Friday, July 22, 2016

Year Long Decorations Follow Up- Sustaining the Theme

      About a year ago, I wrote a post about decorating the library with a year long theme.  This is a follow up post on that topic:

     For the longest time, I have considered elementary teachers to be among the best practitioners in the field of education.  They are masters of integrating across curricular areas, including hands on learning opportunities, and generally making learning fun!  My wife is one of these elementary educators, and although I taught middle school and high school and now work in an 8-9th grade library, I still borrow many of my best ideas from her and other elementary educators!

     Among the ideas I have "borrowed" from my elementary colleagues is the idea of a year long theme in the library.  Two years ago, we had a superhero theme.  I was able to get a variety of Batman masks and posters from Marvel comics in honor of his 75th anniversary that were used throughout the year in support of the theme.

     The challenge of a year long theme is how to keep it fresh and new.  It is a best practice to change up displays about once a month-so how can this be done with a year long theme?  I found it easier to do this with the superhero theme.  I used the Batman masks from Marvel to disguise the classic novels and created a Robin mask for the YA companion novels.  A Creative Commons image of Batman and Robin was used to draw attention to this "Dynamic Duos" display.

     Student aides also created superhero window displays where they could pick a traditional superhero such as Green Lantern and then find books about them to place in the window.  (In the case of Green Lantern, books with green themes or the word green in the title were selected) Students could also create their own.  One student choose her favorite teacher who is affectionately known as "the Hobbit" and created a superhero poster featuring Super Hobbit.  She then filled the display with the Lord of the Rings novels and books about characters from Middle Earth.

     This past year, I went with a Monopoly board game theme.  Instead of "passing go and collecting $200", the sign in computer featured a poster that said "sign in and go enjoy your library."  Different book sections were featured signs like Fiction Avenue and Biography Boulevard.  In terms of keeping a yearly theme "new", there were more challenges than with the superhero theme.

     One display featured a "Take a Chance on a Book" similar to Monopoly's chance cards. I wrapped up books that had not ever been checked out, wrote a quick phrase hinting at their content, and encouraged students to check them out.  If they did take a chance, they could write a quick review and get a treat. Student reviews were posted on the display.  This display stayed up throughout the year.  About 40 books got their first checkout, and about a dozen student reviews were posted.  Most of the checkouts occurred during first semester and almost none occurred in the spring.

     Comparing the two yearly themes, I would say the superhero theme was more successful.  It was easier to maintain momentum by changing up the displays throughout the year while maintaining the overall theme.  Involving student aides in the decorating process also proved effective.  Their creative idea to have superhero windows was one of the best displays of the year.

Key questions to ask in considering year long themes include:

  • Is there a historical anniversary or notable pop culture theme/event that could be used as a year long theme?
  • Are there free/inexpensive decorations available that could support the selected theme?
  • How can this theme be sustainable throughout the year?
  • How can a yearly library theme mesh with a focus of our school during the current calendar year?
  • Are there displays or contests that could be run that would support the yearly theme AND help to maintain enthusiasm for it?
  • How can the faculty and students be involved in a yearly library theme?
     As the new school year approaches, I am still considering some different year long theme ideas.  What year long themes have you tried in your library/classroom and what did you do to sustain them/keep them fresh?

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