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What (Might) Work Wednesday: Back-to-School Edition September 30, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Reflections, What Worked.
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Welcome to a New School Year | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Welcome to a new school year!

School has been back in session for about a month in my area, and this year I’ve started a few new experiments/ideas that I’m hoping turn out well.  Only time will tell…

1. Five book/item checkouts with student- and parent-signed agreement
Last year I required the form before any checkouts, and for some students that was very limiting to their access and use of the library’s resources.  This year, if students don’t return their Library Use Agreement form, they still can check out 2 books, but no audiobooks or the wildly popular maker kits.

Using the form completion as an “upgrade” or extra privilege has been pretty effective in motivating both new and returning students, and I like that there is no barrier to checking out while still encouraging student responsibility and parent communication.

 

2. Library Facebook page in lieu of paper newsletters
While I did use a paper newsletter for the back-to-school newsletter, I planned ahead to include it in our school’s “packet pick-up” night so that parents received it with all of the other school forms.  I’m not sure if parents are actually reading it, but the majority of the agreement forms were returned.  I’m taking that as a good sign.

Our library Facebook page is what I’m using for my primary communication tool during the rest of the year.  I post library and reading advocacy articles, as well as book recommendations and upcoming events.  For more post ideas, check out my Library Website Social Media Pinterest board!

 

3. Research centers first, then free choice
Last year I required every student to complete 3 library “badges” in Research Skills, Reading Promotion, and Makerspace/Creation & Tech.  This year, I’m trying something a bit more progressive and constructivist.  When I introduce centers this fall, I will offer 6 research centers only at first.  Then after students earn their Research Skills badge, they can have free-choice of reading and makerspace centers.  They will be able to earn more badges, but the others won’t be required.  I think it will be more of a challenge for me to engage all students, but once a student finds their passion, I think their engagement and learning will be more authentic.

 

4. New Student Learning Objective (SLO) assessment format
Like many librarians and teachers across the nation, a percentage of my evaluation is based on “data.”  For music, gym, art, and library teachers like myself, 15% of my evaluation must be a student learning objective, or Kindergarten Library Assessment Quiz FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechSLO, that proves with data that I assessed students in a particular skill.

For kindergarten, I’m changing how I assess the parts of a book, author & illustrator roles, and fiction vs. nonfiction.  I made a FREE printable booklet that students can complete as an assessment of their knowledge.  I’m going to try having students complete one page per week until everyone is finished, including “extra practice” pages for students to make-up incorrectly completed pages.

So what are the new ideas or experiments that you are trying this year?

I’d love to hear them, and I hope we can inspire each other!

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!

Reflections and Celebrations 2015 June 22, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Makerspace!, Reflections.
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End of the Year Reflections 2015 | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Every year as the school year winds down (or crashes, rather), I start thinking about what I want to change for next year.  Though I’ve made notes on my grade-level lesson plans all year long, it’s good to look back and remember not only what I want to change, but how far I’ve come since last school year.  After a long school year, some reflecting and celebrating never fails to reignite my passion for teaching, and I recommend the practice to any teacher-librarian or educator!

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PSLA 2015 “Make It @ Your Library” Presentation May 1, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Makerspace!, PSLA.
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I’m honored to be presenting at the 2015 PA School Librarians Association Annual Conference about makerspaces in elementary and middle school libraries this afternoon.  If you can’t make it to the conference (or you’re not from PA), my presentation is on Google Slides.

During my session, I’m also hosting a few giveaways for anyone who attends in person or online.  You must be a PSLA member to enter the four giveaways below, however, you can win only one of them. I’ll post the winners on my Twitter account after my session today, so stay tuned!

PSLA Giveaway #1 – littleBits Makerspace Center
PSLA Giveaway #2 – Goldie Blox Makerspace Center
PLSA Giveaway #3 – Electric Sewing Makerspace Center
PSLA Giveaway #4 – Paper Circuits with Interactive Nursery Rhymes Makerspace Center

Special thanks to littleBits for donating the Starter Kit for the littleBits Makerspace Center giveaway!

Images in the giveaways are from Mrs. J in the Library and the products’ respective creators.

Library Centers Tracking with QR Code Check-in March 29, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Building my PLN, or Professional Learning Network, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since I started teaching!  Being connected with fabulous educators through blogs and Twitter means I have an excellent network of colleagues and resources to inspire me to improve my instruction.  And last week, I experienced a wonderful, problem-solving PLN win!

The challenge:

I spent WAY too much time tracking which library centers students were at, and not enough time facilitating the learning that was happening.  I kept a record of student center choices on a Google spreadsheet, and I also stamped each student’s center tracking booklet so that they can visualize their learning.

Ideally, I recorded where each students was (that “all-important” data), AND had time to encourage/scaffold students who were struggling, re-direct students who were off-task, and challenge students who were coasting.  In reality, the data collection took almost every second of my time during the 25-ish minutes of library centers.  I still “checked in” with students when I stamped their booklets, but only for about 5 seconds.

The solution!

In the past year, I had read this blog post on QR codes for tracking library visits by Ms. O Reads Books, and her follow-up blog posts explaining how to do it  Then, I remembered this blog post by Vicki Davis about using every last instructional moment.  I wanted to use every minute as efficiently as possible, and cram as much (fun) learning as possible into a 40-minute library class.

Even though those two posts don’t seem to relate, I had a magical flash of inspiration and found my solution: Library Center Check-in with QR codes!

How it works:

Ms. O’s idea of using QR codes to “sign in” at the library has been floating around my brain for months.  It takes some tech tricks to set up, but basically, several Google forms collect their responses in a single spreadsheet.

So I made a different Google Form for each library center and color-coded them according to their category:

  • RED = Reading Promotion – Independent Reading, Destiny Online Book Review Writing, and PA Young Readers’ Choice Voting.
  • BLUE = Research Skills – Question of the Week, Independent Research Choices, and the Ladybugs Observation & Research.
  • GREEN = Creation &  Tech (aka our makerspace) – littleBits™, Nursery Rhyme Paper Circuits, Electric Sewing, Learning to Code, Goldie Blox™, and Puzzle Apps.

Library Centers Check-in and Tracking with Google Forms and QR Codes | Mrs. J in they Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Each form asks for the student’s name and teacher’s name.  Some forms have one additional question such as, “What are you working on today?” for the makerspace centers.  I tried to keep it very short, because one tablet is shared among several students. 

I created a QR code for each form, printed the codes on Avery QR stickers, and stuck the code onto the center signage with a large “Check in” sticker (printed on address labels/barcode labels).  The stickers hide some of the clipart on my center directions signs, but they are functional nonetheless.

I tried it with each class in grades 3-5, and it was a HUGE success!  I’m relying on students to report their center choice honestly, but I also have the “double-check” of the booklet stamps. I’m thrilled with the results because now I’m able to do more teaching/facilitating/scaffolding and less data collection during classes. 

As an added bonus, I showed one of our district tech coaches to get some feedback, and she liked the idea, too.  Yay for advocacy!!

Have you used QR codes in your library or classroom?  If so, please share your experience and any tech tricks you learned in the comments!

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