Thursday, 30 June 2016

Breakout Box

I had been hearing about Breakout Education for some time and wondered how it would work in the middle school setting. I decided to just buy one and test it out with the students and some teachers and see their reactions.

As soon as it arrived, Kristie and I set up one of the games called "The Timekeeper: A Journey through Mesopotamia" and told the grade 7 Social Studies teachers about it. In B.C., the grade 7 Socials curriculum is all about ancient civilizations, starting with Mesopotamia so we felt it was a perfect pairing. The teachers were excited about testing out the Breakout Box and were planning to tackle it on their next prep however, they had to postpone. I left the Breakout Box all set up awaiting the teachers but the box proved to be too intriguing to students.

I have two grade 8 boys who have been with me for the third term for their p.e. block as they have both undergone surgery. They asked about the box and when I told them, they asked if they could try it. These boys came back and worked on the Breakout Box for almost 3 hours before they met with success and they were delighted when they finally broke in. They reset it and another set of students tried it, working through lunch to crack the codes.
What was fascinating for me was to listen to the conversations, hear the thinking that was going on, and the collaboration that happened.

These photos show the students at lunch working together. They kept going back and forth between sitting and standing which was interesting.

When the teachers had time to try the Breakout Box, it was interesting to hear and see the similarities differences between the teachers and the students. The first set of teachers broke in after 90 minutes and the second group met with success in 45 minutes. What became apparent from observing the different groups was how important it is to have different thinkers within the group.

I'm looking forward to incorporating the Breakout Box into classes next year and the possibilities are endless. I already have math and science teachers looking at how to use this. I'd love to try this in an English class doing literature circles with clues based on each of the novels read.

I would strongly suggest purchasing a Breakout Box. For more information, go here 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Frank conversations

I've been having a lot of internal conversations over the last week as I've been struggling with a lot of work related decisions. It's times like these that I really wish I had another teacher librarian in the building. I'm always going through the day to day librarian activities and making decisions and for the most part, I can handle it. Every so often though, I start second guessing myself. I think it's one of the problems of being the only (or as one of my students told me, the lonely).

Today I had a scheduled meeting with my principal. It was announced that he is being moved at the end of the month and I wanted to chat with him before he left. After four years of working together, we've finally come to understand each other - and it's been a long and difficult road. Our chat today was very frank and I walked away feeling that I had done my job; my principal knows how important the teacher librarian and the library program is to a school. We spoke about how a teacher librarian is really an instructional leader and how that is only really possible if the TL is full time. We also spoke about moving into administration which is something I have entertained since I entered the teaching profession. I have come to realize that leadership doesn't have to mean administration.

We also spoke about professional growth as my principal is a huge proponent of constantly exploring new educational theories to find something that works to propel an individual forward. He did mention that he thought that he hadn't pushed me enough. It's an interesting thought, but I don't think I'm one that needs pushing. I have always loved learning and am constantly reading and looking for new ideas that I can use in the library and the classroom. Over the past 18 months I have really focused on developing my leadership outside of the school by presenting at conferences and taking a more active role in LSAs (local specialist organizations). I still have a long way to go, but for this introvert, what I've accomplished in the last year and half often catches me off guard.

I left the principal's office feeling positive. Positive because I knew I had made my principal a believer and strong advocate of library programs and teacher librarians. And I'm ready to work with my new principal and show him how the library is the absolute heart of the building.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


To say change is hard is understatement. Change is hard. It's also frightening and nerve-wracking but if I look past those emotions, I recognize that change is exciting as well.

I have an administrator who, in his own way, encourages change. I think what he's trying to say is don't be content with where you are - push the boundaries and always look for areas of growth. Sometimes that's hard to do if you are looking at the same four walls, interacting with the same colleagues, and wrestling with the same curriculum year after year.

At CNB, we are looking at many changes ahead. We have new curriculum in all subjects for this September. And we are also looking at possible grade realignment for the following September as we move from a 7-9 school to a traditional middle school of 6-8 as our enrollment goes up. As a result, we have staff looking to move this year, while others will move next year. June is typically an emotional time of the year but I foresee an emotional year ahead as we face so many changes.

For myself, I'm looking at starting my 13th year at CNB and some might think it's time for me to look at changing. I decided last year that moving to a different school wasn't really something that appealed to me because I have no desire to tackle a new collection or spend years developing trust so I can collaborate. But I also recognized that I didn't want to stay and become stagnant. I'm looking forward to implementing the new curriculum and the fabulous projects we will create for the curriculum.

Don’t be afraid of change, because it is leading you to a new beginning. -Joyce Meyers

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Qs for Symptoms of Being Human

Q1 What was your initial reaction to the book?

Q2 Even Riley is guilty of labeling people. Why do we do this?

Q3 How important is Riley's blog?

Q4 What makes Riley such a likeable main character?

Q5 Riley settles for neutral because students can't handle gender fluidity.  Is Riley correct?

Q6 Favourite secondary character?

Q7 What was your impression of Riley's parents?

Q8 Favourite scene?

Q9 Could you see parents wanting this book banned?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Busier than normal

I haven't blogged in long time and truth be told, I haven't been reading my usual amount of YA literature either. What's going on? How on earth am I busier than normal? After 9 years of teacher librarianship, you would think I would streamlining it all a bit better. I'm not and it's all because of the project planning. And I couldn't be happier.

Since spring break, I have been inundated with requests to collaborate on new projects as a result of the new curriculum that we are implementing this September. With a term left in the school year, a lot of teachers decided to try out a bit of the new curriculum and see what projects they could come with. It has been very exciting for me - I have new topics to explore and design PBL projects for. The downside is that: PBL projects take a lot of time to create and I need to find, borrow, purchase resources to support the new curriculum projects. It's been a whirlwind of activity in the library, that's for sure.

The other element that put me a little of kilter is that I have had a couple of teachers approach me about collaborating that I have never collaborated with before. Collaboration is a lot of work and is based on trust. With teachers I have collaborated with multiple times before, the process is pretty straightforward. We each know what to expect. When collaborating with someone new, it's more of a delicate dance as we figure out each other's style and approach to teaching and learning. As a result, a lot more conversations occur to ensure that we are understanding each other and creating the fabulous project we both envisioned.

I love collaborating with teachers and coming up with projects that I know are gems. And I'm looking forward to working with the new curriculum and designing engaging projects, but what excites me more are those new teachers coming to realize what a teacher librarian does and how important the library program is.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Booked questions

1. What were your initial thoughts about the book?

2. What makes Nick such a realistic main character?

3. Is it possible to really get to know a character in a verse novel?

4. Parents are often absent in YA. What did you think about Nick's parents?

5. What is appealing about verse novels?

6. Big words abound in Booked. Did their inclusion work?

7. Who was your favourite secondary character?

8. What other verse novels would you recommend?

June book picks

Book blurbs and images from Goodreads. Vote here

1. Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…

2. When We Collided by Emery Lord

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

 3. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

4. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.