I am an elementary school media specialist (librarian) and a new mom. My daughters (born 12/27/2010 and 6/27/2013) are teaching me all kinds of new things every day. One thing they have taught me is that sometimes, there just isn't room for much else besides learning. If you're not sleeping, eating, talking, blogging, or whatever, it might just be because you're TOO BUSY LEARNING!

Friday, November 13, 2009

AASL Conference: Teaching The Big6 for the Little Guys

When we were in library school, we were taught that we needed to use a research model to help our students learn to conduct their research using a process. Most school librarians end up using The Big6 or, for the little guys, The Super3. I myself have, in fact, used these models in teaching lessons, although I have had limited success with Super3 and almost no success with Big6. Just try saying to my 5th graders, "OK, guys, our first step is 'task definition.'" I dare you. You will immediately realize it's going to take a whole 40-minute period to explain just this one step, let alone the other five.

Amanda Jones, a school librarian like me(!), has come up with a great and quick way to teach Big6 skills to elementary school students in a limited amount of time -- even kindergarteners. The original Big6 steps are task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of information, synthesis, and evaluation. Whew! That's all well and good for librarians, but for elementary kiddos, not so much.

So, Amanda's tweaked Big6:
  1. Task
  2. How
  3. Where
  4. Use
  5. Make
  6. Decide

Much better, thank you.

During the session, Amanda gave several awesome examples of very short (two or three 30-minute sessions) research projects with cool products done using Big6 strategies. Her visual aid that she carries from grade level to grade level for consistency is a staircase with a step on each stair. Since we use Thinking Maps at my school, I have mine in a flow map (like a timeline, basically) for my first Big6 lesson on Monday. Either way, she reminds us that it's important to stay consistent if we want kids to remember the process and build on it from year to year.

One more cool idea to introduce The Big6: Use the book Froggy Gets Dressed to teach the importance of using a process. (Froggy could have had more time to play outside if he had used a process when getting dressed, instead of forgetting so many things!)

As mentioned earlier, I do plan to introduce the process to my students starting on Monday, for grades K-3. I even modified my sad and lonely Big6 posters:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

AASL Conference: Meeting Margriet Ruurs

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I plan to share a little bit of what I learned at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Conference last week. I was thrilled that our national conference was held in my home state this year so that I could have the opportunity to go and enjoy! Each of the following blog posts will highlight a concurrent session that I attended. I hope this information will be helpful to some of you out there in school libraries, and maybe just interesting to some of the rest of you.

The first session that I would like to highlight for you was called My Librarian is a Camel: How Children Around the World Get Books. The session was led by the author of the book My Librarian is a Camel, Margriet Ruurs. Margriet, originally from the Netherlands, was charming and fun to listen to as she told us about all kinds of nontraditional ways that children have access to libraries around the world. Read the book for more on that.

One cool project that I'd like to try with my students is called A Book Marks Our World. It's basically a bookmark exchange program, so that children from all over the world can connect with one another via their shared love of reading.

I do recommend sharing Margriet's book with children, although it's a little long for a read-aloud. I like to hit the highlights of just a few featured countries when I share it. Students love to check the book out and go back to read for more details about their favorite mobile libraries.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home Improvements!

We have unofficially designated summer as home improvement time. This summer, we decided the most pressing item was the ceilings. The popcorn spray throughout the house is peeling, so we're having it all scraped off, sanded down, and repainted.

And since that is a totally boring home improvement, and we had to call a painting company anyway, we're also getting new walls in the bathroom. Right now, they're some sort of weird tile board with an even weirder chair rail slapped right in the middle of the wall.

The tile board is coming down, our wonderful contractors will repair any damaged sheet rock, and then they will repaint! I picked out a new shower curtain and paint color today. My paint color is the second one from the top in the photo.

They're coming to work on the house while we're away on vacation, so I'll post the "after" pics when we get back!

And just for fun, here's the guest room bed with all of the stuff emptied out from the bathroom cabinets, as well as all the "knick-knacks and valuables" from the living room and kitchen.

More posts on the way soon, I promise, and perhaps some of a personal rather than organizational nature. :)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rime of the Harried College Student

This is an old, old piece of mine, written for a Brit Lit college course. Sonja has requested that I post it.

The Rime of the Harried Student

A harried college student meeteth three other students who hath all completed their studies for the evening and are on their way to Tate Street Coffee, and detaineth one.

It is a harried student
Who stoppeth one of three.
-- “By thy bloodshot, bugged out eyes,
Let go, and then be quick to flee!

The Coffee House is soon to close,
And I need my caffeine;
Unhand me now, or I know how
To kick you in the spleen.”

He holds him with a shaky grip,
“There was a disk,” quoth he.
“Say what! I don’t care, crazy fool!”
And flippeth him the birdie.

The Coffee House pilgrim gets caught on a nail on his way past the harried student, and is constrained to hear his tale.

He heads on past but lo! What’s this?
The pilgrim has been stopped.
His brand name shirt has snagged a nail;
The harried student plopped

Right down beside this wretched fellow
Who cannot choose but hear.
He valiantly tries to free his shirt,
But fears that it will tear.

“The disk was new, had all been cleared,
Merrily did I start
To type away, and all that day,
I typed straight from my heart.

The student tells how he began to type a long, long, long paper.

The Sun went down upon my left,
and typing I remained
Till Sun came up upon my right,
And all my mind was drained.

Typing and typing, there I sat,
Till every last page was done--”
The caffeine fiend here screamed aloud
For he would but could not run.

The young man goeth into caffeine withdrawal; but the harried student continueth his tale.

The two friends sit at Tate Street table,
Wond’ring about the other;
They ask and shrug, but then move on,
As they are not his mother.

The third friend here he struggled hard,
But got more tangled trying;
And thus continued our harried student,
On the verge of crying.

The paper is eateneth by a computer demon known only as the infamous Operator Error.

“And now that demon, on he came,
The bane of student life;
He struck with all the force of fiends
And caused no little strife.

That fiend, you see, is none but me,
For I am a rather large dupe.
‘Operator error’ rings loud and clear,
And now I feel like poop.

I typed, I saved, and typed again,
And then I saved once more.
A great fat lot of good it did me;
Computers I deplore!

The harried student goeth into shock.

And through my mind I wandered blind,
Feeling far from super,
It took some time to quite recover
From my catatonic stupor.

I scurried here, I scurried there,
Looking for a nerd,
For only such as he could help
Recover e’en a word.

The harried student catcheth sight of such a nerd, one Alby Tross, and recieveth him with great joy and hospitality.

At length I crossed one Alby Tross,
Pure-bred nerd incarnate,
And hailed him with such needy plea,
All he said was, ‘Darn it!’

He vowed and swore and said again
He would not help me through it.
He’d had enough of me and my kind
Begging him to do it.

And lo! Though Alby Tross proveth at first to be a nerd of good omen, he quickly proveth otherwise and earneth the wrath of our harried student upon his head.

I groveled, knelt, and then implored
He take but half a minute,
But he was set and would not fret,
Though I be neck-deep in it.

The tears came fast now, hot and mad;
I could not cope at all.
Who was this sniffling, pompous creep
To heed not desperate call?”

The harried student inhospitably beateth the pompous nerd of good omen within an inch of his life.

An evil glint crept in his eye,
The held-fast captive saw,
“’Alby,’ said I, ‘you nasty old thing,’
And whacked him with a drinking straw.

Since thin and malnourished Alby was,
It took but little force
To beat him down upon the ground,
And make him cry, of course.

Now I, the student, in trouble be;
I knew I had done no good
To prove my case and not erase
My essay that printeth I should.

He crieth out in anguish and sorrow, for beating the nerd of good luck.

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work me woe:
For all averred, I had beat the nerd
That could my problem know.
Ah wretch! said I, the nerd to fry,
That could my problem know!

But when the guilt weareth off, he justifies the same, and thus screweth up his life all the more.

But beepeth the CPU from a corner,
And window box appear:
Said, ‘Sure to quit?’ and then was fit,
And I let out a cheer.
‘Twas right, said I, the nerd to fry,
And I let out a cheer!

It appeareth that the harried student hath recovered his toil of many hours.

On white and glim’ring monitor shone
My essay in all its glory;

I kissed my disk and then sat down
To finish up the story.

The computer hath been suddenly locked up.

Typed I a line, but naught appeared,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And I did speak only to break
The window glass with my scream!

All in an evil, silent state
That heinous essay mocks me.
And as if on cue, that Alby dude
Revives himself and socks me.

Tick after tick, tock after tock,
On the Elvis wall clock pass,
The room as idle as an empty cell
Or a maxed out Stat 101 class.

And Alby Tross begins to be avenged.

Paper, paper, everywhere,
And printers full of ink;
Paper, paper, everywhere!
Man, I need a drink!

My very soul did wilt: O drat!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy bugs did eat at my lungs,
Or so it seemed to me.

About, about, I reel and pout,
My crazed eyes glowing bright;
I can’t believe, through all my toils,
I’ve nothing to show for the night.

And ever and anon throughout his (near) future life an agony constraineth him to travel from dorm to Caf, and Caf to dorm;

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

(Although he hath just cometh from the Caf, so the heartburn could be due to the food, rather than the agony of the story...)

I pass, like night, from dorm to Caf;
And back to Caf again;
I know that most will not listen to me,
But you are my good friend!”

What loud uproar bursts from that poor
Nail-bound addict of coffee.
Forget the shirt, he’ll rip it apart,
If it means he can only be free.

“Hey, buddy! Wait! This soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
It was so lonely and so cold
(Though not a sea, literally).

O sweeter than the Coffee House,
‘Tis sweeter far to me,
To sit together here and now
With you for company!--

And to teach, by his own example, love and reverence for all things (and nerds) that God made and loveth.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou addict of coffee!
He doeth well who liveth well
By even a nerd like Alby.”

The harried student, whose eye is bright,
Still crazed with fatigue and alarm,
Is gone: and now the Tate Street pilgrim
Turned back to his own dorm.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense out-thunk:
He shook his head, and went to bed,
And said, “That dude was drunk.”

Joanna Likness
Spring, 2000

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Raising Achievement & Closing Gaps Conference: Day 3

Session #1: Victorious Vocabulary: More Words = More Learning

I went to this session because it was given by a large, successful elementary school in my county. My school is also large, so I wanted to see what strategies were in place at Jesse Wharton Elementary, just down the road from us. The presenters were the principal, an ESOL teacher, and a 4th grade teacher. They talked a bit about the school in general and then about the vocabulary strategies they use to bring equity to their schooln population. Children with lower socio-economic status generally know as little as half of the vocabulary of their upper SES counterparts. Vocabulary gives students an edge in reading, comprehension, and testing skills. I loved this session; it was probably my favorite of the conference. I took away some techniques I can put into practice immediately, especially as I read stories to children.

Session #2: If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Will Eat the Students

Fun but not terribly practical, this was more of a feel-good session presented by the author of the book of the same title. She focused on positivity and not taking life too seriously, which is probably a reminder that teachers need fairly often.

Keynote Address: Preparing All Students for Success in the 21st Century

Dynamic speaker with a good message. His main point, which I liked, was that relevance makes rigor possible. In other words, if the students are doing work that is important and meaningful to them, they can do work at a higher level. He also said what I have been saying for years to the naysayers, which is that although America may be behind some other nations in academic achievement, our public school system is still the best in the world. Why? Because we teach all children. Excellence for the entire population (no matter their special needs, backgrounds, abilities) is much harder to achieve than excellence for the privileged few.

Overall, it was a good conference, but I would have been ok with slightly shorter sessions and a lot less down time on Monday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Raising Achievement & Closing Gaps Conference: Day 2

What I really want to do is post about American Idol, but check me out on Twitter for that story. Moving right along...

Session #1: Establishing Relationships to Raise Academic Achievement of All Students

I really loved the presenters because they were a husband-and-wife team nearing 80 years old, and they were very passionate about it. And I was very excited about the material at first. It had to do with identifying personality types, which is something that makes a sucker out of me every time; I love that stuff. However, the more I thought about their presentation, the more I thought that it was really just a lot of best practices repackaged in a cute format. Now, if cute is what it takes to reach students, I'm all for it! But basically what they were saying is that we need to build relationships with kids and teach for multiple learning styles. Got it.

Session #2: Warnings, Warnings, Warnings... How Many is Enough?

Bordering on excruciating, the presenter was basically giving a 45-minute sales pitch for her discipline program. And the thing is, her "program" is just a rather clumsy conglomerate of a bunch of strategies we all learning in undergrad classes. The program might be good for lateral entry folks though. Maybe. One who shall remain nameless was sitting near me tweeting presentation "don'ts" throughout.

Session #3: Engage Students Using High-Tech and Low-Tech Tools for Teaching Visual Literacy

My favorite of the day. A couple of staffers from LEARN NC showed us some cool resources and talked a bit about visual literacy in the classroom. I haven't been a big LEARN NC user before now, but I may have to start.

Some Links I Need to Explore:

Especially in the last session, I heard about some really cool stuff. Here you go:
  • The Commons on Flickr: Really awesome photo database pulling from organizations like The Library of Congress (only Flickr is a lot easier to use than the LC web page, believe me).
  • Wikimedia Commons: Another free database, this time for all media types.
  • Instructify: A blog by the LEARN NC people that looks fairly promising. Focus on instructional technology, and looks like some good tech hacks for the classroom.
  • The Dream Teacher: This is really from yesterday, but it's a link, so I'm putting it here. This is Cindi Rigsbee's blog.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Raising Achievement & Closing Gaps Conference: Day 1

Thoughts and Happenings:

1. Someone should come up with a better name for the conference.

2. My old principal from Riverside HS, Mrs. Peebles, now works as a bigwig at the Department of Public Instruction.

3. I sat in a focus session for three hours without getting even one practical idea to take back and implement at my school. Not even one. I always get great ideas at library conferences. What gives?

4. All presenters who use lapel mics should be forced to sit through a lapel mic training session so that they know not to hold the whole unit right next to their mouths, thereby giving participants raging headaches from the excruciating volume level and amplification of presenter's bodily functions such as breathing and swallowing.

5. Cindi Rigsbee, North Carolina Teacher of the Year (and National Teacher of the Year Finalist!), spoke at the opening session, which was cool. She taught my brother in middle school. The truth was confirmed when she mentioned that her new shoes were "bo-bos," according to her students, which is a term I learned from my brother when he was in middle school.

6. I'm pretty sure "conferees" is not a word, although it is I suppose an attempt at cleverly shortening the term "conference attendees." Mostly though, it's annoying and not particularly clever.

7. "21st Century Learning" continues to be a buzz-phrase. If we're so concerned about it, WHY ARE WE CUTTING MEDIA ASSISTANTS AND TECHNOLOGY TEACHERS IN GUILFORD COUNTY? WHY?? WHY??? Ahem. Sorry. I feel strongly about that.

8. Also, a recurring theme is that in order to close gaps, children need equitable access to resources. I'll tell you what, I just finished writing four enormous papers involving equitable access to resources. Guess where a lot of the resources are: THE LIBRARY. Guess how students gain equitable access to many of those resources: THE LIBRARY STAFF. So, again, WHY ARE WE CUTTING THEIR JOBS??? Ahem. Sorry again.

9. No vendors. What? No vendors means no free stuff and no door prizes and no teachers buying vendors' stuff. No vendors is bad news for everyone.

10. If I'm in your hotel for a conference, you should give me free wifi, whether I actually booked a room or not.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Many Faces of Scratchy Pendleton

Here's what Scratchy looked like until this morning:

Here's what he looks like now:

It was time for the springtime shave, avoiding weeks of ferocious shedding and painful clump-pulling. Unfortunately, spring weather is still a few weeks away, so I think we have an indoor cat on our hands. He's real pitiful walking around the house shivering.

They left his fluffy head, fluffy tail, and fluffy feet. I like his fluffy feet the best:

Ty asked the vet how old he is and what kind of cat he might be. I don't think they know how old he is, but he got the "senior cat" treatment. The vet says he's probably a smoke Persian, smoke being the coloring that causes him to turn white when shaven.

Still the same old Scratchy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

School Libraries May Soon Be History?

The Rhino Times recently published an article about school libraries. Several folks came up to me to ask about the situation for school libraries after reading the article. You can read the article, my response to the article, and the author's response to my response here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning from Librarians

A couple of weekends ago, I headed out of town for the 4th Annual Librarian to Librarian Networking Summit at East Carolina University. (Cute yet sarcastic comment from dad-in-law: "A librarian conference three hours away on a Saturday? That sounds exciting.") Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I came back with some great new ideas to try, and I was extremely impressed with the event itself. If you're in the library field and have a chance to go next year, take the opportunity if you can. Nothing beats hearing what works from your own colleagues, and lunch was really good.

Why I recommend the event:
  • attention to detail: Everything from registration to scheduling to lunch was planned and executed in a smooth, effective, efficient manner. Anyone who has ever been to any number of professional conferences knows that this is not often the case.
  • schedule: I left Durham at 6:00 a.m. to be in Greenville on time, so I was about ready to leave when the summit ended around 3:30. Even so, since the event was about the length of a school day with a nice lunch break to boot, I didn't feel exhausted or overloaded, but it was still worth the drive.
  • speakers: Most of the speakers were either media specialists from North Carolina or media-friendly folk from the NC Department of Public Instruction. I always want to hear what works for other media specialists above anyone else, so I loved the fact that most of the small session speakers were my colleagues. The featured speakers were an author (Michael Dahl - not incredibly well-known, but solid) and Ann Martin, the president (!) of AASL, so that was a treat too.
  • price: You can't beat it for $25. The summit coordinators did a great job of getting sponsors for the event to reduce costs for participants. Lunch, breakfast, and snacks were provided in abundance, and we got all kinds of great free stuff, including a book by the featured author and the ubiquitous "conference bag" to add to the collection.
What I brought back home:
  • Suggestion Box: I know this is kind of a "No, duh" thing probably for many of my colleagues, but I'm pretty new, and I don't have a Suggestion Box in my library yet. But I will now. And I even created a Virtual Suggestion Box on the media center web page.
  • staff development plan: February, being Black History Month, tends to be my biggest month in the media center for research projects. I am in the process of planning a short staff development session for the 4th and 5th grade teaching teams that will include the topics of research process, avoiding plagiarism, research projects that discourage plagiarism by their very nature, evaluating web sites, why Wikipedia is not an authoritative source, etc. And I can also advertise myself as a wonderful collaborative partner for research projects and share my African American History pathfinder for our library materials. Should be fun!
  • leadership frames: Ann Martin talked about four frames for leadership (structural, human resource, political, and symbolic) and how to incorporate each when leading and advocating for the media department. Hopefully, some of these ways of thinking will bring some clarity to what I say about the program.
Next year, maybe I'll be a presenter. I am really having a good time with my media crew kids at school this year, and I think it might be a cool idea to share. Our school is pretty unique regarding how we run clubs, and the kids are just having a blast and learning a ton.

For those new to the library field (like me!) or maybe working toward the field, my top piece of advice is to participate in professional learning whenever possible. It may take some time, travel, and sometimes (sigh) money out of your own pocket, but it's so worth everything! So go ahead and be a big library geek; you won't regret it.