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Let’s get it started in here!

letsgetitstartedThere’s been a lot of very expectable buzz on the TL Blogosphere as well as on Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group relating to new ways folks are getting things started.  From engaging little strategies, to complete rethinking of culture and schedules, I asked a few of the folks I’ve been reading if I might share their ideas.

Andy Plemmons shared a bounty of ideas for setting the right message in his Expect the Miraculous post, The Power of First Lines: Another New Library Orientation. What is that right message?

School is back in session in Georgia, and I’m once again reorganizing what happens in the first visit to the library. I’ve tried to steer away from a traditional orientation where students hear the do’s and don’ts in the library. It’s not that they aren’t important, but is that really the message I want to send about reading with the first words that come out of my mouth?

The message that I really want students to hear is about the joy of reading. I want them to hear about how readers talk about books to one another. I want them to hear how books can be windows into other worlds and other perspectives. I want them to hear how books can be mirrors that reflect a part of ourselves back to us.

High on Andy’s list for this school year is creating a culture of talking about reading . . .

I promised them that all year long I would post what I’m reading on the door of the library so they can always see, even if I’m with a class.  I told them that my hope was that anyone in the school could ask anyone else in the school what they are reading and both of them would have an answer. One of the best ways to find a new book is to see what others are reading, so we are giving ourselves permission to freely ask each other throughout the year about books. I also hope that several teachers will begin to post their reading outside their classrooms too.  In most classes, a few students said what they were reading now, and I loved how it immediately felt like a connection between us.

He reflected on a problem that had been bothering him relating to student use:

I saw so many students continue to come to the library and spend their whole time standing at the computer typing out topics in the library catalog instead of actually looking at books in our various genre sections. I had hoped that genres would eliminate this, but it hasn’t. I decided to start with something that wasn’t intimidating to most readers: the first lines of a book.

So Andy experimented with an innovative type of book tasting that involved the exploration of first lines and simply moving the chairs around:

This became our invitation to step into the books in the library and begin to look for windows and mirrors for each of us.  Ahead of time, I put chairs at each section of our chapter book section: scary, realistic fiction, historical fiction, humor, fantasy, sports, mystery, science fiction, and adventure.

I shared with students how one more great way to discover new books is to visit sections you love and try out the very first lines of several books. Some of my favorite books hooked me with the very first line. I shared Barbara O’Connor’s first line from How to Steal a Dog.

“The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”

That line has so much story packed into it. Why did she steal a dog? What’s her situation that she lives in a car? What does Luanne think about all this?  You can’t help but read on to find out.

Andy concluded this first experience with a few reminders:

Back on the carpet, I asked if anyone found a book that grabbed their attention, and it was amazing to see how many people raised their hands. We used this brief moment to go over some reminders before exploring the whole library to checkout books.

  • Enjoy reading as much as you can while you’re here
  • Choose what you love, but push yourself too
  • Spend less time at the computers, and more time at the shelves
  • Respect other learners
  • Borrow what you need (limits are different for every reader)
  • Honor the line at check out

What happened next is what encouraged me the most. Students could hardly contain themselves as they rushed to the shelves to find their first check outs of the year. Almost none of the students went to the computers and instead went straight to shelves and started opening up books. As students have returned for their 2nd rounds of check outs, they have continued to visit the shelves more than the computers.  I can’t wait to see how our momentum builds during the year, and I want to immediately start asking “What are you reading?”

James Allen     jengilbert

James Allen, librarian at Eminence Independent School (KY), shared his colleague’s take on attractively representing your menu of services as they connect to the Future Ready Framework:

Check out this awesome menu of services my brilliant partner librarian Jennifer Gilbert shared with our entire staff on Friday! I believe she saw inspiration for this on an EBSCO blog post. I’m so proud of her for making this. It definitely falls within the “Collaborative Leadership” and “Builds Instructional Partnerships” sections of the f38526519_10217728154016048_8520713059356901376_nramework.
I saw quite a few lightbulb moments as teachers were looking it over. We also offered an incentive for teachers to collaborate with us. Anyone who schedules a collaboration with us before school starts… we will cover their class for a period. That caught a second round of teachers’ attention. ????You can make your own menu or Canva has a ton (2,221?!) of templates to choose from here:
One Facebook discussion centered on collaborative sticker art. Chloe March shared:
I used them last year and the students LOVED them! They each got to put up stickers when they signed out books. 1 book = 1 sticker. When the picture was about 75% revealed, I would put up a large piece of chart paper underneath it where the students could write down their guesses as to what the image was going to be. They loved watching it gradually progress. I would assist the younger K-1 kids at first and direct them which color/letter to do each time. Later on, once they got the process down, I’d choose a student to stand there and hand out the stickers as the students signed out books. I took a photo of the poster at the end of each week. Then, after it was done, I linked them together to make a time-lapse, stop-motion video of it.
Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 10.42.06 AMJacquelyn Whiting

Jackie Whiting shared her plans for immediately engaging incoming 9th-grade class at Wilton (CT) High School.

Students will work individually to create a bookmark in Google Draw. We will teach them to customize the drawing space to the right dimensions. One side of the bookmark will be the graphic illustration of their creation, and the other side of the bookmark will be where they lay out the information about Library procedures such as our hours and QR code to our website.

Part 2 of Jackie’s orientation is collaborative and culture-building:

Students will work in small groups using Destiny and our databases to curate a book display. They will use Google Slides to create a poster that gives their display a title and illustrates the theme of the curated display. They will submit their list of titles and the public link to their slide via a Google Form. Then we will have a Google Sheet that we can reference and set up each of the displays the students have suggested on a rotating basis throughout the year.

Image result for nikki robertson librarianNikki Robertson, who is entering her second year as the librarian at Winkley Elementary School in Leander, Texas, shared the post, New School Year! New Ideas! New Centers, in which she shared a number of planned ch-ch-ch-changes for her fixed scheduled library with 700 students.
Nikki’s goal is to create a
WELCOMING, FUN ENVIRONMENT FREE OF “YET MORE WORK TO DO” I want my library to be a place where students get solace from the desk bound, worksheet encumbered, being talked at environment that still exist in many classrooms. I want them to learn without feeling as if they are learning. I want the library to be a safe place where they can explore, discover, create and learn.
With a commitment to student voice and community/team building, Nikki decided to replace last year’s “Hey! Listen To This” approach to student sharing with a deeper and more reflective type of sharing. Inspired by video she discovered where students shared either an appreciation, an apology, or an aha! moment, she found a new way to encourage learners to come together as a class and learn about and better understand each other.
Nikki shared that prior to going to centers, engaging in instruction or checking out books,The first thing we do is empower student voice by giving students an opportunity to share. I like starting off each library class together as a team.

So far Nikki reports the experience is going well.   

I only have two days of school and 11 classes under my belt using this new method and it has been a great success! I was surprised with how many students wanted to share an apology or an appreciation. 

One student shared an apology because she yelled at her mom because her mom wanted her to wear one outfit on the first day of school but she wanted to wear something different. Her mom started crying. I asked her if she had told her mom the apology she shared with us.  The student responded that she had not but she would do it as soon as she got home. Another student shared an appreciation to her grandparents for taking care of her this summer and letting her have so much fun.

Yet another student shared a great Aha! moment he had when he and his mom were just sitting around the house not really doing anything but watching TV.  He said, “Then I had a great idea!” He asked his mom, “Hey! Don’t you think it would be fun to get out of the house and go to the pool?!”.  He said his mom loved the idea and they had a really fun day together because of his great Aha! moment.

There have been some pretty powerful goosebumps and teary eyed moments in our two short days.

In the same rich post, Nikki describes her fixed schedule and rotations in great detail, how she organizes the Wolverine News morning announcements (here’s their checklist), and she shares changes she is making for her centers.

These self-explanatory centers, designed to be completed in 20 minutes or less, have expanded from six to nine choices to match the elementary rotation. Nikki uses a Teams system to organize engagement in center activities. Small Teams of three to five students keep their Team Numbers all year. When working in the library, students wear Team Badges, locate the center labeled with their Team Number and then, begin their explorations


You’ll find detailed plans for the centers (Google, Library Helpers, Games, Coding, Green Screen, Reading, Arts and Crafts, OSMO and Technology) organized by grade level in Nikki’s generously shared Google folder.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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