Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creating Beautiful Chalkboard Posters for FREE!

oh yeah....I'm all into this (right now. I'm sure I'll find something else later in the week to play with)

I LOVE posting pics of cool quotes on Twitter so I went to Google images to find one and I saw this AUDACIOUS chalkboard poster.

When I went to the site, of course they were for sale on Etsy, and I thought, "No way!  I'll learn how to do it on my own!"

So I cheated a little and found some hints and tricks from other sites and blogs and then just played around with it for awhile and waa-lah!  You too, can makes these fabulous posters from scratch to share, tweet, blog, or post on your website.  All you need are a couple of great quotes (there are billions online) and start creating!;

First, you have to find a chalkboard background.  If using a Creative Commons website, make sure you add the attribution at the bottom of the background.  Here's one from Alice Keeler on Flickr:

There are other ways to create chalkboards as well.  If you want a simple black background, create one in powerpoint and save it as a .jpg  My favorite is going to   Go to design, then click on textures and there's are two chalkboard backgrounds you can use.  Canva has a background as well.

Second, it's time to start looking for some fonts you can use.  I really like  There are several that would work including Sketchblock, Blackboard, or Chalk Hand Lettering.  You can also just choose which ones tickle your fancy.  Another MUST font to download would be Dingbats. These will be used for decorating your chalkboard.

Third, find the platform you want to use. I use Powerpoint, but if you know of something else, you can do that as well.  You can absolutely design it completely in PicMonkey (which I did with this one) and use your own fonts.  You can also use Canva, but the fonts are set on it.  Whatever you choose, you're going to have fun!

Fourth, Think outside the box.  The one I created above is pretty simple, but think about the different colors you could use for text, more elaborate shapes you could use as well as the massive amount of other sites out there.

And that's it.  Setting the entire thing up will be the longest part, but after that, the sky's the limit! Have fun and chalk to your heart's content.  Best part of it all?  You don't have to slap the erasers on a tree outside and get chalkdust up your nose, in your clothes, drying out your skin...ahhhhh school days!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Things Come in Threes: Three Tech Tools For the Classroom, part 2

At an academy I went to not quite so long ago, someone said something that resonated with me deep inside.  What was basically said was that in the past, it was easy to keep up with the newest and shiniest tech tools online.  Now, it simply can't be done.  There is too much out there In today's edutech world, we now work at reinventing the tools we know and spend more time doing that than finding the latest and greatest (with different shelf lives to boot).
I'll always be a tech hound, sniffing out some really useful tools and sharing them on this blog, but I also believe in small portions that's more palatable.  So, here are three cool tools you may like:

1. Snapguide:
This is a website or an app and is a great way to create those "how to" guides with text, images, links and most of all...imagination!  Snapguide is great in the classroom or with educators to help make navigation easier.  If nothing else, check out this website - SO many possibilities!!! Simple sign-in and start procedure.  Here's an example of one:

2. Cacoo:
This site allows users to create diagrams, flowcharts and mindmaps from scratch or via a template.  Yes, there are others like that out there, but Cacoo goes one step further by allowing users to create them in real-time and chat with them while working.  You can open them to the public or keep them private and even export them as a pdf or png There are premium versions, and the free one allows 1 shared folders with up to 15 users at the same time and a .png download.  SO many possibilities and works well with all types of curricula.

3. Showbie:
This is both a site and an app and is pretty cool!  I test drove this as a student AND teacher.  Okay...what happens is a teacher creates an assignment/class and gives students the code.  Students log in and upload their work. The advantage is the simplicity of the interface, the different types of products students can submit, and being to check and grade on your iPad OR laptop.

And as a side note, is a GREAT poster/infographic/presentation creator, is now an app, making it the first infographic tool that I know of you can use to create with iPad.  THANK YOU!! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not So Horror(ible) YA Books

There are a lot of great horror, but I have a group of students who want to read the genre, but don't care to get scared.  And with that, the birth of this list began.  This is a collaborative list, and I am so thankful to the librarians who helped are out there. Some I've read, some I haven't, but with collective expertise, this could be a helpful list for humorous horror :)


Soul Enchilada by David Maccinis Gill

Prom Dates from Hell Rosemary Clement-Moore

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Croak by Gina Damico



Killer Pizza Greg Taylor

Cold Cereal trilogy by Adam Rex


Warm Bodies Isaac Marion

 Eat Brains Love Jeff Hart

 Bad Taste in Boys Carrie Harris

The Infects Sean Beaudoin
Gil’s All Fright Diner by Martinez


Hold Me Closer, Necromancer Lish McBride

Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand


Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side Beth Fantasky

 Thirsty by MT Anderson

Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Reform Vampire Support Group by Jinks


School Spirit by Rachel Hawkins

Intertwined by Gena Showalter

The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs


The Savages by Matt Whyman

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

2013, Penguin Group

Judith…Worm…unwanted.  That wasn’t the case before.  She was a happy child with parents and a little brother.  She loved to sing and learn, listen and speak.  She had friends.  She had a crush on a boy named Lucas.  But this all disappeared the year she turned 16.  Now after two years gone, she has returned with her tongue cut out…silent to the past and what happened to her. 

Now she is part of the background.  Her father is gone, having died while she was gone.  Her mother doesn’t even speak her name, much less acknowledge her presence because Judith is the one who brought misery upon her household.  Her brother, now head of the household, is trying hard to be a man in a boy’s body.  As a pariah, she has no one who wants to be her friend, and worst of all, Lucas is to be married.  All of her thoughts about him during her two years of captivity are now turned to dust.  She can’t help but still love him, even if he doesn’t return it, but she’s used to that.  No one loves her…she is a silent and odd sentinel, alone with just her thoughts and the rumors that swirl around her.

But then trouble comes.  Homelanders are coming to exact vengeance and destroy the village.  While Lucas, Darrel and others leave to defend their town, Judith knows they won’t win.  What she knows is she must revisit her nightmare and convince him to help, whatever the cost.  If she disappears again, no one will notice nor care.  She’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves who don’t love her back.

But when the truth finally speaks for itself, the entire town is rocked to its very core.  Who is telling lies and who is keeping them?  Sometimes those that speak quietly are heard the loudest…

Julie Berry writes an OUTSTANDING historical fiction novel that drew me in with the first chapter read.  There are two things that make this book stand out…well, make that three.  First, is the fact that it’s written in first person only, which is a rarity with young adult novels.  The reader sees through the eyes of Judith and without omniscience of the good, bad and ugly.  The second is the fact that while not telling the reader the setting, I was drawn to the parallels between modern society and historical society where not much about human nature has changed.  The setting came out slowly and put an emphasis on who and what people do, which is the crux of the book.  And lastly, the emotional pull between reader and Judith is powerful.  She is a character you hurt for, love when no one else does, and hope for.  No wonder it’s on the YALSA Top Teen 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults 2014.  HIGHLY recommended JH/HS

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Great places to keep up with YA and Children's Books!

So, what are the newest books out there?  How can I find book-alikes?  What about series books? As Mighty Mouse said, "Here I come to save the day!"Here are a few sites I'd like to share with you that were previously shared with me. I absolutely LOVE networking!! Another great network is #yalove, which is all about YA books from all publishers, genres, and librarian read-aholics from around the nation!


With a simple interface, this is my go-to to find the newest releases for YA books.  This is an independent site created and updated by a librarian, Keri Adams and web developer Stefan Hayden.
The site opens to upcoming books being released as well as the release dates, but has a list of published books by month, from newest to oldest.

From the definitive machine on children's and young adult literature, go to this site not only to find out the most current lists, but also to look at the nominations lists to consider future titles you may want to purchase.  I always try to pick at least 10 winners on the nominations list from a personal POV :)

Call me biased, but I absolutely love the Texas Library Association's booklists for young adults.  Not only is the annotated current list available, but also the current nominations.  The different lists include Lonestar: middle/junior high schools; Maverick: graphic novels for YA; TAYSHAS: high school readers; and the Spirit of Texas book awards, celebrating the best authors from the state.  Texas also has booklists for children: the 2x2 for children aged two years old to second grade; and the Bluebonnet list: elementary school booklist.

I wasn't really sure where to put this site because it does SO MUCH!!  Created and updated by Barb Langridge, the site contains book reviews, What's New, searches by category, searching by reading levels and more - all for children's and young adult books.


This is a very simple fill in the blank question: I just finished ______________ by __________.What should I read next?  That's it...once you type in your book, it gives recommendations based on amazon recommendations.  Some of the recommendations may be skewed (Michael Northrop's newest book, Surrounded by Sharks and Diary of a Wimpy Kid??  Really?)  but it's fun nonetheless and does come up with some solid recommendations.

Similar to Book Seer, you type in the title of a book or name of an author and the site gives you similar recommendations.  What is different about this one is that every book listed also has subjects as well, which could make searching the recommended list easier.  The info button takes you got it... Amazon.  You can also join and create lists that you can add or delete from and also have the option to share your lists....hmmmmm....I like that!!

Ohhhhh....this is my dream site!  The front page takes you to featured booklists, but also has tabs, including children's books, a leaderboard of top readers, and a "My Map" tab that will simply blow your mind as they create an awesome map of recommendations and how they all tie in.  This site is affiliated with  You can create your own sign in and get even more personalized (although this took awhile to get a confirmation email so be patient)


Updated by real librarians, these is a VERY large collection of series titles and which books are in that particular series.  You can view four different ways: series title, subject, book title, and author.  I did a quick search of one of the newer series out there (Darren Shan's Zom-b series) and didn't find it on their database, but that doesn't mean I'm going to rule out this audacious series finder, which are few and far to come by!

I admit defeat...there is NO way I could possibly keep up with this genre and I freely admit it.  So with that said, a student told me about this website and I'm so thankful!!  I'll never have to worry I have the latest or which ones are out - this list makes it EASY PEASY!


There are also others out there and you can go old-school by asking a friend or librarian.  In fact, that may be the best way yet because not only do you get great recommendations, but you also create relationships in a face-to-face environment, which we need more of.
All of these sites will satisfy any reader's thirst for more of the newest, brightest, best so stay thirsty, my friends :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand

Sourcebooks, 2014. 
When you stumble on a great comedy novel for teens, it should be one you have in the library because really, there isn't that much out there.  And this is a GEM!

Henry is admittedly a geek, but he's a superstar geek.  His story is on the big screen, he has a beautiful girl by his side and he survived Strongwoods Survival Camp.  This is how it happened....

Henry's dad, after seeing a video on Youtube featuring Max (think screaming sergeant from any war movie you've ever seen) telling him he could make a man out of your son, tries to convince his son it would be a GREAT experience.  Henry's not so much into it, until his nerdy friend Randy says he WANTS to'll be great!  So after spending the next 48 hours in gaming mode (to keep his reserves up) off they go.

Strongwoods Survival Camp looks as mean as Max does.  Five boys meet for the first time and are
1. stripped away of all electronic devices
2. given barely edible and non-recognizable food to eat
3. given an outhouse, which may or may not contain a creature in the hole

It's going to be the longest two weeks of Henry's life.  But even among those loooong days, some good things happen.  He meets a girl in the woods.  He actually shoots his arrow and makes a target, and he survives sleeping outside for the first time in his 16 years. 

But then Mr. Grand shows up, and he wants to balance his fiscal statement from a sketchy deal made with the co-owner of Strongwoods Survival.  Henry's game (as well as Randy's, Erik's, Jackie's and Stu's) just got real.  Henry can no longer think like Katniss Everdeen, but needs to start thinking like a true hero - perhaps like Splat-Tastic, his favorite video game hero?

I'll admit, when reading this book, kids would give me the weirdest stares but I could NOT help but laugh all the way through this book!  Strand captures the character of Henry so well, all the way from his video gaming fingers to his attempts at nerd bravery.  And then you get to the Wilderness survival tips at the end of each chapter.  Example: "In case of an avalanche, don't despair.  You're doomed, but c'mon, how many people get to say they died in an avalanche?!?  That's wicked cool."  One of many tips you'll chuckle about along with the fishing expedition, catching wild game for food, and building shelters with whatever you can find in a forest.  This book should be given to any reader, but has special appeal for guy readers and best of all?  PERFECT for junior high to high school!