Tuesday, October 27, 2015

One librarian's reflection on the power of MakerSpaces

Over the past few weeks, Kelly Bulbulkaya (@kbulbulkaya) and I have been working with a delightful group of 3rd/4th grade girls in our first girls-only maker-space club at Eakin.  I have learned so much watching these girls explore electrical circuits, Lego kits, and projects of their own making.   Mistakes have been made.  Dead ends have been encountered.   We have often had rethink, rebuild, or begin again.  However, throughout it all these 8 and 9 year old girls have soared.  I have marveled at the way they have collaborated and encouraged each other without the strain of competition. 

 In fact, their zeal and unbridled enthusiasm has been contagious.  It has made me wonder what happened to that curious “me” who surely long ago had the same enthusiasm and curiosity.  Was it self-doubt that nestled in my spirit? Perhaps it was a discouraging teacher or maybe just an educational system that replaced my natural curiosity with a fear of failure?  Whatever it was…I have found a renewed sense of urgency to quell this “winner take all” reward system we still sometimes adhere to in education.  I want us to build on our girls’ strengths by stimulating their imaginations, encouraging them to take risks, and nurture their natural tendency to collaborate.   Surely if we, as educators, parents, and grandparents can do that…we will raise a generation of women who are not only capable but willing to solve some of our toughest problems.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Principal's Perspective: What Makes an Effective Librarian?

School libraries are often located in the center of a school building.  Why?  Because school libraries, in my opinion, are the heartbeat of a school.  It’s usually the hub of activities such as technology integration, multimedia resources, literacy skills development, and teacher professional development.  And naturally, the school librarian must be the person who keeps that heart beating. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rapid shift in the focus of what makes an effective classroom.  We’ve seen technology integration and blending learning emphasized, along with Project Based Learning and literacy skills development across all subject areas (not just literacy anymore).  This has required effective school librarians to make a shift too.  In many ways, they must be the “resident go to person” for these initiatives.    Teachers also need and want school librarians who are able to collaboratively plan units of instruction with them.  This might be something as simple as pulling materials and resources for them.  But as core instruction changes within the classroom, we are starting to see even deeper relationships between librarians and teachers.  This includes teachers bringing their classes to the library to receive instruction about grade level standards from the librarian.  The librarian may push in to the classroom and act as an instructional facilitator for a certain project or activity.  I’ve even seen a school librarian regularly go to literacy classrooms to work with students in a small group setting to provide remediation based on student assessment data. 

Teachers also want to see that the librarian is in the “trenches” with them.  Some of the best librarians I’ve worked with get heavily involved in the school outside the day to day library activities.  This includes being a member of the school leadership team—how can we expect librarians to be the “resident go to person” for major initiatives if they are not included in the planning of these initiatives?   Effective school librarians attend sporting events and may sponsor extra-curricular clubs.  They attend team meetings and collaborative planning sessions so that they can offer their support as teachers are working in real-time.  They are in the hallways between class changes monitoring and interacting with students.

Lastly, effective librarians must create a space where students want to be, no matter their academic achievement level, interest in reading, or ethnic background.  When we opened our newly remodeled library last school year, one of our students said “This library is so cool!  I just want to live here!”  We have created nooks in our library that include comfortable reading areas with board games and bean bag chairs.  We have a cafĂ© where students can come eat, read, study, and research.  We have individual student production rooms that are perfect for PBL.  We have a Makerspace area and a 3-D printer.  We have students that struggle with behavior, who have found a “safe place” in the library—so much that we have written into behavior plans for a few of our students that the library is their place to go when they are having a rough day.  We could not do this without a librarian who is willing to support their social-emotional needs.

Whenever we have visitors at our school, we always take them to the library.  Why?  Because a school library speaks volumes about what a school is really about.  So, take a look around and notice that heartbeat and hub of activity.  Notice the students engaged in and excited about reading.  Notice the Eno board, the Mac lab, and the laptop carts.  Listen to the conversations that are occurring between students and teachers—because the library isn’t just for quiet time anymore.  And then find the librarian and remember to thank him/her for bringing life to the school. 

MNPS administrator

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why would a librarian get rid of books?!

Are you sick and tired of answering this question? Well, let this infographic help you!

Creative Commons License

Why Librarians Weed by Metro Nashville Public Schools Library Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Taking a Walk Back in History: Segregated Nashville Collaborative Project

Segregated Nashville” is a collaborative lesson I do with another teacher, Joy York (Capstone teacher).  She and I do many collaborative lessons throughout the year.  Several years ago I attended a workshop with the National Endowment for Humanities entitled, “The Problem of the Color Line Atlanta Landmarks and Civil Rights History.”  In this workshop we visited different landmarks in Atlanta, GA that essentially told a story of the development of change regarding the civil rights movement.  I felt the history come alive after visiting the various landmarks and wanted to adopt this same concept with the lesson she and I have been doing with her Capstone students.  So we decided to have her students experience something similar by having them visit Fisk University and the Civil Rights room at the Nashville Public Library Main.  When we visit Fisk University students receive an overview of the Modern Day Civil Rights movement in Nashville, Tennessee from History Professors at the University.  Students are also given a walking tour of Fisk and learn about Fisk’s rich history.  After the visit to Fisk the students visit the Civil Rights room in the Nashville Public Library Main, Downtown.  Here the students sit in a recreated lunch counter and learn about the sit-in demonstrations in Nashville.  They listen to a presentation from one of the Civil Rights room librarians and view different primary resources highlighting key people in the movement.  Students get to spend the rest of the day using the resources at the Civil Rights room for their research. Students have found this project to be very enlightening.  Some of the feedback we received include:

The Segregated Nashville project allowed us to take a look into some of the important history of the city we live in…about places and history markers we see all the time, but never take time to actually notice.”

“What I liked about the Segregated Nashville project was learning stuff about Nashville that I never knew about.  You hear about Birmingham, Alabama all of the time, so hearing about all of the amazing things that happened in Nashville was kind of cool.”

“I never knew Nashville had so much history.”

Image:  Students hearing a presentation in the Civil Rights room    

C. Townsel
MNPS Librarian (HS)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Transitioning from Teacher to Librarian

This school year I am a new librarian at Thomas Edison Elementary School, but this is my 15th year teaching for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). My history of teaching in MNPS ranges from PreKindergarten to first grade to the computer lab and then as a data/assessment coach. Each step in my career has brought their own changes in what I needed to know and understand, but moving from a classroom setting to a setting where I dealt with the school as a whole, such as the library, my world had to change.

I went from dealing with 15-22 students in a self-contained classroom to greeting and working with upwards of 150 students in the library during lessons and all the students who come in during open checkout each day. I have had to learn their personalities, quirks, and preferences when they are looking for something that might interest them. I have had to learn classroom personalities and dynamics to make the time that these students spend in the library a successful one. I have also had to learn how to support students who are struggling with finding something that might interest them at their reading level, as well as challenge students who have been in a rut reading the same books every time they come to visit.

Another change has been moving from learning the standards and expectations for what I was expected to do in my classroom to learning the AASL library standards and how they correlated and blended in with EVERY grade levels' standards in the classroom. Teachers will come in and let me know what they are studying in the classroom and ask me how I can help extend their students’ knowledge. It would mean diving into their standards and even working backwards to see how the skills built through the years, creating lessons based upon where each class in a grade level is at when they come to visit. It has been an eye opening experience to step out of my world in first grade and see how all the pieces fit together and how I have been able to help with the process.

Of the many changes that I have experienced, one of the biggest, was becoming part of a bigger team. Being in first grade, or any grade, one gets wrapped around the needs of the grade level. In the library, I work with the whole school, every grade level, every teacher, every position. Each has added to the rich atmosphere of the library with their ideas and personalities. Each grade level has been instrumental to guiding me with their knowledge and deep love for their students and their needs.

Moving from the classroom to the library has been a change, but one that has held nothing but positive blessings.

MNPS (new) Teacher-Librarian

Monday, October 12, 2015

Making the case for Audiobooks

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” ~Becoming a Nation of Readers

At the beginning of the school year, I hosted an “Ideas & Info” morning in the library. Parents were invited to come and hear the lowdown on volunteering, our new Makerspace, and future author visits. I also spent a few minutes encouraging parents to be deliberate in making reading an enjoyable experience for their children. Included in my soapbox spiel was the importance and value of audiobooks for both reluctant and proficient readers. I grew up in a family where audiobooks were a part of daily life. We listened to them in the car, at night, during meal preparations, and during rest time. Therefore I was shocked by a post-soapbox comment from a parent. She expressed to me and the other parents that she thought audiobooks were a hindrance to a child’s literacy development. She called them “a crutch” and a “lazy way of reading”. As other parents added their two cents, I discovered that the majority of the parents considered audiobooks the easy way out and only benefitted struggling readers or children with learning struggles. After recovering from the shock, I quickly reassured everyone that the opposite was true.  Unfortunately, a few of the teachers also believed that audiobooks were “cheating” and forbade students to check them out or listen to them.

The revelation sparked a fire in this teacher-librarian and I spent the rest of the year dispelling the lies and spreading the truth about (to quote Rocket the dog) “glorious, wonderful” audiobooks. Here are a few things that I implemented in my audiobook awareness campaign:

·       Infographic Listening Library and the Audio Publishers Association has a wonderful Literacy Toolkit available on their site. http://www.soundlearningapa.org/ I downloaded the Infographic and sent it home in students’ Friday folders.

·       Playaways in the Classroom Most elementary classrooms’ Literacy block included centers. I worked hard to get playaways into the classrooms as one of the center rotations, “Listen to Reading”. Teachers were reluctant at first and so I basically did all of the work and delivered the “center” to their classroom. My center included a folder with Listening Response sheets, a few sets of headphones, and several playaways and the coordinating books. I then visited each class and did a detailed step-by-step lesson on playaways. Students are personal technology natives and caught on very quickly. I keep playaways and their coordinating books on a bench so that student and teachers can come trade them out as needed. Limitless Libraries (@LimitlessLib) was a huge asset in supplying teachers with playaways. They have an extensive collection of Playaway Bookpacks available for checkout.

·       Whole Class Novels I teach RTI for 1st-4th grade. For each of these classes, I chose a novel that was above most of the students reading levels. For example, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Nim’s Island for 1st grade and a Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World for 3rd grade. The school had class sets of several of the novels and I was able to order the rest of the novels. I wanted each child to have a copy of the novel during class. I also checked out the audiobook from the Nashville Public Library. The 45 minute blocks have the following structure: 1) Students put their notebooks/pencils on the tables, pick up a novel from my basket, and gather on the rug. I quickly go over new vocabulary using a powerpoint with short definitions and pictures. Then I choose three students to give me one sentence summarizing what happened in the previous chapter. Then each child turns to the day’s chapter and I start the audiobook. Students are instructed to follow along “with their eyes” and I am diligently scanning to make sure that they are indeed following along. After we are done with the day’s listening we have a quick discussion and the students go and journal or complete an activity in their notebooks. If time allows, I’ll occasionally show parts of the movie if there is one that follows the book closely. Once they know the routine, students love this structured reading and reading a book together allows us to share a reading experience.

·       Summer Reading Tip Sheet I sent home a summer reading packet in May. Included in the packet was an Audiobooks YES or NO tip sheet. I summed up several research studies encouraging parents to include audiobooks into their family’s summer.

Here are a few of my favorite audiobooks:
The Ramona Quimby series (narrated by Stockard Channing)
The Henry Huggins series  (narrated by Neil Patrick Harris!!)
Charlotte’s Web (narrated by E.B.White)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (narrated by Roald Dahl)
Young Fredle (narrated by Wendy Carter)
The True Meaning of Smek Day (narrated by Bahni Tupri)
Little House in the Big Woods (narrated by Cherry Rose)
How to Train Your Dragon (narrated by David Tennant)
Fudge-a-mania (narrated by Judy Blume)
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (by the BBC Full-Cast)
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (Taylor Mali)
Titanic Voices from the Disaster (Mark Bramhall)
The House at Pooh Corner (narrated by Peter Dennis)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (narrated Nick Sullivan)
Matilda (narrated by Kate Winslet)
Peter and the Starcatchers (narrated by Dave Barry)
The Wizard of Oz (narrated by Anne Hathaway)
The Boxcar Children (narrated Phyllis Newman)
Jim Weiss is, “a master storyteller and author.” He brings legends, myths, and historical stories to life.  His original audio recordings have been best-sellers for over two decades and have won scores of awards, including (among many others) honors from the Film Advisory Board, the American Library Association, Booklist, and Audiofile. http://peacehillpress.com/jim-weiss

MNPS Teacher-Librarian