, a wonderful summer writing virtual camp for teachers and librarians, began yesterday. Kate Messner started things off with a mini-lesson on her blog. I took time this morning to complete the activity while waiting for #nerdcampmi to begin for the day.



Metal creaks and groans in time with the faintly stirring wind that softly lifts the Star-Spangled Banner above my head. Unseen birds twitter and sing from the trees dotting the parking lots surrounding the Western Schools campus. Bright patches of daffodils form a small beacon of sunshine on a cloud-lit day. The profile of a maroon panther stands out on gray stone, a class gift of 9 years to welcome us all to Panther country. The humid breeze, damp pavement and mottled gray skies harken back to the early morning’s rain.

A proud insignia hangs above the main school entrance: the insignia of Nerd Camp. A caterpillar green state of Michigan is nattily dressed in tweed, bow tie and glasses. A clipboard armed with pens, a large-monitored computer and mouse help spell out the Nerd Camp name. Brightly cheerful, this banner designed by Laurie Keller, would not be complete without a book, the item that unites all Nerdcampers. Walking up to the steps, blue, white, and pink chalk lines dress the sidewalk with the following message: Nerdy for Life. Embrace Your Inner Nerd.

An hour remains until the morning begins and nerdcampers are slowly trickling in to the school. Cars clump together in the parking lot, a dozen that will become hundreds. A day of learning awaits.




Categories: Uncategorized

#nerdcampmi Day 1

The first day of Nerdcamp Michigan was amazing. What is Nerdcamp? Nerdcamp is a literacy focused Edcamp.


Excitement was buzzing as early birds waited for Nerdcamp to start. I enjoyed helping pass out the swag bags as over 300 nerdcampers arrived today. Nerdcamp has some amazing sponsors as the bags had a fantastic assortment of books in them. The first read I devoured? Comics Squad: Recess!

One thing I love about edcamps in general is the enthusiastic atmosphere. Educators are excited about learning and sharing. Nerdcamp was just as excited as the edcamps I’ve attended in Wisconsin, but I love the literacy excitement angle.


Today was a special half-day where 15 great presenters shared on topics ranging from Purposeful Tech in a Reading Workshop to Close Reading to Poetry Throughout the Year. I attended Katherine Sokolowski’s (@katsok) session on Building Relationships at the Start of a School Year. With 13 new sections of fifth graders at my school next year, I’m grateful for any and all suggestions on building rapport. I enjoyed seeing all the different ways katsok had her students reflect, from using notecards to Google Drive. I also appreciated how she worked to start building relationships with her students before school even started. One thought provoking question was what are you doing o get to know your students that don’t demand your attention.



Next came the keynote presentation. Colby Sharp introduced Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. This engaging session looked at how we can build readers who can independently self-select books rather than readers who are dependent on adults for reading ideas. She shared great ways to build a reading community at school through student-led book commercials, doors displaying titles in teachers’ reading lives, student-created book displays and more. We were encouraged to think of who the reading epicenters of our lives are.

Tomorrow Nerdcamp Michigan continues with an Edcamp styled day. I can’t wait to see what sessions people come up with. Nerdcampers can propose what topics they’d like to learn about during the four hour-long break out sessions tomorrow. I would love to see a session on libraries, Nanowrimo or writing games to encourage student brainstorming (the last idea may be influenced by the Story Cubes in my computer bag).

A last fantastic thing about Nerdcamp is how many people from my PLN (professional learning network) are here. It is great to be in the same real space as the educators I admire. As a rather shy introvert, I may not say much to you face to face, but I greatly appreciate all that you do.

Categories: Professional Development

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