Follow the Bookstagram Choice Awards Nov 27-Dec 17

Instagram has become one of my favorite places. I’ll admit that I was late to the Instagram craze, but now it is probably my favorite place to be. I love the visuals of classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and books. I get so many ideas for new projects in the library as well as new books to add to the collection.

There are numerous bookstagrammers who post pictures and reviews of new and upcoming books. A personal goal of mine has been to be critical of our library collection and be constantly aware of the voices represented in the books on our shelves. Instagram has helped me see many more books than I could ever find alone.

One of the people I started following is Charnaie Gordon @hereweeread  Her posts about the diverse books that she reads with her son and daughter always keep me up to date on books that need to be added to our library.  The great thing is that she isn’t the only one. As I follow one person, I discover someone else and suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about books and diverse voices.

I was so excited when I learned that Charnaie was brainstorming a new Instagram book award list selected by many of the “bookstagrammers” that I admired.  I was in disbelief that she wanted to include me as one of the members of the first award selection group.  I was honored, intimidated, but mostly inspired.  This group of people has poured their hearts into what has become the Bookstagram Choice Awards.  Each person chose one winner along with honorable mentions in a variety of categories.  The hope is that these categories will represent a diverse collection of voices and communities that serve a wide age range of readers.

Starting on November 27th, there will be one category announced each day. This will include the winner and any honorable mentions.  You can follow along on the newly created Bookstagram Choice Awards Instagram account as well as by following all of the contributors who will post on their individual pages on their assigned day.

Be sure to follow:

 

I hope you will take time to follow all these wonderful people, celebrate the books that were chosen, and suggest books you would have selected.  It’s all in the name of amplifying the wonderful books that exist in the world. Through books, we can better understand and connect with one another in the world. Through books, we can have conversations about what matters and help our world be a better place.

Let the Bookstagram Choice Awards begin!

P.S. Stay tuned on December 17th for some special giveaways where you’ll have a chance to enter to win some of the books featured in the awards.

Flipgrid Global Connections & the Epic 30-second Book Talk

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Flipgrid continues to be one of my favorite tools for getting student voice out into the world.  They are constantly listening to users and working to improve the functionality of this tool.  Now, in the paid version of Flipgrid Classroom, there is a section called “Global Grid Connections”.  You can establish any of your grids to be accessible to other members of the Flipgrid Classroom community. As an administrator, I can browse the available grids and look for opportunities for my students to connect and collaborate with other students around the world as well as offer my grids for students around the world to contribute to.

 

Prior to this release, I would use social media and online communities to seek out collaborating classrooms.  I’ll of course still do this, but I love that Flipgrid is taking one of the big barriers to global collaboration and trying out a solution. They are helping me push my grid out to more users so that my students have a chance to have a larger audience as well as hear from other perspectives around the world.  They’ve made it so simple to reach out and communicate with classrooms around the world.

Prepping 30-second book talks #epic #booktalk #librariesofinstagram

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Right as all of this update was being announced, Jennifer LaGarde and Brad Gustafson launched the 30-second book talk challenge.  Lead Learners and Literacy Legends submitted their 30-second book talks and a competition brackets was setup for voting.

At the bottom of the post, they offered resources for creating your own 30-second book talk challenge.  I thought this would make a perfect global connection question on my grid.  I started collaborating with Melissa Freeman in 5th grade, and all of her language arts classes came to the library to select books, read, and create 30-second epic book talks.

We started by listening to some book talks, including some vintage Reading Rainbow!

We looked at Jennifer & Brad’s tips for book talks.

Then students identified some important pieces of an epic book talk.  We constructed this sheet as a framework for our talks.

Next students chose a book that they recently finished or selected a book from the library to read.  I pulled a diverse collection of picture books, especially ones that our 5th graders might overlook because so many feel the pull to read only chapter books.  They spent the first day reading and writing their script.  Ms. Freeman, Ms. Mullins, and I all walked around and read with students as well as conferenced with them on book talks.

On day 2, students continued working on their scripts, practiced, and recorded.  We reminded them that Flipgrid has a feature to pause the recording along the way so that they could pick up a prop, turn to a page in the book, etc.  We didn’t want them to waste any of their 30 seconds with transitions.  As they submitted their videos, they began watching other people’s videos.

Now, it’s your turn!  We hope you will join us on our 30-second book talk grid.

You are welcome to add your own student voices alongside our students sharing favorite books in 30 seconds or less.  Let’s unite our student voices through Flipgrid and inspire a global community of readers.

Reader’s Advisory: Quirky Questions and Crowdsourcing Ideas

readers-advisory-4This year, I’m really trying to think of ways to support students’ reading lives.  Recently, Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade collaborator, came to me with an idea. She wondered if I would meet with small groups of students in 3rd grade who needed some suggestions of books to read.  These students are all readers but some might be stuck in their reading, abandon many of the books they choose, need a nudge to try something new, etc.

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When I recommend books in the library, it’s always a very informal process.  I ask what students like, what they’ve read, what they are hoping to find, etc, but I’ve never formally made a list of questions to pull from.  I started thinking about Will Walton at Avid Bookshop and how he manages the Avid book subscription program.  In this program, someone buys a 6 or 12-month subscription and the recipient gets a new book in the mail specifically tailored to the recipient’s interests. I sent Will a message to see if he had a formal process and learned that he just loves to talk and chats with the person all about things they love. His questions aren’t always specific to reading, so it really got me thinking about quirky questions that I might ask to students that would help me connect them to a book.

readers-advisory-3

I initially started making a list on my own, but then I sent the Google doc to all of the media specialists in our district as well as posted to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

There were many suggestions about book related questions but some interesting thoughts started to emerge.  Our list started to grow.  (Feel free to add to this document!)

  • What do you like to do after school?
  • What are some of your favorite movies or television shows?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What is a book that you couldn’t stand to read?  What was it about that book that you didn’t like?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Where do you like to eat?
  • What kind of games do you enjoy playing?
  • Would you rather fly a kite (sit by a river, etc.) on a nice day or go to a big party?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • Do you have a favorite series?  Genre?
  • Do you like “just the facts” or “a far out story”?
  • What are 3 books you’ve read that you loved?
  • Do you like realistic stuff or imaginary stuff?
  • Why do you read (to escape, entertainment, learn new things)?
  • What is your preferred length of book? (short & sweet, long & detailed, depends on the book)
  • If you could visit any place or time in history, where would you go?
  • Is there anything you would avoid when choosing a book? (bad language, violence, ghosts, death, etc)
  • When you come to the library, where you usually go first when looking for your next book?
  • If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be and why?
  • Who are some of your favorite celebrities?
  • What is your favorite subject in school?

Then, I took those questions and turned them into a Google form to use with students.

I decided that if 6-8 students came at a time, I could have them start filling out the form while I started having 1-on-1 conversations with them.  We settled on a 30 minute session for this survey process.  I took over the typing as I talked with them and added to what they had already written or finished the questions they hadn’t gotten to.

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I was actually amazed by some of the responses that I got from students and the insight it gave me into ways I might connect them to a book.  Some snippets of responses included:

If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be and why?

  • Mal from Descendants because she’s pretty and has purple hair. I like what she wears.
  • a wolf to howl at the moon
  • a cheetah because I want to run fast

Is there anything you would avoid when choosing a book? (bad language, violence, ghosts, death, etc)

  • kissing….love story
  • princesses
  • main character dies

 

I looked at all of the results for each student and wrote key words from the answers onto a post-it note for each student.

This helped me walk around the library and pull books into stacks for each student for a second trip to the library.  The purpose of the second 30-minute segment was to look at the stack of books that were chosen specifically for each student and really spend some time with them. Students were so eager to get their hands on their stacks that they started asking me for a sneak peek before it was even time.  My fear was that students wouldn’t connect with any book, but once again the miraculous happened.

Each student had a strategy.  Some spread all the books out and looked at the covers.  Some started reading one book and didn’t want to move to another book in the stack.  Some flipped over and read the back of each book.  Some read the beginning page of each book. What happened is that every student found more than one book in their stack of 7-8 books that they wanted to read and they were genuinely excited about their choices.

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We decided that each student would choose the “first read” from the pile and we would create a list of all of the other titles so that we didn’t forget about the “future reads”.  For all of the books that weren’t chosen, we just pushed them aside in a big stack. Something else miraculous happened.  Students who were coming into the library to check out books saw all of my small group looking at that pile of books and they wanted to check something out from the pile. Several students who always have trouble finding something actually picked something from the pile of leftover books from the small group.

This gave me a lot to think about in terms of how to support various readers.  This was a very personalized experience.  It was time consuming on my part, but it was a way that I connected with students that’s hard to do when they are rushing in and out to get a book while I’m teaching a class.  I won’t to continue to explore this and see how it can be fine tuned.

Our next step is for students to read their books during “read to self” time in the classroom and we will meet again to chat about the books.  It will be like a book club. We won’t focus on naming the characters, setting, problem, solution, etc.  Instead we’ll talk about connections we had to the characters, what surprised us, what made us laugh, what we think will happen next. It will be “real talk” about books rather than just academic talk.  I can’t wait to see how this evolves.

If you have a favorite reader’s advisory question, add it to our doc or leave it in the comments.

Celebrating Poetry Through Book Spine Poems

book spine poem

One of our favorite kinds of poetry to create each year is book spine poetry. It is a kind of found poetry where the words found on the spines of books create the lines of a poem. Every 2nd grade class came to the library for a one-hour session to create book spine poems individually or in pairs.

To begin our time, I briefly explained found poetry and then told a story about how I created my own book spine poem. The story was meant to serve as a model for how students might craft their own poem, but they certainly didn’t have to go about the process the exact same way as me.

I started in the everybody section of the library and started reading the spines of all the books on the shelf from the beginning. I was looking for a title that jumped out at me as a starting place. I happened upon Quest and Journey by Aaron Becker. I loved how those two words sounded together and I decided to start looking for titles that seemed to go with those two words, which meant looking for titles that were about traveling in some way. I passed by many titles that didn’t fit, so I left them on the shelf without pulling them off. I continued this process until I had found I Took a Walk, In My Dreams I Can Fly, and Goin’ Someplace Special. I also had the book The Ride but I decided that I didn’t like the sound of those words with the others in my stack so I put that book back on the return cart. Next, I tried several ways of arranging the books until I had a sequence I was happy with. After practicing a few times, I recorded my poem with my phone and uploaded it online to share with the world.

After my short story, we went back through the steps and put them into a concise list on the board for students to reference. Then, students got to work. They wandered the shelves looking for that first book and then went from there. As was expected, some of them found their own strategies for creating the poems. Some struggled with finding that first book. Some wanted the support of someone walking with them to look for books. The teacher and I wandered around too and talked with individual students until they started reaching the recording phase.

Once students recorded using an iPad, they brought the iPad to me and we immediately plugged the iPad into my computer and uploaded to Youtube. They also went to the teacher to take a photograph of their book stack that could be printed and put into their poetry books they are creating in class. All books that were used went onto a cart parked in the middle of the library, and students were welcome to read those books while they waited on classmates to finish.

When students finished, I pulled all of their work into Youtube playlists which I emailed to teachers to share with families. We concluded our time by sitting together and snapping for each poem on our playlist. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to, enjoy, and snap for the poems from each 2nd grade class.

Building Home Libraries: A Community Collaboration

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One of the goals of the Barrow Elementary Media Center is to support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families.  During the school year, our library is a huge source of reading, but I often wonder what I can do to continue to support reading during the summer months when students are at home.  What do their home libraries look like? What can we do as a school to support the idea of building a home library?

Many schools in Clarke County are supported by an incredible program called Books for Keeps where every student in the school receives 12 books for summer reading. Our school will eventually be served by this organization, but at the moment, we are not. Since we can’t really raise enough money to buy books for every child in the school, I decided to start with 2 communities of students in our school.

This year, I am working with our community, writing grants, and raising funds to support families in building home libraries in their communities. The Junior League of Athens is purchasing 6 books for each student from the Bethel Homes community who attends our school.   These books are for the students to keep and share with their family. There will be a family day of learning about home libraries, creating a plan for a home library, and adding these 6 books to the home library.  We hope by taking this step, we are supporting a culture in each home of having a dedicated place to keep books that are purchased, borrowed, or donated.

Through First Book UGA, we have a $750 grant to replicate the Junior League’s program in the Parkview community. This will provide approximately 3 books per student through First Book.  In order to replicate the same program we are offering at Bethel, we needed to raise some additional funds.  After getting approval from our superintendent, I created a GoFundMe campaign to raise an additional $1,000. I began sharing the campaign through many avenues of social media as well as personal emails. Camilla Bracewell, a Barrow grandparent and huge library supporter, also shared the project through her own networks. In just over 24 hours, we raised the funds needed.

I’m notorious for jumping into a project before I really know exactly what it’s going to look like, but I always leap in with the faith of expecting the miraculous and knowing that things will work out. Now that the funds are in place, some logistics must be worked out.

Logistic 1:  If students are going to create home libraries, what will I actually use for the home library container?

I didn’t want to assume that every student had a home library at home or that they knew that a home library could be any place you keep books, so I wanted them to have a container to take home with their books. I started pricing containers at Walmart and Target and seeing what Dollar Tree had. Along the way, I posted Instagram pictures of my journey and invited people to chime in with suggestions.

People chimed in with ideas:

Then, my wife suggested that I contact Suki Janssen with the Athens Clarke County Recycling Division, so I did.  She invited me to come and check out the warehouse where the Teacher Reuse Store items are kept. This CHARM facility houses items that are difficult to recycle.  I met with Chris Griffin and he let me browse the building and see what I could find.

bins at recycling

Miraculously, I found  3 different stacks of trays in varying shapes, sizes, and conditions and was fortunate enough to take them all home with me.

Logistic #2: Getting all of these trays ready to become home libraries.

I took all of the trays home and started cleaning a few of them and brainstorming exactly what to do to the trays to decorate them.

Again, I reached out to the community for ideas. Gretchen Thomas, my collaborative partner from UGA, suggested lots and lots of spray paint.

I went out and bought some cans to do a paint test.

It was a time consuming process to clean and paint the trays and I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone.

Logistic #3: Who can clean and paint all of these trays?

I brought all of the trays to school.

I called upon my wonderful volunteer coordinator Courtney Tobin as well as Gretchen Thomas to send out emails and ask for volunteers. Once again, the community didn’t disappoint. Camilla Bracewell came in along with Margaret Christ and her librarian mom came in to clean trays.

I also have volunteers scheduled to come in and start spray painting the trays outside.

Logistic #4: How will I order the right books for students?

Since we have a First Book account and grant, I can order books directly from First Book for a great price. I really wanted to go back to my student book budget model and give each student a certain amount of money to spend in the First Book marketplace.

However, I don’t think I have enough time to pull that off.  Instead, I created a short reading interest survey so that I can do interviews with each student and find out some of their interests in order to get the books they really want to read. Again, this isn’t something I can do alone since there’s 75 kids in this project, so volunteers are helping me interview students with printed copies of the survey.

Logistic #5: How will I get the order done?

As we interview students, I’m searching the First Book Marketplace for books that match what students are asking for. I’m adding these to a wish list that I can pull from when it’s time to order.  I’ve blocked off times on the library calendar next week to work on the actual order.  I plan to take each student survey sheet and personally search for books to meet the needs of the student request and age.  Then, I’ll use the donated funds and grant to pay the bill.

Logistic #6: How will students take ownership of the libraries?

Rather than just hand over the books and trays to students, I want them to have some investment in the project. In two weeks, we are going to hold some decorating sessions where students can come and decorate their libraries with personal touches. During that time, we’ll talk about what it means to have a home library as well as talk about sharing books between home libraries. Since these students are in the same community, there is an opportunity for students to be able to exchange books with one another if they want to.

I know that I have many more logistics to work out in this project, but it is amazing to look at where this seed of an idea has grown into a blossoming project.  I can’t wait to see where the project takes us, how it impacts students, and what we all learn about one another along the way. Having a community that pulls together around a common project makes such a difference.

 

 

 

The Magic of Poetry

I love reading poetry and creating poetry with kids. I’m always amazed at the freedom that many kids feel when they express themselves through poetry and give themselves permission to abandon some of the “rules” we must follow when we write in other forms.  While there are many “rules” in poetry too, I’ve noticed that many kids aren’t intimidated by writing a poem when they realize that poetry is painting a picture with words and not necessarily writing in a complete sentence.

I’m happy to work with students on poetry all year round, but we of course do our fair share of lessons in April for poetry month. Recently, Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten class came to the library for an introduction to poetry leading up to our annual Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe.

Recycled vases ready for poetry flowers #barrowpoems

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Rather than read a bunch of poetry, I chose to read one poem that is a full length book called Black Magic by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.  The text is filled with vivid similes about the color black such as “black is loud like my best tap shoes making happy noise with every move.”

Prior to reading the book, I wrote “Green Magic” on the board and asked students to think of a list of things that they thought of when they thought of the color green.  Their list looked like this:

  • green flags
  • green leaves
  • green books
  • green beans
  • green stickers
  • green turtles

Then, we read the book.  We paused along the way and paid attention to the language.  I wasn’t specifically focusing on similes with them but instead just noticing the unusual descriptions or the vivid descriptions.

Following the book, we revisited our list.  I asked them, “How can we take each of these things in our list and make it more vivid or unusual?”  Students took turns offering suggestions.  Sometimes we went with the first thing a student said, and other times we listened to several suggestions before deciding what to add.  I let the students come up with the words, and I wrote them for us on the board.

To close our time, we read the poem twice. First, I read it aloud, and then we did a choral reading.

Green Magic

By Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten Class

Green flags waving in the sky

Green leaves falling from the trees

Green books sitting in the library

Green beans dancing in my mouth

Green stickers sleeping on my hand

Green turtles minding their own business

Now, many of these students want to go back into the classroom and try writing their own color poetry modeled after this one. This time of writing really seems like magic to me.  Students come in with a blank screen in front of them and we unite our minds and voices to create something together as a community that just seems to spark when it is spoken into the air. We did this without any fancy technology or bells and whistles.  It was just us, our imaginations, an inspiring text, and a dry erase board and marker.

What poetry magic have you created this month?

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

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For several years, I have dedicated a portion of our library budget to be completely controlled by students.  This project has come to be one of my favorite ways of empowering the voices of the students in our school.  It’s so much more than just asking students what they think I should buy for the library.  It gives students a voice in every aspect of the decision making and purchasing process.  Each year is a bit different, so here’s a look at how we started the project this year.

Where did we get the money?

Some years our budget comes straight from my state budget.  Some years it’s part of book fair profits.  Some years it’s a grant. This past spring, I applied for the James Patterson Partnership grant where he gave $1.75 million dollars to school libraries.  I was one of the lucky libraries to receive this grant in the amount of $5,000.  This will be our budget this year along with rewards dollars that I have collected through Capstone Rewards.

How did I choose students?

This year I created a Google form and emailed it to students.  I primarily pull students from 3rd-5th grade for this project and these students regularly check their email.  I kept the form open for 5 days for students to apply.  The beginning of the form included some details about book budgets followed by a video intro.

For students who marked that they might be willing to give up some recess time to participate, I followed up with individual emails and conversations.  I accepted every student into the group unless they decided they didn’t want to do it.  I created a group of all of the students in my email contacts so that I could easily send messages to them all.  On my initial emails to the group, I included the teachers so that they were in the loop with what they were doing and why they were coming to the library instead of recess.

First Week

On Monday, students came to the library at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 depending on their grade level.  I did a quick overview of the purpose of the book budget group and the steps that we would most likely go through across the course of the project.  They also had a chance to ask questions.  Then, we jumped into the work.

Our first goal was to gather reading interests from every grade level in the school.  We made a copy of last year’s Google form.

Then, students talked about each question and whether or not they wanted to make changes to the wording from last year.  Each grade level added to and revised the form until it was ready.

They made several changes, including asking students about their preferences in types of books such as picture book, chapter book, and informational books.  They added some new categories of books and revised the language to be more clear.

During the 5th grade group, we went ahead and emailed the form out to students to begin collecting responses.  We also created a QR code so that students who were surveying younger grades with iPads could easily pull up the form.

I emailed an update to the entire group to let them know that surveying needed to begin, and they started coming in before school, during lunch, during recess, and during any extra moments of the day to start surveying.  All along the way, we could check our progress.

 

Throughout the week, I emailed updates to the group as well as sent reminders to teachers to let students fill out the survey.  We will meet one more time this week to examine our results so far and decide if we have enough data to set goals or if we need to survey more people.

I’m very proud of this year’s group already and I know they are going to do miraculous things this year!