Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Related Arts Collaboration: The Hidden Weapon for Teaching Research Skills with Equity for this #SpoiledLibrarian

By:  Alison Brooks, Librarian @ Apollo Middle School

As a librarian, one of my struggles is to make sure that throughout the year, I get to really teach the art of research with every student.  I collaborate with teachers a lot on different projects, but it isn’t always “equal.”   What I mean by that is that it’s hard to make sure that I am teaching the same skills to students across the board, when (as we all know), some teachers love to collaborate, and others can’t seem to find the time.  Plus, at the end of the day, teachers often use research to meet their standards—to get them to understand a science or social studies concept, so the end product is based on their subject-area standards and not just on research skills.   At a school of over 800 students, I found myself struggling to find time to collaborate and really teach research with equity.   This year, however, everything changed because I learned to tap in to the power of collaborating with the related arts team. 

It started with our amazing art teacher, Ashley Lehenbauer, who loves having her kids research big ideas in order to create meaningful art.  She and I actually met over the summer to block out dates and projects we would collaborate on. So far this year, we have collaborated to research Native Americans and totem poles, social justice issues for a Banksy street art installation,  cultures for keyhole room paintings, animals for animal selfies, and environmental disasters for clay mutants.  She mostly develops the project to meet her needs, and I help with finding resources, introducing and discussing how to check that sources are reliable, and generating citations.  Because of how our related arts schedule works, changing every 9-weeks, I realized that collaborating with her meant that 75% of our students would have regular time in the library using databases and learning about citations.  Our deal is that I grade all the citations information while she grades the content and art.  It’s a pretty great system.   

The problem was that I was missing 25% of our students by only collaborating with the art teacher.  These students are the ones who choose to be in band or chorus all year long.  So I now had a goal:  to get the band and chorus teachers to also collaborate with me.  The band teacher and I have plans to work together on a musical instrument project in January, but I am particularly proud of how the chorus teacher and I collaborated this October.   

To start, the chorus teacher and I sat down and talked about his kids.  What they’re like, what they are “into” as far as his class is concerned, how outgoing they were, how academically inclined they were, etc.  and we came  up a plan for a research project in each grade level that met their interests, research needs, and maturity levels.   

In 5th grade, the kids researched a musical genre and made a brochure.  They needed something simple that would get them to practice using and citing our databases.  The 6th graders needed practice with citing online sources, and are a really creative group.  Therefore, their project was to pick a book that they had read and make a 5-song playlist (with youtube video citations) and explain why they chose those songs and how they related to their book.  The 7th graders needed help finding websites that were reliable and appropriate, so I had them each research a musical artist of their choice to create a 2-paragraph mock obituary for that star.  As part of this project, they had to find good websites, analyze those sites, and cite them using Easybib.    

These were all great, but my favorite collaboration was the project the choir teacher and I did with the 8th graders.  One thing to note is that these kids all CHOSE to be in choir for the year, which made them that much more interested in this project.    

The 8th graders basically developed a PBL concerning performance techniques.  We began by reading an article together about performance techniques and had an online discussion using a Padlet about tips for giving a good stage performance live.  Then, the students had two days to pick their favorite artist and analyze live performances (from YouTube) to critique their artists’ performances, and cite their videos using MLA citations.  Students then had to write a letter giving advice on live performances based on their research, and also had to prepare a 30-second live audition using the song of their choice.  While they were researching, the students booked "studio time" to rehearse their audition pieces  using our library’s 3 production rooms.  The chorus teacher auditioned the kids in class (on camera) on Thursday and the chosen winners had 2 days to prepare their songs.  I then recorded the finalists using our green screen technology and showed the top 2 performers to the entire school at our Haunted Pep Rally on Halloween.   
(Above:  Students reading the article and using a Padlet to summarize their sections).  

(Above:  Students signed up for 10-minute "studio time" to rehearse their performances.)  

(Above:  using Easybib to cite youtube as part of their analysis).  

The students at the Pep Rally LOVED the performances--they all had their cell phones out with lights on like they were at a concert (pictured above).  Then, I had the teachers hand out tickets and kids voted by putting their tickets in the bucket of the singer they preferred.  The winning student (Contestant #2) won a bag of swag from the library! (Book fair poster, books, headphones, and of course, Halloween candy).   
See the full video of "Apollo Idol" that I showed at our Haunted Pep Rally HERE: 
Apollo Middle School Library 
I was so proud of these students--the girl who won is SUPER shy and this was way out of her comfort zone, but her performance was adorable, and she even did some choreography!  After the project was over, I asked the 8th graders about their experiences and many of them wanted to do a similar project again in the future, but with more time to prepare.   Having that immediate feedback from the entire school made it so real to them and was a huge incentive for them to work hard.   

I will say that I could NOT have done a project like this without my awesome kids, super supportive and collaborative staff, and all the technology that this library provides.  I am for sure a #spoiledlibrarian!  :)   

Here’s the beauty of working with related arts teachers:  they already have a cool subject area that kids are interested in that is easy to research about.  There are TONS of creative projects you can do with your art, PE, band, computer, and chorus teachers.  It may get you out of your comfort zone, but the kids won’t even realize that they are learning how to research.  Plus, it means you collaborate with a whole new group of teachers, and you are teaching research WITHOUT taking away any instructional time from math, science, social studies, or literacy classes.  It’s win-win-win.   

Blogger:  A. Brooks @Apollo Reader
Apollo Middle School