I’ve Never Won a Game of Astro Bears Party (and that’s okay)

Last week, my school credit card was canceled. Even though I’d like to blame this on the way that Amazon can’t seem to help breaking my single order into multiple payments, it was ultimately my responsibility to make sure the statement was correct.* All school credit card holders had received a reminder from the Business Office with the warning that anyone with an incorrect statement on the 3rd of October would lose access to their card. While people would tell you that I’m more organized than most, and while this never happened with our previous banking system that sent email reminders for unreviewed transactions, it’s not the first time that I missed a deadline with our new system. It is, however, one of the first times I felt a real consequence for an inattention to detail. Since I had been developing a system that was working for me, I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t meet my own expectations, particularly because I felt like I was caught on a technicality. (See below.)

Coming back from a long weekend with my parents and brother, I can’t stop thinking about the credit card as it relates to my successes (and mainly failures) playing video games. For the most part, I found school pretty easy, and I enjoyed it. I still love learning, and I still don’t like making mistakes. Reading is my primary hobby. For my brother it’s video games. With storms in the mid-Atlantic , we spent a lot of time playing video games the past few days. Reading does not lend itself quite as easily as a shared activity across the generations. Yet, video games often get a bad rap. In fact, I’m collaborating on a Sophomore project right now that begins with this premise. However, I want to question that assumption in two key ways.

1.      There is tremendous background knowledge required to understand video game systems and the norms in the games themselves. I don’t know where the X button is, what’s likely to make my character jump or that a Martian on screen represents a character from the early 1990s. If you were measuring my video game skill by lexile, it would be low. Not because I couldn’t understand it but because I haven’t yet learned the terminology. Scaffolding is important. The game where I experienced the most success is Mario Kart, largely because I played a lot of SNES Mario Kart when I was in middle school. I was wowed by my brother’s ability to enter a new game, navigate the controls, determine the purpose, and immediately act like he had a direct connection with the avatar on the screen. I can’t even look at the score on the screen while making my character move. He works in the medical field, and I can see how his ability to think quickly, parse new information and multitask would be assets that help him excel on a daily basis. Learning the basics in a field makes it much easier to move on to more advanced knowledge, often without even realizing that we’re using our tacit knowledge.

2.      Video games teach resilience. The Switch is a forgiving system for new users. Death Squared, despite the macabre name, is a team puzzle solving game, a modern version of the logic games we used to play in elementary school. There is a goal, teamwork, and sequencing of actions. It is impossible to know what will happen when you step on a tile without actually stepping on a tile. And sometimes getting spiked. Or blown up. Or lasered. Or falling off the edge. At which point you begin the level again with that data and avoid the activity that just got you killed. The two video game experts in the room anticipated this, planned for it, and then chuckled at the new way we’d found to destroy ourselves. The two newbies apologized every time. Even with teaching about the growth mindset, it’s hard for me to keep this from feeling like failing. If you give me a goal, I want to go directly there, but I also realized the resilience my brother has developed while gaming directly relates to his ability to respond appropriately to setbacks in his job.

Playing games this weekend ultimately had me thinking about some of the struggles that some of our best students have with research. Coordinating the Capstone Scholars at my school, I spend two periods a day with students who are grappling with large-scale independent research projects. This is the first time they are creating their own targets, measuring their own progress, and following their own interests. Each has an internal faculty mentor and an external academic mentor, and my role is in helping them navigate this process. I honestly don’t know that I would have had the maturity in high school to motivate myself the way that they do. For students who have always been “good at doing school,” it’s a substantial adjustment to learn for yourself when it’s not clear if you are successful on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. They are making up the rules as they go and trying to follow their own moral compasses. Without an external measure of success from a rubric or a transcript grade, the notion of success morphs. There is no answer that I can provide, and the amorphous shape of real-world research can be overwhelming. I can’t pretend that I was playing video games these past few days to learn a life lesson, but I can tell you that I want to take the notions of contextual knowledge and resilience back to our top students.

No one is perfect, and no one gets it right 100% of the time. But we more often celebrate our successes publicly and cover over our insecurities privately. I think that’s why there was such a strong commiserative response in our community to David Wee’s post about Messed Up Library Lessons. We’ve all felt this way, but how often do we acknowledge this to our peers, to our students, to our families? University of Houston professor Bene Brown’s TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability has been viewed over 36 million times, likely because we all have times when we’re afraid to be vulnerable. As a perfectionist, this post is tough to write. If I get my credit card privileges back, I will guarantee you that losing it was the most effective way for me to learn a system in which I will NEVER forget to reconcile my statement. I might forget other pieces of office work, but not that. Failure is a powerful teacher. Let’s all keep learning and striving for success and setting up libraries where our students are empowered to do the same.

*Full disclosure—I did reconcile my account the morning of the 1st but then my Amazon order, which had been broken into four parts, despite being shipped in only two shipments, posted two more transactions that afternoon. I hadn’t tallied up the totals of the two I had paid to realize that the order was incomplete. I fully admit that in two earlier months I had forgotten to even enter the system, but a simple calendar reminder is all I needed to solve that problem. So I’m still going to argue that Amazon deserves part of the responsibility here. And if you have had success stopping this sneaky accounting, you’ll be my hero and a hero to all Amazon users at our school!

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Advocating Public Library Resources in Schools

With September as National Library Card sign up month, I like to send out an email to our teachers, students, and parents about all the neat resources our public libraries have. What other unique resources do your public libraries provide?

September is National Library Card Sign Up Month! Library Cards open you to many many FREE resources! Is your library card collecting dust? Here are some great ways to RENEW your use of local libraries! 

  • Did you know your Cuyahoga County Public Library card is good at any Cleveland Public Library and CLEVNET Library (including Shaker Hts PL)?
  • Libraries have resources beyond reading!
    • TechCentral MakerSpace at Cleveland PL and Innovation Centers at the Cuyahoga County PL in Mayfield, Garfield, Parma, and South Euclid have 3-D printers, LEGO® robots, cameras, audio recorders, audio / video studios, Cricut crafting machines, t-shirt presses, Adobe Creative Cloud software, and much more.
    • South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch CCPL has The Memory Lab, a “do-it-yourself” space to learn how to access, digitize, and share old videos, audio recordings, photographs, and slides.
    • Cleveland PL has over 1 million photos in their Photograph Collection, as well as, unique Chess and Checkers Collections, Folklore, Gypsies and Orientalia collections, a Miniature Books collection, a Tobacco Collection, and Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards- the only American book award designed to recognize works addressing issues of racism and diversity.
    • CLENET patrons have access to Rosetta Stone.
    • Access to digital resources: Hoopla (video), Freegal (music), Flipster (magazines)
  • Ever been on Amazon, Goodreads, Google Books and wondered “Hey, does my local library have this book?” but you never followed through to check? Not anymore! The Chrome Library Extension appears on the right side of the screen and tells you if your local library owns the book. You can even place a hold on the library book right from Amazon! https://www.libraryextension.com/
  • Meet Libby! The new and improved eBook and audiobook library app from Overdrive. If you thought Overdrive was a bit too clunky for use, then the user-friendly app Libby will be your new best friend! https://meet.libbyapp.com/
  • Cuyahoga County Public Library app: search the catalog, read reviews, check out, use Overdrive, stream videos via Hoopla, scan a book ISBN to find in the library, register for events, and much much more!
  • Shaker Heights Public Library has a dedicated Local History Librarian who can help homeowners research their homes and a Career Transition Center offers resume and interview help. SHPL also has wifi hotspots for cardholders over 18yo. 
  • Fines got you down? Often times libraries have food drives or other activities to lessen your fines. Be on the lookout!
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Information-Seeking Skills in a Google World: Do Our Students Really Get It?

Well, here we are. Almost one-fifth of the way through the 21stcentury. As I write those words, I can hardly believe it myself. In my career, our profession has progressed mightily, alongside great advances in technology. I wonder how many of us remember typing card catalog cards, and if you made a mistake, using OCLC “Special Match” white-out (or as we called it, buff-out…). Remember when a tweet was a sound a bird made? “Twilight” was just a time of day? We watched television ON television, and at the time it was broadcast? “Green” was just a color? Newspapers, books, and magazines were read on paper? Music was bought in stores? It was science fiction to imagine a hand-held computer that combined a phone, music, access to a vast database of information, a personal assistant, a GPS locator, digital video and still photography. OK—enough of the trip down memory lane; suffice it to say, we now have tools at our disposal few of us could have imagined back in the day.  But to what end? May I suggest the vital question is: how do we teach capital R research in a Google world?

While I have no (as yet) hard data to back up my thesis, empirical data suggests that today’s students, children of the digital age, assume a much broader grasp of research methodology than they actually possess. I have regular conversations with Upper School faculty to whom I am trying to market library services—more often than not, their response is along the lines of, “They don’t need a session on finding information—they know how to do that.” What an interesting study it would be to measure these students’ level of information literacy vs. what they actually know. My guess is that they know much less than they think they do, and that their teachers believe them when they espouse their expertise. On our campus, teaching research skills begins in Lower School and continues through Middle School—I know that our dedicated librarians do an amazing job with these younger students, yet in spite of our best efforts, they seem to forget what they have learned by 9thgrade—a topic for a future research project, perhaps?  I have set my goal for this year with St. Mark’s Upper School faculty to impress upon them the importance of teaching problem solving, evaluating, analyzing, and reasoning in regard to research—critical thinking skills. I am marketing this using the scenario of university freshmen getting their first research assignment and walking into a 4-million volume library with 200+ databases—don’t we want our students to know what to do and not be intimidated?

So far, so good. I have talked with several high school freshman and sophomore classes, and have more scheduled. Regardless of grade level, I am assuming my students know little about actual research, and I further assume that faculty have something to learn as well; I insist that faculty attend my research methodology lecture. If they seem reluctant, I tell them I need them in the room to help with discipline…whatever it takes to get them in a seat. I am convinced that information literacy is our raison d’etre as school librarians.

Information literacy has progressed from using reference resources to finding information in a complex environment. Visual literacy, digital literacy, textual literacy, and technical literacy are all crucial skills. The pervasiveness of the Internet and the massive amount of information available—accurate or not—requires students to become discerners as well as seekers. Every student (and instructor) needs the ability to select, evaluate, and use information effectively.

I begin by talking about what research is not:

  • Research is not compiling data and reporting on it.
  • Research is not about asking why or how.

Then what is research?

  • Research calls for us to think beneath the surface of an issue.
  • Research calls for analysis to solve a problem.
  • Research calls for the answer to a pressing question.
  • Research uses data to answer a problem-solving question.
  • Research leads to a solution that advances knowledge.

As I am sure we all do, I continue by showing examples of good research questions, and encouraging class participation in dissecting good and marginal research questions. Then I ask students where to go first to begin finding information on a particular topic (I always look at their teacher to make sure they are paying attention at this point), and someone in the room will always suggest Google. I show the following Google search and graphic to illustrate my point:

Your topic is a paper on Lincoln (I don’t say which Lincoln), and someone suggests a Google search. How many hits do you think we will get? Rarely does anyone suggest a half billion results. Once they overcome their shock, I ask what sorts of things are we getting? They are delighted to learn that a top hit is Lincoln Logs. They chuckle when I ask one student to review the first 20 million hits, etc. They get why that is funny.

After a bit more discussion, I show the following search in EBSCOhost, and ask them to comment:

The light begins to dawn. Everyone agrees that it will be much easier to review 157 hits for information pertinent to our research than 510,000,000. Now, I can actually begin to teach. I have the students’ and their teacher’s attention. I am convinced that once we have the support of the classroom teacher, with the realization that their students (and their own) information literacy skills could use a reality check, our work will get the attention of department chairs, administrators, and other stakeholders. On our campus, word on the street is that the library is offering “really good” sessions on how to do research, evidenced by the fact that instructors who have brought classes to the library in the past, but “didn’t need any help from us,” are scheduling multiple sessions to upper school classes which I teach as outlined above. Repeat sessions focus on diving deep into specific topics, and include tutorials on the information timeline, Boolean logic, primary source materials, and citing sources.

No matter how you approach your research methodology in any grade, be mindful that our students (and faculty) most likely have an inflated opinion of their research skills. Finding ways to engage them at a basic level, and opening up the world of possibilities for thoughtful, in-depth research with requisite skills will serve your students into their university years and reinforce with your faculty the necessity of partnering with their librarian.

Welcome to the 21st century!

 

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on growing information literate humans…

Growing information literate human beings is really hard. I’m just going to put that out there. Over the last few years the information landscape has changed so rapidly, that for the last 4 or 5 years, despite my sincere commitment and diligent efforts, I haven’t confidently known how to help students and teachers successfully navigate the yellow brick road to information literacyland.

A little Historical Context…

Our library program has the truly good fortune to be given a high school faculty meeting each year for which we get to develop and present “library programming” for our high school faculty. While I am grateful for the vote of confidence and commitment that this shows from our Administration, I can also honestly say that these sessions have proven to be the most sweat and terror inducing 50 minutes of each of the 4 school years since I arrived here at Mid-Pacific.

I’m not the Michael Jordan of librarianship. I am NOT the person you want to give the ball to, to take the final shot at the buzzer to win the the big homecoming game. Put me under pressure and I choke like the poor nameless guy in the gray Imperial military uniform who has displeased Darth Vader by foolishly letting the rag tag band of Rebels escape to fight another day. Not pretty, but you get the picture…

Year 1–Research as a Process… 

In my first year here at Mid-Pacific, we determined that there would be great benefit if all of our faculty understood research as a process so we set about planning a to embed that concept in our faculty members’ minds and practice.

Mid-Pacific embraces active, constructivist, student-centered learning. If active learning is how students learn best, why should faculty learning look any differently? With this philosophy in mind, faculty meetings here rarely involve presenters standing in front of the auditorium telling us about a concept or a new program for long periods of time so in our faculty library presentation we set out to engage our faculty with an activity intended to develop individual and group understandings of research as a process.

Embracing Constructivist Learning–Put Teachers to Work!

We had teachers sit in small groups. Each group was given 6 large Post-it notes and asked to document the steps they would follow to accomplish a research or information gathering task.

It was a long time ago, now, but I believe the prompt was something along the lines of,

“You need to buy a new car. You need to gather the information necessary to buy the right car for you. What 6 steps would you follow to find the information you need to be successful?”

I think we had 2-3 similar prompts that groups could choose and we also gave groups the option to choose in information task of their own creation. We then had each group put their steps up on a board and we clustered like-steps from various groups together. Unsurprisingly, the steps developed from most groups aligned fairly easily with steps of the Big6 and we as a faculty began the process of “co-constructing” our understanding of research as process.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.19.24 AM

WAAAAAY back in SY ’15-’16

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We’ve since re-revised our research process language.

I find walking around and engaging with small groups of teachers puts me far more at ease than when I am required to play the role of “expert” at the front of the room. Perhaps even more significant, however, is the messaging that this process communicates to our faculty. Engaging this way says to our faculty,

“This isn’t ‘the library’s’ process. This is Mid-Pacific’s process. This is what you, as a good adult learner, already intuitively do. This process isn’t the exclusive purview of the library, and therefore the sole responsibility of the library staff. Rather, it is something we should ALL be teaching in our courses and projects, and by using common language across disciplines, we can activate and leverage students’ previous experiences with research tasks.”

Year 2–Driving Engagement with Sources…

The following year, we addressed the idea that students were probably not engaging as deeply with sources as we all hoped to see. Out of that faculty meeting, grew the practice of asking students to submit annotated works cited lists rather just a list of works cited which was our norm. The very skeletal annotation format that came out of that meeting eventually gave way to adoption of the OPVL citation format encouraged by the International Baccalaureate Program, and as of this year OPVL annotated works cited lists are being required in grades 9-12.

Our annotation format. Origin: Where is this source from? Purpose: What is the author/creator’s purpose for publishing the content? Value: What is the value of this source to me as a learner for this particular research project? Limitation: In what ways might this source be limited? (Perhaps in its perspective, scope, or age…).

Year 3–Source Evaluation, Part II (Alternative Title: That Time We put the Horse Before the Cart)…

Last year, we had our faculty work through a source evaluation process by having them take articles on the vaccination debate and place them on a coordinate grid as they saw fit. Our hope was that the technique for visibly showing our understanding of a source’s “perspective” (we’re trying to avoid using the term bias because it is proving to be too loaded a term for our students) might “become a thing,” but alas, while we got good feedback, I think the process involved too much time and preparation for the idea to scale beyond a handful of our most committed “information literacy” oriented teachers.

Year 4–Source Evaluation, Part I (Alternate Title: What We Hope is the Missing Keystone Piece of our Source Evaluation Efforts)…

We have been struggling to come up with a scalable instructional model for source evaluation that our content-area faculty might be able to use with students in the course of their everyday work.

Over the summer, we stumbled upon Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael Caulfield in which he presents a “4-move” process for fact checking web sources. We were intrigued because it gave us a potential model for source evaluation that seemed effective, yet “light, quick, nimble, and fast” enough that we believed that it might be applicable at scale beyond a dedicated “library lesson.” We worked with his process and decided that our particular population of students would likely find more success with Caulfield’s 4-Moves if we changed the order of two of the steps, so we built a prototype flow chart and decided that we’d have our high school faculty beta test the process to see if it might meet their needs.

Here’s what we did with our faculty last Wednesday…

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.26.22 AM

We quickly talked about the “why” and why this process mattered.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.25.13 AM

We presented the model itself along with a quick 9-min explanation of the process with examples.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.25.52 AM

We gave the faculty their task and set them to work.

After my partner librarian, Nicole, gave a brief overview of the process, we tried one together as a whole group. Looking at this article from Nature. Because we were “16 year olds” we’d never heard of the source so we decided we needed to read laterally and searched [Wikipedia Nature] where we found out that it is one of the world’s most widely cited scientific journals.

Informal feedback from our faculty on our session and activity has been quite positive. A few let us know that the activity itself was helpful to them for their personal knowledge and awareness as USERS of information, and we got some good formal feedback about the process as well!

A sampling of feedback from our groups of high school teachers.

Next Steps?

As soon as we have a moment, our plan is to take all of the feedback from the faculty working groups and weigh which changes we think we might incorporate into our 4-Move process itself and/or changes that we might decide to make to the document (which we envision as an 11X17 poster in each classroom). Our initial thoughts are that some of the feedback such as changing “read laterally” to some other more student-friendly term will get a lot of consideration while other feedback is primarily useful for us to consider instructionally (defining terms clearly, etc.) as we eventually roll this process out to students.

Once we have gotten our ducks in a row on the library side, I will likely seek 5-10 minutes at a future faculty meeting in order to update our faculty on how their feedback has either been incorporated into changes to the process or document(s), or how their feedback will inform our instruction as we roll the process out to students.

Some statements from faculty such as, “If you use databases, sources are already vetted” indicate that we still have some conceptual information literacy professional development to do, so we plan to work with individual department chairs to find time when we might get some department meeting time to deliver more discipline-specific professional development for our teachers in some key departments.

This Seems Really Hard and Fuzzy So What’s the Payoff?

In the bigger picture we are coming to realize that we have to get students to think about source evaluation in two main phases.

Phase 1 – When you are initially selecting sources from a results list, you should be able to very quickly apply the 4-Moves to help you choose what appear to be your most promising sources.

Phase 2 -Once you have chosen sources, you need need to slow way down and carefully apply the kind of “close reading” strategies that are employed in the X-Y “perspective” activity that we did with our faculty last year. Does the author’s evidence adequately support their claim? Are the studies cited scientifically sound? Is the sample size for the study adequate? What is the author’s primary purpose for publishing this work? …

In a broad sense both kinds of source evaluation thinking need to become part of the “always on” mental models that students employ as they do anything from find the best video gaming hacks to the policy positions they will choose to support as soon-to-be voters.

For us here at Mid-Pacific in the shorter term, we have started requiring students from 9-12th to turn in OPVL formatted annotated works cited lists. The annotation requirement is not an end in itself as much as it is a scaffold that we are employing to “encourage” students to practice the thinking that goes into both phases of source evaluation. To my mind, the information gleaned while executing the 4-moves help to inform students about a source’s origin and, perhaps, purpose; deep/close reading that is done when they engage in activities like placing their sources on a continuum or in a coordinate grid should inform both the source’s purpose and limitation; and I would hope that students would be evaluating a source’s value to them as learners throughout the research process.

Final thoughts…

Growing information literate humans is hard. We’re struggling to figure out the best paths forward, but we hope that little-by-little and step-by-step, we’re slowly but surely identifying skills and mental models that need to be in place for our students to successfully engage with a universe of information that has grown to be incredibly complex and challenging.

We need all the help that we can get and we’d be so grateful to hear about strategies you are trying with your students. Please hit comment below and share some of them!

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Professional Journals Need You!

Professional Journals can not operate without authors writing articles. Share your talents. Each AISL conference, webinar, and institute introduces us to creative ideas from our members about social justice, information literacy, scope & sequence, collaboration, source literacy, project-based research, and myriad other unique topics. All of this useful information can be shared with other librarians, administrators, and faculty through journal articles. It is time to write about what you present. Share your knowledge with a wider audience.

Last spring the Publications Group wrote the blog Write for Your Favorite Professional Journal, which listed 14 different journals with hyperlinks to author guidelines. We would like to focus on a few publications listed in that blog and provide information about these periodicals and their writing guidelines. Journals are always looking for new material and are excited to hear from professionals that have not written articles previously.

Look at the publications and check their topic calendars for any subjects that you are interested in writing about. Check for submission deadlines. Deadlines for submitting articles are set long before the publication date.

Right now, NAIS is advertising for articles to be published in the Spring issue of Independent School. Information about submitting an article for this issue can be found at Reimagining Schools: From the Physical to the Philosophical. The application deadline is October 1, 2018. Have any of you recently renovated your library, or changed from a library to a learning common, learning research center, library makerspace, etc.? You should write about the experience for Independent School.  The Manuscript Submission Guidelines  list the rest of the themes for the year and author guidelines.

Teacher Librarian does not publish a list of topics for each publication. They do list the most popular subjects published by the journal: “learning commons, digital and multiple literacies, reading, professional collaboration, professional development, teaching and curriculum ideas, and makerspaces.” This is not an exclusive list. Teacher Librarian Submission Guidelines mention that the articles submitted for publication are, “more in-depth articles supported by research, personal practice and experience.”

School Library Connection Article Submission Guidelines is a thorough 9-page document, which does cover: illustration permission, writing style, grammar rules, etc.  The publishing Calendar lists themes for every issue. Some examples of themes from the publishing calendar are October 2018 “For Art’s Sake: Your New Best Collaborators,” November/December 2018 “We ♥Lit.”

Teaching Tolerance publishes three magazines a year and also publishes short articles on its website weekly. Librarians have presented at AISL conferences and Institutes on social justice, diversity, integration, and inclusion. These topics could be articles for the Teaching Tolerance website or magazine. Author guidelines are listed at Writing for Teaching Tolerance.

International Literacy association publishes The Reading Teacher, Reading Research Quarterly and Literacy Magazine. Each publication has a different focus. Literacy Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine that describes members accomplishments, instructional ideas, and reports on current topics, while focusing on personal teacher experiences. The Reading Teacher publishes evidence-based teaching tips and lessons. Reading Research Quarterly prints the latest research studies on reading. The International Literacy Journal Author Guidelines provide directions for  authors interested in writing articles for any of these three publications.

AISL has a cadre of gifted and talented librarians. Write for these publications, so that the world of education can benefit from your expertise. The publication group is available to  help you with the writing process.

The Publication Group
Debbie Abilock: dabilock@gmail.com
Tasha Bergson-Michelson: tbergsonmichelson@castilleja.org
Dorcas Hand: handd51@tekkmail.com
Christina Karvounis: KarvounisC@Bolles.org
Sara Kelley-Mudie: sara.kelleymudie@gmail.com
Cathy Leverkus: cathyl@thewillows.org
Darla Magana: Darla.Magana@smes.org
Nora Murphy: NMurphy@fsha.org

 

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Librarians as Vocab Teachers

Following a revelation I had last year regarding serving ELLs and international students at my school comes another, courtesy of my ESL teacher colleagues.  At the beginning of this year, they led a best practices session for faculty in which they emphasized that we all, no matter our disciplines or the language levels of the students we teach, need to be teaching vocabulary. They presented the three tiers of vocabulary development among other resources (mentioned below) and asked for our support in helping all students learn words in the second and third tiers, which become progressively more academic and domain-specific.

As an educator whose lessons can be jargon-heavy and full of words that have meanings specific to the library context (catalog, database, call number, collection) or the research process (authority, operator), this struck a chord. I often explain these terms during the course of an orientation or lesson, but I don’t directly teach them. In the month or so since that in-service day, I have been seeking tools and strategies to help me in my journey toward becoming a library and research process vocabulary teacher.

Maniotes & Cellucci have written in Teacher Librarian about how being a researcher and following an inquiry process leads students to develop domain-specific vocabulary related to an academic discipline or their research topic. However, at the moment I am more focused on the domain-specific vocabulary related to learning to use libraries and do research. I have started my own word bank of Tier 2 and Tier 3 words that appear in my own teaching, are found in places we might take for granted such as NoodleTools and the OPAC, and on guides for international students from academic libraries. I’ve taken a stab at categorizing them as Tier 2 (general academic words) or Tier 3 (library and research specific), tricky since “research words” do cross academic disciplines. Anyway, here’s a sample:

Tier 2:

  • Source
  • Resource
  • Publisher
  • Author
  • Title
  • Subject
  • Original
  • Journal
  • Academic
  • Keyword
  • Topic
  • Process
  • Electronic
  • Purpose
  • Content
  • Copyright

Tier 3:

  • Call number
  • Primary source
  • Scholarly
  • Database
  • Periodical
  • Reference
  • Archive
  • Dissertation
  • Thesis
  • Relevant
  • Collection
  • Accurate
  • Multi-volume
  • Catalog
  • Full text
  • Citation
  • Peer-reviewed

As a new researcher, let alone a new researcher working in their second or third language, these terms are not easily understood or may not make sense out of their previously known context.  Figuring out the appropriate word list for a research unit would depend on the level of the class and the input of the classroom teacher.

My toolbox for direct vocabulary instruction is growing as well.

  • In Vocab Rehab, Marilee Sprenger offers vocabulary instruction techniques that can be used in a class period with limited time. These could be handy during library orientations or one-shot lessons, provided there is opportunity for continued practice and reinforcement.
  • As new words come up, they could be added to a library word wall. Then a few minutes each inquiry session could be dedicated to engaging vocabulary review.
  • The Frayer Model could be used to help students understand the terms represented by the acronymic CRAAP test, for example.
  • Academic Word Finder identifies Tier 2 words for a certain grade level within a text, sometimes with surprising results.

I can’t wait to put some of these ideas to use as the year moves ahead and our ESL classes begin research projects. Building Tier 2 and Tier 3 word lists will be a wonderful opportunity for furthering collaboration with ESL teachers, and will benefit all student researchers too.

Do you do direct library vocabulary instruction? How and when? What words would you add? Any Middle or Upper School librarians with a word wall in the library (who would like to share pictures?)

References

Maniotes, L., & Cellucci, A. (2017). Doubling up: Authentic vocabulary
development through the inquiry process. Teacher Librarian, 44(3), 16-20.
Retrieved from http://teacherlibrarian.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/
4B-maniotes.pdf

Sprenger, M. (2014). Vocab rehab: How do I teach vocabulary effectively with
limited time? Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.

Further reading:

Bernadowski, C., & Kolencik, P. L. (2010). Research-based reading strategies in
the library for adolescent learners. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries
Unlimited.

Lehman, C. (2012). Energize research reading and writing: Fresh strategies to
spark interest, develop independence, and meet key common core standards,
grades 4-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Student Achievement Partners. (n.d.). Selecting and using academic vocabulary in
instruction [Guide document]. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from
Achievethecore.org website: https://achievethecore.org/content/upload/
Selecting%20and%20Using%20Academic%20Vocabulary%20in%20Instruction.pdf

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World War II – 6th Grade History

This past year my 6th grade history teacher and I collaborated on a World War II poster project. I especially enjoyed this project since we created it together from start to finish. We issued the following guidelines:

World War II Poster Project
Due: Tuesday, May 23, 2018

5-7 facts about your topic that are directly related to World War II

Information from a primary source or a quote from a person that lived during that time period (like a President) about your topic.

Answer either WHY did your topic give the US an advantage in the war or HOW do we see the impact of your topic today?

Poster should also include one to three visuals (can be drawn or printed out). Facts should be written/typed and placed on poster. Facts can be placed on the front or back of the poster. Exact design may vary by topic!
Topics
Women in Factories, Rosie the Riveter
D-Day
Pearl Harbor
Atomic Bomb – Manhattan Project
Entertainment – Fireside Chats
Sports – Baseball, Joe Dimaggio/Ted Williams
Life of a Soldier
Weapons of War
Different topic approved by Ms. Vining or Ms. Back

My favorite part of the project is where we asked the students to respond to a WHY or HOW question on their poster. The students spent a week in the library doing research and making their posters. The answers to the WHY and the HOW questions could not easily be found in a book or online for many of the topics above. I think that the best research projects ask students to think critically — even, and especially, in Middle School.

The students enjoyed making the posters and the end results were a success! We selected the best posters and they are now on display in the library for the new school year. As a librarian I appreciated being involved in all aspects of this project from start to finish.

Have you found ways at your school to work with teachers from beginning to end rather than just on one aspect or skill? Also, how do you encourage students to think critically with a research project, particularly in history or English and in Middle School? Any advice is most appreciated!

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on projects that get us started…

First and foremost, while this blog is about independent school librarianship, I’d be remiss if I did not begin by saying that I am keeping everyone who may be in the path of Hurricane Florence in my thoughts. May you, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your communities be safe through it all.

Advice coming from our neighbors on the Hawaiian islands affected by Hurricane Lane is to be sure to take pictures and/or video of both the exteriors and interiors of your homes (including flooring) that you may be able to use as support documentation to show the condition of your property and its contents before the storm should you need to file claims with insurance carriers.

This Month’s Post on High School Projects to Start the Year… 

For those of you following more typical school calendars and not doing hurricane prep, welcome back to school!

As I tap this blog post out on my laptop, here in the Central Pacific, we find ourselves in the midst of our fifth week of school. Yes, that’s right! While most of you were out lounging poolside, hiking the Appalachian Trail (Looking at you, Tara Vito!), or doing whatever it is that is your joy of summer, I got to have my first library classes with the class of 2031–you read that right… #NotaTypo; we had two hurricane days (no snow days in the Central Pacific, but we do have hurricane days from time to time); and we’ve had the chance to work with our frosh Mid-Pacific eXploratory classes on a world civilizations project.

The Project in a Nutshell…

Working in groups, students are creating role playing games based on exploration and research that they are doing on ancient civilizations–ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Babylonia, the Shang Dynasty, the Indus River Valley, and the Aztec Empire. The development of each groups’ game is a step in their broader project-based learning on the essential question: How is water or the access to it a reflection of a fair and equitable society? 

Planning for Collaboration…

We are incredibly fortunate to work with a cadre of teachers who purposefully build collaborative teaching time into their projects and create opportunities for us to team with them as they work with their students. Rather than have students read chapters in textbooks or deliver content about ancient civilizations in a series of lectures, Mr. Cheever and Mr. Falk elected to have students collaboratively gather information about their assigned civilizations.

  • Our Desired Outcomes:
    • Social Studies: Students will understand the framework for GRAPES: Geography, Religion, Arts, Politics, Economics, and Social.
    • Information Instruction:
      • Any fact in notes has to be linked to a specific source
      • Students will be introduced to and use a variety of library sources
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Library session goals

In collaboration with us in the library, Mr. Falk and Mr. Cheever included a requirement that students’ notes needed to include notes from at least 5 different library sources.

There are Times When Collaboration Feels Like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and You Crash and Burn, but Sometimes That’s Just How It Goes…

My partner librarian, Nicole, built a Libguide and our first section of Frosh came to the library to work on the project. I tried having students read Wikipedia pages for their civilizations with the intention of having students then generate keyword search terms. It was a horrendous failure and I crashed and burned REALLY BADLY. Fortunately, Mr. Falk had enough faith to bring his class back the next day and we re-launched our work with a little more structure and  a lot more success.

What This Looks Like in Our Library…

Students set up their collaborative note taking document. All 4 students in each group took notes in a single document, but each student was required to find 3 facts per GRAPES category and use 5 different library sources.

They looked a little more excited about the work at other points in time. I promise! LOL!

Teacher-created note taking template.

Students’ “notes in progress…”

Teacher and Librarian collaboration Points of discussion on note taking:

  • Notes in their own words or copy/paste?
    • Because this is an initial project and the synthesis step is to use these facts to inform the development of a game rather than a written work. Copy/paste is okay.
    • Notes in their own words and/or in quotations for direct quotes will be introduced in a project down the road when synthesis could more easily lead to citation issues.

Library Day #1: Research in Databases…

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Project database page

Teacher and Librarian Points of discussion on databases:

  • Britannica School and World Book were treated like other databases for this project. They are “offset” here because in future projects they will get phased out. “In high school, we no longer cite tertiary sources like Britannica, World Book, or Wikipedia in our academic work…”
  • We typically prefer to start with print books and ebooks before moving to research in databases. We couldn’t start our research in this order because we had two hurricane days and we couldn’t order our ebooks from Gale. When we got back to school, we were really busy and couldn’t get the order in. When Mr. Wee finally got around to placing the ebook order, he miscalculated the time difference between HST and EST and Gale was closed for Labor Day weekend. Basically, we didn’t have access to the eBooks we needed on the first day of the project and we didn’t have enough print resources for an entire class to use at the same time. #LastMinuteLibrarian #Fail

Library Day 2: eBooks and Books…

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Gale ebook sub-collection for the project

Click on the image above to view the un-pretty, but “good enough to get the job done” slideshow that I used with the class.

Getting Meta with the Research Process… 

While much of the work (as our projects often are) in our library lesson time was location & access and note taking heavy, we also always want to incorporate some “meta-discussion” on our research process and use of information so students begin building mental maps about the research process.

On day two, we took some time to discuss the metacognitive framework of the research process.

We charted what students had done (green) in the research process so far. We looked forward to the synthesis step that they’ll be doing as they begin the process of designing their games (blue). We added the arrows in red which Mr. Cheever pointed out is the “re” in research. As we do synthesis, we typically identify new information needs that must be addressed–learning and researching is a continually recursive process.

Developing Literacies is a LONG Game…

Research on Babylon uncovered An Eyewitness To Mighty Ancient Babylon by Herodotus. Mr. Cheever paused their work to have a short discussion with the class on how, as learners in a connected world, we MAKE MEANING and come to OUR OWN understanding of our world from the information we find. “We don’t have video, photos, and we can’t interview an ancient Babylonian ourselves so how do we know what is ‘true’?”

IMG_2194

Primary sources

A recent Quartz article, “A Philosopher of Truth Says We’re not Living in a “Post-truth” World After All,” discusses how, in our connected world, the struggle we have in helping our students arrive at “truth with a capital T.” The article’s conclusion, if I’m reading it correctly, is that we have to learn to be comfortable with “understandings” of the world that are based, not on a big T truth, but rather on many small truths that we triangulate and contextualize to come to a thoughtful “understanding.”

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Our library program’s aspirational learner profile

As Mr. Cheever had his discussion with his class, I thought back to the “learner profile” to which our library program aspires, and I thought, “In terms of information literacy instruction, THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW, is the point of all that collaboration, resource management, note taking template building, Libguide creation, scheduling, and all the rest of the frustrating things we endure to make programming happen! THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW IS WHAT THAT IS ALL FOR, AND WHAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN!

Are our 14-year old frosh independently “information literate” as a result of this one project and that one discussion? Of course not because building an information literate human being is a long game and we won’t get there with a single step, but it’s a start that made me smile as I walked to my car at the end of the day, for sure!

At the end of what has been an exhausting first month of school, I must say that one thing for which I feel so incredibly grateful is that I get to work with teachers that let us play this long game with them!

Happy new school year, all!

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Modeling Good Writing

In an NPR video series on Billy Collins, the poet laureate was asked how young poets could get started writing poetry. Billy Collins responded, “it’s such dull advice, there’s really no key to it, you just have to read, read poetry for 10,000 hours.”

Immersing young writers in models of fine writing was an idea echoed during a 2017 NCTE conference session on literary magazines. This session was a wonderful brain trust for individuals new to sponsoring a school’s literary magazine. In addition to bringing back copies of other schools’ literary magazines, I brought back the advice repeatedly heard: provide student writers with models of good writing and read, read, read.

In an earlier AISL blog, “Inspire Writing with Memorials,” I mentioned that our library and student LitMag editors are sponsoring a writing contest. Our LitMag editors were challenged to make promotional posters that not only advertised the contest, but also featured a poem example reflecting the contest theme of memorials or collections. As our LitMag editors searched for models of well-crafted poems, the library poetry book shelves became a cornucopia of inspirational ideas.

Below are two examples of poetry books that sparked imaginations, along with students’ poem reflections and poster design decisions.

Bravo! by Margarita Engle.
Margarita Engle, named in 2017 as the Young People’s Poet Laureate, celebrates the lives of Hispanic people from all walks of life in this collection of poems.

Poem Reflection:
LitMag editor, Sebastian, chose the poem “Life on Horseback”and explained, “this poem is a memorial to a Mexican-American cowboy named Arnold Rojas (1898-1988). Due to lack of job opportunities for immigrants, he worked as a farmworker. He leaves that job for a more exciting life as a cowboy. This poem emphasizes that you must take pride in your work and if you don’t, you should search for a more meaningful job.”

Design principle for poster: Symmetry.
Silhouetted horse heads face each other on the poster and displayed below are flags of Mexico and the United States of America, indicating the duel heritage of cowboy Arnold Rojas.

Maya Angelou (Poetry for Young People).
This collection of poems by Maya Angelou display her emotional connection with struggles
and triumphs of African Americans, including the struggle from oppression to attaining
lives of dignity.

Poem Reflection:
LitMag Editor, Alex, chose the poem “One More Round” and observed, “this poem shows a man who loves to work and believes his work is much more than slavery:  ‘I was born to work but I ain’t no mule.’”

Design Principle for poster: Repetition.
An intricate assembly line shows miniature factory workers heaving, hoisting, and loading large flour bags onto automated belts. These bags of flour are being processed so another man, drawn above the assembly line, can enjoy a bowl of cereal. Alex reflected that his drawing shows “a man that’s just eating a bowl of cereal and is treating it like any other. Look further down on the poster and you can see the work that goes into making this bowl of cereal is worth a whole lot more than it looks.”

This process of selecting poems to model well-crafted writing was a creative stretch for our LitMag editors: an opportunity both for design thinking and personal reflection on how poems communicate to an audience. The finished posters are now displayed throughout the school, inspiring our young writers through reading poems by established poets.

For further exploration of how writers rely on models of good writing, see these books that celebrate famous poets:

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Margery Wentworth
Kwame and co-authors pay tribute to famous poets by imitating the poetic style or enkindling the emotional connection of these poets.

Boshblobberbosh: Runcible Poems for Edward Lear
by J. Patrick Lewis
Lewis, the 2011 Children’s Poet Laureate, writes poems in the style of Edward Lear to honor Lear’s whimsical language and playful use of the sounds of words.

To read more on how NCTE supports school literary magazines, see REALM Awards (Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines).

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The Way of the Ninja

Katsukawa Shunsho, Nakamura Sukegoro II as Aso no Matsukawa, 1768. Woodblock print. Art Institute of Chicago.

I have two sons, one who is twelve and one aged eight. “Ninja” as a term gets thrown around a lot in my house: “You are a total ninja in the kitchen, Mom.” “Get out of my room before I go ninja on you!” “When I grow up I’m going to be a pilot. Or a ninja. Or both.” You get the idea. Cluttering up the costume closet (what, you don’t have a costume closet? We’re the only ones?) are little black balaclava masks, several sets of plastic nunchaku, and at least one pair of those split-toed socks. They are not real ninjas . . . but you can be! Without, you know, all the killing.

In fact, real ninjas in medieval Japan were employed more often as information-gathering agents, or to spread disinformation where that was useful, than as assassins, although that aspect was certainly true as needed. Black pajamas are very slimming, but you don’t need those either, for the goal of the ninja was to blend into ordinary society and work from within – your cardigan sweater will do just fine.

If you have limited paid databases due to budget constraints, below are some terrific resources to help you track down requests from faculty or students without depending on the kindness of strangers. All of us at AISL are prepared to send the occasional article to one another in answer to a request on the listserv, but you’re a librarian – your superpower is in tracking down information in places that regular humans fail to consider. Remember, real ninja were collectors of intelligence, able to blend in with regular people, and that’s definitely you so you can do this. At the very least, consider it a professional challenge to try at least one or two of these. Hone your skills as sharply as a ninjato blade and prepare to cut through reference requests all day long. Some of these resources will no doubt be familiar to many of you, but other approaches might surprise you.

Unpaywall: a browser extension that will reveal whether a requested article is available for free. Once installed, the small lock icon located in a tab to the right of your screen will turn green if the article is located for free anywhere online. A lot of us overlook the value of a straight-up Google search for an article, when plenty of resources are actually out there for free, even the ones that are of a more weighty, academic type.

Remote access to public library databases: your state library system may provide remote access to databases either by detecting your IP location or with a library card barcode number. I realize that it may give you pause to use your personal access to source database articles. Some library systems may be willing to issue a library card to your school. You may also wish to encourage your students to use their own library card numbers if they have them; if their families pay taxes in the state, they are entitled to use its library collections whether it is for public school homework or private school homework.

The Library of Congress does offer free remote access to a great many periodical titles. The link provided here takes the user to a page of subject areas – pick your area of research and browse what’s available remotely. Links at right will connect to the periodical itself, and users can search by date of publication for the exact article they want.

Contact the scholar: scholars are allowed to share their articles privately with you themselves. They are generally not paid for scholarly articles that appear in peer-reviewed academic journals, and they are usually thrilled to be asked to share their work. If you have an author’s name, contact him or her directly via email or phone at his or her college or university, and ask for an offprint or digital copy of the article. You have absolutely nothing to lose by asking, and the scholar in question may send you other material that  provides you with more or better information.

A note about faculty or student requests: often it happens that a student or a colleague insists that he or she needs this exact article or the world will collapse into a heap of ashes, metaphorically speaking. Literally or otherwise, this is rarely true. Often a published scholar has written several articles on the same subject and one that you can find will do as nicely as the one you can’t. Search the resources that you do have using the author’s name and some useful keywords and see what full-text results come up. You may end up finding a nearly identical article, published with minor changes, for a different audience or perhaps an even better one.

WorldCat: literally a union catalog of the world and operated by the OCLC, WorldCat covers books, DVDs, CDs, and articles. It returns results ranked by proximity to a ZIP code that the user enters, so you can search a nearby library, or one in a city you plan to visit, or where you have privileges as a result of being an alumnus or some other circumstance. Almost any publicly funded library – including college libraries that receive state funds – will allow you to access electronic or print materials if you are on-site, so at the very least a researcher could scan a print article or download an electronic one.

Hathitrust: an online digital library of millions of full-text books, many of them with their illustrations intact. Because these resources are out of the public domain, which is why they are free, the material tends to be older. However, it means this is a particularly useful resources for books that may be out of print.

Directory of Open Access Journals: more than 12,000 open-access journal titles. These are high-quality, peer-reviewed, scholarly journals, and the DOAJ provides free access to the full text. These journals are valuable enough to be indexed by many major database vendors, but they are out there free of charge for anyone to use. Dive in!

These suggestions are limited to sources for periodical articles and digitized books. There are sources such as Researchgate and Humanities Commons, that I have purposely left out of this blog post, because they involve a component of networking amongst scholars that was beyond the scope of today’s topic. If you have a favorite free resource for high-quality reference material, please feel free to be the ninja I know you are and leave a link in the comments so we can all benefit from the intelligence you’ve gathered.

 

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