6th Grade Wonder Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PresentationTips

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

WonderNightFlier

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!

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:

NonfictionResponse-page-001

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

NonfictionEvaluation copy-page-001

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

PDF of Nonfiction Response

PDF of Nonfiction Evaluation

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.

Think before you post!

Last week in the library, we did an activity that fostered a lot of great discussion and serious thoughts about posting on social media. Students honestly don’t put much thought into the things they post — and it’s scary how quick and easy it is to post something, and how difficult it is to recover from something harmful to your reputation and online presence. I work very hard to serve as a positive digital role model for my students (and coworkers, for that matter). I’m very transparent with everyone about how active I am online through social media and this blog. Sharing about the positives that come from my professional online presence and how it impacts my life is a big part of who I am and what I do. For most of my students, I may be the first POSITIVE digital role model that they have…because I see some of the things their parents are posting online on toxic Facebook groups within our community.

Some of the ideas for this activity came from the Common Sense Media lesson called Private Today, Public Tomorrow. We started with some discussion on what happens when we post things online. I used these slides to guide the activity:

Students were broken into groups and each group was given an article about the consequences of using social media in a harmful way. You could either have students access these articles online or print them. I decided to print copies, and I formatted them so they wouldn’t look wonky. Here’s the PDF:

Here are links to the articles:

Pittsburg High School students suspended for inappropriate comments on Instagram

Recruit Yuri Wright expelled for Tweets

Students arrested, expelled for making violent Twitter threats

They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets

Social Media Shocker: Twitter and Facebook Can Cost You a Scholarship or Admissions Offer

Texas teen tweets herself out of pizzeria job

High School Coaches Back UGA’s Social Media Scrutiny

Concord coach invites Twitter to ‘burn down’ RFRA-supporting pizzeria

Students read these articles, discussed them, then came up with questions that people should ask themselves before posting on social media. Depending on the amount of time I had with the class, they might make decision trees or a list of questions. Here are some of their products:

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We ended with a whole class discussion. It was really interesting to see where the discussion went with each of the different classes. We talked about what they read in the articles (some were shocked that these were TRUE stories) and they shared their group’s questions (or decision tree). Lots of discussion was had about how “appropriate” is a subjective word. This is one of those lessons that will be referenced regularly, especially since a number of administrators popped in during these discussions.

I did this activity with all of my 7th and 8th grade students — 24 times total in four days! I plan to do it earlier in the year next year with the incoming 7th grade students. This activity would be very relevant to high school students, as well!

2015 Bookmark Exchange & Literacy Challenge

I don’t know about yours, but my students LOVE bookmarks. And right now, I’m almost out. I was thinking about how much fun my students would have with a bookmark exchange, so I sent out a tweet:

Tweets

And this is why I love Twitter! Thanks, Mary Clark, for sharing this awesome information about the Literacy Challenge by the Students Rebuild program!

Here’s the plan for this Bookmark Exchange:

1. Register a team to participate in the Literacy Challenge here. For every bookmark that’s sent in for the challenge, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1 (up to $300,000) to Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program in Latin America (Peru), Africa (Mali) and Asia (Nepal). AND if your bookmarks are postmarked between now and February 14th, they’ll double their donation (check out the info here on the Bookmark-athon). Check out this FAQ page for more info about the Literacy Challenge.

2. Sign up to participate in our Bookmark Exchange as well using this Google Form. For this, we’ll be sending bookmarks to each other for our own students to enjoy. Sign up now through February 6th to participate. Register to “swap” bookmarks in sets of 25. Then, after February 6th, I’ll email you the addresses of the school (or schools, depending on how many you make) where your bookmarks will be enjoyed.

3. Have your students make bookmarks! Each student should make two — one for the Literacy Challenge and one for the Bookmark Exchange. Plan to mail all of your bookmarks the week of February 9-13.

Doesn’t this sound like fun? I hope you will participate!

Bookmark Design Contest

Last year, I designed bookmarks for my students at the beginning of the year. This year, I wanted to give my students the chance to design our bookmarks. A bookmark design contest was a great way to get students involved at the start of the school year!

CMS Bookmark Design Contest by librariantiff

I invited students to submit their digital images or drawings for the contest. It was so exciting to have over 40 submissions for the contest, and even more exciting to see the awesome talent at our school on display!

You can check out the submissions on our CMS Flickr page here. I’m so proud of all of the submissions and the hard work that went into creating them!

I had our administrators pick the top 15. Those were posted on Schoology, our school’s LMS, and students were able to vote for their favorite. The three bookmarks that received the most votes were the ones I had printed!

The students have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new bookmarks, and they arrived this afternoon!! I’m so excited to put them out tomorrow, and especially excited to call in the winners and present them with a stack of their very own bookmarks in print!

Here are our winning designs:Photo Sep 04, 4 30 58 PM

Spine Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, we did an activity in the library that I’ve been interested in trying for quite some time…spine poetry!

In one of those awesome “check out the power of Twitter” moments, Shannon Thompson, an awesome librarian from Athens, Georgia, brought up spine poetry. This is something that had caught my attention before, so I tweeted two of my awesome sixth grade ELA teachers (Alaina Laperouse and Jason Dupuy) to see if they were interested

TweetsSpinePoetry

They were in, so we started thinking about how to pull it together. When I looked at our library books, I noticed that many of our spine labels covered parts of the book titles. This would not make for pretty poetry. Also, Shannon mentioned that students pulling tons of books off the shelf could get to be quite a mess.

So Alaina (one of the awesome sixth grade ELA teachers who happens to be my best friend) and I took a little trip to a nearby bookstore. We picked books that we thought would make great lines of poetry for our students and snapped pictures. I cropped them down, cleaned them up, printed them on cardstock, and cut them out. Yes, this took a lot of time. However, I now have reusable “book spines” that don’t have to be reshelved! I’m planning to continue to add to this collection as time goes on, but definitely continue to reuse what I’ve already done. I can also share my document with you to save you lots of work!

We were very curious to see what poems our students would create. They absolutely had a blast! I knew I would be impressed with some of their work, and they didn’t disappoint.

We had students take photos of their favorite poems that they created, then post them to an album on Schoology. Here are a few of my favorites:

6 5 4 3 2 1

What are some fun things that you’ve done to promote National Poetry Month in your school and library?

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).

Photo Mar 27, 1 48 14 PM

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.

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:

Photo Feb 25, 1 03 27 PM (1)

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?

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.