Back to School with GooseChase

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.

 

Expectations with a bit of humor…

It’s hard to believe that many of my friends are just starting their school year this week, as we have been back in the swing of things for a month now. It’s also hard to believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted here, but after what was a year full of challenges and changes for me professionally and personally (move to a new school and a total home remodel, anyone?), I’m ready to kick it back into high gear for an awesome 2017-2018 school year.

Our schedule throughout the day gives our students a lot of flexibility (and “free” time), which means the library is often PACKED. Even though expectations for common spaces were discussed with the student body when we returned from summer, we were already noticing tons of trash and food left behind in the library after breaks. My fabulous library assistant and I are on the same page — we want students to feel welcome, we don’t want to fuss at them all the time, but we also need them to respect the library space.

After yesterday’s morning tutorial (a 45 minute block where we average about 150 students in the library), the library was pretty trashed from Goldfish and cereal. We had talked about making a humorous video to get our point across about this last year, but we never got around to it.

With my schedule open yesterday, it was the perfect opportunity to throw together a quick video to show to the entire upper school student body during afternoon announcements. I prefaced the video with the fact that we love that they feel so welcome and comfortable in the library…we just need them to keep this expectation in mind:

The students were definitely amused, and the faculty even more so. It’s often hard to balance enforcing library expectations while still maintaining positive relationships and open rapport with students. That balance is definitely something I struggle with, but as educators we know how important consistency is for our students. Hopefully, this fun reminder will do the trick (at least for a little while).

Passing the Torch

Dear new CMS librarian,

You’re going to love it here. This school, this library, these students, these teachers…it truly is an amazing place to work and I hope that you’re as happy and fulfilled here as I have been these past five and a half years.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize now — there will be things in this library that make you wonder about me. You’ll wonder WHAT I was thinking, why did I decide to do this that way, why didn’t I make such and such a bigger priority. As someone who has taken over two libraries already in my career (and as I move on to another), I know these things will cross your mind. Just know (like I always have about those that came before me) that I tried my best and did as much as I could as best I could. A librarian’s work is never done. The library is never perfect. There are always unfinished projects (I’ll tell you about those later). Just know that everything I’ve done here, every choice I made, was driven by a desire to make this space the best possible environment for my students and teachers. I tried not to make this library about me (okay…the pink book cart was definitely about me…it’s an exception, though), I’ve always wanted it to be about the kids.

Over the years I’ve learned that relationships are what make or break a school library program. The great thing about this school is that strong, working relationships are expected — they are the rule, not the exception. The teachers here (especially the ELA teachers) will expect you to be one of their go-to people. This is not an easy thing to establish, so I hope you will love it…and run with it! Spend time getting to know the faculty members here — they are a great group. They’re willing to try new things and let the librarian be their partner in teaching. Take full advantage of this and don’t allow it to change.

Students at CMS are READERS. You will have some great book conversations with students and it will be amazing. Get to know the collection, get to know the students, and help get books in the right hands. This library is NOT full of pristine books on tidy shelves. Once the school year gets cranked up, the shelves don’t look super full and the books look more and more worn…but it’s because they’re reading, so it’s a win.

One of the things I’m most proud of in this library is the organization of the books — known lovingly as genrefication. The fact that my spell check recognizes it now as a word is a testament to how passionate I am about it. Ditching Dewey was never about me — it was about the students. They’re able to find the books they’re looking for easily. This layout is based on the idea of browsing. The signage is key (as are the stickers). In this space, students are able to find their reading “home”, explore new interests, pair fiction with nonfiction, discover new authors and series. They use the word genre often (and they understand it). I’m sure it will take a bit of getting used to, but I HOPE that you will love it as much as I do, as much as the kids do.

Self check-out is another big way that I’ve made this library “theirs.” Students definitely feel more ownership of the library when they’re in charge of checking in and out their own books. Maybe even more importantly, it freed me from the circulation desk. Instead of constantly running to the desk to check out books for students, I’ve been able to teach classes and work one-on-one with students while the library remains open for others to be able to check out and return books as needed. Sure, I know we lose a few books due to this process throughout the year (although I’d also argue that we were losing books before, too, when I was too busy to watch over the circulation desk). Ultimately, this helped me to accomplish the goal of making the library constantly available for book business while I could still work to be an instructional partner for the teachers. The biggest key to self check out success is PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE.

The best thing about the library — and about teaching middle school — is that every day is different. There’s never a dull moment, there’s always something to be done. Enjoy what you do and laugh often. Take time on a regular basis to reflect on your successes (and your failures). Set goals to continue to push this library and this school on to bigger and better things. You’re going to be great at this, and you’re going to love it here.

All the best,

Tiffany Whitehead

 

P.S. – In addition to the MANY files on the flash drive I have for you (and lots of reflections/resources are on my blog as well), I thought these things would be informative:

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.

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!

Self Check-Out & End of the Year Wrap-Up

I know we say this every year…but GEEZ, this year has FLOWN by! I cannot believe we just have one week left of this school year. As I look back on this year, it has been so great and I have many things to be thankful for. I’m going to write a post soon about how WOW! this year has been for me professionally, but first I want to share about some great things that happened in the library as I wrap up this school year.

Just last March I was pondering self check-out. Moving to a self check-in and check-out was one of the best things I did this year. I honestly don’t know how I pulled it all off before self check-out. I feel like I have been freed from the cord that tied me to the circulation desk, and life will never be the same! I decided to create two separate stations: one near the door for self check-in and one at the circulation desk for self check-out. I made some minor tweaks throughout the school year, and I’m quite content with the way things work now.

Photo May 15, 10 37 37 AM

So each station has a unique Destiny login that ONLY allows students to check-in OR check-out. The check-in station is seen above. I’ve set them both up with laptops, because that’s what I had available. Students must have their IDs to check out — they can’t just type their names in (this keeps their information secure). I’ve covered up the keyboard so they can’t even try to type in their names or numbers. I also have the “reset” barcode at each station. Teaching procedure was key for this — they KNOW that they MUST reset before they walk away from the computer.

To check in, they just scan the book barcode, watch the screen for their name, and then reset before they walk away. To check out, they scan their ID, check their accounts for any books still checked out, scan the book, check the screen to make sure it registers, then reset. For me, one of the most important things that makes this work is the sounds that go each time something is scanned. Even when I’m not looking, I know the sequence of sounds that should go off when students check books in and out, and when something doesn’t “sound right” I’m able to help them take care of whatever issue it may be.

A few other updates to wrap up the year…

We had our first ever Book Swap this week…and it was great! I had about 30 students participate in the swap, and they were SUPER excited about it. Although I had a couple of students who were absent and had to pick through the leftovers, this is definitely something I want to do next year (maybe even more than once). Honestly it wasn’t a lot of work (although next year I won’t be doing the swap the same week as book return…WAY too chaotic). I meant to take pictures during the swap, but it was a frenzy and happened so fast that I forgot. Here’s what it looked like before the students made their selections:

Photo May 14, 7 15 38 PM

The students said this is something they enjoyed and that we should definitely do this again…SUCCESS!

I never posted the results of our March Madness at CMS…oops! We had a lot of fun with this as well, and it was another pretty easy thing to pull off. I used a Google Form for voting each week. I was very excited to see the number of votes increase as the weeks progressed. I was also beyond to see one of the books on our state book award list, The Fourth Stall, end up in the final round! In the end, The Hunger Games was the winner, but all of the books in the bracket stayed checked out through the end of the year!

Photo Mar 31, 9 43 05 AM

The end of the school year is always a stressful and hectic time (kind of like the beginning of the year, now that I think about it…), but the anticipation of summer and the reflection on a year well done makes it all worth it!

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.

 

Pondering Self-Checkout

 

I’ve been interested in the idea of implementing a self-checkout system for the students for quite some time. I know there are lots of elementary librarians who do this very successfully. It’s definitely something that is born out of the necessity of getting away from the circulation desk. As the only staff member in the library, I often feel like I am tied to the library and to the desk. I have awesome volunteers and student helpers that make it less painful, but I’m still tied to the desk to some degree. Everything about the idea of self-checkout appeals to me, except having to set it up, get the procedure in place, and train the students.

As I’ve started to start to seriously consider this idea, the first place I go for some honest feedback is my fabulous PLN. Anyone who questions the power of Twitter just needs to see an example like this to see how mind-blowing it is to be able to tap into the resources available from so many awesome library friends! Thanks to everyone who responded with suggestions, ideas, and photos of how they’re making self-checkout work for them!

Self-CO1 Self-CO

 

My thoughts/pondering at this point:

  • What set-up of PC/monitor/laptop/netbook/scanner/mouse/keyboard/etc. will work best for us? This one is leaving me scratching my head since I don’t want a cluttered looking space. Not wanting to spend a ton of money on this for now.
  • What about using an iPod touch or iPad and the Destiny app? BUT it doesn’t have sound, and I associate sound with check-in/check-out…as irrational as that may be.
  • Do I need to set up two stations? One for checking in and one for checking out?
  • Where am I going to put all of this stuff? The layout of my circulation desk is…not conducive to, well, any of this.
  • What am I missing here? What do I need to think about/ponder more?

Library Scavenger Hunt

I’m feeling guilty for being a blog slacker, but it’s been crazy with state testing and finishing this semester of grad school.

So I do have something quick to share. Doing a library scavenger hunt seems like a requirement. I haven’t done one before because, well, it seemed boring. Then the other day I had a thought. I’m obsessed with my Go Animate avatar. She’s the cutest thing EVER. My kids love her too. So I incorporated her into our hunt! I hid 25 little Tiffs (all in different poses) around the library. Students raced to find all of the little librarians and describe each location. The kids loved it! Fun times 🙂