Saving Time as a Media Specialist

Hi Friends, I hope you enjoyed last month’s guest posts on the theme of gratitude. Some of those have continued to trickle in, and I will be sharing them here. However, today’s post is going to bless your socks off. It comes from my friend and Georgia State Media Specialist of the Year, Jennifer Lewis. She is sharing her best ideas for when you are a solo librarian, but even if you’re not, you will get some great tips here. She previously shared this information in my first online conference, The Efficient Teacher. Enjoy, share, comment, and be sure to follow Jennifer on Twitter.

“Hello! My name is Jennifer Lewis, and I am the media specialist at Indian Knoll Elementary School in Canton, Georgia. Being a librarian is the best job in public education! It’s the perfect combination of literature, technology, and of course, kids.

But being a solo librarian is a huge job! My first few years in the media center, I spent twelve or more hours a day working. I realized that if I didn’t find ways to make the job manageable for me, I would burn out quickly. Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tools I use to help me work smarter, not harder!

The first tool that I use is OneNote. I created a OneNote notebook that I call my Media Center Task List. I created a section for each month of the year. Each section has a list of tasks that I need to complete that month. Some of the items are things that I do every month, like “schedule volunteers.” Some are specific to the month, like “order cardstock for end of the year awards.” As I complete the task, I change the color of the words from black to red to mark it done. Or, if it’s something I decided not to do this year but want to keep it on the list for next year, I change the words to purple.

I also have sections for celebrating the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees, author visits, and the book fair as well as a list of projects that I would love to get to if I ever have any extra time. I have the OneNote app on my phone and iPad. I love the app because I can go over my to do lists while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up my kids from baseball practice.

Another tool that I use is my Outlook calendar. My media center operates on a mostly flexible schedule, so I don’t see the same class at the same time each week. When I collaborate with a teacher on a lesson, I create an invite on my Outlook calendar. I include the topic of the lesson and any notes about the lesson in the body of the invite and then send it to the teacher so that it’s on her calendar as well.

There are several features that make Outlook my favorite scheduling tool. In Outlook, I can add a link to a Skype meeting, create a repeating event (like a weekly event for my kindergarten classes or a yearly event for my staff members’ birthdays), and search for events that happened in the past, which is helpful for remembering which lessons I have taught in previous years. I can also give access to my calendar to others at my school. I give full calendar access to my administrators and also to my teachers so that they can see when I am available for lessons. In Outlook, I can also create multiple calendars. I have one calendar where I track lessons and school events. And I have a separate calendar for my volunteers.

A lot of my job is helping teachers and students find the best resources to teach standards or for research projects. In the past, I haven’t had a place to house the resources for students to retrieve easily. Destiny Collections is a new component within Destiny Discover, our library catalog. It allows users to collect resources, such as websites, ebooks, documents, images, and physical resources all in one easy-to-access location! We can use Collections to curate resources for our students that correspond with the standards they are learning. It helps streamline their research time. Instead of spending days just looking for the right resources, I can provide the resources and have my students spend their time reading and learning the content.

The first Collection I made was to support a project designed by our fifth grade ELA teacher. The students were researching two historical figures and writing a comparison/contrast of them. I knew Collections was going to be popular when I went into a classroom to deliver a book a few days after introducing it to the fifth graders and saw students using the Collection I made. After that, I continued to develop Collections each time I collaborated with a teacher. Soon teachers were requesting Collections for each unit of study. Collections has saved me so much time because I can create them so quickly, and the resources included are exactly what my teachers and students need.

Another great time saving tool is Flipgrid. This summer, Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft and now it’s completely free! Flipgrid is a website or app that allows teachers to create “grids” of short discussion questions that students respond to through recorded videos. Each grid is a little message board where teachers pose a question and their students can post 90 second video responses that appear in a tiled “grid” display. Students can also respond to each other. Each grid generates a link (we post the links in our learning management system).

The students in this picture are responding to a discussion question I posted after a lesson on digital citizenship and website privacy policies. We have also used Flipgrid to have students share the books they are reading. If a book is recommended by a classmate, they are more likely to read the book. It’s a great way to get responses from all students. Even students who would never raise their hand to participate in a class discussion love adding their videos to Flipgrid.

Flipgrid saves me time as a media specialist because I can use it as a quick formative assessment tool to inform instruction. Instead of going through a stack of tickets out the door, I can pull up the grid on my laptop, iPad, or phone to view student responses. Working with the classroom teacher, we decide if an individual student or even the majority of the class need reteaching.

Another tool that my students and I love that is a great timesaver for me is Microsoft Forms. I use Microsoft Forms anytime I need to collect responses. For example, I created a Microsoft form for a mock election during the last presidential election. Occasionally, I like to have a quick way to check for comprehension of the books my students read for book club. We use this data to select our reading bowl team. So I create a ten question quiz for each of the books in Forms. During our meetings, I email a link to the quiz to the students who read the book. Microsoft Forms grades the quiz for me and offers instant feedback.

Participating in the Georgia Children’s Book Award voting is one of my favorite things to do every year. I love how having a shared list of books promotes kids discussing books, arguing over their favorites, and it also leads to kids checking out these books and other books by the same author. I announce our voting day early so that teachers and I have plenty of time to read the books to our students. When voting day arrives, they come to the media center and watch a short slideshow to review all of the choices. Then students go to a voting booth. In years past, tallying the results from hundreds of ballots has taken me forever! So this past year, I created a Microsoft Form set up on a laptop for the students to make their choice. The students love this because many of them have seen their parents vote and our set up is similar to that. After students vote, they head over to a Dr. Seuss-themed photo booth where the classroom teacher takes pictures of the students and uploads them to Seesaw. And the students get an “I voted!” sticker just like mom and dad get when they vote. This is easily one of my favorite days of the school year. And the Microsoft form makes the day easy to manage.



If you have any questions about how I have used these technology tools to become a more efficient media specialist, please contact me! My email address is librarylew@gmail.com. I blog when I can at missliberryteacher.blogspot.com. My Twitter handle is @librarylew and my Instagram user name is @ikesmediacenter.”

Tech Tuesday #19: The Power of Student Self-Assessment

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I want you to take a minute and do the math on how much time you spend grading.

For one set of essays for me, I figured out once that if I spent ten minutes per esssay, it would take me a full twenty-four hours just to grade one class set. That was just for essays–the calculation didn’t include all the reading quizzes, warm-ups, and packets I had to grade as well. In addition to the time-suck all this grading induced, I was also burdened with carrying papers to and from school in a rolling crate, honestly many times just to return them to school again.

As I stayed in the classroom longer, I constantly looked for ways to save time, and one major area I addressed was in my grading. I’ve heard many educational gurus say it, but if the students are supposed to be the ones working so hard, why are the teachers the tired ones at the end of the day? And why don’t kids take our feedback seriously, using it to improve future work?

Easy–it’s because we’re the ones doing all the evaluation. If you’ve never thought about involving your students more in the evaluation process, or if you’re worried that kids can’t grade themselves accurately, think again. It worked in my classroom of high school students, and I know it can work for your kiddos as well.

In the video below, which is embedded from my weekly Facebook Live sessions I host each week at 8 PM EST, you’ll learn:

  • The four ways student self-assessment can make your grading more effective and efficient
  • Two resources for tips on quick-grading essays
  • My simple student self-assessment method (tongue twister!)

Push play to watch, and I hope you’ll tune in live next week!

How have you used self-assessment in your classroom? How has it helped, or what pitfalls are you still trying to work on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Tech Tuesday #17: Quizzes that Can’t Be Googled

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The culture of cheating has been around forever. Students have long been keeping cheat-sheets in their pockets, writing answers down their arms, and dropping their pencils on the floor to pass answers to friends. We knew those tricks as kids. However, with the advent of auto-grading quiz technology, many teachers are even more nervous about the security of their assessments.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the structure of our quizzes instead. If we are still creating quizzes where the answers can be Googled, we are not changing with the times and may, in fact, be increasing our students’ temptation to cheat.

In the video below, which is shared from my weekly Tech Tuesday Facebook Live sessions at 8PM EST, I will share with you five tips for changing your mindset on quiz creation. I’ll also share three specific ways you can quiz in a way that creates easy grading plus shows deep content knowledge from students:

  1. The Personal Dictionary Plus Frayer Model Quiz
  2. The One-Question Quizzer
  3. The Fill-in-the-Blank Reading Quiz

Want to hear more? Click to play the video below:

Want the resources I mention in the video? It’s easy! Just click FOLLOW and subscribe to the blog. I will be happy to share my folder with you.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #12: Increase Teacher and Student Efficiency with the Number System

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Running a class of 25-30 students a day is overwhelming; add to that the stress of managing students when you switch classes five times, and the organization the teacher needs is multiplied exponentially! As an eleven-year middle and high school teacher, I often looked for ways to cut down the stress by adding organizational procedures to my classroom. One of these that stayed with me year after year was what I call the number system. The definition is simple–I assigned each student a number. It was simple to do; I just went down my alphabetical roster in order. As students moved out and new students took their places, I was able to reuse out-of-order numbers with incoming students without changing the existing students’ numbers around. I loved this system, and I’m excited to share in this post my top six ways to use the number system in the classroom. Ready?

Six Ways to Use Numbers to Make the Classroom More Efficient

  1. After students have been assigned numbers, use a random number generator. You can find these generators everywhere, and I prefer one that has an iframe embed code you can easily put on your LMS or website. Let’s say students have projects due a certain day; you and I both know not everyone’s presentation can fit in that one day, and yet we want to be fair with due dates. Enter the random number generator! After allowing volunteers to go first, simply “spin the wheel;” if a person’s number comes up, it’s their turn to present. I never had flack for being unfair on presentations, because it was the machine, not me, making the decisions. 
  2. Have students take their own attendance. True story: I probably should have been fired more than once for forgetting to take daily attendance when I was a middle school teacher. Our registrar at the middle school warned me that at the high school, attendance every period was going to be my downfall. That’s where my use of the number system to have students do a self check-in saved my life…or at least my career. I created a multicolored Smartboard file, and it was ugly but functional. I had enough slides for each class, each with a different-colored background. The colors reminded me and the students to switch the slide if needed. Each slide was labeled with two columns, absent and present, and enough numbers for all my students were in the absent side by default. As students entered the room, they knew to walk by my board and slide their numbers from absent to present. This board served two purposes for me: because attendance was taking up my whole board, it reminded me to enter my attendance into our system. Second, it sped up the attendance process overall; I only had to verify those whose numbers had not been moved over, taking about thirty seconds, as opposed to the time needed to call a whole roster of students.  Feel free to visit Smart Exchange, Promethean Planet, or even PowerPoint to find or make cuter ones than mine, but my slide deck is linked below to give you inspiration. Here’s a final couple tips if you decide to integrate this use of the number system: don’t save the slide deck when  you close it; you want it to be blank and ready for the next class. However, if you’re like me and may save by accident, include an extra slide at the end for each group so you’ll have blanks just in case. 
  3. Write student numbers on clothespins. As an English teacher, I knew my grading would always take forever. I probably could have gotten it done a little faster if I didn’t dread it so badly! As such, my slowness caused an inconvenience for parents, because those students who hadn’t done their work wouldn’t see zeroes in the gradebook until I had gotten around to grading. That meant there was little opportunity for them to get their missing work made up.  Cue the number system. This tip is low-tech but so helpful! Buy some clothespins and use a Sharpie to write numbers on each of them.  You will need one set for each class, so I color-coded mine the same way I had colored my attendance slides. I put each group’s pins in a jar in the front of the room, near my turn-in trays for work. As students came to turn in work, i had them pull their numbers from the appropriate class jar to clip on their papers. Remember that I taught upper grades? Students in those grades still love to help, believe it or not. I had a student secretary who would quickly put the clothespinned-papers in order and mark off on a roster whose work was missing. The numbers made the papers easy to organize, so I was ready to put in zeroes quickly for parent information and student makeup capabilities.
  4. The fourth reason to use the number system is that students can do anonymous editing of each other’s papers. If you train your students to write only their numbers on their papers, at least for essays, they are able to give honest feedback to each other when editing. No more popularity contests! Students can give praise or critical feedback honestly and really help their partners be more prepared for the assessment process when it comes. 
  5. I also used numbers to assign everything! Do you have a class set of laptops, clickers, or calculators? Students always know what number to pick up. Not only do computers boot faster when the same few users are logging on each time, but students also take ownership and are able to keep a tally on damage done by a previous classmate. I had students sign out their computers with the date on a roster every time we used them. They reported damage on that same sheet, and I was able to take care of negligence more effectively. Tracking calculators or response devices in this same way keeps them from walking away.
  6. Do you get overwhelmed by grading major essays, projects, or journals all on the same day? Use the number system to vary due dates. Break your students into groups by their numbers and according to the days of the week. Students then always know if they are “Monday people” and you do too. Know that there’s going to be certain group that wows you or others who struggle? Make it easy on yourself! Be strategic with who you grade each day of the week, so that there’s not one day of the week you dread more than others. Mix a little sunshine in each group:)
  7. I’ve saved probably my favorite use of the number system for last. Use student numbers to have them do carousel presentations. If you’re honest, your eyes (and students’) have glazed over when all students have presented to the whole class. Listening to more than twenty presentations in a row about the same topic is torturous for all involved. Try this plan instead. Hand out your grading rubric to all the students, but omit the grade part. Just leave the levels and the criteria intact. Group students according to their numbers. For example, student 1 would be in a group with students 2-5. When it’s time to present, they all watch each other and give feedback on the rubric. You might circulate among the groups, but you aren’t the one giving the feedback. In less time, students have received more feedback than they would have just from you, and they’ve heard it from an authentic audience, their peers. Here’s the best part: if you collect the rubrics at the end, and most people agree on the feedback, simply add the numbers and put that grade in the gradebook. If students disagreed, you have a few presentations to go back and review yourself.

Don’t you love the number system? Have you tried it yourself? I’d love to hear more ideas for its use in the comments below.

Love a good podcast? Listen to the episode of The Suzy Show where I describe even more about my new student strategy. Click to play below, and make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player app.

Want to watch me talk about it? Tune in to this episode of Tech Tuesday, which you can join every week at 8PM EST at https://www.facebook.com/techlolley/. The episode about the number system is embedded below.

Resources:

Attendance Smart Notebook

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/techlolley at 8PM EST.