Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LitWeaver: Bringing Students, Teachers and Authors Together Virtually

It was during a #yalove Twitter chat one night that I happened to notice one tweet from author Will Weaver.  I always have an open invitation for authors to join, and we have had a few tweet with us, but to me, this man is a LEGEND!  He's been writing for well over twenty years.  He is also the author behind a new website entitled LitWeaver (

I had the chance to do and online interview with Will Weaver to learn more about this site pairing e-books, authors, and reader's guides.  After reading the interview, please take a look at the website to get the full experience of the awesomeness of what these authors are doing.

 How did LitWeaver come to life virtually?

WW:  I do lots of school visits, and over the years have seen the increasing pressure on ELA teachers and school librarians. Budgets always seem in decline– especially for classroom sets of novels and new acquisitions for libraries. Some principals and superintendents believe “technology is the answer”, and find money for tablets—but none for staff support or even curriculum. The Learning Management Systems from big publishers look cumbersome and expensive—so it hit me that there has to be a better way.  A middle ground, you could say, as schools transition from print textbooks to digital learning

 Give a brief description of what LitWeaver does

WW:  LitWeaver is designed to be a bridge from your five pound lit anthology to iPad and tablet-style reading and learning. We’ve purposefully focused on shorter, contemporary young adult lit—short stories, essays, poems, and plays—that teachers can “weave”  (get it?) into their ongoing curriculum. Teachers need a break from the same readings every year!  LitWeaver also includes a short lesson plan with with discussion questions and reading prompts.

How did you get the authors on board with this idea?  

WW:  You mean Katherine Paterson?  Jerry Spinelli?  Ellen Hopkins? Rene Saldana?  Nikki Grimes?  Those kinds of authors? (Shameless name-dropping here, ha). Actually it was easy to get our 50+ authors on board. They (we) have had such amazing support over the years from teachers and librarians who have bought our books and invited us to their schools, and here was a chance to give back.

Teachers and students will have access to e-books.  Are these all free to read and download?

WW:  We believe in free stuff for schools, and we’ll always have a nice batch (about 20 titles to begin) of free reading. But our website has bills to pay, so we’ll eventually add a low-cost subscription option for “more”—that is, access to our whole library plus some other cool teaching and learning tools.  FYI, LitWeaver will never have a huge library—that’s exactly what we don’t want.  We are curating (buzzword nowadays) a select group of really good readings for grades 5-12 so you don’t have to spend time looking online or through huge, publishers’ catalogs.  Our editor, Don Gallo, and the authors themselves have picked pieces we know students will read—and maybe even like.

Each book comes with a reading guide.  Who created those?

WW:  Current classroom ELA teachers. We have a great, small team of lively teachers dedicated to keeping kids reading and thinking (a big focus on the latter)!

Currently LitWeaver is in beta stage.  When do you anticipate it becoming a full site?

WW: Within 5-6 months, that is, in time for the new school year.  Our beta release is to gauge support.  If we get a lot of teachers signing up (for free), we’ll get investor funding. If we get investor funding, we can build out LitWeaver to provide LOTS of free and low cost YA lit for schools. Nothing not to like about that.

The cost of becoming a LitWeaver user is free right now.  Will free users be able to keep this status after LitWeaver is fully functional?

WW:  Yes.  We’ll always have a rotating section of “free stuff” by top, contemporary authors. If you only want to use these free readings, that’s fine.  But we hope you’ll find enough value and excitement in LitWeaver to eventually subscribe as a paid user. As I mentioned, websites like our are expensive to build and maintain.  Looking ahead to new features, we’ll be adding a student writing component, which will be a fun complement to the reading side.  

Thank you so much Will!!  I've already gone to the site and demo'ed it out and it's really pretty intuitive.  I'm SO glad there are authors like you and the several others who contribute their time and energy to create passionate readers!!

WW: One last thing. LitWeaver doesn’t assume that all schools have 1:1 tablet technology.  If you don’t, no problem. You can select readings and print them out for distribution in class.  We believe in access first, technology second.  And please remember that our site is in open beta right now, which means we’re still working on it–so we’d love to hear your ideas. And very important: if you like where LitWeaver is headed, please sign up and help us get there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Girls, Three Books, Three Very Different Lives

I've been a reading machine lately (yes, it has to do with setting a goal for the year and this year I VOW to make it!).  This is going to be a tri-review of three great books girls may love, relate to, or know someone who is going through these situations.  All of the books are different and all have a large dose of hope.

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic 2015, on-sale date 03/01/2015

Lara and Bree are sisters.
Bree knows her older sister gets all the attention, but the kind she's receiving isn't something Bree will ever want to have.  Her parents are hovering over the hospital bed, hoping Lara's attempt at suicide doesn't take her life...

Lara and Sydney were friends.
But high school changed that when Lara lost weight and became cheerleader.  Sydney feels used, but more than that, she's no longer in the spotlight.  But that's okay...she's got something up her sleeve just dying to come out.  All for Bree...

Sydney and Liam are brother and sister.
Liam doesn't know why Sydney has to be so involved in other people's lives, especially her obsession with Bree.  They used to hang out all of the time in the treehouse, where only a fence separated the families.  Not anymore.  Liam misses Bree the most and hopes they can start to hang out soon, even if their sisters don't anymore...

Lara and Christian, status unknown
They met on Facebook and Lara can't believe her luck.  He's handsome, cute and knows her so well.  They've been chatting for awhile and things are getting more personal.  She's hoping he'll invite her to his school's big dance.  She can't wait to meet him...

One is a liar, One is a lie; One is a defender, One is a protector.  All of their lives are about to change...  Recommended for JH/HS

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor.
Harper Teen, 2015 expected pub date 02/17/2015

Juliet Newman has two big goals she's working on.
Goal number one: make the perfect 2400 SAT
Goal number two: early decision into Harvard

But those are difficult to do after her parents divorce.  Her mom, always put together and totally supportive of Juliet's schedule and life, lays in bed most of the time with her pill bottles lined up on the bedside table.  Her father, always the handsome, well-dressed businessman, lives in Manhattan now where there is hardly any contact.

But that's okay because Juliet has the love of her life, Jason. They've been dating for four years and are both hoping for Harvard early decision together.  They just sync and Jason has been Juliet's rock through her parents' divorce.

Juliet has no idea that her life is about to be far from perfect....her mother is now in ICU from a drug overdose and this one incident creates a tailspin in Juliet's orderly life.  While trying to understand this devastating situation and how it will impact her, she literally bumps into Declan, a new student and amazing singer in a band.

Juliet must navigate through her now messy life and ask the hard questions:  What does she really want, and what does she really need?  She is in control of all of her relationships, including the ones with her parents, but will she make the right decisions? Cans her life be better than perfect? Recommended for HS

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
HarperTeen, 2014

Kenna has been Baker Acted, which means she has to spend 72 hours in a mental facility because she was caught.  Kenna knows the witch who narc'ed on her just wants her out of her best friend Rennie's life, out of The Sisters of the Broken Glass...

Now, Kenna has to face reality.  Her parents are going to know what happened and freak out.  Her perfect step-sister will only shine more, and her little brother Sean, so innocent to the situation...

Kenna knows she's not like the other patients who are here. There's Donya with the multi-colored hair and a penchant to deviate from normal; Skylar who's as tiny and fragile as a robin; and Jag, whose relationship with his father is rocky, at best.  At group, they talk about addiction, about goals to keep, about alternatives.  Kenna has learned which are the answers she needs to give, even if they aren't the truth.  Because she doesn't have an addiction...

"Elbow on the sink.
Right hand trembling."

"Lungs are feeling tight.
Heart is thumping hard.
Rennie's words are swirling in my head.

Just one cut to feel alive..."

What happens after 72 hours are over?  Recommended for JH/HS

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

G.P Putnam's Sons, 2014

Adelina and Violetta have the strong bond of sisterhood, but their lives couldn't be any different.  After being struck down by the blood fever, Adelina was became a malfetto, having the marks associated with them.  And because of those, she is treated differently not only by her father, but everyone else as well.  While Violetta escaped being marked, Adelina's father knew the only thing he could do with his ugly marked daughter was to sell her either for the powers some malfettos were known for, or sell her to get rid of her. 
And the night he decided upon her price changed Adelina's life...

Now, Adelina is on her own being hunted by the Inquisitors.  Not only is she a malfetto, she is also an Elite, someone known for their unique abilities acquired during the blood sickness.  Now in the hands of Teren, the Grand Inquisitor, Adelina looks across the crowd trying to find her sister so it will be the last thing she sees before she dies.  But at that moment, she is rescued by a band of malfettos known as The Daggers, where their goal is to create dissension against the crown.

Waking up in a strange place, Adelina learns more about The Daggers and the dangerous games they play for power.  Enzo, with his ability to release flame and fire, is the leader of The Young Elites.  Other members include Raffaele, Michel, Gemma, Lucent and Dante, all with their own unique abilities.  Together they are strong.  With Adelina, they are powerful.

Little does she know her own abilities could also be her undoing...

Marie Lu takes on the fantasy genre in a sweeping novel set in distant lands like Tamoura, the island of Kennetra and the faraway land of Beldain.  The conflict takes center stage, where good vs. evil is hidden and obscure as well as what the true definition of justice is.  The characters sweep back and forth against these tides and takes the reader down paths they don't expect.  At one point, I was taken by surprise by what Lu does with the storyline.  The characters are vibrant not only with what they can do, but also through their personality.  This is quite unlike her other dystopian novels (Legend series) and deserves a platform on its own, where the reader, like me, cannot wait for the sequel.  The epilogue will blow your mind...
Highly recommended for upper JH/HS

Monday, February 9, 2015

So, what did I learn at TCEA?

TCEA is always a great conference to go to when you want to fill your head, knowledge, and devices with educational technology in action.  From apps to Google everything; tools to pedagogy and everything in between, I absorbed as much as possible, hoping it will stick.

So, when I got back to work today, the first thing I did was start working with presentation tools in an amazing session I sat through in Library Academy.  This is just one of the 10 a librarian from Clear Creek (Shirley Dickey) shared.  It's called e-maze.  So, if you're tired of the same old powerpoint or Prezi, try this one.  It's a freemium, so you have access to it, you just can't download it (must have internet access).
This is a presentation I'm doing with the choir teacher tomorrow to show them different types of video creators they could possibly use :)  Love this site!!

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