Friday, December 16, 2016

Slamming our Way Through a Winter Storm

The winter storm headed our way wasn't going to stop a group of seventh graders who had been preparing for this day for almost three weeks. Today was poetry slam day, and these students were anxiously waiting to share their poems with other seventh graders from Hillsborough Middle School in New Jersey. After all of the writing, electronic sharing, commenting, and practicing, it was time to finally meet this other group of seventh graders with whom they had been working since the project's beginning.

The project idea blossomed this past fall when I connected with HMS's wonderful technology specialist, Mary Ellen Davis. We began brainstorming ways in which we could connect our students throughout the year across various grades and subjects.  When we both discovered that our seventh graders studied poetry in November, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a collaborative project. 

At DPMS, I turned this activity into what we call a "stretch."  Stretch activities are created for our advanced students who benefit from more acceleration than what is offered in the regular classroom. Prior to this project, each ELA teacher identified a group of students who either expressed interest in writing poetry or who displayed exceptional writing talent. Once identified, students met in the library during part of their ELA class periods to work on specific poetry activities designed by me, our literacy coach, and our talented and gifted teacher. Students completed this work in addition to the work that they were still expected to complete in their regular ELA classes. All participating students were required to write at least five original poems from the bank of activities that we shared with them.

Once their poems were complete, it was time to share. Using Voicethread, students shared slideshows of their poems to a collaborative DPMS/HMS group. Voicethread was the perfect platform for allowing our students to communicate asynchronously with the HMS seventh graders. Students were expected to provide either text, audio, or webcam comments on at least two poems from five different students. The feedback that they received helped them revise their poems in preparation for our slam.

The final part of this project was the best part: the slam! While participation was optional, most students elected to perform a poem of their choice. To prepare, we watched several examples of slam performances and discussed the importance of movement and voice inflection. On the big day, we rearranged our library to look more like a cafe, dragged our TEDx stage out from the back room, and served cookies and hot chocolate. These students deserved a reward! Through Google Hangouts, DPMS and HMS students took turns performing their poems.

At the end, a winner was chosen from each school using a shared Google Form. HMS students awarded Tyler's performance of "The Crossroads" as their favorite.

Our students were buzzing with excitement after I announced the winner. Some students enjoyed this experience so much that they decided to band together and form our school's first ever poetry club! I can't wait to see what they create next!

Now it's time to face that winter storm...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Great NaNoRiMo Adventure

Have you ever dreamed of writing your own novel? For a creative group of seventh graders, their dream may become a reality. Ten students from Mrs. Lambert's ELA classes will meet in the LMC every Tuesday to participate in NaNoRiMo. During the month of November, these students have set goals to write a specific amount of words with the hope of finishing a novel by the end of the month.

To kick off NaNoRiMo, and to help our students think critically about their writing, we Skyped with author Margo Sorenson. Margo began by sharing various tips for our writers. She especially focused on how to create strong characters, the planning process, and the elements of an engaging story. She even shared some of her first and final drafts to remind students about the importance of revision.

Students had many questions to ask afterward. This was a great opportunity to learn some trade secrets from a professional writer! Students wanted to know things such as how to come up with names for characters, where to find story ideas, and Margo's biggest struggles as a writer. After our call ended, students were buzzing with excitement about what they learned and about finally diving into NaNoRiMo.

Stay tuned for updates from our NaNoRiMo group during the month of November. I look forward to seeing what these exceptional students create.

Around the US (and Canada) with Mystery Skype

During the past couple of weeks, seventh graders in Mrs. Krebsbach's and Mrs. Allen's Social Studies classes traveled to different parts of the US and Canada by connecting with other classrooms through Mystery Skypes. Once the game was over, and when time remained, it was fun to ask getting-to-know you questions such as "How many students are in your school?" and "What is the weather like in your city?" We had a GREAT time meeting students from different locations!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Eighth Graders Meet Geologist David Waldo

Eighth graders had the unique experience of being able to speak with geologist, David Waldo, about the controversy surrounding fracking. During their current inquiry unit on alternative energies, students have been researching some of the different energy sources currently used- solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, hydropower, coal, and natural gas, to name a few. To introduce the students to the often controversial topic of fracking, we turned to the excellent service, Nepris, which quickly paired us with industry professional Waldo. Waldo shared his expertise about the fracking process, its impact on the environment, and how this source of energy compares with others. Students were also able to ask questions following his brief overview on the topic. At the end, students had a broad, inside perspective on the topic.

I recommend Nepris to anyone wanting to connect students with STEM industry professionals. A connection was as simple as posting a request and waiting for a response. Best of all, students gained a real-world perspective from an expert in the field.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Teen Read Week- October 10-14

We are excited to officially celebrate Teen Read Week next week! Students can stop in the LMC during SRT to participate in a selfie station (complete with props) and learn how to make a light up bookmark. In addition, we will be taking nominations for the first ever DPMS Top Read Award. Nominate your favorite title to win the big prize.

For every activity that you participate in next week, your name will be entered into a raffle for exciting prizes including: gift cards, posters, and Scholastic Book Fair gift certificates. The more you try, the more entries you will receive!

We will see you in the LMC next week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

DPMS Kicks Off GRA!

Today we kicked off our celebration of the Global Read Aloud by meeting one of our partner schools via a Mystery Skype. Eighth graders in Mrs. Meyer's and Mrs. O'Hearn's classes used their geography skills to correctly identify our partner school's location. It was certainly fun learning more about the differences between the "big" city of De Pere and the "small" city of Campbellsburg, Indiana (population 573)! We look forward to connecting with them during GRA to discuss Orbiting Jupiter.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

TEDxDePereMiddleSchool videos now available!

A few weeks ago, on May 27, I was able to participate in one of the most amazing experiences of my professional career. Thanks to the brilliance of my coworker, Josh Gauthier, De Pere Middle School hosted its first ever TEDx event- TEDxDePereMiddleSchool. During our event, 20 selected students and five community members gave the talks of their lives from our very own stage in the LMC based on the theme "my unique contribution to the world." TEDxDePereMiddleSchool was a day filled with so many highs as these students amazed me with the passion behind each of their messages. The variety of topics- everything from girls in stem to redefining the word "nerd"- showed not only that middle school students care deeply about the community and world in which they live, but it also showcased the great heights our students can achieve when we push them to discuss subjects that engage them.

If you were not able to view our event via our livestream link, you can still view all of our student and community talks on YouTube. I hope that you will be just as inspired by them as those of us who were physically in the audience.

While preparing for this event was a huge endeavor, it was worth every extra minute spent planning, coaching students, and organizing the day. Our students got to be the stars, and as an educator, nothing could have made me prouder.

Friday, June 3, 2016

What should I read this summer?

Summer vacation is almost here! In three short (school) days, we will all be free to relax. sleep, and enjoy the leisure activities that we do not have time for during the busy school year. For me that means tons of reading! If you are like me, you may be looking for some book suggestions to fill that precious relaxation time. Lucky for you, there were so many great books published in the past year. While I may not yet have had time to read them all, I have plenty of fun summer reads to suggest to fill any downtime that you may have!

In the presentation below, you will find not only great summer reading suggestions, but also information on how to download ebooks and audiobooks 24/7 from Overdrive and Follett Shelf, more about the Brown County Library's summer reading program, and a link to SYNC's free audiobook program. I hope that you will take advantage of these great opportunities!

I would love to hear your summer reading suggestions as well as learn more about what you are reading this summer. Leave a comment below or send me an email at 

Have a great summer and happy reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get ready for Battle of the Books 2017!

Summer is the perfect time to begin preparing for next year's Battle of the Books competition! The official list has been published, and there are some exciting titles just waiting to be read. Here are the books that have been selected for the 2016-17 school year by the Wisconsin Media and Technology Association:

  1. Alabama Moon by Watt Key
  2. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  3. Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio (GA Intermediate)
  4. Booked by Kwame Alexander (GA Middle/Junior High)
  5. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Reader’s Edition) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
  6. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  7. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Newbery Honor)
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  9. Heat by Mike Lupica
  10. House Arrest by K. A. Holt (GA Middle/Junior High)
  11. Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  12. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
  13. A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
  14. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
  15. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse ( Newbery)
  16. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Newbery Honor)
  17. The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  18. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana (GA Middle/Junior High)
  19. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat (GA Middle/Junior High)
  20. The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Newbery Honor)

Most of the titles can also be checked out electronically through Overdrive. A collection of available BOB titles has been added to the bottom of the Overdrive homepage.

Get a jump start on the competition this summer and read, read, read!

Need books this summer? Don't forget Overdrive!

Are you looking for some great free reads this summer? Do you have a device and want to access books 24/7 from the comfort of your home? Look no further than Overdrive!

You can access our DPMS Overdrive collection from our LMC online resources page.  Enter your student ID number to browse hundreds of ebooks and audiobooks.

Books can be read on any device using the Overdrive app or in your web browser using an Internet-linked device.

Between June 1-30 only: Overdrive provides free access to eight titles through their Overdrive Summer Read program.  You can find these titles listed at the top of our digital library homepage after signing in. Act fast! These titles will no longer be available after June 30.

If you have not yet given Overdrive a try, take some time to explore it this summer. Your library is right at your fingertips without ever having to leave the house!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

DPMS Library News for 4th Quarter

Learn more about upcoming and past LMC events by reading our latest newsletter.

Scholastic BOGO Book Fair: May 16-20

Next week your LMC will be transformed into another exciting Scholastic Book Fair. Even more exciting than the fall fair: this is a BOGO fair! All items will be buy one, get one free. Stock up on some great summer reading favorites both old and new. Here's a little glimpse at what you will find beginning Monday.

The book fair will be open each day from 7:45-3:30 and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 3:30-9:00.

Don't miss your chance to stock up before summer!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Want FREE audiobooks this summer? Thanks SYNC!

Who doesn't love free stuff? Each summer SYNC audiobooks offers a free summer audiobook giveaway program from May-August for teens ages 13 and up. This year SYNC is giving away 30 high interest, popular titles that can be downloaded to a smartphone, tablet, or any other device with the Overdrive app installed. Once downloaded the audiobooks are yours to keep and listen to at your leisure.

To see each week's free audiobook pairs, visit SYNC. You will need to provide your name and email address prior to downloading any of the free titles. Your downloaded books will go directly onto your Overdrive bookshelf, so make sure that you are signed into your Overdrive account as well.

Click here to view the complete list of free titles and find out when they will be available for downloading. You can also sign up for email and text alerts to be notified when new titles are available.

Don't let this great opportunity for FREE audiobooks pass you by!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sharing our Journey into Guided Inquiry

This has been year of new beginnings- a new staff, a brand new group of students (who continue to amaze me), even a new library automation system, collection, and curriculum. All of these changes have been rewarding and exciting. In particular, I have been most excited about collaborating with many passionate, risk-taking teachers. Specifically, working alongside Literacy Coach, Peggy Rohan, I helped to implement the guided inquiry model into research units on Mesopotamia, fracking, and the Native American mascot controversy. This model emphasizes a more student-centered approach to learning as students go through stages of immersion, investigation, intensifying research, synthesizing information, and publicly sharing their learning.

Our journey into guided inquiry began with what I refer to as "The Great GID Experiment." When seventh grade Social Studies teacher, Cara Krebsbach, approached Peggy and me for new ideas on how to teach one of her first units on Mesopotamia, we jumped at the chance to introduce guided inquiry. The guided inquiry approach not only forces students to think at a higher level and work more independently, but it also allows students to make more choices, collaborate, and dive deeper into the research process- skills that are essential for all 21st century learners. While introducing guided inquiry during the Mesopotamia unit was a fantastic experience, there were many lessons learned along the way. This week Peggy and I are sharing our story with a larger community through the 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry blog. Organized by Guided Inquiry Design author, Leslie Maniotes, each week features guest bloggers from around the world who are sharing their stories about using the guided inquiry model. Our journey into guided inquiry has been challenging, engaging, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding. It has been exciting to share our story with the world and receive feedback from others who can relate to our experience.

Please check out our story and those of many others by visiting the 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry blog. We would love to hear your feedback about what we have done so far!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Celebrate National Library Week with Us, April 11-15

Next week the DPMS library will be hosting several activities to celebrate National Library Week. Please join us in the library to highlight this year's theme "Libraries Transform."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Civil Rights: The Native American Perspective

Over the course of the past month, 7th grade ELA classes have focused on reading fiction and nonfiction accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. While this is an extremely significant and important time in American history for students to study and understand, what many students do not realize is that Native Americans continue to face problems with cultural understanding and acceptance, especially with the way Native American mascots are depicted. To provide a better understanding of the controversy surrounding this issue, a select group of advanced 7th graders spent a week working with me, Beth Calaway, Gifted and Talented Teacher, and Peggy Rohan, Literacy Coach, to create presentations that would explain both the pros and cons associated with the issue.

To begin this special project, called a STRETCH, students attended a presentation by local Native American speakers, Richie Plass and Weeya Smith. Their presentations highlighted some of the negative stereotypes others still hold in the community today, their journeys growing up in and out of the state of Wisconsin, and how the stereotypical depictions of mascots have affected how others perceive their cultures. Students also went away with a better understanding of the diversities within each unique Native American tribe and why society needs to reconsider its use of Native American mascots in school, collegiate, and professional sports.

Upon conclusion, students reacted in awe and appreciation for their new understanding of Native American culture. During our follow-up discussion, students expressed how they were now going to look at Native American mascots differently and why it is important to educate the rest of society on the importance of this issue.

This led to the second part of our STRETCH- reading various articles that covered both sides of the Native American mascot controversy and creating a presentation to educate others about the issue. In small groups, students read 10 articles and completed a triple-entry journal documenting important ideas, their thoughts, and further questions. Following their reading, students shared notes with one another and began organizing their digital stories.

Digital stories were created using Voicethread. Students were taught how to find and cite copyright-free images as well as their research resources. Few hard guidelines for presentation format were given to students. All that was required was that they presented both sides of the mascot issue in a non-persuasive way.  Complete freedom was given to them as to how they chose to present the issue and how much information they conveyed. There were no minimum amount of slides, comments, or images required. Students could also find creative ways to share what they learned. One group chose to use a question/answer format while another chose to use the webcam option instead of images for the main slides. We felt that giving students room to make as many of their own choices as possible would empower them to take ownership for their learning.

The final results not only turned out to be significantly informational, but also truly impressive. It was obvious how passionate students became about this topic while engaging intensely in the learning process. We hope that you enjoy learning more about this issue as you view a sampling of the students' completed Voicethread presentations below. To see all of the completed presentations, click here and follow the links listed under each group.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Google Hangout with Monterrey, Mexico Provides Authentic Learning Experience

Who is your favorite teacher?
What is your favorite color?
What type of music do you like?
Do you like hamburgers?
Do you know the movie Frozen?

The above questions may seem simple, but translating these questions into Spanish and then carrying on a conversation surrounding the topic with native speakers challenged our 8th grade beginning Spanish speakers to test their skills in an authentic way.

Using Google Hangouts, we met with a class of teens from Monterrey, Mexico. Each of our students had the chance to sit in our "hotseat," ask questions in Spanish, and then carry on a conversation based on the response. In turn, students in Monterrey also asked us questions in English.

While the conversations related mostly to "favorites," they also turned philosophical and funny at points. One Monterrey student wondered how we would define success. At a different time, our students wanted to know if Monterrey students were familiar with the dance move "the dab." Laughter broke out on both sides when Monterrey students sang Frozen's "Let it Go" in Spanish and when we accidentally mistook their question about the Japanese comic form Anime for favorite animal.

Overall, it was amazing to see how easily kids from different parts of the world connected with one another. Their likes tended to be more similar than different, and it was most impressive how well all students could carry on a conversation and read between the lines despite the language barrier.

De Pere Middle School students had a fantastic time getting to know the students from Monterrey! Muchos gracias to Patricia Gonzalez and all of your fabulous students!

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Battle results are in!

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find the official results from WEMTA's Battle of the Books competition waiting for me in my inbox. DPMS was lucky to send an amazing team to compete at the state level, and knowing how hard this team worked, I knew that they were fierce competitors. 

Overall our team of 8th graders tied for 13th place out of 147 competing schools! Great job representing DPMS and dedicating the time and effort into reading each book, memorizing the spellings of all titles and authors, and practicing relentlessly the weeks prior to the competition. You made us proud!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Seventh Grade Book Trailer Project

Seventh graders in Mrs. VandenBush's ELA classes have been working for over a month to create book trailers for the first time. Using Animoto, students worked independently outside of class to create a trailer that highlights a favorite book while at the same time entices others to read their selection. Prior to creating their trailers, I reviewed with students copyright law pertaining to republishing others' images and music; citing sources; copyright-free image and music sources; and technical and aesthetic aspects to consider when creating a great trailer.

View a sampling of our students' projects below. You can also view more by visiting the Book Trailers page on the DPMS library website.

Third Quarter Library Newsletter

Check out all of the great events happening in your DPMS library by reading our latest newsletter.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Battle Victor at Last!

DPMS students have been reading like crazy and studying hard since this fall to prepare for our school and state Battle of the Books competition. This Wednesday a winning team was finally declared, and we now know who will move on to the state competition.

To prepare for our competition, teams were required to read all 20 books from this year's required reading list. They also had to study the correct spellings of all titles and authors. During our friendly online competition, students were given 20 questions about the books, and they had to correctly identify and spell both the title and author for each. Ten points were awarded for each correct title, and five points were given for the correct author. This online competition provided a nice simulation for the team who will be moving to the state Battle of the Books competition.

It was exciting and energizing to watch our teams in action. As I wandered about the library, students were heavily engaged in the process with lots of enthusiastic debates and conversations occurring as they attempted to answer each question. These students were taking this very seriously, with the end results proving that each team was determined to move on to the next level of this competition. I was so proud of each of their efforts and their commitment to taking on this extra academic challenge on top of all of their other responsibilities.

Which team came out on top? It came down to one answer. While I feel that they are all winners, here is how our nine teams ranked:
1st place: Peyton, Mallory, Violet, and Hannah
2nd place: Samantha, Olivia, Kate, and Kendra
3rd place: Mya, Naihua, Izzy, and Sami
4th place: Taylor, Anna, Shayla, and Megan
5th place: Matthew, Henry, Ryan, and Andrew
6th place: Alina, Rachel, Josie, and Jolie
7th place: Sylvia, Ashna, Alexis, and Leisl
8th place: Bryce, Nick, and Tag
9th place: Hailey, Ava, and Lauren

The state Battle of the Books competition, sponsored by the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association, will take place at DPMS on Tuesday, February 23. Good luck to the team representing DPMS!



Monday, January 11, 2016

Practicing Spanish and Hanging Out

Eighth grade students in Ms. Bravick's Spanish classes had a unique opportunity last week to practice their beginning Spanish speaking skills with another group of seventh and eighth grade students from Hillsborough, NJ.  Using Google Hangouts via Chromebooks, students were able to meet in small groups and have a conversation related to what they have been learning in class this year.  As beginning speakers, students went back and forth asking one another questions about, for example, their favorite hobbies, sports, classes in school, and the make-up of their families.

Students were surprised at how well they could understand the Spanish spoken by their peers and how well they were able to translate their own thoughts.  Some students even mentioned that they were able to pick up some new vocabulary.  

Ultimately, this experience offered our students the chance to gain some confidence in their Spanish speaking abilities while at the same time providing the opportunity for them to meet students from another part of the country.  We look forward to future connections with our new friends in Hillsborough as well as connecting with other schools from native Spanish speaking countries who are interested joining in a Spanish-English language exchange.