Thing 37: DIY via Thing 28: Emerging Tech

Flipping the Classroom

Flipping classrooms has been around for a few years and is slowly emerging in the elementary classroom but it presents a different set of problems at this level. First and most obvious is that it is unrealistic to expect young students to view coursework at home that they will need for the next day. Why? There are lots of reasons but a few that come to mind include after school activities, no access to a home computer, or daycare followed by dinner and an early bedtime. More common in an elementary school is flipping in school and having the students watch a video independently at their own pace while the teacher walks around providing support as students complete the worksheet associated with the video. Other teachers are taping their lessons and having absent students watch them upon their return to school. While attending a conference, I saw a new device that I think would be perfect for use in a flipped classroom: Swivl Robot.

maxresdefaultThe Swivl robot works with a tablet and a microphone on a lanyard. The robot turns and follows whoever is wearing the lanyard device and it records the audio of the person with the lanyard. Multiple lanyards can be used to record input from students. Although it isn’t cheap at $399, it is in line with other options that my school has considered like a wireless microphone, good quality video camera, and a tripod. The Swivl Robot would be a good place to start for a teacher that wants to begin flipping but doesn’t want to record all of the videos ahead of time. I am hoping to provide a demonstration of this device to my faculty in the fall and also hoping that my principal will find some money to buy one or two for my teachers to use. Fingers crossed!


I have been hearing about STEM for years with the increasing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math instruction in school but recently I have been hearing more about STEAM which is adding in the arts so that our students are well rounded. As someone who loves technology and math (not science or engineering so much), I can appreciate that there are some students who aren’t interested in STEM but STEAM gives them something to look forward to. But as I was reading more about STEAM, it got me thinking — isn’t this really a different kind of way to say ‘Liberal Arts’? A Liberal Arts degree is a broad spectrum of classes including science, math, and the arts. Whether I’m right or not, I definitely agree with the need for students to have a well rounded base of learning that includes STEM and the Arts — otherwise known as STEAM.

This year I created a Makerspace in my library where students may visit after eating lunch or during the last period of the day. I have robots, legos, art supplies, electronics kits, and idea books for students to use. The robots and electronics are very popular with many of the students but there are other students that prefer to use the art supplies to create something for themselves. I will continue to expand the Makerspace to provide STEM activities but I also won’t forget the importance of arts to some of my student population. Many some musical instruments is where I should expand next!

Arts & Crafts in the Makerspace
Ozobot in the library


Authentic Learning Opportunities

I don’t begin to pretend that I am an expert on this topic but I do know that it is something that my school is struggling to provide given the constraints of teaching using the New York State Modules which I feel take away a teacher’s creativity and flexibility. I believe that Project Based Learning (PBL) is a similar concept where students explore a topic and follow it wherever it leads even if it seems irrelevant to the original topic. As I only see most of my students one day a week, it is difficult to provide them with authentic learning opportunities.

The closest I have come to creating authentic learning opportunities is with my 5th grade classes using the Genius Hour or what I prefer to call it — ‘Passion Projects’. I have adapted the concept to fit my 40 minutes classes and the only limit I set is that they must provide written feedback on their progress before the end of each class. I told students to think of something they wanted to learn about and if they couldn’t think of anything then to learn about then they needed to think of something that makes them angry or upset.

I decided to do this project with these classes because they are unmotivated and tend to be lazy and I was hoping that research where they choose their own topic and when they were ready to present would provide them with the intrinsic motivation to actually do something. Boy have they surprised me. So far, every single student has found at least 2 facts about their topics and 3 students have already presented and are working on a new topic. Topics chosen by the students include the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, Dolphin Slaughter, Bullying, and Donald Trump.

Is this an authentic learning experience? Probably not in the true sense of the words but in the end because the students chose a topic they were passionate about, I think real learning has been accomplished. After students present we discuss the websites they used, bias, opinions vs. facts, and what other information that they might have missed. This is the first time all year that I have truly seen passion in these student’s eyes. To me, that makes it authentic.


I only picked a few of the topics that I felt were most relevant to my school and where I think we need the most work. Other trends included teaching complex thinking and adaptive learning technologies and these are areas that I think my school is on top of if not ahead of the ball game. We still have a long way to go and need to keep looking forward but I am optimistic that we are headed in the right direction.


Thing 36: Flash Cards, Quiz Games, and More

So many tools are available for quizzes and flash cards that it is impossible to just pick one. I have used Google Forms, Quizlet, and various crossword puzzle creators.

Games can be a good way for students to learn something that they need to memorize. For example, the Quizlet below was created to help my 5th and 6th grade students memorize the titles of the books and authors for Battle of the Books. I also print out a simple set of cards so that students can play a sort of memory game using them especially if they don’t have the Internet at home.

I have seen Kahoot being used in a very active 3rd grade classroom. At the time, the students were in pairs but only one student at a time could answer the question and the teacher grouped  teams separately from the game. Kahoot has since added a team function which would increase collaboration and also competition. Creating a new quiz in Kahoot only took me as long as it took for me to find pictures and decide on questions as it was that easy to use. It only took me a few minutes to create a quiz on the parts of a book that I could use with my 1st or even 2nd grade students. The drag and drop feature for adding pictures was a simple and quick way to add visual appeal to the quiz although it did add to the time to create the quiz. If you weren’t worried about images and already had the questions ready, you could have a Kahoot created within minutes and ready for your students to use. I have created a similar quiz using Google Forms but I think the students would love the competition that Kahoot  provides.

Although I didn’t create a quiz using StudyStack, I did check out a few of the premade quizzes and enjoyed playing them. I found flashcards about nonfiction terms that I could use with my upper elementary students sort of like a pretest to see what information they know and what I still need to teach (or reteach). While exploring further, I discovered that these flashcards could be turned into different types of quizzes such as hangman, matching, and crossword. These options would allow a student to choose the method that would help them learn the best which is a big plus over some of the other options I explored.

Last year right before 4th grade science testing, I collaborated with a 4th grade class to have them create flashcards to go along with the various science terms they would need for the test. We used an app called Lifecards – Postcards by Vivid Apps to create them and students were able to add at least one picture, the definition, and a sentence using the vocabulary term. The process helped them learn the terminology and they had fun finding a picture that would help them remember — not one that I thought would be best. Below is an example of one created by one of my students.


Flashcards, games, and quizzes are a great way to engage students in something that might otherwise be tedious to them. A student creating a quiz for the class would also be a roundabout way of assessing how much that student learned without them necessarily knowing they are being assessed. Although I primarily use quizzes as an exit ticket or summative assessment, that is not the only use for them and I’ll have to remember to use them the next time I find my students bored with their current assignment..

Thing 35: Student Digital Portfolios

When I was in graduate school for my Library Science degree, one of my last tasks was to create a digital portfolio filled with work I completed for the different standards to show that I had addressed all of those standards. At the time, there were very few options so I chose Google Sites. Please be kind as I haven’t updated this site since 2009 and I had to follow a very specific formula but if you’d like to check it out, here you go: Deborah S. McHugh’s Portfolio.

It was interesting to read that people have different ideas of what should make up a portfolio — only best work, all student work, only assessments, etc… What I would like to see in a portfolio is a collection of as much of the student’s work as possible so that you can see growth along the way but you might also catch where a student is struggling or where they are excelling or even a skill they have mastered and don’t need any more instruction. A student’s portfolio should also include work from all areas of the school including music, art, P.E., and the library since significant learning also takes place in these area of a school.

The thought of the need for students to being able to comment on work from their classmates never even occurred to me. Students today are very social in nature and allowing them time to read and comment on other student’s work can provide many hidden benefits: increases their reading and writing time but if implemented correctly requires students to use their critical thinking skills. How you ask? By teaching students that when they are providing a comment on another student’s work it needs to be more than ‘I love this!’ or ‘Great job’ but more along the lines of ‘I love how you used evidence from the text to support your answer’. This is a skill that is assessed on the standardized tests and this would be a great way for students to get practical experience using it.

In “The power of digital student portfolios” by Matt Renwick, the author mentions that we need to redefine data. There is so much more to student learning than a score on a test. Since I work in an elementary school, I have long believed that students should be given different methods to show their learning including verbal responses and/or videotaped responses. I have found that many of my students can provide the correct answer verbally but when I ask them to write the answer or pick a response via multiple choice, the students often pick the wrong answer. When I have raised this point with different teachers, I always get the same response, “They need to be able to write the answer.” But no one has been able to provide a good reason why this is the only truth. Providing students with a platform to record themselves is a great way to differentiate especially with shy or struggling students.

One of my first grade teachers is using Seesaw with her students and is having great success with it. But she is the one who is doing most of the uploading and hasn’t really taught the students how to access it and add their own work. My district is looking into ways to integrate technology and digital portfolios is one of the platforms they are exploring. The free version of Seesaw is adequate but it does require the teacher to share their password or provide the student logins to other teachers. Also, at the end of the year, a students work can’t be transferred to the next year which is a distinct disadvantage of the free version. Although the paid version is a little pricey, I believe the benefits are worth it: access to usage statistics, a central access point, and portfolios are transferable. In a district that desperately needs to increase parent engagement, Seesaw provides a simple way for parents to be involved.

Because of the cost to upgrade Seesaw, another option that the district is considering is Google Drive. The biggest advantage Google Drive provides is that the students already have an account and for the most part, know how to log in and access it. It also is easy to organize the documents into different folders and uploading different types of documents is also relatively painless for even the youngest student. Folders can be shared with parents if they have an email address. One of the biggest disadvantages, and I could be wrong, is that it is difficult for students to comment on the works of other students in the class. Each student would need to create a group and would have to share everything with this group. Also in my district, students are given a new email address when they begin middle school so unless the tech department transfers the Drive when they create the new email, then the student loses all of their work from elementary school. Although I like the simplicity that Google Drive presents, I don’t think it is the correct solution as it really only meant as a place to store documents.

Many of the options that I explored all have the same problem: no way to transfer work when the student moves or changes grade levels. Google Sites would be a good option but it won’t work at the elementary level because you must be 13 years or older to use it.

One problem that I don’t know the solution to is how to convince all teachers in the building that students need a digital portfolio. Many teachers are struggling to keep up with everyday tasks and adding one more thing to their plate might put them over the edge. Many of the different programs are easy to use but there is always a learning curve and unless they are required to use it, I think many teachers would choose not to use it despite the advantages that a digital portfolio can provide to them.

I think school librarians should help provide basic training to students on how to use a digital portfolio but I don’t think it should be done in isolation. Depending upon the platform used, the librarian is the logical choice to be the point person on creating the classrooms and transferring files/students as needed.

The world of education is changing and we need to find new ways to get our students involved in their own learning. Digital portfolios are an elegant, simple solution that I hope more of my teachers embrace in the coming years.

Thing 34: Annual Reports

This is going to sound like an excuse but I haven’t been collecting data since the beginning of the year so a true annual report will not be possible. That said, I will begin to gather information that will be helpful starting today.

One of my busiest times for interactions with other teachers is before my day contractually starts so I would like to keep track of exactly how I am spending this time. Frequently, I am checking out equipment, providing book suggestions, troubleshooting technology, and quickly collaborating all before my day officially starts. But right now, I don’t keep track of any of this so I really need to start documenting. I know this isn’t information that is strictly directly related to student achievement but in the end, these “distractions” do take away from my time to prepare for students thus indirectly related to students.

One of the changes in annual reports over the last few years is that there are a lot of good options that allow you to include different types of media. I try to incorporate student quotes in my newsletters but the idea of a video clip stating this same information has so much more impact on the viewer.

I also wonder if the newsletters are even read or just thrown in a pile with everything else. Smore is a website that can be used to create newsletters which can then be shared via different platforms. The website it pretty easy to use and provides options to add different types of media including videos and links to outside websites. The biggest advantage to using Smore is that it captures analytics and therefore you know how many times it has been viewed. The only problem is that in order to have this feature, you need to either upgrade to a paid account or have over 30 people view your newsletter. If you only want to share with your principal, then you won’t be getting the views that you need and would need to upgrade. Now I know what some of you are thinking — why not share it with everyone? I agree that newsletters should be readily available to all stakeholders, not just the principal but this still doesn’t guarantee that 30 people will actually open it.

I decided to go to my standard platform — Canva. I like the ease with which I can create almost anything and have even used it to create pretty cool worksheets for my students. It is like PowerPoint on steroids. You can add links to other websites but you can’t include videos which is definitely a downgrade from Smore. Still, I find that I prefer this platform despite the lack of analytics. Below is what I have for April so far although it isn’t yet complete.


For my report this year, I would like to include feedback from the 6th grade interviews that I will be doing in the next few weeks. I will also include information on the various projects completed with and without collaboration. I will highlight different projects with student quotes and standards that were addressed. Pictures will help break up the text and provide exemplary examples of the work that was completed. Of course, I will also provide the standard statistics on circulation, classes taught, professional development provided, and social media updates. One thing I do know is that I need to make it visually appealing first so that it actually gets read. Otherwise, it will be lost in the pile of ‘things to read when I have time’ and that would be a waste of a lot of hard work and time on my part. Additionally, the stakeholders would be clueless about all of the learning that is taking place in the library and that is something that I can’t afford to let happen!

Thing 33: Taking the Lead

I really like Jennifer LaGarde‘s idea to schedule time devoted to data collection. As someone who uses the app Tody to keep her house clean, it should have been obvious to me that I need to schedule specific tasks into my calendar so that they will get done. This tip couldn’t be more timely since it was announced this week that all district library clerks are being laid off. My library clerk is so much more than someone who sits at the desk and checks out books. Not only does she act as a TA and disciplinarian but she also makes it possible for me to focus on teaching and not the administrative aspects of running a library. Taking the time to create a schedule for the tasks that she currently does will ensure that at least the most important tasks are completed.

Losing my clerk has also given me the incentive to create a club for library helpers so that they can do basic tasks and free me of more mundane, boring work. I currently have a student who runs the circulation desk during morning check out but every year, I have many students asking if they can help but because of my clerk’s competence (and OCD tendencies), I don’t really have anything for them to do. Come September, I will have more work on my hands and will relish providing students with a skill and maybe someday when they are looking for their first “real” job, they will remember helping in the library and look for a job there.

When I first heard that I was losing my clerk, my thoughts went to what I would no longer be able to do — Battle of the Books, the Spelling Bee, open library. But after looking at the various readings, I think this would be the wrong tact to take not only with my principal but also with my fellow teachers and students. The loss of the clerk will no doubt make my job that much harder and I struggle with the thought of letting things lapse to prove how important the clerks are to the every day smooth running of the library. But at the same time, I don’t want my students (or teachers) to suffer any more than they already will so with that in mind, I know that I need to look at how to better structure and organize myself so that I can continue to provide library instruction and services at the highest possible level. A Library Helpers Club and scheduling time for everyday tasks will help me achieve this goal.I will continue to advocate for a clerk but until my efforts are reward, I will do my best to be the best librarian and teacher that I can be.

My “Elevator Speech”

When you enter the library, please don’t expect silence. The school library is place for active learning, collaboration, positive socialization, and creative exploration. Depending upon when you visit, you will see students completing research, playing with robots, looking for that just right book, or creating something using all of the manipulatives in the library makerspace. These activities support the district goal of providing students with the skills they will need to be college and career ready.

Students creating monsters using salt dough, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.


What do you think of my elevator speech? I struggle with being pithy while also providing the information needed and I’m not sure I got it right.

Advocacy and Marketing

Another idea from the readings was about providing professional development to my teachers. This year, I have provided a little bit of instruction to my teachers on vocabulary and some of the library databases but I know that I haven’t done enough. At the district level, I am not comfortable teaching a class to people I don’t know but I also know again, that I need to step out of my comfort zone and offer to teach a class. I attend a lot of great professional development and I need to be better about sharing what I have learned with my fellow teachers.

So how can I do this? In the readings, I liked the idea of a schedule of offerings to teachers with a short description of what will be taught. There are so many resources paid for by the district that aren’t being used probably because either the teachers don’t know about them or they don’t understand how they can be used in a classroom. I can begin with these resources and provide my teachers with a  quick introduction on how to use the resource but also with links, lesson plans, etc… to show how these technologies can be used by them and/or their students.

Currently I try to put notes about the library in the school newsletter at least 3 times a year. I know this isn’t enough and will work on increasing this to every issue but this is something that I struggle with every year. I also liked the idea of providing parents with an app or website that they may find helpful. With the prevalence of smart phones and tablets even in the poorest of homes, I think my parents would find this helpful and I know that I could easily find one app or website a month.

As a department, we put out a newsletter twice a year and I am the one who puts it all together. I like the idea of using Smore to keep track of how many people actually look at the newsletter but the newsletter as it currently stands has almost too much information and lends itself to not being read completely. Over the past year or so, I have encouraged my fellow librarians to include quotes from students and to make everything more students centered because that is where we have the greatest impact and what the administrators care about the most. This is relatively easy for my fellow elementary librarians because of our scheduled classes but is difficult for the middle and high school librarians who have a flexible schedule. I will continue to encourage newsletters that are student centered.

I have never done a year end report because I haven’t quite grasped how to collect the statistics necessary to include in the report. I am really bad about writing I don’t write down quick notes to remind myself about the different conversations, collaborations, technology troubleshooting, and other activities that I do that aren’t directly related to instruction. I also don’t keep track of how the library is being used by other people within the building. I can, however, gather evidence to show the direct impact my teaching has had on my students. I teach every grade level at least one research project every year and the research projects get more difficult with each grade level. Upper elementary classes conduct research that requires them to complete different tasks and culminate with some kind of overarching, synthesis question. With a little bit lot of hard work on my part, I will find the evidence to back my belief that I truly do make a difference in my students’ lives. Now I just need to share this definitive proof with the right people.

Thing 32: EBP – Collecting Data

Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are something that I used last year for about 3 months until all classes began to work on their research projects.Why did I stop using them? Because I thought I wasn’t getting any meaningful feedback from the students. My exit ticket asked students to reflect on something that they had learned in class that day. Inevitably with my younger classes, many of the responses said, “We read a book,” even when I hadn’t read a book. I was so frustrated by these responses, that I stopped doing the exit tickets.

But after reviewing all the reading materials, I realized that I stopped using a powerful tool to show my students’ learning. Although there were a few students in every class writing the same thing every week, more than half of the students were writing down something they did learn in class. I have to ask myself now why didn’t I see this positive side and only the negative?

This goes back to my organization and time management with classes. One of the marks that I consistently have difficulty with on my performance reviews is closure meaning I do not provide meaningful closure to a lesson. I struggle with this for several reasons:

  1. Although most of my classes are scheduled for 40 minutes, in reality most of my students only receive at most 30 minutes of instruction. Quite often I plan too much into a lesson and we don’t finish at a good closing point so I skip the closure.
  2. Many of my lessons are done over more than one class so finding a place to provide closure can be difficult or seem disconnected.
  3. My library clerk used to complain about the wasted paper and thought it was stupid. Yeah, I know — that isn’t part of her job but this is a frequent subject of discourse between us.

But in reality, these are just excuses. As a school librarian who was not a teacher first, this is an area of teaching that wasn’t really taught in graduate school. Even after years of observations, no one has sat down and explained to me why this step is critical. But intellectually I understand that closure is a way for students to grasp that the teaching part of the lesson is over and the time for independent practice has now begun. Closure is also a good way to quickly summarize the lesson and reinforce with students what they were learning in class that day.

I will begin using exit tickets but this time I think I will provide students with some options to choose from like some of the ones suggested by Joyce Valenza in “Evolving with Evidence: Leveraging New Tools for EBP“:

  • What is one thing you still don’t understand?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What did you accomplish today?

I especially like the question asking students what they accomplished that day because it makes them reflect back on not only their learning but also their own behavior which may have impacted how much (or little) they accomplished that class period. I also think this will negate some student’s inclination to say the same thing every week.


As a graduate student, I was required to create a online portfolio and I chose to use Google Sites. Since I graduated there are so many other, better choices but I never considered the need for me to have one, especially since I already have a job. But just because I have a job today, doesn’t mean that I will have a job next year or the year after that. Having a portfolio completed and up-to-date just in case seems like a pretty good idea right about now. If I was a consistent blogger, that would be the perfect avenue for me to showcase my work and my thoughts. Maybe someday.

I have often thought it would be nice for high school seniors to have a portfolio of work from their entire school experience that they could look back and see how much they have truly learned. Actually, I think this would be powerful for all students to look at their work from the beginning of the year to their work six months later. I think all of them would be astonished to see how much they really have learned in such a short period of time.

One of the best/easiest tools I have found for student portfolios is Seesaw. It is very easy for students to join and it is available on multiple formats including iPads, Google Apps, and Android. Once students have an account, they are able to take pictures of their work, add videos, or add digital content and Seesaw is designed with the student doing all of this independently. What a powerful way to empower their students in their own education. Seesaw has also added a blog component which makes this tool even more powerful. All content can be viewed by classmates, the teacher, and their parents after being moderated by the teacher. All of this is for free. They do offer a school account which allows work to stay with the student throughout their time at the school but at this time, I don’t have any idea on cost. If affordable, I would definitely consider upgrading to a school account.

Another more practical and cost effective portfolio that I could use is Google Drive because I am lucky enough to work in a school district that has provided a Gmail address for all students. Once students have learned to navigate through Google Drive, it is quite easy for them to add different types of media to store work that they have been completed. This can also be done on multiple platforms using the Drive app. At the end of each year, students could create a folder for all of the work they completed that year and it would be available to them as long as they had this Google account. This is definitely a low frills portfolio but in the long run may be the most practical one for my students.

Online student portfolios would provide a way to document evidence on student progress and skills learned throughout a school year. With my aging memory, they would also refresh my memory of all the lessons taught throughout the year and provide a way to assess what can/should be changed for the following year.


NoodleTools flew under my radar until about a week ago when I saw a post on Facebook where my fellow librarians were raving about it and how useful it was for creating citations. With further investigation, I discovered that NoodleTools is so much more than that. NoodleTools helps keep track of a student’s progress through the research process and a place for students to keep their notes, outlines, citations, and their written document. Another positive is that NoodleTools is available for free but also provide a school account for a minimal cost. I have placed it on my wish list for databases that I would like to have and hope to be able to purchase it next school year.

With the prevalence of plagiarism due to the ease of copying and pasting directly from the Internet, NoodleTools could provide a way to teach students good habits that they will be able to use in high school and/or college. Although I teach students the importance of citing their sources and require them to write down the link that they used, they find it exceedingly difficult to create a citation and don’t grasp the implications of not properly attributing information from online resources.

One of the readings suggested using the student’s bibliography to assess the resources they used and I think this is a fabulous idea. I personally struggle with allowing students to select their own resources because invariably they end up at or another website like it instead of seeking out reliable sources as they have been taught. To combat this problem, I usually pre-select sources for my students but I know realize that I really am not doing them any favors as they don’t get to practice evaluating resources which is something they desperately need.

Exit Interview

I really like the idea of an exit interview with my sixth grade students mostly because this is the first group of students that only had me as their librarian. The only downside with this is that there are only a handful of students that have been in my school since Kindergarten and I don’t think it would be fair to only include these students in the exit interview.

It would be interesting to discover what skills and/or projects the students enjoyed the most. My practice has changed a lot over the years and although I have adjusted lessons based on my perceptions, its would be interesting to see the students side of the same project.


In my mind, an exit interview is a good starting point to establishing a library advisory council which is considered a best practice for school libraries. How are the two related? One looks at what has been done over the past 7 years and the other looks at what will be done in the next 9 months. Once I have feedback at the end of this year, I can take this information to the advisory council and get their input on how to improve based on the feedback.

An exit interview is also one of the EBP that would be difficult to “fudge” the results. Children can be brutally honest and in this case, that is what I am looking for them to do. As much as I would like to only hear from the students who have been in the school since Kindergarten, I also think it would be valuable to get feedback from students that have had a different librarian. Even within my school district, the librarians all have different styles and methods and although I believe I provide the instruction my students need, it would be interesting to hear how someone else did it better and adapt it to my situation.

Plans for EBP in the near future

The school year is almost over so I will be hard pressed to find all the evidence that I wished I had been gathering since September. But over the next few months, I will use exit tickets with my upper elementary students to gauge their perceptions of their learning. I will also be contacting the 6th grade teachers to set up a focus group for the exit interview as I am totally intrigued by what my students might say. I will be using Seesaw with my first grade students and provide parents with information on how they can access the work their child completed in the library.

My district is looking ahead at tough financial times and I think it is necessary for me to start gathering evidence to show how much impact the library has on my students’ ability to answer questions. As this is a skill that I work had on with all of my students, I think the evidence is there. I just need to gather it all into one place and share it with all of my stakeholders.


Thing 31: EBP – Getting Started

Evidence Based Practice and how to measure my program’s effectiveness has eluded me up to now.

I was excited to see Evidence Based Practice (EBP) as one of the topics for this year’s class because I have been looking for ways to show that the skills I teach during my library classes are skills that will help my students succeed not only in school but later on in their life when they are in college or working at their first job. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out a way to prove this using data. After filling out the SLMPE Rubric this year and my principal’s question, “How are you going to improve your score?”, I realized that I needed to create a long term plan for the library and in this long term plan, I needed to address student achievement.

After attending several sessions on EBP at AASL this year, I still didn’t really have a clear idea of how exactly to measure the impact of my classes on my students’ achievement. With further reflection, I began to realize that one of my weaknesses is in getting closure with my students because I don’t give out grades and therefore don’t always follow through on assessing their projects. This is something I need to work on in the future and EBP gives me the incentive to figure it out. But where do I start?

Since I attended Ross Todd’s AASL workshop, The 4th E = Evidence!, I decided to look again at the EBP Action Plan Template and use it as a starting point. One of the areas that I think I am strongest is in formulating a question that requires students to use what they have learned into a synthesized answer. But how do I measure this? Looking over the workshop’s slides, I found on slide 38, “Students’ final products showed improved ability to analyze and synthesize information.” This is what I would like to measure but how do I measure that they have improved? Is this from the beginning of the year to the end of the year? Is it from one project to the next project? Is it from the beginning of one project to the end of the project? I still have so many more questions than answers at this point.

And then after discussing my mental block with another teacher, I had an aha! moment where I realized that I am overthinking it all. If I am looking for evidence to prove that my students have improved their ability to synthesize information, then I just need to look at the answers that the students have provided to my deeper thinking question. If students successfully answered the question using information they have learned through their research project, then they have improved their ability to synthesize information. So if 18 out of 20 students complete this task successfully, then I have evidence that 90% of students have improved their ability to synthesize information. With this in mind, now all I need to do is go collect that evidence and continue to create questions that make my students think harder.

The past few years my school has struggled on standardized tests. In an attempt to increase scores, my building is focusing on increasing the complexity of our questions and also working on the student’s writing process. For the past several years, I have helped teachers move their projects away from just regurgitating facts to having the students create something new with their learning. I have used deeper thinking questions as well as other strategies to help increase my students’ achievement related to question complexity.

This year I have focused more of my efforts on the writing process with my students in grades 1 through 6. I have required more writing in general just by having them write down what they have learned but I have also started to work on the review and edit process as well which I have never done in the past. I have even introduced some of my young students to Google Docs which gives me the power to look at the different stages of their writing and how it specifically changed from a rough draft into a final, mostly perfect copy.

I really liked Joyce Valenza’s idea of an end of the year focus group and learning from students what they feel they learned and what could be improved. This is something I will be doing this year and hopefully many years to come.

With the clearer vision of where to look for data, I will pursue additional ways to gather including reintroducing an exit ticket that I used for part of the year last year but stopped when the research projects began. I now realize that I should have continued to ask students to reflect on what they accomplished that class. If nothing else, this would have been a good way for the students to reflect on how well (or not) they worked that day.

I am a long way from feeling confident with EBP but also feel that I am on the right path and just need to remember to find it when I get distracted by the proverbial squirrel.