Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resolutions: Changing Habits

I am currently plowing through one of the most interesting books I’ve read in quite a while, thanks to one of my 2018 resolutions to read more books that are of personal interest, and not just juvenile literature, like I did last year.  (Thanks also goes to Goodreads’ book goal email-50 novels for the year, and The Gwinnett Public Library for having such a wide variety of eBooks.) The book is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  Lots of awesome insights, based on scientific studies, into how people’s habits drive them and how they can change those habits.  It also discusses the role of groups in creating culture. I’m only halfway through the book, but I started it yesterday and had two semi-final, college football games to watch last night. :D #RollTide

This 2017-2018 school year, our administration and school put forth a culture of #BeTheChange, in which we not only enacted purposeful times to do good within our school community-bringing snacks to firefighters or resource officers, donating books, or playing Bingo at an elderly home are some examples, but we also implemented time to reflect on how we were going to change our teaching practices in order to improve them.  We took small steps to change one thing at a time, so that all students could grow as learners. As a Media Specialist, here are some of the small things I’ve changed in our school’s library program this school year:

I started having my 5th grade library helpers be the ones that create our library visual displays.  (They volunteer for 1 day a week, and I assign and remind them to come during their morning work time.)  I provided some ideas and the option that they do their own idea, and they are the ones that put it all together.  Then, I put their name on the work with a brightly colored index card, so the rest of the school knows who made the awesome display! They work on both the bulletin board, where most students enter the library, and different shelf displays, to entice peers and younger students to read.



I opened myself up to the idea of doing something different - collaborating with Science Lab to have each class in the school use recycled materials to make a class scarecrow.  This took it off of the classroom teacher's plate, while still giving students the opportunity to participate in a creative-thinking, collaborative project.  It was impressive to see what they came up with in one, 45-minute class period!

Plus, Science Lab did all the heavy lifting of getting supplies donated and organized.  They also whisked away each scarecrow to a central location in the stairwell, to keep the library de-cluttered. Win! Win!

New Tools
I made one of my professional goals to teach teachers about new programs, like MyOn Capstone, that our county purchased for all schools, and Destiny Collections, that Follett rolled out over the summer of 2017.  MyOn, if you don't know, is Capstone's 5,000+ eBooks that read aloud to students, allow teachers to assign books for projects, and have lots of other reading features in online notebooks, specific to each child's account.  Destiny Collections is a tool that Follett implemented as part of their rollout of Destiny Discover.  It's a place where teachers, or students, can curate content from databases, the Internet, or the library.

I tried out a new tool - SketchUp for Schools with my 4th grade classes, when I was teaching their Architecture & Construction career lesson.  It was a tool that I discovered was part of our Google Chrome apps, and that naturally leant itself to an extension activity for architecture.  Students built a virtual house during the first lesson, and built a turtle sandbox during the following lesson.  They practiced this drafting tool program, and several students informed me that they had used it since our classes together.  :D  

I'm currently working on an idea my principal shared with me, for our teachers to make a book recommendation to our students on FlipGrid.  So fun!  I think I might also create a FlipGrid where my 5th grade library helpers share a book recommendation...

Lots of small changes that are leading up to more students who love reading and coming to the library! #SharonStrong #BeTheChange

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer Already

Wow.  I cannot believe that this year went by so quickly!  I also can't believe, though I shouldn't be surprised, that I haven't posted ANYTHING since October 2016!  Here's a quick, catch-up of relevant events with captions.  :)

Third grade's CultureGrams projects turned out really well.  They worked feverishly, even when we were displaced into the multi-purpose room.

They loved learning about a different country and its similarities and differences with their own.  

Second grade finished learning about the different periods of the Dewey Decimal system, and shared some of their work for our library bulletin board.

Fun bulletin board idea from Pinterest for the start of second semester
Kindergarten through fourth graders then listened to me read aloud 20 different Georgia Picture Book Award Nominees, over many weeks, so that they would be able to vote for their one favorite book.  I worked in "28 Days:  Moments in Black History that Changed the World" by Charles R. Smith, Jr. by incorporating the biographies included in his book, into the morning news, for Black History Month.  Students heard about a variety of different famous, black Americans.  

The most votes at our school went to "Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower" by Greg Pizzoli and "Gaston" by Kelly DiPucchio.
"Gaston" won for the state of Georgia.
Kindergarten's "Sidewalk Flower" creations
Kindergarten's Anna Pavlova's, "The Swan"
First graders using CultureGrams to locate countries where Anna Pavlova danced. 
Practice with pen strokes, like in "My Pen" by Christopher Myers
Coloring psyanka eggs for "P. Zonka Lays an Egg" by Julie Paschkis
Bulletin board of student work

Our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade Battle of the Books teams continued to meet once a month to discuss the books that they read and to use practice quizzing each other in anticipation of the school competition.


I incorporated a couple more passive, library activities this year, like this one, where students wrote down what they loved about the library and our school, and then their opinions were posted where everyone could read them.

It helped that we had just gotten in a shipment of lots of new books!

One of my professional goals this year was to add more, culturally diverse titles to our school's collection based on the shift in demographics.  :)  

 I tried to keep this (pictured below) section full of new books, even if it meant spending hours in 2nd&Charles to locate relevant, up-to-date fiction and nonfiction, and then purchasing it with my own money.  I also picked up and catalogued as many free books as I could get my hands on at county professional media specialist meetings.  AND, I entered and won 2 different free, book giveaways this year.  
We won that "TIME: Presidents of the United States" book and we also won a paperback copy of "The Sundown Kid:  A Southwestern Shabbat" by Barbara Bietz.  :D
Did you know that teachers get a 20% discount off of anything at 2nd&Charles?  
Just show them your i.d.
Found these while cleaning up the Professional Resources Closet.  Made a section for them.

I attended the Georgia Children's Book Awards & Conference on Children's Literature this year at UGA!  I hadn't been since I was in graduate school.  I got to hear Natalie Lloyd, Duncan Tontiuh, and David Biedrzycki speak about their books and book illustrations.

Natalie Lloyd - last year's novel winner for "A Snicker of Magic"

Duncan Tonatiuh and his codex-like illustrations

David Biedrzycki and his digital illustrations
Susan Grigsby, Carrie Hilliard, me, Jennifer Canavan

For Read Across America Week this year, to incorporate the 7 Mindsets, I did "Make a Difference" for Monday of that week.  Students donated gently, used books.  I had been collecting books, in case our school was able to build a "Little Free Library".   

As we finished out the school year, students continued to utilize all the donations that had been contributed to our library Makerspace.

Kindergarten created their own collages like those they had seen in Leo Lionni's "Pezzettino"
More Makerspace choices!  And, some independent reading!

Fifth graders using Makerspace and the library
 To finish out the school year, I emailed teachers that for whatever great book they read this summer, they should share it on Twitter - #SharonSummerRead.  That way we can leverage our leisure reading time, so that we can all learn about great literature for our students and/or for our own personal enjoyment.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


We enjoyed a rather summery October this year with highs in the mid-80s.  Whew!  Hot! However, I went ahead and pulled all the fall books and eventually sipped on a pumpkin spiced latte.  :)

Our "Fall" display of books, made its way into the window, since we'd been running out of space on top of our book shelves.  I had to turn down 5th grade for displaying their Civil War projects, because PTA's Reflections (student art) were already going to be using the space.

I made some new shelf labels to replace old ones and to help students locate books on their own.  These also assist me when I shelve books during my classes.  After 3 years, I've almost memorized where everything is located, but these visual clues are quite helpful.

(On my "to-do" list are visual clues for the "E" and Non-fiction sections.)

I did do a fiction lesson with first grade on different series found within the "E" for everybody section on the first grade readability level.  Some were to focus on series that students didn't naturally gravitate toward, or weren't aware existed.

These yellow "1st grade" labels were on the shelves, temporarily. 

It was also good to review how to choose a "just right" book, as I've noticed that students aren't attempting to read the first page before deciding if a book is one they could read independently.  Lots of judging a book by its cover and size instead of content or first page appeal.

Kindergarten lessons had been focused on story elements.  We first did a lesson on characters, defining them as "who or what the story is about".  We then did a lesson on settings, defining them as "where and when the story takes place". 

Students got to practice applying these concepts by using PicCollage on iPad.  They did a wonderful job learning to use this app.  

In the picture to the right, students photographed and identified a pond, "gras" (grass), an "oshen" (ocean), and a "frist" (forest) as different settings in a book, since settings can change in a story.  Their reward for taking a picture walk through the entire story was to add a background and digital stickers.  

Kindergarten students just recently started working on plot, defining it as "all the events, or things, that happen in the story".  This, of course, is a newer/more challenging concept, but exposure to the correct terminology is vital in growing as a reader. We worked on a story map together as we listened for the main characters in the introduction, what they wanted, the conflict or problem that they had, how they tried to and eventually solved their problem.  We will continue to work on these story elements as we delve into the Georgia Picture Book Award Nominees for 2016-2017.  

At home, I worked furiously on creating different centers for each of the Georgia Picture Book Award nominees, not only so that I could use them with students, but also so that I could post them to My Dear Watson.

My favorite creation was this lap book (pictured left) for 28 Days:  Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr.  My husband, Michael, was happy to draw and create the shuttle foldable.  I love it when he makes items for our TpT store!

Second grade started learning about the different topics in each of the Dewey Decimal periods.  Then we started rotating through 10 Dewey centers.  Each center had two different activities, so students could choose what they wanted to do.  Many gravitated toward the 100s where they read a book about thankfulness and created a thank you card for either an adult at school or an adult at home.  (I tried to tie in "Attitude of Gratitude" since our school just started 7 Mindsets Academy.)  They also loved the 300s, where they read books about holidays, preferably one they don't currently celebrate, in an effort to learn more about another culture.  Then they used items in the Makerspace to create a decoration for that holiday.  (The other option at that center was to record facts about a holiday, but no one yet has opted for that!)

Above left, students created flags for Memorial Day, and above right, a student created a candle for Diwali.  LOVE their ingenuity!

In a fourth grade lesson I taught, students learned about the "Architecture & Construction Career Cluster", and had started drafting and planning a building/structure of their own.  I created a worksheet where groups of 6 students were each assigned a job.  I provided structural requirements and items in the Makerspace, and they planned accordingly. After I approved their plans, they began working, each contributing his/her own part to the project.  As supplies dwindled, or plans went awry, students had to re-think, persist, and create different solutions.  They loved this activity and have asked that they have more time!  It makes this librarian's heart happy to see them critical think and use the library for more than a place to get books.

Third graders had started a project with a partner or small group to choose a country and formulate some guiding research questions.  Loved seeing them explore places all over the world through CultureGrams!  I even tweeted about the group (pictured right), as I overheard them saying, "Dude! Did you know there was a country named Hungary?!?"  CultureGrams replied and retweeted!  #socool

Lastly, I wanted to share this quote from my teacher calendar.  It's a good one!  It comes at a perfect time, as book fair started this week.  I'm so fortunate that even though I'm teaching all day, the parents at our school support the library by running the book fair.  We wouldn't have books without them!