Lesson in Library Organization

Library Survey (2014-15):  "What was your least favorite part of library this year?" 

Overwhelming answer:  Reviewing at the beginning of the year. 

Ouch! Well, it has to be done because I get asked way too often how to find a book in the library by students who should know already.  Wait a minute. That can only mean that my lessons are boring and not getting through to them. That is definitely a problem! 

Our school library has some amazing resources and more are added every year. Still, it can be hard to find what you want when you don't know how the library is organized. It's even harder when students misshelve items while browsing because they don't understand the library has an organizational scheme. In fact, understanding how information is (or can be) organized is a powerful research and learning tool. So, it's critical that I find a way to make this lesson interesting enough to stick with them.

Everyone in kindergarten through 6th grade gets an overview of the zones of the library. I made this video a few years ago:

This gives students an understanding of our five basic zones: Easy, Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, and Reference. You can be a better browser for books with just this basic level of understanding. I hear students singing this song to themselves throughout the year, so I know it's basic message is getting through.

All students check their own books into the library and are responsible for putting them on the Check-In Cart based on the zone of the library where they belong. They need to match the call number on the spine to the bucket labels.


This has been a problem. Some get it, but way too many do not. To make it clearer and hopefully more fun this year, we are using these new "books" I created for each table. Each set has sample books from each of our zones, so that students can practice sorting them into categories. Later, we'll use all 4 sets to talk about shelf order. 

Library "books" made from individual sized cereal boxes.

Students of all ages like an element of play to their learning. This activity should meet the criteria. Plus, I can pull it out for anyone who is struggling with it throughout the year. The four sets fit inside a large book box that I can keep in my back office for easy access.

The Catalog
Everyone likes to search the catalog, but not everyone is skilled at finding the call number and using it to get to the book on the shelf. This one takes some practice. I have college kids at my part-time job that still struggle with it. 

This week, third through sixth graders will also learn how to use the library catalog to find information about books in the library. I'm using this Library Catalog Scavenger Hunt. Working in teams of two there will be some friendly competition to keep everyone on track!

We'll finish it all off with a couple of rounds of Kahoot. I have a couple of good games stored to review the Zones of the Library and catalog searches. 

We have to cover the basics, but it doesn't have to be boring!

5 Reasons to Apply for Grants

1) You need the money.  Let's get the obvious one out of the way first.  Education funding seems to be dwindling just when the technology opportunities and cost of print materials are skyrocketing.  If you find yourself in a school system with limited local or state support, your students need you more than ever.  By all means, continue to make the case to restore public funding for your schools, but don't wait for that to come through. The resources your students need run from low cost to only for the wealthy. Pick one thing you can do to improve your students' learning, identify the cost, and don't let the price stand in your way of delivering.  

2) Clarify your goals. The grant application process will force you to take your idea from a dream to a goal with plans to accomplish it. You cannot overestimate the value in that.  Having actionable steps to make your dream come to life is empowering in itself.  You may even discover there are ways to break it down into small enough projects to get it funded with existing resources.  

3) Success is Contagious. Once you receive your first grant and start showing the positive impact, others will want to support you. It's easier to promote your students' success through the grant's public relations. Even if it doesn't lead to direct increased funding of your program, it could help you make connections to other teachers and/or community members that will help you move forward with your learning goals.  That's the most important thing anyway.

4) Researching grants leads to inspiring ideas.  Teachers would apply for more grants, if they could just find the time.  After all there are only 24 hours in a day and only so many hours that you can devote to the work.  Every hour you spend working on a grant is one less hour that you have with your family or friends, or one less hour working on your classroom.  But, it's really not that simple.  As you research grants, you will learn about other teacher's inspired ideas to improve learning.  In many cases, this will lead to improvements in your practice even if you don't get a grant to support your implementation in the same way. That is definitely time well spent.

5) It's not as hard as you think. You've written -not to mention taught and read - countless persuasive papers in your career as a student and teacher.  That's a good place to start.  There are people at your school and district that are ready to help you gather the demographic, financial, and assessment data you need. (Bonus: another connection for you if you haven't already met these people). There are communities online that serve as portals to grants and grantwriting to make the search and the process less cumbersome.  My favorite : getedfunding.com and the EdWeb.net community groups.

Grant Opprtunities that are available to every K-12 teacher

Get Your PD On-Line

Oh, how I love to attend educational conferences.  From the relaxed, grassroots EdCamps to the the frenetic learning bonanza of ISTE, the thrill of learning and connecting are hard to beat.  It's not always possible to attend as cost, time, and schedule conflicts interfere with my best effort to be everywhere that I want or need to be.  That's why I am so grateful for online PD.  

My Top 10 Ways to Learn Online

1) EdWeb.net - The online PD clearinghouse in my book and it is FREE!  First, you need to join edWeb. Then, search for and join communities for the most access to learning. Joining groups is not required, but will give you access to the webinar archives so that you can watch them later.  Webinars are posted along with the presentation materials and a transcript of the live chat within a few days of the live webinar.  Whether you watch live or a recording later, you can get a certificate for continuing ed credit.  Some people have complained about the frequency of emails, but you can change this in the settings.    There are hundreds of communities with varying levels of activity. 

2) Simple K12 - This site is similar to EdWeb, but it's not free to access all of the sessions.  They do have some free sessions offered for live viewing, but you need a subscription to watch archived webinars.

3) Twitter - This is a must have in your professional learning network (PLN) toolkit. You don't have to tweet, but you do need a Twitter account.  You can follow teachers, librarians, administrators, ed tech gurus, educational companies, and others to expand and elevate your thinking.  I follow over 350 Twitter accounts right now, which can be hard for me to manage.  So, I create lists and add people to those groups based on categories.  For example, I never want to miss what my district and area folks are tweeting about, so I have them all in a list.  I have another list for my library connections.  That way, when I don't have time to make it through all my Twitter feeds, I can go back to the groups that mean the most to me.  You can also set up notifications to receive alerts when someone you are following tweets. There's a lot of buzz around Twitter chats, and there is a Twitter chat for everything you can think of.

4) Teachercast - Brief interviews with teachers and product developers for the newest and best ideas on technology in education. It's broadcast live every Sunday night, or you can catch the archived shows on the Web site. There's also a TeacherCast University and blog with more workshops, news, and information.

5) Flipboard - The easiest way to keep up on professional reading across a variety of sources - news, magazines, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter in one place. It's not only a great place to keep informed of news and trends, you can create your own magazines and flip content in them to curate materials. Professional reading is a big part of my PD, but I can't always read things as they come across my email or I see them on Web sites. Flipboard is the solution to that problem. The desktop version even includes a Flip It tab so that you can quickly move things into your Flipboard magazines without leaving your browser.

6) Coursera - Free online courses from some of the top universities in the country. Learn to program, speak a foreign language, teach an online class, and so much more.  There are over 100 courses tagged with Education. Many of the courses come with verified certificates.

7) TED Talks - You can't beat them for inspiration, forward thinking, and concise, powerful ideas. You can also catch the TED Radio Hour on NPR for a behind the scenes/rest of the story approach to TED talks.  After you watch a few of these, you'll be more intentional about your own teaching philosophy and thinking, in general. You can translate this into lessons for your students, too. 

8) Lynda.com - it's not free, but the quality is amazing. I have access via my adjunct position at Calhoun Community College. There are so many courses I wish I had time to take! 

9) Edutopia - Professional reading, videos, whitepapers, and model school features all add up to a powerhouse of resources to help you improve your practice. You can browse by topic, strategy, or grade level. It's an active space for conversations, too.  You can also comment on any of the content, or start your own conversation about a brand new topic.

10) YouTube - Today, if you have a question, you either Google it or look for a YouTube video to explain it.  That's powerful.  It's also a shame that both are looked on with skepticism and scorn by educational establishments that continue to censor and control access to them. I teach young children and am not insensitive to the need to protect them from inappropriate content.  I'm also a realist.  Even my kindergarten students come to school and talk about the Google searches and YouTube videos they have watched. Whether or not you are interested in fighting the battle to open up access to these resources for your students, you will undoubtedly continue to use it for your own learning.  Don't just search for videos, become a power YouTube user by creating an account, subscribing to channels, and creating your own channel. 

The exciting thing is that there are an abundance of learning opportunities online - many more than I've listed here. So, if time or funding constraints have limited your access to conferences, don't fret. There are plenty of ways to connect and learn online.

NATC Recap - Almost One Month Later

Canvas Learning Management System was the focus of this year's North Alabama Technology Conference as Madison County gears up for its first year using the LMS district wide.  I am especially excited about the digital portfolio component.  I have been wanting this for years for my students, but haven't found the right solution.  With district support, it may have finally arrived.

My first day was spent setting up, delivering, and taking down my Makerspace Workshop.  With the help of a good friend, everything went smoothly, and I hope that I've inspired a few to try something new next year.

By day 2, I was eager to learn and Courtney Hamilton (@winningeducator) delivered with her informative session on Tech Integration for K-2 students. I was so impressed at how well she facilitated active participation while moving through a good quantity of tools and applications for each. 

New (to me) tools and ideas from Courtney's session:
  • Five Dice - this fun order of operation game can be played with two players, or in challenge mode.  It's free in the App Store.

  • Fuel the Brain - There are lots of fun, interactive games for math and reading comprehension, including poetry examples. I also love the mini book maker with built in images.
  • Power My Learning - A fantastic collection of K-12 interactives, videos, and games.  The Math and Language Arts resources can be browsed by common core standards, too.  Best of all, it has a creation tools filter! 

  • Literacyshed.comBrowse the resources by categories on the left navigation bar, and you will find lesson plans that spring from videos or vivid images. These are guaranteed to engage your students. There's even a mathematics shed with no less than 75 categories of video and lesson ideas to choose from.
  • Get Out of Your Search Engine Rut - I confess to being lazy sometimes and sticking with Google in my own searching and my teaching. I know students are going to use it, and I make the excuse that I want to teach them how to be power Google users. Courtney's session and the Search not Sort session at AETC reminded me that I need to expand my search engine lessons.  First, Google isn't appropriate for all searches or searchers. Using other search engines can help students learn to evaluate strengths and weaknesses associated with source selection.  Two favorites to introduce next year: KidRex (Google powered, kid friendly) and InstaGrok (searches meet concept maps to emphasize the power of relationships in research).
I was honored to join Kathy Heiman's session on Fund for Teachers. Kathy shared the process for applying for a Fund for Teachers learning grant.  She also highlighted some of the exciting trips teachers have taken to expand their own learning and bring it back to their communities.  Madison County teachers have had a lot of success with this grant!  As a 2014 Fund for Teachers fellow, I can attest that the process is fairly simple, the rewards keep coming, and the opportunity to learn is too good to pass up.  

I ended the conference in the Atriuum sessions with some of my favorite Madison County librarians. After four years using this system, I  am finally learning how to add student pictures to my catalog and find some of the administrative manuals online.  This is going to make it easier for me and especially the volunteers and substitutes to avoid making mistakes when checking out books.  I also downloaded the app for searching the catalog.  I'll be loading that on all the student iPads this fall!

The conference was well attended this year and there was an abundance of learning opportunities including hands-on workshops, concurrent sessions, tech marketplace, and vendors. Vickey Sullivan and her team never fail to put on a great conference! 

AETC Recap - One Month Later

It's been a month since I attended the Alabama Technology Conference with my better half at work, tech contact-computer lab assistant extraordinaire.  What AETC lacks in the size of the big, international conferences, it makes up for in personal touches and manageable schedules.  

Praise for AETC 
  • The app was awesome!  I loved being able to take notes, add pictures, and rate the session all in the same place.  It also had some other great features, like sharing my notes via email or social media. The app was built with Crowd Compass and I'll definitely be checking them out in the future.
  • Vendors - there was a good variety of vendors that weren't pushy, but super helpful.  
  • Food - Southern hospitality was on display with the free refreshments throughout the day.
  • A variety of sessions meant no down time 
Tips, Tools, and Strategies to Use
  • Mathway.com - type in any problem and it will provide the answer. If you create an account (it's free), you can see step-by-step explanations for the solution. There's also a math worksheet generator and glossary. There are graphs and math notations available and arranged by math discipline make this a very robust tool to use. 

  • Khan Academy now has a game based learning program that uses missions and points to keep learners engaged.  It starts with kindergarten, so it's not just for advanced math students any more. Students work at their own pace as they advance through "missions" all the while earning points and badges to mark their progress.  If your students get stuck, there are hints and videos to help them understand how to solve the problem. There isn't a game component to the actual math work.  The gaming atmosphere is introduced via the running high score and levels as you progress through math understanding. It's perfect for differentiation, too.  Students are given tasks based on their math readiness, but the points they are eligible to earn are the same.  So, all learners can compete against each other which keeps everyone motivated.

    I'm also super excited about their computer programming section, including introduction to JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, and a Meet the Professionals section to introduce students to the types of careers available in this area.  Khan Academy, why have I ignored you for so long?

  • Post a map of the world with the URL country code to identify the countries. It's part of understanding Web sites, global collaborations, and widening your perspective.  I like the visual representation in this one for sale ($35) by Bytelevel, but I want something that ties it more concretely to the countries for my students.  I'm thinking of doing a Read Around the World  bulletin board this year, maybe that's the space for it.
  • Give students opportunities to ask questions and be curious. Favorite suggestion - set up a computer with Google Chrome loaded and a sign that says, "Ask me anything."  It is how we all seek answers daily, but I am probably not going to be able to do this in my library for many reasons. Still, I'm thinking of how to encourage curiosity in other ways.
  • Be intentional about how we teach students to understand the information world, including how the search algorithms work, citation ranking, how to read a search page, and how to read images and video. These are embedded in my digital citizenship lessons each year, but need to be emphasized throughout the year.
  • GoFormative.com - an online assessment tool reminiscent of Infuse Learning with the capacity for illustrated responses from students.  I love the dashboard and response features. I won't be able to use this with my students since email accounts are required, but I may use it for group responses and create generic email accounts they can use to sign in.

  • Arloon - Augumented Reality makes learning fun!  This one takes a lot of the work out of some of the other AR apps I've seen.  It's not free, and I haven't purchased it, yet.  The creativity is very appealing though.


  • CCC Streaming Media - Convincing me to try this product wasn't a hard sell. Using quick videos to illustrate a point is a proven engagement model for learners of all ages. I found the resources deep and the search features robust. Browsing by grade level and standard is another plus.  The ability to download videos is critical for those of us who don't have bandwidth for streaming, so it was great to see this option. I'm not sure about the cost, but this would be a great resource to have, if we could afford it.
  • Ipevo was on the vendor hall floor and they were awesome giving support to me on the Ipevo IS-01 Interactive Whiteboard System that I won from Digital Wish at the end of the school year.  After talking to their reps, I am much more confident about how to put the IPEVO to use. The flexibility is going to transform my learning space this year!
I attended several sessions on Makerspaces. The sessions provided good information about the big ideas and some of the popular tools. I have to say, I didn't get any new ideas for the most part, but I still found it very encouraging to see so many working on these same ideas in Alabama.

Junior Librarians Wanted!

Thanks to a generous grant from the Snapdragon Book Foundation and an inspired idea from Andy Plemmons, the Walnut Grove School Library will be establishing a Junior Librarians: Collection Development Specialist program this year.

Junior Librarians will meet this fall to design a student reading interest survey, administer the survey, negotiate with vendors for the best book deals, review book catalogs, and place a final book order.  When the books arrive, they will be the first to see the new books as they unpack them, process them, and design displays to promote them to the rest of the students.  This will be a special, student selected collection that I can't wait to see myself!

The junior librarians will be selected from 2nd - 6th graders based on their completed application. Here's a copy of the application I will be sending out the first week of school.

If you are a Walnut Grove student reading this, you don't have to wait until school starts.  You can complete the application now and send it to me by email, or bring it to the library when we return on August 3. 

Take a Pre-Vacation Trip to the Library

My family loves to take long road trips throughout the year.  Before we hit the road, I head to the local library.  Why?

State and Travel books - I like to read the thoughtful advice of seasoned travelers who have made the trip ahead of me.  In our quest to see all 50 states, I like to read books about the state we are visiting. Children's books are great for pointing out big landmarks and moments in a state's history.  Adult books reveal intricate political history and community stories that bring a place and its people to life.

History and Biography books - once the state and travel books have opened the door, you may want to dig deeper into specific moments in history.  These make great reads on the road as you are heading to a specific landmark or famous person's home.

Books for Recreational Reading - vacations are the prefect time to enjoy recreational reading.  You can try to read a book by a local author, or something just for fun.  We do a lot of camping, so there is quiet time by the pool or in the hammock at the end of the day for reading.

Books on Tape - we were on the road for more than 24 hours on this last road trip.  That's too much radio time for me, and even I don't want to read out loud that long to my family.  Books on tape save the day.  Your public library is bound to have some great choices.

No time to make it to the library? Check out their digital collection.  I ended up using the HMCPL Digital Media Zone for most of my book choices this time. 

Here's a selection of some of the print  books we read while enjoying a historic tour of eastern Pennsylvania.