Friday, March 14, 2014

Writing Around the Text

After reading Buffy Hamilton's post detailing children having written conversations around a selected text, I knew I had to try it. However, Buffy's students are in high school and I only have a thirty minute time frame so I knew I needed to tweak the idea. 

Currently, our 4th grade is working on a Body Systems unit and our 5th grade is researching the American Colonies. I was looking for something to spark interest in these units before the formal research began. This seemed like the time to try this strategy. For the Body Systems unit, I found an article about exercise benefits from Time for Kids, a diagram with an explanation about the new My Plate, and two short chapters from our library books about the digestive system and how the brain sends nerve signals throughout the body. With the American Colony unit, I found a political cartoon that shows the Native American view point, an article about the lost colony of Roanoke, an article of how a colonial kitchen was set up and run, an article describing African Americans being sold as slaves and a time line from Jamestown to the Revolutionary War. I pasted each text on large bulletin board paper that span our library tables.

The children in 4th and 5th grade needed more guidance with their discussion than Buffy's high school students. I am in love with the Fountas and Pinell prompting guides and use them to help create open ended discussion questions for my book clubs and my lessons. I selected four discussion questions and displayed them on the Promethean board. The questions focused on author's message, text features, prior knowledge and any new questions the text may have raised.

The directions were simply...
1. Read the text at your table as a group.
2. Write about one of the discussion question prompts.
3. Read and respond to any table's article or any comment that a classmate wrote.

Each class was different. Some needed more guidance with which question to respond to while other classes jumped right in. Some groups chose to have one person read while other groups wanted to break up the articles so everyone would get a chance to read. The discussion questions did seem to focus the student's responses.

I will definitely use this strategy again. My goal of sparking interest in a topic was obtained. The children also seem to dig deeper in the text and enjoyed commenting on classmates answers.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Olympics and the Library Triathalon

Over the summer I was reading, The Tibrarian Handbook: A Teacher-Librarian's Guide to Transforming the Library Into a Center of Learning by Christine Varachi. She had a wonderful idea for a school-wide library Olympic contest where the children earn points for reading minutes, activity minutes and researching facts. I fell in love with the idea and realized that the Winter Olympics were this year! Ideas began on my iPad immediately. 
The library, in both schools, hosted a Library Triathlon! Each homeroom was given a country that was competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics. The children would turn in forms for nightly reading and activity minutes along with facts they researched about their homeroom country. Each of the events were weighed equally in a spreadsheet, created by my principal, that gave a daily point count for each country. The country's flags were moved on a large horizontal wall chart in the hall for all the kids to see. Each country had a larger vertical chart paper hang in the hallway as well. The information the children research about their country was pasted on those posters. This way the children could read all the new facts! Here are templates that I used. 

Three weeks of library lessons focused on the background of the Olympics, the contest rules, the town of Sochi and all they did to make their winter games unique and biographies from some of the Olympic athletes representing Team USA. The students truly enjoyed learning about the symbols, traditions and especially the athletes stories. 

At Allen, the Library Triathlon ended with a school wide celebration. Each county ceremoniously walked in to the event with a country flag and a "torch". We "lit" the large Olympic flame with the Olympic theme playing in the background. Our principal, Mr. Clarke, reminded us of how our school behavior is similar to the Olympic spirit and explained the rules to our first activity "Ballius Uppius in the Areaius (from the Greek/Latin: Ball Up in the Air). So much fun! The second activity activity was Olympic Trivia based on the library lessons. Mr. Clarke added more suspense by adding in a relay race with the Olympic rings before the questions were answered. A huge hit! 
In both schools, the top three classes earned Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from Oriental Trading Company. The Gold class will also receive a Pizza Party, the Silver a Popsicle Party and the Bronze will enjoy a Popcorn Party.   

This is a movie from our closing ceremony at Allen. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpking Night @MHA Library

I wanted to create a small intimate family night at our library this fall. The answer was Pumpkin Night. I asked families in grade Kindergarten, first and second to design a pumpkin based on a character from a book. The families were so creative! The pumpkins were on display in the library for two days. In that way, each class would be able to see their classmates work. The library offered several pumpkin activities for families to participate in that night including a story time with the librarian and the principal!
Here is the link to the film that showcases the pumpkins and the joy the kids had coming back to the library at night.
Here are the documents that I created to organize this pumpkin night. Feel free to download and edit them to make them fit your pumpkin night.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back In The Library!

It is official... I am back in the library! Through a series of district movement a library position opened up. I have left my home school, Allen and now dance between our newest schools, Kirby's Mill and Chairville. I know that this is a challenge sharing schools, but oh how I love the library environment! The staff and children in both buildings have been so welcoming. I am also following a super star librarian who has left things in perfect working order! How fortunate for me! There are so many projects going on right now that I want to share here. I hope there will be enough time to blog!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NJEA Classroom Close Up

This film was made by NJEA Classroom Close Up about the Literature Links program that we created to help parents read with their children strategically. The producer, Adam Bauser, wrote his thoughts about the Literature Links program and how it changed his own reading time with his kids in a post entitled, Unlocking the Keys to Reading with Your Child. His post was the "ripple effect" I was hoping for when I sought out the Target grant over a year ago!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Race To Nowhere

I wanted to share a link to a film, Race to Nowhere, I watched with some friends last night at Haddonfield High School. It was a powerful film about the effects of the demanding educational standards parents, teachers, colleges have on some kids. It looked closely at what kids are doing to their bodies to keep up with not only their academics, but also their religious classes, sports and community work. Stating that kids don't get into good school just because of academics. They need to be almost perfect at everything in order to be considered at some colleges.
A large part of the movie was devoted to the research that did not support hours and hours of homework. Yet, homework seemed to be the single thread that was stressing the kids out and causing them to take stimulants, not sleep and cheat. The film also looked at what these kids were learning. Many kids pointed out they can't remember what information they learned on tests or homework because they just needed to "cram it in and then let it out". Doctors and lawyers spoke about how the young adults coming into their profession can't think. They are so used to being "coached". This was a scary thought for them because who will be the leaders in their professions if no one is thinking.
I took a lot away from this film as a Mommy. "What homework do you have tonight?", will not be the first thing out of my mouth when I greet my 2nd grader anymore! As a teacher, I am looking into my homework practices. Two books about the homework topic in the film.
Librarians have a role in adding inquiry into their collaborative projects. Leading the way to show the importance of critical thinking for our students not simple recall.
It was quite a powerful film. Please leave a comment if you have seen the film and it moved you as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Literature Links

The MHA library was the recipient of an Early Childhood Reading Grant from Target stores this summer. Whoo hoo! With budgets shrinking and programs being cut, the grant was welcomed news. The grant allowed me to create a program called Literature Links. The goal of the program was simple: To Help Parents and Kids Connect with Books through Strategic Reading. Research shows that when parents become involved in their children reading their children reading achievement grows and stronger families of readers are built. (Darling, Westberg 2004)

The Literature Links parent book club studied the book 7 Keys to Comprehension by Susan Zimmermann. In the book, 7 comprehension strategies were examined to help readers make meaning from the texts. At the Literature Links Book Club, parents learned about these strategies each week. Through interactive activities parents were encouraged to “Try It!” with their own children.

In order to help parents continue to utilize the strategies they learned in the book club and to reach out to other families unable to attend, a library backpack program was developed. The MHA library now offers 30 backpacks to circulate among K-2 students. Each of the 30 backpacks contain two library books based on a theme. The backpacks also include a prompt sheet that should be used when families are reading and discussing the theme’s literature. Parents are able to use these prompts before, during or after the reading of the literature.

The program has been so successful at our school. Parents have been quite vocal of how much they have learned from this program. Literature Links will even be featured on an upcoming segment of the NJEA show Classroom Close Up! I am presenting this idea to other NJ librarians this Thursday at our local Barnes and Noble. I have included the website that I will be sharing with them. It contains resources that librarians could use to begin a similar program in their library.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Colaboration in the Real World

I am thrilled to be co-presenting at the NJASL fall conference on Friday with two amazing ladies. Jackie Albright Pugh and Katie Eagen-Casale are two librarians that work in my district. This year they have the daunting task of maintaining not one, but two school libraries. I am in awe of how they daily meet many challenges and yet still aggressively seek collaboration opportunities in both schools! Our presentation provides many strategies for librarians that are struggling to keep the collaboration part of their library program and those who are looking to start collaborative efforts within their district. We share many examples of what has worked for us. The Power Point and other resources are available here.
I will be honest and say it was wonderful to collaborate with other librarians and to participate in conversations surrounding the happenings of school libraries again. I am looking forward to a great conference. At the top of my NJASL list is getting the opportunity to hear and meet Buffy Hamilton finally! My former professor and friend Shayne Russell will be presenting “New Technologies for Program, Promotion & Productivity @ Your Library.” Look for my tweets!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The End of the Year

This year's annual report will be almost entirely digital. Once again I have been inspired by Buffy Hamilton. Mine is not as fancy, but I think the opening movie is a perfect way to sum up our year.

I love the idea of the annual report. It allows me to look back and see all the learning that has taken place not only by the students and teachers, but myself! The library in my school has made such a transformation in the last two years and I feel honored to have been a part of it. The administration, teachers, parents and students have been so willing to allow change to happen!

This year will be my last year in the library. Due to the dramatic funding cuts in New Jersey my district will not have a full time librarian in each building. I am fortunate that I will be returning to the classroom. (2nd grade!) Although I am embracing this new opportunity, I will miss this position terribly! I have only been a librarian for two years, but it has been the most rewarding two years of my 16 year career.

This is the link to the report. As always, I welcome any feedback.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sandwich Board Research

Many classes have been collaborating with me in the area of Reading Workshop. Some classes come to the library once a week to have their reading workshop time in the library. The kids love the change of space and the teachers love the team teaching opportunity. Some classes focused on non fiction texts at the end of the year. After reading Collaboration and Comprehension by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, I was so excited to try out some of their suggestions. Mrs. Demski was one of the teachers who shared her class with me for a non fiction unit. In the book, there are specific lessons about instructing children to code the text, take notes and write summaries from what they learned. We used these lessons over several weeks with much success. The kids were truly engaging with the text. They were writing notes in their own words unlike the straight copying we had observed in the past. We were so excited about their learning we wanted them to share it with other classes. In the book, it had mentioned the idea of a sandwich board to convey your message to others.

We thought it would be a great visual to go along with the oral information the children would provided the visiting classes. We had her class be creative with their art supplies and decorate the front with the factual information they learned. The back was to be an advertisement to encourage children in other classes to approach them. We decided to just invite the other 5th grade students due to limited time. Mrs. Demski's class was positioned around the library ready for the approaching students. It was amazing listening to the students explain their research and answer questions from the other classes. The visiting classes were impressed with the knowledge of their friends. Some even checked out books about topics that were discussed because they wanted to learn more! How exciting! This text is our teacher book club choice for next year, so stay tuned for more posts about this great book.