What’s On Your Walls?

What is on our walls says a lot about what we value. At home, we have pictures of our daughters, a wall decal that reads Family Est 2006, and several Bible verses.

During #DBC50Summer, I read Steve Wyborney‘s book The Writing on the Classroom Wall and decided that my implementation would be to share my own educational views on the walls of the media center (my classroom). See my blog post here. Throughout the year I have added inspirational quotes to the tops of bookcases, on the circulation desk, and even on the school announcements which run on televisions in the front lobby, media center, and cafeteria.

When reading Unmapped Potential by Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard, I knew I wanted to put a map of the United States on the wall to remind myself and the students that we can break through our own mental barriers to uncover the potential within ourselves. (See the blog post here.) I took this implementation a step further!

This is my third year at the middle school I serve. Every year the 8th grade students put together a puzzle, and when it is complete, I frame it and put it on the wall. The first year was a 1500-piece puzzle with mustangs (our school mascot) drinking water from a river. The second year was a 1000-piece puzzle with globes of various sizes and colors. I wanted this year’s puzzle to be very special as I’ve been with a third of the group since they were eight years old. My former position was at the elementary school that feeds into my current middle school. I moved to the middle school when they did, so we’ve spent six years together. (Yes, I will be an emotional wreck on the last day of school.)

I decided that rather than placing a road map on the wall, we would put together a puzzle of a world map. Therefore, the 1000-piece puzzle for this year’s 8th grade is a map of the world. It has been framed and is now mounted on the wall with inspirational quotes on canvases all around it! Our amazing art teacher painted the canvases and did some beautiful calligraphy to make the quotes stand out!

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I am so excited to see the map puzzle and the quotes around the media center so anyone who enters the media center knows what the space is about. They know what I believe about education without a question! Here’s a short slideshow with several of the quotes around the media center.

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Stained Glass and Snowflakes

Stations. The best unkept secret in education.

Snowflakes are hexagonal… perhaps the best kept secret in advertising.

macro photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

During #DBC50Summer, I followed every author from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on Twitter and love being connected to them! One of the funniest authors is easily Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance. His sense of humor pulled me into his book and now I get to enjoy his wit through social media. He created a hashtag to serve as a Public Service Announcement. Snowflakes are hexagons. Really! #Snowflakesarehexagons

The poetry written to the companies along with the photos of his own version of “false advertisement” cracks me up! With those posts, do you know what he did? He made me stop and count the dang sides of every. single. snowflake. in every. single. ad. I see.

Our amazing 8th grade math teachers, Ms. Luce & Mrs. Hawks, and I had already planned to do an extension of a PBL in MinecraftEDU. The students had learned about how linear functions are used to create stained glass windows. They had a guest speaker a few weeks ago who actually showed them how she creates stained glass and students have been creating their own stained glass (by coloring) and figuring out the linear function in slope-intercept form of each line. In MinecraftEDU, students could create a stained glass of their choosing. This could be done by modifying the one they created with linear functions to be “blocky” so it could be built in the game, they could create anything from scratch, or they could look up pixel art and use stained glass blocks or wool to create it.

This gave us two stations in our classes, but we needed a third. I had just discovered that Sprite had six-pointed snowflakes on their product (thanks to Denis’s Twitter PSA) and thought students might have fun discovering which products had “the right snowflakes” on them.

Our third station was a huge hit!

First, students searched for snowflakes in advertising and shared an image they found on a Padlet. Bonus for me: I get to talk about digital citizenship next week and have students determine if this was best practice for using images! (Hint: No, no it was not.)

After finding an image, they read one of the three articles referenced in Denis’s blog post Snowflakes are Hexagons. They were to secretly tell me how many sides every snowflake has and why it has that many sides based on their research.

Upon giving me the correct answer, the students did exactly as Denis suggests in his blog… they created paper snowflakes. There were a lot of octagons, decagons, quadrilaterals, and circles, until finally someone used their resources and googled “How to make a six-sided snowflake.” HA! My principal suggested taking it up a notch further. These paper snowflakes (with the correct number of sides, of course) will be used as decorations for their Winter Dance in December.

Check out a few of their creations that I tweeted out! There are dozens and dozens of hexagonal snowflakes in our media center now!

 

Then, this morning, this kid blew me away!

The MinecraftEDU station turned out pretty fantastic, too! I am currently working to upload the file on my YouTube channel and will embed here when finished, but for now, check out this link to a walkthrough on my Google Drive. (There is no sound.) I was so impressed with what they built in the 25-30 minutes they had available to create. Several came before and after school as well as during their lunch to finish their stained glass pixel art and more have asked to return this week. Students showed one another how to “light up” their windows using glowstone, so when the world turns to night it glows in the most beautiful colors!

I am so proud of the students I serve, and the teachers were blown away by both their stained glass creations and their unique snowflakes. This was one of those times that we got it right. Thank you, Denis for inspiring a way to make learning relevant for our students! This definitely serves as one implementation (I’m sure there will be many more to come) for my #DBC50Summer post on Instant Relevance! I am honored that our 8th grade math teachers trusted me to help create this PBL extension and spur-of-the-moment lesson on snowflakes. I’m looking forward to more lessons like this!

#DBCBookBlogs: Lead with Literacy

Hold on tight – I’m about to get my Usher on. This is my confession…

I became a media coordinator to promote my love of technology, not reading.

There. Don’t throw things at me, though. My blog, my reflections. Just stay with me.

In my district, there is no such thing as an instructional technology facilitator/specialist. In January 2011, I started an online program through East Carolina University (the Pirates… not even kidding) to earn a Master of Arts in Education in Instructional Technology. In early May 2012, I graduated. I flew through that program and loved every minute of it. I was devastated when I spoke with our HR and found out that there was no funding (nor would there be) for these positions. He did let me know that our media coordinators in our district were filling the role of instructional technology facilitators in many cases and that perhaps I should look into that.

So I did. After applying in late May 2012 for the online Master of Library Science program at East Carolina University, I was accepted, and within a matter of days found out I was expecting our youngest daughter. I had to make a decision… was it worth it to me to earn my MLS when I could get paid for having an MAEd in the classroom?

I enrolled in classes reluctantly. The only reason I was pursuing this degree was that it was my only avenue for sharing my passion with other educators. Incorporating technology in seamless and meaningful ways was the goal. I finished the MLS program in May 2014, fulfilling my internship requirements by already being hired as media coordinator in an elementary school media center. I never went into my role in the media center because I wanted to promote a lifelong love of reading.

Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy reading. However, I despise everything about Accelerated Reader, Reading Counts, and other read-then-quiz-to-get-points programs. Those programs were the norm in my district. Also, I despise Battle of the Books. I CAN admit that I always enjoy the book list. But those questions? How much more arbitrary can we get? Unfortunately, this club is the norm in my district as well. (I’ve tried to make the best out of the situation. You can see how I gamified Battle of the Books to try to incorporate my own passions to make it more palatable for me to sponsor in this archived post.) With these two programs that I am adamantly against, I can confidently say that I dreaded my role in the media center with the expectation that I would have to not only support these programs, but encourage participation in them.

I did it for 2 1/2 years. During those 2 1/2 years, I discovered my own love of reading children’s books. My favorite media classes were those in which I read aloud a story. I loved our mobile Book Bus, a school bus that traveled a combination of our bus routes to deliver new books and a snack to students multiple times during the summer months. Our local Rotary Club supported literacy by gifting kindergarten students with a free book four times a year! They would come and buddy-read to the students and personally give the student the book. It was a highlight of my time in elementary school. Dr. Seuss Day made me smile. Our character parades were amazing and a dance party ended the day with lots of “characters” dancing to celebrate reading! I fell in love with literacy when there were no strings attached.

See, I grew up with Accelerated Reader. I remember taking those quizzes as a student. I remember being in Academically Gifted (AG) classes and being required to take a certain number of tests, cheating on the tests because I hated the books we were required to read. It destroyed my love of reading. I’ve watched my own 4th grade daughter lose her love of reading; “Oh, Bailey, you loved the book?! How did you do on the test?” I won’t let that happen on my watch. Not anymore. If there is any silver lining at all to a loss of funding, it’s that the AR program was cut in nearly every school in my district. This has given an opportunity for significant growth, thinking outside the box, getting creative. All schools have been tasked with casting a new vision for promoting literacy in our schools.

After reading Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis, I am armed with TONS of new ways of promoting literacy in our school.

This isn’t a program, it’s a culture.

In truth, our district is asking every school to change its culture. That’s not happening over night, but it will happen. And we’ll all be better for it.

LeadLit

I knew from following Mandy on Twitter we were going to see eye-to-eye when I finally got to read her book. Unfortunately, at a #BookSnaps workshop this summer (see Be REAL by Tara Martin post here), someone accidentally took my book (I choose to assume positive intent). Mandy immediately replied asking for my address so she could send me another copy. Not only did she send me a copy, she sent me a signed copy with stickers! She’s got a heart of gold! (Thanks again, Mandy – I cherish my book!)

Mandy’s passion and intentionality in creating a culture of reading is evident both in her twitter feed and on the pages of her book. There are so many ways to embed reading into the culture of the school that can be applied to every level of education! Before reading this book, I didn’t see myself as a literacy leader by any definition. Even though I advocate for choice in reading, I’m still very much seen as the technology person among media folks in my district and in the state. As I read Mandy’s book, I noticed that I do many of the things she does in her school! I was blown away!

According to Mandy, I am certainly a lead reader (#DBC50Summer is clearly evidence A, and my insanely full bookshelf of children’s books in my office would suffice as evidence B). I tweet and blog my book reflections regularly, sharing with faculty and students what I’m reading. I ask what students are reading and dive into conversations with them about their books. I make suggestions to students for books to read next, but do not mandate book selection. I encourage choice in selection of books, and offer a variety of options for our students. I value quality of books over quantity of books, regularly stating that I’d rather have 500 books that I can’t keep on the shelf than to have 5,000 that sit on the shelf unopened.  Mandy’s book is so full of ideas that there are at least 5 or 6 things I’m looking to implement as we move forward with our updated literacy plan. Knowing that culture won’t change overnight, I’m focusing on just a couple things at a time.

Here is a copy of the draft of our new literacy plan. This is a living document and will be changed throughout the year. These plans are only a starting point. My first year at middle school, I only had around 400 circulations in a media center which served approximately 400 students… yes, one book checked out per year per student. Sad.

Last year we increased that number to around 2,700 circulations in a year. A 600% increase, but still nowhere near enough reading happening. I am thrilled to say that we are already at 1,689 circulations and students have only been in school for 6 weeks! We’re moving in the right direction!

The greatest factors to students checking out books, I believe, has been time and independently set reading goals. Students have been given protected class time to check in and out books twice a month. I really appreciate our teachers making this a priority. Students were asked to determine their own reading goal each quarter with no strings attached. There are no rewards, other than the satisfaction of reading amazing books, and no consequences (absolutely no ties to grading, quizzes, point systems, etc). They aren’t “in trouble” for not meeting their goal, and I’m only disappointed if they don’t set a goal. I was honestly worried how this would turn out when I took this risk. I was expecting a ton of students to set their goal at only reading one book, while others focused on quantity versus quality by reading 20 books. (Although I can say from personal experience that this may be a false dichotomy as my goal of reading 50 books this summer was strongly rooted in quantity AND quality… just saying.) Here are their goals for the first quarter.

Aren’t they impressive? I’m excited to see where this takes us! Mandy’s book is one that is available for media coordinators in our district as we partake in a small group book studies this year. I am excited to see what others in my district will implement from this insanely amazing power-packed Lead Like A Pirate guide book!

*Side Note: This is the second of the #LeadLAP guide books! Mandy continues the tradition of excellence that Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf established, and Jay Billy built upon in his guide book Lead with Culture.

More information can be found on Twitter using the hashtag #LeadLIT! There is such greatness waiting for you there, so jump on over if you’ve not already! This book is an incredible addition to any media coordinator, or principal’s professional library. Classroom teachers will also take so much from this book! I’m feeling a bit like Oprah – YOU need this book and YOU need this book and YOU need this book! (Sorry, can’t give them to you like Oprah, but man wouldn’t that be epic?!) Check out the first few chapters here! Once you fall in love with it (because you will), go ahead and order your own copy! Mandy’s website can be found here!

Also, share what you’re reading on the flipgrid created by Andrea Paulakovich (which I get to copilot, thanks Andrea!)

Next book up (because you should always have a book on deck) is Balance Like A Pirate by Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson.