Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Melvin Dewey, Meet Tagxedo

This time of year people start (excitedly) reminding me "Only 39 days!" Which instantly turns into wait, that means I only have 7 days left with some groups in the library. 7 days to teach them all they need to know about being literate library users and lifelong readers. And, now, to share this in a technologically forward way with the world.

Really, the only kids I stress about this way is the 4/5 group. Those 5th graders will be in middle school in a flash.... library will be a distant memory and they will probably start asking people where "submarine" and "war" and "spy" books are with glazed looks in their eyes.

Not on my watch, right? haha... So in a panic, every year I ramp up the Dewey Decimal lessons and activities. I feel like every year I am "reteaching" the same thing. This year I saw Wordles used on Pinterest in a hands on demo.

Kids split into groups and each group was assigned a non fiction case. Their job on the first day was to compile 8-10 SUBJECTS that are covered in their case. Not titles, I am not interested in How to Talk to Your Cat. I think I saw some lightbulbs go off when they realized that we can find SUBJECTS in a designated place. Have they been that attached to titles?

The next day I had the kids each group hit the computer lab and created a Tagxedo with their subjects. This was a cool way to relate that some cases are more full of subjects...in Tagxedo and Wordle, the more a word is entered, the more prominent that word becomes in the graph. We would have used Wordle but our MacLab needed a Silverlight update and the kids love the shapes of Tagxedo anyhow.

After all of the graphs are printed, the groups will mount and present their findings. The most comprehensive will be laminated and mounted on the cases. Hopefully the subject connection will continue among the lower grades.

If you have not used tagxedo or wordle, I recommend them. Last year 4/5 used Wordle to create their shelfmarkers and used their favorite reading subjects as text. It was cool for me to learn about students and have that visual reminder each week about what they love to read.

Tagxedo website

Wordle Website

42 into Testing the Ice

One of my daughters is a history buff through and through. When she saw the trailer for 42 this weekend, I was dragged into the living room to watch. And watch it again. The ad on TV is a goosebumper, for sure. I instantly remembered the text Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson. I love this book because it introduces the issues of Negro Leagues, self control, prejudice and mid century America in ways kids can access.

Because of our PBLs owning February I did not get to much Black History this year so I was thrilled to be able to pull this title and show the trailer. I led with the trailer and 4/5 was fascinated. The movie is PG-13 the kids and I went through the whole speech that their parents will obviously decide whether this is appropriate for them. (And this is where I routinely hear that all kids I know have seen more foul and inappropriate movies than I can imagine).

This was an impromptu lesson that came together .... and I was pleased to introduce this hero and generate interest in the biography and nonfiction sections. Plus, I am still waiting for any kids to recognize Indiana Jones!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Break Student Stampede

Finally, accessible ebooks for our students!

A fantastic email came through my box a few days ago: Overdrive is up and running for Thompson School District. I love it! Last year I piloted an ebook "shelf" from Follet and while the interest was great, the application was clumsy and could only be used on Apple products.

Since last year the percentage of our kids who have e readers and tablets has sky rocketed. Love it! Getting the kids to bring both their library card AND device to me so I can help them download from the library has been a challenge...usually one or the other makes it, or the Kindle app has not been previously downloaded and there goes our 15 minutes of time.

This is a perfect fit! FREE, QUALITY titles available to our students with their login info. Right now the collection has 300 titles but I expect that to grow.

Even if I wasn't at a STEM school I would be thrilled with this support from our district. Simply, this is where our kids are going and I love that we are meeting them with such great options.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reporter Herald Covers LEES PBL process

The Reporter Herald was here last week interviewing students about our PBL (Problem Based Learning) units. Shelley Wildham spoke with a 5th and 3rd grader, our principal and a 3rd grade teacher.

On top of seeing the entire PBL process, I loved seeing the kids relate their perspective of the process. Kids always go above and beyond and really rise to any occasion. That is part of the PBL outcome, also: kids who can communicate their learning and relay it with confidence.

Check out the article in the RH:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Leprechaun Traps arriving in Library!

Every year, we have the same problem in March: pesky Leprechauns turn the library upside down with their mischief and pranks. Some days entire book shelves are upended, our shelfmarkers have been misplaced, and once or twice fiction books have been in non fiction! (#library problems, right?)

2nd grade used to do an entire unit planning and designing Leprechaun Traps and the library would be full of intricate cages and ladders. This year 2nd grade had a PBL that zapped most of their time but I still wanted to have the Leprechaun magic over here. Next year they come back as older, wiser 3rd graders who just give me The Look.

We have been researching the little elves and even though they are sneaky and private, we have found that they enjoy gold and sweet treats. We wonder if that is the key to getting their attention. I will keep you updated on what we find, I LOVE the traps the kids are doing on their own and bringing.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cute Lorax Bulletin Board - thanks, Pinterest!

Nothing makes a month speed faster than realizing I need to change bulletin boards. Even though we have a Cricut (love/ hate relationship, anyone else?) some months I do all I can to avoid words. And as I type that I do realize how crazy that sounds in the library.

While scouring Pinterest for RAA and Dr. Seuss ideas, this super cutie caught my eye. Talk about easy, he was up before bus duty! What I really love is how much the kids love him! Squeals when they spot this instantly recognizable guy.

BookTalks.... here we go...

Obviously, going STEM as a school puts everyone on notice. How can we support and honor this? In the library, the kids and I have been enjoying Book Talks. I have had a few groups see me at recess to film, scripts in hand. The problem has been hosting/ uploading/ sharing. Which platform? 

After messing around with this more than a little, (and after buying a new smartphone) I think I have found a winner. With everything happening in the library, ease is key for me. I want to showcase the kids' work without overloading myself.

I mentioned that Donald Samson visited LEES...along with his Star Trilogy he brought signed copies of his new book, At the Hot Gates. Needless to say, it is a hit among our 4/5.  We had a bulletin board where kids could post their favorite titles, but I like this more in depth approach, and we all know readers love their technology!

Choosing Kind - Wonder Book Club to begin

I read RJ Pallacio's Wonder while my youngest daughter was in the hospital a few weeks ago. Thankfully, it was a short visit and everything is better now. This book had been on my "to read" list and honestly, if I hadn't had hours with my 6th grade daughter I may have not gotten to it. As it was we started it together (out loud) and it was not long at all before she kidnapped my Kindle and we were all over the place. Her nurses had to ask her a few times to drop the Kindle so they could do what they needed.

Instantly I knew I wanted, needed to share this with every kid I know...right? This week we will begin a lunch time book club for 5th graders. This is our first Book Club and I can't wait to see how much the kids love this book.

The Busy Librarian has posted a great activity for the end of this book club.... does anyone else have any comments or insights on activities I should try? My initial group will have 6 kids, with a long waiting list for following sessions.

Author Donald Samson Visit

Last month award winning author Donald Samson visited Edmondson. He visited us a few years ago, and the kids loved seeing him then. Since his last visit the rest of his Star Trilogy has been published and I knew our current 4/5 students would have plenty of questions for him.

Dragons always fly off the shelves and we have a nice group of higher level readers this year. Mr. Samson's presentation focused on the writing process from note taking to editing. Lots of editing. Much editing. I could see the teachers' delight every time he mentioned this, and the kids seemed encouraged as well.

Since the last time he had been at Edmondson, it was obvious Mr. Samson has presented many times over to groups of all ages. His confidence was apparent and an interesting discussion was now polished. As a bonus Mr. Samson sold copies of his books to our students below retail cost and returned the following week to inscribe them. This was a huge hit with students and I loved seeing the personal and encouraging touch Mr. Samson gave our writers.

Mr. Samson can be reached at www.thedragonboy.com for school visits.

Read Across America Poster

I forget sometimes how much kids love the basics. Our school district sent over a life sized Dr. Seuss poster for our students to color and send back for display at a Board Meeting. After check out, we had a nice rotation at the poster and it was fun to see the Dr. Seuss fill in during the day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Anatomy of a Library PBL

It was the most organic PBL I have seen: we had a genuine problem and the students were charged with fixing it. Our school became a STEM school this year and we needed a way to identify the change. I frontloaded the kids with logo lessons and started the discussion about what we wanted our logo to say about us.

Should we keep our school colors of blue and gold? What about our mascot, the Stallion? Does every element of STEM need to be represented? I called in the Professionals and was thrilled when Wes Stobbe, a designer with Pearl Izumi agreed to come speak to our kids.

Wes brought an impressive selection of his work, on cool sports gear, print, and electronic mediums. The kids were engaged and full of questions. One of the most important things Wes did was help the kids think through the message graphic design sends.

Our art teacher was next, and she led the students in designing a logo that was to be put before The Panel. The Panel consisted of our Art Teacher, our Principal, the owners of Top Shelf Printing Company and Wes Stobbe.

These are two of our finalists, as drawn by the students. The Panel met and chose the winner. The Printing company was able to digitally recreate the logo for us and we then sold t shirts and hoodies with our new logo.

The best part of the PBL? It solved our problem! The students LOVE the new logo, as much as they LOVE that it was created by a 3rd grade student in our school. The kids designed, discussed and weighed in on this entire process. I would have to say they owned it from start to finish.


After a few missed connections (you would think I would remember that we are MST not CST like ....well, like CST) and smoothing out the video on our end, one of my 4/5 classes enjoyed SKYPING with 5th graders from Iowa. To be honest, it was  a surprise for them and I think it did not have a chance to sink in until we had hung up. The kids LOVED it!! After we disconnected, they were full of so many questions and I know they look forward to connecting with the class again.

I LOVE the functionality of Google Docs that allowed so many librarians to connect in this new way, and many thanks to Tammy Massman @tammymassman and Noreen VandeWeerd @noreenvndewrd

1st Grade PBL Videos

Based on their Science Balance and Motion Unit, 1st Graders determined that our playground at LEES needs rotation. They set to work designing and presenting playground options. These videos were shown to all classes in the school (during library time) and the students then voted using MIMIO VOTES to determine the preferred equipment. First grade collected this data and presented their findings to a panel consisting of our Principal, an Engineer and a member of our PTA.

PBL Season is in Full Swing!

As a first year STEM school, I think many people were nervous about how PBLs would look while in process and when finished. It has been chaotic here for a few weeks, but the learning has been dynamic and evident. I will be posting results and details about each grade's PBL (PROBLEM Based Learning, NOT Project based learning)