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 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 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. 

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