The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Library Centers: Empowering Students to be Masters of Their Own Learning



This year has been one marked by big changes for me.  I retired from Alabama after 25 years of service.  The last 12 of those years was spent serving students and teachers at the high school level.  Over the summer I moved to Texas and am now back in an elementary school library which takes me full circle back to the environment where I first started my career in school libraries in 1997.

People often ask me which level of library I liked working in best, high school or elementary.  My answer is both! Each level offers its own unique teaching and learning opportunities that really can’t be compared. The students and teachers are also completely different at these different levels and are equally challenging and delightful.

Being back at the elementary level is a joy and is allowing me to explore new avenues of teaching and learning that simply did not exist my first time working in an elementary school library.

The challenge I faced in my new library was as a part of the very crowded six day “specials” rotation, thus, a fixed schedule with one 50 minute time period each day for management tasks like shelving books, creating book orders, creating displays, budgeting, lesson planning, and so much more.  

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During my first incantation as an elementary school librarian it took me several years to stumble upon the magic of centers. Centers allow you to work with small groups of students and serve more as a facilitator of learning rather than the holder of the key to learning. Centers also empower students to be masters of their own learning. Centers are also a great way to teach lessons and incorporate aspects of a MakerSpace in a manageable way that won’t have you completely frazzled by the end of the day. Creating centers requires quite a bit of front loading work, but all that up front work pays off fast, resulting in a smooth running, well oiled machine of a library.  

In addition to centers, I also conduct whole class mini lessons when appropriate, as well as special lessons like Mystery Skype, Breakout EDU, and other opportunities to connect such as Dot Day, Read Across America, World Read Aloud Week, Poem in my Pocket, and more.

Aren’t Centers Just Playtime?

This is my first year at my school and the first year for students to be exposed to the various tech tools and other activities at centers, therefore, I have scaffolded the learning process in my centers by nine week periods.

1st Nine Weeks- Students will be introduced to and become familiar with the general operation of the school library and center equipment and expectations. Yes. This does look like and feel like “playing”.  Students, however, must first feel comfortable with the centers and their equipment before deeper learning can be applied.

Example:
1st Nine Weeks-Green Screen Center:
Students will use the green screen room to record clips for the Wolverine News Morning Announcement show.  Students will also learn how to use the green screen to take pictures and videos with varying backgrounds by student choice.

2nd Nine Weeks:
K-2nd students will use the green screen app, iPads, green folders, Lego characters, green straws and tape, to create stop motion videos or images that support classroom curriculum and/or student created stories and/or book reviews.

Lesson resources:

3rd-5th students who want to go further with producing and editing videos will learn how to import green screen clips into iMovie for editing and producing Wolverine News.

All other 3rd-5th grade students will follow the K-2 plan outlined above.

3rd Nine Weeks:
All students will continue to build on previous green screen knowledge and add in app smashing components with apps like Tellagami, Chatterpix and more.

Students fine tuning their video production skills will start making changes to Wolverine News with regards to backgrounds, transitions, stories, and more.  Language Arts teachers will work collaboratively with the library to prepare student interest reports in these and other categories created by students:

  • Sports Beat
    • Football
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Soccer
    • Gymnastics
    • Cheerleading
    • etc
  • Entertainment Beat
    • Music
    • TV
    • Movies
    • Video games
    • etc
  • Technology Beat
  • The More You Know Beat
  • This Day in History Beat
  • Science Beat
  • PSAs & Advertising Beat

4th Nine Weeks:
Similar to the 3rd Nine Weeks but with higher quality of work expectations.

How We Start Each Class:

Having an established routine is very important to maintaining order in your elementary school library.  I am working to help students and teachers know the library’s procedure for entering and leaving the library.  For us, students must line up on the wall outside of the library and wait for me to walk them in.  I have found that if students just “come in” it creates a sense of  chaos that echos throughout their 50 minute library time. Students also line up on the wall outside the library to finish the day in an orderly, managed manner as well.

As students enter the Winkley Library they are walked past our book return book drop area so that they can return their books as they proceed to the whole class reading carpet area. Once all students are seated in the whole class reading carpet area I welcome students to the library and let them know if we are doing any special mini lessons or other special activities. We then proceed with our “Hey! Listen to this!” time.  During this time students get to share anything they want to share with the whole group like getting a new pet, their sports team winning the big game, making a great grade, a fun vacation memory, a visit with grandparents, etc.  Being new to the school this is a great way for me to get to know more about the students and also a great way to empower student voice.

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After our “Hey! Listen to this!” time I introduce students to any new procedures, technologies, or other special activities they need to be aware of pertaining to the library.  Grades 2-5 then disperse to centers for the remainder of the time.  Once students are in their center areas we begin allowing one center at a time to check out books, starting with our Library Helper Center. For grades K-1 we have students check out their books before going to centers.  After students in grade K-1 have checked out their books we all meet back in the whole class reading carpet area for storytime.  I choose a story to read from the books the students have checked out. I find that by doing this students are more thoughtful in their book selections. I can always work in important reading/language arts TEKS into almost any book selection.

QUESTIONS FROM THE INTERNET:

  • What rules do you have for centers? How much time do you spend on directions? Do you directions for each center to the whole class, do they read the directions when they get to the centers? Do they get started and you go around and explain?

When I open a new center that has not been assigned to a team before I will review the expectations with the whole class.  Most centers are self explanatory. If I will be introducing a new technology at a center then I will explain the new tech component whole class as well.  After students go to their assigned centers I walk around, supervise and answer questions.  

I also use the “3 Before Me” rule in the library to help students become independent thinkers and learners.  





Center Procedure:

QUESTIONS FROM THE INTERNET:

  • How do you have students change between the centers? Is it based on time or their choice when they move? If it is their choice on when to move, how do you handle too many students at one center?

I asked teachers to put their students into 4-5 member teams because I do not know the students as well as they do. I then create a Google Sheet with students names and the teams they are in  so that I can easily track what team completed what center during what week.  See example below.

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Students rotate to a different center each time they come to the library.  Students in grade 2-5 find what center they are in on their own by locating the 3 ring binder that has their name displayed in the center area. (see image below)  Students K-1 are given center badges to wear that indicate what center they are in that day. This helps us know where students should be as Kindergarten is especially prone to wandering and claiming to have no idea where they are supposed to be.

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There are three weeks out of the nine weeks period that are “Free Choice” days.  To control the flow of students to centers during these days I made 30 matching badge and tags combinations; enough for each student in a class.  Students wear their badge and then use the matching tag to claim their space at a center. Centers are limited to four students at a time. (see image below)

QUESTION FROM THE INTERNET:

  • Clean up between classes on a tight schedule?

I give students a 10 minute warning before the end of library time. Students are expected to clean up their centers and, if necessary, switch out the center so that it is ready for the next class coming in.  Most classes I have 5 minutes in between to make changes. There are a few classes where I have ZERO minutes in between, thus, training students to take care of the transition and clean up is critical.

To make the transition easier I try to have similar broad activities in each center area that use the same supplies/equipment and that are designed to span grades K-5.  For instance, in the arts and crafts center for the 1st nine week period we focused on fingerprint art.  For the 2nd nine week period the overarching theme is “paper crafts”. I will provide a few examples of paper crafts that span various grade levels but ultimately students will be free to let their personal genius shine within the “paper craft” theme.

While it hasn’t been any real issues, I have had to warn some center groups that they will not do centers the next time the come to the library if their center is left a mess.

Winkley Elementary School Library Centers:

Below I have shared our centers for the first nine weeks of school.  I will update this post each nine weeks throughout the school year. I have also provided the standards my centers, mini lessons, and storytime meet.

QUESTION FROM THE INTERNET:

  • Do you align your centers with any standards? Centers work great as a class management tool but my main goal is to try to make them purposeful where the students are learning something new or are practicing a skill.

  • Differentiation with centers? Assessments?

My centers are aligned with my district unit expectations/TEKS, ISTE Library Standards, and the Future Ready Framework.

Since there is zero time in my schedule to provide any sort of formal PD to teachers, centers are designed to not only allow students to explore and create, but to model for teachers how various technologies can be used to support curriculum.  

Assessments are informal and through observation.  I build my centers so that each nine weeks period builds on the one before.  For example, the green screen center is where we create our morning announcements.  Students spend the 1st nine week period learning what a green screen is, how it works and how to create news clips from a script.  The 2nd nine weeks students will build on this by learning how to take clips produced in the green screen room, import them into iMovie, edit clips, and put together a morning announcement.  The 3rd nine week period will have students pick a “reporter beat” that they are interested in. By choosing a “beat” to cover this leads students into the research and writing process.  We will also use this time to cover research skills, citing sources, knowing if sources are reliable, more Internet safety and digital citizenship.

Reporter Beats include but are not limited to:

  • Sports Beat
    • Football
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Soccer
    • Gymnastics
    • Cheerleading
    • etc
  • Entertainment Beat
    • Music
    • TV
    • Movies
    • Video games
    • etc
  • Technology Beat
  • The More You Know Beat
  • This Day in History Beat
  • Science Beat

Leander ISD 1st 9 Weeks Unit Summary
ISTE Library Standards
Future Ready Framework
The purpose of our units of study is to support and extend the grade level language arts units of study, including the technology applications TEKS, while providing a guaranteed and viable library curriculum. In this unit, we will be setting up library systems and expectations, fostering  literature appreciation, and introducing the concept of digital citizenship to start our year off right.

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

  • Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

  • Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

  • Provides flexible spaces that promote inquiry, creativity, collaboration and community

  • Encourages and facilitates students to become increasingly self-directed as they create digital products of their learning that engage them in critical thinking, collaboration and authentic, real-world problem solving.

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Arts & Crafts Center

Our Arts & Crafts Center is where students can show their own personal creative genius within a given theme.  

QUESTIONS FROM THE INTERNET:

  • How to keep students from wasting supplies (i.e. making bookmarks, using stickers, or foam supplies)

I have experienced an issue with this with the ink pads. When I see students wasting supplies I talk one on one with them. I also remind them that centers are a privilege and that if they are not respectful of the equipment or of their center team mates they might have to sit in a time out area instead of participating.  So far just talking with students has been enough.  I also try not to put all of my supplies out at once. Again, lots of pre-prep time invested here but well worth it.  I put together packets with only the amount of materials/supplies needed to complete the project.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Fingerprint Art
Paper
Ink Pads
Markers
Wipes to clean fingers
Laptop
Google Chrome Extension: Magic Actions for Youtube

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Build & Tinker/Game Center

Our Games Center is where students can build and tinker, hone social skills, explore the inner workings of electronics, read and follow directions, and so much more.

QUESTION FROM THE INTERNET:
  • How do you convince teachers that students are not “just playing”?

I also the library as a place where students can also just take a minute to BREATHE and break away from the stress of school, a looming curriculum, grades, and ever increasing expectations.  Not EVERYTHING in our libraries needs to be tied to the curriculum. Let kids have time to be kids!

Activity
Supplies Needed
Play games, build & tinker, explore inner workings of electronics
Board games
Card games
Old broken appliances/electronics for Equipment Autopsy
Legos
Building Blocks
Marble Run
Etc

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Library Helper Center


Our Library Helper Center is where students learn library skills like the Dewey Decimal System, shelving books, book care and repair, customer service, locating books through the electronic book search, creating book orders, and so much more!

Why waste time and bore students to death with worksheets where they draw a line to where the book goes on the shelf when you have actual books that need to be shelved?! You can also use this time to teach small groups about the Dewey Decimal System (or Genre Shelving) within the context of why you need to know it rather than in theory on a worksheet.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Students in this center learn the ins and outs of being a school librarian.
Destiny Library System
Computers
Barcode Scanners
Library Helper Badges

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Green Screen Center


Our Green Screen Center is where students learn how to use the green screen to create our morning announcements and more. Our focus the first nine weeks is to learn the basics of creating video clips using the green screen and green screen app.  The second nine weeks we will expand with 3-5 graders to moving clips into iMovie for editing.  The third nine weeks will have students taking on reporter rolls by researching and reporting on their special passions, like sports, animals, minecraft, skateboarding, etc.  By the fourth nine weeks students in grades 3-5 will be expected to be proficient in producing a mini movie/show from start to finish with little assistance from the librarian.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Students will use the green screen and the Do Ink app to record Wolverine News clips and other green screen related activities.
iPad
Laptop
Google Docs (for script)
Internet Browser to find background images

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Reading Center


Our Reading Center is where students can read books, ebooks, magazines, “special” books, listen to audio/video books, and record 90 Second Book Reviews to be featured on Wolverine News.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Students will use the Reading Center to discover the variety of reading materials available through the Winkley Library.
Laptops
Books
Magazines

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Augmented & Virtual Realities


Our Augmented and Virtual Reality Center is where students learn about and explore with augmented and virtual reality apps. Below are the two apps we are using during the 1st nine week period to expose students to what Virtual and Augmented Reality are.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Students in this center learn about and explore with augmented and virtual reality apps.
iPads
iPod Touch
Printouts depending on app used

VR/AR Apps:

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Coding Center


Our Coding Center is where students are introduced to and learn the basics of coding. Once students have been introduced to block coding this nine weeks we will bring out our BB8 Sphero and let students program BB8 during the second nine week period.

Activity
Supplies Needed
Students in this center are introduced to and learn the basics of coding.
Laptops
iPads
Coding Apps
Coding Websites

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5 comments:

  1. All I can say is, you are amazing! Thanks for such a great write up of how you do your centers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is fabulous and perfect timing! I've started adding on to my centers just this past week. Thank you for confirming my thoughts and for giving me new ideas.
    Scarlett Ferstl

    ReplyDelete