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A Freebie for Your Patience May 7, 2016

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections.
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I know it’s been over 5 months since my last post, and well…life got in the way.  In the past few months, my husband and I became (very happily) pregnant, and it seems like everything just went crazy from there.  I know this will probably come as no surprise to the parents reading this, but things just…change.  There’s a gradual, but very noticeable, shift that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t have the same drive to blog, or tweet, or create, or innovate.  To be fair, my body’s a little busy doing plenty of creating, however, I don’t feel the same ambitious desire to do anything innovative or new in my library.  It’s disconcerting, but I’m emotionally and professionally fine with it.  It’s been easier than I expected to just let it go.

Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe has an excellent blog post on how first-time fatherhood affects his professional life.  I read it last summer, and it came to mind again a couple of weeks ago.  It captures rather well how I’ve been feeling (except for the partner judging/shaming…my hubby has taken over all the cooking and most of the cleaning, so I blessedly can’t relate to that part).  I admire his ability and willingness to write about how his personal and professional lives interact.  And I wish more librarians and educators would be so honest about the realities of the elusive work-life balance.

A Freebie for Your Patience: Independent Reading Library Center | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

So for my readers’ patience, here’s a freebie of one of my library centers that I’ve used for a couple of years.  A commonly used center is the “reading independently” or “book buddies reading” center, and some other versions are available from my teacher-librarian PLN.  I made my own version for two reasons:

  1. I color-coded my library centers based on my 3 types of centers: Research Skills, Reading & Language, and Makerspace.  I assigned the color red to all the Reading & Language centers, so I wanted my Independent Reading Center to be red.
  2. I wanted to add options for reading material to include magazines and ebooks, as well as whisper-reading to a beanbag buddy or “book buddy.”

So if you’d like to try my version of this popular center, click on the image below or on THIS LINK to download it.  The zip file download contains the center sign below in PDF and Microsoft Word file formats, and an editable lesson plan in Microsoft Word file.  The clipart is from Glitter Meets Glue Designs and Empty Jar Illustrations.

Thank you for staying tuned during my temporary hiatus.  Enjoy!

Independent Reading Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

What (Might) Work Wednesday: Back-to-School Edition September 30, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Reflections, What Worked.
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Welcome to a New School Year | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Welcome to a new school year!

School has been back in session for about a month in my area, and this year I’ve started a few new experiments/ideas that I’m hoping turn out well.  Only time will tell…

1. Five book/item checkouts with student- and parent-signed agreement
Last year I required the form before any checkouts, and for some students that was very limiting to their access and use of the library’s resources.  This year, if students don’t return their Library Use Agreement form, they still can check out 2 books, but no audiobooks or the wildly popular maker kits.

Using the form completion as an “upgrade” or extra privilege has been pretty effective in motivating both new and returning students, and I like that there is no barrier to checking out while still encouraging student responsibility and parent communication.

 

2. Library Facebook page in lieu of paper newsletters
While I did use a paper newsletter for the back-to-school newsletter, I planned ahead to include it in our school’s “packet pick-up” night so that parents received it with all of the other school forms.  I’m not sure if parents are actually reading it, but the majority of the agreement forms were returned.  I’m taking that as a good sign.

Our library Facebook page is what I’m using for my primary communication tool during the rest of the year.  I post library and reading advocacy articles, as well as book recommendations and upcoming events.  For more post ideas, check out my Library Website Social Media Pinterest board!

 

3. Research centers first, then free choice
Last year I required every student to complete 3 library “badges” in Research Skills, Reading Promotion, and Makerspace/Creation & Tech.  This year, I’m trying something a bit more progressive and constructivist.  When I introduce centers this fall, I will offer 6 research centers only at first.  Then after students earn their Research Skills badge, they can have free-choice of reading and makerspace centers.  They will be able to earn more badges, but the others won’t be required.  I think it will be more of a challenge for me to engage all students, but once a student finds their passion, I think their engagement and learning will be more authentic.

 

4. New Student Learning Objective (SLO) assessment format
Like many librarians and teachers across the nation, a percentage of my evaluation is based on “data.”  For music, gym, art, and library teachers like myself, 15% of my evaluation must be a student learning objective, or Kindergarten Library Assessment Quiz FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechSLO, that proves with data that I assessed students in a particular skill.

For kindergarten, I’m changing how I assess the parts of a book, author & illustrator roles, and fiction vs. nonfiction.  I made a FREE printable booklet that students can complete as an assessment of their knowledge.  I’m going to try having students complete one page per week until everyone is finished, including “extra practice” pages for students to make-up incorrectly completed pages.

So what are the new ideas or experiments that you are trying this year?

I’d love to hear them, and I hope we can inspire each other!

Reflections and Celebrations 2015 June 22, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Makerspace!, Reflections.
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End of the Year Reflections 2015 | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Every year as the school year winds down (or crashes, rather), I start thinking about what I want to change for next year.  Though I’ve made notes on my grade-level lesson plans all year long, it’s good to look back and remember not only what I want to change, but how far I’ve come since last school year.  After a long school year, some reflecting and celebrating never fails to reignite my passion for teaching, and I recommend the practice to any teacher-librarian or educator!

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Library Centers Tracking with QR Code Check-in March 29, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Building my PLN, or Professional Learning Network, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since I started teaching!  Being connected with fabulous educators through blogs and Twitter means I have an excellent network of colleagues and resources to inspire me to improve my instruction.  And last week, I experienced a wonderful, problem-solving PLN win!

The challenge:

I spent WAY too much time tracking which library centers students were at, and not enough time facilitating the learning that was happening.  I kept a record of student center choices on a Google spreadsheet, and I also stamped each student’s center tracking booklet so that they can visualize their learning.

Ideally, I recorded where each students was (that “all-important” data), AND had time to encourage/scaffold students who were struggling, re-direct students who were off-task, and challenge students who were coasting.  In reality, the data collection took almost every second of my time during the 25-ish minutes of library centers.  I still “checked in” with students when I stamped their booklets, but only for about 5 seconds.

The solution!

In the past year, I had read this blog post on QR codes for tracking library visits by Ms. O Reads Books, and her follow-up blog posts explaining how to do it  Then, I remembered this blog post by Vicki Davis about using every last instructional moment.  I wanted to use every minute as efficiently as possible, and cram as much (fun) learning as possible into a 40-minute library class.

Even though those two posts don’t seem to relate, I had a magical flash of inspiration and found my solution: Library Center Check-in with QR codes!

How it works:

Ms. O’s idea of using QR codes to “sign in” at the library has been floating around my brain for months.  It takes some tech tricks to set up, but basically, several Google forms collect their responses in a single spreadsheet.

So I made a different Google Form for each library center and color-coded them according to their category:

  • RED = Reading Promotion – Independent Reading, Destiny Online Book Review Writing, and PA Young Readers’ Choice Voting.
  • BLUE = Research Skills – Question of the Week, Independent Research Choices, and the Ladybugs Observation & Research.
  • GREEN = Creation &  Tech (aka our makerspace) – littleBits™, Nursery Rhyme Paper Circuits, Electric Sewing, Learning to Code, Goldie Blox™, and Puzzle Apps.

Library Centers Check-in and Tracking with Google Forms and QR Codes | Mrs. J in they Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Each form asks for the student’s name and teacher’s name.  Some forms have one additional question such as, “What are you working on today?” for the makerspace centers.  I tried to keep it very short, because one tablet is shared among several students. 

I created a QR code for each form, printed the codes on Avery QR stickers, and stuck the code onto the center signage with a large “Check in” sticker (printed on address labels/barcode labels).  The stickers hide some of the clipart on my center directions signs, but they are functional nonetheless.

I tried it with each class in grades 3-5, and it was a HUGE success!  I’m relying on students to report their center choice honestly, but I also have the “double-check” of the booklet stamps. I’m thrilled with the results because now I’m able to do more teaching/facilitating/scaffolding and less data collection during classes. 

As an added bonus, I showed one of our district tech coaches to get some feedback, and she liked the idea, too.  Yay for advocacy!!

Have you used QR codes in your library or classroom?  If so, please share your experience and any tech tricks you learned in the comments!

Freebie Friday! – Learning to Code Library Center March 6, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Makerspace!, Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
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Blog Freebies | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Happy Friday everyone!

After an insane week like this one, it’s always nice to end on a positive note and share a resource.  Starting with the next cycle of library classes, I’m expanding the Puzzle App Center to include another option — learning to code.

Admittedly, the official Hour of Code Week was in early December.  Our school participated, but I don’t believe the PR hype that learning to code is a required skill for 21st century life and employment.  Am I the only tech geek that thinks this way? 

Yes, it’s true that some students will discover that they really enjoy coding and/or that they are good at it.  Some might eventually want to make a career of programming.  For other students, learning to code is just one means of building creativity and problem-solving skills.  And it’s certainly not the only means to that end.

For still others, programming won’t be remotely interesting, and that’s okay too.  That’s why I think it’s so important that students have as many choices, opportunities, and experiences as possible when they are in elementary school.  Sometimes you have to try a lot of things before you find what you like, how you learn, and what you’re really good at.  After all, isn’t that one of education’s core purposes?

At the “Learning to Code” library center, students will have a choice to use the Scratch™ web-based block programming language, or the Scratch™ Jr. app, or the Lightbot™ app.  Scratch™ has long been recognized as an exemplary and accessible way for children (and adults) to learn and write programs.  Students can create videos, stories, games, and much more within the Scratch™ programming environment, and save their work from week to week by creating an account.

More recently in late 2014, the FREE Scratch™ Jr. iPad app was released, and the Android app is due to be released by the end of March for devices running Android KitKat (4.4) and up.  Tablets running Android JellyBean (4.3) will be compatible later in 2015.  I know I’m “counting my chickens before they hatch” by starting the center before the Scratch™ Jr. app is released, but after looking at the website FAQ, I’m confident they’ll deliver. (UPDATE 4/4/2015 – The Android app is now available, and running on our Nexus tablets!)

Finally, the Hour of Code 2014 version of the Lightbot™ app is FREE for Apple and Android devices.  I haven’t tried the either of the paid versions yet, but once students finish all of the Lightbot challenges, then I’ll probably buy one or both.

If you’d like to try out the Learning to Code center in your library, makerspace, or classroom, you can download the center signs by clicking the image below, or by right-clicking on the image and selecting “Save Link As.”  The Word document download is editable, but the clipart is flattened to respect the designer, Sonya DeHart Design.

Learning to Code Library Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

I’d love to hear what you think of the center in the comments!  Do you teach computer programming and/or coding skills in your curriculum?  What resources and tools do you use?

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