Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life

I went to my son's basketball game today and there up on the stage keeping track of the books was Landon.  I have a special place in my heart for the now 7th grader.

  • Landon, who this time two years ago, would rather read The Crossover than watch a football game. 
  • Landon, who during the 2015  Super Bowl worked on creating a poster promoting The Crossover to win the Newbery award, rather than root for The Patriots or Seahawks (or even watch the commercials!)
  • Landon, whose favorite 2014 Christmas gift was The Crossover.  When it got eaten by his dog he made his mom search far and wee on the likes of ebay and Amazon for an original copy (sans gold sticker) so that when Kwame Alexander visited our school that May he would know that Landon was behind him from the beginning.
  • Landon, who like me, was so upset the morning of February 2, 2015 to find out that it was a snow day that we both cried.
  • And Lucky Landon, who when Kwame did visit Castleton Elementary School in May 2015, got to go on stage and interview him as a guest on "The Landon Show", a moment in time that none of us will ever forget.
So, when I pulled out my arc  (that I just happened to have in my bag of tricks) of The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life, Kwame's newest to hit shelves on February 14, 2017 and showed Landon the shout-out to us and Mr. Reischer in the acknowledgements and told him how much he will love this book, Landon just grinned and Mom clearly said, "I know what you're getting for Valentine's Day!"  Love is love is love.

How cool is this???!!!! (Sid's name is spelled wrong but should be fixed by 2/14!)

Here are 52 rules of basketball translated to life.  Although I was never a basketball player myself and only became a fan when I went to graduate school in Terp country and met my husband, these rules still apply. Several even have references to leaps in them--oh yeah!

Rule #8
When you find
On a fast break
And slam dunk
The opportunity.

or (and I love this one)

Rule #12 
You can always

Do better than you did
Work harder than you worked
Leap broader than you leapt


Dig deeper
Claw harder
Rebound better

Than ever before.
Then there's Rule #17 that says that "Sometimes, we need/Others/To motivate us..." Sometimes?  For me it is All. The. Time.

And as motivating and inspiring the poems are, it's the prose that I really love in this book.  Kwame's personal journey from basketball to tennis.  The short biographical sketches on Venus, Serena and Pele.  Wilma Rudolph and LeBron. All people who have beaten the odds.  Yes, they had talent but they also may have abided by the 10,000 hour rule and worked pretty darn hard to get to the stardom that they can claim as their own.  There are also quotes sprinkled throughout by people as current as Steph Curry (my son's idol) to Mia Hamm to Michelle Obama, Arthur Ashe and so many more.  They should have made this a book with one sided perforated pages--all you want to do is cut out and hang up every poem and quote and plaster your wall with wisdom and inspiration.

When Kwame came and visited us back in May 2015, Mr. Reischer gave him a book of rules written by our students (Landon included), influenced by The Crossover.  We like to think we inspired Kwame as he continues to inspire us.  In his Pele essay, Kwame writes, "His dream had become a reality. But sometimes reality becomes even bigger than our dreams."  I had to stop and think for a moment here. Any chance you know this first hand, Kwame?

So we know what Landon is getting for Valentine's Day.  What about you?

I'm always trying to leap broader!

The first time I read this book I snapped a picture and here it is--August 2015

Friday, December 2, 2016

Going Beyond Skyping with Grandma

Today I presented a workshop at the Regional Technology Awareness Day 2016.  I called it "Video Conferencing with Elementary Students:  Going Beyond Skyping with Grandma." You know I love my Skypes and opening up my library to the world and, consequently, the world to my students.  It's one of my favorite things I do in my job.

I don't have a website that I can post information so decided to include some of my resources here. That way you all can benefit!

I've used four different types of video conferencing tools with my students in three different areas of the building with as few as a half dozen kids to as many as two grade levels.


Probably the most popular and simplest to use.  Almost everyone has Skype or can easily download it to their computer.  It's free and easily accessible.  Perfect for author visits and classroom mystery connections (ie, what state do you live in and give hints).  Sometimes it is spotty with the connection, however, lately I haven't had any trouble with it (watch now I will!).  New features of Skype:  group calls and screen sharing.  This really brings it to the forefront of the video conferencing tools available, especially since there is no cost involved!

Look closely and you can see the "Skype" on the screen.
This is Stephanie and she is a towboat captain in the Gulf.  She Skyped us from her boat.


If you and the person/people you are video conferencing with have an Apple product, this is the video chatting tool to use.  You can use it from your Apple phone, iPad or computer.  I have plugged my dongle into my phone and projected it straight onto my SmartBoard.  Sometimes I have challenges with it with our wifi at school and sometimes it has worked beautifully. The image is usually clearer than Skype when it works.  

I've read that you can get FaceTime for Android and PC devices now, but haven't tried it myself.

FaceTiming with a monorail pilot!

Google Hangout

We had a semi great experience with this once when video chatting with an author/illustrator couple that were living in two different states.  We could hear them but they couldn't hear us or there was bad feedback when we tried the sound.  This was an unusual experience and I understand that it can be very easy.  I know high school teachers promote this for students to use with each other to work on homework.

This is Anna Kang. Look closely and you can see Chris Weyant at the bottom of the screen.

And here's the illustrator, Chris Weyant holding up a sketch for us!

Cisco WebEx

WebEx is a paid video conferencing tool where you get a link and ask all participants to log on using that link.  I used it a couple of times last year and it was cool because the authors were able to share their computer screens with us so we were able to see early versions of books.  Unless you are using a lot of video conferencing with sharing of documents during the chat, the free tools would work just fine for your needs.

This is WebEx.  You can see Daniel' Miyares's name at the bottom left corner of the screen.


Hop on over to Rabbit because it is just starting to launch into education so you can be at the forefront of it all.  This is a group video chatting app that gives participants the opportunities to engage in activities together (ie, watch videos, karaoke, play games).  I haven't used it but thought it would be great for teachers who are flipping their classrooms.  Students could watch the videos together at the same time and have conversations, ask questions, solve problems in real time.  It's free, too.  Check it out and let me know what you think and how you might be able to incorporate it in your classroom.

And Just a Few More...Doing the same thing...It's just what you prefer...


Popular with teens (maybe?). You can video chat with up to 12 people at a time. You can record your video chat for later and text during while chatting.


Chat with up to 12 people at one time.  No fee, no registration and no login.

Free photo, text, phone call sharing with other Viber uses.  Really not necessary in the classroom but could be a useful tool if you were going out of the country and wanted to keep in touch with family and friends and didn't want to get a phone plan.

If you have any questions or just want to talk this through a little more, don't hesitate to email me at

"Panel Folks"

If you were at my presentation you were lucky enough to "meet":

Emma Virjan "Author/Illustrator" Extraordinaire from Austin, Texas.  She has a new Pig in a Wig book coming out in January.  Check out her website here.

Stephanie Cavaliere, Towboat Pilot in the Gulf

Jennifer Underhill, Florida State University Schools, School Librarian, University School Associate Professor--Mystery Skypes are Fun!

Jacob Bogage, Reporter for the Washington Post

I'm so glad they were able to video conference in today! How fun was that?!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our last "Hour of the Bees" book group meeting

My fifth grade all-girls book group just finished Lindsay Eager's Hour of the Bees.  We celebrated with punch, suncakes (pancakes), chips, salsa and snowcones.  Here's what they had to say about the book.  Needless to say, it's a winner for them!

"I'm speechless.  The contract says '10' but this book went to '11'."

"There are so many words to describe this book.  It's beyond amazing.  I wanted to keep reading but it was like, 9:30 at night."

"I like how it started the stories 'Once upon a time...'and then at the end of the story it would say 'Once upon a time...' again.'"

"The ending was really sad and a shock to me."
"The book is amazing. It is above the stars."

Kate and her "suncakes"

"I really wanted to be in this book group and am so glad I got in!  I love this book so much!"

The girls have some questions for Lindsay:
  • What inspired you to write the book?
  • If the stories are real, how old is Raul?
  • Were you like Carol when you were little?
  • Where did the names in the book come from?
  • What's your recipe for suncakes?
  • Will there be a sequel?  If so, you have five girls who will be standing in line the day it comes out to read it!
  • Did you ever live in Albuquerque?
  • Where did you get the inspiration for the settings like the ranch and the city development that Carol lives in with her family?
To wrap up, they said "Lindsay Eager's book is going to win the 2017 Newbery Award and it is the best book we ever read!"  You gotta love kids who totally fall for a book!  I know I do!  The biggest question they have now is "What should I read next?"  Suggestions?

Leaping for Lindsay!

Saturday, November 26, 2016


For the past three years I have collaborated with a first grade teacher on a "Stone Soup" project.  I gather up all the versions of Stone Soup we have in our library and in our public library system.  She reads them all to her students and then for one week we split the class up and each of us works with a group of students to write and illustrate their own version of the tale.  This year we had even fewer students in each group because she has a student teacher.  Then, right before Thanksgiving, the class brings in their own ingredients and cooks up a couple of batches of stone soup in the classroom.  This year, we enjoyed it while viewing the books on the SmartBoard.  Here, for your reading pleasure, are the 2016 digital books thanks to the publication site, Calameo:

Mrs. Pryde's Group:

Read more publications on Calaméo

Great job everyone!

The Matzah Ball book inspired students to put matzah balls in their books AND their soup.
They were a big hit!

What's stone soup without corn muffins?
ps-I highly recommend Calameo for digitizing books. So easy, especially if you can scan on your copier, like we can at school.  Just add the PDFs and voila!  A book!  You can do this with any topic and any grade! And look how easy it is to share!  Have fun with it and good luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We were NOT bored! Thank you, Jonathan Fenske!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  We have a half day.  The kids are boarding the buses.  I should be packing up my things and heading out of school to make more side dishes and "Aunt Stacey's" mac and cheese for my company tonight.  Instead, I must reflect and share on yet another amazing Skype that we had this morning.

Last year Jonathan Fenske's A Pig, A Fox and A Box was on our Geisel list.  I still remember laughing so hard when I read it aloud in my small group.  It's hilarious.  I still laugh every time I read it.  No joke (all puns intended!).  I read it to kindergarten yesterday and honestly, could not stop laughing.

So since Jonathan won the Geisel Honor last year and has a contender on our list this year (Barnacle was Bored), I emailed and asked if he would Skype with our class. He said YES!  And today was the day!  What a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving early!

When he was asked about how it felt to win the Geisel award, he said, "Dr. Seuss is my hero.  To have his face on my book means a lot to me."  Of course, I proudly showed him our copy of the book which does NOT have Dr. Seuss's face on it because we purchased it BEFORE it won!

"When did you write your first book?" "When I was in first grade.  It was about a dog who got to play on the Yankees."  The Yankees fans in the room (including Mrs. Pryde) were ecstatic.  This coming from a guy who grew up in the South and now lives in Denver.  Way to go, Jonathan!

When he read Barnacle is Bored to us and shared the title page, I loved when he said, "Barnacle is Bored. By ME!"  How cool is that?!  We love when authors read their books to us!

Someone else asked about his favorite animals.  "Foxes and coyotes because I see them a lot in Denver and otters just because they are cute and comical."  And we even got to meet his dog, Phoenix (but very briefly).  Jonathan also pulled a painting off the wall for us to see his old dog!  We love meeting authors' pets (and kids--because we got to meet his daughter, too!).

The painting.  Phoenix was too fast for me to snap a photo!

Couple of book birthdays coming up for Jonathan--

FEBRUARY 7:  A Pig, A Fox and Smelly Socks

APRIL 25:  Plankton is Pushy

Mark your calendars, friends.  For at least at CES, we WILL be celebrating!  Get out your stinky socks!

And as if this wasn't enough, Jonathan taught us how to draw Barnacle and Guppy.  We drew them in our Geisel notebooks so we'll have them forever.  Awesome!

Thanks again, Jonathan for a wonderful Skype!  We look forward to welcoming you in Castleton the next time you are in New York.  We don't live far from many homes of the painters from the Hudson River School.  Olana (Frederic Church's home) is only about 40 minutes south of here.  We hope that tempts you.  

"Nothing is more fun than reading and making books for kids."
-Jonathan Fenske

(Well, or being a librarian!)

Leaping with Jonathan!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Back to School


So this happened today.  

At the end of our Monthly Morning Assembly.  
A leap with ALL 405 of my students (even a few parents in the back).  
For a leaping librarian, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Backtrack 24 hours and life is a blur.  No rest for the weary when you are “Teacher of the Year.”  My day began, as it always does, with first graders checking out books before my coffee has totally permeated my system.  Soon after, cheery fourth grade “Dewey Duty” helpers came in to check in books.  That day, the books just happened to be from a cart that always carries books already checked in. “Why does it keep saying ‘Used in Library’, Ms. Rattner?’”   Hmmm. Was I upset?  Nah, because just before, I received a surprise phone call from an author in Texas.  Although it only lasted long enough for her to say, “Congratulations” before we got disconnected, it was still a daymaker.  And this was all before 9:30.

What about the rest of the time?  

Lead three fifth grade Mock Newbery book groups.  Submitted an order to Junior Library Guild. Sent four  IT emails requesting four different websites to be unblocked.  When access is granted, I scanned and created three digital books.   Finalized my Mock Geisel book list and tested a Skype with an author.  Smelled the fourth grade Thanksgiving Feast from the hallway, but never made it down there to even grab a morsel of stuffing.  After school got out, three teachers and a librarian visited from another district to talk Caldecott and author visits.  Finally, I was bowled over again when flowers were delivered from a very special author friend with a message almost cryptic enough to fool the government (but fortunately, not me).

I came home last night and should have crashed.  But instead I read, graded papers and reflected.  My students, my books, reading, authors, illustrators, they are constantly on my mind. I’m always searching for new books and debut authors to get excited about or I’m on the lookout to discover a creative project we can do that will introduce my students to a world beyond Schodack.  The ticket to the world is in our library and I have all the boarding passes to hand out.  But in the end really, all I want is for my students to be just as happy as I am to come to school.  Never does going to sleep early help that cause.  However, now that it is nearly midnight, it might and so I bid you bon soir. See me in the morning for your boarding pass.

Sunday, November 20, 2016



This is what SHOCK looks like!

Part I
I love award shows.  Tonys.  Oscars.  ALA Youth Media. The red carpet.  The stars.  The performances.  Warhorses who win.  

I love surprises.  I didn’t want to know the sex of my children in utero. My maid of honor threw me a surprise shower three hours away from my home that completely shocked me but only after my soon-to-be husband almost became soon-to-not-be due to my incessant questioning, “Beth’s throwing me a shower, right?” and  “When’s my shower?”

So last night when I was crowned “Teacher of the Year” by the Schodack Faculty Association, it was the ultimate award show that threw ME for a complete surprise. Thank you for that.

BUT, unlike the awards, I was not aware that I was on the short list. Therefore, no crinkled thoughtful speech with a poem that would go viral like “Love is love is love” lifted from my lips.  Instead I can only hope that I was coherent and folks realized how appreciative I am of this incredible recognition.  If I had the chance to do it over I’d like to thank the academy…

Part II
...When I was little I didn’t dream of being a teacher or a librarian. In fact, my mom taught MS English and told me to never go into teaching.  I could respect her advice only for so long.  

One month before I turned 40, I received my Masters in Library Science and left my job of nine years at Planned Parenthood.  It was fun telling people that I was a sex educator turned librarian.  It kind of had a nice ring to it.  Little did I know that ring was more like a gong and that gong was LOUD.

I love my job.  I love when two boys who wanted their book to win the Newbery award so badly it hurt that when it did win they would grin with pride “Our book won! Our book won!” This happens all the time. Or when other boys would rather read or make a poster promoting their book than watch the Superbowl.

I love when a little first grader falls for a book so hard that she gives it 200 stars, spending the time to draw each one on the page.

I love that when I send fan letters to authors, time and time and time again, they respond in joy and don’t need an arm twisted to meet them “virtually” and sometimes even say, “Or would you prefer an in-school visit?” Duh!

I love that when I ask my classroom teachers if they want to welcome an author on a red carpet, they drop everything and do it.  They pretty much drop everything and do anything.  I don’t ask why I just know that they trust me and I love them more for just that.  

I love my job so much that my reading level doesn’t go past fifth grade.  I haven’t read an adult book in years.  When The Goldfinch first came out, a pair of sisters gave it to me as a gift.  Is that thoughtful or what? I’m embarrassed to say the hardcover is collecting dust.  #IMGLit

I love my students so much that I hold five book groups each summer.  Great excuse to get Starbucks or 16Handles, catch up and talk books.

I love my job.

Part III
If the title of “Teacher of the Year” would bring my name to the attention of some people, here are a few that I hope are on that short list.

Dear Carla Hayden:  Any chance you would like to go out for coffee?  I would love to chat with you about how you inspire me and make me so proud to be a librarian.

Dear President Obama:  If there is any national recognition for teachers of the year, I would love it to occur before January 20.  It would be my distinct honor to shake your hand and discuss what we’ve learned in the past eight years for we’ve both been in our jobs for about the same amount of time.

Dear Vivian Howard: After traveling all the way to from upstate NY with my family this summer, we spent the day in your town and totally fell for it.  We even spent some respite time in your town’s library.  I hear Kinston could use a bookstore.  Hmmm….why don’t we meet up at Little, Brown and talk food, books and Eastern NC.  I could definitely recommend some good reads for your twins.

Dear Lin Manuel Miranda:  You are a complete genius and I admire every step you take.  My friends tried everything they could, one even sent her husband down to the box office on his day off, to get me tickets to Hamilton.  Since that didn’t work out as they planned, they took up a collection of Hamiltons for Hamilton.  I will add to it regularly and look forward to the day when I can see the fruits of your creativity in person.  In the meantime, I will continue on my personal journey of “Hamil-tread” or “Treadmil-ton” every time I work out at the gym.

Dear Judy Woodruff and Hari Sreenivasan:  I was devastated when Gwen passed.  She was going to help me through these challenging times.  Now I have hope and would love to meet with you and talk about Gwen’s impact on me as a teacher.  Oh and have a group hug, too.

To my late superintendent, Bob Horan: I hope you were looking down on us last night.  If you hadn’t supported the library program, continued to keep my schedule flexible, listened to me when I lobbied for another librarian (or two), and even promoted the removal of my computer “walls”, I am not sure I would be “2017 Teacher of the Year.” We miss you, RH, but we carry on in your spirit.  Guess what?  I’m even advocating for coding and STEAM in the library!

Part IV

A LIBRARIAN won TEACHER of the year in a small school district in upstate NY.  A LIBRARIAN!  We are teachers! We make an impact on all of the students.  We teach information literacy, STEAM, just right books, research skills, common core, digital literacy, communication skills, team building, every buzz word you can think of, we cover and we do it well. We don’t do in isolation of any curriculum but rather in collaboration with them all. We are teachers who support other teachers in making engaging, interesting, interactive, project based and challenging lessons.  My teachers know that and for that I am thankful.  I am not just a librarian.  I am a TEACHER LIBRARIAN and gosh darn it, I hope you can hear me roar.  Together we can all make a difference.  Thank you for this award and recognizing a LIBRARIAN.  I promise to proudly continue to stay up till 1:00 am working hard to uphold my end of this bargain. Thank you.