Tuesday, December 21, 2010


During the summer I had followed Donalyn Miller's book-a-day challenge with much interest. Through Twitter I now discovered that she and other friends on Twitter (e.g. Paul W. Hankins and John Schu) are sharing their daily reads once again during this holiday - and I decided to join. Already equipped with a big bag of books checked out from the library, I started last Saturday and so far have been able to read one book every day. I however wonder whether I will keep up with this - maybe I should have selected some shorter books...? Anyway, I am excited about the idea and look forward to the experience. So far I have read Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur, The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari and Secrets of a Lab Rat by Trudi Trueit. My reviews are posted on Goodreads and Shelfari. Maybe you would like to join the fun? If you are on Twitter, just share what you read and add the hashtag #bookaday. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quick Picks

During a recent visit to Discovery College, Hong Kong, Dianne McKenzie introduced me to the brilliant idea of "Quick Picks". She has boxes carrying the respective label on her shelves, in which she places recommended titles. This helps students who are in a hurry to find a good book. I really liked the idea because when upper elementary students visit the library with their teachers, we usually reserve most of our time for unit-of-inquiry-related tasks, often having little time left for book check out. Students often ask me for recommendations and I have started to set up baskets with recommended titles for particular genres. Last week I wanted to give it a special touch, also with the intend (I have to admit) to get some great titles that often seem to get overlooked, into the hands of our students. I packed the books into brown paper bags and closed them. The only information available for students were some keywords about the book, arranged in form of a Wordle. All bags were gone within moments and students have asked me to prepare more for the up-coming week. In order to be able to re-use the bags and labels, I plan on having a set of simple bags made out of beautiful Ghanaian fabric to which I will attach the laminated Wordle cards. I hope that this will also encourage our reluctant readers to get more excited about checking out books from the library.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking Action - Making a Difference

As PYP educators it is one of our main goals to encourage students to take action as a result of their learning. When I see students taking action, I often wonder how many times I have had a chance to take action, maybe have an impact on someone's life, but didn't. I often feel I am one of those people who go through life with a head full of ideas, ideas that will always remain just that, ideas instead of becoming reality. It never seems the right time or the right place. I feel the idea is not planned enough, I don't have all of the skills I might need or the funds. I am pretty good in finding excuses stopping me from taking action.

Last week I was fortunate enough to meet a person I have been admiring from afar for a long time, a person who is one of my role models for taking action: Kathy Knowles. Kathy lived with her husband and children in Accra, Ghana, in the early 1990s. While living in Accra, Kathy provided opportunities to enjoy reading and books to the children in her neighborhood. At first she turned her garage into a small library. By the time she was leaving Ghana a few years later, the first community library was in place, i.e. the Kathy Knowles Community Library, Osu. Now, 17 years later, the Osu Children's Library Fund and the Osu Library Fund have been involved in the creation of more than 200 libraries in Ghana and other African countries.

In addition, Kathy started writing beautiful children's books. Last Friday, she launched her latest book at the Nima Maamobi Community Learning Centre: Kente for a King, a story originally written by the late Angela Christian. The launching was accompanied by drumming and dancing and an entertaining, yet thought-provoking production, of the Kathy Knowles Theatre Company. What touched me more than anything else was the way Kathy turned the launching into a celebration of all the people involved in the production of the book. Instead of auctioning of the first copies of her book as often seen during such events, she thanked her collaborators and presented them with copies of the book. It was wonderful seeing her interact with the community, realizing what a huge impact she has on the lives of so many. Her continued action taking is a true inspiration to me.
I hope you explore her website and share with me whose actions inspire YOU!

Friday, September 10, 2010

How do you share what you read?

Inspired by Donalyn Miller's book to share what I am reading in my reader's notebook and online, I recently looked into LibrayThing and Goodreads, deciding eventually to sign up with Goodreads because it looked more user-friendly and inviting. Today a friend mentioned another site that I had not heard of before: Shelfari. And I must say, I just like the look of this one even better: my books are all nicely arranged on a book shelf. How cool is that? Nothing beats the look of this! It was also super easy to sign up (for free), to add books and information and to create the widget I have added to my blog. There are still a few things I haven't figured out yet, e.g. why my ratings don't show. I would love to hear from you. Are you signed up with any of these sites? Which one do you prefer or find most useful? For the time being I will keep both of my accounts up, posting newly read books and reviews on both sides. Maybe I could keep one to share books with my friends and the other to allow students to see what I am reading and recommending especially to them. But that wouldn't give a complete picture of my reading...hmmm.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How was your start to the new school year?

Tomorrow we are beginning our third full week back at school already. I can hardly believe it - but then time always flies when you just love what you are doing. A really significant move during these first days was that we made a shift in our language use to reflect the changes in the world of information technology and libraries. We are now refering to the scheduled visits of our students to the media center (consisting of libraries and IT labs) as information literacy. Everyone working with students in the libraries and IT labs is part of the IL team. We all feel really good about this decision but know that more work lies ahead to make as a real unit.
I also enjoyed some new learning engagements and changed my routines for the first visits of our students. Our youngest students met me as Ms. Tanja, the book doctor, all dressed up in a white coat, with glasses, mask, and stethoscope, examining books. This was a recommendation from a fellow librarian to explore book care with students and it was a great success. When reviewing genres with upper elementary students I decided to turn it into a library version of musical chairs. I prepared a basket for each genre filled with books of that particular genre. The baskets were placed in a circle on the floor and students walked around the baskets as long as the music was playing. When the music stopped, students explored the genre/basket right in front of them until the music continued playing. We had lots of fun with this.
What else is new so far this year? Oh yes, we created a media center wiki to which we plan on adding new resources as the year progresses and I keep a reader's notebook on my desk, as already mentioned in my previous post. Especially older students have shown interest for browsing through my notes, checking on what I have been reading lately - and I enjoy keeping track of my own reading as well.
All in all I am really excited about the start to the school year. It's great to be surrounded again by students, colleagues and friends, talking about books, sharing our passion for reading and inquiry, and creating new tools and resources. And how was your start?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspired by the Book Whisperer

I just finished reading Donalyn Miller's inspiring book The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Yes, she very much inspired me, not just to read the book in a day, to immediately act upon some of her great ideas (e.g. I got myself a reader's notebook which I plan to keep on my desk this year and set up a Goodreads account for those that prefer to follow on the Web what I read and recommend), but even to post on my neglected personal blog. While posting I also decided that the orange background needed to go, making space for a more serene, less distracting one. Of course, once again I spent far too much time playing around with the many options available - but still couldn't work out how to fit everything I wanted to show on my blog in the right spaces. I hope to figure this out with time - always learning, right?

If you would like to read more about and from Donalyn Miller, why not explore her blog.

And if you, just like me, wonder whether Goodreads or LibraryThing is the better option to keep track of what you are reading, here two interesting blog posts, comparing the two services: RandomThoughts and Match Goodreads vs LibraryThing. While LibraryThing seems definitely the superior service, I decided that Goodreads would be the better option for my purpose to start with. It seemed more appealing to the eye, less time-involving to manage, and stronger on the social networking aspect. I also like the easy to embed widget for my blog and the option to have automatic updates on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Look

Did you know that Blogger in draft gives you a whole variety of options to customize the look of your blog while still working with templates? It's amazing what you can achieve with a bit of time - and enough patience to apply the "trial and error" method... Well, I had fun and like the new look of my blog so much better. I am inserting a screen shot of the old look below and would love to hear your opinion. Thanks, Tanja

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Welcome to the LCS Elementary Library

This is my first project on VoiceThread and while it is still "work in progress", I am amazed how easy it was to embed it into my wiki and into this blog - and how much fun it is working with Voicethread. I can just see how students will enjoy commenting on their own work or the work of peers. Great fun!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dewey Decimal Classification System - The Library Sorting Game

Check out this SlideShare Presentation (unfortunately, it comes without the animations I had built in - my students had a lot of fun with it in class because they were able to do the sorting themselves).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bead Making In Ghana

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tanja's World

Since I have not been able to put up any posts yet, I decided to share at least a few snapshots from my current working and learning environment.

(P.S. In case you are wondering: this slideshow was created with Picasa which makes adding any web album to your Blogger blog really easy - it's basically just one click. Look out for the Blogger icon on the right side of your Picasa web album screen.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Welcome to this newly created blog! I am currently participating in an IB Web 2.0 online course and was inspired to set up this blog to reflect on my learning and share it with interested colleagues and friends.

This blog is still under construction and I hope to add more features and posts soon.

(P.S. In case you are wondering: Akwaaba is the Twi word for "welcome". Twi is a language widely spoken in Ghana.)