I'm working on transitioning this content to my new blog: "Create, Collaborate, Innovate" located at  http://colleengraves.org/.

Hope to see you there soon!

About two months ago, I was listening to All Songs Considered with my little one as we ate breakfast. On my drive to school, I started thinking about how cool it would be if our English classes could make their own version of this since middle school kids LOVE music.  I got really excited about trying to connect with the hosts as our expert mentors. (Although this connection never panned out, we had many other great connections.)

As I entered my rambunctious library, I discussed the notion with Mrs. Wilson one of our 8th grade ELA teachers who was on library duty.  She loved the idea of doing a PBL (Project Based Learning) centered on music as Mrs. Witter and Mrs. Wilson were already discussing revamping their yearly music project.

We created a great brain trust with our design coaches and decided to focus on the essential question, “How can Music shape our lives?” From there we had students blog, interview family and friends, and even help create our rubric.  Essentially, this was a research project where we used “crowdsourcing” as our source of information. Students took all of that info and wrote radio scripts and then recorded their podcasts with Audioboom.  Our band students came by and gave some feedback and then we finished our PBL with an  “All Songs Considered Listening Gala.”   We were so pleased with the outcome, all of the listeners that came to our gala, and all of the musicians who listened to podcasts online and commented on them.

Visit our TACCK to see the details about the project (You'll have to go to Tackk to get to the Audioboom links): https://tackk.com/8pzbq8


Overall, it was an amazing project and I can’t begin to tell you how amazed I was by our students here at Lamar.  A few of these podcasts sound exactly like something you could hear on NPR.

However, one of the biggest elements of Project Based Learning is teacher reflection, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what we should do next year to make this project even more successful.  One of the things I’d really like to add is more database research. I want our students to become better at finding good sources of information and finding great information inside those sources. Our design coaches also had some ideas about connecting with “Themes” earlier in the inquiry process. This got me thinking that it would be great to pull out some great articles from Gale about music connected to certain themes. Maybe I could pull some scholarly articles about “music and Alzheimer's,” “music and stuttering,” “ how culture shapes music,” and more.  We could have students read these articles in small groups, identify the themes in each article, and then find two items that support the theme within the article.  (I know this is super English teacher geeky of me, but looking at great writing is a great way to show them how to write their final product!)

This would help frontload nonfiction writing for the students.  We could pull those articles out again at script writing time and say, “Now, remember when we read these? You are going to use the information from your interviews and your research in the same way to support your theme!” 

(This should cut down on the podcasts that turned out like, “I interviewed my mom, my brother, and a friend. My mom said….” ETC.)

I’m also thinking that these articles would be a great pre-search activity.  The articles about music tied to certain themes should get them thinking about how music shapes our lives and maybe their PBL will become more focused?

Our band director, Mr. Hanna, also said he’d love to help with a lesson in sound quality and production quality for the podcasts.  While most students did a decent job, some had a lot of noise interference and some spoke very quietly with loud music blaring in the background. A lesson in sound quality could greatly enhance their final product.  He could also guide them in the art of “fading in” and “ fading out” so they don’t abruptly begin and end songs that stifle their beautiful writing.

I wonder what the students will be more curious about? I wonder how focused will next year’s PBLS be?  Normally, I would be tired of a project after such a lengthy process, but I can’t wait to be a part of this project again next school year.

International Dot Day celebrates connecting our global dots.  The Dot by Peter Reynolds, is a simple book with big message. The book suggests you “make a mark and see where it takes you.” So we asked our art students here at Lamar to make dot art and answer the essential question, “How will you make your mark on the world?”


We wanted to connect our dots and see what type of projects other classes did after reading this book.   It was rewarding showing off our dots to students in Weatherford, Texas.  Our students sparked many ideas with elementary students in Hawaii.  One day we connected and gave them ideas for #Dotday and the next week we connected and saw their pointillism projects and even an origami yoda!    We Skyped with High School students in Florida who made coffee filter art told us how they would use our education.


Watch the video to learn more and see local coverage here.


To learn more about how librarians can help facilitate global connections, check out my guest post on Scholastic's Education Blog Frizzle!

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This summer I was asked to present a webinar to Ohio School Librarians for InfOhio. The recording is available here.

I also created a resource list (adapted from a collaborative presentation with LISD librarian, Leah Mann) and year long programming ideas that I will continue to update via this gdoc:http://goo.gl/UUEItu.

RESOURCE LIST for School Makerspace

Webinar Recording:http://goo.gl/QTi36k

Sites I visit frequently:

Free Workshops:

  • Maker Journals: http://www.makered.org/tag/makerspace/ (How great would it be to have a maker journal all year? Or use Maker ed as authentic research? Kids could have to make something in small challenge groups and record all findings and modifications in a maker journal!)

  • Costumes (Even from paper!)

  • Card and board games

  • Inspire kids to invent and create with Rube Goldburg: http://www.rubegoldberg.com

  • Make Retro games: http://www.sploder.com/

Write a Grant for these:

Have people donate:

  • Brushbot supplies: Scrub brushes and Electric Toothbrushes from the Dollar Tree

  • Old car toys (Rocket propelled w balloons), balloons, old car toys with gears or switches, electronic motors for scribble bots (can buy from Radio Shack or get them out of a dollar store toothbrush), wire cutters, wire from phone lines (like old internet cords, etc), alligator clips, old tennis balls, old computers, old electronics, empty/cleaned coffee bags, oatmeal containers, 2 liter bottles, Modge Podge



Maker Workshops Ideas for the School Year (Organize activities around your Curriculum Standards)


Low Tech

High Tech

Cur Connections



LED Origami



Math, Angles, Art


Duct tape projects

Little Bits

-space kit

-synth kit

Snap Circuits

Science, Music



Makedo- make something with cardboard

Frankentoys- make it light up or move, etc with Hummingbird

Great resource here or buy Sugru to make interchangeable toys

Rolly bot- Like Sphero but made with a brushbot




Nanowrimo http://nanowrimo.org/

Interactive book w Makey Makey

English- Story writing

Science- Electricity, conductive materials, circuits


Upcycle old picture books into coasters w Modge Podge

(Find words and make your own magnetic poetry style coasters, or make story coasters.)

LED Throwies

Game Controller Workshop w Makey Makey (from MakerJawn)



Cardboard Mazes w Makedo

Scratch coding  -Use resources from Pursuitery.

  1. Chasing Game Challenge

  2. Maze Game Challenge

-Then make a real Magnetic Maze Combines Makey Makey and Scratch

Take it a step further and build a maze for your brushbot! Let Scratch score your brushbots and hold a competition!

-Logic Puzzle w Makey Makey

Math- X/Y Axis, Equations, Computational Thinking

English- Interactive Story idea changed into a logic puzzle


Unmake stuff Get kids to bring old stuff

Paper Circuits- Interactive Greeting Cards

Science- Electricity, conductive materials, circuits


Make your own Ukelele

Arduino Music Projects




Rube Goldberg Challenge - Motion projects

Wind Turbine Challenge: http://challenge.kidwind.org/

-Animated Poems with Mozilla Webmaker

-Hummingbird robot poems

Paper Circuits -

Makey Makey Maze w Brush Bot






Upcycle a Day for the Month of May! - Coffee bag idea

Raspberry Pi Photo booth

Inventions for math “market”

Math- Market

Science- Recycling, properties of materials

Start simple then build!

ELA: Storytelling, poetry connections

Makey Makey- give kids a bunch of stuff.  What is conductive and what isn’t? and WHY?

Science- Electricity, Circuits, Wind power

Math- Invent something, then sell it at our Community Market- why is your item selling or not?

Scratch Lessons all from Pursuitery https://pursuitery.com/technology/challenge/42/coding-with-scratch-challenge-maze-game/349

Chasing Game:

Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3goItEqutEo

Tips and Hints: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAYlmCj2W-4

Maze Game

Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbx1LiWCcxITips and hints: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gezAgBwcV3k


As I enter my third year of Makerspace programming, I find that I’m convinced more and more of the power of #makered.  I’m happy to see as an early adapter, that more and more schools, libraries, and cities have also adopted the idea of “tinkering.” So much so that, President Obama even hosted a Maker faire this week!

Somehow, with my time off this summer, I’ve signed myself up for two MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). One that is part of the National Writing Project (NWP) centered around Connected Learning- #CLMOOC, and the other a STEAM camp- #STEAMMOOC.  I’ve also signed myself up for a Maker Camp at my local PD where I will be incorporating Maker activities into content curriculum (And you thought Teacher Librarians took their summers off!)

The first make for #CLMOOC was a challenge to create a  “How to.”  With all the hype around Makerspaces, I decided to make a super simple “How to Make a Makerspace” in Canva (a tool I’ve been itching to tinker with!)

These 5 steps are simple:


However, these steps do need a little more explaining.  First off, my students are the epicenter of my Makerspace.  When I say let the students guide the learning, I mean let them decide what workshops to focus on. Also, let students lead those workshops!  The great thing about this is that you and I do not have to be experts in Minecraft or duct tape wallets, because chances are, we can find students who knows WAY more than we do on the subject.  I wrote extensively about this in my article in the spring issue of Knowledge Quest.  Which you can access here if you are a member of AASL.

However, you do have to push students to do more than just learn a new skill.  Which is why the second step I suggest is hosting a workshop to teach students how to do something new and then for the third step, create a challenge to see how far your kids can push their learning.  I learned this technique from my librarian friend Leah Mann, who also works in my district.  She sets the kids up with a month long challenge and usually rewards the top Make with an iTunes giftcard.  I hope to institute a monthly challenge next year and then end the year with a Maker faire! (Hopefully across our whole district!) 

The fourth step is a gentle reminder, that while high tech is cool and exciting, low tech is still necessary!  Low-tech tools like making things with cardboard, making binary bracelets (Thanks again @DianaLRendina for hacking code.org's lesson and sharing!)  or even having kids create their own ukuleles, will help you engage an even broader audience and get more kids tinkering. 

As for high tech, this doesn't always mean high price! We spent the entire month of May learning coding and programming for free with tools like code.org and MIT’s Scratch programming. (Which by the way, if you wanna learn Scratch, you should geek out with me by completing some challenges over at Pursuitery.com).  Also, if you missed my coding post, I vlogged about it two episodes ago here.

Lastly, for those wanting more, you can access more sites for free coding, workshop ideas, and resources here: http://goo.gl/ofcIl7 . These resources were created by Leah Mann and myself for the Summer Digital Learning Conference at Region 11 last month.

To end this post, I’d like some communication with my global community.  How do you see yourself incorporating makerspaces? Do you see a difference in STEAM and Makered or is it the same thing with a different name? What steps are missing on my Canva.  Do you have a similar "How to" Please comment below!

This post is inspired by my friend Donalyn Miller who writes for the Nerdy Book club:

Today while I was reading my first #bookaday challenge for my first day of summer vacation, I had an idea.  Why not complete one small project every day of the summer break? (You know I'm going to do that anyway!) Yesterday I made origami lotus flower, today I hacked my edcamp shirt, and tomorrow I'm going to make a motorized pinwheel with my Arduino! Let's get making together! Join me and post your #projectaday challenge on Twitter.

Last year we started our Makerspace with month long programming in May.  We did a different workshop every Monday and you can read more in my article in the March issue of Knowledge Quest.  Since we did Maker programming all year, I decided to focus on one thing for May-ker Monday and really go all out.  Students signed up for Code.org's "Intro to Computer Science" and came to the library Mondays after school and Thursdays during Advisory.  We made Binary initial bracelets, created games on Scratch, played banana pianos with Makey Makey, skyped with a game developer, and basically had a ton of fun!

It was great to have a focused Maker workshop every week because I had the same kids come over and over again. The "challenge" of finishing the coding levels kept them coming and kept them engaged. 
I also noticed the kids stayed more focused because I set up stations for them to complete.
Watch my video to learn more and hear from the kids! (Also on Youtube here)
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One of my English teacher's was excited about using a poetry lesson from Dr. Vardell's Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, but she wanted to take it to the next level with technology.  We collaborated together and came up with this extension utilizing the "Thing Link" app.  

Here I've visualized the poem "The Deaf Boy" by Marilyn Singer.  We taught the lesson as suggested by Dr. Vardell, and then showed the students how to visualize the poem with this example I created in Thinglink. Once students finished their assignment they scanned a QR code from my computer which directed them to a Google Form for turn in.  This allowed my teacher to have all student project links in one Google Sheet!  

Here are the student instructions:

Choose one of these poems and then create a Thinglink to visualize your poem. 
  • You'll need to Find a background image that gives your poem context.  Save it to your camera roll and then open it in Thinglink.
  • Add at least 6 interactive "thing links"  to help us visualize the poem (see example)
  • Put 6 "text bullets" as references next to your interactive link (see example.)
  • Include two examples of alliteration.
  • You must take at least one picture and one video yourself!

Check out this awesome resource for teaching graphic novels in the classroom! Comics in Education hosts a plethora of ideas on how to incorporate one of my favorite mediums into your daily lessons. Check out the categories on the right side of the webpage to narrow your search. You might find something new about comics like I did! Did you know Graphic Poetry was a thing? Gotta give a big thanks to Comics in Education for reviewing my graphic novel lessons, and I thought I'd repost my video for your perusal.  Throw Back Tuesday, ya'll! (I know, I know, it's supposed to be Throwback Thursday...)

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