From Plot Twist to Battle Plan

Credit: Laurie Dukes via

Credit: Laurie Dukes via

At the end of Course 4, I shared a Project-Based learning unit that I was very excited to implement as soon as we got back to school in January.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make it back to school in January.  An unexpected spine surgery and long recovery has been a major plot twist which is forcing me to completely rethink my project.  I won’t be back at school until sometime in March, so I’m thinking about how I can take this plot twist and make the most of technology to support student learning even when I can’t be at school. I realized that our Battle of the Books program provides plenty of opportunity to integrate technology to deepen student learning.

Our Battle of the Books program challenges students to read a list of books from various genres over a period of a few months. They have the opportunity to earn badges for their reading, and later, to engage in battles to show their knowledge of the books.  I have decided to focus my project on utilizing technology to motivate students to participate in the program and deepen their thinking about the battle books.

Google Forms
Technology has made it possible to take the Battle experience to a new level.  In the past, students’ only response to the books was to write a couple of battle questions on a slip of paper and put it in a box on my desk.  Thanks to Google Forms, I’ve been able to significantly augment and modify this process to elicit more meaningful responses to the books.  Students now fill out a form on my blog, which asks them to provide a short summary of the book in their own words, a connection to the book, two battle questions for the book, and their rating of the book.  As a librarian, I don’t have much time with my students each week, so the Google Form is a valuable means of staying connected and assessing what they are getting out of the books.  It’s also given me a great set of data to use as I compare battle participation over the years.  This is something I could never do without the technology.

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 12.52.37 PMBlog
Another way I am integrating technology is by making the most of our Learning Commons blog.  Gone are the days when I spent hours maintaining a massive paper chart in the hall to showcase student progress.  Now all the information about the Battle and student progress can be found on the Battle of the Books page on my blog.  In the past, students rarely bothered to look at my blog.  Now, they visit it regularly, and it’s become a hub for the Battle as well as other technology-related assignments.

This year, I am adding a blogging element to the Battle as well.  I am asking each student to write a blog post to share either a review of a Battle book or to share what they have learned from reading all the battle books.  They have the option to either write it up or make a video or other presentation for the blog. They will submit them to the Learning Commons folder in Seesaw where I can access them easily to embed in my Learning Commons blog.  This gives each student the opportunity to share their voice about what they are getting out of the Battle of the Books program.

The students LOVE Kahoot, so I am adding Kahoot quizzes this year to help them review the Battle Books in a engaging way.  I’m also experimenting with Kahoot as a means of changing up our final competition this year.

Battle Book Research
Our Battle books are full of rich, meaningful themes to explore, and I would love for students to dig deeper into those themes.  Instead of the PBL unit I had originally planned, I will have the students engage in a short research project related to a battle book theme. They will choose a theme from the battle book of their choice and complete a research template to guide them through the process.  While it won’t be as detailed as the original research unit, it will at least give my students some research experience while also expanding on their literary understanding.  They will also create a media product to share what they learned about their topic.

I’m still looking at other ways to tech up the Battle, but I’m happy with how it has progressed this year!  While I can’t be at school with my students right now, this surgery plot twist has helped me to consider new ways to stay connected with them via technology.  I’m excited to see their growth and progress as they participate in the battle this year!

Here’s my current UBD template.  I might make a few adjustments as I continue to think about how to make the most of tech for the Battle of the Books program.

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