Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer Reading - Ideas and Notes from Professional Journals

School starts in a few days, and I finally just now getting around to tackling the huge stack of professional reading I was supposed to have kept up with all summer. Here are some takeaways:


AASL has a new toolkit for educating principals and classroom teachers about "the positive impact school librarians and school library programs can have on student achievement."

Design Thinking

In the June 2016 issue of American Libraries, Linda Braun writes about using the design thinking approach to problem-solving. It's pretty similar to the scientific method, what with coming up with and testing a hypothesis (or prototype).
She gives a link to a toolkit for libraries

Oh, my, maybe this can be a PGG in itself ... the site says, "On average, working through the entire toolkit can take 5-8 hours a week for the next six weeks, depending on how much time you have on a weekly basis with a team or on your own."

I'll send my principals a link to the toolkit for eductors to send out to my colleagues.


Yet another goal - have more volunteers in the library. A book on the topic - Library Volunteers Welcome! - is coming out in the fall. One recommendation is to match the person with the activity they're most interested in and able to perform. Sadly, not everyone is dying to put away nonfiction.
I definitely need to look into the feasibility of reaching out to other organizations, like high schools, colleges, and companies that place value on community involvement. One mom did contact me because her workplace will give a $1,000 grant to the school if she puts in 100 hours of time. Godsend! Hmm ... there's something called VolunteerMatch that I will investigate. 

I also need to come up with more things that volunteers can do from home. Maybe they can do blog posts re: local literacy events and new books in the catalog?

Cassie Hileman of Harmony School of Excellence in Houston has a nice idea: award exceptional voluhteers with a bookplate to place in a library book of their choosing. I could do this at the spring book fair. 

Social Media in the Classroom

I have tweeted authors and illustrators about their books making it to our Mock Caldecott finals, or being used in a lesson, and it's always very exciting to get a response! I'd like to do more of this, sharing questions or comments from kids. I guess I should set up accounts for my two schools for that and leave @mercolleen as my personal PLN account.

Quote from Burlington (MA) Public Schools assistant superintendent Patrick Larkin in summer issue of Entrsekt: "Social media presence is the new resume." Kids need to know about digital citizenship.

Possible to-do: Look into Edmoto as a way for my kids to interact across town. Or is it just adding too much if I already have a blog and a LibGuide? Maybe too much to manage effectively, but not too much to offer?


In American Educator, Daniel T. Willingham writes about how "Grit' is trendy, but can it be taught?" He defines grit as "passion and perseverance for long-term goals," and points out that long-term in this case can mean over several YEARS. Grit "seems to measure one's willingness to keep going even when the task becomes arduous."

Grit is related to conscientiousness ("doing what you're supposed to do right now") and self-control ("avoiding impulses to do something else"). These two traits are more applicable to the classroom. However, if you want to try and teach grit-related behaviors, he gives these suggestions:

  • "help students identify what they are passionate about
  • encourage them to pursue their passion
  • teach them how to find resources to pursue their passion
  • teach them to learn from failure
  • teach them the importance of practice
  • teach them when to persist and when to seek a different path if they encounter an obstacle"

Writing for Understanding

In American Educator, an article adapted from a book by the Vermont Writing Collaborative makes the case that the way we've been teaching the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) isn't enough these days. Kids are presented with a glut of information and have trouble turning it into a coherent piece. They need:

  • "opportunity to reflect on their knowledge, to analyze information, to synthesize ...
  • a framework for organizing and developing ideas
  • frequent opportunities to write"

One tenet of the authors' process is "oral processing," which is something I've done with my kids. I don't give long writing assignments, but sometimes students have trouble even coming up with a few sentences. I ask struggling kids to just tell me what they want to say, and they're usually relieved that they can simply transcribe what they said. (Getty Images)
If I were to give a more complex research assignment, the students would need to soak up as much information as possible before even attempting to get anything down on paper. I feel like all too often, teachers give due dates that allow only for looking up a few facts and regurgitating them. The kids aren't becoming experts on their topic ... indeed, they usually aren't given much choice on their topic, and so couldn't care less about gathering the knowledge in the first place.

Since I only see the kids once a week, and have only about 20 minutes for lessons, I don't attempt long-range research projects (I tried one year, and it was a disaster). The article states that "students cannout and will not become effective writers if this kind of instruction occurs in a fragmented or decontextualized way." The same applies to research skills. 

Ideally, I would be able to partner with classroom teachers and give instruction on using databases and crediting sources at the exact time the kids need it. Teaching these concepts in a vaccum does nothing. The kids don't remember anything I went over the previous month in library, and I find them copying from Wikipedia in the back of the room as they frantically try to finish something for social studies or science. It makes me bananas. The way to go, I think, is to teach the teachers. I'm just not sure when this will happen, given that my schedule between two schools is hideous. I'd love to meet with grade-level partners during their common planning, but that's when I have their students!

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