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Flash Freebie! Makerspace Prompt Task Cards October 6, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Makerspace!.
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When starting a makerspace, it’s sometimes helpful to start students off with some project ideas to get their creative juices flowing.  Many students are so used to finding one “right” solution to a problem.  Teaching students that some problems have many solutions and that finding those solutions might take some time…well, that’s a mindset and habit that often requires practice.

That’s where makerspace prompts can be used.  The awesome Gary Stager recommends that prompts will ideally come from students’ curiosity, discoveries, exploration, and wonderings.  He says if a teacher must design a prompt or challenge the prompt should keep these tips in mind:

1. Brevity. The best prompts fit on a Post-It! Note. They are clear, concise, and self-evident.

2. Ambiguity. The learner should be free to satisfy the prompt in their own voice, perhaps even employing strategies you never imagined.

3. Immunity to assessment…Students will want to do the best job possible when they care about their work and know that you put them ahead of a grade. If students are collaborating and regularly engaged in peer review or editing, then the judgment of an adult is really unnecessary.

Quoted from: Stager, G. S. (2012, June). A good prompt is worth 1,000 words. Retrieved from http://stager.tv/blog/?p=2779.

There are many ideas on Pinterest and social media for STEM and makerspace challenges/prompts, and I made a set of task cards based on some of them to jump-start students’ imaginations.  As part of a flash freebie promotion on Facebook, my Makerspace Project Prompt Task Cards & Materials List is FREE in my TeachersPayTeachers Store for this week only!

It was Mrs J in the Library with a #TaskCard #FlashFreebie! http://bit.ly/1WA7dD7

Posted by Teachers Pay Teachers on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grab it while you can, and try it out!  Also, if you have more prompt or challenge ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

TL Blogging Challenge #16 – Text Wrapping Matters June 18, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Tech Tips.
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TL Blogging Challenge #16 – Share a tech tip for your fellow teachers or librarians.  How do you use this tech tip?  How does it simplify your life?

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Word when making my TpT products and teaching resources.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cloud-based tools like Google Drive, but if I’m going to share my work with others, then I want it to work for any teacher or librarian, regardless of how tech savvy he or she is.  And I don’t think it’s too big of an assumption to say that every teacher knows how to use Microsoft Word (or Pages or Open Office Writer or some kind of word-processing program).

The problem with Microsoft Word is that making images and graphics look nice and *stay put* is a pain.  So I discovered a simple trick to make any image stay where you want it.  Just set the “text wrapping” to “In Front of Text” OR if it’s a digital paper, background, or border, set it to “Behind Text.”


Using “In Front of Text” and “Behind Text” text wrapping makes it easier to add graphics to Word documents.

You can even set the Microsoft Word program to automatically use “in front” or “behind” wrapping when you add an image, but that’s really up to you.  To set up the default text wrapping, go to:
File –> Options –> Advanced –> Scroll down to the Copy-Paste defaults.

The only caveat for using this trick is that by placing images in front of text, you may have to adjust your margins for a specific part of your text.  Just highlight the text you want to pull from under the image, then move the page margins on the ruler at the top.  For me, however, this is easier than adjusting a clipart graphic one pixel at a time, then cursing the computer when the movement shoves all of my text across the page.

Do you have a go-to program or tool that you are most comfortable with when you make teaching resources?  Share it in the comments!

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

The Commuter’s Guide to Library Conferences May 1, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, PSLA.
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PSLA 2014 Logo The Pennsylvania School Librarian Association (or PSLA) Annual Conference starts today, and like most years, I chose to save money by commuting to Hershey instead of renting a hotel room.  The PSLA Conference Committee already published an excellent conference tips post for attendees, all of which are excellent!  Commuting to a conference, however, has its own challenges, so here are my tips for others who live within driving distance:

1. Travel light! – I limit myself to my laptop bag and *maybe* a small purse.

Inside my laptop bag, I have: my 17″ laptop (wish it were smaller) and power cord; a small Belkin power strip/surge protector/USB charger recommended by the Daring Librarian; a USB charging cord for my phone/tablet; the PSLA-provided notebook

My purse contains more personal things: my wallet, PSLA badge, organic chai tea bags (because I’m a chai snob), phone, keys, business cards, and wrist brace.

It all packs up very nicely, and sometimes I even get it all into my laptop bag.  No matter what you carry though, keep it minimal.  Schleping it all across a convention center and around exhibits is tiring enough without a suitcase worth of gear.

2. Wear comfy clothes and shoes – Unless I’m presenting, I’m in jeans, a nice-ish top, and sneakers.  Dressing casually might seem unprofessional to some, but as an attendee, I don’t really have anything to prove or anyone to impress.  When I present on the PSLA Ereader and Ebooks Panel, I just swap the jeans for khaki pants.

3. Go paperless, if at all possible. –  I survive with just conference Wi-Fi and downloads from the PSLA Conference wiki.  I have a simple Word document for my notes, and if a handout isn’t editable, I just use Zamzar.com to convert it to a Word document.

4. Focus on learning first, then worry about blogging/tweeting/social networking – The official hashtag is #psla14 this year, but I find I don’t have much time for tweeting or blogging when my brain is filled with so many new ideas in the short span of 3 days.  Friday is especially rigorous, so I just concentrate on learning and taking notes.  My brain absorbs like a sponge, and after a few days of processing, I’m finally ready to contribute to the library social media world.  Maybe others can listen, tweet, and think at the same time, but it just doesn’t work for me.

5. Get yourself to the Unconference. – I know it’s late, and I for one will be physically and mentally exhausted by that point, but it’s worth it.  Despite spending 13+ hours learning, thinking, writing, walking, and networking, it’s still worth it.

Doctor Who and the Power of Stories April 14, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Fun Stuff, Reflections.
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Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for Doctor Who seasons 4 and 7. I take no responsibility for disappointed fans who read past this line.  😀

The Doctor Who Christmas special (that I just got around to watching 3 weeks ago) didn’t just make me cry, it upset me for days!  Literally, for a week afterwards, whenever I thought of the bow tie dropping to the TARDIS floor or Amy Pond saying “good night,” my eyes welled up with tears.  Even as I’m writing now, I’m fighting back the emotion in my throat.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m addicted to all things Doctor Who, but such a strong reaction got me thinking.

Why does a character dying/regenerating on a TV show (albeit a stellar one) affect me so much?  Why do I care?  I felt silly as I was watching and sobbing, but I was equally curious and a bit concerned about my reaction.


Direct-to-Brain Downloads? No thanks, I prefer the smell of books. Quote from Doctor Who, Season 4: Silence in the Library. Image from Emily at Novel Ideas

Then it dawned on me that Doctor Who isn’t JUST a sci-fi show about a quirky time-traveler who saves humanity over and over.  It’s also an amazingly well-written story that sucks you in like a black hole.  It’s just as absorbing as the best books I’ve read.  Steven Moffat and the other contributing writers like Newbery author Neil Gaiman, are nothing short of brilliant in my opinion.  His storytelling and creativity and ideas are what makes keeps the Doctor Who fandom vibrant and alive.

After a couple days’ reflection, I also realized that this analogy exactly illustrates my thoughts on the hackneyed discussion of print vs. eBook in education and wider society.  I am *SO TIRED* of having this conversation with community members, administrators, and other school librarians.  Just because eBooks exist doesn’t make them a one-size-fits-all format for any content.  It’s not about how we read or what “thing” we use to read or the number of multimedia features in a book/eBook/iBook.

It’s about excellent stories.  It always has been, and I believe it will continue to be all about the stories.  As my husband (a HUGE graphic novel fan) so beautifully summed it up:

 Anyone who discredits a format, underestimates it.

Some stories are best told in print, some in eBook, some with interactive features, some as audiobooks, some as graphic novels, and some as movies, plays, podcasts, or even British sci-fi TV series.  The format only matters if it’s limiting or liberating to the story being told, which can lead to exciting, endless possibilities for storytelling.  That fact tells me that libraries and librarians aren’t going anywhere.  No matter what you call us or how our role inevitably changes, we are, at our core, lovers and sharers of stories in all formats, genres, and devices.

TL Blogging Challenge #7 – The Bells of Mrs. J March 16, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Library Space, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #7 – Share a Library Management Tip

I’m blessed to have a separate room for an office, and it’s nice to sometimes zone out and work for an extended period time.  Of course in this case, “extended” really means “any length of time over 30 minutes or my planning period.”  I still want the library to appear open,though, even when I’m not sitting at the circulation desk.

Here’s my solution:


Even the little ones who can’t read the entire sign just can’t help but tap the bell.  It’s like a siren call for their hands.  😀  So whether I’m in my office typing emails or weeding books on the floor and hidden from view, I can both focus on what I’m doing and help my students when needed.

So how do other elementary librarians make it work?  Do all the other library management tasks get done after hours, or do you have a trick to share about how to squeeze them in between classes?  Feel free to share in the comments!

P.S. – If you get a the title reference, you get a virtual chocolate chip cookie with ice cream!  🙂

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