Vote for the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize

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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!

Rubiks Cube Mosaic Makerspace

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We love trying new things in our makerspace, so this February we decided to leap into Rubiks cubes. At AASL in Louisville, I visited the You Can Do the Cube booth and checked out their Rubiks cube lending program. You can check out sets of Rubiks cubes to create Rubiks cubes mosaics and simply pay for the shipping and handling each way.

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I shared this idea for our makerspace with Gretchen Thomas at UGA and she was excited to give it a try.  We collaborate with Gretchen and her students every Tuesday and Thursday in our open makerspace time. Instead of waiting on an available kit in the lending program, she decided she could use some funds to purchase some inexpensive cubes on Amazon. She ordered 120 3×3 cubes and 50 2×2 cubes.

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In class at UGA, Gretchen’s students watched multiple videos on how to solve Rubiks cubes and worked to learn some strategies that would be helpful to our Barrow students. They also practiced designing their own small mosaics using the 3×3 cubes.

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At Barrow, we selected some prepared mosaics from the You Can Do the Cube site. We chose Rosa Parks for our 3×3 and a flower for our 2×2. I measured out a grid on a piece of butcher paper and taped the individual mosaic pieces into the grid and numbered them.  I made a second set of pieces that we numbered and cut out and put into an envelope. Students could select a picture out of the envelope, solve that picture, and place it onto the correct square in the grid.

For our open makerspace, teachers sign up students for a 30-minute slot on a Google document. They are signing up for all 6 Tuesday/Thursday sessions of Rubiks Cube. For this first session, students spent time exploring the cubes.  I made a QR code for students to scan to watch tutorial videos about solving. Some followed these videos, while others learned from the strategies of friends and UGA students.

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It was amazing to see how many students already knew some tips about solving Rubiks cubes because of their own practicing at home.  We also downloaded an app on the iPads called Cube Solver that allows you to put in the colors on the cube and it shows you all the steps to solve the entire cube. Some students used this as a tool for learning more about the different turns required to solve.

Once students felt comfortable with the cube, they started solving actual pieces of the mosaic and adding it to our grid located on a large table in the back corner of the library. With so many students working on cubes during one makerspace and with so many students already talented in solving cubes, the mosaic started to take shape pretty quickly. By the end of the 2nd day of working on the mosaics, we had the Rosa Parks and flower mosaic done.

I had already prepared additional mosaics to work on: a dinosaur and Mona Lisa.  We celebrated our achievement of solving the first mosaics and took some pictures. Then, it was time to start dismantling the mosaics and solving a new one.

Once we created 2 additional mosaics, I gave the students the option of designing their own small mosaics.  They could do this alone or with a group.  They sketched out their mosaic on grid paper first and then worked to solve and assemble the mosaic at tables.  This would be a great way to extend this experience in future sessions because there wasn’t much time left.

The thing I loved most about this makerspace project was being able to see students bringing in a talent and passion they had outside of school and making it something for school.  There are lots of ways this could be incorporated into grade level curriculum so I hope that this is not the end of the Rubiks cube. We have so many students who enjoyed this that I’m sure we could even just make this a center in the library for people to work on over time.

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!

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).

 

 

Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

2019-20 Student Book Budget: Visiting Avid Bookshop

Now that winter break is over, our book budget students are back at work.  This week we took 2 separate trips to our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  I had almost 40 kids split across the 2 days. Avid Bookshop is located within 1 mile of our school so we can easily take a walking field trip to the store, and most of our students already have a permission slip on file.

The purpose of this trip was to continue to create a consideration list of books that met our purchasing goals.  We already did this with Jim Boon from Capstone Publishers before the break.  When we arrived at Avid, we met with Hannah DeCamp, who manages the Children’s Department. Students sat on the book boat and in the floor while Hannah book talked several recent books that fit our goals.  She even made a personalized book budget handout with books broken down into our goal categories. Wow!

Next, Hannah gave students an overview of the different sections that they might browse for this project: board books, picture books, early readers, juvenile nonfiction, kids graphic novels, and middle grade. Since Avid Bookshop serves all readers, we had to remind students that some books might fit our goals but not elementary-age readers.

Next, students browsed the store.  As they discovered books that fit our goals or books that were of high interest to Barrow readers, they came to my computer where we scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet and typed the title/price of the book. Again, students didn’t worry about cost at this point. They simply captured all the titles we were interested in.

We also reminded students that Avid can order pretty much any book we would want so students added some books to our list that were requested by students and we couldn’t get from Capstone Publishers.

Some students also brought money to shop so for the last step students made their purchases. Hannah gave all students an Avid bookmark and she sent us away with several Advance Reader Copies to browse back at school.

Before we returned to school, we met together outside and debriefed our experience. One of the things that I shared with students is how important Avid Bookshop is in our community. I reminded students about all of the authors & illustrators who visit our school. Each time those authors/illustrators visit, it is because of Avid Bookshop and every book that students purchase for those visits comes right from this store. We talked about how Avid gives us a small discount as a school, but they give us so much more because they are part of our community and support our school and community by bringing authors and illustrators for us to learn from.

Back at school, students took time to review the Advance Reader Copies of books and we added a few more books to our list.

Next Steps

We’ve reached a very hard part of our project.  Next week, students will meet to comb through our lists and make difficult decisions about what we purchase and what we cut from our lists. I can’t wait to hear their conversations and see their decisions.

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.