Our annual conference was last week, and serving as President meant I was involved in a number of events. We kicked off the conference on Wednesday with a Google Tools workshop, where I was lucky enough to present with some amazing LASL librarians: Kim Howell, Stephanie Wilkes, and Chris Young. I shared my love for Google Calendars, Keep, and Hangouts. The best thing about doing a group presentation, though, is that I always learn something from the other presenters, and this session was no different. Like learning that you can type doc.new in your Chrome browser and a new Google Doc will pop right open. Mind blown!
On Thursday, I was honored to moderate a panel for the Louisiana Teenage Librarians Association (LTLA). The panel was made up of several student leaders and their librarian sponsors who lead Library Clubs in their schools. LTLA holds an annual conference that is full of fun: book discussions, a guest author, contests, a talent show, and a dance. This group completely inspired me and I am so excited to shart my own Library Club and take the trip to the LTLA Conference next year!
Again, it was such an honor to present with these amazing librarians that I admire and respect so much. We definitely went over our time on this session because there were so many amazing ideas to share and the audience got really involved with sharing their own ideas and experiences as well. When you’re in a room full of amazing librarians and have a chance to throw down some great ideas and library wisdom, you can’t help but leave feeling inspired and ready to take on new projects.
We wrapped up the conference with our LASL Makerspace Lunch & Learn. This was new for us, as we typically host an author luncheon at the conference, but we wanted to try something new that would give attendees a chance to network and have some hands-on experiences. I did a Facebook Live video tour of our Makerspace Lunch & Learn, which you can check out below.
I’m going to end by saying that conference planning is stressful for all involved, so be sure that you thank the people in leadership roles within your professional organization when you see good things happening. I also encourage your to get more involved with your professional organizations if you are not already. When we work together for the good of our profession, we all grow!
I’ve been hosting a Battle of the Books competition with my middle school students for the past five years. The first two years at Central Middle (where their amazing current librarian continues the tradition) and for the past three years at Episcopal. This year, the competition finally expanded and we hosted three school-level competitions at area schools, with the winner from each moving on to a regional competition.
In October, I announced this year’s competition and invited students to form their teams. I require students to submit their team roster (with ten team members) and the name of their teacher sponsor to me via email. This year, I had six teams participate. Also this year, two other area librarians were hosting at their schools and collaborated with me every step of the way. For our book list, we pull heavily from our Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Award List to select the ten titles that will be used in our battle. We try to round out the list with a variety in genre, character, and themes. This year, we used the following ten titles:
After the teams were formed, I ordered a set of these ten books for each team and distributed them so they could begin reading. The teams then have approximately 8-10 weeks to read as much as they can. I don’t micromanage or require students to read so many books to participate. I let the teams take responsibility, divide up the reading as they see fit, and dig into the books.
In December, we held our school-level competition. The competition consists of five rounds: three rounds of multiple choice questions using Kahoot, a written response round, and some type of puzzle/challenge round (that varies from year to year).
Each of the three Kahoot rounds has a total of 20 questions — two from each book. Each team has one iPad that they use to answer the questions, earning points based on speed and accuracy. Kahoot is easy to use and makes the scoring process much easier, too. I space the Kahoot rounds out, so we start with a Kahoot, do the written response round, another Kahoot, complete the puzzle/challenge round, and then the top three teams compete in the final Kahoot round in front of the entire middle school.
The written response round requires students to work together to formulate several responses to open-ended questions. For example, one of the written response prompts we used this year was: “In Restart, Chase’s memory loss gives him an opportunity for a fresh and new perspective. What character from any of the other books would have most benefited from a fresh start? Explain why you chose this character and what that opportunity would look like for them.” Each team responds to three prompts, and the responses are ranked against each other with points awarded accordingly.
The puzzle round has been different every year. We’ve done BreakoutEDU Games and puzzles of different kinds. This year, students had to match book titles, author, character, a quote, and an image relating to the book:
Having the final round in front of the entire middle school is a blast — it gets the teams hyped up and it helps students who did not participate learn more about Battle of the Books so they may want to join a team next year.
Our winning team was a team of 8th grade students, many of them have been together as a team since they were 6th graders, which made it extra special! That team went on to participate in the first ever regional competition.
Red Stick READgional Competition
My dream of having a regional Battle of the Books competition finally became a reality this year! Sara Gomez, librarian at Central Middle, and Laura Foy, librarian at Denham Springs Junior High, also held their school-level competitions and we all brought our winning teams to compete.
We were able to host the READgional at our beautiful Main Public Library. The Teen librarians there let us take over their gaming room for the day and they were incredible hosts. Before kicking off the competition, we wanted our students to get to know each other a little. We found a great ice breaker game from Cult of Pedagogy called ‘Lines and Blobs.’ First, students had to line themselves up alphabetically by first name (meaning they had to tell each other their names). Next, they got into blobs (groups) by how many of the books they read for the battle (get to know your competition). Then, they lined up by their birthdays (January 1-December 31). They had to get into blobs again by the number of siblings they have. Finally, they found a partner (from a different school, of course) that had the same favorite book genre and made each other’s nametags.
For this READgional competition, we had three rounds: two Kahoots and a game. The Kahoots were set up just like the school-level Kahoot rounds, but with new questions. For the game, we did the Saran Wrap Game. In the Saran Wrap, we put tickets worth 100 points. Students were lined up alternating by school (Episcopal, Central, Denham, etc.) and were asked trivia questions (we used the questions from the school-level Kahoots, but didn’t make them multiple choice). While a student answered questions, another student behind them in line worked to unwrap the ball (while wearing oven mits) until the student answering questions got one correct — then the ball and mits were passed on. Because there was definitely a level of luck to this game, we used the points from the ball to rank the teams in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, then assigned points accordingly that were more in line with the Kahoot rounds and didn’t have extreme point gaps. Laura Foy, the librarian from Denham Springs Junior High, made this great video where you can see our day in action.
The competition was very close overall. The Episcopal team did me proud, though, and pulled off the win!
Our teams spent the rest of the afternoon together enjoying pizza for lunch, a behind the scenes tour of the library, time together exploring the Teen section of the library, and playing games. We had the students video reflections for Battle of the Books, and here’s what one of my students had to say:
Over the years, I’ve had lots of questions about how we run our Battle of the Books competition, so hopefully this will answer many of them. This is honestly one of my favorite events every year — it’s a great way to celebrate our readers and get more students hyped up about books!
Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting author James Ponti to help us celebrate our first 6th Grade Community Read project. This was something my lower school librarian, Catherine, and I began planning last school year. She hosted her 3rd grade event for Wishtree by Katherine Applegate in the fall. It was a huge success, so I was so excited when we were able to connect with another local school to bring in the amazing James Ponti for our event.
Before winter break, I distributed copies of Framed! by James Ponti to all of our 6th grade students, with a note to go home asking them to read with their parents in anticipation of our event in January. Parents were invited to attend a breakfast and book discussion, followed by the author presentation.
James Ponti’s website has some great resources for teachers, including a mystery game and curriculum guides for his books. I used some of the questions from his curriculum guide forFramed! to have available for our breakfast and book discussion.
Our 6th grade students and parents were joined by our 4th and 5th grade students, who also read Framed! as one of their Battle of the Books picks. Mr. Ponti kept his audience engaged and laughing with stories of his childhood, learning to love reading and writing, his very interesting career path, and of course, TOAST (Theory of All Small Things).
Next, our 6th grade students returned to their homeroom classes to use TOAST to solve a Breakout Game. Because we did not have enough time to use the game Jame Ponti shares on his website, I created a 30 minute game to fit our window of time. You can check it out here.
Finally, we ended the morning with a writing workshop with James Ponti. They worked as a group to practice developing characters and describing setting, then the students spent some time crafting their own stories.
If you’re looking for an author for an engaging visit, I highly recommend James Ponti. Students and parents loved reading Framed! and hearing from the author, and I anticipate that the other books in the series will remain checked out for quite some time.
This post isn’t about any great, inspiring big idea. Instead, it’s about how sometimes little things can be big in that they help us build relationships and spark conversations with our students.
Our circulation desk, the massive monstrosity that it is, sits right in the middle of the first floor of our library. We are positioned so that we are the first thing everyone sees when they walk into our space. I’ve posted about how I updated our circulation desk with chalk paint, which gave it a fresh look. I usually do the seasonal updating on the chalk art. I invite students to give it a try, but it’s a little time consuming and frustrating, they often find. It’s a great conversation piece, even though people often find themselves “chalked” after leaning on the desk during a conversation with us!
We’ve acquired a collection of other fun things that live at the circulation desk that serve as conversation starters. When I ordered our essential oil diffuser over a year ago, I told my partner in crime, “I don’t think this will change our life or anything, but it could be interesting.” A year later, I think she would tell people that it did, in fact, change our lives! We have some students who love taking turns selecting our oils for the day. After reading up on the effects of different scents, we usually aim for things that will evoke calm and focus — a lot of lavender and peppermint defusing in the library! We do get lots of compliments on how nice it smells in here, and many of our frequent visitors try to guess the oils of the day. Fun stuff!
Another fun toy we have available on our desk is the Magic 8 Ball. Although not completely reliable, our students like to consult it about upcoming tests and assignments. I asked the Magic 8 Ball if little things can have a big impact…and here’s my response (after only two tries)!
Finally, our newest addition, that actually has a bit of academic weight, is our word of the week display. The board we use was a gift last year from one of our graduating advisory students, which makes it even more special! Students are invited to recommend words, and we have quite a collection going for words requested for future use. On the back of our display board, we tape a page with the pronunciation, part of speech, definition, word origin, interesting facts, and use in a sentence. Want proof that our students are really into this word of the week thing? Last Monday morning at 7:35 AM I had a student ask me why I hadn’t updated from last week’s word yet. Needless to say, I did not make the same mistake this week! After several weeks of posting, it’s fun to see how many students are remembering and using the words from week to week. We are also having some really interesting conversations throughout the week with students about the word selections.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that keep life in the library interesting!
What fun, silly, or weird things do you have in your library that are really relationship builders in disguise?
This fall, Britannica is tackling media literacy with a series of blog posts, webinars, and other resources that are perfect for school librarians. I am very excited to partner with them on several of the blog posts and the October 15th webinar!
I recently received a comment (hi Rohondolita!) on a blog post from just over four years ago about hosting a Twitter Boot Camp. She asked about how I feel about Twitter now, and if there are other social media sites that I prefer for professional learning now. Since I read that comment, my love letter to Twitter, the long-term relationship of my professional learning, has been formulating in my head.
You’re still the one. After nearly nine years together, our relationship is strong and you are still my most trusted source for professional learning. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where I have been frustrated with you, needed a little vacation from you, or rolled my eyes and clicked the little “x” to walk away for a minute. Much more often than not, you are the trusted and comfortable place I can go to discover new ideas, connect with old and new friends, and seek advice from trusted colleagues.
There have been others that have tried to replace you or compete: Facebook groups with their easier to view streams of discussion, Pinterest boards filled with inspiring photos, conference apps full of their promises of engaging games and fancy messaging abilities. No matter what, I end up coming back to you, Twitter, because you are tried and true. You are best equipped to connect me with my Personal Learning Network, whether in real time or asynchronously.
So I’ll continue to share your greatness in any way I can manage. There’s no telling how many times I’ve spoken the words, “Twitter changed my life.” I’ll continue to get on my Twitter soap box via Twitter Boot Camp, Twitter Bingo, or conference presentations that urge librarians and educators to become connected. Although I may not be quite as eager to spend SO much of my time with you like I did in those early years, you’ll remain one of those essential pinned tabs on my Chrome browser.
Thanks, Twitter, for all of the years of learning and connections! Here’s to many more!
We are back at school and I’m having a blast kicking off visits to the library with my middle school classes using the GooseChase App for library orientation.
GooseChase allows you to organize and run scavenger hunts in which teams must document the completion of a series of tasks, or missions. You can require submissions that are text, photo, or video. They have a Game Library where you can find some initial inspiration and think about how to best structure your game.
I’m starting my time with the students running through a brief overview of our library with this presentation:
Since nearly all of my 7th and 8th graders are returning students, I can get through this pretty quickly. Of course I will take a little more time with my new 6th graders.
With the free educator version of GooseChase, you can have one live game with up to five teams participating at once. Once you build out the game with a variety of missions, it’s very simple to duplicate it to use with multiple classes. Here are some of the missions I used for my game:
You can check out my entire game and even make a copy of it here.
I absolutely love that during the game, I can check out the leaderboard and activity feed to see how the different teams are doing. And maybe best of all, you can see all of the submissions, either grouped by mission or by team, giving you a great collection of photos and videos submitted by your students:
I created way more “missions” than I knew my students would be able to complete during the given time. I also instructed them to NOT complete them in order, so we wouldn’t have too many traffic pile-ups. I’m looking forward to using this with the rest of my classes this week as my middle school students are welcomed back into our library.
It’s hard to believe that summer has slipped away and it’s time to get back to school. It’s always exciting, hectic, and a little overwhelming this time of year, but it’s also a great time to reflect on summer learning and make plans to try something new.
I’ve been Bitmoji obsessed for a while now. My awesome library assistant and I communicate almost exclusively via Bitmoji communication on SnapChat. Seriously, we’ve kept our Snap Streak alive all summer!
I created these bookmarks in Canva, using this great background photo I found on Pixabay. I wanted to include important info about our library, like our hours and website. Since our middle school students are 1:1 iPad, I made sure to include a QR code that will bring them to our website with our library catalog and databases. They’re being printed by OvernightPrints, so I made sure to follow the dimensions and instructions they provide for design. I can’t wait to get these in person so I can share them with students and families at orientation next week.
News literacy is a hot topic these days, as it should be with the “fake news” buzzword flying around at every turn. I’ve been digging in on news literacy resources this year, as know that this is another avenue for librarians to step up and become experts in our schools in a topic that isn’t necessarily embedded in the curriculum just yet. It’s very much in the vein of digital citizenship — we have to help prepare our students for the world they live in now and the unknown future where they will be adults.
Research shows that this is a growing issue facing society, and it’s something we as school librarians can step up and address. We know that our students struggle to evaluate sources they find online for credibility, and this research by the Stanford History Education Group confirms what we already know. This article by The Atlantic shares the findings of an MIT study on the spread of fake news on Twitter, and the battle that we are fighting is up a very steep hill.
I’ve presented on the topic of news literacy several times this year, and I have collected several videos that are great points of introduction and discussion on the topic. I think that news literacy is one of those concepts that should be grounded in discussion with students — it’s not as cut and dry as other topics may be and complex issues like this require awareness, thought, reflection, and some solid strategies.
I have a few videos that make great discussion starters when introducing the topic of news literacy with students.
This video describes how a town in Macedonia has become a hub for publishing fake news articles. Hearing the anonymous poster talk about how and why he is publishing these articles is sure to stir up discussion with your students.
This short minute and a half video describes how filter bubbles work and how social media algorithms tailor what you see based on your history. I think it’s important to note that as adults, we remember a time before social media. When our Facebook accounts show ads for things we’ve searched for on Google, it freaks us out. For our students, though, this is all they’ve ever known.
This video by Teaching Tolerance outlines how a “fake” news story can go viral. It specifically tells the story of a Tweet during the 2016 presidential election that took on a life of its own — and that even once the guy who posted it realized what he shared wasn’t true, he couldn’t pull it back.
This TED Ed video describes how news is spread, the history of how news was shared to how we access news today, and the phenomenon of circular reporting. TED Ed has a number of videos that can be used to facilitate discussions with students on news literacy.
The road ahead for tackling the issue of news literacy isn’t going to get easier, but as educators we must give serious consideration to what we can do to equip our students with the tools they need to be news and social media savvy.
I’ve been evangelizing about Twitter for years. Every chance I get, I tell people how Twitter changed my life and how building my PLN is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself professionally. Several years ago at CMS, I hosted a Twitter Boot Camp for my teachers. Over the past three semesters, I’ve worked with my technology department at Episcopal to use Twitter Bingo as a tool to introduce Twitter to our faculty and get them using it to build a professional network.
What I like about using this format for Twitter Bingo is that the teachers were able to work at their own pace. This also introduced them to a wide range of Twitter activities — from simple things like following and re-tweeting to participating in a full on Twitter chat. Instructions were linked to each square, but teachers really had to get in there and figure it out for themselves. Don’t we tell our students all the time that this is the best way to really learn something?
On the technical/creation side of things, I made the grid using Canva and imported the image into ThingLink to add the tutorials for each square. Since I ran this separately for each division (lower, middle, and upper school), I changed some of the who-to-follow squares in order to help tailor their network to their area.
Of course we used prizes to entice participation. Teachers filled out a Google Form to let me know they completed all the squares, giving a very short blurb on what they learned from their experience on Twitter. Here’s what a few of them said:
“I thought I would immediately want to unfollow the people I was told to follow because I didn’t really want to be following so many people. I have had actual interaction with these folks, so now they are real people to me, and I will continue to follow them because they have great ideas.”
“I had no idea what these chat hashtags were all about and then realized it was a way to interact more efficiently on a topic with the Q and A style. I like it!”
“I am still working on building my community so that my feed is always showing something helpful but I have enjoyed seeing what other teachers are doing. I found Responsive Classroom to have the most helpful ideas quickly.”
“This is great! I should have started a long time ago!”
As I said before, we learn best by doing. This was a great way to get some of my teachers really digging in to Twitter. Did everyone participate? Not even close! But many of those who did continue to use Twitter and are finding it to be such a valuable resource in their professional lives. That’s more than good enough for me!