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.

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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.

Share yours in the comments. #teachersfollowteachers #librariesofinstagram #bookshop #readersofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

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.

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!

2015 Student Book Budgets: First Steps

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We are a little late this year, but our student book budget group has finally started.  Each year, I reserve a portion of our library funding and allow students to make the decisions about how that money is spent.  This is more than just having a wish list for students to contribute to.  This is giving them complete control in every part of the decision making process.

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Each year, the groups are chosen in different ways.  This year, I made a video to show to our 4th and 5th graders to explain the project.

Then, I created a Google form that was shared with all of our 4th and 5th graders to tell why they would want to be in the student book budget group.

Aziz Coleman, 4th grade teacher, really wanted his ELT group of 12 fourth graders to be a part of the project, so all of them filled out the form along with about 30 other students.  After reading through the responses, it really seemed like everyone who signed up was genuinely interested in being in the project, so I took them all!

I created a schedule for our meetings along with a timeline of where we are going.  Over the years, I’ve fine tuned the steps that we go through, but student voice and student choice always stays at the center of what we do.

During our 1st two days together, we have focused on creating our survey about reading interests.  I made a contact group with all of the students in my gmail.  That makes it easy for me to invite the entire group as collaborators on docs that we use.  I made 2 docs.  One was a brainstorm doc for us to brainstorm possible things to ask about on the survey.  I thought it would be easier to brainstorm on a doc rather than try to do it all on the Google form.

It was amazing to see so many students working together toward one common cause.

After some brainstorming started, I gave them editing rights to our 2nd doc which was our Google form survey.  We made a copy of last year’s form, and then started using our brainstorming list to make changes.

This was the 1st time I’ve tried collaborating on the Google form.  Usually we just put it up on the board and work together whole group.  I liked seeing every student involved at once, but it was definitely messy.

I checked in with students periodically and gave them some focus.  At times, we broke the tasks up into groups.  For example, one group worked on fine tuning the brainstorm list.  Another group added questions to the survey.  Another group looked carefully at the checklist on the survey to see what needed to be added or changed.

Students worked during their recess, extended learning time, and even left to get lunch and come back.  They were excited and very focused.  There were a few students who started getting off task, so I offered that they might want to go back to recess if they felt like they had contributed their part for the day.  This was totally in their hands, and some of them took me up on the offer.

We are now in the survey process. We want to survey students at every grade level.  We will email the survey to our 3rd-5th graders since they all have a computer and we will use iPads to survey the lower grades.

 

Click here to view this year’s survey.

Since our meeting time is during a prime lunch time, we have been taking over the lunchroom with iPads to survey students.

Once we have results from the survey we will set goals based on those results and start meeting with our vendors such as Capstone and Avid Bookshop.

2nd Grade’s Black History Flipgrid Project is Ready for Your Votes!

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Our Barrow 2nd graders have been hard at work creating this year’s Black History research project.  We built upon our momentum from last year, but added many new layers.

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During the project students

Over the past 2 weeks, students have been coming to the library in groups of 4 during blocks of 10-minute segments.  During each session, I put a sign on the library door to encourage people to enter quietly.

The teachers scheduled their students on a shared Google doc, so I knew who was coming at each 10-minute interval.  This was really helpful for me to know if students really had some extra time or if they needed to finish and hurry back to class.  recording sessions

I put out a helpful list of instructions by 4 iPad stations in the library with all of the codes that students would need to get to their questions.

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Students were focused and productive as they got their work ready for the world.

Now, the students are finished with their recording and they need your help.

jesse owens

They would like for you to visit their Google site and view videos about each of the 6 people.  Then, help us decide who should win the first Barrow Peace Prize.  Students decided that the person who wins should be someone who represents the following character traits:

  • Dependability
  • Kindness
  • Peaceful
  • Determined
  • Modest
  • Fairness
  • Bravery
  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Perseverance
  • Respectful
  • Helpful

In a couple of weeks, voting will close and we will announce the winner of this year’s Barrow Peace Prize.  Thank you for taking time to view the students’ work.  If you have any comments about specific videos feel free to leave a comment or a Tweet for me to share with the students.  Also, you are welcome to share this project with other educators you know and encourage them to view and vote, too!

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Click here to visit our Google Site and Vote! 

Collaborating Globally with Perspectives on Explorers: The Results are In!

Barrow Explorers

Two big library goals for this year are to give students time to dream, tinker, create, and share as well as collaborate globally.  Our fourth grade is wrapping up their explorers perspective project.  They considered six explorers and whether these explorers were in fact heroes or villains.  This project has spanned a few weeks and has involved research on six explorers in the social studies standards, persuasive writing, thinking from alternative perspectives, and creating persuasive Flipgrid videos.

You can read about how the project started here.

You can read about our videos and voting procedure here.

Students recorded their persuasive videos using Flipgrid.  We put all of those videos onto a Google site along with forms for voting whether or not each explorer was a villain or a hero.  Over the past few weeks, I have invited people around the world to interact with the project and vote.  I’ve shared through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus communities.  It has been amazing to see how many classrooms have viewed the projects and sent us positive tweets and messages about our students’ work.

After sharing their work with the world, the results are in.

Is Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?

Christopher Columbus   Google Forms


Is John Cabot a hero or a villain?

John Cabot   Google Forms

Is Vasco Nunez de Balboa a hero or a villain?

Vasco Nunez de Balboa   Google Forms

Is Juan Ponce de Leon a hero or a villain?

Juan Ponce de Leon   Google Forms

 

Is Henry Hudson a hero or a villain?

Henry Hudson   Google Forms

 

Is Jacques Cartier a hero or a villain?

Jacques Cartier   Google Forms

It looks like most of us look to the explorers as heroes with a big exception for Christopher Columbus.

In addition, our Flipgrid had some very interesting data.  As of this posting:

  • The Christopher Columbus question was viewed 530 times and had 186 likes
  • The Jacques Cartier question was viewed 148 times and had 65 likes
  • The Henry Hudson question was viewed 99 times and had 52 likes
  • The Juan Ponce de Leon question was viewed 139 times and had 68 likes
  • The Vasco Nunez de Balboa question was viewed 94 times and had 47 likes
  • The John Cabot question was viewed 120 times and had 45 likes

This has been such a special project.  I hope that we can do more work like this where classes are viewing one another’s projects, offering feedback, and considering different views.  We will end this project with a connection with the Flipgrid team very soon.

If you want to view the student projects, you can still visit their site.

 

Heart Poems, 3D Printed Charms, and Rainbow Loom Bracelets for Banding Together

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We kicked off poetry month today with Heart Poem writing.  After our wonderful Skype last week with Shannon Miller’s students and poet, Joyce Sidman, our second graders have been hard at work crafting their heart poems to attach to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.

They started by filling out the heart poem graphic organizer from Joyce Sidman’s website.

www.joycesidman.com books what the heart knows chants heart worksheet.pdf

They did this in their classrooms and also in the media center.  Teachers sent small groups to me about every 15 minutes so that I could conference with some of the students and help them think about what their hearts know.  Each heart map was so personal and I smiled with students as they shared the happy things that their heart knows, but my heart also hurt with them as they shared very sad things that their hearts know too.  I was just floored when a student told me, “Mr. Plemmons, even when our hearts our sad, there is still happiness.  Everyone has happiness.”  Wow!  When I heard that, I knew that this project was going to be something that truly mattered in the world.

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When I conferenced with students, we looked at their map and I asked them if there was a part of their heart that spoke to them more than others.  Most students gravitated toward what brought them joy and what they treasured.  A few wanted to write about what they longed for.  Even fewer wanted to write about fear, but we still talked about that part of their heart since Joyce Sidman really encouraged us to.

Once they selected the part of their heart to focus on, I asked them to think about how to add words to that thought to really make the poem sing or to make a picture in our heads or to make us feel an emotion.  Each conference was a little different.  We played around with words and thought about how a thought in our heart could sound different depending on the words that we put with the thought.

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When students were happy with the poem, they used iPads to scan a QR code that took them to a Google form.

Heart Poems

They typed their first name, selected their school, and typed their poem.  Each poem went to a spreadsheet so that I could print them, cut them into strips, and attach them to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.  Here are a few of their poems so far:

Adaline David C. Barrow Elementary The waves, the sun, the beach, it makes me happy!!
cyra David C. Barrow Elementary Dogs spread joy with a wag of a tail.
clara David C. Barrow Elementary Nature brings me joy and love when the wind blows and it rains and I go splashing through the puddles.
Wilson David C. Barrow Elementary Sudden noises scare me but my family comforts me.
Sola David C. Barrow Elementary Love is everywhere,up the hill and over the mill,in nature.
Jacob David C. Barrow Elementary Sun feels warm when you be nice
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Spring showers brings spring flowers.
Mara David C. Barrow Elementary Love is in this bracelet.
Claire David C. Barrow Elementary You give me the best thing someone has ever gave me and it is the love,joy,and the happiness that makes my heart sing
Carinne David C. Barrow Elementary We are joy. We are bright together. You are powerful.
Evin David C. Barrow Elementary Enjoy the world,keep it healthy
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Animals spread joy with a wag of their tail
Alanna David C. Barrow Elementary Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m your friend and I hope you are too.
Harry David C. Barrow Elementary Love defeats hate.
Natalia David C. Barrow Elementary April fun and sun. Here. I come! Flowers. Showers Baby. Animals
Axel David C. Barrow Elementary I wish my brother would come back.
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Bands linked together just like a family
Kyleigh David C. Barrow Elementary My family bring’s me joy and my school bring’s me joy and so do you.
Alice David C. Barrow Elementary Don`t expect things to be bad, expect things to be good.
Adam David C. Barrow Elementary I wish I was magic so I can bring my papa back to life.
Adam David C. Barrow Elementary I wish I was magic so I can bring my papa back to life.
Sha’Niyah David C. Barrow Elementary Enjoy you – don’t change enjoy life – do what you like enjoy Love – love your love
Sophia David C. Barrow Elementary Treasure and everyone is everything

Students and families are helping me with attaching poetry to bracelets.

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These poems are such a great addition to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.  I was excited when we added 3d printed charms, but the poetry brings the bracelets to life as if they had a voice to speak to our friends across the miles.  We will write more poetry tomorrow before we finalize our package of bracelets to ship to India via Van Meter.

Happy Poetry Month!

 

 

Black History Month Research and Persuasive Commercials in 2nd Grade

IMG_1815Second grade has been working on a big research project.  Each student selected one of five African Americans to research.  Rather than write a traditional informational paper on their person, the 2nd grade teachers and I decided to weave persuasive writing into the project.  Students would think about which historical figure should be on a next US postage stamp and would create a persuasive commercial to convince an authentic audience to vote for their historical figure.

We actually began our project with persuasion.  Students spent time talking with one another about what it means to persuade.  They mentioned things like:

  • convince someone to do something
  • get someone to get something for you
  • make someone change their mind

Anytime I teach persuasive writing, I want kids to leave with an understanding that persuasive writing isn’t just about getting someone to get something for you.  It’s one of the most powerful kinds of writing that can bring about change.  However, many kids connect with the idea of commercials and convincing their families to buy something for them, so we often start there and expand.

We watched a commercial of one of this year’s hot holiday toys, the Flutterbye Fairy.

IMG_1814We used this commercial to think about a structure for persuasion.  Students first noticed what we called a hook at the beginning.  “Can you keep a secret?” was a phrase that hooked our attention to want to watch the rest of the commercial.  We noticed that the rest of the commercial showed us just how easy it is to use the fairy, so this was like giving the facts about what you are writing about.  Finally, we noticed the closing line “the magic is in your hands”.  This was a phrase that would stick with us long after we watched the commercial.  In fact, I told the students that my own daughter uttered this phrase the first time she flew her own Flutterbye fairy, so I knew it was a phrase that stuck in your head.

To continue our exploration of persuasion, we read Melanie Watt’s Have I Got a Book For You.  This book uses just about every persuasive technique that you can think of.  We noticed these techniques along the way and folded them in to our noticings from the fairy commercial.

After this initial exploration of persuasion, students worked some in their classrooms.  They selected the African American they would research and got a graphic organizer to located some basic facts about their person.  We referenced the fairy video and how important facts are when you are persuading.

IMG_1813Students spent time in class and in the library using several tools to research.  I did a quick mini-lesson on using PebbleGo, Galileo’s SIRS Discoverer, and Galileo’s Britannica.  All of these tools had text to speech features to support learners of all reading levels.  During this mini-lesson, I also stressed how research is never really “done”.   You just reach a point where you feel like you have enough to tell your story.  Adults circulated and conferenced with students on their progress as they researched.  I loved that not many said “I’m done”, but when they did, we gently reminded them that research is never really done.

IMG_1812Now students are pulling their facts together, creating hooks, and coming up with a great closing like “the magic is in your hands”.  Once they have these scripts written, we will move forward with the next part of this project which will involve recording commercials in Flipgrid and creating a Google form for voting on which commercials are the most persuasive.  I’m compiling all of this onto a Smore which will populate with information in the coming days.

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