Top Teacher goes on $10,000 Scholastic shopping spree

This morning Tom Hadfield, a third-grade teacher at Reed Elementary School in St. Louis, MO, went on a $10,000 shopping spree at the Scholastic Book Clubs Warehouse in Jefferson City, MO. Tom was featured as a Top Teacher finalist on LIVE! with Regis and Kelly, and Scholastic awarded him the shopping spree for his school.

Along with three of his colleagues, Tom raced around the warehouse with shopping carts and filled them with awesome books and products! Take a look at the video of the teachers finishing their run around the warehouse, and see what Tom had to say about the day.

Previously On Our Minds:
* What should you read next?
* Graphic novels earn shelf space
* I read a 150-year-old novel on my iPhone


In honor of Social Media Day…

Even though every day feels like Social Media Day to those of us who blog, Tweet, and Facebook on the regular, today it’s official! Mashable calls it “A day that honors the technological and societal advancements that have allowed us to have a dialogue, to connect and to engage not only the creators of media, but perhaps more importantly, one another.”

And when I stopped to think about it, I realized how true that really is. About five years ago, I had to sit my mom down in front of her computer and essentially teach her how to use email. These days, my mom is an active Facebooker, sends more texts than I do–all from her iPhone–and even Skypes! Social media is a huge part of her life now, and the ultimate connector among us all.

So in honor of the day, we’ve got an exciting and timely 5 Questions for you!

Katie Finn is the author of the YA novels Top 8 and the forthcoming What’s Your St@tus?, which chronicle the social networking adventures of teenager Madison. I heart these books, so I couldn’t wait to interview Katie! We talked about her hacking experiences, the music she listens to, the social media platforms she likes, and more. Check it out!

Have you ever had a social-media-experience-gone-wrong, like Madison from the Top 8 books has? Chat us up in the comments–and Happy Social Media Day!

(Psss! We’ll have some Katie Finn giveaways later this summer, so stay tuned!)

Previously On Our Minds:
* Q&A with Bruce Coville, author and “merman”
* Summer book: The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
* I read a 150-year-old novel on my iPhone

Q&A with Bruce Coville, author and “merman”

This is one of those OMG moments in my life as a publicist at Scholastic. I was recently asked if I wanted to blog an OOM interview with author Bruce Coville whose book The Last Hunt – the finale to the Unicorn Chronicles series was just released this month. I mean, we all have our *squee!* authors like Morgan *squees!* Ann M. Martin. Bruce is definitely one of my *squees!* as I grew up with his books including one of my all-time favorite books in life, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher!

I can’t believe the Unicorn Chronicles series has finally come to a conclusion after more than a decade! I even remember ordering the first novel of the series, Into the Land of the Unicorns from Scholastic Book Clubs back when I was in middle school. The cover was a bit different, but surely you recognize it too (pictured at right).

I can’t wait to read the books again, but I couldn’t help wonder, how does Bruce feel after writing this epic series? It must have been quite emotional.

So this was my opportunity to ask THE man himself some Barber Walters-esque questions. Enjoy the Q&A below and make sure you read all four books in the Unicorn Chronicles series including, Into the Land of the Unicorns, Song of the Wanderer, Dark Whispers and finally, The Last Hunt!
Me: What was your biggest challenge in writing the conclusion of The Unicorn Chronicles series?

Bruce: Actually, there were two big things that I struggled with. The first was that the story had become so big (far bigger than I had anticipated back when I began!) and had so many strands that needed to come together to make a satisfactory conclusion that it sometimes seemed impossible. But I knew it was important to finish the current storyline with this volume – heck, some people had been waiting sixteen years to see how it all came out, which seemed quite long enough! So I also knew I had to answer all the questions. Just getting everyone in the same place for the grand finale was a challenge.

The second issue relates to that time gap between Book I and Book IV. Because so many readers had been waiting so faithfully (if not always patiently!) for this last volume, and because the letters I receive about the series are so passionate, I felt a huge internal pressure to make sure I really delivered. I was terrified of letting the fans down, and wanted to create something that would live up to their expectations.

Me: How did you feel when you finished writing The Last Hunt?

Bruce: I actually finished writing the first full draft in the middle of the night in a hotel room in Bangladesh, where I had gone for a speaking engagement. I wept when I wrote the final sequence, not because I was sad to be done, but because I was so personally moved by what happened to some of the characters. (Okay, so I’m a sucker for my own writing. But if it doesn’t move me, why should I expect it to mean anything to my readers?)

Beyond that, I also felt an enormous sense of relief. Writing those final words was like finally making good on a long-overdue promise. There was not a day between the time I finished SONG OF THE WANDERER and the time I finished THE LAST HUNT that I was not keenly aware that I needed to bring the series to a conclusion. Of course that night in Bangladesh I knew I still had a lot of work to do. But I also knew that, at last, I had a book!

Me: I’ve read that you’ve had jobs as a toymaker and even a gravedigger! Have these jobs influenced your writing?

Well, I used to get great story ideas while I was digging graves. That kind of work – something you’re doing that keeps your hands busy but only occupies a small part of your mind – is excellent for creative thinking. I actually have one book, The Ghost Wore Gray, that has two kids digging up a grave. I can honestly claim to have done my research for that one!

Probably the biggest impact any job has had on my writing came from the seven years I spent as an elementary school teacher. I draw on that time in my life constantly when I am writing about kids.

Me: You’ve written about magical unicorns (not that there’s such a thing as an ordinary unicorn) and dragons too. If you could be any mythical creature, what would you be?

Oooh, good question! Lemme think for a minute (pause for thinking) . . . OK, I’m back.

It’s a tough choice, and it depends partly on how you think a given creature really lives. For example: are unicorns intelligent and capable of language, as in The Unicorn Chronicles? Or are they – as in most of the original tales – beautiful and magical, but no more intelligent than other animals?

With that in mind, I think I’d like to be a merman. Living under the sea would be amazing. Plus, I would have other merfolk to hang out with. Of course, I don’t know what I would do for coffee . . . Even so, I think that’s what I would go with.

Me: What are you working on now that you’ve finished a whole series?

Bruce: I’m trying to catch up on all the books I was supposed to that kept getting set aside while Dark Whispers and The Last Hunt kept getting longer and longer . . . and longer!

Plus trying to talk my editor into doing some more books about Luster . . .

THANKS BRUCE AND CONGRATS! Also, as a bonus, you can watch Bruce working on the audiobook version of The Last Hunt in his recording studio:

Previously On Our Minds:
* Gaga for Ga’Hoole
* The Truth About…The Baby-sitters Club
* What would you give up to help send books to kids in need?

Off to the library

Today is Library Advocacy Day. If, like me, you aren’t at ALA or anywhere near Washington DC to join in the festivities you may be saying to yourself “Self…I like libraries…I am even for libraries. What can I do to celebrate today?”

I can’t answer that. I’m in the same boat. But I have been brain storming and thinking of some ways I could celebrate today even this far from our nation’s capital.

Go check out your local library. Sounds funny but the library is more than just a place where books hang out. There are local events and programs. Heck, sometimes there are even concerts! They are a wealth of community information and anything that lets you get out and enjoy the summer weather is a good thing.

Take someone you know to get a library card. A kid…a family member…co-worker…that nice lady who brings you cookies at the holidays. If someone you know doesn’t have a library card why not bring them with you the next time you go? I don’t have to tell you that libraries are WAY too awesome to keep to yourself. There’s always room for at least one more. Who knows? It could be their first library card…and everyone always remembers their first.

Volunteer! Everyone knows it makes you feel good to give back. Why not offer to read to little kids during story time? Ask at your children’s school in the fall (or even the summer) if they need help either in their library or the classroom.

Those are my suggestions. Leave us a comment and give us yours!

Creative Commons Image credit: John-Morgan from Flickr

Previously On Our Minds:

From ISTE 2010: What is this thing called Networked Literacy?

I arrived here in Denver on Saturday in time for the afternoon sessions of EduBloggerCon, an always-inspiring day of conversations before the conference starts. I walked right into a roundtable led by Jeff Utecht and Angela Maiers that fascinated me very much. It was about the concept of “networked literacy” and how we ought (or ought not) to be teaching kids how to leverage and manage human connections on the Web.

Jeff wrote a great post here wrapping up his thoughts, and he has a nice explanation and working definition for the term, which is this:

“It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections.”

Here are a couple of my own thoughts on this concept of Networked Literacy:

1) In some ways, this is a skill we have all used forever. Connecting with people who we trust and who we can learn from, those relationships (family, friends, colleagues, authors and leaders we respect and gravitate towards) have always served as the basis for our knowledge and opinions. The same is true on the Web — it’s just that we haven’t all learned how the tools work, or the social mores applicable to each online community, or how to properly handle concerns for safety.

2) This concept of “networked literacy” is not just about finding and filtering information for consumption; it’s also about getting found, and making your content and voice findable. New tools on the Web are great at helping us connect and find information and people who we want to learn from. But it is equally important to be found, and have your content found — and have it be found be the people who you want to find it. This is a skill that goes beyond simple digital literacy. The Web is increasingly becoming a network of people, rather than a repository of information — and to navigate that and be a part of it requires skills that go beyond Google searches, blog reading and video editing.

The ones who can master that are going to reap the benefits. This is a quote I jotted down from Jeff: “Kids have power today that I only wish I had.” They just need to know how to wield it.

Previously On Our Minds:
*I read a 150-year-old novel on my iPhone
*How learning about personification has changed in 17 years
*Scholastic CEO, Dick Robinson, Delivers Call-to-Action for Children’s Reading and Literacy

Celebrate summer reading with a and Scholastic giveaway!

We got some amazing news this week: 70,000 kids in over 3,000 schools around the world have taken the Scholastic Summer Challenge and officially logged over 20 million reading minutes to help break the Read for the World Record for summer reading. Clearly these kids are serious about summer reading fun!

As the summer continues to heat up and the millions of minutes keep adding up, we’re celebrating with for the Great Book Giveaway. This Sunday, June 27th, will be giving away some of Scholastic’s hottest new titles for kids of all ages across 17 of their local editions:

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, Portland, Baltimore, Charlotte, San Diego, Raleigh, and Hartford.

The giveaways last all day from 7am to 9pm, and maybe you can be a winner of one of these great books:

Astroblast! Code Blue by Bob Kolar

Can You See What I See? Treasure Ship by Walter Wick

Dot & Dash Meet Their Friends by Emma Dodd

Farm by Elisha Cooper

Firehouse! by Mark Teague

Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord

One Drowsy Dragon by Ethan Long

Winter’s Tale by Juliana Hatkoff

Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth

Mr. Putney’s Quacking Dog by Jon Agee

Visit for the full details, and let us know what your favorite summer reading books are right now!

Previously On Our Minds:
* What should you read next?
* Gaga for Ga’Hoole
* 5 Questions with The Scholastic Summer Challenge Authors

How does emotion factor into learning math and other subjects?

Math isn’t easy. And it doesn’t help that sometimes I want to break my pencil when I can’t remember the difference between sine, cosine and tangent! I’m sure many students out there feel the same way. We all know that feeling distressed, frustrated and confused makes it even harder to solve the math problem at hand. But now a new software program can take students’ emotions into consideration when determining how best to help students in problem solving. Take a look at this cross-post “Studying environmental factors to affect student performance in math” by Carolyn Kaemmer from the Scholastic Math Hub blog:

A new study by a team of researchers from University of Massachusetts at Amherst is testing a math software program, called Wayang Outpost, which aims to take cues from students’ emotions to determine where they need help in the problem-solving process. Studies have found that girls especially lack confidence in their math ability and report feeling “more frustrated and anxious than boys” when faced with math problems, according to Ivon Arroyo, a research scientist at UMass. The software program would offer hints and encouragement in response to cues from students’ facial expressions as well as movement in their chair and grip on their mouse in order to boost confidence and thus improve performance.

Furthermore, researchers want to test whether environmental factors can have an effect on student performance in math. Some are investigating “stereotype threat,” in which people submit to a stereotype and suffer a decrease in performance as a result. Others want to determine how the physical environment might affect a student’s sense of “fitting in” and their subsequent interest in the subject.

All of the research seeks to look at the problems students encounter in their heads as they attempt to tackle math. If educators can identify some of these issues and eliminate the cognitive and emotional road blocks that prevent students from recognizing their full ability, overall student performance in math should improve.

How does emotion factor into your students’ achievement in math and other subjects? What can schools and teachers do to build a more encouraging environment for their students? / CC BY 2.0

Previously On Our Minds:
* MATH Magazine uses Twilight to teach fractions
* A conversation with Milton Chen and Tony Wagner
* Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson delivers call-to-action for children’s reading and literacy