Student Voice & Student Choice in Our Annual Student Book Budget Project

Since 2010, Barrow students have been a part of a project called our “student book budget”. It’s had a few different names over the years but the idea has remained the same: students having total control over how a portion of the budget is spent to buy books for the library.

This school year provided us with extra challenges. We have been virtual for most of this year with just a few weeks in person in November, December, and March-May. I had to figure out how we would take so many of the pieces that we do in person in the library and throughout the school and transition them to online. Here’s a look at how our project went this year.

In January, students in grades 3-5 had the opportunity to apply to be in the book budget group by filling out a simple Google form. They had to include their name & teacher plus answer some questions about their commitment to meeting online and making decisions for the whole school rather than just for themselves. Finally, students wrote a short explanation about why they wanted to be in the group. As usual, I took every student who answered all the questions and had a genuine interest in the group. This year’s group had 15 students.

I created a Google Classroom where I could share links to our resources and Zoom as well as communicate with families. We met each Monday on Zoom to talk about our ideas for each step of the project. One of the first parts of the project is always to survey the whole school about reading interests. In our first Zoom, we looked at past Google form surveys to see what we wanted to keep, change, or add. Based on their discussion, I made a copy of the previous year’s Google form and made edits. The book budget team wanted students to pick 2 genre categories in picture books, chapter books, and informational books that they thought needed more books. They also gave space for specific suggestions.

Normally, students in grades 3-5 answer the survey via email. The book budget students go into the lunchroom, classrooms, and recess to survey PreK-2nd grade on iPads. This year, we still sent the survey to 3rd-5th graders in email. Then, we assigned each student in book budget to follow up with a Prek-2nd grade teacher via email to ask if they could share the survey with their students or if a book budget student could come to their class Zoom to talk about the survey. Overall, our number of completed surveys went way down this year but we still had a good representation of voices at each grade level.

Once the survey results came in, the book budget students set some purchasing goals. This year, they decided to focus on graphic novels, humor, ghosts, fun facts, gaming, and a few transportation books. Normally our budget comes from our fall book fair. However, this year our fall book fair was online and only made about $400 in Scholastic Dollars. Luckily, I was conservative in my spending last year with book fair profits so we still were able to have a budget of $2,000.

One vendor we always work with is Jim Boon at Capstone. Jim has always taken the student goals and curated a selection of books to bring in for students to look through. He also gives each student a catalog and shows them how to scan into a list. This year, Jim met with students on Zoom. Amy Cox at Capstone also helped us think through how we might easily put together a list. We decided to create a new account on the Capstone site that students could login to and collaborate on a list without messing with any of my regular Capstone account. I shared Capstone’s online catalogs with students in Google Classroom and they quickly discovered that they could click on a book in the catalog to get to the book on the website and add it to the list. Jim showed students how to navigate the catalog and also pointed out books that matched the student goals.

Another vendor we use is our local bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We usually walk to Avid and select books in person. This year Avid is closed to in-person shopping, so instead, I linked the website in our Google Classroom and created a Google form where students could submit the title, author, price, ISBN number, and link of the book. We took a Zoom session to go over all this and then students added books on their own. This book list went into a spreadsheet that I could easily share with Ian McCord at Avid Bookshop for ordering.

We took about 2 weeks to add books to the list and then we were able to have one in-person meeting just as in-person school started back up.

We used this meeting to look over our lists together and see what was missing. Normally, we have to cut lots of books from the list, but this time we were actually able to add more because students hadn’t spent all the money yet. It was more difficult for us to add books to our lists during virtual. Once the budget was met, I placed our orders.

When the books come in, we usually meet to unpack, add genre labels, and scan books into Destiny subcategories. With state testing, safety precautions, and the end of the year looming, I had to do some of this myself and use only a few of the book budget team to help.

We met one final time in person to take the books out of the boxes, double check that everything was here, and display the books on tables in the library. The book budget students got to pick 3 books to checkout and then the rest were available for anyone to checkout. Each class that visited the library immediately went to look at the new books and it didn’t take long for them to disappear into the hands of readers.

We do our best to expect the miraculous, and it definitely took the miraculous to pull this project off this year. Overall, I think it was still a great experience that still gave students a voice in the decision making of the library. While I love technology and virtual connections, I can’t wait to get this project back to in-person soon.

Celebrating Earth Day and Poetry Month with Blackout Poetry

April is poetry month and April 22 is Earth Day. Since our 3rd grade studies environmental standards in the 4th quarter, I decided to weave all of these things together using Wakelet, Padlet, and Capstone Connect. Currently, most of our school is attending in-person but we have one class at each grade level that is virtual. I’ve been planning lessons and projects for virtual instruction and then modifying them with activities we can also do in-person for our in-person classes. I find Wakelet one of the easiest ways to curate content in a sequential or choice-board format. I can easily share the Wakelet in Google Classroom for students to quickly access once the opening part of the lesson is complete.

Our 3rd grade standard is S3L2. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the effects of pollution (air, land, and water) and humans on the environment. I decided to open our lesson with a short and powerful read aloud The Mess that We Made by Michelle Lord & Julia Blattman. This book has text that repeats and builds on each page to show how one choice environmental choice can snowball to impacts many aspects of our environment. It also has a great message of how we can be the ones to turn pollution around and save our Earth.

Once we read and discussed the book, I set the idea of recycling or reusing by talking about discarded library books. I showed books that were falling apart beyond repair and how I often tear pages from these books to save for projects during the year. I specifically chose some discarded books that featured animals or the world so that students could use the pages to create blackout poetry as a way to reuse instead of throwing away.

To setup our blackout poetry work session, we watched this short video from Austin Kleon.

Since the video offers a visual with a musical background, I could add in a few things about blackout poetry while the video was playing.

I also offered students the option of creating a digital blackout poem. This was especially helpful for our virtual students, but many of our in-person students chose this option too. We used an online poetry maker. Side note: This site was blocked in my district so I had to request that it be unblocked for this project. It has 3 texts already available to choose from so I used the Alice In Wonderland text to model making a blackout poem. My tip for students was to start with a noun and then find words along the way that described or connected with that noun. This was the poem I created in my demo.

The online generator lets you easily select the words you want, blackout the rest, render the text, and save as an image.

It even has a custom text box where you can copy and paste your own words. This is where I pulled in articles from PebbleGo via my subscription to Capstone Connect, an online hub that allows you to search by titles or standards across PebbleGo, PebbleGoNext, and Capstone Interactive Library. For our blackout poetry, I searched by our state 3rd grade science environmental standards and selected several articles from PebbleGo & PebbleGoNext that students could read and then copy and paste chunks of text into the custom text box of the poetry maker.

I also created a Padlet where students could upload their digital blackout poems or take a picture of their paper blackout poetry.

Once students finished with poetry, they could read or listen to the many interactive ebooks from Capstone Interactive library that that I included on the Wakelet. These books were also found thanks to the standards search in Capstone Connect.

To close our time, I added an exit ticket where students could share what they learned about helping the environment, what they liked about the lesson, and what didn’t really work well for them.

This lesson was a lot of fun and students were engaged the whole time. It was hard to finish it all in one session, so the classroom teachers will continue the lesson in the classroom. That’s another great thing about having everything in Wakelet. It’s a lot of resources, but it’s easy to share and continue using for future work sessions.

If you’re curious about Capstone Connect or how I have been using Wakelet to curate resources for grade level projects, I’ll be presenting a webinar on April 21 from 4:30-5:15PM CT. You can register here. Even if you can’t attend in person, you can reference the recording later. I’ll share more about this poetry project, some projects from the past couple of months, and something I’m setting up for the summer. Plus you’ll have a chance to ask some questions too.

The Winner of the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize Is…

Quarantine put a big hold on the announcement of our Barrow Peace Prize. However, we finally were able to come together in a different way to celebrate the end of this special project. We wanted to still have a live announcement as we usually do, but we knew that all students would not be able to join us in person. I reached out to our friends at Flipgrid and we came up with a plan to record our individual parts of the announcement using Flipgrid and adding the videos for easy viewing and sharing in a Flipgrid mixtape.

I had already brought the awards home to work on over spring break, so I tracked down some envelopes and addressed them all to the award winners.  On the day of the announcement, I visited the Post Office and mailed all the awards so that I could let students know to be on the lookout for them.

At 2PM on April 29, we met together on Zoom. The 2nd grade classroom teachers, art teacher, principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, counselor, family engagement specialist, and over 30 2nd grade students came together via Zoom to celebrate the announcement.

We looked at where our voices had reached on an analytics map. Student voices were heard in over 210 locations around the world and 6 different continents.

We recognized:

Prolific Persuaders – 

-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.

We also recognized the designers of the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize.  Before spring break, these 7 students met together to come to an agreement on the 2020 Peace Prize design. They looked at their individual designs and found common elements that could be combined into one award.

This 3D-printed award was given to all of the designers plus all of the students who researched the winner of the 2020 Peace Prize.

Finally, we came to the moment students had been waiting for.  After more than, 1,000 votes from over 210 locations around the world, the winner of the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize is………….

Jackie Robinson!

 

I’m so glad we were able to come together to close out this project and I hope that students enjoy getting awards in the mail.  You can watch the virtual announcement on our Flipgrid Mixtape.

Vote for the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize

barrow peace prize (14)

Each year our 2nd graders work on a project called the Barrow Peace Prize. Every student researches one of four people from black history and gathers facts from PebbleGo, Britannica, books, and a few other online resources. They use these facts to write a persuasive essay asking people to vote for their person to win the Barrow Peace Prize. The criteria for the prize is also determined by the students after learning about character traits. These essays are recorded in Flipgrid and are now ready for viewing. We ask people all over the world to watch these videos, listen to these student voices, and vote on which of the four people from Black History should win this year’s award: Jackie Robinson, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., or Harriet Tubman.

You can vote as many times as you like and you are welcome to share this link with everyone you know.  If you choose to tweet about our project and share pictures of you or your class of students watching our videos, we hope you will tag @plemmonsa in your tweets so they can be shared with our Barrow students. If you use Instagram, please tag @barrowmediacenter  We love to see how this project spreads around the world.

Voting is open now through March 13 at 12PM EST. Simply visit our Smore page, watch several videos, and then click the link to vote.  We can’t wait to see who will win this year’s award.

2020 Barrow Peace Prize Smore Newsletters for Education

Follow this link to vote!

Presenting Our 2019-20 Student Book Budget Purchases

book budget final (9)

Since December our student book budget team has been working to make selections for our library.  They have used profits from our fall book fair along with Capstone Rewards to order books from both Avid Bookshop and Capstone.  With rewards and dollars, their budget was about $3500.  When you consider that our list of possible books totaled over $7,000, you know that they had to make some tough decisions about which books to include and which ones to cut.

We are still awaiting just a few books from Avid, but most books are here.  The students have spent 2 days unpacking the boxes.  As books were unpacked, they were checked off on the packing slip. Then, students sorted the books onto tables by genre. Once stacks were created, students put the genre stickers on the spines and then a label protector was put over the sticker. Finally, the books had to be scanned into the genre categories in Destiny.

Once all the books were processed, they were ready to be put out on display. Students came one final time to display the books on tables in the windows of the library and anywhere else they could find a spot. Another bonus was that book budget students get to be the first to checkout a book. Capstone Publishers lets each student choose a bonus title that is their personal pick and the choice does not have to follow our purchasing goals. Students were able to checkout their personal pick along with a couple of other titles.

The remaining books were up for grabs just before our busy checkout time of 12:15-1:30. It’s always fun to see which books get checked out first and how fast all of the books disappear.

book budget display (25)

This project is a core part of our library each year. The library collection belongs to everyone and I love that students have a voice in adding titles to our library each year. As always, we thank Capstone and Avid Bookshop for their collaboration in this important work.

2019-20 Student Book Budget: The Final Order

This year’s student book budget group has worked super hard. It was our largest group ever, which brought us some challenges we haven’t faced. I’ve learned a lot about how I might organize the group better next year. Even with our new challenges, we finally reached our goal of narrowing our consideration lists to match our budget.

As students sat down with our lists we had about $6000 worth of books picked out, but a budget of only $2500.  I usually surprise them with some bonus money if they have done a good job. This bonus money comes from our Capstone Rewards dollars. Students had a hard time narrowing down our Capstone list because there were so many high interest topics in Capstone’s catalog. The bonus dollars really helped them not have to cut so much from the list.

The process for narrowing the lists was that we split into 2 groups. At one library screen, we pulled up our Capstone list. At the other screen, we pulled up Avid. Each group chose one person to stand at the computer and click books to consider for deletion from the list.  They took turns with this role.

To decide on a book, students thought about many factors. They pulled the book up on the screen and read what it was about. They thought about how many of that type of book we already have in the library and how many of that type were already on the list. They considered if the book actually matched the goals from our student survey and whether students would really read it. Students took a vote and majority ruled. Sometimes the vote was close and the students would have a discussion about why the book should stay or go. Then, students would vote again.

It wasn’t the most fun part of our project, but the group that work on narrowing our list was committed and got it finished. It certainly was an important life skill to develop in our group.

I took over at the this point because I needed to make sure our lists were all ready to send to our 2 vendors. Both Avid and Capstone turned our list into a quote for our accounting system. I got them put in and approved and now both lists of books have officially been ordered.

Now, we wait. When the books arrive, a whole new fun process will begin to get the books ready for readers. We can’t wait!

2019-20 Student Book Budget: Meeting with Capstone

After surveying over 300 students in our school about their reading interests, our student book budget team set some purchasing goals for this year. A group of students met to examine the data and see what it was telling us about our library and our readers.  The genres that received the biggest amount of votes was of course noticeable to the students, but they also paid attention to sections of the library that didn’t get many votes and wondered why. We had a great conversation about how those sections might need more books to be more noticeable or maybe we might do something to bring attention to those sections like a reading challenge or BTV announcement.  This was the first year that the student book budget team spent so much time talking about sections that didn’t get many votes on the survey, and I was very proud that they made this noticing and took time to discuss it.

Eventually, they decided to focus their attention on some specific sections for this year’s budget.

  • humor (picture and chapter)
  • graphic novels
  • ghosts and mysterious things (information)
  • animals (picture and information)
  • fun facts (information)
  • scary (chapter)
  • fantasy (chapter)
  • historical fiction (chapter)

I sent these goals to Jim Boon, our sales rep with Capstone. He began curating a collection of books from Capstone that met our needs as well as sent us a Capstone catalog for each student. We scheduled time to meet with him in person.

Before Jim’s Visit

We held one book budget session before we met with Jim. This gave me time to show students the Capstone catalogs and get familiar with them. It also allowed me time to show students how to use the barcode feature in the catalog to help make lists.  I setup a book budget list in my Capstone account and students practiced scanning the barcode in the catalog to add books to our list. I showed students how the website would show if we already had a book and how to deselect books and save the updated changes.

We also used this 1st session to talk about our purchasing goals and the importance of staying focused on those goals as we looked at so many tempting books.

During Jim’s Visit

Jim arrived early and setup a display table of books. He divided his books into 2 displays: fiction and nonfiction. I put a catalog and list of goals at each chair. Typically, I meet with grade levels separately, but for Jim’s visit, I got permission from teachers to bring all students together at the same time. About 39 of our book budget students signed up to meet with Jim.

I gave a quick reminder about our goals and turned things over to Jim.  He showed students his displays and some features of the catalog like the index and page headings. He also encouraged students to look at the books in the display and then look for the additional books in the series in the catalog. He had students put their names on their catalogs and encouraged them to circle items and fold pages they were interested in. We didn’t want a massive line of 30 kids waiting to scan barcodes, so folded/marked pages will help us come back to those selections. Students could still scan into the list, but we can also work on this another day. We also reminded students not to worry about our budget at this stage. They should look for books that fit our goals and look interesting for the readers at our school.

I asked for a student volunteer to run our computer and scanner. This student was responsible for managing the small line of students waiting to scan books into the list. They deselected books already in our collection and saved changes along the way. This allowed me to walk around and have conversations with students looking at books and catalogs.

Jim was great about moving from table to table and having one-on-one conversations with students. He helped them find things in the catalog and talked about the books in the display. He was really good at keeping up with who he hadn’t had a chance to chat with yet and tried to make it to as many of the students as possible during our time.

After about 45 minutes, we wrapped up our time and thanked Jim for coming to visit us. I asked for some volunteers to come back for a follow up session.

In the end, there were lots of books students were excited about. Here are a few:

  • the continuation of the Far Out Fairy Tales
  • Michael Dahl’s Phobia series
  • the Ghosts and Hauntings series
  • Hands on Science Fun series which includes a book on making slime
  • the Real Life Ghost Stories series
  • the Mythical Creatures series
  • Graphic History: Warriors
  • Expert Pet Care
  • Michael Dahl’s Screams in Space
  • Boo Books series

Next Steps:

A group of 3 students returned to look through the catalogs for books that were marked. They scanned these books into our consideration list too. I was amazed at how fast this went. They were very focused on our purchasing goals and only added books that were marked AND fit our goals. We also looked through the list for duplicate books that got scanned in twice and clean up the list.

Once we leave for winter break, our Capstone consideration list will be ready for the next step: the budget.  We will visit our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, first, and make a consideration list with them too. Once both lists are made, a group of students will have some negotiations to decide which books make the final list for ordering.

 

The 2019 Student Book Budget Orders Have Arrived!

After surveying our entire school, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating consideration lists, and narrowing down orders to meet their budget, the hard work of our student book budget team has paid off.  All books from our 3 vendors have arrived and it’s time to get these books out into the hands of readers.

The book budget team met to unpack the books. Across 90 minutes, all of our books from Capstone and Gumdrop were checked on the packing slip, sorted into genres, labeled with genre stickers, and scanned into subcategories in Destiny. Every student on the team took a role in the process and I walked around to assist with questions and tricky genre decisions. I also helped students make sure they were sorting books into the right categories such as chapter book, picture book, or informational book.

Our books from Avid had to be cataloged so I “volunteered” to do this step for the students and some of our library volunteers have helped with getting the barcodes and plastic wrap on the books.

The book budget team met one final time to display the books for readers to see. It was hard for us to find a time to meet to get the books displayed so we all came one morning right after morning broadcast before our school day started. Students worked efficiently to get all of the books displayed in the windows, counters, and tables in the library. It was amazing to see all of the books out together and see all of our hard work pay off.

The real payoff comes when the book budget students get to check out some of the books and then see the rest of the school pour in to the library to check out books. It doesn’t take long for the tables full of books to be reduced down to a couple of tables and then a single table. These books are always popular with readers and I love knowing that our library collection truly is “our collection”. We build it together.

Who Will Win?: A Research Lesson with 5th Grade

Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark. T-Rex vs. Velociraptor. Scorpion vs. Centipede.  These topics grab the attention of so many readers in our library.

When the 5th grade language arts teachers, Ms. Freeman & Ms. Hinkle, asked me to brainstorm some lessons ideas about the following standard, my mind immediately jumped to these popular books.

ELAGSE5RI8: EXPLAIN how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, IDENTIFYing which reasons and evidence supports which point(s).

I began to think about how students might create their own quick versions of these stories using books from our informational section.  Ms. Hinkle and Ms. Freeman scheduled each of their language arts classes to come to the library for 45 minutes.

We began our time together on the floor and took time to look at a selection of books from the Bug Wars, Dinosaur Wars, and Who Would Win series. I asked students how an author might go about comparing two animals who might not actually meet in real life. We brainstormed a list of categories that an author might use to compare animals: size, speed, abilities, classification, etc.

Next, we took a look at an interactive ebook from Capstone called Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Velociraptor from the Dinosaur Wars series. We looked at the structure of the book and how the author used size, speed/agility, weapons, and attack style to compare the two dinosaurs. In addition to the summaries at the top of the page, we saw how the author gave several pieces of evidence to backup the point of which dinosaur was superior to the other in a particular category.

This set us up for our work session. Ahead of time, I pulled multiple animals books from our library as well as a few other things that could be compared like weather events and landforms. When I pulled the books I considered which animals I might pair together if I was choosing, but I wanted students to have the choice of whichever pairings they wished to have.

With a partner, students selected two “things” to compare. This was a bit of a frenzy as students tried to quickly pair two animals or other things together before resources started to disappear to other partners.

Then, they used a brief graphic organizer to decide on 4 categories to compare the two things. I encouraged them to look at the index in the books to help them think about comparisons they might make.

Their goal was to find evidence for each thing in each category and then decide on a winner for that category based on the evidence.

After looking at the evidence for all 4 categories, students decided on the overall winner. Sometimes students couldn’t decide an overall winner, so I encouraged them to create some “what if” scenarios that might help them think about when one of the particular animals or things might come out on top. If time allowed, students could create a Flipgrid video explaining their comparisons.

The teachers and I circulated between the pairs of students and conferenced with them on their categories and pushed them to look for evidence. What we saw as we conferenced was that most students were excited and engaged.

They were really searching for information and putting books side by side to make comparisons. They were having critical conversations to determine which animal would actually win in each category based on the evidence they found.  They were even asking to see additional resources like websites and other books because they weren’t finding the info that they were looking for.

This project gave me lots to think about. The concept of competition between “things” was motivating for students. I didn’t give them a detailed graphic organizer with a bunch of pre-written questions they had to find answers to. They determined the categories and looked for the answers. I was surprised by how many students started asking for additional resources because they wanted to find the answer they were looking for rather than trying to make one resource work for everything as I’ve seen in other research projects.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect and some students didn’t stay focused the entire time. However, I saw an engagement that I don’t always see. I saw students excited about diving into books without too many complaints that we weren’t researching on the computer. We also didn’t really have enough time for most students to record. The teachers are going to try to give time back in class to finish recordings.

I want to unpack this a bit more in my mind and think about implications for future projects. I definitely think that this project could be expanded to something much bigger. It was obtainable in a day, but it could be so much better with a little more time.

The students who were able to record so far would love for you to take a moment to watch their videos. If you decide to try this out with your students, I would love to hear how it goes and what modifications you made.

 

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our 2018-19 student book budget team is hard at work creating consideration lists of books for purchase. So far, they have created an interest survey, surveyed numerous students in our school, and set purchasing goals. I sent their goals to vendors and setup some appointments for vendors to meet with the team.

Our first vendor was Gret from Gumdrop Books. Gret brought in fiction and nonfiction and split them into separate groups on tables. She gave each student a pad of paper to write down item numbers for books or series they were interested in. They gave Gret each of their papers at the end of their time and then she put them into a consideration list in Excel. One of the things I love about what Gret does is that she has a printed list inside each book that shows other books in the series. Students can easily see if there are other books they are interested in.

Since Gret only had a sample of books to peruse, we had the Gumdrop website pulled up on the big screen so that Gret or students could search for books that weren’t represented on the tables. At the close of Gret’s time students in the 3 groups had made a list that totaled over $6,000! That’s not unusual for this group. It will become a good lesson later into how you get critical and purchase the very best of what you’ve found with the money you actually have.

Our second vendor was Jim Boon from Capstone. Jim has worked with us since the very beginning of this project. He’s great at bringing in a variety of books in fiction and nonfiction and splitting them into 2 displays that students can easily access. He also has catalogs and pens shipped to the school prior to his visit so that students can look through catalogs for books that aren’t found in his displays. Jim does a quick overview of what he has brought, how to use the catalogs, and any promotions Capstone currently has. Then, he spends time assisting students in looking at books and finding specifics in the catalogs.

My favorite feature in the Capstone catalog is the barcode listed on each series. Students can scan the barcode and it pulls up the entire series on the screen. Then, students can check the books they want to add to the list.  It’s so much faster than having to write things down or bookmark pages in a catalog. Then, we can easily go into the list later to delete the books we don’t want.

Jim gets right in with the students and helps them find whatever they are looking for. He’s so fun and keeps them laughing and shopping. He even brought them a special treat bag to go with their Capstone pen and bookmarks.

Now, students have a lot of work to do after the break looking through their Capstone catalogs and cutting books from their Gumdrop list. Then, we’ll meet with one more vendor before making final decisions.

I love watching this group work and seeing what stands out to them.