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!

Thinglink Regions of Georgia with 2nd Grade

regions for thinglinkSecond grade has been studying the regions of Georgia as part of their social studies standards.  I pulled multiple resources for them to use including informational books, Georgia stories, posters of animals and plants, and regions of Georgia posters.  In each classroom, students were placed into groups to research a specific region.  This was built into both writing time and social studies.  Students were supposed to use their research to write a script for a regions of Georgia commercial.  Their job was to convince someone to visit that region by telling about the land, animals, plants, and things to do in that region.  During some of these sessions, students came to the media center in small groups for research support.   I worked with them both on researching facts and also writing scripts.  Finally in class, students designed backdrops for their commercials.

In the library, students came in small groups to film their commercials.  We filmed in our studio and used one of our fusion flip tables to tape the backdrops to.  I used an iPad to record the students acting out their commercial.  Our iPad had a dual shotgun microphone plugged in to improve the sound quality.  It was interesting to see the students’ different ideas for how to do a commercial.  Some incorporated puppets, creative slogans, and even a breakaway door.

I took each video and put it into iMovie, uploaded it to Youtube, and then attached it to a Thinglink.  For our Thinglink image, I took a photograph of a map of GA which is found on the floor just outside of the 2nd grade rooms.  Thinglink allows you to attach multiple links to one image.  I’ve used Thinglink for individual projects, but I liked that this use of Thinglink pulled all of the videos into one easy to reach location.  I shared the link with teachers so that they could see the progress being made toward finishing all of the videos.  They pulled the Thinglink up on their boards and let students watch the videos that had been made so far.  It created a great review tool for where all of the regions of GA are and also allowed classes to hear the research that had been gathered in the other classrooms.  We will make a QR code for the Thinglink so that visitors with mobile devices can scan the code and visit the project.  photo (1)

This was a great first quarter project.  I think it is a stepping stone toward the next technology-related project that 2nd grade will do.  My regret is that I wish that more students could have been involved in actually creating the final product.  I wish that I had at least had a few students from each room sit and watch or help make the Thinglink.

Take a look at their work in progress here.

Explorers and Native Americans: Perspective & Transliteracy with 4th grade

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Update:  This post is featured on Jane Yolen’s page for Encounter. 

Our 4th grade is studying Native Americans and Explorers.  When I met with the 4th grade team to plan, one of the main topics of our conversation was how we wanted our students to really think about perspective.  We didn’t want them to come away looking at the explorers as only a group of heroes, but instead to question what the costs were of their exploration.  We wanted them to think from the Native Americans’ perspective and consider how they felt about the explorers coming into their land.  We decided to approach this in a few ways.  The teachers planned regular social studies instruction in their classrooms.  They made Google presentations that were shared with the kids.  They also created graphic organizers for students to use to collect info.  Some students chose to have paper print outs of their organizers while others chose to fill out the organizer digitally.

Our guiding standards included:

SS4H1 The student will describe how early Native American cultures developed in
North America.
a. Locate where Native Americans settled with emphasis on the Arctic (Inuit),
Northwest (Kwakiutl), Plateau (Nez Perce), Southwest (Hopi), Plains (Pawnee),
and Southeast (Seminole).
b. Describe how Native Americans used their environment to obtain food, clothing,
and shelter.
SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.
a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.
b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native
Americans

In the media center, I pulled multiple folktales from each of the Native American tribes.  During 2 separate sessions, we looked at Google Earth to see where the tribes were located originally.  Then as we read the folktales, we considered how location impacted the food, shelter, and clothing of the tribes by citing evidence from the tales.

The teachers wanted students to have access to multiple kinds of resources for their research portion of the unit.  We talked about classes coming individually to the library, but we ultimately decided that it would be nice for students to all be together in one location with multiple resources.  We scheduled 3 hour-long sessions.  I pulled together folktales, books about explorers, books about Native Americans, a pathfinder about Native Americans, and a pathfinder about Explorers.

During session 1, we met as a whole group.  I showed students a video of Christopher Columbus from National Geographic.  After the video, I asked students to think about how they would describe Columbus.  After talking with partners, I put as many words into a Tagxedo as possible.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen, which is the Columbus story told from the Native American perspective.  After the story, I asked the students to once again describe Columbus.  Their words made a big shift.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

I followed up by talking about perspective, and how so many stories in history are silenced until the perspective of that group of people is brought forward.  I cited authors such as Phillip Hoose and Tanya Lee Stone who have written multiple texts about stories from history that have been untold.  I encouraged students as they did their research for this project to strongly consider perspective.  I did not want to tell them what to believe, but I asked them to be critical of the information they read and form their own opinions of history.

During sessions 2 & 3, all classes came back to the media center.  On one projection board, I posted the Native American pathfinder.  On the other projection board, I posted the Explorers pathfinder.  In addition, I made QR codes for each pathfinder and pulled out our cart of iPads.  I separated the books into 3 separate areas:  folktales, Native Americans, and explorers.  All students brought their netbooks, but they had the option to use the iPad if it fit their learning needs better than the netbook.  After  a quick reminder about our focus and where things were located, students freely moved around the media center.  About 75 students simultaneously made choices about which resources to start with, where to work, whether to work with a partner or small group or alone, and what technology supported their needs the most.  All 3 classroom teachers, a teacher candidate (student teacher), a gifted teacher, and I walked around and checked in with students.  Sometimes we were troubleshooting technology or redirecting, but often we were able to have individual conversations with students about the information that students were collecting.  Teachers worked with all students regardless if they were in their class or not.

What amazed me the most were the decisions that students made about their learning.  I saw transliteracy in action.  As I walked around, I saw students with pencils, papers, iPads, netbooks, and books all spread out around them.  They were simultaneously moving from one device or tool to the next.  Some students sat at tables while others sat inside bookshelves.  Some students tucked away by themselves while others worked in a large group.  Some students worked with very few resources at a time such as 1 book while others had every possible resource in front of them at once.  After months of wondering about how our space would support the kinds of learning I hope to see in our library, I was finally able to truly see it today.  I saw every piece of furniture in use.  I saw students combine pieces of furniture to make themselves comfortable for learning.  An entire grade level descended upon the library and remained productive while groups of kids were still coming into the library to checkout books.explorers & native americans (15)

It was loud, energetic, productive, and fun.  It’s a model I hope to replicate with other groups and a model that I hope carries into our classrooms, which can now accommodate some of these sames types of opportunities.

Digital Learning Day @David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center

Today was National Digital Learning Day.  I honestly didn’t plan anything specifically for the day, but rather looked at what we were already doing today and highlighted it.  Using technology as a natural part of learning to both consume information and create it is a big part of our media center vision and mission.  I appreciate this day to highlight the great work going on around our country, but I didn’t feel like I needed to go over the top with planning digital learning, when it’s already a part of what we do.  Here’s a glimpse of the kinds of learning that took place today in the Barrow Media Center.

  • 11 students used e-readers to download samples of multiple books and read them to make decisions about what e-books they will commit to reading
  • Two enrichment clusters used iPads, desktops, and laptops to explore different ways of using these devices.  These 2 groups (one younger students and one older students) are trying to explore as many ways these devices can be used so that they can promote their use throughout the school among students and teachers.  Two Kindergarten teachers are leading these groups and working in the media center.
  • A 1st grade class learned about the Athens quilter, Harriet Powers, and created a digital quilt using the iPads.
  • Three 5th grade classes worked on collaborative projects encompassing 3 units of social studies standards.  They are taking research they found and creating glogs in Glogster.  At this point they are linking their glogs to videos online, embedding screencasts of Google Earth tours or timeline reviews, and creating audio segments introducing their glogs.
  • A kindergarten group used the e-readers to listen to picture books and/or practice reading the books independently and doing summaries.
  • I held a professional learning session for teachers on Google docs so that they could learn how to begin collaborating on documents.  Our teachers do a lot of collaboration, so the use of Google docs is going to help them share multiple documents and streamline their time.

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How do you celebrate digital learning day every day?