Friday, March 28, 2014

Mystery Book Shelf Contest Hits Harding IC

Prior to spring break (spring break was March 3-7), I took some time to self-reflect on how library check-out is going this school year.  I reflected on the positives, the negatives, what am I doing to promote a positive library environment, what do I need to do to continue to support and foster a love for reading , and so on.

This is the first year I am assigned to serve as a teacher-librarian in one building!  This means I have the opportunity to not only teach library skills classes, but also to provide instruction and guidance during scheduled fifteen minute checkouts.  In my six years as a teacher-librarian, I have always wanted to be a part of check-outs, but couldn't due to being shared between two elementary buildings and focus solely on teaching library skills classes and performing other library management-related duties and tasks.  Now I am finally a part of checkouts, and I LOVE it!  It is a perfect time to promote and foster a love for reading, building positive teacher-student relationships, and get to know students on a more "casual" side.

While I was teaching library skills in one building, my paraprofessional would be in the other building doing check-outs and other library-related tasks.  My paraprofessional was beyond amazing and has a deep love for books, so I knew students were in good hands with her for checkouts.  She helped carry out my envision for check-out time to be a pleasant, warm, welcoming, and inviting school library!

I miss Kathy very much!

While I miss Kathy, I have to admit that I LOVE check-outs!  It is my chance to be a "book nerd!"  I can talk about books, promote books, recommend books, and share in each student's excitement over the books he/she checks out.

Obviously, I have painted a positive picture of library check-out.  Unfortunately, when I was self-reflecting, prior to spring break, I pondered a negative situation, one that was making me cranky and crabby at the end of each check-out day.  I was working so hard to keep the school library neat, orderly, and in top shape, but students were trashing the library, specifically the book shelves area.  Each time students would come to library check-out, I felt like a broken record with reminding them to take care of the books, use shelf markers, take care of the book shelves, put books back where they belong, and so on!  I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why have I worked so hard to re-arrange an entire library, weed out books, re-shelve books to become more elementary library user-friendly, and more, but students are trashing the library and not sharing in the same pride I have for our school library?!"

So, this sparked me to focus solely on how to fix this negative situation and reflect more.  I asked my principal and a few colleagues for feedback on how library check-out is going and the situation regarding book care and overall library shelf care.  Based on feedback, I came up with solutions to the problem.  Then I asked my principal and a few colleagues for input on the solutions I came up with based upon previous conversations.  Once I gained their opinions and input, I then decided to implement a new system that would take the crabbiness and crankiness out of me, and place responsibility and pride back on the students.

It took last cycle (March 17-20) and this cycle (March 21-28) to implement a two-part system that puts responsibility on students to take better care of the books, book shelves, and the overall appearance of the school library.

Last cycle, immediately following spring break, I requested two students from each class to make a final "walk-through" at the end of each checkout.  Two students are selected based upon the classroom's "star of the day," "star of the week," "line leader of the day," "helper of the day," etc..  If a classroom doesn't have job roles, then I ask the teacher to select two students "on the spot."  While I informed the class that it still is everyone's job to make sure they take care of the library, books, and overall appearance, the two students will make a final walk-through to make sure the class were responsible.  Two cycles have now passed (last cycle and this cycle), and I am impressed with how serious students are taking the job.  It is quite pleasing, and even entertaining, to watch students get picky, even pickier than I would be, about certain things.

This cycle, I implemented a "mystery book shelf contest."  Originally, I had planned on assigned each class a designated book shelf to take care of, but thanks to Mr. Ben Feight, he suggested a "mystery book shelf."  Prior to each class check-out, I select a book shelf to check it at the end of class.  No one, except me, knows what book shelf I choose.  This makes it even more fun, as students have to work hard at taking care of ALL the book shelves, instead of one.  If the "mystery book shelf" meets my expectations, then I reward the class with a sticker on a class poster.  I admit that at the time of this blog poit, I haven't decided how the winner will be declared, based upon the stickers, or what prize will be rewarded.  Thankfully, the students haven't asked about that part, as the "mystery" part of this is what is motivating to them now.

Already, I love how this two-part system is working to improve book care, book shelves, and the overall appearance of the library!  In just two cycles, I have already noticed that I am not as crabby or cranky at the end of check-out days!  I hope students are excited and taking more joy in sharing responsibilities for taking care of the library!  After all, I want them to come to be excited to come to the library and take pride in it!  I know I am proud of the library!

Stay tuned for more results on how students and I working together to keep the school library clean and a place we all love to visit and be proud of.

Let the Voting Begin for the 2013-2014 FAVORITE Iowa Goldfinch Book at Harding Elementary!

This is it, the final week to read as many 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch nominee books as possible, before the students vote!  Voting deadline is March 31.  A few days ago I wrote two blog posts about reading aloud two books into one library skills class period (click here and click here to read).  While I am squeezing out 2 read alouds, students are scrambling to check out Iowa Goldfinch nominees books during library check-out time!

So, how do students vote?

While it is perfectly fine to have students vote on a piece of paper, and is probably easier, I like to add a "technological spin" to the voting process for the Iowa Goldfinch award!  Last year it was a success to use Google Forms for voting, so this year I decided to stick with the same process!

After the final read aloud of Iowa Goldfinch nominees, I show students how to access their assigned class' Google Form.

Students are instructed to go to the Harding Student Portal!

Next, students are instructed to click on my website "knOWLedge is a Hoot!"

By the way, since the above picture was taken (earlier this week).   Lately, I have spent time creating a new look to my website!  It now looks like this...
Website Link

On my website, students click on the tab titled "Iowa Goldfinch Award."

Then students need to click on the link that indicates "vote."  The vote link allows students to access a Symbaloo webmix of Google Forms.

Students click on their assigned class.

Once students, access his/her assigned class, the students arrive at this form.

At the end of class, students then ask me how did their particular class vote?!  So, I show their class results up on the LCD projector.  Here are examples of how each class voted! :)

2nd Grade Class

1st Grade Class

Kindergarten Class

  • Stay tuned for the overall voting results from Harding Elementary!  I will share Harding's overall results sometime next week!

  • Stay tuned after April 14 for the official 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Award Winner (will be announced at Iowa Association School Library Conference April 13-14, 2014)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nothing Makes Me Happier than Helping Make Colleagues' Lives Easier, Particularly with EasyBib

All of these quotes definitely hold true!  I can especially relate and make personal connections to these quotes, as I am surrounded by colleagues, myself included, who are constantly learning from graduate level classes, professional readings (books, journal articles, case studies, research, etc.), blogs, meetings, professional development, trainings, webinars, and so much more!  I know quite a few colleagues who are currently continuing to further their education, not solely as a requirement to renew a teacher's license, or for pay reasons (although it is a bonus incentive great to have), but to continue to grow, improve his/her teaching, be inspired, to benefit students, to support his/her individual professional growth plan, and so much more!

After this spring semester, I am two classes away from completing my master's degree in library media education from Minnesota State University Mankato.  I have always wanted to earn my master's degree for many valid reasons.  One reason is to benefit both staff and students!  I have discovered that, while I've always enjoyed school and being a learner, my college years and recent graduate classes have shown me that I really LOVE to learn!  My love for learning has evolved, and I am more eager than ever to continue to learn and be inspired!  I find myself constantly on the lookout for the latest, greatest professional readings to learn more, particularly, lately, educational technology-related professional readings.  So, I can completely relate to the quotes shared above.

The above leads me to the main purpose of this blog post...

My colleagues who are currently taking classes, and are especially consumed in currently writing research papers, are the inspiration behind this blog post.  This blog post is especially inspired by my colleague, and an amazing friend, Mrs. Betsy Kirby, Harding Elementary K-4 music teacher and Lincoln Intermediate Choir Teacher.  She is currently taking a class that involves research, gathering resources, and citing references in APA style.  Last week she expressed frustration in citing references in APA style and her professor's feedback.  I tried my best to help her, but not feeling the utmost confident in my reference citing abilities, I referred Mrs. Kirby to a mutual friend, who happens to have a master's degree in English and LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to edit research papers and references!  I've called upon this mutual friend for help in my library media education graduate classes, and not only has she helped me earn "A's" on my research papers, but, more importantly, she has taught me so much about properly citing works  While Mrs. Kirby, has gained a lot of valuable help from our mutual friend, I still felt like I could be more helpful.

This led me to Easy Bib.

Thanks to the incredible Shannon McClintock Miller, K-12 teacher-librarian and tech integrationist at Van Meter Community School District, I have known about Easy Bib for at least two years.  I admit that I haven't used Easy Bib's website and app to cite references in past research papers, as I have always had valuable assistance and help from my friend (mentioned above)!

Why did I decide to finally try out Easy Bib?  Besides wanting to help my friend, this week I came across a particular article titled "How to Create a Bibliography in Google Docs" (click here for this article) by Richard Byrne (author of Free Technology for Teachers Blog), which sparked a desire to finally try Easy Bib. Today, I finally took some time to try Easy Bib, particularly how to use Easy-Bib as an "add-on" in Google Docs!  Despite knowing Easy Bib is an AMAZING resource, I can now definitely back up my personal knowledge with true actions and words in that Easy Bib is more than amazing, it is INCREDIBLE!  It definitely makes citing references easier, and tolerable!  I definitely plan on using Easy Bib when I take my research methods and thesis classes this summer!

I was ecstatic to learn how to use Easy Bib in Google Docs!  Despite knowing that my friend, Mrs. Kirby, already has gained a ton of valuable help from our mutual friend, I couldn't resist sharing about Easy Bib in Google Docs with her.  So, I went to her music room to show her to how to "add-on" Easy Bib in Google Doc.  We tried it out together, by having Mrs. Kirby enter professional books and journal articles in the search engine text box.  The minute it cited it APA style, we were hugging each other with joy.  I felt completely self-fulfilled now that I helped out Mrs. Kirby!  I loved it when she said, "I think this made my entire day, even week!"  Aww!  :)

Well, after her positive reaction to Easy Bib as an "add-on" in Google Docs, I immediately went to seek other colleagues to share in my excitement of this amazing tool!  Thankfully the 4th grade teaching team is compromised of eager-to-learn educators and technology users!  It especially helps that one of the 4th grade teachers, Mr. Ben Feight, is working with me on our professional growth plan in the area of technology!  After showing them Easy Bib, as an "add-on" in Google Docs, they, too, were excited about this!  So, Mr. Feight and I decided this would be worthy to share with the rest of our colleagues at Harding Elementary, as we know of quite a few who are currently taking classes.  Let's just say this sparked a fire of enthusiasm that hopefully will continue to spread to others!

Until next time, I highly recommend checking out Richard Byrne's article on "How to Create a Bibliography in Google Docs!"

Memoirs of a Goldfish is a Splish-Splashin' Hit

Yesterday I blogged about students in grades K-2 enjoying two read alouds of Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees Press Here by Herve Tullet and Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian.  You can read yesterday's blog post by clicking here.  Yesterday's blog post included pictures of students in kindergarten and first grades enjoying Press Here.  It is such a fun book to read aloud to students!

Today I want to share pictures of students enjoying Memoirs of a Goldfish!  While I read aloud the book, a kindergarten student took the pictures, which explains some pictures are blurry!  Nonetheless, ENJOY! :)

Stay tuned for more pictures!

Stay tuned for a blog post on the final voting for the 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Press Here and Memoirs of a Goldfish Wrap Up Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee Read Alouds in IC Skills

In previous blog posts, I have promoted Iowa Goldfinch Award books with enthusiasm and passion!  I truly love the Iowa Goldfinch Award and all the opportunities it creates for students and me!

The list of 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees is one phenomenal list!  Each year during the month of February, the following year's Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominee list is announced!  Students are more than welcome and highly encouraged to read these amazing books over the summer and into the following school year!  They are fully aware that I will begin an "official" unit in January that lasts until the last week in March, right before the voting deadline.

I have now taught two "official" units of the Iowa Goldfinch Book Award.  And, I LOVE how each year gets better and better!  I've seen the 2014-2015 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees, and while I have enjoyed last year's list and this year's list, I am beyond giddy over next year's list!

In my two years of reading aloud Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees, it always seems "do-able" to read aloud the approximately 20-25 books from January to March.  Unfortunately, there isn't enough time to read aloud the entire list.  Late starts, snow days, and days I am gone due to various reasons (sick children, I'm sick, professional development meetings, etc.), are some of the challenges I have faced each year.  This year was particularly challenging with more snow days/cold days than usual!

While there are opportunities for students to check-out (both public library and school library) and read the books on their own time, I think students prefer to hear the more "theatrical" or "dramatic" version from me!

The deadline to enter votes for the favorite 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award is March 31, 2014.  And, now we are down to the final wire!  Due to our school's cycle schedule, this cycle (March 21-March 28) is the final cycle to read aloud and vote!

Starting, Friday, March 21, students and I are enjoying our final read alouds of the 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees, during IC Skills!  Prior to Friday, when I looked over the books we have not read yet, I had a hard time selecting the final two books I would read aloud before our final vote!  Oh my gosh, I am so happy I chose to read aloud Press Here by Herve Tullett and Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian!  There is humor, laughter, and delight wrapped up into these fun books!

Here are some pictures from Friday's read aloud of Press Here.

Mrs. Lauffer's Kindergarten Class

Here are some pictures of Friday's read aloud of Press Here with 1st graders from Mrs. Hobart's and Mrs. Kyle's class.

I had activities planned for Press Here and Memoirs of a Goldfish, but due to time and one of my main goals to expose the students to as many 2013-14 Iowa Goldfinch nominees as possible, I did not get to complete the activities.  A huge shout-out THANK YOU to my teacher-librarian friends Sandi Ellis and Melissa White for helping co-plan these activities!

For Press Here, you can click on this link for ideas and activities to support the book.  Of course, I think these activities would also be PERFECT for International Dot Day (held on September 15ish).

The perfect technology tool to support Press Here is Press Here: The App !

For Memoirs of a Goldfish, you can click on this link to find the activity to support this fun book!  Of course, there is always a way convert it into a technological activity!

There is an app for Memoirs of a Goldfish.  School Library Journal wrote about it in an article on September 19, 2011.  You can find that article by clicking here.  At the time of this blog post, I searched for the app and iTunes store indicates it is currently not available in the US.  For what it is worth, I thought I would mention it since I tried searching for an app to support such a fun book!

While I would have loved to have students complete the activities to support the read alouds, due to the time deadline to vote, I figured it was better to read aloud the two books than to complete the activities.  Of course, I plan on saving these activities to use either at the end of the school year or even for next school year!

While the two books, Press Here and Memoirs of a Goldfish, wrap up our final 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award nominees read alouds during IC Skills, I plan on reading other books from the list in the next few weeks and integrate into our upcoming new library skills units in grades K-2.

These are the following books I definitely want to read and integrate into upcoming new units in grades K-2.  By the way, they are shared and will be read in no particular order.

Stay tuned for more pictures from other classes while they enjoy Press Here and Memoirs of a Goldfish!

Stay tuned for how students voted for the 2013-2014 Iowa Goldfinch Award!