Friday, March 25, 2016

We're moving!

I've changed the focus of this blog to expand to all things related to reading, the maker movement, and learning.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Makerspace - Green Screen Project with 4th graders

A fourth grade teacher and I collaborated together to have the students create green screen videos as a culmination of their weather unit. In the classroom, the teacher grouped students into 4 teams and each team had to write a script, collect props, and practice what they would do for the recorded video.
When the students came to the media center, I did the filming over two days, with one hour set aside each day. While I worked with one team, the next team would be practicing and making any final changes. The other two teams used the media center’s computers for additional research and rotated through centers the teacher provided. The classroom teacher and my media assistant provided supervision of these students.
We used the makerspace for this project, incorporating the green screen, an iPad, and the app Green Screen by Do Ink. This was the first time I’d used the green screen for any projects, so I was excited and a little nervous that it wouldn’t turn out that great. The built-in tutorial for the app didn’t really answer all my questions, so I found this video tutorial that was quite helpful:
Basically, you need to have an image for the background to replace the green screen. This could be a photo that you take, a photo you upload from one of the databases the school subscribes to, or even taking a photo of a drawing a student has created.  Then you film the students – either directly in the green screen app or upload from your iPad camera roll. You then save the file and it magically creates the video for you.
Something to consider if you are doing this – make sure students know what image (or images) they want to use for their background. For some teams finding the background image took longer than the filming process. We didn’t adjust the chroma key at all, and for the most part it worked without issue. There are a few areas where you could see a green outline or you could see part of the background through a person, but we were fine with it.
All in all, the videos turned out great and the kids had a blast. An added bonus is now I have a real live example to show other teachers and a teacher and  a class full of students talking about the project. I'm already working with another grade level to create their own green screen videos. 
I’ve posted the links below for your viewing pleasure!
Let me know if you've tried using a green screen with your students and what app or software you've used. Did you have success? Any tips to share? 
Wishing you health and happiness!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Using an Infographic for your Monthly Report

This year I started using an infographic for my monthly report. Do you have a monthly report? If not, how does everyone in your school and community know what you do? How else are they going to realize how busy you are? They're not! They tend to think we're either reading a story to students, checking out books or "playing" on the computer. We know there's so much more, but they don't, and while it would be nice if everyone magically understood what we do, we cannot count on that happening. Ever.

So, what do you do? Be your own advocate and tell them! I have a blog post on my school website that does just that. You can also create an infographic for your monthly statistics. I've typed up lengthy reports in the past at my former school, and to be honest, I don't know that anyone really read them. Infographics are everywhere, especially on Pinterest so I thought, why not try them? 

There are many infographic sites out there and I played with a few before I settled on Piktochart. I promise I'm not getting paid or any lovely bonus goodies for this, but I have to say I really love their product. It was much easier for me to use than the others I tried out and the free account offered enough options that I was satisfied. 

But, when I went to post the infographic for my school website, I couldn't. I could shrink it on the screen and use the snipping tool, but then I couldn't enlarge the image on my blog post without it looking blurry. What do I do now? I've just spent my precious time (when I should be sleeping) creating this create product to help advocate for my school library and I can't share it the way I want to! UGH!!!

After my mini-tantrum, I started searching for an educator's option on Piktochart, and guess what? They have one! It's $39.99 for one year to upgrade to their PRO account, which gives you tons of more options - more templates, options of how to save/download/share and even embed into a blog post. Yeah! 

Even better, if you sign up before September 30th, you can get the one year PRO deal for only $15. Again, I promise, I'm getting nothing out of this other than the joy of sharing a great find with my fellow librarians! We have to stick together! 

Here's the link you need to get your own discounted PRO educators account:

If you already have an account with Piktochart (as I did under my personal email), you can get them to send the code to the original email you used to create your account. It took about five minutes after I filled out the form from the link above. Another five minutes for them to reply with how to use my original account and voila! I had access to all the extras!

So, are you dying to see what I created? It's not as awesome as all those infographics you see on Pinterest, but it's my first attempt and I'm proud of it. I'll become more daring as I get more practice and get to explore all the extra options I now have with the PRO account. 

Let me know if you use infographics to help advocate for your library program or if you use them for lessons. I'd love to hear from you! 

Wishing you health and happiness!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Don't Recycle Your iPad Boxes - Reuse Them!

The art & music departments had just received a cart full of iPads that our tech guy unpacked for them, leaving a pile of cardboard boxes behind (his office is in the media center). I was going to put them in the recycle bin, but then I stopped to examine looked one box and became fascinated with all the flaps and the idea that it could fold back with ease. That got me thinking that I had to save these boxes for the makerspace and surely we could do something with these iPad boxes.

A few days after that one of the second grade teachers and I have been collaborating a lot this year talked to me about doing another project to wrap up her Jan Brett author study after she read Honey, Honey, Lion! to her class.  When we started talking we realized that we wanted to include some sort of art project and have the students work with partners. Then it hit me – use the iPad boxes! They were the perfect size, and all the flaps gave delineated areas for students to identify the setting as well as the main & secondary characters and the problem/solution, and a written explanation of their favorite part of the book- all elements that are found in our 2nd grade ELA standards.

On Jan Brett’s website, we found characters from the Honey, Honey, Lion! book that we were able to copy and randomly distribute to the students. We also copied a few background elements and these, along with the animals would be colored ahead of time in the classroom. Once the students arrived in the media center, we had tempura paint, paintbrushes we borrowed from the art teachers, Q-tips, paper plates for the paint palette, glue sticks and plastic tablecloths leftover from the book fair. We had a sample box prepared – but only with the colors we suggested for each section. That was the only limit on their imagination. They were encouraged to cooperatively sketch and paint the setting (the largest area on the box) and the animals and background pieces could be added as needed for the other areas.


The students were so excited to paint in the media center! They were having collaborative discussions while actively working to complete their story box. There was only one incident of paint on the floor – our new carpeting – but a quick dab with a wet paper towel and everything was a-okay!

The second graders worked for a solid 45 minutes and everyone completed their story boxes. They were so proud of their hard work and so were we! Here's a peek at some of the completed story boxes: 


Wishing you health and happiness!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thumbs Up or GASP!

The first grade classes have been learning about George Washington Carver, and for most of the teachers my media center lesson introduced him to the students. However, due to scheduling conflicts, one teacher wasn’t able to get her class into the media center until the end of their study on George Washington Carver. I didn’t have another age-appropriate book handy, so I had to use the introductory biography that I’d used with the other classes. I didn’t know exactly what the teacher had used during her classroom lessons, but I knew there was a good chance that her students might already know most of what was in the biography. That would not make for an interesting media center lesson and would more than likely end up with a class of first graders who were restless and could quickly get out of control.

Thankfully, my creativity was working on the fly that day and I came up with the “thumbs up” and the “GASP!” Students were to show a “thumbs up” when they heard a fact they’d learned in class. The students were to dramatically “GASP!” when they learned something new. As to be expected, there were a few students who wanted to “GASP!” at everything they heard, but after a quick reminder from me and from their teacher, they quickly stopped being overly silly.

I admit that I was surprised how much the students enjoyed this activity and very grateful too! The students were engaged throughout the entire lesson and enjoyed discussing the new facts they learned in the biography I read to them. The teacher was so impressed with their enthusiasm she’s going to use this in her classroom. It turned out to be a more interesting and fun lesson than when I’d done the introductory lessons with the other classes. 

Wishing you health and happiness,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Read Across America Week 2015

We had an amazing Read Across America Week this year! I’ve had great feedback from students, parents and staff. People are still talking about our celebration even though it was two weeks ago! One comment was, “It was the best Read Across America week they’ve ever seen.” So, what exactly did I do for Read Across America week? Here’s the scoop!

First I have to say, it wasn't all me. There is a Planning & Organization committee at my school that works on “big” events throughout the year. They were originally planning Read Across America on their own and I kind of pushed my way into the committee offered to help them with the planning. They had been talking about having an author come to our school and Carmen Deedy’s name came up. She had been to our school over 10 years ago, and everyone had loved her. I contacted her scheduling agent and did all the legwork securing Carmen Deedy’s visit including contracts, ordering books for people to purchase, etc… It was not an easy task on top of my regular media center job, but it was so worth it! She is an amazing storyteller and so, so funny! If you have not had Carmen Deedy at your school you need to book her now! She lives in Georgia and gives a discount for all Georgia schools. Why are you still reading – go book her now! 

Carmen Deedy was our kick-off to the week, speaking with three groups of students (K/1, 2/3 and 4/5) and she was with us on the actual Read Across America day. That morning and each morning during the week, we had a trivia question announced on the student news show. The trivia question was posted in the media center and each night my sweet children would help me sort the correct answers from the incorrect answers and randomly draw a winner’s name. The winning student was announced the next morning on the news show and they won a free book. I have a stash of paperback books that I get from donations, book fairs, consignment shops, etc…

Tuesday was also the start of a frenzy that no one expected – the hat search. I got the idea from Pinterest (where I get all my great ideas!) and it consisted of buying a package of 36 small Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat hats. We hid them around the school and students had to count how many they could find. They had until Thursday at dismissal to submit their count. We had over 360 entries for this! The winner was announced on Friday and they won their own Cat in the Hat hat that I ordered from Amazon.

Wednesday we showed a slideshow of photos that students and their families had submitted showing the students’ response to “I will read anywhere.” Again, an idea I found on Pinterest. We had students upload their photos to a free website DropEvent and started this part of the celebration about two weeks prior to the actual Read Across America week.

Thursday, we had 14 football players and their coach from Kennesaw University come out and read to our students. Each class had a player visit and read to them. Each player would read a Dr. Seuss book, so I had to select books that were easy enough to read (for people who may/may not be used to reading in front of a class full of children) and would hopefully not be a story the students had heard a thousand times. Teachers signed up for three different time slots, and chose from the book list I created. I assigned a slot to a player and went from there. I can share forms if you’re interested – just post a response and I’ll get them to you!

Friday was our character dress up day and I will admit that I am not a person who likes to dress up. But, it was Read Across America week and well, I just did it anyway even though I personally didn’t enjoy it. I did enjoy seeing all the teachers and students showing off their creativity and the characters they chose.

Whew! That was a lot! It was a super busy, super exciting and super exhausting week! I’m really not sure how we’re going to top that next year, but if you have any suggestions or fun activities you did this year to celebrate Read Across America, I’d love to hear them. 

Wishing you health and happiness,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The makerspace is coming! The makerspace is coming!

Yep, that's right. I'm entering the makerspace world. I couldn't resist channeling Paul Revere since our fourth graders recently began their American Revolution unit and the third graders are studying Paul Revere as one of their "freedom fighters." 

I'm been enamored with the idea of having a makerspace in the media center for a while now and at my former library I was beginning to clear an area in the back storage room to create a tiny one. I've been collecting ideas on my Pinterest makerspace board (up to 200+ pins) and even though my plans were for a tiny makerspace, I dreamed of something more. By "tiny" I mean basically starting with Legos and maybe some Augmented Reality. Nothing too fancy or expensive. Then, I changed schools over the summer and put those plans on hold. I did mention in my interview that I like the idea of a makerspace and the learning commons model; this was in response to "What would my ideal library would look like?" interview question. 

Well, be careful what you mention in an interview! The makerspace idea was something I was planning to launch maybe in year two but more likely in year three. I've made the theme for the library this year "Everything is Awesome" (yes, from the Lego Movie)  to go with a "being different and it's okay" kind of idea and take very baby steps into developing a makerspace with some Legos. That was the extent of my plans for this school year - especially since I'm coming in behind a media specialist who retired after 20+ years in her position. So, what about the being careful part? Wait for principal presented me with a grant application and said something to the effect of "Remember that makerspace you mentioned in the interview? Maybe you can get it funded with this," and he hands me a brief printed email about a grant that our local school system offers. "Oh and it's due on the 29th." I smiled and graciously took the paper, pleased that he'd remembered the conversation about the makerspace, but seriously freaked out that the application was due in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!!! My two or three year away plan is due in two weeks! Deep breaths......

I quickly enlisted the help of the other specialists in the school (art, music and technology teachers) and created a makerspace team. They helped with the ideas and research suggestions, I consulted Makerspaces: A practical guide for librarians and The Makerspace Playbook  and various other articles I'd been saving as I typed up the grant application and initial surveys (data that needed to be included in the grant application to support our project in the category of instructional innovation). I didn't sleep that much over the next two weeks, but I finally got everything typed, proofed, printed and copied. My principal delivered the grant application for me just before the 5 pm deadline. 

We were supposed to find out if we were approved or not on 9/30. That date came and went - not a word. I thought I didn't get the grant. After all, I threw together something that needed years of planning into two weeks. I didn't think I'd done as thorough of a job as I would have liked and I was sure I'd left some things off the budget request. My principal sent some emails and found out the decisions had been delayed and that we should wait patiently. 

Another two weeks later, we received the news - we were approved and for the full budget requested! I was in shock at first, then elated, then overwhelmed, then elated again. Now, about a month after receiving the news I'm still feeling a mix of emotions. With the delayed announcement, we have to completely restructure our timeline. We've officially realized that we did indeed forget to budget for some items that are needed, and we're running into delays while waiting for other people to do their work before we can do ours. I getting antsy knowing that a report is due in January. 

Then I got another surprise today - I entered into a drawing at a professional development session two weeks ago and won $500 to fund a Donor's Choose request. Now I just have to actually submit one before Friday! I'm hoping to link it to the makerspace, maybe even to pay for the items we forgot to budget for or maybe to update the nonfiction section. That's another project I have going. 

Yes, I know, I do have a lot going on - not even counting the book fair starting today, but do you want to know the reality of it all? My family (husband, twins in 5th grade) and I moved in mid-October in the middle of the week. It was just one neighborhood over so thankfully no school changes for my children, but there are still boxes all over the house. We also inherited a dog a week ago from the previous owners of the house (really interesting story, but I'll save for another time). I'm not sharing all of this to say, "Wow, look at everything she's accomplishing!" Not at all! I'm sharing all this to say, YOU can do this too! Life can be messy and inconvenient and there never seems to be enough time, but even with things going haywire in your life or library or whatever, you can do it! It's all going to be okay. It may take a while, but it will be okay!  

I have found that I get really bored with nothing going on, so I like that I'm staying busy. Sure, I'm a little (sometimes a lot) stressed, but being busy and making progress toward goals is always a good thing in my mind. Write back and let me know what kinds of goals you're working towards and the little steps of progress so we can celebrate together. And if you're working on a makerspace, let me know that too - maybe we can plan some sort of long-distance collaboration. 

Wishing you health and happiness!