Thing 44 Social reading and book stuff.


Again, looking for a district literacy initiative when I saw Open Ebooks from Firstbook. I decided to download and test drive before I pushed out to parents. The registration process was easy and the response time to receive my login was very quick.  I was able to download the app, was very excited to scroll through the catalog and even managed download a book…cover. Ya, I was only successful in downloading bookcover but could not get subsequent chapters. I call 800# and staff is very courteous and helpful. It was suggested that I uninstall and try again, which I did, but then my logins didn’t work. Firstbook is forwarding all glitches to NYPL who manages the app. Apparently, there have been several issues and hopefully I will get a callback sometime soon. (Update 2 weeks later, issues still not resolved.)

I was delighted to see Bookshare  for people with print disabilities. Hopefully, I will have better luck with Bookshare. I have a fifth grader who is legally blind and once I saw that Bookshare had ALL the Dork Diaries, I happily registered. Organizations such as public schools can register for free. Once registration is complete and I faxed in my signature, I was delighted to receive email from Bookshare within 24 hours. I was able to preview books and play with font size before I presented to my student. I did call the 800# for help with student login and had no problem receiving quick, efficient service. The picture books include full color illustrations and the scrolling to next page is by vertical scroll bar or down arrow, not arrow to the right.  Once I had some sense of the navigation required, I brought student to library. I adjusted font, to 70 which she indicated she could read if she got really close to screen. The font size can  be set for each student in students account settings. Downside: there are login protocols and instructions that are not in 70 font so student will need assistance from sighted person to get started. Not really a problem since student has 1:1. Other minor downside, audio is computerized and sounds very clipped. Overall, I am very happy I was able to offer product to student and teacher was happy as well. The verdict is still out from student since reading has been, logistically, cumbersome in the past, she is not much of a reader. However, I suspect that between the classroom teacher and I, we will be able to offer her more opportunities and books to read. And as I am typing, I realize I need to reach out to her parent so that student’s mom can encourage as well.


Thing 02 Photo Fun or Thing 11 DIY


At a recent meeting, several librarians discussed literacy initiatives. In the past, we have promoted the read, write (or draw depending on age) and submit for small prize, credit, classroom reward etc. The response has been disappointing and the amount of effort and paper to promote is tremendous.

In reviewing the items left from previous librarian, I noticed a green screen! Cool, right? I asked my IT about training and appropriate software. I will now condense the results of numerous conversations and emails that transpired over several months. Needed an iPad for software but there were no extras. Borrowed one from teacher who no longer remembered the password and lost the cable. Resolved those issues but then software cost money and I needed different password to make purchase. Initially, I wanted to make videos of morning announcements with fun backdrops. After three months of figuring out passwords, administrative rights etc, etc, I gave up.

I have always loved to play with my photos. I made Christmas place mats with my children’s heads on top of snowmen, placed my pony riding daughter on top of a zebra. I ordered doubles of every picture because I knew I would be cutting up every single picture. Following this line of pictorial insanity, I came upon with the idea of rewarding students who earned the most points in the school’s reading program. I wanted to offer a really cool reward for my students. I wanted to make reading cool. The result was,

“Get into a good book!”

Beau posterDominic poster
Students chose their favorite book in the library and I allowed them to preview before I made a poster for them. Not wanting to pay for a new editing software or getting around administrative rights to downloading, I found Microsoft Office allowed me enough flexibility to edit and match the photograph to the book cover. (See  17 USC 107 ).

Using a green screen, I had the student pose in the same position as the character in the book cover. I usually took several photographs in slightly different positions. The green screen enables the editor to remove the background easily with  one click. Copy the book cover and student image into Word. Once you click on the picture, Format appears on the toolbar. Crop and resize.  Last step is to play with artistic effects and color saturation.

Student response has been terrific. Many promised to read more in hopes of earning enough points to merit a poster. Several just kept asking me how I did it, so I demonstrated the process.  I will be curious to compare last year’ s reading program statistics to this year’s.

Additional lesson learned: the newest tech is cool but sometimes you have to be resourceful and use what you have in a new way!



Thing 8 Research Databases


I read the article “Free Scholarly Resources Online”  fromAASL and although the resources were for older students, in the Comments section, some fabulous librarian listed a bunch of free K-6 websites. I discovered Digital History which I’d never seen and LiveBinders which I’d forgotten about. This year I started at a new school and the expectations are a bit different. I used to do actual research projects in the library, but now I either supply the resources or try to do a quick presentation. I created a Bud Not Buddy LiveBinder on the Great Depression and added two of the new databases. LiveBinders allows me to offer articles differentiated by level or interest. Bam! In one fell swoop, I integrated three Cool Tools: new databases, curation tool, new user friendly element on library home page.  This is why I keep doing Cool Tools!

I  like the Digital History database because it has so many access points for students: music, people, and multimedia. I particularly like the inclusion of photographs to reference as primary sources. I used to spend hours pouring over the LOC digital collections and then creating a Powerpoint or Google Slides presentation. Digital History does that for me. I added a link to my LiveBinder on my library webpage.

Thank goodness one of the activities was to add widgets because I  realized I had no widgets on my library page. I added Worldbook, BrainPOP and Novel widgets. Rather than trying to direct my 1st graders to the top left block, the third one down, I can now tell them to click on the blue and green rectangle. Much easier and it helps them learn their shapes as well. Here’s the link to my homepage so you can see the widgets.

Final Reflection


I LOVE learning and earning my PD credits this way. I appreciate the array of choices and even though I’ve done this three years, I still haven’t done everything.  I did find the whole Canvas site a little confusing. It felt as though I had to login and register in a zillion different places, but apparently I figured it out.

As a librarian, I only have the students for about 30 minutes a week and  between assemblies, field trips, testing, school pictures, and snow days, my classes are often cancelled.  It is very difficult to continue a lesson 2 to 3 weeks after its been started. Consequently, I prefer lessons that can be taught/modelled one day, and students can do the following class time. Finding free, quick tech lessons that can be incorporated reasonably within library class works well for me. Tools that I have used in the library include Tagxedo, Coding, Quozia, StoryboardThat and Google Slides. I even used coding as a PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) reward! I use Pocket App almost daily. I continue to use Common Sense Media year after year.  Generally, I use tools that are easy to learn and limited in their choices.  For example, Storybird is amazing, but I end up spending at least an hour just looking at the illustrations! (Same with Haiku deck) My students would never actually create anything! If there are too many options, it becomes a huge time black hole. On the other hand, I loved learning how to create crossword puzzles. Although creating a book specific puzzle is time-consuming, once made, it can be used year after year, and it is so handy for those students who finish early. Creating crossword puzzles is fun. I usually create one over a break when I don’t feel like working, but it gets me into the working mindset. Truthfully, if I didn’t have to do PDs I’m not sure I would take the time to find and try out all these tools. Although I’m interested in all of them, they usually seem more daunting than they actually are.  Similarly, many of these tools take more me more than 2 hours, which is fine, but would I spend 2-3 hours on figuring something out if I wasn’t getting PD credit? Probably not because I’d feel like I was “wasting” time. So yes, I am glad my district offers Cool Tools and I do feel that my students benefit from the tools I learn.

Thing 11 DIY

Standard is a comic strip/graphic novel/storyboard creator. I did the free trial with my 4th grade students and had them  create three panel storyboards of Colonial Life. First students had to do some research on a separate worksheet that I created. The objective was to highlight keywords in the questions and use nonfiction text features to answer them quickly and efficiently. I wrote the directions for opening and using StoryBoard That. Once their research was completed,   I demonstrated creating a storyboard on the SmartBoard while students followed written instructions and directed me to click on appropriate tabs. Students then worked on their own storyboards creating text bubbles based on their research. As a librarian, I have students for 30 minutes a week. Once announcements are made and books exchanged, more like 18 minutes! Once research was done, most students were able to create 3 panel storyboards within 2 class periods. Finding a presentation tool that my students could learn and actually use within a short time period was a huge bonus. (No spending hours looking for appropriate copyright free clipart and uploading etc etc).

Probably the most appealing feature of storyboardthat is the variety and accessibility of scenes and characters. There is a specific US History Settings tab as well as a 1600 to 1800s Character tab. Most of my students can spend endless amounts of time just clicking on every tab and option. By providing content specific time periods, my students were able to finish their projects within a reasonable time. Additionally, if they chose an incorrect scene,  it was very easy to  use mistake as learning opportunity,  “What would a farmer wear? Which character’s dress comes close to what a Puritan might wear to church? or my favorite, “Do you think Native Americans had purple hair dye?” One my students changed the skin color to dark brown for her panel about slaves not being allowed to go to school. My free trial expired before I could provide a direct link, but I did get a screen shot of my students’ work. (Enable editing to make full screen and text bubbles legible.)

Colonial Farm Life by Jamere and James

Colonial Life by Aneya C

Thing 30 Flash cards, quiz games


Most days in library, there are one or two individuals who have forgotten their book, or who don’t want to get a book and although I have bookmarks to color, magazines to read etc, I thought it would be nice to include a little crossword puzzle. I created a book elements crossword puzzle that  not only reinforces literary vocabulary, but also could be used as:

  • start of semester knowledge inventory
  • end of unit review
  • constructive busy work

I went to and not only was it FREE but it was extremely easy to create! I am all about using different gimmicks, I mean strategies, to keep kids learning.

During the summer I work at a camp in the literacy class. I try to keep it fun and by using Matt Johnson’s Bingo Baker, I was able to create 8 different bingo cards for my kidergarteners’ dolch words. Again, super easy and best of all, FREE!



Thing 5 Presentation Tools


My fifth grade Special Ed teacher asked me to work with him on his rainforest animal project.  In addition to working on the research during library time, I suggested we create a Google Slides project. His five male students are all visually oriented and are all terrific artists and who love to draw superheroes or cartoon characters. Using a template from Slides Carnival for Google Slides, I was inspired to create a cartoon themed presentation as a model. I have asked the 5 boys to draw a favorite character which I will then upload so that the students will have their own “information presenter/commentator”. I am hoping the use of their own character within a familiar visual format, will help engage their sustained attention and effort. In my example,

I demonstrate how the character will make comments about the information presented. In addition to the research itself, I can give mini lessons on using google slides, searching for images, photo manipulation, digital responsibility regarding image use and attribution. By using Google Slides, students will have the opportunity to see other students’ work and teach each other as they work on their own slides. Each student will have the opportunity to create as many slides with as many details (ie images, icons, colors, etc) but within the confines of the template.

I needed to create my own Slides project before introducing it to the class. Although every district employee has Google Drive on their desktop and laptop, not every teacher has had the opportunity (or wherewithal) to incorporate it into their lessons. I’ve been assigning my students to type up responses in Google Docs and having them share their docs with me, Thing 5 allowed me the opportunity to incorporate another Google element to library time. Bonus, I finally created my own avatar!