Hello, Summer.

Students’ last day was the 14th. Teachers left on the 18th. I’m finally starting my official summer break this afternoon. It feels like an eternity has passed between the 14th and today, but man alive did I get a lot done. I inventoried the collection, packed up some old tech for surplus, weeded a bunch, cataloged a ton of stuff that I wasn’t able to get to during the school year, and even put together a large order for our return to school in September.

I filed my end-of-year reports this morning, which was an opportunity to think back on the year. Though the format doesn’t necessarily have space for the details of all that happened in this space during the year. But if you’re dying to know, I added 1,201 books to the collection and saw 11,432 books circulate among students. 11,432. That’s a lot of books.

But the EOY report isn’t the whole picture. It feels like a very small peephole into the year. After looking through the photos on my phone, the EOY report doesn’t capture the relationships built this year, the things made, or the insightful thinking from students. One doesn’t necessarily see the student who discovered comic books in the EOY report.

I think I got to know a large percentage of the 420 (give or take) students at the school. And I feel good about making the library a place where students want to come and a space of their own. That’s how a library should be (I think). I do need to establish some expectations for behavior though. It got loud (A. Lot.), and every now and then students felt awfully entitled (as one sometimes does when one feels comfortable and at home). My big goal for 2019-2020 is to improve my classroom management so that the library is a space for everyone (not just the bigger personalities) and a space where everyone can learn.

I also want to integrate making with reading more. My school participated in three One School, One Book events this year. Two of them were organized by Read to Them, a non-profit that promotes literacy and reading with children. They happen to be based in Richmond. In the fall every elementary school in Richmond read Friendship According to Humphrey. In an after-school conversation, a colleague of mine pitched the idea of having students design and build prototypes for a new house for Humphrey. In case students weren’t able to read the book at home, we had them read a few pages from the book that described Humphrey’s cage. Based on that description, they then worked in teams to complete a design brief*, which involved brainstorming improvements and sketching those ideas. Once they thought through, wrote about, and sketched their ideas, it was time to build.

I collected recyclables from teachers, parents, and neighbors for prototyping. Building ensued, and everyone’s path differed. There were disagreements within groups. Some groups worked together with no problems at all. Some students were incredibly frustrated when their vision wasn’t easily realized. Some brushed off these hiccups with incredible ease and reevaluated the execution of ideas.

A prototype for Humphrey’s new home.

After a couple of classes of building, teams wrote reflections and shared their experiences with their classes.

We were able to do more prototyping at the end of the year in conjunction with reading Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a Car. Students across all grades Loved. This. Book. They remarked on the rhymes, Jack’s wild ideas, and said things like, “If I could build my own car, I would…” They had the opportunity to brainstorm their own wild ideas and then build prototypes. If I thought about it, I would’ve taken a picture of Hazel’s unicorn car or Donnell’s dirt bike. Those slipped by me, but I did get some pics of other prototypes.

Some other favorite lessons included making story maps of well-known stories (and sometimes made-up stories) with Ozobots (inspired by this lesson).

Charging Ozobots

Keva Planks were a huge hit and got a ton of use in almost every K-1 class that I had either with makerspace stations or directly integrated with books like I Am Not a Chair and Dreaming Up.

Look. Listen. I’ve had totally faith in this making in libraries since 2012 or so, and I go home every day happy that I get to put into practice the ideas and philosophies shaped by things like Constructing Modern Knowledge and DS106. But more importantly the students love the chance to create. Before school ended, a kindergarten teacher said, “A student said she loved library the best, because we get to do everything in the library like art and moving around.” And it’s this interdisciplinary nature that I want to continue to grow next year….

… But with a little more emphasis on authentic research. In February, 5th graders started on podcasting which lasted until the end of school. We listened to a variety of different podcasts, worked in groups to develop their ideas for a podcast, wrote a script and interview questions, and then went out and recorded their stories or interviews. Poor planning on my part and a lack of technology required me to edit their podcasts into a final product for class listening parties.

The 5th graders were hard workers and excited to work on a project like a podcast. One group was even managed to sneak in a short, unplanned interview with the mayor when his visit to the school corresponded with their recording day. 5th grade Initiative!

So I look ahead excited and ready for the recharging that comes with summer. I say, “I’m not doing any school work!” But I know that’s not true. I’ll plan out lessons, prepare to integrate Scratch and Google CS next year, read some awesome picture and chapter books as well as Help for Billy and Teach Like a Champion, our professional development summer reading selections. I’m excited about the adventures to come in 2019-2020.

*The design brief was based on some of the guided portfolio from this research guide for K-5

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