Thursday, January 28, 2016

Snowy Day Chronicles: Creating a Vision Board for your library program

I pride myself on having a plan, and sometimes a plan for that plan. However, in my world as a teacher-librarian I have quickly learned that while it’s good to have a plan it’s actions that matter most. Thus came my epiphany- that I needed to create a vison/action board for my library as I do for my personal life. Meriam Webster (2016) defines action as the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. Creating a vision board can become somewhat passive, but when you take that vision and create action steps that’s when it becomes achievable.

So I decided to create my own Library Vision/Action Board. This process caused me to truly reflect on the needs for my current school; I had to refuse to be self-centered but student-centered. This process has me motivated and inspired to turn my vision into reality.

Read on for tips for creating your own Vision+Action Board and take a look at mine.

Easy as 1-2-3, okay 4!

1. Brainstorm: What do I want for my students, teachers and community?

       a. How does this look to me?

       b. How would this look to others?

2. Pick theme: What is one word or phrase that will guide your decision making?

3. Begin the Search: Find words and/or pictures that speak to your theme.

4. Post and Publicize: Organize your thoughts on a poster, and/or web platform.

MNPS Librarian

Read more from Ms. Brinson on her own blog: Library Through My Lenses

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How can the library support a Spanish Immersion program?

Glendale Elementary School is a partial Spanish immersion school which means that part of the day is taught in Spanish. In our case, classroom teachers teach math and science in Spanish, from kindergarten to 4th grade. Spanish is also incorporated throughout the day in other ways: during morning meeting, directions in the hallways, stories, and small group reading time. When possible, our special area teachers incorporate Spanish language and Hispanic culture into their lessons. This is my sixth year teaching at Glendale in the library, or la biblioteca, as we call it, and knowing how to best support the immersion program has been an ongoing learning experience.

One way to support the program is with books, naturally. The challenge is choosing books that support the curriculum but that are not too difficult or that seem too young. Our students are not taught specifically to read in Spanish but they do get skilled at reading their math and science subjects.  They also do not readily check out books in Spanish, and it has been an ongoing challenge to encourage them to check out and try to read some of the books. During the past 6 years, I have gradually weeded out books in Spanish that were just too difficult for our students to read and would not have been used in the classroom. For instance, while Judy Moody books or Captain Underpants are well-loved in English, in Spanish they are just too challenging. My current focus is on finding good nonfiction books about science and math that the teachers can use in their classroom lessons. I am also always on the lookout for books about Spanish-speaking countries that are current and appropriate.

The library is rich in Spanish language, from Spanish labels on shelves to the pledge of allegiance in Spanish, from greetings in Spanish to a chant we say together to begin a lesson. This year we started a school-wide Spanish version of “Give me 5” which the students repeat as they are getting ready to move in a line. I tweaked it to apply to being ready to sit in a lesson in the library.
Lessons in the library are similar to those taught at typical schools. While I teach most lessons in English, I do try to incorporate Spanish when I can, either with a book in Spanish or by reinforcing Spanish vocabulary. Hispanic Heritage month, September 15 - October 15, is a busy month in the library. I offer lessons on various Hispanic American authors and Hispanic culture. Throughout the year I work with several small groups to practice reading in Spanish.

We all know that working as a school librarian is one of the best jobs around! I love the added challenge at Glendale of developing ways to support the Spanish immersion program. Stop by for a visit some time!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beyond your basic Biography Report

Each year, when February rolls around I am in high demand as teachers want me to lead research on famous Presidents & African Americans. Usually I leave the report part up to the teacher and honestly I don’t really know what they do, but it’s usually some sort of paper-pencil activity. Recently I was convicted in a technology workshop when the presenter called to our attention a common core standard which begins in second grade:

With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

I knew my school was not up to par in using digital tools to produce and publish writing and I realized that when I leave the project part up to the teacher it sometimes isn’t executed well. So this year, I approached my teachers about using our new laptop carts to create biography projects. I presented some options to each grade level & we ended up with 1st grade typing their reports into Word, 2nd grade creating a biography blog, and 3rd grade using Voki to create avatars of their project (this ended up also covering a listening & speaking standard). I am so proud of our students & teachers for stepping outside of their comfort zone & embracing technology to create their reports!

I would love for you to check out the second grader’s blog (it is still a work in progress)

Perhaps the most exciting part was creating the Voki avatars with third grade. The kids absolutely loved it! I used this tutorial from A Turn to Learn to help me but honestly found that Voki is really easy to use. I did pay ~$30 for a year’s subscription and have been using it to create digital book talks as well. Here is an example of a third graders report.

Of course we did run into a few snags along the way and I had one grade level who rejected my proposal for a digital report; however, all in all I was pleased with the end results and I have a lot of ideas on how to make things even better next year!

What digital tools have you used for reports?

MNPS Librarian

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Helping Students Through Difficult Times

We all have student pledges that are read on the intercom each morning and most of them mention respecting each other.  Most of our schools have students with social emotional needs that, at times, we are not aware of. I think it is fair to say that teachers and counselors are both very busy with extremely packed schedules and could really use some assistance whenever and wherever they can get it. The library can be that place with just a few simple steps! 
  •           Set up a planning time with your school counselor and ask her/him to bring a list of top student referrals or items of major concern related to your school's families.
  •         Explain that you would like to create a section in the library for books that reach children’s social emotional needs. (Our school counselor’s name is Ms. Tibble, so we have a section that is labeled “TIBBLE TALK”.)  It started as a shelf and has turned into a whole section!
  •       Time to search for great material to order!  I will list several authors in the end, and I must say our AMAZING counselor did most of the research and gave me over 100 titles. She is the first one to respond each year when I ask for suggestions when creating a list to order. Your counselor probably already receives catalogs of books but doesn’t have the budget for them so, this is a great way to help him/her out also!  Our principal is very supportive and appreciative of this collaboration among the staff in order to meet the students’ needs. However, I will suggest getting this list approved due to the controversial or sensitive nature of some topics.
  •       ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE!!!  Label the new books, make a special announcement on the intercom, email a Tellagami to the teachers and have them share it with their classes explaining the section to the students, ask teachers to refer students to the shelf when they notice they are having issues or to use during morning meetings.  Lastly, your school counselor will advertise during his/her lessons and groups.

Reading fiction books allows everyone of all ages to put themselves in another person’s shoes and at times fall in love with and relate to the characters in the story.  Socializing our children with books is such a valuable experience that we can give them. Hopefully, this will improve empathy and decrease prejudices at the same time. Standards and objectives are very important, but we also need to be teaching them to understand their emotions and the feelings of others. These things are crucial to learning and becoming well-rounded people. Here are a list of topics to get you started...

·      Divorce
·      Bullying
·      Getting along
·      New student, adjusting to school
·      Behavior-ADHD, tattling, too loud, teasing, sharing, manners
·      Self-esteem
·      Death, Pets passing, Cancer
·      Allergies
·      Different types of families-Two moms, two dads, biracial, step parents, transgender
·      Military moms and dads
·      New baby
·      Adoption
·      Online Strangers, Internet Safety
·      When to call 911, Strangers, Getting Lost

Authors to look for-
Julia Cook
Trudy Ludgwig
Cheri Meiners
Bob Sornson
Janice Levy
Kathryn Otoshi
Erin Frankel
Anastasia Suen- Main Street School- Kids with Character
Flip Flop Series by Janice Levy
TJ Trapper Bully Zapper Series- 1-6 by Lisa Mullarkey (Chapter books)

MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fundraising with

Last Spring, I decided to get started with creating a makerspace in my library. Around the same time, I heard about several teachers at my school who had been successful in funding classroom projects through the website It sounded like a great way to raise money to add some exciting new materials to my library.

To begin, I reviewed the website and then looked at projects from my school, other projects from Nashville, and then makerspace projects from other libraries. Once I had a sense of how it worked, I was ready to create my first project.

After setting up an account, the first step is simply naming and defining your project. After that, you are ready to go shopping! Through the website, you access their vendor directory, where you will place the items you would like in a cart. One thing to keep in mind here is their point system. You can both earn and spend points in DonorsChoose. You earn points by responding promptly to different steps of the process, and you spend points on your project, the cost of which determines the number of points. They recommend that you keep your project under $400 for the best chance of funding, and that costs one point. Then, you simply summarize what is in your cart.

The next step is to tell your story. Here is where you need to effectively communicate who your students are and why they need these materials. You’ll describe your library, your students, and how they will use the materials you are requesting. In order to be able to tell a compelling story, you need to carefully consider what materials you want to request, and why. When utilizing funding outside our regular budgets, I think it is important to look for items that are not things that our school budgets should supply. For example, a few reams of copy paper and computers should be provided by your school, but if you need several boxes of special origami paper or a Makey Makey and some alligator clips, those would be appropriate to request.

Finally, you add details by answering a few questions, upload a photo and edit your title, and then you are ready to review and submit. Creating a project is that easy! Then, you just need to get your project funded.

Two key components can aid in the success of a project. One is that you should tell a sincere, compelling story about your program and why these materials are necessary. You want potential donors to become interested in your students and see the impact that their donation could have. The second is that you need to publicize your project. Your library’s social media accounts are a great way to share the project with your school community. You might also send the link to your school’s Pencil Partner, or another organization that might be interested. Family and friends might want to donate to your project as well.

Once your project is funded, you confirm that it’s still needed, and then they send you the materials! You’ll need to write a sincere thank you, and then when you use the materials with your students, you’ll take a few photos and have the students write thank you notes. Donor’s Choose even makes this part easy to do by providing a prepaid address label. All you have to do is upload the photos and then put the notes in a large envelope, attach the mailing label, and drop it off in the mail.

After they acknowledge receipt of the thank you notes, you are all finished! Your project is listed as complete, and your students can continue to enjoy learning with the new materials.

So, the question is, what do you dream about having in your library? What materials could help you bring in reluctant readers, keep regular visitors excited, collaborate with teachers, reach out to parents, and engage and involve everyone? What will you ask for?

MNPS Librarian

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Designing Programming with the Patron in Mind

I teach at an academic magnet high school where 99% + of my students go to college.  This is my fifth year as librarian, and I’ve noticed how stressful midterms are for my students.  A few years ago, I started an after-school event to promote the library’s resources for preparing for midterms, which I deemed Studypalooza.  With free food (and lots of it), available study guides, and materials for test preparation (free notecards, white boards, etc.), it’s always been a big hit.  This year, however, I decided that I could offer more to my students.

I’ve never been happy about the fact that Studypalooza had so many students who were studying, but without any real guidance.  I certainly couldn’t help with Physics or Chemistry.  So this year, I tried something new: I partnered with our National Honor Society (NHS), and I specifically recruited tutors from NHS for the hardest exams – math, the sciences, world languages, and the like.  We had everything covered! I then asked 4 nearby teachers if I could borrow their room for Studypalooza, and they said YES!  With everything in place, I advertised as well as I could using email, my twitter and Facebook page, and intercom announcements.  I have over 100 people show up!

After getting their food, I had students spread out with tutors into different rooms.  Anticipating a large number for physics, they had their own room, with a tutor who had successfully completed the course before, and was planning on being a physics major in college.  The NHS tutors had done a great job of preparing by talking to the teachers in the subjects they would be tutoring.

The event was a big success, and I think it will only improve from here! If there was any advice I would give, it is to think big and look at what other libraries do.  I often look at what sort of outreach college libraries have, and I try to implement some of those same events.  We also hosted therapy dogs where students could distress right before exams! 

A few students came to see me after they had finished their exam and personally thanked me for hosting Studypalooza.  I know that some students received higher midterm grades than if they had not come to Studypalooza.

MNPS Librarian
@asmithfield @hfalibrary