The Power of First Lines: Another New Library Orientation

School is back in session in Georgia, and I’m once again reorganizing what happens in the first visit to the library. I’ve tried to steer away from a traditional orientation where students hear the do’s and don’ts in the library. It’s not that they aren’t important, but is that really the message I want to send about reading with the first words that come out of my mouth?

The message that I really want students to hear is about the joy of reading. I want them to hear about how readers talk about books to one another. I want them to hear how books can be windows into other worlds and other perspectives. I want them to hear how books can be mirrors that reflect a part of ourselves back to us.

I also wanted to tackle a problem that bothered me last year. I saw so many students continue to come to the library and spend their whole time standing at the computer typing out topics in the library catalog instead of actually looking at books in our various genre sections. I had hoped that genres would eliminate this, but it hasn’t. I decided to start with something that wasn’t intimidating to most readers: the first lines of a book.

So, here’s what a first library visit looked like for 3rd-5th grade this year.

What are you reading?

We started with a question, but instead of asking students to share their own reading, I showed them what I just finished and what I was reading now.

I promised them that all year long I would post what I’m reading on the door of the library so they can always see, even if I’m with a class.  I told them that my hope was that anyone in the school could ask anyone else in the school what they are reading and both of them would have an answer. One of the best ways to find a new book is to see what others are reading, so we are giving ourselves permission to freely ask each other throughout the year about books. I also hope that several teachers will begin to post their reading outside their classrooms too.  In most classes, a few students said what they were reading now, and I loved how it immediately felt like a connection between us.

Next, I showed students some of my summer reading. I did book talks of Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and the Track Series by Jason ReynoldsAs soon as I finished book talks, I showed students a picture of a window and a mirror and asked them about their purpose. Then, students brainstormed how a book could be like a window and a mirror. It was a conversation we’ve never had in such an public manner, but so many of them added amazing contributions to the conversation. One standout comment was how a window keeps you safe from things going on outside and a book lets you explore dangerous situations without getting hurt.  I let students know that I intentionally chose books this summer that would most likely be windows for me. I wanted to read about people whose lives were very different from my own.

Power of First Lines

This became our invitation to step into the books in the library and begin to look for windows and mirrors for each of us.  Ahead of time, I put chairs at each section of our chapter book section: scary, realistic fiction, historical fiction, humor, fantasy, sports, mystery, science fiction, and adventure.

I shared with students how one more great way to discover new books is to visit sections you love and try out the very first lines of several books. Some of my favorite books hooked me with the very first line. I shared Barbara O’Connor’s first line from How to Steal a Dog.

“The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”

That line has so much story packed into it. Why did she steal a dog? What’s her situation that she lives in a car? What does Luanne think about all this?  You can’t help but read on to find out.

I placed students into random chairs in the chapter books and invited them to try as many first lines as possible in about 90 seconds.

Then, they moved to the right to the next chair and had 90 seconds in that section. We continued this process for as many rounds as we could squeeze in.

Students did not take any books with them, but I told them to make mental notes of what books caught their attention.  Some students thrived in this experience.  Others weren’t happy that they were in a section that they didn’t usually visit. Still others read first lines in one section but not in another.  The teacher and I circulated and gently encouraged students to keep giving the books a try. Sometimes that even meant jumping in with a student and reading some first lines for them.

Reminders

Back on the carpet, I asked if anyone found a book that grabbed their attention, and it was amazing to see how many people raised their hands. We used this brief moment to go over some reminders before exploring the whole library to checkout books.

  • Enjoy reading as much as you can while you’re here
  • Choose what you love, but push yourself too
  • Spend less time at the computers, and more time at the shelves
  • Respect other learners
  • Borrow what you need (limits are different for every reader)
  • Honor the line at check out

What happened next is what encouraged me the most. Students could hardly contain themselves as they rushed to the shelves to find their first check outs of the year. Almost none of the students went to the computers and instead went straight to shelves and started opening up books. As students have returned for their 2nd rounds of check outs, they have continued to visit the shelves more than the computers.  I can’t wait to see how our momentum builds during the year, and I want to immediately start asking “What are you reading?”

What about K-2?

For the younger grades I did something very similar, but I book talked several picture books including Drawn Together by Minh Li, The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker, and Hansel & Gretel by Bethan Woolvin. After talking about windows and mirrors, we read aloud All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. I wanted students to see and hear the message that all are welcome at our school and in our library. We used the book to talk about the windows and mirrors we saw within the book and our own school.

This group did the book sampling at the picture book section. Some classes rotated chairs and other classes just stayed in one seat to practice using shelf markers and sampling books.

The Pitfall

Overall, this new orientation experience did everything I hoped it would do, and only time will tell if it got us kicked off in the right way. The one big pitfall of this was that the shelves started to look like a tornado had gone through. Books were pushed back behind other books. Books were on the floor. Books were turned upside down and backwards. I had to pause and take some deep breaths every once in awhile, but when you look at the grand scheme of things, the messy shelves are evidence of excited readers, so it’s hard to complain too much about the mess.

Onward we go to search for the windows and mirrors in our library collection. Onward we go to becoming a school community that shares our reading lives with one another.

 

 

 

I Read Because: A Book Tasting Library Orientation

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.

As students entered, I played a video from Scholastic’s “Open a World of Possible” site. The video had students sharing reasons that they read.  Then, I asked students to think about why they read.

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.

 

Inspiring Digital Leaders During Personal Learning Device (PLD) Rollout

unnamed 3

Our 3rd-5th graders all have their own personal learning device assigned to them at the beginning of the year.  This device gets checked out to them just like a textbook and remains with them throughout the school year.  Students also take this device home.  Currently, our 3rd graders each receive an ASUS netbook and our 4th & 5th graders receive an HP laptop.

There are so many rules that you want to talk to students about when it comes to their computers in order to keep the computer and the students safe.  However, I want students to get their device with more than just a set of rules.  I want students to realize the power of the device they hold in their hands.  I want them to realize that their device connects them to the information that answers just about any question they could dream up.  It connects them to people and cultures they may never experience on their own.  It connects them with authors, developers, and experts on any topic of interest.  It allows them to collaborate with students and classrooms around the world.

unnamed (1)

I really wrestled with exactly what I wanted to do as students come to get their device from the library.  Should I just check it out and do digital citizenship lessons later?  Should I go over the list of rules from the student handbook?  Should I focus on the kinds of projects we would do with the devices during the year?

As I was pondering, I turned to a few resources to spark my thoughts.  One resource was Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson.  This text features students who have all done something to create change in their schools or communities.  Each chapter takes a different aspect of being a changemaker and profiles a student who did something amazing.  They don’t all necessarily feature something digital, but the idea of using our technology to foster change was intriguing to me.

From the foreword:

“Don’t wait.  Don’t wait to be powerful, to change the lives and communities around you significantly.  There is nothing like it.  Once you discover that you can visualize the next step society should take, and then you discover that you can lead others to turn your vision into reality, you can do anything.”

I also turned to the blog of George Couros.  I often find inspiration from this transformational principal’s blog.  He has written several times about digital leadership.  He defines digital leadership as “using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.  His post about digital leadership vs. cyberbullying really made me think about what I wanted to emphasize with the students.  Rather than focus on every bad thing that could happen with devices, I wanted the main focus to be on the good that we could do.

So…what did I do?  First, I’ll say that I finally just had to try something and see where it went.  I don’t think that what I did was special, but it was a start to a conversation and something I will keep revisiting.

As students entered, they each came to an iPad on the carpet and I had this video playing.

We used this video to talk about how doing good deeds can spread.  We also used the video to talk about how technology isn’t always visible.  The awesome projects that we create using technology hide on our computers unless we share them.  On the same note, the bad things that happen like cyberbullying may go unnoticed unless students take leadership and speak up to people who can support them.  This is a conversation that evolved as the classes continued to come and something I didn’t really plan initially for this video.

Next, I introduced the idea of digital leadership and being a changemaker using Laurie Ann Thompson’s book foreward and student profile on page. 137.  I also used this video.

I also shared myself by showing how I use this blog to highlight the incredible work of our students.  I showed our map of visitors since April.  Students saw every place in the world where people were reading about the work going on in our library.

With all of these pieces, I asked students to think about what it means to be a digital leader.  A digital leader is a person who _____________.  Then, using Poll Everywher, students submitted their thoughts using the iPads.  I setup the poll to populate as a word cloud.  As students submitted answers the words grew in size as they were repeated.  I deactivated the poll and we used the word cloud to talk about how the words connected with “digital leader”.

Most of the time, something about being responsible came up in the digital leadership word clouds, so the next thing we did was create a second word cloud about the things we needed to do this year to be responsible with our devices.  Again, students submitted via the iPads.  This cloud mostly focused on being careful with devices, keeping them charged, not losing them, etc.

unnamed 2

Really with both of these questions, students hit most of the topics that I would have covered on my own.  I had a set of slides that was shared between the other librarians in the district that included lots of rules for the devices, so I used those slides to fill in the holes from the word clouds.  We covered a few missing pieces such as keeping your password secure and having a plan for where to keep your computer outside of school.

unnamed 4

I hope that in going over a few “rules” that I didn’t lose the concept of being a digital leader.  I’m not sure.  However, I felt like kids were leaving excited about getting their device and being in general agreement about the potential of the device they held in their hands.

I look forward to this year and seeing what we create with these devices, what change we foster in our school and community, and how our students use technology for good.

 

And We’re Off! (with a new take on library orientation)

IMG_0856I’ve always wanted to try something different for library orientation rather than have the students sit on the carpet for 30-45 minutes while I talk on and on about how to use the library, check out books, and take care of books.  This year, especially, I knew that students would be eager to explore their new library space rather than sit and stare at it from a distance.  So….I made a plan for 2nd-5th grade and a plan for K-1.

For K-1, we stayed as a whole group and watched a few of the videos together.  I may try letting 1st grade scan one of the QR codes just for practice, but I felt like whole group with a story was still the way to go for the younger students.  We read the book Sky Color by Peter Reynolds to make connections to the library being a place to be creative and think outside the box.

For 2-5, I made a list of the major topics that I wanted students to think about when learning about the spaces in the library and the basic functions such as checking out a book.  From there, I made a video for each of those topics using an iPad and  uploaded it to Youtube.

I took each link and generated a QR code.  I put each QR code on its own piece of paper with some brief instructions.  For example, the check out QR code said to scan the code and go to the circulation desk before watching.  On our iPad cart, I downloaded a QR reader and tested all of my codes to make sure they worked.IMG_0833

During orientation, I put out the QR codes that I felt like that grade level needed the most.  Lower grades had fewer QR codes to scan while the upper grades had them all.  For some classes I made a table of codes that were the “must scan” codes and then a table of codes for “if you have time”.  We started our time on the carpet in order to do a welcome, refresh using iPads safely, and to demo scanning a QR code.  Next students got an iPad and plugged in some headphones from the library (or their own) and began scanning codes.  I would love to say that it was perfectly smooth, but of course students had trouble adjusting sound, some headphones weren’t plugged in all the way, and some headphones weren’t working.  However, once the glitches smoothed out, it was amazing to see students productively wandering around the library with iPads doing a self-guided tour just as they would do in a museum.  In the process, they walked the entire library, tried out multiple places to sit, found out about technology they would use throughout the year, and saw books that they wanted to checkout.  I felt like even though they heard the same information each student gained something different out of the orientation.

At the close, we came back together to share some things that they learned about our library.  I wish that we had more time for this reflection because it gave me so many insights into what students valued in the library and what they were still wondering about.  At checkout, I saw students doing some of the exact same things that I did in the video.  I also saw students looking for books that they saw on shelves in the videos.  Overall, students got a lot of the same information, but this was much more engaging,  involved movement, and gave students the option to watch something again if they didn’t understand.  We’ll see how this translates into library use during the year, but I felt much better about how this new take on orientation went.

Today was exciting.  For the first time, I saw 2 years of planning a library space begin springing into action.  I saw how much the students are going to move this furniture around to meet their needs.  I saw how visible the books were on the shelves, which leads me to think we’ll have even more circulations this year.  This was only day one of classes.  I can’t wait to see how the space grows, evolves, and becomes useful to the students and the kinds of learning they will take on for years to come.