Sunday, March 16, 2014

3rd Grade Genius!

For the last five or six weeks my third graders have been hard at work discovering their inner genius through our "Genius Hour" research time in the library. 

Links to handouts and resources are in blue throughout.

Genius Beginnings

I first learned about the concept of Genius Hour or 20% time in the Fall, and I worked to figure out a way to tap into it to help generate excitement for research and build research skills.  Essentially, Genius Hour originated with an idea from Google, where employees are allowed 20% release time to pursue their own passions and interests as long as those interests/research could lead to something that could benefit and be used by Google.  

Seriously Genius Resources

Really though, if you want a much better explanation and some excellent resources, you should check out the Genius Hour website by Chris Kesler and follow him on twitter @iamkesler.  Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr) keeps an excellent LiveBinder of Genius Hour Resources and you'll find plenty to look at over at the Genius Hour Wiki with information about Genius Hour twitter chats. If you're on Twitter, be sure to check out the hashtag #GeniusHour to keep up with all the latest discussion, resources, and ideas.

My Genius Leap

The opportunity presented itself for me to take the leap into Genius Hour this semester with my 3rd graders when I realized that I could use their passions to teach them research skills, instead of using my old tried and true sloth bear research project (while I love sloth bears, not everyone else does).  Sloth bears went out the door and I opened things up for the kids to explore their own passions.

I decided I wanted the kids to not only explore their own passions, but they would need to develop a researchable question, demonstrate good research skills (with some pointed direction from me and the help of the Big 6 Research model), create a project and present it to the class.  

Introducing Genius Hour

To introduce the idea the idea of Genius Hour to the kids, I created a Genius Hour Prezi that gave them the basics of what they would be doing.

The kids were extremely excited after viewing the prezi and learning about what they would be spending their time in library doing.  I heard "can I do my research at home!?" and "What if I want to take my work home with me? Can I do that?!"  Exactly the reaction I was hoping for!

Helping the Kids Narrow Down Their Genius

I wanted to give students a method to help identify their interests and then narrow down the ones that they really felt like they could spend all day learning about.  I started by having them fill in an Interest Survey then they looked at their interest survey and picked four things they were REALLY interested in and used an Interest Bracket to help narrow down their topic. Students had to write in their interests on lines and have a little interest "show down".  I told them they had to look at interest 1 and 2 and decide which of the two they could spend ALL day learning about or doing.  In this way, they quickly identified their topic of research. 

During this process I modeled for them on the SmartBoard how to fill in their interest survey and how to do the bracket with my own interests.  I made sure to include a variety of things - even "silly" non academic topics to try to help give them permission to put down whatever they wanted.  I also circled the room and held impromptu conferences over ideas with small groups.  If it looked like students were just putting down the "standard" academic topics, like animal research for example, I would say things like "I notice you're wearing a Minecraft shirt, why isn't that on your list?"  Or "Aren't you really interested in soccer? Do you think you should have that somewhere on your list?"  When I would ask these kinds of questions the kids would light up and the most common reaction was "I can really research that?" and I would reply with an enthusiastic "Heck YES!"

To this point, the hardest part for the kids was writing a good research question.  This did take some additional conferencing.  I had a lot of beginning questions that sounded like "What is Minecraft?" I would tell the kids, "You know what Minecraft is; do you think you need some sort of 'and' in that question."  With that strategy I often got things like "What is Minecraft, and how does it help your brain?" Or "How was soccer invented and what skills do you need to be really good?"  

We also found that sometimes we needed to narrow a topic a little more for example "Who are the best NFL players of all time and how did they get that way" became "Who are the best NFL quarterbacks and how did they get that way?"

Not all of the questions are really going to hold up, but we'll work on revising them as we get more research under their belts.  

Some of my favorite questions to come out of this so far have been: "Are ghosts real?"; "How did language start?"; "What will be the top fashion trends this year?"; "What are the basics of economics that people should know?"

I have to keep reminding myself that these are third graders!

Genius Planning

Once students have their research questions down, I modeled for them how to use the Big 6 Research Planner to help organize their thoughts about where they need to go for information and how they will search for their information.

We spent some time talking about databases and search terms in particular, and students all begin their research with KYVL.  I challenge students to come up with six different ways to search for their topics.  We talk about using "and" in their search to create phrases, and we talk about how they can use synonyms and specific aspects of the topic that they are interested in.  So kids might be researching "Fashion and trends" or "Minecraft and brain" or "Pokemon and development".

I modeled for students how they need to try all of their different search term combinations on the different databases as well as search engines like Google.  We also discussed the importance of taking care to use correct spelling and the importance of using text features to preview sites and articles to discover if they're going to be useful.  I model for students how to look for bold words, subtitles, pictures and captions, and they quickly begin to see how they can be a little more efficient.

Genius Researching

Once students begin moving more towards using databases and search engines for their research, I show them a PowToon I made to help them preview the results.

I'm encouraging students to use a variety of resources including books, websites and personal interviews.  As part of the planning process students tried to think of all of the different resources they could use including "experts" they might already know and book sections in the library they might explore.  Some kids realized that other kids are going to be experts and they have plans to develop surveys or interview questions to pose to their peers.

To help keep track of their sources, students use research sheets.  At the top of the research sheets students have to write down source material so that they can eventually create a works cited.  Because we use Word, all of the research sheets correspond to the Resources tab in Word.  Kids use Website organizers, Book organizers, and Section of Book organizers that allow them to keep track of at least four facts.  Often kids will write down their source material, get their four facts, then flip the paper over and keep writing.  

All work is stored in the library in a teacher file.  Each teacher file contains one file folder per table.  Since students sit in assigned seats, this format works well for keeping things organized and in one spot.

Projects to Share Genius

Due to some unexpected interruptions, this Genius go around we'll keep the presentations simple - they'll make posters and presentations, videos or create demonstrations.  In the future I hope to open things up a little more and have students using our .org owned blogs and create presentations using web based applications.   I'm interested to see what students create to share their passions.

I plan to start the process with 5th graders after spring break, and can't wait to see how their topics compare to those picked by kids in 3rd grade.

If you're using Genius Hour, how do you help students conduct their research and manage their sources?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ChatterPix and Book Talks

I spent hours over the last few weeks putting together a presentation for 21st Century Book Talks, and then "The Technician" (my local computer genius) introduced me to the ChatterPix app, and a whole new idea for creating book talks was hatched!

ChatterPix, by Duck Duck Moose, is a hilarious app that allows you to take a photo, draw a line across an area of the photo, creating a mouth, then you add in a voice over.  Once complete, you have a video in which it appears that an object in the photo is talking.

You could easily have students do a 30 second book talk using this app.  All they would need to do is take a picture of the book cover using the app, select a character or object on the cover, and create a voice over that explains why someone should read it.  Here's an example of one I made for James Dean's Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

How to Make it Happen

Open up the ChatterPix app

Choose Take Photo

Take a photo by pressing the camera icon or choose one from your library
Draw a line over the area you would like to appear to be speaking

Press the microphone icon at the bottom and begin recording your narrative.  You will have 30 seconds to talk. Press the box when finished. You can play back your recording, and if you're happy with it, press Next
 For the next step, you can add funny little stickers, frames and even text if you would like. Click Next.
 You can share by pressing the round icon at the bottom of the screen that has a box and arrow in it.  Choose to either email, share on facebook, YouTube or you can save it to your photos.  

If you save to your photos, you can access your ChatterPix for other things.

In this way you can save these short videos to your library webpage, share on your blog, add to Marc records in Destiny OR use it as an overlay for an Aurasma Aura.  Check out directions for creating an aura by clicking here.

Want to see the example I made?  Download the Aurasma app, scan the QR code with a QR code reader to follow my channel, then scan the cover of the book.

Scan first with a QR Code Reader - Aurasma App will open if it's on your device
With the Aurasma App open, scan this picture, you should see the ChatterPix
Here's just one more, fun way to get your students talking about books and sharing with others!

A few Thoughts on Performance Reviews and Building Advocacy

I just finished reading an article by Audrey P. Church in the March/April 2014 Library Media Connection "Embrace the Opportunity: Annual Professional Performance Review" and can't help but think about the idea of how we can use our performance review as a means to build advocacy for our school library programs.

Currently the state of Kentucky is in the process of transitioning to a new format for evaluations called the PGES - Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.  Under this system, teachers, including teacher librarians, will be evaluated using a Framework for Teaching, based on the work of Charlotte Danielson.  The Framework (see the download on the right side of the PGES page) includes evaluation in the areas of: Planning and Preparation, Professional Responsibilities, Classroom Environment, and Instruction.

As with anything new, this system is sure to generate some anxiety as teachers and teacher librarians try to figure out how to demonstrate that they meet expectations.  But, upon further study of the Framework, teacher librarians will really find that they already shine in the areas of "Classroom Environment" and "Professional Responsibilities".  

Where we will naturally shine

Under the "Classroom Environment" category we daily demonstrate the ability to "create an environment of respect and rapport", the library is a "culture of learning" by its nature, we deftly manage groups who are using the library and materials and supplies, as well as establishing expectations for student behavior when in the library and effectively organizing and managing the physical space.  

When it comes to "Professional Responsibilities" librarians naturally maintain records, although we may need to broaden our record keeping to include student progress, we communicate to families through newsletters, Facebook, twitter, email blasts, we participate in professional communities, which can really be enhanced by becoming connected through social media and our local/national associations, and let's not forget all of the professional development we lead in our buildings.  A key piece in this category in my view is "Demonstrating Professionalism" and building a sense of advocacy for our programs. 

Where we might struggle in the beginning

It's the building advocacy piece that is really going to be essential to help teacher librarians show what they can do in the two areas, "Planning and Preparation" and "Instruction" that I could see causing some anxiety.  

For "Planning and Preparation" teacher librarians will really need to educate administrators and other teachers about the "content and structure of the discipline" as it relates to the library.  Yes, there are library standards that we must share, but we must be able to identify common core standards that relate to what students are doing when they are in the library.  Having a well studied view of the Common Core standards is critical.  This will require additional communication with teachers.  We can demonstrate knowledge of student skills and development by demonstrating that we have taken great care in selection of materials appropriate for our students' developmental and multicultural needs.  Many of the learning activities we develop will be implemented "on the fly" or on an as needed basis. We will need to demonstrate that we have developed a tool kit of strategies including research models, handouts and programs that students can use to find, seek and use information.  When it comes to assessment, we may find that it would be helpful to collect perception data from our students.  We can interview students informally or ask them to complete short surveys that show if the library program is serving their needs and helping them.

Under the "Instruction" category we may find that collaboration is going to be critical in communicating our value. We will need to work with teachers to identify the expectations for learning in many cases.  With a clear idea of what teachers expect, we can provide better support. In "Engaging Students in Learning" let's not forget those questioning strategies we so often use organically to help a student pinpoint what information they actually need and provide feedback for those interactions.  We are teacher leaders and are instructing students and staff constantly about best practices.  Let's work with teachers to co-teach units and collaborate on assignments that are appropriate for student development.

What can we do now?

I think now, before the evaluation tool is fully adopted everywhere, it's critical that we begin to put into place those things that are going to be needed to demonstrate our effectiveness.  Right now we can start enhancing those relationships that will lead to good collaboration. 
  • Reach out to department heads and teachers, set up specific times to meet with people to go over the research projects teachers have in mind for the school year and begin floating people resources that will help them with those projects. Once you know what research assignments students will be doing, you can more effectively suggest specific ways that you can support the teacher and students in learning.  Volunteer to go to classrooms or invite people to the library for resource sharing.
  • Begin to explore the ways that you will document your work - will you create a digital portfolio by using something like LiveBinders, OneNote, Evernote?  Are you going to keep a more traditional binder?
  • Get in a habit of reflecting on how you have helped students - questioning strategies you used that led to results, specific, anecdotal evidence of how you have helped students individually improve their work.
  • Experiment with collecting perception data - can you ask students to complete a Google form as they log off a computer, or can they answer a few questions on an exit survey as they sign in or out of the library?
  • Develop a plan for how you are going to be leader in professional development in your building.  Research the trends in education and technology and become an expert in those different areas.
In the article, Church provides a suggested list of evidence that you can collect to demonstrate your performance.  These are also pieces that I think build advocacy for your program.  Some of that evidence includes:
  • Collaborative lesson plans
  • Evidence of parental involvement
  • Exit tickets
  • Newsletters - show that you communicate with parents, students and teachers
  • Webpages
  • Photos of activities - show kids working in the library, provide visual evidence of the classroom/culture you have created
  • student work products - why not ask teachers to share with you research papers students have written with your assistance?
  • Collection analysis - add to that your reflection about how well it meets the developmental needs of your students
  • Evidence of professional development
If we can begin considering the pieces of the PGES now, adoption and implementation will go much smoother for us in the years to come.

If you can, be sure to check out Audrey P. Church's article!  It was extremely informative!

Where do you see teacher librarians shining under the new system and what are some ideas you have for collecting and maintaining evidence?

Works Cited
Church, Audrey P. "Embrace the Opportunity: Annual Professional Performance Review." Library Media Connection. March/April 2014. 12-14. Print.

Monday, March 3, 2014

21st Century Book Talks: Using Digital Tools to Create & Share Books

Links are in blue throughout

Stephanie Griffith @StephGriff1 and I are presenting at KySTE this week, and we're excited to be sharing what we've learned about 21st Century Book Talks.

Participants during our session are going to learn about resources and tools to help them, their teachers, and their students create book trailers and book talks and method to share your work.  The session will feature information about using programs like Microsoft Movie Maker, the iMovie app as well as using features of Destiny, QR Codes and Augmented Reality to share the work.

Below, you will find our Prezi and some additional resources that might help you as you plan and work with students and teachers.

Here are some additional links and resources to help you.