A storyteller

Last week, Canada lost one of its most beloved storytellers: writer & broadcaster Stuart McLean, host of the seemingly perennial Vinyl Café , passed away leaving quite a legacy. For decades, people from all across our country – from small hamlets on our east and west coasts, through urban centres to remote Northern villages – were connected through the telling of his stories, and his sharing of their own.

Despite being a fan for years, listening on weekly radio and attending live shows when possible, I’ve been surprised by my depth of emotion; reading tributes and comments from others, I know that am not alone.

Such is the power of story-telling. None of you need to be convinced of this, but it is a keen reminder for me to not to shy away from acknowledging its critical role in connecting people with the written word – so here are some action items for me:

  • Continue to enjoy building a story of summer reading, working with Celeste Porche of Metairie, LA to prepare our presentation for AISL NOLA (can’t wait to meet you in person, Celeste!)
  • Read a picture book aloud at my next Bigside Books meeting (probably Lane Smith’s It’s a Book, so great for high school kids)
  • Incorporate some short stories and spoken word poetry into a boys’ book club that I run outside of school – I’m thinking Stuart, Shane Koyczan, Humble the Poet – recommendations welcome!

Side note: Jess Milton, Stuart’s ‘long-suffering’ (his words) producer, noted in an interview after his passing that Stuart was surprisingly quiet off-stage, often focused on listening to others’ stories. As someone privileged to work with teens, this is an excellent reminder of what a speaker offered at a recent TABS conference – “the listening is the helping.”

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Shelfie Challenge

This year, my 3rd/4th grade team of teachers decided to change up the way they were teaching technology. Our two classes function independently of each other, but they have been yearning for some joint planning time as well as opportunities for collaboration. From this, our tech rotations were born.

The Logistics

We have two full-time teachers per mixed class of 3rd/4th grade students, with a little over 60 students total. Add me into the mix, and now we have five teachers to teach separate technology rotations. Don’t get me wrong, we use technology in a variety of ways all day long, but these rotations would focus on specific skills – video making, coding, typing practice, Google Slideshows, and library searching. We decided to mix and match the classes, splitting up students by grade level. Each cluster of students (named for our state’s lakes and rivers) would travel together through the five rotations, for five weeks at a time, meeting once a week for 45 minutes per class.

Library Detectives 

Because this was decided early in the school year, and I had yet to wrap my head around what a “library/technology class” would actually look like, I have been using this time to try out different lessons and styles of teaching. I wish I could say that I have a systematic process of trying out and evaluating my lessons, but right now, I’m just getting a feel for things. My loose theme for the class is library detectives because we are searching for clues to get us to certain resources. We are learning how to navigate the library’s website, how to search the catalog, and how to search our online databases. 

As I write this, I am feeling better about my approach to the class (thank you, self-reflection!). My initial fears or worries about teaching these skills were heavy –

  • Do I really need to spend time teaching students how to search the catalog?
  • How will teaching these skills in isolation help students in any way?
  • Can I make this class into a meaningful inquiry project instead of jumping from one skill to another week after week?

That last question still nags at me – if you have ideas, please do share! But I feel better because I know that we are creating meaningful inquiry experiences for students during their science and social studies project time in class. I am still collaborating with teachers during those projects, so essentially, we are building upon the skills that I introduce in this tech rotation. Or at least that’s my justification for now!

Shelfie Challenge

That was a long way of introducing last week’s lesson – the Shelfie Challenge! We recently switched over to the Follett Destiny catalog from Alexandria, so I used this *brand new shiny thing!* to get students excited about using the catalog to search for books (many of my students are avid library users, so they already have favorite sections of the library).

Inspired by @gogauthia on Twitter, I created a bingo board of books to search for, then sent students off with iPads to search the library catalog for the books and take a selfie with their finds. 

Though it felt a little chaotic at the time, kids were excitedly running (eek!) about the library trying to find books – this is good! They were practicing using the catalog, exploring different areas of the library, and searching for books they may not have even known we had (a couple students found books to check out, too).

Since this is my only fixed class in a completely flexible schedule, I am (slowly) embracing the opportunity to teach library skills in isolation to these curious and voracious readers. I still struggle with the philosophical and pedagogical implications of teaching these skills this way, but for now, I’m learning and growing just as my students are.

As I embark on the journey of creating an information skills framework for our Lower School, I would be happy to learn how other schools are approaching this topic! Am I way off base here? 

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Making the most of summer: Professional Development

Even though the weather is in the high 70s here in Florida, as I pack for a weekend trip north to visit family, my thoughts turn towards long summer days. I always find February is the time when I can’t help planning summer travels. Sometimes there’s amazing synchronicity when where I want to be coincides with a professional development opportunity. Here are a few to consider for 2017 or future years, with a focus on low-cost programs and those that pay attendees.

 NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

NEH offers tuition-free opportunities for school, college, and university educators to study a variety of humanities topics. Stipends of $600-$3,300 help cover expenses for these one- to four-week programs. There are over 40 programs for 2017 spread throughout the country with a March 1 application deadline.

 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad

The Fulbright-Hays Seminars abroad provide opportunities for overseas experiences in non-Western European countries. Seminars are designed to provide a broad and introductory cultural orientation to a particular country or countries. The deadline for the 2017 summer programs has passed, but keep your eyes out for an announcement of the 2018 countries.

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Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute 

Immerse yourself in the practice of teaching with primary sources from the unparalleled collections of Library of Congress. Each Institute week, Library of Congress education specialists modeling strategies for using primary sources to engage students, build critical thinking skills, and construct knowledge. 2017 offers two specialized sessions, one on WWI and one on STEM, as well as their general institutes.

National Gallery of Art Summer Teacher Institute 

The Teacher Institute is a six-day seminar held at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. that helps K–12 teachers strengthen their knowledge of art history and integrate visual art into classroom teaching. The program features lectures, gallery tours, teaching strategies, and hands-on learning experiences. The 2017 seminar examines visual art of the Renaissance from the independent city-states of Italy and the Low Countries during the 14th through the 16th centuries.

National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program

Fellows learn the importance of geographic literacy while traveling on ships and working with National Geographic researchers. 2017 regions for exploration include the Arctic, British and Irish Isles, Canadian Maritimes, Iceland, the Galapagos, Antarctica and more. The 2017 deadline has passed, and starting in 2018, applicants will need to be National Geographic Certified Educators.

Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar

Scholars and master teachers lead these one-week seminars in American history. Seminars are often held at places with a direct connection to the topic at hand, giving participants a rare opportunity to walk historic grounds, examine original artifacts, and study primary source documents in the same places where significant events occurred. 2017 seminars cover American history from the Colonial era though September 11, 2001. Seminars are fully funded for public school teachers, but there is a fee for independent school teachers.

George Washington Teacher Institute Summer Residential Program 

The George Washington Teacher Institute Summer Residential Programs are 5-day immersive experiences at Mount Vernon that teach about the life, leadership, and legacy of George Washington and the 18th-century world in which he lived. The 2017 deadline has passed.

Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institutes 

The 2017 application hasn’t been posted yet, but I hope this free three-day program at DC’s Newseum continues. This program looks at the past and future of the first amendment in regards to primary sources, the freedom of the press, ethics, and media literacy. There is a focus on technology integration in schools.

Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship 

This fellowship provides a $4,000 stipend to allow a qualified children’s librarian to spend a month or more reading at the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, which contains a special collection of 85,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950. Applications have closed for summer 2017.

Oxbridge Academic Programs 

After my affordable options, this is pricey “luxury edition” for those with extra professional development funds. I’ve heard high praise, particularly in regards to quality of the academic libraries. The seminars are based in the world’s greatest centers of culture and learning – including Cambridge, Paris, and Oxford, and they are led by distinguished Humanities scholars.

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Last, but certainly not least, remember AISL’s very own Summer Institute All School Reads: Making Book Day Work at Your School hosted at Horace Mann School in New York City from June 27-29.

This is the beginning of a list that will be more helpful to all of us if you continue to add your own thoughts below. Happy summer planning!

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Valentine’s Day in Middle School (Fun or Fear?)

Valentine’s Day… thrills and fun or awkwardness and misery? For me, a bit of both. Even as an adult, I am not always in the “right” romantic state to make it giddy bliss. My preference is to downplay specifically “romance” in Middle School. Our most numerous patrons are 5th and 6th graders. Not that 7th and 8th graders won’t come by, but a  Teen Read mystery week may be a better draw for them. It’s always a challenge (for me at least) to find the sweet spot to lure in busy 7th and 8th graders.

Keep it Light and Fun

Our MS staff discourages candy. (Students will have plenty from each other anyway.) I know not everyone has the time, interest, inclination or suburban location to make these ideas work. I love that we don’t all “look like librarians”, and we each bring our own personalities to our schools! These ideas have fit for me. Check Pinterest and other social media sites for creative images and ideas from brains worldwide. (Check the Comments below, for AISL input!)

Free Book Marks from Discarded Books

I cut up the undamaged cartoon strips after  a Garfield book met an early death in a lawn sprinkler incident. A well-loved and falling apart Far Side book met the same fate. (Caveat on the Far Side: check the cartoons as you cut them.  I culled a few I felt too risqué to hand out to 5th graders.)

Inexpensive Book Marks (about a penny each)

Use 12 x 12 scrapbook paper. Standard book mark size is 6″ x 2″– a perfect fit. Craft stores (ex: Michael’s; Hobby Lobby) have a wide selection. At 15 cents/sheet x 10 sheets = 120 bookmarks for $1.50. Tuesday Morning, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and similar stores are hit or miss, but check the stationery shelves. These flowered pages were on sale 25 sheets (300 book marks) for $1.50.

Stickers

Keep your eye out for stickers. Tiny is fine – middle schoolers have great manual dexterity. They can peel one to stick on forehead, hand or cheek. The cuter the better. Hearts or sports balls are also popular. Stickers are often displayed near greeting cards at dollar stores, Walgreens, and many other places.

“I Am Loved” Pins (if available?)

Our local Helzberg Diamonds jewelry store gave me several handfuls of these pins about five years ago, from a big bowl on display. I thought they would be more popular (or perhaps be a flop due to students poking other students) but so far, there is more looking than taking. I checked online, and could not find if they still offered them to educators for free. If you have a Helzberg near you, it might be worth asking. Each pin says “I am loved” in a different language. (I chose a few at random, for the photo.) I put them out on Valentine’s Day. If students ask for one, they can have it. They are a conversation starter that may last a few more years.

I’m fine with my low key V-day, and if you have a bolder (or more subtle) way that works for you, please share with a Comment.

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on teaching teachers to be wolves in a “fake news” world…

I had an opportunity to teach my teachers about “fake news.”

“I’m not a librarian. What should I be teaching my kids about fake news?”

After reading Courtney Walker’s latest post, I have to admit, I added the quotation marks around “fake news” in my blog title and the presentation I did wasn’t really about “fake news” in and of itself. I just used “fake news” as a buzzword to get teachers to come to my breakout. It was really about more holistic source evaluation.

Let me tell you, though, whatever you call it. It. Is. Hard.

As it turned out, though, an awesome number of my teachers are, indeed, “media literacy wolves.”

My plan was to do about 15 minutes of background information about fake news, a 30-minute activity where teachers tried to analyze web content, then 15 minutes of discussion.

The 15 minutes of background based heavily on presentations and work by Erinn Salge and Kathy Rettberg, and shared in Courtney Walker’s post–Librarians Being Proactive in a “Post-Truth” World went pretty well. Once we hit the 30-minute activity block, though, we got through just 1 of the 5 parts of the activity I had planned. Though the session went off the rails a little, the discussion that took place between the teachers ended up saving the day and in the end helped me understand how to better approach teaching students about source evaluation in a fake news world.

Click here to go to the News Literacy slideshow.

Click here to go to our faculty meeting breakout session Fake News Libguide

By the way: The content below will probably only make sense to you if you buzz your way through the slideshow and Fake News Libguide linked above, first.

Thoughts for future consideration:

  • The x-axis is almost always going to be the basic starting point for “point-of-view” or “bias.”
  • The labels “factual” and “sensational” didn’t work for some of the working groups so they changed the labels used. Perhaps the most valuable take away from the entire experience was coming to the realization that the process of developing the labels might be one of the MOST IMPORTANT parts of of the source evaluation and literacy process. This is where a lot of critical thinking and analysis are happening so don’t short circuit the process!
    • Perhaps “independently verified” and “unsupported assertion/claim” might work better on the y-axis?
  • In some contexts (reading articles about science studies come to mind) other axes might be necessary.
  • Placement on the the axes is not so much about a binary process of, “use it if it is above the line, but not if it is below the line…” as much as helping students understand, “This article is from the owner of the Deepwater Horizon. I can use the information in my research and in my project, but I need to put that information into an appropriate context and that context is…”
  • It is hard to impossible to make decisions about the “quality” of the information in a piece on a topic if you only look at one or two sources. In an world where information has been democratized, we need to engage with more sources to have any hope of being able to triangulate the information we find and construct “knowledge.”

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A point of discussion that came up was, “Why can’t we just find unbiased sources to direct kids to?” and/or where do we find “good quality, unbiased sources?”

One teacher pointed out that our sources have always been biased–that the history textbooks of (some of) our youth were widely accepted, but presented a definite orientation/bias.

In an information universe that has been highly democratized by disruptive technologies, we are now able to see video, hear the voices, and read the lives of countless groups of people that in an earlier time had no meaningful voice.

The disruptive technologies that make that possible, however, also mean that the tasks of vetting, evaluating, and contextualizing information have shifted from writers, publishers, editors, and librarians to the end users of information. It’s a new world!

You Know You Are a Lucky Librarian When…

Well, my teachers are an AMAZING pack of wolves to have around! On Wednesday afternoon we had breakout meetings during our scheduled faculty meeting time. On Thursday, I got invited to hang out with a class as they did a modified version of the activity. How cool is that?!?!? I work in such a cool place!!!

I actually thought that the teacher wanted me to teach the lesson, but I love the fact that this teacher, Lyssa, stood up and just started teaching the source evaluation piece as I sat in the back of the room and got to watch! She challenged students to develop their own method to make their thinking and analysis of the article visible. In my mind, a foundational part of becoming information/media literate is knowing what axes (or factors) you need to have in your head as you read, and what labels you place on each of those axes.

Here are some of Lyssa’s students in action!

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Training More Wolves

My larger goal for information instruction in this realm is to see all science, math, social studies, arts, etc. teachers similarly coaching their students through the, “What axes do we need for this research?” and “What labels do we need for these axes?” process as well.

We have just booked arcs of lessons with our 10th grade English teachers and our US History teachers who had chosen different break out sessions so for these teachers, our library lessons will serve as faculty PD opportunities for us with them as well.

The Activity (as I plan to modify it when I do the lesson with students in the coming weeks):

  • Have each group use blue painters’ tape to create X and Y axes, and give each group a stack of Post-it notes.
  • Show the class copies of The Three Little Pigs and read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf (Jon Scieszka).
  • Have groups decide on what labels belong at each end of the x-axis for point-of-view, then have them place each source on the x-axis.
  • Discuss the implications relevant to the use of each source.
    • Does it matter that the stories are being told from different points of view?
    • If you were a reporter, how could you know which source was more accurate?

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Sometimes it really does feel like constructing “knowledge” from our information is a real burden. It. Is. Hard.

When we really think about it, though, what can feel like a “burden” is, in many very meaningful ways, the ultimate “privilege.”

I want every student who graduates from Mid-Pacific to venture out into the world with the ability to construct knowledge from information, and to realize that they have the RESPONSIBILITY to seek out TRUTH.

It’s not easy. But nothing that’s truly valuable and meaningful ever comes without putting in some work.

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Fighting Fake News-International Fact-Checking Day on the Horizon

Library at the Poynter Institute photo credit: Tom Cawthon

Many of us in AISL have shared our lessons and experiences about how we are addressing research and information literacy in the face of the fake news media buzz. I wanted to revisit the topic again because of the ongoing development of this story. I want to reiterate that I see it as an opportunity for librarians demonstrate leadership as information literacy experts and bridge the gap of media studies that is often lacking at the secondary level.

With the recent examples of fake news that has been revealed the term is being thrown around casually in the media. I fear we may be too cavalier in its use. Again this gives us a strong reason to continue to work with teachers to teach source evaluation critically. There have been cases of politicians, talk radio hosts, and news/opinion shows crying out fake news when they dislike a news story. So just as we teach students to affirm the credibility of sources we also must teach students to discredit claims of fake news that are actually real. There has been an undermining of trust in many of our traditional media sources, but if we teach students healthy skepticism and give them the tools of critical analysis they will be empowered to make informed decisions and not take any statement or story at face value. Since my last post, “Librarians Being Proactive in “Post-truth” World” and David Wee’s follow up resource list post I have continued to follow and collect resources in this ongoing focus on fake news.

Through a triangulation of the many resources one organization appears frequently. Many articles point to Politfact.org operated by the Tampa Bay Times which has received a Pulitzer prize for its work on fact-checking U.S. politics. The common denominator to Politifact and the Tampa Bay Times is the Poynter Institute which is a worldwide leader in media studies and educating professional reporters which also happens to be in my backyard of St. Petersburg, FL. Recently, Facebook has turned to the Poynter Institute for consultation on addressing fake news in social media. With this world renowned resource in my hometown I could not help but reach out to them to see if some of their expertise could be useful to secondary education.

I reached out to some of the professors and affiliates at Poynter and several responded. Through email they shared that many of them had been thinking about how some of their work could reach a younger audience since most of their work is with working reporters or college students studying journalism. I was then able to meet Alexios Mantzarlis because he was actively working on a lesson on fact-checking to share with high school level students. I was excited to share how at the secondary level many librarians are teaching about source credibility and fact-checking since there are not mainstream media classes at the high school level. Alexios Mantzarlis’s expertise is in international fact-checking. He informed me that he and other professional fact-checkers along with the following organizations from around the world including PolitiFact, Channel 4, Chequeado, Pagella Politica, the American Press Institute are organizing an International Fact-Checking Day to be on April 2nd, 2017. I wanted to share the outline of the day since it pertains to many of the conversations we have had about teaching information literacy. Here is an overview of the day:

  1. A lesson plan on fact-checking for high school teachers. Recent studies indicate that high school students are digitally native but still largely unable to evaluate whether sources of information online are factual or biased. The lesson plan will be downloadable and translated in as many languages as we are able to reach.
  2. A factcheckathon exhorting readers to flag fake stories on Facebook. The IFCN will populate a list of debunked fake viral stories and encourage Facebook users to flag them as fake through the new flagging procedure announced by the social network in December. The hope is both to harness the power of the crowd to ‘clean up’ the social network and engender an attitude of intolerance towards verifiably false posts aiming to deceive. Given the new studies from Reddit, it would be interesting to see if we can do something there, too.
  3. A “hoax-off” among top debunked claims. We will collect some of the most notable false claims and fake news debunked around the world from fact-checkers and host an interactive game to elect the worst hoax of the past year.
  4. A map of global activities. Poynter will be encouraging the more than 100 fact-checking organizations that are active around the world to organize events promoting fact-checking and verification in formats appropriate to their political and societal contexts. We will list all such events on an interactive map on our site that will help market the events and encourage people to attend.

This is a great way to outreach with your teachers to continue to teach research skills. Since this has a global perspective the day also fits with global studies and Model United Nations programs at your school. I am constantly looking for ways to collaborate with my faculty and a sanctioned day like International Fact-Check Day adds credibility to my outreach. The resources for this day are currently under construction, but I wanted to share this with you so you would see what is on the horizon. As soon as the resources go live I will notify the AISL listserv and update this post.

 

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When Everyone Around You Is Acting Like a Two-Year-Old

It’s a typical Tuesday morning: outside the Lower School doors, I hear a teacher reminding students to walk quietly into the library and find a place to sit.  The door opens, and in scramble 14 of the cutest kids you’ll ever see.  They are excited to be in the library, and race in a pack toward the reading rug.  Soon I am surrounded by eager faces and hands ready to launch into our customary opening song, “Open, Shut Them.”  Sometimes there’s a little scuffle over a particular spot on the reading rug, and usually they forget how to stand in line, and sometimes there is an odor that signals assistance needed, but things in general are just great.

In August, I wasn’t 100% sure that would be the case.

This fall, our school added two 2-year-old classes to our Early Childhood program.  The head of our lower school, as well as the twos-teachers, were excited about the idea of their classes coming to the library every week, learning how libraries “work,” and checking out books to share in the classroom and at home.  I was excited too, from a purely fun perspective—but I had my doubts about how it would go IRL.

You see, I am not a control freak, per se  (oh strike that, who am I kidding?!)  But I also love books, and I love to read aloud, and I love to have fun in the library.  So I was excited about that part of having the twos come up here, but I was also very trepidatious.  I was comfortable with 3s, 4s, and Kindergarteners right up through 4th graders—but twos?  The youngest would have just turned two before they started.  How would that be? How would they learn library routines? How long would they be able to sit still?  WHO WOULD CHANGE THEIR DIAPERS???

As I thought about these things before the start of school, I realized two things:

  • I didn’t know exactly how things would go, and
  • Everything was going to be fine

(Cue epiphany music)

Facing the uncertainty of teaching two-year-olds, like facing any uncertain, unpredictable situation (Ahem), requires that we stop and ask ourselves a fundamental question: What is Most Important.  And then keep our eyes on that, come Hell or high water.

Here is what I came up with:

  • Making the library a welcoming place
  • Fostering excitement about reading
  • Providing high-quality materials for students and teachers
  • Ensuring that someone else was the designated diaper-changer

To accomplish these things with 2-year-olds—or in any changeable situation, I must:

  • Stay “nimble” (I love it when I can use a buzz-word!): be ready to change my programming, location, choice of materials, etc., based on the needs of the week, day or moment.
  • Be prepared: have a variety of tools on hand (books, toys, data, plans) to support my goals.
  • Speak Up and Foster Community: regularly connect with my community members (on- and off-campus) to be sure we are supporting one another and helping each other reach our goals daily, weekly, and forever.

When I began thinking about teaching the twos last fall, I was worried that working with pre-readers would be less stimulating.  Instead, I have grown as a professional in ways that are going to serve me well through many volatile years to come.

(Plus I’d forgotten how much I LOVE Sandra Boynton!)

Stay Nimble, my friends!

Jennifer

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Kindergarten Students Enjoy Circuits !

It all started with a New Year’s Resolution…one of my K teachers asked her students to think of something they wanted to learn more about in 2017. When school started in January, she made a list of what they resolved to learn. One of her students wanted to learn more about circuits, so she approached me and asked if he could come to the maker space in the media center to learn more. I was so excited at this opportunity to explore this area with a K student. I scheduled him to come to the media center and he was there 1 hour and 30 minutes. He loved the experience and asked if he could come back. When he returned to class he told the other students what he had experienced and guess what?? They all told the teacher they wanted to learn about circuits. So I have been taking 4 students at a time from that K class, and we have been exploring the world of circuits.
One of the things I have used to start is the puppet of an LED light. This was purchased at ADAFRUIT.COM/MHO. http://www.adafruit.com

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I attached a real LED light to the puppet so the students understand what it is in the real world. We discuss the positive and negative side of the LED (the puppets legs). Next, they are given a coin battery and a real LED light. I asked them to make it “light up” without breaking the “legs” of the th LED light. It was unbelieveable how fast these K students figured it out! I turned off the lights and got all exicited about their success…they were excited, too! I then discussed how they can use this in upcoming projects, card making, etc. I showed them examples of projects that other students had done using these 2 items. They were then each given a set of snap circuits and they were told to follow the diagrams to make something. I told them they could work together or alone….and believeit or not, each time they chose to work by themselves…Once they have snapped together a project, they were so proud of themselves. I also had them rotate around each project, so they each got to test the different experiments designed by their classmates. They enjoyed trying each one out, too. I have invested in several kits from ELENCO ELECTRONICS, Inc. www.elenco.com and here are the titles of the kits:

SNAP CIRCUIT SOUND

SNAP CIRCUIT JR

SNAP CIRCUITS LIGHT

SNAP CIRCUIT MOTION

SNAP CIRCUITS 3D ILLUMINATION

DELUXE SNAP ROVER

SNAP CIRCUIT GREEN

SNAP CIRCUIT PRO

There are also many other things you can do with circuits…I have a Makey Make makeymakey.com/howto  that can be used to show a complete circuit or broken circuit. Students love playing with this tool.
Another idea is to use squishy ciruits. Using conductive dough and insulating dough students can learn how to get an LED light to glow, a motor to run, or a buzzard to sound. The source I used even sells the dough already made! They have updated their early kits and I highly recommend their products. Here is the information:

Squishy Circuits www.SquishyCircuits.com

The students learn lots of things including failure. When their project does not work, they need to figure out why and sometimes they need to ask another student to help them. Collaboration occurs naturally and it is amazing how the problem can be as simple as having the batteries in the pack backwards.
I must admit, that when I was purchasing my materials for the makerspace I was thinking of 3rd graders and circuits, but I learned that K are very excited about this topic and they all told me and their teachers they ” cannot wait to come back to the makerspace”. This all started with one student’s New Year’s Resolution….and it spread to the entire class. Never underestimate what your younger students can do or what they are interested in. The sky is the limit…and it this case…it was circuits.

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Strength and fortitude

Anyone else in the January doldrums?

While the calendar tells me that we’re just back from the holidays, it feels like energy is low and spirits are lagging. It can be easy to get caught up in it – which makes it all the more delightful to find something like this (from a recent grad) in my mailbox:

“These people don’t know how to cite things!” Her indignant tone makes me laugh every time I read it: it’s messages like this one that help me to stay the course and remember that as long as I ensure that what I’m teaching is current and relevant, it’s okay that my darling students occasionally roll their eyes at citation review, or groan when we discuss the importance of keywords.

I know I’m not alone, so strength & fortitude, my friends!

PS. I’m lucky that this former advisee reached out of her own accord. As I mentioned in a previous post, don’t hesitate to specifically ask Gr 12s to get in touch with you next year if they find what you taught them landed (or even more importantly, didn’t) at university or college – or life. You can even request their non-school email addresses for this purpose before they leave 🙂

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With a Little Help from My Friends

The start of the new calendar year has been hectic indeed.  Our amazing assistant librarian is off on maternity leave, and while a former student library proctor turned library school graduate student is now interning with us, we just don’t have the same amount of help that we did before.

However, we what we do have are the fabulous ideas that you all have given me over the last semester for things to do with our classes. And this blog has been especially valuable to me as Christina and I have been revamping our World History classes and I have been taking on an embedded librarian project in regular US history.

In particular, I thought I would talk about two suggestions that I used and how they turned out and then ask for your thoughts and suggestions.  In my next post I will detail the entire six days of research that we were given for the World History project and how that went and what changes we made, but we are just at the tail end of it and we still need to finish and then take stock and do a lessons learned.

Here are the two lessons that we used from your suggestions:

  1. Virtual Search Results (Or You Are My Search Result! Or or Sit Down!! No, Stand Up!) from Katie Archambault’s post on Boolean Searching
  2. Paraphrasing with Adele (or Katy Perry) by Allie Bronston’s post on the Mini Lesson in 6th Grade Science

Virtual Search Results

I really loved Katie’s description of this exercise and I really enjoyed making my 9th graders act out my google search results.  While I had great fun with my kids doing this exercise, Christina met some resistance with her students on it (mainly eye rolls and some comments about being made to do squats).  Some students felt they were a bit too old to be playing “games.”

Essentially, in the virtual search result, you have your class be the Google search bar and whatever phrase you write on the board, they need to enact by standing up or sitting down if they embody it.  I put the words NARROW, BROADEN, AND, OR on the board and then began.

“If you are a student, stand up.” Faculty sits down.

“AND if you are student and you are wearing shorts stand up.” (Otherwise sit down. 😎

“AND if you have on glasses continue to stand up.” (Continue on until you have one person.)

At this point, we usually have a nice cheer for the one person, and I can make a comment about finding that one amazing article.  I can also say a word or two about how MORE keywords lead to NARROWER search results (point to board) and that you don’t have to use just one or two keywords.  More can be a good thing.

Chart the keywords/search results on board (venn diagram).

Then we move on to OR.

For or, we did eyes.  If you have green eyes, stand up.  Everyone sit down.  If you have brown eyes, stand up.  Then, if you have green eyes OR brown eyes, stand up.  HMMM.  What does the room look like now.  Discuss.

Chart on board with Venn diagram.

Then we had them move on to use their keywords with and/or and do at least three searches in the databases with and/or and bookmark sources that they found interesting.  If they found a source they liked, peruse it and take a note on it.

Paraphrasing

Way back when I first read Allie’s intriguing post, all she mentioned was that she had used Adele’s song “Hello” to teach paraphrasing to her middle schoolers.  I thought that sounded like great fun.  I also thought it sounded perfect!  Here are my three M’s of paraphrasing (stolen from our alliterative Mr. Ramadan, World History teacher extraordinaire):

  1. Minimal (make it concise)
  2. Mine (put it in your own words)
  3. Meaning (keep the original idea)

I mean, right off the bat, Hello, so easy, right:

Original: Hello

Students: Hi, Yo, Salutations, Greetings

I love that we ALWAYS get salutation as an answer.  Now, less IS more! And I can always say that salutations is not minimal.  It isn’t concise.  Hi or Yo is much better.  Then, you can pair students up and have them do the next couple of lines and then present them to the class.  See if they meet the 3 M’s. I find that Adele’s song is great for ease of use and ability to have two ideas in a line that is easy to identify and paraphrase. We also used Roar by Katy Perry.  I didn’t think it was as successful.  Perhaps with 11th or 12th graders as her concepts were a bit more advanced and she jumps in right away with them. What are your thoughts?  Other songs?

Right now, Christina and I are having a discussion about whether we should have rows for every sentence like you see in the document below or if we should just give them the lyrics and let them have the ability to combine lines naturally.  She feels that line combination might occur more readily without the artificial boundaries imposed by the table.  What are your thoughts?

I would love to have a class paraphrase the whole song and then karaoke it! We quit after the first five lines.  Only so much time in high school.

Paraphrasing Exercise – hello by adele

Conclusion

We also used David Wee’s info on notetaking, but I am going to save that info for my longer post on our actual 6-day unit.  Until then, think about what songs you would use for paraphrasing.  Are you ready to stand up and do a virtual search result? Let me know how it goes.

And most importantly, thank you to Katie, Allie and David and to all of you I just haven’t borrowed from yet.  Don’t worry.  I will soon.  Because we all have something to offer! Make sure you share! Comment!

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