Student Voice and Preventing Plagiarism

An earlier AISL blog, “Engage to Prevent Plagiarism,” discussed resources and strategies to prevent plagiarism.  Encouraging students to engage with their topics and add their own voice was suggested by several authors as a method to prevent plagiarism (DeSena; Gilmore). One of my library objectives for this school year was to address the issue of plagiarism by guiding students to develop strategies and skills while also making the activities engaging for students and relevant to the curriculum. The following Preventing Plagiarism activity was a first step in helping students to make connections with ideas of others and to allow their own voices to be heard.

Engage with a Controversial News Story

Rather than confront students with a lecture on plagiarism, I collaborated with classroom teachers to connect a topical news story to their curriculum so that students could practice effective note taking and paraphrasing and be challenged to put their own spin on controversial topics.  Eighth graders in US History explored the Harriet Tubman $20 bill controversy.

Seventh grade ELA students examined an article on cloning (“Barbra Streisand Explains Why I Cloned My Dogs”) and compared motivations with ethical issues in their class novel The House of the Scorpion. (Streisand used a Texas company for the cloning procedure, so this made the news story more pertinent with our Texas students.)

Reasons and Examples of Plagiarism

After explaining that students would use the news story to practice paraphrasing to glean important ideas, we discussed the definition of plagiarism and the importance of respecting the words and ideas of others. In groups, students used “Think — Pair — Share” to identify the top three reasons students plagiarize.

Reasons most frequently identified included laziness, procrastination, concern over grades, and confusion about how to paraphrase and how to cite. This student brainstormed list was compared with a “Top Ten” list from Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students (Heinemann 2009). Two items on Gilmore’s list that were missing in our students’ brainstorming were noteworthy: Student Culture and School Culture. We discussed the importance of creating a culture of learning in which ethical behavior is promoted and valued (both by students and educators/administrators) and the importance of students adding their own voices to the scholarly dialogue.

In order to show how the consequences of plagiarism and unethical behavior can escalate, we discussed that cases of plagiarism result in 1) teacher/parent conferencing and re-doing a project in the middle school; 2) impacting grades in high school; and 3) possible expulsion in college if a student is found to have plagiarized. In the business world, plagiarism could mean the loss of career. An example of a college student accused of plagiarizing is Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel was accused of having plagiarized passages from another YA author’s novel; Kaavya lost a $500,000.00 two-book contract and movie deal. Jayson Blair is an example of a plagiarist in the business world; this New York Times journalist resigned after being accused of inventing interviews and posting over 37 plagiarized stories. (One of Blair’s fabricated interviews concerned a Texas family grieving their soldier son, so this struck a chord with our Texas students.)

To transition to the Preventing Plagiarism activity, students viewed the video Citation: A Very Brief Introduction (Library of North Carolina State University). The video animation illustrates how ideas build upon multiple sources: entering into a dialogue with multiple ideas allows students to make their own connections.


Make Connections with Multiple Viewpoints

The Preventing Plagiarism activity to evaluate the controversial news stories was adapted from a “Paraphrase Practice” activity in Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. During this activity, students

  • used the first two paragraphs of the new story to write a general summary
  • looked closely to identify an important sentence;
  • circled three to four important words to write a paraphrased sentence
  • and located one more important quote in the article to practice introducing a direct quote and citing with an in-text citation.

As eighth grade students read the NYT article to select their quote, they weighed multiple viewpoints. Was the decision to delay the Tubman $20 bill driven by 1) anti-counterfeiting safeguards (viewpoint of treasury secretary); 2) race and culture (viewpoint of Democratic Senator); or political correctness (viewpoint of President Donald Trump)? Students worked in groups of two so that they could talk aloud and tweak their paraphrased sentences (making sure the sentences were in their own words).  Eighth graders shared their sentences aloud, and we noted how individual student voices were evident in the results.

Seventh grade students followed the same paraphrase activity as eighth grade, but they used the NYT article about Streisand’s decision to clone her dog. Students then were challenged to look closely at quotes from a chapter in The House of the Scorpion to write a comparison/contrast paragraph discussing motivations of the character El Patron for cloning the boy, Matt.  Sentence stems were provided to aid students’ discussion:

Reflection on the Preventing Plagiarism Activity

As a short introduction to strategies for paraphrasing and citing sources, this lesson was successful.  This forty-five minute class did not allow for additional activities, but eighth graders could be challenged to research further the historical background of Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson as they weigh the question of “What do we value as we decide who is featured on U.S. currency?”  The seventh grade teacher suggested a Socratic discussion could be a follow-up activity as students discuss further the character motivations and ethics of cloning. This Preventing Plagiarism activity promoted interesting insights from students and provided an opportunity for students to listen to their peers and appreciate how each used a similar source of information and added their own voice.

Bibliography

Barry, Dan, et al. “Correcting the Record: Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception.” New York Times, 11 May 2003, www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/us/correcting-the-record-times-reporter-who-resigned-leaves-long-trail-of-deception.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

“Citation: A Very Brief Introduction.” YouTube, uploaded by Libncsu, North Carolina State University, 23 July 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMhMuVvXCVw. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

DeSena, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism. National Council of Teachers of English, 2007.

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.

Gilmore, Barry. Preventing Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. Heinemann, 2009.

Holt, Karen. “‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed,’ Then Got Pulled.” Interview by Melissa Block. NPR, 28 Apr. 2006, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5369768. Accessed 6 Oct. 2019.

Streisand, Barbra. “Barbra Streisand Explains: Why I Cloned My Dog.” New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/style/barbra-streisand-cloned-her-dog.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

Zhou, David. “Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy.” The Harvard Crimson, 23 Apr. 2006, www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/4/23/students-novel-faces-plagiarism-controversy-beditors/. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

Exploring Our National Treasures

To me, history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn’t just part of our civic responsibility. To me, it’s an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.”

David McCullough, author, NEH 2003 Jefferson Lecturer interview
 

This past July I joined 34 educators in Washington, D,C. for a week-long teaching seminar sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Denver Brunsman, associate professor of history, George Washington University, led the seminar, The Making of America: From the Founding Era through the Civil War. Mary Huffman, 5th grade teacher and Master Teacher for Gilder Lehrman, assisted in afternoon sessions that demonstrated how to engage students in explorations of primary sources. The seminar lectures and activities were informative and eye-opening, and attendees enriched the experience with spirited discussions of the topics and shared experiences of teaching history in their K-8 classrooms. In the afternoons, the educators and instructors set off on field trips to museum and archives, and exploring these national treasures was a highlight of the seminar.

Librarians know how crucial primary sources are to the research process: these sources can spur student curiosity, build empathy, foster essential questions, provide evidence to support claims, and grow an understanding of historical persons and events. During the seminar field trips, attendees viewed firsthand an exciting array of primary sources: a 1692 petition for bail from those accused as witches; Alexander Hamilton’s final letter to his wife, Eiliza, before his famous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr; Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 letter to Charles Sumner advocating for fair and equal treatment of black soldiers’ dependents; an 1881 illustration of the Battle of Little Bighorn by Red Horse, Lakota Indian; Orville Wright’s 1903 telegram announcing the first successful powered flight; a 1940s women’s baseball uniform; Susan B. Anthony’s inscription in a book telling the life of Sojourner Truth.

However, learning how to access these resources for our students was even more exhilarating. Each seminar attendee received a resource book from Gilder Lehrman that contained primary sources and suggested activities, and the good news is that Gilder Lehrman, as well as the museums and archives we visited in D.C., provide digital access and lesson plans for many of their items. Following are a few examples of the riches to be explored in our national treasures, the museums and archives of Washington, D.C.

As you explore these sites, you will discover your own favorite treasures.

Gilder Lehrman: History Now
Educators and students can set up free accounts to access curated documents, articles, videos, and essays by scholars.
Examples: Essay: “George Washington on the Constitution
Lesson Plan: “George Washington’s Rules of Civility

*Read more about Gilder Lehrman Teaching Seminars.

Shall Not be Denied: Women’s Fight for the Vote
The Library of Congress July/August magazine features articles and primary sources from this special exhibit, including “Women of Suffrage” info cards that can be reproduced.

Docs Teach (The National Archives) provides online documents and tools for educators to create interactive digital lessons for students.
Here is an example lesson I created with National Archives resources:
Women’s Suffrage
(*You will need to create a free account to view lessons and create your own.)

Yes, that is George Washington in a toga and sandals! This sculpture is on display at the National Museum of American History.

One of the featured exhibits at the National Museum of American History highlighted Inventive Minds. Here are a few videos that showcase design thinking:

Patricia Bath (laser cataract surgery)
Ralph Baer (Toy and Video Games)
Ingenious Women (article/podcasts)

Perhaps one of the most visually stunning and sensory-rich museums, the National Museum of the American Indian has several featured exhibits. A current exhibit is on treaties: Nation to Nation.

Primary source treaty documents

Indian Treaties blog

The National Portrait Gallery displayed this portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
Students might contrast symbols in this portrait (stormy skies in one window and hopeful rainbow in another window) with background floral symbols in the portrait of Barack Obama.

Image Citation: Stuart, Gilbert. George Washington. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/140_1642842/1/140_1642842/cite. Accessed 10 Jul 2019.


National Museum of African American History and Culture.
I was fascinated by how the design of this museum becomes a stirring experience as you move from floor to floor to view the history. Read more on the building design in this Smithsonian article. The architect David Adjaye describes the feeling as “praise”:
“When I say praise, I envision it as a human posture. It’s the idea that you come from the ground up, rather than crouching down or leaning. The form of the building suggests a very upward mobility. It’s a ziggurat that moves upward into the sky, rather than downward into the ground. And it hovers above the ground.”

The final historic site and museum that our seminar group toured was George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In addition to lesson plans for educators, Mount Vernon hosts several Professional Development Opportunities. You may be interested in applying for a program.

So many museums, not enough time. Though I did not visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during this trip, I did see the museum when it first opened, and the online photos, articles, and oral histories continue to serve as valuable resources for the classroom. Examine also education pages from The Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.

Our nation has a rich history and a strong desire to tell the story of history. Continue to support your local and national museums that supply invaluable resources for our schools.

Engage to Prevent Plagiarism

Engagement is about a sense of purpose and a desire to explore. Plagiarism is a perfect example of no student engagement.

Patti Ezell, Instructional Coach for Annunciation Orthodox School

Plagiarism is a topic too often addressed after the fact, when uncomfortable conversations between faculty, students, and parents puzzle over the issue of what went wrong. This summer I am curating resources to support discussions with faculty and students about how to prevent plagiarism. Increasing student engagement may be one of the keys to promoting thoughtful scholarship, integrity, and ethical use of information. Below is an annotated list of books, articles, and videos that may spark ideas for you on the topic of preventing plagiarism. I invite you to add to this list and share strategies that have proved helpful at your schools.

BOOKS
Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques by Laura Hennessey DeSena (National Council of Teachers of English, 2007). I became aware of DeSena’s book through an NCTE webinar, and I was immediately drawn to her approach that emphasizes student interaction with primary sources first in the research process. For literature teachers, the primary source would be the text itself (novel, poem, etc); for history teachers, primary sources can be a range of artifacts, photos, and documents of the time period. DeSena encourages student exploration of ideas in free writing and notes from the primary source text before any secondary scholarly criticism is read. Students develop an authentic voice as they discover their own wonderings, puzzlements, and insights that can be supported by the primary source itself and later expanded upon by secondary sources. (See chapter 4 of this book for a discussion of engaging students in the research process.)

Plagiarism: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2008)
Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2009)
Both of these books present examples of student and teacher comments on the topic of plagiarism, examples of plagiarized writing that can be used to prompt discussions, and Top Ten tips from student and educator perspectives on how to prevent plagiarism. On one Top Ten list, Gilmore echoes the importance of student voice and ownership: “Make the assignment personal. Try to make the assignments important to you…(by putting) your own spin on them” (Plagiarism: Why It Happens, viii). In addition, in chapter 6 of this book Gilmore suggests that teachers should examine the types of assignment and assessments to promote student analysis and original writing rather than summarizing or information telling.

ARTICLES
“Power Lesson: Note-Taking Stations” by Peg Grafwallner and Abby Felten (Cult of Pedagogy.com, December 16, 2018)
Instructional coach Grafwallner and a high school chemistry teacher Felten used the classroom textbook as an opportunity for students to practice note-taking. Students cycled through 15 min. stations and followed templates to practice Cornell notes, graphic organizer, concept map, and annotation. Student feedback was positive on these brief station immersions in note taking, and Felten discovered that students continued to use the note-taking styles in later class assignments, often discerning which note-taking style would work best for the type of information.

“How One Professor Made Her Assignments More Relevant” by Beckie Supiano (The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2019)
Tanya Martini, professor of psychology at Brock University, Ontario, described how she broke through student apathy and pushback by making more explicit for the students the types of real-world skills they could develop through the assignments.

“Engaging Teen Writers Through Authentic Tasks” by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (Educational Leadership, May 2019) Role playing, choice, and multi-genre writing are some of the strategies used to engage teen writers through authentic tasks.

“When Do We Give Credit?” Purdue Owl Writing Lab provides clarification on general knowledge versus information that requires citation.

“Tips to Avoid Plagiarizing Someone Else’s Work” EBSCO’s three-part infographic provides an overview of sites to avoid when researching, work habits that can lead to plagiarism, and when to provide credit for sources.

VIDEOS and PRESENTATIONS
This is Not a Chair (The Chipstone Foundation) This video demonstrates how primary sources (chairs from various time periods) can prompt close looking and analysis and can encourage student reflections and starting points for further research on topics as various as culture, societal structures, environment, and slavery.

How to Spot a Liar (Pamela Meyer) Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, demonstrates in this TED talk how persons telling lies can be spotted, but also stresses that “lying is a cooperative act.” It is important that we have the “difficult conversations” with those who lie so that we can emphasize, “Hey, my world, our world, it’s going to be an honest one. My world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized.”

“Research: An Exciting Quest or a Labor of Hercules?” (Joan Lange)
The first few slides of this presentation that I created in 2011 contains a “research-style quiz” themed to matching your style to Greek Heroes or Monsters. Work habits can lead to plagiarism. Remainder of presentation offers some suggestions to avoid plagiarism.


Take a Reading Inventory

“Summer slump” is an oppressive-sounding term, describing loss of learning during the summer when reading can stagnate. How do you avoid the summer reading doldrums and learning loss? A recent Harvard study stresses the importance of teachers personalizing the reading experience for students, shaping “lessons and activities” to support the reading experience. One way that our school is personalizing reading is through the Teacher Favorites program. Teachers sponsor books, allowing a wide variety of choice for students, and each book has a plus factor, suggested videos, websites, and art/writing activities that can enhance the experience of reading the book. (A big nod to McCallie School which shared their plus factor reading program through our AISL listserv.)

Whether students and teachers are blogging “what if” scenarios about a Harry Potter book or visiting online Holocaust museums as they read The Diary of a Young Girl, student engagement in the activities can enhance the reading of the book and enliven the small group book discussion with teachers and students in August. View our school’s suggested books and activities: Teacher Favorites 7/8 and Teacher Favorites 5/6.

Families can also build excitement for summer reading by placing an importance on reading habits in their home. This suggested Reading Inventory provides ideas to start conversations about the enjoyment of reading and how books can be an important part of the summer routine. Below is a checklist to jumpstart how families can infuse a reading climate in the home and include the reading habit alongside the demands of summer activities.

Step One: Make a Shelfie.
What were the books that ignited you as a young reader? Arrange those books for a “Shelfie” photo and share with your child the meaning books had for you. If you no longer have the books, capture screenshots of book covers or use GoogleSlides to arrange your Shelfie stack. Interesting conversations about books can arise as you share the types of books you loved to read and how your reading grew or changed. Modeling your love of reading and your reading habits is a powerful message to children.

Fairy Tales (upper left to right): Andrew Lang’s Fairy Tales, Brothers Grimm Folk and Fairy Tales edited by Jack Zipes, Andersen’s Fairy Tales (copyright 1945), and Grimm’s Fairy Tales (copyright 1928).

Step Two: Create Book Reading Corners.
Where are the prime locations for Book Reading Corners in your home? Do you have a basket of books by a favorite reading chair, bedside table, and even magazines or books in the bathroom? All of these are prime locations to make reading opportunities readily available and enjoyable, and these reading corners are a visible reminder of the value your family places on reading. Encourage your child to personalize and develop their own favorite reading corner.

Step Three: Read Poetry, Aloud.
My mother loved to share a large volume of children’s poetry, and she dramatized, sang, and engaged us in choral reading of the poems. She even (gasp!) invited us to write our initials next to our favorite poems and color in the line drawing illustrations. This poetry book became a living, breathing reflection of our time shared in enjoying poetry. Discover your own poetry anthology such as those by poets Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, J. Patrick Lewis, Paul Fleischman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Margarita Engle, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jacqueline Woodson, and Nikki Grimes. Poetry anthologies are also themed to experiencing art (Hopkin’s Make the World New: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum) and even objects (The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, selected by Paul B. Janeczko).

And, poetry is not just for young children. Poetry connects to tweens and teens in dynamic ways that reflect their own voices and concerns. Poetry can transport the reader through a historic moment (such as the sinking of the Titanic in The Watch that Ends the Night) and personal crisis (such as Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down), or celebrate heroes (such as Margarita Engle’s Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics) and feature voices of hope (such as Naomi Shihab Nye’s Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners). Encourage your tween or teen to perform a Poetry Slam of a favorite poem. Poems spoken aloud allow us to savor the sounds and rhythms of words and connect powerfully to emotions.

Step Four. Read Aloud.
Reading aloud creates moments of bonding with your child as you share the mutual love of a book. Dive in and do the voices, and invite the child to chime in on favorite lines or read a page in the story. You can read aloud a chapter book that is above the reading level of your child, thereby building vocabulary and encouraging empathetic listening. Many children’s books have cliff-hanger chapters and cause children to beg for the next chapter to be read. For an extensive list of read-aloud books for all ages and genres, see Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. Jim Trelease stresses that reading aloud not only increases I.Q., but also H.Q.(the heart quotient). Award-winning children’s books from ALA and books for young adults from YALSA are another way to select excellent writing from diverse voices.

Step Five: Books on the Road.
Summers are busy with family road trips and commutes to activities such as swimming lessons and ball games–perfect opportunities for stretches of time to enjoy books. Encourage your child to pack favorite books in the car (I always traveled with collections of fairy tales) or take advantage of wonderful audio performances of books to enjoy as a family. Many public libraries have audiobook collections, and our own school library is showcasing new audiobooks through Overdrive this summer. For quick free browsing and sampling, you can search a book title in Amazon Audible and listen to a few minutes of a book. Listening to audiobooks can be a delightful way to fill long car commutes, and children can read along to reinforce the experience of the book.

Illustrated books, nonfiction informational books, and short story collections travel well because these books invite browsing, lingering over illustrations and short text boxes, and short chapter reading. Author Melissa Stewart’s Celebrate Science website has wonderful recommendations for informational books and activities. Graphic novels, magazines, and comics can also be good choices for books on the road. Classic Comics were my first exposure to the “classics,” and new graphic novels adaptations include Anne Frank’s Diary, the Graphic Adaptation, The Giver, Manga Classics, and Shakespeare, Poe, and The Odyssey adaptations by graphic artist Gareth Hinds, not to mention the hilarious Hazardous Tales history series by Nathan Hale.

This five-step Reading Inventory may help families re-evaluate the importance of reading and reading habits in the home. See also the National Education Association, which features research on preventing the “summer slump” and provides tips to encourage reading. Spark enthusiasm with families for reading this summer!

Rethinking Historical Fiction

The power of storytelling…it dramatizes, delights, and immerses us in an experience so that we can step back into the world, ready to face challenges with a little more confidence and understanding.  

At AOS, seventh and eighth grade students participate in the “History as Story” writing workshop with visiting authors who are experts in the power of storytelling.  The goal of the writing workshop is to connect students with themes of history as the students themselves craft a small work of historical fiction. The historical fiction piece engages students more deeply with topics they have been researching, topics that will be developed later in a more formal research essay.  

This year the “History as Story” writing workshop was led by poet and author Allan Wolf, who paints a picture of history through various viewpoints in books-in-verse, such as New Found Land (Lewis and Clark expedition) and The Watch that Ends the Night (sinking of the Titanic). Allan Wolf suggested that students develop their historical fiction piece by using CAST: Characters, Action, Setting, and Truth.

The following sample pieces show how students used CAST to connect with a Truth about their historical topics and re-imagined a moment in history.

American Reformers: “Be the Change”
Seventh graders researched American reformers of the late 1700s-1800s in a “Be the Change” research project.  The opening paragraph of the research paper is a historical vignette that immerses the reader in a dramatic moment of their American reformer.

One student, Ella Piper, envisioned how Mother Ann Lee, leader of the Shaker church in New York, made the treacherous sea voyage from England to New York. Her characters are the zealous Ann Lee and an exasperated ship captain. The action is a dangerous storm at sea, and the setting is the ship’s deck, where Ann Lee is dancing to seek God’s intervention while the Captain and shipmates are furiously battling a sinking ship.  Below is an excerpt:

It was the middle of the night. A yellow moon and its pale, waxy light slowly disappeared under ominous storm clouds, and the skies opened up. The ship was low in rations, and the bodies of the passengers, frail from malnutrition, hardly caused a tip in the hardy vessel, the Mariah, as they began worship. It didn’t bother Ann. Her light hair grew steadily darker in the rain, and, as on all nights, she began to spin. Uncontrolled, sporadic movements overtook her body, mimicking the crashing of the tumultuous sea. “Praise God,” she whispered, and the ship erupted in a soulful, oscillating waltz.

And the rain persisted. The rain came down and the captain came up to handle it and through it all she continued to dance. After all, they were alive and God was with them and that trumped a squall any day. Even though they were ordered back to their rooms. Even though the wind whipped her hair and cut at her face.

“Below deck!” The captain screamed. “Or it’s overboard for the lot of ya!” His voice was hoarse from shouting at the crew. His patience with Ann and her followers, never in abundant supply, was rapidly wearing thin. “That shaking of yours will be put to a stop, whether its by my hand or God’s when we die in this bloody monsoon!” He jerked on the wheel.

The truth is revealed later in final words by Ann Lee as the storm dissipates:

Abruptly, the largest wave so far, one of Brobdingnagian proportions, drew close to the ship. Captain Nelson swore. Baker began to say his prayers. Ann danced. And, as if guided by the hand of God himself, the wave carried the board back into place. The Mariah began to rise.

Ann danced. She smiled. “It is my belief that a true act of God is finding peace in chaos, the eye of the hurricane. Wouldn’t you say so, Captain?”

It was the middle of the night. A yellow moon and its pale, waxy light shone through retreating storm clouds.

US Defining Moments
Eighth graders researched defining moments in US history and iconic persons who influenced those events. As part of their research, students located a primary source photo and used the Library of Congress Analysis Tool to examine how the photo revealed insights into their historical event or person. In the writing workshop, these photos were used to develop descriptive, narrative poems (ekphrastic poetry). Here is an example of how one student, Emma, used the CAST technique with her photograph to reveal insights about the Texas Western 1966 NCAA Championship.

Emma’s primary source photo depicts the Texas Western team posing with their trophy for the 1966 NCAA championship. (View photo in this El Paso newspaper article.) The characters for the poem are the basketball team, “blacks and whites stand side by side,” and the “small white coach (who) does his best to stay hidden.” Emma also created a fictional character, the photographer, as her point of view to describe this victorious moment. The action is the photographer setting up to take the photo, “As I steady my camera to take a legendary picture,” and the poem ends with the “flash” of the camera.  Though the setting is not described, a sense of place is suggested as the players stand shoulder to shoulder, a “colorful canvas” as “blacks and whites stand side by side.”  The truth, or moment of insight about this historical moment is revealed in several lines. The poem alludes to the Civil Rights struggle–“Challenges and the races/They had to win to make their statement”–as well as the unity of the team–the coach “treating each and all like an equal son” and the team “connected in more than just great pride.”  

Texas Western
3, 2, 1
Scattered smiles and serious faces
In the Miners I see the traces
Of all the challenges and the races
They had to win to make their statement.

The small, white coach does his best to stay hidden
He takes no credit for all they have done
Treating each and all like an equal son

As I steady my camera to take a legendary picture
I see the significance of this colorful canvas
Blacks and whites stand side by side
Connected in more than just great pride.
Flash!

This poem by Emma prompts a final reflection about what is history.  Historians often stress the importance of examining the historical context and purpose of the primary source that is being evaluated: meaning is constructed.  Literally, what is the historical lens that the photographer of Emma’s poem uses to help viewers see this moment of victory in the Civil Rights struggle? Questions for future research might be the following:

“What were the challenges that the Texas Western team faced?”
“Were the team players really united?”
“What was the coach’s role in this struggle and did he avoid the limelight?”
“Did this championship win change attitudes of society?”

The “History as Story” writing workshop is an exciting opportunity for students to add their voice as they shape an understanding of history.  I encourage you to find a moment in history that fascinates you and, through the power of storytelling, look closely and think deeply about truths that have shaped our Nation.

Making Connections

The Humber River Arch Bridge in Toronto. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/167_4034014/1/167_4034014/cite. Accessed 12 Nov 2018.

  • Librarians as engineers?  Not a great leap when you consider that librarians help students to build bridges from information to insights, making connections that add meaning to the research process.   Making connections is a powerful thinking strategy that engages students in active and meaningful learning.  In a recent publication by The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, “Supporting Social, Emotional, and Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators,”   the authors state that  “students need new concepts to link in some way to things they already know, or they will not have the mental maps that their brains need to process the material;” building connections that reflect students’ interests or goals deepens the learning (Allensworth et al 10-11).

Tapping into several Visible Thinking routines from Harvard Project Zero, I worked closely with Sara Schultz, the fifth grade Geography teacher, to immerse students in the process of making connections. Following are a few examples:

Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate
Generate: Students mentally pictured the type of signs they might see in National Parks and brainstormed the reason for the signs.
“Do Not Feed the Bears”
personal danger from close contact with bears and
making bears 
dependent on food (losing ability to fend for themselves)

“Stay on the Trail”
might get lost, or dangerous/slippery/unstable land or
might damage native plants, ground cover

For a dramatic example of deterioration of a National park, students  also viewed an interactive graphic of Salt Lake Water Woes (earthobservatory.nasa.gov) and brainstormed cause for the drastic depletion of water.

Sort: Students pointed out which of the reasons were Human Factors that might harm the National Park, such as making bears dependent on human food or damaging native plants or water use and irrigation for agriculture depleting the Great Salt Lake.

Connect:
Several articles from the New York Times modeled for students how to connect cause to several effects, such as this article about Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades:


As students researched, they organized information on Concept maps.  In the example below, Gracie made connections between “Native Species — Bark Beetle — Killing Trees — Easier to Burn Down” and then draws a line to connect concept of Fire to concept of Native Species.  This student also added yellow exclamation symbols to those concepts she felt were important or needed further investigation, such as “Grizzly Bears recently removed from endangered lists now being shot in Wyoming.”

Circle of Viewpoints
This thinking routine was useful in showing connections between conflicting viewpoints: 1) brainstorm a list of perspectives; 2) assume a perspective;  and 3) generate questions or concerns from that viewpoint. Students viewed several New York Times articles about Bears Ears National Monument and assumed conflicting perspectives over land use:

Trump (open lands for development, such as mining, farming)
Patagonia (wilderness outfitter company– wants to protect recreational use of land)
Native Americans (who wish to protect lands as sacred sites)

This process of modeling strategies and guiding students to make connections has been exciting. I challenge librarians to put on your hard hat, pick up a Visible Thinking tool, and experiment with building your own bridge to knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Inspire Writing with Memorials

Memorials promote powerful, personal encounters with moments in history.  I recently created my own memorial to commemorate a time in which my newly married parents were separated during World War II. The assemblage of photos and letters documented the years 1942-1945, when my father, JJ, was setting up radio communications in Iceland while my mother, Wanda, worked in an ammunition plant and then, later, stayed at home raising a newborn son (my brother, Joe).

The centerpiece of the memorial was a newspaper clipping that featured a story about my mother’s drawing of my father holding his newborn son. The idea that prompted the drawing was that JJ had never seen or held the newborn. Wanda created the drawing by viewing a photo of her husband in uniform and then adding the baby in his arms.  When Wanda sent this drawing in the mail, the army “censors” discovered the drawing; they then shared the drawing and story with the St. Louis newspaper.  A photographer at the newspaper created a photo montage; using a photo of my father dressed in his army uniform, the photographer combined it with the baby’s photo.

The collaged photo appeared alongside my mother’s drawing. In the newspaper story, she explained, “You see, he has never seen, much less held his 11-month-old son.  So, to fulfill his desires as best I could, I sketched this picture of him holding his own flesh and blood.” Wanda also added “We write each other every day and the mail arrives on an average of once a month, so, at times, I get as many as 30 letters in one day.”

In addition to this newspaper clipping, the memorial contains several letters that JJ wrote, including the letter that tipped off Wanda about his destination in the war.  Before JJ left for army training, they discussed that letters would be censored (“Idle Gossip Sinks Ships” was stamped at the bottom of his army stationary). So my father devised a code: when he knew the location of his war assignment, the first word of that letter to my mother would indicate the country by the initial letter of the word.  JJ’s letter dated on November 11, 1942 began “Incidentally, as you know all my letters in the future and as of now are subject to censor….” He intended to signal that he would be stationed in Iceland, but my mother in a panic thought the letter “I” stood for Italy and that JJ was headed to the fierce combat.

A final item that I included in the memorial was a harmonica.  As the story goes, when my father arrived home to be welcomed by my mother and the 2 ½ year-old son, a son he had never seen in person, my young brother clung nervously to my mother’s dress, fearful of this tall, strange man with the booming voice. My father crouched down and dropped the duffle bag from his shoulder. As he unzipped the bag, he brought out a shiny harmonica, blew across it, and handed this magical, musical object to his son, winning him over.

This memorial was created as an example for a student writing contest that the library is sponsoring this fall, inviting students to create their own memorial or collection of things that have a special significance.  Students will then be encouraged to write a short essay or poem about how this collection is meaningful to them or suggests a special moment in history. In creating my own memorial, I rediscovered the importance of the bonds of love in the face of separation, and I realized that creativity can defeat challenging hurdles. Memorials can help us connect to our shared humanity; as author and historian David McCullough often states, “history is about people, history is about being human.”

Curation and Curiosity

Cabinet of Curiosities

The librarian’s role as curator was the topic of a TxLA conference session by Joyce Valenza. For anyone who has attended one of Joyce’s high-energy presentations, you know that you leave with your brain whirling with new ideas. This session on curation was timely because the new AASL standards feature curation:

Curate: Make meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance.

Here are four curation tools that I plan to explore this summer. My goal is to curate resources for students and also guide students as curators:

Google Custom Search
Combine the power of a Google Search with the expertise of a librarian assembling the websites for students to search. The Google Custom Search box can be embedded on your library resource page.  I plan to explore further the option to register as an educational nonprofit to turn off ads on the Google Search boxes.

Symbaloo Gallery
Here is a Symbaloo that I created to begin curating resources for Copyright and Fair Use, Digital Citizenship, and Media and News Literacy.

Pearltrees
Visually organize content in grids.  Here is an example of Joyce Valenza’s Pearltree and a blog by Richard Byrne about Pearltrees (FreeTech4Teachers).

TES Teach with Blendspace
Bring together videos, photos, and documents into a visual grid that encourages exploring resources.

I have also assembled a list of suggested books that can be used to introduce our students to the idea of curation and promote its value in the research process.

Young Readers
The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell by Candace Fleming (picture book biography)
Author Fleming dramatizes a true moment in the life of artist Joseph Cornell: as a young boy, Joey was fascinated by collecting things and he organized a special ticketed event for friends and family to view his collections.

Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner (picture book biography)
This is my favorite version of Potter’s young life because it shows her fascination with exploring nature and desire to be a scientist. Unable to pursue this scientific field because she was a woman in the Victorian Period, she turned her love of nature to creating delightful drawings for the Peter Rabbit tales.

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman (picture book)
A grandfather shares his special matchboxes with his granddaughter. Each matchbox contains a small object that marks a moment in his immigrant story.

Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis (fiction)
A young child explores a grandmother’s collection of pennies; the year on each penny designates significant events in the grandmother’s life.

Middle School Readers
What Darwin Saw: The Journey that Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer (Biography) . Darwin’s natural collections and observations in his notebooks fueled his scientific theories.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Darlene R. Stille This historical look at the expedition of Lewis and Clark includes primary source drawings and diary entries from Lewis and Clark’s journal.

Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge
Dorothea Lange’s documentation of social issues through her photos is a great example of sharing important ideas with an audience.

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
This fiction story is loosely based on an Outsider artist whose cast-off sculpture assemblages were exhibited at the Smithsonian. A young boy is assigned community service with this “junk man,” and the boy begins to find personal healing as he assists in gathering the pieces for the sculpture.

High School Readers
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
In this historical fiction novel, a teenage girl is assigned to community service, assisting an elderly woman in cleaning out her attic. What they discover together is a treasure trove of memories of the elderly woman’s experience as an orphan train child.

The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom
by John F. Baker, Jr. As a seventh grader, Baker discovered a photo in his history textbook
that depicted slaves on the Wessyngton Plantation. The people in the photo were his
grandmother’s grandparents, and it prompted Baker to begin a life-long project of collecting oral history interviews and photographs that were later assembled as part of a special exhibit at the Tennessee History Museum.

Cabinet of Curiosities by Guillermo del Toro
Director Guillermo del Toro surrounds himself with curiosities and collections that help to inspire him in his movie projects. This book is filled with his sketches, journal entries, and collections from his estate that inspire his imaginative works.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas on how librarians can engage students’ curiosity and encourage their desire to become curators of knowledge.

Bibliography for Image
Georg Hainz Cabinet of Curiosities. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/109_111663/1/109_111663/cite.
Accessed 5 May 2018.

Magical Portals for Research

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (from Amazon.com)

Searching a special collections archive can at times feel as mind-boggling as finding the wrinkles that lead you to another time dimension. How do you find those “magical portals,” entry points to archives, and simplify daunting site navigation? Though the role of librarians has evolved from that of “gatekeeper,” “gatekeeper” does have a metaphysical ring to it–conjuring up a scene from Monty Python in which you must correctly answer the riddle posed by the bridge keeper or risk being hurtled into the abyss. The challenge for librarians is to identify entry points and model search strategies, thereby minimizing frustration and building students’ skills as independent researchers.

Here are a few favorite “magical portals” and search strategies that our students have been using to enrich their research with primary sources and scholarly articles:

Science Research: Engines of Our Ingenuity and Topics in Chronicling America
Fifth graders have been exploring the lives of scientists and inventors and applying design thinking to their research. Challenged to find examples of how society reacted to the science discoveries, students used the podcast articles from Engines of Our Ingenuity, written and hosted by Dr. John Lienhard in association with the University of Houston and Houston Public Media. One student unearthed a gem in the article “Darwin Boards the Beagle.” Darwin was close friends with the captain of the Beagle at the beginning of the journey, but as the captain learned more about Darwin’s evolving theories, they collided with the captain’s own beliefs in the Bible and he become an enemy, participating in debates in Oxford to discredit Darwin. This article provided the student with an example of how society’s beliefs conflicted with Darwin’s discoveries.

Search strategy: Rather than using the Engines of Our Ingenuity search box, an Advanced Google search provided more specific results.
(Bound phrase search) “engines of our ingenuity” Darwin

Topics in Chronicling America links historic newspapers themed to topics such as famous persons and events in Science and Technology. This is a much easier way for young researchers to navigate the Chronicling America archived newspapers through the Library of Congress.

Search strategy: Select a topic, such as Invention of the Telephone, and click on newspaper article “A Wonderful Invention.” Scan the paper for red highlighted word and use the box finder tool to zoom in and read this article about how Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his telephone to an enthusiastic audience.

History Research: JSTOR Daily
Seventh graders researched social reformers of the 1800s and were challenged to connect these reform movements to modern reform initiatives. In searching for articles on Laura Bridgman, the first blind and deaf girl to learn how to read and write, we discovered JSTOR Daily, an online publication that puts contemporary issues in historic context using research from the journals archived in JSTOR. The Laura Bridgman article, for example, explored the changing views towards special education.

Search Strategy: A bonus to these JSTOR Daily articles is that they link to JSTOR journal articles. For instance, the Laura Bridgman article linked to a JSTOR journal article about Dr. Howe’s educational methods in teaching Laura to read and write.

Language Arts: Constitution Daily, Circulation Now, and New York Times Archives
Eighth grade Language Arts students incorporated primary sources as they researched US History topics. Several museums and newspaper archives have online articles to highlight their collections and provide easier access to the content. Below are just a few examples:

Constitution Daily blog showcases content from the National Constitution Center. The Scopes Trial article provides historic context to the trial as well as links to a Tennessee House Bill on Teaching Science (2011).

Search strategy: Rather than using the Constitution Daily search box, an Advanced Google search provided more specific results.
(Bound phrase search) “scopes trial” site:constitutioncenter.org

Circulation Now blog links historic items from the US National Library of Medicine (NIH).  The “Heart Surgery on Film” article discusses the work of one of the first female heart surgeons, Dr. Nina Braunwald, and the blog was written by a library graduate student, Rachel James.

Search Strategy: I used this article by Rachel James to model search strategies and resources that Rachel used to develop her research on heart surgery.

New York Times Archive themes articles to famous events and provides links to historic newspapers. This article on the Three Mile Island disaster links to a newspaper article written at the time. Though you need to be a subscriber to view the historic newspapers, the featured articles often contain specific examples from the primary source newspaper.

Search Strategy: Use Advanced Google search
site:nytimes.com archives “three mile island”

These are just a few of the “magical portals” that have opened up new ways for students to navigate archives. Rather than a straight path, research requires searchers to remain curious and experiment with search strategies. As Madeleine L’Engle observed in A Wrinkle in Time, “experiment is the mother of knowledge.”