Cool Tools for School, Thing 50: The New AASL Standards

I was lucky enough to attend the national conference in Phoenix when the standards were unveiled and even pre-ordered my copy so I could pick it up right at registration with the rest of my conference bag goodies. I’ve participated in Webinars and Twitter chats related to the new standards, I’m even in an online book study through our local Boces. But man, oh man. That is one dense book and I’m still, all these months later trying to wrap my head around it. So, I figured why not round out my Cool Tools experience this year with even more standards talk? I mean, if wanting to know and understand these new standards is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

For my first activity, I did the one suggested in Paige’s article.


I know we’re probably harder on ourselves and our programs than others would be but, this was a bit depressing to look at! I don’t have nearly as many green highlights as I would like and far more red circles than I would have hoped. It looks like we’re strongest with the Domain Think, doing alright with the Domain Grow and have much work to do in the Domains Create and Share. Include is by far our worst Shared Foundation with Inquire being our strongest and Collaborate, Curate, Explore and, Engage being works in progress.

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Looking at the Powerverbs! Checklist Paige linked to in her article, it looks like we have trouble with:

  • reflecting
  • seeking diverse perspectives and viewpoints
  • identifying bias
  • evaluating sources
  • locating appropriate sources
  • sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences

Some of these, like identifying bias and evaluating sources, I expect to have more difficulty within an elementary school library as they are a bit complex. Others, like sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences, are difficult because technology, particularly social media, is quite locked down in my district. We don’t often have the ability to share our students work outside the classroom. I need to find other ways to share our students work with real-world audiences (and keep working on the IT department to loosen up a bit). Finally, others, like reflecting and locating appropriate sources, are problematic because of the way I have been doing research with our students. I often curate our list of databases to a smaller, more manageable list before we do a research project. Instead, I could be doing that with the students, at the very least talking through my choices with them and modeling my thinking so they can start to see and hear how an experienced researcher evaluates and locates appropriate sources. Reflecting on our final products often gets the short straw because we are often rushing to finish up a project so they can move on and not fall behind on the curriculum. I’ll need to keep this exercise and the list of Powerverbs! handy as I begin to rethink and plan next year’s curriculum over the summer…

After that somewhat disheartening exercise, I began looking at all the different handouts and materials available on the Standards portal. One of the first handouts I looked at was the AASL’s “Six Action Steps for Getting to Know the National School Library Standards”.


I was happy to see that, thanks to my online standards book club and other standards-based PD I’ve been engaging in, I’d made my way through steps 1-3 already. Step 4: Curate, I managed to tackle with the help of the Paige Jaeger article. Steps 5 & 6, Include and Engage, will require some thinking and planning over the summer. I like the idea of sharing the foundation words with students and seeing which ones they already know and which ones need defining for them. I’ll definitely have to start thinking about how to work those vocabulary words into our existing lessons next year…

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Next, I looked at the standards guides for Administrators, Teachers/Educators, and parents. I looked at the key talking points and began to think about how I could incorporate them into different elevator speeches for each of those key groups. Writing an elevator speech is the final assignment for my online Standards book club so I’m still working on those but I’ve found the guides to be very helpful in crafting my messages so far.

Finally, I poked around a bit more and discovered some potentially fun and useful things:

  • You can get presentation templates modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • You can download web banners modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • There’s a hashtag bank with hashtag suggestions for following and using on social media (very handy for my next Twitter lurking session)
  • You can find all the explainer videos for the new Standards there
  • THERE IS A STANDARDS-BASED CARD GAME!!! (it’s kind of like Apples to Apples but with the foundations, domains, and the personas-and I just might have printed it off and plan on bringing it to the CNYSL book club meeting at my house this summer).

All in all, this was a very eye-opening Cool Tools with which to wrap up the year. I didn’t always like what I saw but, I certainly will be a better teacher and librarian for having taken the time to see (all the many, many places) where I can improve.


Thing 40: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

Another year, another Cool Tools session to wrap up. Let’s dive right in!

What did you learn?

  • How did you put what you learned into action at school? Personally?
      • While I struggled initially with the EBP lessons that kicked off the Track 4 Cool Tools, I think they have had the biggest impact on how I do things. I’m more aware than ever of all the potential evidence I could (and should) be collecting about what I/we do in library. I’ve started using my cell phone camera to snap quick pics of student work, students working, final products etc. Then, I’ve been using the Google Drive app to upload them right to special folders I created in Drive. It really doesn’t take that long and before I knew it, I had a nice collection of examples of what we actually do in library.
      • In keeping with the goals I came up with in my EBP writeups, I’ve also stuck with my fancy new monthly infographic wrap ups I’ve been creating for my principal. Next year, I think I’d like to find a place in the library and hang them month after month so everyone who has a few minutes of time could get a better sense of what actually happens in our space.
  • Did you expand your Personal Learning Network? Make new professional connections?
      • I did the Polly recommended double dip strategy for one of my writeups and used the DIY option as an excuse to sign up for the Learn 2 Tweet class I had been wanting to check it out. Through that class, I not only learned more about how to use Twitter more effectively, I also meet some great librarians and added them to my network of people I can reach out to when I have questions! I also learned about tons of great hashtags and regular live tweet sessions I can use to expand my PLN even further!
  • What challenges did you face during the workshop?
    • As always, time is the biggest hurdle to this class. I want to read and explore all the options in each tool, then I have to decide which ones I’ll actually want to work with, explore them, try to use them with actual classes/lessons, then finally, write up the whole process! The part I struggle with the most is getting them worked into actual lessons in a timely fashion that also leaves me time to report about how it all went.

What’s next?

  • Did you start some projects that you’ll be following up on in the future?
      • I absolutely plan on continuing all the projects I started during the EBP tools (infographic summary for principal, newsletter for teachers, recording evidence). I’m also really looking forward to using Google Classroom to assist with Battle of the Books next year. Finally, I can’t wait to use SeeSaw more next year and would love to be able to use BookWidgets for student assessment.
  • Are you planning to share what you’ve learned with others?
      • I would love to put together a professional development session for one of our superintendent days on using Google Classroom for our teachers. I’ve also been thinking about putting together a proposal to lead a book study on The Together Teacher in my district.
  • What other professional development projects will you be pursuing?
    • In part, because of what I’ve learned in this class over the years, and as part of my overall goals, I’ll be starting to pursue my goal of someday becoming National Board Certified next year. I’ll also be taking a one credit class in the fall through UB on being a leader in your building community!

Did you like learning this way?

  • For some of you, this might have been your first experience with this kind of independent, self-driven learning. Did this work for you?
      • I’ve always found it fairly easy to be an independent, self-driven learner. As long as deadlines and guidelines are clear, I usually don’t have any problems focusing on the work I need to do when I need to do it and sticking to a self-imposed schedule. I also like the challenge of the doing something just for me, not because anyone in particular is watching or expecting it from me.  
  • What did you most value about the program? What didn’t work well?
      • Hands down, one of the things I most value is all the time and effort Polly puts into pulling together all the resources and ideas for each tool! Often, they are all things I’ve wanted to look into more at some point but, never seem to have the time to do the research on it. Thanks to Polly, I can focus on the exploration and not the hunt and gather.
      • I struggle with the same things every year, over extending myself and at the end of the school year and getting crunched for time, and taking time to connect with the other participants. This year was no different but I’ll continue to work on it.
  • Would you do it again?
    • Absolutely! This was my third time and I have never regretted the time I spent on Cool Tools.

Bonus Lesson: Making Connections

For this lesson, I ended up looking at the following blogs: Aabdul810, TechieToolsBlog, and Bri’sCoolToolsBlog.

What did I learn? So much!!! I wish I did a better job of reading other blogs during this year’s Cool Tools because in just this weekend, I got so many ideas and learned so many cool tips and tricks. I guess that will be my goal for next year…

One of the first things I learned, courtesy of Aabdul810’s Thing 2 post on Photo Fun, was that you can use your own photo to create word clouds in Tagxedo! I had no idea you could do this-I just assumed I had to use their pre-programmed options. (I really really wanted to try this out right now but, I’m out of town for the long weekend and my host’s computer says it doesn’t have the right software to create a Tagxedo.)

Over at Bri’s Cool Tools Blog, I learned about LessonPaths in her Thing 5 Curation Tools post. Not only is it another potential way for me to curate resources for students (I like that it supports a wide variety of resource tools), you can search other people’s “playlists” so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel when looking for great resources for teachers, students, and parents.

Finally, I hit up Techie Tools Blog. In Thing 11: Coding tools, I learned about the app Cargo Bot. I’ve been celebrating coding month in December the past two years with my 1st-5th graders. I get a lot of great ideas and activities (even some unplugged activities)  from the Hour of Code website but, also like to have some coding apps for the kids to try. Right now, I only have Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr on our iPads. This app will make an excellent addition to our coding apps (can’t believe it’s free!!!) but, like Techie Tools, I’ll have to practice more with it before I introduce it to the kids! I’m stuck on one of the early tutorial levels!!

Another great idea I picked up over at Techie Tools Blog was using Google Classroom for Battle of the Books! Being a relatively new librarian, and thus fairly new to Battle of the Books, I’m still looking for ways to improve on it every year. But, I’m also looking for improvements that also make running it easier on me-this will be especially true next year when we no longer have our library clerks (a fact I’m pretty sure I’m still in deep, deep denial about…). On the surface, it might seem like setting up Battle of the Books in Google Classroom might be more work, not less, however if I use some of my summer break to set things up in Google Classroom, I think I could save myself a lot of time during the school year.

However, I didn’t just love this idea because it potentially revolutionize the way I conduct Battle of the Books in my building next year, I loved it because it finally gave me a good idea for using Google Classroom in the library. Every since they finally made Google Classroom available to us, I’ve wanted to use it with my classes but, I also didn’t want to use it just to use it. I wanted to have a good idea that made the most sense with Google Classroom instead of another option. One of my biggest holdups with Google Classroom was that, if I don’t always use it, the kids will forget how to access it. So few of my classroom teachers use our Google Apps for Education options with their classes that their Gmail credentials aren’t something they are use to needing to know. I’ve been extolling the benefits of Google Docs and slowly making some converts this year. One of the things that frequently happens though, is that the teacher makes a master template in Google Docs, shares it with the students, and then when they all open it and start working on it, everyone is overriding everyone else’s work. If I’m available, I’ve been able to show them how to have students make their own copy (the only way I knew how to combat this problem) but, when I’m not available, they often give up and just switch to Word docs. Not something that helps me make converts of everyone…

But now, thanks to Techie Tools post, I know that Google Classroom has an option that will MAKE A COPY FOR EACH STUDENT!!! This tiny detail alone might be enough for me to convince loads of teachers to join me on the Google bandwagon next year! I can’t wait to start showing and telling this little detail all over the school, maybe even the district…I think I might have an idea for my first PD session next year!

And finally, here’s the links to where I left some comments on the other blogs:

Aabdul810 Thing 37: DIY

Aabdul810 Thing 2: Photo Fun

Techietoolsblog Thing 11: Coding Tools

Techietoolsblog Thing 12: Collaborating, Connecting, and Sharing

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 5: Curation Tools

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 3: Online Communities and Personal Learning Networks

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 2: Photo Fun

Thing 38: App-apalooza

After exploring several of the links for App-apalooza, I found three discoveries I’m pretty pumped about:

  • Discovery #1: Digital Dog Pound and their App Task Challenges!
    • I loved that they made their ATC available in one Google Drive folder you can add to your own Google Drive-and of course immediately added it to mine.
    • The setup and format of the ATC pages were beautiful and incredibly well down. I was impressed with how they managed to fit so much information (a picture of the app, a description of the app, ideas for integration, and an app challenge) into 1-2 pages without it ever feeling crowded or overwhelmed.
    • I’m so inspired by their ATC pages, this summer I think I’d like to try to make a few of my own for some of the apps on our iPads!
  • Discovery #2: School Library Journal App Webpage
    • This discovery was one of those that made me feel like a bad librarian-I had no idea that SLJ had a dedicated App Webpage! I loved looking through old postings and exploring their suggestions. I’ve already added them to my favorite websites on my computer and will be adding this into my weekly rotation of must check websites!
    • One of the things I discovered while poking around the website was that there were a ton of SLJ newsletters I wasn’t subscribing to. So, I subscribed to their tech newsletter as well as a few others I had somehow missed along the way.
    • While exploring their old postings on the website I can across a writeup for an intriguing tool which brings me to…
  • Discovery #3:BookWidgets!
    • BookWidgets is a service that lets you create quizzes, exit tickets, worksheets, games and more for the iPad. You can create your own completely from scratch or, use one of their templates.
    • There are couple of things I love about this idea:
      • As I learned in the Things 31 & 32 on Evidence Based Practice, I need to be collecting more pre and post assessment data with my classes and this gives me a tool to create just those
      • Since it’s a digital tool, I don’t have to worry about drowning in a sea of exit tickets and end of unit tests
      • It tracks all the student results for you, less factoring and figuring on my end
      • No more handing out and collecting of papers, instantly makes them available on student iPads
      • I have a class set of iPads just for the library and I have been trying to find more and more ways to work them into our lessons and this will help me make them a part of almost every lesson-even if they aren’t the actual learning tool!
    • The bad news is it’s $49 a year for this tool. Although, that does only come out to $5 a month (which is less than I spend on coffee-three cheers for treat yo’self Fridays) so I think I could justify it, if it worked as well as I hope it would.
    • There’s a 30 day free trial so I’ve signed up for that and I’ve been trying out the different widgets. Unfortunately, our last week of regular library classes is next week already so I wont be able to test out many of the features but, I think some of the game options would be a great way to review what they’ve learned in library this year while still keeping it fun. 

Thing 37: Join Me for Some Professional & Personal Development?

For this tool, I thought I’d write about two things I decided to try, one a professional development, the other a personal development.

Professional Development:

I had gotten an email about an online class AASL was offering called Learn to Tweet and I was intrigued. I’ve been on Twitter for over 5 years now but I’ve always felt like I could be getting more out if. The class was only four weeks long and a reasonably priced $25, so I decided “Why not?” and signed up.

I’m halfway through the class and I’ve really been enjoying it. Even as someone who isn’t a complete Twitter novice, I’ve gotten something out of every week. The first week, I mostly just tuned up my list of people to follow by adding people from my class but, I also found some people I thought for sure I was following and wasn’t! The second week, my big discovery was Twitter lists. I had no idea you could create and manage lists for your Twitter feed much less follow other people’s lists! I’ve slowly been working on creating and managing my Twitter lists and I’m very excited about them! One of my biggest problems with Twitter is that sometimes, it just feels so unmanageable to weed through all the Tweets on my timeline. With lists, I’ll be able to select exactly which group of people I follow I want to see Tweets from at the given moment and really make the most of however much time I have to be on Twitter at that moment. Mind blown, game changed…

We’re working on Live Twitter Chats this coming week and super nervous about them-I’ve participated in them to some extent whenever I’ve gone to a conference and followed/used the conference hashtag but not to the level of a scheduled Twitter Chat like, TLChat for example. Wish me luck!

Here are some of the resources/readings that I’ve found helpful in this class so far:

  • Mashable’s Twitter etiquette guide  -appropriate etiquette is always important to understand
  • Using to shorten URLs in Tweets-I’ve always used Google’s URL shortner but a cool feature she pointed out about is that it has a Chrome extension that allows you to not only shorten the URL, but also allows you to tweet it right from the extension, without having to go to Twitter
  • Twitter Lists- I already mentioned these but here’s a link to their Help page about Twitter Lists
  • Did you know Twitter has an advanced search option? Neither did I! Here a link to their Help page about advanced searches

(Oh, and if you want, you can follow me @SerenaWaldron and see how I’m doing with my goal of more frequent tweeting-maybe some day I’ll even have to take that line about “sporadic tweeter” out of my bio)

Professional Development:

In April, we found out we’ll be losing all of our library clerks in my district. The incredible go-getter she is, my clerk had already found another job before the month was over. We’ve been fortunate that the new job offers her the flexibility to still work with me two days a week for the remainder of the school year. I’ve been trying to look at these last few weeks with her here reduced hours as a wonderful opportunity to start truly understanding how things will change next year, what challenges I will face without her, and the solutions we may utilize. I’ve only worked at this district in my short career so I’ve always had a clerk. I know many other librarians don’t have or have never had this luxury but I’m so very nervous about making it work next year.

One of my biggest worries is time/task management and staying organized. Which is why, when my most recent issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine arrived, I jumped right to the article with organization tips from top experts. The article mentioned that one of the experts featured, Maia Heyck-Merlin, had a book called The Together Teacher. Intrigued, I hopped online and found her website, The Together Group. I was inspired by the blog posts I read and impressed with free resources available, so I decided to not only order her book, I’ve also been working my way through a 6 week free MOOC course she set up to go with the book (there’s a paid option too if you want a certificate of completion but if you don’t want/need that, totally free).

I have been learning tons about myself and my organizational preferences. I’ve also learned that while I’m pretty organized in many areas (I kick butt at having a comprehensive calendar), I have definite weak points (managing my ongoing to do list) that could become a problem next year if I don’t proactively adopt some strategies.

Right now, I’m working on creating the template of my ideal week and after that, I’m going start using the weekly worksheets. It’s definitely one of those things that feels way too time consuming sometimes but I know getting in these habits now will more than pay off next year. Plus, once these things become habit and routine, the time it takes to create them will lessen and they won’t feel like yet another arduous thing to do…

So, those are the things I decided to try out with my You Pick! time-I’m enjoying them both and optimistic that they’ll be positive additions to my life! 

Cool Tools for School, Thing 31: Thing 31: EBP–Getting Started



I was so excited to see that Track 4 would be tackling EBP and annual reports this year! These are two areas that I know I could be tackling better but just don’t know where/how to start. I do send my principal monthly library reports (yay!) but they are the same template I got from a librarian I subbed for fresh out of college and they emphasize circulation stats, most popular book etc (boo!). I’ve also made gains in showing people what I do in the library. On the suggestion of a colleague, I send the teachers a quick end of month report that showcases what we did in library, what CCSS we hit, and any physical/digital work the students produced (yippie!). But, since I don’t give grades in my district, I never thought to make copies/scan any of the students work for my own data/evidence of what I do (double boo!). Clearly, I need some help and direction when it comes to EBP.

I think one of the hardest parts about getting started with EBP, for me, is just sitting down and thinking about the who, what, where, when, and how of EBP (the why is the easy part-because it’s important and makes your worth in the school indisputable). So, after tackling some of the activities and jotting down some notes, it was time to tackle the “think about” questions.

  • What’s your school mission, primary focus, goals?

Like many schools, we’re really focused on raising our students test scores and getting more of students to perform at grade level in math, reading, and writing. We also revamped our PBIS program and started implementing the Leader in Me program this year.

  • What is important to your principal, school board, other teachers?

I think the above goals are the most important to my principal and fellow teachers. I think these things are also important to the school board but I also know that the district is stressing technology, getting our kids ready for the real world.

  • How does your program help meet THEIR goals?

This is the big question isn’t it? It’s also the most difficult one for me to succinctly answer, even with all this time dedicated to thinking about how to answer it! By making reading and storytelling fun and enjoyable I can encourage reading, and reading more helps make better readers. I can work more writing activities into our class time to help make them stronger writers and editors. We can even work some math and number skills in to our activities. We can improve their research skills and increase their awareness of the need to be safe and skeptical online-which helps prepare them for the increasingly digital future. I’ve been trying to work the critical academic vocabulary into our lessons when possible. Seeing, hearing, and working with the critical academic vocabulary in as many subject areas as possible will help them become more comfortable with vocabulary they need to address the CCSS.

  • What measurable data can you collect that will show the library’s influence on student success?

I could revamp the library centers and library center worksheets I’ve used in the past so that I have some kind of pre-assessement and use the worksheets as a post assessment of what they’ve learned/I’ve taught. I’ve done more writing projects in the library this year and I’ve been keeping all of the planning, rough draft, edit pages etc. When we do any compare/contrast activities I could take pictures of the charts we fill out together at the beginning and end of the unit. I could track the tech skills that I teach students with pre and post assessment activities.

  • What stories, anecdotes and personal stories might you collect from students and staff? These help support the quantitative data.

This is definitely something I could do a better job keeping track of! Students say things about what they’ve learned or enjoyed about library all the time and I don’t ever make a note or write it down! I need to get in the habit of making a note in my phone/iPad or planner. I’ve been thinking about getting a special notebook and at the end of each day taking a few minutes to jot down the crazy/funny/silly things they kids say and do every day. Maybe this could do both jobs…

Some final ideas I got from the readings:

  1. start using exit tickets in the library
  2. use Kahoot! more during the school year (my students love this-I think we’d ace the state tests if they were presented in Kahoot! format)
  3. add Nearpod into my smartBoard presentations/lessons
  4. use Google Forms to survey more than just my 6th graders (and more often than at the end of the school year)
  5. start using the SeeSaw app as soon as possible (IT is working on getting this installed on my iPads)
  6. focus on knowledge created/gained, focus on the students

Whew! That’s quite the start-feels good to get some of this out of my brain. Can’t wait to get some ideas on how to actually start collecting the data (and some ideas on what data to collect).

Cool Tools for School Thing 22: Create a Resource Guide, Part III

Pinterest Header

Wow oh wow! When I was writing up the Part II for this Cool Tool I was so confident that it would be easy to whip up a Pinterest board for the library and share it with teachers before we went on February break. I wasn’t entirely wrong, creating the library Pinterest account was a snap. Coming up with boards was pretty easy breezy as well. It wasn’t even that difficult to get started pinning to the boards. I had meet with a technology liaison from my district about an entirely different project a few weeks before starting this and she shared the link with me to the New York Model Schools Pinterest account she is helping create. I used many of their board ideas and pins to start my library Pinterest account. And that’s when I hit a wall.

Suddenly, tasked with pinning things that not only would appeal to teachers (instead of random things I liked) and would represent the library well, I froze. I’m a librarian, not a classroom teacher or a content specialist. I found myself second guessing the things I was finding and thinking of pinning to my boards. I thought this math activity looked cool and fun but would teachers think it was silly or stupid or would it be something they’d already seen a million times before?????? Slogging through all the different Pinterest search results and online search results and articles I’d saved to Pocket took what felt like FOR.EV.ER. And when I was done, I’d only pinned 5 things, tops, to each of my 24 boards. I’d had a goal of at least 10 things pinned to each of my 24 boards before I shared it with my teachers. I wanted it to seem well developed and worth their time to check out, something they could explore and discover new things through, not something they could glance at and be done with in 5 minutes. So, board by board, I set aside a little time each morning, afternoon and evening of break to reach my goal and FINALLY, the last weekend of break, I got it done.

But, before I could share my Pinterest board, I had another problem to solve. The results of my teacher survey were an almost even split between wanting a Pinterest account and a digital newsletter to keep them up to date on new resources. As such, I had decided to do both, send cool stuff to our Pinterest account whenever I found it and, every other week or so, send my teachers a digital newsletter highlighting some of the Pinterest finds. So now, I had to figure out what digital newsletter I wanted to use for monthly updates. I thought I was going to use Scoop.It but I honestly wasn’t feeling it so I keep looking and looking and looking. There are a lot of results when you search for digital newsletters but none of them were blowing me away. I wanted it to be slick looking but easy to put together, easy to add my contacts to and, easy to add my Pinterest finds.

Oh a whim, I decided to look at Our department head had recently created and sent us flyers for the district Battle of the Books competition using and I had used it in grad school for some assignments. It’s really easy to use and looks pretty great for the effort so I decided to noodle around and see if I could make a flyer work as a newsletter when I discovered the best thing EVER! When you click on “start new flyer”, one of your flyer set up options is news bulletin!!! It was exactly what I had been looking for and not finding with all the other digital newsletter options online and even easier to setup than I had hoped. I was able to add a “button” linking people directly to the library’s Pinterest page and, embed links from our Pinterest page as well. Then, I emailed the flyer to myself at work. After I opened it, I forwarded it to a custom mailing list I have saved on my work email account of all the teachers (after taking out all the obvious bits and pieces that showed I had forwarded the email to myself). WordPress doesn’t let you embed a Smore flyer into your posts but I’ve attached a link to the news bulletin I sent my teachers below. And of course, feel free to check out my Pinterest board!

I’m hoping this helps my teachers stay up to date on what’s fun and cool out there without me having to run all over the place tracking them down!

And with that, I’ve officially finished Thing 22 and have FINALLY created a resource guide….now to just keep it up and keep it fresh!

Psst, check out the long, slow journey to making my first resource guide with Part I and Part II

NYLA Breakdown-Part Two

All right kids, whose ready to learn about teaching with historical documents? Let’s get started then.

  • When teaching kids how to analysis photos direct them to the people, the background and objects. Study those elements for clues as to what is going on and be on the look out for things that don’t seem to fit or you wouldn’t expect to find.
  • Sometimes you need to break a picture up into quadrants so you can isolate what is going on and what you are analyzing.
  • When analyzing letters have kids ask themselves the following questions:
  1. When was this letter written?
  2. Where was this letter written?
  3. Who wrote this letter?
  4. To whom is the letter written?
  5. Why was this letter written?
  6. List three pieces of information from the letter you think are important.
  7. List tow questions you might want to ask the author.
  • After exploring a series of historical documents related to a single person or family, have students create a short movie story board depicting key scenes from the person/family’s life.

For more information and inspiration on teaching with historical documents check out the the New York State Archives website (not from New York? Search around and see if your state has an archives website and what it may have to offer). Stumped on how to find and incorporate primary source documents into your teaching? The New York State Archives website even has a series of videos on how to find and teach with primary source documents.

The 2012 Presidential Election for Kids

Another debate down, one more to go and before we all know it: ELECTION DAY will be here!

If you haven’t already started educating your students about how the election process works there’s still time. Here are some great sources to get you and them started (they even make great refreshers for those of us grownups that have trouble keeping it all straight-I’m looking at you electoral college):

1. USA Gov

USA Gov covers general education/topics about voting and elections, the electoral college, election history, elected officials and candidates, legislation and reform, organizations and agencies, and education materials for kids.

2. Scholastic Magazine Election 2012

Scholastic Magazine not only contains handy, easy to understand information about the election progress, it also contains interactive resources like The Electoral Challenge, The Electoral College Map, and On the Road to the White House that are sure to please, entertain  and educate students.

3. PBS Kids The Democracy Project

Another great, easy to understand, interactive way to learn about the election process and our democratic system. Kids can Step Inside the Voting Booth to learn more about voting, create their Own Campaign Poster, Be President for the Day, Meet the Candidates, and much more.

These are just a sampling of some of the resources available to help our students become excited, knowledgable citizens. Do you have other favorites? Share away in the comments section.

Until next time,


Cynthia Says….

Did you know that way back in 1999, the U.S. government established that ALL public and private school websites would need to be made web accessible, as in accessible to students with disabilities? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Research shows that many schools are not in compliance with this directive (see the 1999 Journal of Special Education Technology Vol.24, number 2 for one example).

One quick way you can check your website for compliance is with Cynthia Says. Cynthia Says is fast, easy way to check how accessible your website is for users with disabilities.

From the Cynthia says main page, simply input the address of a website you want to test, and then click “Test your site”. Within seconds you’ll receive a report detailing what areas the site passed, what areas it failed, and in some cases the specific locations of areas that may need work.

For a more detailed explanation on how Cynthia Says works, there’s a video on YouTube you can watch for a demo.

For more information on how to make your website more accessible and what to look for before using a website with students, check out Project Enable’s “Evaluating Accessibility” page.

Bifocals & Buns had some areas that need improvement so I’ll be trying to address those as the site continues to expand and grow. What about you guys? Any plans to work on your site’s accessibility? Were you surprised with your site’s score? Share and share alike in the comments and I’ll see you all tomorrow.