Risk Taking – a new school year, a new school!


Hey readers! My family moved and I’ve started librarian-ing at a new school at an IB campus. I’m taking a risk and moving down to elementary to see how I can incorporate making and literacy ties at the start of a student’s education (Bonus: I get to be at school with my own 8 YO.)

I’ve taught secondary for 15 years and I’m only three weeks into teaching at the elementary level. I’ve taken a lot of risks and I’ve already learned a lot! Instead of making over the library before school starts, I’m making slow changes, and hoping to have a 2nd and 5th class use design thinking principles to help me update our library. (Thank you, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Diamond!) Below is what the library mostly looked like when I came in (although I think I may have moved some things around already in this picture.)

Book-tasting Orientation

For the first time Mason students met me, I wanted to introduce myself, but still focus on building a love of books. So I had students sample books from different genres per this idea from Andy Plemmons (He posted a few weeks ago about having book tastings for library orientation.)  Initially, I tried having 4th and 5th students taste books and then make Flipgrid videos about why they read. After two classes, I realized I was asking WAY too much and decided to save the Flipgrid videos for another time. (I also realized that students had no idea how to make a Flipgrid video! I had to make a how-to sheet!)


For the book tasting, I pulled books from each genre to put in tubs sitting at each table. I also created a little “genre sampling” document. For 5th grade, the genre sampling document helped them write about what they liked about each genre. However, for the other grades, I quickly realized just talking about what we liked would be more effective than trying to have a third grader write about why they liked a book.

One of the most challenging genre pulls for this book tasting was pulling books for readers in 2nd grade since their levels are so varied. I enjoyed pulling picture books and early chapter books like: Bailey School Kids, Junie B Jones, Encyclopedia Brown, and Geronimo Stilton.  It was also difficult to pull for so many different grade levels. If I did it over again, I’d probably only do this for 3rd -5th grade.

What went wrong: Kinder

One class of kinder totally rocked the book tasting. They enjoyed looking at different types of books and did a great job handling books, and picking a book to take on picture walks. However, most of the kinder classes really couldn’t handle a book tasting! Imagine that! 🙂 Instead I took cues from teachers and began to focus on library systems and learning how a library works. One teacher suggested we spread students out per shelf at the Everyone books. This is how amazing that looks:

What went right:

The book tasting was great for 4th and 5th grade students! Since my library is genrified, it gave me a chance to talk about reading different genres and looking at books outside of your comfort zone. As students sampled books, I told them I would hold on to books they wanted to check out. This created these beautiful #TBR stacks and gaggles of students reading all over the library as seen below.

Flipgrid “I Read Because”

Since I had to move my Flipgrid videos to another lesson. I attempted it again with a few random classes. I made a how-to document, and tried it out again with 3rd grade.

Where I failed:

My first two classes of Flipgrid videos WERE TERRIBLE. I didn’t talk enough about good citizenship or even how to make a video.

What went right:

By the third class, things were going better. I made a how-to document, told the kids they couldn’t watch other videos until they were done with their own, and had them spread across the library. I also had to mandate a “NO PHOTOBOMBING” rule. Some of these videos are super adorable, but some are still just too random. They’ll get better as they continue to make Flipgrid videos. 🙂

Dot Day Connections

It was great connecting with you today! #dotday #makeyourmark #storyofmason @mrm_tech2connect_edu

A post shared by colleengraves.org (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Scheduling Dot Day is a massive undertaking! However, from my days at Lamar Middle School, I knew it would be worth attempting. My goal was to have every 1st and 5th grade class make Skype connections. After reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds, my first grade teachers had students make art inspired by dots. We shared these dot day -ish art works with Maryland, Kansas, and Michigan. My fifth grade students made dot art about how they would make their mark on the world  and shared their art with students in Maryland, Michigan, and Korea.  (Thank you April Wa, Michael Medvinsky, Amanda McCoy, Matthew Winner, and Andrew Carle!)

One of my favorite moments was Skyping with Matthew Winner’s new students and having my 5th grade students give his 1st grade students advice and vice versa.  Matthew blogged about it later and one of his students said, “I heard them say “don’t get stressed out” and it made me know that it’s good to work because it makes your brain stronger. Lois (age 6) -” (See Matthew’s full post here.)

Our first graders in Mrs. Cotton’s class did such a great job we are hoping to continue our collaboration with Michael Medvinsky and his University Liggett students.

What failed:

Every Skype wasn’t awesome. We had connection issues, we had students being wiggly. I tried Skyping from classrooms which caused issues, and even had issues Skyping in the library because other classes came in while we were trying to chat. I will have to set some norms for students so they know how to act if they see a Skype happening when they come to check out books!  I also learned so much about Skyping with littles from Matthew Winner. It is important to teach kids how to respond on a Skype call, otherwise it just doesn’t even feel like you are calling someone. It’s also pertinent to teach some hand signals for how a whole class can respond during a Skype to let another class know they are listening and appreciative.

Looking Forward

This week I’m starting some brown bag design challenges with 2nd grade, thanks to a tweet from Angie O’Malley.  Our 2nd graders will build robots from the items assembled in these brown bags tomorrow and all week! (Thanks again, Kelly for helping build these bags.)

Plus, my fourth grade students will bring in poems they’ve written this week to program in Scratch. I thought it would be good to make some manipulatives to help them with programming before logging on to the computer. If time allows, they are bringing drawings for us to hook up to Makey Makey. I’ll let you know how it goes!



#ISTE 2017 – Tips and Tricks

Colleengraves.org (2)

ISTE is just around the corner, and it’s in Texas this year! I loved Nicholas Provenzano’s post about ISTE tips, so I thought I’d share a few of my own.

  1. Bring a re-usable water bottle. Texas is HOT in the summer, ya’ll. Most conference centers have water inside, but if you bring your own bottle, you can refill it and take it with you on your walk back to the hotel.
  2. Make a plan. Pick sessions (and back up sessions) ahead of time. Be flexible about running to a different session at the last minute, but you really need to pick some “must attend” sessions before you even leave home. (See this helpful ISTElib guide if you are feeling a tad overwhelmed.)
  3. Visit the Playgrounds! The playground sessions are super fun and mostly not run by vendors. Play with gadgets and concepts and move on when you are ready. (Plan these too, they change up by time and by day! I missed the STEAMPUNK playground last year and I’m still sad about it.)
  4. Attend workshops. They might seem pricey, but most workshops come with free SWAG. (And if they don’t, you’ll still get your money’s worth in learning.) I’m pretty excited to help Jie Qi with this paper circuit workshop.
  5. Stay and play! If you attend a maker session and it is hands-on…. STAY AND MAKE STUFF! The best way to learn about maker education is to immerse yourself in it. I love attending hands on sessions and learning with my peers. In fact, I’m pretty stoked about attending a #computationaltinkering workshop with the infamous Tinkering Studio peeps and Mitch Resnick. (#makered #fangirling)
  6. Say hi to tweeps! If you see someone you follow on Twitter, don’t be afraid to say hello. It might seem weird, but it is actually fun to meet your tweeps face to face.
  7. Sign up for evening parties. Don’t go overboard, but sign up for fun parties/dinners/drinks/etc. (Like maybe this Maker Ed one on Monday night…. ) Networking is one of THE BEST things about ISTE.
  8. Eat tacos. Eat tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. REPEAT. In Texas we take our tacos seriously. And don’t ask for Tabasco sauce. Just. Don’t. (Salsa and Sriracha are acceptable Texas taco accoutrements.)
  9. Take breaks. Don’t overdo it. Take sit down breaks to catch up on social media, or just chill for a bit. ISTE is HUGE and there are so many people. It can seem really overwhelming. So ask a friend to go get an iced coffee and chill on the riverwalk for awhile.
  10. Visit the Alamo! Take an afternoon, go visit the Alamo, check out other cool San Antonio stuff (list one or list two), and save your river-walking for the evening when it’s not as hot outside.

Did I forget something? Post your own suggestions for surviving ISTE  (or attending sessions) in the comments.

See you in San Antonio!