Fine Tuning Genrefication with Custom Signs

One of the things I’ve loved the most about organizing our library by genre has been the ability to customize the experience for readers. If a section of books isn’t working for how readers find books, then it can be changed. If kids keep asking for a kind of book that is mixed into lots of sections, they you could pull those books into a new section.  I’m always watching and listening to the words I’m having to repeat over and over as well as the questions that readers are asking about where books are located.

One noticing this past year was how I was always having to explain that the “E” section or “Everybody” section is where picture books live.  The “F” or the “Fiction” section is where chapter books live.  Students would search the library catalog and see that something was located in “Sports Fiction”, but that didn’t really translate to the sports chapter book area to them.  I decided to fine tune this in Destiny to make searching more user-friendly for readers.

I simply went into each subcategory in Destiny and changed it so that it specifically said “chapter”, “picture”, or “information” next to each genre category. Now, when a student searches, they will see a book like Ghost by Jason Reynolds is in the “Sports Chapter” section.

I also wanted to improve the signs in the library to help students see which sections of the library are “chapter”, “picture”, and “information”.  I started browsing around online looking for existing signs or even custom signs that would be helpful and appealing in the library, but I didn’t really see anything I liked. Then, I had the idea that some custom signs could be made using fabric designed by illustrators. I looked at Mo Willems, Eric Carle, and other illustrator fabric, but the fabric that I kept coming back to was the fabric designed by illustrator Christian Robinson.

He visited our school a few years ago to celebrate the release of School’s First Day of School, so we have a special connection with him. His fabric also features a diverse group of individuals which represents both our school, our community, and the books we strive to have in our collection.

I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any connections with someone who would be willing to work on custom signs for our library using Christian Robinson’s fabric. Several people gave helpful information to think about in designing the signs, but then I got a wonderful email from Barrow parent, Amy Norris, offering to help.

This began a string of emails and conversations to design the 3 signs. Amy offered her design expertise as well as her sewing talents to create the signs. We met in person and sketched out what the signs might look like as 3 rectangular hanging quilts. Then, she went home and created a mock up of several options.  I was amazed at her attention to detail and thoughts about maximizing the fabric to cut down on cost. I picked out the design that I thought would work best and ordered the fabric.

Amy jumped right into designing the signs. She was so enthusiastic about this project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to create our signs. She sent little progress updates all along the way and even helped me think through how the signs would hang. I originally was going to use a quilt or curtain rod, but we decided that it was light enough to just use a wooden dowel.

As soon as Amy had the signs finished, she delivered them to school and they were absolutely beautiful. Each section’s word was created in a different color and the Christian Robinson fabric stood out beautifully. Now it was my turn to get the signs installed. I went to Lowes and purchased eye screws, wooden dowels, chain, and s hooks. I cut down the dowels to the length of each sign, and put each quilt onto its rod using the sleeve on the back.

Now, each sign is flying high in our library to help kids see where our 3 main areas of the library are. Since they hang by a single chain, they freely rotate with the gentle air currents. It’s a simple change that I really should have done much sooner, but the library is always evolving, and sometimes a small change is just the thing that was needed to make the collection easier to navigate for readers. I’m so thankful for the many talents that exist in our community, and this project once again reminded me that so many people are out there waiting to support the work happening in schools, but many times we have to put our work and requests out there to help them connect to those opportunities. A huge “Thank You” goes out to Amy Norris for taking the time to create these beautiful signs that we will enjoy for years to come.

 

It’s Time to Vote for the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize: Who Will Win?

Our 2nd graders have been hard at work learning about 4 civil rights leaders and preparing a project that has become known as the Barrow Peace Prize.

A few details about what has happened before the final products you now see:

  • After learning about people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, students brainstormed a list of character traits that are needed in order to win the Barrow Peace Prize.
  • Students researched 1 of 4 civil rights leaders using a Google doc from Google Classroom, Pebble Go, Encyclopedia Britannica, Destiny Discover, and books.  All research was done in the library.
  • In art, students created a watercolor image of their civil rights leader.

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Barrow Peace Prize works of art are finishing up.

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

  • In writing, students crafted a persuasive essay about why their civil rights leaders should win the Barrow Peace Prize (named after our school).
  • Using Flipgrid, students recorded their essays and art.

Now, the students are ready for you!  They need you to visit their videos, listen to & like their work, and most importantly vote on which of the 4 civil rights leaders should win the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize.  In late February, we will connect with Flipgrid via Skype and announce the winner.

Please share this project far and wide so that we can get as many votes as possible.  All videos and the voting form are linked together on this Smore:

https://www.smore.com/dk4z8-2018-barrow-peace-prize

Voting ends on February 23, 2018 at 12PM EST!

 

 

I Read Because: A Book Tasting Library Orientation

I’m always trying to maximize what happens during library orientation each year. This year, I asked myself what I really hoped students experienced on their very first visit. Yes, there are many expectations and rules I could go over, but what message do I send if that’s how I spend our time on day 1. Instead, I wanted to focus on the power of reading and give students time to explore the genres of the library.

As students entered, I played a video from Scholastic’s “Open a World of Possible” site. The video had students sharing reasons that they read.  Then, I asked students to think about why they read.

I shared a couple of reasons I read. One of those reasons was to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes. I shared books like Wonder and How to Steal a Dog, which gave me a chance to wrestle with something that is different from my own life.  I also talked about escaping to another land when I need a break from our world.

I also loved that I had teacher voices to share. At the beginning of the year, teachers recorded Flipgrid videos to introduce themselves. They shared their hopes for the year as well as books that inspire them. I pulled these books and showed them to students with the teacher names posted on the front of the book.  I wanted to establish at the very beginning that we are a community of readers and we read for many reasons.

Last year was our first year with a genrefied library. It went really well, but there were some things that I knew I needed to do to help students better understand how the library is now organized. I wanted students to realize that they could spend more time at the library shelves exploring actual books and less time on the computer searching in Destiny.

I pulled a few books from some of our genre sections and put them in baskets or piles on tables. Students split into small groups and rotated from table to table every couple of minutes. The purpose was to sample the books in the basket to get a feel for that genre. It was also to show students that when they spent time with the books, they found things they weren’t even expecting to find.  Students could keep any books that they found in the baskets and I replenished them throughout the classes.

We ended our time by thinking about how the experience felt as well as taking a look at times when the computer is actually useful for finding a book.

Students then checked out the books they needed. My new rule about checking out books is to check out what you need and what you can keep up with. Some students checked out 2 books and others checked out 6. I never want readers to feel like they are limited by a number that I set.

I can’t wait to see how our year goes as we grow our community of readers.  On a side note, I set up a station in the library where students can listen to the teacher Flipgrids and respond to any teachers. I love seeing students interact with Flipgrid and share responses with our community.

 

AASL Social Media Superstars

Social media has connected me with so many amazing educators since I started using it many years ago.  I had no idea when I started using Twitter at a conference that it would connect me with so many people who I consider to be great friends as well as colleagues.  Today, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not share on social media. Showing our work on social media allows us to define for the world what happens in school libraries. Through social media we inspire one another, push one another’s thinking, and connect the voices of our students.  Social media has developed strong relationships with authors, developers, and vendors as well, and each connection means more opportunities to empower student voices around the globe.

I was surprised to learn on Sunday that I was nominated for the American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar Award in the category of Sensational Student Voice. Not only was I nominated, I was one of the three finalists.  The other two superstars are Stony Evans and Beth Redford, who both doing amazing work with their students.  Student voice is a main foundation of our library program.  I want students to have opportunities in our library to know that their ideas and creations matter in the world.  I want them to see that their work can have an impact within our school but far beyond as well.  To be nominated in this particular category is a huge honor to me.

One of the most exciting things about this particular award is that it showcases to the world many individual leaders in the world of school libraries.  These are people who share out of the goodness of their hearts to show their work, inspire others, collaborate beyond walls, advocate for libraries, and get student work out to an authentic audience.

If you are looking for some people to follow on various platforms of social media, this is one great place to start.  Many of you will probably find people on this list who are already inspiring you.  AASL is asking that people give public testimonies for the nominees on this list.  This is a great opportunity for you to share stories about these individuals that they might not even know about. Many times I’m inspired by someone’s work, but I forget to tell them in detail about what their social media post caused me to do.

There are many names that are missing from this list, but I’m hopeful to see many of those names as this tradition continues in future years.  Thank you AASL for this highlight of some of the important work happening in libraries.

I’m slowly making my way through the list to leave comments, and I invite you to do the same.  You have until April 14th.  The final “winners” in each category will be announced in a webinar on April 27 for School Library Month.

 

You can visit all of the superstars at this link.

Using the I-PICK Strategy in the Library

Our teachers LOVE the I-PICK strategy for finding good fit books.  I must say that it is a strategy that just makes sense.  It doesn’t focus on one aspect of locating a book that matches a reader and it adjusts to whatever the purpose is for finding a book whether it’s independent reading or reading with a partner.

The I-PICK strategy stands for:

  • I choose my book
  • Purpose: Why am a I choosing a book today?
  • Interest:  What are the things that I like or want to learn about?  What holds my attention?
  • Comprehend:  Do I understand what’s going on by reading the words and pictures?
  • Know:  Do I know enough of the words to understand what’s going on?

Students often learn this strategy in their classrooms, and I typically do a follow-up lesson in the library to build a connection that this is a strategy that goes beyond the classroom.  This year, it seems I’m doing this lesson with almost every grade.  I’m trying to build connection even beyond the school during our time together.

We start with a quick brainstorm of all of the places where we can find books.  Students have named places such as school library, public library, bookstores (Barnes & Noble and Avid Bookshop), yard sales, thrift shops, and online.  Then, I shared a story about my own visit to the bookstore this summer to choose a book.  I wove in several things that I see students do, but honestly, that I also do.  After each bullet point that I shared, we paused and asked: “Does that make this a good fit book for me?”  The answer was usually “no, not completely” because each of these bullets is a piece of the puzzle of finding a good fit book and they all work together in order to make the puzzle complete.

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  • I went to Avid Bookshop to choose a chapter book, so I focused on that section of the store
  • I pulled a book off of the shelf that had a red cover because that’s my favorite color.  (The book happened to be Circus Mirandus)
  • I took the jacket off because there was a picture hiding underneath and I started to notice things like the flying girl, the mysterious man in a jacket and hat, the tent with a sun on it, etc.
  • I read the inside jacket flap about the book
  • I read the first three chapters of the book because they were short
  • All along the way, I stayed interested in the book.  I felt connected to what it was about.  I understood what was going on.
  • I bought the book and loved it!

I don’t want to pretend that the I-PICK strategy is a linear process because it’s not.  I don’t go from beginning to end of this strategy every time I choose a book.  I often bounce around in the process.  However, most of these pieces are usually there when I pick a book.  I don’t pick a book because it’s on my Lexile level.  I don’t choose a book because of how many points I get for the book.  I don’t choose a book because someone puts it on a list and tells me that I have to read it.  I choose my book because I’m genuinely interested in it and it speaks to my personality as a reader.  I think the I-PICK strategy surfaces some of the steps that readers often do and puts them into an easy to remember formula for readers to think about as they select books.

The purpose can always change.  Sometimes a reader may be looking for a book to read with a family member, so the independent comprehension or “knowing the words” doesn’t matter as much.  The interest step is always there no matter the purpose.  I want student to always seek books that interest them or spark their curiosity.

After our quick brainstorm and bookshop story on the carpet.  I moved students to tables.  On the tables are stacks of books pulled from all areas of the library.  The idea is for students to practice the IPICK strategy in a small setting first.  I know that not every student is going to find a book that interests them on the tables and that is totally ok.  I do let them move from table to table if they aren’t finding an interest.  Most students do find something because I choose such a variety, but some just don’t connect to what they see.  The teachers and I roam around and ask students about what is catching their eye and what they’ve done to see if it’s a good fit.  We might listen to them read a bit, talk about their interests, or share something they’ve learned from the book.

The next part is my favorite.  I ask students about what else interests them or what else they hope to take with them from the library today.  This is where I really get to focus the library on their individual interests.  Sometimes it’s very broad such as “a picture book” but sometimes it is extremely specific like “Pete the Cat”.  No matter what they say I direct them to a part of the library with their shelf marker to start searching for that good fit book using the IPICK strategy.

In the end, many students do in fact find books that fit their “reading level”, but more importantly find a book that they are excited about as they leave the library.  Some students still leave the library with a 300 page book even though they are reading on a lower level, but to me, it’s part of the process.  I can continue to share strategies for choosing books, talk about purpose, and most importantly help readers make a connection to the books that truly interest them.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step in how we each choose the books that we read.

 

 

Finch Robots are Coming to Our Library Makerspace in Fall 2015

It is officially summer in the Barrow Media Center, so things will be a bit more quiet here on the blog for a few weeks.  Summer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and dreaming up ideas for the upcoming school year.  I’m excited to announce one of a few summer announcements that will be coming your way.  Our library makerspace will feature 12 Finch Robots by BirdBrain Technologies during the 2015-2016 school year.  The robots are on loan to us for the entire school year, and this loan comes with the possibility of these robots being a permanent donation to our space.

A few months ago BirdBrain Technologies announced an expansion of their Finch Robot loan program to include libraries.  I immediately contacted them to see if school libraries were included in this opportunity or only public libraries.  They encouraged me to apply, so it didn’t take me long to put together a proposal for these robots to become a part of our makerspace for use within the curriculum as well as our exploration time.  I’m also dreaming up some fun events for hour of code in December that will involve students, teachers, and families.  These robots will of course be a part of that as well.

We are excited to start exploring suggestions for using the Finch on their site.

What exactly is a Finch?  This video explains it best in three minutes.

I can’t wait to see what students are able to accomplish with this new addition to our makerspace.  For now, here’s the official press release from BirdBrain Technologies.  I’ll share what we do when the robots arrive in August.

Finches Land at David C. Barrow Elementary

David C. Barrow Elementary has been selected to participate in the 2015­2016 Finch robot loan program. The program will provide the school free access to 12 Finch robots for the 2015-­2016 school year, allowing over 600 students, teachers, and families exposure to an engrossing and interactive tool for learning computational thinking. BirdBrain Technologies, creator of the Finch, offers the loans to inspire young coders across the country, especially those who might not ordinarily have the opportunity to program a robot. The Finch robot is a product of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab. The Finch is designed to support an engaging approach to the art of computer science from preschool to college, with support for more than a dozen age­appropriate programming languages and environments. During 2014 Birdbrain Technologies loaned out hundreds of Finch robots to school districts across the country, and reached over 15,000 students.

1936 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

P: 888­371­6161 | F: 412­283­9134

info@birdbraintechnologies.com

Developing Library Goals to Carry Into Every Collaborative Meeting

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Last year, a book impacted my life, my library program, and found its way into so many conversations with students, teachers, and librarians.  “Expect the Miraculous” came to be our mantra in the Barrow Media Center thanks to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  It was all thanks to p. 130-131.

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This summer, as I sat down to develop our library program goals for the 2014-2015 school year, that mantra of expecting the miraculous everyday was still a big part of my thinking.  However, this summer I carried so much more with me as I reflected on goals.

I had my experiences and conversations with the #Wandoo5 at Evanced Games in Indianapolis.

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I had the moonshot thinking and action plan of the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher.

graduation

 

I had the Invent to Learn Workshop with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.

Photo credit: Sue Levine

 

I had numerous experiences at the ISTE 2014 conference including a zombie fighting keynote from Jennifer LaGarde, empowering talks from George Couros and Todd Nesloney, and inspiring keynotes from Ashley Judd and Kevin Carroll about the importance of each child’s story and the importance of play.

The more I reflected on my summer professional learning experiences the more I realized that I wanted this year’s goals to be different.  In the past, I’ve made big goals about developing the participatory culture in our library, but I’ve also made specific goals about the collection.  While the collection is important, it is not my primary focus for the library program.  I was reminded of a question in Jennifer LaGarde’s keynote about the Dewey decimal system and her answer of “who cares”.  Who cares if I have specific goals about the library collection?  What cares if the 300’s have the recommended number of books?  Who cares what the average age of the biographies is?  The heart of the program isn’t the physical collection.  The heart of the program is the students, the teachers, the families, and the community.  The heart of the program is the opportunities that they have through the library.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m abandoning the collection or that I don’t have goals about the collection.  It’s just that my primary goals of the library aren’t about the collection.

I want goals that I can carry with me into every collaborative meeting that I attend.  I want goals that I can put up on the walls of the library and add tangible evidence throughout the year of how they are impacting the students, teachers, and families in our school.  I want goals that support our school and district goals as well as reflect what is being talked about on a global level.

This week, I will share these goals with our faculty during pre-planning, but they’ve already faced their first test.  During our first day of pre-planning our principal set the stage for our year.  I must say that it was one of the most inspiring opening days that I’ve ever been a part of because it wasn’t filled with duties and responsibilities, mandates, and daunting changes.  Of course, all of those things  will be present this year, but our principal chose to focus on how we can value each child’s story, how we can add to and enhance that story by what we offer at school, and how we can develop a vision and mission for our school that represents what we truly believe in education.  As I listened and as I talked with other teachers, I was already carrying my goals with me, and I must say that I felt really good about the 4 goals that I’ve chosen.

These are the goals that are based on the themes that consistently surfaced in all of my reading, professional learning, conversations, and reflections.

Goal 1:  To provide students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share

blokify printing (2)

I chose these verbs carefully because I think that the order matters.  So often, we feel the time crunch in education and I think we often jump to having students make something with so many detailed requirements that they don’t have time to dream about what they hope they could make or have time to mess around, fail, and learn from those failures.  As I plan projects with teachers this year, I want to intentionally plan spaces for students to pause and wonder and have time to explore before they actually create a final product that is shared with an authentic audience.  I want us to think carefully about how we “show our work” just as Austin Kleon outlines in his books.  He says, “If your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.”  I’ll be thinking carefully about how we give students opportunities to create and also how they share their process as well as their final product.

Within this goal, I have subgoals about the number of large-scale projects I will do with each grade level, the development of our library makerspace, the collaborative relationships with our community makerspace and tech startup, and embedded digital citizenship.

Goal 2:  To engage in global thinking and global collaboration

Global TL logo

I can’t even count the number of times that global thinking and collaboration came up this summer.  I feel like so many people around the world are primed and ready for this endeavor during the upcoming year.  Last year, our library was more connected than it has ever been through authors, guest speakers, reading events, and peer feedback through Skype and Google Hangouts.  Even though we felt connected, most of our work was projects or single connections.  I would love to see global thinking and collaboration become more evident in what we do through long-term collaborative relationships around the globe and authentic questions and projects that matter to the world.  Within this goal are the many networks that I will be a part of this year including GlobalTL, Connected Classroom, Skype in the Classroom, and my Twitter PLN.  I’m inspired by the work of Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano and will look at her work as we plan this year.

As teachers and I plan this year, we will ask ourselves how we are being global thinkers and how we are connecting our students beyond the walls of our school.

Goal 3:  To empower student voice

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When I thought about this goal, I was reminded of many stories shared by George Couros at ISTE including the story of a little boy who made a video where he overjoyed by getting one “like” on a social media post.  I was reminded of Todd Nesloney sharing about his math fair and how he asked students to “wow” him by showing their math knowledge.  Students did more that “wow” him.  They shared their passions in life, involved their families, and were empowered.  I was reminded of how we all want to be heard and feel like we’ve made a difference.  As I plan with teachers this year, I want to ask how we are empowering each student by allowing them to share their passions and feel that their voice is heard.  In the library, I will continue to explore this as well by giving students opportunity to document our year, make decisions about library resources, share their passions through contests and displays, pass on their expertise through co-teaching experiences, and listening closely for opportunities I don’t even know about.

Goal 4:  To support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families

It’s no secret that the more you read the better reader you become.  You of course need to have the skills and strategies to accompany that time commitment.  You also need access to reading that matters to you.  This year I want to be more intentional about supporting reading curiosities to match students, teachers, and families to the kinds of stories and information they are looking for.  I also want to be more intentional about documenting that commitment to reading.  Our library is not the only source of reading materials, so I want to continue to build a collaborative relationship with the public library, local bookstores, and other community resources to all work together toward a common goal.

This year, we will explore an Evanced tool called Wandoo Reader.  This tool will give students a portal for documenting their reading lives through tracking book titles and minutes read.  Along the way, there will be challenges issued to students, and within Wandoo Reader, they will earn pieces to a robot that they will customize.  I hope that this tool will offer a level of engagement for tracking reading as well as encourage students to spend more time reading in multiple ways from multiple locations.

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Our planning will begin this week and I look forward to carrying these goals with me, trying them out, and see what miraculous things happen this school year.

What are YOUR library goals?  I invite you to think about them in new ways and share.