Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Launching the #readwoke challenge with Chipotle Rewards

I was super inspired last week when I came across the SLJ article by Cicely Lewis called "'Read Woke’ School Reading Challenge Makes an Impact." According to the author, Read Woke is "a feeling. A form of education. A call to action, and our right as lifelong learners. It means arming yourself with knowledge to better protect your rights. Learning about others so you treat people with respect and dignity, no matter their religion, race, creed, or color." 

Side note: In thinking about the #readwoke challenge, I did a bunch of reading on the word #woke. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and that I understood the origins of the term. I think these two articles were especially enlightening: "What Does 'Woke' Mean? There's More To The Slang Term Than You Think" from Bustle and the NYT article "Earning the 'Woke' Badge." I hope when I share the challenge with students that we're able to explore the evolution of the word  and how it's used today... (MTV declared "woke" one of the "10 words you should know in 2016," so I'm interested to see what my kids currently understand). 

And back to the main post: We've been working hard to push the Read Without Walls concept, which I think shares some similarities with Read Woke. If I get a little metaphorical, I think Read Woke is the more action-orientated, sophisticated older sibling of Read Without Walls. 


The Read Woke concept is a really great direction for our spring reading challenge in the junior high. I applied for Chipotle's Reading Rewards program (check it out here) and have 400 BOGO entree coupons to use for reading incentives. 




I also think it's a great time to run with Read Woke because of the current focus on student activism -- Read Woke promotes books that get students fired up about injustices in their world. 

The #readwoke Challenge at My Junior High

I'll be promoting the Read Woke challenge in our 8th and 9th grade social studies classes. I think this is a natural fit because of its connections to social justice.

To participate in the challenge, students will be asked to pick a #readwoke book -- I went through my catalog and found at least 50 titles that I think fit Cicely Lewis' criteria (some are a more perfect fit than others, but I think they all come pretty close. Here's my list if you want to check out titles). Ms. Lewis says Read Woke books should:


  • Challenge a social norm
  • Give voice to the voiceless
  • Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised
  • Seek to challenge the status quo
  • Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group
Once students have read the book, they will complete the mini poster below to earn the Chipotle reward. I plan to use the posters for a bulletin board display at the end of the year. Here's a link to a high res PDF of the file -- feel free to use and modify.  

Are you going to promote Read Woke? What are your strategies?



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April's Bulletin Board: School Library Month (and a few bulletin board strategies)

I just flipped my calendar, so that means it's time for a new bulletin board. Although we try to mix library programming and curriculum into many of the bulletin boards around the school, I pay special attention to the board right outside the library door. Although bulletin boards aren't a new trend, I think it's still a great form of passive program advocacy.

As April is National School Library Month, it served as the inspiration for the board. AASL's 2018 theme is "Making Connections," so I ran with the puzzle imagery and color palette in the promotional materials.  


When I have time, I enjoy getting all creative, but when I'm scheduled to my eyeballs, maintaining the bulletin board becomes a chore. I am by no means a bulletin board expert, but I do have a few strategies and tools I regularly use to quickly get something up that looks okay. 

1) In my head, I divide the bulletin board into zones - so different parts of the board have different content, all connected by a theme. When I try to fill the board with all the same thing, it ends up looking sparse. If I mentally think of the board as a bunch of different zones, it's easier to generate content that "fills up" the space. So for April board, I dedicated one zone or area to the puzzle graphic I created:


As part of this zone, I included a "subtitle" sign -- "You Make Connections @ The Durgee Library and Learning Commons" as well as a sign that depicts some of our statistics. 


For this bulletin board, in keeping with the AASL theme, I framed our statistics with the idea of connections, so I included the number of books we connected to readers, the number of classes we connected to computer labs, and the number of visitors we connected to resources. 

In the middle zone of the bulletin board I hung student responses to a prompt. I had this chart paper up in the library over the last two weeks and asked students to tell me why they visited the library. You could also post this to your board WITHOUT any answers on it -- allowing kids to add to it over the course of the month. 


In the final zone I hung the AASL promotional poster for School Library Month. I liked that it tied my theme and colors together and gave some basic information on the event. You can download a copy of it here. I also made a poster with a graphic that's been floating around on Twitter. Jason Reynolds is the spokesperson for AASL's School Library Month, so I thought the quote was appropriate to include on the board. 


2) Utilize free promotional graphics. Why spend time making my own School Library Month poster when AASL has done it for me? Think of all the free posters and graphics you get from vendors at library conferences or those released for advocacy purposes. Use them ON your board and as an INSPIRATION for other content on the board. 

3) I couldn't live without our Cricut machine (we currently have a Cricut Explore but I'm thinking about upgrading to the Cricut Maker). A couple years ago I used a portion of my library budget to buy a Cricut and it's gotten a TON of use. It's available to students in the Makerspace, but it also gets a lot of use by teachers. It's definitely worth the money if you're in charge of bulletin boards. For April's board, I used it to make the letters in the title and the puzzle piece graphic. 

4)  In addition to Cricut, I love Canva. Almost every bulletin board I develop utilizes posters I generate in Canva. I have Photoshop and Publisher on my computer, but Canva is just so quick and easy, and I get professional looking results every time. I've used my own money to subscribe to a "pro" account because I use it so frequently. 

Got any bulletin board strategies for me? What tips and tricks do you do to speed up the process AND feel good about the finished product?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Library Display Hack

I love being crafty and creative, and I groove on putting together interesting book displays. But there's only so much time in a school day, so I typically squeeze all my creative ambitions into 15-minute chunks at the end of lunch. I like book displays that include more than just books - I usually want to incorporate a little text-based information, sometimes photos and graphics, different textures and colors, and a variety of different height.

In the past, I've hung things from the ceiling in order to get more display space, but that makes the fire code guys nervous. I'm also super clumsy, so even though the custodians have given me my own ladder, I still have to climb on bookcases to get things just right -- I'm just waiting to topple off of one.

Last year I set out to devise some kind of display sign that I could rest on TOP of the bookcase to give me vertical surface area to expand the displays without having to use the ceiling. Here's my Pinterest board for or the sign project if you want to check my inspiration. 

Ultimately, here's what I ended up with:


This sign normally rests on top of a different bookcase, so the wooden "feet" are longer than the top of the shelve when it's used in this location.
These hanging display signs have a fun industrial vibe that works with the coffee tables in our library space. The sheet metal portion of the sign is magnetic, so it's super easy to use magnetic letters to create a sign. I've purchased multiple styles of magnetic letters (I like the 3" or 4" size the best) like these and these from Amazon. 

Teacher Created Resources Chalkboard Brights Bold Block 4-Inch Letters Combo Pack (5617)

I also bought a bunch of heavy duty magnetic clips on Amazon. These are strong enough to hold cardboard or other demensional objects to the sign. 


I don't always use the magnets - sometimes I cut letters out using the Cricut and just masking tape them to the surface or print out colored posters and tape those up. 

I wish I could say I built these display signs entirely by myself, but I work with an AWESOME tech department. They're more than willing to take on unique challenges. So I bought the materials and gave them drawings of what I was looking for, and a few weeks later - voila! Two amazing display signs! 

The finished signs are about 41" tall and 38" wide.

I used the following materials to create each sign:
You'll need to cut your 10' pipe into three lengths for the sides and top of the sign holder, and then create threads on the ends so you can screw them into the elbows and flanges. This requires a special tool, which we were able to borrow from the building and grounds department in our district. As an alternative, Lowes will cut and thread your pipes for free.

 After the pipes were cut to length and threaded, they were connected using 90-degree fittings. Though, note that depending on the opening of the carabiners you select, you may wish to hang the carabiners from the pipe before connecting the sections using the fittings.

We used 90-degree elbows to join the pipes together. I remember correctly, it takes some muscle to attach the fittings. 

My "builder" was way into the project, so he added some features that weren't in my original design. If you notice, I didn't use carabiners to attach the sheet metal to the frame but instead went with these o-ring things. The o-rings didn't allow the sheet metal to drop down far enough from the top of the frame, so he created metal tabs that he riveted to the top of the sign to get a longer drop. If you choose more appropriate carabiners, you won't have this problem. 

I picked these o-ring things to attach the sheet metal to the frame. Unfortunately, they didn't give us much of a drop, so my tech teacher/collaborator created some tabs out of extra sheet metal. If you choose more appropriate carabiners that allow for more distance between the bottom of the frame and the top of the sheet metal, you won't have this problem. 

Instead of creating these tabs, you'll be able to just put two holes directly into the sheet metal using either a drill bit or a portable hand punch, and then suspend your sheet metal from the pipe using the carabiner. There are some good tips here for making holes in sheet metal. 

Once the frame and sign were assembled, bottom flanges were threaded onto the pipe and then screwed into wood "feet." The signs are pretty stable up on the bookcases this way, but you may wish to screw or clamp the signs directly to the top of the bookcase for added security.

Once the flanges were threaded onto the pipes, they were screwed into wooden "feet" to add stability to the shelves. 

The edges of the sheet metal can be sharp, so you might want to sand them down a little bit. My collaborator created little tabs that he riveted around the pipe to keep the sign from swinging and reduce the chances of someone cutting themselves on a sharp edge. I don't know that this step is necessary, but if you feel like going all out, you can attach your sign this way.

Riveted tabs to keep the sign from swinging back and forth. 

Have you built anything to make displays easier? I'd love to see photos!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Making and the 2018 Olympics

It's almost time for the 2018 winter Olympics and I could not be more excited. I love everything about the event, but I especially groove on the sense of community at a global level. This year I'm trying to find a way to tie together our Makers and the Olympics. Here's what I've got planned:



1) Students using the library's Makerspace will be invited to design Olympic events. I've provided them with four broad categories: spinning, sliding, jumping and throwing. All the events they design must fit into one of those areas. Students are welcome to use any Makerspace supplies (like styrofoam cups, CDs, straws, etc.) and non-consumable PE supplies like tennis balls and four-wheel scooters. They can develop and test their game in the Makerspace. Once students finalize their game, they will submit an "Event Proposal."(Here's a link to the form).


2) My library advisory committee will test the events and select four or five to include as our "official" Olympic events.

3) Students will see brief descriptions of each event ahead of time (I'll post them to the digital signage screens that students see in the cafeteria), and sign up in the library to participate.

4) On the day of our school-wide Olympics, students who have signed up to participate will meet in the gym during our building's common study hall/lunch time to compete.

5) In addition to bragging rights, we'll award 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medals printed using our 3D printer. I have a group of really savvy makers that looove the 3D printer, so they'll jump at the chance to design and print our Olympic medals.

All in all, not a super complicated program, but I like that it's a logical intersection of making and current events.

What are you doing for the Olympics in your secondary library?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mental Health & Media Literacy in the Library

For the first time, I collaborated with a classroom teacher on a lesson about media literacy and mental health. Digital footprint? Cyberbullying? Been there, done that. But mental health and screen time? This was something new.

The impetus for the lesson was three-fold: 1) We hosted the fabulous Julie Smith for some "cyber coaching" for all students in grades 8-12 (if you are looking for a DYNAMIC speaker - seriously, she kept an auditorium of 862 students ENTHRALLED - Julie Smith is your girl. She knows more about Snapchat than they do, AND she's not at all preachy). 2) It was media literacy week, and 3) I received a grant from the NYS Educational Media Technology Association, allowing me to pay for some programming. 

I initiated a collaboration with our building's health teacher because I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to actually DO some of the things Julie Smith talked about while also diving a little deeper into the connection between screens and mental health. At the end of October the health classes were wrapping up a unit on depression and anxiety and talking about self-care. It was the perfect opportunity for collaboration.

Sidenote: I alway start with standards when collaborating, but I struggled a little bit to identify the relevant ones for this lesson. I think mental healh is SUCH an important topic, but I'm not sure the existing tech standards are updated enough to reflect the connection. I ended up referenencing these that discuss safety: AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner 4.1.7: Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information - participate in social networks responsibly and safely; International Society for Technology Education Standards (ISTE) 2b: Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices 

After considering a lot of different avenues, I decided that this TED talk provided a really good direction for our learning:


During the talk, psychologist Adam Atler answers the question: "Why our screens make us less happy." This became the essential quesiton for our mini-unit: "Does spending less time with our screens make us happier?" 



The lesson went something like this (here are the Google Slides I used and the handout I gave students):
  • Students brainstormed the tips they remembered from Julie Smith's cyber coaching.
  • Students were introduced to the concept of "white space" - A.K.A. "personal time" and they shared with a shoulder partner the things they like to do during their white space.
  • I showed students data that I collected during September's library orientations. It revealed that at least 40% of students in the building preferred to spend their free time using screens, a number that's probably much higher in reality.
  • I then gave a disclaimer - I talked about how much I LOOVE screens - I totally owned up to spending hours on Instagram, and choosing Netflix over books way more often than I was comfortable admitting. I wanted to make sure they understood we were in this together; I wasn't teaching from a perspective of "knowing better" or "doing better."
  • To establish that screentime impacts mental health, we looked at recent newspaper headlines and reviewed a Harvard study.
  • We watched the TED talk.
  • We all pulled out our cell phones, and identified the apps we used most often. We catagorized them as "Happy Apps" and "Sad Apps" based on the research Atler shares in the video. We also discussed stopping cues and FOMO.
  • Then I dropped the bomb: I wanted students to reduce their screen use for 3 days and record their experiences in a journal. My finished journal is below. 

  • We looked at how social media personalities combat FOMO, and we brainstormed screen time alternatives. Students reviewed expectations for the journal, and then set personal goals for screen time reduction - as a group, we decied to aim for about a half-hour of screen free whitespace each day. 
  • To wrap up the lesson, I used some of my grant money to purchase special self-laminating labels. Students were encouraged to write a reminder about putting their screens away and afix it to their phones. I wasn't sure of student buy-in, so I also provided masking tape incase they were reluctant to stick something to their phone. To my surprise, most students did choose a heavy duty label. Their options are below. 



After three days of experimenting, we met up again, and I asked students to begin the period by recording 1 pro and 1 con of reducing screen time:



As we debriefed, I was pleaseantly surpised that the overwhelming majority of students in each class agreed with the following statement: "Reducing screen time may make me happier." We ultimately came to a consensus that although most of them don't feel the need to reduce their screentime at the moment, they are now aware that screentime might impact their mental health; in the future, if they're feeling "off" or sad, an easy self-care strategy will be to take a screen break. 



From my perspective, I really liked this opportunity to work with the kids on something that was SOO applicable and relevant to their daily lives.







Monday, November 13, 2017

PR Strategies for Implementing the Inquiry Process: Graphics for Stripling's Model

Our district overhauled the ELA and Social Studies curriculums within the last three years. Because school librarians were included on the program committees designing the curriculum units, we were able to specifically infuse Barabra's Stripling's inquiry model as described in the Information Fluency Continuum in the research units designed by the committee.

Because the inquiry model is new to many staff members and students, its implementation requires a little bit of a PR campaign to encourage widespread adoption. I think it's helpful to have strong visuals to both promote the model and reinforce the phases during instruction. To facilitate this, I created two series of posters devoted to Stripling's model - both an elementary version and a secondary version. 

One of the inquiry bulletin boards I use to promote the process in my building. 

In my building, you'll find the posters on hallway bulletin boards, computer lab walls, and classrooms ranging from Living Environment to Global Studies to English. 


In the elementary libraries, you'll find posters based on the above graphic. 

Below are PDFs of the poster files. Please feel free to print and use for promoting your library's use of the Stripling Inquiry Model. Note - for the secondary posters I used photos with Creative Commons licenses that did not require attribution; the elementary posters were created with free clipart from Microsoft Publisher. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

8 Tips For a Successful Breakout

It's been ages since I've blogged (the whole having babies thing), but now that the oldest is off to kindergarten, I'm finally finding a little wiggle room in my daily schedule to do stuff I love. Like blogging.

My new adventure for this fall is trying the Breakout trend. Educational Breakouts have been popular for a few years, so I'm a little late to the game. Over the summer one of my very favorite English teachers decided they wanted to try something new to change up their teaching routine, and since Breakouts were filling my Pinterest feed, we collaborated on designing a Breakout for her classroom. After digging into the whole process with her, I decided I was grooving on the concept, and planned my own Breakout for my library orientation activity.

The results? Breakouts are awesome. This is the MOST engaged I've ever seen my students. I've had MANY of them tell me how much fun they had and ask if we could do it in other classes.

Above: I LOVE watching the "ah-ha!" moments when they finally get it. 

Above: Team celebrations were pretty common when kids cracked clues. 
Now that we're into the 3rd week of school, I've run the same Breakout almost 40 times, as I've done it with every 8th and 9th grade English class that comes to the library for orientation. I'm certainly not an expert, but I've noticed a few things that have improved the process:

1) To save money, build your own Breakout kits. I was able to put together 4 complete Breakout kits using Amazon and the Dollar Tree. For each kit I bought 1 letter lock, a 4 pack of combination locks, 1 keyed padlock, 1 hasp, 4 lockable toolboxes, and a blacklight. I also bought 1 pack of UV Pens. Altogether, 4 complete kits cost about $180.00



2) Develop a system for organizing your locks. I have around 30 different locks between all my kits, and I realized early on that I needed a way to keep them all straight. This required two things: 1) Labeling each lock (I started by writing on them with a Sharpie -- it rubbed off, so I switched to Sharpie on masking tape - still not ideal - I'm hoping I can talk the tech department into using their engraver) and 2) Keeping a record of the combo I had assigned to each lock.

Above: Labeling each lock is essential when you have multiple kits. This is my current method, Sharpie marker on masking tape, but I think I'll see if the Tech dept will engrave them for me.

Above: After labeling each lock, I made a little chart. Each time I changed the combo, I recorded on the chart. I also taped the directions for resetting each lock into the folder. 
3) Divide your class into teams (the smaller the better) and run multiple breakouts simultaneously. When first diving into this whole Breakout thing, the most difficult thing for me to wrap my head around was how to do a Breakout with a whole class. I still haven't quite figured out how classrooms can run only 1 game and have all students participate. Because I was able to buy purchase four kits, I was able to run 4 games simultaneously. For smaller classes, this allowed 3 or 4 kids in a group, but for larger classes, the group size was 7. I noticed that the larger groups (5+) were NOT ideal - when you have big groups, it inevitably allows some students to sit back and let others do the thinking - they never really engaged with the material. In contrast, the smaller groups of 3 and 4 required EVERYONE to participate, and I know the activity was much more meaningful academically.

4) When working with bigger groups, have students elect a reader and a wrangler. In smaller groups (4 or less), this doesn't seem to matter as much, but in the large groups, teams need to identify a person that will be responsible for reading each clue out loud (so all members of the team can participate). I also found the larger groups needed to identify a leader (I called it a "wrangler"), responsible for making sure the group travels as a pack, encouraging quieter kids to share ideas, and in general, keeping all team members on task.

5) Color code the clues and assign each team a color. Because I ran 4 games simultaneously, I wanted to make sure teams didn't take another group's clue. To do this, I broke the kids up into teams, and assigned each team a color. They sat began the activity at tables with large colored signs that indicated their color.
Above: Each box was tagged with team colors. I also wrote the location of each box on the back of the tag, so I could quickly replace the boxes between periods. 
Above: Each team started the Breakout at a table with a sign indicating their team color. 

Above: All the clues were color-coded -- teams could only use clues that matched their color. 

6) Do everything possible to make re-staging quick and efficient. I have 3 minutes between periods to re-stage the Breakouts, which means loading clues into boxes and locking boxes back up. I also structured my Breakout so that although I had 4 games running simultaneously, each group encountered clues in a different order. To make my life easier, I created a folder for each clue location. So, for example, each group got an envelope with their first clue. On the front of my folder was a little color-coded chart telling me which clue went in each group's envelope. If the clue location required a code, I also wrote that on my folder. Inside my folder were extra copies of each clue - enough to get me through a whole day.

Above: For each station, I had a folder filled with extra copies of each clue. I also made a little chart on the front of each folder that indicated what clue each team received at that station, along with the lock code, if necessary.

7) Don't set locks to combinations that are too easy to guess. To get into the final box, I originally had the word locks set to READ. It totally fit the activity, but it was so obvious for a library breakout that groups were able to guess the combination without doing ANY of the clues. This totally defeated the purpose of the activity. To make it more difficult, but without having to totally change the station, I switched the letter lock to DAER and added a line in the clue that said "Think you know the code? Sometimes people get things BACKWARDS." Stupidly, I also set one of the number lock combinations to "123" - also way too easy for a team to simply just guess. 



8) Build a debriefing into your Breakout that can be done independently. When students work in teams, they will inevitably finish the Breakouts at different times. When a group finishes early, they need a task to occupy their time. I created a survey - students scanned a QR code that they found inside their final box when they were finished with the activity. Part of the survey asked students to reflect on both the activity and the content. In this case, the Breakout content served as an introduction to Banned Books Week, so students were asked questions like "Should school libraries censor books that a parent finds objectionable?"
Above: Following the Breakout, each student independently completed a survey. 
There's my round up of tips. Got any more to add? What have YOU done to make your breakouts a success?