Friday, February 10, 2017

Revisiting Blind Date with a Book


In 2014 was the first time that I set up a display for Blind Date with a Book (BDWB). The kids loved it. When I set up the display the following year, I had students add some information about each book on the wrapping so that students could make an informed choice. This really improved the whole blind date experience. 
What will this new read be?

Then I said the heck with this, it is so difficult to wrap the books and keep wrapping additional books after the books get checked out that I stopped putting up the display. This year I have seen so many cute displays on social media, and Pinterest is filled with BDWB display ideas. I decided it was time to bring it back to my library.


She is a happy camper!
I needed to figure out a simpler way to package the books, list some qualities of the book, and be ready to add new books to the display as they get checked out. I made a nice design on Canva to print out, and you can find it here and feel free to copy and use. I glued the 8 1/2 by 11 sheets that I printed onto manila envelopes. Then I put the envelopes through the laminator. I carefully scored the envelopes at the opening to keep the lamination in tact. Then I printed out the hearts with the details about each book and cut those out. The details I did not laminate. I just carefully taped them to the back of the envelope. I figured once the book is checked out I would need to add a different one to  the display, and it will have different details. The tape comes off of the lamination very easily. The only downside is the envelope is open at the top, and the students could look in if they wanted.

Details of each book to put on the back

I trust my students not to peek. On the flip side, I do want them to find a book that they will enjoy, so I don't worry if they have taken a quick look. This display always seems to encourage kids who might not usually check out a book to take one. They might not always like the book, but at least they tried. I am all for making the attempt to be the book matchmaker for my students. 


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Makerspace Addition of Ozobots Keep Students Engaged

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One of the parents at my school encouraged me to write a Donor's Choose grant at the beginning of the school year. She just knew that the Chevron Fuel Your School program would fund the grant idea that I had for robots in the library. I was thrilled about that because I hate having to beg friends, family, and parents for the money to fund projects on Donor's Choose. I think that Donor's Choose is a great way to obtain new materials, but I am not always comfortable soliciting donations. For some reason Chevron passed over my grant and another at my school. I still wanted the Ozobot robots for the library, so I rewrote the grant with less items costing less money in hopes that it would be funded quickly. It was. We have had the Ozobots only about a week. They are delightful little "creatures" and keep the students busy before school and during lunch in the library.





The library has had three Sphero robots in the makerspace for about a year. The students love how fast they can travel. They will have them on the floor weaving in and out of each other's path, up and down the ramp, and singing and dancing to a catchy tune. The Sphero robots are controlled by any of several free apps found on the iPad. Some of the apps just control the robots' movements, other apps offer more in the way of coding with blocks very similar to Scratch. As popular as the Sphero are in my library, I wanted to buy another kind of robot that might appeal to a different kid.



The Ozobots are cute and tiny. They are only about one inch by one and a quarter inch. I said that they were small. They would work great on a table or desk, but my students have them running on a huge sheet of bulletin board paper about 3 feet by 5 feet, so the floor is the only place for this to work.

 
Ozobot in Action 3 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

The Ozobots are programmed to follow color codes to make them change speed, alter direction or blink lights in various colors. The idea is to "build" a track that the Ozobots will follow. They can be controlled by a free app on an iPad with many possible tracks that the user can pull up and use with the Ozobot. Some kids like pairing the iPad and robot together. Since the iPads we have are minis and the robots are so tiny, this a one person endeavor.



Several students are working as an unofficial team to design a track on large paper. Regular markers in black, green, red and blue are used to create the codes. If the line is too thinly drawn, the Ozobot stops moving. That is an easy fix. The starter kit that I got had some code on vinyl, but those would only stick on the laminated cards that I made not the huge sheet with the track. Cruising Amazon I found some stickers just for the Ozobot. An eight year old came up with the idea after receiving a robot as a gift, and he developed the stickers into a product to be sold. The stickers with the color codes can be added to the track drawn by the students. The sticker packages have just over 200 stickers, and I bought three packs. They should last for awhile.

Ozoeasy stickers



Ozobots may have been designed for a younger user because the coding is so easy, but my middle school students have really taken a shine to them. Even one of the 9th graders said that she would like to have one of her own.

 
  Ozobot in Action 2 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Everyday it seems that the kids have figured out something new about how they move or how they can manipulate their movements. At $59 each, they are affordable, and you really don't need much extra gear to have fun just paper and markers.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Enthralling Skype with Author, Marieke Nijkamp



At the beginning of the school year, I planned a skype session for each of the three book groups that I run. On Monday, the high school book group had their chance to talk to an author. Marieke Nijkamp is Dutch and her first published book This is Where it Ends is all American. It is written from the point of view of several characters who experience 54 minutes of school when a student pulls a gun out during a school assembly and proceeds to kill and wound many. 



This skype session like all the ones that I do began with Nijkamp talking for 15 minutes about how she came to write this book (she was visiting the US during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting), all the research that she did (she talked to American friends who experienced a shooting at their school), and how much she has grown to love the characters in the book (she knew ahead of time which characters would live and which would die). Then I left 15 minutes open to questions from the students. I don't ask the students to tell me their questions ahead of time because I know those questions can change depending on what the author says at the onset. My students are deep thinkers, and I totally trust them to ask appropriate questions. Each student walks up to the camera so the author can see who is talking. If the student has additional questions or comments while they are standing, I let them continue to speak. 



I was a bit concerned when the skype started that the students would not be engaged. I was only able to convince a handful of students to read the book ahead of time because many of the members of Bookmarked prefer fantasy and sci fi over realistic fiction. I really had nothing to worry about though because they were thoroughly engaged and mesmerized by Nijkamp. She is also a fan of fantasy so they had that in common. When it was time to ask questions, it did not matter if the student had read the book. The author gave enough information that made all of them curious to know more about her writing process. 



What did the students ask? One asked about how she selected the characters' names. She said that she spent hours on baby name websites to figure out who would be named what. That made them giggle, but they could totally relate. She was also asked why she put LGBTQ characters in the book. Nijkamp explained that diversity was important for her to include in the story. She said that all of her books will contain LGBTQ characters. I asked her how being Dutch and writing an American story jived with the advice of many to write what you know. She agreed that she had to do a lot of research about American schools before she could write this book, but the emotions that her characters felt were universal. The idea that one's life could change in an instant through tragedy or a natural disaster could happen anywhere in the world. 




After she learned about Sandy Hook Elementary, she became obsessed with writing about a shooting. She read a lot of young adult literature with school shootings but did not find one that told the story at the time of the incident. That is how her book was born. The students told me that the skype session was great because they could identify with Nijkamp, and they loved her accent. 



Thanks to Source books for helping to make this event happen. Find more on the library website here



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