Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong book review

Author (Last name first):  Armstrong, Kelley
Title of the Book:  The Reckoning (Darkest Powers: Book Three)
Publisher:     HarperTeen           Date of Publication:         2010
ISBN#         978-0-06-166283-6
Price:  $17.99        Grade Level: J/S     Number of Pages: 391
VOYA Rating: 4Q 4P
Highly Recommended  

This was the third book in the first of two series trilogies.  It is definitely recommended to read The Summoning and The Awakening first.  The story is set in the East Coast.  The Edison Group has been genetically modifying DNA to make humans more powerful.  The main characters in this story include: witches, sorcerers, a necromancer, and ghosts.  As soon as their powers start to show, they are put in a mental institution.  Turns out that the mental institution is owned by the Edison Group and the kids have been tracked their entire lives.  The Tori, Derek, Simon and Chloe are on the run because they know they are in danger and do not know who to trust.

There are a lot of twists and turns. Chloe and Derek have a unique relationship that turn into something more, which the readers will probably root for. There are definitely themes of friendship, love, loyalty, honesty and responsibility woven in to the story.  This is one of those books that I wish I would have read when it first came out.  It will make for a good high school book display.

The setting and the characters have so much detail that it is easy to get lost in the book.  I think this book and this trilogy would make a great addition to a school or public library.  It is a paranormal story that I think would have a larger audience appeal.  It has a great mix of realism, history, action, romance and superpowers.  The characters are likeable and strong.  The reader is hoping they will rescue their friends and solve the mystery of who they are and where they came from.  I don’t think there is anything that is objectionable for middle school or high school teens.  It is a well written book that keeps the reader coming back for more. I think students will enjoy the companion website.  I will also look for a book trailer to post in my Moodle page to advertise the book (or series) to students so they will come into the library to check it out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Illuminate book review

Author (Last name first):  Agresti, Aimee
Title of the Book:  Illuminate (A Gilded Wings Novel: Book One)
Publisher:     Houghton Mifflin Harcourt          Date of Publication:         2012
ISBN#         978-0-547-62614-7
Price:  $17.99        Grade Level: J/S     Number of Pages: 511
VOYA Rating: 4Q 4P

Highly Recommended  

Haven Terra is a nerdy, hard working, down to earth high school girl.  One day she is called down to the principal’s office and told she was picked for a very prestigious internship.  Her best friend, Dante, and another acquaintance, Lance, are also chosen from her school. The three of them are very surprised, but they are excited and can’t wait for their adventure to start.  They get to stay in Chicago’s newly remodeled Lexington, where everyone wants to be and be seen.  Unfortunately, as soon as they arrive, Haven notices that members of “The Outfit” act really weird.  Aurelia and Lucian are in charge of the hotel, and they give off a sinister vibe.  As the story unfolds, Haven begins to piece things together and realizes that there is evil at work in the hotel.  Haven and Lance are working together to save themselves and their classmates.  A romance is blossoming and most of the story is wrapped up at the end, but there is a lead in to the second book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It was a little daunting at first because it is over 500 pages!  But it read pretty quickly and it was hard to put down once all the action started.  I like that there was a little bit of Chicago/Al Capone history woven into the story.  It had a paranormal twist with the Haven, Lance and Dante being angels.  The Prince made an appearance as the owner of the hotel – he was Satan.  Aurelia and Lucian were fallen angels that were now acting as agents for Satan and could not undo the evil they had done.  They were out to collect souls and were recruiting other soul collectors.

The setting was glamorous.  The beautiful people were wearing nice clothes, hanging out at the hottest nightclub, The Vault, inside the Lexington.  The food was amazing.  The history of the building was that it had been part of the smuggling operation during Prohibition, so it had underground tunnels and trap doors.  Haven was getting secret messages telling her what to do, so she stayed at the hotel because she believed she had a larger purpose in being there.  I think this book would appeal to high school girls and I will definitely add it to the school library collection.  I’m not sure that I see any Common Core connections besides just reading for fun.  It could be used as a book club book.  There was no objectionable content and it would be appropriate for grades 9-12.  The cover art is very attractive and I think students will pick this book up.

The official book trailer:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marketing the School Library

So, I have these giant 8 ft. x 8ft. bulletin boards that I've somehow inherited over the years.  It's the perfect place to market the school library.  Here's a picture on the perspective of how big these boards are:

My first bulletin board has the attributes of the IB Learner Profile (on a frog in my pond :) ).  Then I have placed book covers suggesting which books have a main character that exemplify a characteristic of the Learner Profile.  It has definitely helped the circulation of those books go up!  Always a good thing in a high school library.

Here is a close up of the IB Learner Profile bulletin board:

The newest bulletin board is "Your School Library in 6 Words."  I got this idea from a project another school librarian did and posted onto LM_NET (listserv for school librarians).  School librarians and students from all over the world created a 6 word poem about the importance of school libraries.  I took some of the best 6 word poems and integrated them into the bulletin board.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Steampunk Book Display

A lot of my students were reading Scott Westerfeld's Levithan series and The Iron Thorn book.  They really enjoyed them and were asking for more looks like those.  I had to do a bit of research to find YA appropriate books in the Steampunk genre.  I made a concentrated effort to order a good number of books with my summer order and then a few throughout the current school year.  The students who know what steampunk is, are loving the expanded selection.  Other students are learning that steampunk is a branch of the Science Fiction genre.  See more info here.  Either way, it's a pretty popular book display. Yay!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pretty Impressive Library Curriculum

Wow!  This is a pretty impressive library curriculum.  Looks like a huge team of teacher-librarians work on this.  But it would be great for our school :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Student vs. Learner

There is an IBAEM conference going on right now in Spain and they are tweeting topics of conversation.  Oxford University Press shared this video and I thought they were worth passing on.

Student vs. Learner

Student/Learner 3.0 The Teacher

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We named our copier....

We named our copier Roxanne.  She does not work if she detects panic or stress from anyone.  It is a daily struggle.

Sometimes we have to poke fun at our situation.

Thanks to @Scottviolawolf for the best graphic ever!

Inspiring Digital Learners video

A colleague shared this with our staff.  It's worth watching. Thanks @MrJonesIA!

The Education Debate and the IA

I've been reading a lot of blog posts about education.  I get the ASCD digest in my email every day.  I follow twitter.  There is so much stuff out there that it can be overwhelming.  The trend I see is NCLB waivers, Common Core, test scores, grade inflation/deflation, bad schools, bad teachers, bad assignments, schools closing libraries and 21st century technology skills.  (Ironic that librarians are the experts in information literacy and educational technology...yet, the first to go during budget cuts) Clearly, there is a lot more on the internets...but this is what I see.

So, a colleague forwarded me a link to Grant Wiggins blog.  I read this: and then I read this which led me to this student blog .  Amen to all of them!  I like what they have to say and I agree with most of it.

Then after mulling things around a bit, I got upset.  I feel like we (teachers in our building) are working in this void that no one notices.  Why doesn't anyone (bloggers, ASCD, Washington, education experts) notice what we do and what we accomplish?  I'm not looking for plaques and certificates.  I think I just want to be included in conversations about US schools that work!

As a staff, we sometimes joke that we are in the cult of IB.  During lesson planning and PD planning, our world revolves around "IB-ology".  Yes, we are an IB school.  Yes, we follow the IB curriculum.  But there is so much more to IB than people realize and I am fortunate enough to work with a staff that truly believes in the IB philosophy.  We are a public school in the Detroit area, jam packed into a former elementary school, where every single student who chooses to attend here takes on the full IB Diploma Programme.  We have our supporters and we have our critics.  Such is life.

The debate over standardized testing rages on in schools and in politics (!).  We have conversations about formative and summative assessments.  We talk about norm-referenced and criterion-referenced.  Of course our students have to take the MMEs and the ACT and then there is the Common Core.  Because of the IB Curriculum and their high standards and expectations, we do not have to devote any classroom time to the above testing.  Our students do fine and we don't have to obsess about it.  The IB curriculum exceeds state standards.  Interestingly enough, some of the Common Core language mirrors the IB language.  I also noticed that NCA AdvancEd language (starting in 2013) also mirrors IB language.   I'm not saying that anyone is copying anyone.  Best practice is best practice.  But the IBO was established in 1968.  I'm just sayin'.

The IB assessment policy states:

"Assessment of the DP is high-stakes, criterion-related performance assessment. It is based on the following aims, which are elaborated in the remainder of this section.
  1. DP assessment should support the curricular and philosophical goals of the programme, through the encouragement of good classroom practice and appropriate student learning.
  2. The published results of DP assessment (that is, subject grades) must have a sufficiently high level of reliability, appropriate to a high-stakes university entrance qualification.
  3. DP assessment must reflect the international-mindedness of the programme wherever possible, must avoid cultural bias, and must make appropriate allowance for students working in their second language.
  4. DP assessment must pay appropriate attention to the higher-order cognitive skills (synthesis, reflection, evaluation, critical thinking) as well as the more fundamental cognitive skills (knowledge, understanding and application).
  5. Assessment for each subject must include a suitable range of tasks and instruments/ components that ensure all objectives for the subject are assessed.
  6. The principal means of assessing student achievement and determining subject grades should be the professional judgment of experienced senior examiners, supported by statistical information" (IBO Principles to Practice). 

We have rubrics, criteria and examples of student work from all over the world.  We can move past multiple choice, T/F, and focus on educating our students :)  The above assessment policy is applied to all subject areas.  At the core of our curriculum is the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and the CAS program (Creativity, Action, Service).  This program embodies what the educational community is always talking about.  But it's never a focus of our national conversation.

Grant Wiggins posted about the French Philosopy Bac.  Some of the questions were:

  • Can we prove a scientific hypothesis?
  • Is it our duty to seek out the truth?
  • Would we have more freedom without the state?
  • What does one gain from working?
  • Is every belief contrary to reason?
  • Are there questions that no science answers?

The IB Theory of Knowledge class asks similar questions that change every year.  For 2011 some of the prescribed essay titles were:
  1. Knowledge is generated through the interaction of critical and creative thinking. Evaluate this statement in two areas of knowledge.
  2. Compare and contrast knowledge which can be expressed in words/symbols with knowledge that cannot be expressed in this way. Consider CAS and one or more areas of knowledge.
  3. Using history and at least one other area of knowledge, examine the claim that it is possible to attain knowledge despite problems of bias and selection.
  4. When should we discard explanations that are intuitively appealing?
  5. What is it about theories in the human sciences and natural sciences that makes them convincing? 
So, I guess to sum up my thoughts....
  • It bothers me that the United States/Michigan/Oakland County doesn't seem to realize that the International Academy is one of the top 5 largest IB schools in the world.
  • It bothers me that our students' IB Diploma acquisition rate is 93% for 2012 and the WORLD average is 78% and no one but our staff and students seem to notice this point of pride.
  • Student work that is internally assessed, is then externally moderated by IBO examiners.  There is no chance of grade inflation or deflation.  Worldwide standards are tough to live up to.
  • IB students sit through hours and hours of examinations before the end of their Senior year.
  • Our students are amazing for having made it through the IB DP, CAS, EE and TOK.  What an accomplishment!!!  They have taken ownership of their learning and are ready for college and life long learning.
  • I love being a librarian and a teacher at the IA :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

I love when I pick good books to review!

I picked a good book to review for LIBRES.  Here it is if you are interested.  I plan on having it in the school library sometime later this week.

Reviewer’s Name:  Klaudia Janek  
School:  International Academy
School District:  Bloomfield Hills     
Email address:

Author (Last name first): Morris, Paula
Title of the Book:  Dark Souls
Publisher: Point an imprint of Scholastic               Date of Publication:  2011
ISBN# 978-0-545-25132-7
Price:  $17.99            Grade Level:   J/S       Number of Pages: 291
VOYA Rating: 5Q 5P

Highly Recommended   

Miranda’s best friend, Jenna, dies at the beginning of the story.  Miranda’s brother, Rob, was driving the car.  The story starts with the tragic car wreck and that is when Miranda starts to see ghosts.  Sadness takes over their life and Rob and Miranda’s parents try to help their children move on by taking a family vacation to York, England.  Unfortunately, York is full of ghosts and Miranda gets caught up in a mystery going back hundreds of years.

This story was an enjoyable read.  It is very well written with lots of details.  It was fast paced with a good combination of paranormal, mystery and historical fiction.  It had a little bit of romance and likeable characters.  The description of York and The Shambles seemed to be pretty accurate.  The cover art makes it attractive for paranormal fiction readers.  The author utilized quotes from Milton and Shakespeare, so that the reader will learn poetry without even meaning to.  While this book is an enjoyable read, I don’t really see a place for it in the curriculum.  Possibly if a school has electives for a contemporary fiction class and students can choose any fiction books to read.  I think it could be a good high school (possibly middle school) book club book for girls.  Nothing stood out to me as being controversial.  The characters are average teens who enjoy the company of their parents (most of the time) and have a pretty close sibling relationship. It might also be good for young adults who are dealing with loss. The characters in the book are grieving and in the end they realize that every day is a gift and to live life to the fullest.  A great positive, uplifting book for all young adults.  I would recommend it as a purchase for any school library or public library.  I had a hard time finding published reviews, but I did manage to find one on Novelist and one on Books and Authors.