The 2021-22 student book budget team just completed their project for the year. Over 115 books were added to our library this year thanks to their work. We are so happy that this year’s books can be enjoyed for the second half of the school year. We are also happy that we were able to do this project in-person this year. We had to make a few changes such as not going on a field trip to Avid Bookshop and making sure students from the same class sat together.
I ordered the student selections for this project back in November, so supply chain and the holidays delayed the book arrivals until the first couple of weeks of January. I picked up our books from Avid Bookshop and cataloged them for students. Our Capstone books shipped to our school and included processing labels already attached. Each grade level of students helped unpack books, cross check with the packing slip, inspect for damage, label with genre stickers, and scan books into their genre categories. Students also helped display the books on the tables in the library.
Each student on the book budget team got to select one book to check out before anyone else. The remaining books were quickly checked out by classes visiting the library. I’m sure they will continue to be enjoyed many times this year and beyond.
This year we had many students try out this project for the very first time. At our final meeting, I asked for some feedback to see what students enjoyed and encouraged our 3rd and 4th graders to join the project again next year. No one really had any thoughts for improvements for the project, but I asked them to think about it. As usual, getting to survey students throughout the school, meeting with Jim Boon from Capstone, and prepping the books for checkout were at the top of the list of favorite moments. Hopefully next year, we will be able to go on our field trip again because that is always a rewarding experience for students and a connection to our community.
For now, we’ll enjoy these new additions to our library and build up our funds from book fair for next year’s project.
It’s a new year in the Barrow Media Center. We are fully in-person and trying to get checkout, lessons, collaborations, and special projects rolling. Our makerspace collaboration with UGA is on hold, but that gives us a new opportunity to begin our student book budget project early.
The student book budget team is a group of 3rd-5th graders who use our book fair profits to purchase new books for the library. Their purchases are based on survey feedback from students throughout the school. This project has been a yearly project since 2008 and each year it changes a bit. Last year brought our biggest change since most of our work had to be done virtually. This year, we have almost 70 students in 3rd-5th grade participating and I’m having to structure our project in new ways to keep everyone engaged and safe.
To begin our project, I created a Google form application and students had one week to apply. The survey asked them if they were willing to work during portions of recess time, whether they could think beyond just themselves when selecting books, and why they wanted to be on the team. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many new students interested in the project this year and I once again contemplated being selective since over 70 students applied. Every student agreed to all the terms and gave a genuine reason for being in the group, so I chose to keep everyone. Since we meet during recess, the biggest group I have at a time is 25. We meet on Tuesdays & Thursdays as needed from 11:45-1:20, switching groups every 30 minutes.
With a larger group, I had to think of new ways to make sure all voices were heard. Our first meeting was an overview of the project and to allow students to walk around the library and make observations about the sections of the library. I asked them to notice sections that seemed empty, sections that were overflowing, sections that were missing completely, or anything else. They wrote these noticings down on paper and we saved them for our next meeting.
Before meeting 2, I made a Google Classroom and added all the students. Under classwork, I added a list of resources that we would need. The purpose of our 2nd meeting was to create the survey that we would use with all students in the school to get thoughts on what new books were needed in the library. Rather than try to write the survey together during the meeting, I had them look at last year’s survey to see the types of questions. I also had them look at the noticings that we had all written on paper. Using Padlet, student answered 3 questions: 1. What do you like about last year’s survey? 2. What should be changed about last year’s survey? 3. Based on what you learned from walking around the library, what new questions should be added?
I took all of the feedback from our discussions and Padlet and edited our survey. During meeting 3, students learned how to scan a QR code to pull up the survey on an iPad and answered the survey themselves. Book budget students survey students in grade K-2 with iPads and grades 3-5 answer the survey in Google Classroom. Normally, we just go to lunch and recess and ask the survey, but I didn’t want students to have to survey maskless students at lunch. Instead, book budget students filled out a form to select which classes they wanted to survey. I also asked teachers when the best survey times were, and I tried to match teachers and students. I scheduled email reminders to teachers and students and also posted the schedule in our Google classroom and crossed my fingers that everyone showed up to survey at the right time. For the most part, they did.
Across 5 days, the book budget team surveyed students in grade K-2 while teachers shared the survey with grades 3-5. The data poured into Google forms so that we can analyze the data and set goals at our next meeting.
This project is one of my favorite student voice projects each year because I believe that the library collection is “our collection”. We develop it together. I can’t wait to see what decisions are made this year.
Since 2010, Barrow students have been a part of a project called our “student book budget”. It’s had a few different names over the years but the idea has remained the same: students having total control over how a portion of the budget is spent to buy books for the library.
This school year provided us with extra challenges. We have been virtual for most of this year with just a few weeks in person in November, December, and March-May. I had to figure out how we would take so many of the pieces that we do in person in the library and throughout the school and transition them to online. Here’s a look at how our project went this year.
In January, students in grades 3-5 had the opportunity to apply to be in the book budget group by filling out a simple Google form. They had to include their name & teacher plus answer some questions about their commitment to meeting online and making decisions for the whole school rather than just for themselves. Finally, students wrote a short explanation about why they wanted to be in the group. As usual, I took every student who answered all the questions and had a genuine interest in the group. This year’s group had 15 students.
I created a Google Classroom where I could share links to our resources and Zoom as well as communicate with families. We met each Monday on Zoom to talk about our ideas for each step of the project. One of the first parts of the project is always to survey the whole school about reading interests. In our first Zoom, we looked at past Google form surveys to see what we wanted to keep, change, or add. Based on their discussion, I made a copy of the previous year’s Google form and made edits. The book budget team wanted students to pick 2 genre categories in picture books, chapter books, and informational books that they thought needed more books. They also gave space for specific suggestions.
Normally, students in grades 3-5 answer the survey via email. The book budget students go into the lunchroom, classrooms, and recess to survey PreK-2nd grade on iPads. This year, we still sent the survey to 3rd-5th graders in email. Then, we assigned each student in book budget to follow up with a Prek-2nd grade teacher via email to ask if they could share the survey with their students or if a book budget student could come to their class Zoom to talk about the survey. Overall, our number of completed surveys went way down this year but we still had a good representation of voices at each grade level.
Once the survey results came in, the book budget students set some purchasing goals. This year, they decided to focus on graphic novels, humor, ghosts, fun facts, gaming, and a few transportation books. Normally our budget comes from our fall book fair. However, this year our fall book fair was online and only made about $400 in Scholastic Dollars. Luckily, I was conservative in my spending last year with book fair profits so we still were able to have a budget of $2,000.
One vendor we always work with is Jim Boon at Capstone. Jim has always taken the student goals and curated a selection of books to bring in for students to look through. He also gives each student a catalog and shows them how to scan into a list. This year, Jim met with students on Zoom. Amy Cox at Capstone also helped us think through how we might easily put together a list. We decided to create a new account on the Capstone site that students could login to and collaborate on a list without messing with any of my regular Capstone account. I shared Capstone’s online catalogs with students in Google Classroom and they quickly discovered that they could click on a book in the catalog to get to the book on the website and add it to the list. Jim showed students how to navigate the catalog and also pointed out books that matched the student goals.
Another vendor we use is our local bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We usually walk to Avid and select books in person. This year Avid is closed to in-person shopping, so instead, I linked the website in our Google Classroom and created a Google form where students could submit the title, author, price, ISBN number, and link of the book. We took a Zoom session to go over all this and then students added books on their own. This book list went into a spreadsheet that I could easily share with Ian McCord at Avid Bookshop for ordering.
We took about 2 weeks to add books to the list and then we were able to have one in-person meeting just as in-person school started back up.
We used this meeting to look over our lists together and see what was missing. Normally, we have to cut lots of books from the list, but this time we were actually able to add more because students hadn’t spent all the money yet. It was more difficult for us to add books to our lists during virtual. Once the budget was met, I placed our orders.
When the books come in, we usually meet to unpack, add genre labels, and scan books into Destiny subcategories. With state testing, safety precautions, and the end of the year looming, I had to do some of this myself and use only a few of the book budget team to help.
We met one final time in person to take the books out of the boxes, double check that everything was here, and display the books on tables in the library. The book budget students got to pick 3 books to checkout and then the rest were available for anyone to checkout. Each class that visited the library immediately went to look at the new books and it didn’t take long for them to disappear into the hands of readers.
We do our best to expect the miraculous, and it definitely took the miraculous to pull this project off this year. Overall, I think it was still a great experience that still gave students a voice in the decision making of the library. While I love technology and virtual connections, I can’t wait to get this project back to in-person soon.
After surveying our entire school, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating consideration lists, and narrowing down orders to meet their budget, the hard work of our student book budget team has paid off. All books from our 3 vendors have arrived and it’s time to get these books out into the hands of readers.
The book budget team met to unpack the books. Across 90 minutes, all of our books from Capstone and Gumdrop were checked on the packing slip, sorted into genres, labeled with genre stickers, and scanned into subcategories in Destiny. Every student on the team took a role in the process and I walked around to assist with questions and tricky genre decisions. I also helped students make sure they were sorting books into the right categories such as chapter book, picture book, or informational book.
Our books from Avid had to be cataloged so I “volunteered” to do this step for the students and some of our library volunteers have helped with getting the barcodes and plastic wrap on the books.
The book budget team met one final time to display the books for readers to see. It was hard for us to find a time to meet to get the books displayed so we all came one morning right after morning broadcast before our school day started. Students worked efficiently to get all of the books displayed in the windows, counters, and tables in the library. It was amazing to see all of the books out together and see all of our hard work pay off.
The real payoff comes when the book budget students get to check out some of the books and then see the rest of the school pour in to the library to check out books. It doesn’t take long for the tables full of books to be reduced down to a couple of tables and then a single table. These books are always popular with readers and I love knowing that our library collection truly is “our collection”. We build it together.
Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.
I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.
When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.
Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.
We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.
I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.
As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.
I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate. I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.
Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.
It’s time for one of my favorite projects of the year: Student Book Budget. Every year, I reserve a part of the library budget that is under complete control by students. This budget comes from many places. Sometimes it’s a grant and other times it is part of our regular budget. This year their budget comes from the profit we made from book fair. The book budget is their chance to make sure that books are added to our library that represent their interests. They go through a long process to make sure that many voices are represented in their purchases. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing their process. Here are some of the steps that are already happening.
First, I created a Google form application for students to apply to be in the group. The form was available for one week for students in grade 3-5. Every student who applied and had a genuine reason for being in the group was accepted. Our group this year is 40 students strong and has a great mix of boys and girls.
Next, we held our 1st meetings. I met with each grade level group separately and answered all of their questions about the group. Then, in small groups or pairs, they brainstormed things that they thought we should ask on a reading interest survey for the whole school.
Then, I took their ideas and put them into a Google form survey.
I sent the survey to all of the students on the book budget team so that they could review it and decide if it matched their comments. We made some minor adjustments and were ready for the school to be surveyed.
I sent the survey via email to our 3rd-5th grade students who each have their on device. The Student Book Budget Team was responsible for surveying Prek-2nd grade. On our 2nd meeting, we scanned QR codes to get to the survey on an iPad and went to recess and lunch to survey as many people as possible.
The students were so professional and I loved standing back and watching them work. It truly was their project and they were taking it very seriously.
In just one day, we have already surveyed 216 students. We will continue this process and then take the next step of looking at the results. I love how we can check along the way to see which grades need to be surveyed more so that we have a somewhat even distribution of voices.
Be on the lookout for our next steps. We are off to a great start.
I’m always trying to maximize what happens during library orientation each year. This year, I asked myself what I really hoped students experienced on their very first visit. Yes, there are many expectations and rules I could go over, but what message do I send if that’s how I spend our time on day 1. Instead, I wanted to focus on the power of reading and give students time to explore the genres of the library.
I shared a couple of reasons I read. One of those reasons was to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes. I shared books like Wonder and How to Steal a Dog, which gave me a chance to wrestle with something that is different from my own life. I also talked about escaping to another land when I need a break from our world.
I also loved that I had teacher voices to share. At the beginning of the year, teachers recorded Flipgrid videos to introduce themselves. They shared their hopes for the year as well as books that inspire them. I pulled these books and showed them to students with the teacher names posted on the front of the book. I wanted to establish at the very beginning that we are a community of readers and we read for many reasons.
Last year was our first year with a genrefied library. It went really well, but there were some things that I knew I needed to do to help students better understand how the library is now organized. I wanted students to realize that they could spend more time at the library shelves exploring actual books and less time on the computer searching in Destiny.
I pulled a few books from some of our genre sections and put them in baskets or piles on tables. Students split into small groups and rotated from table to table every couple of minutes. The purpose was to sample the books in the basket to get a feel for that genre. It was also to show students that when they spent time with the books, they found things they weren’t even expecting to find. Students could keep any books that they found in the baskets and I replenished them throughout the classes.
We ended our time by thinking about how the experience felt as well as taking a look at times when the computer is actually useful for finding a book.
Students then checked out the books they needed. My new rule about checking out books is to check out what you need and what you can keep up with. Some students checked out 2 books and others checked out 6. I never want readers to feel like they are limited by a number that I set.
I can’t wait to see how our year goes as we grow our community of readers. On a side note, I set up a station in the library where students can listen to the teacher Flipgrids and respond to any teachers. I love seeing students interact with Flipgrid and share responses with our community.
Wow! We had the most students ever participate in our 3rd annual picture book smackdown. Even sickness and technical difficulties didn’t stop our students in 5 states sharing favorite books along with author, Laurie Thompson.
Here are a few behind the scenes notes:
There were multiple emails and tweets sent between the participating schools in this smackdown. We established etiquette for the hangout such as keeping things moving, muting microphones when we weren’t speaking, and only having about 5 students at a time share
We all prepared our students in advance of the smackdown but we each did it in our own way. My own students had a basic script that they filled out.
The amazing Cathy Potter helped organize Laurie Thompson to join us. Unfortunately, Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us. She was with us in spirit, though!
I had a group of 50 students! Luckily 2 volunteers and a teacher helped me keep them organized in chairs and a parent frantically wrote down as many titles of shared picture books as she could.
We all came into the Google Hangout early to test our cameras and microphones. We communicated with one another through the chat in Hangouts as well as through text messaging if needed.
All of our Picture Book Smackdown content can be found on our Smore.
I would like to thank all of the schools who participated, Laurie Thompson, our volunteers, and all of the people who viewed and sent out tweets. Thanks for celebrating Picture Book Month with us!
Once again, the amazing Avid Bookshop has brought an author to our school. This time our visiting author was Alan Gratz. He is currently touring in promotion of his newest book The League of Seven. Gratz is also the author of books such as Prisoner B-3087 , Fantasy Baseball, and The Brooklyn Nine.
All students in 3rd-5th grade attended, which was roughly 200+ kids. They were mesmerized by his every word. After showing a slide with all of his book covers, Alan Gratz focused the conversation on the cover of his new book.
Instead of starting with a summary of his book, Gratz began with the story of how the book came to be. He explained that he wanted to make a book “full of awesome”, so he made a big board to pin up awesome ideas for his book.
He kept bringing students back to a slide with several of these ideas and having them vote on what they wanted to hear about by raising their hands. For example, would you rather hear about heads in jars or mad scientists? Would you rather hear about secret societies or machine men? Would you rather hear about giant monsters or Native American cities? As students chose a topic, he fleshed out the topics that appear in The League of Seven.
When it came time to talk about what the book was about, the students had context about what “steam punk” meant as well as example of secret societies, flying machines, and monsters. Best of all, by the time Alan Gratz got to the part about giving a summary of the book, pretty much every student was hooked and wanted to read the book. I ordered 2 additional copies of the book during the presentation because I knew demand would be high.
Alan Gratz showed students how readers around the world are creating fan fiction and illustrations based on the book. He has a website called the Septemberist Society, which has challenges, book news, and places for displaying fan fiction and illustrations. He encouraged students to send any of their creations to him for the site.
As soon as the talk was over, I hurried to catalog the books. A parent came in to prep the books for checkout and within minutes of putting them out, they were gone. Students came in and started putting holds on the books as well.
I love how hearing from an author sprinkles magic dust onto the library books. The awesome cover of this book designed by Brett Helquist is enough to make you want to pick it up, but hearing from the author creates magic.
Thank you Alan Gratz, Avid Bookshop, and Starscape for this incredible visit with out students.
I love our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. They work very hard to bring children’s, young adult, and adult authors to our community. They also reach out to schools and connect us with these authors. Today, Nancy Krulik visisted 3 Athens Clarke County schools: Barrow, Oglethorpe, and Stroud.
Nancy Krulik is the author of more than 200 books! The books that the kids get the most excited about are her 3 series:
She started her talk with a game between 4 students who answered questions related to the Magic Bone series. The questions were all based on inferences and point of view. This gave kids context for the section of the book that she planned to read aloud to the students since the dog doesn’t necessarily know the human terms for the things he sees in the world. I loved how she set the stage for them to understand this part of the story.
She spent some time talking about her writing life, her first book, and her 3 series. Finally, she took student questions. She really wanted to answer every single question that students had. I think they could ask questions all day. They had a great time learning that she wrote some of a George Brown book while she was in her hotel in Athens.
They also loved burping like George Brown.
Students who purchased books from Avid were able to stay after the visit and get their books signed. They loved sitting down with an author, chatting, and watching their book get signed.
Many thanks to Avid Bookshop, Penguin, and Nancy Krulik for a fantastic visit. I’m sure there are many new Katie Kazoo, George Brown, and Magic Bone fans in Athens. In-person as well as Skype author visits always inspire our students to read more but also to write down their stories and work hard to make them the best stories that they can be.