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!

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. ūüôā

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:

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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!

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!

Librarians as PD Leaders

As librarians, I believe it is essential that we view ourselves as leaders in our schools. We all know the best leaders lead by example (not with a do as I say, not as I do attitude). Not only must we be digital role models for our students, showing them what strong digital footprints and a positive online presence looks like, but we must also do the same for our fellow teachers as well. One of my favorite things to do in the library is to promote technology through professional development for my teachers. This isn’t necessarily a role that was expected of me as the librarian, but it is one that I’ve created and developed for myself because I felt it was so important.

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When I took my current position as middle school librarian, one of my first PD offerings was a Library Tech Petting Zoo. I share this PD idea often, because for me it really helped to set the tone for myself as a leader and collaborator in my school. Numerous collaborative technology projects were born from this fun and informal professional development, and it helped me to lay the ground work for some great relationships with my new coworkers.

I’m also a strong believer in embedded professional development. Library visits are a great time to introduce teachers to new tech tools and ideas, because they get to see them in action as I facilitate students in using those tools to enhance their learning. I like to think of this as scaffolding for teachers — they may not feel brave enough to try something new on their own, but with the support of the librarian they are often willing to try a new tool or idea that they’ll later use with students in their classroom. I’ve done this with numerous tools, such as KidBlog, Google Forms, PicMonkey, and Kahoot (which has been¬†a big hit this year!). Using video to create tutorials for teachers and students is another great way to encourage the use of new web tools and resources. I love using the Flipped Classroom model with students and teachers for PD. Creating video tutorials, such as this one about PicMonkey, is an easy way to demonstrate new tools:

TwitterBootCamp

The 2014-2015 school year¬†has been a great one for PD at CMS. This fall, I offered several sessions of a Twitter Boot Camp for my teachers. I did short, 30-minute sessions that gave teachers time to get their feet wet with Twitter. We talked about the basics — hashtags, general Tweets vs. Tweeting to specific people, following people to build a PLN, and Twitter chats. My goal was to introduce teachers to the wealth of information that’s constantly being shared by educators on Twitter without completely overwhelming them. Even though it’s been several months since these Boot Camp sessions, I had a teacher come into the library just this week to thank me and tell me that she’s been getting some great resources and making connections on Twitter. As the only Spanish teacher in the building, the idea of creating her own Professional Learning Community online really resonated with her. #WINNING!

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Another huge PD win this year at CMS has been EdCamp. Back in 2011, I worked with some awesome New Orleans educators to help host the first EdCamp in Louisiana.¬†One of my goals for 2014 was to host an EdCamp in Baton Rouge. With the help of my principal and some great CMS teachers, we hosted EdCamp Baton Rouge at the end of September. This was the first EdCamp for all of my CMS folks, including my administrators, so they were unsure of what to expect. Thankfully, some of my NOLA friends came up Baton Rouge¬†to support us and our event. It was a great day of learning; many of my coworkers said it was the best professional development they’d ever experienced.

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My principal liked¬†the EdCamp model so much that we recently used it to host a mini-EdCamp on our February teacher-only PD day. Our teachers loved the opportunity to take ownership of their learning and participate in facilitated discussions on topics that were relevant and timely for them. After the rave reviews of this PD model, I know that we will host more of these events on school and district PD days. I’m also looking forward to an even bigger turn out for our 2015 EdCamp Baton Rouge that we will host again in the fall.

In the last several years, I’ve taken my love for PD and sharing beyond the walls of my school. I love to learn and share with other educators, evangelizing about the use of technology in education and the constantly evolving roles of libraries. I’ve been honored to speak at a number of state library and technology conferences, sharing the importance of librarians being technology leaders and role models in their schools.

One presentation¬†that I think is worth revisiting that’s relevant to this topic is the TL Virtual Cafe webinar that the fabulous Tamara Cox and I presented on PD with a Twist. I’ve also presented on this topic several times at conferences, because I think it’s so important for librarians to be professional development leaders in their schools.

Another presentation that I’ve done several times and plan to share with my teachers this spring is on Tech Tools:

An important part of my job is to stay on top of current tools and resources available to teachers and share those resources with the teachers who need them. With the stresses that my teachers are facing with curriculum changes and new assessments, I feel like making their life a little easier by sifting through tech resources and sharing just the best tools with them is so important.

(All of my past presentations, links, and resources can be found on my presentation wiki.)

Is the position¬†of school librarian viewed as a leadership role in your school? What are some creative ways that you’re stepping up your game as a leader and offering great PD and resources to your teachers?

Makerspace: Crafting Supplies

One of my goals with our library makerspace is to draw in as many students as possible through a wide range of creative activities. Making a selection of crafting supplies available is a great way to do this. I’ve always had some materials available for students to create, such as a variety of types of paper, poster, stickers, glue, scissors, etc. Now, with our active makerspace, I want to take our crafting opportunities to the next level.

With the holidays approaching, I’m planning to offer an opportunity for students to come in to make ornaments in the library during their lunch break. I’m using pages from discarded books, ball ornaments, and Mod Podge to have students make these ornaments:

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I found this idea on Pinterest and followed the instructions that are posted here. I practiced on a smaller pink ornament ball that I already had on our tree. I‚Äôve ordered shatterproof white ornament balls for students to use for the project. I’m thinking about hitting them with some glitter spray…because who doesn’t love a sparkly ornament?!

 

I’m also using DonorsChoose again to acquire some new crafting supplies. My current DonorsChoose project includes Rexlace for making keychains, Rainbow Loom kits, Duck Tape, a starter kit for felting, knitting needles, and scissors. I would like to have lunchtime craft projects offered regularly, in addition to having these materials available for students upon request. These are the types of crafts that I can introduce students to in the makerspace, and it can potentially become a hobby they love.

CMS Makerspace: The Beginning

I was so excited and honored to be invited to give the opening keynote at the Florida Association for Media in Education‘s annual conference in Orlando last week. It was a great conference — I was able to connect with and learn from some AWESOME Florida librarians! All of my presentation slides, links, and resources can be found on my presentation wiki.

The ideas that had me ready to get back to school and working on a new project came from my friend Diana Rendina‘s session on Makerspaces & Libraries. She’s doing some AWESOME things in her library, and she made the idea of a makerspace something I could wrap my head around. I had been intrigued but intimidated by the idea; she made it seem attainable and fun. So now we’re going for it!!!

I had organized and gathered some crafting supplies in the library over the summer as my first attempt at making something makerspace-ish, but I really didn’t advertise it¬†with the students too much. I’ve had a collection of board games and puzzles for years, so I think the makerspace will fit in nicely with those things that are already in place. What drew me in the most about Diana’s space, and what I know my students will go CRAZY over, is her LEGO wall. So the first thing I talked to my principal about when I returned on Monday morning was the idea of adding a LEGO wall in our library at CMS. He was on board (because he’s the best), and we will be installing our wall VERY soon (I can’t wait to post about it!).

I also wanted to be able to try some of the other cool tools that Diana talked about in her presentation, so I decided to create my first ever Donors Choose project. I was absolutely amazed that my project was fully funded in just a few hours…and it’s because I’m surrounded by wonderful people who support our library. I’m tearing up just writing about it! Donations from my family, friends, coworkers, community members, members of my PLN, and even a school board member came in quickly to make this project happen. Most of the materials should arrive on Monday and I cannot WAIT! MaKey MaKeys, a Sphero, a set of Snap Circuits, LEGOs, LEGO books, and two sets of drawers on wheels for organizing materials are on their way. I’ll definitely be posting more soon as our makerspace becomes a reality. Until then, check out these videos for some of the cool tools that will be part of our new space:

Makey Makey:

Sphero:

Snap Circuits:

EdCamp Baton Rouge

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Last Saturday¬†at CMS, we hosted the first EdCamp Baton Rouge…and it was such a great day of learning, sharing, and networking! Educators from around the city (and several from other places around the state) came out for a day of “unconference” style learning. We had about 30 people show up, which I think was a good showing for the first event of its kind in Baton Rouge. Less than a handful of us had ever attended an EdCamp before, so it was definitely a new concept for most. However, everyone jumped right in and contributed to the learning, which is exactly what EdCamp is all about.

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As attendees arrived, they used different colored Post-Its to suggest session ideas and topics. Designating different colors really helped us when we were sorting and making the session board.

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We started the morning off with a few rounds of “Rocks/Sucks” or “Things that Suck” which got our attendees discussing some hot topics in education. My friend and our CMS Data Specialist, Jason Dupuy, did a great job of moderating this activity.

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Also during this time, we were busy putting together our session board. The digital session board along with links to notes from the sessions can be found here.

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Since we had a smaller group, we scheduled fewer sessions at each time slot. I had several teachers who had never attended an EdCamp before tell me they LOVED the rule of two feet — it meant they could hit up multiple sessions at a time slot and not feel bad about leaving. A number of attendees said this was the BEST professional development that they had ever attended and they couldn’t wait to recruit more people to attend next year…YES!!

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At one of our session slots, we held a playground. I combined this idea from EdCamp Atlanta‘s 25 minute tech tools session slots and the Librarians Network Playground we host at ISTE each year. At sign up, we had people put up Post-Its for a tech tool/resource they would be willing to demo at the playground. We had eight different stations where folks were sharing their favorite resource (Kahoot, Kid Blog, PicMonkey, Schoology – to name a few) and the other attendees floated around the room to learn about the different tools. This was a big success and lots of fun! We will definitely do this again next year, as it was a great way to really get to share tried and true tools that we love and use all the time in our schools.

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We had the BEST EdCamp lunch EVER, thanks to my awesome parents. They cooked for our crew: pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausage, beans, coleslaw, and mom’s bread pudding. There were definitely lots of raves about the food and I have to give a shout out to my parents for being so amazing and supporting me in everything I do…including EdCamp!

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Thanks to my BFF and EdCamp co-organizer Alaina Laperouse…you are the best! And thanks to my friends Paula Naugle, Marcie Hebert, and Chris Young…they all traveled in from New Orleans for the day and that meant SO MUCH to me!

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Thanks the EdCamp Baton Rouge Sponsors: SimpleK12, Flocabulary, BrainPop, Edutopia, Follett, Oak Point, StoryboardThat, and 30Hands. And thanks to my awesome principal Jason Fountain for always letting me run with my crazy ideas and allowing us to host EdCamp at our school (he won the Flocabulary subscription…WOOHOO!).

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I’m counting our first EdCamp Baton Rouge as a success, and I can’t wait to host another next year!

Twitter Boot Camp

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back to school for over two weeks! The year is off to a great start. I’ve seen all of the students through their ELA classes. Last week, we kicked off our 1:1 initiative and checked out laptops to our students. We have lots of exciting things on the horizon at CMS!

One thing that I’m really pumped¬†about this year is a Twitter Boot Camp I’m putting on¬†for my¬†teachers.TwitterBootCamp

I’ll be holding a 30 minute session once a month to introduce teachers to using Twitter for professional development. I’m hoping that by introducing them gradually through short sessions, they won’t feel so overwhelmed by the idea of learning to use Twitter.

Our first session is tomorrow, and I’m planning to give an overview of how Twitter works, a tour of what you see on your Twitter page, help teachers set up their accounts, and give them a list of folks to follow to start building their PLN.

I’m also going to share¬†these awesome Comic Tutorials by the amazing Gwyneth Jones:

5091498668_3cbdd93c3b_b 5217790680_a812220975_bI think that many of my teachers are at least curious about Twitter from hearing me evangelize about it all the time, so I’m hoping for a good turn out! This is also how we’re FINALLY getting Twitter unblocked for teachers in my school…YAY!

What types of programs do you have planned to support and push your teachers this year?

Back to School…I’m HAPPY!

It’s that time…school supplies are everywhere, parents are dancing, teachers are getting anxious because it’s time for Back to School!

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to go back to school. I just have a really good feeling about this year! Don’t get me wrong, last year was GREAT! Probably the greatest of my career so far. But there are some very exciting things on the horizon for this year. Some things that I’ve been trying to set into motion for YEARS are finally becoming reality. And I am beyond blessed to be at an absolutely amazing school with incredible teachers, students, and top notch administration.

Check out our CMS “Happy” video from the end of last school year. When you have such great coworkers, how could you not be excited to go back to school?!

What are some of the things happening this year that I’m so happy about? Number one on my list…social media! I have been a social media and PLN evangelist for years now, and I’m very excited to announce that this year our school is taking the plunge into social media! My¬†school is finally developing the presence I’ve been dreaming about! Parents, community members, and other educators will be able to find us this year on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube! I’m very excited that we are taking advantage of social media to share, promote, and publicize the amazing things that are happening at CMS!

I’m also planning to do a year long Twitter PD course for our teachers. Once a month, after school in a 30 minute mini-session, we are going to meet together and I am going to help my teachers learn how educators can use Twitter to build their PLN! Hopefully by having short sessions on a regular basis, I’ll be able to help them “get” Twitter and learn to use it to really enrich and expand their professional learning. My teachers know that I am such a Twitter advocate that many of them are curious as to what it’s all about and how it can help them, so I am very hopeful that this is going to be a great PD experience for all of us! I will definitely be posting more about this as we get started!

And there’s still more to be happy about, folks! CMS will be hosting the first EdCamp Baton Rouge on September 27th!

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We are reaching out to all educators in the Baton Rouge area (and beyond!) to attend this event. I am excited for this opportunity for our teachers to really shine as leaders…and we get to show off our beautiful new school, as well! More information is available on our¬†#EdCampBR website, Facebook page, and our Eventbrite registration! And if you’ve never attended an EdCamp, you should look for one in your area!

Every year, I try to pick a major focus for myself/the library throughout the year. This year, my major goal is to do more to support and collaborate with my teachers. I especially want to reach out to my non-ELA teachers, get their classes in the library, and get library resources in their classrooms more. Also, the Twitter PD and EdCamp are going to work really well for this goal.

What’s your goal for this year? What are you looking forward to the most?