Solar Eclipse 2017: Combining something awesome with learning how to use PebbleGo Next and Flipgrid!
It's not every day you get to see a Solar Eclipse! I haven't been this excited for a learning opportunity ever. Our school district made it a big deal by purchasing approved glasses and supporting our teachers in developing interactive, hands on, authentic projects with the eclipse. We had a bunch of teachers take on a science inquiry method where students examined how the temperature, sounds, etc. changed as the eclipse occurred.
So you know as an advocate for all the awesome things our library has to offer, I really had to capitalize on the Solar Eclipse! This was a perfect opportunity to learn how to use our new PebbleGo Next subscription and to introduce Flipgrid to our teachers. I used Flipgrid a lot last year with our students to share book recommendations, MakerSpace creations, and collaborate on World Read Aloud Day so our current 3rd graders were experts at it by now. My philosophy on introducing new tech tools or databases to teachers is to follow the "I do, we do, you do" approach, which helps take the mystery and scariness out of using a new resource. The biggest complaints I hear from teachers when I try to introduce something new is 1) I don't have time to learn something new or to plan with it, or 2) I have no idea how to use it and I don't want to mess it up. The best way to counteract that is to prepare a model lesson, involve the teacher in the planning process, teach the lesson, and then offer to help plan with it again. So that's what I did with our Solar Eclipse lesson!
We purchased and used PebbleGo last year, but it was slightly too easy for many of our students so I purchased a subscription to PebbleGo Next for this year as well. PebbleGo Next includes deeper articles, more topics, and is more geared towards science and social studies. In addition to PebbleGo Next being new, I also want to help teacher see the benefit of using Flipgrid this year. We are going towards the one-to-one initiative with Chromebooks in our 3rd grade classes and we've purchased a class set of iPads for the library, so our students will have access to cameras every day now. I'm working on a blog post about all the awesomeness that is Flipgrid, so for now just know that it is cool. Like really really cool.
Because of our Boosterthon Fun Run, timing of schedules, and so on, it was hard scheduling lessons for the Solar Eclipse, but I had so much fun teaching the students about the new PebbleGo Next database! Our students learned the new format of the articles, about headers and subheaders, key word searches, and then shared what they learned about the sun and solar eclipses through our Flipgrid topic.
The best part of the lesson? The teachers I worked with said they would love to use Flipgrid in their classrooms and want to work together in the future. I call that a win!
I am passionate about summer reading. I think it's essential in helping our students retain their motivation and love of reading but also to help maintain good reading habits. There is a tremendous amount of research out there that supports and encourages summer academic work in order to prevent the 'summer slide' and to help our students stay on track. Summer reading should be about motivating our children to read and that means providing free choice and making reading a part of our everyday conversation. It should be a school wide initiative in which all students can participate. When I came to my present school, there was not a summer reading program established. Man, did that hurt my poor book-loving soul. I pushed hard to make sure I could start a program this past summer. Luckily, I have an admin team that understands the value in reading. In the past with my middle schoolers, I've had a Google Classroom class (like 2017 Summer Reading) setup with a code accessible to all the students in the school so that we can post and discuss what we are reading over the summer in a low threatening environment as well as posting through our library Instagram with 'shelfies.' However, with 2nd and 3rd grade, I've had to change my approach. This year, I started with a brochure of ideas for books to read and fun ways to read. Our leadership team also posted pictures of us reading over the summer on our vacations and summer days to our school's Facebook page. Establishing good reading habits also means modeling for our students-not just reading out loud during the school day but showing that reading is a part of our everyday life. That it does not stop just because school is out.
My summer reading challenge was to read 100 minutes over the summer. I wanted to make it small enough to help our students feel like they accomplished something and also so that we can build some traction for our summer reading program. The more students that complete the first year will help effect how many will participate the next summer. On the brochure I made sure to include fun ways to read so it could be a family event (and also help some of our parents who need more guidance in what to do with our readers). I did include reading suggestions based on Lexiles, but that was primarily for our school improvement plan. I do not think independent reading should be contingent on reading levels. It should be about free choice. When children can freely choose what they want to read, they will be reading for pleasure, not because there is an assignment due. A choice allows children to be enthusiastic about what they are reading, and in turn they will be engaged. However, parents always request guidance in helping their children choose books and consistently asked for suggestions on Lexiles throughout the school year. So I try to include a balance of reading suggestions. I was able to present at our last PTSO meeting of the year on summer reading as well, which helped in advocating for summer reading. Check out the pictures below for a glimpse of what our summer of reading looked like!
For middle school though, I always based my reading suggestions on our genres. Yes, a lot of trees were killed in the making of this packet, but with parents of middle schoolers, you need to remind them to stay involved, provide ideas on how to stay involved, and provide as much guidance as possible in helping their children find books they may be interested in reading. Not because they don't understand their children, but because let's be honest about our tweens, they are picky (but it's really because they are going through that whole identity crisis thing so it's understandable). I think if I were to do this again, I would definitely utilize Remind or something similar to share this with more parents. I genuinely love meeting with parents to discuss how we can help our children become better readers. Family nights are great for this!
We had about 30 students complete the summer reading packet, which is about 4% of our school population. While I really want to hold my head down in shame at this abysmal turn out, I refuse to be defeated! That is 30 students who completed a huge accomplishment. This was our first year in trying a summer reading program. I also take heart in that many of our students probably still read over the summer, but they did not keep track of it on their summer reading brochure. Part of this turn out, I believe, may be because of the transient population we have between schools (our school only houses 2nd and 3rd grade so many of our rising 2nd grader families may not have been invested like our rising 3rd grade families) and military moves. So what to do? I was originally just going to hand out certificates of awesomeness during homeroom with their prizes, brand new books thanks to generous donations from our book fair and a local pottery place (Midnight Star Pottery is an amazing supporter of our school system), but with only 30 participants I said it's time to go big or go home. The bigger an event I make this, the more the impact would be on other students. There is some discussion about this as I questioned my decision to make it a big deal...I could potentially alienate other students by only inviting certain students to the reward party (especially those who had actually read over the summer but did not complete the summer reading packet), but it could also motivate other students who did not read over the summer because they want to go to the party. Thoughts from the Great Brain out there? I think I made the right call. Seeing how awesome the party was, maybe more students will want to participate next year.
At the end of the day, it felt wonderful to be able to reward our super readers. They had a fantastic time! I definitely want to do it again. Goals for next year-double our participants!
Side note on the theme of the reading celebration-During our library orientation, I emphasize every year how I think we are all superheroes. Superheroes are so awesome because most of them have started out just like you and me until somehow they encountered something that made them realize how special they are or something happened to them to develop their powers (but even then, a lot of superhero lore says those powers were dormant until the 'event' so...) to help the world become a better place. I make a point to talk about Iron Man (and if you don't know who that is you have been hiding under a rock and we have a lot to talk about) because he doesn't have any 'real' superpowers. He uses his brain and problem solving skills to help other people. Then we talk about how reading takes you places, helps you learn about yourself, helps you learn about the world around you so you can learn about what makes you special and so you can appreciate everyone's uniqueness. I usually tie this into a book (this year's was How to be a Hero).
Anyway, is it really a surprise I did a superhero themed summer reading celebration? Who doesn't love a good superhero themed party?!
One thing that does not change no matter what grade you teach, what school you are at, or how long you have been an educator is the mad rush that is preplanning. It is usually met with extreme excitement mixed with fear, stress, and the desire to perfect your classroom for your students. (A wise woman I know said that the day you are no longer scared/nervous for the first day of school is the day you should retire. That nervous feeling we get is what drives us to be the best version of ourselves to help our students. So be nervous and excited! It's normal!) Our teachers during preplanning were feeling all of this in addition to being met with meetings, new district/school initiatives, and we have a lot of teachers who feed on the desire to do well. While I would have loved to have a professional development session during preplanning to explain all the goals and plans I have for the library this year, I thought it best that this year should include something straight and to the point. I had high hopes of having a model lesson where teachers would complete a Breakout EDU session in which they learned about the new stations setup in the library as well as our new online resources (like PebbleGo Next, the new Destiny Discover Collections, and Flipgrid), but this needed to be something teachers could read at their leisure and contact me when they are ready to collaborate. So I created a SMORE and plan to start PD in September collaborating with our awesome new instructional technology teacher, Mrs. Jackson.
It's important when establishing and maintaining a good rapport with teachers that we do not overwhelm them and instead try to make their lives easier. Yes, all the technology and resource tools I want to share will make their lives easier, but it can also take awhile to learn them and how to incorporate them effectively into the classroom. Librarians are experts in many areas, but one thing I struggle with is reigning in my excitement for sharing ideas and new tools. While it's great to be super excited, it's easy for me to forget how stressed teachers can be with the million things on their plates and how some may be uncomfortable with any amount of change. For example, our 2nd grade teachers are learning Guided Reading and are trying to start the Guided Reading program for the first time. If I come into their planning to try to introduce Flipgrid, it's going to be a hard sell. However, I am developing ways to incorporate our new tools in ways that model how they can be used. Why not start a Flipgrid topic on Guided Reading and have teachers share updates of how implementation is going through the topic? All this to say, as librarians we have to be supportive, understanding, and innovative in how we approach our students and our staff. I'm looking forward to sitting down with our new ITT to develop a PD plan for this school year that is less stressful for teachers but also fun and informative!
When advocating for our libraries and our profession, we can't forget our administrative team! Doesn't it always seem like the only time the higher ups visit is that one 10 minute period during the day where it's quiet and there are no kids? It's busy all day long but it's that one time they come in that it feels like a ghost town. To counteract that, I take a ton of pictures, make sure I keep a running journal of activities, lessons, and more to help advocate for our library. I have also ordered the advocacy toolkit from AASL! It includes brochures geared towards administration, teachers, and parents about the ways libraries are transforming teaching and learning. For my librarian friends who have not bought it, you should! It's completely free (just pay shipping). Get it here.
Feel free to use and update for your own library!
Last year was my first as an elementary school library media specialist after spending my long career in middle school as an ELA/SS teacher turned middle school library media specialist. And it's not just elementary. It's just 2nd and 3rd grade. We have 750 students and I was just trying to keep my head above water while learning the new district, new kids, new grade level, teaching technology classes, and trying to renovate our library to a more future ready library. I had so many ideas and activities I wanted to try last year, but so many were put the wayside as I tried to survive.
Not this year! One of the biggest things I regret last year was not putting more of an effort into library orientation. Yes, I was hired two weeks before my start date, but that is the FIRST time our kiddos are exposed to the wonders of our library, to me, to reading at school...So this year, I wanted to go big or go home. As a total nerd, I have loved seeing how Pokemon has been included into the classroom. What better way to get our 2nd and 3rd graders excited than using what they like and are excited about to get them excited about learning?! I came across the idea to use a Pokemon scavenger hunt from The Daring Librarian (another hero of mine). She is amazing and showed how she used it in the library, shared her resources, and gave some ideas on how to tweak it to fit our students. I used her template, changed some things around, and although I wish our iPads had been here in time to use the augmented reality aspect of it, it was a total hit!
I started orientation off the way we should always start a library lesson-with a new read! This summer I came across If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't by Elise Parsley. It's so cute and funny, but also touches on important themes I am focusing on in our library this year like using our imagination (the tinker station) and helping on another (ties into our PBIS initiative for the year with #TheWildcatWay). The kiddos giggled and we were able to put some context to how we should interact within the library. This was perfect for our new 2nd graders, but I am still looking for the perfect 3rd grade read for the beginning of the year...So any suggestions are welcome! Afterwards, I talked our library policies and expectations for the school year. (Check out the Prezi here). Then, we started the PokemonGo Scavenger Hunt with our 3rd graders (2nd grade ended up taking much longer on learning how to check in and out our books). The first ones to find all the Pokemon won a cool prize from the "B" box! Lastly, the kiddos were able to check out their first books of the year. They loved how the books were moved into genres (although I am looking forward to more lessons throughout the year on what genres are and how we can use them), loved the new chill & read zone, and it was fun for me to talk about books with students and teachers again!
There's nothing like walking into Target and seeing all the new and colorful back-to-school supplies to remind you of all the work you said you would work on over the summer but never actually did. Oops. I'll chop this summer's lack of productiveness on working with counselors at our local YMCA summer camp and finishing my specialist degree.
While I did not complete my summer to-do list, I was productive in some other areas! I have been looking into the Future Ready Librarians framework, developing goals for the year, and falling more in love with Flipgrid! I was participating in #notatISTE (I will see you again one day), when I came across Flipgrid's new certification process and the awesome badges they have. Flipgrid was a huge hit when I used it last year with our MakerSpace but I did not use it as regularly as I would have liked. My July was spent working on my certification for Flipgrid and thinking of new ways I can use it in our library. #FlipridFever is their live Twitter chats and it's offered a plethora of ideas and people to collaborate with so I am really looking forward to using it more this year!
I also mentioned I have been working on my goals for this school year. Flipgrid use is just one goal I have for our library. There is a Facebook group for Future Ready Librarians hosted by my hero, Shannon McClintock Miller, that I have been getting to know and participate in over the summer. Shannon facilitated talks (FB posts) on each of the framework ideas and shared a wonderful template for 2017-2018 goals. I appreciated the time to focus on developing goals and ideas for this year as well as being able to discuss them with other like-minded librarians across the states. It's so important to find a tribe of your own who uplifts you, challenges you, and helps make you better. I have definitely found that in this group. Check out my goals below!
So friends, here is to a new, AMAZING year!
Full disclosure as this is my first blog post: I have attempted two different blogs in the past (my middle school librarian days and last year) but I think this is the one that will stick. I look forward to reflecting on our year, our activities, and delving into the Future Ready Librarian framework this year!
School Librarian Advocating for Student Voice in Metro Atlanta