Daphne, AL - Library Media Specialist Sandi Peak knows that middle schoolers can be difficult to impress — especially when it comes to reading. She also knows that reading isn’t at the top of the to-do list for the 625 7-8 grade students enrolled at Daphne Middle School in the Baldwin County School District. “Middle school is different than any other group,” Ms. Peak says. “We’ve found it to be a struggle to motivate them to read.”
But Big Universe is helping to change that. Ms. Peak learned about the digital library and its more than 10,000 eBooks by chance. “I became familiar with it because my two sons attend an elementary school that uses Big Universe,” she explains. Ms. Peak brought the idea of purchasing the digital library to her Principal, Tiffany Irby Kalakheti. “The next thing I knew, she had the purchase order ready,” says Ms. Peak.
When Ms. Peak introduced Big Universe to students, the response was positive. “I remember when I showed it to everybody, they thought it was really neat,” she recalls. Even neater? Seeing students taking the initiative to use the program on their own. “I love when I go to look at the computers in my library and see that students are on Big Universe,” says Ms. Peak.
Big Universe Accommodates Many Instructional Approaches
The school encourages students to access Big Universe independently quite a bit, particularly during Trojan Triumph Time. “This is an extra 24 minutes in the middle of the day, and students have that extra time to do whatever they want to do,” explains Ms. Peak. As long as it involves learning, of course. “It’s all about student success,” she adds.
During this afternoon time, students can choose from a selection of academic activities to work on. Reading books from Big Universe is one of those activities. While students access the digital library and read books independently on their Chromebooks, teachers provide oversight. They are available to mentor students and check in on their learning progress — an easy task thanks to Big Universe’s built-in student management tools that allow educators to view usage reports, check quiz results and more.
Teachers utilize Big Universe in their classrooms, too, in everything from ELA to science. They often use it to flip the classroom, assigning books to students on a topic and then circling back to do classroom activities around the reading. And when students visit the library looking for a particular book or books on a specific subject, Ms. Peak often checks Big Universe. “If my collection is lacking or outdated, I search Big Universe,” she says. “There’s been a big, big push for informational text and nonfiction, and Big Universe has been great for that.” She also points to the value: “I can’t go and purchase that many books to put on my shelves.”
A Digital Library That Offers Return On Learning
During the 2014-15 school year, Daphne Middle School’s overall reading proficiency percentage dropped
from 52 percent to 47 percent on the ASPIRE standardized assessment. But thanks, in part, to learning programs such as Big Universe and Trojan Triumph Time, the school has turned its scores around. During the 2015-16 school year, Daphne Middle School improved its overall reading proficiency by 9.84 percent, bringing its proficiency percentage up to 51. This year educators are setting their sights on surpassing their 2014-15 score.
Daphne Middle School and its students, now in their second year with Big Universe, also continue to enjoy logging into the digital library every day. “It’s such an incredible resource we can provide to all students,” says Ms. Peak. “And they can log in at any time.”