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!

Watch Now:

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!

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!

My Makerspace workshops have been slowing down since we are in the throes of testing, and it is upsetting to me because I was sure that my Makerspace workshops on Garageband, Fangirl iBook Authors, and other Mac driven classes would increase participation.  Then the other day I got an email from Teen Tech Week talking about Mozilla's "Teach the Web" toolkit and I realized, maybe I'm having the wrong type of technology workshop?  I opened up "Popcorn Maker" and began making the most ridiculously fun multimedia experience.  Soon 8th graders crowded around my desk to see why "Gangnam Style" was blasting from my laptop.  They helped me look for silly viral videos to add to my "popcorn."  At that moment, I realized that this is the next Makerspace workshop and all I have to do to promote it is share this video with my students at lunch!  (Please forgive the lag time in the video- it is a free tool and therefore not professional quality- but OH SO FUN TO MAKE!)

Update: They loved the Popcorn Maker Party!

Check out my present.me about using Evernote when Researching!

Funny Books

We just got a whole bunch of funny books in the library! Lots of good toilet humor for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans.

Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder, A Waste of Good Paper, Fourth Stall series, more N.E.R.D.S. books, My Life as a Book series, and more!  Watch my video to see all the new titles! (Click on the shushing librarian!)
Watch Now:

I used Videolicious on my iPad to book talk a few hidden gems in the library.  Enjoy the video at the bottom of the post with the Videolicious icon.

This is a visually enhanced handout I would include on my webpage and print for students with the list of books in citation form on the back:


Benton, J. (2005). Dear dumb diary: Can adults become human?. New York: Scholastic.

Cottrell, B. F., Hunter, C., & Heney, C. (2011). The unforgotten coat. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Hannigan, K. (2011). True ( -- sort of). New York: Greenwillow Books.

Kostick, Connor ( 2004). Epic. New York: Penguin.

Oldham, T. (2009). Kid made modern. Los Angeles: Ammo Books.

Palacio, R. J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (2012). Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Schmatz, P. (2011). Bluefish. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Stead, R. (2012). Liar & spy. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

Tracy, K. (2011). The reinvention of Bessica Lefter. New York: Delacorte Press.

Varon, S. (2011). Bake sale. New York: First Second.

Wolitzer, M., & Dutton Children's Books (Firm). (2011). The fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

Yang, G. L., & Pham, T. (2011). Level up. New York: First Second.

Watch Now:

This week I discuss organizing student groups in GoogleDrive, so students can make collaborative projects.

Watch Now:

- Older Posts »