A Shelfari Success Story

l. to r. Tam, Ann, Kathy

Nothing beats a success story, and this is one if ever there was. What follows is that story, told by the person who created the climate for it to occur. She is a Technology Integration Specialist, K-12 in a neighboring district. She posted her story to the CFF Listserv where our SHS Instructional Coach, Jennifer Brinson, forwarded it to me to share. 


 Hello, everyone:

I have been thinking a lot about an experience I had this past week with one HS librarian, a 10th grade English teacher, and some 10th grade students.

For the most part, they are not very motivated readers. The librarian was trying to convince the teacher that bringing the students to the library on a regular basis would be a good experience for her students. While the teacher agreed in principle, she was worried that the kids would not take it seriously and wouldn’t make good use of the class time.

The two came to me for ideas. (I am currently mentoring the librarian because it is her first year as a librarian, and I was one for 27 years prior to becoming a coach.) Together, we discussed what the teacher would like to see her students learn as a result of regular library visits. She promptly answered, “a love of reading.” The librarian agreed that this would be the ultimate goal. As we talked about what we could do that might engage the students, the teacher mentioned that she has tried literature circles, but that the book discussions never developed into the rich conversations she’d envisioned; students didn’t seem to care about sharing their thoughts with others. Book reports were dreaded by the students and were CLEARLY not desired, thank goodness.

Image courtesy of Discovery Education

I left this meeting with Edmodo in mind. I have used this tool successfully with other teachers and students to get everyone engaged in a discussion topic. It is the Facebook-like interface that allows this tool to transcend other web 2.0 tools. The teacher must structure the conversation for the students, but little time is wasted in teaching students how to sign up or use the tool. This works great when the students are all on one topic or are reading the same book (either whole-class, or in lit circle groups).

What continued to stump me was what to do to engage the students as a community of readers who might all be reading different books. Furthermore, I wanted the experience to be one that students might learn a skill that could continue beyond the requirements of their 10th grade English class.

Create a Shelfari account

I went home and Googled around a bit. The answer came to me in a nifty social book sharing site called Shelfari. At our next meeting, the three of us signed up for accounts (you need to create an Amazon account, but no personal information is required for Shelfari) and played around a bit with the interface to see if it would suit the teacher’s and the librarian’s requirements. The sign up is a bit tricky, so I made a step-by-step cheat sheet with screen shots for the students to follow. We set some parameters on what the students would be required to do:

  1. Sign up for an account using first name and last initial only. 
  2. Create and post an avatar as the profile photo. 
  3. Set their location as Our Town, PA (Trying to protect identity here.) 
  4. Start by adding five books they’ve already read to their shelf. Also, they would add three books they wanted to read, and any books they are currently reading. 
  5. “Friend” all of the other members of the class, their teacher, and the librarian.

Talk about transformation! The signup was a breeze. The avatar creation was simple; we used MyAvatarEditor. Then the fun began. Instead of wandering around aimlessly finding a book (or not) which might be read (or not), the students began discussing (quite animatedly) books they’d already read, recommending books to their neighbors, searching the library’s catalog to see whether the library had the latest book of interest, writing reviews and rating books they’d read, etc. etc. etc. Two boys who I know to be reluctant readers (they were my students in middle school) excitedly discussed the Pendragon series as they tried to convince their English teacher to read it.

Poof! Instant community of readers!

The librarian required the students to “friend” her on Shelfari. As she explained to them, she’d be looking at their “Books I Plan to Read” shelves for ideas of books to purchase for the HS library collection. Because this site is directly linked to amazon.com, she can quickly access professional reviews, bindings, and prices.

We had a difficult time getting the kids to return the laptops and leave at the end of the period. I was just on my Shelfari account a few moments ago and many of the students have friend requested me. Once I approve them, they will be able to see what I am reading and will receive a news feed about all of the latest updates I and their friends have made to our accounts. There’s even a feature that suggests books you might like based on your reading history, which becomes more refined as you add more books to your shelves.

The teacher has a rubric that she will use to rate the students’ use of Shelfari. She is currently teaching them how to write an informative book review, and she will evaluate their reviews by looking at what they’ve written on Shelfari. Talk about an authentic learning experience…with an authentic audience for their work.

I bet they’re even on this site today…on their day off!!!

Just had to share. This is an example of 21st teaching and learning at its finest. I hope you can find a way to try it with your teachers.


P.S. I liked this so much, I decided to try it out on my 183 teachers. I asked them if they wanted to read The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner as a book discussion group. I told them there would be no deadlines, no meetings, etc. The group “meets” asynchronously on Shelfari. I had SEVEN takers, which I think is pretty good at PSSA time. Sneaky way to get a PLC started, don’t you think?

Kathy graciously shared her Shelfari Signup Tutorial and Shelfari Rubric.

Kathy Fiedler’s Shelfari Signup Tutorial

Kathy Fielder’s Shelfari Rubric

For more project information, please contact:

Kathy L. Fiedler
Technology Integration Specialist, K-12
Northwestern Lehigh School District
6493 Route 309
New Tripoli, PA 18066
610-298-8661 x. 2222
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  1. Kath Fiedler said:

    Just a correction…the rubric was created by Ann Way with the help of Tam Fitzgerald. In addition, please know that Ann and Tam had come to me AFTER they already came up with the idea of a social site for students to share their reading. My involvement was in finding a tool to match their needs and in figuring out how we could get kids to sign up. I played a small supporting role and would like credit to go where it is most deserved.

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