All Are Welcome: Welcoming in a New School Year

We are ushering in a new school year with a new theme, an invitation to our library to read, grow, explore, and create. I want students to feel welcome in our library. I want them to know that this is their space and that this is a safe place.  I did the following activity with grades 2-5 (1st graders are new to our building so I did an adapted version of this for them).

We began by brainstorming what "welcome" is:
  • Being invited (like to a party) 
  • Feeling included, like you belong
  • Being allowed
  • Being accepted
  • Inviting people to come
  • Feeling comfy
  • Saying hi
  • A saying on a rug

Next, we read the book All Are Welcome written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman.

Students then went on a mission in the library to take a picture of an item or a procedure and decide how that item or procedure welcomes (or doesn't welcome) students and teachers. Students eagerly took off to take photos (and of course a few selfies were thrown in there).

A student takes pictures of the graphic novel displays.

Students then returned to the rug to share the items they located. First, they shared their findings in a small group before I asked the entire class for some volunteers to share with the whole class.

Here are some of their findings:

"The bulletin board invites us to read.  Nice words welcome you when you are new." 
"Shelfies! Seeing other people smiling in the library makes people feel welcome.
All these people come to the library.  Why don't you?"

"Hanging signs help readers find what they want."
"Signs help people know what choices they have."
"We feel good seeing favorite books that we connect with standing up on the shelves." (the displays)

"Mrs. Garland, the Wonderful Welcomer." (Awww!)
"The kindness poster on the wall."  (student-made)

"Signs complement and encourage you."
"The library has a good view." (The high school field)
"Smile poster - if you smile, you make someone else feel welcome."

"The paintings by the door where we line up have nice words and a nice message."

My takeaways

When I planned this activity I created a handout with step-by-step directions.  I used this with one class and then ditched it.  While I intended this to help direct students, I felt they were bogged down in the writing.  They only had to answer 1 question on the back, but I think the amount of text intimidated them.  Very few groups completed the task.  I simplified.  Ultimately, I told them they needed to find something (thing or procedure) and take a picture of it.  When they got to the rug they would decide how it did or didn't welcome people into our library.  Much easier.  This gave us more time for discussion.  I was hoping student responses would get into procedures - I suggested this to grades 4 and 5, but this may have been too abstract.

*I didn't have any students address how the library was NOT making them feel welcome during the discussion.  (Odd, I expected at least a few), so I asked them to please consider this as the year progresses.  I asked them to come to me when they were not feeling welcome.  Immediately following our discussion in a 5th-grade class I had a partner team approach me.  They "were not feeling welcome when I did not call on them right away when they had their hands raised."  I gently reminded them that they DID get to share with the class, but I was moving around the room so all voices could be heard.  They agreed and departed.  I am hoping this will open lines of communication and keep us talking all year.  Time will tell.

This idea morphed.  I originally intended to try a Goosechase with my students.  This does not meet the required student privacy guidelines for my district so I went to plan B.  Plan B was a google form submission of their photo so I could collect all of the images in one place.  However, a google form needs a unique sign in for digital uploads.  I wanted to use iPads for a quick point and click activity.  Logging in to student accounts was going to slow us down significantly (I barely squeezed this all in during our time).  Ultimately, I ditched all of my lovely, creative ideas and went simple.

  • Take a picture.  
  • Defend your choice.  
  • Share.  
I got students talking, sharing, and noticing new (and old) things around our library.  All were feeling welcome.  Mission accomplished.


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