Thursday, September 24, 2015

Monopolizing the Library

     As a junior high media specialist, I have tremendous respect for my elementary colleagues and the great work they do.  I have found that many "elementary" ideas also are effective with my junior high school students.  One of these is creating a yearly theme in the Media Center.

     This year, I selected Monopoly as the theme.  In support of the theme, I utilized several components of the game for displays and library procedures.  I use a Google form to document student free flow visits.  To encourage students to follow this procedure, I made a sign that borrowed the themed of the "do not pass go, do not collect $200."  Instead it reads Sign in on the Computer, Now Go Enjoy your Library."

     I also created large Monopoly styled signs above different sections such as Fiction Place, Non
Fiction Avenue and Biography Boulevard.  Having these large signs above the sections has helped my students to more easily find the materials they are looking for.

     Another way I have utilized the Monopoly theme is to develop a display based on Chance Cards.  Similar to the way those cards play in the game, students are taking a small risk by checking out a book that is wrapped up and has a brief phrase hinting about the theme of the book.  Students have the opportunity to check out one of these books and write a short review.  If they do so, they can earn a small chocolate treat as a reward and their reviews are posted on the display.

     I selected titles from the library that have yet to be checked out.  This display has been a great way to encourage students to read from different genres they might not otherwise select.  Another benefit has been that it has increased our circulation and interest in these titles.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Maker Challenges

   I am developing a Maker Space in the Library this year.  I will also be co-leading a Maker Club with another teacher that will be held on alternating Fridays.  My administration has encouraged me to seek out ways to tie Maker activities to the curriculum.

   To build up interest in the Maker Space, I held a Maker Challenge last Friday in the Library during both of our lunch periods.  Since the toys for the new Star Wars Movie came out on that day, I selected  a Star Wars related challenge.  Participants were to pick a Star Wars character or ship to construct. For the challenge, I borrowed my children's Lego bricks and printed off several images of Star Wars ships and characters.

   The session was a hit!  About fifteen students in each lunch attend as well as two teachers.  The teachers and students created Darth Vader as well as a Tie Fighter, an AT-ST Walker, an Imperial Star Destroyer, two AT-AT Walkers, and a Speeder bike.

     I handed out prizes for the best ship in each lunch as well as best character created.  Into the next week, several teachers and students have stopped by the library inquiring about when the next Maker Challenge will be held.

     Another part of the success of the first Challenge was that our broadcast teacher used it as an opportunity to train one of his students in video production.  The student attended the second session of the Maker Challenge, and turned his footage into a video about the Maker Challenge.  This video gave the library Maker Space some great publicity and appeared on the all school broadcast announcements the following week.

       I look forward to holding another Maker Challenge next month.  Some buzz has been created about the Makerspace, the challenge now is to build on that and connect it with some curricular projects!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Diving into Maker Spaces with Both Feet

    With the opening of the new school year, I took the plunge into the world of maker spaces.  My school has a tradition of making our first back to school meeting a fun one.  Last year, we held a zombie scavenger hunt around the building with GPSs.  This past June when I met with the administration for my yearly evaluation, I proposed opening a maker space in my library workroom.  During that meeting, they encouraged me to pursue the maker space and also to consider how maker concepts could be incorporated into the curriculum and within our academic teams.

     With this challenge as a backdrop, I worked with a colleague to set up a two hour professional development session for my teachers where they would learn what the maker movement is and understand the possibilities it holds.   My assistant principal and I then surveyed our options and made plans for how we could empower teachers to create their first maker projects.

     Although my interior decorating skills are negligible, I had the idea the night before to layout maker "center pieces" on all of the tables where staff were seated.  This proved to be an effective way to show my colleagues the broad range of materials and possibilities that fit under the maker umbrella.
     One of the session goals was to have our academic teams create a project that was related to a goal their team had, their team name (which they were selecting at the first part of the session), or a part of the vision for their team.  Since some of the teams had not met together before, we had to plan in some extra time in the session so that they could get to know one another and collaborate towards this goal.  This ended up being one of the best part of the session and helped to set our teams up to succeed in creating some pretty impressive maker projects in a short period of time.

    After a short review of several of the sessions' maker project options which included duct tape projects, Legos, action figures, crafts, green screen and stop action video productions, our teachers got to work.  As in most maker projects, time was the enemy.  Nonetheless, the projects developed by the staff were impressive!  There were several videos including a stop action, and  a green screen production, as well as a presentation where an Ironman doll was repurposed as an poster advertisement for the goals of one academic team.  Our session concluded with a chance for each team to present their projects and tie in the goals and vision of their teams.

    There were several takeaways from this two hour session.  First,  as one teacher new to our staff comment that this was " the most fun" he had ever had at an opening staff meeting.  Having fun was also a catalyst for doing the work of teaming and clarified each team's vision and goals for the year.   My teachers also saw the "can do" spirit of the maker movement first hand and now see its possibilities for their students. As one teacher put it, maker projects are "so practical, (we) can do them in my classroom." (with the supplies on hand) In terms of what I would do different, I would seek to make more direct connections with teachers' content.  I had a few maker projects on hand to show teachers and briefly referred to how they might fit in with different content disciplines, but I wish there had been more time in the session to flesh this out.
    The challenges from here are to build on the momentum of this session as the school year begins.   Several teachers have already donated materials and connected me with community resources to obtain supplies for our maker space.  I hope to be able to blog more in the future about how I have worked with teachers and students this year to incorporate maker projects directly into their curriculum and their lives.