Monday, December 31, 2018

Go For It: Publish Your Book

As a 7th grader I discovered YA Lit, Sweet Valley High to be exact. My love of reading led to a love writing. I knew then I wanted to become a writer and publish books. This interest in reading and writing continued for many years. Although, I thought the ship had sailed on becoming a professional writer because #1. I didn't  have time to write every day like a true writer and #2. I didn't have the patience to write query letters to find an agent or publisher. This year was different. I decided to invest in myself this summer, and took a personal sabbatical to study picture book writing in the woods alone.

Well, I wasn't all alone. I attended the  Highlights Writer's Summer camp in rural Pennsylvania with other writers and professional writers such as Linda Sue Park, Lamar Giles, Anna-Marie Mc Lemore, and more.

It was a great fan girl experience. While I was there, I was assigned a fabulous professional writer and mentor, Alison Green Meyers, who really took time to walk me through the professional picture book writing experience.

I met two literary agents, and they offered to read my work. I also was reminded of the book to find possible agents and publishers.

All I had to do was write query letters to find the right match for my work. This part is much easier said than done for a busy elementary librarian. There are several professional writers out there who are also librarians. But, I just didn't have the time or patience to find a professional "Prince Charming" who would publish and treat my work like Cinderella.
At the end of the summer I discovered Kindle Kids' Book Creator as a way to self-publish my work on-line. I know some say self-publishing is just not the same as a "real" published piece by a publisher. At this point in my life, I say who cares. Ultimately, I'm publishing my work for myself to achieve a dream. When I see my e-book on Amazon, it feels complete; instead of collecting dust in some sad little folder in my closet. This year during library orientation, I was able to share my work with my students. I also pursued this dream for my students. I want my students to know it's okay to go for your dreams. If they want to write picture books, novels, and etc., they can publish their work now on Amazon.

Publishing a book using Kindle Kids' Book Creator is a real makerspace adventure. You are in charge of everything: the artwork, the layout, the marketing, and etc. It's recommended to create a dummy book first to get a sense of the book's flow to create a page turning book. The whole process is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to publishing more books on-line, and helping others to do the same.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Creating a Learning Commons Library

Each year I try to perfect the library services offered to students and teachers. For many years I offered a bi-weekly fixed schedule, and the open times were considered flex times for collaborative projects. This year we are trying something new at my school. We are creating a learning commons in our library. The concept of a library as a learning commons is not new. Several other librarians in my school district use this framework and love it. That is one of the reasons why I was drawn to it. As a learning commons the library truly becomes an extension of every classroom not just the ELA classes. Instead of seeing classes every other week students organically use the library as they need it. Now they visit the library when ever they need a new book not just when it's their classes' checkout day. Students come into the library to complete assignments and use the library resources as they need them. Students visit the library in small groups and learning stations are setup in the library. This framework works perfectly with makerspace. Instead of transforming the library into a makerspace for a class, I can set-up makerspace stations for students to visit throughout the school day.
This is a picture of the first learning commons station I set-up with the 2nd grade team. After learning the difference between a fiction and non-fiction book in the classroom, students came into the library to sort the basket of books into stacks fiction and non-fiction. Students took one book from each stack. Students were asked to discuss and write out an explanation why one book was fiction and the other was non-fiction. Students spent the rest of the time in the library independently checking in their library books and checking out new books.
How does it work? 
A learning commons library uses a flex schedule which means classes use the library when they need it not because it's their library day. This means that I must collaborate with teachers, so I can set-up stations, library resources, and have min-lessons prepared that extend classroom learning in the library. The library has become a place where students meet to collaborate, communicate, innovate, and share  with their class, small groups and individually. When the students are in the library they maybe working independently with a parent volunteer, with their teacher, or librarian depending on the task. On Wednesday of each week the next week's schedule is developed. I start by blocking out programs, teams meetings, and any other meetings I want to attend. I leave the schedule at the circulation desk for teachers to sign-up. At the end of the week, I type up the schedule in excel. I also check to see if there's a class who maybe missing out on the great things the library has to offer.

How's It Going So Far?
We just started this a month and a half ago. Change takes time. So far I see the positive impact on students. They love being able to exchange their library books anytime during school the day on-demand instead of just having a class checkout day. The library as a learning commons is building student efficacy and independence. While the teacher and librarian teach in the library in the learning commons the student is in charge of their personal learning goals. The following is an idea my friend uses, Lee Glover the librarian from Ferguson Elementary.
Personal Learning Goals Tips from Lee Glover, librarian from Ferguson Elementary Library
Here is my 3-5 grid.  It's been working really well. Here's what I sent out to teachers:

This grid is a way to hold the students accountable for what they do during their small group time in the library after checking out a book.  Here is what my plan is for your students:
  •  Every child gets a 20 minute library time each week.  Same day/time each week.
  • Every child chooses one of the tasks on the Personal Learning Goal sheet before coming to the library.  In this way, students will practice using the whole library and all of the resources available.
  • Students will be limited to 2 weeks of Makerspace activities.  These are not "play" activities.  Students have to read, follow directions and think to complete all of the Makerspace activities.  
  • Students "x" off each a number each time they complete an activity.  When no more numbers, then that activity is not a choice for them any longer in that 9 weeks.

Future Plans at Ed White E-STEM Library
After 6 weeks of implementing the library as a learning commons we are off to a great start, but there is still a long road ahead before we can say, "We've got this!" At times it is a bit overwhelming. The library busy learning hub. As I'm building a learning commons in my library, I try to keep my recent Tweet in mind. 


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Top 10 Makerspace Activities

Listed below are the top makerspace activities my K- 5th grade students enjoyed the most during the 2017- 2018 school year. The list is not in any specific order. We plan to offer these activities during the next school year too. If you're planning to start a makerspace or add additional resources to an existing one the resources below are well worth the cost.
1. Cubelets 
2. Straws and Connectors
3. Rigamagig 
4. Stickbots 
5. Rainbow Loom
6. Keva Contraptions Marble Run
7. Dash
8. Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run
9. Hue Animation Studio
10. Design and Build Engineering Centers

Sunday, May 27, 2018

It's Time to Reflect

Did I make a difference this year? Did I encourage my library patrons to embrace and enjoy their reading life? How can I make my library program progressively better supporting all literacies? These are questions I will reflect on as I complete my library inventory and take down bulletin board decorations for the summer. It was an amazing school year being SLJ's 2017 School Librarian of the Year. As this school year closes I am left with a stronger drive to offer the best library program possible for my campus.


We are offering summer checkout for the first time. This summer students can checkout up to 10 books. We are also going to open the library 4 times during the summer for checkout and makerspace activities. As I prepare to take the National Board Certification Exam as a Librarian Specialist, I am thinking about areas of growth to ensure that I'm offering the best library program possible for my learning community. Taking time for reflection helps to build a stronger school library program.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inquire @ Your Makerspace

In the past school libraries have only focused on offering consumption activities for patrons such as checking out books, utilizing research information, and taking in story time. But, makerspaces have shaken things up. Makerspaces promote innovation, exploration, and creation. In November the American Association of School Librarians unveiled the new library standards. Inquire is one of the shared foundations and it screams makerspace by definition. In a 21st century library based on AASL Standards libraries should offer students a space to think critically, problem solve, and practice a growth mindset. When students visit a makerspace, it's much more than indoor recess. It's a time where students can practice their logic and reasoning skills in a safe place. A makerspace helps students strengthen their voice and develop their STEM identity by giving them an opportunity to create products that show their learning. Teamwork and sharing are a part of any makerspace and these qualities are listed in AASL's Inquire: shared foundation. In the years ahead libraries will continue to promote every type of literacy. From this point forward promoting every literacy is not enough; adding inquiry to the promotion of literacies will benefit our students, school and community.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Makerspaces Encourage Student Innovation

Newbery Webinar


Sketchnote by Tamiko and Andrew Brown