2018-19 Student Book Budget First Steps

One of my favorite projects of the year has started. Our student book budget group is a group of 3rd-5th grade students who volunteer their time to decide on new books for the library.  This project has been a part of our library for several years. Each year, we make some adjustments to improve the process and make sure student voice is heard. Over the course of December and January, students in this group will survey the school on reading interests, develop goals, meet with vendors, develop consideration lists, place a book order that meets a budget, process new books, market new books, and enjoy reading the books they have selected.  It’s quite an undertaking, but something I cherish every year.

Step One

I created a Google form application that was emailed to all 3rd-5th grade students. In the application, I linked to a video that explained the project to students. Some teachers played this video for the whole class. Other teachers simply reminded students that applications were open. We made announcement reminders on our morning broadcast for students to apply.  Applications were only open for one week.

This year, I wanted students to make a commitment up front to stick with the project from beginning to end. I made this one of questions to help me decide who to accept into the group. I generally accept every student who applies, but if students weren’t willing to commit to the time the project takes, then I knew they might not be the best choice for the group. I knew I could at least talk in person with students who said no/maybe so that we could clear up expectations and requirements.

Step Two

Once students were chosen, I announced our team on the morning broadcast and communicated with them and their teachers via email. We have 25 students on this year’s team. Our routine schedule is to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 for 3rd grade, 11:30 for 4th grade, and 12:00 for 5th grade. This time is taking the place of our open makerspace time during December and January.

During our first meeting, students thought about what they might put on a survey about reading interests. They started by doing a walk around the library and seeing what they noticed about the shelves. For example, they saw how empty the dinosaur, fun facts, and ghost section was. They noticed that we have a lot more humor chapter books than they realized.  We used these noticings and last year’s survey to create a new survey.

In the end, they mostly kept the survey the same with a few small changes.

Step Three

I emailed the survey to all 3rd-5th graders who have their own computer and let teachers know the survey was available. At our 2nd book budget meeting, each grade of students took iPads to the lunchroom and surveyed as many PreK-2nd grade students as possible.  Each time the survey was submitted, it sent the data to a spreadsheet and summary so that we could see which grade levels weren’t as heavily represented and we could begin to set goals for our purchasing.

Step Four

At our 3rd meeting, we checked in on our data to see what else we needed to do.  We noticed that we needed more 4th and 5th grader voices, so we surveyed some of them at recess and made a final plea to teachers to give them time to take the survey in class.

We also used the 3rd meeting to go ahead and notice what the data was telling us so far.  Each group noticed that in picture books the top requests were humor, jokes, graphic novels, and sports.  In chapter books, the top requests were humor, sports, and mystery. In informational, the top requests were fun facts, cooking, ghosts, and animals/dinosaurs.

Students compared these results with what they noticed in their walk around the library. They saw that things mostly matched, but the biggest difference was the humor chapter books.  People are asking for more, but we have so many that aren’t getting checked out. This is a point they are considering so that they really focus on what they think people will actually read.

Moving Forward

Now, we are wrapping up our survey and firming up our purchasing goals so that we can start meeting with booksellers.  We already have appointments with Jim Boon at Capstone and Gret Hechenbleikner at Gumdrop to look at their products. We’ll continue to update our progress along the way.

 

 

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.

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  • 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!

 

 

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our student book budget team has been hard at work making consideration lists based on the data they have collected from Barrow readers.  Each year, we meet with several vendors to look at book samples, catalogs, and websites.  During this time, students don’t worry about our budget. Instead, they capture every book that looks interesting to our readers and meets our purchasing goals.

Goals

Goal setting was a bit different this year than in the past.  Students typically pick 5-6 categories of books to focus on, but this year they really looked within types of books such as picture books, chapter books, and informational books.  I thought this was an interesting development because in past years students have had a difficult time deciding whether or not they should buy chapter, picture, or informational books within the categories they decided.  This year’s survey construction helped make this more clear.

Within Picture books, students decided to focus on humor, sports, jokes, graphic novels, animals, and scary.

Within Chapter books, students decided to focus on scary, humor, adventure, and mystery.

Within Informational books, students decided to focus on fun facts, cooking, ghosts, animals, makerspace, and sports.

Vendor 1: Capstone

Every year, we meet with our Capstone sales rep, Jim Boon.  Jim brings in books divided into fiction and nonfiction and has catalogs for all students to look at.  He shows them how to use the index in the catalog and how to find the rest of a series from the book samples he has on display. One of the things I love most about working with Jim is that he sits down with students and actively helps them look for books in the catalogs. He engages in conversation about interests and uses his wealth of knowledge of the products to match what students are asking for. While he does this, students come to me with catalogs and we scan the catalog bar codes into the Capstone site to make a consideration list.

Amy Cox at Capstone also allowed each student to choose a personal pick from Capstone. These personal picks were not a part of our budget and also did not have to fit our purchasing goals. These were completely based on the interests of members of the student book budget team.

Vendor 2: Gumdrop

Some years, we bring in our Gumdrop sales rep, Gret Hechenbleikner. We like working with Gumdrop because they can offer us some titles that aren’t available through Capstone. Gret also brings in many book samples for students to get their hands on. She sets them up on multiple tables arranged by the categories that students named.

Gret pastes printed lists in the front cover of each book so that students can see the titles in the rest of the series or similar series. If students need to see the other covers of books or if they need to do a general search, I have the Gumdrop site pulled up on the projector. Gret sets up her computer and students take books to her to add to a consideration list. Before she leaves, Gret cleans up the list, prints a copy for us, and emails me a PDF.  I love how much help Gret gives us in making the list while I have a chance to talk with students about the books on the tables and what they are thinking.

Vendor 3: Avid Bookshop

Now that Avid Bookshop has a 2nd location within walking distance of our school, we take a field trip to the store.  This year’s books budget team has about 40 students, so we split the trip over 2 days: 3rd grade on one day and 4th/5th on another day.  Ahead of the visit, I once again shared the student purchasing goals.

Hannah DeCamp and Kate Lorraine worked together to pull books from the Avid collection to book talk for students. We all sat on the floor and listened to several book talks from each of our categories.

Then, students split up into the picture book, informational, and middle grades sections of the store to look for books. I wrote all of our books into a notebook which I typed up later.

I love going to Avid because it gives students a connection to a part of our community. Several of our book budget members knew about Avid but had never been inside. Before we left, Kate gave each student an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of a book to keep and consider for our library.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve met with all vendors, it’s time to start narrowing down our lists.  This process has already started. For Gumdrop, each student is taking a page of our list and crossing through books we may want to delete. For Avid, students are looking at the digital list and highlight books we may delete. For Capstone, we are looking at our digital list and deleting books from the list if they don’t fit our goals or if we chose too many books from one series.  My hope was to have this done before winter break, but it looks like this process will continue into early January.  I’m so proud of the work students have accomplished in this large group.  It’s shaping up to be one of the best year’s so far.

 

Kindness Rocks

Third grade studies rocks and minerals in science.  Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade Spectrum teacher, is always dreaming up ways to extend and enrich the study.  We have collaborated together many times, and I always love leaping into something new.  In the past, we’ve Skyped with a jewelry studio and designed our own jewelry.  We’ve thought about climbing wall design and how the hardness of different rocks and minerals would support the design. Students even 3D printed prototypes of their climbing walls.  This year we once again worked together to add a new layer to this science unit.

I’ve been watching lots of people getting involved in kindness rock projects locally and globally. The idea of these projects is to spread words of inspiration in the world through randomly placed rocks and inspire people to create good in the world.

Our local Athens Rock Project

I’ve found a few of these rocks myself and know that it gives you a bright moment in your day just to know that someone cared enough to create a piece of art intended for good.

Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructor, and I have been brainstorming the idea of weaving this project into makerspace, but we held off this semester.  I passed the idea on to Ms. Hicks and we decided to give it a trial run.

We started by showing images of rocks and asking students if they had ever found a rock like these.  I was surprised at how many stories were already in our small group of 15 kids.  From a rock in a stream to a rock in the park, students had stories of words and images they had found on rocks.

Then we watched this video to consider the meaning of a project like this.

We also read an excerpt from If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. These books helped us think beyond a rock just being a rock but instead a symbol of something else.

At tables, students used an index card to plan out their rock.  We wanted them to really take their time in planning so that they chose their words with purpose, so Ms. Hicks and I conferenced with students as they worked. They chose a word or phrase, wrote a short explanation of their choice, and sketched a design for their art.  Students also selected a rock. All of this took one class session.

In the next session, students used paint pens and paint to design their rock.  Most started by getting the word(s) onto the rock and then worked on design. If they finished early, they helped one another fan portions of rocks to get them dry enough to keep painting on.

My wonderful computer technician, Allie, added layers of Mod Podge onto the rocks before our 3rd session. Here’s where this project is taking a different turn that many of the kindness rock projects.  We don’t really want to be random.  We want the person who finds our rock to know a bit more about it.

In our 3rd session, we used Flipgrid to record videos to tell the story of our rock.  Students talked about the reason they chose their word and even why they designed it the way they did.  We also brainstormed what someone would need to know in order to get to the video we recorded.

I took this brainstormed and turned it into an information card to put with our rocks.

Instead of randomly placing the rocks, we are putting them all in one container. We’ve talked with Avid Bookshop in Five Points and will be placing this container somewhere outside the shop.  Our hope is that people will select a rock, take an information card, watch the accompanying video, and hopefully leave a response video to the student.

It’s all a big experiment, and I’ve tried to be very open with students about that from the beginning.  Anything could happen.  We of course want every rock to be taken and for every person to leave a response, but we also know that might not happen.  Whatever happens, we’ll know that our rocks have gone into the world and caused at least one person to pause for just a moment and think about kindness.

Before our rocks go to Avid, we’re making a few more.  If your’e in the area, keep your eyes open in Five Points for a clear acrylic container near Avid Bookshop sometime this week!

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Share Your #Eclipse2017 Stories on This Flipgrid

The Great Eclipse 2017 is coming on Monday August 21, 2017.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s an event we are sharing all across North America.  I made a space that we can all use to share our observations, learning, projects, stories, or really anything eclipse-related.

Before, during, and after eclipse, this Flipgrid is a space we can connect student, teacher, and family voices to share this event. Even if you aren’t in school yet, this Flipgrid can be a place you can find out what your students did while they weren’t in school.

Simply share this link with anyone and everyone.  https://flipgrid.com/f8fc0d 

If you have the most updated version of Flipgrid on your mobile device or tablet, you can also just scan this QR code to instantly go to the topic.

Scan here with Flipgrid to share your eclipse story.

I also made a Google doc that you can print and give to classrooms to scan if they have devices available.

Click to access an easy Google doc

Once you are on the topic, simply touch the + and follow the prompts to record your voice and take a selfie.  Don’t forget to tell us where you are recording from.  I hope we can all learn from one another as we experience this unique event together.  See you on the grid.

 

 

 

Student Voice: To Walk in the Dark

Today, I have a guest post from a student who wants to share her writing with the world.  This piece was created for the Young Georgia Author Competition.  While it didn’t win at the district level, it deserves an audience.  Jane is a 4th grader at our school and would love for you to read her writing and leave her some comments about her work.

I hope to have more guest posts from students in the coming year.

To Walk in the Dark

Scary things can happen in this world, maybe when you’re alive, maybe when you’re dead, or maybe when you’re between life or death. Cora Walkers was not an optimist nor a pessimist, she was a believer. A believer when there was doubt, or a believer when the worst was coming. In this town the amazing things could become bland with the blink of an eye. You need to master seeing the good things in the world, or else all that’s left is the bad.

We go to a bright sunny summer day in San Francisco, California where the richness of the sun makes you feel quite refreshed. Cora was walking into Alamo square where the Painted Ladies Victorian houses sat. She walked up to the front porch of the last one on the left which had a big potted plant in the front. Cora walked up the white steps and turned to face the door. She opened her black messenger bag and pulled out a key, in which had a key chain with a deep C emblazoned in the brown leather. Cora placed the key in the lock and turned it gently, She slowly opened the door to hear the familiar creak of the hinges that needed to be oiled.

When the door was fully open she pulled the key out of the rusty lock and waltzed into the main entrance of her house. The crystal chandelier welcomed Cora home as she strolled up the stairs. When she reached the second door to the right she opened the door and looked in at her bedroom. Her four poster bed was reflecting the light that was shining in from her bay window. Just as Cora was setting her bag down on her bed, she heard an ear splitting cry that made her jump.

She opened her bedroom door and walked into the hall swiftly trying to find the root of where the noise was coming from. Cora slowly turned to the left and opened the door opposite to her. She swung open the door to see her baby sister Samantha in her crib wailing. Samantha was only 1 month old, and since Cora was the second to oldest it took her sometime to remember there was someone else in the house. Cora heard a creak coming from the door as someone walked into the nursery. “Is the baby crying again?” Ella asked in a plain voice. She rested her back against the doorway of the nursery.

Ella was Cora’s younger sister and she didn’t like the thought of someone replacing her as the youngest in the family. “Ella, you’re 10. You should have gotten over the fact that there is someone else in the family now,” Cora said trying to sound reasonable. Cora could relate to how Ella felt even though Ella refused to think that. When Cora was 3 she also had to get over the fact that she wasn’t the baby in the family anymore. When Ella was just born and Cora’s older sister Rachel was acknowledging the fact that they now had a baby sister. Cora turned her back to the thought that she would be forgotten as the middle child . As Cora was placing down Samantha in her crib after she soothed she heard Ella groan and stomp out of the room. Cora rolled her eyes and walked out of the nursery. As Cora was on her way down to living room she suddenly heard her phone ringing. Cora came to halt and and pulled the phone from out of her pocket. Cora’s pink case shimmered as the sun hit the phone. She put the phone to her ear and before she could say “hi” a loud voice screamed 4 words into her ears making her ear drums ring. “SALE-AT-THE-MALL!” Cora jumped as she heard this.

It was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and Mindy was already screaming in her ears. “Okay, I’ll be right there,” Cora said. “No worries my mom is picking up all of our friends, so she can give you a ride too,” Mindy said plainly as if she didn’t just scream through Cora’s phone. “Okay that sounds–”Cora couldn’t even finish her sentence as Mindy interrupted her. “Awesome! Bye see soon,” Mindy said quickly. Cora didn’t even have time to say good-bye because Mindy hung up.

Cora turned and sprinted upstairs to get her bag when someone stopped her. “You can’t go to the mall,” Ella said in a sharp voice. “What do you mean? I can go to the mall if I want to go to mall,” Cora said looking Ella up and down. “First off, mom and dad aren’t home, and second all off, my friends are going to the mall but when I called mom she said I couldn’t go,” Ella said in a reasonable voice.

“Well that’s because you’re only 10, and I’m 13,” Cora responded. “And plus, I’m just going to ask Rachel.” Cora could tell that Ella was getting frustrated. Ella groaned and flipped her long blonde braid as she trudged down stairs. Cora looked back at Ella then remembered that Mindy was picking her up in a matter of time. She ran up to the main hall where all four of their bedrooms were. She ran up to the third door on the left and knocked. Cora waited for over a minute then she heard footsteps coming, and then the doorknob turned.

Cora was suddenly blinded by pinkness as Rachel opened the door to her bedroom. “What do you want?” Rachel asked in a bored voice. “I’m going to the mall so when mom and dad come home can you tell them?” Cora replied. “Fine but who’s picking you up?” Rachel asked, her eyes on Cora. “Mindy is. And she supposed to pick me up any second now so if you’ll excuse me,” Cora slowly turned then strolled away.

She turned to the left and started walking down the hall then she turned the doorknob to her bedroom. Cora pulled open the door and when it was fully open, she headed straight for her closet. Cora opened her closet door and pulled out a beige colored purse, slung it over her shoulder and strutted out of the room. As Cora made it down stairs her phone started to ring. Cora opened her purse and pulled out her phone once again. “Cora, me Lola, Emma, and Abby are waiting outside. Where are you?” Mindy said sounding annoyed. “Sorry Mindy, I’m on my out of the house right now. See you soon.”

Cora hung up the phone and ran to the door. She ran to the main entrance and pulled on her white high tops. She opened the door to feel the familiar air blow against her skin. She witnessed a metallic MDX waiting for her. As Cora ran to the car, the window rolled down. “Come on, get in Cora!” Emma screamed as she opened the door. Cora squeezed in and they made their way down the street.

Now we go to Ella. Right after Cora left, Ella ran outside. She made sure to wait until Cora was gone or else she would suspect something. Ella’s friend Hannah was picking her up to go to the mall, but Ella knew that wouldn’t be possible if Cora was in the house. Ella was a smart and reasonable girl, but she was tired of living in her sister’s shadow and now that she had a younger sister everything revolved around Rachel, Cora, and the baby. Hannah said that she would meet her at Alamo Square park which was simple for Ella. All she had to do was cross 2 crosswalks and then she would be at the park. As Ella pressed the button to the crosswalk she pulled out her phone. She dialed Hannah’s number and waited for her pick up. “Hey Ella, me and my mom are almost there,” Hannah said. “Awesome, I’m crossing the street right now,” Ella replied  as with a grin spread across her face. Ella was entering the second crosswalk. The sign had the white walking man on it so Ella took the chance to go. Without warning the light flashed, and changed to a red hand. Something seemed to be wrong with the lights up top that told the cars to go because that flickered and turned green. Ella had no time to notice this as a speeding black Chevrolet was coming her way. Ella on the other hand was just saying good-bye to Hannah. The person in the car must have not noticed Ella either as the car got closer. There was no time for Ella to hang up the phone because in the second that seemed like a moment, and the moment that seemed like a minute, Ella noticed. And before she knew it… everything went black.

The car pulled up in the driveway and Cora emerged. She didn’t buy anything, but being with her friends cheered her up. There was no time to say thank you as the MDX pulled out of the driveway and drove out of sight. Cora smiled and was heading for her house when she looked over and saw firetrucks, police cars, and at least 3 ambulances. Cora was getting curious so she started for the overwhelmed crowd that was surrounding the street. Cora elbowed her way through the crowd, then she got a glimpse of a girl being loaded into an ambulance. She was wearing the same white jean shorts and pink tank top as Ella was wearing that day. The girl had an air mask on her face and a messily wrapped bandage around both of her legs that Cora could tell, blood was already seeping through. Cora was getting closer until she felt something pull her back. She looked up and saw Rachel, with her mascara smeared under her eyes. To Cora it looked as though she was crying. “Rachel, what happened?” Cora asked cautiously as an expression of fear crossed her face. “It’s Ella, she’s been hit by a car,” Rachel said sounding as though she was about to cry again. Cora looked at her with disbelief. The color drained from her face. Cora wanted to know how this happened. Ella was a smart girl and now she might be gone and no last words would ever be said except denial and hatred expressions. The only memory Cora had of the last words she had said to Ella was when she rudely said that she was going to the mall . Cora felt as though the darkness that she never thought would come emerged from her soul erupted. For the first time in years you could say, that Cora was walking in the dark.