Monday, April 23, 2018

Guest Blogger - Katherine (Katie) Darrin

Creekside Curiosity Center & Boulder Bookstore Partner for Book Fair 

Katherine (Katie) Darrin, Teacher Librarian | Creekside Elementary

The Boulder Book Store is trying to increase partnerships with local schools with their own version of a Book Fair. The Creekside Curiosity Center was happy to host the first Boulder Book Store Book Fair during fall parent teacher conferences. For those of you interested in trying something other than Scholastic, here is some helpful information:

  • The fairs do not have a theme and they do not come with any decorations. You provide your own book displays and theme (if desired).
  • The inventory includes books, books, and more books: there are no toys, trinkets, or posters. This is probably a pro for some and a con for others!
  • You are able to specify which types of books you want, including Spanish titles, and the restock process was easy and quick.
  • The overall quality of the books was much, much higher than what I’ve experienced with Scholastic. There was much more variety and a lot of brand new titles, which students and their families loved. 
  • The books were more expensive than Scholastic books. There were some less expensive options, but there weren’t any dollar books. That being said, we made the same profit as we did the previous year with a Scholastic Book Fair, so parents and students still shopped!
  • At least one Boulder Book Store employee helps with the setup and breakdown of the book fair, as well as cashiering if/when needed.
  • The register system was much less cumbersome than Scholastic (though I’ve heard they have new registers): Boulder Book Store uses a tablet system. You do need Wi-Fi, and be sure to ask for the tablet password prior to the start of the fair!
  • The commission from book sales can be taken as cash (20% of pre-tax sales) or in books (30% of pre-tax sales).
  • The in-school fair can be complemented with an in-store fair during the same week. Books purchased in the store will also go toward the commission: 10% if cash and 15% if store credit.
We had a very positive experience hosting a Boulder Book Store Book Fair at Creekside and plan to do it again next school year. If you have any questions, please contact at the Boulder Book Store for more information!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Guest Blogger - Maura Rhodes

Digital Bulletin Board 

Maura Rhodes, Teacher Librarian | Fairview High School


How many of you notice digital signage everywhere we go? Many public spaces have them including our public libraries and many of our newly renovated spaces do as well. I wanted to incorporate this into the high school library as a way to publicize events that were happening and also de-clutter the walls from all the flyers. I receive constant requests to have flyers placed all around the space on the walls, windows, etc. I try to keep the signs and flyers to one large bulletin board at the entrance to the library but it can get crowded and it has to be maintained. As a solution, I wanted to a have a digital bulletin board--I envisioned a large TV/monitor, centrally located, placed at the right height so it could be easily seen, and would allow me to update content on the fly. 


I spoke with several people about system set-ups through email and phone calls, did research about the best set-up for digital signage to learn which solution would be the least expensive and the most easily managed. I wanted to be able to update announcements and not have to actually go and plug something into the TV each day or do anything too complicated. After investigating many options and prices I decided on the following solution.


In September, I wrote a grant for our Parent Organization to fund this project. I originally asked for $1200 dollars and got $800 dollars. I created a full scale mock up of the the TV display with black banner paper and placed it on the wall of where the display would be located. I wrote on the paper in chalk what was going to be there and asked students comments and feedback. Many of them had positive things to say and approved of the idea. Next step, contact the IT department to come and take a look at where I wanted to put the display and to make sure it would be feasible. This required an IT work request ticket. 


  • Chrome Sign Builder app (free), 
  • Electrical outlet 
  • Chromebox (about $200) or Chromebit (about $60) BVSD device
  • Ethernet jack if you want it wired or can be wireless
  • TV/ monitor compatible with device


I had the district electrician put in an outlet, IT department ran the CAT 5 cable and plug, and the maintenance department hung the actually TV. Each department charged a fee for their service. If you already have the outlet, then there would be no fee, but the maintenance department should hang the TV, just because of liability issues. I choose to get a 40” TV/monitor (which is really sized 39”) for $329 because of where I was placing it and also at my principal’s request. The smallest TV/monitor the IT department sells is a true 43” Sony model (at $706). The Chromebox needs to be a district device so they can be enrolled by into the Google Administration console. I happened to have an extra Chromebox so it was simple to give IT the info they needed to get the device enrolled. 

Voila, Digital Bulletin Board

I created a Google slide deck/presentation, published it the Web, this creates a URL that opens the slide deck in presentation format.This URL was shared with IT who then added it to the Chrome Sign Builder schedule which is a calendar that allows you to schedule when information will display. When I make changes to the slide deck it automatically updates the presentation on TV display. I also set the transitions to SLOW so, when the screen moves from one slide to the other it does it at a slow pace. I wanted to show flyers, book promotions, OverDrive info, seasonal info, images, etc., throughout the day on our digital bulletin board. I delete things as events pass and keep a few that are persistent. For example, “Keep the Castle Clean” is a general reminder about taking care of the library space. I have about 55 slides showing now on the screen and it just continuously loops all day. All I do is turn the TV on and off each day to get the slideshow going. Students really stop and look at it too! They love seeing pictures of themselves. 

Guest Blogger - Tracy Huffman

Mobile Maker Kit Reflections: Change How Learning Looks for Students

Tracy Huffman, Teacher Librarian | Superior Elementary

Mobile Maker Kit Supports Redefining the Library

Using the Mobile Maker Kit for the month of December was a profound experience at Superior Elementary and helped our staff begin to make a philosophical shift in not only expanding the definition of the library, but also redefining how learning can look. I have been a teacher at Superior Elementary since it first opened in 1996, and the school library has remained a very traditional space where students checked out books and listened to stories. Teachers have been eager to reinvent the library and as a staff, we are in the process of changing how the space is used, the resources available, and the actual role of teacher librarian. During the first week in December, we were fortunate to have an entire staff meeting dedicated to exploring the tools in the Mobile Maker Kit. Immediately, teachers saw potential to use the kit with specific areas of their grade level curriculum and were also interested to explore how various tools could be used in open-ended challenges. It was an ideal way to kick off the month and energize grade level teams prior to using the kit.

Mobile Maker Kit Ignites Excitement for the Library and Learning

The Superior library is in the center of the school on both the first and second floors of the building. Possibly in response to an era of schools being built without any windows, our school is unique with windows everywhere! There are so many windows that one could stand in almost any classroom in the building and see through several windows to the library. After a semester as teacher librarian, I am getting used to teaching in a fish bowl, and I’m even beginning to see the benefits. During the month of December, students would be walking through the halls, peer into the library windows to see other students using Ozobots, Spheros, Cubelets, Keva Planks, Makey Makeys, etc., and would literally stop to stare. Repeatedly, students would come by the library to find out about the tools and ask when their class would be using them in the library. The excitement was so palpable that students would leave the library asking for more, and teachers scheduled extra sessions in the library. With time being the most valuable commodity that we have in education, some teachers were wanting to spend the entire month of their grade level library time using various tools in the kit. As educators, we marveled at how engaged and motivated all students were as they used the tools in the kit.

"...learning was much more centered around the process than creating a final product."

Our staff is eager to change how learning looks for students; we want students to do the work, be the creators, and solve the problems. However, we haven’t been entirely sure how we would change our instruction or where to begin. Watching K-5 students utilize the Mobile Maker Kit tools over the month of December was a meaningful way to see how specific tools boost engagement, provide real world connections, and increase opportunities to create. We also observed students sharing ideas, listening to each other, incorporating various ideas, being strategic, re-reading directions, revisiting and reworking their original plans, and persevering. Believe me, there were times when things didn’t work (even when directions were followed), students were frustrated, and working together was challenging. The difference for students was that they were more willing to keep working because they were invested. The difference for me as an educator was that I didn’t feel like I had to fix the problems. In fact, students weren’t asking me for help and were motivated to persist on their own. Reflecting on the success of using the Mobile Maker Kit tools, I realized that the learning was much more centered around the process than creating a final product. At the same time, I have also realized creating a new vision for the library is also a process. Collaborating with the staff, changing our instruction, taking risks, and learning together as we try new ideas with our students is not only making a difference in redefining the library, but also in how learning looks at Superior Elementary.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Guest Blogger - Loran Latters

Invention Literacy with Makey Makey

Loran Lattes, Teacher Librarian | Whittier International Elementary 

I was lucky to attend a full day Makey Makey educational seminar run by CU Science Discovery this past August. We were given a 30ish minute overview and Scratch introduction and then were set free to explore, collaborate ,and create. They have a website full of useful links and advice at Invention Literacy with Makey Makey and Scratch and offer a class set of Makey Makey devices twelve (12) available for a two (2) week check out. No charge even when we broke a couple of the alligator clips.

I sent out an email plea to our families asking for specific supplies. I then purchased play dough and foil and we were ready to go.

In the Library & Classrooms

I see each class for about an hour each week on a set schedule with two 2 hour blocks each week for pushing into classrooms. The projects were going to be a one class exploration for 2nd and 3rd graders and a two class design thinking project for 4th and 5th grades. The projects were such a hit with students and teachers that we created time for a third session in their classrooms.

The excitement. The engagement. The learning... 

The class leadership opportunities. The perseverance. Our exploration of Makey Makey was such a success on many levels. We were holding an after school parent/child coding program for our ELD families at the time and they had been using Makey Makey. Our ELD students, therefore, became the class experts and really embraced leadership roles. It was very insightful to see students strengths and weaknesses in this different learning environment. We were able to follow a simple design cycle process and brainstorm ideas for using this model for other projects in and out of school. 


We were so smitten with Makey Makey that our 5th grade team is pooling money to buy a class set. Students are helping to design a project for their health unit this Spring using Makey Makey and other information sharing tools. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they create.

Choose Your Own Adventure Storytelling

Mad Libs

Game creation in Scratch

Guest Blogger - Kim Butler

Making the Most of an Author Visit

Kim Butler, Teacher Librarian | Birch Elementary

...a rich and meaningful visit

I had never worked personally with Todd Mitchell before, but I was aware that he had visited my school in past years. He wrote the Traitor King and it was a popular text with my 5th grade teachers. Since then he ventured into some YA stories, Backwards and The Secret to Lying (I read both and they are excellent). Now he’s written another book for older elementary kids and we invited him back to visit with our students. He actually contacted us for this visit, and along with the visit he had arranged for donors to help him donate a copy of the book to all of the 5th graders. We got the books about a month before he came to visit and it allowed the 5th graders to read through the whole book before they met with him. The result was a rich and meaningful visit for both Todd and the students. The book is called The Last Panther and it has a lot of curriculum connections we were able to use with the students. He has a lot of information available at his website.

He met with third through fifth grades to discuss endangered animals and writing, an extremely engaging session. After that he did a writing workshop with the fifth graders and signed books that were ordered. The students had all written thank you notes to him, and he later responded to the class after reading each one. Finally, we had every fifth grader write a review of the book using this template and are going to ask parents to post the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads over Winter Break.

Mr. Mitchell was incredibly easy to work with. He’s based in Fort Collins, and he was generous with this time and thrilled to work with the students. In the past, he conducted a writing workshop with teachers. He has a system for ordering his the paperback all ready so it was just a matter of filling in some dates and sending the copies out.

Authentic Writing and Reflecting on A Text

The teachers were thrilled with his visit and they felt the students got a lot out of it. In addition, the fifth graders had several opportunities to do some authentic writing and reflecting on a text.

Checkout these excerpts from the review assignment:

“I love the book The Last Panther it is so thrilling and I just want to keep reading whenever I need to stop. I believe that  perseverance is the main idea of this book because Kiri didn't give up no matter what.”

“I like this book because I like suspense,adventure and mystery, this book falls into all those categories. I think this book could teach other people about being courageous because Kiri has to go to many different places and face many challenges along the way there. Kiri is very courageous. I love this book it is my favorite right now. I give this book a 5 star rating!”

“The book The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell is a really good book and has a good story and ending and my favorite part is, well, if you haven’t read the book I can’t tell you. Kiri and the panther will keep you up the whole night reading along with the stories rest of its wonderful cast of relatable characters, they did it to me! I like this book because it is so unique, you won’t find anything like it! I would encourage anyone who likes fast paced adventure to read it.”

Overall this was an incredible author visit, made all the better because the kids were familiar with the book. I highly recommend contacting Mr. Mitchell for a visit, or at least including his work in your collections.