The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Empowering Student Voice and Choice in the Library

Pictured above is how I use ClassroomScreen to keep kids on track with directions and how much time they have left to complete their learning goal.

My first school year in Texas and back in Elementary School after 12+ years at the high school level is more than half way over! It has been a fun yet challenging adventure. I started off the school year using a center rotation system so that I could work with smaller groups of students to teach a wide variety of skills. You can read more about how I run centers in an Elementary School library HERE.
Now that this routine has been established and the majority of "basic" skills I wanted students in grades 3-5 to master have been achieved it is time to switch things up to empower even more student voice and choice while also continuing to teach technology skills, digital citizenship, support the curriculum, and more.

While students K-2 will continue learning in center rotations, 3-5 students have begun their first steps towards creating digital portfolios. I have been presenting about digital portfolios for at least seven years after having discovered Dr. Helen Barrett's Electronic Portfolios website.

Then I was fortunate enough to work my last two years before retiring from Alabama in the Madison City School District with visionary and digital portfolio advocate, Daniel Whitt.  Daniel has successfully implemented digital portfolios for students 3-12 with the help of school librarians and others.  In fact, librarians & teachers Missy KingSara Baragona, and Ashley Strode are presenting at ISTE 2018 on Monday, June 25, at 9:00–10:00 am to share what Madison City Schools has been able to accomplish with their digital portfolio initiative.  You can access Daniel's digital portfolio files any time HERE.

Before jumping right into building our digital portfolio websites (we are using Google Sites) I wanted to give my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students a chance to reflect on themselves since their digital portfolio home page is their "introduction" to the world.  While I would encourage high school students to write an About Me introduction (example: Sean Neal) I felt that the age group I was working with could better express themselves through an "All About Me" assignment.  Rather than simply printing out the All About Me worksheet I found online, I created my own All About Me in Google Drawings.  Then I pushed this out to students using Google Classroom so that each student had their own copy to work on.  This way I wasn't only letting them reflect in preparation for their digital portfolio home page, I was also teaching kids how to use Google Drawing.  Since I would be out of town during this time I used YouTube Live to record my lesson for my substitute to play.

So far so good! I've been really pleased with the creativity students are showing in completing this task.  Take a look at this one done by a 3rd grader!

One motivator for students to work diligently on the tasks we will do while building or digital portfolios is the ability to have "free" time after successfully completing each task or goal.  "Free" time includes access to makerspace activities like our BB8 robot, games, LEGOs, arts & crafts, Bloxels, VR and AR, Merge Cube, OSMO, coding activities, working on homework, reading, relaxing and listening to music, socializing, etc.  In other words, as long as students are doing something school/library appropriate once they have completed their task they have the rest of their classroom time to do what they choose to do.

The reaction from kids has been extremely positive and it feels good to see the kids so excited about this change.  I also love that as we build our digital portfolios it will be something teachers can start using in their classrooms and with parents during parent/teacher conferences to highlight student accomplishments.

Be sure to follow the Winkley Library on social media to stay up to date with this new adventure!

ISTE Librarians Network Playground Sign Up Now OPEN!

ISTE Librarians Network Playground is happening on Monday, June 25, 8:00–11:30 am CDT.

This playground, hosted by ISTE's Librarians Network, is an opportunity to connect with school librarians and educators as they share their favorite tools and resources. Visitors will learn about innovative technologies and resources that support development of information literacy skills, research and information fluency, as well as creativity and innovation.

We will also have 9 total tables and two large screen presentation areas with 2-3 tables designated for vendors who would like to demonstrate how their products enhance libraries. FYI -  You will not be allowed to sell your products at the playground. If you would like to participate please fill out the form below.

Friday, February 2, 2018

World Read Aloud Day (Week) 2018

On Monday, January 29th the Winkley Library joined thousands of other students all across the world to bring attention to the importance of reading and writing by observing World Read Aloud Day by connecting with other schools across the United States to read and share our love of reading with each other.

For the past few years Shannon Miller and Andy Plemmons have teamed up to encourage educators to observe World Read Aloud Day and provide a way for educators to find each other to make connections using Skype and/or Google Hangouts.

This year was my first year to ever observe World Read Aloud Day as an Elementary School librarian.  Being on a fixed library schedule as part of the Specials rotation, finding coordinating times across varied time zones to connect with other libraries and/or classrooms proved to be a daunting task but with perseverance we were able to connect the majority of our library classes! YAY!

Our first connection was with Ms. Hincks' 2nd grade students from Bloomfield Hill, MI. We read Windows by Julia Draw.  I love that our students also had time share a "Window To Their World" by talking and sharing with each other after the book was read.

Our next connection was with Ms. Walterich's 2nd graders from Buffalo, NY.  kicked off our week long journey of introducing R. J. Palacio's book, We're All Wonders to many of our Winkley Elementary students.  

Then Sherron Gaughan's 5th graders from Minnesota blew us away with a spirited reading of 
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. We absolutely loved the expressions they put into each characters voice!

The week continued on with many wonderful connections. I was thrilled to connect with my friend, April Wathen, and her amazing students as we partner read, We're All Wonders.

Then Angie Dickerson's 7th graders connected with our 5th graders to read We're All Wonders.  I was blown away by her students and our kids really enjoyed listening to the kids reading rather than the adults.  Ms. Dickerson's students also shared that they had read the dedication page in the book and had researched Nathaniel Newman. During their research they discovered a 20/20 story about Nathaniel on whom the book "Wonder" is based.  After talking with Ms. Dickerson's 7th graders our kids also checked out the great 20/20 story to learn more about the boy behind the story.

We wrapped up the week with Mary Hundt from Wisconsin, Sarah Gobe from Maryland, and with the incredible Sherron Gaughan again.

Did you miss connecting for World Read Aloud Day this year?  Mark your calendars for next year and then in the meantime let go of whatever has been holding you back and get connected for Read Across America Day coming up March 2nd!  Shannon Miller has compiled some great resources for Read Across America Day here:

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Top 10 "Go To" Techs of 2017


Google, Google, Google! From Google Docs, Slides, to Google Classroom and Google Photos I simply can't get enough of Google.  Google is the ultimate tool for collaboration.  Two of my favorite bloggers that keep me up to date on all things Google are Alice Keeler and Kasey Bell.



I learned about Unsplash in 2017 from Librarian at Lowndes County Public Schools, Holly Ballard O'Neal.  Unsplash gives you access to over 300,000 copyright free high-resolution photos.  Chances are if you see a great image on something I am presenting it most likely came from Unsplash!


Buffer is the ultimate social media tool.  Basically Buffer allows you to compose social media messages, choose which social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin) to send the message out through, and schedule what day and time the messages are to be sent.  Buffer saves me so much time and makes me look like a social media guru!


Remind is a K-12 communication platform that helps educators reach students and parents where they are.  This year I am part of a six day Specials color rotation.  I have a difficult time keeping track of what color day it is so I can only image the difficulty parents must have, especially if they have more than one child at the school.  I use Remind mainly to help remind parents of what color day it will be so that they can remember to get library books packed away in their child's backpack.


Smore makes it easy to design beautiful and effective online flyers and newsletters that can be seamlessly shared via social media, via a link, or embedded on a webpage/site.  What I love the most about using Smore is that, similar to Google, when I inevitably discover a spelling error AFTER I have sent out the Smore there is no need to worry. I can make any changes to the Smore and the changes take place universally.  No need to send out an email telling people to ignore the previously sent newsletter! YAY!

This year I began making our school morning announcements via video.  When I first started I used iMovie but knowing that I would be transitioning production responsibilities to students I began my search for a collaborative video production tool.  Thanks to my awesome PLN (Professional Learning Network) I quickly found WeVideo and am now ready to start working on collaborative video productions! WeVideo is fantastic for so many reasons! I would never go back to using iMovie now that I've discovered WeVideo.


Canva makes me look like a genius graphic designer. Whether I need to design a presentation slide, poster, infographic, resume, etc, I can always count on Canva to help me know the right sizes, fonts, colors, placement and more!

Clipping Magic

Have you ever been looking for the perfect graphic but couldn't use it because you needed a transparent background and couldn't quite figure out how to get rid of the background? is a website dedicated to helping you remove image backgrounds as quickly and painlessly as possible.  

Do Ink Green Screen app has been invaluable to me as we produce our video morning announcements.  I simply couldn't do this task without this easy to use green screen app.  "Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos and images right on your iPad or iPhone. The app lets you combine photos and videos from the camera roll with live images from your iPad or iPhone's camera."


FlipGrid is one of the most amazing tech tools I have used to empower and amplify student voice.  There are a million different ways that you can use FlipGrid. I have used it this year for students to submit Book Reviews and Quote of the Day submissions to be included in our morning show.  The thing I love most about FlipGrid is just how easy it is for anyone to use.  As long as students have an Internet connected device they can contribute.  I love seeing so many students and their parents contributing.  FlipGrid is also a great way to get the conversation about digital citizenship started in a a way that is real and relevant to students.  Below is a FlipGrid submission a student made with her mom!


EasyPrompter is a free, easy to use teleprompter that I use all the time while filming for our morning news program.  It works in a similar manner as the teleprompters news anchors use. I have my kids create their news scripts in a Google Doc and then copy and past into EasyPrompter.  I also love that you can highlight and change the color of different parts of the script so that students know which parts are theirs to say.  This tech is a definite must have for anyone making video productions with students.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I Wish My Principal...

I am working on a presentation specifically for school administrators to help them gain a better understanding of school libraries and school librarians.

Please help me gather information that YOU wish your principal/administrators knew about you and your library by answering the questions pictured above via the Google Form below.

Thank you in advance for helping me curate this information.  No names or locations will be used in the presentation.

Tell Me Something Good

My granddaughter was scared of our little Shih Tzu but when she wore this mask she was invincible. LOL!

As we all sat down to Christmas dinner with my daughter's family in Kansas my three year old granddaughter turned to me and said, "Grandma, tell me one good thing".  Inquisitively, I looked to my daughter not completely understanding the request.  It turns out that at my granddaughter's school, right before lunch is eaten, they go around the table and share one good thing about their day so far.  After sharing one good thing about your day you are then prompted to "ask a friend" about their one good thing until everyone has had a chance to share.

This activity reminded me of an activity I like to do at the beginning of each library class, "Hey! Listen To This!"  Before we start our library activities for the day we start by giving students the opportunity to share something with the class as a whole.  Mostly students share joyful things like upcoming birthdays, sports team wins, etc. but occasionally a student will share something sad like a pet dying.  What I like most about this activity is that it not only helps me to know the students better, but it also helps build sense of community where we celebrate successes together and also support our classmates who may be going through an emotionally difficult time.  I also love that we start each class filled with positive energy.

I got this great idea from my wonderful principal, Donna Brady.

This also makes me think of my wonderful PLN (Professional Learning Network). On a daily basis I get to celebrate the successes of other school librarians, offer encouragement during hard times, reach out and ask for help when I am out of ideas or at my wits end, laugh at things only school librarians would understand, and so much more.  More than anything, I know that through connecting with other school librarians via social media, I am not alone.

As this year comes to an end I challenge you to not only look back at 2017 and find the good things but make it a point to stop each day and find that #onegoodthing.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Holiday Season @Winkley Library

The 1st nine weeks had come to an end and I had just started in on my 2nd nine weeks of Library Center rotation activities when it dawned on me that the quickly approaching holiday season was going to throw all of my plans into utter chaos. Thanksgiving Break, the Scholastic Book Fair, special school wide Holiday Events, Winter Break, and me being out sick (UGH) all took big chunks out of the normal library routine.

I am extremely lucky that the PTA is in charge of the Book Fair. All I do for the Book Fair is provide our Library as a space in which it can be set up; PTA does the rest. Since the conditions in the library with all the coming and going of Book Fair patrons wasn’t conducive to teaching and learning, I moved the library to an empty classroom upstairs. My wonderful library aide, Sandy Perez, and I worked together to turn the room into a pretty awesome little library space. We pulled a few carts of popular books so students could still check out books, we carried the reading carpet up, and redesigned our library activities to better suit the space and limitations we faced.

Fortunately, these hiccups actually worked out for the best as Hour of Code week fell within this time period and could be accommodated in our smaller space using MacBook and Chromebook laptops.

Kindergarten and 1st Graders learned how to code using Tynker’s Hour of Code Puppy Adventure game. This is the one I found was most compatible with the ability level of my students with regards to understanding coding as well as with use of a trackpad on a laptop. 2nd through 5th graders learned how to create a Holiday Card using Scratch. Scratch is awesome because it passes the “If Ms. Robertson can do it” test! Scratch has great step by step directions that, with a little modeling, can easily be followed by students. I absolutely love seeing the lights go off in students eyes as what they are doing “clicks” and then they take off on a creating rampage! Getting them to come to a stop so the next library class can come in is the hardest thing I have to do.

5th Graders got an extra little treat this week. I wrapped up our Scratch coding lesson about 10-15 minutes early each class and then we “made” a silent movie. Ask your kids what a silent movie is. The responses are so cute! Then actually explain the concept and the confusion on their faces is so precious. “Why didn’t they just record what the actors were saying?” What made it even funnier was that I’ve had laryngitis while teaching this and the kids thought it had something to do with not being able to talk!

Once explaining what a silent movie was we then made our own silent movie using the Chrome Experiment, Peanut Gallery. We watch a movie clip and then worked together to write a “script” on the dry erase board. Then students were chosen to speak the parts in Peanut Gallery. Then we watched our silent movie! Watch two of the ones we made using the links below:

Ms. Reed’s Class:

Ms. Evrard’s Class:

3rd through 5th graders also had the opportunity to participate in a “mock” Mystery Skype. What Sandy Perez, Dorothy Marinski (Instructional Coach), and I did to facilitate this activity is as follows.

We explained the concept of Mystery Skype to students but told them just like in Sports or other competitions we wanted to practice first before competing against a “real” team. Thus, we split the class into two teams. Each team drew a state and city from a box where I had cut out 50 states and cities. In advance, I had also printed and laminated two sets of Mystery Skype “playing cards” that I got from Teachers Pay Teachers. I also printed on cardstock and laminated the US/World Maps provided inthe Teachers Pay Teachers package. Then, with dry erase markers in hand, Sandy and Dorothy took half of the class to a different room and we “Skyped” with each other. I say “Skyped” because we actually used Google Meet instead of Skype because it just worked better in our school setting. Students then proceeded to play Mystery Skype until one team was able to guess the other teams state or until we ran out of library time.

Now that we have played Mystery Skype the kids are super eager to play it for real! I promised the kids I would search over Winter Break for classes who wanted to challenge us to a game!

This activity was a great way to teach so many different skills! Research skills, map skills, deductive reasoning, critical thinking, effective questioning, and so much more!

A few classes these past few weeks even had some time to get silly with some apps! Check out the carnage that happened when BB-8 went crazy and attacked this 5th Grade class! OH MY!

The holidays can be such a stressful time. I love that we found a way to teach our kids lots of important skills while also having a bit of fun!