I'm sure we've all struggled with keeping students engaged for a full class period. The library can be one of the best places to learn in our schools, but it is also challenging to manage students in such large spaces, with many different tasks happening all at once, and so many possible distractions. If your library is anything like mine, during class time there are students coming in and out constantly for individual book check-out, there are teachers coming in and out to access the resources in the workroom, there are tech guys coming in and out to work on tech issues, and all of this doesn't take into account the activity involved in the library lesson itself. It is daunting sometimes to keep all of the students in the class fully engaged in the learning process.
Well, today I experienced something that simply was too good not to share. I am working with students in 4th and 5th grades on a genre project. The purpose of the project is to review various literary genres and to create a little excitement over some book recommendations. I had planned to share the entire project with you once it was all wrapped up and done, but after what I've witnessed today (and over the past few days) I just couldn't wait to tell you about it! And the "it" isn't the project...it is the student engagement level!
This project involves Buncee. Basically, students are picking four genres to explore and research. They are charting the definition and characteristics of the genres they choose and then they are digging in to our library collection to find great book titles from those genres. The final piece of the project is creating a promotional poster for one of the book titles. This poster will be posted to a shared Buncee Board. (I will share it with all of you once students have completed their work, but below is the sample I created for students to preview.)
The thing is...I knew it would be a struggle to get students to do the "work" part of this project. I mean seriously, what kid wants to research genres? Especially when there is NO GRADE attached to the assignment?! This is a library lesson after all....I do not give grades. I knew that the Buncee creation would be the key to getting them working. However, what happened has just blown my mind.
I assumed that students would love the "fun part" of creating the promotional poster. They would have the freedom to choose their own backgrounds, stickers, and more. But how on earth would they feel about the Buncee chart I was asking them to create? Plugging information and research into a chart that was basically text just didn't seem like too much fun, but I trusted that using Buncee would hook the kids. Well, to my amazement, it worked! The students have LOVED it. Buncee has kept them totally engaged in the process of documenting their research!
In all honesty, some of my classes are pretty good at staying engaged with little effort during most library lessons. However, I do have two or three classes that really struggle with independent work and with staying on task during the full 45 minute library lesson time. Today, I observed 100% of students in three different library classes stay on-task for the duration of the work session. Yes, I said 100%. And I took photos to PROVE it!
There was one afternoon class that did struggle with being a little more social (a.k.a. talking) during the class period, but when I started walking around to see if I could get them back on-task, I discovered that they were talking about the project! They were just a little more boisterous than the previous classes, but they were engaged in the learning! I also saw many students step up as leaders and help others who needed to know a "how-to-do" in Buncee. This is really fun to observe.
In hindsight, I wish I had surveyed students on their knowledge of genres before we started so that I could re-survey and see if this type of engagement in the lesson impacted their learning, but I didn't do that. But I have confidence that they are really learning about the genres they are investigating and I can't wait to see what they come up with when creating their promotional posters of the books! Stay tuned!
As you may know by now, I'm a big fan of Buncee, but there is another digital tool that I love almost as much and that is Flipgrid. I haven't given my all with promoting Flipgrid because I haven't used it as much as I would like in my library. Students have done a few picture book reviews using it (learn more HERE), but I haven't implemented it across the entire school. So....that's about to change.
I applied for and received a grant of $500.00 from our local school system's Educational Foundation. This is a group made up of business partners, retired and current educators, and other community members who donate money to support the work of classroom teachers. They award thousands in grants each year and it really is an honor to be selected, as they are highly competitive.
My grant was called "Flipping for Books" and I basically pitched the idea of using Flipgrid and some basic sound equipment to allow students to do video book reviews. The book reviews will then be available for all students to view and will help in book selection. It also is a great way to give students a voice about what they are choosing to read.
My grant proposal consisted of four basic purchases. The first being the subscription to Flipgrid. I wanted all of the features that are unlocked with a yearly subscription and at $65, you just can't beat the price! My second and third items will work together to create mini-recording booths for students to use. These aren't necessarily required to make Flipgrid work, but in the library there can be noise that causes the student recording to lack volume or clarity. I went to B&H Photo online to find what I was looking for and pitched it as part of the grant.
I've ordered four mics and four mini sound booths to create little recording booth areas for the students to use with their student laptops. Only 4th and 5th graders are 1:1 at this point, so I may have to dig up some laptops to use until our 2nd and 3rd graders are also 1:1 in the coming year. These items do make up the bulk of my purchasing.
Finally, the remaining funds are going to our technology department to "relocate" an existing large screen television/monitor in the library. I have a very large one mounted very HIGH over the circulation desk that is not used for anything! I want to have the tech department lower this monitor and help me connect it up to a computer in order to have a Flipgrid Station of sorts. I'm hoping this will work, but if it doesn't I can come up with another plan. We shall see what they can do.
And that's it! I'm super excited to get Flipgrid going in the library full force and I think having the little mini sound booths and mics will make the kids feel extra special when they get to do their own book reviews!
I have neglected to share a few more ideas that I implemented during November's National Picture Book Month celebration. I'm going to try to keep this post short and succinct, while still providing you with an update on our lessons with picture books and our Picture Book Smackdown.
One of the BEST lessons I did with students during the month of November was a #picturebooksnap lesson. We used one of my favorite digital tools, Buncee. Those who know me, know I'm a HUGE fan of this digital tool! One of the best decisions I've made this year was to purchase a classroom edition for the library. Students in 4th grade classes used their student computers to snap pictures of a page in their current picture book. Then, they uploaded the photo to Buncee as the background. They were then able to add stickers, text, and other Buncee features to create a picture book recommendation in the form of a #booksnap. If you don't know what a book snap is, or what it looks like, I'm sharing a few of my students' creations with you! It is an awesome activity and highly engaging to students. The idea for this lesson originated with the #booksnaps done by Tara M. Martin, which you can read about HERE.
One thing that was so great about the #picturebooksnaps activity is that it gave student experts a chance to shine. Once a particular student mastered the photo uploading or perhaps the use of the drawing tool, they became the "table expert" and were able to tutor other students at their table. It was AWESOME! I purposefully taught certain students who often do not get to be leaders in other ways, how to do particular tricks or skills with Buncee. They were then the table expert in those areas and it was wonderful to see them embrace their new leadership role!
This activity also really empowers students to give honest reviews of the books they've read. Most of them loved their book selections, but not all. Students used star ratings (or other things like snowmen, etc.) to share what they really thought about the books they did for their #picturebooksnaps. It really gave them a voice. I love this.
Another thing we completed this month was our first-ever Picture Book Smackdown! We joined forces with two other schools for a Skype session where we shared our favorite picture books of the month and it was AWESOME! We had a few technical difficulties as we prepared for the week, but we were able to work all of those out with the help of our technical support people. On the day of the event, our Skype connection went off without a hitch!
Fellow media specialists, Diane Hassler of Cartersville Elementary School and Melissa Cairns of Fairyland Elementary School, did a wonderful job selecting students to share and in helping them prepare. The students seemed to have such a fun time and in our library, we had an audience of almost half of our 5th grade! I would be remiss without mentioning again Andy Plemmons of Barrow Elementary School who invented the smackdown concept and so graciously shares his resources with others so that they might begin smackdowns in their own libraries. I hope to share the full video of the event in the future, but for now, I'll just share some photos from the day!
And finally, I wanted to briefly say that the Picture Book Challenge was also a success. Although most students did not completely fill up their stamp cards, they were able to earn a lot of stamps and they gained a greater exposure to a variety of picture books.
I hate that it took me this long to share the final events of our Picture Book Month activities with you here, but hopefully it was worth the wait. Don't forget that if you want up-to-date happenings from The Happy Library, you should connect with us on Instagram and Facebook. I post there almost daily...or at least weekly. And that's a wrap!
This is a brief post and shameless plug for a product that I have praised over the last year or so. Buncee is an interactive presentation tool that can be accessed for free online. After using the free version for professional flyers and a teaching tool, I finally made the decision to purchase the classroom version to use in the library. It cost about $200 and I have enough accounts for all students in grades 4 and 5 at the moment.
Over the course of two weeks, I have helped students create their accounts (I probably could have done this as an import, but chose to have them set it up), learn the basics of choosing backgrounds, stickers, animations, etc., and I let them play around with the fun stuff like fidget spinners and slime. It has been a marvelously fun time and the teachers have been raving about it too!
The point has been to teach the kids how to use the tool in hopes of assigning them some cool library projects to complete with it. Enter monsters. I will be doing a blog post later today about my "Not-so-Scary Library" lessons for the month of October. For the 5th graders, they will be using Buncee to present research on monsters. I will save that project for a detailed post later, but just needed to share with you (and document for myself) that teaching Buncee was a two week process that proceeded the monstrously fun project.
If you've never used Buncee, I encourage you to give it a try! It is so flexible and you can totally get by with the free version for yourself. If you want to be able to give assignments and have students submit them, then look into the classroom version on their website. Also follow them HERE on Twitter. They are super supportive of classroom teachers and librarians. And if you are in the Northwest Georgia area on October 21, 2017, you could attend EdCamp Whitfield and hear about Buncee from me! I'll be sharing the tool that day.....and it is totally FREE to attend.
Like I said....shameless plug.
It is amazing what a little time with some awesome kids can do for one's spirit. After the less-than-stellar experience I had with my first book fair, I have just been craving time with the kids. I missed them! I decided to keep things really simple to start my week and it has paid off in huge dividends. It is only Wednesday and the librarian is finally in her happy place once again.
On Monday, I was expecting to have to move all of those huge cases out of the way so that my 1st and 2nd graders could get in the door and get to the Everybody Fiction section. I opened the doors to the library and (insert amazing angelic sounds here) all of those cases were gone! I stood there for just a minute wondering if someone had stolen the fair....but then I came to the realization that my precious custodian had taken pity on me and had used his time to move every single case into a storage room. This was no easy feat and the fact that he did this for me still gives me chill-bumps. I have a special treat in store for him later this week.
To make Monday even better, my new storytime rug was delivered about 15 minutes prior to my first class. I was super excited to see it and eagerly unrolled it so that my students had a sweet surprise on their first visit after the end of the book fair. It did not disappoint! They loved the bright colors and the variety of shapes. They felt extra special as they looked to see which square would be theirs for the day! It was so fun!
Then...the next great thing was that I planned to read The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. This was in lieu of all of my "big plans" for Dot Day (if you didn't read my post about scratching those plans, you can read it here). I wish that I had asked a teacher to take pictures or film one of the class readings because it was a HUGE HIT with the kids! I cannot believe how much they laughed and giggled....they had me laughing right along with them....and one little boy was literally rolling in the floor with laughter!!! One child commented, "I just love this silly book!" and as the story ended, it was met with cheers and a cry to read it again. It was so fun. And I was shocked by how many of the teachers had never heard the story. As a matter of fact, the laughter spilling from the library started drawing crowds as several passers-by peeked in to see what in the world was going on! It was a HOOT! Truly, good medicine for my spirit.
After the story, we did book check out and students had a few minutes to find a cozy spot to read. Of course, the new rug was a favorite.
Tuesday brought the third graders and keeping with my "less is more" theme for the week, I returned to centers. Most of the ones I put out were things I have used before, but there were a few new additions that were hits with the kids. The first was a Spirograph set. Do you remember these? I loved these as a kid and this summer I stumbled upon one at a dollar store. The kids were fascinated by the designs they could make by fitting the "gears" together.
Another center I added was a collection of farm animals from my youngest son. He used to collect the Schleich figures with a huge love for the farm collection. These are not cheap. They cost about $20+ each!!! It was a risk, but I decided to give it a try. The girls LOVED playing with the animals and gave them a lot of love. Most boys avoided the center like the plague. I think if I had added in some tractors or something, they might have liked it. But, it worked okay. We didn't rotate the centers this time. Students had book check out and then chose the center of their choice. I even let them pick their partners. It worked well.
That brings me to today...Wednesday. Today I had all of my 5th grade students and I jumped right in to my new Buncee Classroom subscription. I will need to do a separate post on my plans, but today was just a chance to get them all set up with accounts and let them learn the basics of adding text, stickers, and animation. It turned out that they had a blast. The kids and the teachers loved Buncee and it made my heart happy to share one of my all-time favorite tools for school.
I still have a few classes to see on Thursday and then I can really tackle some projects on my Friday flex-day, but the week has been a blessing. I feel things settling back in to a routine and am loving every minute with these wonderful kids.
After 7 years as a high school media specialist, I elected to take a position as an instructional technology specialist in a middle school. I had trained teachers and students on the use of technology when I was the librarian, after all. I thought it was my dream job. No more managing budgets, no more organizing spaces....no more checking in and out books, no more having to design engaging programs to promote reading....you get the picture. I guess I thought it would somehow be easier. I also saw media jobs being cut and thought this might be my "saving grace" at some point.
That is a dangerous way to think. I packed up and moved on in the middle of the summer and began the toughest year of my entire professional career. In some ways, being the instructional technology specialist was easier. I did have more flexibility. I did have time to train teachers. But unfortunately, I learned very quickly that my role was much more administrative than I realized. I realized that although I could do the work well, I had no passion for it. Long story short...I missed the library.
So, I am going to return to my work as a library media specialist. And it is going to be one very BIG adventure. I am not returning to middle-high, but instead and am taking the plunge into elementary school! I'm super excited, but also a little nervous. But I know it will be awesome.
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