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.

 

News Literacy: Videos to Spark Conversation

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.

Down the High School Research Rabbit Hole

This school year has been full of new beginnings for me as I’ve experienced the high school setting for the first time as a librarian and settled into my new position at my amazing new school. I’ve been a blogging slacker, which I’m not going to apologize for (although I will admit that I’ve been battling with the guilt) because I’ve needed time to acclimate.

The area where I was most nervous about the transition to high school was teaching research skills. I came from a middle school setting with very little funding for digital resources to a school that highly values research and has fantastic database offerings for student use. It took me quite some time just to figure out what resources we had available here and to familiarize myself with them. Building out our new library website allowed me the time to do just that. In the first month of school (immediately following the flood when several world language teachers were stationed in the library for several weeks), I had some time to work on the structure of our new library website. We all know how important it is for our library resources to be easily accessible and user friendly. It’s hard enough to convince students to use databases over Google. We don’t need to let our clunky websites add tot he challenge! I used Weebly to build our library website, and I’m so happy with the results.

Since all of our databases are authenticated on campus with our IP address, it was important that I find a way to securely share off campus login credentials with students. I found the simplest way to do this was to create a Google Doc shared within our school’s Google Apps domain. As long as students are logged in to their school Google account, they can access this doc and access the necessary passwords.

Just like my summer weeding and fiction genrefying allowed me to get to know my print collection well, the process of developing this website helped me to become familiar with our digital resources. As I started to share this website with students and teachers through orientation type lessons on library resources, I knew that this was going to work out as the best way to get students using them more frequently.

In the past few months, I’ve had the privileged of attending and presenting at two fabulous conferences — the California School Library Association and Association of Independent School Librarians conferences. Both of these conferences allowed me to attend some great sessions on research by school librarians that I truly admire.

At the CSLA Conference, Tasha Bergson-Michelson, Connie Williams, and Castilleja School student and Library Research TA Sara Zoroufy shared a session on Source Literacy. I was absolutely amazed at the insights that Sara was able to articulate in the way that students think about and evaluate sources.  Sara has written a great post on the AISL blog on this topic, Distinguising evidence from analysis: A student’s perspective on the first step in source evaluation.

Then this week at the AISL Conference, Courtney Lewis shared a fabulous session called “Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?” where she shared research she has collected in trying to assess the college readiness of her students and their research skills. I highly recommend you check out her slides and post on this subject on her blog, The Sassy Librarian. She also shared a great activity that she does with students called The Source Deck, created by the University of Virginia Library. I can’t wait to do this activity with a group of students, and I’m sure I’ll blog about it when I do.

So with the great ideas and resources that have been shared, I will continue to go deeper into the rabbit hole of research so that I can keep finding more ways to support my students and teachers in the research process.

Do you have any ideas or resources that have changed the way you approach research with your students?

Beyond the Poster

I love love love my new school! This Smore is something that I shared during a short PD session during yesterday’s faculty meeting to introduce teachers to some great tools for creating digital products. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of teachers about upcoming projects and I realized this would be a great time to share these resources. I talked about using Smore, PowToon, ThingLink, Piktochart, Buncee, and Canva. I used Smore to create a take-away with embedded tutorial videos for each resource:

What other digital creation tools do your students use and love?

My Breakout EDU Obsession

I am absolutely, positively obsessed with Breakout EDU!

Although I’d heard about this and briefly looked into Breakout EDU a few months ago, a fire was lit within me when I played at the MiniLACUE conference a few weeks ago. Immediately upon playing my first game, I knew this was something I HAD to do with my students. I couldn’t wait the 3-4 weeks that it was going to take if I ordered a box through Breakout, so thankfully they have an open source kit and I have a handyman husband. Within a few days, I had acquired my box and become obsessed with locks.

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Being the crazy person that I am, I couldn’t just use an already developed game…I had to create my own. I planned to do this game with my 6th grade ELA classes, who were working on a unit about the gold rush. I tested it out with my teachers and with a group of 8th graders who hang out in the library at lunch.

The teachers broke into the box with almost 20 minutes to spare!

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Even though my 8th graders didn’t have time to finish, they had a BLAST trying to break into the box!

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Of the fourteen 6th grade classes that played last week, only one was able to break into the box. This is an AMAZING social experiment to watch (but it’s SO HARD not to help them — or want to beat your head into the wall when they pass over an important clue)! The class that broke in communicated effectively, worked together, and demonstrated a great deal of persistence. These are skills that I’ve noticed MANY of my students are lacking…and it’s something that we have to help them develop. Breakout EDU is an amazing way to give them practice with these skills.

I’ve also learned that I have a hard time watching my students fail…but playing these games over the past two weeks has shown me the importance of this as well. Students are so used to things coming easy or being given to them. That’s not doing them any favors! They need to learn to pay attention to details and to keep trying…and trying…and trying…

Breakout EDU is so engaging. It’s such a fun way to get students problem solving and working collaboratively. Get a box! Play a game! Share it with your teachers and students…I promise you won’t regret it!

 

CMS TED Ed Club

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I’m so excited that we’ve recently launched our TED Ed Club at CMS! I am serving as the club facilitator at our school, which we are running during our daily RTI time. A total of 30 students — 10 from each grade — are in our club. TED Ed has done an AMAZING job putting together a guide for facilitating the meetings. I applied for the club, participated in a facilitator’s orientation, and was granted access to the TED Ed Club materials.

We are wrapping up our second week of TED Ed Club meetings. All of the students have already had an opportunity to speak in front of the group, introduce themselves, and talk about their passions. We’ve watched a number of TED talk videos and brainstormed what makes an idea worth sharing.

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Now, students are working on forming their big idea that they want to be the source of inspiration for their own TED-style presentation.

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I’m so inspired by my students, their interest in honing their speaking skills, and their passion about the topic they will be exploring. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for their final presentations…and I am definitely enjoying every step of the process!

6th Grade Wonder Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This project has been a massive undertaking, but a success so far! I am so excited to see the final products that our students create. This is such a well rounded, research based, cross-curricular project that I hope will be part of the 6th grade curriculum for many years to come. I have really enjoyed working so closely with the amazing 6th grade ELA and Social Studies PLCs in my school to make this project happen. I feel like it’s teamwork and collaboration at its finest!

Interacting with Nonfiction Text

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of my 7th grade library visits, I asked the teachers what a good topic of focus would be for an activity. They said they were working on nonfiction text. In my searching for lesson ideas, I came across a post called Non-Fiction Know-It-Alls on the Create Teach Share blog.

One of these printables was very close to what I was looking for, but not quite. I wanted to have students work in pairs and give them a variety of our nonfiction library books to choose from. They selected a book and completed this Nonfiction Response:

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

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

PDF of Nonfiction Response

PDF of Nonfiction Evaluation

Blackout Poetry

This week during 8th grade library visits, students created blackout poems. They are just kicking off their poetry units, and the awesome ELA teachers and I thought this would be a fun activity for them. One of the teachers suggested we try this as she’d seen some examples on Pinterest. I immediately knew what she was talking about and was excited to give it a try!

I took some of our weeded books, cut out the pages, and gave students markers and pens for to create and design their poems. I created a looping slideshow to project on the screen with some examples to inspire them. Here are some of the favorites that were created this week:

I’m going to pull some of these together to create a fun display in the hall outside the library, but until then I wanted to share their awesome work here!

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.