Thursday, December 14, 2017

Free Access and Leveled Reading: Balancing Library Philosophy with Teacher Expectations

by Stephanie Kraft
Lakeview Design Center (@ldclibrarylions)
I was an elementary classroom teacher for 10 years. It was wonderful, challenging, and rewarding. However, when I became a school librarian, I felt like I had found my people, my niche, and my calling. I love helping students choose books that make them excited; books that they like to show off to their friends, even if they can't read every word. Students will often return books the next day--I know they didn't read them, but they ACCESSED them, they were proud of them, they gave it a shot...that is what matters to me. They will find their way to the books they can read, because they have the access to try and try again.
I am also passionate about helping teachers, and my teacher heart remembers the pressure of reading instruction; how easy it becomes to see reading only as instruction, constantly trying to measure progress in fluency and comprehension. Being on the hook for student reading growth is an overwhelming responsibility, and it is tempting to direct students to read ONLY on one level, even for at home reading. I'm sure we've all experienced students being sent back to the library to choose a different book, because the one they chose didn't meet classroom level requirements.
The school library exists to bridge the gap between school and home; to aid students in discovering reading in a broader sense and to build a foundation for life-long reading. So what do we do as school librarians to meet those seemingly conflicting needs? How do we balance what teachers want (levels, levels, levels) and what we want (choice, choice, choice)?
For the teachers that require levels, I use every opportunity to encourage them to allow students at least one "free choice" book from the library. When students think they are limited to a level, I remind them that they have a free choice option; to look for the books they are excited to try, and then we can check the level if needed. I help teachers understand that there can be value or joy in a book even if "he/she can't read it." Fortunately, my message of student choice has been catching on at our school.
There is value in choice, there is value in instruction, and true learning will happen when students have the chance to use their instructional tools in books they have chosen for themselves.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hip Hop and Scratch

by Nicole Greer at Antioch High School (@WeareAntiochHS)

Last August, YALSA issued a call to librarians to apply for travel funds to attend a coding summit in Cleveland, OH: Hip-Hop and Scratch. Working at a school with an emerging STEM pathway and a flourishing hip-hop culture, I was intrigued. I flew to Cleveland and joined nearly 50 educators at the Progressive Arts Alliance. I. Wasn’t. Ready. When I opened the email from the summit organizer whose first bullet point read, “Wear clothes you’re comfortable moving around in on Friday—we’ll be dancing,” I should have known then. My inner nerd had applied so that I could work with MIT’s Scratch Team. However, the first half of Day 1 consisted entirely of dance workshops. Once I finished physically stretching and began to mentally stretch beyond what I thought I couldn’t do (i.e., hip-hop dancing), I found my groove (or my pop and lock—and I have the pics to prove it).

Next, we received an introduction to Scratch, a programming language developed by the cool kids at MIT. Previously, my experience with coding literally had been designing “from scratch,” or writing in languages like HTML. I found this simplified or, rather, more accessible form of coding fascinating, and I knew it would be something that my students could learn and enjoy. Instead of using generic avatars to create our Scratch videos, we uploaded and sequenced still images of ourselves performing hip-hop dance moves. To keep us motivated, we had a live DJ who created a vibe that prompted this tweet: “At the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit wondering why school can’t be this LIT on a daily basis!” To round out THE summit of epic proportions, Eric Rosenbaum, co-inventor of Makey Makey, made an appearance and literally crafted a beatbox out of folks’ hand claps. Check that out:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Introducing Susan Lapp, Librarian at Amqui Elementary

Hi everyone, I'm Susan Lapp, the new librarian at Amqui Elementary. I've been working in education for the past 20 years, mostly with Kindergarteners. Last fall I moved from Florida to Tennessee and was blessed with an opportunity to work for Metro as an interim librarian. It came at the perfect time when I knew I needed a change in my career path. Now, I'm enjoying this new job and getting kids excited about the library and what it has to offer them. I intend to create a makerspace in our library so that our students can be experimental and creative in positive ways. At the end of this year, I hope my coworkers will feel like I supported them and always went that extra mile to provide for what they needed. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Introducing Edie Whitley, Librarian at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet

My name is Edie Whitley and I am the school librarian at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet elementary school.  I have twenty-two years of experience in the district in various grades and the library.  The library is my favorite place to be because I am surrounded by books with beautiful pictures and words that seem to dance off the page.  I never grow tired of sharing books with children and introducing them to new authors or genres. Kids who love reading will do well in all subject areas and I especially hope to instill that love of reading in all of my students!    
At Robert Churchwell, we have a beautiful library with a cozy tree house where classes can go to read! My Principal, Ms. Taylor and Assistant Principal Mrs. Perry are so supportive of the library program! My hopes are to build our collection and to teach strong lesson plans that can support my kindergarten through fourth grade teams so that we can make strong gains.  We’ve really been off to a great start this year with students learning map skills, figurative language, important geographical terms, and how to retell a story! When I see students in the morning, they always ask me if it’s their day to come to the library! They love to check out books, like I do and I try to make learning fun!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Introducing Melissa Zettler, Librarian at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet

Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Zettler, and I am the new librarian at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School. For the past eight years, I have worked as a middle school math and science teacher. I attended Middle Tennessee State University for undergraduate school earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies grades 4-8 with a concentration in Mathematics. Next, I attended the University of Kentucky for my Master’s in Library Science. I am very excited to finally be a media specialist! This school year I have lots of goals. I can’t wait to transform the library into a more inviting space for the students by getting the walls painted, weeding the shelves, and getting new furniture. I would like to get parents more involved and informed about the happenings in the library. The students at Hattie Cotton have not used Limitless Libraries very much in the past, but I am already changing that! However, my main goal is to create a makerspace! We have a great space for one, here at Hattie Cotton, and we already have lots of materials to get us started. At the end of the year, I hope my coworkers will say that I have created and implemented lots of fun activities that have instilled a love of reading in the students.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Introducing Ronda Watson, Librarian at Stratton

My name is Ronda Watson, and I am thrilled to be Stratton Elementary School’s new librarian!  I have been teaching for 25 years.  I have taught 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade, but most of my teaching years have been in 4th grade at Stratton Elementary.  Learning all the many different hats a librarian wears has been a challenge, but one I enjoy learning.  My favorite part of the day is seeing students’ eyes light up when we have conversations about books.  Their enthusiasm only makes me want to be the best librarian I can be.  My hope is that I continue helping students to expand their book choices, and that I can be a true resource for my teachers.     

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Introducing Sarah Dark, Librarian at J.T. Moore Middle

My name is Sarah Dark and I am thrilled to be the new librarian at Moore. I worked for years as a volunteer with predecessors, Mrs. Fortenberry and Mrs. Bridges, officially joining the Moore staff in 2016. I’m hoping to continue some of their beautiful work cultivating deep scholastic hospitality and collaboration, and am especially pumped to get our makerspace up and running. When I am not helping our community gather, manage, and share good stories and information, I am working on my MSIS at the University of Tennessee.