BreakoutEdu Round Two: Dictionary Dig

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As a librarian you have lessons that may not be the most exciting topics. In middle school, a dictionary lesson would be up there with something the students do not get excited about. This year, I decided to try it with BreakoutEdu and it went great! For setup, I locked a dictionary in the box. You should have seen their faces once they broke into the box, it was priceless. This lesson was for a Spanish class at our school. We had about 20 Spanish/English dictionaries scattered around our library.

For the lesson,

-Student’s first lined up from A-Z by the first letter of their first name BUT they had to do this silently without talking.

-Student’s then lined up alphabetically A-Z by the last letter in their first name, again silently. This was something I modified from a teacher who went to Jensen training. It is amazing to see how they decide to communicate.

-We also looked at an anchor chart for what a dictionary entry looks like. The guide words, definition, pronunciation, parts of speech, and examples. We also looked at  the Spanish/English dictionary and that you can search from Spanish to English or English to Spanish.

-After this, I shared the following Prezi just to explain where/what they would be doing.

-The class was split into four groups and given one task card at a time. I have them complete all four tasks before they receive their clue cards to solve the locks. For me, this set up makes sure that everyone completes tasks.

The tasks included:

Alphabet Book: Each student decided on a letter of the alphabet and created a page to make a class alphabet book.

Alphabetize Books: The group had to alphabetize a stack of ten library books by the first letter of the title of the book.

Find Your Own Words: Each student looks in a Spanish novel and identifies two words to look up in the dictionary.

Dictionary Dash: They worked together with their group for five minutes on the following form with Spanish/English dictionary. Dictionary Dash I did reward the team with the most correct answers some candy.

The task cards and clue cards are below:

breakout-edu-dictionary lesson

I am really enjoying BreakoutEdu and just switching up some lessons. Working in groups and collaboratively seems to be motivating.



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This is my seventh year at my middle school and as a librarian. I have had seven years of orientations. I think these orientations are important for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I know my 8th graders do not want to hear about every single thing again that they have heard through 6th and 7th grade. I always modify my 6th grade presentations for 7th and 8th grade but this year I wanted to try something new. I have tried a QR code scavenger hunt, used Prezi for presenting, a video tour, but this year I was inspired by a colleagues post about using BreakoutEdu for a staff orientation to the library.
I used book fair money to purchase a kit from their website and started reading blogs and information on the different ways to set up Breakout Edu. I found something that worked for me and I just went for it. So far, I have tried it with several of my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes and it has been so fun and a great way to switch it up. Thanks to the blog, The Adventures of Library Girl at I was able to get some absolutely wonderful ideas for our orientation.
Overall, this has been some of my favorite orientations yet!
Orientation for 6th Grade:
*Time to check out books.
*Prezi Presentation: Library Overview.
​*Prezi of story for Breakout Edu.
*Breaout Edu 20-30 Minutes.
*Book Trailer if there was time. If not, I sent the link to the teacher.

Same as above but took less time for the Library Overview. Had time to view trailer of books being made into movies/popular reads and more check out time.

Don’t forget to put displays out and book talk some of your new reads or most checked out books. I definitely talk up some of our YA books for 8th graders. Especially for those boys who don’t read. Scythe, Six of Crows, Unwind, The Hate You Give are all ones that 8th graders want.  It is a great time to get those books off of the shelf and get student’s reading!

breakout EDU orientation  Cards: Most inspired from Adventures of Library Girl.

Have You Been Kind Today?

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I started a blog post about how wonderful our new library orientations started for the year but then began this post. We occasionally put up an interactive bulletin board for students to write different things, quotes, books, etc. For orientations, (post later about what we did) one task student’s were asked to complete was to write something kind. The instructions are below:

This was before everything happened.

Looking at our lovely board some people might ask, “are you asking for trouble with a board like this in middle school?” My answer to you is, “why not?” I get it, middle school is a tough age. Hormones are crazy, one day you feel like you belong in one group, the next you feel like you don’t. One day someone is your friend and the next day they aren’t. I have been in middle school for the past seven years and every year I see the same patterns. Kids constantly think they are funny when what is being said is hurtful. Their friends laugh, they laugh, the kids they are messing with try to laugh but you can see the hurt in their eyes. Again, people say, “it’s just middle school and the way things are.” I ask you, “why does this continue to happen?” Society, political views right now, family life, so many things can be pointed to. Being kind and standing up for others is something we should all be doing. When we continue to put each other down, we jokingly say “I’m just messing with you, I didn’t mean it,” we give strength to those people and they continue to do it.

Unfortunately, all of you who were thinking, “she was asking for trouble with this board,” are unfortunately correct. We had a great first day of orientations and the next day I had sixth graders in. The first class came to let me know that there was some inappropriate things written on our board. When I walked over, I immediately saw what they were talking about. There were curse words, things that were written about staff members, and more. Ninety-five percent of my board was filled with wonderful kind words, acts of kindness, quotes, books students had read, and more but the unkind words took over. Anyone who knows me well, knows I do not get angry very often but BOY WAS I UPSET!

I blacked out the inappropriate things and decided these words would not bring my board down. We are working on who wrote the inappropriate things and I truly think this was a group effort. Most people are not mean, but when in a group can be pressured into things they wouldn’t normally do. Again, coming back to thinking they are funny.

I will freely admit, I had my own share of this when I was younger and I did things I am not proud of. We all do things we are not proud of. As an adult, I can look back and see these things. I have my own three children 3, 5, and 6 years old. I don’t know if they will turn out to be doctors, yoga instructors, mermaids (the five year old currently wants to be a mermaid) but I do know that I want them to be kind.

A colleague of mine posted a blog about another amazing teacher at our school who tells her child each morning, “be brave and kind.”  I have been telling my own children something similar from Disney’ live action Cinderella movie, “have courage and be kind.” I know my children won’t always be kind but now in our house not only do we discuss how their day was, we have added, “how were you kind today?”

Being in the library has led me to see so many different students and dynamics. I have seen kids who sit by themselves because they choose to or feel like they don’t belong. I see books kids anonymously leave on the ground about drugs, being gay, just about everything.  We do not know what others are facing at home or in life. We have no idea what some may be thinking or going through. I think we should all be asking ourselves the question, “how was I kind today?” Be the light for someone else instead of bringing them darkness. The world will only become better when we become better.



Harry Potter Decor

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It is that time of the year again.  HP camp is next week. I’ll be posting more but here is a start.

What Happened?

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With the release of the third installment of The Red Queen series, King’s Cage, coming out tomorrow, February 7th, I have to ask myself “what happened in the first two again?” I read so many books in between the release of a new book in a series I have to think about what happened in the books. I was talking to a student about this series and together we could remember some of the details but not all of them. This led us to Google and to some teaser reviews, other sites with book jacket information but not the details we wanted. After some searching we found a few informative sites. So my question this morning to my group of librarians and to you is, where do you find book summaries or recaps? What do you do when you have been waiting and waiting for the release of a book in a series but it has been so long you ask yourself, “what happened?”

Happy Reading Everyone!

Some sites I found:



February Fun

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February is almost upon us and for this month we are having a “love to read” theme. Our book fair is the very beginning of February.  Each month our library holds a contest or has student participation on a topic. We then pick three students who get a poster, book, or prize at the end of that month. For February, students can participate by 1. Writing on a cut out heart the title of their favorite book or books. 2. Write their favorite book couple on a heart. 3. Write a love letter from one character to another. We display these items on a bulletin board near the front of the library. (Picture Below) We are planning on putting all of the cut-up hearts into the shape of a large heart in the middle of the bulletin board.

Students can also come into the library to have a blind date with a book. We wrap the books in newspaper or colored paper and write a short description on the wrapping with the genre, a short description, and who might like it based on other books or movies liked. Students then come up to the circulation desk, unwrap the book, and check it out. They are supposed to at least try it for a day. As one of my lovely fellow librarians suggests, they should read the number of pages that equals three times their age.

We are also working to spread kindness at our school. Through student advocacy groups I sent out hearts and instructions to work together as a school to spread kindness. Students are each given a heart to write their name on and then the teachers collect the hearts and pass them back out. Each student should get another person in their class. They then write something kind about that person. Each heart goes on a locker. Our staff is also participating in this as well. If a student or teacher already has a heart on their door, desk, or locker, they have to move on to someone else who doesn’t have one.

Lastly, we are also having a book drive to collect new and gently used books for Kindergarten students. These books will go to a non-profit organization called Leo’s Libros.

Happy Almost February!img_0568doc

Lexile Leveling

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I was very fortune to work with one of our wonderful sixth grade gifted Language Arts teachers on a Lexile “lesson” and book checkout. One of our teachers informed me she had finished the IReady test and her students had received their Lexile scores. We decided to have a lesson about Lexile levels, how to search for books in a Lexile range, and then have book check out in an attempt to challenge her students.

One amazing thing about middle school is how proficient we become by the last period of the day. Her first period was our guinea pig class and we were pumped about the lesson and ready to go. We began with small group writing prompts answered individually and then in groups. We asked 1. What makes someone a good reader? 2. How do you know a text is right for you? 3. What strategies do you use when you are challenged with a text? We then had group discussion and delved into their Lexile levels and what they mean.

What we discovered throughout the day and through the enormous amount of searches preformed was that Lexile levels are truly one small portion of how students should choose a text that is right for them. The quantitative measuring of a text looks at the sentence length and frequency of words. This means when you preform a search for Diary of a Wimpy Kid you get a Lexile level score of 950-1060. Searching for A Tale of Two Cities will result in a level of 1060, depending on the version. Many of the books in most middle school libraries are hovering around 700-900 levels. According to the Lexile to Grade correspondence chart that would put us around 4th-5th grade level.

What does all this mean and what did we decide to do?

Well, we decided to talk to students about challenging themselves from where they are currently reading. We also allowed them the freedom of choice when choosing which books to check out. We had them go to and search for the books they had read recently or are currently reading to see what levels they were. Many were completely shocked by the levels being low. Then we told them to challenge themselves by going to the shelves and choosing several books they were interested in and to search them and try to find some above the level they have been currently reading on. It was great for students to see one way of looking at how difficult books can be but to also see the drawbacks of only looking at a number assigned to a book. Many of her students were directed to Stephen King books and Dean Koontz because of how high their scores were, which wasn’t going to work. Some students really wanted to get into their Lexile range and one way to do that was for her students to attempt some classic novels. I love that this teacher encouraged her students to try the books first. After they try it, they had the choice to continue reading it or switch to a different novel if it wasn’t for them at this point in time.

When using Lexile levels, remember content isn’t included in the scores. Another thing we noticed was non-fiction was much higher in general because of the vocabulary.

If you see a designation of HL before a level is stands for high interest but low readability. For example, Under the Never Sky, a popular dystopian read, was HL580L. This would be a great starting point for struggling readers.

If you see NC before a level it stands for non-conforming text. It has a lower grade level interest but a more difficult read. *We did have a student find a fiction title designated as NC but after reading some of the book said that it was easier than some of the other titles he had read that were considered a much lower Lexile level.

Most of all, we decided that Lexile leveling can be confusing and it should not be the only factor when choosing titles to read.

Happy Reading!