Search Results for "virtual school"

Virtual School Age: Coding

I’ve been part of my library’s virtual storytime team over the last month, and today, it is my turn to expand into virtual school age programming.

About three years ago, I started the Innovation Academy programming series because of a technology grant that gave us about $5000 in tech ideal for ages 8-11. The program series was popular, as anything with technology seems to be, but after a few years I grew close to burnout with tech. I was one of the only staff members interested in tech programming, and I felt obligated to keep creating it since there was a patron interest.

We had a mixed audience at every program, which made it difficult to plan. I couldn’t move on to advanced content because at least a third of every program’s attendees would have never used any kind of tech before. Another third would have come to every single tech program I had done in the last 2-3 years, and they would quite loudly complain that they had done this activity before. The other third would be some combination of the previous two, while also regularly letting me know that they had more advanced tech at home or at school. Oh, and there were also the kids who were too young to be in the room and couldn’t read (and didn’t have the patience to try to work through any kind of problem solving).

Luckily, last year, our department divided up the Innovation Academy program series, expanding its content to cover more than tech but also expanding the staff who ran the program. This gave me a much-needed technology break, and while I can’t say I am ready to jump back into monthly tech programs, I don’t mind the occasional offering, and I definitely don’t mind trying to translate that content to a new medium–online!

My library decided to approach school age programming so that:

  • Ages are expanded–all programs have materials for ages 6-11.
  • Attendees register via Evanced (our regular event registration software).
  • On the day of the event, the program presenter will email attendees a video introduction as well as a PDF with resources, content, and activities to do at home.

My first program goes live today, so I don’t know what the patron feedback will be. Four days before the event, we already have 60 sign-ups, which is fantastic! Our first school-age event from last week, virtual Young Engineers, received a great response from virtual attendees, so I’m hoping that pattern continues.

Content

This session’s intro video is below. It is boring. I’m going to work on ways to make it more engaging–including seeing my face talking–for next time, but I was determined to get this done this week, and double storytimes meant that reading my notes instead of talking was just easier.

Participants can watch the video, or they can move straight to the packet, included below. It covers the vocabulary reviewed in the video, and also provides four pages of coding resources for all levels of coders, from beginning to advanced, including unplugged, block-based, and text-based coding activities.

Pros and Cons

Obviously this format is different than standard library programming, and there isn’t too much we can do about that. Until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, our world is going to look different. Encouraging people to gather for entertainment purposes, while mentally helpful, is simply dangerous at the moment. Speaking personally, my life, my coworker’s lives, and our patron’s lives aren’t worth creating an hour’s worth of entertainment–or learning–right now. When stay at home orders are lifted, some people will run from their homes to any open location–that doesn’t mean we are obligated to amuse them at our own personal risk. Other people will stay home and prioritize their and other people’s safety.

Everyone will make their own choices, and virtual programming allows us to reach people in a way that is safe for everyone. Unfortunately, it means we will be missing people, especially those that need our services the most. I don’t have an answer for that, but I will say that in almost all cases, in my particular library, the people who are coming into our library to attend our physical programs are not the people who don’t have Internet at home. They may make choices about screen time limits that may make it hard to attend our virtual programs–and honestly, if you are able to stick to those limits in these crazy times, good for you–but they still have access if they choose to use it.

I don’t think temporarily moving our programs virtual is preventing our regular users from accessing the library. Figuring out how to reach those folks who could never make it into the library in the first place is a bigger question, and virtual programming may actually be opening doors instead of closing them. According to Pew Research, 68% of low income families use social media (with Facebook being by far the most popular tool). While I don’t have the statistics, I will bet that 68% of our low income families don’t visit our library regularly.

Obviously, no matter how I try to spin it, there are still cons to online programs. They feel impersonal. I can’t adjust a program based on a participant’s response. I can’t lead them through a problem the same way I could in person. I can’t give them physical items to work with and explore, from robots and 3D printing pens to even simple craft materials. I don’t even know how many participants opened the files I sent or actually did any activity. People could really struggle with what I provide, or simply not like the format, and I may never know.

To end on a positive note, however, there are small good things to focus on too. So many of those reasons that I was burnt out on tech disappear here. I can provide activities and resources for all ages and abilities–from those preschoolers sneaking their way into school-age programs to the attendees that have been coding for years. I’ve got you all covered.

Online programs can promote family engagement in a way that in-library programs can promote peer-to-peer learning. Adults learn about fun ways they can connect with their kids without having to spend money on robots and 3D printing pens and craft supplies. Programs can be completed whenever is convenient for a family–as soon as an email is distributed, after work is done, over the weekend, a year from now. If the baby is super grumpy, a family doesn’t have to worry about leaving the house and arriving 30 minutes late. If a kid is really, really, really bored with Scratch, they don’t have to yell that at the top of their lungs in a room of their peers–they can just try Code Combat instead.

I want to get these kids back in our programming space–I miss them. I miss watching them grow up over the last few months, and possibly over the next year. Virtual programming provides us a bit of everything–while we don’t always get to see the kids, we still get to connect with families, share some cool learning opportunities, and connect our patrons to the ideas, interests, and passions that matter to them. Just with a little more distance between us and them.

Virtual School Age: Virtual and Augmented Reality

I’ve been part of my library’s virtual storytime team for the last few months (and into the summer). Last week, I had a chance to dive into school age programming again.

This was my second foray into a virtual Innovation Academy program. I received zero feedback from the first program or from this program, so I have essentially no idea what patrons thought of either event, or if they even opened the documents I sent. So it goes with virtual programming.

Read more about the how, why, and pros and cons for this particular program series in my last post on this topic: Virtual School Age: Coding.

Some details on how this series works:

  • Program materials are designed and curated for ages 6-11.
  • Attendees register via Evanced (our regular event registration software).
  • On the day of the event, the program presenter emails attendees a video introduction as well as a PDF with resources, content, and activities to do at home.

Content

The challenge with tech programs at home is coming up with tech ideas that only use technology the average family is likely to own–essentially, a computer and a smartphone. Coding was an easy choice, but so many of my regular in-library programs rely on physical technology (3D pens, 3D printer, Bloxels, various robots, etc.).

Augmented Reality just involves a smartphone–something that many people may already own (or at least those people who are signing up virtually for a virtual event).

I wanted to make this program a bit more focused with activities that build based on your knowledge and age–starting with defining the concept, moving on to exploring the concept, and finally creating something on your own.

This was a great plan until I spent way too many hours trying to find a tool that allows kids to create their own Augmented Reality apps or games. This feels like it should exist, and it does in a few forms, but most of those forms involve (1) apps that are outdated/don’t work with the newest Android/Apple updates, (2) software that costs money, or (3) apps that are in development by Princeton and will be SO COOL in three years.

To allow for that “create” portion of the program, I expanded the program topic to “Augmented and Virtual Reality.” While you can’t explore virtual reality without a headset, you can create some cool virtual reality tours with Google that can be made and shared without needing a headset. Is it as cool without a headset? No. Does it still get the point across? Yes.

Just like last time, I provided an instruction video for participants:

Participants can watch the video, or they can move straight to the packet, included below. It covers the concepts reviewed in the video, and also provides a written explanation of the resources and tutorial shown in the video.

Virtual School Age Program: Dog Man BINGO

Dog Man BINGO! There is so much Dog Man love in the universe. This program was pulled from my Dog Man to the Rescue! in-person 2019 Dog Man event, with some minor tweaks to work as a virtual event.

This had a bit more interest than Book Character BINGO a few weeks ago, though I don’t think BINGO draws excitement the same way trivia does. We are experimenting with a weekly live after school trivia/BINGO style event in September, and I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

Find more program fun at past BINGO and Dog Man events:

And other virtual school age programs:

Content

We played three rounds of BINGO, two where we aimed for five in a row, and a final coverall game, allowing everyone to get a BINGO.

Watch the video here:

All of the BINGO cards have the same 24 characters on them (plus the free space). I include a number beside each character image to help kids and grown-ups quickly find characters or book covers they are unfamiliar with.

Download the BINGO cards here:

I also curated an at-home fun packet, featuring an activity page for each of our book characters. Download here.

And, of course, a Dog Man BINGO printable certificate:

Virtual School Age Program: Disney Trivia

I am a Disney fan. I worked at Disney for about a year though the Disney College Program, we grew up growing to the parks and watching the movies, in non-pandemic days I vacation there fairly regularly. So hosting Disney Trivia was a bit of its own dream come true.

We didn’t have a big audience for this – about 45 people (this was no Dog Man Trivia). I think the questions might have been a bit too hard for the intended age range (6-11), though for the players who stuck through to the end, everyone had near perfect scores.

Content

My questions were shared via screensharing a PowerPoint on Facebook Live (details below under Logistics). Twenty questions, followed by going back through the twenty questions faster to review the answers.

Watch the full video here:

*The video cuts off at the very end. I think the internet went out.

View and Download the PowerPoint below. The fonts I used (that didn’t seem to copy over) were Century Gothic and Grobold:

More links:

Disney At Home Fun Printable Packet

Disney Trivia Music Playlist

Reserve Disney Book

Printable Answer Sheet

Disney Trivia Master Certificate

Logistics

Like many of our school age programs, trivia was hosted on Facebook Live, though this could easily be translated to whatever platform your library is using for virtual events.

There are many great tools out there for trivia. Kahoot is a particularly popular tool that I’ve seen used frequently. That tool asks participants to play along on their phone or another device while watching the livestream, and the system times the questions and ranks participants. While I like that concept for an adult or maybe teen trivia, when there are no prizes involved, I don’t like that system for kids. Plus, it involves a second piece of technology, and for families playing along, it may be especially difficult to have each kid play individually.

My questions were added to a PowerPoint, shared to Facebook using their livestreaming screenshare technology. Some detailed tips for those interested in trying a program this way:

  • Make your slides “widescreen” so they fill up the viewers full computer, phone, or TV screen. Do this by going to Design – Slide Size in Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • I don’t like the clunkiness of viewers seeing me open my powerpoint after going live. To always just have the powerpoint as the center of your screen:
    • In PowerPoint, start the “Slide Show” mode, making your PowerPoint full screen.
    • Use the Windows key (not ESC) to exit the Slide Show presentation view. This key leaves it open in the background.
    • Start your Facebook Livestream. Instead of sharing your entire screen, just share one application — the Slide Show view of PowerPoint.
    • Return to the Slide Show view to change slides for your participants. Always use the Windows key to exit. If you use the ESC key, you won’t be able to restart the slideshow without creating a new livestream.
  • Using the steps above, you cannot easily see the comments during the presentation. I have my phone nearby with the livestream running, allowing me to see questions and comments as they come in. A coworker posts links and types responses to the comments, and I respond verbally as I can.

These are supposed to be 30 minutes, but I talk too much, and this, like previous similar programs was closer to 45 minutes.

This is part of a weekly livestream “after school” series on Tuesdays at 4:30 pm in September. I’m not sure if our audience will stick around, but I sure hope we keep up a following with this style event at a consistent weekly time.

Virtual School Age Program: Book Character BINGO

Book Character BINGO! This was my first virtual event with very low attendance. I had two families play during the event, with about five more play later in the day. I think our virtual programming’s popularity is directly connected to how popular the related franchise is. Pokemon = popular. Dog Man = popular. Generic Book Characters, even with some popular ones thrown in = not so much.

Setup

This program took place on a day I was required to work in our library, so my setup is a bit different. To have a mask off, I have to be in a closed room, and my only real option was the library board room. One wall is a giant window, another is glass facing admin, and the other two are covered in framed awards and maps. I set up in front of the mini dry erase board:

This isn’t the most convenient setup, but it allowed me to have all of my technology connected and have a cute background.

I was planning to livestream from my laptop, but after all the technical issues I had during Dog Man Trivia last week, I decided to use my phone for my cellphone’s internet. Our work wifi is spotty, especially in our filming space, and the publicly circulating hotspots don’t actually work in the library (bad network coverage).

This involved a lot of technology, including:

  • Phone on tripod with phone mount for livestreaming
  • Laptop for watching stream and responding to comments (off camera)
  • Speaker and iPod touch for background music (off camera)

Content

We played three rounds of BINGO, two where we aimed for five in a row, and a final coverall game.

Watch the video here:

All of the BINGO cards have the same 24 characters on them (plus the free space). I include a number beside each character image to help kids and grown-ups quickly find characters they are unfamiliar with. I also used this as an opportunity to book talk some of the characters on the BINGO cards.

Download the BINGO cards here:

Try this link for a lower-quality download (but a smaller file, easier to print).

A full list of the book characters featured (linked to my library’s catalog):

  1. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (series)
  2. Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi (series)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (series)
  4. The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (series)
  5. Smile by Raina Telgemeier (series)
  6. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (series)
  7. An Elephant & Piggie Biggie! by Mo Willems (series)
  8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  9. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean (series)
  10. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
  11. Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro (series)
  12. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (series)
  13. Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann (series)
  14. Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor (series)
  15. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr.
  16. Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton (series)
  17. The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey (series)
  18. Don’t Throw It to Mo! By David Adler (series)
  19. Mia Mayhem Is a Superhero by Kara West (series)
  20. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (series)
  21. Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill (series)
  22. Sadiq and the Fun Run by Siman Nuurali (series)
  23. Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee (series)
  24. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (series)

I also curated an at-home fun packet, featuring an activity page for each of our book characters. Download here:

And, of course, a Book Character BINGO printable certificate:

Virtual School Age Program: Dog Man Trivia

I enjoy the Dog Man books. I find them genuinely funny, with great character development and subtle nods to the classic books they are sometimes very loosely based on. Kids devour this series, and I find a loveliness in them rooting for a hero who hasn’t said a word over eight books.

Even though Dog Man won our last Book Tournament voting contest, and it is, without question, the most popular book series in our library, I underestimated its popularity going into virtual Dog Man Trivia. I expected a small crowd (Pokemon Trivia in June had around 55 attendees; surely Dog Man would be less). Nope. 101 people. 345+ comments. Even with technology issues during the livestream, people attended, participated, and were engaged with the questions and each other.

Content

My questions were shared via screensharing a PowerPoint on Facebook Live (details below under Logistics). Twenty questions, followed by going back through the twenty questions faster to review the answers.

Watch the video here:

View and Download the PowerPoint below. The fonts I used (that didn’t seem to copy over) were Century Gothic, ObelixPro, and Grobold:

More links:

Logistics

Like many of our school age programs, trivia was hosted on Facebook Live, though this could easily be translated to whatever platform your library is using for virtual events.

There are many great tools out there for trivia. Kahoot is a particularly popular tool that I’ve seen used frequently. That tool asks participants to play along on their phone or another device while watching the livestream, and the system times the questions and ranks participants. While I like that concept for an adult or maybe teen trivia, when there are no prizes involved, I don’t like that system for kids. Plus, it involves a second piece of technology, and for families playing along, it may be especially difficult to have each kid play individually.

My questions were added to a PowerPoint, shared to Facebook using their livestreaming screenshare technology. Some detailed tips for those interested in trying a program this way:

  • Make your slides “widescreen” so they fill up the viewers full computer, phone, or TV screen. Do this by going to Design – Slide Size in Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • I don’t like the clunkiness of viewers seeing me open my powerpoint after going live. To always just have the powerpoint as the center of your screen:
    • In PowerPoint, start the “Slide Show” mode, making your PowerPoint full screen.
    • Use the Windows key (not ESC) to exit the Slide Show presentation view. This key leaves it open in the background.
    • Start your Facebook Livestream. Instead of sharing your entire screen, just share one application — the Slide Show view of PowerPoint.
    • Return to the Slide Show view to change slides for your participants. Always use the Windows key to exit. If you use the ESC key, you won’t be able to restart the slideshow without creating a new livestream.
  • Using the steps above, you cannot easily see the comments during the presentation. I have my phone nearby with the livestream running, allowing me to see questions and comments as they come in. A coworker posts links and types responses to the comments, and I respond verbally as I can.

My program was supposed to last 30 minutes (I knew I was closer to 35 on practice). Between a solid 10+ minutes of technical issues in the middle, and participants asking me to slow down, the program went closer to 50 minutes, but participants stayed with me.

Dog Man passion is huge here, and I’m going to host a Dog Man BINGO in August to continue that online camaraderie around this fandom. What virtual programs have worked well for you? Let us know in the comments!

Virtual School Age Program: Pokemon Week

Last week was an extra layer of busy for me. Each summer for the last three years we have had a Pokemon event. Typically, our Pokemon Party lasts about two hours, has about 200 attendees, and includes trivia, BINGO, crafts, tech, snacks, card trading, and more. The 2020 Pokemon Party was on the calendar…and then COVID happened. Even though this event typically relies heavily on in-library activities and the shared love of a few hundred Pokemon fans in one space, I knew this was one of my must-make-virtual activities.

Pokemon Party turned into virtual Pokemon Week, mostly hosted through Facebook Live. This platform creates some limitations, but it has been our go-to location for most of our virtual programming (and we do still see a lot of familiar faces on there). I created off-Facebook versions of these programs to allow for non-social-media users to also join in on the fun.

Attendance was strong at these events, with 60 active participants in both Pokemon Trivia and Guess that Pokemon, and about 40 active participants at Pokemon BINGO.

In addition to all of the shared content below, I also had these three links available for each event:

Day One: Pokemon Trivia

Very similar to our in-person trivia (except no prizes and easier), our virtual Pokemon Trivia included 20 questions. This was created in PowerPoint and presented using Facebook Live’s screen share tool. Due to the setup, my computer screen was the PowerPoint file, so I had a coworker typing answers to comments, and I verbally responded to some comments after seeing them through the livestream on my phone. Audio and video quality are a big deal as we move farther down the path of virtual programming, and I will never doubt the value of my lovely Yeti microphone (I actually like my voice when I listen back to a recording. I didn’t think that was possible.).

Video of Facebook Live Event:

Same Event on YouTube: The same trivia content can be found in the YouTube video, though this was created for this platform so the extra content is a little different:

Certificate: At the end of the trivia event, we provided a link in the comments to a printable Trivia Master certificate:

Additional Links:

Day Two: Guess that Pokemon

During our in-person event, this is a passive station with images on the wall that attendee’s identify, self-score, and then pick-up a small prize (like a button or bookmark). I made this another trivia-style event.

Video of Facebook Event:

Same Event on YouTube:

Certificate:

Additional Links:

To Make Your Own Character Shadows: I used Microsoft PowerPoint, though this should work in any Microsoft tool (and most image editing software):

  • I found most of my Pokemon images here, though any image without a background can be edited this way.
  • In PowerPoint:
    • I pasted the image.
    • Right clicked on the image and selected “Format Picture.”
    • In the new options to the right, I selected the fourth image in the new toolbar, “Picture.”
    • Changed the “brightness” to zero. The image is now solid black.

Day Three: Pokemon BINGO

Pokemon BINGO was a different virtual adjustment–attendees were able to see me this time! There was an extra “step” here–attendees needed to download Pokemon BINGO cards ahead of time and either print them out or play virtually (like in a paint style program).

Video of Facevook Event:

Downloadable BINGO Cards: 100 unique downloadable Pokemon BINGO cards, plus instructions to play at home.

Certificate:

Additional Links:

Day Four: How to Draw Pokemon

We wrapped up our Pokemon week with our first virtual presenter for the summer, cartoonist Steve Harpster. He taught kids how to draw cartoon-style versions of a variety of Pokemon!

Virtual School Age Program: Graphic Novel Book Club

I am not a book club person. I read a lot, and I love to talk about books–but I don’t enjoy book clubs. I enjoy reading because I get the freedom to choose what I want to read. Even when I read books I wouldn’t pick up myself, to boost my reader’s advisory knowledge in a certain area, I am still choosing one book over another. I’m not a person who is going to read the most recent Newbery winner just because it is the most recent Newbery winner. I don’t enjoy being told what to read or to have to dissect the book like I’m in a high school English class or talk about how the book made me feel. So, I’ve never actively participated in a book club. I pretended to a few times, and just ended up in the cycle of not reading the book, trying to force myself to read something I hate, stressing about a meeting, stressing during the meeting, and coming up with an excuse as to why I didn’t come back. No one needs that cycle.

So why did I start a virtual book club this summer? The short version is that I like graphic novels, and a few years back I had this vision of a book club event culminating in a Skype visit with Raina Telgemeier where the kids who attended the club could ask questions but anyone could come. That program didn’t happen then, and that isn’t what happened here either.

Overall, I would say this went okay. I had 2-4 consistent kids who were excited and talked most weeks. There were also a lot of barriers here due to this being virtual, particularly with this being a new club. My library hasn’t really had a standing book club for kids in at least three years, so there wasn’t a following or just a transfer of format like Michala’s teen advisory board meetings. We didn’t really have any of those “ah-ha” moments or meaningful conversations that I’ve heard happen at other book clubs–but, I would also say, that everyone is feeling the stress right now, and kids don’t really want to talk about their feelings or the meaning of this color palette right about now. They want to talk about drawing Pokemon and the cheetah cubs Diana (Wonder Woman) takes care of in one throwaway panel. If they want to talk at all. And that’s cool too.

Details & Program Outline

For nine weeks in June and July, I met virtually with 4-10 kids, ages 8-14, for about an hour. The program was advertised for ages 8-11, though I had three older kids sign up (though only one of them came more than once). The program registration was capped at 15 kids, registration only ever reached 13, and I only ever had at most 10 kids at a time, with an average of 5-6 kids each week.

Our library uses GoToMeeting for online meetings, and I used that for this program as well. Other than some issues with my personal computer overheating, I had no problems with the platform (and the kids didn’t seem to have any problems either).

We only read graphic novels available on Hoopla, which worked fine for the summer but is quite limiting long term. This service is ideal for book club titles, however, because everyone can download each book at a time most convenient for them (no waiting or holds lists) and everyone can check out the same title at once (unlike Overdrive or Cloud Library). A few kids did have physical copies of some of the books, purchased by their parents (this wasn’t encouraged; it just happened).

Our reading list included:

Hoopla works well while we are stuck in a virtual world, though it has its frustrations. Of course, it doesn’t have every graphic novel, and it is very, very short on diverse graphic novels. There are so few own voices kids graphic novels in the first place, and Hoopla is particularly lacking. If this book club continues, I’m going to work on coming up with an alternative way to get books to kids.

My kids are avid readers and would actively admit (1) that they had already read these books (more often) or (2) that they didn’t finish a book (less often). Some of them became frustrated toward the end of the book club because they had read all of the remaining book club books weeks in advance or before book club had occurred. These kids really wanted the newest graphic novels (and 17 of those new books at a time), which left me especially frustrated with the limitations of Hoopla.

Book Clubbing Virtually

So getting back to my struggles with book clubs, which were exacerbated by being virtual. I had some personal technical issues, but those situations are often specific to your tech and can happen no matter how well you plan. Other unique elements of book clubbing virtually:

  • Kids can and will turn their cameras on and off.
  • Kids can and will get distracted by pets, home life, etc.
  • Kids can and will say nothing for the entire meeting (or the entire meeting for all seven weeks they show up).

I have strategies to encourage conversation in person that simply don’t translate online. I also don’t want to force kids to talk in any situation. As I said to the kids sometimes, THIS ISN’T SCHOOL. Book club, or any library program, isn’t a punishment, it isn’t an assignment, and while I want to encourage learning, you are not going to be quizzed at the end of this meeting about the book, your understanding of shading in the panel, or your drawing ability.

With an effort to respect kids’ decisions on how much they want to participate, I was often left feeling alone and sort of like I was putting on a show. When I ask “who was your favorite character?”, and all six cameras immediately turn off, and we sit in silence for three minutes, I’m left having to crack a joke, give my own response, and try to shift gears. Repeatedly, for an hour, week after week. It is exhausting and makes me respect teachers even more.

Now, some of this behavior is probably due to my choices with how I want to run the club. I could have required kids to talk, pulled names out of jar, made everyone fill out a character analysis worksheet each week, forced everyone to sit in silence until someone shared a discussion question. But, again, my mentality toward librarianship, especially during current times, is that we are trying to create a love of learning and reading. Forcing kids to do assignments or activities or even forcing participation goes against that. I will stop ranting now and get on to the important things you are reading this for.

Weekly Schedule

Kids were asked to bring blank paper and a pencil to each meeting.

Each week we followed this approximate schedule:

  • Introduced Myself (Librarian) (1 min.)
  • Explain/Review How GoToMeeting Works (1 min.)
    • How to mute and unmute
    • How to turn off your camera
    • Chat feature
    • How to see everyone instead of just person talking
    • Librarian can share her screen
  • Library Updates (3 min.)
    • Summer Reading Program
    • Upcoming Programs
    • Reminder to doodle as you like!
  • Introductions (5 min.)
    • Share your name
    • Share anything you’ve been writing or drawing
    • Answer this week’s Would You Rather Question
    • *Answers could occur verbally or in chat. Not everyone participated each week.
  • Warm-Up Game (10 min.)
  • How Book Club Works (5 min.)
    • Review weekly schedule
    • Decided guidelines as a group and reviewed them each week:
      • Be kind and respectful.
      • Everyone gets a turn to talk without being interrupted.
      • You can raise your hand if you want to talk. You can also just talk as long as you aren’t interrupting someone else.
      • You only have to talk if you want to.
      • Have fun!
  • Discussion (10-15 min., intended to be 15-30 min.)
    • Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down Book Vote
    • Tell me what the book is about (10 words or less)
    • Kids offer questions (never happened but always asked)
    • I ask about 3-5 questions, steering conversation where it makes sense.
  • Let’s Talk Comics/Drawing Activity and Sharing (15-20 min.)
  • Wrap Up (2-3 min.)
    • Next week’s title
    • Reminder about programs

Would You Rather Questions

The kids really seemed to enjoy the Would You Rather questions. Sometimes these connected to the book of the week, sometimes they didn’t. Questions we used included:

  • Would you rather have edible spaghetti hair that regrows every night or sweat maple syrup?
  • Would you rather be a superhero or a wizard?
  • Would you rather have a unicorn or dragon as a best friend?
  • Would you rather have super speed or super strength?
  • Would you rather live sometime in the past (you get to choose when and where) or sometime in the future (except you don’t know what the future looks like)?
  •  Would you rather have awesome super powers—but have to live in secret on an island with no other kids—or would you rather have a normal life (but have no superpowers)?
  • Would you rather have to fight 100 pigeon sized zebras or one zebra sized pigeon?
  • Would you rather have a horse’s tail or a unicorn horn?
  • Would you rather have a hamster-sized elephant or an elephant-sized hamster for a pet?

Weekly Warm-Up Games

Each week, we played a different warm-up game as a group. Some of these games included:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Guess that Character: Identify the popular character from their silhouette.

Mad Libs: Asked kids to write down a series of words and then read the words in the Mad Lib aloud. (*Not very popular. Only two kids participated.)

Name that Tune: Guess the song from just a few seconds of music. Used this playlist.

Pixelated Book Covers: Identify the blurry book cover.

Scavenger Hunt: Find items around your house that fit certain categories like “something that is orange” or “something that starts with the letter M.”

Two Truths and a Lie: Share three piece of information, two true and one a lie. Everyone has to guess. (*Not very popular. Few kids participated, though they enjoyed guessing.)

Zoomed In Images: Guess the item or cover from the zoomed in image.

Discussion Questions

I learned pretty quickly that deep discussion questions weren’t going to go anywhere, so the longer the series went on, the less I worried about these, and the more light I kept things. I chose 3-5 questions to focus on each week and let things go where they wanted.

General Graphic Novel Questions:

  1. Is reading a graphic novel different than reading a text novel? How?
  2. Would this book have been better or worse without pictures?
  3. How does the art make you feel and why?
  4. What did the creator show? What wasn’t shown that your brain filled in?
  5. What does the story or character remind you of?
  6. What surprised you most?
  7. What would you change about the setting or characters if you were writing this book?
  8. What is something you don’t want to forget from this book?
  9. Which character most reminds you of yourself?
  10. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask them? (I sent these to the authors via Twitter each week, and some of them actually responded!)

Anti/Hero:

  1. Sloan vs Piper – who did you like better? Who do you think you are the most like?
  2. Page 16 – Compare Sloan and Piper’s lives. What do you learn from the images?
  3. Who would you want to switch bodies with?
  4. If you did switch bodies, what would you do?

Diana Princess of the Amazons:

  1. Before reading this book, what did you know about Wonder Woman?
  2. Themyscira is a pretty cool place. What would you like most about living there? Least?
  3. When Diana is bored, she says “It seems like I’m either too old or too young for everything. Stuck in the middle.” Do you ever feel like that? When?
  4. Mona convinces Diana to do some things Diana knows are wrong—like steal food and make fun of other people and skip class. Have you had a friend like that?
  5. Quick Sketch: Draw the scariest monster to come out of Doom’s Doorway!
  6. Diana grows up to become a superhero! Who is your favorite superhero and why?

El Deafo: (*Most robust discussion!)

  1. The title of the book is Cece’s superhero name. What would your superhero name be?
  2. This is a memoir. What does that mean?
  3. Why do you think Cece Bell made the characters rabbits?
  4. Our world is designed for those capable of hearing. What are ways you notice that the world is hard for people who are deaf?
  5. Cece’s first best friend Laura is kind of mean. Cece dreams about ending the friendship, but she doesn’t because being friends with Laura is better than her “bubble of loneliness.” Do you agree?
  6. Cece doesn’t want to learn sign language. Why do you think that is?

The Lightning Thief (graphic novel):

  1. Who has read the chapter book? How did these two compare?
  2. What do you have to think about when adapting a chapter book into a graphic novel?
  3. Who is your favorite character?
  4. You all had some great things you loved about Themyscara. What would you like most about Camp Half Blood? What would you like least?
  5. What magical powers or elements would you like to control? If you could be related to one mythical Greek god, who would it be?

Lumberjanes Vol. 1:

  1. Look at the Lumberjanes cover. What do you think the book would be about based on the cover? Should people judge a book by its cover?
  2. Who is your favorite Lumberjane? Why?
  3. Why do you think they included so many snippets from the Lumberjanes manual and information about Lumberjanes badges?
  4. Let’s talk about characters. How do their names “fit” or “not fit”? How do their names influence our perceptions of the characters? (April, Molly, Ripley, Jo, Mal, Jen)
  5. In the “Message from the Lumberjane High Council” in Volume 1 it says: “…Whether you are a dancer or a misfit, career girl or a social elite, you have a place at this camp — no matter how different you feel.” How does the story and the characters reflect this?
  6. There are 13 Lumberjanes Volumes and nearly 80 issues, spin off books, chapter books—what do you think happens next?

My Video Game Ate My Homework:

  1. What does this story remind you of?
  2. What do you think of the artwork, especially how the characters are drawn?
  3. If you got a magical video game superpower – what would you want it to be? (page 28)
  4. What would you have in your own clubhouse? (page 19)
  5. What video game or imaginary world would you like to enter? What world would you never want to enter?
  6. Dewey has dyslexia, which makes it hard for him to read. We all have things that make some things harder for us than others. If you want to share, what is something that is harder for you?

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

  1. How does this feel different than other graphic novels we have read?
  2. Did this feel preachy or did you not notice you were learning something?
  3. Would you want to read a book like this in school?
  4. What school topics would you like to learn about as comics?
  5. Is this book funny? How?
  6. What do you think of this book’s coloring?

New Kid: (We didn’t really get to any of these, as this book seemed to be a bit too old for the kids who attended that week, who all admitted to not finishing it.)

  1. Which five words best describe New Kid?
  2. Why do you think Jerry Craft drew Jordan’s sketchbook drawings completely differently than the rest of the book?
  3. What makes being a new kid so challenging for Jordan?
  4. Have you ever been the new kid somewhere? How was your experience the same or different from Jordan’s?
  5. Jordan’s Tips for Taking the Bus (pages 56-57): Why does his behavior change—how he looks and dresses as he moves around? What is different in each panel?
  6. What does this book say about friendship? What makes a good friend?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn:

  1. Are you more of a Phoebe or a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils?
  2. If you had one magical wish, what would it be?
  3. These are collections of comic strips. What makes this book different than the graphic novels we have read before? 
  4. Think about how Phoebe and Marigold met. What stands out about that scene?
  5. How does the friendship between Phoebe and Marigold change and grow throughout the story? How do you see that difference in the illustrations and the text?
  6. When the story starts, do you like Phoebe and Marigold equally? How does that change?
  7. Page 111: Is there anything more embarrassing than parents?

Let’s Talk Comics

This is the part of program I feel like I bungled the most. I didn’t come in with a clear week-to-week plan, and this ended up being the part of the program the kids were the most excited about.

About three weeks into the program, I found these resources, which I highly recommend using to frame your own series:

My weeks were much more haphazard, with essentially a random drawing challenge each week. These included:

  • Random Creature and Action
  • Random Setting
  • Story of meeting your magical creature best friend (4 panels)
  • First Day at a New School (include dialogue and more than one panel)
  • Egg Challenge (draw what comes out of this egg)
  • Combine animal + food = Character!
  • Drawing Motion (guest artist – fellow librarian)
  • Think about your favorite character from a book, show, or movie. Choose to adapt or expand their story in at least three panels.
  • Dog Man Challenge: Draw 5 creatures. Take the head of one and the body of the other and merge them.

I did include a few more detailed activities/”lessons” some weeks, including:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Adaptations vs Universe Expansions

Characters (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novel and Comic Overview (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novels You Should Read

Virtual School Age Program: Camp Half Blood Welcome Kit

We’ve been exploring different ways to provide virtual programming to our patrons. Many libraries have been providing make-and-take kits, but, unfortunately, due to our library’s curbside setup and our patron demand, that isn’t an option for us. It really isn’t possible to add anything larger than a piece of paper to our already cramped holds area.

A few week’s ago, I shared my Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits, and these Percy Jackson, Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits follow a similar style.

I worked with one of my fantastic coworkers on this kit, so while it shares a similar feel to my Baby-Sitters Club kits, this has some of their flair as well. I also applied some of the lessons I learned in those baby-sitters club kits–less personalization, less letters that need to be folded, and more activities (rather than more passive information sheets).

Why send kits in the mail? Especially kits that focus more on fun than a specific learning concept? Read my thoughts in this post.

Kit Contents

We probably went overboard for these too, but I want to do what we can to give kids those moments of joy right now, so I made do with what I had. At some point I will hit a wall with this because I have been stretching old program leftovers to keep these within budget, and that isn’t always going to be feasible.

Downloads for most items can be found in the downloads section below.

Each child received their own envelope, even if there were multiple kids in the same house registered. This made it more individual–not just that the oldest or youngest got to open the package from the library.

Each kit contained a general welcome kit, in a document envelope, as well as five individual bags from Chiron, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Clarisse.

The general welcome kit included:

  • Personalized welcome letter from Camp Half-Blood
  • ID Card
  • Camp Survival Guide
  • Readalike Book Recommendations
  • Swag: Bookmarks, Buttons, Camp Pennant, Trivia Sheet, Who’s Your Godly Parent Quiz, Camp Map

Chiron’s bag included a letter and materials to create your own Greek god pennant flag for your cabin.

Percy’s bag included a letter, your own Riptide pen, and some water fun.

Annabeth’s bag focused on one of the most important camp traditions: your bead necklace.

Grover’s bag included his letter and a prophecy “puzzle” packet to practice stretching your brain in preparation for your quests and prophecies to come.

Clarisse’s bag included your own Capture the Flag kit (with ideas for ways to make this a more individual scavenger hunt game instead of requiring a large group).

Each kit’s Camp Welcome Letter was personalized.

Downloads

Everything should be downloadable from the links below. All files are PDFs, though you can email me or post in the comments if you are interested in the originals for editing. They are all Publisher files, and as usual, I used a lot of different fonts.

Virtual School Age Program: Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits

We’ve been exploring different ways to provide virtual programming to our patrons. Many libraries have been providing make-and-take kits, but, unfortunately, due to our library’s curbside setup and our patron demand, that isn’t an option for us. It really isn’t possible to add anything larger than a piece of paper to our already cramped holds area.

Mailing things to patrons wasn’t my idea, but I happily stole the concept after my coworkers had some success with their amazing Unicorn Rescue Society Program. Luckily for us, at this point anyway, the postage cost for these type of activities doesn’t come from our youth budget. (Though, I am a bit nervous that will change eventually with the size and popularity of these kits.)

This post is very much a toot-my-own-horn deal. I loved making this kit, I am quite proud of the final product, and the patron response was amazing. With that said, I went overboard. This is probably the real reason I shouldn’t be left alone too long.

Why Mail? Why Baby-Sitters Club?

Mail is convenient, though costly. It lets us reach our patrons who can’t come into the physical building, but it also lets us reach patrons who can’t come to the library, period. There are still limitations here: you need access to a phone or internet to register for the program, and access to the internet to be aware of the program in the first place, but it still opens up a lot of possibilities.

I am especially happy with this program because this is one of my first programs that was truly born from COVID and thinking about what virtual programming can do. This wasn’t an adaptation of a planned in-person program–it was very much a last minute calendar addition after the release date for the Netflix series was announced and after seeing the excitement my Graphic Novel Book Club kids had for the books and upcoming TV series. This was something that would have been fine in person, but might have actually worked better as mailed packages. This wasn’t a substitute for an in-person event–it felt like something entirely its own.

I loved this kit because it was about joy, passion, and fun; not school. Yes, I know that kids are struggling and will continue to struggle with school, kindergarten skills, learning to read. All of those things are important, and there are ways we can help. But. But getting an email from a mom about how her child screamed with pure joy when she got her envelope in the mail–kids need that joy right now. Even if there is no school this fall or for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year–we will figure it out. The world will.

Kids are being super strong right now, while they watch their grown-ups fray at the seams. Kids are dealing with no friends, no trips, no regular activities, honestly better than many grown-ups seem to be. Kids will, soon enough if not already, be buried in school work and education and people desperately trying to teach them through a computer. I’m not a teacher; I’m not a preschool educator. I can try to help, but my skills only go so far. But, if I can bring those kids joy and fun, if I can make them think their favorite book and TV characters created a kit just for them, filled with activities that could keep them busy for a few days, even if that excitement lasts for just one afternoon–well. That’s my contribution to all of this. That’s what I can do. (Told you I was tooting my own horn here. This post is like that. Skip to the downloads if you just want the goods.)

Oh and why Baby-Sitters Club? I mean, there is the obvious release of the Netflix series, but is there a series–other than the one by that author we don’t talk about anymore–that has transcended generations in such a way? These kids’ parent’s remember reading these books, and they will find their own joy in this packet. Right now, a nostalgia trip isn’t such a bad thing. And this series manages, especially in the Netflix series that I can’t stop talking about, to be wholesome while also confronting and discussing real issues. It never gets as hard as it could–as hard as it might get as the series expands and these kids age–but it feels real. It feels legitimate and relatable and all of those things that kids look for in good stories.

Kit Contents

As I mentioned earlier, I went overboard. And I’m not sorry. (I was when I was making them, but that falls under “logistics.”) Do I suggest you do this much? No. But here we are.

Downloads for most items can be found in the downloads section.

Each child received their own envelope, even if there were multiple kids in the same house registered. This made it more individual–not just that the oldest or youngest got to open the package from the library. I considered more envelope decorations and doodles, but that didn’t happen due to time.

Each kit contained a general membership kit, in a document envelope, as well as five individual bags, one from each babysitter.

The general membership kit included:

  • Personalized welcome letter from the Baby-Sitters Club
  • Personalized Membership Card
  • Guide to Babysitting (borrowed liberally from the Red Cross Guide)
  • Readalike Books (listen to me talk about these titles in this YouTube video)
  • Swag: Bookmarks, Flyer, Trivia Sheet, Which Baby-Sitter Are You Quiz, Membership Profile

Kristy’s Bag focused on leadership and included:

  • Letter from Kristy
  • Leadership Packet

Claudia’s bag (the most fun, obviously) included:

  • Letter from Claudia
  • Mini sketchbook and glitter pens (leftovers from previous programs, but could easily be printed yourself)
  • Friendship bracelet materials and instructions
  • Art Project Ideas for Babysitting (double as activities great to do with supplies you may have at home)

Mary Anne’s bag focused on organization:

  • Letter from Mary Anne
  • “Pocket” Calendar
  • Musical Recommendations (with book recs on the back)
  • Dry Erase Calendar (not pictured, only in select kits due to expanded registration)

Stacey’s bag included:

  • Letter from Stacey
  • MASH Instructions
  • Cootie Catcher Instructions and 2 sheets
  • Healthy Snack Suggestions (cook book recommendations on the back)

Dawn’s bag included:

  • Letter from Dawn
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt
  • ECO-BINGO

Dawn’s kit was meant to include an environmentally friendly craft, ucycled craft, or craft to be donated, but I was out of funds, time, and envelope space.

Each kit (up to a certain number of days before sign-up) was personalized. Imagine the child’s name where the word “Babysitter” is on most of these pictures.

All activities were meant to also be able to be completed by the program participant at home. So, you could go on a nature scavenger hunt with someone you are babysitting, but you could also do this with your family during COVID times.

Logistics

Obviously, these bags contained a lot. Part of this would have been significantly easier if I had been in the physical library regularly. I have a printer at home that I will use in a pinch, but not for this kind of quantity and ink. This meant that a lot of designing happened at home, but essentially all assembly had to happen in one very long work day.

As I mentioned earlier, I would repeat most of this program. But one thing in particular I wanted to highlight was the organization method. The feedback from caregivers was very positive, especially praising the organization and that everything could fit in the document envelope. They really appreciated not receiving a bunch of lose odds and ends.

Now, things I would do differently:

  • Personalization: So much happiness came from these kits being personalized, but wow, sorting and stuffing took so much longer because of it. Due to necessity, for future, similar events, I may just personalize a membership card and general letter, not each and every piece.
  • Folding the letters: There was no reason for this, which just took extra time between double-sided printing and folding. I realized halfway through folding that I could have easily called them stationary and not folded. But by that point they were printed with names on the back, and I was halfway done.
  • Get a long paper stapler that works: I lost hours here restapling. HOURS. There was anger. So much. I’m not sure exactly what was wrong, and I was hesitant about asking to use the basement machine because of COVID and germs. But goodness. The amount of staples I had to remove because they were sticking out? I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

Downloads

This is what you are here for right? You found the gold. Everything should be downloadable from the links below. All files are PDFs, though you can email me or post in the comments if you are interested in the originals for editing. They are all Publisher files, and I do tend to use lots of fonts.

Response

So, I did say I was tooting my own horn here, and I did give you all the good stuff already. Patron response to this program was absolutely lovely. Some of my favorite quotes and feedback are below.

:)