Facing Barriers in the Library: Self Check Out

Most people know of my motto of expecting the miraculous, but even when you expect the miraculous, it doesn’t mean that you don’t face frustrations, challenges, and barriers. What it does mean is that you don’t give up in the face of a challenge.

Several years ago, our library assistants were cut when education funding was cut due to the economy, and they’ve not been added back. When that happened, I had to examine our library and think about what I could let go of and what I wouldn’t compromise. One of the things I let go of was worrying about whether every book was checked in or checked out correctly. I also somewhat let go of library checkout limits since I really couldn’t watch that closely.

Since students in grades 2-5 visit the library alone in addition to their library lessons, I focused on those students to learn how to do self check in and self check out.  I setup a computer dedicated to check in and a computer dedicated to check out. I also recorded sounds such as “stop. check screen.” and “hold shelf please” to prompt students to look to see if there was an error message on the screen or to put the book aside for the next student.

When students check in their books, they simply scan them and then put them on a return cart in any order. When students check out, they type in their student id, press enter, scan their books, and scan a reset barcode. I have instructions printed and taped on each screen if students forget the steps.

When assistants were cut, I also had to start a volunteer program. The main job of volunteers was to shelve books, process books I cataloged, repair damaged books, and help prep for special events. It was slow to start and then grew. Some years we have many volunteers and others are a struggle. This year some of our most dedicated and dependable volunteers have faced some hardships in their lives, which means that there are days where no volunteers come in to do any of the things I’ve counted on in the past.

All of this is to say, I’ve hit a wall. I’ve found myself running back and forth in the library trying to juggle all the library circulation pieces in the air while teaching classes, but they just keep crashing around me. I often have to stop and take a deep breath and try to not pull my hair out. Here are a few of the things that have been happening:

  • students who return books, scan them and try to put them in the closest part of the return cart rather than find an empty space. Books pile up and end up spilling all over the floor.
  • students get in a frenzy of grabbing books off the shelves (a good problem) but as space opens up, entire shelves of books fall out in the floor multiple times per day.
  • large groups of students come to check out books, have trouble taking turns at computers, and end up logging the computer out or closing Destiny.
  • these same groups of students are yelling across the library for my help at the same time and again I’m running back and forth trying to put out fires about logistics

I won’t keep going with this list because I don’t want to complain, but the thing that is truly frustrating me, is that I haven’t been able to have quality conversations about books because I spend so much time just trying to keep the library running. That’s what really made me pause and reflect about what I could do to support students with the logistics of check out so that I could have more meaningful conversations with them about books.

The first thing I tried was sending out a short Google form to students for ideas of how to improve the check in experience. Many students responded with how students needed to be more responsible. This helped me realize this wasn’t just something that was about me. I had some amazing insights about changing the way students return books. One of those was returning the books in stacks rather than standing them vertically since many students were trying to do that anyway. We tried this one out for a week but when a student wanted a book in the middle of a return stack, it just resulted in even more books in the floor.

Next, I decided to make myself an observer and stand back and watch what was getting in our way. I made a list that I add to as I see new things. Flipgrid now has a feature called “Shorts” where you can use Flipgrid’s camera to record a video up to 3 minutes and upload it with its own link without actually creating a Flipgrid topic. I love this because it saves me the hassle of creating a video and then having to upload it to Youtube and also allows me take advantage of the camera tools such as whiteboard, stickers, text, and filters if I need them.

I used Flipgrid shorts to make a video for each “problem” or “clarification” that I identified. At first, I was sharing these in our daily announcements and encouraging teachers to show them in class as they came out, but I quickly saw that there was a need for them all to be in a central spot. I used Smore to put each link on the same page as a question. I shared this Smore with teachers. Many teachers have been sharing the videos in class and discussing them before that day’s check out time. Others have shared the Smore in Google Classroom and encourage students to watch them on their own.

In the library, I have the Smore pulled up on a computer right next to our circulation area. If a student has a question and I can easily and quickly help them, I do.  However, if I’m assisting multiple people or teaching a class, I can essentially clone myself by sending the student to the computer to watch the video in the library. This has already saved me a lot of time with library holds.

This isn’t magically fixing our problems. When you have up to 20 kids coming to check out books at the same time while also teaching a class, things aren’t going to be perfectly smooth. However, I’m trying to not compromise student access to books just because of some logistics we can work out.  Within a week of rolling this out, I’ve already seen students working together to stand up books on the return cart. They even use language directly from the video when explaining to the other student what to do. Lining those books up is super helpful, because with limited shelving help at the moment, I need students to be able to see those books on the return carts so they can pull choices from there too.

There have been several instances where I’ve been able to direct a student to a video while I have a conversation with someone about their reading. I’ve also been able to help situations quickly by saying something like “did you watch the disappearing cursor video”, and then they immediately know how to fix the problem.

Teachers have also been amazing. Some have spent a good amount of time watching the videos. Others have designated kids within their check out groups to be a leader and remind members of their group what to do to help the library stay user-friendly.

This is something I’m going to continue to focus on and find ways to make small improvements. I’m not stopping self checkout or limiting students coming to the library. I have to remember to keep involving students in ways to take ownership of our library and remind myself that I am not really alone in the library (plus remind myself to take plenty of deep breaths throughout the day).

 

 

The Winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize Is…

Our 2nd graders gathered in the library for the 6th annual announcement of the Barrow Peace Prize. During this special ceremony, we connect with the team at Flipgrid. Each year, the Flipgrid team grows, and this year we connected with them at their headquarters in Minnesota and also in other locations where team members were working. The kids loved seeing their many faces on the screen celebrating their work.

Before our Skype, I showed students a map of places their voices were heard around the world. They were amazed by the pins in over 110 different locations and counting.

During our ceremony, we started with some introductions and greetings from the Flipgrid team. Then, we took time to hear some special stories from the project. Every year, we get comments on social media about the project which I share with the students. They love having a personal connection with people who have heard their voices.

This year, I had a message exchange with an individual from Canada. She messaged me through our library Facebook page, so I shared her message with the students.

Marion Hodges from Canada says: “greetings from Canada. For the kids who chose Jackie Robinson they might be interested to know that he started his pro career in Montreal with the Montreal Royals. He endured a lot of the same treatment but also a lot of respect. After that he went on to play with the Dodgers. For the kids who chose Rosa Parks – there is a lady named Viola Desmond who did something very similar in Nova Scotia in the 1940s as she refused to leave the “white-only” section of the cinema. She was a successful beautician and entrepreneur and you can see her picture on the Canadian 10 dollar bill.”

Next, we launched into awards. Each teacher selected 3 students to receive one of three awards:

  • Prolific Persuader: For using your persuasive techniques to encourage an authentic audience to vote for your civil rights leader.
  • Outstanding Openers: For using a creative hook to capture your audience’s attention from the very beginning of your persuasive writing.
  • Dynamic Designers: For creating an inspiring piece of art to accompany your persuasive writing and visually engage your audience.

Christine, Marty, and Sindy from Flipgrid announced these student winners. This is one of my favorite parts of the ceremony because the kids erupt in applause for their classmates as they walk up to receive the award. The Flipgrid team applauded each group of students and we took a quick picture with the screen.

Another tradition we have thanks to a former Barrow student is having students design the Barrow Peace Prize. This year, students applied to design the peace prize by submitting sketches or ideas for what it might look like. Six students were chosen. We met together in the library and found ways to combine our ideas into one prize. The design was created in Tinkercad and printed on our Makerbot 3D printer. Each of the designers received a medal. Every student who researched the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize also received a medal. Finally, each classroom received a medal for students to take turns wearing. Even though we have one winner of the prize, this is a project that we are all contributors to.

Finally came the moment kids have been waiting to hear. The Flipgrid team announced the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize.

Jackie Robinson received the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize. Kids once again erupted with cheers and applause.

All of the researchers of Jackie Robinson came up to received their medals and take a picture. As soon as students left, I updated our Smore page.

Once again, I was reminded of how special this project is. There are so many ways for students to get engaged with the content whether their strength is art, writing, reading, speaking, designing, or something in between. I love that it gets our student voices out into the world in a positive way and shows our students how far their voices can travel.

Thank you to all of our students and teachers for their hard work on this project. Thank you to all who voted. Thank you Capstone for getting us kicked off each year in our research with PebbleGo. Thank you Flipgrid for amplifying our student voice with your product and celebrating our work each year. We look forward to next year.

 

 

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.

mirandus

  • 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

photo 2 photo 1

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.

photo 3

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.

photo 3 (3)

 

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

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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

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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.

 

 

Explorers and Native Americans: Perspective & Transliteracy with 4th grade

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Update:  This post is featured on Jane Yolen’s page for Encounter. 

Our 4th grade is studying Native Americans and Explorers.  When I met with the 4th grade team to plan, one of the main topics of our conversation was how we wanted our students to really think about perspective.  We didn’t want them to come away looking at the explorers as only a group of heroes, but instead to question what the costs were of their exploration.  We wanted them to think from the Native Americans’ perspective and consider how they felt about the explorers coming into their land.  We decided to approach this in a few ways.  The teachers planned regular social studies instruction in their classrooms.  They made Google presentations that were shared with the kids.  They also created graphic organizers for students to use to collect info.  Some students chose to have paper print outs of their organizers while others chose to fill out the organizer digitally.

Our guiding standards included:

SS4H1 The student will describe how early Native American cultures developed in
North America.
a. Locate where Native Americans settled with emphasis on the Arctic (Inuit),
Northwest (Kwakiutl), Plateau (Nez Perce), Southwest (Hopi), Plains (Pawnee),
and Southeast (Seminole).
b. Describe how Native Americans used their environment to obtain food, clothing,
and shelter.
SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.
a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.
b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native
Americans

In the media center, I pulled multiple folktales from each of the Native American tribes.  During 2 separate sessions, we looked at Google Earth to see where the tribes were located originally.  Then as we read the folktales, we considered how location impacted the food, shelter, and clothing of the tribes by citing evidence from the tales.

The teachers wanted students to have access to multiple kinds of resources for their research portion of the unit.  We talked about classes coming individually to the library, but we ultimately decided that it would be nice for students to all be together in one location with multiple resources.  We scheduled 3 hour-long sessions.  I pulled together folktales, books about explorers, books about Native Americans, a pathfinder about Native Americans, and a pathfinder about Explorers.

During session 1, we met as a whole group.  I showed students a video of Christopher Columbus from National Geographic.  After the video, I asked students to think about how they would describe Columbus.  After talking with partners, I put as many words into a Tagxedo as possible.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen, which is the Columbus story told from the Native American perspective.  After the story, I asked the students to once again describe Columbus.  Their words made a big shift.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

I followed up by talking about perspective, and how so many stories in history are silenced until the perspective of that group of people is brought forward.  I cited authors such as Phillip Hoose and Tanya Lee Stone who have written multiple texts about stories from history that have been untold.  I encouraged students as they did their research for this project to strongly consider perspective.  I did not want to tell them what to believe, but I asked them to be critical of the information they read and form their own opinions of history.

During sessions 2 & 3, all classes came back to the media center.  On one projection board, I posted the Native American pathfinder.  On the other projection board, I posted the Explorers pathfinder.  In addition, I made QR codes for each pathfinder and pulled out our cart of iPads.  I separated the books into 3 separate areas:  folktales, Native Americans, and explorers.  All students brought their netbooks, but they had the option to use the iPad if it fit their learning needs better than the netbook.  After  a quick reminder about our focus and where things were located, students freely moved around the media center.  About 75 students simultaneously made choices about which resources to start with, where to work, whether to work with a partner or small group or alone, and what technology supported their needs the most.  All 3 classroom teachers, a teacher candidate (student teacher), a gifted teacher, and I walked around and checked in with students.  Sometimes we were troubleshooting technology or redirecting, but often we were able to have individual conversations with students about the information that students were collecting.  Teachers worked with all students regardless if they were in their class or not.

What amazed me the most were the decisions that students made about their learning.  I saw transliteracy in action.  As I walked around, I saw students with pencils, papers, iPads, netbooks, and books all spread out around them.  They were simultaneously moving from one device or tool to the next.  Some students sat at tables while others sat inside bookshelves.  Some students tucked away by themselves while others worked in a large group.  Some students worked with very few resources at a time such as 1 book while others had every possible resource in front of them at once.  After months of wondering about how our space would support the kinds of learning I hope to see in our library, I was finally able to truly see it today.  I saw every piece of furniture in use.  I saw students combine pieces of furniture to make themselves comfortable for learning.  An entire grade level descended upon the library and remained productive while groups of kids were still coming into the library to checkout books.explorers & native americans (15)

It was loud, energetic, productive, and fun.  It’s a model I hope to replicate with other groups and a model that I hope carries into our classrooms, which can now accommodate some of these sames types of opportunities.