I can't believe it, but it's almost been a month since we've been back to school here at Ponderosa High School. Yes, we start THAT early! It's been quite the whirwind of a start, but I wanted to put down some of my projects I have been working on here at the beginning of the year and give you all access to some fun printables I've created. There's been a decent amount of change to the library even just at the beginning of the year, and it's exciting! So lets get started!
Something Simple: New Bookmarks
I think they look awesome, and I'm super excited to get the end product. On sale, these were $37 total to order 50 of each print, for a total of 150 new bookmarks for our pretty little holder. Are you in need of some bookmarks? Feel free to steal the the bookmarks I made below. They are all set up to the correct specs that Overnight Prints uses, so you should be good to go!
Something Stolen: Game of Quotes
I presented this idea to my English teachers during a collaboration time, and some of them mentioned it might be a fun activity to try on a rally day when they have SSR. Students already have a hard time staying concentrated during SSR on these types of days. Therefore, they figured throwing this into the mix might be a fun opportunity for them.
This Friday is the first rally of the year, so I decided to create my own version, throw it out there, and let them try it out if they wished. A couple of them have decided to try it, so I hope it goes well! You can view my slide presentation below.
Want more prompts? You can get a print-and-play version of the gamehere!
That's all to report for now. Lots of other things on my plate that I will continue to record here. I hope you have an awesome start to the year!
There are a few things lately that have been consuming me for a while that I'm really excited to share with teachers! Chances are if you pay attention at all to Twitter, you might already know about these crazes; however, I hope I can conglomerate some resources for you here or maybe introduce a new idea or two.
If you are not already, follow Leslie Fisher on Twitter and through her webpage. She has an excellent overall tutorial on what exactly Merge Cube is HERE, as well as some of the inside scoop from Merge VP's. She mentioned just the other day that she spoke for some VP's at Merge Cube and couldn't mention details but was VERY excited about Merge Cube of the future. Merge Cubes are not going away, but they will go away at the $1 price point. Grab them while you can!
Another really good blog post to read regarding Merge Cubes would be THIS ONE from Michael Fricano. It generally goes over the Merge Cube as well as highlights some good apps to explore.
I found I had to go off of school wifi and onto my cellular data in order to make the videos run smoothly around the globe. Our wifi just simply is not capable, not even our private staff wifi. My plan is to eventually buy a hotspot for our library in order to run projects that require this kind of heavier bandwidth to secure that these types of programs run smoothly.
CHALKBOARD AND HAND LETTERING
There have been many physical changes to the library space lately, but one of my very favorites is what I've done to the display shelves up front. First, take a look at those shelves before. . . . .
How attractive is this? A bunch of Contemporary Literary Criticism books gathering dust at the front of the library right by the circulation desk. We now have all of these resources online through Artemis Literary Criticism published by Gale. So how useful are these books now? If the internet went out or funding suddenly disappeared for them, they could prove to be useful. As of right now, not much. So I did not decide to get rid of these books. Rather, I decided to store them. They now take up multiple cabinets in the back of the library in case of a dark day when they're needed. (This also required me to get rid of a GRAVEYARD of old technology in those storage cabinets!)
The result paints a very different picture. . . . .
How much more fun is this?! I wanted to create something that would be more of a mini-display and not too much work to change out. Therefore, I came up with the idea of these small chalkboards in order to have small mini-displays I could change out every now and then. I also wanted to create displays where it didn't really matter what books were in there. Easily switched in and out as books get checked out.
Of course, me being me had to kind of go all out and work on my hand lettering (a 2018 New Year's resolution for me!) to create something I liked to look at. However, I feel I could quickly change some of these now in a less artistic way if I felt the need. When it comes time to erase that stormtrooper though, I will be very sad. I'm proud of him. ;-)
How exactly did I do this? First, I took some old shelves that we weren't using anymore and attached them to bookends using some super sticky foam tape. Then I put chalkboard contact paper on them to create the final product. Then it was just fun with chalkboard pens to create the displays!
I have so much more display space now that I need to order more wire book holders! Not a bad thing, in my personal opinion! I'm excited to engage more students with this display instead of those dusty old reference books!
BRINGING VR TO MY SCHOOL
It's about time someone started using the power of Google Expeditions and VR on my campus, and I am determined to bring it to my campus. This will be a multi-step process, but I believe the end result will be all worth it. In order to fund everything I want to do, I will be writing any and all grants I can get my hands on! First, I need to bring devices into the library. What exactly does this look like? Older model Andriod phones. These devices will be in order for me to replace our old aging FLIP cameras for students to video record but also to be used in VR settings as well. At first I thought I would simply want to purchase 6 or 7 in order to replace the FLIP cameras, but the more I talk about it, the more I want to get as many as I possibly can. While I can use student devices with VR, it might be best to have closer to a class set (or at least enough for pairs) in order to set up the devices ahead of time and mitigate any issues or problems.
#3: Excellent price point - $15.99 is an excellent price point for this headset. Not too expensive, but you get a great bang for your buck that will last a long time.
#4: Phone case on - I can only truly speak for my phone, but I can fit my phone with the case on into this headset. I know this won't work for every phone case, but I was pretty impressed I did not have to take off the case for my Google Pixel 2.
#4: Protection - By completely enclosing the phone, you can be sure that student devices won't fall out and become damaged, unlike other headsets.
The focal lenses it provides worked okay for me, but overall, I found once I had all the setting right, it worked great and didn't need any further focusing.
Note - There is no QR code to scan for this headset. However, if you put your setting to "Cardboard v1" viewer in the cardboard app, you should be good to go with this headset.
So those are my current crazes right now! In between teaching health classes this month, I'll put doing more chalkboard art, writing grants for VR headsets, devices, and more, as well as playing with my Merge Cube! More details on my Merge Cubes and grant writing process as I go along! Happy Friday everyone!
So we literally have another face at the front of our library, but we have quite the library facelift going on as well right now! First of all, the nonfiction shift is DONE! The very last book was placed just yesterday, and I'm so glad the shift is finally finished. Was it worth an entire year of sweat, dust, heavy lifting, confusion, stickers stickers stickers, and more? In a word: yes. I have already seen the benefits of my nonfiction switch as I work with students.
The next facelift in store for the library are the front library shelves going into the front computer lab. . . .these shelves once held all of our Dictionary of Literary Biography and Contemporary Literary Criticism reference books. You know, the stuff that is ALL online now and available in one of our library databases. So they are going away into storage (because I don't have the heart to weed them quite yet!) and new and exciting things that won't collect dust are going in their place!
So I wanted to create a simple display area on these shelves. I already have a large main display area right front and center in the library, and I have a hard time keeping up sometimes with that one! This one I wanted to keep simple but effective. However, I wanted to make sure it was still flexible in order to be changed when I'd like.
So how exactly will I accomplish these little blackboards? Well, I had to do a little McGyver engineering, but I think I figured out a way! I stole some shelves we are going to get rid of from the bookcases in the back, adhered them onto some tall bookends using strong foam tape, and will cover these shelves in blackboard contact paper I bought on Amazon. This way I could still lay it down flat (hanging over the edge a little) on a table to do the design, but it will stand securely when placed on the shelf.
I'm excited for when I return from CSLA and my blackboard contact paper is in! Then I will be able to show you all the end product.
I hope to see some of you at CSLA! I'm looking forward to a BEAUTIFUL venue and lots of inspiration to return home with. Also, I'm looking forward to running a couple of sessions. . . .One on Thursday on BreakoutEDU, paired with my partner in crime in the district, Amy Linden. The other on Saturday, "20 Small Things You Can Do Monday Morning!"
We have finally made it! Moving day! Well, really, it's more like moving 2 WEEKS when you have over 3,000 books to move and still have classes and teachers needing you as well! The move is pretty physically demanding, so I'm trying to stick with moving 2 to 3 sections every day. I believe by the end of next week, I'll be DONE!
It's all worth it though? You know what's happening right now? I have some of our special resource students here in the library, and one of their aids just approached me and said, "Where are your animal books?" Well, I've already moved that section.
If you have read my past posts, you will know that I am planning on having nonfiction live just on the one long wall in the back of the library. All the other lower shelves will be knocked out eventually. I have organized this long wall into bigger overarching genres and then their specific genres.
For example, we have "The Arts." In this overarching genre are two smaller genres: Performing Arts and Visual Arts & Fashion. All of the overarching and subgenres are as follows:
-Visual Arts & Fashion
-Criticism & Essays
-Mythology & Legends
-Animals & Nature
-Health & Psychology
-Science & Invention
-Government & Economics
-Social & Cultural Issues
-Nutrition & Food
-Vehicles & Transportation
Putting aside the "Other" genres that are going on the opposite wall, all of these overarching genres and sub-genres will be placed along the wall exactly like I listed above. The overarching genres are in alphabetical order as are the sub-genres inside of them. I didn't want to just put the sub-genres in alphabetical order because I wanted subjects to be with each other. That's the point of all this, right?!
So here's where I started. As you can see, I started with "The Arts," specifically "Performing Arts." Lucky for me, the shelves I was putting all those books are were completely empty! Why? Well, there was a giant low bookshelf in the way I no longer needed. Called up our AMAZING maintenance staff and ta-da! Bookshelf GONE!
The area is SO MUCH MORE open and inviting now. The carpet is still being glued down, and I don't even care that it doesn't match! Better to have that bookshelf gone. Our maintaining crew asked, "What are you going to do with all this space?" Nothing. Just allow kids to actually get to these bookshelves now!
Another big hiccup came was one I knew I would encounter. Halfway through my stickering process, I realized I wasn't fully separating out "Health and Psychology" from "Science and Invention." As a band-aid for the moment, I just switched everything over to Science and Invention. So now that I was in the move, I decided to switch it back out and properly tag everything. However, the easiest way I found to do this was to delete everything out of Science and Invention and re-scan everything into the proper copy category and sublocation.
While this set my back a bit, the process actually wasn't too bad with the help of my library tech. She re-stickered EVERYTHING to Health & Psychology while I scanned everything back in properly. I was glad we put in the effort to make this switch though!
Overall, here's where we stand. . . . .
Doesn't it look so pretty? Almost a year's worth of work is starting to pay off now. About halfway done with the move, and I'm hoping the second half we can knock out next week, just enjoying the beauty of it all our last week of school!
We're back at it here in the Ponderosa Library working away at our nonfiction genrefication update. Yes, that's still happening! I anticipated this project taking us quite some time, and it has indeed! It doesn't help that I am knee deep in my freshmen health research projects right now, and I'm prepping for the CUE conference presentation next week. Busy time! However, I have an AMAZING library assistant who has been helping me plow through and get the nitty gritty of this project done.
So where are we?
It doesn't help that I have been tied up with classes for the past solid month and have not been able to help my assistant. And this is something we'll be living with for a while so, honestly, we don't trust our aids to do this. We want everything to be precise and clean. Measure twice, cut once, right? Or something like that.
One of the things we are doing as we are stickers that is helping A LOT is that we are pulling up the record for the book before we sticker it just to double check and make sure that #1: we are using the correct sticker for it and #2: the record actually has a copy category and a sublocation! We have run into many books that either did not get tagged or don't have the right tag. We've made some small adjustments and even eliminated an entire category as we've gone through.
It's been very helpful for the entire process. My fear is that when we move everything something will be missed and we'll have no idea how to find it! Hopefully this is won't happen too much and we'll be able to make and educated guess as to where it is!
But look how pretty they look!
I'm absolutely loving how this is coming out. Actually, when we were getting pretty darn tired, we had a student come up to us with a book we already stickered pointing to it and saying, "Where can I get more books with this sticker?" Those kind of comments are keeping us going down this LONG haul.
I am hoping that once we are stickered, the physical move will go fairly quickly and smoothly. We'll see! I may be completely wrong! At least it will be something we can easily have our TA's help us with more.
So far 50 something sections done, 40 something left to go. . . . . . . .
Welcome back everyone to the 2017-2018 school year! Over here at Ponderosa High School I am starting my 4th year as a teacher librarian and my 14th year in teaching! I've reached the point when student or parent tells me, "You're really young!" I get excited! When I started teaching I was fresh out of school and so excited to have a drama position. I was single and thought I would never meet a man. Now, I'm next door to the theatre as the teacher librarian with a wonderful husband and beautiful 2 year old daughter with the name I always dreamed about, Charlotte.
So what new things are in store for the wonderful students at Ponderosa through my library! Well, we've started off with a bang! Over the past two weeks, we've been extremely busy. In the first week, we checked out 550 books to students! We had 3,614 patrons walk through our doors, averaging 722 per day. We've had two days over the past week where over 1,000 patrons walked through our doors. 27 classes came through the library. 19 of those received library instruction, mostly through books talks. So busy busy busy!
I have also been working on "sprucing" up the place a little before I go into my major NF genrefication project again in September. Mostly, I have bee finally getting around to improving some signage around this place! I worked on NF signage within my first year, but all my signage up by fiction has needed a little sprucing up!
In classes, it's been pretty much book talks and library orientations, but I did have the opportunity to work with our ICT (freshmen computer course) classes about some information literacy as well. I was VERY pleased with how the entire presentation came out. In the past, I have focused on Googling tips, validating websites, and how to use our library databases. However, this year I added in a fake news and information sorting part to it using the AWESOME website Checkology.
Overall, it's been a GREAT start to the year. I have many ambitions this year, but I need to maintain my focus on my primary one: my library space.
What are YOUR goals for the 2017-2018 school year? Let me know! We are all stronger together!
Hello everyone! So if you read my last blog post, you will have discovered that I started my Journey Towards Genrefication last month, and I hope my blog post helped and inspired some of your to take on the journey as well! As I started my journey, more and more I began to realize how important it was! Any doubt I had about genrefication was pretty much gone by the time I finished my goal for just the first week. So I wanted to take a moment to just jot down a few notes about how the beginning of my journey was going now that I've accomplished some work.
First, I've set out a schedule for myself. I've gone through my calendar, seeing who has already signed up for the library in March and April, and set out a schedule for myself for when I will be going through and weeding/categorizing nonfiction. Take a look at my April below.
What I've done is divided out our nonfiction into rows or sections and tackling each row or section on day at a time. I actually started this project in March one day a week. Because I was in the middle of our 9th grade health research projects, it was a little crazy on my end as I co-taught for a solid month with our health teachers! So I squeezed in once a week for weeding and categorizing. I'm hoping I can stick to this schedule above. However, I'm already behind! I think I have a plan to get caught up by the end of this week though. I've learned my lesson to be a little more flexible with my schedule. I have down in the details on my Google calendar exactly what section I will hit on that day, and I have definitely adjusted as I've gotten behind. April is the month I'll really be focusing on it, so you can see I'll be up to my eyeballs in books during this month! If all goes according to plan, I'll be done by May 5th!
So when I tackled my first row, and I already thanked myself that I didn't commit to any stickers. Row one consisted of everything from the 001's to about the 350's. As I mentioned above, if my belief in doing this was ever in doubt, after going through these sections, I have faith now!
So I took a step back and said to myself that I should weed a little further and evaluate my categories after I had weeded to see what was staying. In the end, I realized I needed to add a few categories and amend a few. Yeah for no stickers yet!
Here are the genres I ended up with:
A few were amended to clearly include other genres. For example, "Science" was now "Science and Technology." I don't believe I have enough books in my collection to support technology being it's own genre, but it fits in nicely with science. Later, I amended this again to read "Science and Invention" to incorporate the plethora of books we have on inventors and inventions! In addition to this, I amended "Health" to be "Health and Psychology." It just made it a bit more clear. In addition to this, I added the categories "Fun Facts" and "Self-Help and Inspiration."
It was one of those instances where I didn't think I had very many self-help books, but once I combined it with "Inspiration," I found the section started to flesh out more. Soon after, I encountered a TON of Chicken Soul for the Soul books. I weeded out all of them that weren't geared towards teens, but now I had a category where they could go.
Any books that have been on the table for a week go onto the cart. Any books that have been on the cart for over a week get boxed up. Boxes that have been there a while get officially surplussed! This is a simple system that has worked well in explaining it to TAs. The only problem has been that I'm moving a bit faster than the free books. So we've made some executive decisions about books we won't put out on the table and just directly surplus.
Next, I found it was EXTREMELY helpful once I reached about the 398's that the copy categories started lining up much more. I had whole shelves that were just "Myths and Legends" or "Nature and Animals." This made it easy for me to weed and then have a TA go back through and scan the books into the copy categories. This way, I could just set them up to scan and move onto the next section. This only really worked once I hit sections that had all books of one solid category though.
My last musing is that I'm excited to bring teachers in to take a look at what our collections holds and what I'm planning on weeding. I want to giver certain departments ownership over the collection. Many just may not know what we have. I want them to help me in deciding to keep something in our collection, make suggestions, and recognize what we have to offer.
I'm going to e-mail our art teacher right now. . . . .
So let me start with WHY I have decided to go this route. It fairly simple. Above all else. . . .I want students to read. And that's the big part: ABOVE ALL ELSE. I have been thinking for a while now that genrefication wasn't for me because it was more applicable to middle school and elementary school libraries. I was here to prepare kids of college. I needed to teach students how to find things in a library. I didn't want to rock the boat. There was no way I could do this with fiction because some books crossed over genres, and I didn't want students just sticking to one genre. I wanted them to explore them all!
And so on and so forth.
But it wasn't until CSLA this past year when we had the Queen of Genrefication, Tiffany Whitehead, as our keynote speaker that I began to open up my mind. And my long-held beliefs began to crumble because, again, above all else I wanted kids to read. Who cares if they just read all sci-fi books? Who cares if they don't know the Dewey Decimal System when they leave here? They will be readers. They will want to go to the library for resources. And that's the bottom line.
COME UP WITH A PLAN
Finally, before I touched a single book, I came up with a system of steps I was going to take to make the process as streamlined as possible within Destiny and the moving project in general. It is March, and I would like to have this project completed by the time we leave school. Yeah, I'm crazy.
So I needed a plan that would not completely disturb my library in the middle of the year, and I wanted to make sure I was efficient as possible. This is where the research really came in handy. So here is my process I will be going through. . . .
STEP ONE: WEEDING AND COPY CATEGORIES
I'll be going row by row in my nonfiction section and weeding first. Once the row is weeded, I will put the books into genres and use the "batch update" to scan in and change the category.
Wait, wait. . . .how did I do that? Take a look below.
As you will see above, these are the categories for nonfiction that I currently have, but I'm sure it will evolve. So I first created all of the categories under "Catalog" and then under the tab "Copy Categories." From there, I added all of the genres I eventually wanted my nonfiction to be in. IMPORTANT: Make sure the "Restricted" button is not checked. It will automatically be checked when you start this process.
As you can see, I have already started this process (just a little), so I have a few already in categories. If I click on "View" I will be able to see all the titles in that category.
I decided to mark the books with this first because it didn't have too much impact on Destiny on the student's end, but it gave me an excellent idea really quickly how many books we will have in each category. Through this, I will be able to decide how much space I need, how many stickers I will need, etc. Plus, through the copy category, I can globally change records pretty easily and quickly. I can also change call number prefixes, if I wish, globally as well. Thank you to Jennifer Sawyer who started me down this right path! I appreciate it!
So once all your copy categories are added, it's easy to update a bunch of titles into one copy category. Just use the batch update feature. Click on "Catalog," then "Update Copies," then "Batch Update." From there, select that you want to "Add Category" and select the copy category you would like to add to your books. Then just scan them all in and press update. Ta-da! All done!
STEP THREE: SUBLOCATION
Once all of the books are in categories, we will use the global update feature to add in a sublocation.
First, you need to add in the sublocations to match the different genres (or copy categories). The only way I have found to do this in Destiny is to go into editing a copy of ANY book. Then, you will click on "Other" by sublocation to add in different sublocations. Please watch the video below to see exactly how to add in the sublocations.
So to globally add in the sublocation into all of your books through the copy category, go into Catalog, then "Update Copies" on the left hand side, and then the "Global Updates" tab. From there, you can update the copy by category and add a sublocation globally.
I'm planning on doing this after I've gone through ALL of the nonfiction. So this step won't be done for a while. This is because adding the sublocation is something that students can see when they pull the book up in Destiny. I don't want any confusion mid-year, so I'm opting to do this once I'm ready to make the shift instead.
STE FOUR: SPACE, SIGNAGE, and STICKERS
So once I have all the copy categories added, I can evaluate how many copies of each genre we have and plan the move accordingly. We have one very long wall for our nonfiction and four short shelves towards the back of our library for nonfiction as well. My goal is to only have nonfiction on that long wall and knock out all of the lower shelving. Use the space for something else!
So that will mean cutting our nonfiction down by about 40% by my estimates. I'm up for the challenge, and I believe it is do-able as long as I keep chanting to myself, "Quality over quantity. . . .quality over quantity. . . ."
So once we know where exactly everything is going, we'll be able to start on signage and stickers for the project. Now, I did consider stickering everything as I was going along. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't I want to immediately know where all the genres are easily and quickly for the move?" A couple of things stopped me. . . .
First, I don't know how many stickers I will need AND the categories may change as I move along. I want to make sure I'm being efficient. Also, as I go through the rows, I will note what genres are in that row, so I can refer back to this as I pull a genre to relocate. Plus, I didn't want to confuse students or my library TAs that do all the shelving for us.
I just need to also make sure that as nonfiction books come back, my assistant is putting those books aside to get a copy category added to it before it goes back on the shelf. Important step!
Perhaps I am shooting myself in the foot and creating more work for myself by not stickering now. Time will tell. . . . .
STEP FIVE: DO THE MOVE!
And then, we do the move! Slowly but surely things will begin to evolve and change in the library, hopefully for the better. I'm hoping this will increase circulation in our nonfiction section, make it easier for students to find books they need for research, and make our library a more student-centered space!
Wish me luck! I've already started just a few sections, and it's already been an adventure. Back to it!
Well, it is a rainy week here in California, and I have just returned from CSLA (California School Library Association) for their annual conference inspired, excited, and. . . . .sick. Darnit. I would love to start running about putting some of my inspiration to use, but, alas, I am just trying to make it through the day today. My assistant is out ill, and I have my first classes coming through tomorrow and the next day for BreakoutEDU. Oh, and my daughter starts with her new nanny (a former student) on Friday. So. . . . . .it's going to be a long week!
But I thought this minor and temporary setback would be a good chance for me to sit down, take it easy for a day, and process all of my thoughts. So I have my cup of tea, a new desk chair (!), my piano music playing, and my pile of cough drops. Here was go. . . . .my big takeaways from CSLA 2017.
Well, if you want to get a room of librarians into a tizzy, go ahead and say that! I will admit, even I turned to my colleagues and said, "Yeah, that would work for elementary or middle school libraries, but a high school one? Forget it!"
So later I was accessing Tiffany's presentation materials from the keynote and the workshop I attended, I just started to browse through her presentation materials on "Ditching Dewey," a session I did not attend. . . . . .and I began to open my mind to the possibility of it.
And now, I'm in the planning stages of implementing it next year! I have made the compromise that I will not shelve fiction by genre. Fiction will stay separate, but my nonfiction. . . .we're going to have a date with weeding first, then color coding, ditching Dewey, and shelving my genre.
Exciting things to come! I'll be sure to chronicle my journey here. I'm looking forward to getting to know my non-fiction collection better.
#2: New Ways to Promote Library Services
A few interesting ideas came to light throughout multiple different sessions I attended on the role of librarians and how best to promote our services with our teachers and students. A few excellent light bulb moments happened that I plan to implement next year.
Light bulb idea #1: Ask my principal if I can be at the new teacher's orientation next year.
It was an excellent point someone made in a session. Many new teachers fresh out of high school may have no idea what a librarian can do for them because. . . .they never had one! California is ranked 50th (!) in the country for TL to student ratio! So these teachers may have no idea what a 21st century library looks like. It would be even better if the new teacher's orientation could happen in the library!
Light bulb idea #2: See if I can embed myself into a new cohort of teachers
Next year we have a history teacher, and English teacher, and a science teacher coordinating their units to use common language, common themes, crossover units, etc., and they will have the same set of students. I need to embed myself as a partner with these teachers! Help them bring in library resources, teach research skills, etc.
#3: Some Meetings I Need to Make
In addition to these new ways in which I would like to reach out to teachers, I have some ideas about how I would like to reach out beyond the walls of my library. . . even out of my district. . . . .to make my library better.
Meeting #1: Meeting with community college librarians
I attended a very revealing session on students that are placed in a remedial class when they enter community college and their success rates. To put it in a nutshell, if a student enters into community college and is place 2 remedial levels below, they have only a 14% chance of graduating. Those numbers are fairly staggering! So my fellow librarians and myself have decided that it's time we meeting with our local community college librarians to find out what we can do to help bridge the gap.
Meeting #2: Start going to the school board meetings of feeder schools
We are very fortunate in our district that we have four full time librarians and assistants in each of our libraries. However, our feeder schools are a completely different story. And our entire state is a completely different story! As I mentioned before, California is 50th (!) is TL to student ratios. And there is some very important legislation coming down the pipe to change all of that. So we need to start speaking at the school board meetings of our feeder schools, letting them know they are out of compliance and advocating to TLs in our middle and elementary schools, not just our high schools.
That's all for now! Another one of my promises was to keep up my blog more often. It's something I enjoy and want to get back to more. So hopefully you will join my on my genrefication process starting here soon.
Now to prepare for a rainy day lunch. . . . .YIKES!
BreakoutEDU is an extraordinary hands-on education activity based on the popular "escape room" phenomenon sweeping the world! If you have never done an escape room, you are missing out! It is one of our favorite date night activities, and we have a blast spending an evening puzzle solving!
I don't want to get into details about what Breakout EDU is. If you're not familiar with it, you can visit this video or their website for more information. I would like to spend this blog post concentrating on how to build an original game. While I am a certified "puzzle nut" and love a good escape room, I found myself floundering a bit when I tried to create my first original game.
I knew our AVID classes were interested in running BreakoutEDU for their classes as a general team building activity. So I set to work trying to create an original game for them because I wanted to go through the process of creating a game. Once my kits arrive (ANY DAY NOW!!), I am excited to run a workshop for teachers where they can experiece a Breakout in action! I wanted to be able to give them tips as well to creating their own game.
So here's what I discovered along the way as I created my first original BreakoutEDU game. . . . .
The idea was that the students were being recruited by Sherlock to become part of his investigative team, but they must past one last test. . . . .get into this box! After I figured out that theme, it helped when I went to figure out what puzzles I wanted to use.
You can search either "BreakoutEDU" or "Room Escape Puzzles" to uncover all kinds of interesting ideas from codes to ciphers to using technology in a Breakout. So explore Pinterest and pin some puzzles that seem interesting to you.
Tip #3: Use a brainstorming tool like Popplet
When I started brainstorming, I use the tool Popplet to be able to put all my thoughts for the clue paths in one place. Take a look below at what my final Popplet looked like for this BreakoutEDU Game: Sherlocked. Click on the picture to get a larger look.
You can see that Popplet allowed me to color coordinate my clue paths to specific locks. While this is the finished version, I was definitely NOT what my Popplet looked like on a daily basis! This Popplet morphed everyday into something new. What's also great about using Popplet is that you can share it with another person. So you and a collaborator can work together on the same puzzle, which I highly recommend! My husband helped me on this one.
Tip #4: When brainstorming, throw all interesting ideas up there
As you start to brainstorm, just like our students, it may seem difficult where exactly to start with creating your own original game. Your first step should be to put up there which locks you would like to use. Beyond that. . . . .where do you start? Well, for me I started with just throwing interesting puzzles I found on Pinterest or elsewhere up on the board in a different color. I used grey as a color on this Popplet for ideas I thought I might want to use, but I wasn't sure where exactly they would connect. Take a look at a few of the picture of my Popplet in different stages of development below.
As you can see from these images, my puzzle changed A LOT from the first stages until the end. It all started with just throwing ideas up there and moving things around, eventually connecting puzzles. Quite a few of my ideas were thrown out by the end of the process, and that's okay. I'm proud of the final version!
Tip #5: Make a good combination of physical and online puzzles
In the end, my game ended up having a blend of about 50-50 using online materials and physical materials in front of them. It can be easy to use the multitude of online puzzles, but one of the powerful parts of BreakoutEDU is getting them to use their observational skills. What is right under their nose? If they just looked at something a little more critically, what will they see? While having them do an online jigsaw puzzle might be efficent, why not have them do a physical one?
Tip #6: Make one puzzle easy, make another more difficult
While it might be easy to get caught up in these looooooooooooong clue paths that eventually lead to that one code they need, make sure that at least one or two of your puzzles is quickly solved. It gives students the satisfaction of getting that first lock open! It makes them want to continue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, have an idea of what you might want to have be the last lock they open. Make those clue paths longer. If you look in my clue paths, it's obvious that the 5 letter word lock and the small lock box are the easy and immediate boxes they will be able to open. However, the paths of the 4 digit lock and the directional lock will take them a much longer time!
Tip #7: Beta Test!
Make sure to beta test any games you do on a group of students or coworkers before you start running an original game with an entire class. I plan to beta test my game out on my assistant and IT guy once my boxes arrive. I have all the materials prepped and ready, and they are jazzed about being my guinea pigs! Beta testing your game will help you see if your clue paths are too long, if it's too difficult, if they end of going down the wrong path. . . .and you can get feedback on how to make your game stronger.
However, going to Room Escapes helped to prepare me for making clue paths. I even borrowed an idea from a room I've conquered for my Sherlock room escape. That test tube and liquid idea? Not mine. Totally a Room Escape steal. . . . .
Tip #9: Look at example games. . . .then alter them
The first BreakoutEDU that I worked on was a reworking of the Back to the Future game. I originally pulled the game thinking I could just use it as-is. However, as I examined it a bit futher, I began to come up with my own ideas that could work within the game. In the end, a couple of the clue paths were left untouched, but I managed to create at least one totally original clue path within the game. It was a nice stepping stone to creating my own original game.
Tip #10: Collaborate!
Two heads are better than one, right? This is especially true when it comes to building clue paths! Make sure to have a collaborator when creating your game. My husband was great about letting me bounce ideas off of him, and he helped me to declutter some clue paths.
All in all, I'm sure I will add to this list as time goes on, but I'm excited to try my first original game! I'll make sure to update you all as I beta test it and eventually run it with students!
Jennifer Zimny has been a teacher librarian at Ponderosa High School for the past five years and previous to that, she was the drama teacher for 9 years. She holds a BA in Theatre from CSUS, a teaching credential in English, and a teaching credential in Library Media Services from Azusa Pacific University
Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest