As National Library Week comes to a close, I wanted to share the few things we did in The Happy Library to celebrate. I chose to keep things simple, as this week was our return from spring break and our week of review prior to state testing. Although I had all sorts of grandiose ideas, I went with the simple things and I think they were just right for us.
Like most of you, I ordered NLW posters that I placed on our library doors and I ordered the matching bookmarks which I placed at the self-check-out for students to pick up as they made book selections this week. I also ordered some adorable stickers that said "Happy Reader" and gave those out during each library lesson. I'm not sure that I have photos of any of this, but these little treasures were well received by students.
I also put the question "Why do you love your library?" up on our Wall of Wonder and the students and teachers took time to write answers all week long. The board looked a bit of a mess by the end of the week, but there were some really touching comments on the board and it was nice to step back and reflect on the community we have created in the library this year. With only 25 days of school remaining, I'm a little nostalgic at this point.
I also put out a 1000 piece puzzle that I tried to use once before. We were not able to finish it the first time, so I thought I would try again this week. The students and teachers LOVED this, but alas, we still didn't get it completed. I think this particular puzzle is simply too challenging for our age groups, so I've been inspired to buy some new puzzles that will be more appropriate for our kiddos and place them all over the library next week...I'm calling that adventure "De-Stress from the Test" and kids can earn a pass to the library to work on puzzles for 20 minutes after testing is done. It's nice to see that a little idea can spark an even better one.
The library lessons this week consisted of a read-aloud for students in K-3 and silent-sustained-reading for students in 4-5. Our PreK students had a fun "beach" themed lesson. I brought in beach towels and put a beach sounds video on my board. We listened to the crashing of the waves, lay on our beach towels, and read all sorts of books about summer fun and water (they've been studying water and rain this past week in class). This beach lesson was such fun. And easy to pull off.
Finally, I celebrated our library workers this week. They had been having a little competition to see who could have the neatest shelving section, so I told them I would tally points and select a winning group to have Krispy Kreme donuts. Little did they know the prize was for everyone! They were so excited! I was shocked to know that many of them had never eaten a KK donut before. I forget sometimes. They relaxed with me, ate donuts, and talked about why they loved working in the library so much...and a few gave me hugs which is always well-received. It was a perfect ending to a very simple, but rewarding, National Library Week.
My 4th and 5th grade students have been reviewing literary genres over the past month and we've been using Buncee to record our learning. Students were given access to my Buncee presentation so that they could look back over instructions and see samples of what they were to create. You can see the title slide of my presentation below.
As students finished charting four types of genres they wanted to learn more about, they had the option of creating a promotional poster for a book in our library that fit one of the genres. The poster is to serve two purposes: (1) prove that you know why that particular book fits in that particular genre and (2) promote the book so that another student might want to read it!
I want to mention that I have blogged a bit about this project before in THIS post. The students have been very engaged during this entire process; practically 100% almost every session! But keep in mind that I am their librarian. Students are not getting a grade/assessment for their work and they don't necessarily see it "as important as" what their ELA teacher might assign them. I say that because some of the work that is being submitted is awesome! They could have just blown off the project, but I think most of them really took it to heart. I'm really proud of some of the work the students have done!
Below is one student submission. If you hover and click the arrow on the right of the poster slide, it will reveal the chart slide that documents the student's research on four genres.
One thing that worked really well for this assignment is that I used a shared Buncee presentation for all instructions and examples. As we worked on the project each week, I went in and added a "check mark" over the directions so that students would know where we had left off. The shared presentation also made it possible for students to work on the assignment outside of the library time if they wanted to do so.
Now that students are getting closer to having a completed project (2 slides: one that is the chart and one that is a promotional book poster), they are beginning to submit to our Buncee Board in order to get some feedback. I think this will be the most valuable piece of the project! Students can give constructive/positive commentary on each other's work. This also allows me a chance to give students a little hint here and there before the final "cut off" on submissions. I'm offering some Reading Counts points to students who do an excellent job in following all directions for the project, so they seem to be excited about that little token. I also really like that we will have a board of book recommendations for students to hear from their peers about fun book choices!
If you aren't using the Buncee Boards to allow students to publish and comment on each other's work, why not?! I love that it is empowering students as creators of content and that they get feedback from their peers. This has been a worthwhile project....and teachers are now asking for a Buncee tutorial! That happens next week after school. I can't wait! Happy Bunceeing!
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!
Don't you just love it when things go right?! That is exactly how I felt about today's library activities! I had such fun with students today and one of the best parts of the day was the Wall of Wonder. If you don't remember, I posted at the beginning of 2018 that I was choosing "wonder" as my one word of the year for all things library. I started by creating my Wall of Wonder and was so excited to get going with the questions when...the snow and ice hit Georgia. Needless to say, we haven't had many days of school this month and I've not been on any regular schedule with classes, so I just didn't even start with the wall. It has been sitting blank. And bugging me.
So today, I chose to write #welovethelibrarywednesday and prompted the first class of the day by telling them it was okay to write on the board as they were lining up. One student asked, "what do we write?" Before I could answer, another student said "Write why you love the library on a Wednesday!" Well, that is all it took...the kids were pumped and quickly wrote their responses. As did each class that followed throughout the day.
At the end of a long day, I stepped back to read some of their responses. It was both touching and bit funny! I saw a lot of thoughts about loving books and reading and a few about loving centers. But the best surprise was seeing that they love the librarian too. It was so moving...
So many things happen that cause us to doubt ourselves. I struggle with comparing myself to others on social media or Pinterest. I sometimes forget, until I'm gently reminded, that it isn't about all of that other stuff. What we do in the library is really, quite simply, about the kids. And today I was able to give them a voice. A simple way to express their thoughts and feelings. And I feel pretty darn good about that.
What a perfect phrase for The Happy Library! Many of us will use January to think about how our personal lives and our libraries can be better in the new year and I am no different. I have a lot of major changes happening in my life in 2018 and it took a conversation with a dear friend to remind me that those things may be amplifying my need to simplify, cut back, and pare down on some things.
I'm not one for making (or sticking with) New Year's Resolutions, so I decided to do what Tina Bietler does....the One Little Word. If you aren't familiar with the One Little Word, you can find more HERE, and I also encourage you to follow Tina on her YouTube channel HERE. Basically, in Tina's recent vlog, she shared her word for 2018 and it really made me think about doing this for myself. Then, I thought....I need to do this for the library program too! If I had one word for the library, then I would have a sort-of compass for each thing I chose to add, take away, or implement. Perfect, right?!
So, what word did I come up with? WONDER. I know this word has been all over the library world in recent months due to the popularity of the novel by the same name and the movie release, but that had absolutely nothing to do with the choice. I have noticed that the students in my Title I school simply do not use much imagination. They have a very hard time thinking beyond the concrete. I want students to stretch their imaginative thinking! What better way to practice "wonder" than in the library?
Step 1. Scour Pinterest
I'm always on Pinterest. It is a great source of inspiration and ideas, but sometimes it can make me feel a little "less than" in the creativity department. I have to be careful not to let myself start comparing my work to that of others. Anyone else end up on this slippery slope sometimes? Anyway, I found a TON of cute ideas for "wonder" in the library. One idea that I fell in love with was a "wall of wonder" and there are so many ways it can be implemented. Here are a few of the ideas I found.
Step 2. Wall of Wonder
I ordered a dry erase board for about $50 and had it mounted by our district's maintenance department. They were very quick to get it up! Then, I printed lettering from a TpT purchase (same as I shared in THIS post) onto bright card stock that I have used throughout the library all year. I did add the hot pink because I just wanted to bring in more color. You can read more about my library color scheme HERE. The final step was to print some question marks and thought/speech bubbles to add a little pop. Very easy.
If my wonder begins to wane during the year, I can always use the space to promote books! I found this cute idea somewhere...I cannot locate the source, but it is awesome....
Step 3. Plan
There are actually TWO things I did to plan for more wonder in the library this school year. The first was to plan how to use the Wall of Wonder. I think I'm going to start with an introduction for the students and I will post a question on the board. Then, students who are exhibiting good library behaviors will be allowed to get an Expo marker and answer/respond/doodle about the question. We will see how this goes.
The second step in my planning process is the bigger picture. As I worked on a few lesson plans over the break, I decided to break my monthly library schedule down by weekly topics. I may need to write about this in a different post (to give the details), but basically each week of the month has a focus that will enable me to cut through the chaos of being a first-time elementary school librarian. I found last semester that I was sort-of "all over the place" with my lessons. They were sometimes a big hit (like the Creepy Pair of Underwear lesson HERE) and sometimes they were total flops with no focus or impact. So, to simplify...I feel like I'm rambling at this point.....week one of every month will be a library skills week, week two of every month we will focus on building a community (think diversity), and so on. I created a little lesson planning sheet to help me map this out a bit. Still tweaking though.
And that's it. That is how I plan to start implementing a little more wonder into The Happy Library this semester! Here's to hoping your library has a little wonder, too!
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!
It was a busy week in The Happy Library! Monday started out with the long-awaited solar eclipse and it did not disappoint. Our young students were not allowed to view the eclipse outside, but did get to watch via Discovery Education's live stream. I gave certified glasses to all of our staff and they were able to sneak out of class to take a peek at the eclipse. It was as much fun watching them act like kids as it was to watch the eclipse! Even my principal (in the pink jacket) was giddy as she tried to take selfies with the sun.
We finished up our last week of the solar eclipse centers that I shared with you in the last post. The kids still enjoyed them, but I could tell that the excitement of it all had worn off a bit. Two weeks of rotation was just enough to make this a successful activity. My third graders begged to read instead of visiting centers, which made my heart melt, so many of them chose to just sit in our quiet area or at the tables and read....it was awesome. Notice that they are loving the book buddies to read with, too.
It was also the week of the library volunteer, meaning that when I invited students to come and help in the morning, I was overrun with almost 40 students!!! Lesson learned. I had to create a little application and several teachers have stepped up to help me make selections. The 4th and 5th graders have stepped up as clear leaders. I even have a few 3rd graders who I'm going to let help with dusting, straightening, and such. I'll do a separate post on my library volunteer program once I work out the kinks. The good news in all of this is that the students want to be in the library! They are taking ownership of the space and that means so much to me. It is certainly a step in the right direction for our library program.
And a final note about the collection. If you have been following me on Instagram, you know that I'm struggling with this aged book collection. I completed a collection analysis that revealed the average age of library books in our collection is 20 years old! About 67% of the collection is nonfiction...meaning we have some great nonfiction titles but very little to offer our fiction fans. There are only three sections of fiction books to the six sections of nonfiction.
I'm also at odds with the fact that there is little in the form of quality for our youngest readers. The entirety of offerings for our newest readers can fit onto one cart and most of it is very outdated. I shared all of this with our literacy committee and the principal. As most of you know, people get nervous when you start talking about weeding a collection, but it is necessary. I've placed the first book order and can't wait to see the kids faces when the new books are out. I'm going to make a VERY BIG deal about this. More info to come...
And with the outdated collection comes the cardboard magazine box signage. This way of labeling our shelves looks good when no one is using the library. But...after one or two classes have touched the books, it is a hot mess! These things are not sturdy enough to withstand constant handling and are typically falling down or crushed in by the end of the day. Plus...they don't do much for helping the books stay "in line" on the shelves.
I am on a mission to solve this problem. But, to be honest, I'm really wanting to genrefy. It is becoming evident that students do not know how to find what they are looking for. And with my students, they almost always ask "where are the mysteries?" or "do you have any funny books?"
I would also love to get some feedback on how all of you shelve your series. As you can see, my graphic novels are shelved in with my regular fiction, as are any other series. The signage is confusing for me, so I know that the students must struggle with it. I'd love to put my graphic novels in their own location. What about series? Do you guys use bins? How do handle this in your space? Let me know!
So, that's my recap of this past week. I learned a lot. My To-Do list got longer. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.
After being on the road for two weeks, I'm finally home. And I've taken a day or two to reflect on what has transpired over the last two weeks. The first week of June, I was traveling with my family for some rest and relaxation in a delightful place called Santa Rosa Beach. For anyone familiar with 30-A, you might know that it is off the beaten path and the most delightful stretch of beach! We rented a beautiful two-story beach house with my parents and the trip was amazing. We even had a secret garden by which to access our little piece of sand. It was heavenly.
Fast-forward to the end of the beach vacation and my hubby dropped me off at my folks house to spent one night before I headed down to Peachtree City to participate in the professional development highlight of the year for all Georgia librarians......Summer Institute. If you've never been, I wonder why? It is low-key and jammed full of sessions taught by and for school library media specialists. The keynote was delivered by Audrey Church, President of the American Association of School Librarians and our closing keynote was the phenomenal storytelling of author Carmen Agra Deedy...the Library Dragon did make an appearance.
After three days of Summer Institute, I took a one-day break (again at my parent's home) and then drove to Grantville to participate in Summer Camp for Media Specialists with Andy Plemmons of Expect the Miraculous fame. If you have never met Andy, heard Andy, or read Andy's blog....get to it! He is such an inspiration for media specialists!
I cannot summarize the wealth of information I learned or the inspiration I received over the last week of professional development, but I can share a few take-aways that I think are going to end up driving my work over the course of the next school year.
Advocacy was the focus of Audrey Church's keynote at Summer Institute. Advocacy is at the heart of Carmen Agra Deedy's love of libraries, books, and the heart of stories. Andy shared a quote that bears repeating.
"If your work isn't online, then it doesn't exist!" --Austin Kleon
And he is right. I want to be sure that I am advocating for my library, my school, and my students. And I can't wait for someone else to do it. Thus...the blog. It will be a big part of the coming year. Not just as a diary or reflection piece, but as a voice. My voice. And I want to be sure that someone hears it.
Support the Reader.
There were so many wonderful sessions I attended at Summer Institute. I wish I could re-cap all of them here, but I can't. If you ever get the chance to meet or hear from the following people, do it. They were the best of the best, in my opinion, at Summer Institute.
The final take-away is really the biggest and most challenging one. Andy is a genius at this. He works tirelessly to give students a voice in the library. He shared with us the famous Barrow Peace Prize project that empowers students to speak and share their work with the world. He shared the story of his student budget committee that gets a portion of his library budget each year to make book selections, survey other students, sift through data, and eventually spend $1500+ on books for the media center. I'm not sure if I will do the same projects that Andy shared, but I will strive to give my students a voice in our library. I want them to be members, not just visitors. I even have a little "theme" in the works that I will share in a later post. The key is.....give students a voice.
I know this was long, but I just had to share my thoughts. It can be overwhelming to get SO much information and SO much inspiration all at once. I have enough ideas to keep me going for another three years, at least! But I hope that in summarizing and reflecting, I will find just what I need for The Happy Library. Until next time...
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