Information Skills Tasks

Whether we like it or not, state testing is just over a week away for us in Louisiana. I’m not going to get on my soapbox and talk about my thoughts on standardized testing, because the reality of the situation is that it’s something we have to do. Scores play a big part in our school performance scores and teacher evaluations, and I work in a high performing district with high expectations. Testing and test prep is a stressful topic for everyone.

In order to best support my teachers and students, I wanted to come up with some activities that would help support them in preparation for “the test” while still engaging students in a fun (and rigorous) way. I bounced the idea around with my awesome 6th grade teachers and then got to work on developing a series of “tasks”, structured like puzzles, for the students to complete in groups during a library visit. Putting this together was A LOT of work…and my teachers really didn’t have time to put something like this together, so it was a great way for me to be able to support them. These activities went over so well with our 6th graders that I’m planning to add, adjust, and tweak them to do with 7th and 8th grade students next week.

Since I’m planning to do some variation of these activities will all of my students (meaning 42 times!), I knew that repeating the directions so many times would get old. So I used the idea shared by Lodge McCammon at METC to film the quick instructions so they would be delivered consistently each time:

Putting together all of the materials for this was time consuming. I created visually appealing pieces for the students to use, which I’ve shared below — five tasks all together (although each group only used 3-4 of the tasks). I color coded activities using card stock and numbered all of the pieces in each folder to correspond with the group number on the folder (six groups in all — meaning I made six copies/folders of each task). This way, when I found a rogue piece on the floor, I would know which folder it came from (and I stressed with students the importance of keeping up with materials).

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Below, I’ve shared photos of each task in action, as well as digital copies of the materials used to create each task. Feel free to take and use anything here that I have shared!

Author’s Purpose:

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Authors Purpose by librariantiff

Research to Build Knowledge:

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Research to Build Knowledge by librariantiff

Bibliographic Entries:

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Bibliographic Entries by librariantiff

Parenthetical Citations:

Parenthetical Citation by librariantiff

Thinking Maps:

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Thinking Maps by librariantiff

Task List Handout:

Library Tasks

The model bibliographic entries and parenthetical citations pages, as well as the resources from the Research to Build Knowledge activity, are from our state test sample materials, which can be found here. The author’s purpose and FLEE map samples were created by our 6th grade ELA teachers.

Posted in Library Lessons, Resources & Links | 2 Comments

My Case for Social Media

I’m very lucky to work in a great district and an even better school. There are so many great things about it — I work with awesome educators that care about the kids; we have high expectations and it is reflected in the school culture; we’re a small, community-based system that’s making positive progress.

However, there’s one area where my district and I are definitely not on the same page, and to me it’s something huge. In my district, Twitter and Facebook are blocked for students AND teachers. As teachers, we are instructed not to post on social media during the hours of the school day. Period. No posting for personal OR professional reasons. What this says to me is: “Social media has no value to you professionally.” Or perhaps: “Even if it does have some value, it’s something you’re going to have to do on your own time.” Obviously, I disagree whole heartedly. I’m pretty sure that everyone that I work with knows that…I’m not typically quiet or reserved about my opinions. But I thought it was time I made my case in writing.

This policy makes it virtually impossible for me to sell Twitter as a PD tool to my coworkers (and I firmly believe that Twitter is the most valuable PD tool out there). Let’s be honest — it’s really hard to show them how to use something when it’s blocked and you’re not allowed to use it during the day.

It’s also really hard to show my students what a strong digital footprint and positive use of social media looks like when it’s all blocked. My kids NEED to see that…so I take screenshots at home, but that can’t demonstrate its true power. This isn’t even touching the opportunities they’re missing out on because of the connections we could be making with other schools, authors, and experts throughout the day using social media…because we DEFINITELY aren’t allowed to have a school or library social media account where we share out the things we’re doing so the community can share in our learning. If I want to use Twitter to line up Skype or Hangout meetings to help my students make global connections, I have to do it after school hours.

I found my district’s recent professional development days to be very telling of the current stance on technology and social media. Last month, we had two full days of district-wide professional development training on Professional Learning Communities. All of the faculty members from all five schools in our district gathered together to participate in a PLC conference as a satellite location (sessions were streamed in from Arizona). In the days before these PD days, we were instructed that we were NOT to have any technology visible during the sessions (no laptops, iPads, phones, etc.). As someone who attends conferences regularly (okay, maybe excessively/obsessively), I know the power of a backchannel and was very disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to Tweet what I learned along the way. For me, that has become a way that I process my learning at a conference. So despite my extreme frustration and disappointment, I tried to enter these two days of PD with a decent attitude. Imagine my surprise when I arrive the morning of our PD to see a hashtag and Twitter stream up on the big screen.

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Since it was before our official start time…I went ahead and Tweeted them:

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Hm. Not on the same page. I followed the rules…put my phone away during sessions…and in my notes I wrote down the things I would have Tweeted, had it been allowed.

The argument against having technology was that it would be a distraction. For me, it would have been a tool to enhance learning. Do teachers need to learn to use technology the right way in the right situations at the right times? Absolutely. Just like our students need to learn the same thing. But it’s mighty hard to learn it (or teach it) if we can’t use it. I get that they think it’s easier and less of a headache to just block and ban. It’s not as scary, not as threatening. However, we are doing a disservice to our teachers and our students by not allowing them the opportunity to experience a different level of learning. We’re doing a disservice by not requiring them to develop the skills that are essential to be successful in our digital world.

We talk about how wrong it is to issue a blanket punishment for all students because of the actions of a few. What about being punished in advance for something that hasn’t even happened yet?

There is so much good in social media for education. There’s so much positive potential and so many endless possibilities. And if we aren’t taking advantage, then our students are missing out.

I recently shared about our March Madness Book Bracket. We are now down to our Final Four books:

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I’m so excited to see favorites See You at Harry’s and The Fourth Stall in the Final Four! I shared this picture on Twitter and tagged authors Jo Knowles and Chris Rylander. Our students LOVE their books. I was really excited when Chris responded to my Tweet:

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Back in November, my Multimedia students created a book trailer for The Fourth Stall as their entry for a video contest. Although they didn’t win, we were so proud of the final product. Last night, I shared the link to our video with Chris Rylander:

I was so excited when he Tweeted back about the video:

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So excited that I had to take a screen shot and post it on Schoology to share with my students. Naturally, they freaked out:


And of course they rushed into the library this morning to geek out some more. They were so excited that the author of The Fourth Stall, one of their FAVORITE books, saw the video they created about his book!

This is just one small example of the power of social media. Connecting our students with others has so much potential to excited, engage, and motivate. Getting our teachers connected will introduce them to ideas, opportunities, and learning that just can’t happen within the walls of the school. This is something I’m passionate about and not willing to let up on because social media changed my path as an educator. I would not be able to provide my students with the opportunities, my teachers with the resources, or myself with the support that I get as a professional without my PLN. When I say that Twitter changed my life, I’m not exaggerating. The opportunities and experiences coming my way would not be possible if I were not a connected educator. And I want to be able to share that with my teachers and students.

Posted in My Ramblings, Tech | 3 Comments

Book Swap Planning

It’s now that time of year where I start to wonder where the year has gone. Today is the first day of the fourth nine-week grading period, which means this year is 3/4 DONE! This is also the time of year where I need to start planning for end of the year and summer activities. Last year, I wanted to do something to promote reading over the summer, so I hosted a second book fair. Honestly, one book fair a year is enough for me, so this year I want to host an end of the year book swap.

I was very excited to find some great resources for a book swap over on The Book Bug blog by Jo Nase. I took her ideas from the elementary book swap she hosted and adapted some of her resources so they would work for us at Central Middle. I love when I find things already created and shared by awesome members of my PLN! We are always better together!

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t start taking some time now to pre-plan and think about end of the year activities, my good intentions will never become reality. We all know how the end of the year tends to swirl out of control (or at least it does for me), so I wanted to make sure I took some time to prepare now so this book swap can go smoothly and not cause me too much anxiety when the time rolls around!

Here’s the informational letter that I’ll be sending home in May for the book swap:

Book Swap

And these are the receipts that I fill out as I collect books from students for the swap:

Book Swap Receipt

I can’t wait to share more about our book swap once it takes place. I think this is going to be a really fun way to get books in the hands of my students before the start of summer!

Have you ever hosted a book swap? If so, was it a big hit?

Posted in Middle Level Books, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

Digital Citizenship at CMS

I feel like one of the most important and relevant things that I can teach my students is how to be a responsible digital citizen. Honestly, most of the adults in their lives don’t truly “get it.” They don’t fully understand or consider the impact that a student’s digital footprint can have on their future. They don’t get how essential digital literacy skills are to a student’s success. I try to lead by example so I can show my students what a positive digital citizen who is creating a strong, transparent digital footprint looks like. I share the ways I use my blog, Twitter, and other networks to grow as a professional. And I facilitate discussions and activities where students consider the impact that their digital choices can have on different parts of their lives.

I originally posted about the Common Sense Media Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum back in October of 2011, and I’ve been adapting these lessons to my library curriculum ever since. They have a range of really great lesson ideas, videos, and print resources available for all grade levels K-12.

My absolute favorite lesson that I’ve taught this year is the Trillion-Dollar Footprint (click this link to access all lesson resources for this lesson). I’ve taken the lesson provided by Common Sense Media and created this presentation to guide my students through the discussions for this activity:

During this lesson, students look at the social media profiles of two potential job candidates to determine which works better with others and is more trustworthy. Students discover discrepancies in the social media profiles, and it sure does get them fired up and engaged in an active discussion! You know an activity is powerful when students continue to discuss it well after the lesson has ended, and that’s exactly what I found with this lesson. I loved this lesson so much that over the course of the first semester, I taught it to all of my 7th and 8th grade students.

I introduced my 6th grade students to this curriculum with the Digital Life 101 lesson. In this activity, students think about the different aspects of their digital lives and create a simile. Here are an example of what one of my students created:

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Other tried and true favorites for me from this curriculum include:

My favorite thing about these lessons is that they’re very discussion based and get students thinking about their digital lives. I interviewed some of my students and asked them about what they’ve learned about digital citizenship, and here’s what they had to say:

How is digital citizenship taught in your school? What role do you play in helping students better understand their digital lives?

Posted in Library Lessons, Resources & Links, Tech | 5 Comments

March Madness at CMS!

I remember thinking last year, “How cool!” when my friend Cathy Jo Nelson shared her March Madness display. When she shared a picture of her bracket for this year, I knew I wanted to steal this idea!

You should follow Cathy’s directions on her blog, especially where she explains how to seed the books. I didn’t think that hard before I started stapling, but I will follow the seeding rules when I do this again next year.

I ran the Destiny report that showed the top 25 circulated titles for this school year. For books that were part of a series, I just went with the first book in the series so I could have more variety in the selection. I also made some cute filler spots that I’ll replace with the winning titles along the way. Unsure of how much space this would all take up, I laid my bracket out on the tables (then moved to the floor when I needed more room) to see how much space I would need before I stapled everything on the wall. Yay for self-healing walls in the hallway!


I’m planning to use Google Forms for the voting each week of March. I’ll post the links on Schoology so students can vote. Also during the first week, I’m going to have a place for students to make their predictions for the winner, and I’ll do some type of drawing/give away for a prize at the end of the month. IMG_4063

I think this is going to be a lot of fun and a great way to get our students excited and talking about some awesome books!

Speaking of March Madness….

SIGLIB (formerly SIGMS) will be hosting our annual March Madness discussions on Facebook this year! Make sure you join our Facebook group and participate in our discussions throughout the month of March…we’ll have some great ISTE book giveaways along the way!

Posted in ISTE, My Ramblings, Resources & Links | 2 Comments

Library Survey Results

Before the holiday break, my awesome principal recommended that all of the teachers take some time and have their students complete anonymous surveys to provide feedback on their class (questions ranged from teaching, relationships, classroom environment, respect, etc.). Being the great leader that he is, he lead by example and asked all of his teachers and staff complete similar surveys on him, giving feedback on our perceptions of the job he’s doing as an administrator.

I decided that I wanted to conduct a student survey for the library, too. At first, I considered just posting the link on Schoology and asking students to complete it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I may not get the amount or quality of feedback I wanted unless I had students complete the survey during a library visit. So for the first two weeks back from holiday break, I had students complete these surveys when they visited the library with their ELA classes. I have to say, it was completely worth my time to have all of this data and feedback to sift through. Here’s the survey I put together:

LibrarySurveyAnd here are the results:

I was very interested to not only see the overall results, but also to break them down by grade level. I was really happy with the results of the survey. It’s nice to know that the kids think I’m doing some things right! The students overwhelmingly feel like the library is a comfortable and welcoming place, and that I’m approachable and helpful — these are things that I work really hard to develop in the culture of our library.

Over the last several years, I have worked with my ELA teachers to find a schedule that works best for them. I know that many librarians feel very strongly about having a completely flexible schedule. I feel very strongly, though, about seeing and reaching every student in my school on a regular basis. So I have created a flex/fixed schedule that seems to be working well. I see 6th and 7th grade ELA classes every other week, and 8th grade every three weeks. But for almost 30% of the 8th graders, they aren’t able to visit frequently enough. Overall, though, this is a confirming thing for me in that I see how many of my students wouldn’t be visiting the library if I didn’t schedule time regularly with their ELA teachers…so this seems to be working out pretty well.

I wasn’t shocked by the results that show that most of our students don’t use our library catalog. The reasons for this, I believe, are: (1) genrefication makes browsing so much easier that students use the catalog less; (2) they ask me where a particular book is and I can tell them off the top of my head where it is since I know the collection so well; (3) I don’t spend much time teaching them to use the catalog, since I feel my time is better spent teaching other things. I’m going to continue to ponder on this point.

The results that most pleasantly surprised me: “Do you feel the lessons and activities during class library visits are helpful/informative?” Students had very positive feelings about the activities that we’ve done (from search strategies to digital citizenship activities to book speed dating), and they even left some positive feedback about this in the open ended questions.

I knew that the results to the genrefication questions were going to be extremely positive, but I’m very excited to have some numbers from this survey to be able to share on this topic! Our students love the organization of our library, and in the open ended questions many raved about this as well.

The open ended questions were by far my favorite. Although it takes a lot to go through hundreds of responses, there were some real gems in there! For the results shared above, I picked out some of the most frequently given or nicely put responses.

Giving this survey and spending time with the results has been a really powerful experience for me. Not only was it a way for me to evaluate my practice, but it was also a really great way to empower students and give them a voice.

If you would like to make/save yourself a copy of the Form that I created, click here.


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Ditching Dewey: Signage

The signage helps to make the library so user friendly. Our students are able to come in and find books easily using the signage and tags on the books to find their books. I thought the best way to show the signage and perhaps answer some questions that people have had through this blog series would be through the use of a video tour:

These are the signs I’ve created for the fiction sections. The images were creating use an app called WordFoto. Then I added the text portion in Photoshop.


Click here for the fiction signs on Flickr…free to download & use!

I created my own stickers/nonfiction signs in Comic Life, using public domain graphics from


Click here for the nonfiction signs on Flickr…free to download & use!

Deciding to genrefy our library was definitely not about me. Seriously, it was a lot of work and it would have been MUCH easier for me to leave things as they were. Going through this process of completely changing the organization of our library was 100% about the students. My students feel like this is THEIR library. They can find what they’re looking for easily. They love being able to explore within a genre. They’re more likely to pick up a nonfiction book because it just makes sense where it’s located. But don’t take my word for it. This is the video of what the students say about genrefication (this video was created for the AASL Ditching Dewey presentation, so it doesn’t just include my students):

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Ditching Dewey: Catalog Changes

Making changes in the catalog is an important part of the genrefication process. If possible, I would recommend doing this step of the process over the summer, when most books are returned. Of course, I didn’t…and it took quite some time to “catch” all of the books that were out at the time of the change.


For our fiction books, I first cleaned up the record in Destiny, making sure all of the call numbers followed the F ABC format, instead of Fic ABC. Then, one of my awesome volunteers went section by section, working through the books, adding an extra letter (seen in the photo above) to denote the genre category. Like I said, we did this in the middle of the year, which made it a messy process to complete as books were constantly being checked out and returned. We also did books one by one, because I didn’t think to use the Batch Update feature (DUH!) in Destiny. Lesson learned, and we used batch update when we genrefied the nonfiction section. Here’s what a sample of our fiction section looks like in the catalog:


For nonfiction, we used the batch update feature to add the category name in front of the call number. I didn’t want to get rid of the Dewey call numbers completely just in case…so they’re still there:


This is what things look like in Destiny when you do a Batch Update:

batch update

You would set the update up to make the changes you want, then scan in the books to the barcode list. SO much quicker and easier!

Making catalog changes is definitely not the most glamorous step in the genrefication process, but it must be done (and done correctly!).

Next up in this series is the most glamorous step of all…Signage!

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Ditching Dewey: Making the Move

There was quite a lot of moving in the gentrification process for me! We rearranged/moved the fiction books, then the nonfiction books, and shortly after we moved the entire library into our new facility.

After all of our fiction books were tagged with their tinted label stickers, it was time to make the move. We decided how we wanted the genres arranged (yes, we did this planning on a napkin!):


As usual, was ready to throw myself into the moving process without thinking about it for too terribly long. I gathered every cart I could get my hands on and started pulling books. This was easy since everything was so clearly labeled. I pulled out the genres one by one and shifted things down as I went.


Although this wasn’t the most complicated part of the process, I found it to be the most overwhelming. The library was a mess, books were everywhere, eek! This picture pretty much sums up how I felt during the move:


I used a different approach with moving nonfiction. After an extremely extensive weeding, I sorted the books into their new categories. The weeding freed up a great deal of shelf space, so I was able have some room to spread things out. With nonfiction, I wanted everything sorted out into categories before I tagged them with their new stickers. I sorted them out into the categories that I had already decided upon, but I did make some minor changes as I worked through the books. I found that I needed to add some categories and some could be condensed. Once I had the categories all worked out, I put the new label stickers on the books. Then, I sorted the larger categories, such as science and history, into smaller subcategories.


My next post will detail the changes made in the catalog, so I won’t get into that now, but I often get the question, “How do your shelvers know what subcategory books belong to?” For this reason, I have put subcategory stickers on the front inside cover of the books:

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I was on quite a deadline to finish the genrefication process for both fiction and nonfiction in our library — at the end of the year that I worked through the process, we were to move into a new building! This is why I pushed through to get my nonfiction reorganized so quickly; I wanted to be able to move into the new library and have our fiction and nonfiction paired. I put a lot of thought into what our new arrangement would look like, how I could make the most of our new space, and a plan to pack up and then unload the books. Measuring out linear shelf space and the amount of space our books would take up, I came up with a plan and packed the books onto our moving carts in the order that they would be unloaded



Just looking back at these pictures overwhelms me! I started the summer of 2012 not knowing when I would be able to get into the new library:


I have to say, I don’t think that having my nonfiction genrefied would make as much sense to me if I didn’t have the fiction and nonfiction paired. For example, my sports fiction and nonfiction are shelved right next to each other:



I’ll talk more about this in a future post when I talk about Signage & Arrangement. Next, I’ll be sharing something that folks are always curious about…catalog changes!

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Ditching Dewey: Labeling the Books

The labeling of your books is a key part of the genrefication process. Think long and hard when deciding what labels you want to use…you’ll be looking at them for many years to come! 10964921566_1bd93122fa_o

I’m very happy with the choices I made for labels!

For our fiction books, I purchased Demco Color-Tinted Glossy Label Protectors to go over the spine labels. I love this look, because when I look at a fiction section, all of the books are labeled with the same color, so it’s very easy to see a book that’s in the wrong section.


Doesn’t that look nice?!

These are samples of books from my eight fiction genres:

ficDid you notice the orange dots at the top of some of the books? That’s how we mark our series books.

So once I had my genres decided and my stickers ready to go, I started at the beginning. I went book by book through my fiction section and evaluated. When I started this process, I was brand new to the library. And it needed some serious weeding. I spent many weeks weeding and tagging my way through the fiction section. It was a long and tedious process, but I’m so glad I did it (and did it myself). Whenever I had a little bit of spare time, I grabbed my box of tinted labels and went to work. I would look at the subjects on the copyright pages, read summaries, refer to the catalog, or talk to students who had read the book to decide on their genres. Instead of focusing more on the technicalities of the particular genres, I tried to think more in terms of, “What type of reader would be most likely to enjoy this book?” By working my way through the fiction section, weeding and genre tagging, I got to know my collection very well!

I approached nonfiction a little differently. First I weeded…SERIOUS weeding. That shrunk the size of my collection significantly. Then I sorted and tagged nonfiction. Obviously, sorting from Dewey into categories wasn’t that difficult. But it did make me SO HAPPY to put the pets and other animals in a section together. It made me even happier to move those darn military vehicles in with the war books. And I had a plan for arranging fiction and nonfiction sections near each other…which wasn’t happening with Dewey. But more on that later!

I created my own labels for the nonfiction categories. I had tons and tons of these spine label sheets, I used graphics from, and I put the designs together in Comic Life. All of the labels that I’ve created can be found here on my Flickr account, free for you to use if you’d like! Here’s how they look on the books:



This is where I admit that I’m a label/tape snob. Back at my first library, I made new spine labels for lots of books and covered them with whatever label protectors I had lying around. MISTAKE! They all fell off. So I got in touch with Demco and they sent me samples of all of their label protectors. Now, I exclusively use Demco’s Ultra-Agressive Glossy Label Protectors. And those go over the top of EVERYTHING. And it stays put!

It would be much easier to go through the labeling process over the summer, with all of the books in the library. Of course, that’s not what I did! It took quite a while to work through this process as I continued to tag books as they were returned. But eventually, they were all properly labeled and ready for the next step…

Next up is “Making the Move!”


Posted in My Ramblings | 5 Comments