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Makerspace Centers in 40 Minutes December 28, 2017

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Makerspace!.
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Makerspace Centers in 40 Minute Library Classes - A fixed library schedule or limited class time is still enough for creation and making. | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

When I tell teacher-librarians and other educators that I fit makerspace activities into a fixed library schedule, I sometimes get incredulous or skeptical looks.  So I thought I’d give some background and a sneak peek at a typical library class at my school.

Here’s what the average 40-minute library class looks like for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade (and maybe 2nd grade in the future).

5-10 minutes –

Students drop off books in the book return bin and sit at a table in the library.  Two students pass out the center tracking booklets to their classmates as I review the center choices for today, and introduce a new center if needed.  I try not to introduce more than 1 center per week/cycle.  If it’s a makerspace center with a tool like littleBits or paper circuits, I demonstrate it quickly…no more than 5 minutes, then refer students to the library website resources for further help.  Before dismissing students to check out, I use Flippity’s Random Name Picker tool to have students pick their center by placing their center booklet at their chosen “spot.”  Doing this prevents students rushing through or skipping book exchange to get to a center they want.

10 minutes –

Students check out new books or at least scan their card before choosing a center.  I do have a part-time assistant who helps with circulation, but if she’s not here, then I’m at the desk running the computer.

15-20 minutes –

Immediately after book exchange students choose a center and “check in” using a QR code to access a Google Form and one of the library’s Nexus 7 tablets.  Then, they work at their center, which for makerspace centers might include:

I started the school year with ALL research centers.  Once students earned their “Research Skills” badge by completing 6 research centers correctly, they had free-choice to choose any “Research Skills,” “Makerspace,” or “Reading & Language” centers for the rest of the year.  These 6 completed research centers are in addition to other research projects that I teach in collaboration with their classroom teacher.

As students work at their centers, I circulate the room to stamp their center tracking booklets and remind students to “check in.”  For research centers students only get a stamp if they get a correct answer AND have their resources cited correctly.  If I don’t have time to check answers on the fly, I still have their check-ins on Google Forms to verify what center they chose, and their answer slips/research packets to check later.

3-5 minutes –

Near the end of class, I start playing music to signal students to find a good stopping place and clean up their center space (I’m partial to swing/big band music).  If they are still working on a makerspace project, they can save it for next time, usually in a zip-top bag.

For research centers, they usually have a slip of paper or a packet that will fit inside their center tracking booklet to save for next time.  I’m working on an updated center booklet that includes pages for working on research questions and projects so that they can be submitted through Google Classroom…but that’s another blog post.

After class –

I don’t count this as part of the 40 minutes, but after class or after school, I usually go through all of the “check in” responses on the Google Form and I keep a spreadsheet of where each student went each week.  This takes about 10 minutes per class, so about 30 minutes of “grading” a day for all three grade levels.  Sometimes I can even squeeze 2 classes of grading into my planning or lunch time.  Tracking student learning keeps students accountable, and if they don’t “check in,” I choose their center the following week (communicated via a post-it note on their center booklet).

For more information about my library centers tracking, QR code “check in,” and the center menu booklets I use, check out this blog post!

If you have any tips to share about having a makerspace on a fixed schedule, I’d love to hear them in the comments!  Have a great week!

Makerspace Centers in 40 Minute Library Classes! - Don't let a fixed library schedule or limited class time stop you! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech - A collage of photos showing a library makerspace center set up with no students, and students from many multicultural backgrounds working at on makerspace activities.


What (Might) Work Wednesday: Back-to-School Edition September 30, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Reflections, What Worked.
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Welcome to a New School Year | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Welcome to a new school year!

School has been back in session for about a month in my area, and this year I’ve started a few new experiments/ideas that I’m hoping turn out well.  Only time will tell…

1. Five book/item checkouts with student- and parent-signed agreement
Last year I required the form before any checkouts, and for some students that was very limiting to their access and use of the library’s resources.  This year, if students don’t return their Library Use Agreement form, they still can check out 2 books, but no audiobooks or the wildly popular maker kits.

Using the form completion as an “upgrade” or extra privilege has been pretty effective in motivating both new and returning students, and I like that there is no barrier to checking out while still encouraging student responsibility and parent communication.


2. Library Facebook page in lieu of paper newsletters
While I did use a paper newsletter for the back-to-school newsletter, I planned ahead to include it in our school’s “packet pick-up” night so that parents received it with all of the other school forms.  I’m not sure if parents are actually reading it, but the majority of the agreement forms were returned.  I’m taking that as a good sign.

Our library Facebook page is what I’m using for my primary communication tool during the rest of the year.  I post library and reading advocacy articles, as well as book recommendations and upcoming events.  For more post ideas, check out my Library Website Social Media Pinterest board!


3. Research centers first, then free choice
Last year I required every student to complete 3 library “badges” in Research Skills, Reading Promotion, and Makerspace/Creation & Tech.  This year, I’m trying something a bit more progressive and constructivist.  When I introduce centers this fall, I will offer 6 research centers only at first.  Then after students earn their Research Skills badge, they can have free-choice of reading and makerspace centers.  They will be able to earn more badges, but the others won’t be required.  I think it will be more of a challenge for me to engage all students, but once a student finds their passion, I think their engagement and learning will be more authentic.


4. New Student Learning Objective (SLO) assessment format
Like many librarians and teachers across the nation, a percentage of my evaluation is based on “data.”  For music, gym, art, and library teachers like myself, 15% of my evaluation must be a student learning objective, or Kindergarten Library Assessment Quiz FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechSLO, that proves with data that I assessed students in a particular skill.

For kindergarten, I’m changing how I assess the parts of a book, author & illustrator roles, and fiction vs. nonfiction.  I made a FREE printable booklet that students can complete as an assessment of their knowledge.  I’m going to try having students complete one page per week until everyone is finished, including “extra practice” pages for students to make-up incorrectly completed pages.

So what are the new ideas or experiments that you are trying this year?

I’d love to hear them, and I hope we can inspire each other!

Library Centers Tracking with QR Code Check-in March 29, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Building my PLN, or Professional Learning Network, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since I started teaching!  Being connected with fabulous educators through blogs and Twitter means I have an excellent network of colleagues and resources to inspire me to improve my instruction.  And last week, I experienced a wonderful, problem-solving PLN win!

The challenge:

I spent WAY too much time tracking which library centers students were at, and not enough time facilitating the learning that was happening.  I kept a record of student center choices on a Google spreadsheet, and I also stamped each student’s center tracking booklet so that they can visualize their learning.

Ideally, I recorded where each students was (that “all-important” data), AND had time to encourage/scaffold students who were struggling, re-direct students who were off-task, and challenge students who were coasting.  In reality, the data collection took almost every second of my time during the 25-ish minutes of library centers.  I still “checked in” with students when I stamped their booklets, but only for about 5 seconds.

The solution!

In the past year, I had read this blog post on QR codes for tracking library visits by Ms. O Reads Books, and her follow-up blog posts explaining how to do it  Then, I remembered this blog post by Vicki Davis about using every last instructional moment.  I wanted to use every minute as efficiently as possible, and cram as much (fun) learning as possible into a 40-minute library class.

Even though those two posts don’t seem to relate, I had a magical flash of inspiration and found my solution: Library Center Check-in with QR codes!

How it works:

Ms. O’s idea of using QR codes to “sign in” at the library has been floating around my brain for months.  It takes some tech tricks to set up, but basically, several Google forms collect their responses in a single spreadsheet.

So I made a different Google Form for each library center and color-coded them according to their category:

  • RED = Reading Promotion – Independent Reading, Destiny Online Book Review Writing, and PA Young Readers’ Choice Voting.
  • BLUE = Research Skills – Question of the Week, Independent Research Choices, and the Ladybugs Observation & Research.
  • GREEN = Creation &  Tech (aka our makerspace) – littleBits™, Paper Circuits, Electric Sewing, Learning to Code, Goldie Blox™, and Puzzle Apps.

Library Centers Check-in and Tracking with Google Forms and QR Codes | Mrs. J in they Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Each form asks for the student’s name and teacher’s name.  Some forms have one additional question such as, “What are you working on today?” for the makerspace centers.  I tried to keep it very short, because one tablet is shared among several students. 

I created a QR code for each form, printed the codes on Avery QR stickers, and stuck the code onto the center signage with a large “Check in” sticker (printed on address labels/barcode labels).  The stickers hide some of the clipart on my center directions signs, but they are functional nonetheless.

I tried it with each class in grades 3-5, and it was a HUGE success!  I’m relying on students to report their center choice honestly, but I also have the “double-check” of the booklet stamps. I’m thrilled with the results because now I’m able to do more teaching/facilitating/scaffolding and less data collection during classes. 

As an added bonus, I showed one of our district tech coaches to get some feedback, and she liked the idea, too.  Yay for advocacy!!

Have you used QR codes in your library or classroom?  If so, please share your experience and any tech tricks you learned in the comments!

“What Worked” Wednesday: Keeping Books Visible on Library Shelves February 11, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, What Worked.
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What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechI’m starting a new series based on several of the “ideas that worked” that I’ve previously blogged about, such as Cheap and Easy Library Decorations, our Library Treasure Store program for K-2 students, and the Whole Number Dewey modified library classification for elementary students.  Each post will include an idea that worked in my school library and how it makes my life less stressful, more organized, and/or more manageable.

Today’s idea that worked is:

Use shallow cardboard boxes to keep books
forward on library shelves.

How this idea lowers my stress level:

Books pushed back into the shadows of a shelf are one of my librarian pet peeves.  Elementary students probably think they’re being helpful when they do this, and I have no desire to spend valuable instruction time teaching them to leave the books where they are. 

"What Worked" Wednesday: How to Keep Books Visible on Library Shelves | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechTo keep my sanity, I collect small, shallow boxes and put them behind chapter books so they can’t be pushed back.  So far, I have about 25 shelves completed, and to my eyes it does make the books more visible.  It’s especially helpful for “first chapter books” aka easy readers, fiction novels, and our easy nonfiction books.

I plan to add more boxes as I find or get them until I complete the rest of the first chapter books section and the fiction section.  I haven’t compared circulation stats yet, but I’m wondering if they will increase or not with more light shining on the book spines.

Try it out, and see if you like the brighter look of your library shelves!


If you would like more library management tips like this one, as well as elementary and secondary library curriculum and makerspace resources, follow me on Pinterest!


Makerspaces Without a Space: Circulating Maker Kits for the School Library December 21, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Makerspace!.
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Makerspaces Without a Space: Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library

This fall in our school library, I tried something new: I decided to make some circulating craft or maker kits for students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to check out and take home. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item after clicking on the link, I will receive a small commission.  See Disclosures & Disclaimers for more information.

I started with GoldieBlox™ sets, because they are already sold as a “kit,” much like our book/audiobook bundle kits.  Instead of an audiobook on CD, however, the maker kits include a bag of building materials.  Admittedly, GoldieBlox™ has been ridiculously over-hyped, and to put it nicely, the books aren’t exactly quality literature.  Still, the read-and-build format can make engineering more accessible to students who may not think that they like STEM subjects.GoldieBlox Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Then, I did the same thing with Q-BA-MAZE™ marble run blocks.  I used 1 “cool colors” set and 1 “warm colors” set to create 4 circulating maker kits.  These aren’t as well-known and might be considered more of a “toy,” but there is still potential for learning about physics when using the blocks to create marble mazes.  Every maze created is different, and there are endless possibilities even within the same design.

Both GoldieBlox™ and Q-BA-MAZE™ sets are affordable (around $25.00), which I think makes them particularly suited for school libraries.  Most hardcover picture books are in that price range, so it’s not going to break a school library’s budget.  Additionally, it isn’t difficult or expensive to get parts to replace lost or broken pieces.  GoldieBlox™ sells more parts separately, and the Q-BA-MAZE™ set has extra marbles.  If a few Q-BA-MAZE™ blocks go missing, that won’t hinder maze creation, and a teacher-librarian could keep a few in the library office specifically for replacing lost parts.

Those features, combined with the sad fact that many elementary schools share a librarian between buildings, make circulating kits a practical way for busy, overwhelmed librarians to inspire “maker thinking.”  By circulating maker kits, the time and space needed for creating is moved from the school space to the home.  Potentially, a maker kit could not only connect learning at school with learning at home, but it could also advocate the library program to parents and caregivers.  In each kit, I included a small card inviting parents to send in photos of what students create.  With permission, I could then post those pictures on our library’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

So far, the students are enjoying the kits, and GoldieBlox™ is the clear favorite.  I’ve been wondering if that’s because they are more familiar to students from library centers last year.  The Q-BA-MAZE™ maker kits are still getting checked out, but just not as much.  I’m interested to see if they become more popular as more students try them out.

From a library management perspective, an essential part of circulating anything is a MARC record, or MAchine Readable Catalog record.  MARC records make any item searchable in the online library catalog.  Creating MARC records from scratch, however, is time-consuming and tedious, so I’m sharing the ones I created for our library’s maker kits.  If you are interested in circulating maker kits in your school or public library, you can download them through the link below.

FREE MARC Records for Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Click the image to download MARC records for your library’s craft / maker kits.

Also, if you would like to add circulating maker kits to your school library, you can check out my GoldieBlox™ Circulating Maker Kit product at the Mrs. J in the Library TpT store.  The paper circuits and Q-BA-MAZE™ kits will be coming soon.
Update June 2015: The Paper Circuits Maker Kits with Interactive Nursery Rhymes and Q-BA-MAZE™ Marble Run or Maze Kits are now available!!
Update September 2017: I’m adding Electric Sewing Maker Kits to our collection, and they are now available in the Mrs. J in the Library TpT store as well.

Later this year, I plan to expand the circulating maker kits to include new kits with consumable materials.  Paper circuits and e-textile projects will be my first attempts with this model.  While these kits will be more expensive to support, I want to extend students’ creation opportunities during library centers to create and making at home.  I’m excited to see how it plays out as the school year continues. 

Also, if you’ve ever tried circulating objects or artifacts for student learning, I’d love to hear about how it’s going in the comments.  Let’s learn from each others’ experiences!

UPDATE May 2015 – I’ve added Paper Circuits circulating maker kits to my TpT store, and a blackline version to save printer ink/toner.

UPDATE June 2015 – Thanks to Teen Librarian Toolbox and The Daring Librarian for the shout-outs about my circulating maker kits in their recent blog posts!  I’ve also just added Q-BA-MAZE™ marble run or maze circulating maker kits to my TpT store.

UPDATE September 2017 – I just added Electric Sewing maker kits including a Bookmark Book Light kit, an Advanced Electric Sewing kit, and a Project Finishing kit for students who don’t finish their project during library centers.  Here’s some photos of what they look like:

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