Thursday, September 23, 2021

A New Beginning

After more than 10 years of serving as a middle school teacher librarian, I have moved to the high school teacher librarian position in my school district. While it has been difficult to leave a space that has been my home longer than any other in my teaching career, I am excited about seeing former students and  building on those relationships. The move also challenges me to forge new relationships with the high school teachers and collaborate in different ways. 

This blog will remain intact as a resource not only for me but for those who have linked to it over the years. I have appreciated your comments and support, and I hope you will visit my new high school site, where I will continue to share ideas, book recommendations, and student learning. You can find me at

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Information Literacy Work

The last several weeks of Literacy Studies classes have been filled with lessons and activities related to information literacy and evaluating sources. Much of the work was based on the book Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins.

To begin our work, students picked apart the pieces of the story of Frida, a young girl apparently trapped in a collapsed elementary school in Mexico City after an earthquake. The story, as retold in Fact vs. Fiction, recounted the hours after the earthquake when rescuers claimed to have seen and heard from the trapped girl. World-wide coverage of the story ensued, and #Frida trended on Twitter. In the end, there was no trapped girl. The story illustrates how a story can gain traction--even a story that isn't true.

Student participated in a sorting activity that included elements from the story. Using categories from Fact vs. Fiction, students chose where to place story elements, and then defended their choices during discussion. Categories included: famous names and places, a few facts, legitimate news information, eye witnesses, and emotional investment or connection.

Next, students examined examples of "fake news," which we learn is likely one of four kinds of stories:
    1) propaganda
    2) disinformation
    3) conspiracy theory
    4) click bait
After discussing what we already knew, we looked at specific examples of each, then participated in a Four Corners activity when looking at different examples. Once students made their choices, they explained why they made the choices they did.

Once students had specific vocabulary for "fake news," it was time to evaluate online sources, as that's where students--and indeed, many of us--primarily get our information. Together we looked at a checklist of things to do and look for when examining websites.

We applied the checklist to a site together--The Jackalope Conspiracy--and gathered "the evidence" to make a decision about the site: Is it propaganda, disinformation, conspiracy theory, or click bait?

Students also worked independently (or with a partner) to evaluate an assigned website from the list above. Not every site on the list was disinformation; some were accurate websites. Students worked through their checklists and read laterally to try to confirm the information on the sites they were evaluating.

Students' final activity was to visit to see how it can be used as another tool in website and information evaluation and fact checking.

Using tools at, students search for information provided to them, and they also had time to search for an item of their own interest to determine the accuracy of the story and information. 

Finally, students completed a quick survey to provide some feedback regarding their understanding of information literacy and source evaluation before we began our work compared to their knowledge of these things after our activities and reading. The good news? After participating in lessons and activities, students reported a nearly 20% increase in their confidence related to evaluation skills when looking at information online.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

It's Almost Book Fair Time!

After not having in-person book fairs last fall, we elementary and middle school librarians have gained permission to hold fairs in our buildings this month around conferences time. Students and adults already in the buildings will be able to browse--and purchase, if they'd like--books and other goodies from our Scholastic fairs.

Middle school students recently received a fair flyer in Literacy Studies class, and you can access an online version HERE.

Students will be able to shop the book fair during Literacy Studies classes, as well as before and after school. We can accept cash or debit/credit cards, and new this year, we are encouraging families to use Scholastic's eWallet accounts. Families can create eWallet accounts from the MS book fair webpage, and students can then shop the fair using electronically deposited funds. Any money remaining in eWallet accounts at the fair's end will not be refunded. Students received eWallet information along with their book fair fliers.

Like our fall fair, this one is also accessible online, where students and families can access thousands of books and other items. With just a $25 book purchase, items will ship free to your home. You can access the online book fair HERE.

Looking for some quick information and details about the book fair? Families received emails from our main office with an attached letter, and you can also access it HERE.
We're very excited to be able to bring an in-person book fair to students this spring! If you have any questions, please reach out to the school main office to be put in touch, or families are welcome to email me; please see the letter above for contact information. Happy reading!

Friday, February 12, 2021

7th Grade Podcast Work

With one year of podcast work under their belts (see previous podcast posts), seventh graders were ready to move ahead with some different podcast activities.

At the end of their podcast work as sixth graders, students completed a reflection that provided some important information to consider moving forward with podcast work. Overwhelmingly, 84% of all students said they "liked" or "really liked" the podcast unit, and 93% wanted to do more with podcasts in school. The two areas that students said needed improvement were time and choice; in their written responses, students said they wanted to have more time to listen to podcasts in class, and they wanted to be able to choose the podcasts to listen to.

So, in planning and revising and creating a new seventh grade podcast unit, students got what they asked for: time and choice.

The updated lesson for seventh graders became a digital notebook activity with background graphic organizer work to help shape their review writing. Even before that work began, students used Jamboard to include notes about things they recalled about our podcast work from the previous year. Many, many thanks to our school AEA technology consultant Cathy Hines who developed the digital notebook and graphic organizer! 

Before setting to work individually, we took two class days to listen to a podcast together and work through a graphic organizer example. Students listened to the first episode of "Six Minutes," then as a group filled in the graphic organizer. 
“Six Minutes.” Gen-Z Media, 5 Feb. 2021,

The items included relate directly to the Iowa speaking and listening standards, as well as the AASL Learner standards.

The students' graphic organizer work will transfer directly to their digital notebooks that include a cover or title page for their podcasts and a review page.

Addressing students' request for more time to listen to podcasts was only a matter of structuring the lessons over plenty of calendar days. The request for more choice, however, was a little more tricky. After many conversations with Cathy and with the students, they were able to refer to a recommendations list as well as use Google Podcasts.

Screenshot of some of the podcast recommendations for students

Over the course of several class days, then, students had the opportunity to choose a podcast based on their interests, listen to it, and complete the Slides work. While many chose to continue to listen to more episodes of "Six Minutes," others returned to "The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel," which reflected their interest in last year's podcast work. With access to the Google Podcast search engine, students were also able to listen to podcasts about hunting and fishing, football and hockey, and dogs and cheerleading!

Students' work isn't quite finished; they'll be sharing out their work and reflecting again on the revising of the podcast unit. Stay tuned for a future follow-up post!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Celebrating Black History Month

 February is Black History Month, and one of our library displays reflects several important events and people associated with that. 

Mike Rawls's website has a fantastic resource for February's celebration of Black History Month, and I tailored it to reflect our own library collection here at the Middle School. Each day of the month highlights an event or person, and it also includes a related book for students to learn more or explore an interest. While many of the featured books are biographies and collected biographies, some stand-alone nonfiction titles are also part of the recommendations. See below for just a few of the people and events recognized:

And you can see the full month here:

Take a look if you're in the library, or stop by each day to see that day's specific person or event. Happy reading!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Share/Talk HyperDoc

 Literacy Studies students recently completed their work in a HyperDoc taken from

This book share/talk document encourages students to think beyond plot and summary and instead consider their own thinking as they read and connect their reading to broader topics. (You can grab the template HERE.) Students also create a hyperlink for the image associated with their book of choice. While they used the Unsplash add-on to insert copyright-free images in a recent Slides project, students this time used Pixabay Free Images add-on in the HyperDoc.

To encourage collaboration in the HyperDoc, all grade-level students on a given class day shared their work in a single document. Before we even began inserting book cover and Pixabay images, classes engaged in discussions about good digital citizenship when multiple users share a document. We even had the chance to see how seemingly innocent clicking around in a Google Doc can have an impact; once, all of the directions were inadvertently deleted, and in another class, a student accidentally deleted an entire column in the table. :) Everything a teachable moment and retrievable and fixable! :)

Students' work occurred over 3 days' time: one day to introduce the HyperDoc, install the Pixabay add-on, and begin filling in individual rows of boxes; one day to complete your individual row, including inserting the hyperlink and commenting on others' work; and, a final day to wrap-up anything not yet completed.

The students' choices of websites to hyperlink to their images was pleasantly surprising! While some chose to include links to official authors' websites and book trailers, other students searched for topics and themes related to their books. On students' final work day, many took advantage of the time to scroll the document and browse the related content. Below are screenshots taken from some of the HyperDocs:

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Top 20 in 2020

Here in the first week of January 2021, it seemed like a good idea to look back on the most checked-out titles from 2020. The titles represent some of our most popular authors in the library, as well as many current and former state award nominees. You can see the full set of 20 books when you click on the link below:

CLICK HERE to access the presentation

Many popular authors--Alan Gratz and April Henry anyone?--and several Iowa state award nominees are on this year's list, alongside some older favorites like Big Nate and Mike Lupica. You might also have noticed that graphic novels made the list; they continue to be a popular choice for many readers! See any here that you've read yourself? Or maybe you want to try? You're welcome to stop by and check out a title or two--happy reading!