You know when you have those times as an educator when you become so impressed by what students can do that you just have to stop and appreciate the moment. Well, this happened to me at the end of the 2020-2021 school year with third graders as they completed The Super Awesome Library Project.
To explain how this project began I have to tell you a story. When teaching about reliable sources, specifically websites, I usually tell students that anyone can create a website. I go on to say that I have created several myself, to which they are shocked and amazed! Then I go on to say that I could create a website about Kansas. I don’t know why I pick Kansas, but I always do. (I live in Michigan, by the way.)
From there I explain that I have never been to Kansas and that I have not done much research about the state. (My real connection to Kansas is some of the amazing school librarians I know from there.) I go on to explain that my website would tell them that Kansas has great mountains for them to climb, that they could swim in the ocean if they were to visit, and that Giant Pandas live there. They usually laugh and begin to get the idea that just because they find information online does not mean it is true.
So this past year, as I am telling this story, I had a student stop me and ask if I could show him how to make a website. We talked about the possibility of that. Then the next day a similar thing happened. A girl stopped me during my story and said, “Are you going to teach us how to do that?” At this point, I really had to consider what this type of project might look like and if it was possible.
Due to the ebb and flow of virtual and in-person learning that happened during the 2020-2021 school year, the library became part of the fixed specials rotation. We are on a seven-day rotating schedule so I only saw these students once for 30 minutes every seven days. This project took seven classes to complete as part of that rotation. It was big! I was nervous to even try it because it was going to take so much class time. However, I am so glad I did!
Throughout the school year, the third graders had learned how to find information using reliable sources. They also learned basic citation information and where to find copyright-free images. We discussed why using these resources and images matters. Additionally, students completed a series of lessons about digital citizenship and what information they should share with others online.
All of these objectives were put together to create their website. We used Google Sites because it is easy. My school uses Google Suite for Education so this resource made sense. We are one-to-one iPads so Google Sites, even though not an app, still worked fairly well on this type of device. Students shared their projects with me so that I could keep track of their progress and answer any questions. Best of all it was also free to use!
For this website, students choose their topic. It could be about anything as long as it was appropriate for school. They had to find facts they wanted to share using resources such as Britannica Elementary, WorldBook Kids, PebbleGo, or print materials. Then in their planning booklet, they had to write out a citation for their resource. From there they had to create a home page, facts page, and resources page on their website. They were responsible for finding images that were copyright-free from resources like Image Quest, Unsplash, and more. Finally, using what they had learned about digital citizenship they shared a bit about themselves without providing too much personal information.
Class #1: Choosing a Topic
Each student received a booklet to help them plan. They started by choosing a topic and then talked about where to locate their facts. This was a great review of reliable sources. I provided students a list with several resource options on my library Canvas page. These included resources we have available like PebbleGo, Britannica Elementary, and World Book Kids. These were all resources they had used before so they were familiar with them. For students who could not find information on the topic of their choice we met and were able to provide a print resource or another online option. Most students picked their topic quickly so they began to read and find facts they wanted to include. These were written in their booklet.
Class #2: Finding their Facts/Citing their Sources
Students were given this class period to find any additional information they wanted to include. They also worked to write out their citations based on the resources they used to collect their information. This was all written in their planning booklet.
Class #3: Finding Images/Logging In
During this lesson, we reviewed why we need to use images that are copyright-free and where to find them. I provided them with a list of resources they could use on the library Canvas page. I encouraged them to save several photos to help get them started. This gave them a collection to pull from when working on their pages. We spent the last few minutes of the class period getting logged into Google Sites, opening a new project, and naming it.
Class #4: Home Page
Students used the home page in their booklet to plan their layout. Then I modeled how to create their home page. This was done step by step. We created all three pages of their site from the start so they could create working buttons without difficulty. This gave them the template and they could continue to edit each page as they moved through the project. I showed them how to insert text and images, create a button, and add an image carousel. Then they had time to create. They learned the most by trying it out.
Class #5: Facts Page
Students used the fact page in their booklet to plan their layout and images. Then they created their facts page. Again, I showed them the basics but gave them time to work. This was the page that took the most time to complete since it included the most typing and layout choices.
Class #6: Resources/About Me Page
Students used the resources/about me page in their booklet to plan. We made sure to review what type of personal information should be shared and what should be kept private. For the resources page, I did not have them type the whole citation that they had written in their booklet. They simply had to share where their information came from.
Class #7: Finishing Touches/Share their Work
Before this class, I reviewed each of their sites. I created a note that shared something I thought was super awesome about their site and then something they might want to improve before they published. This note was given to them at the start of the class and was a way of conferring with each student so they could reflect on their work. Many of them just needed to fix spelling, font, or punctuation errors. Then we went through the steps to publish and create a link for their site.
Students had an opportunity to show their websites to each other. We used a museum-style share, where students were able to walk around and show their site.
During each class, while students were working, I was able to walk around and support students with questions. There were a few students I had to work with on an individual basis to help them complete their site. To do this I talked with the teacher about a time that would work best. Additionally, I encouraged students to work on their projects when they had extra time in class or even at home. The third-grade teachers also gave this as an option to students as part of their morning work or if they had free time.
How It Turned Out
Kids are amazing! Since Google Sites is super easy to use, most of them caught on quickly. Additionally, they loved that they could highlight something they were interested in or enjoyed doing. This project was student-centered and I loved hearing them talk about why they choose a topic, layout, or image to include. I can say with confidence that if I had tried to create some other lessons for this point in the school year the engagement and enthusiasm of my students would have looked a lot different. They were excited up until our very last class. There are imperfections, but what they created is nothing short of awesome!
Here are a few examples:
- 3 Famous Football Players: https://sites.google.com/dcds.edu/3famousfootball/home
- My Pet Rabbit: https://sites.google.com/dcds.edu/mypetrabbit/home
- Twirling Tornados: https://sites.google.com/dcds.edu/twirling-tornados/home
- Terrific Toucans: https://sites.google.com/dcds.edu/terrifictoucans/home
Sharing Their Work
Students were able to show their websites to each other. Additionally, I was able to e-mail parents to explain the skills that students applied during the project and share a link to their child’s site. This was a great way to showcase the library curriculum in action.
My students really wanted to see their website be the first one to pop up when completing a Google search. This led to an unexpected discussion. I was able to show the number of results that happen when you search for something online. We also were able to discuss how some websites make it to the top of the list before others. It was an enlightening conversation for them.
What I Would Do Differently
I hope to be able to do this type of project again. The students gained so much from it, and it really encompassed all that we had learned through the curriculum. I would make two changes. First, I would try to make it more collaborative if possible. I think it could have been even better if the classroom teachers and I had been working together instead of it being a stand-alone library project. Additionally, I found it was a bit of a challenge to be as stretched out as it was. It would have been easier for students to build from one lesson to the next if we did not have such a large gap in between each class.
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).