Monday, December 29, 2014

Intrinsic Motivation

Genius Hour is thriving! Since our students come during their lunch/recess time, it is completely based on intrinsic motivation. We have had a small handful of students lose steam and reflect on their GH, but this is partially due to the fact that we allowed kids to work together. We have had one group of students collaborate to create a Minecraft server and it has been quite successful.

The biggest complaint we have had is that there is not enough time. Student feedback indicates that Genius Hour is valuable, warranted, and wanted. They want at least a solid hour a week to devote to their genius. Hopefully we can accommodate them next year.

Currently we have numerous kids that are finalizing their first project and sharing in a variety of ways:
-slide show on why people cry
-tutorial on how to make friendship bracelets
-video of a student covering a song
-creating a Minecraft server
-coding and making a computer game
-learning to play a guitar
-refinishing a chair
-writing a book
-a fashion slideshow
-photos on flexibility
-choreographing a dance
and many more creative topics. The students have been discussing Genius Hour and other grades have become interested, therefore, in January we will begin to invite our 6th graders to participate. Right now, students are obligated to coming one lunch/recess time per week. We run GH on Mondays and Tuesdays. Many of our students come both days and some have even begged to come on Wednesdays and Thursdays, how does one say no to that! We will open GH to 6th graders on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the beginning. The feedback we are getting is pure excitement,  and I am guessing we will have a high turn-out. We still have about thirty 7th and 8th graders participating on their own time. With those numbers and the enthusiasm still flowing, how can anyone dispute that Genius Hour is, well, pure Genius?

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to get kids reading.......

Here's one way we keep kids interested in reading. Great Stone Face selections that we encourage our students to check-out. 

You just sang that, didn't you? 

The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Reading time.....

This week we will have our annual Celebration Book along with Open House. This is a wonderful program that allows students, staff, and community members to donate pre-purchased books to the school library. Upon purchasing the book, you decide who you would like to honor and the name is written on a special name plate inside the book. Not only does this promote reading, but a sense of ownership of the library. Students eagerly look for their "old" CB books and check them out again and again feeling like they "own" a piece of the collection. In a sense they do, and this fosters responsibility and care for some treasured objects. It also brings approximately 300 books into our library of which I am incredibly grateful. So look for new books and lots of smiles to be coming home in the next few weeks.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Genius Hour kids accomplished in 30 minutes

Today was meeting day.  All of us met in the library and checked in looking for suggestions and comments. Mr. Collins and myself received some good feedback and set up a Twitter account for students to use, through us, at school to communicate with professionals. We are also working on a request, by students, to set something up to communicate with other students doing Genius Hour. We are looking at monthly Todaysmeet group for collaboration and idea sharing. The biggest complaint: lack of time! We'll work on that too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Full STEAM Ahead

The title of this blog is a play on educational terminology to demonstrate the importance of Genius Hour. STEAM is a currently used acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. The students who have chosen to participate in Genius Hour have selected questions that involve one or more of these topics. Some of the questions relate to other important fields such as writing and history. Below is a list of some of the topics our students have decided to research:

How a wind turbine works and its efficiency
Constructing a computer server
Building a trail and bridge
Painting a school mural
Interior decorating
Making a ukele
Creating a video game
Starting a fundraiser for breast cancer
Making a music video
Writing a book
Inventing a ski suit
Learning why and how we cry and many many more topics.

One of the things I was concerned about during our Genius Hour pilot, was the students losing steam or the stamina and excitement to continue. Although we have only been working on this for three weeks, the kids have maintained the level of enthusiasm we saw at our first meeting. They are beginning to learn that asking and answering one question quickly leads to another question. They are willingly organizing and planning the next steps to take to work towards their individual goals. Mr. Collins and myself are attempting to meet individually with each student and are finding that this occurs beyond the designated times. Students are coming to us during other free times and consulting with us. This is what good education is about, intrinsic motivation and the willingness to take a chance to learn something new. We hope we can keep the train moving along on this track, so to speak, and invite you to follow our journey.

Keep reading and researching,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, September 15, 2014

Genius Hour Surprise

Wow! We started GH last Monday and were in awe of the 38 kids that showed up to participate. Traditionally, GH is held in individual classrooms once a week for an hour. Mr. Collins, our 6-8th grade Social Studies teacher, and myself are piloting it during the students' lunch/recess time twice a week so participation is completely voluntary. We hope to use this blog as a record of our trials, errors, and successes throughout the process. We also hope it will inspire some of our 7/8th grade students to blog their experiences.

Prior to Monday, students were presented with a brief overview of GH and were encouraged to look online for more information. When they showed up Monday, we had printed questions to promote brainstorming and distributed them to students. We asked students to read the questions aloud. It was our intention that these questions would foster curiosity and ignite some enthusiasm. Then we spread out sticky notes and had the kids write subjects on them and stick them to large pieces of paper. There were a variety of ideas: computer programming, dance, video games, environment, scientific questions, fashion, building a guitar, and much much more. Kids were encouraged to do a "total brain dump," on sticky notes of anything and everything that held their interest. After class we spent time trying to organize them into topics and hung them up so we could go back and refer to them if needed.

On Tuesday, we had kids fill out the "green" sheet which laid out their questions, thoughts, needs, and the process they saw their projects taking. There was no requirement on finishing the sheet, and we emphasized that it is a guideline not a commitment set in stone. We voiced that we knew the ideas, process, and questions on these sheets were likely to change and THAT IS ACCEPTABLE! Each child will each have a folder for his/her paperwork which will allow us to track progress and make the project individual to each participant.

We have divided the student folders and will begin to meet with the kids to see what we can do to help. They will have library access as well as computer access during GH. There is a lot of positive energy and excitement among all of us. It will be our goal, as educators, to keep that feeling going.

Check back for reports and examples of our progress.

Keep reading and researching,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Genius Hour....the beginning

Tomorrow the 7th and 8th graders will begin to explore Genius Hour during their lunch and recess time. This is a completely voluntary activity that has created a lot of excitement. Those that choose to participate, will be given a letter explaining the process and how you can assist your child with this endeavor. Below is a short video clip that explains the background of Genius Hour and why it is becoming popular in schools.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Eggs no more….

Agriculture in the classroom ended last Wednesday with a variety of workshops throughout the school. Students were able to hold baby chicks, learn about raising and caring for chickens, eat prepared egg dishes and listen to our 4Hers impart their knowledge.

Meanwhile back in the library, the incubator sat silent. Despite all our preparation, care, and data gathering, Mother Nature decided when the egg would hatch. Sadly, we had only one egg hatch on Thursday and we think it may be due to the fluctuation in temperature. "Thor," as he was named by a staff member, was introduced to every student in the school that afternoon. While it poured and thundered outside, Thor decided it was time to make his grand entrance. The kids loved it as many had never seen a newly hatched chick. He went to live with one of our 4Hers on a farm where he has his own flock.

The kids learned a lot during the past few weeks. We, in the library, are excited to learn what next years' topic will be so we can be involved again as a way to research, gather data, and read about agriculture.

One of our 4Hers proudly demonstrating to students how to hold a chick.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Friday, May 16, 2014

Data, data, and more data

The students continued to candle the chicken eggs this week. Every group saw at least one moving chick inside an egg. We also viewed some infertile eggs which made for some interesting discussions! They continued to monitor the temperature, which appeared to level out finally, and we discontinued monitoring humidity as it stayed the same. However, we measured the weight of each egg and compared it to the weight of the egg at day seven. We were fortunate enough to have someone pre-record the original weight of each egg, and the predicted weight at days seven and fourteen. The kids recorded day fourteen's findings. Here is the data we have gathered thus far.
G=good egg
B=bad egg
?= we are unsure
G!= we saw a chick moving

Our findings showed that the "good" eggs seemed to be right on weight target while the eggs we marked with a "B" seemed to be farther off the predicted weight. We are hoping that there will be chicks when we return to school on Monday, and we can see if our data is accurate. 
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Egg check

After a tumultuous week of checking temperature and humidity, the kids were finally able to candle the eggs. We waited until today because of the fluctuation of the incubator and wanted the kids to at least see one veined egg.

Here are some second grade thoughts.

We went into the teacher's bathroom to candle the eggs, it was cramped with all of us in there. There is an automatic flushing toilet in that bathroom and it kept flushing while we were in there which was funny and annoying. This is the inside of an egg at day nine. We saw a chick moving and veins which means there is a chick inside the egg. Some of the eggs had some chicks and some of the eggs didn't. We will check them again next week.

A picture of a candled egg taken by a second grade student. The black at the bottom is the chick.

Keep reading, The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Agriculture in the classroom

We are very lucky to be able to participate in Agriculture in the classroom. This year the theme is chickens and because of our 4-H kids and dedicated parents, we are hatching chicks in the library. Last week the 4H kids came in and placed 40 chicken eggs in an incubator. They informed me of the conditions needed to allow the eggs to hatch, and the posters they created were placed around the library showing the embryo development. We also have temperature and humidity charts students are tracking to gather data. This is quite the process and everyone is excited to see if all the eggs hatch.

More responses to the definition of "librarian"

Grades 3/4
"A helpful person who helps us find information."
"The one that owns the library."
"Someone who will help you through the wonderful world of literature."
"Teaches you about books and helps you when you need it."

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, April 28, 2014

April showers bring lots of…poetry!

April is such  fun month in the library. It is National I Love Libraries and Poetry month. In our library, we celebrate all month long with poetry, games, writing, quizzes, and library jeopardy ( a kid favorite).Of course, what would April be without Poem in your Pocket and the Slam? Both are highly anticipated events. Below are pictures of some of the fun things we did this month.

1st graders illustrated a poem read aloud to them:

 We celebrated poem in your pocket:

The meme this week said, " You are the main character in the last book you read, who are you?"Students posted what character they would be.

Last but not least, the question of the week was: What is your definition of "Librarian?" I'll post several responses by grade over the next few blog posts:

1st and 2nd grade responses:

"A person who takes care of books."
"They give books to kids."
"I think a librarian is someone who reads stories and teaches us new things."
" A librarian helps you if need help and helps you find books."
"Someone who reads stories to kids."
"They teach you about parts of a book."

I'll continue to post these great answers.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I just looked at my last blog post and realized I haven't written for a very long time. There are so many topics I could write about…..

Our new Easybib subscription. I have worked with each 5-8 grade class to register for this new database that allows kids to cite ANYTHING.Yes, anything: the Bible, pamphlets, apps, interviews, ANYTHING.  They can even log into it from home. As one student proclaimed, "There should be no more plagiarism now that we have this!" She was right!! Now to keep on working on exactly what plagiarism includes.

Or I could talk about the copyright unit we just finished. We revisit this and Creative Commons yearly. I discovered a neat website called blendspaces for teachers and students that is a one stop shop for resources. We looked up copyright and then the students chose the folder s/he wanted to investigate. If you happen to be in the building, a list of profound discoveries from the students is on top of the bookshelf, check it out!

Perhaps I could discuss the recent author visit for grades 1-4. We were fortunate enough to have renowned non-fiction author Melissa Stewart visit our students. She demonstrated how she writes non-fiction and what it entails to complete just one book. LOTS OF REVISIONS. Kids and staff were enthralled with her presentation and we even got our library books signed by her.

How about our cultural literacy unit that is currently being taught? We are reading Rip Van Winkle and discussing exactly what "cultural literacy" means. We are exploring the importance of setting and character development at all grades. The kids are throughly enjoying this story and contributing stories of their own.

I could even converse on the many many upcoming ideas I have for future classes. That list would be far too long. For now, I guess, I will settle on the quick update above and save the future for the future.
Happy reading,
The Noisy (and busy) Librarian

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I first heard about, "An Hour of Code" in November of 2013.  Curious to find out more, I began to read about the drive to learn computer coding. The thought behind having kids "code" for an hour was to get them to understand computer science specifically how computer programs work. Now, I am from the 80's generation where computer coding entailed all these weird signs and commands and encompassed symbols that took me hours to find on the keyboard; kind of like shorthand another "language" that mystified me. My first thought was either they have simplified the process or kids today are genius'.

My daughter, sadly the guinea pig in most of my experiences, was enticed to get onto and see what it was about. Tutorials by famous people and the lure of playing Angry Birds was enough to get her to try it. Soon we were both watching the screen and attempting to figure out how this new "edition" of Angry Birds worked. Well, it isn't truly Angry Birds but it was a lesson in getting the bird to get the pig through commands we were giving the computer. Notice how it went from "her" to "we." I was captivated. I could do this! This was fun and I could even show my students how it works!!

While we were playing games on the computer, I began to think about the advantages beyond learning how programming is done. I noticed that we had to slow down and think through each step. As an educator, this was fabulous. For years, educators have tried to teach kids to follow all directions whether  reading them on a paper or on a screen. I have been in numerous meetings lamenting the fact that kids don't "read" all the steps. Or if they do, they want to complete the given project making varied mistakes, usually because they have forgotten a step. You can't do this with computer coding. It makes you think, program, watch, evaluate, and sometimes redo your steps. It forces you go back and correct the problem UNTIL you get it right. You can't give up and furthermore, who wants to be beaten by an evil cartoon pig? You play until you defeat him. I love that you can see where you have gone wrong and easily go back and correct your mistake, hopefully learning from it.

I began to think of all the benefits, besides understanding how a computer works, that coding can provide. Knowing that I needed more resources, I began searching for more coding games. Trying several out, the one I liked was CargoBot for the iPad. I tested it and realized that even though we have gotten rid of all those confusing symbols, this wasn't my strong skill. However, I wasn't going to let a bunch of boxes beat me so I kept playing. I liked this app, not only because it was free, but it was engaging. It also taught me other ways to code.

So far I have introduced this to a small group of students and they are begging for more. The best part about doing coding with a class is it allows for all sorts of differentiation in skill levels. Students move at THEIR pace. However, students that excel can assist others, including the teacher, when they get stuck. Peer teaching and success is always a bonus. A student teaching a teacher is priceless.

I highly encourage looking into coding and seeing the benefits I haven't written about. It's fun, educational, collaborative, and gets you to slow down and THINK. I love it when it all comes together like this.

Try these resources
App: Cargobot

Keep reading,
(Code name) The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, January 19, 2014

BiblioNasium? Is that books and gym?

Nope, it's a free website for kids who like to read. I read about it in one of my educational magazines and decided to test it out on my daughter. As you can guess, we are avid readers. I belong to Goodreads and submit book reviews on a regular basis, however Goodreads seems to be for people in high school or above. Many of my friends use Goodreads and post their reviews on various social media networks. I only post mine on Goodreads so you would have to follow me (Jillcd) to see what I am reviewing.

BiblioNasium, in my opinion, is a great way to have kids safely review what they are reading and share it with friends. The website is easy to navigate, colorful, and lets kids make their page personal by choosing a background and avatar. Basically, kids log in books they have read. They have various options to record their reading such as using a star rating to review, optionally writing a review (or even choosing a prewritten one), and receiving awards for reading goals. There are premade goals/challenges such as: reading your first biography or completing your first book. Anyone can make the goals or you don't have to do them!

Books can be genre tagged allowing for easy sharing according to interest. Kids can also invite friends with email addresses to join and see their page. Children under the age of 13 need adult permission and verification to join as well as an email address. Once kids are signed up and have personalized their page, they can begin to mark books they have read. This will display on the opening page.  There is also a reading log feature which allows you to not only list titles but the amounts of minutes spent reading. What I really love about the reading log feature is that kids can print it out or email it. I find this a great way to keep track of school reading goals while being green.

Lastly, it recommends books to students and they can choose to mark them as read, want to read, own the book, have read it, or wish list it. When you put the cursor over the cover of the book, it gives a short synopsis of the book as well as genre. If they choose to want to read it, it is saved on their shelf so they can go back and have a list of books to read. They can also mark their favorites. If the books are on a  wish list, you as a parent, can get emails with the titles.This is great for purchasing the books or grabbing them from the local library. Theoretically your child will always have reading materials!

We have spent a lot of time on this site and as a parent I find it extremely useful and helpful. Kids love to be able to share their expert opinions on what they read, and this appears to be a safe and enjoyable way to do so.
Here's the link if you are interested.

Keep reading and up next my thoughts on coding.
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, January 6, 2014


Have you ever met one of those people that can't wear a watch or the scanner at the grocery never works for them? They seem to have some sort of force field that makes those things go haywire. I am one of those people. However, my problem isn't as simple as a watch or the grocery scanner. NO, mine happens to be computers. Any type of computer, iPhone, iPad, desktop (any brand) really any computer. Sadly, this makes my job difficult.

Librarians don't just read books anymore. We are immersed in technology and branded with the job of teaching information literacy. This is tough when you are tech challenged. I spend a large part of my time educating myself on how to evaluate web sites, cite sources, learn about copyright and creative commons, investigate apps, and play around on Google so I can keep stuff organized. In turn, I try and share my knowledge with staff and students. I teach the kids in class and run profession development workshops for adults. The problem is that every single device I use has some sort of issue. You know it's bad when one of the top tech people in the area says something like, "Wow, I have never seen this happen with an iPad before." No, I didn't drop or drown it, it just became stubborn. So we wiped it thinking that would solve things, ahh wishful thinking! I moved onto my laptop. On many occasions I have clearly overworked this apparatus since it needs a break and freezes in protest. This usually occurs right when I am the middle of something incredibly important. Thankfully, I have moved onto Google docs which saves my work automatically EXCEPT for that one time where the doc disappeared. I am probably the only human being to actually lose a Google doc but if you knew my record, you wouldn't be too surprised!

The point of this post? I love technology, I am not scared of trying new things. Error messages do not send me into a panic nor do lost files (anymore). I will keep pecking away at mastering the techniques and fighting my battle with the tech tools in hopes that one day they will give up and just behave for me. Perhaps one of the big corporations would like to hire me and give me free products to find the weaknesses. Until then, I'm going to keep teaching the kids and staff what I can glean from these impossible machines and leave you with app that I love.

App of the week: Book Creator: there is a free version and a paid version. It allows you to create a book using art, pictures, and text. The books can be saved online, emailed or printed. It's a great way to share stories with those relatives who live far from you.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian