Super-Fan Spotlight: Melinda Louvier

I discovered the Novel Effect app this past February while attending the TCEA conference in San Antonio. As an Ed Tech Specialist, we are charged with bringing our newly gained conference knowledge back and sharing with our coworkers and district teachers. The instant I learned about the existence of Novel Effect, I claimed it as my ‘one cool thing’ that I wanted to share when we returned, and I’ve been both an avid fan and cheerleader ever since! Even though my job is all about technology, the main thing I love about Novel Effect is that the focus isn’t on the technology—it remains on the book! The Novel Effect sound effects just add multiple layers to the reading experience.

Teachers downloading Novel Effect for their classrooms!

The weekend after the conference, I asked my 21 year old son if I could show him something really cool that I was doing at work. With no explanation whatsoever, I opened the Novel Effect app, turned on my Bluetooth speaker, and started reciting my all-time favorite book, Where the Wild Things Are (I have it memorized after all these years!), which just so happened to be his favorite book when he was a child. The look of pure wonder and astonishment on his face went straight to my heart, and I knew that something magical had just happened! When I finished reading, he stood up and paced the floor, swinging his arms and exhaling heavily. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine, that he had just been taken totally by surprise because he wasn’t expecting to feel that way again. I apologized and said, “Maybe I should have told you what I was about to do,” and he walked up to hug me and replied, “No, Mama, it was perfect just the way it was!” 

I was so impressed with what had happened, I just had to sit down and write a thank you email to Matt and Melissa Hammersley, the founders of Novel Effect. As I choked back tears, I wrote that I know that their children are still very small so they may not realize this yet, but as our children grow up and away from us, there does come a time when they won’t climb into your lap for a snuggle anymore, or need to hold your hand while you cross a street, or ask for us to read their favorite book for the thousandth time, and that they as parents will miss all those things terribly.

I told them that I believe that their app is a gift is to all children everywhere, but specifically, I wanted to thank them for their gift to me, for letting me be just a mom reading her little boy’s favorite book to him one more time.

Matt emailed back that afternoon and thanked me, saying that he’d read my letter to the entire team, and that I’d had seventeen people in Seattle crying, even the college kids!

As a former language arts teacher, I am a strong proponent of reading to kids, anytime, anywhere, no matter their age. When I taught science and social studies, I always found ways to slip a read-aloud in, because they just enjoyed it so much! Even after I got into the technology side of education, I took part in Read Across America Day activities in my district, reading Where the Wild Things Are to junior high students for several years in a row. In fact, after the first year, those students actually requested me as a guest reader because they enjoyed it so immensely!

Since February, I’ve demonstrated Novel Effect to different educator groups several times in Pearland ISD, used it in multiple classrooms with students, and formally presented it to a packed house at the Elementary Technology conference in Galveston this past June. I will again be formally presenting Novel Effect at my district’s GT Training day in September, at the TCCA conference in Aldine ISD in October, and then again at the next TCEA conference in Austin next February! Informally, every time I’m in a bookstore, I go to the children’s section and demonstrate it to any parents who will stand still for even five minutes, and have then shown it to store employees when they come to see what all the excitement is about!

This summer, after purchasing a copy of The Wonky Donkey book as a baby gift for a friend, I suggested to Melody Furze, the Director of Educational Development, that the Novel Effect team create a soundscape for it. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when she contacted me to ask if I would be willing to take part in the soundscape creation process! Of course, I enthusiastically said, “YES!”

In preparation, I received some instruction via email on what I’d need to do. My role in Ed Tech requires me to travel across the district from campus to campus, so I had some alone time in my car to practice my “yeeeeEEEE-HAW’s” and my “heee-haw’s”. As I live in Texas, I was extremely happy that I have decent AC in my car, because even with the windows up I still got some really strange looks from cars next to me at traffic lights! When I felt as if I’d made some acceptable progress I started using the voice recorder on my phone to capture my efforts.  

Several people at Novel Effect and I had an online video conference to further refine the expectations. Matt Boerner, the Audio Lead and one of the sound effect geniuses at Novel Effect, and Carmela Orsini, their Director of Client Services, video chatted with me one evening. I played them some of my recordings and got some feedback on my efforts. Carmela even told me “You by far are the BEST ‘yee-haw’ I’ve ever heard!” And near the end of our call, Matt Hammersley walked into the room on their end, and I got to chat with him a bit as well! Over the following days, we communicated back and forth via email about which sounds they’d like me to try again with even more gusto, so I’d go upstairs at my house and record more versions of sounds and email them off to Matt B. As he incorporated my sound effects into the soundscape, he’d send me updates so I could hear them before the final version was released. I think my two dogs, Roux and Mardi, officially thought I was nuts, because they heard sounds coming out of me that they’d never heard before! 

Working with the Novel Effect team has been an amazing experience, and it’s definitely one I’d like to repeat in the future! 

I hear Novel Effect is working on a studio tool that will soon let everyone have the pleasure of creating hee-haws of their own. Be sure you follow them on social media to stay up to speed on all these exciting developments.

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Melinda Louvier is an Educational Technology Specialist for Pearland ISD in Pearland, TX. She has twenty-one years of experience in the field of education at multiple grade levels, and has spent the last eleven years as a tech specialist, assisting teachers who want to incorporate technology into their curriculum. Melinda is a 2013 recipient of a Fund For Teachers grant, which allowed her to spend almost three weeks in Peru, where among a plethora of exciting experiences, she fulfilled a lifelong dream of holding a sloth! Since she couldn’t bring the sloth home, she now expends her love of animals on her two dogs, Roux and Mardi.

Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!

As you are Fa-La-La-ing your way to…V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, we thought you might like to ease some of that countdown-to-holiday-break craziness with titles that explore different seasonal cultures and traditions. Good news, there’s a little elfish-luck in your corner, all the titles below are available in the Novel Effect app!

Continue reading “Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!”

Adding Magic to Your Classroom’s Storytime

If you’re newly discovering Novel Effect in this blog post, you’re in for a treat. Novel Effect is a completely free mobile app that will respond to your voice as you read out loud. It will follow where you go and at your own pace, and along the way, you and your students will be entertained by sound effects, theme music, and even character voices that will bring the story to life

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know how exhausting it can be to squeeze in all the classroom activities you need in a single day. We created Novel Effect so that story time can be an achievable daily goal for you and your students, especially the ones who may find it extra hard to sit still until the end of a book.

Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make “choo-choo” train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the old classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – all with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

If you’re newly discovering Novel Effect in this blog post, you’re in for a treat. Novel Effect is a completely free mobile app that will respond to your voice as you read out loud. It will follow where you go and at your own pace, and along the way, you and your students will be entertained by sound effects, theme music, and even character voices that will bring the story to life. You can download the app for free on iOS devices here. If you want to be one of the first Android users, email us at droid@noveleffect.com and we’ll add you to the list.

Once you have Novel Effect on your device, it’s easy to use, but if you want to maximize the learning experience in your classroom, I thought I’d share a few tips that I use in my own story times.

Teacher At Montessori School Reading To Children At Story Time

  1. Get a nice blue-tooth speaker.

This isn’t crucial when reading to one child. You can simply use your device by itself for smaller audiences. In the classroom though, you want to use something that the whole class can hear. I recommend a speaker that doesn’t stand out so that no one is distracted by all those fun buttons and flashing lights. There are plenty of great speakers out there, but my personal favorite is this economical option.

  1. Take your time.

We’re following you in the text! If you don’t hear sounds right away – give it a few words, and it’ll find you. If you want to skip around the story, or stop to ask comprehension questions or talk about the illustrations, you can (all of which I highly recommend doing to increase comprehension – use teacher guides like this one for recommended questions for the Lee & Low titles in the app). We’ll be ready, listening for the text as you pick back up again. Once I’ve read a story a few times, I know where all my favorite sound effects will be, and it helps me to slow down and pause for those moments.

Pupils At Montessori School Looking At Book With Teacher

  1. Get the students involved.

Have the children read lines to trigger sound effects and music. The students can participate by reading their favorite parts or lines aloud and get instant positive reinforcement with a fun sound effect or musical note. This promotes an even deeper engagement with the text, asking students to remember their favorite parts to share with the class. For younger classes, you can have students dance along to the music in certain parts or mimic the sound effects they heard (I bet you have some great monster roars in your students!!).

Every time I read to a group of kids with Novel Effect, I’m reminded that storytelling is about the possibility of something new. It’s about the wonders and mysteries in life, those new experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to share. Stories allow us to learn things about ourselves and the world around us. What a joy it is that we as educators get to give that gift to our students. Join us in sharing the Novel Effect magic on Instagram and show us the wondrous ways your students are joining in the story.

 

 

Melody_NFXMelody Zagami Furze is Chief of Education for Novel Effect and is a certified special educator with an emphasis on early childhood populations with blindness and visual impairments. With over a decade of education experience, Melody does research and development on Novel Effect’s application in educational settings. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband, toddler, and fluffy white dog.

A Note to Teachers from our Chief of Education

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make choo-choo train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. 

“If every parent and every adult caring for a child read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” – Mem Fox

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make choo-choo train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. Below are some tips on getting the most out of Novel Effect during your classroom storytime. 

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1. Get a nice blue tooth speaker

This isn’t crucial when reading to one child. You can simply use your device by itself for smaller audiences. In the classroom, though, you want something so the whole class can hear. I recommend something that doesn’t stand out – so that no one is distracted by all those fun buttons and flashing lights. There are plenty of great options out there, but my personal favorite is this economical little guy.

 

2. Practice during the summer. 

I know – the last thing you want is to think about class when you’re relaxing at the lake in July. Hear me out! Using Novel Effect is really fun for grown-ups, too. If you see books you enjoy reading to your class, try them out with the app with your family, friends, or pets. Our accompanying soundscapes have made me a better, slower and more articulate reader of stories. Once I read the stories a few times, I know when the sounds are coming, and this makes me slow down and enjoy the wonder of the story. Plus, my family has had a lot of fun perfecting our dance skills.

 

3. Figure out your set-up. 

The phone can be situated near you on a table or desk. Sit comfortably or sit on the floor with the phone not too far away. Placing the blue tooth speaker away from the phone (on your other side perhaps) will ensure the app isn’t picking up sounds coming from the speaker. Make sure the speaker is somewhere projecting so that the kids in the back can hear it but also isn’t blasting the front row sitters.

 

4. Take your time.

We’re following you in the text! If you don’t hear sounds right away – give it a few words, and it’ll pick you right up. If you want to skip around the story or stop to ask comprehension questions or talk about the illustrations, you can. We’ll be ready, listening for the text as you pick back up again.

Pupils At Montessori School Looking At Book With Teacher

5. Get the students involved.

Have the children read lines to trigger sound effects and music. The students can participate by reading their favorite parts or lines aloud and get instant positive reinforcement with a fun sound effect or musical note. This promotes an even deeper engagement with the text, asking students to remember their favorite parts to share with the class.

 

Today, I had the good fortune of reading to a class during their lunch, incorporating many of these tips. As they happily munched on their taco boats, they participated in the story, answered questions and responded to the music and sounds as they played throughout the story. This reminded me that storytelling is about the possibility of something new. It’s about the wonders and mysteries in life. Stories allow us to learn things about ourselves and the world around us.

From everyone here at Novel Effect, we hope this summer brings you many wondrous stories of your own! No one deserves the break more than teachers! 

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Melody Zagami Furze is Chief of Education for Novel Effect and is a certified special educator with an emphasis on early childhood populations with blindness and visual impairments. With over a decade of education experience, Melody does research and development on Novel Effect’s application in educational settings. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband, toddler, and fluffy white dog.

6 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Reading

How do we motivate our children to engage in reading experiences and understand the value of the written word? Some early readers struggle and get frustrated. Others find the many distractions more compelling (and instantly gratifying) than doing the work of reading.

How do we motivate our children to engage in reading experiences and understand the value of the written word? Some early readers struggle and get frustrated. Others find the many distractions more compelling (and instantly gratifying) than doing the work of reading.

Researchers have found that there are “two sides to reading”. Reading includes skills, such as vocabulary, comprehension, phonemic awareness and word recognition, but the other (more exciting) part is the “will” to read. This means the motivation to read and the desire to practice and get better at it!

What can you do to get your children motivated to keep reading and enjoy that oh so special, personal experience of sitting down with a good book? Research shows that literacy starts as early as six months, so engaging with children at even the earliest stages of life is key.

Here are six ways you can add reading-focused activities to your daly life to help foster the crucial “will” to read:

1. Expose children to a print-rich environment
Label things! All the things! Furniture, toys, food, pets (okay, maybe not pets) – anything a child might see or use.

2. Talk about the text in books
Ask children questions that focus on elements of print within the text. You can comment on the length or shape of the words. Ask where the words on the page are and point out features of the book like the author’s name, book title, or page numbers.

3. Pretend read
Kids love pretending and make believe, so tying that activity to reading is a great way to positively connect the two in the child’s mind. Encourage your child to “read” a story to their favorite stuffed animal (or that non-labeled pet.)

4. Make a book together
This is both an awesome craft project AND a literacy tool! Let your child dictate the story. You write the words and they make the pictures.

5. Write in front of your child
Engage in various writing activities in front of your child, whether its writing a letter, journaling, or balancing your checkbook. Say the words you’re writing aloud.

6. Read in front of your child
Read a variety of types of text in front of your child and talk about them. Stories on Novel Effect come with a multi-sensory experience, which can help provide context clues and keep everyone more engaged in what’s happening. Look for poems, a different type of text, on Novel Effect starting in April!

Keep the conversation going with some great information on motivating older readers from the good folks at PBS Kids.

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Some of the ideas in this post were adapted from “Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful Motivated Readers” (2014) By Anne Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Anne Cunningham is a literacy expert and teaches at the University of California, Berkley. She is also on the Board at Novel Effect. You can pick up a copy of her book here.

Tips for Teachers to Survive and Thrive this Winter

Even though the new year and new term are just barely upon us, it’s hard not to already be thinking about summer break! But hang in there for a few more months. We have some titles and activities to get you through the winter months right on into spring!

It might feel like we’re stuck inside but we can get “outdoors” at story time with the Ezra Jack Keats classic “The Snowy Day.” Get everyone excited about the potential of a snow day. Maybe the teachers and the kids have a touch of cabin fever? Get out of the classroom and pair that aquarium field trip with “Rainbow Fish”.  Let our soundscape for the best-loved tale of friendship accompany your story and all of its shimmery sweetness.

There are, of course, a lot of great activities for Valentine’s that go beyond making a mailbox out of a paper bag and passing out Minion themed cards. Here are some toddler activities that could be easily adapted for higher grades as well. One of my personal favorites is to make seed cards to exchange or as a personalized activity, and then you can plant them in preparation for spring classroom gardens. And don’t forget to keep an eye on your Novel Effect app to see some of the Valentine’s Day and Spring titles we’ve got coming your way!

If fish aren’t your thing, or you already can’t stand the thought of one more tiny heart-shaped box of bad chocolate,  then let’s focus on another great February theme with “Grace for President.” Here are some pretty cool comprehension questions and discussion prompts  from the good folks at Rutgers University. We really appreciate this book and the wonderful message it has for women big and small.

Have ideas on how you’re using Novel Effect in your classroom? Let us know here! Happy Reading!