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A Freebie for Your Patience May 7, 2016

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections.
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I know it’s been over 5 months since my last post, and well…life got in the way.  In the past few months, my husband and I became (very happily) pregnant, and it seems like everything just went crazy from there.  I know this will probably come as no surprise to the parents reading this, but things just…change.  There’s a gradual, but very noticeable, shift that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t have the same drive to blog, or tweet, or create, or innovate.  To be fair, my body’s a little busy doing plenty of creating, however, I don’t feel the same ambitious desire to do anything innovative or new in my library.  It’s disconcerting, but I’m emotionally and professionally fine with it.  It’s been easier than I expected to just let it go.

Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe has an excellent blog post on how first-time fatherhood affects his professional life.  I read it last summer, and it came to mind again a couple of weeks ago.  It captures rather well how I’ve been feeling (except for the partner judging/shaming…my hubby has taken over all the cooking and most of the cleaning, so I blessedly can’t relate to that part).  I admire his ability and willingness to write about how his personal and professional lives interact.  And I wish more librarians and educators would be so honest about the realities of the elusive work-life balance.

A Freebie for Your Patience: Independent Reading Library Center | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

So for my readers’ patience, here’s a freebie of one of my library centers that I’ve used for a couple of years.  A commonly used center is the “reading independently” or “book buddies reading” center, and some other versions are available from my teacher-librarian PLN.  I made my own version for two reasons:

  1. I color-coded my library centers based on my 3 types of centers: Research Skills, Reading & Language, and Makerspace.  I assigned the color red to all the Reading & Language centers, so I wanted my Independent Reading Center to be red.
  2. I wanted to add options for reading material to include magazines and ebooks, as well as whisper-reading to a beanbag buddy or “book buddy.”

So if you’d like to try my version of this popular center, click on the image below or on THIS LINK to download it.  The zip file download contains the center sign below in PDF and Microsoft Word file formats, and an editable lesson plan in Microsoft Word file.  The clipart is from Glitter Meets Glue Designs and Empty Jar Illustrations.

Thank you for staying tuned during my temporary hiatus.  Enjoy!

Independent Reading Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Reading Aloud in School: An Endangered Practice? July 23, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, PSLA.
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At the recent PA School Librarians Association (PSLA) Annual Conference, I read a worrisome tweet from a participant in a concurrent session. Some Pennsylvania librarians reported that administrators recently told them that reading aloud isn’t “rigorous enough.” Not even as part of a larger unit or with young students.

I was horrified to hear that statement, however, it wasn’t the first time, I’ve heard similar whispers about “rigor” in relation to library class time and reading aloud. It’s particularly frustrating to hear when in some districts (not mine), the teacher-librarian is viewed as “just coverage” for a classroom teacher’s planning period, regardless of how rigorous (or not) the information literacy instruction is.

Anyway, in my district, the curriculum we teach is accepted as part of the wider district curriculum, and that brings along all kinds of language like “rigor” and “accountability” and “assessment data” and “SLOs” (or Student Learning Outcomes). I’m *SO* over those education buzzwords.

 

Reading Aloud in School: An Endangered Practice? - Research & Resources | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

I still read aloud to kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students, and I base my research and information literacy instruction on the books I read.

Here are 3 reasons why reading aloud is more important than ever in a child’s education:

  1. Reading aloud builds common experiences and a shared vocabulary.  For students who are lucky enough to attend our school for multiple years (or even long enough to experience 2 of my library units), I often refer back to characters and events in a book we previously read.  Of course, I also explain the background and give the book title and author for newer students to read on their own, too.
  2. Reading aloud models fluency, voice, and how to enjoy a book without the pressure of “accountability.”  When children listen to a story, it should be for the sheer enjoyment, not for a comprehension quiz.  Listening to a book being read models to students how to read well, which is undeniably helpful in learning to read.
  3. It’s fun.  I know, I know, that’s not a popular pedagogical reason to give administrators.  But I teach children who are over-scheduled, over-tested, and under the age of 11.  I dare any administrator to think back to when they were 8 years old, and see what they remember most.  My guess is it wasn’t “rigorous” by today’s standards.

Resources on the Importance of Reading Aloud

There is significant evidence in educational research that reading aloud matters, and here some resources to advocate to parents, administrators, and community members.

Mem Fox’s excellent read-aloud lesson, ten read-aloud commandments, and her long (but worth it) article, “Like mud, not fireworks”…in fact, just go read all the “Teachers” and “Parents” sections of her website.  They’re fabulous!

Reach Out and Read is an organization featured in School Library Journal‘s October 2014 issue.  Their research studies on reading aloud are summarized here.

Jim Trelease’s “The Read-Aloud Handbook” and his accompanying website and brochures.  ReadAloud.org also cites Trelease in this succinct article on the benefits of reading aloud.

Reading Is Fundamental’s (aka RIF) articles on reading aloud, including research from the U.S. Department of Education

Scholastic Parent’s March 2015 blog post about reading to older children, even after they can read themselves, which I posted to my library Facebook page.

A homeschooling mom’s April 2015 blog post about reading aloud highlights some of the benefits for parents reading to their children, but more importantly, she explains why reading *good* children’s literature matters when reading to children.

 

Of course, there are many more resources in educational research journals, but the above links are readily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, regardless access to database subscriptions.  If you have another reading aloud resource to share or have successfully advocated to stakeholders about this topic, please share your knowledge in the comments!

Review: “Making Makers” by AnnMarie Thomas December 20, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Makerspace!, Reflections, Reviews.
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Book Review: "Making Makers" by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Cover image from Amazon

After reading “Invent to Learn” by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez, I learned about LOTS of great makers and the kits they make/sell to encourage students to create and to learn.  One of those kits is AnnMarie Thomas’s Squishy Circuits kit that uses salt dough (like Play-Doh™) for electronic wires.  Last year, I bought a Squishy Circuits kit to try out, and though I don’t find suitable for our library’s makerspace, my young niece and nephew (ages 4 and 7) got endless enjoyment from it as they “made a party” on my living room tableSo when I saw Dr. Thomas’s new book, “Making Makers,” about how to introduce the children in my life, whether they are my students or my relatives, to the maker movement, I was excited to read it.

“Making Makers” is a slim book, only 145 pages.  Each chapter focuses on a certain aspect of makers and the maker movement; that aspect is then demonstrated with anecdotes of funny, often dangerous, childhood escapades of prominent makers.  As a primer to the larger maker movement, I think this book is an excellent place to start, and for educators, “Making Makers” may be a way to introduce faculty to the maker movement before reading “Invent to Learn.”

Dr. Thomas uses a narrative, laid-back style to tell the story of how the maker movement’s participants grew up.  She has interviewed over 35 makers and engineers in addition to reflecting on her own experiences as a maker and a mother of 2 daughters.  The result is a thorough, albeit not comprehensive, roll call of the “movers and shakers” of the maker movement.  What I found most refreshing and completely AWESOME, however, is that her interviewees represent a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds.  There is also a balanced number of male and female makers, though I didn’t count as I read.  This fact is especially noteworthy after the recent discussion of diversity (or the lack thereof) in children’s and YA literature, and Leah Beuchley’s poignant speech at the Eyeo conference on how the de facto “voice” of the maker movement, MAKE:™ magazine, isn’t really as diverse as they and their Maker Education Initiative claim to be.

In light of Dr. Beuchley’s speech and the related school library discussion of diversity, it was nice to read a book published by Maker Media (MAKE:™ magazine’s parent company) that represented makers and people from so many different backgrounds and life experiences.  We need more of those stories told, and I hope “Making Makers” is the start of a trend towards greater diversity in Maker Media’s products.  I also hope this book begins to broaden the definition of “making” to replace the current perception that it only includes electronics, programming, and 3D printing.

Finally, I appreciated the constant tension that Dr. Thomas talks about in her reflections on raising 2 daughters to be makers. The line between performing dangerous stunt experiments with foolish risks, and excited engagement in a learning activity with acceptable risks is often a precarious line to walk.  And it’s even more precarious for teachers.  Parents have a large amount of control over the amount of risk they introduce to their child.  As a teacher with 22-30 students in my care and potential lawsuits weighing on my mind, my comfort level with student risk-taking drops significantly. 

Still, I get the sense from reading that it’s perfectly normal to feel the tension between those two places.  Learning can, and should, be exciting and a little risky.  When did we stop teaching like that, anyway?  I’m just not sure our current education system and the wider society has caught up with those ideas yet.  Still, Dr. Thomas’s empowering message to parents and teachers is this:

We don’t get to pick our children’s interests, but we do get to influence how broad an array of experiences they are exposed to….[And] we get to choose how we encourage the endeavors and interests that they choose for themselves. ~Dr. AnnMarie Thomas in Making Makers

All in all, if you’re a teacher or librarian interested in the maker movement, I think “Making Makers” is required reading, and well worth adding to your professional literature collection.  And I’m not being paid to say that.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. 

Merry Christmas, and to my teacher readers, I hope you have a restful break!

Book Tastings: 7 Steps to Promote Your Best Books! October 29, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Tablets & Apps.
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In light of all the fun that Halloween, *cough* I mean Book Character Dress-up Day brings, I thought I’d share a fun learning experience that I tried last year and have gotten to revisit again this year…Book Tastings!

Book Tastings: 7 Steps to Promote Your Best Books! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

My first book tasting set-up; P.S. – This was NOT enough books on each table…not by a long shot!

I’ve written before about how I don’t really do booktalks, at least not very often with such limited time in my schedule. Admittedly, I’m also not very good at “keeping up” with reading new children’s literature and the four-month backlog of School Library Journal that’s currently sitting on my coffee table.  And you can’t recommend what you haven’t read.
In the past 2 years, though, I’ve discovered that book tastings are a more efficient way to introduce students to both new books and some old classics.

Here’s my basic process:
1. Schedule a time  with the classroom teacher for students to visit the library for about an hour. (This is by far the hardest part.) Consult with the classroom teacher about the range of reading levels in the class and any specific genre he/she would like to highlight.
If at all possible, invite other teachers who work with struggling readers in that class, e.g. reading specialists, learning support teachers.

2. On each library table or area, pile about 30 *attractive-looking* books from one genre or topic. This is not the time to pull out Mr. Popper’s Penguins or A Wrinkle in Time with their original cover art (no matter how much you and I might love them).  Instead, set out the best of your updated-cover classics as well as newer books that you know students will like if they give them a chance.  Have an equal number of fiction and nonfiction genres represented, and mix of various reading levels. Fill the table with two layers if needed! Better to have too many than not enough in this case.

3. Students come with a list (or a blank sheet of paper) or a tablet/laptop if your school has 1:1 devices.  If using devices, show students how to login to Destiny Quest to access their account and add to “My List.”

4. Explain directions and start a timer for 7-8 minutes (can be shortened to 5 if you’re in a hurry).  Each student has 7-8 minutes to “shop” or “taste” the books on that table.  If they are interested in a book and they MAY want to check it out later, they either write it on their paper list, or add it to their “My List” in Destiny Quest.

5. Meanwhile, all the teachers in the room circulate and make sure the books that students choose are ones they can actually read.  If needed, they can recommend an on-the-spot Five-Finger Test or comprehension check.

6. At the end of the 7-8 minutes when the timer buzzes, students rotate tables and you start the timer again.  Repeat until all students have visited all tables.

7. If time and schedule allows, I let students check out 1 or 2 of their favorites now, and save the list for later in the year.

When I did my first book tasting, I bought Carolyn at Risking Failure‘s Book Tasting product on TpT.  It was well worth it to get me started, and now I can do it on my own with just some basic place-cards at each table to label each genre/topic.

Our Fall 2014 tables were: Realistic Fiction, History and Historical Biography (double table), Science & Scientists (double table), Art/Music/Artists/Musicians/Fun/Sports, and Mystery/Adventure.

Of course, I did try to sneak in some fantasy/sci fi books at the mystery/adventure table.  They are my favorite genres after all, but it was just a few!  The double tables were 2 separate stops on the rotation, and consisted of 2 tables pushed together.  Having 2 double tables allowed students to linger a little while longer on the nonfiction, and I could also showcase some of our excellent picture book biographies that our older students usually dismiss as too young or easy for them.

Have you ever done a book tasting in your library or classroom?  If so, I’d love to hear what your “menu” looked like!  List your topics/genres in the comments, and any other ideas you would like to share.

Whole Number Dewey: A Year Without Decimals September 28, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, Reflections.
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Whole Number Dewey: A Year Without Decimals - Eliminate the decimals to help elementary students use the library more independently and efficiently. | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Image from Pixabay and edited with PicMonkey

It’s been almost a whole school year since I hit the “Import Titles” button and replaced ALL of my Dewey number MARC records with call numbers sans decimals.  It was a bit daunting making such a wildly revolutionary decision.  Thanks to some VERY dedicated volunteers, countless hours spent re-stickering spine labels, and new, large, and colorful signs, however, I honestly think that the change has made our nonfiction section more accessible to students and faculty.

Here are some of my discoveries and reflections… (more…)

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