Monday, May 16, 2016

Game of Phones: Fun While Learning

During New Year's Eve, I had a true “teacher moment.” I was playing Game of Phones with my friends, a game I had put on my Christmas list that my sister bought for me. As I was playing, I couldn't help but think of how this would be great for students. I almost stopped having fun because I was developing the lesson plan in my head.

The premise of the game is much like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity: the person who wins the most cards at the end of the game wins.  In Game of Phones, players must use their knowledge of their cell phone; it makes your cell phone a social game.  Each card gives a task, and depending on the task, either the first one to complete the task or the best completion of the task wins the card. Examples of tasks include finding funny pictures, finding the best rates,  who has the most likes and getting texted replies.  

As I was playing, I realized how many skills I had to use in order to win the card. My ability to use keyword searches, to quickly scroll, my understanding of vocabulary and that I had the fastest phone, led me to be a winner that first night. As a library media specialist, I have to teach kids how to search well. We know that the world has changed; no longer do libraries hold the information with students asking for access. Now they have a fire hydrant of information spewing at them, and students have to search and decide what is important and what is not. Game of Phones is a great way to teach kids how to search. It teaches them that they need to use keywords, and quickly. As students were playing, they were learning and practicing these necessary search skills. We got to have great discussions of they processed the challenge and how they solved it.  Students discussed with each other their thinking and what lead them to the search terms.  They are also really great vocabulary terms such as hipster and obnoxious. These are words that might get thrown around that the students don't typically know, so now you have the opportunity to discuss vocabulary. I could not have a better learning experience for them that was as much fun.

Before you play the game with your students, read each card.  There are some that are not appropriate for students in learning environment, such as text a random phone number.  Save those for when you are playing with adult friends.  

This was great with our Reading Recovery students, and junior boys in study hall.  They all loved playing Game of Phones, and learned something along the way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Crumb Corner

High School students always appear hungry.  It seems like there is always some scam to to get food or trade for food.  On Maslow’s Hierarchy, the base Physiological need has to be met before teachers can ever hope for students to start learning.  However, there is carpet in the library, and my base need is to make sure that the custodians don’t hate me.
Entrance Before
Photo Credit: Bryan Groshek
Preventing students from eating and drinking in the library was becoming a management nightmare.  I didn’t want to deny students their right to sustain themselves during study halls; it didn’t bother me that they are eating. However, 
food and color beverages are the enemy of clean carpet, and the custodians do not have the time to continually clean the carpet after accidental spills. One of the first pieces of advice that is given to new teachers is to make friends with the school secretary and custodian. This has proven to be true many times in my teaching career. The individuals in these positions have helped me more than I can adequately capture in this post, and I need to make their life easier.  

In brainstorming ideas to address the problem, I proposed to the custodial staff to change the flooring in the front of the library to a laminate or title that is easy to clean.  Drinking colored beverages and eating would only be permissible on the new floor. Bryan Groshek, second shift head custodian, agreed that this was a workable solution.  I truly only cared about the color; Bryan cared about the durability and wear of the material.  Making sure that both of our needs were met, Bryan facilitated the consultation and installation from local company that the school had used in the past.  I was involved with the consultation and picked the color after Bryan picked the material. The new floor was installed over Spring Break.

Entrance After
Naming the New Snack Area
To get student buy-in, I ran a contest for students to name the new snack area.  They were allowed to enter as many ideas as they wanted.  The prize was a delivered lunch from a restaurant of their choice (within reason).  The students really liked this prize, and it cost under $10 for me.  The winning name was “Crumb Corner” with “Read and Feed” coming in second.  

Collaboration Opportunities Unexpected collaboration came about with Crumb Corner. Some librarians might chose to sell food or beverages, but I made a conscious choice to not to do that.  I do not want to compete financially with the school breakfast program or the culinary art students’ Warrior Express.  However, I can support the programs by allowing them to set up a satellite station in the library, an option that was never open to them in the past.  Students also bring in their purchases and can now enjoy them in library with friends. It has the potential for some awesome collaboration opportunities.  
The Crumb Corner is very popular, especially during first and second hour.  Students can now bring in their coffee and actually drink it.  Many kids bring breakfast to school since the first bell is at 7:25, and I don’t like to eat before then either.  The students tell me that they appreciate that they have a place for them.  
Crumb Corner in Action

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Making the Move to Genre

I’d heard about the Genre or Bookstore Model in school libraries.  I’d read the blog posts from Shannon Miller on her process in 2012. I’d gone to the different WEMTA conference sessions on how to update a library.  I loved the idea, but the process just seemed overwhelming.  
I realized that I had to make the change when one of my reluctant readers walked into the fiction section and did not know where to start. All of the books looked the same.  He wanted a “sports book.”  Like every other time that had been asked of me, I defaulted to the authors I knew would satisfy the need: Carl Deuker, Chris Crutcher, John Coy, or Mike Lupica.  Those are all great authors, but without even realizing it, I was limiting his choice because I was giving easy and known answers in the moment.  A guy can only get by with reading Gym Candy so many times.  This student was like so many before him - frustration, irritation, and overwhelmed.  I wanted to share my love of reading, to break down the barriers, but I had been keeping an obstacle in the way - organization.  I knew that I needed to change for my students.
In Fall 2014, I accepted a new position at Muskego High School.  I now had two aides to assist me in the process of moving to the Genre model, which made the process seem more manageable.  
To learn from others, I toured two school libraries that had already reorganized. Visiting Betsy Daniels from Oconomowoc High School was my first stop.  She had gone to the genre model the previous year and shared her process with me.  A few months later, I traveled to Tremper High School in Kenosha to see how Lorena Danielson had made the move.  These two were invaluable in their guidance and help.  They helped me fine tune my process.
The Process
I weeded out all ugly books, old books, and aged multiple copies (for example, I went down to one copy of Twilight from four).  I used Follett Titlewise analysis along with circulation records from Follett Destiny to help guide me as well.  This was also a great time to see what needed replacing and updating.  After we weeded the books, classroom teachers were given the chance to the take them into their classroom libraries.
Toni Heinowski, Muskego’s K-8 librarian, and I collaborated on the genres in anticipation that the middle schools would also move to the genre model.  We wanted to make sure that students had a consistent experience between buildings.  Here are our final genre categories.
We chose to purchase blank labels from and print our genres.  This gave us more control of which genres we chose and the labels look more appropriate for a secondary
school, which I didn’t always feel when searching for preprinted labels.   An unexpected surprise, the English Teachers happily accepted the same labels to put on the books in their classroom library. Students are going to see these labels everywhere.  
Many of the libraries that I visited and read about changed the call number of each book. This seemed like it was going to take too long and be too tedious.  It would also have increase my cost to replace all of the spine labels.  My wonderful aide, Pam Watters, figured out that we could change the sublocation of an item in a batch edit.  The directions are here.  My spine labels did not need to be changed; they are still FIC above the first three letters of the author’s surname. In an initial search in Destiny, the sublocation shows, so there will be minimal instruction to students and staff on how look for items.  
I also instituted that we should spend no more than 30 seconds to decided on a genre.  We only assign one genre to a title, even if they can fit in multiple places.  We think about what reader would most like the book and put it in that genre.  If we are wrong, and students have told me that I am, I’m happy to change the label. There are so many books to get through that we couldn’t waste time with indecision.
A shelf at a time, we would load them onto a cart to label and change the record.  Then the books were returned to the same shelf.  Any book that was returned in the book drop was labeled and changed before it went back onto the shelf.   This way, if the As were finished, we would not shelve a book that needed a label.  This was very important the further through the alphabet we got.

When we were finished, Pam used her Destiny manipulation powers again run a report by sublocation so we had an idea of the number of books in each genre.  That helped us to plan where each genre would be shelved.
I borrowed book trucks from other libraries in the district.  Two shelves were already empty due to weeding.  We started there and then we shifted and pulled the genres in alphabetical order on the carts and reshelved in the new locations.  On paper, this looked like a good plan, and it was. However, after seeing it in reality, we made changes and reshelved again.  I think we moved the Classic Genre three times before we were finished.  
It was such a feeling of relief and accomplishment when it was finished.  It looks amazing. Time will tell if our circulation statistics will rise and how the students feel.  At this moment, I think this is a success. When my reluctant readers come in and say "I want a sports book," my response is "Green Label" and to let the wonderful world of reading open to them.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Embed a Google Presentation into Blogger

Here are directions for embedding a Google Presentation into your Blogger post. This makes it easy for visitors to your blog to see your work!

1. Make your Google Presentation Public
  • File -- Publish to Web... -- Start Publishing -- OK

2. Copy the Embed Code with your preferred options
  • File -- Publish to the web... -- Copy Embed Code

3.  In Blogger New Post, Paste the Embed Code in the HTML Edit Place
  • New Post -- HTML -- Paste -- Compose (to check)

4.  Publish your blog post for the world to see and comment!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reflection on EdCampMadWI

Pernille Ripp has already posted her reflection aboutEdCampMadWI with her need to wear comfortable shoes for the next EdCamp.  I did wear my most comfortable sandals, and was I ever happy because I was running around a lot during EdCampMadWI.  To continue with this metaphore, let’s get this reflection on EdCampMadWI off and running…

EdCampMadWI was the first time that I had a major role in planning an EdCamp.  I was a volunteer at others, so I was able to attend all sessions.  However, this time, I had to make sure that all of the food was set up, so I wasn’t able to attend many sessions.  I was able to pop into a few sessions and ask questions or give advice, but it was a much different experience than I’ve had in the past.  Yet, it didn’t bother me one bit that I couldn’t participate in the discussion as much because so many of my colleagues were there!  They were in sessions sharing their knowledge and learning.  The experience motivated them, and they finally stopped looking at me funny when I profess my love of EdCamp.  Like many others, they felt motivated and enjoyed their day. 

Marshall High School staff members at EdCamp.
I'm running around in the back somewhere.
Continually, the question of how to spread the word of EdCamp to those not connected through Twitter or other social media is asked.  I believe that the attendees of EdCamp need to talk to their coworkers and drag them along.  I’ve attended four previous EdCamps.  After each one, I went back to my staff and said how wonderful they were.  My wonderful friend and colleague, Allison Fuelling, followed me to EdCampChicago. She was a witness of the impact of EdCamps.  She helped convince our colleagues that they needed to come to EdCampMadWI because it was close to home. All of the Marshall Staff members enjoyed the day, and next time, I think more will come.  We need to spread the word to other teachers and administration that EdCamps are about more than technology, that they can learn or discuss anything they want.  Imagine if an entire district came to an EdCamp; wouldn’t that be one powerful day?

Since so many of my colleagues were there, the inevitable discussion came up of how to make in-service more like an EdCamp. My principal kept pushing back in the discussion with the main argument that at an in-service, there is not intrinsic motivation of the teachers to learn.  At EdCamp, everyone is there because they want to be. The want to be there cannot be recreated at an in-service.  I’m not sure how much I agree with that statement.  In one-on-one discussions, I think everyone wants to be good at their job.  Teachers should be willing to learn new things or have discussions on how to make things better.  Isn’t it possible to have expectations that they will discuss?  My principal was open to the idea, as he had a good day at EdCamp, but accountability always seems to get in the way of meaningful in-service.  If you have any ideas on this, please leave a comment below.

This blog post wouldn’t be complete without the mention of my awesome co-planners.  Jess started organizing during lunch at EdCamp Oskosh.  She put it out on Twitter and Pernille, Kaye, and I got on board. It was a little overwhelming to be thanked by so many of the participants (I also got an offer to be the number caller at the next church bingo event).  I’m glad that I was able to help people come together for a day to learn from each other.  Really, I should be thanking all of the attendees because that is the power of an EdCamp.  I just made sure you all were fed.

We’ll do it again.  EdCamps are so refreshing because you can realize that as educators, we are not alone.  Others have the same problems, and they solutions we haven’t thought of yet.   Stay tuned and spread the word about the power of EdCamps.

Monday, May 14, 2012

#EdCampMKE Reflection: Connections

I love the way that EdCamps work.  For those that haven’t attended an one before, an EdCamp is an Unconference where there are no set presentations. The attendees put their ideas on a Post-It, stick it to a schedule board, and then everyone goes to what interests them.  With no formal presentations, most sessions turn into roundtable discussions.  You can learn what other districts are doing, the problems they’ve faced and conquered, and challenge your thinking. The best part is that you are in charge of your own learning.  If the session you are in doesn’t meet your needs, get up and leave; find what is interesting to you.  If the discussion needs to continue past the scheduled hour, there is a free room for you to do that.  Topics can also develop during the day as one did with Apple TV. I was able to choose, and that’s powerful.

My goal with #EdCampMKE was to make connections. Teachers, Administrators, Professors, Librarians, and all the others who attended want to share their experiences and hear what others have to say.  I have expanded my Professional Learning Network (PLN)  who I can go to for advice and problem solving. These connections are the greatest benefit of attending an EdCamp. After I attended #EdCampChicago in May 2011, I had the start of an excellent network. I was able to develop more professional relationships and learn from these individuals on a daily basis through what they Tweeted.  These connections are what I find most valuable from EdCamp.

Connections are not only made face to face.  Sitting in the Commons during the Smackdown, individuals not even at the EdCamp were adding resources along with those that were in other sessions.  I had conversations over Twitter with those that were following along virtually. See the collected resources on the EdCampMKE Blog. Through social networking, the learning can continue!

To give educators the opportunity to come for free (including breakfast and lunch) to share and learn new ideas is priceless.  Thank you to the very generous sponsors; organizers Chad Kafka and Tammy Lind;  and all of the volunteers that made one very powerful day of learning.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night

Fresh Out of the Box Books!
Today is World Book Night, a movement to get reluctant or non-readers a book.  Started in the UK and Ireland, this is the first time it has happened in the United States.  One had to apply to be a giver and chose from 30 popular titles to hand out to readers who might not otherwise have access to books.  

Allison Fuelling, Biology Teacher, had a personal connection to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  She had actually done experiments on Lacks’ cells.  She promoted the book earlier in the year, so I knew that she had to be a giver.  She applied and was able to give away copies.  She loves that she is able to promote biology and non-fiction reading! 

The Happy Faces of Book Receiving Students
As is well established on this blog (here and here), I love how The Hunger Games inspires students to read.  So many of my “non-readers” have requested this book, and it’s hard to keep it on the shelves.  That is why I requested to give The Hunger Games.  

The atmosphere at school today is very exciting.  Students want copies of these books and are so happy when they receive them.  You can sign up to receive information about the next World Book Night here.  It was very easy to apply to be a giver; all it took was some basic information and a short paragraph about how you could reach non-readers. Those that were selected (everyone that I know who applied was selected) chose a nearby location (book store, public library) to pick up their books. It is my hope that all of the teachers at MHS can become givers and we can make it a huge event at school.  

Thank you to all of the sponsors of World Book Night and to all who helped organized it.  A special thank you to the East Towne Mall Barnes and Noble for specially delivering the books to school after a mix up at the store.  See more pictures from the day on the MHS Library Facebook Page. Giving away books to kids is so much fun; I wish I could do this everyday!!

Mrs. Fuelling's Promotional Display 

Promotional Library Poster made by Nate