Social Media Triggers & Algorithms

We have introduced lessons that we’re calling “Upper School 101” that are taking place during our 9th and 10th grade study hall classes. We are focusing on skills and concepts that are important to student success but don’t always fit seamlessly into a content area curriculum — particularly organization and tech skills.

I did two sessions back to back with students on social media. The first lesson was adapted from the content of Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins’ book ‘Developing Digital Detectives’ and the chapter on the lens of triggers. I highly recommend this book for educators who are looking at ways that we can better prepare our students to process and understand information access in the digital age.

Some of the content I shared in the second session was adapted from my reading of ‘Stolen Focus’ by Johann Hari — another really interesting and important read for educators. I have passed this book along to our Learning Support Services Coordinator and I would love to see my school use this for a book study, both for faculty and for families.

The slides I used for these two 20 minute sessions can be viewed below. I tried to make this very practical and discussion based with my students. I also left them with a take away to spend some time considering how their social media use impacts their life. In an earlier session, we discussed time management and looking at screen time, but the final session had them think more deeply about notification settings and how they can change theirs to take back control.

Reflecting on our first semester of Upper School 101 sessions, we got some valuable feedback from students. Of course we got some eye rolls, but we also had a number of students who really used this opportunity to make some changes or at least give more though to the balance of social media in their lives. I think it’s important that they hear from us that we also struggle with balance and time management when it comes to these apps that are designed to suck us in and hold on to our attention.

Cancer Awareness Research Project

This week I’ve been working with one of our incredible Biology teachers on a research project focusing on Cancer Awareness. She’s done versions of this project in the past, but wanted to take it to the next level with an enhanced research component and final product. I was beyond excited to get to work with her and support her students through the process!

The slide deck walks through the steps of the process I’ve been involved in, highlighting the steps we used for research. We used this project to take a very intentional and guided approach, which allows us to focus on specific skills. I walked students through the process of finding and citing a source from our online encyclopedia, a science-specific database, and the American Cancer Society website. We used NoodleTools for collecting and organizing our citations, then they created notecards as the located specific pieces of information.

They exported their References to create an Annotated Bibliography, then synthesized what they learned into a one-page flier to help raise awareness about the type of cancer they researched. I created a Canva template that they copied and customized for simplicity and consistency. Next, they will be working with our academic technology coordinator to create PSA style videos.

This was a great opportunity to introduce our students to APA format, as they typically research and write in humanities classes and default to MLA. It was also great to be able to practice key strategies for research and organization with a fairly straightforward topic.

With our big 9th grade research project on the horizon, this was a great intro for our freshmen in Biology. It was also a solid refresher for our sophomores who did their big research projects last spring.

For me personally, getting a collab going with a science teacher was a goal that I’ve had for a while now, so it was really exciting to finally make it a reality!

Bookish Activities

Over the past few weeks, we’ve done some fun activities during middle school library visits to engage our readers with more books.

7th graders participated in a Book Tasting activity, which allowed them to spend some time reading from different genres. Many of them spent some time with genres that they don’t typically read, but found that they actually enjoyed. Below is the slide deck I used to guide the activity and the “Menu” handout that students used for their tasting.

Book Tasting (Presentation) by Whitehead, Tiffany
Book Tasting by Whitehead, Tiffany

Our 8th graders also had a recent library visit where they started working on Book Talks that they will be recording and/or sharing with their class. The slide deck and template below include two different style options for the Book Talk format. Our amazing 8th grade English teacher already had something in mind for this, so one of them is the adaptation we came up to meet her criteria, which includes an excerpt/quote from the book.

Book Talk Slides by Whitehead, Tiffany
Milligan Book Talk Script by Whitehead, Tiffany

Feel free to use and adapt these resources to make your own!

It’s been a while…

It seems that I’m emerging from my mid-career burnout, post-COVID slump. It’s been two years since my last post, and long before then I was feeling a certain kind of way about things. While I still really loved my work and especially my school, I was just feeling tired and uninspired for a number of years. This school year has been the best start I’ve had in a long time, and we have so much positive momentum going right now that I’m actually feeling inspired to write and share. Or maybe it’s just a new wave to ride. Years 1 to 5 in the library had a pretty significant learning curve. Years 6 to 11 were incredibly busy and productive, with lots of involvement in professional organizations, school leadership, and presenting. Years 12 to 15 required me to take some steps back to improve my focus and perspective — COVID forced us all to have a bit of a reset. This start to my 16th year in the library, which is also my 8th year in my current school, has just felt right again.

Without a doubt, successful collaborations are the thing that has allowed me to get back to this right headspace and mindset. I feel like I need to revive this blog to share resources and projects that are working well for us. We share a space with our Academic Resource Center (formerly the Writing Center) and our shared ability to broadly support our students and teachers has opened up so many doors for collaboration. The idea that the library is for everyone really does ring true, and we are working on collaborations this year with all of the different subject area departments! Here’s what we were able to accomplish just in the first quarter:

A personal goal of mine rolling into this year was to improve our library’s social media presence. Before the school year started, I made myself a schedule and set calendar reminders for everything from posting #TikTokTuesdays and #FirstLinesFridays to updating our book displays and chalk art monthly. So far, I’m sticking to the plan and it’s paying off! A student told me that the library TikTok eats, so basically I’ve won at life. Here’s one I made of a library display swap out:

I’m posting an inspirational message or quote every #MotivationMonday, too:

I’m trying to build out extra content to have at the ready on days where I’m not as swamped so I can keep up with my posting schedule on TikTok and Instagram. We are slowly but surely building our following from students, and we definitely have some of our regular viewers that we really appreciate! And we have some alums who love following our library, too, so it’s always fun to see them pop up in our likes and views. The social media presence is definitely feeling like a win this year — even if our viewership is still on the small side!

First Quarter Success!

The first quarter was a whirlwind, and the second quarter is off to a similar start. This is my sixth year at my current school, and I can finally say that things are shaping up the way I’ve always wanted! I typically tell new librarians that it takes at least three years to hit the sweet spot where you know the school, the people, and enough about your library to really get things moving. Apparently it took me twice as long this time around, but between the 2016 flood and the start of the pandemic (among other things), I’m giving myself grace.

Last year our Writing Center relocated into the library, and that has honestly been the most positive and beneficial move for the library that we ever could have made. We have an incredible partnership with them — the coordinator is fabulous and she and I are able to tag team so many projects. The student Writing Fellows are in a space that has much more traffic than their previous spaces, so they are able to support their peers more often. It’s a beautiful thing, and it just makes sense in terms of being a one stop shop for research and writing.

We put together this infographic to showcase how busy we were for the first quarter. We are still constantly having class visits and the library space is being used as a productive, collaborative work environment for students and teachers — MY DREAM COME TRUE!

I have come to realize that I have to be consistent with my expectations and the use of the space. In years past, our space has been so busy (but not necessarily in a productive way), overrun, and chaotic that is was not the place where students would come to work or where teachers could bring classes to collaborate and research. Drawing some hard lines was hard for me, but it had to happen in order to really get this space to its full potential. As exhausting as this school year has already been, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for us in the library!

Library Re-Orientation

It’s a wild time to be an educator right now. The struggle is real for all of us, and at this point, I don’t even have the energy to write some clever but still encouraging intro about it — so moving right along…

I am trying to use the current state of things to my advantage and refocus our attention in the library. This is year six for me in my current school, and I still haven’t felt like I’ve arrived yet. I still haven’t been able to consistently get the library to have the vibe and focus that it deserves to have. Because of our schedule, high school students have copious amounts of free time and that can make managing a productive library space challenging. I want the library to be a welcoming and inclusive space where all of my students feel comfortable and welcome. That approach has at times taken us too far towards the side of chaos, though. The library also needs to be a space where students can be productive and get work done. Finding the balance has always been a struggle for me.

I listened to Kelsey Bogan’s ‘Don’t Shush Me’ podcast episodes on Dealing with Discipline in the High School Library and it really helped me to get some ideas and focus my plan for the year. In particular, I’m working on addressing issues during our busiest times. I totally stole Kelsey’s use of three simple library rules and using the technique of getting with students one-on-one or in small groups to address issues.

After next week, I will have hosted all of my middle and upper school students for library visits through their English classes. I’m calling this a Re-Orientation this year, since most of them have been with me for years, but the past year and a half has been anything but normal. I’m reminding them about all of our resources and chatting with them about our expectations for this space and the reasons that we are really focusing on maintaining a chill working environment here throughout the day.

Because I’m meeting with so many classes, I put together this overview video to kick off their visit so my delivery is consistent across the classes:

Students are also being introduced to the Writing Center, which was a great addition to our library space last year. I’m so looking forward to collaborations with teachers, the library, and the Writing Center that are on the horizon for this school year!

Summer 2021!

Like many, I have gone a bit into survival mode this school year, and that meant a withdraw from my blog and social media. This year was hard, y’all. It was exhausting. Like all of us, I am looking forward to summer!

The COVID project my husband and I took on was converting a Promaster into a campervan. And my best teacher friend and I are about to hit the road! We love a good road trip, so we are excited about this new travel experience that we are embarking on — if you’re interested in following our adventures in VanGeaux, check us out on Instagram at @travelvangeaux!

I hope you have a summer that recharges your soul!

Library Website Updates

In lieu of an in-person professional development workshop I had scheduled for early August, I was lucky enough to be able to build out some self-paced professional development for librarians as they begin navigating the uncertain 2020-2021 school year in the midst of a global pandemic. I was able to reflect a lot on what I feel will be important for us as school librarians in terms of focus and energy. No matter how our schools are kicking off this new year, it is more important than ever to be sure that our library resources are easily accessible in a digital format.

When I moved to my current school in for the 2016-2017 school year, one of my first big initiatives was to organize our databases and other resources to build a new library website. This website has served us well, but I felt like this year was time to make some improvements. I reached out on Twitter to see what others were doing in their digital spaces, and I was quite inspired by what was shared! I’ve collected the shared spaces on this Wakelet:

I decided to use Genially, one of my favorite design tools, to create our interactive database collection. I found that my students were struggling the most with deciding which database to use by the provided buttons. Even though I broke down each resource with a description on different content area pages, that was hidden behind an extra click that they rarely used. Genially allowed me to add scroll-over tool tips that provide a short blurb about each resource. I also divided resources into three categories: General/News, Humanities, and STEM. I wanted some division without too many options, so I am hopefully that this will work well for students.

I am planning to launch the new design next week. I did a demo with some of our fellows (juniors and seniors) in the Writing Center, and they were very excited about the new design.

I’m also working on shifting gears a bit for my middle school students. They don’t use or really need access to the wide variety of databases that our high school students use, so I am planning to use Destiny Discover to design a landing page that is more geared towards their needs. Our middle school students are 1:1 on school issued iPads. Although I didn’t love the Destiny Discover app, I am able to add the direct Destiny Discover button with Safari to their home screen.

I love that I can add “Learning Links” to include the library resources they most frequently use. I’m using Destiny Collections to gather lists for students and teachers, and that displays nicely on the page, too.

I’m using Google Forms for book check-out requests, and it’s working well so far for us. I’m using some pre-formulated email replies (Quick Parts in Outlook) to communicate with students about holds and books on order. I know that Destiny can do lots of automation with holds and all, but at this point we feel like we need more of a pulse on whats happening and more direct control.

I’m also loving the form I have created for Book Recommendations. Although this is a time consuming process, it’s working well as a substitution for typical in-person readers’ advisory.

I’m also using Quick Parts here to send emails with recommendations. I’m sending three book recommendations (including title, author, and a brief description from Destiny or Goodreads) for each submission. It’s been rewarding to then fill book requests for some of my recommendations!

I know these are weird times for all of us. I know that none of us feel like we are rocking, rolling, and doing our best work. Supporting teachers right now is hard. Taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally while still managing our work responsibilities is hard. This is a year where we need to lean on each other and give plenty of grace. Be sure that you are regularly extending that grace to yourself.

Louisiana School Librarians Navigating School Library Programming in the Face of COVID-19

My friend and a constant source of inspiration, Amanda Jones, invited me to be apart of a webinar to talk about what we face in returning to school for the 2020-2021 school year. We were joined by another inspiring library friend, Lovie Howell. Although we still have a lot more questions than answers, it was great to share ideas and remember that we are not alone!

In the webinar, I remind everyone (myself included) that we need to go into this year knowing that we aren’t going to be our best. It’s going to be a struggle this year. We will try our best, but this year is going to be hard for us all. We have to remember that we have each other, and we are going to get through the challenges.

If you’re interested in watching Amanda, Lovie, and I chat about our survival plans, you can catch it here on YouTube:

The slide deck with links is here:

And Amanda created a Wakelet with other related resources:

Literary Clue Game Resources

To say that I’ve been neglecting my blog would be an understatement. Basically, what started out as a rough school year ended with COVID. I’m sure many of you can relate. If not, you could probably skim my last few posts and catch my vibe. I’m working on things, working on me, not giving up the fight, hopeful for the future — all that good stuff. In the meantime, though, here is a great idea with resources from my best friend, Alaina Laperouse, who also happens to be the best English teacher on the planet. Enjoy!

Teachers are always looking for ways to engage students with literature.  At my middle school, we started a literacy camp for incoming 6th graders.  The aim of the camp is to help students get a jump on their summer reading book.  Over the years, the required summer reading book has changed, but one thing has not.  The game CLUE.  

In the beginning of the journey to get students excited about the new school, camp, and learning, my co-teachers and I brainstormed ways to get students out of their seats, moving all over the school campus, working together, and helping them get familiar with some of the key elements within the text.

We stumbled upon the idea of the game of CLUE, but taking it life size.  In this game, students work in teams, they have a game card to collect clue information they find (characters, settings, and themes).  The clues to cross out are the cards the teachers have hidden around the campus.  Once they narrow down to one remaining clue for each category, students race back to the library to try to be the first to solve the game.  

Year after year, students report this is their favorite camp activity.  For their prize, students often ask if they can reset the game (hiding clues in new locations) and be the game masters themselves.  

Once students are proficient with the game, we usually make additional challenges such as:

  • Joining arms or ankles to another teammate.
  • One teammate wears a blindfold and must listen for instructions.

Each variation has a connection to what we are learning that day at camp.  I hope you find the game of CLUE helpful and perhaps inspiring. 

This link will take you to a Google Drive folder with PDFs of resources to go with games for Wonder, Fish in a Tree, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and a school-based game.