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Using FlipGrid to Connect Students to Authors

I met Ginette Garrity on Twitter. She’s a 5th grade Language Arts teacher from Bryam Schools who goes above and beyond to get her students excited and motivated about literacy. One of her many endeavors that I was able to be a part of was her Get Fired Up About Lit FlipGrid channel. It’s pretty incredible so I reached out to her to share her thoughts, challenges and successes in setting it up.

GG

How do you use FlipGrid to connect authors to your students?

I’m a fifth grade Language Arts teacher who recently discovered a way to allow authors to enter into the classroom and connect with their readers by using Flipgrid. For me,  Flipgrid was a way to connect teachers, librarians, authors, and students to create the perfect culture for a love of reading. By utilizing Flipgrid, I found an easy platform where authors could create a short video from the comforts of their own home to tell students all about their novels. I started by setting up a grid and contacting authors on Twitter, to try to spread the word. Shortly after reaching out, middle grade and young adult authors from all over the world started to create personalized videos on my “Get Fired Up About Great Lit!” Flipgrid page. This video platform allowed authors to promote their own writing, develop a connection with their readers, and build a community that shares a love of reading and writing. Students are able to access the grid at anytime on any device to see what authors are writing and what literature is best for them. All they have to do is go to flipgrid.com and enter the flip code d6e229.

Flipgrid has been a game changer this year! This grid has helped not only my students but me connect with authors and discover new literature. Not only have authors been kind enough to leave videos for my students and our district, but they have offered to Skype in about their books, give writing tips to our students, and even work with them through the revision process. Getting great literature into the hands of my students has never been easier.

How has this impacted your student’s interest in literature?

FlipgridThe author Flipgrid has had an enormous impact on my students and has made them eager to explore novels. They are amazed that published authors take the time to share their books and connect with them on such a personal level.  It really does mean the world to them! There is now a remarkable interest in the books written by authors featured in our FlipGrid because they are connecting directly with our children. Students want to try new books and explore new genres because of the author videos. In addition, I have never had so many students recommending books to one another. Students will ask me for a book recommendation and another student jumps right into the conversation with, “Have you watched the flipgrid video on this book?” They have the book in hand and are eager to share with their peers. The author videos just spark a whole new level of excitement in middle school. My fifth graders, a class of eighty-two students, have almost read 1,000 novels this school year thanks to this new project. We talk about, celebrate, and discuss books more than ever, and for middle school students that is a big deal!

Furthermore, Flipgrid has changed the way our students interact with authors. This particular Flipgrid site has allowed students to see authors in a way that otherwise would not have been possible.  Now, students can feel more connected than ever with the talented men and women that have created the stories they all love. Previously, authors were highly regarded people who existed in a world of their own.  Through technology, I have been able to bring the “real person” into the lives of my students and that has made the biggest difference.

What were your lessons learned from this experience?

gg3This new project has taught me that stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new opened up a whole new world for my students as well as myself. The connections I have formed, the books I have learned about, and the students who have found a true love of reading this year, would not have been possible if I did not start this Flipgrid page. When I first started out, I hoped to get one author video because I was not sure how this idea would go over. I quickly learned that most authors were eager to have the chance to connect with students, and they were excited to try to create a video. Currently, the author flipgrid is close to hitting fifty videos! To be honest, I am just as excited when a new author video appears on our grid as the students.

Another lesson I have learned is that you want to have the books authors are sharing available to your students. In my school, which consists of 5th-8th grade, we no longer have a school library. I have started a centralized book cart in our cafeteria, filled with the books by the authors that have been generous and caring enough to share their messages with our students. This allows the students easy access to our Flipgrid Collection, and they can sign them out during lunch. I was able to write a grant and our Education Foundation at our school has been generous enough to purchase a copy of each book written by the authors who leave a video for our students.

I started this Flipgrid page for my district because I wanted students to be just as passionate about reading as I am, and for authors to have the opportunity to talk to the students whose lives they touch with their stories. My plan is to keep the grid open and build it for as long as possible. I hope other districts will share it with their students and that authors will continue to tell us all about the fantastic books they write and the stories they love as readers too. Please feel free to use my Flipgrid page to help promote a culture of reading in your school or library, and get students excited to meet authors and discover new literature. If you want to set up your own grid and need help, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help Garrity.Ginette@byramschools.org or on Twitter @GinetteGarrity1.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form. 

The What If & Revision with Amy Christine Parker

Writing is tough and sometimes we don’t know where to begin or where to get ideas from. That’s why I’m thrilled to have Amy Christine Parker, thriller author of GATED, ASTRAY, and SMASH & GRAB, here today. She has some excellent writing tips on where to get ideas for your writing and how to start revising.

Amy gets her book inspirations from documentaries and current events that peak her curiosity and get her asking one vital question: What if? For GATED, Amy was inspired by the three things: the impending (at the time she was writing) Mayan Apocalypse, a documentary on doomsday shelters, and the times she watched Scientologists walking the streets of Clearwater en masse (all wearing the exact same clothes) as she took her daughter to story time at the Clearwater library. Her “what if” for GATED was: What would it be like to grow up with parents who strongly believed in an impending apocalypse?

The What If Writing Assignment

1. Have students scour current news (could be from a show, magazine, newspaper, etc.) for real stories they find interesting.
2. Have students brainstorm ways that they might be able to use their real life story to brainstorm their own fictional short story. It can be from any genre: fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, or mystery.
3. Using the story board techniques shown here and here.
4. Once they have brainstormed what scenes they will need, have them draft a rough draft of their story then follow the process most writers use to revise their work (before they send it to their agents/editors for even more revisions).

Revision Activity

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Bookflix. It’s better than Netflix.

Unless you got sucked into a portal and have been spending your days riding unicorns (I’m totally jealous of you BTW), you most likely have heard of Netflix. But you might not have heard of Bookflix. That’s why I’m so excited to have Emelia Fleck here to get us in the know of this incredibly fun and relatable resource that’s getting her students (and adults!) pumped about reading.

What is Bookflix and how does it work at your school?

Bookflix is an engaging book promotion tool that mimics Netflix. Students can access Bookflix from out library website (prhslibrary.com) to discover a wide variety of new and exciting titles that are available in the library or through the Sora app (OverDrive) in audio or eBook format.

Bookflix

How did you creat your Bookflix?

I used Google Slides to create my Bookflix. First, I created a homepage to mimic Netflix, featuring 27 titles from a new book order that had just arrived. The second step was to create a page for each title and link the book cover to the corresponding slide. When users are in present mode and click on a book cover, they are brought directly to a slide featuring a variety of information and links, including reviews, author blogs, quotes, book trailers, a book request form and more! If users would like to go back to the home page, they simply press the home button. Some links are not obvious. For instance, there is a link embedded in the profile photo that leads to a page featuring books that the library staff are currently reading (so fun)!

Feel free to copy my template here and use it to create your own. There are also other varieties from animated powerpoints to bulletin boards created by amazing, innovative librarians. Search Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #bookflix

Bookflix2Have you found it useful to getting teens excited about books?

Yes! Bookflix has generated a lot of excitement within my school and has provided me with the perfect opportunity to attract new readers! I shared Bookflix with the entire school community through email and immediately started receiving replies from students and faculty to save books for them to pick up later in the day (they wanted to make sure that they got the book they wanted first)! I also set up a New Arrivals shelf for the physical collection, and several of the books were checked out within the first hour of sharing the Bookflix. By creating and promoting books in a digital format that students could visually relate to and explore, I was able to reach more of the population in a short amount of time (rather than waiting for students and faculty to discover them on the New Arrivals shelf). The word spread fast, and the excitement was contagious!

Meet Emelia Fleck, media specialist extraordinaire

Fleck_LibGuide_PhotoEmelia Fleck is a certified Library Media Specialist and Technology Integrator at Plymouth Regional High School in Plymouth, New Hampshire. When she is not promoting a passion for curiosity within her school community, she is traveling, working in her apiary, hiking in the White Mountains, discovering a new book, or dreaming up her next adventure (which might be baking a fresh batch of cookies, or traveling to Egypt, who knows)!

Twitter: @EmeliaJane_ | Website: prhslibrary.com

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up. Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Tying Emotions to the Senses with Elle Cosimano

Edgar Award finalist, Elle Cosimano, author of the Nearly Gone duology, Holding Smoke, The Suffering Tree, and upcoming When We Wake is sharing a writing exercise today. Elle is the master of incorporating emotions in her writing. Because 50% of human communication is nonverbal, knowing how we can use our senses to explain emotions is a powerful writing tool.

Emotion Writing Exercise

Imagine you have Nearly’s ability from Nearly Gone. Choose six emotions and assign each one a corresponding taste and a smell. Be sure to take into account each emotion’s overall quality, as well as varying degrees of intensity. What tastes and smells did you choose and why? How might they change when blended with other emotions? Then take time to describe them in detail. 

Be sure to check out Elle’s Nearly Gone teacher guide here and Holding Smoke here. Follow Elle on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

How to Run a Literacy Scavenger Hunt

Have you ever wanted to up the level of literacy fun at your school or library? Today I’m super excited to have Tonja Doering the Media Specialist from Arbor Ridge School share some incredible tips on how to run a Literacy Scavenger Hunt.

I love this idea of making literacy fun and interactive. How did you run your Literacy Scavenger Hunt?

Since we are a K-8 school, we always try to accommodate all of our learners which can sometimes be a challenge when we plan academic Family Nights.  We want to be able to reach our younger students as well as our older students.  We also want to show parents fun activities that they can do at home that would strengthen the skills of students at any age.  As a member of our Digital Curriculum Team, I am always looking for digital tools that we can use to engage our learners.  I came across GooseChase Edu and knew that this would be the perfect tool for a fun family event.  GooseChase is an app that people can download on their phones or iPads. 

Participants complete missions and can submit their answers by submitting pictures, videos and/or a text response within the app.  GooseChase has a game library that you can use and there was a sample Literacy Chase.  I used that game as a starting point and then created new missions with the help from several teachers. We designed 41 missions that allowed students and their families to go around the school to complete a variety of activities that emphasized different literacy components.  We wanted to have more than enough activities for families to complete in an hour.  We explained that they wouldn’t finish them all in an hour and that their goal was to get as many points as possible!  We assigned point values on missions based on their complexity level.

Here are a few examples of the missions we used:

Take a picture of an object you see. Then name three more words that begin with the same beginning SOUND as the object. For example, object: dog. You could list the words: dip, dock, duck.

Find the easel near the art room. Use magnetic letters to spell at least 3 sight words ( ex. ‘the’). See the link below. Be sure to take a picture of your work! (We included a link to a list of sight words appropriate for all grade levels)

Find an infographic and take a picture. List one fact you learned from reading the infographic.

Math Literacy: Find an example of a right angle and take a picture. 

Write a poem of at least 8 lines on a piece of paper. You can find materials you need at the check-in table or in the Makerspace area in the library. Take a picture of your poem!

Other missions had teammates cracking codes, solving word problems differentiated by grade level, solving riddles and using information found in student projects displayed in the hallways to answer questions.  The ideas are endless!!  One of the best parts of this app is that participants can see other responses in the news feed so they can read how others responded. Of course, as the game designer, you can choose what is shown in the feed or what is hidden!  (You don’t want to give away any answers!)  As the game manager, you get to see all submissions and can even award bonus points! 

What piece of advice would you give someone who might want to put this event on?

We asked participants to download the app before they arrived so that they would be ready to play!  This will allow participants to quickly join the game and begin their scavenger hunt.  We also had iPads available that had the app downloaded already for people who needed a device.  Several phones didn’t have battery left that late in the evening!  I had directions printed out on paper with our Game name and Join Code.  I would also display it on a large poster, board or easel so that it is easily visible.  Our line got pretty long at check-in and I think this would have helped!  As with any digital program, I would also suggest having a backup plan, just in case!

We received great feedback from our event and have already started planning for our next event. To make it even more engaging, we are going to allow students to submit ideas for missions!

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Idioms with Carmella Van Vleet

Today I’m excited for you to meet my critique partner, Carmella Van Vleet! She’s the author of numerous books, including her most recently released, Eliza Bing Is (Not) A Star. She’s also the winner of the prestigious Christopher Award and her books have been gathering on numerous state lists. She’s pretty incredible, isn’t she?

Today Carmella’s sharing tips on how to write Idioms with us!

Idioms

One of the chapters in Carmella’s Eliza Bing Is (Not) A Star is called “Between a Rock and a Megan Place.” This is a twist on the idiom “between a rock and a hard place.” Idioms are familiar phrases that mean something very different than what the words say. They are phrases that have a figurative (rather than literal) meaning.

For example:

Down to the wire – at the last minute Piece of cake – something is easy Get cold feet – be nervous Let the cat of the bag – spill a secret

After discussing what they are, collect idioms you come across in the book or elsewhere. Display them on a bulletin board or on a master list. Or illustrate idioms and publish them in a class book.

Want the full teacher guide for Eliza Bing is (Not) a Star? You can get your free copy here. Be sure to follow Carmella on Twitter here:
@carvanvleet, Instagram here and find her on Facebook here.

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Using #KidsNeedMentors & FlipGrid to Inspire Students

I’ve been having a blast this year teaming up with Angela Johnson from Southport Middle School through #KidsNeedMentors. It’s been an amazing experience for both of us in that we’re able to work together to motivate and get students excited about reading and writing. One tool that’s really made this work is FlipGrid.

How Does FlipGrid Work?

Teachers upload discussion questions or a problem, and students answer by adding video responses and likes. Book reviews, number talks, sports demos, class news, mystery games, author talks, or instrument demos are a few ways it’s being used, but the possibilities are endless. Students dig it because they can interact with their friends, plus it’s easy to use and engaging. Who doesn’t love stickers and emojis to personalize profile pictures? 

FlipGrid in Action!

Using FlipGrid, has helped Angie take this mentorship to the next level. Each of her students created a video discussing what they were reading in class and shared their videos with me. It was such a great way to connect with the students!

Angie also uses Flipgrid to build relationships and make connections with her students, which she believe is vital for a successful classroom culture. She also uses it for student conferences/talks often, discussions, activities, and videos. It’s been a great and fun way for her to use technology in her teaching, but also it’s easy to use and students are loving it!

Be sure to follow Angie on Twitter: @SMSMrsJohnson and on Instagram: smsmrs.johnson!

Teachers/Media Specialists: Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up.

Authors: Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form.

Introducing TEACH & WRITE + Massive Book Giveaway!

I’m excited to share my new blog series TEACH & WRITE that features teachers/librarians and authors working together to create a stronger learning community. To celebrate and launch this new series, I’m offering a massive giveaway of 150 books (young adult, middle grade, and picture books) for teachers at the end of this post.

How does it work?

The Teacher/Librarian Spotlights are posts highlighting inspirational stories, survival tips, engaging material tied to National standards, organizational tips, and ways to connect with students. The Author Spotlights showcase reading skills through novels and tips to develop writing skills in the classroom. Look for weekly giveaways of teacher materials, novels, author Skype visits, and book swag! I can’t wait to connect teachers and writers through TEACH & WRITE, set to launch March 1st. 

Also, teachers, check out this list of FREE teacher guides for classroom novels ages 8-17.

If you are a teacher, librarian, or author and wish to participate, here’s how you can be a part of this: 

Teachers/Librarians

Do you have an inspirational story, survival tip, organizational tip, engaging material, or a way to connect with students? If so click here to sign up. If you wish to promote your teaching materials, be sure to include links to your websites or social media accounts. 

Authors

Showcase a reading skill through your novel or a tip that develops writing skills. Click here to fill out the form. You can also offer a copy of your book, Skype visit, or swag pack for a giveaway for teachers.

Win a Book Pack or Swag Pack!

Choose to win a young adult, middle grade, picture book pack, or swag! Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all an amazing Christmas and New Year! This year, I’m excited to start working on a new middle grade writing project. I’m also launching a new blog series called TEACH WRITE that features teachers and authors working together to create a stronger learning community. More on that coming next week!

This winter and spring, I’ll be attending some book festivals and teaching some writing workshops. Here are the details:

Jan. 26, 2019
OCLS Writers Conference
Discover Voice Workshop

Feb. 2, 2019
Compelling Worlds—A World Building SCBWI Workshop

Feb. 8, 2019
Trinity Prep Author Festival

Mar. 9, 2019
Winter Park Book Festival at the Winter Park Public Library

Mar. 14, 2019
Cape Coral Literacy Festival

Teachers! If you wish to book a school visit, my details can be found here. For a free 20 min Skype Visit, email or book through Skype in the Classroom here.

ECOSYSTEM Blog Tour


ECOSYSTEM I’m so excited to be a part of Joshua Bellin’s blog tour for his latest young adult book release, ECOSYSTEM. Be sure to enter his giveaway at the bottom of my post. As a fan of his other works, SURVIVOR COLONY 9, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, and FREEFALL, I was eager to get my hands on his latest.

THE BLURB
Seventeen-year-old Sarah is a Sensor, gifted with the ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that swept away human civilization centuries ago. While the remnants of humankind huddle in small villages of stone, Sarah uses her psychic connection to the Ecosystem to travel freely in the wild in search of food, water, and fuel. Sarah doesn’t fear the Ecosystem—but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people’s sustenance but for revenge. Then Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Miriam’s beloved, Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart. A thrilling fantasy adventure from the author of Freefall and the Survival Colony series, Ecosystem is the first book in a YA trilogy that includes The Devouring Land (2019) and House of Earth, House of Stone (2020).

MY REVIEW

In ECOSYSTEM, Bellin has developed a unique, post-apocalyptic world, one where nature has turned on us and become our predator. Every foray into this treacherous land ensures a painful death. Unless you are a Sensor. Seventeen-year old Sarah has this Sensor gift and with it she can Sense the Ecosystem. She knows when it moves, what it sees, and even its intent. With this ability, she’s able to join the other Sensors and journey into the dangerous Ecosystem to hunt and gather food for her community. But when the Ecosystem uses Sarah’s own gifts and weakness (her Sensor-in-training) to lure her into the deepest, darkest heart of this predator, Sarah begins to question her past and even her community.

Sarah is a feisty character, who has been taught and trained to ignore her emotions, instead focusing on the task at hand. I liked that about her. I also loved the development of her character from the moment we saw her celebrating her first hunt, to when she’s cast out, and even as she abandons all of her training to do the unthinkable. A character who surprised me was Isaac. He showed up late in the story, and at first I merely dismissed him as a side character, but then he shows up later in the most unexpected way with the most unexpected ability.

I loved this twist as it’s very unusual for me to be surprised by events in a story.  In fact, I think that’s why I enjoyed ECOSYSTEM so much. It’s full of unexpected moments, it doesn’t follow the norm, and the world building is incredibly fresh and unique. Unlike Bellin’s other works, ECOSYSTEM had a storytelling style and veered more into the realm of fantasy, which I really liked. This is such a thrilling story that once I started reading, it sucked me into this world. I am eagerly waiting for the sequel!

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For the full blog tour, go here to check out all of the stop.

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