Update and Solar Eclipse BreakoutEDU!

If you haven’t realized it by now, I am writing about the highlights happening in my school library, as opposed to weekly updates. There just isn’t much happening this year that is different than anything I’ve done in previous years (and that I’ve already written about). HOWEVER, there has been a LOT happening. Believe me! April went by in a flash with an author visit (JJK – kids are still asking for his books, so I say that day was a success); Meet @ Main at the public library (we had the largest turnout ever); Spring Break; Poem in Your Pocket Day; and other special events and programs. May has been just as busy with testing, Star Wars READS Day, Book Fair, and more.

One new thing that I did last week with students was a BreakoutEDU lesson. I think I started hearing about BreakoutEDU last summer? I couldn’t wrap my head around it…kind of like Escape Room, but with boxes instead of rooms? I went to a couple of PD sessions on it and felt like it was something cool for middle and high school students but that my kids just wouldn’t get it (in reality, it was ME who wasn’t getting it).  It wasn’t until talking to one of the fantastic librarians in my school district who does Breakouts with K – 2nd grade students did I realize or feel like I could actually do this with my students. After speaking to her and others, I decided that I was going to try it before the end of the school year. Around the same time, my STEM Lab (Science Lab) teacher emailed me to say that she wanted to do a BreakoutEDU lesson before the end of the school year too, so we went to work planning something together! At first, we started brainstorming different topics per grade level. We looked at their standards and tried to figure out something for each grade. THEN, we had a GREAT idea…we live in Lexington, South Carolina. The Total Solar Eclipse will be coming through our area in August…in fact, we are THE BEST PLACE to view it! We decided to focus on the solar eclipse with all classes. Another super librarian in my district had done some Solar Eclipse Breakouts with her staff, so she gave us some tips and got us started on clues. We had SO MUCH FUN. Here’s how we did it:

  • We borrowed 3 BreakoutEDU kits from another school in my district and 1 “homemade” kit (toolbox) from a different school, so we had a total of 4 kits.
  • Each box contained Starburst candy (we wanted something space themed) and bookmarks I made about the eclipse.
  • The story we told students was that we got a weird email and we needed their help figuring out what the email was about. The email said something about posting pictures and included a list of cities in South Carolina.
  • Each group had a magazine article about the eclipse, a map, and an encyclopedia article about the eclipse. There was also a key hidden in some books about the sun, the moon, etc.
  • Students had 4 locks to figure out – a number lock (date of the eclipse); a directional lock (had to use the map and the list of cities in the email to figure out); a key lock; and a word lock (the word was solar).

It was awesome to see them work in groups to figure out the answers. With Kindergarten and 1st grade, we each took a group and did it that way. We had to walk them through it, but they were really good at figuring out the clues once we gave them some hints. The 2nd – 5th graders really just kind of figured it out on their own.

After they opened the box, they ate candy, colored the bookmarks, and watched a great video about the solar eclipse along with a quick mini-lesson with our STEM Lab teacher. Loved this lesson and would totally “breakout” again! Students clearly loved it, we used collaboration to set it all up, students had to use collaboration and teamwork to figure everything out. It was wonderful – have you ever done a BreakoutEDU lesson?


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May Newsletter and Teacher Appreciation

Check out the May Learning Commons Newsletter!

AND, I wrote a blog post about Teacher Appreciation for the Columbia SC Mom Blog. Read it here! 


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10 Things You May Not Know About Your School Library (for parents)

I wrote this! Happy School Library Month!

10 Things You May Not Know About Your School Library!


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April Learning Commons Newsletter and Spring Break Ideas!

Here is the April Newsletter for my Learning Commons…so much happening this month! https://www.smore.com/cuw2n

Also, I am now a contributor for the Columbia SC Mom’s Blog and I wrote a thing for Spring Break…it was heavy on book stuff, of course 😉 Enjoy!


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#SCASL17 – Inspired!

Last week was the South Carolina Association of School Librarians Annual Conference. I have always enjoyed attending this conference. I think the only one I’ve missed in the past 15 years was the one where I was literally giving birth! It is so refreshing to spend time with those who do what you do and who “get it.” I went to excellent sessions by John Schu (how can you go wrong with Mr. Schu?!), Colby Sharp, and Kitty Tripp. Kitty was actually kind of new to me…I have been following her on Twitter, but was not really aware of who she was. I LOVED her sessions. Schu, Sharp, and Tripp are the sort of folks that you just need to be in the same room with sometimes. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

I have been in Mr. Schu’s sessions before. He reminds me of Judy Freeman, in that he talks about new books and shares with you what he is reading. Some of the things I picked up from him this go around were:

-GIVE BOOKS AWAY! I do this, but not as often as I should. Beginning in July, I plan to start hosting some sort of book giveaway. On this blog, on FB, on Twitter….I haven’t figured out the specifics, but I need to start walking my talk!

-GIVE BOOKS AWAY! I just said that, right? BUT, what I mean this time is, give books away purposefully. For example, to my USC students – they are pre-service teachers and Mr. Schu said that Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de Le Pena is one book he feels every pre-service teacher needs and he’s RIGHT. Just like I make them purchase The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller for this reason (I feel that every teacher needs copies of these books), I should have them leave my class with a picture book and/or novel that I feel should be in their classroom. Brilliant. I will start doing that will this semester’s class.

-SKYPE/HANGOUT! I have had authors “visit” my students via Skype or Google Hangout. BUT, what John does is HE is the one doing the visiting! He is no longer in a school library of his own, so he gets his read aloud “fix” by Skyping classrooms and libraries and reading to them and sharing great books with them from his living room (or where ever). Here’s a secret…I am staying home with my kiddo beginning next school year and will not be able to share great books and read aloud with students of my own anymore…this could be a way I can continue to do this. So, if you are ever in need of a reader for a special event or just want to talk about good books, I’m your gal 😉

Colby Sharp was, of course, awesome. What I took from his session was that his school has a true love and devotion for what they do. All of them. One smart thing they do is have “lock ins,” where teachers man rooms set up with fun stuff – board games, karaoke, LEGO, movies, etc. and parents drop off their kids to have fun at school. They pay to drop them off and then they have 3 kid-free hours where they know their kid is being well loved and cared for and the school apparently makes lots of money doing this. I also learned that Sharp has a book coming out that sounds SO AWESOME, I cannot wait to read it!

Kitty Tripp was fantastic. She is a 3rd grade teacher from South Carolina who now lives in Texas. She shared resources about coding and robotics. I went to her pre-conference session on Wednesday where we played with Sphero, Ollie, Ozobots, and other robots. I also went to her session on Thursday about PLAY (something I am all about!). I loved her energy and that she wasn’t a librarian. So many times, I think, classroom teachers don’t think that things like coding, makerspaces, robotics are for them…they feel (I think) that they don’t have time and that those sort of things are more for folks like me, the school librarian, who might want to include it into a program instead of into lessons. She proves that you can use these tools in a classroom. LOVE IT!

What inspired you this week?


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Digital Learning Day #DLD2017

Flashback to February!

Digital Learning Day was February 23. I have hosted some sort of celebration for this day at my school for the past 5 years or so and it has looked different each year. We have brought in high school students to show off what they are doing in Computer Programming classes (with the hopes of encouraging our students to explore programming in the future); we have created a Technology Museum in which students looked at old technology to see how it has developed over time; we’ve had centers set up with various apps and devices for teachers and students to explore; we’ve invited the folks from the public library to show off how to access digital resources on their personal devices; and we’ve typically encouraged students to “BYOD” on this day. All of these activities have been fairly well received and a lot of fun…however, it was always kind of crazy and chaotic in terms of  logistics and what it looked like (picture kids running wild in the Learning Commons for 20 minutes), plus we kind of encourage them to BYOD everyday now. So, this year, I decided to structure the day a little differently and I think it was a success!

I invited classes (2 at a time) to come and listen to a guest speaker. Both of the speakers I invited were engaging and interesting and both had new information to share with my students and teachers. They weren’t quiet “sit and get” sessions. They were interactive and students seemed to enjoy them. The first speaker was Mr. Nao. Mr. Nao is a robot from our technology center who teaches students about careers in technology. He was so fun and even did a little dance. He spoke to 1st graders, 4th graders, and 5th graders.

Next up was Jay Robinson from EdVenture. He taught students about circuits and electricity using Makey Makey. He presented to 2nd and 3rd graders and did an awesome job including them in the presentation.

Kindergarten students got to explore coding apps with our Digital Learning Coach in their classroom. They did not get a chance to participate in our Hour of Code lessons in December, so that is what we did with them for Digital Learning Day.

This year was much more organized and I think that the students and teachers both were able to get more out of it. Teachers weren’t stressed trying to figure out where all of their students were and the noise level was productive and not crazy. I think everyone was happy!

How did you celebrate Digital Learning Day?


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March Newsletter

Check out my school library’s March newsletter!



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