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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.


PSLA 2013 Takeaway: Flipped Libraries May 13, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in PSLA, Reflections.
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flip flopsI’m not totally sold on flipping classrooms/schools/libraries, mainly because I think moving too quickly towards flipping can make the existing digital divide even more formidable.  I’m a staunch believer in equal access, and relying on students and parents to find Internet access on a regular basis seems unrealistic.

Still, I was intrigued by Judi Moreillon’s idea of flipping a library in a completely different and more practical way than most of the current “models” of a flipped library suggest.  She simply stated that lessons on how to use library resources can be made on a video and disseminated to students much more efficiently than by doing a 40-minute watch-me-demo-then-independent-practice lesson within the confines of the library.

It’s truly a wonderful and do-able idea, even for elementary school librarians on a fixed schedule.  By freeing up your explanation time and teaching students to find the how-to videos *precisely when they are needed*, teacher-librarians can better focus their instruction time (fixed or flexible) on content, instead of the tool.  I can focus on guiding students to more appropriate resources instead of teaching the ins-and-outs of how to

This all came together for me as I’ve been considering trying school library “centers” for at least some of my instruction time (thank you, Cari Young on TpT).  When I am teaching to “cover” a teacher’s contracted planning period (read: no true collaboration possible), I am struggling to come up with ideas that are both student-centered and promote the deep thinking that Common Core demands.

So what I’m starting to think of is to have learning centers that relate to themed curriculum areas.  For instance, at least half of the school wants to do plants as the weather warms up, so I could set up a listening center of gardening audiobooks and related books on display.  That would be one of the choices for students’ “center time,” among others.  I’ve got ideas for a LEGO building station inspired by a theme or book series (also with a book display nearby), and seasonal science centers with a Venus fly trap plant or some other cool, non-crawling living thing.

The part I’m stuck on is assessment.  If the centers are based on student choice, how do I assess that students are actually learning research and information literacy skills?  And how can I do it seamlessly and preferably with self- or auto-correction?  I’d love to know what other folks do, and how they manage assessments on a fixed or mostly-fixed schedule.  Any thoughts or ideas are more than welcome in the comments!

P.S. – The image of flip flops is mine, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License.  Feel free to use it and/or link to it if you like.

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