Annual Speak Up Survey for Librarians and Media Specialists

By Jenny Hostert, Speak Up Operations Manager, with Dorcas Hand

TASL leadership, Renee Dyer and Becky Calzada, and TLA management, Pat Smith and Gloria Meraz, would like as many Texas librarians as possible to contribute to the 2015 Speak Up survey. Pat Smith is especially excited about the “fabulous information we’ll receive!”

Please note: the survey closes on Dec. 18 – please take a few minutes to contribute your data. (Dorcas spent about 10 minutes just now – not very hard. And I got a badge for my email signature!)

Texas Association of School Librarians: 
My name is Jenny Hostert. I am the Speak Up Operations Manager for Project Tomorrow. As an AASL affiliate –I wanted to reach out to you to see if you would be willing to promote out the Speak Up surveys to your members. If you are unfamiliar with the project, Speak Up is a free survey tool for schools and districts that annually polls K–12 students, parents and educators on digital learning and the use of technology to support future ready schools.  Since 2003, more than 4 million have participated with over 120,000 surveys already taken this year. All participating schools and districts will receive free online access to their participant results with national comparisons in February 2016.

This year Speak Up will once again offer a special survey just for Librarians and Media Specialists! As a companion to our other Speak Up surveys, you and your member’s input will help complete the picture of what’s required to effectively support the use of technology for learning. Last year 2,500 librarians participated in Speak Up and we would love to double that number this year. As part of our outreach efforts we work closely with educational technology associations on increasing participation at the state level. We would love the opportunity to reach more librarians in Texas to ensure their voice is represented in the Speak Up data findings which is used to inform policies, programs, initiatives not only for AASL but many educational organizations and is presented annually at 2 separate congressional briefings in DC. In fact, our CEO Julie Evans, is actually presenting 2 sessions at AASL this weekend on last year’s librarian findings.

As a participating association we also provide you with your state data results with national comparisons to use for your own planning. If you would like to take a look at last year’s librarian findings please just let me know! The surveys are open through Dec. 18th so there is still plenty of time to get your members and their schools involved. I’ve attached some sample promotional text and tweets about the surveys, we would be extremely appreciative if you would be willing to share with your members, via social media, newsletter, email, or blog.

And of course we are happy to promote out any type of events, announcements, or releases that you may have via our blog any time of the year. Please do not hesitate to send our way, we are happy to share out to our network!

Lastly, as a librarian we would love for you to participate in the surveys to be included in our national dataset, to take the survey please visit:

Thank you again,

Jenny Hostert
Speak Up Operations Manager|949-609-4660 Ext. 17|
15707 Rockfield Blvd. Suite 250| Irvine, CA 92618
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Project Tomorrow is the nation's leading education nonprofit organization focused on empowering students to have a greater voice in their education.

Letters About Literature - Making the Reading/Writing Connection

by Kate DiPronio, Librarian, Cedar Valley Middle School (RRISD); chair Tall Texans Round Table; Spirit of Texas Middle School Committee; TASL Alt. Councilor.

“Nobody but a reader ever became a writer. “—Richard Peck.  Type into your search bar ‘reading writing connection’ and you will get thousands of hits.  I can’t think of one author who claims to be a non-reader.   As a teacher librarian I am always looking for ways to connect reading and writing and make it meaningful in my students’ lives while also meeting curricular requirements as outlined in our TEKS.

The Letters About Literature writing contest hosted by the Texas Center for the Book, in affiliation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress,  is an excellent way to link reading and writing.  Students read a book, poem, or speech and write a letter to the author, living or dead, that expresses how that author’s work has influenced or changed their lives in a meaningful way.  Was their perspective of the world changed?  Or, perhaps did students develop a more personal understanding of themselves?

Whatever the impact of the work, when students write to authors, a shared bond is formed. There has been an exchange of ideas through creative expression, even if the author does not or cannot, respond.  The work of the author has already spoken to the student and elicited a response.   Writing to the author is a manifestation of that response and gives it life.  Isn’t this exactly how we hope our students will learn to write - persuasively, with emotion, logically, and for a purpose? 

If you need to convince yourself that Letters About Literature is worth promoting on your campus just take a look at the TEKS.  I have included examples from the elementary, middle school, and high school TEKS below:

(19)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to:  (B)  write short letters that put ideas in a chronological or logical sequence and use appropriate conventions (e.g., date, salutation, closing)

(17)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to: (B)  write a letter that reflects an opinion, registers a complaint, or requests information in a business or friendly context;

High School 
(16)  Writing. Students write about their own experiences. Students are expected to write a personal narrative that has a clearly defined focus and includes reflections on decisions, actions, and/or consequences.

The contest makes letter writing interesting to students; however, you will need to tie it to your curriculum.  Included on the website is a Teaching Guide with lessons and activities for all three levels of the contest to help students write their letters.  Deadlines are approaching.  
  • Level 3 (grades 9-12) is due by December 4th.  
  • Level 1 (grades 4-6) and Level 2 (grades 7-8) are due by Jan. 11, 2016.  

Don’t delay.  Start a writing group in your library or co-teach with your classroom teachers.  You can’t go wrong when promoting the reading writing connection.

State winners at each level are recognized with their librarian at the TASL Business Meeting during Annual Conference - that's in Houston this year!

O.S.C.A.R.: Our School cares About Reading - and what a difference it makes!

by Bradley Noble, Wunderlich Intermediate Librarian (Klein ISD)

Wunderlich Intermediate was ready for a change…A BIG CHANGE: one that would impact everyone within our 4 walls; one that would create a CULTURE of READERS among the entire school (students and staff alike); one that would instill a LOVE of reading while increasing our STAAR scores in the process! And so, on one hot August afternoon, at a library conference table with one principal, one librarian, one ELA Specialist, one department chair and data manager, the journey began and OSCAR (Our Students Care About Reading) was born!

We presented a proposal to the Klein Education Foundation and were thrilled to receive a $25,000 Lead the Spark Grant; $20,000 was used to purchase books and the other $5,000 would be used for the OSCAR ceremony. We also received an additional $50, 000 in Title 1 funds to help supplement the variety and number of books in both classrooms and library. Watch this overview.

An O.S.C.A.R. favorite
In choosing the OSCAR books we wanted titles that would foster a lifelong love of reading and improve their critical thinking skills. We decided the best books to start with were the Texas Lone Star books. We chose from all genres and made sure we had plenty of interesting choices for our students, particularly for our struggling readers. We added several more titles over the last three years with Title 1 funds, including a set for our ESL and our NAC (New Arrival Center) students.

We purchased separate titles for each grade level and placed 4 copies of each in every ELA and Math class, which are blocked classes. Students choose a book they like and are then given 15 minutes of independent reading. Upon completing their books, they fill out a summary sheet and if interested, sign up for an O.S.C.A.R. club. In these clubs they may create book trailers, digital or hand drawn art, costumes, or create music or songs to go with a book. Their purpose with these projects is to persuade others to read the book as well.

With the $5000 from the grant, donations and sponsorships from community members, we have a spectacular celebration in May. We give awards for the best book trailer (EX: Best SciFi trailer) in each genre, best script, best costume, etc. Since teachers are also encouraged to read the books as well, we also have a category for best teacher book trailer. We have had over 400 book trailers submitted over the past three years. Winners receive an OSCAR statue and the Best Overall Student and Best Teacher winners also receive an iPad. Some student’s try out for the talent portion of the show and get to do a performance that is related to one of the books. This is a favorite part of the program for all of us.

The results of this program have been amazing!! To begin with, we have students and teachers clamoring for OSCAR books!  They are now discussing books they have both read and enjoyed; this interaction has literally opened up the doors of communication between students and staff. And yes, our STAAR scores did go up…each year!

As a librarian I am thrilled that so many students and teachers are actively reading quality literature. I love talking to both of them about books they have read and encourage them to give me suggestions on books to purchase for the library. I feel very fortunate that I was given an opportunity to be part of such a wonderful program at Wunderlich.


Creating a Transformative Library Vision: TASL Winner Talks to Us

by Renee Smith-Faulkner, Asst. Superintendent of Technology Services, Castleberry ISD; 2015 Winner, TASL Distinguished Library Service Award for School Administrators

Please share this post with any and all administrators and librarian colleagues who may not read this blog. Ms Smith Faulkner is truly our advocate. Use the tools she recommends. D.Hand, Editor 

I would like to begin the blog post by thanking all of the librarians, teacher-librarians, hybrarians, and Twitterbrarians across the state for the leadership and support you offer your campuses, teachers, students, and the community each day. Districts and administrators that employ you as a vital resource and recognize the potential return on their investment have the best opportunities for transforming student learning on their campuses. 

Since receiving the Distinguished Administrator of the Year Award at TLA last year, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated librarians in the state via face-to-face, email, and through participation in the #txlchat. However, when I speak with them, I hear a common theme amongst them. Can you help change school administrators’ perceptions of the library program and educate them on the evolving role of the librarian as a 21st century campus leader? How do you begin the re-branding of a library program and implementing a transformative vision?

First, I assure librarians that although Castleberry ISD has some great things happening in their libraries, this can be the story of every school library. Administrators can develop a Transformative Library Vision and turn it into a reality by starting with these 10 strategies we implemented in our district.
  • Create a Shared Vision for the Library.
    • Create a Library Improvement Plan. Present the plan to the school board and report progress on goals and objectives. Without a district-wide plan, internal and external stakeholders might not recognize the library as an integral component of the school community.
  • Staff Your Library with a Full-Time Librarian.
    • Value their expert knowledge. With the exponential growth in digital information, it is more important now to have an expert that can assist students in deciphering the validity of digital information. 
  • Ensure Librarians are a Member of the Campus Leadership Team.
    • Librarians provide insight on the campus culture.
  • Involve Librarians in Planning and Facilitating District-Wide Professional Development.
    • Librarians can help others create a strong Personal Learning Network which provides individualized professional development based on campus and teacher needs.
  • Provide a Budget to Equip Your Library with Digital Resources and Technology Equipment.
    • Be careful, librarians are instructional experts and not meant to spend their day on technical support. Use them to transform the learning culture that encourages collaboration, communication, and supports innovation.
  • Schedule Meetings with Your Library Staff Regularly
    • Do your librarians have a scheduled time to meet collaboratively, plan, and create a common vision to bring about purposeful change and establish one clear voice?
    • Meeting regularly with the campus administrator helps build a positive relationship between the library and campus administration. These meetings can change how the library program is perceived.
  • Transform the Library Space to Accommodate Collaboration and Personal Learning Networks
    • Allow librarians to have conversations about what these spaces should look like and what tools should be available to support these learning spaces. Yes, coding, makerspaces, and gaming should be funded and implemented in the library.
  • Share Library Success Stories through a Hashtag Embedded on the District Website
    • Promote your library programs through the power of technology, and this can make all of the difference in your library program. If you don’t have a district, campus, or library hashtag, create one now.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk
    • Don’t roll the dice and bet the farm, but instead be willing to put transformative ideas “out there” and don’t be afraid to present ideas that are outside of the box.
  • And Did I Say, Staff Your Library with a Full-Time Librarian
    • Librarians make a difference and impact student learning.

Personally, I can’t imagine what our district would be like without the leadership of our teacher-librarians. We meet monthly as a group to assess the progress of our District Library Improvement Plan, so necessary adjustments can be made to ensure goals and objectives are reached. In addition, technology coaches are often invited and planning for campus professional development and teacher support networks are established. Then, the teacher-librarian for each campus reports progress on library initiatives during campus improvement monitoring meetings held each six weeks with the campus principal, assistant principal, technology coaches, and myself.  During this time, standardized student resources are shared so all stakeholders can support key collaborative initiatives for the year such as the creation of student digital portfolios, student blogs, teacher Canvas classes, and flipped lesson resources.

In our district, it has become second nature for our administrators to view teacher-librarians as a vital member of the campus leadership team.  Our administrators embrace and advocate for creating and supporting libraries designed to accommodate a “collaborative” and “connected” learning pedagogy that elicits 21st century learning.

The transformation did not come easy or without a few bumps in the road. However, my experience has confirmed that an investment in your library program is well worth the return!

Administrators, for more information, I encourage you to contact me using any of the following methods:
       Twitter: @faulknerr
       Office: 817-252-2087

Win-Win: Teacher-Librarians Bridge the Library to the Classroom for Success

by Donna Kistner (Baxter Junior High Librarian, Everman I.S.D)

I am a teacher-librarian: a teacher in the library and a librarian in the classroom. When I was in the classroom, I constantly gave books to students generally about a skill students were learning at the time.  So when I became a full time librarian, I noticed a gap, between my goals as a teacher; wanting students to learn skills, and wanting students to just read as a librarian. So I developed a way to link the two, read for your TEKS and hook your readers.  Now, as a librarian, I help teachers achieve their goals, while I achieve my goals as well. However, the students are the real winners!

Using the knowledge I gained of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills as a teacher in the classroom and combining that knowledge with the skills necessary for students to learn in the library, I developed a technique to link the two together so students will achieve success in classroom.  As I read a novel, I look for snippets of text teachers can use to teach the TEKS.  I note those books and the snippets to share with teachers. I tag the books to help students connect with a TEK as they read the snippet, then they become more interested in reading the book. This helps me become more successful linking reading to the classroom.  I make assignment cards called Trade for a Grade cards.  These are cards posted in the library with skills that students are using in their classrooms but require students to read snippets of books to complete the assignments. The assignment is completed in the library but turned into teachers in the classrooms to take the place of missing assignments or grades.

 The more students read, the more they are prepared for the TEK when it is taught in class. “Remember that good teaching is not about covering a new list of standards; good teaching is  grounded in practices proven to sharpen our students’ literacy skills” (Gallagher, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom, 2015). To me this means  good teaching is about reading, encouraging students to read, helping students find great books to read, and achieving teacher’s and student’s goals.  So I continue to add the snippets to my file so that I am prepared when teachers are looking for just the right piece to read to help students understand a TEK. 

For example, the text in Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) helps students recognize many reading skills, especially in drawing conclusions since characters are on the “Isle of Conclusions” (which they jumped to). Drawing conclusions is a difficult skill to teach without reading a long text.  Many students get lost in the wording and can’t see it. However; using short pieces will allow students to easily see the pun in the first two pages. Juster is a master at using word play and vocabulary.  This book is great for teaching figurative language because you can turn to any page and find great use of metaphors, hyperboles and more. Students who like funny stories will immediately see the humor in Juster’s writing.  I use this appeal to bridge the library into the classroom.

The teachers and I collaborate about skills they are using in class. When teachers add TEKS to their lesson plans, I find snippets to help teach and support those skills with the books in the library. Blue Lipstick by John Grandits is an example of concrete poetry which correlates to skills 8.3 and 7.3 TEKS, asking students to identify different types of poetry.  My Trade for a Grade card asks students to explain the differences between a Blue Lipstick poem, and any poem from the Extraordinary Poetry Writing by Margaret Ryan.  Using the two books, students make their own Venn diagram to explain the differences in the stanzas, shapes, and rhyme schemes.  To extend the lesson, I ask the question, “How do these two types of poems differ from a novel in verse like The Crossover by Kwame Alexander or Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder.  After reading just one page of each book, students can note the differences and similarities.  In addition, The Crossover intrigues the boys and Chasing Brooklyn entices the girls.  Students quickly check out the book, and I need to make another Trade for Grade card. This is a win-win; more students find books they enjoy and learn skills while reading high interest pieces. 

Trade for a Grade cards also help students who need to make up missing assignments: they achieve classroom goals while they make up missing projects.  If a teacher will accept the Venn diagram as an alternative assignment, she/he signs the back of the card. Then students may turn in their Venn diagram to take the place of their missing assignment in class. This is one of the hardest skills for students to do on their own, but it is one of Robert Marzano’s nine high yield strategies.

Many students come to school with no literacy skills. They do not have homes full of books. Few in my district have a library card and most are very poor.  So the only opportunity to interact with books is through the school library. I want to maximize their time in the library to help them be successful students.  In my classroom, I wanted to surround the students with literacy options such as newspapers, comics, books, magazines and more.  I believe if you find what a student likes, they will read about it. What a better place to do that than in the library where you have every subject possible almost.

I read Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead and found snippets to use with a TEK for teachers to use in class, or that I can use in the library as they read. I ask the students how the setting influences the story. This story begins with the main character in the hospital and a nurse saying, “There must be a reason you survived?” I encourage 7th and 8th grade students to use the short prologue in this book to make inferences as to what may happen in the story by predicting from that point. This skill will be discussed in the classroom, and students will remember what we discussed in the library. Asking students to show me, using text evidence, gives me an opportunity to teach citations skills and quoting. 

I am working toward creating a Trade for a Grade Card for every subject area and grade level using the library to meet goals. My major goal is to help struggling readers apply skills from class to their reading.  This increases learning because students are more likely to read books they select.  Finding ways to help students use skills in a variety of reading environments enhances students’ ability to read with understanding. Win-Win yet again.