Book Tasting in the Library

IMG_1829Last week, the 8th grade reading classes came into the library for a Book Tasting. A book tasting, if you’re not familiar with it, provides students with an opportunity to sample a variety of different books in a short period of time. This idea certainly isn’t mine, there are several examples of book tasting ideas online, but I was happy to take the main concept and give it a try. The 8th grade reading classes were a perfect group to start with since they were about to begin a new unit focusing on fantasy and dystopia books. The students needed to find a free read for the unit so we decided to pull a bunch of books and give the students a chance to sample a few during the session.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.41.19 AMDuring the class period, students came in and before heading to a table, listened to a brief overview of what was going to happen. To help set the mood and make the event more festive, we put tablecloths on the tables, made placemats, and added table decorations. When it was time to start, they sat at a table and had about 5 minutes to choose a book on their table, read the inside flap or back cover, and then read the first few pages of the book. They also had a pamphlet they needed to fill out containing information about the book. After about 5 minutes, they rotated to another table and repeated the process. During the class period, the students were able to go through 5 rotations. At the end, they completed a My Top 3 sheet so they could check out those books down the road. We did not let students check out the books immediately because we needed them for other classes, but once every class came in for their book tasting, students could come back in and check out their favorites.

IMG_1830Overall, the students seemed to enjoy the event. They were really into it and found that it was a fun way to experience several books in a short period of time. The plan for the future is to do these again during lunch, with students signing up to participate. We will probably have different genres at each table to get kids to try a variety of books, which from what I’ve read, is typically how Book Tastings are done. Regardless, the event was fun, the teacher and students enjoyed it, and it brought an exciting event to the library.


Coding Challenges for the Ollie

If you have any Ollies (or Spheros) in your classroom, library, or makerspace, you’ve probably discovered that kids love driving these little devices around. Students love to test their driving skills, which as I’ve witnessed, generally aren’t that good. We have 4 Ollies in our makerspace and, in an effort to have students program the Ollies instead of just drive them around, have created “challenges” for students.

The idea is to have students use the SPRK Lightning Lab app on either a Chromebook or iPad to program the Ollie to complete a certain task. One example (shown below), has the students creating a program to move the Ollie in a square, changing color on each side, and not crashing into anything. When a student completes the challenge, and has someone confirm they did it correctly, they will receive a badge that will be displayed on a poster in our makerspace.

If you’d like to take a look at the challenges to use or adapt, feel free. Click to view the challenges and make a copy for yourself if you want to edit them.

We have plans to create more challenges for other makerspace items soon. I’ll certainly be sharing those as well.

Rethinking Library Spaces

Libraries are changing, we all know that. My elementary school library is evolving and we are looking for ideas to transform the space. Many school libraries are going through similar changes and it’s great to see. At the ICE Conference in February, I attended a session that shared a complete renovation of a school library and it looks amazing. Here is the slide show shared during the presentation.

Recently, I participated in #tlchat, a Twitter chat for teacher-librarians and the topic was Rethinking Library Spaces and Learning Space Design. It was a great discussion and many people shared great ideas about what they have done or are looking to do in their libraries. If you missed out on the chat, here’s the transcript.

The discussion got me thinking. There should be a place where teacher-librarians can share images of their library spaces, especially updates and new designs. It should be simple for people to upload pictures and easy for people to view. It doesn’t appear that this type of virtual photo album exists so I decided to create one. I went through a few ideas, checking with others to see what would work best and finally decided on a shared Google Drive folder. I hope this folder can be an inspiration to others looking to make any changes, big or small, to their library space. We can never have enough good ideas so please share share share!

To view the images in the folder, go to

To add your own images, go to and click on “Add to Drive” in the upper right-hand corner. From that point, upload any images to the folder as you would any other Google folder.

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Connecting the Library and Classroom

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 11.06.28 AMIn my role as library media specialist, connecting what I do with the classroom is essential. A lot of people talk about the changing role of the school library and the idea that the school library being the hub of the school. I agree with all of these ideas, but making it happen isn’t easy. This needs to be a common goal for everyone involved – from the library media specialist to the principal to the classroom teachers to the library aides. When everyone is headed in the same direction, progress can be made.

Changing the physical space, including the furniture is not an easy, or inexpensive, task. You can paint, create fun spaces within the existing room, and develop fun displays to make the space look better for the students. Really changing the identity of the library is much harder. I believe one way to move this process forward is more collaborative work between the library media specialist and classroom teachers. When the teachers, and, more importantly, the students, see the library media specialist as another teacher, great strides can be made.

This collaboration may not be easy for everyone, but I like to think of this idea as a 5 step process and one that the school librarian needs to take the lead on. Here are 5 steps to connecting the school library and classroom.

  1. FIND the right person to collaborate with first. This may be the most open minded teacher in the building, the teacher you have a great relationship with, or the person with the most technology in their room. You probably already know who this person is. This needs to be the person who will say “YES” when you come to them and say, “I have an idea.”
  2. PLAN what you’re going to do. This seems obvious, but make sure everyone knows what they are going to do and when. What will happen in the classroom during the project and what will happen in the library. Make sure to include all stakeholders, including any special education teachers. Think about the schedule and anything that could impact the plan. Is there an assembly or day off that changes the schedule? Keep those things in mind. Make sure you connect regularly and adjust the plan as needed.
  3. DO the project. It seems simple, but you have to stick to your plan. Don’t let a roadblock stop the project. One great thing about teaching is the idea that if something doesn’t go as planned, you can make adjustments and keep going. Don’t let the project get shoved to the back burner.
  4. SHARE what you’re doing. Throughout the process, let others know about what’s going on. Keep parents informed, other teachers, and the world. Blog about it, post pictures and video clips to social media, and spread the word any way possible. You’ll get great feedback and probably tips and suggestions along the way. Don’t keep what you’re doing within the walls of your school building.
  5. REFLECT on the project. Meet with everyone involved and discuss what went well and what needs to be adjusted. How will you make it better next time? This is very important and while I do believe teachers reflect on their practice, put these reflections in writing.

Collaboration isn’t easy. It takes work. The library can become an, even more, essential part of the school, and everyone can view the school librarian as a teacher. To head in the right direction, the library media specialist needs to be a leader. Take charge, reach out to classroom teachers, and work together. The change to a more collaborative relationship can work.

Our Dot Day Activities

Today was a very fun day in the library. We started celebrating Dot Day today and I had 4 classes, grades one through four today. Here’s what we did.

First Grade – After watching the archived livestream of Peter H. Reynolds reading The Dot, an event I was fortunate enough to be a part of in 2012, students used the Paint program on the computers to create their own dot. One of the cool things about the computers we have in our lab is that they are touch screens. This made drawing and coloring the dots much easier for the younger students, compared to using the mouse. We saved their dots and I’ll be putting together a slide show of their work soon. The dots were printed out, the students signed them of course, and they took them home.

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photoSecond Grade – These students did the same thing as first grade, but actually had another option for drawing their dots – they had the option of using a stylus for their drawings. If you’re wondering why the first graders didn’t have this option, it’s because I didn’t know we had them. They are actually hidden in the monitors and a fellow library media specialist told me about them. These students had the option of using the mouse, their fingers, or the stylus for their dot drawings.





Third Grade – These students actually started their projects in art class about a week ago. The art teacher was working on watercolor paintings with the kids and after talking with him and telling him about Dot Day, he agreed to have the students paint their dots in art. When the students came to class today, they watched the reading of The Dot, and then went to work with their watercolor dots. The dots were very cool, but I decided to have the students create new dots with the help of their classmates. The kids cut out their dots and cut them into fourths (a little math lesson tossed in). Students kept one fourth of their original dot and then placed the rest on a table. Every student then went to the table and picked out 3 other pieces to complete their new dot. Then, they glued everything together, creating a new, collaborative dot. One of the best parts of this project was hearing a student say “We’re doing art in the library!”

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Fourth Grade – After watching the reading of the story, fourth graders grabbed their markers and were told to color their dot on a special piece of paper. They didn’t realize their dots would be coming to life. Using the colAR app, students were able to use an iPad or iPod Touch to spin and rotate. They loved this and many even decided to create a second or third dot. They were excited to go home and download the app and show their parents.

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Overall, it was a great day. More classes will be doing similar activities in the coming days, but the kids loved it, as did I.


Making a Change

Change can be good, bad, scary, and exciting. I’m sure there are many other words you can think of to describe change. Changing the kind of coffee you drink or the route you take to work is a small change. Moving houses or making a job change is much bigger. Regardless, change breaks up a routine that can impact many people – in ways you can anticipate and in ways you cannot. I tend to believe that change is usually good. It opens up new opportunities, new experiences, and new ways of thinking that probably wouldn’t happen if the change isn’t made.

I’m making a change. A big change. A fairly sudden change. I have recently resigned from my position with Discovery Education to return to the elementary school environment. I’ve accepted a position in a new district, a DE using district, as the library media specialist/tech integrator/computer teacher/whatever else you want to call this position. There was a lot of thought that went into this decision, this big change, but I’m happy to be back in a school, impacting students and teachers.

I loved my time with the DEN Team. It was fun, challenging, exciting, and ton of other synonyms for awesome. My team consisted of the best people, many of whom I consider very good friends. I’m looking forward to continuing those friendships on a slightly different level now. I cannot thank Lance, Porter, Steve, Dean, Kyle, Jannita, and others for such a fantastic (almost) 3 years. Words can’t really express how I feel about the team. I know things are going to be challenging for them for a while, but if anyone will continue to rock, it’s that team.

The educators we’ve worked with, many of whom were my friends before joining the DEN Team, are people that I can continue connecting with to share resources, ideas, and laughs. The new connections from this year’s DEN Summer Institute and other events are just as valuable. The DEN is truly a family. I love the fact that I can travel the country and know great people all over the place. If I head to Southern California, where I’ll be in a few weeks for vacation, I can hang with Brandon and Dennis. If I head to Texas, I can visit Howard in Austin or Kristy in Houston. If I go to Knoxville, I can stop and see Tim, as I did this past May. If I head to Canada and am in Saskatchewan, Lindsay and Dean will say hi. I can’t forget about the various Pennsylvania folks as well. I know many of you who’ve been connected with the DEN have similar connections and know exactly what I’m talking about. I cannot wait to connect the students from my new school to my friends across North America.

Over the almost 3 years working with the DEN, I heard about all of the great things happening in schools and classrooms across the country. Teachers are doing amazing things. Hearing about all of this is very exciting, but somewhat frustrating as well because I have been unable to do these things myself. I almost felt like I was falling out of the loop a little. Prior to joining the DEN team, I could implement these ideas in my school with the students I worked with. Now, I’ll get to do it again, and this excites me. This is ultimately what’s driving this change.

This is a big change, but one I’m anxious for. It’s certainly going to be different – for me and my family. My commute will be different because I’ll actually have one. My schedule will be different. My coworkers will be different. However, there’s one thing that won’t change, my connection to so many awesome educators.

Should I Care?

I’d like to know your thoughts.

It’s been about three months since I left my job as a library media specialist to join Discovery Education.  The move for me has been wonderful and I’m not looking back. However, I’m very worried about the library program that I left.  When I left, the plan was for one sub to take the position for about three weeks until another would take over for the rest of the school year.  From my knowledge, neither had any experience in a library or was certified.  It turns out the first one person didn’t make the three weeks because she had to fill another position in the school due to a maternity leave.  I’m not sure who filled in prior to the “rest of the year sub” taking over.  When that sub took over, I figured there would at least be some stability the rest of the year.  I was wrong.  Apparently, when there was a need for a sub in a classroom, the library sub was pulled into a classroom and a different sub was put in the library.  So much for continuity.  But that’s not all.  Recently, I found out that there were some issues with one of the classroom teachers and the library sub has been moved into a classroom for the remainder of the school year and the first year struggling teacher is now in the library.  Not good.

Things brings me to a couple of thoughts and a question.  One, the library is not valued in the school.  Maybe it wasn’t when I was there, but it seems that it’s pretty much being dumped on now.   Two, the staff must not care or they would be speaking out about it.  I left plenty of information about library procedures as well as my contact information, but was only contacted once about a problem with a subscription purchase.  Should I even care about what happens there anymore?  I’m no longer a part of it.  Should I offer to help get things straightened out a little or just leave it alone?

Part of me wants to care and part of me doesn’t.

School Library Journal Leadership Summit

It’s time to get back on the blogging track. I’m spending a couple of days in Washington DC at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit. The event is full of school librarians as well as some authors and illustrators. The main discussions will center around reading and ebooks. I’m not exactly sure what to expect from the event, but I’m excited to be surrounded by some familiar faces, meet a few more, and learn.

The first evening included a social event sponsored by Capstone. Author Michael Dahl was there signing copies of his books. He signed a couple of books I can’t wait to share with the students at school.


Let’s Play The Feud!

I was extremely fortunate to be asked to participate in an incredibly fun event at ISTE in Philadelphia.  The ISTE Conference has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past few years and something I begin looking forward to way before the school year ends.  This year, I was part of a session that was more fun that I could have imagined.  My friends and colleagues Dr. Joyce Valenza – Teacher Librarian, NeverEndingSearch Blog, Gwyneth Jones – The Daring Librarian, Shannon McClintock Miller – Van Meter Library VOICE, Matthew Winner – The Busy Librarian, Nicholas Provenzano – The Nerdy TeacherSteve Dembo and I participated in a wildly entertaining Family Feud style game show.  We wanted to share a variety of tools educators are using with those in attendance.  Prior to the event, we crowdsourced the answers to a list of questions we came up with.  A couple of excellent secret keepers, Paul Wood and Diane Cordell, tallied the survey results and along with Steve’s excellence, put together a slideshow of the answers – complete with Family Feud graphics and sounds.  We thought it would be an interesting twist to the event if we all dressed in 70’s style clothing.  I’m not sure if this turned out to be a good idea or not.  The session was a complete blast with Team MacGUYver winning, at least that’s the way I saw it.  If you’d like to watch the recording of the session, please do it.  I think you’ll learn something and certainly be entertained.

Here’s the link to the video.

Here’s a link to the wiki with even more information.

Note: I am more than honored to be mentioned in the same breath as those mentioned above.  They are not only incredible educators, but wonderful people as well.  I’m learned so much from them over the years and was thrilled to be on stage with them!  I hope they ask me back.

No Flexible Schedule Next Year

(Note: I wrote this post originally using Dragon Dictation.  I had to go back and do quite of a bit of editing.  The writing isn’t the greatest, sorry.  No more blog posts using Dragon Dictation).

Excitement has turned into disappointment for me over the past several months.  Many of the school librarians in my district have been working together to formulate a new plan to continue providing quality library services to our students.  The plan that we developed would move us from a fixed schedule to a flexible schedule.  My department spent a lot of time reading articles about flexible schedules and the benefits for students.  We worked with the Director of Curriculum Instruction in our district, who is the head of our department, for quite some time developing a plan to make the transition.  We met with the Superintendent two weeks before school got out and presented the plan to him.  He was supportive of the idea but was a little hesitant making the move district wide, which was understandable.  He suggested that anywhere from 3 to 5 of our 11 elementary schools participate in a pilot project moving to a flexible schedule next year.  For classroom teachers, this would mean a reduction in prep time of one hour per week.  He asked if we had some ideas on schools that would be interested in being part of the pilot.  I thought my school would be one for sure.

This was something I’ve been working on for long time and felt pretty strongly about.  I think the flexible schedule meets the needs of students and teachers a lot better than a regular fixed schedule.  I know there were still a lot of questions that we had about moving to a flexible schedule.  The superintendent suggested we touch base with classroom teachers to find out what they thought and then have a meeting with the staff.  Discussions with the principal we’re going to take place first.  The principal was completely on board with this transition.  When I talked with each of the classroom teachers for a few minutes the days following the meeting with the superintendent, everyone seemed pretty positive.  I didn’t have anybody who was feeling really negative about it but didn’t want to do it. There were a few questions here and there but nothing that seemed to be raising any red flags.  We held a staff meeting on the Tuesday before school got out with the idea of making the move to a flexible schedule.  We had more discussions about this idea of moving to a flexible schedule at a staff meeting and more and more questions came out.  I felt a little blindsided by this because the discussions that I had earlier with people seemed as though everyone was on board.  Now, however, it seemed sort of the opposite.  There were more and more questions, but ran out of time at the faculty meeting discussing the idea.  We decided to continue the discussion two days later.  The second meeting was productive but a little bit heated at times.  Reluctantly, the group came to the conclusion that the staff was not ready to move to a flexible schedule.

I was really disappointed.  I really felt that this was the best move for the school.  Unfortunately, there were so many questions that the teachers still had that we didn’t have answers for.  They wanted to have a little bit more certainty moving forward so we scrapped the plan and are going to work on some things next year that will help us transition to a flexible schedule.  The district will most likely be moving in this direction the following school year.  Teachers felt as though the year to plan and prepare will help us do a better job of moving to a flexible schedule. I don’t disagree with some of the things that concern the teachers, but overall I do think we could’ve pulled off.  Oh well.