Thursday, November 3, 2016

Capture the Flag Challenge

5P Genius Hour  teamed up with Positive Tracks and is issuing a global Capture the Flag challenge. They are trying to raise money for Circus Zambia to build a circus school in Lusaka, Zambia. Check out the challenge and feel free to donate, share the information, or create your own team on the Positive Tracks site to participate. These kids have worked extremely hard on this project and spent many of their lunch and recess times researching, writing, and promoting their cause, we would love to see kids from all around the world join us!

Here is a link for more information:
Check out the video:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Project Based Learning all the way

Currently every class in grades 5 and up are working on some sort of Project Based Learning task. Most of the project ideas came from the students themselves.

5P is working on a project to help Circus Zambia build a circus school in Africa. Students have been diligent and oftentimes sacrifice their lunch and recess to complete the first stage of the project. So far they have researched, shared information with younger grades, written, organized and recorded a Shadowpuppet and practiced their pitch to the Principal and supporting organization.  All of this involved, collaboration, writing, editing, and researching skills. These students are making a Global impact and once they have the go-ahead to share, will astound you with their accomplishments. 
5S has begun a project about NH. We will begin Mysteryskyping soon and they wanted to create a video about NH to share with other students. Again, collaboration, researching and writing is taking precedence here. They are also organizing and prioritizing their list of desired places to showcase.
6th grade played Breakout edu a week or so ago and challenged themselves to create a game. This will take a few months to complete as these games can be quite complex. The chosen topic for the game is genres. Once completed we will move our game, for the rest of the school and others to try, into the sandbox section of Breakout edu. We look forward to the challenge!
7th grade is doing some real-life skill research on their 8th grade class trip. The class of 2016 accomplished this and felt a sense of ownership over their choice. Students will look at locations and take into consideration: travel time, activities, overnight accommodations, food, and cost. Once they complete their slide shows, they will share with their class advisers and choose the trip. 
8th graders are researching and gathering data on the usage of social media. Each team has chosen a specific social media to investigate and create a presentation of their choosing displaying the data gathered. This should be interesting and I hope to share some of the results here.  

Through my observations, students are excited to work on these projects that have meaning to them. This makes teaching valid resources, collaboration, organization, reflection, writing, editing, presenting, and the introduction of new tech tools easy. My curriculum has not changed, but the way I am teaching it has and I believe it may be for the better. 

Watch what we do and how we grow.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Feet on the ground, now let's dance!

The first few weeks of school give me time to get into routines, establish ground rules, welcome back the kids and begin to get to know the class dynamics. Since I only have each class once a week, this takes more time than a classroom teacher. I am finally beginning to feel we are grounded in routine and expectations and it is time for real learning to being; let's dance!

On the docket for the next few weeks, we will continue with Genius Hour in grades 2 ( see for specifics) 5P, and 6-8. Several classes will play BreakoutEdu. This is an amazing game I purchased last year that can focus on a specific curriculum content or be used for team building skills. The game we will be playing focuses on team building, problem solving, and paying attention to detail. The kids will have 40 minutes to solve the clues and "break into" the box. I will also be setting up appointments with other schools to Mysteryskype. This is a wonderful tool that utilizes mapping skills in addition to Common Core speaking and listening standards. Students love playing and learning about schools around the world. Lastly, the 7th and 8th grades will begin research projects that will take a few weeks to complete. 7th grade will begin researching trip options for their class trip next year and 8th grade will be investigating statistics related to social media. Both grades will create final projects to share.

All in all we will be incorporating various standards and life-skill sets in the work we will be doing. Once the iPod, that the class of 2016 purchased for the LLC, arrives I hope to revive the LLC Twitter account and show the students how to post appropriately on the LLC's Instagram which I use to promote new books. I hope to be transparent in my teaching so listed below are the social media sites I currently use to showcase the amazing accomplishments our students are doing. I welcome thoughts, comments, or questions. Please follow us!
Twitter:      @jillcd- this is my professional one
                   @PlainfieldGH- this is for Genius Hour posts
Instagram:   @noisy_librarian
Youtube:      PESedchannel
FaceBook    Plainfield School Library Learning Commons

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Saturday, September 10, 2016

When the Circus Came to Town

Drop a pebble in a pond and watch the ripples spread and grow. That is what happened when the circus came to town this summer. Circus Zambia came to the USA to assist with the local circus camp that many of the students attend during the summer. They left a sizable impression upon our community.

Upon greeting one of my 5th grade classes last week, the students eagerly inquired when they would be starting Genius Hour. It was with great trepidation that I explained I would not be able to mentor them this year as my teaching schedule was full. My confession was met with disappointed faces. Students rallied and began to share their summer experiences. Circus Zambia came up several times. I informed them that schooling in Zambia is very different than at Plainfield School. We discussed that in Zambia education is a luxury for many students. The kids were literally horrified that children may not be able to attend school or even have access to books or supplies. They were passionate and involved in this discussion. Every single one of them. I could not let this go, so I suggested we turn our LLC ( Library Learning Commons) class into a big Genius Hour Project with the focus on, "How do we help Circus Zambia build a circus school and provide education for the children in Lusaka and surrounding areas?" The kids were ecstatic.

Question: Why is helping Circus Zambia important to you?

We decided that our kick-off point would be International Literacy Day ( September 8th). Students researched Zambia and created posters sharing the various statistics they discovered. They did this on their own time and often gave up their lunch and recess to come research and collaborate. They pulled library books on Africa and displayed them throughout the LLC. They collaborated and wrote an announcement to read over the loud-speaker on September 8th encouraging staff and students to look at the bulletin board and read the books to learn about Africa. 

During their class this week, they came in ready to work. I barely got my greeting out before there was a barrage of ideas and questions. We organized and pulled a focus question to harness the excitement in a productive and positive direction. "What do we do next?"A lively discussion ensued about fundraising. They came to a point where further organization was needed for progress to happen. A list of jobs was created. They suggested:
Writers            Speakers     Readers     Video/ Camera     Editors     Researchers     Leader
Printers           Time-keeper                  Secretary             Artists.

Students raised their hands for the jobs they felt they would be successful at doing. A team leader was unanimously selected to run meetings and, with the time-keeper, create agendas for further meetings. This was accomplished in 45 minutes by 5th graders. However, they felt that was not enough time and asked to come back during their lunch.

When they arrived, a short agenda had been created and they had already decided that the next step in the process would be reading books about Zambia to the children in grades K-2. The team leader took the head of the table, the secretaries had pencil and paper and computer and the time-keeper had a watch to keep everyone abreast of the time. I stood back and watched the magic happen. It was decided that the writers would need to create a proposal to the teachers and the speakers would go to the K-2 teachers to inquire whether or not reading to the students could occur. I offered to order specific books about Zambia to read aloud, and they decided to use the next class to practice reading for fluency. I felt like I was in a corporate board meeting. Students were respectful of each other, listened, focused, and offered logical ideas. Several kids were so engaged they chose to stay in during recess and gather more information about Zambia.

I am in awe of my students. Circus Zambia lit a passion that promotes empathy and so many life-skills that will make these kids a force to be reckoned with. I have hash-tagged my students #worldchangers and they are.  For more information on the achievements of Circus Zambia, check out their Face Book page. If you want to watch us learn, laugh, and grow, follow the blog or our Instagram account noisy_librarian.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian
"We are going Global this year. What will YOU do to make a positive impact?"- LLC theme

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Genius Hour data

Collecting data has never been my strong point, and this year I wanted to track attendance since GH is voluntary and I wanted to improve my mentoring strategies. That being said, there are some variables in the following statistics that should be noted:

1. Information was taken from sign-in sheets the students used. Although students were constantly reminded to sign-in to GH, I am well aware this did not always occur. Therefore, I am posting the statistics based on those sheets although, in reality, they are probably higher.
2. The following information is from days the GH was actually offered, vacations and days off were not included, however there were days that a grade may have been absent due to a fieldtrip.
3. GH for grades 6-8 occurs during their lunch and recess time. Students are asked to attend at least ONCE a week for the duration of their project. They may FAIL at any time or complete a project and leave GH. They may also start a new one once finished with one; the choice is left to the individual.

I am a firm believer that GH is a student based inquiry platform where I mentor and guide students. Since this is held during their lunch and recess, students have control over project duration and may come and go as they so choose. While this method has proved successful for my school, it may not for other schools as there is no right or wrong way to conduct GH if you follow the three main principles: 1. Choose a question that cannot be answered by a simple Google search 2. Research 3. Share.

The data has been divided into two groupings: 7 & 8 th grade- who may have chosen to participate last year, and 6th grade who generally starts later in the year as this is their first year.

Data grades 7 & 8
~ Out of 55 students, 32 chose to participate in GH at some point during the school year. 
~ GH lasted for 28 weeks
~25 students finished at least one project and continued to work on another.
~ 8 Fizzles ( student interest but they showed up sporadically)
~ 3 students attended every week at least twice a week
~30 students showed up at least more than once a week during their project.

 8th grade
~20 were returning students from the prior year
~2 were new GH students
~66% of 8th grade participated

7th grade
~ 8 returning students
~ 2 were new GH students
~45% of 7th grade participated

Data for 6th graders
~ 17 students out of 25 participated
~ GH ran for 21 weeks
~3 Fizzles
~12 students showed up at least twice a week
~ 68% of the 6th grade participated

A total voluntary participation rate of 61% in grades 6-8. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cracking the case of embryology

This week we completed our embryo unit in the Library Learning Commons. All students were part of the process whether through investigating, researching, candling eggs, watching a hatch, thinking about hatch ratio, observing the babies, and always asking more and more questions. Our results were fairly good for such a very large batch of eggs. 

Ducks: we were given 12 eggs, 11 were fertile, all hatched, 1 died several days after hatching due to what we think were neurological issues.
Bantam Chickens: we were given 8 eggs, 7 were fertile, all hatched.
Guinea: we were given 2 eggs, 1 was fertile, 1 hatched.
Chickens: we were given 12 eggs, 7 were fertile, 5 hatched, 1 is blind ( and currently living in my house and doing well).
Goose: we were given 2 eggs, 1 was fertile, none hatched. Something went wrong towards the end of this hatch. The egg was moving in the last stages of development but never pipped.

All in all it was very successful hatch. We had tubs of babies in the LLC for at least a week and students would come in to work near them. Their observations, in comparing and contrasting the fowl, were interesting and lead to more and more questions. We talked a lot about the embryo development, and what went wrong with some of our eggs. We discussed failure to thrive and what that meant as well as addressed the duck that was born "crooked." Children were shown how to handle chicks and respect animals. There was A LOT of discussion all week long in the LLC that made me realize how powerful this unit was. We will certainly do it again in a few years. 

One of the most important achievements was documenting this process. When we candled eggs, students saw the embryo at 7 days and again around 14. They heard eggs pip and break the inner lining and then the outer shell. We videoed various stages of the process and I have compiled it in a YouTube video to keep and share. 
Enjoy and keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian
* Be assured all birds had good homes to go to before we set the eggs. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Last week I received a long awaited package in the mail. It is a game called Breakout. While on Twitter, I saw that numerous educators were beginning to use this game, so I investigated and decided to purchase it for my students. The premise of the game is a story line with the focus on a locked box that has something inside that you must “break” into to get. However the box has up to 4 different locks on it and clues for the unlocking it are hidden all around the room. There is also a smaller hidden locked box that contains a needed clue. You are timed and have approximately 45 minutes to find and solve all the clues, as a class, and unlock the box.

The best part is not only are problem solving skills required, the games are set to certain curriculum content and spread across the various grade levels so any age can play. I had 7th grade and 6th grade each play a game called Alien Kidnaps the Principal. There is a storyline to follow and clues and puzzles are both on paper and the computer. Students needed to solve cryptic messages, learn about space, do some math, and think to solve the overall larger puzzle.This game centered on teamwork and all the kids worked hard to "breakout" of the box. Both grades removed 3 of the 4 locks from the box but did not solve the last puzzle in time.

Everyone had a lot of fun and I am excited to try it with other grades over the next few weeks. There are various stories that lend to curriculum content: math, history, LA, science and even teamwork. This week we will reflect on what we did right and what we can do better. I hope next year our students can create some of the games to play. If you are an educator, I encourage you to try this game in your classroom.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Researching and eggs

Spring is a time of growth and, in school, the beginning of the end of the year count down. Students eagerly peer outside to gauge weather conditions and see if they can persuade me to let them outside early. Keeping them interested and engaged can be a challenging task. 

One of the things I like to do to keep kids motivated and learning is to hatch eggs in the Library Learning Commons every few years. This time we will have 2 incubators to hatch out barnyard fowl and waterfowl. Next week students in K-8 will research the bird of their choice and organize the information we will need to hatch and take care of these birds. They all have good homes to go to so students will not be vying for them. 

The first incubator will hold guinea fowl, banty chickens, and barnyard mix chickens. I have tried to time the collection and incubation of the eggs so all birds will hatch around the same time. As we all know, you cannot dictate what Mother Nature does so we will watch, document, and see if my calculations are correct. The guinea eggs were placed this week since they were available and guineas are tricky egg layers. 

 The photo below shows the three types of eggs we currently have incubating. The first is a Pilgrim goose egg, the second a Ancona duck egg, and lastly a guinea egg. The kids loved examining the goose egg and comparing it to the tiny guinea egg. Next week we will add the bantam and regular chicken eggs.

This is the second incubator that currently holds 2 goose eggs and 12 duck eggs. We have been informed that both have had a high hatching rate. We will keep our fingers crossed and hope that happens in this case. 

Next week in class, we will arm ourselves with videos, books, computers, and perhaps skype interviews to learn more about this process. 

Keep following for updates,
The Noisy Librarian

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Vacation is a time to catch up!

Genius Hour projects have been flowing in like water over a dam. During this vacation week, I want to take the opportunity to share some of the projects students in grades 6-8 have been working on.

The following reflection was written by 8th grader, Alex. She wanted to investigate what it would be like to be blind for a day. She thought a lot about the different aspects of this particular project. Here are some of her findings and thoughts.

I had a very successful day wearing a blindfold from the early morning all the way to when school ended. Many of my predictions were correct, and other aspects surprised me. My goal was to get as good of an idea as possible of what a blind person goes through every day. I am so happy with the way it turned out because it made me grateful for the gift of sight, intrigued by how certain things were different and others stayed the same, and eager to continue to do everyday things but without the benefit of seeing. One thing that surprised me was how much I adapted to the new feeling of not being able to use my eyes at all. Although it was definitely difficult at times, I adjusted to the foreign sensation of being guided everywhere and relying on someone to help me with almost everything. In the beginning I walked very slowly, scared of bumping into something or tripping, even though I knew very well that my guides wouldn’t purposely cause me to fall. This I expected because we use our eyes so much when transitioning, but after a while I walked at a normal pace especially when I knew I was in a hallway. I was taken aback by how quickly I was able to walk with ease. I was also surprised at how I didn’t have an extremely difficult time keeping the blindfold on. I predicted that I would have a lot of trouble wearing it the whole day, but there weren’t many moments where I longed to take it off. I developed more trust in my peers and my surroundings as the day went on. As I predicted, I used a lot of my hearing as I went through the day. I can tell everyone’s voice from being with them for so long, so I never really had to ask who was talking to me, and I could get an almost precise location of my peers if they continued to talk as I walked towards them. Lastly, something interesting I discovered is as I look back on my day, I can picture everything that happened. This is ironic because obviously I couldn’t actually see anything. I figure this is because I know everyone and everything at school so well, there was a picture going through my imagination even though I didn’t witness it with my eyes.

I found it hardest to wear the blindfold when I was in classes where I had to do work like reading or writing. I felt slightly inept at times, for example, when I lost the task of writing for my group in science class. Even though I had no trouble writing without seeing the paper, it wasn’t neat enough for that particular project. I was unable to write, unable to read information to the person writing, and unable to work on the poster. At first I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I wouldn’t be able to participate as I normally do, but then I worked on my individual project instead, listening to information offered by the website instead of reading it. Something that was difficult was listening and thinking in math class. Sometimes I struggle slightly in math as it is, and I have to be completely focused in order to understand the lesson or concept to full capacity. In this subject especially, I’m a very visual learner; I found it very challenging having to listen to the equation over and over instead of just glancing down at my paper. My guide in math would read my equation to me a couple times and every time I did the next step in solving it, I would have to hear the new equation. Since it was my own work, I was able to do the writing, but I would have to ask where to put the pencil every time I wanted to do something as simple as writing a subtraction symbol beneath a number. In addition, when I was writing things I had a strong desire to look at what I was creating; this was especially hard when I was drawing because I wanted very badly to see the end result. Lastly, it was very hard to come into the building after I’d been outside. Personally, I think the transition from indoors to outdoors and vice versa is pretty dramatic for the eyes even when you’re not wearing a blindfold. Although it was bright when I first entered the sunshine at recess, I had the most trouble coming back inside. When I first went outside the change in lighting was certainly dramatic but it was nothing compared to going back inside. I would actually describe it as scary because the sudden darkness made my vision go completely blank and it was like entering a pitch black cave. I imagine this more closely resembles really being blind.

Something else that was altered was my sense of direction and sense of environment. Even though I know every area of the school extremely well, without seeing I had trouble keeping an idea of where objects were, like the door or a whiteboard, and sometimes I even felt slightly dizzy. I had to trust that no one would intentionally get in my way or put something in my way, which was difficult because I did get hit by pencils, poked, and scared numerous times. I expected this to happen: for people to take advantage of the fact that I couldn’t see them and therefore had no way of stopping them from doing anything. In a way I don’t think this is a completely accurate representation of being blind. I’m sure people with this disability get taken advantage of often, but I feel like if I was truly blind, people would be more respectful, knowing it’s not just an experiment for one day. Otherwise, most of my classmates were very accommodating. I imagine even if someone has been blind for a very long time and is accustomed to performing everyday tasks without their eyes, they still need a great deal of help from another person. Before carrying out my experiment, I was mostly focused on the sensation of using just my hearing, but I also got a good idea of just how much assistance is required when you can’t see. Almost everywhere I walked, whether it was down the hallway, or just across the room, someone was hooked on my arm. It felt odd, but I wouldn’t have been able to function without someone at all times. I am so grateful to all the people who helped me get through the day, because I most definitely could not have done it by myself.

In conclusion, this was a great experience for me for many reasons. I experienced the strong desire to use my sight to perceive what was happening, like my friends having fun or to look at someone while they were talking to me, or to watch videos on smartboards or observe the environment in the room. I wanted to use sight to establish my surroundings and look at facial expressions and respond with my eyes. Today I was able to utilize hearing to locate the speaker, to determine the mood of my peers or the atmosphere, and to understand an assignment or designated task. I used touch to establish what was around me in close proximity, and to make my way around. A few times I even used my sense of smell where I could detect someone was near me by their perfume or even hand lotion. Also, after spending eight years with this grade, I had an easy time identifying my peers without seeing them. I struggled at times with this experiment, but for the most part found it bearable, probably because I knew at the end of the day I could simply take off my blindfold and see again. I have a huge amount of respect for people who are blind because it’s not as simple as waiting until a school day is over and regaining their vision. Regardless of the wonders that may lie before them, they have no way of removing a blindfold or opening their eyes to see. This I could never imagine, and I feel so lucky to be able to see the world in front of me every day with my own eyes.

                        Moments of the end of the day....

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Movie Making with Jesse R Sherman

One of the best things about living in a small community is that you are closely connected to those that live there. I am fortunate to know a talented young man named Jesse R. Sherman. He was in school with my son and has acted with both my children. Jesse grew-up and moved away but has stayed tied to his passion of the arts. He works a full-time job but makes music videos as a side job.

When I discovered Jesse was following his passion, I contacted him to see if he wanted to come to our school to chat with our students. Many of the kids in grades 5 and up are into making movies using iMovie, I am not well versed in this tool and it was my goal to continue to get students to stretch their learning skills. I wanted more from them then the typical quick video trailer. I emailed Jesse for assistance.

Jesse came with cameras in hand and set up in the LLC to demonstrate the requirements of good movie making. He talked about storyline, camera angle, and lighting and why all these components are important in developing an engaging story. He asked for volunteers and actually used students' suggestions to shoot a short scene. Clearly, I am not a director as the following iMovie was put together with clips taken from various people attending Jesse's seminar, so the storyline is not as polished as I would like. However, the energy in the wake of his presentation was phenomenal. Students were engaged and inquisitive. They understood what he was conveying and wanted to try his techniques themselves. This also showed the kids that with hard work, you can follow your dreams. Hopefully, I will be able to post some student made movies in the near future.

If you are interested in having Jesse come to your school, do not hesitate to contact me for information.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, March 21, 2016

Author Visit

There are many benefits of having an author come to the school to chat with students. This year we were extremely fortunate to have author/illustrator Matt Tavares give two presentations at PES. Matt hails from Ogunquit ME and writes and illustrates picture books. Many of his books focus on popular baseball stars which requires good research skills to find and organize the information appropriate for the chosen audience. His books are beautifully illustrated and well written as well as popular with our kids.

Matt spoke to the research and editing process needed for his books, and students were engaged during his slideshow. However, the climax of his presentations was when he invited a volunteer to the forefront and quickly sketched him/her in baseball stance. Students were amazed at how quickly he accomplished such a polished drawing. The feedback I received from students and staff was appreciative and positive. Kids loved the topics of his books, while staff appreciated the discussion regarding the research process.

It is personal visits like this that are part of the process to keep our kids motivated to read. 
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, March 14, 2016

What happens when you convert a library into.....

a Library Learning Commons. This is a video that was made by two 8th grade students as a Genius Hour Project. It shows the progression of what was once a Library and a Lab into a Library Learning Commons (LLC). The video played at the school district meeting as a thank you from the students to the tax payers for supporting this endeavor. It truly has been a gift to our school and changed the way students are collaborating.

Thank you for supporting our kids and helping them grow.
The Noisy Librarian

Friday, March 4, 2016

Mystery Skype

This is our second grade mysteryskyping with a class in Canada. We were not aware that a TV crew was filming during the skype and were delighted when they sent us the youtube link. Mme. deVries does a wonderful job of explaining why this tech game is important. Enjoy!

Keep reading,

The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Global Play Day

This week several grades at PES participated in Global Play Day. The premise is to supply toys, games, craft supplies, etc or have students bring in things from home and to let them play without adult direction. Adults may participate and obviously monitor for safety, but they are encouraged to let kids figure out activities for themselves. The rule? No technology or electronics are allowed. We are talking good old board games, cards, legos, coloring, crafts, forts, and many other "old fashioned" toys. There were two rules I reminded the students:
1. Be safe
2. Be kind

Throughout the afternoon, we had over 75 students come in and out of the Library Learning Commons to play. Students (and staff) in grades 8, 6, 5, 3/4, 2, and Kindergarten came to play in our amazing space. Collaboration, creativity, curiosity and laughter were highlighted during this time. Several moments stick in my mind:

Tea party with friends, combining Global Play Day with Color Your Collection week, Chutes and Ladders ( popular at ANY age)

Board games, chess, cards, legos

Fort building-my favorite! It was heart-warming to watch ALL age groups connect, help, and construct a fort worth playing in. 

Even the adults wanted a turn and the kids eagerly shared their cool space. 

We will certainly participate in this again.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Friday, January 22, 2016

Genius Hour updates

We have had so much activity in Genius Hour, it is definitely time to share some projects the students have been working on.

The boys learn they need to go back to the drawing board......

Andrew chose to research drones. Here he is learning how to fly so he can add a camera and take  aerial pictures of the school grounds. 

Sam working on the sneaker painting project.

We'll keep sharing our successes and first attempts in learning, so stay tuned!

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian