Monday, November 2, 2009

Blog it? Glog It!

Media Center workers recently completed their digital storytelling projects on a fiction novel.  You can view the digital booktalks at the following link:

Digital Booktalks

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins



 


5 stars - Incredible book, page-turner, exciting!!!  Can't wait  for the sequel and movie release!


Suzanne Collins has done it again!  Just like the Underworld Chronicles, she has written a riveting new series that YA and adult readers will find irresistible. 


Katniss is the spunky, admirable main character in this futuristic novel.   The story takes place in Panem.  The capitol of Panem with its 12 outlying districts "celebrate" a gruesome annual event that's viewed by everyone - the Hunger Games.  The Hunger Games seem like a virtual reality video game - except the horrors are experienced in real life by the children who live in Panem.


Each year two children's names are drawn from each district to participate in the Hunger Games.  The group must compete and fight in order to determine the winner.  The only way to win this game is to stay alive - and to destroy all others before they destroy you.  When Katniss's little sister's name is drawn from this year's participants, she quickly volunteers to take her place.  Katniss knows she is poorer and weaker than the other participants, but she has skills they lack:  determination, survival instincts, superior hunting skills, and a fierce need to save her family from their current plight of starvation and misery.


Though the odds are against her, Katniss emerges as a strong competitor - and a crowd favorite.  The greatest threat to survival is not the life-threatening starvation and dehydration she faces, nor the blood-thirsty, cruel children from other districts.  Katniss must contend with her feelings for another competitor, Peeta.  Peeta seems to care for her and protect her, but isn't it all an act?  Will he betray her in the end?  How can she destroy the only love she has ever known? 


There will only be one winner, but this victory will come at a great cost.


Amazing story, readers will be hooked

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Reading for Teachers


 


Summer Reading for Teachers


Several of our teachers selected Top Tiger Book Award Nominee titles to read and blog about over the summer!  You can read their reviews under the comments link.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009-2010 Top Tiger Book Award Nominees Preview

Here are two videos highlighting the 2009-2010 Top Tiger Books.  Students may partipate in our Top Tiger Book Award program by reading four titles and turning in a book form or blogging about their selected books.  In order to qualify for the pizza/voting party and participate in selecting the school winner, all requirements must be fulfilled by January 28th.

The first video is a shorter version.

 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

After Tupac and D Foster



After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson



      Four stars


Neeka and her best friend had been tight since they were little kids - being hauled around in their onesies by their mamas.  They always thought it would be the two them, sitting on Neeka's stoop, laughing and cutting up.  Then they met D Foster.


D was crazy beautiful.  Even Neeka's hot brother, Jayjones, got goofy around her.  D's life wasn't so pretty.  Her mom was hooked on drugs and D had been passed around from one foster home to another.  At least Flo bought food with the state money. 


The narrator and Neeka had their own set of problems, too.  Neeka had to catch grief about her older brother, Nash.  Then Nash gets locked up over something stupid.  The narrator didn't know her daddy and times were always tough for her and her mama.


Only one person seemed to know what each girl was feeling - Tupac.  Tupac's songs and dope lyrics always spoke to their hearts. 


No matter what happened, even if they lost touch with one another, and D was lost to them forever, Neeka, the narrator, and D knew what they  had together was real. As real as the pain in Tupac's voice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Google Earth Lit Trip

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The Brothers’ War: Civil War in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

 I am excited that my project using Google Earth was recently published on the Google Lit Trip site for educators.  The direct link and download for viewing in Google Earth can be located here:

The Brothers In War:  Civil War Voices in Verse - KMZ file (downloaded and opens in Google Earth)

About the book:

 This book of poems is truly amazing.  J. Patrick Lewis writes eloquently, using emotionally loaded words and imagery, to speak in the voices of various Civl War participants - both real and imagined. 

What I found ironic about this text are the juxtaposition of the flowing, beautiful language and the subsequent horror it was detailing.  Some examples of Lewis’s powerful imagery included in The Brothers’ War are the “sickle moon” revealed during the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Seven Pines,  the voice of a hospitalized Confederate soldier - “giving up the ghost To welcome Mr. Death,” a runaway slave describing his “bullwhip-long odds” of making it to freedom - ”a land as alien as space.”  The Brothers’ War also includes Civil War photographs, adding visual interest to the events of the Civil War and the text.  This book is a useful resource in both Language Arts and Social Studies classes.

Podcasts of letters - written from the point of view of a concerned father and a son.  The son is a Confederate Prisoner of War.  He writes his letter home on his way to a Union prison.

Letter from Home - Father to Son Recording - Charles Barnett, Language Arts teacher barnettecivilwar.mp3

Letter Home - Son to Father Recording by Cody Eldridge, 8th grade student at DR Hill civiwarcody.mp3

The Google Earth Lit Trip is located under the middle grade section: 6-8. Read the viewing session tips in order to view the event locations included in this book - also included in tour is supplementary information about the Civil War.   

 *You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the file.  This should open automatically in Google Earth.  Under My Places, Temporary Files, you can select the Civil War .kmz file to view the tour. 

In order to read the content saved under each location and to view and hear media files, pause the tour and manually click on each underlined placemark.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Football Genius by Tim Green



 


  Four Stars


Troy White had a great gift - he could predict beforehand the opposing football team's strategy and plays.  Call it ESP or intuition - either way, Troy just knew he could be very valuable to his favorite team - the Atlanta Falcons. Even though the team's star linebacker lived in a ritsy neighborhood close to Troy, he knew he'd never have a chance to meet him - much less, help them have a winning season.  He couldn't even get his own football coach to let him play - not as long as Troy played the same position as the coach's annoying son, Jamie.


Troy thought his luck had changed.  His mom found a great knew job working in the PR department of the Falcons.  She even had an All-Access pass!  Troy would get to see the action up close!  And maybe, just maybe, he'd have a chance to help Seth and the Falcons win the championship.

Troy's plan fails miserably.  He gets arrested for trying to sneak up to Seth and the Falcon's Coach during a game.  His mom loses her new job.  And to top it off, she busts him for sneaking into Seth's backyard through a hole in the fence and stealing a game ball.

Troy knows he has to prove to everyone he really is a football genius - no matter what it takes.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman




4.5 Stars   

The story begins with the dreadful murder of a family.  A young toddler is the only survivor that fateful night.  The little boy manages to escape when he decided to go exploring.  His exploration leads him outside to a nearby graveyard.  The innocent young toddler does not know he is being pursued by an assassin. 

 His recently departed mother knows her son is still in danger. She frantically appears in the graveyard and pleads to the spirits and ghosts buried there to take her son in, shelter him, and protect him from harm.

That is exactly what they do.

This begins the story of Nobody Owens.  Though the beginning of The Graveyard Book is bleak, this coming of age story is fascinating and will keep you in suspense.

Nobody, called Bod, lives in the graveyard.  His family is a host of ghosts and spirits.  Along the way, Bod frequently finds himself in danger; at times, from graveyard spirits less than kind to the living. 

He also continues to be hunted by the man who destroyed his family. As Bod gets older, he yearns for the outside world. He outgrows the younger spirits who used to play with him, and Bod wants to experience life on his own. In order to have a life in the world beyond the graveyard gates, Bod finds himself in a position of fighting for his life once more.

Can he defeat the evil man who wants him dead?  Will Bod be able to leave the only family he knows and loves behind?

This story is magical and unlike any that I have ever read before. Nail Gaiman creates a fascinating setting, interesting characters with a variety of stories to tell, and manages to weave humor, fear, and emotion into each page he has written.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Student-Created Educational Videos using Animoto

During 2009's Teen Tech Week, Mr. McCurry and I helped students create educational videos using Animoto. 

The students began by selecting the topics, identifying key vocabulary, and searching for graphics/photos to support their topics online. 

Students then created their own accounts in Animoto, uploaded their work, and created their final videos. They did an incredible job! 

Check out a few examples here:

Student Videos

Friday, April 17, 2009

Savvy by Ingrid Law


Five Stars!


Savvy by Ingrid Law


Imagine having extraordinary powers - powers to literally move mountains or cause floods.  Imagine carrying electric currents throughout your body - enough to ignite fires, set off alarms, cause light bulbs to explode.  Your magical powers may be strong, dangerous, or fierce - or it may be something harmless that makes your life better - like the gift of always being perfect, doing things the right way, and never having to work hard for your success.  Mibs and her family have these powers - or as they call it, their "savvy."  When they turned 13 years old, their savvy was revealed to them on their birthdays.  Mibs and her siblings then had to learn to keep their family secret hidden from everyone and had to attempt to live as normally as possible while keeping their savvy under control.

Mibs was excited and nervous on her 13th birthday.  Today, she would finally learn what her savvy was. 

Rather than the day becoming a celebration, however, Mibs life began to spin out of control.  A horrible car accident has left Mibs Poppa in a coma.  Mibs mother and older brother have to travel out of state to be by his bedside while her father is fighting for his life. 

Mibs knows in her heart that her father needs her.  Though she doesn't know what her savvy is yet, she's convinced she has the ability to bring her father back from the coma - to save his life.

The adventure begins when Mibs hides on a bus headed to her father's hospital.   She never expected this bus ride journey would reveal her real savvy, connect her with a friend that accepted her the way she was, and bring her closer to her siblings.  Mibs even finds herself falling in love for the first time.

In the end, Mibs not only saves her father, she learns to accept and be happy with herself, her own savvy, and the family she loves. 

Looooovvvvvveeeddddd this book!  Fast-paced and interesting, feel-good story

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Boy Who Dared


The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti



  3.5 Stars

 

His life was a lie.  He said the right things.  Made his family proud.  Loudly declared his loyalty, his patriotism, his pride.  All alone, he swallowed the truth.  Until he could no longer live the lie. 

At first, Helmuth Hubener believed Hitler was Germany’s savior.  He became a prestigious member of Hitler’s youth and outwardly praised Hitler for protecting Germany from the Communists.  Once appointed Chancellor, though, Hitler did not keep his promises. 



He promised peace – but gave them never-ending war.  He promised them power – but took away their basic rights and freedom.  He promised them prosperity – but required great personal sacrifice. 

At first, Helmuth rebelled by listening to banned radio programs.  Here he began learning the truth.  The atrocities inflicted by Hitler – the lies he had fed the German people.  Helmuth knew he had to make others aware of the real Adolf Hitler and the threat he posed to everyone, Germany included.  He couldn’t remain silent anymore. 



Helmuth knew the great risk involved when he began printing and distributing pamphlets that spoke against the Nazi regime.  Despite the risk and sacrifice, Helmuth had to speak and take a stand for those too afraid.


 

This fictional account is based on actual events.  Helmuth Hubener, sixteen years old, was captured, tortured, and executed for treason.  Until the final moments of his life, Helmuth never regretted his actions.



He believed it was his obligation to tell the truth and take a stand against Hitler’s inhumanity – even if he must pay with his own life.

Waiting for Normal

  






 

 



 


Waiting for Normal  by Leslie Connor





     4.5 Stars

Addie was used to chaos – or as Mommers like to call it, constant change.  Things were good for a while.  Mommers married Dwight.  Then the twins came along, Brynna and Katie.  For awhile, they were like a real family.   Then Mommers acted out again.  She started lying, spending all the money, ignoring us all.   Even a great dad like Keith has his limits.

He took the twins away when Mommers took off and left us alone for three days.  Keith was the closest thing I ever had to a real dad – losing him hurt the most. Addie tried to be optimistic. Keith promised to bring the twins over to see her as often as he could.  She thought the new trailer Dwight bought for her and Mommers was cute.  And Elliot and Soula from the minimart were supernice and fun, even though Mommers made fun of them. 

Addie knew Mommers loved her, but she didn’t act like other parents.  Mommers slept all day, never cooked, played on her computer all the time and watched goofy TV shows, like Jeanette for the Judgment, when she was actually at home.

Mommers always seemed to have a hard time holding things together.   Addie had a hard time focusing on the good when Mommers started disappearing again.  She was staying gone for days at a time, and Addie’s food kept running out.  Addie didn’t want a nicer house, new clothes, or popularity at school. 

She just wants what she’s never had - a life that’s normal.  

The Juvie Three by Korman








   Five Stars

The Juvie Three  by Gordon Korman



 

  • Accessory to a robbery

  • Breaking and entering

  • Grand theft

  • Manslaughter 


Three juvenile delinquents:  troublemakers, incapable of ever rehabilitating, dangerous.

Gecko, Arjay, and Terrence were convicted of committing crimes and now are serving time as punishment.  Lives ruined – freedom taken away.

Their luck suddenly changes, though, when the three teens are selected for a new program.  Douglas Healey offers to supervise the boys as they all live together in a halfway house, attend school while keeping up their grades, attend counseling, and stay out of trouble.   Each boy knew what this meant – a reduced sentence, much more freedom, and a second chance.  Gecko begins to think that this will actually work out – that is, until the fight breaks out. 

Why did Doug try to break up the fight?  It was an accident.  He never should have gotten in the way. 

Now, he’s lying in a hospital.  He’s in a coma and may never wake up. Gecko, Arjay, and Terrence are frantic – convinced they’re headed back to juvy hall and prison.  The only way they have a chance to avoid being sent back is to pretend nothing is wrong.   Eventually Mr. Healey will wake from his coma, and they’ll explain what happened.  Keep calm and stay out of trouble.   That can’t be too hard, right? 

 Not until…Gecko falls in love with a beautiful rich girl whose uncle happens to be cop.  Arjay joins a rock band and begins playing in the hottest city clubs.  Terrence thought he wanted to join the toughest gang in the city.  When he changes his mind, they are ready to even the score.  The price?  Terrence’s life. 

Yup.  This is going to be harder than they thought.

You’ll find yourself rooting for the juvie three. This book will keep you reading and wanting more.  I was sad when the book ended – though the ending couldn’t be more perfect.

Highly recommended

Factory Girl by Barbara Greenwood




   Five Stars

Factory Girl by Barbara Greenwood


Imagine living in a tiny two room apartment – you, your mom, baby sister, and little brother.  It’s cramped and dirty, with no running water or electricity. Dinner is potatoes and water soup. If you’re lucky, there may be hard, stale bread to eat.

Emily Watson was only twelve years old. She had to drop out of school and find a job. Her family depended on her for survival.  Acme Garment Factory did not care that Emily was only twelve.  Underage children were good workers – cheap labor.  Emily began working a backbreaking, boring job –snipping loose threads from garments. She earned four dollars a week for working ten hours a day.

If she accidentally pierced the garment with her scissors, Emily lost an entire week’s wages.  If she spent too long in the bathroom, her pay was docked.  She couldn’t talk to the other girls.   She couldn’t smile, stretch, or even take a brief break.  The factory was dirty, hot, and smoky.   Her bones ached, eyes blurred, and fingers cramped. 

Life in the early 1900s was miserable for the working poor.  Though Factory Girl is fiction, the setting and events are very real.  Before child labor laws, children like Emily worked long hours in deplorable workplaces, with little pay, and often experienced abuse under the hands of their ruthless employers.  They never had a real childhood.The jobs were often dangerous, and many lost their lives as a result.  The photographs in this book depict the hopelessness of their situation, the extreme poverty of the times, and the unforgettable young faces will haunt you long after you stop reading. 

If you found Factory Girl as unforgettable as I did, try Margaret Haddix’s Uprising or Getzinger's The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Animoto Music Videos

Digital Storytelling:  Using Animoto to Create Music Videos


Nehemiah selected 2009-2010 Top Tiger Book Award nominee Toby Wheeler:  Eight Grade Benchwarmer.


Kaylee chose nominee Deep, Dark, and Dangerous.






Christian chose Schooled by Korman.






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Destiny chose Poison Apples by Archer:



 






They did a fantastic job! View their videos here:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poison Apples

 

red-star.jpgred-star.jpg red-star.jpg3.5 Stars

The Poison Apples by Lily Archer 

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Aside from attending the same ritzy, prestigious boarding school, Alice, Reena, and Molly seem to have nothing in common.  Reena is beautiful, spoiled, and arrogant.  Alice is quiet, intelligent, and sophisticated.  Molly is hopelessly nerdy with frizzy hair and big eyeglasses.

We all know that appearances, though, can be deceivingAll three girls are shocked to learn that they share one common factor:  wicked, evil stepmothers have taken over their families and homes.  Each ninth grader is dealing with much more than the typical problems with boys, having trouble fitting into a new school, or experiencing difficulty completing class assignments.

Though their situations seem impossible to change, Reena, Alice, and Molly decide to take fate into their own hands.  Suddenly, they unite and form a group called The Poison Apples.  Their primary purpose is revenge.  Together they can fight back and stop the evil stepmothers of the world!

Shark Girl

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    3.5 Stars

 Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Jane should have been grateful.  She could have died that day.The shark attack left her body lifeless. The blood loss so severe she almost died before reaching a hospital.  Is it selfish to not feel grateful? To wonder if a boy will ever want to kiss you? To grieve the loss of her future art career – her drawing talents?

Her friends try to be understanding, but they don’t get it. Who cares about who is dating who?  What other girls are wearing?  What guys will be at the party Friday night?

Jane is lost. Her life left behind- her identity swallowed, consumed, and left ravaged by a shark. Things will never be the same.

Happy Kid! by Gail Gauthier

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 red-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpg4 Stars

Happy Kid! By Gail Gauthier

Could things get any worse??  Kyle suddenly found himself placed in advanced Language Arts and Social Studies classes.  Now he had to spend hours doing homework just to scrape by, and he was stuck eating lunch with the dorky A-list kids. He never had time to hang out with his friend Luke anymore.  And to top it off, Luke had already found Kyle’s replacement.

Kyle didn’t think he would ever be able to shake the bus incident.  Kids still stared at him like he was an ax murderer, and the troublemakers had even started a Kyle fan club.

It was just a screwdriver for pete’s sake.

Kyle had made the screwdriver at school.  It just happened to fall out of his backpack on the bus, right when the bus driver was looking in the rearview mirror.  Kyle didn't mean anything by grabbing the handle and holding the screwdriver upright.  According to the driver. Kyle was waving around a weapon.  A Weapon??

Kyle didn't mean to freak the driver out.  Next thing you know, 911...What's Your Emergency?

No biggie.  Even though Kyle had to sit in the police car until his dad showed up, everything did eventually get cleared up in the end.

So why won’t people move beyond it?

Kyle’s mom is tired of him moping around so she makes an offer he can’t refuse.  Kyle will get paid for every chapter he reads of this cheesy self-help book – as if that would make a difference in his life or make him "happier."

To Kyle’s surprise, it actually does.

Though his life overall still stinks, Kyle begins to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Great story - lots of laughs.  If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, try Happy Kid!

Toby Wheeler: Eighth Grade Benchwarmer

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 Toby Wheeler: Eighth Grade Benchwarmer by Thatcher Heldring

smallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gif       4 stars 

Why do your friends suddenly change in middle school?  Toby liked the way things used to be.  He would hang out with his best friend JJ, pull crazy pranks at school, and spent hours playing street ball and basketball at the rec center.  Now that they’re in 8th grade, JJ doesn’t have time for Toby. 

JJ has a stuck-up girlfriend, Valerie, and spends all of his time playing guitar in a lame garage band.  To make matters worse, JJ never even shoots hoops with Toby anymore.   

When Toby’s basketball rival, Vinny, made fun of him and told Toby he was a weak player, Toby decided he wasn’t going to put up with being slammed by anyone.  He’d try out for the boy’s basketball team, show that punk Vinny how good a player he really is, and find a way to spend time with his friend JJ again.   

Toby’s plan didn’t exactly turn out the way he had hoped.   

Toby makes his middle school team, but he finds himself warming the bench during every game.  The coach picks on him constantly, and his teammates, even JJ, make fun of the way he plays. 

Not only that, but the coach’s daughter seems to have a crush on him.  Just what he needed – another reason for Coach not to like him. Toby is surprised to find out, however, that being a benchwarmer is not always so bad. 

Watch Toby become a fan favorite, get the hottest girl in school, and realize that the best shooter on the team is not always the star player. 

Great story for anyone who feels like he/she always comes in last place!     
 

Taken by Edward Bloor

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fourstars5.jpg   Four Stars

Taken by Edward Bloor

Charity wakes up groggy, tired, and confused.  The last memory she had was being taken to a hospital.  Her face still felt flush with a fever, and she was weak and tired.  Charity soon realized she is not at a hospital, and these men were not doctors.

Charity’s greatest fear has become a reality – she’s been kidnapped. 

In 2036, the children of the wealthy are frequent targets for kidnappers.  Even with the top notch security in her Highlands community, the constant supervision surrounding her and monitoring her every movement, the guards and security systems meant to protect her, Charity has still become a target.  She’s just a means to an end - a ticket being used by kidnappers to cash in ransom money.

Charity hopes and prays her father can be reached, and he is willing to follow the kidnapper’s demands and instructions. If her father acts quickly, Charity will not be harmed.  Despite how hard her father tries to save her, the plan fails.

When one of the kidnapper’s identity is revealed, Charity feels shocked and betrayed.  She knows there are no guarantees, and she must now be willing to act in order to save herself– be prepared to fight and to flee.  What Charity does not realize is that being kidnapped will actually save her in the end. 

Losing the life she has now and leaving others behind is the only way she will ever experience true freedom and happiness.

Exciting, and totally unexpected – right up until the satisfying conclusion.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

 

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   smallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gif    Five Stars   

Not your Mama's Rapunzel!

 I admit it.  I've never read a graphic novel.  The pictures in most make my eyes cross.  I like simple uncluttered lines of text. This graphic novel, however, may make me a fan of the genre.  Rapunzel's Revenge would never captivate readers if not for the amazing artwork.  In this spin on the traditional Rapunzel fairy tale, Rapunzel refuses to be the helpless beauty in the woods - waiting to be rescued by her prince.

As a young girl, Rapunzel began having strange dreams.  She dreamed of an unknown woman frequently.  The woman was kind, affectionate, and loving to Rapunzel - everything her own mother was not.  Rapunzel knew she should be grateful for the beautiful castle she lived in and fine clothing she wore.  Rapunzel, though, was miserable.  Her life was empty and lonely.  She was always isolated from other people, never allowed to explore beyond the castle walls.  Despite her separation, Rapunzel soon learned from her own observations that Mother Gothel was a cruel, cold woman - a witch with magic powers she used to dominate others. 

When Rapunzel finally manages to sneak away and meets the woman in her childhood dreams, she and the woman realize they are actually daughter and child.  Mother Gothel had ripped Rapunzel away from her mother at a young age, and her real mother had been grieving ever since. 

When Rapunzel confronts Mother Gothel, she finds herself in an even more miserable situation - she's locked away for years - deep in a tower in the woods.  Here, Rapunzel realizes she has to take a stand for herself, her real mother, and all the townspeople Mother Gothel has abused. 

Part fairy tale, western, romance, and comedy, Rapunzel's Revenge is a wild ride you'll never forget!  I couldn't put this book down.  Rapunzel is one of the greatest heroines you'll ever meet.  The expressive sketches in this graphic novel make the story come alive, with humor written within the graphics themselves.  Loved it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Digital Storytelling

Our media center student workers recently completed their digital storytelling projects:

Aurianus Garrett used Animoto for his project on Shannon and Dean Hale's graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge:

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Jesse Michael's project was created using Windows Moviemaker.  The novel  - The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

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