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).

Art Exhibition: Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration

Over this Labor Day weekend, my family and I ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum of Art to see the exhibit Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration. This exhibit featured the illustrative work of eight notable picture book illustrators: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. Seeing artwork from books I remember reading to my daughters and those I currently share with my students in an exhibit space, enabled me to appreciate the illustrations more fully. The collection of work curated by H. Nichols B. Clark, former director and chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, was a phenomenal representation of the high caliber artwork made accessible through so many of the picture books in our school library collections.

The exhibit materials were grouped by artist, which provided the perfect platform for drawing comparisons. The museum also utilized iPads for an interactive exploration of David Weisner’s illustrations. This dynamic use of technology created a hot spot for the youngest museum goers. Films made with each of the artists discussing an aspect of the creative process were streaming in the gallery, and are available through the Brandywine’s site about the exhibit. I would highly recommend using any one of these videos in conjunction with a read aloud of one of the illustrator’s books to show students how they choose various media and how artists accomplish research for specific illustrations. Check out Jon Klassen’s video which captures his process of using atypical materials to draw a dog!

Get the Picture! Exhibit

Exhibit attendees reading books by the authors featured in Get the Picture!

The lasting lesson for me from this exhibit is to keep looking critically at the books we select. There are so many new styles and techniques emerging in the books we read to students, as well as a limitless crop of new talented artists rethinking the art of stories. Barbara Elleman provides a framework for picture book art evaluation where she stresses that we actually look at picture books with a multifaceted perspective: “with the lens of an artist, the needs of a librarian, and the appetite of a child.” After viewing the exhibit and reflecting on this helpful summary of how we engage with illustration, I plan to reinvigorate our class discussions about the illustrations in books we read together. My aim will be to have my students critically think about illustrations and how they add to a story, especially through recognition and analysis of artistic techniques utilized in picture books. I know that these questions will stimulate our discussions and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their visual observations and understanding.

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, "I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books."

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, “I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books.”

Design Thinking @ Your Library, a SI2016 Recap

Librarians are, by our very nature, selfless creatures. We think about our users constantly, in just about every area of our work. From collection development to research instruction, web design to furniture and paint colors. But do we really know them and understand the full spectrum of their needs?

Enter Design Thinking @ Your Library, the 2016 AISL Summer Institute.

This June, 36 librarians came together from the four corners of the United States, representing Lower, Middle, and Upper Division libraries, all with a single mission: to learn how to “do” Design Thinking and to return to our schools ready to tackle challenges, great and small.

My background in Design Thinking is varied. Three years ago I participated in an awesome Leadership & Design Design Thinking workshop here at Emma Willard. We designed around the downtown Troy revitalization effort. This spring, I took an ALA course that applied DT to information literacy instruction.  I have read about it and watched videos on it. I was on a committee at school where we used it to study the effectiveness of blended learning in our classrooms. There have been some awesome Independent Idea blog posts in the past that dealt with the DT in the library, but in the vein of all the other awesome posts of late where bloggers admit their limitations,

I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how it would work, from start to finish, in the library world. There, I said it.

The Summer Institute changed all of that.

We started with an opening cocktail party where we mingled and got to know one another. We enjoyed delicious food and drink but then…it was time to get down to business. We split up into teams for a quick, fun Marshmallow Design Challenge.

Photo Jun 21, 7 37 57 PM (1)Many a group has attempted this challenge before, from Kindergartners to PhDs , engineers to corporate executives. Who do you think is the most successful? The engineers? Think again! It’s the little ones! Why? Because they are completely open minded. They jump right in and start building. Adults plan, contemplate the “what ifs”, and basically eat up their 18 minutes. Kids aren’t afraid to fail. They build. It falls down. They try again. If you need a great team building activity for a faculty meeting, this is a great one.

Photo Jun 22, 2 04 45 PM

Highlights of the SI included a fantastic keynote by Steven Bell giving us a birds eye view, or WHY Design Thinking works in tackling our “wicked problems”. Two of my amazing colleagues, science teachers and experienced design thinkers, then stepped in to teach us HOW to do it. We practiced as a group designing around my nemesis: a rickety wooden book cart circa 1960-somethin’, that hurts me, literally, falling over when I least expect it, bruising my shins. My assistant and I explained our many problems with the cart, the group interviewed us further to practice the empathy stage of the DT process, then everyone broke into teams to determine what they thought the “real” problem was (ie: was it a physical cart issue or a process issue?). That was an interesting conversation in and of itself! Their prototypes were AMAZING, and included, among other features, a student-led shelving system, fancy carts with huge tires, device charging stations so that we can listen to music while we shelve, flat, adjustable shelves to accommodate oversize books and a laptop for doing inventory, among other things. Designs shared via Twitter were picked up by Demco. How cool is that? I digress…

The final part of the conference was the one that my colleagues and I were most anxious about. How could we divide such a diverse group into balanced teams, around shared challenges in varied divisions, in a way that made sense and provided them with real, applicable, takeaways from the SI?

On the fly, we asked them to take a piece of paper, write their division at the top, their challenge as a headline, and at the bottom, which “track” of the SI their challenge fell under: Research, Physical Space, Maker, or simply “Other”.

You know what? IT TOTALLY WORKED.

Rather than tell you about their intriguing challenges, their thoughtful “What If…” statements, their design horizons, and their prototypes, why don’t you check it out on your own in this SI Libguide I created? While you’re there, feel free to visit the presentations, see the recommended reading, and download the free DT Toolkit provided by IDEO.

How can we ensure that we are creating the spaces, programs, and lessons that our community needs, both now and in the future? We do what we do best: we observe, we question, we listen, we invite other perspectives to the table, we think outside the box, we take risks, we try things! Whether we realize it or not, the skill set emphasized in design thinking is very much what we as librarians do best.

SI Participants, feel free to share your reflections below. If anyone has questions or if you would like to discuss the experience further, please let me know!

SI2017 will be here before you know it! It will be hosted by Caroline Bartels at the Horace Mann School in NYC focusing on One Book One School. More info to come as planning progresses.

I wish you all an excellent start to the ’16-’17 school year!

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Barriers to Access

If it is possible for one’s PD cup to run over, mine is. In the past two weeks, I have been to two amazing conferences. First,  NEAISL at the lovely Milton Academy for a one day, action packed conference. Just a few days later, I headed to Los Angeles for the annual AISL conference, where I found myself surrounded, once again, by world class librarians from across the US and Canada, visiting beautiful, innovative library spaces in and around LA. My next thousand blog posts could be reflections on the new ideas that I have come home with, consider yourself warned.

What I thought I  might attempt in this first reflection piece is to identify a common theme that ran through both conferences. It’s about access to information.

NEAISL & Ebsco’s Discovery Service

NEAISL proved that our regional EBSCO rep has been very, very busy of late. Most of us are either-mid trial, in our first year or two with the product, and a few of us are well seasoned, early adopters of the technology.  I don’t refer to EDS here in the ‘to have or not to have’ context, Alyssa did an excellent job in sharing the pros and cons of the program in an earlier post. I do want to share a catchy quote that I heard at NEAISL though. One librarian observed, “Our students don’t care which database their information came from. They only want to access the information quickly, to find valid results that are easy to cite,  rich and varied enough to make their teacher happy, then they’re moving on.” Truth. So yes, I do like Discovery. That isn’t the point of this post, though. The point is ACCESS, with or without Discovery.

Jenny Barrows of the Hopkins School said,  “our students will never find our best materials if we have crappy records”. She and her colleagues believe that our shelves can practically sparkle with a quality, well honed collection, but the reality is that our students are still going through the computer to search for sources. Like all the time. They do not browse. They WILL NOT find our books if they are badly cataloged.

She and her team of 3  began a descriptive catalog project, hoping to increase access points. Read all about it and learn the steps it takes to implement in your own library here.

In essence, bad cataloging blocks our students’ access to information. This is going to take some time, but we need to be as diligent in weeding our records as we are in weeding our shelves. 

Welcome to Katie’s Summer Project Numero Uno. Good times! 

Speaking of cataloging/barriers to access, Liz Gray just shared this thought provoking article via Facebook. Do you check to make sure that your records are politically correct and not potentially offensive to your community?

On a semi-related note, do you think about teenagers’ natural language searching  or do you stick with standardized subject headings?

AISL16 & Access: Source Illiteracy as block to access

How can we access that which we are not aware of?

The next ‘access issue’ that I want to address is one that I thought long and hard about after attending what was easily one of the best conference sessions I have ever experienced. It was given by Nora Murphy of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, and is taken from an article that will soon be published in KQ…be on the lookout! Note: Nora is one of my new librarian sHeros. Check out her amazing library website.

Nora did not present the material as an access-issue, per se. I’m taking liberties with that part, but just go with it for a moment. I think hope that it will make sense in the end.

frog   axolotl

 

 

 

Nora began her presentation by showing us an image of a frog and an axolotl. Frogs are the publications that we are familiar with–magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, etc. (Note: not all of our kids know that these frogs are frogs.) Axolotls are things that resemble frogs, but really aren’t–they could include trade journals, government documents, blogs, and social media.

We as adults and professionals observe, categorize, ask questions. Our students aren’t typically this savvy (or simply have no exposure from which to draw).

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

From the Virtual Library. Used with permission via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nora argues that we are missing a piece between location & selection of sources.

<——-Source Literacy goes here. This gap gets in the way of research in a serious way.

Source literacy requires knowledge of source types. What it is, where it exists, what it contains, who creates it, and why. Like anything we teach, we have to expose kids repeatedly to sources or they will forget. Nora suggests that we systematically create a bank of knowledge for them to draw on in the future.

She is all about the Source Bank.

Here’s an example she gave:

9th health class asks, “Why isn’t everything in the grocery store organic?”. What sources do you imagine will have relevant information on this topic? They think of some newspapers, a magazine or two, but really they don’t know much and aren’t able to predict what kinds of sources would have good information on farming, the food industry, or current trends.

How do we expand their source literacy beyond basic, standard publications?

Here’s another idea for a US History class. Convince their teachers that kids MUST know what an oral history is. It’s critical. Invite the teacher(s) to plan with you, to co-teach, co-assess—a unit, a year long goal, over next 3 years we will x, y, and z, whatever fits your school culture, but knowing that the repetition of a concept is what it takes to place it into long term memory.

9th Create assignment, what is an oral history? Characteristics? Do something with it.

10th grade: Studying the impact of religious, cultural, or racial persecution.

Explore sources that contain oral histories:

  • Holocaust Museum
  • Documents of the American South
  • LOC Civil Rights Project

Create a Digital Sourcebank. She likes Trello because it allows students to annotate (how they used a source, what they thought of it at the time, etc.

Nora is piloting Trello with a few of her students. She showed us an example of a students’ work exploring the China/Tibet Relationship. The student had created columns in her source bank which included: Preliminary/Informal sources (idea generation), Core sources (print and digital), Necessary Bias—she needs to consider, but knows it represents a particular point of view (HOW GREAT IS THAT REALIZATION?!), and finally, Visual Texts. Notice: the student is categorizing her own sources.

The benefit of the source bank being formed early in the research process is that it allows for source assessment EARLY ON, not when the bibliography is turned in.

There are so many wonderful, free resources out there, but if our students haven’t had exposure to a lot of different kinds of publications, frogs and axolotls alike, how can they possibly generate the kind of sophisticated, open source, research that could lead them to relevant results?

If we do not make source knowledge a priority, then aren’t we ourselves, a sort of human barrier to our students’ access?

I’ve hit you with a lot of information here. What are your thoughts? Please comment below. And please, if someone’s comment resonates with you, chime in! The more we can discuss, the better.

What book taught you most about being a girl?

Registration for the 2016 AISL Conference is filling up fast! Not yet convinced? I am still using an idea I first learned about during the 2008 Toronto conference! It’s become one of our biggest school-wide literary events each year, and is much anticipated by staff and students alike. This year I had my first ‘when is Red Reads?’ query on the second day of school!

At the 2008 conference, Havergal College librarian Tony Nardi shared information about his school’s reading contest, where six book champions battle it out to be crowned winner. The part that particularly appealed to us, as a grade 1-12 school, is that you didn’t have to have read all of the six books in order to participate. One of our English teachers had the vision for the contest for our school, customized it for SCS, and Red Reads was born!

The theme of this year’s contest is ‘The Book That Taught Me Most About Being a Girl’. Members of our community were invited to submit their nominations on paper or electronically, and we were thrilled that we had submissions from grades 2-12 and staff. A team of judges met to whittle down our hundred or so entries to a top six, and these finalists will present at a special assembly on November 17. After this assembly, members of our community will vote for their favourite presentation, and the person who made the most compelling case, to become our ‘Red Reads’ selection for the year. We follow up with another special assembly in January, focusing on the winning book, its message, and author.

Our six finalists this year are:

1) Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, submitted by a grade 10 student

2) I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, submitted by “Justice and Peace”, a grade 6 / staff duo

3) Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters, submitted by a grade 8 student

4) The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, submitted by a grade 11 group

5) Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, submitted by a grade 6 duo.

6) Life in Motion by Misty Copeland, submitted by a grade 6 student

The benefits to running a program like this are numerous. It allows us to have school-wide reading festival, it is adaptable for a variety of themes, and it is an excellent focus for our senior school book club. It also increases library traffic, and the chatter about books in the halls! The library does a huge amount of support for this program; we use library periods to share information and discuss Red Reads choices when possible.

As a judge (and advisor), I was not allowed to nominate a book, but I have written an SCS Reads blog post on my choice. I’ll update this post once the winner is announced (in early December). I expect it to be a closely-fought contest this year!

For further information, take a look at an article my co-advisor and I wrote in Independent Teacher Magazine about reading at SCS. It’s a few years old now, but it gives a great overview of the reading culture here at St. Clement’s.

UPDATE!: Our winning book was Life in Motion by Misty Copeland. SCS students and staff are encouraged to read the book over the Christmas vacation in preparation for the follow-up assembly in January.

 

 

 

 

Calling All Writers! Writers Cafe Success Stories

by Joan Lange, Librarian, Pope John Paul II High School

How does the library mission to prepare 21st century learners relate to creative writing?  Should librarians expand their role of guiding students in information and research skills to a more active role in encouraging creative writing?  In an online Global Education Conference , Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap, stressed the following as “survival skills” in today’s world:

Oral and Written Communication
Creativity and Imagination

In fact, the senior executives that Wagner polled listed the inability to write convincingly “with voice”–finding an authentic voice in writing–as the number one deficit in their employees.

Six years ago, our library Teen Read Advisory pondered a similar concern about creative writing. One teen pointed out that creative writers were “invisible” at our high school (creative writing seemed underappreciated or writing kept “secret” by fledgling writers). From that meeting, an idea for a Writers Café began to form. Six years later, our annual Writers Café continues to be a much-loved event that celebrates creativity and imagination in an open-mike, café setting.  This article will describe some ways our school reaches out to encourage creative writers and will offer some practical tips for a library-sponsored Writers Café.

Create a Display on Writers about Writing

Feature the words of writers and books on the art of writing in a library book display. Quotes, such as the following from Anne Lamott, stress the importance of students finding their own passionate voice:

All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way.
What you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or
insider pathos or meaning…everything we need in order to tell our stories…exists in each of us.
Anne Lamott,  Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life

 “Be a voracious reader”

Bret Anthony Johnston, editor of Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, offered the following advice to writers during Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books:

  • Be a voracious reader. Apprentice yourself to literature that you love.
  • Enjoy it as a reader first, paying attention to where you connect with the story.
  • On the third and fourth reading, begin to examine the structure; how do you explain it on a craft level.
  • As Saul Bellows observed, “Every writer is a reader moved to emulation.”

Johnston’s book offers a wide range of creative writing activities from noted contemporary authors, such as Joyce Carol Oates, in order to “provide tools in a toolbox for a student to ‘take a risk.’”

Incorporate Visual and Performing Arts

Educator and author Barry Gilmore’s book Drawing the Line suggests using famous artwork or photos as poetry prompts.  Students write through the eyes of a character in the artwork, using sensory words to describe the mood/conflict/setting of the scene. This activity was used with interesting results in our Public Speaking class.  One student used a photo of children in a Holocaust camp to write her poem. An excerpt below shows how concrete details depict inner emotions:

A few strands of barbed wire are all that separates
these twelve children from freedom…
Still, hope lingers through the air like a butterfly fluttering
searching for a spot to rest its tired wings
One girl stares past the prison where she had thought
she would breathe her last breath
And wonders about what’s left for her now,
waiting on the other side,
Morgan Roth, “Hope”

Field trips can be opportunities for writing as well.  While at a Thespian conference, two theater students did a fast-write exercise and created dynamic, short monologues that were later performed at the Writers Café.

Writing is a Cross-Curricular Activity

Foreign Language teachers have encouraged students to write poems. Latin students used a Latin motto such as “Carpe Diem” or “Mormento Mori” for poetic reveries.  They have also retold Greek myths.   AP Spanish students dramatized pressures of teen life in poems after studying the works of Latin American poets.

In Morality class, a student researched the sex slave trade and was inspired to write a poem from the perspective of a teen mother who promises to save her child from the fate she suffered.

Don’t Forget the Newspaper Staff!

Humorous editorials, satiric book reviews, and poignant opinion pieces came from the online school newspaper.  Give these journalists even greater readership through a featured spot at the Writers Café.

Special Guest Authors

Teachers, local authors, and musicians have showcased their creativity at the café.  On two occasions, country music artists have worked with our Hand-in-Hand students, those students with learning disabilities, to create heartwarming songs.  One teen boy’s experience as the assistant manager of the basketball team was told in a song, “My Season with the Team.”  In a joyous moment of the song, this teen called a play that led to a winning basket for the team.

Promoting the Writers Café

Use contests to involve faculty and students and help promote the Writers Café.  In a Fairy
Tale contest, teachers creatively explored their inner psyches and wrote why they connected to
a particular character.  Students were challenged to correctly match the teacher to the chosen character.  For instance, the school nurse wrote the following clue:

            Favorite character: Gretel from the story Hansel and Gretel.
Instead of panic, she used her intellect in a stressful situation, saving the day.

Teachers also dressed as their favorite book character or author, and students were asked to predict which teachers would be characters such as Tinker Bell or Nancy Drew , or authors such as Agatha Christie or Ernest Hemingway. Dress Down Day video and photos of costumed teachers helped build anticipation of the Writers Café.

Create an album of memories with photos posted online (and linked to your LibGuides).  Writers Café 2014 and a photo slideshow of Writers Café 2013.

Organizing the Event

Backdrop. Theater Dept. sets up brick wall backdrop, add a pole lamp, a few stools and a microphone and the stage is set for a poetry reading.

Decorations. Art students and student volunteers created a variety of table decorations.  Ceramic votives; abstract plaster sculptures; book sculpture; bird houses and origami birds; and “messages in a bottle”—lines from poetry and stories cut apart and curled inside clear, corked bottles–are just some of the decorations they have created.

Program.  Use art images/photos from art students to set off themes of writing performances.

Bookmarks.  A nice take-away from the event, create bookmarks to feature excerpts from the writing performances.

Free Refreshments.  Offering refreshments prior to the event makes an enjoyable gathering at the Writers Café.

Teen Seating.  Families and friends are invited to the Writers Café, but creating comfortable seating close to the performance stage is a must so that teens have their own space to support their peers.

Literary Magazine. Our English Department publishes a literary magazine that has been distributed the evening of the Writers Café.

Student Emcees.  Librarians helped with the planning and organized student volunteers–now it is time to sit back and enjoy the Writers Café as selected student(s) emcees the event.

Learn from Success Stories of Other Schools

In sharing our school’s experience with writing events, I hope other librarians will write in and share their success stories.  How do you encourage writers and showcase this creativity to the school community?