Dominate Music Video

I know that all educators have strong feelings about standardized testing. No matter how we feel about the upcoming test (and I will say I’m thankful that this year we’re spending FAR less days testing!), our CMS faculty tries their hardest to make the best of the situation. Every year for the past four years, we’ve released a teacher music video immediately before testing. I’m so excited to share this year’s video…and revisit our previous ones as well!

I’ve served as the main planner, videographer, and editor for our videos for the past several years. This year, I passed the torch along to our awesome speech teacher, Leslie Pierce. She did such a great job pulling this together, along with the help of my BFF and ELA teacher, Alaina Laperouse, and our band teacher, Thomas Huckaby.

They rewrote and recorded a version of Rihanna’s Desperado…our version is called Dominate. Check it out:

We want the world to see this video (and how awesome our CMS teachers are)…so please share it out! We REALLY would love for Rihanna to see it!!

And just for fun…here are our videos from the past several years:

2015 – Shake It Off

2014 – Happy

2013 – Harlem Shake

I love this tradition so much! It helps us bond as a faculty and make GREAT memories…and of course laugh at ourselves and have fun. We are middle school teachers, after all!

Do you have an awesome, fun teacher tradition at your school?

Posted in Making Connections, My Ramblings, Reflections, Resources & Links | Leave a comment

My Breakout EDU Obsession

I am absolutely, positively obsessed with Breakout EDU!

Although I’d heard about this and briefly looked into Breakout EDU a few months ago, a fire was lit within me when I played at the MiniLACUE conference a few weeks ago. Immediately upon playing my first game, I knew this was something I HAD to do with my students. I couldn’t wait the 3-4 weeks that it was going to take if I ordered a box through Breakout, so thankfully they have an open source kit and I have a handyman husband. Within a few days, I had acquired my box and become obsessed with locks.

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Being the crazy person that I am, I couldn’t just use an already developed game…I had to create my own. I planned to do this game with my 6th grade ELA classes, who were working on a unit about the gold rush. I tested it out with my teachers and with a group of 8th graders who hang out in the library at lunch.

The teachers broke into the box with almost 20 minutes to spare!

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Even though my 8th graders didn’t have time to finish, they had a BLAST trying to break into the box!

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Of the fourteen 6th grade classes that played last week, only one was able to break into the box. This is an AMAZING social experiment to watch (but it’s SO HARD not to help them — or want to beat your head into the wall when they pass over an important clue)! The class that broke in communicated effectively, worked together, and demonstrated a great deal of persistence. These are skills that I’ve noticed MANY of my students are lacking…and it’s something that we have to help them develop. Breakout EDU is an amazing way to give them practice with these skills.

I’ve also learned that I have a hard time watching my students fail…but playing these games over the past two weeks has shown me the importance of this as well. Students are so used to things coming easy or being given to them. That’s not doing them any favors! They need to learn to pay attention to details and to keep trying…and trying…and trying…

Breakout EDU is so engaging. It’s such a fun way to get students problem solving and working collaboratively. Get a box! Play a game! Share it with your teachers and students…I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Posted in Library Lessons, Reflections, Resources & Links | 9 Comments

Why is broken okay?

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In my school (and also in the four other schools in my district), the Internet has been going down regularly for four weeks. Every day (except for one lucky and glorious day) for these past weeks, the Internet has been down more than it’s been up. Things that are housed on our own servers (such as internal email and thankfully Destiny, our library management system) have stayed functional most of the time. The wifi, though, is down most of the time. Did I mention that we’re a 1:1 school? For weeks, our students have been carrying around their laptops, hoping they might work for a very short time during the course of the day.

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Those of you in schools can imagine the chaos this creates in learning, teaching, planning, collaborating, grading, communicating, and every other aspect of school life. Those of you not in the field of education are probably scratching your heads, thinking, “How is this even possible?” In the corporate world, this would not happen. Plain and simple. I’m married to an IT guy, and I know that if this happened in his office, he would have been out of a job weeks ago. The company would have immediately done whatever it took, brought in outside resources to fix things, and return to business as usual.

Why is it okay in education? Why is it okay for our students and our teachers? We are constantly hearing stories about terrible conditions in schools, about lack of funding and lack of resources. We’re also seeing great teachers leave the profession because of the conditions, the frustrations, the general lack of respect — and you honestly can’t blame them. Obviously, I don’t have the solution, but something’s got to give. Unfortunately, I can’t even get an answer as to why our Internet keeps going down after four weeks. And it’s really not okay.

Posted in My Ramblings, Reflections, Technology | 5 Comments

CMS TED Ed Club

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I’m so excited that we’ve recently launched our TED Ed Club at CMS! I am serving as the club facilitator at our school, which we are running during our daily RTI time. A total of 30 students — 10 from each grade — are in our club. TED Ed has done an AMAZING job putting together a guide for facilitating the meetings. I applied for the club, participated in a facilitator’s orientation, and was granted access to the TED Ed Club materials.

We are wrapping up our second week of TED Ed Club meetings. All of the students have already had an opportunity to speak in front of the group, introduce themselves, and talk about their passions. We’ve watched a number of TED talk videos and brainstormed what makes an idea worth sharing.

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Now, students are working on forming their big idea that they want to be the source of inspiration for their own TED-style presentation.

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I’m so inspired by my students, their interest in honing their speaking skills, and their passion about the topic they will be exploring. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for their final presentations…and I am definitely enjoying every step of the process!

Posted in Library Lessons, Making Connections, Resources & Links | 3 Comments

Winter Book Challenge

I have hosted and blogged about a number of book challenges in the past (like the January/February Book Challenge and Spring Book Challenge). It’s been a while since I’ve hosted a book challenge, and I know it’s a great way to kick off a new year! I love a book challenge because it pushes my students to read outside their comfort zones and try some books that they typically wouldn’t pick up.

I’m still working through a “prize” (I really don’t like doing prizes because I would rather my students be intrinsically motivated…but I know prizes are nice, too). We will probably have a drawing of some type for students who participate and turn in their forms by the deadline.

Feel free to use this Winter Book Challenge as your own! I’ve uploaded it to Google Drive, so you can download a copy for yourself and make any edits on your own document.

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Happy New Year!

Posted in Middle Grade Books, Reading Promotions, Resources & Links | 5 Comments

6th Grade Wonder Project

We’ve been planning for quite some time to implement a cross-curricular research project with our sixth graders. This year, the project has finally come to life.

Over the summer, all of our incoming sixth graders were required to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. All of the content areas started the year using the content and themes from this book as an anchor. If you’ve read this AMAZING book (and if you haven’t, go read it RIGHT NOW!), you know that the students participate in an Ancient Egypt project. We decided to borrow this idea from the novel and plan our research project around it.

This project has been quite the undertaking — a collaborative work between English Language Arts classes, Social Studies classes, and the library. The project began in October with two back to back library visits, one with their ELA class and one with their Social Studies class.

During their ELA library visit, I introduced students to MackinVIA, where I had recently purchased a number of reference ebooks on Ancient Egypt. I used a variation of the Nonfiction Response that I recently blogged about using with my 7th graders: 

Students selected one of the books from MackinVIA and worked with a partner to evaluate one of the ebooks. I thought it was important for them to become familiar with key elements they would need for citations. I also wanted them to get used to navigating the ebook format and the available features.

The following week, students visited the library with their Social Studies class and selected their topics. Their teachers and I worked together to help get them started on the research process and in developing their research questions. We worked together to create this packet to help guide them through the process:

Students conducted their research and gathered their sources. Next, ELA teachers walked them through the process of organizing their notes into an outline and translating that into their first draft:

One of the ELA teachers (huge shout-out to my BFF Alaina Laperouse, ELA teacher extraordinaire!) conducted research on a different topic and wrote a model paper to use throughout the teaching process:

And then she worked her example to show the editing process:

Students turned in their final drafts to their ELA teachers right before holiday break.

This week, students returned and are now beginning to prepare for their presentations. Students are visiting the library again with their Social Studies classes. I’m doing a mini-lesson on creating visually appealing presentations, providing them with some PowerPoint tips and tricks, and instructing them to cite their photo sources.

PresentationTips

They are working to prepare their PowerPoints in their Social Studies class this week. Next week, ELA teachers will help them script their presentation and they will begin presenting to their classes. The following week, we will hold a Parent Night (which will coincide with our Book Fair…YEAH!) for students to share their presentations and celebrate their success.

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This project has been a massive undertaking, but a success so far! I am so excited to see the final products that our students create. This is such a well rounded, research based, cross-curricular project that I hope will be part of the 6th grade curriculum for many years to come. I have really enjoyed working so closely with the amazing 6th grade ELA and Social Studies PLCs in my school to make this project happen. I feel like it’s teamwork and collaboration at its finest!

Posted in Library Lessons, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Reflections, Resources & Links, Technology | 4 Comments

Interacting with Nonfiction Text

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of my 7th grade library visits, I asked the teachers what a good topic of focus would be for an activity. They said they were working on nonfiction text. In my searching for lesson ideas, I came across a post called Non-Fiction Know-It-Alls on the Create Teach Share blog.

One of these printables was very close to what I was looking for, but not quite. I wanted to have students work in pairs and give them a variety of our nonfiction library books to choose from. They selected a book and completed this Nonfiction Response:

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My 6th graders are about to start working on a research project, and I purchased several ebooks on MackinVIA that they will be able to use as references. I wanted the students to have a chance to get familiar with MackinVIA, identify key components that will be used in citing their sources, and also notice the text features and how they help us interpret nonfiction text. I revamped the document again for them:

NonfictionEvaluation copy-page-001

Both of these activities have been successful. I think taking the time to identify and discuss the text features in nonfiction has been valuable. And I’m really excited to kick off this research project with 6th grade ELA and Social Studies!

PDF of Nonfiction Response

PDF of Nonfiction Evaluation

Posted in Library Lessons, Middle Grade Books, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Resources & Links | Leave a comment

Blackout Poetry

This week during 8th grade library visits, students created blackout poems. They are just kicking off their poetry units, and the awesome ELA teachers and I thought this would be a fun activity for them. One of the teachers suggested we try this as she’d seen some examples on Pinterest. I immediately knew what she was talking about and was excited to give it a try!

I took some of our weeded books, cut out the pages, and gave students markers and pens for to create and design their poems. I created a looping slideshow to project on the screen with some examples to inspire them. Here are some of the favorites that were created this week:

I’m going to pull some of these together to create a fun display in the hall outside the library, but until then I wanted to share their awesome work here!

Posted in Library Lessons, Makerspace | 6 Comments

Collection Development

Since we’ve been back to school this year, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time assessing our collection and planning for improvements this school year. At the end of last year, I ran some reports and compiled some data that kind of surprised me. I would never say that using and leveraging data is a strength of mine; I work more in terms of if things “feel right.” We all know that administrators speak and listen in terms of data — and mine is no exception.

AnnualCirculation

When I looked at annual circulation reports at the end of last year, it was obvious that our circulation has risen dramatically over the last several years. The year with the “dip” was the year of our move from one campus to another, so that was a year of major transition and I understand that trend in the data fully. I attribute a great deal of our circulation increase to both genrefication and implementing our self check-out procedure.

Right before our move, I finished the process of ditching Dewey. That process included EXTENSIVE weeding of our collection. Since then, I really hadn’t done much weeding. When books were returned at the end of last year, I noticed that our collection was starting to look a little sad. These books are circulation often and being read by many students. After the first rounds of library visits and book check-out this year, the shelves were just looking sad. Our students are readers, as evidenced by our circulation numbers. I also knew that quite a few of the books left on the shelves hadn’t moved since we did back in 2012. Once again, it was time to weed.

I let my principal know that our collection would be needing some funding to help bring it up to a higher standard. He knows that circulation is up — he’s seen the data shown above — but he wanted a more formal assessment of our collection and a plan for moving forward.

First I weeded. And weeded. And weeded. Nonfiction — easy. Fiction — a little more painful and personal. If a book hadn’t circulated in over three years (unless I knew it had potential tie in to curriculum, special interest, etc.), was in poor condition, or had otherwise outdated information, it was out. I weeded just over 1,000 books, bringing our total collection copy count to 8,614 after weeding. Our collection is very small compared to our student population (just at 1,000 students), but I don’t see the point in having books that aren’t being read.

After the weeding was complete, I started to look at my numbers. I uploaded our collection info in Mackin for collection analysis. Since we don’t use Dewey, this gets a little iffy and the “recommended” numbers don’t necessarily match up to my categories. I took that analysis and made the “recommended” column to the best of my ability. The other columns show what we have — copy count for each category, percent of circulation, circulation numbers, and the that category makes up of total circulations. I was able to gather this information from a Collection Circulation Report (Summary Only) and a Collection Statistics Summary Report in Destiny.

CirculationStatistics2015

Then, I looked more closely at the sections that had a higher percent of circulation than the percent it made up of the collection. These are the sections that would be the main focus for new purchases. I looked at the average of what I usually spend on nonfiction and fiction books when ordering. I also based our need on having 10 books per student — which would bring our collection to 10,000. These numbers aren’t exact, but an estimate so I could have conversation with my principal about finding funds to help us improve our collection. CirculationStatistics2015-2

My principal was impressed with the data (speaking his language makes a difference) and we are working on finding funds to help us fill the gaps in our collection. I’ve been working on lists, building one for each category so I can look more closely at what is being spent on the different genre sections. I’m excited about the potential to grow and expand our collection this year!

Also, through the process of weeding and assessing the collections, I did a little re-arranging of genre category locations in the library. I moved some books to different genres. I reorganized some of the nonfiction sections and the graphic novels. And I finally decided to make a permanent Humor genre in fiction and pulled books from a number of categories to build it.

It’s been a busy start to the year, but a good one!

Posted in Genrefication, Middle Grade Books, Reflections, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

Library Procedures

Spending time at the beginning of the year practicing library procedures with students is essential for a successful year. I love my 8th graders this time of year, because they’ve got the procedures down. They know exactly how our library functions and they’re leaders who model the procedures to new students.

Particularly with self check-out and return in place, I really have to drill those procedures with students so things run smoothly. It’s just me running the show in our library — no assistant with over 1000 students at our school — so self check-out is the only way that the library can stay open for circulation all day every day.

Every year, I like to schedule my 8th graders for the first library visits. I feel like it’s only fair that they have first dibs on checking out books (because once 1000 students come through, the shelves start looking a little bare). Instead of droning on about library procedures with my 8th graders this year, I had them help me put together a video to review procedures with 7th grade and introduce them to the new 6th graders.

I let the students break into groups of 3-5, giving each group a camera and a procedure to film. Some of the submissions were hilarious — I was highly entertained by what they submitted. The video and audio quality left something to be desired; it was a little hectic and loud with so many students working in the same space to record. I was pleased, though, with the final product:

I showed this video 33 times over the course of two weeks for back to school library visits. I only got a little tired of it. 🙂

My 6th graders came in this week for their second visit and they’re starting to get the hang of our procedures. I used this Kahoot to review with them. I will continue to review them and sound like a broken record (“Scan your ID first to check out”) until this library runs like a well-oiled machine.

Posted in Library Lessons, Library Procedures, Middle Grade Library Lessons, Resources & Links, Technology | 3 Comments