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!

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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.

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

Making Connections

Every year, I like to have a guiding goal to focus my practice and teaching in the library. Trying to consciously focus on doing one thing really well throughout the year helps me to push myself and make our library great in that specific area.

This year, I’m going to put a of focus on making connections.

With my students, I plan to do more connecting via Google Hangouts. Mystery Skypes and Virtual Book Talks are always so much fun, and I plan to incorporate them into library activities as much as possible (if you’re interest in connecting your students with mine, please let me know!). I also want to use Google Hangouts to connect students with authors and experts that relate to what their learning about in their core classes.

I plan to make an effort to do more collaborative planning with my ELA (and hopefully other content area) teachers. For the past several years, I’ve put myself on a pretty fixed schedule to see my ELA classes on a regular basis (every other week for 6th and 7th and every third week for 8th). I did a lot of lessons and activities on digital citizenship, Google search lessons, and activities to connect students with books during these visits. With 40 ELA classes, this pretty much filled my schedule. We have added five more ELA classes to the mix this year, I was struggling to make a schedule that would work. I’ve decided to have regularly scheduled monthly library visits for all ELA classes. The rest of my schedule will be filled by visiting PLC meetings and planning lessons and visits through those connections. With self check-out in place, students are able to take care of circulation business all the time, which makes me okay with the idea of classes not visiting so frequently.

Alaina and I decided this summer that we were going to come up with a plan to boost faculty morale and help our coworkers connect and build relationships throughout the year. We told our principal that we were forming the F.U.N. (Faculty Unity Network) Committee and planning monthly gatherings for our faculty members. Here’s our F.U.N. Activity Schedule:

We had our first event last night and I was so excited to see some of our new and old CMS faculty members show up after the first EXHAUSTING full week of school. I think these events are going to be a great way to help our teachers — especially those teaching different subjects/grade levels who rarely see each other on our large campus — build relationships and feel valued in our school community.

Another great way that our CMS teachers are connecting is through Twitter…awesome, right?! I hosted our Twitter Boot Camp at the start of school last year, and we’ve had some great buy-in from a number of our teachers. During one of our in-service meetings before the start of school this year, our principal shared this:

Twitter

We are using the hashtag #CMSdaily to share what we are doing in our classrooms and discover what’s happening around the school. It’s been so much fun to see what awesome activities are happening around campus and I know this is a great way to start conversations and sharing between our teachers.

I cannot wait to see what’s in store for this new school year!

Posted in Library Procedures, Making Connections, Reflections, Resources & Links, Technology | 4 Comments

Library Wall Quotes

Three years ago during July of 2012, I posted about our library wall quotes and word cloud that I put up when we moved into the new library. Just three years later, and I felt like it was time for a change.

For the past several years, the library has been decked out in neon colors and zebra print, which I loved and has been a lot of fun. A few things lead me to the decision to redecorate the library. First, I was lucky enough to hear Erin Klein speak at the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference this spring. Erin also did a TL Virtual Cafe webinar on Classroom Cribs. She talks a lot about creating an inviting space where all students feel welcome and comfortable. Although my students absolutely loved our library as it was, I knew that I could do more to make it more appealing to both genders and not so “girly.” I’m also currently reading Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate. He talks a great deal about incorporating your passions into your teaching practice as much as possible. I took inspiration from both of these awesome educators and decided to revamp the library with a travel theme — anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about travel. Plus reading and travel are a perfect pairing, don’t you think?

So now for the part that everyone’s curious about — “How did you do those awesome wall quotes?!”

Our PTO purchased a Cricut Expression machine years ago. I used it the first time we put up quotes. It is great for cutting vinyl and crafting with card stock.

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Purchasing a USB cable and downloading Cricut Craft Room saved me a lot of time in the layout and cutting process, but this is still VERY time consuming. I brought the machine home and cut out the quotes over the course of about a week — and I spent MANY hours working on it during that time.

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I prefer to use the 12×24 mat and order sheets of vinyl that size from ExpressionsVinyl.com. They have a large selection of colors and I’ve been more than pleased every time I order from them.

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In the picture above, you can see that blade of the Cricut wasn’t set very deep — it didn’t cut through the backing, just the vinyl. When I cut out the quotes, I had it cut deeper so I could lay out the quotes and make sure none of the letters are missing.

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It’s kind of crazy how trying to fit as many letters as possible on a sheet and make sure you end up with all of the right words and punctuation can blow your mind!

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I’ve purchased the vinyl transfer paper before, but never actually used it. Instead, we invested in this handy little laser level. We use 3M Command Strips to stick it to the wall and shoot a line.

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Then the letters go up one by one.

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They peel back up from the wall pretty easily without tearing if you have to adjust them…which you will. Often.

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I spent pretty much an entire day up on the ladder putting up the quotes with the help of my awesome mom. I’m so happy with how they all turned out!

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I went with these five travel and reading themed quotes…I love each one of them dearly and hope they will speak to my students, too.

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We even changed some of the font and color of the words in the word cloud above the circulation desk.

The finishing touches on the rest of the space are still underway and I can’t wait to post again soon with the rest of the details!

Posted in Decorations & Displays, Resources & Links | 5 Comments

The Sting of Rejection

I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post. I don’t want to come across as a complainer…I am incredibly blessed to have a career I love, and I feel that my hard work and commitment to my profession has paid off tremendously in the past few years. We all go through slumps at some point, and I feel like I’ve been having one these past few months. As I reflect on what it feels like to not have the success that I’m always striving for, I think about what it feels like for our students. When you try so hard, give something everything you’ve got, and then come up short, it’s hard to stay positive.

Often as educators, we don’t put ourselves out there and apply for grants/awards/etc. because we might not get it. And when you don’t, it stinks! It hurts! It’s upsetting!

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This year, we submitted our entry for the Follett Challenge and worked our tails off to promote our entry. We were so close! If we had been just a few spots higher in the voting, we would have won something. But we didn’t. I gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough in this case. We put together a great video and it was great publicity for our library program, but that doesn’t help with the sting of not winning. This was our second time entering the Follett Challenge.

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My best friend (who is also an ELA teacher at my school) and I wrote a Fund for Teachers grant this year. For almost two months, we stayed after school for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to research and write our grant. We put so much time, effort, and energy into writing this and were so pleased with what we submitted. We wrote this grant because we got an email about the seven submissions that were funded from our state the previous year, and they were seeking more entries from our area. We were very hopeful and anxiously awaited the email that would let us know if we were funded. Alaina and I travel together every summer and were excited about the opportunity to travel and put together an awesome cross-curricular unit with the help of this grant. We didn’t make other travel plans for this summer, because we knew if we got the grant we wouldn’t be taking another trip. When we got this rejection letter and found out that only two projects were funded from our state, we were heartbroken.

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Last year, I was selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders…an incredible honor. I thought I would apply one last time (this was my third year applying) for the Outstanding Young Educator award. I’ve been very involved with the Librarians Network with ISTE for years. Our group is large and very active, so I really wanted to see a librarian recognized for one of ISTE’s big awards. Even when you aren’t surprised or devastated by a rejection, it still doesn’t feel great.

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This one stings the most! Two years ago in Hartford at AASL, was part of four awesome, packed out presentations. It was overwhelming to do so many presentations at a big conference, so I only submitted one proposal for AASL in Columbus. I thought it was a great session proposal and it included some of my library friends that I love and respect the most in our TL community. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be presenting in Columbus this fall. AASL is my absolute favorite conference and speaking is one of my favorite things to do (especially with a group of other awesome library leaders), and I’m beyond bummed that it won’t be happening this year.

I think it’s important to be thoughtful and reflective at a time when pushing on and dusting yourself off just doesn’t feel so easy. At times like this, do I feel like I want to back off a bit and quit trying so hard? You bet I do. But what kind of example does that set for my students? How many of them feel like this all the time? They try so hard, put in their best effort, but they still fall short. How can we encourage those students to keep trying? So while I’ve experienced this feeling of not quite making it several times in the past few months, I’m trying to use it to gain some perspective. Relate this experience to my students so I can better connect with and encourage them. And most importantly…I’m going to keep trying and putting myself out there because that’s what I want them to do.

 

Posted in My Ramblings, Reflections | 16 Comments