Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Moving Toward a Tech-Rich Library

We have been working to create a tech-rich library at our K-5 school. During the first year as a librarian, we wrote a district grant to put laptops in the library.  Access to these all day has made a huge difference for our kids.  Last year, we received cameras, flip video cameras, and ipods. We also have a projector, a document camera and gigantic speakers. We have set the stage to use all these well and students are beginning to see so many possibilities. With the big things in place, I think it is the little things that will support students in using the tools for creativity, collaboration and communication.

One of the things we are doing this year is moving the SMART BOARD to the other side of the room. I believe STRONGLY that Smartboards should almost never be in the center of a room.  The message a Smartboard gives in the center is that it is a place for one person to talk and teach and for others to listen. l  Instead, I want the Smartboard to be a tool for collaboration-one that can be used no matter what else is going on in the room.  I saw amazing things last year when students used the Smartboard to create music on Garageband, edit in iMovie, to tell stories with original illustrations, etc.  I think the Smartboard really invites a collaboration that is pretty amazing--kids talking and creating together in a way that isn't quite possible with the other tools. So, the Smartboard is being moved to a space where it can be used with a whole class, a small group, or an individual child.   Our Smartboard Team should get to work right away in September thinking through more possibilities for our students.

We also have some great Flip Video Tripods that were not very accessible to kids last year. This year, they will be in the project area for kids to use as needed (and they come in lots of fun colors!).  They are a great tool and at a great price!

I purchased two new things that I am VERY excited about. I purchased a pair of iHome Speakers and plan to purchase one more set for the library.  Although we have a huge set of speakers in the library, these iHome speakers are much more portable and seem easier for elementary students to use. They are perfect for a classroom size presentation. Even when a few kids are sharing something they've created on a laptop, it is often difficult for even a small group to hear the audio.  I hope these speakers will invite more sharing between students--both formal and informal.

I learned about the Belkin RockStar 5-Way Headphone splitter from @KathyCassidy following her presentation at BLC10.  I have been looking for a way to better utilize the iPods for young children and to have more opportunities for audio books, songs, etc.  for our students. These headphone splitters will allow for that as well as more sharing of student-created projects. 5 sets of headphones can be connected! For the price (less than $10 each), these are my most exciting purchase of the summer!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Web 2.0 Tools--Teachers as Learners

We have an annual Leadership Academy in our district. This year, we both did a session for district teachers on Web 2.0 Tools.  We believe strongly that in order to move forward, we must all be users of these new tools in our lives. Just as we need to be readers and writers, being users of new tools is crticial to our teaching and learning lives.  Below are the slides from our presentation. The slides include the sites that we discussed.

As an added bonus, we used Googledocs to create this slide show and we went paperless in our presentation--no handouts. We included all info right in the embedded slides so that participants could access them with a specific link. We learned so much in the process!

Some Favorite Spaces in the LIbrary

If you read yesterday's post, you know I have rearranged some things to better match the library space to the vision we have for it. Today I decided to share some of my favorite spaces for students.

This is my new favorite space in the library. I wanted a space to have that cafe feel for the kids. Our library looks out to a great courtyard. When I arrived, there were bookshelves against the window so the view from the windows was blocked. We moved shelves to open up that space last year. This year, I am adding tables and stools that overlook the courtyard. The tables I chose do not block the view or the light and I think it creates a great workspace for kids. I envision kids writing, sketching, working on laptops, etc. I imagine kids can work alone or with a partner in this area and the courtyard view will add to the feel of the space.
These stackable tables provide great spaces for many kinds of work. Because they are such a great size, they can be moved around often. I sometimes use them as temporary displays on the ends of bookshelves. I put new books or games on these as invitations for exploration. But the reason I really love these tables is because they allow children to create the spaces they need, where they need them. They are small enough for kids to take to any are of the library to work. If a child needs a quiet space, they can create one. The tables are also a great size for building and they make great game tables. I love the flexibility that they provide.

One of the things we needed was a larger space for sharing and for storytellers and guests who visit the library. We figured out a way to create a great space, but then the space seemed too big for times when it wasn't being used campfire style. The 3 large rugs make the space look a bit less empty. The rugs provide an anchor and they also allow for various groups of kids to be in this space together. (As you can see, they are not totally spread out as they are still partially rolled under as they straighten out.) Eventually, the comfy pillows, etc. could be stored here and the space is divided in a way that gives it good flexibility.

This is a great little space that is actually part of the big space. The shelves around it store building toys and games and the low table was quite popular last year. Since it is so large, it accomodates quite a few kids. It is a great place to read, play games, create stopmotion on laptops, etc. The pillows in the background will need a new space but this has been a space where kids enjoy working.

I love this little table tucked in this quiet spot. It is a great size and invites lots of great collaboration. Lots of kids use it as a spot to share books together. This table tends to get moved often but no matter where it lands, kids gather around it with books.

Monday, August 02, 2010

July Mosaic

July's gone. No more hibiscus blooms. (No more posing with plastic men, Franki.)  No more parades. No more berries on the vine. The puppies will have their eyes open and be weaned when we see them again in a couple of weeks. The new "puppies" will soon be walking nervously into room 222, and we'll all be wondering what adventures this school year will bring.

Endings and beginnings. Comfortable routines and the discomfort of change. Time to put all my summer learning into practice...

Library Redesign--A Work in Progress

Good libraries have alwys been places where personalized learning takes place.  Good libraries...have a variety of spaces for individuals and small groups to work toegehter and often have a place for larger group presentations as well. Of course, they are also text-rich.  The message in this type of architechture is, “Here are some of the tools for you to learn with.  You are a trusted learner.  Go for it!” 

It seems that redesigning the library is an ongoing project.  Going into my third year as librarian at our school, I feel like the space is finally becoming what I had imagined it could be.  There is still lots to do but we are moving in a direction that invites great learning.  In May, during the Ohio Summit, Christian Long recommended THE THIRD TEACHER: 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING AND LEARNING.  So, if you have run into me at all this summer, I have probably mentioned the book.  It has had a huge impact on me.  We have passed it out in several Choice Literacy workshops and the audible squeal from the crowd has been quite fun!  After loving THE THIRD TEACHER sooo much, I moved on to another book by the same authors, Prakash Nair, Randall Fielding, and Jefrey Lackney, called THE LANGUAGE OF SCHOOL DESIGN. I read this one cover to cover and have gone back to it over and over again.  I have also spent a lot of time on the authors' website, DesignShare.  It has been fascinating for me to read about school design from people who design schools. My learning about this has always been limited to educators. This book helped me think about design and environment in a much more strategic way.  Although I had always thought long and hard about the creating great spaces for learning, this book helped me understand so much more about learning and design.  

So, we are redesigning the library a bit. There are still boxes and things that need to be done but some big changes are in place.  One of the big things that happened over the summer that was more cosmetic than anything, was that the library was painted. Really bright colors. (really bright:-) I am finding that students, parents, and community all come into the library with a traditional expectation of what should/could happen there. I want to expand that idea for everyone so I want them to come into something new this year.  With the help of our amazing art teacher and brilliant custodian, we picked bright primary colors and created a plan for changing the entire feel of the library.  The colors help set the stage for an expanded definition of the library.  (I admit, they are a bit bright but once we add student art, book displays, plants, etc.  it should be perfect. It just might take a few months.)

I have often said I loved the feel of coffee shops and that is what I am trying to create in schools.  I love the socialness but I also love the fact that there are options and depending on the goal of my visit to a coffee shop, the space I choose changes. After reading an article by Prakash Nair and Annalise Gehling, they shared their own findings of these spaces.  They say, "There are interesting things happening.  There are invitations to participate.  There are places to meet. There are places for solitude and reflection."  Isn't this what we are trying to create in our libraries?

The authors of THE LANGUAGE OF SCHOOL DESIGN share four kinds of space that I have been thinking about (they share others but these are the key types for me right now): Watering Hole Space, Cave Space, Real World/Life Project Space, and Campfire Space.  I had always created spaces like these but had never had them named for me. Learning from the authors of THE LANGUAGE OF SCHOOL DESIGN helped me to become more strategic about the spaces I create for students.  

Watering Hole Space is able to provide for small group work and socializing.  This is often  my space of choice when I work. I want many spaces in the library where kids can create, think, socialize and collaborate. Whether they are sharing thoughts on a book they are reading, playing a game, creating a film, or debating an issue they are researching, space needs to be available for this type of interaction.  

Cave Spaces are places for individuals to learn and think.  Our library is small so I worry about having enough of these. But the authors state, "Since students are able to concentrate and think more clearly in different kinds of Cave Spaces, the important thing is to provide a variety of nooks and crannies."  (The Language of School Design, page  141). Once we get into the routines of school, I'll be better able to see how student use the space but having flexible seating that can be moved to different parts of the room to create these cave spaces seems important.

We created a space that is much bigger--one that will allow
for large groups to gather.
Campfire Space is that space where a large group can gather in order to watch a presentation, listen to a storyteller, etc.  Since our library is small, this space has been hard to get.  It has been a missing piece--one that limits the things that can happen in the library and one that limits the ways students can share their own learning.  But this year, I moved one shelf to a new location and have now created a much larger floor space in front of our courtyard window. This space will allow for great learning--a large group can gather when needed but other activities can happen at other times.  The space is not ideal--just a large floor space. But it will allow for a type of sharing that wasn't possible before.

Project Space is the space where kids can create real projects.  I feel like we have good space for that. My challenge is that I want students to have access to pencils and sticky notes in the same way they have access to cameras, laptops, and iPods. Storing these in a place that is both secure and accessible is key.  I want students to be independent in the library so I want them to be able to get the tools they need to support their learning as quickly as possible.   I've created a corner space with a large table, the laptop cart, etc. I think kids will move all over the library but this space provides one great place to spread out and create.  

Yesterday, my daughter and I took a daylong trip to IKEA where we picked up some great things to add to the library. Once we had the big spaces in order, it is time to create some flexible spaces for kids and a variety of workspaces. If I think of all that can go on in the library, a variety of options for students is key.  

I am excited to think more about this. I have always believed that space and environment were key and it has been fun to rethink the space as I move into my third year as librarian. I feel like we have set the stage to expand the things that are possible in the library and I hope that the new changes will make the space even better.

Stay tuned for more info on the library throughout the next week or two.

**On a side note, if you are interested in thinking more about elementary design, Christian Long will be speaking at the fall Literacy Connection event on October 2.  On the homepage of his Be Playful site, he says, "Be Playful is a collaborative design studio empowered by the wisdom of play and focused on changing the way we learn."  Gotta love the whole philosophy that is behind this kind of design.   It should be a great day to continue thinking about design for elementary learners. 

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Welcome Two New Blogs to the Kidlitosphere!

We are excited about two new blogs that you might want to check out.  Meeting people at Choice Literacy Workshops is always a treat.  We learned about both of these new blogs there. Now that we can all stay connected beyond the few days that we are together is so exciting.

I have been a fan of Lori's on Twitter for a while. So I was thrilled that she started a blog too. Lori's Lessons is a new blog by Lori Sabo (@lorilovesbooks on Twitter).   Here's a teacher who looks at life (body image, trip to the chiropractor, coffee with a friend, new haircuts, and more) and finds lessons for her teaching practice. Good stuff. (And she is HYSTERICAL!)

I lucked out and just happened to sit next to Mandy at a Choice Literacy workshop last week.  After we chatted a while, I learned that she is starting to blog with a friend and colleague--Word From the Corner. They have their first post and the blog will focus on literacy and learning.  From talking to her for a bit at the breaks, I can tell this is a blog I'll want to follow!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

There's a summer tradition in Columbus -- Actors' Theater performs three different plays throughout the summer in German Village's Schiller Park...for FREE (donations are encouraged). We saw Treasure Island earlier in the summer, and got a wonderful dose of Shakespeare last night with Much Ado About Nothing, performed in the round.

We started out sitting back there by the light/sound table, thinking we were on enough of a hill that we'd be able to see. Our picnic dinner from Whole Foods was spread and we were enjoying curried turkey salad and cranberry tuna salad (and looking forward to the Laceys), when a hoard of chickie-booms planted their chairs in front of us, effectively blocking the view. It was then that we decided to take the usher up on a seat on the stage.

This was our new view!  Much better!

A little bit of truth in advertising about me and The Bard. I don't go to Shakespeare Camp, like Sara Lewis Holmes does. I don't spend all of June brushing you up on your Shakespeare, like Kelly Fineman does. (Nor has The Old Spice Guy made a video response to any of my tweets, like he did for Kelly...)

In fact, on the way home from the play, I wondered aloud how it's possible that I can't understand half of the lines in Shakespeare, and yet I can perfectly follow what's going on in the story?!?! (It does get easier in the second half. It's like your ear gets tuned to Shakespearean English.)

I didn't get any pictures from the first half of the play, because I hadn't figured out how to silence my new camera, and what with sitting at the edge of the stage, I couldn't have all that beeping and booping. 

Needless to say, Don John was evil and meddling, Beatrice was sharp-witted and strong-willed, Benedick was so set against marriage that even the dullest audience member had to know he'd be hooked by the end of the play, and Hero was sweet and demure and so pure that when Claudio spurns her at the altar... want to get up there on the stage and smack him upside the head!

Here's when Benedick and Beatrice fall in love...but only because they each have been tricked into believing that the other is in love with them.

Now the "cops" have captured the meddlers that Don John hired to convince Claudio that Hero was not a pure woman. This little guy played Boy as well as "cop." In the program, his bio tells that this play "marks his professional debut, though he has appeared in a number of church Christmas pageants and school plays.  Favorite roles include the title character in the Gingerbread Man, 2nd Billy Goat Gruff and 3rd Angel From the Left. When not onstage he enjoys fried chicken, the Wii game system, and Cub Scouting. He begins fourth grade in the fall." (could he be in my room, please?!?)

This is the part when Dogberry (little guy's dad in real life) tries so hard to convince everyone that it should be written in the record that he's been called an ass. 

And then all the tangles get untangled and all the right people get married and the evil meddler is dispatched, the end.

But not quite the end. On the drive home, I checked to see if Kindle has Much Ado About Nothing. For less than a dollar, I downloaded it wirelessly to my iPhone Kindle (there's an app for that), and now I'll be able to go back and find my favorite lines and parts while they are fresh in my mind.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Friday -- Visual Verse

Last week, when I had a chance to spend the day in Denver visiting friends, Carol and I browsed the children's book section of Tattered Cover pointing to books we'd read, heard about, wanted to read, and loved dearly. Both of us were trying hard not to spend too much money, and the talk must have satisfied some kind of need, because we each only bought one book. Carol got Out of My Mind and I bought a 2005 Ed Young book that I had somehow missed.

The minute I opened Beyond the Great Mountains, I knew I had to buy it. You've made flip books with your students, haven't you? Check this out inside:

When the pages lay flat, you can read the poem -- each line is on the edge of the page. Open a page and you find the illustration and the Chinese characters (ancient and modern) that echo the image.

This book could be a mentor text for writing about a beloved place or person, or even about oneself. Research findings might be written poetically and illustrated symbolically. So much to love about this book!

Here is an excerpt from the Author's Note:
"Once, I asked a Western artist to use Western symbols to describe his concept of the word leisure. He immediately chose to describe it with a person floating on his back in water. The Chinese mind chooses to be less literal--for instance, one can place a moon between two panels of a doorway to show a state of mind by which one not only notices but also admines the quiet beauty of a moonbeam peeking in through that sliver. I think of this as visual verse. Rather than showing a particular instance of the idea, it reminds us that ideas are bigger than a single instance."
You can find a conversation with Ed Young at Chronicle Books.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Irene Latham's blog, Live. Love. Explore!
Along with a Happy Poetry Friday, I'll make the name of her blog my wish for you today!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Sassy: The Birthday Storm
by Sharon Draper
Scholastic, 2009
review copy purchased for my classroom
Sassy: The Silver Secret
by Sharon Draper
Scholastic, 2010
review copy purchased for my classroom

I'm thinking about starting the year in my fourth grade classroom with a unit of study on series books, so I'm gathering up a couple of books from a lot of new series this summer.

Franki reviewed the first book in the series, Sassy: Little Sister is NOT My Name!  I love Sassy for many of the same reasons: she's a spunky girl with a personality all her own. She's got this great "Sassy sack" that her grandmother made for her -- a purple, silver and magenta bag with lots of pockets and compartments that holds everything Sassy needs -- and it's as much a character in the books as Sassy is!

In The Birthday Storm, Sassy and her family go to Florida to visit their grandmother for her birthday. A hurricane changes all the birthday plans and makes it necessary for the family to help save a nest of sea turtle eggs on the beach.

In The Silver Secret, Sassy has to find her own way to shine in the fourth grade program because she has a terrible singing voice! She makes a fabulous stage manager and she even has a chance to let her "silver secret" -- her piccolo playing -- out of the bag to save the performance when one of the singers gets sick.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let's Help Rebuild Her!

Andrea Ross of Just One More Book was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 6, 2009.  On October 3, 2010 she will run in Canada's version of The Race For the Cure.
In 8 days, she's raised over $2000. Let's give her a boost and see if we can get that number over $5000. It won't make up for all she's been through this year, but she and her family will know that there are bunches of Kidlitosphere friends who are throwing confetti for her first year and cheering her on as she begins her "me-ternity."

You can read Andrea's story here.
Go here to help her raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.