Celebrating Seuss & Read Across America

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Every year, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with guest readers reading his words in every classroom in our school.  This year, we had enough readers to send 2 guests to every class.  Many brought their own books, but we also had a big collection to choose from in the library.

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We thank so many members of our Barrow and local community for coming into our school to share stories with kids.  It’s important to see people sharing the power of words at every grade level.  Days like these remind us that you are never too old to enjoy a great picture book, have fun with words, and laugh out loud with friends when you get all tongue-tied.

Some of our readers this year came from UGA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  This was the fraternity that Dr. Seuss was a member of at Dartmouth.

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In addition to being readers, the fraternity brothers brought us some Elephant and Piggie books to add to our collection.  Each copy they donated was a Geisel Honor Book.  What a great way to honor Seuss and support literacy.  Thank you!

In addition to readers and having lots of Seuss books available to kids, I unboxed our latest book order from Bound to Stay Bound.  It was packed with graphic novels and many other fantastic books.  It didn’t take long for our ravenous readers to check out pretty much every graphic novel I ordered.  Some kids even returned a 2nd time to check out more.  Happy Read Across America!

New graphic novels #newbooks #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram

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More new graphic novels #librariesofinstagram #bookstagram #newbooks

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Let’s Show Our Work with the #PowerOfPublicSchools

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Created by Kristina Holzweiss

When I speak at conferences or lead workshops, one of the ideas that I try to stress to educators is the importance of showing our work.  It’s something I’ve always believed in but my belief has strengthened each year.

One of the books that I got a lot of encouragement from is Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.

So many of his ideas resonate with me. As educators, we truly have an opportunity to show the world what is happening within the walls of our schools.  I share at least one thing every single day on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook about the work that is going on in our public school library.

Kazoo parade #librariesofinstagram #steam #makerspace #ccsdmaker

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I do this for many reasons.  The biggest reason is that it amplifies the work of my students, teachers, and families.  It shows that the work that they are doing matters and deserves to be seen and heard by a global audience.

Another reason I share is to inspire other educators to take risks and try something new.  I’ve gained so much from reading the tweets, pictures, and blog posts of fellow educators around the world. People like Jennifer LaGarde, Tiffany Whitehead, Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Kathy Burnette, Nikki Robertson, George Couros, Todd Nesloney (and many more than I can list) inspire my thinking.  They push me to innovate, to try something new, and to offer more opportunities to my community.  By sharing my work, someone else out there will see something we are doing and twist that idea into something new.  Someone out there will try something they weren’t even thinking about.

Finally, I share my work because it defines for the world what is happening in a public school library.  Without sharing, many assumptions are made about what happens in public schools.  It shouldn’t be a mystery to the public.  You can look through my blog posts, Instagram pictures, and Tweets and see that our library and school are filled with miraculous things.  Everything isn’t perfect, but it has value.

Usually, when I share my work, I add hashtags like #edchat, #edtech, #studentvoice, #tlchat, #istelib, #makered, and more.  This sends our work to specific audiences.  This week, a new Secretary of Education was sworn in. There has been a lot of controversy around Betsy DeVos and her views of public education.  There has been a lot of controversy about her lack of experience with what actually happens within public schools. So…I decided to occasionally share with her on social media some of the things happening in our public school library.

When I did this, several people in my professional learning network started having a conversation around showing the great work of public schools. Sherry Gick, Rebecca Flowers, and more started brainstorming a hashtag.  Many suggestions were offered but the brilliant author/illustrator Matthew Cordell offered this one #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Kristina Holzweiss created a graphic, and we all started sharing it along with our posts of the great work of public schools.

 

I hope that you will join us.  Show the powerful things that are happening in your school and use the hashtag #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Use our graphic within your networks to encourage others to share.

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Also, consider tagging people who need to see the power of public schools.  Perhaps it’s local, state, and federal government.  Perhaps it’s businesses in your community.  Perhaps it’s someone else.

Regardless of who you might tag, show your work.  You never know who it might inspire, influence, or change.

 

 

Design Challenge Makerspace

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I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We are so fortunate to have the University of Georgia right next to our school and even more fortunate to have instructors like Gretchen Thomas who collaborate with local schools.  Gretchen and I have been collaborating for about 3 years now, and each year we try some new things.  We’re always looking for ways to improve the makerspace time at our school as well as the opportunities available to students.

Gretchen teaches an undergraduate course at UGA all related to maker education, design thinking, STEAM, and more. Every Tuesday and Thursday, at least 4 of her students come to our library to work with students who sign up for our open makerspace time.

This semester we are once again trying something new. Rather than try to do something new on Tuesday and Thursday, students sign up for a 2-day makerspace that gives them time to work toward finishing a project rather than feeling rushed. In addition, we are thinking about design challenges as well as seeking solutions to authentic problems.

Sketching plans for @sphero chariots #librariesofinstagram #steam

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This week, we had our first UGA group of the semester and they offered a chariot building design challenge.  Students had access to Strawbees, popsicle sticks, cups, straws, tape, paper, scissors, and anything else in our maker supply cart.  Students from 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade came to the sessions.

So many chariot designs #designchallenge #steam #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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The UGA group started out my explaining what a chariot is.  Then, they gave students the task.  Design a chariot that can be pulled by a Sphero robot.  Students grouped themselves in groups of 2-4 and brainstormed designs on paper.

Sphero chariot in action #makerspace #librariesofinstagram #steam #designchallenge @sphero

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Next, students started construction of their chariots.  There was a lot of trial and error during this process.  Designs on paper didn’t always translate to physical designs so adjustments were made.  The UGA students also got out some Spheros so students could check their design to make sure the Sphero fit in the right places.  No driving was done on day 1.

Students left their designs on the table in the makerspace so they were ready for day 2.  On day 2, students finished designs and began testing their work with a Sphero.  Most designs did not work out on the first try, so students brainstormed modifications and got to work. I loved listening to their thought process in deciding what was problematic and how they could fix that aspect of the design.

I also saw students considering the settings of the Sphero to change the driving speed in order to navigate an obstacle course of coffee cans and ramps with their Sphero.

I really loved this two-day model because I saw students able to finish a project and actually take time to redesign.  Students loved coming to makerspace 2 days during the week rather than just one.  We’ll keep considering how this supports students creation and how it might get in the way of opportunities.

I also have a group of students who are wanting to work on individual projects and Gretchen is going to help me pair UGA mentors with these students as a 2nd piece of makerspace.

We’ll see where this goes, but the potential is looking pretty miraculous!

Student Book Budgets: A Walk to Avid Bookshop

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We are so excited to have the second location of Avid Bookshop just a few blocks from our school.  Avid was recently named one of the top 5 finalists for the 2017 bookstore of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.  Since our students have walking field trip forms on file, it was easy for this year’s student book budget group to plan a walking field trip to the new Avid.  This group of students has a library budget that they have complete control over.  Through surveys, they have set purchasing goals to buy new books for the library that kids want to read.

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Ahead of our visit, I sent Hannah DeCamp, school specialist, a list of the major genres the book budget group is looking to purchase books for.  She pulled together some books to show us, found some “Best Books for Young Readers” magazines, and dug out some advance reader copies of books for students to review.

Here comes the book budget team @avidbookshop #studentvoice #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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On the day of our walk, I met with 11 of our book budget team and reminded them about the purchasing goals we had set.  We also reminded ourselves that Avid would be open for business so we needed to stay out of the way of customers as well as keeping the store organized during our browsing.

Book budget students are visiting @avidbookshop today in five points. #avidinschools #avidevents #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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It was a great morning for a walk and it only took us about 15 minutes to arrive.  Hannah greeted us and showed us how the store was organized.  She showcased a few books in each section and then allowed students to browse the store.

Since the store sells books for all kinds of readers, students really had to ask themselves if they were looking at a book that would best fit an elementary library.  Some books were of interest, but they were really more for adults.  As students found books that they liked, they came to me and we wrote the titles down in a notebook.  I originally wanted to type them as we worked, but I didn’t want to lug around a computer.

Book talking with @hrdreads #athensga #avidevents #avidinschools #walkingfieldtrip #studentvoice

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What I noticed right away was that when books were presented in smaller sections like the shelves in Avid, students noticed the books better.  There were several books our students got excited about that we actually have in our library, but they haven’t seen them. It made me start to wonder how to make books more visible to students.

When Hannah let students look through a stack of advance reader copies, they again got excited about many of the books. It reminded me that I need to get more students involved in perusing the ARCs that I get in the mail or pick up at conferences.  I can’t read them all, but students can help read and make decisions.

I kept sending students back to the shelves of Avid and making them take books off the shelves to read a few pages or at least read the back.  I feel like they spent a good amount of time digging through what was in stock.  In all, we spent about an hour browsing.

What a great morning shopping with @hrdreads @avidbookshop #avidevents #avidinschools #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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Several students brought money with them, so they made some purchases.  We gathered outside the shop for a bit and took time to look through the catalog that Hannah had given us.  Again, we added to our list before walking back to school.

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Avid Bookshop is going to be such a great resource for us being so close to our school.  There were so many life skills and standards that we explored on this trip.  We learned about the publishing industry, independent bookshops, community helpers, budgets, adding money, and taxes.

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Now, I am typing up the books that we loved, and students will make a final decision to send back to Hannah at Avid for a quote.  I know this is just the beginning of how we will utilize having Avid right here in our school community.

It was a great day for a walk to 5 points #studentvoice #librariesofinstagram #athensga #walkingfieldtrip

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Polar Express 2016

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Every year that we have our Polar Express Day, I’m reminded of the power of community. School-wide events are so rewarding, but they take a lot of work to pull off.  The library hosts multiple school-wide events every year.  A team of special elves come together to make Polar Express Day a special event for every child in our school.  It is often one of the big memories that students have about their year and their experience at Barrow.

Scenes from Polar Express Day #polarexpress #librariesofinstagram #alwaysbelieve

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Many schools ask us what goes into our Polar Express Day, so here’s a little peek:

  • Our principal creates a schedule so that every class in the school gets a time to come to the library to hear the Polar Express. Most 30-minute sessions 2-3 classes at a time
  • Janice Flory, our library volunteer coordinator (a PTA role) buys bells, string, hot chocolate, cups, and candy canes through PTA.  She also organizes volunteers to help each Polar Express session during the day
  • A group of volunteers works on stringing 600 bells so that every student in the school gets a bell.  This year it was a wonderful troop of Girl Scouts
  • I work on setting up the library with special decorations, chairs, and banners.  I make sure the technical side of Polar Express is working such as the train sounds, read aloud, and special music.  I also work with our volunteer coordinator to make sure all of the pieces are running smoothly.
  • A team of teachers come overnight the night before Polar Express Day and create special hallway decorations such as a train track, ticket booth, and ornaments
  • Our lunchroom makes huge batches of hot chocolate
  • On the day of the event, teams of volunteers help pour and serve hot chocolate as well as hang bells around each student and whisper “Always Believe”.  Kim Ness, parent volunteer extraordinaire & Janice Flory, library volunteer coordinator, help keep the volunteers organized all day.
  • Teachers do special activities in their classrooms such as making Polar Express tickets. They also hold the book as we listen to the story over the library speakers
  • Our family engagement specialist organizes a nighttime Polar Express for Barrow alumni
  • On the day of the event, there’s always lots of odd and ends that have to be done and we all work together to get it done. It is a tight schedule and takes quick moving in between sessions to reset everything for the next group
  • This year we added a green screen photo booth to take a picture with the book as the background. Teachers helped a lot with this as well as our principal.  Next year, we’ll need to have someone stationed here to help it run smoothly

Yummy hot chocolate #polarexpress #librariesofinstagram #alwaysbelieve

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Hot chocolate #polarexpress #librariesofinstagram #alwaysbelieve

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Bells #alwaysbelieve #polarexpress #librariesofinstagram

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The journey continues #librariesofinstagram #alwaysbelieve #polarexpress

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Prek enthusiasm #polarexpress #alwaysbelieve #bells

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Our green screen was a favorite activity this year.  Many teachers jumped in to help with this one because it was a little bit tricky if the app stopped working.  We’ll keep thinking how to make this station a little bit better next year.  Even with some glitches, we got some fun pictures of classes.

Each year holds special memories for Polar Express.  There are special little moments from students all throughout the day. I’m so thankful to have  community who comes together to create this magical event of always believing.

 

 

Community Collaboration: Book Making in the Makerspace

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I love opportunities to connect with community and bring expertise, talents, and interests to our students.  Recently, a parent contacted me to tell me that her child’s grandmother was traveling to Athens to visit and would love to do book making with some students at our school.  I immediately responded back that we would love to have this opportunity in our makerspace, and the planning began.

Grandmother Kathleen sent me a list of supplies we would need, so I ordered those from Amazon in advance.  She packed everything else on her flight from Texas.

I also communicated with Gretchen Thomas at UGA to let her know that her students could help Kathleen during this makerspace time.  I let teachers know the topic of the makerspace in advance and students signed up to participate across two days (Tuesday and Thursday).

When Kathleen arrived, her enthusiasm for art was contagious.  You could tell that she was an amazing art teacher in Texas.  She had multiple examples of books she had made from instruction found in Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.

So many amazing book making projects in this text. #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking #makered

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She had a different kinds of book planned for each group who visited the makerspace: 1st & 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade.

Before each group arrived, she put materials at each chair with the  help of Gretchen’s UGA students.  She gave very clear, step-by-step instructions for each group and me and the UGA students went around assisting students as needed.

Book making in today's makerspace #makered #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking

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A grandparent from Texas is leading book making in makerspace #librariesofinstagram #makered #bookmaking

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Because each project took more than 30-minutes, we reached a stopping point and then stored the projects for Thursday.

Each book had its own purpose and made me and the students think about so many possibilities. One book allowed you to record things from different perspectives. Another book allowed you to write your own Choose Your Own Adventure story with pull out cards.  Another book fanned out like a flower and allowed you to put poems, photographs, and more within the folds.

Each time Kathleen showed us a book, my mind was swirling with connections to each grade level’s curriculum.  Students were focused, productive, and buzzing with excitement about today’s makerspace.  I bet that when students are involved in the process of creating their own published books, they are more likely to fill those books with productive writing.  I know that when I personally made my own book during the final 30-minute session, I really wanted to go home and fill it with writing and photographs.

This book I made in makerspace today amazes me. #makered #bookmaking #librariesofinstagram #community #grandparentsrock

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I was reminded once again about how many interests and talents are hiding within our students, families, extended families, and community.  Alone, I would not have thought much about book making or how to attempt it with groups of students.  However, now that the expertise of a grandparent was shared with me and our students, I’m considering new possibilities with projects.

How many more talents and interests are just waiting for us within our communities?  How do we tap into these resources? This was an opportunity that was given to me, but I know that if I had a way of unearthing and organizing the wealth of talents and interests in our community that more opportunities like this would make its way to our students and teachers.

 

 

 

Storybook Celebration 2016

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Traditions. We have many. The annual storybook parade is one that has been around for a long time. Each year we try a few new things, but the hear of the storybook parade is celebrating books by dressing as our favorite characters, carrying the book, and showing off our costume and book to the community.

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Storybook family #barrowbuddies #storybook #parade

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The day begins with guest readers in every classroom. Janice Flory, our volunteer coordinator, sets up a Signup Genius to recruit 2 readers for each classroom. They gather in the library, select a book, take a group picture, and then get escorted to a classroom by a 5th grade BTV crew member.

I was really excited about the selection of books they had to choose from this year.

Can't wait to see what guest readers choose to read to students tomorrow. #storytime #guestreader #community #athensga

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Next, the whole school gathered in the lunchroom for an assembly.  Since October 27 was Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, I read aloud The Bear Ate Your Sandwich and recorded approximately 675 listeners to the story.

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When we were a smaller school, we took time to walk across the stage and show off our costumes, but it is a challenge as we have grown. Now, we simply stand by row, do a little twirl, and then sit down facing the back of the cafeteria.  The costumes this year were amazing. I really pushed for students to think about characters they connected with and dress as that character.

At this point, we head out on our parade. Our route this year was the entire block of our school.

Storybook parade #barrowbuddies #parade #storybook #librariesofinstagram

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Students chant “read more books” as they walk down the sidewalk and parents and community members watch and blow their horns as they pass by.

Our Prek-4th grade classes return to school and begin literacy activities in their classrooms. Our 5th grade walks to the nearby Georgia Center to have hot chocolate and spend some time together.

Upon returning to school, our specials teachers, resource teachers, and media center offer special 30-minute sessions that classrooms can sign up to attend.

In the library, I offered a couple of experiences. Lower grades designed their own Halloween pumpkins using the Quiver augmented reality app.

Pumpkin carving #ar #librariesofinstagram

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Augmented reality pumpkins. #ar #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies

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Upper grades used littlebits to make something spooky.  Both of these activities were connected to spooky stories we have in the library.

Spooky effects @littlebits #storybook #barrowbuddies #librariesofinstagram

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What is within these haunted houses. #spooky #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies

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Are you afraid of this @littlebits ghost? #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies #storybook

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I loved seeing the designs that students came up with in both experiences.  It was a fast-paced session that pushed students to be creative, work together, problem solve, and innovate.  I hope that many will continue to explore littlebits beyond this fast session.

#barrowbuddies #storybookparade Love seeing our buddies showing their love for reading! #readmorebooks

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As always, this day was tons of fun but exhausting. It takes the whole community to make the event successful. Thank you to every student, teacher, family member, and community member who helped us make this day a success.