Tag Archives: education

Makerspaces in Action: Cardboard Challenge

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When I heard about the Global Cardboard Challenge, I absolutely had to get my school involved!  I felt that this activity would be a wonderful way to get my feet wet with my classes in the makerspace ocean.  The idea is simple but the possibilities are endless–students take recyclable materials (mainly cardboard) and build something from their imagination.  It was a low-cost event that was easy to plan and execute.

I decided to make this a pre-holiday-break event, and about a month before, I began to reach out to the entire school community with a simple flyer and urged students and staff alike to donate cardboard, plastic bottles, egg cartons, tape, glue, etc.  The materials came streaming in and it was amazing to see just how much accumulated in the library media center in the weeks before the Cardboard Challenge.  Everyone from my third graders all the way up to my sixth graders are enjoying sketching out their designs and slowly bringing their creations to life.  As one fifth grade student put it:  “The library class is so much fun!  I have never done anything like this before!”  It is amazing seeing my students tap into their imagination and take ownership of the lesson and their learning.  Watching them testing out different techniques and discussing plans while building is absolutely wonderful.

I have never taken on such a massive makerspace activity, but this will certainly not be the last time!  I urge all of my fellow educators to try this and other makerspace events out.  Let your students take the reins in their own education; you will not be disappointed.

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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

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To GAFE? Or not to GAFE?

GAFE:  Google Apps for Education

Many school districts are jumping onto this bandwagon.  They want to be a part of the technological evolution that is occurring across the world.  Google, as anyone who is even remotely in the know already uses, began as a search engine, but now, is SO much more!  They are Microsoft’s arch nemesis–a competition among suites.

GAFE has so many features:  classroom, sheets, slides, forms…the list goes on for a bit!  But they are also user friendly and compatible with pretty much any electronic device and other popular tools out there, such as YouTube.  And, if you already have a gmail account, you have access!

I, myself, have been a gmail account holder for over a decade, and I’ve never wanted to part.  Gmail is easy to use, never has never issues, and I’ve never been hacked.  It simply makes sense.  And with access to so many of Google’s services, the deal is sweetened up a bit more.  So when my district offered workshops on GAFE, I did not hesitate to sign up.

We spent three long days doing a lightning introduction and review of everything, and today, we are given the opportunity to take the certification exam.  If my experiences and (short) training did its part, then I will be a Google Certified Teacher by the end of today!

Honestly, in terms of tactile rewards, the certification doesn’t give much.  (You can print out the digital certificate they email you.)  But, it does allow you a lot as an educator in this tech-driven world.  As we spent our days practicing, I was brainstorming lesson ideas in my mind.  I feel energized and excited to tackle the school year ahead!

My district is lucky enough go one-to-one with Chromebooks this school year, so we are most definitely supported to infuse as much technology as possible into our lessons.  And slowly, but surely, I am feeling equipped to take on that challenge!

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Book Club Meets Movie Night

For my final Book Club title of the school year, I had selected Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.  I thought our end-of-May meeting would correspond perfectly with the June release date for the movie.  Not only did this get my “loyal members” a little more excitement than usual for our discussion, but it also had new students gravitate towards the club.  I even have some of them asking if we can all see the movie together!

Some die-hard book lovers argue that the movie almost always ruins the book and completely alters the story.  Now, that may just be the case, however, I say use that movie to your advantage.  Our students, especially teenagers, generally enjoy going to the movies.  So why not use that to propel them to read?  Why not use the new release as a tool to inspire a student to pick up a book and read for leisure?

I am thrilled to see that all of my Book Club members, both old and new, are excited to read the book and then compare it to the movie.  It will be enjoyable for all, and the best part is that it inspires literacy!

In addition to our monthly Book Club meetings, I also host a Page-to-Screen monthly movie night in the library.  Since the beginning of the school year, once a month I selected a movie that was based off of a book, and I invited students to purchase a ticket (only $2!).  I would pull out my projector screen, pop in the DVD to my projector, and make some popcorn.  Then we would all sit around and enjoy the film depiction of a beloved book.  This, too, is a form of literacy.  Quite a few times I’ve had a student want to read the book AFTER watching the movie!

Sometimes as educators it is easy to grumble and point fingers at something or someone else for the apathy our students feel towards reading.  But why not DO SOMETHING to fight against it?  Use something that already interests them to inspire them to pick up a book.  Even if only a couple students out of a huge group start to read, it is a victory!

I once saw a cartoon that had the caption, “Why did you become a school librarian?” and the answer read, “To avenge the decline of literacy.”  Even though it gave me a chuckle, I couldn’t agree more–whether you call yourself a librarian, a media specialist, a cybarian, et cetera,  one of your main duties is promoting literacy.  And, I believe you must do anything you can to ensure that.

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Changes to Standardized Testing

Working in a school in New Jersey this year has been quite stressful in terms of overcoming many changes and shifts in everything education-related.  There is an entirely new observation system, SGO requirements, and the biggest challenge of all:  new standardized testing.  PARCC is being introduced to our schools next year and it has many students and staff worried.  And, as if this isn’t enough to worry about, a new SAT format was announced yesterday.  

There is a complete overhaul in its format–everything from its scoring to its writing section is going to be vastly different come Spring of 2016.  However, to make all of these transitions a bit easier is the fact that the upcoming PARCC exam and the new SAT have many similarities in nature.  They are both going to have a bigger focus on nonfiction text and asking students to choose excerpts from the text to support their answers.  These expectations make literacy an even bigger hot button now.

Our students have to be ready in every way to tackle all of these changes–and it is up to educators to prepare them. 

 

The New York Times has a wonderful article explaining the new SAT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/education/major-changes-in-sat-announced-by-college-board.html?emc=edit_na_20140305&_r=0

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Facebook Turns Ten Today!

Facebook Turns Ten Today!

For those of us that do remember the early days of “The Facebook,” realizing that one of the top-dogs of social media is turning ten years old today is rather startling.
Facebook has revolutionized how we share our lives with people–in one of the most widespread modes possible. Even more so, Facebook has linked to companies advertising and other social media forums (like Instagram).
For those of you that are a bit more privacy-conscious, it is a bit scary to think how everything you do online can be tracked by social media. It makes for quite a tightrope to walk in terms of what you’d like out there in the public and what you want to keep to yourself.
You may be asking how this applies to my blog as an educator and librarian. I think that the way the new generations communicate relies heavily on social media. They are constantly posting and sharing and taking pictures to immediately upload onto Instagram. And, because we are bequeathing our knowledge onto these younger generations, it may be wise to consider how social media can play into all of this.
I, myself, have opened up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for my school library, and I also share this blog on the library’s webpage. I am trying to take the ancient idea of a library (at least in the minds of some teens) and make it relevant in their every day lives.
I think it could be quite useful to use social media in various ways in daily lessons or assessments to add a fun twist to the curriculum. When I was working as an English teacher, I had my students create Instagram accounts for various characters after reading Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. After reading a piece of literature that is hundreds of years old, it was fun to see the 21st century adaptations my students had to offer. The end products were spectacular and I was proud to see their literacy shine through an outlet with which they were familiar.
So I challenge my fellow educators to take the plunge, and see how social media can play a role in your everyday classes. If Facebook is any indication, social media is here to stay–and it would be best if we accept it with open arms.

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February 4, 2014 · 8:54 am

Word Mover

Anyone that appreciates the written word, especially poetry, can attest to the fact that it is sometimes, if not most of the time, very challenging to put together a piece that is not only cohesive and mechanically well written but also beautiful and representative.  But, now the process of writing poetry could not become any easier–with the help of the app “Word Mover.”

Word Mover simplifies the act of composing a poem.  The app has eight “canvas backgrounds” to illustrate their writing, each of which comeS with a word bank ready to use.  All the user has to do is drag the words over to compile their lines for the poems.  If there is a specific word that is not available in the word bank, s/he can add them manually.

From an educational stance, this can widen the students’ eyes to various forms of literature.  From my own personal experiences, poetry seems to be one of the more difficult forms of writing to comprehend for young readers.  They struggle with the idea of poetry and build up mental barriers before they even approach the work.  An app like Word Mover may be able to break those walls down and show them the simple facets of poetry.  Of course, this doesn’t make every child an Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe, but it adds an interesting element.  What exactly is considered poetry?

What do you think of this app?  Is it something that could open up another facet of literature for students?  Or is it turning a form of art into a game of mad libs?

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January 13, 2014 · 11:45 am