Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Legos in the Library

Last year I began to hear discussions about the adoption of the NGSS and saw a lot of chatter about using Legos to help teach young students about Engineering principles.  I saw the anxiety on the faces of some of my teachers as they tried to digest these new standards and new concepts, and thought, in addition to locating appropriate texts to support their lessons, it might be a good idea to be able to provide some Legos for checkout.  I knew it would crush my budget to buy Legos, so I put a request out on Facebook to see if anyone had any Legos they wanted to offload, and within about 10 minutes I had a MAJOR Lego donation.

I spent most of the remaining year trying to steal minutes and recruit kids to help me sort the Legos, but by the middle of the October this year, I realized it was just not going to happen, and that I needed to create some awareness that we had them available to use.  After a lot of thought and some Internet searching, I could see where something like a Lego table would be a great way to generate collaboration amongst students and create some excitement and awareness around this donated resource.  Of course, a "real" Lego table would be another budget crusher, so I knew it was time to get creative, and checkout Pinterest.  

Originally I had intended to go to a Goodwill and buy a coffee table to use in my conversion, but I had so much luck with the Lego donation, that I put another request out on Facebook to see if anyone had a coffee table they wanted to unload.  And just my luck, I had an offer of a chest style coffee table from one of my library volunteers - all I had to do was get a truck to move it!

I picked the coffee table up around Thanksgiving and used Thanksgiving break to convert it to our library Lego table.  The table is AWESOME, and after looking at it, I knew I was going to be able to use it ways that I had previously not imagined.  I love providing students with space to write and plan, and with a little chalkboard paint, I knew this table had just the space I needed to give students building and planning space.

  • Chest style coffee table
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Valspar Chalkboard paint
  • Drop cloth
  • Sponge style paint brushes
  • Paint sticks
  • Paint trays
  • Strong, multi-surface adhesive like Gorilla Glue
  • Lego base plates - I used a generic brand I found through Amazon -just be sure you read the reviews to make sure they are actually compatible with the Lego brand.
  • Cover your floor with a drop cloth and get all your materials ready.
  • I first sanded out the rough spots on the table and wiped everything clean to make sure I got good coverage
  • I primed the entire surface of the table using a basic white primer.  Some people suggest using a tinted primer, and this may have helped with coverage of the chalkboard paint.

  • I then applied three layers of chalkboard paint to all but the area where the Legos would go. I was afraid the adhesive wouldn't stick to the chalkboard paint.

  • I wait at least 24 hours for the paint to set.
  • I then glued the base plates on using a strong adhesive.  I stacked encyclopedias on top of the base plates to help them adhere better during the drying phase.

  •  I waited three days before using the table - just to be super conservative:)
 I love the final product and the kids think it's awesome!
Our first collaborative project was to use it to build the setting of Because of Winn Dixie, which we just finished as our first 1 book, 1 school project.  The kids were able to leave notes for each other on the sides of the table and label things they were working on.

For the most part it worked out really well. I reminded students that their job was to "Create Only" they weren't allowed to destroy anything another student had made although they were allowed to build onto something someone else did. I also explained that whatever we built was "Ours".  It didn't belong to one person, but we all had a responsibility to respect it.  They really understood that and showed a lot of cooperation and respect.  The overall impact was awesome.

I'm hoping to use this more for things like: 

  • Habitat creation/research
  • Stop action movies
  • Engineering challenges
  • Genius hour research projects
  • Teacher generated projects for NGSS
I think the more we use it, the more uses we'll find for it!

Do you have a Lego table in your library or classroom?  What do you use it for?  I would love to hear about it:)

Maker Centers - a Learning Experience for All of Us

Right before school let out for Winter Break, I decided to shake things up in the library and finally experiment with some ideas for Maker Centers that have been gnawing at me since last Spring.

My goal was to expose kids to the variety of things they could learn about using library resources or carefully selected Internet resources, and to support our theme for the year: "Read, Create, Collaborate".  

I wanted to give kids a chance to tinker, problem solve, imagine, and create.  I also knew that I wanted to make use of many items I already had and supplement with a few key items that I would use to expand our resources.  I also wanted to be sure that the centers connected to our learning standards and could be an example for students and teachers about how they could connect library resources and technology to classroom learning.

The Maker Centers

After much deliberation and a review of what I had available to me or could get at a reasonable cost, I settled on the following Maker Centers:
  • Poetry - we have a ton of great poetry books of course, and last year I made magnetic words using magnet paper for magnetic poetry
  • Art - the kids love the how to draw books and our art teachers are using a center approach, plus I already had a lot of markers, glue, and colored paper
  • Music - we recently acquired a book about songwriting, and I was inspired to have a music center after hearing Mary Amato speak at our Fall conference - it also seemed like the perfect time to try out GarageBand
  • Drama - I inherited a puppet show theater from our first grade after one of our teacher retired last year, we also have some nice drama books, and I've been collecting Kohl's Cares stuffed animals over the last two years.
  • Coding - our maker weeks coincided with Hour of Code, so this one was a no brainer
  • Raspberry Pi - I have really been itching to get a Raspberry Pi to see what the kids can do with it, and now was the perfect time to invest
  • Snap Circuits - these came highly recommended from a few sources, and I figured it was a good way to introduce kids to circuits.  I invested in two kits, and I figure it could be a good thing for teachers to check out for the new NGSS standards.
  • Lego City- last year I received a very large donation of Legos and have had plans to bring them out into the library, but just haven't had a chance to actually do it.  This was the perfect opportunity to use the legos to have kids work together to build the setting to our 1 book, 1 school book - Because of Winn Dixie.
  • Lego Pixel Art - for kids who wanted to work with Legos independently, I got the idea from to challenge kids to create Lego pixel art using extra base plates I had left over from building the Lego table. 
  • Lego Robots - the Lego robots were a donation from our district Robotics club.  They were upgrading, and the robots they had were essentially not working anyway.  With a GREAT deal of help from "The Technician" I was able to learn a little about how they work.
  • iPad/Technology - I used this only with Kindergarten and taught them how to use the Chatterpix app to make story related videos. 

I ordered the materials I didn't have from Amazon, put together the Lego table I've been dreaming about and began work on matching my standards.
I feel like I stared at standards forever, and thank goodness for the CCSS and NGSS apps, it made flipping through things much easier in my planning process.  The collaboration boards I added to library tables at the beginning of the school year came in very handy for making my notes as I planned out my "I Can" statements. 
I decided to put a sign at each Maker Center that included some brief direction, a QR code to an example or to a resource for additional help, and the "I Can" statements.  
The "I Can" statements were really important because I knew I had an observation coming up, and even though Maker Centers are a bit of an experiment for me at this point, I wanted my principal to see that the risk I was taking - especially during an observation cycle- had some merit when it comes to standards based learning.  

Here's a link to my first round of Maker Center signs.

Once I had everything set up at different stations around the library, I couldn't help but be really excited to share the concept with the kids.

Day 1: A Bump in the Road

Student building the "Mistake Tree" from Because of Winn Dixie
After all of my dreaming and planning for Maker Centers I was super excited for my first day with it.  My first group was 4th grade.  They came into the library, met at their tables and after I explained each center and the idea that really the only thing they needed to do in class was to "make" something, they were off and building and really feeding off their own energy. 

There was some real excitement as they tried the Lego robot, they had two buildings up for the setting of Because of Winn Dixie in a flash, and they were figuring out the Raspberry Pi in no time.  
I felt confident that Maker Centers were really going to be a vehicle to help students find new interests and be exposed to new ideas - until the first graders came in. 

What worked so beautifully with 4th grade was a near disaster with first and second grade.  In advance I had realized that I wouldn't be able to give those grade levels as many choices, and had simplified it down to 6 choices: Make a Play, Make Poetry, Make Music, Make Lego Pixel Art, Make Art, Make Code. They seemed lost in what to "make" and they didn't quite get the whole concept.  Even though they were excited to try different things it looked more like the playground than self-directed learning.  As I looked around the room, and jumped from center to center trying my best to help them with the things they didn't understand, it became obvious that the only center where something was actually happening was the Lego City center where kids had a task - to build the setting of Because of Winn Dixie.

At the end of the first day I had a splitting headache and felt like a bit of a failure.  I realized that I got so caught up in the "Maker" concept that I had lost track of good principles of teaching and learning.  Just because I had "I can" statements and nice signs, didn't mean I had actually executed the idea appropriately.  I thought about it for hours that evening, and realized that the Lego City Maker Center was successful because the kids had a goal - a question to answer - "What did the setting of Because of Winn Dixie look like, and how can you create it with legos?".  The rest of the centers were sort of a free for all.  In order to really make this work, I had to have some guidelines and a question or theme to help give the kids a framework.

Time to Regroup

The next day I came in with a plan.  Since, as a school we had just finished Because of Winn Dixie, and because every student in the school was familiar with it, I knew that I could use that as our inspiration for the rest of our first week of Maker Centers.  I also knew that I would need to give my Kindergarten students a lot more support.  For my older students, I was able to give them the direction to create something for Because of Winn Dixie at the poetry, music, art, pixel art, lego city and drama centers.  For the younger kids we sat down and brainstormed some ideas for what they could make.  We talked about what instrument some of the main characters would be for the music center, and what scenes would be the most fun to recreate for the drama center.
Winn Dixie in the trailer - Pixel Art

For kindergarten I knew, after working with first grade, that I wasn't going to be able to turn them loose in the library for 45 minutes.  We read a story first and talked about each of the Maker Centers and what they could make for the story.  They were able to choose from the: "iPad/Tech Center" to make Chatterpix about the problem/solution in the story; "Make Music", where they wrote songs that went with pictures in the book; "Make a Scene", where they could act out the book; "Make Pixel Art" where they could design scenes from the story using legos; and "Make Art" where they could draw or cut and paste to create artwork related to the story.  Of all the grade levels this method actually worked the best for me.

With a theme and some discussion, things went a lot smoother through the week.  And I had plan for the next week.  

Week 2: Maker Centers - much smoother

For the second week I used a general theme of Winter Magic.  After theThe primary grades each heard a story and we would pause every now and then to discuss the way they could use elements from the story in the different Maker Centers.  
  • The Kindergartners heard the story Snowmen at Night and I asked them to answer the question "What would snowmen do at night?" in whichever center they chose.
  • First Grade heard It's Christmas David and I asked them "What does Christmas or Holiday magic look like for you?".
  • Second Grade heard poems from the book Winter Lights.  We looked at the pictures of the quilts in the book and talked about different ways they could show winter light.  Their goal was to make something that represented the different kinds of winter lights that we see - fire, candles, Christmas lights, luminaries, stars, beautiful sunsets etc.

  • The older kids were just given the task to make something that represented the Holiday season.  They Coded the Holidays on Made with Code, used the Snap Circuit kit to create lights, and even made sharpie art and volunteer gifts that highlighted our library theme

Make Art project for our library volunteers

 Lessons Learned

I will for sure do Maker Centers again and expand the materials that we used, especially in the "Make Art" center.  For the future I know the following now:
  • It helps to give the kids a theme or a question to answer in their choice "Maker Center" so that they have a framework on which they can build.  This may not be true for everyone using Maker Ed concepts - but for my library program it worked much better.
  • I need more books about coding, uses for the Raspberry Pi, and the basics of circuits for the kids to explore on their own time now that they've discovered new interests.
  • As a follow up I want to encourage the kids to find a use for the Raspberry Pi and get into how to use that more - there is also a group requesting a coding club, and I'll for sure look into that as we move into the Spring
  • The kids weren't really interested in the "Make Poetry" center at all.  I think I could do a better job of exposing them to types of poetry and activities surrounding the poetry books we have in the library to spark some ideas - or maybe I need to broaden the topic to be more of a Writing center versus strictly poetry.
  • Provide students with some guidelines - it's their choice to find what they're interested in, but it helps if they give a certain center at least 10 minutes before they give up on something.  I also think having guidelines at the Lego table are critical.  I told kids that they could build only not destroy and that they should leave notes about what they were working on so other could build upon it.  That strategy worked great for us.
  • The kids really found some things that sparked their imagination and problem solving skills, moving forward I need to capitalize on that and encourage them to research and pursue these new found interests through things like Genius Hour and by sharing these interests with their teachers and parents so they can help cultivate the learning as a school community.

My experiment with Maker Centers has really been a fantastic learning experience for me, and a great reminder to always stay grounded in solid teaching practices.  Simple things like group discussions, brainstorming, modeling and questioning can go a long way in giving students freedom and a framework for success in their own exploration.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Our first One Book, One School

In a One Book, One School program all of the students and faculty in a school read the same book and have organized opportunities to discuss the book.  It provides each member of the school community a topic of common discussion, and can help to promote a culture of readers.

I wish I could remember where I first heard about One Book, One School. Maybe it was in the back of my mind after hearing about universities using a similar approach, or maybe it came from our public library's newsletter for the One Book, One Community, but I likely got the idea from someone suggesting it through Twitter.

I had been seriously considering the idea of trying out a One Book, One School program for about a year before I was finally able figure out the logistics of how I wanted it to work.  I knew what I didn't want it to be. I knew I didn't want it to be a hassle for our families, and I didn't want it to be another assignment, or a huge contest.  I wanted it to generate some excitement around reading, and give all kids and adults in the school a common frame of reference. I wanted it to be something that was fun and that could be used as a discussion starter, and something teachers could use as a touchstone text to introduce students to new ideas in their classrooms.

Because I didn't want to put more pressure on my teachers or families, I thought the best way to go about this was to buy every adult (certified and classified staff) in my building a copy of the book and it could be used for a read aloud with classes.  This way parents wouldn't have to be responsible for it, and teachers wouldn't have to do anything extra - just sub one of their usual read alouds out for the selected book. 

My teachers take their read alouds fairly seriously, even though it's 5-10 minutes each day that they get to spend relaxing with their class, so I met with each of my teachers this summer to ask them if they would be willing participate in the One Book, One School program.  After I explained what I wanted the program to look like - and that all they would have to do is read the book to their class - all of the teachers were on board.   I had a short list of books that I thought would be good: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Because of Winn Dixie, and Igraine the Brave, were the three I kept coming back to in my mind.  The teachers unanimously picked Because of Winn Dixie. 


To generate some excitement around the program, I decided to add a few "low maintenance" activities that classes or individual students could choose to participate in. I ordered a few extra copies of the book, so I was able to give some of those copies away as prizes for participation in voluntary activities.
  • Reading Calendar - I created a calendar with a suggested reading schedule.  
  • Daily Trivia - Each day our principal announces a trivia question that I write based on the reading calendar. Classes email me their responses and can earn a point for getting the answer correct and a bonus point for using evidence from the text to support their answer.  I felt like including the text evidence was a good way for classes to practice Common Core skills.  Each day our principal announces one of the correct answers submitted by a class, as well as a new question, so every day the kids are hearing good examples of how people are using evidence from the text in their responses.  I also try to ask questions that will get at character development and key plot events.  This also helps the kids practice Common Core skills in a fun way.  There is no prize for the class with the most right answers - just a fun way to keep track of what is happening in the book.  I hung a chart on the library door and fill it in when a class gets an answer correct.  The kids stop by daily to check their class's progress:)
  • Favorite Parts Slip - students can write down their favorite parts from the book and we are hanging them on a bulletin board.  I will occasionally draw a winner from the stack of submissions and students can win a copy of the book.
  • Read to a Dog Day - I contacted our local public library and was able to get the name of the owner of a therapy dog who often comes to the library for children's programming.  Just this week I was able to have 24 reluctant or developing readers come to the library to read to Wilma, the therapy dog!  It was such an exciting event!

Kids read to Wilma the therapy dog
  • Special Lunches - Our cafeteria agreed to have special treats associated with the book - and since even our cafeteria workers got copies of the book, I think it made it even more special.
  • Character Scrapbook Page - we used the activity from Scholastic and kids who finished things fast in the computer lab or who were interested could create a character scrapbook page for their favorite character.  I encouraged students to connect the character to the Character Traits program our guidance counselor has developed and give examples of how the characters in the story meet those traits. 
  • Animal Shelter Drive - we collected pet food and supplies for the local animal shelter.
To introduce the idea of One Book, One School to students, I created  a PowToon and a Smore with important dates and links, which I embedded in our school web page. I also used Canva to create special logos that I used in promotional information. 

PowToon Introduction

Our Smore Page


Sharing the Book With Others

I wanted to make sure when I shared the book with the adults in my building that I made it special.  I created book marks and we tied the bookmarks to the book using ribbon.  I also bought copies for the members of our School Board and the members of our Central Office administration team that work to make our school.  Some members of our journalism club were presenting at the board meeting, during the month we held One Book, One School so it was perfect because they were able to deliver the books and as a sidebar explain what it was all about.

School Response

The response to our first One Book, One School program has been overwhelmingly positive. The younger students, who are being exposed to chapter books and discussion questions at a young age are especially loving it, and the teachers have had nothing but enthusiasm to share with me about the choice of book and about the use of the questions and extra activities.  Hearing kindergarten students answer higher order questions about a complicated story and point to specific examples from the book has really been exciting to see.  The read to a dog day, even though we only were able to have 24 students, made a tremendous impact on those students and will be a positive experience they can always remember about reading.  For students who may not have many positive experiences with reading due to difficulty, that may be enough to recharge them.

I plan to continue the program next year and will seek feedback from my teachers about what they thought worked and didn't.  We didn't have a large response to the extra activities, but I didn't consistently promote them either because I was afraid students and teachers already had enough to do with other academic demands.  Those will for sure be ideas that I revisit and reflect on with teacher input.

Now, I just have to come up with a list of potential books for next year!  I'm hoping students and teachers have some good ideas for things they would like to read now that they have taken a chance on this! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

1st Quarter Library Report, 2014

After hearing Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl on Twitter) , speak this summer at KASL's Summer Refresher, I decided that I really needed to do a better job of connecting my library data to my stakeholder's priorities.

After surveying my teachers and administrators, I learned that their primary concerns were student growth and success and creating a culture where students could be creative, curious and innovative.  I think our library is an environment that helps support those priorities, and I wanted to highlight that in our library theme and in my report.  

I began by checking out some of our beginning of the year student diagnostic tests and comparing that to some of the library statistics I had.  I also tried to connect the report to student priorities; the primary priority for them was to find books that they like, and after improving library organization through genrefication of the fiction section and adding some new signage, I found that our 1st quarter circulation was up by 88.3%. 

Here's the report [direct link on Piktochart] I'll be sharing with my administrators, overall I think we're right on target and I will for sure look for ways to encourage more summer reading!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#CLD14: Your Connected Librarian Toolkit

Connected Librarian Day 2014.

I feel incredibly honored to have been asked by Joyce Valenza to share some of the things that I do with my library program.  I am beyond excited to be joining the ranks of some of my favorite librarian heroes.

See the full schedule of events and read about all of the incredibly talented presenters at Library 2.0.

For my part, I decided to talk about, communicating to your stakeholders, a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit, especially since I got to hear the fabulous Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl) speak at KASL Summer Refresher this year.

Most recently I've presented on a similar topic at KASL Fall Conference with James Allen. You can see what we talked about for library advocacy [here].

I can't wait to share some of the ways that I have been working to create a library presence for my stakeholders that both provides them with what they need and helps to keep our library program and students on everyone's mind. 

I think one of the best things we can do for our students is identify our stakeholder priorities and work to deliver information to each stakeholder group that relates to those priorities. 

See the Archived Webinar Below:)


Your Connected Librarian Stakeholder Toolkit - Slides

Your Connected Librarians Stakeholder Toolkit Resources

Hover over the image below and see links to different resources/examples that you might find helpful.

Additional Links:
AASL School Library Program Health and Wellness Toolkit

ALA crafting your message

Publicity -

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Teacher Tips: Sept 30, 2014 - William Howard Taft and CCSS RI.9, Office 365/OneDrive Conferencing with Students

I shared these tips with my teachers today.  [Here's] a direct link to the Smore if it's not working.  While the President Taft resources are a little random, I thought it was a topic to use to compare informational texts.  Students could read the story President Taft is Stuck in the Bath then compare the account described by the author in the back of the book to some biographical information about Taft and the impact he had on modern doctor/patient relationships.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

KLA/KASL Fall Conference 2014: Building Advocacy for your School Library Program

As school librarians we wear many hats: book guru, manager, technology leader, instructional partner, research guide, and our very own public relations firm.  

In advocating for our school library programs, we must identify our stakeholder priorities, develop a mission statement that aligns with our district and school mission, develop programming that will meet the needs of our stakeholders and collect data that doesn't just represent the number of books we check out each month, but really connects to the mission of our district and demonstrates how we support student growth.

In this post you will find some resources that James Allen and I shared at the KLA/KASL Fall Conference to help develop that long term, ongoing plan to really advocate for your school library program.  The prezi below provides an overview of the topic with research and information from the AASL.  The ThingLinked Piktochart includes some basics of advocacy and additional resources.  Finally, you will find some examples that we have used for our own libraries to give you ideas for how you can use some of the tools we mention.

School Library Advocacy

For direct access to the prezi, click [here]. 


How to Advocate for your School Library

For direct access to the ThingLink, click [here].

Examples of Advocacy Tools at Work


I am obviously a Blogger girl.  I like the ease of composing a blog post that includes multimedia and then sharing it easily with my G+ circles or communities.  Wordpress is another popular site that is extremely professional, Check out the OCHS Wordpress blog by clicking [here]. James Allen and Christi Unker do a great job of keeping their stakeholders up to date on what is happening in the library through their blog.  There are many really good examples here of programming and students coming in and using the library.  You can really tell that the OCHS library is an active place, and a safe haven for students to relax or work.


James Allen introduced me to Canva. I like using Canva to create graphics that I can use on blog posts or for invites to different professional development sessions I might be offering for teachers in my building.  Most recently, I have used it to create a library logo for social media use and a banner for our Facebook page promoting our theme for the year.

I like the templates they offer, as well as the simplicity of the designs that you can create using your own photos.



Flipboard is a way to curate articles about topics you care about.  It could be an excellent resource to share information with your stakeholders.  Check out Oldham County High School Library's FlipBoard "In the Fishbowl".


I like to use Piktochart for a variety of purposes, including representing data for library reports. The templates they have available are easy to manipulate, and adding data to create charts is a breeze.

The ThingLink above is an example of a usage of Piktochart.  Click [here] to see an example of how I've used it for a library report.


I love using Powtoon to make bring some excitement to presentations or to topics that I need to teach.  I have used it for many things over the past few years.  Check out the PowToon below to see how I introduced our library theme this school year.

Check out how how Oldham Co. High School librarians James Allen and Christi Unker used Powtoon to share their library report by clicking [here].


I often use Microsoft Publisher to create professional looking email blasts for newsletters to parents or my faculty.  I really like the program because it works seamlessly to embed in Outlook for use with my contact list.  The option to embed the content is perfect because then parents and teachers don't have to click on anything to reveal content or view a link.  Check out an example of a newsletter [here].


In the last year I have been using Smore for a variety of purposes including promotion of book fairs, content for professional development, and most recently for sending out my "semi regular" email to teachers, Tuesday Teacher Tips.  In those emails I try to share information about materials we have in the library or things that might be important for them to know about.  I really like Smore because it tracks the number of page views, which lets me know if I'm reaching my audience, and could be used in the collection of data.  [Here's] an example of my most recent Smore to faculty.  I did purchase the educator subscription, and think because the site is so easy to use and because it is helping me track data that it will be well worth the investment.

As you work to develop an advocacy program that works for you, choose the tools that you are most comfortable with and use them to the best of your ability.  It is very helpful to consider communicating to your stakeholders in many different ways through social media, email, or just good old fashioned grocery story speeches.  

In considering library advocacy, what is your favorite piece of advice or tool to use? 

A Few Additional Resources

"3.4.c Crafting Your Message." American Library Association. ALA, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.
"School Library Program Health and Wellness Toolkit." American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Teacher Tips September16, 2014

These are the tips I'm sharing with my teachers today about a new book in our collection, Hello, Mr Hulot and how it can be used to teach figurative language, legos in the math classroom, and Office 365 tutorials that highlight ways students and teachers can collaborate.

The direct link is [here].

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday Teacher Tips September 9, 2014

Here are the tips I shared with my teachers today.  If the embedded Smore doesn't load, here's a direct [link].


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday Teacher Tips - Sept 2, 2014 - SAMR/Blooms, Plickers, Office 365/OneDrive Tutorials

These are the Teacher Tips I sent out to my faculty on Sept 2, 2014.  I'm just learning about Plickers and can't wait to try it with my library classes! 

I'm also hoping to inspire some higher level of technology integration this year by sharing information about SAMR and how it could relate to Bloom's Taxonomy.

For a direct link to the Smore page click [here]

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Project Genre-fy the Fiction Section - New Signage

As I was finishing moving our fiction section into the new genre sections, I realized that I was going to need new signage.  As students are browsing for books I really want to make sure that the kids can see directly where to go to find their favorite genres, while making browsing a little more user friendly.

When I checked out Tiffany Whitehead's (@librarian_tiff) post "Ditching Dewey Choosing Genre Categories" I noticed the really cool posters she had to go along with her genre sections.  They had a kind of word cloud feel to them that I really liked. And I thought it would be neat to combine a word cloud that described the section with a picture of the genre sticker I used.  That way my signs would be informative and model a consistent design.  

Not Your Ordinary Word Clouds

For this particular design concept, Wordle, my go-to word cloud generator, just wasn't going to do.  The Edudemic post "9 Word Cloud Generators that Aren't Wordle" led me to Tagul.  You can set up a free account and then create word clouds in recognizable shapes in custom colors.  After playing around with it for a bit, I really started to get a feel for how things worked. 

This is actually one of the word cloud shapes they have available to use. I couldn't believe how great the word clouds were turning out.

You can check out (and grab) all of the word clouds I created [here].

Creating the Signs

With my word clouds finished, I had to come up with an appealing design that clearly identified genre sections.  I played around with some photo editing software that I had, but really wasn't coming up with anything I liked.  I finally decided to keep it simple and stick with what I know and use a lot - Canva

Canva is a super easy, online graphic design program that lets you create designs and save them as PDFs or JPEGs.  They have plenty of free design elements you can use to create original posters, images and logos, and it's super user friendly.  In no time I had combined my word cloud with fun text and pictures of the genre stickers I was using. 

I saved each Canva I made as both a PDF and JPEG.  PDFs are large and could be printed out on poster sized paper, but at $17.99 a piece plus framing, that wasn't going to be in my budget for this year.  Instead I printed the PDFs out on regular size paper and put them in plastic frames.

Section Dividers: The Last Big Challenge

All that was really left at this point was to come up with a way to share them on the shelves as a way to clearly delineate the new sections. 

I've seen some great examples of people using empty binders to separate sections, and of course you can buy really nice shelf dividers from some place like Demco, but I wanted something fairly unique, inexpensive, and height in my fiction section is pretty short, so binders - even if they were customized - weren't going to fit.  

For a few weeks I was tossing around the idea of custom cutting wood and then using some sort of mod podge collage to represent the section.  I still think that would've been a pretty fun idea, but I was worried about the time and expense to try to do something like that, just to fail or run out of time before the start of school.  

That's about the time that I realized that I had tons of VHS tapes that needed to be weeded, and VHS tape have really sweet, durable plastic containers.  I mean these VHS tapes had to have been from the 1990s and the containers were still in mint condition!  They're the perfect height and width for section dividers, and they have an excellent plastic cover with removable insert!

Getting ready to repurpose!
I just had to clean up the old cases by removing stickers and black magic marker. Dry erase board marker over your permanent magic marker, by the way really does take the magic marker off.  I am still working on getting the glue off from the barcodes, but I think with enough Goof Off it will happen!

Expo marker takes off magic marker.
I next used Microsoft Word to combine my Canva created word cloud images with genre titles that would sit on the spine of the repurposed VHS tape container.  It took a little maneuvering, but once I had things lined up, I used my first design as a template for all the rest, just changing the names and swapping out the image.

I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the results.  The spines stand out pretty clearly at the beginning of each section, and once kids start checking out books, I'll be able to face them out on the shelf to make them even more visible.

I've also ordered some 3/4 inch clip on sign holders that I can use to draw attention to popular series and authors. Those aren't in yet, which is good because I need a bit of time to figure out exactly what I'm going to feature using those.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Project Genre-fy the Fiction Section!

After a lot of thinking, I finally decided to take the leap this summer and move the fiction section of my elementary library from the traditional first-three-letters-of-the-last-name organization to a genre based organization. Now that the project is almost complete, I cannot wait to get the kids back in the library so I can show them!

Deciding Factors

There are many reasons individual teacher librarians might choose to genrefy their library.  For me, I was driven to start with the fiction section because I've noticed an alarming drop off in students checking out books by the time they get to fifth grade.  This drop off could be for any number of reasons: increased activities after school, loss of interest in the materials they see on the shelf, lack of time, or they could be overwhelmed by book after book organized by letter. I realized, too, that although my 3-5 graders don't ask for "funny" books or "animal" stories, they seem to get stuck on certain types - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bone, Big Nate, etc.  I have also observed that at times when the more popular titles aren't available for checkout, kids will simply go without checking something out entirely, or just randomly grab something off a shelf while on the way to the circulation desk.  Additionally there has been increase in awareness about the different genres since we have adopted a new ELA textbook series, and students are much more knowledgeable about their likes and dislikes when it comes to genres.  

With those reasons in mind, and after consistently hearing about how genrefication increased circulation for multiple school libraries through twitter chats, blog posts, and state listserv discussions, I couldn't think of a good reason not to try it. 

The Big Weeding

I admit, my process was a bit scattered as a jumped into this.  I probably could've read a lot more about the how to process, but I had a big picture in mind, and I really just went for it - fairly aggressively.

Before I even picked my genres, I started by doing a fairly heavy weeding of the fiction section (everything that hadn't been checked out in 5 years was ditched).  As I was looking over my reports to weed, I realized that there were many award winners that weren't getting circulation.  I have a hard time pitching books in good condition that have won awards, but admittedly, I don't know off the top of my head every book that has ever won an award, and our collection wasn't clearly marked, neither in the catalog nor on the shelves. So, in a split second decision, I just began frantically pulling the "Award Winners". 

If I wasn't fully committed before pulling all those books, I admit that grabbing those books off the shelf helped solidify in my mind that this was going to be a good decision.  Having a whole section to be able to point to and say "Hey kid, a whole committee said that those books are awesome" is kind of a cool thing to think about.  

Of the entire process, pulling the "Award Winners" took the longest.  I cross referenced my catalog to lists of award winners - Newbery, National Book, Printz, Kentucky Bluegrass Award, Coretta Scott King - and searched by title just to be safe.  Once the "Award Winners" were safely on a cart I was able to weed without worry.  

Picking my Sections

Once my shelves were looking trimmer, I knew I could sit down and focus on what sections - besides Award Winners I was going to use.  I took a look at a few blog entries on the topic.  Tiffany Whitehead's (@librarian_tiff) post on the Mighty Little Librarian [here] was especially helpful.  After looking through genre stickers on Demco, throwing out questions on Twitter, and consulting with my part time aide, Jayne, I opted for the following categories:
  • Award Winners
  • Adventure
  • Animal Stories
  • Fantasy
  • Graphic Novels
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Scary
  • Science Fiction
  • Sports
I opted to add a genre sticker to the spine of each book. I've seen some examples of color coding, but for me the genre sticker in the fiction section made the most sense. I also liked the selection of genre stickers I had to choose from, and felt it would really help the kids visually to see stickers with the section names on them.

Let the Stickering Begin

Being a big picture kind of girl, I sometimes overlook details.  I just started sticking all the genre stickers on right above the call number, thinking it would be easier when sorting and filing. The result is a little messy looking I guess. I REALLY wish I would've added the genre stickers to the tops of the spines like Shannon Miller did at The Library Voice. Read about how she got started [here]. 

If I was unfamiliar with a book, and/or couldn't readily choose a genre for it, I selected genres based first on cataloging information located on the back of the title page.  If nothing was there, I read a little from the back cover or flap to see if words like "adventure" or "mystery" stood out, if not, I checked the catalog or looked online by searching the title and "genre".  Kind of a no-brainer, I guess, and there's probably an easier way, but I moved through stickering fairly quickly using this method. (By fairly quickly I mean I stole a few hours here and there over the course of about a month to get this done).

A Movable Collection

Even if I didn't read Miller's post before I stickered all those books I am SOoooo grateful that I read it before I started physically moving books and electronically moving data around in Destiny.

I was really reluctant to make new call number stickers and change the call numbers, to include new genre based prefixes, mostly because of the time involved, but also because if the kids don't like this after a year, I'll need to rethink the value. Thanks to some good advice from Carolyn Vibbert (@carolynvibbert) and Sharon Carter (@SharonCarter63) on Twitter I felt OK about not making all new call number stickers.  Instead, I was ready to add sublocations to the copy records.  That's where Miller's post really came in handy.

Had I not read "It's Time! We Are Moving our Fiction into Genre Neighborhoods", I never, in a million years, would have thought to add categories to the records also so that I could add visual search categories.  I didn't even really know you could modify the visual search page!  As I was gearing up to physically move the books, it also didn't occur to me that it might be better to put genres together based on interest and relationship versus alphabetical order.

After reading Miller's post, I sat down and planned out the order of my sections.  I settled on the following order:
  • Award Winners
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Animal Stories
  • Sports Stories
  • Humor
  • Graphic Novels
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Adventure
  • Mystery
  • Scary
I grouped Realistic, Historical, Animal and Sports close together because in my mind they often have a strong realistic connection.  Kids who check out a lot of Humor books also tend towards the Graphic Novels.  There's also often a connection between Fantasy, Science Fiction and Adventure - with Adventure being sort of a bridge into Mystery and Scary.  So, after some small adjustments in the overall organization I'm pretty happy with the flow.  Within each of these sections, books are then organized in alphabetical order by the author's last name.

With my plan in place I started putting books on carts, and sliding things around to make room.

Cataloging Changes: Overview

For each section I did the following in Destiny:
  1. Created a Copy Category for each genre in Destiny
  2. Created Subsections for each genre in Destiny
  3. Updated Copies through an Individual Update simultaneously for Category and Sublocation
  4. Create a Visual Search for each Category/ add picture of genre sticker for the icon
From start to finish, the cataloging (along with physically moving the books) took about two days.

How to Create a Copy Category in Destiny

After you log in to Destiny follow the steps below to create your genre copy categories:

  1. Click on Catalog
  2. Library Search
  3. Copy Categories
  4. Enter the name of your category - it helps to match your genre category to whatever it says on your genre stickers if you used those.
  5. Check to make sure the "restricted" box is NOT checked
The video before will show you the process:

How to Create a Sublocation in Destiny

To create sublocations, you will need to search for a title, then click on it to view the title details.

1. Choose the Copies Tab
2. Choose the edit icon
3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and next to where it says "Sublocation" press "Other"
4. Enter all of your Sublocations - it helps if they match your genre stickers, if you choose to use stickers
5. Select the sublocation for that book and press save

Here's a video to show what I mean:

How to Add Sublocations and Copy Categories to Copies

If you choose not to change actual call numbers, like I did, you will need to update records in Destiny to reflect the physical changes you made. In order to identify where each book is in your new genrefied library, you will want to add sublocations to the records so that you can find the books on the shelf and create searchable lists for students.  To do that, you're going to need to add the sublocations and copy categories you created to every title.

This is where you need to really get physical and start pulling your genre stickered books according to genre.  Once you have all the books for a particular genre on a cart, you can begin scanning them to add the sublocation and copy category.
To update copies for categories and create sublocations do the following (you have to already have created your sublocations and copy categories before doing this step):
1. Click on the Catalog Tab
2. Choose Update Copies on the left side of the screen
3. Choose the Individual Update tab
4. Select Sublocation under the drop down menu under the copy box
5. Choose the genre from the drop down box that appears
6. Select Category from the second drop down box
7. Choose the genre from the drop down box that appears
8. Begin scanning barcodes - copies will automatically update after each scan

This video will show the process:

Creating your Visual Searches

The last big thing I did in the cataloging process to this point was to create visual searches for each of my genres.  Shannon Miller's post was a huge help for this.  I had no idea how to work with the Visual Search customization process - and let's be honest, if I hadn't read her original post, I never would've thought to do this.

You can see some awesome instructions on Miller's post "Reorganizing the Fiction Section Within Our Library and Destiny's Visual Search Too".

I put together a final how-to video to show how to do it.

What's left?

With all of the big moves complete, now I'm on to the creative piece.  To help my kids adjust to the big change I'm working on signage, section dividers and am already planning my introductory Powtoon to show kids how to browse the shelves and locate a book after looking it up in Destiny.  When I've got this PR piece done, I'll be sure to write about what I did.

I have to admit, the genrefication bug has fully taken over my brain, and depending on the reaction of the kids, I'm fairly sure I'll be shopping for genre stickers for Everybody books before Winter Break:)

Have you genrefied your library?  What advice would you give?  Is there an easier way - especially now that I have picture books on the brain?