Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating Tools for Specific Assignments



I have been writing a lot here about the different types of collaboration that I have been doing in all subject areas. I want to share an instance where I created the tool for a science class, but I didn't really do any teaching for this assignment. The biology teacher, Mrs., Higgins, came to me recently about beefing up an assignment that she has done in the past. She had created a writing assignment on the stem cell controversy that she has used before. Students had to take a stance on whether they believed embryonic stem cells should be used for research, or if they thought the use of adult stem cells was sufficient. She was happy with the idea of the product where students wrote a letter or a speech defending their stance. It was the research part that she felt needed some help. She was pleased with the pathfinders that I have created for her lessons, and she thought it would work well in this situation, too., Together we came up with a set of questions for the pathfinder. Then I set to work.

I used Livebinders because they are the best tool when you want to include links to audio, video, and database articles as well as embed documents or files.  The layout makes it easy to create and easy for the students to use. I posted the assignment and rubric that the teacher created, the pathfinder that I created, the article from Gale that the teacher wanted everyone to read, the video that she wanted everyone to watch and the additional print and video that I found that would help the students answer the questions on the pathfinder. Our goal was for the students to use the completed pathfinder as the ammunition that they would need to defend their stance. The students would complete this work in the two days that the teacher would be away at a conference. Unfortunately, the school was having major Internet issues those days, and the Livebinder did not always load, nor were the videos that were embedded load for viewing. It was quite frustrating because with this tool they would have all the resources that they needed to find the evidence supporting their stance.

In the end I think that most of them were able to complete the assignment in the allotted time, but I was at loss to help them when their emails came in telling me that they couldn't open the Livebinder. There really was no backup plan, and I guess that if we were truly desperate, we could have photo-copied all of the the articles from the database hat I had embedded in the Livebinder. Open here to find the Livebinder that I created for the stem cell project.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Spreading the Word about infogr.am in the Classroom

my infogr.am blog post is here



New tech tools are great, and when Infogr.am launched several years ago, several of the teachers in my building began to use it with their students. We had some success and failure with this tool used to create infographics, so I reached out to them through twitter. We have kept up a relationship ever since, and this past year I became an ambassador with Infogr.am. They asked if I would write a post for their blog on the use of their tool in  the classroom. Click here to read the post that I wrote for them

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Students Create a Quiz with Flippity

Example of the Flippity game board the student's made

At the beginning of the semester, I read this post describing how to create a Jeopardy-like quiz game using a Google spreadsheet and Flippity. I thought this would work really well with a social studies class. I approached Mrs.Hampton, who is teaching 6th grade world history this semester, to see if she wanted to try using this tool with the students to make a quiz. We really wanted the kids themselves to create the questions, so we knew that we had to wait until she had taught them several units before they would have enough knowledge to create the questions for the quiz. We also decided to make the categories of art and architecture, family life, land forms and climate, religion, rulers, and science and medicine rather than the categories by country so that it would not matter how far into the textbook she taught before the planned activity. The students could ask questions about Mesopotamia, Egypt, or India. The logistics for this took some planning. At first we thought that the students would write the questions on paper, and I would type the text into the Google spreadsheet. As I thought about it, I realized that this would have been silly. The students should be typing the questions. I had a concern that the students would somehow ruin the template by making a serious mistake when typing, but we came up with a plan that in the end worked very well. 


The teacher divided the students in each class into six groups of four students. Each student in the group had a textbook  In each group there was a recorder who wrote down the questions, and a typist who typed the questions into the spreadsheet. As the group created their questions, the teacher and I moved from group to group approving each question or offering suggestions on how to improve a question. The students had the freedom to decide how many points each question would be worth. Once the questions were approved, the typist could get to work on adding their questions to the spreadsheet. The students did make some spelling and grammatical errors. I just went back and tried to fix the errors, but in the end, even I missed some of them. 

Using the textbook to create questions

We spent almost an hour on developing the questions for the quiz. Then two days later we played the game which also took about an hour. Since the teacher had two classes, first period played the board created by second period and vice versa. When the groups began to play, we gave them the following rules: one person in each group would be the spokesperson; the group could not choose a question from the category in which they wrote questions; only one group would have a chance to answer any one question; and the winning group would win a small prize. That meant that every group had the opportunity to answer 5 questions. We gave them about 20 seconds to confer, but we were not hard and fast with that rule. Since it was such a successful activity, we decided to do it again when the students need to review for the final exam. 

Game board with question

Technically, this was not a library-related activity, but I found the tech tool, and I was happy to work with the teacher and the students to make the activity happen. The library being a bit roomier than the classroom made it easy for us to move about as the students worked in groups. Would the teacher have done it without me? Maybe, but collaboration is collaboration no matter what form that it takes. My job is to be there as a resource, and in this case, it worked quite well. 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Collaboration Takes Many Different Forms



I have been talking lately about the different types of collaboration that I do with my teachers. This collaboration can be formal, informal, planned or done at the last minute. I like that each day is different for me and that I can be in a science class one day and a social studies class the next. Last week a science teacher visited me during her off period which was at the beginning of the day. She wanted her 8th grade Earth science students to depict geologic time periods in an infographic. Almost all the students would  be using Infogr.am, which I have talked about before here. They were working in groups of four and had to include about 12 pictures of fossils and were also asked to create some sort of timeline to illustrate the geologic eras. 

I promised the teacher that I would visit all of her classes and spend a portion of the period helping her students. This is the type of collaboration that I call the Second Person in the Room. I did not plan with her on the lesson nor did I help her design the lesson, but she felt that she needed some back up with the use of the technology tools. That is something that I can do with ease. Most of the students were familiar with Infogr.am as they had been introduced to it in sixth grade. I wasn't really needed for that. It was critical that the students list citations for information and pictures that they used. They would not be giving the teacher a works cited page but would list the citations on the infographic itself. Our school has purchased Encyclopedia Britannica Image Quest for students to find pictures for class projects. It is easy to get the citation for any picture that you use. If all the students used Image Quest, the infographics would start looking alike with the same exact pictures. I suggested that the students use Photos for Class. There are millions of searchable high quality photos there, and the best part is when you download a photo, Photos for Class automatically adds the attribution at the bottom of the photo. Way cool and way easy for the students. Most of the photos found there are from Flickr with a creative commons license. 



Creating a timeline easily was another issue. Infogram has a chart and graph feature, and some of the students created their timeline as a one bar graph adding the data for the timeline in the graph function within Infogram. Others were trying to use Dipity.com, but it was not designed to illustrate millions of years. Then I put an all call out on Google + to see if someone had found an online solution for creating a timeline depicting such large amounts of time. I got some answers but none of them were going to really work for inserting within the infographic. Suggested tools: Knight Lab, Meograph, Prezi, Read Write Think, and Tiki-toki,  The coolest site that someone shared was Chronozoom from UC Berkeley. It felt a little bit out of my league, but the idea of browsing through time rather than looking at it in small bits allows you to look at pre-history in a new way. 

I think that the teacher was happy with the students' products, and I was glad to help. We still need to come up with a satisfactory solution for making an accurate timeline, but I imagine that will happen eventually. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Second Person in the Room


That's me, Ms. Kahn, looking at a student's work on Easybib
Collaborating with the teachers in my building is one of my priorities. It is a waste of time to teach skills in isolation because in most cases what you are trying to teach just won't stick. By planning lessons with my teachers to meet the specific needs of their teaching and classrooms means that the students will immediately use what I am sharing with them. It also means that the students will be assessed on what I am teaching because the teachers require an end product. 

Another type of collaboration that I do is help teachers follow through with the activities which I introduced in the library and is what I call, the second person in the room. This means I serve as an extra pair of hands, eyes, and mouth. I have been the second person during skype visits when the teacher felt uncomfortable with the technology or they wanted help to make sure the conversation with the expert on skype went smoothly. I visited a 6th grade science class when the teacher had asked teams of two to create an infographic in Infogr.am illustrating their experiments in physical and chemical change. In this case, I walked around the room helping students in need, while the teacher helped with the experiments. I also started trying something this year that I haven't really done before. I first visited an English I class while they were researching for a major paper. The classes had already visited the library for a lesson, but the teacher was giving them plenty of time in class to conduct their research. By going to the classroom, I was able to meet with every student within 20 minutes. I was checking their citations on Easybib.com to make sure that they were using appropriate sources for their research. I also looked at the notes that they were taking using the notebook feature of Easybib to see if they were paraphrasing in bullets or fragments. I commended the students doing a good job, and I gave helpful advice to those who needed to be steered in the right direction.

Yesterday, I spent three periods visiting the English II classes. Last week I had presented information on how to write a persuasive essay. I know that these students were not as up to speed with Easybib and the electronic note taking as the students in English I. It took me over an hour for each class, but I was able to conference with every student to make sure that they were on track with what I had taught them the week before. The teacher moved around the room also. It was exhausting, but I think well worth it.

Even if teachers are not open to collaborating with the librarian, as librarian, you can offer your services to help with lessons where an extra person in the room will make a big difference to student learning. I don't like to give up so much time in a classroom because it means that the library is closed while I am out of the room, but sometimes, me moving rather than the students works best. 

Mr. Curran, the English II teacher, conferring with his students

Monday, January 19, 2015

Preparing English II for a Persuasive Essay


Tomorrow is my first collaborative lesson with one of our new English teachers. This semester he began teaching all of the English II students, as our school is on a block schedule and classes are held for 90 minutes a day for only one semester. I have worked with these students in science, but in English I hold them to a higher standard in following correct citation format for both works cited and in-text citations. Also, there are many of these students who are new to our school and haven't heard my spiel on research and MLA very often. I wanted to be well prepared, and I wanted to set them up not to fail. In order to do that, I created a tool that I could use to teach a lesson, but also, that they could refer to as they research, take notes, and write. Below is the presentation that I created with links to useful resources on creating a persuasive essay, links to resources to use for research, and detailed explanations of ways to use Easybib correctly for note taking and citing. I feel confident that this tool will help the students. I have embedded the power point below. Feel free to use any pieces or parts of it that may help your students. Please note: to use Easybib for notes and parenthetical citations, you must have the paid version.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Teen Review of Stine's New Book for Young Adults


One of my students wrote a great review of Stine's book, Don't Stay Up Late, that is due out in April of 2015. She was so excited to find a favorite author from elementary school writing books for older kids, but she is a more discerning reader now and is quite insightful. 

Here is her review:
"R.L. Stine, always the wizard of suspense, is known for his tales that chill readers and non-readers alike. As an avid reader of the Goosebumps series when I was younger, I fell in love with his compelling, page-turning novels. Now, six years later, I eagerly scooped up Mr. Stine's newest novel, Don't Stay Up Late, for I had outgrown Goosebumps, and this new novel seemed much more age appropriate. In the true essence of Stine, the novel is as gripping as ever. Stine knows precisely how to captivate his readers. Personally, I think it is near impossible to put down this novel midway. After finishing a chapter, I cannot seem to turn the page fast enough to continue.

However fast-paced and exciting the novel may be, it failed to meet my expectations. I had hopes that this novel would be more sophisticated than R.L. Stine's previous works. But no, this novel consists of the same flat characters, unimaginative monster, and hackneyed plot as any other Goosebumps story I have ever read. Make no mistake, I loved Goosebumps, and millions of children across America love Goosebumps. And that style of writing worked for Goosebumps. But if Stine is targeting young adults, he'll need to innovate. When I was younger, the shocks and twists terrified me every time. But now that I am older, the shock value is infinitely less effective. One last note: Stine clearly attempted to direct this novel for an older audience. He incorporated more mature concepts such as gruesome deaths and teenage love. Yet these concepts couldn't mask the  immature plot. And also, the violence was upsetting and the teenage characters were stereotypical and underdeveloped. I know I am being critical, and maybe some teenagers will enjoy this novel, yet Stine should consider change the next time he writes for young adults."
Michaela B., sophomore


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Is it Too Late to Talk about the New Year?


On January 1st I was scrolling through Facebook and read a post from a middle school librarian, I know, who said that she had already finished two books in 2015. Geez, I would love to say that in 2015 I will read at least one book a week if not more, but it will be a rare day indeed when I read multiple books in one day. It is now the 11th, and I have finished two books in print. I started another one today, and I am in the middle of an audio book which I should finish this week. I feel like the kids with the iPhone, iPad and computer so tempting that I am not spending as much time reading. If I am going to promote reading to my students, then I need to walk the walk myself. Anyway, one of my favorite tasks as librarian is to discuss books with kids. I am not calling it a resolution, but I will try to keep up my reading in 2015. I do hate the commute to work that began in August of 2013, but I do like the opportunity to listen to books that I don't have time to read. The audio books have given me a chance to finish series which is really a great way to keep up with my students. 

I read this article on The Digital Shift tying high school students' exposure to a school librarian to future college success. I sent the link out to all the teachers at my school, and I told them that one of my resolutions for 2015 was to plan at least one collaborative lesson with every high school content area teacher this semester. Patrick Taylor serves students in 6th - 12th grade, and I am always planning activities with the middle school English teachers, but the high school students are in need of library services too. I think one of the biggest road blocks for the high school teachers is lack of time. They all teach a 4 X 4 block schedule. When you try to get as much content in as possible in one semester, you don't want to give up time for the library, no matter how important you think it is. The middle school students all take English for 90 minutes a day for a full year. Already, I have plans with English II to help write a persuasive essay and the chemistry teacher for the students Independent Research Project. That will keep me on track.

For this school year I have already instituted some innovations last fall which I will carry through 2015. Middle school book group was a problem because I didn't have multiple copies of the books that we read each month. I wrote two Donor's Choose grants that were funded, and we now have enough copies of the 3 books that we will read in the first half of 2015. I started a reading challenge in the fall for which 47 students completed. Tomorrow wraps up the WINTER Reading Challenge. So far 40 students have completed the challenge, but I am hoping that more students will complete the form by noon tomorrow. I will come up with some type of spring challenge too, but I don't know exactly what it will look like. I am going to get input from some of my major readers in middle school to help me on that one. On the library Facebook page, I started a series called Caught Reading in the Library. I don't pose kids; I only take candid shots. It is wonderful to see so many kids curling up in the library with a book. If you want to see some of those pics, friend the library here

I am always looking for ways to make the library more interesting, innovative, and appealing to my students. That means that I need to keep my brain cells energized. Right now, I think that I will finish this blog post and curl up with the book that I was asked to review for School Library Journal by February 10th. 

Have a Happy New Year, and I hope that you will be able to fulfill all your new year's resolutions in 2015. 


Friday, December 19, 2014

I am a Rocking Librarian

Click the image above to enlarge and read
Today I received one of the best presents that a teacher could receive. A sixth grader gave me a note expressing her love for books, and the things that I do for her and all the students in the library. She calls me "hands-on," and I agree. I work very hard to be hands-on---how did she know that? However, I believe that I do what I do because it is my job; it is not special to me, but I am sure glad that Julia thinks so. 

This is what I do to create a quality library program in my school for Julia and the other 449 students at Patrick Taylor. I want to figure out ways to get my students to love books and reading as much as I do. That is hard to do with 11-18 year olds who would prefer interacting with their many electronics and gadgets rather than books. I understand; I like tech, too. I want the kids to be successful when they begin a research project. I want kids to use information in an ethical manner. I want kids to visit the library by choice because it is an active and fun place to hang out. I want the library to be a safe place where students treat each other with respect. I want to have a library stocked with all the resources a student needs to complete an assignment. I want to be a collaborator who the teachers can count on to help support the curriculum. I could continue, but I don't think that I need to because I think that you get the idea. 

Running a library means lots of multi-tasking. I love that about my job. I am looking forward to the winter break that begins in a couple of hours when I can sleep past 5:30AM and read for hours every day. Have a great holiday, and I hope that you are a rocking librarian too or at least someone who knows a rocking librarian they can count on when needed. 


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