Resources for Indigenous Peoples Day

This week’s tech tip comes a little early. Our online encyclopedia offers learning packs on subjects to make research and learning easier. Each pack includes encyclopedia articles, images, and videos. Articles can be set to several reading levels and include a read-aloud function. Britannica School can be accessed here at Riverton School with no login credentials. At home, access is by username and password (see me for this information).
We aren’t seeing students on Monday 10/11, but if you wanted to offer resources to learn about Indigenous People around the world, here’s some good stuff to get started with. These could be a lesson, offered as an extension, or put the link aside for another time when you are discussing Indigenous People.
Here are excellent ideas for activities and discussions that make use of these materials. Scroll down the Indigenous Peoples Day page to find the activities.

Tech Tip Fridays!

September 24, 2021

This Friday’s tech tip is how to link YouTube videos in your assignments *without* the ads and recommended videos that are so distracting. It is super simple:
1. Take any YouTube video link – like this one:
2. Move your cursor to the right of the ‘h’ in ‘watch?v’.
3. Insert ‘_popup’ after the ‘h’ and before the ‘?’, and press ‘Enter’. Like this:
4. You will get a new link in the browser, and you’ll notice the video is now full screen. The new link will have the word ’embed’ in it and look something like this:
Use the new link right away, or pop in your assignment – no ads, no recommended video menu, just the video you want.
Happy Friday!

Tools for Typing!

The days of typing class are over – no more IBM Selectric typewriters lined up in class, with the Business Department teacher intoning ‘A, S, D, F, J, K, L, semi’.  Students today have grown up with computers, they must know how to type, right? Not based on what I’ve observed in the classroom and library.

The key to typing faster and more accurately is no surprise……PRACTICE. Lucky for us, learning to touch type has gotten a LOT more fun. This year, I have a dedicated class for 6th graders on keyboarding (file that under ‘better late than never’). While we used Type to Learn 4, this year we needed a new platform. We moved on to EduTyping, which we found to be an affordably priced platform that allows me to be able to track student progress and assign lessons, and allowed students to practice from anywhere using this cloud-based program. There are some other tools that can help students fine tune their typing technique and speed:

FreeTypingGame has games to play and lessons you can download. It is free, but it has ads, which are distracting.

BBC has Dance Mat Typing, which is a ton of fun. The typing ‘DJ’ has a pretty thick Scottish brogue, which American students may find difficult to understand. There is also some reading to do, which makes this less usable for the youngest students.

Nitro Type is the most popular typing game in my library. Student love to race each other and collect in-game currency.

I see my Kindergarten students an extra class time each week for a technology/computer class. The keyboarding skills I focus on with them are primarily letter identification, but we will spend some time looking at the keyboard and trying to find the keys for each letter. Simple keyboarding games like Typing Rocket Junior and Keyboard Zoo are just right.

Aaaaaaand we’re back!

It’s only about 9pm here, the night before school starts. I have lesson plans zipping around my head, and scattered thoughts of Big Plans. One thing at a time. First task is to get everyone (including me!) back in the library swing. I need to take my time.

Who would have thought that the 2021-2022 school year would feel more perilous than last year? 200 of the 300 students in my school are too young to be vaccinated against COVID19. It is inevitable that there will be students quarantining throughout the year. I am back in the library space this year, after a year of helping 2nd grade remote learners. That means it’s been *18 MONTHS* since I have been in, let alone taught in, my library. YIKES.

So these first weeks are going to be filled with library ‘refreshers’ like where to sit (we have to know who’s where in the event contact tracing becomes necessary), and rethought circulation procedures. I’ve claimed an ipad and have the Follett Destiny app installed so I can check books out while students are seated. One little thing solved.

Instruction is going to be mostly the same content, but I’m embracing the best practice learned during remote instruction of using a visual agenda. Each class will have a Google slide with that week’s plan. You can see an example here. The benefits are that for in-person instruction, my links are ready to go at a touch. In the event of quarantined students learning remotely, all I need to do is pop the slide into my Google Classroom and they will have everything they need in one compact place..

Grades K-3 lessons will focus on storytime and discussion, with some additional materials brought in to enrich the lesson.  We’ll work on library orientation a little bit at a time, until I feel they are ready to check books out. I have to remember it has been a looooong time since they have been in the library, or even seen me.

We have a whole school 9/11 Remembrance planned. I will share a paired reading with grades 4 and 5, which will be a good vehicle to introduce notetaking. This is a skill we will practice throughout the year, building up to a summary. These grades will also review library orientation and getting started with locating books by section and in the catalog. Ebooks will be an exciting addition to the lineup. The Connected Libraries Consortium through Mackin has been a game-changer in terms of the value and ebook collection. We’ll be putting those new chromebooks to good use!


Time to finish this week’s lesson plans. Sweet dreams and happy reading!


A whole new world!

“Design is creativity with strategy”

Well, that pretty much sums up the last couple of weeks for me and the website I have been dreaming about for *years* for our school library. I have been thinking about, and confused by, exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my site. It has to:

  1. Be a useful tool for students, teachers, and parents to access all the library goodies I work really hard to provide
  2. Be a tool to increase *usage* of the 21st Century digital tools to which I allocate a large part of my library budget
  3. Be a useful tool for creating the school library ‘brand’, and help me push out library resources beyond the school walls and school day. In other words, make me look good!
  4. Be as good-looking on mobile devices as it is on desktop computers
  5. Help me corral the many helpful links, tools, websites, and other digital ephemera that I use in my library instruction, but in a way that reduces the ‘cognitive load’ that my current catalog home page has (see photo below – I mean really, who has time for that?)

Sounds simple, right?



Well, not for me. Thankfully, I have the incredible luck to be working with a thoughtful and talented web designer on creating a website that will serve my students and community far better than the ‘Page of 1000 Links’ above.  For the last week or so, he has asked me questions that made me rethink many of the assumptions I have as a librarian. What does someone really want to accomplish, when they do X? How can we make that path plainer and easier to get to?

My designer (have I said how much it tickles me to be able to say ‘my designer’???) may not completely understand what I do all day, but he does know the right questions to ask in terms understanding the people who will use the website, and getting me to focus on the heart of what they are really looking to get from the library. He also has an eye for design when it comes to user interfaces. This will make the website not only useful, but visually appealing, too. I’m having a hard time not sharing a screen shot of the draft page now, but I really don’t want to spoil the effect of dropping the final version when it is ready.

Questions, questions, lots of questions! 

This has been my homework! I can have my students answer these questions during their library class,  and I hope that parents and staff will click through and answer their questions when I email the link.  Once the data is in, we will know how well I predicted what everybody is looking for when they visit the library website, and if I correctly guessed the priorities for where things should be displayed. With the information in hand, we will make adjustments and move forward. I can already think of a few additional things I’d like to add (sorry about that, Scott!)

If you have ever spent time thinking about user interfaces, or gotten out of your own head and thought like a student/teacher/parent, let me know how it changed your thinking. In the meantime, stay tuned for what comes next in the library website design journey.

Goodbye, Summer Reading

I love the feeling of the beginning of summer – days and days stretching out ahead, some with plans, some with no plans. Those wide open days are great for reading! I always have a big stack of books that I plan to dive into. I think I had at least half a dozen middle grade and YA books I wanted to read this summer! I have to ‘fess up – I don’t always get through them all.

My summer reading was a good mix of books I thought I ‘should’ read, and books I really wanted to read. Looking back, although I am disappointed I didn’t get to all my library reading, I have to laugh – I did exactly what I tell all my students reading should be. Read what you want, and just keep reading!

Here’s a snapshot of what I DID read this summer:

  1. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
  2. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
  3. The Dog, Ray
  4. The Fifth Petal

Hello world!

I’m blogging about being a new librarian in a K-8 school. I teach in suburban New Jersey, at a school in a lovely, small, community. I am just getting ready to start year 2! If you have advice or good resources for a one-woman library show, please share!