Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Quarter

In third rotation of first quarter.  Kinders: What happened to Marion's book?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Paper Slides grades 3-5

Creating a Paper slide show is one strategy for students to devise a storyboard collaboratively and practice, practice, practice before recording! Each group is allowed one shot at recording their slide show.  There is no editing.  This is a creative way for students to put content into a sequential format with the information they have researched and learned in media specials.

Third Graders were divided into groups and each group created a paper slide show about Helen Keller. Fourth graders used author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg as their focus, and the fifth graders created recordings which included people and events about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The most important feature was students had to work together and agree about what was to be included on seven slides AND each student had a responsibility within their group, so everyone was involved!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Teacher-Librarian by Barbara Braxton

There is a perception that the role of the teacher-librarian is to sit and read all day. After all, we are ‘the gatekeepers of the literature’, with the power and ability to “bring the beauty and the joy of the written word to students”.

So it comes as a surprise to many, including those who entering the profession that we are not English teachers or language arts teachers or literacy coaches on steroids. It also comes as a shock that to have any time to read anything during the day is a rare time indeed! Nevertheless, the teacher librarian as a reader is a critical role if we are to guide students on their reading journeys, confirming their choices, consolidating their skills and helping them plan new adventures.

It is not the purpose of this post to examine the value of literature to children.  Others much more knowledgeable have written about this such as Maurice Saxby’s The gift of wings: The value of literature to children. Neither is it to provide a crash course in children’s literature – there are many university courses to do that including those from Charles Sturt University. And nor is it to examine the role of literature in education – there are hundreds of pedagogical texts which address that. It’s not even to offer an opinion on what sort of literature to add to your collection and promote – your collection policy should be your guide for that. Rather, it is to consider our role as the readers’ advisory service and how we might do this better given the limited time we have.
The high purpose of book selection is to provide the right book for the right reader at the right time.
Drury, F.K.W. (1930) Book Selection Chicago: American Library Association
Every reader his or her book…
Every book its reader.
Ranganathan, S. R. (1931) The five laws of library science. Madras, India:Madras Library Association

As can be seen by the date of these two quotes, the concept of the librarian and teacher librarian as being the readers’ adviser has been around for a long time, and while it may be impossible these days to put the right book in the right reader’s hands at the right time because there are so many book and so many readers and only one of us, we do have a responsibility to have
  • an understanding of the significant stages in reading development across the ages of our clientele
  • an understanding of the sorts of text formats and features which support reading development at different times
  • a working knowledge of those titles  in the library’s collection
  • a desire to continue reading the literature that is most appropriate for those in our care
Because we are teacher librarians. there is an expectation that we will have a knowledge of a child’s literacy development from the reading-like behavior of the toddler mimicking the adult who reads to them to the independent reader who has mastered not only the mechanics but who has also taken responsibility for their “reading life” (Miller, Reading in the Wild p.xviii). Although it is not our role to be reading instructors, there is much that we can offer to support reading instruction by making selections to add to the collection that are age and stage appropriate. 
In my opinion, and that of many others – experts and practitioners alike – that it is not the library’s role to support instructional reading to the extent that we organize our collections according to an artificial measure such as the in-vogue assignment of a lexile which does not take into account the prior knowledge or maturity level required to enjoy the book to its fullest, or according to a points system imposed by a commercial scheme or any other arbitrary standard that is likely to limit or marginalize our students based on their choices. However, we do have a responsibility to provide titles which have the textual and graphical formats and features that support the students at different times in their reading lives.
We need to know that
  • role play readers display reading-like behaviour which imitates those who read to them as they reconstruct the story for themsleves, often differently each time as they use the pictures to prompt their memories. They need durable books with bright pictures that have recognisable elements and have text which incorporates rhyme, rhythm and repetition so they can join in as it is read or repeat it as they retell it.

  • experimental readers rely on their memory of familiar stories to retell them and the retelling is close to the original story as they understand that text carries a constant meaning. They rely on pictures to prompt their recall and may recognise familiar words so they need books with limited text where key words are often enlarged or in a different font; have repetitive phrases either cumulative or alliterative which they can memorise and repeat; and pictures which are lifelike and may have fun elements such as lift-the-flap. They also like stories featuring familiar characters from their favourite television series as they bring their knowledge of the situation and the character to an unfamiliar situation.
Some of the elements which support experimental readers.
  • early readers read texts slowly and deliberately, concentrating on every word and using their knowledge of the context and pictorial clues to support their meaning-making and their retelling. They are ready for new characters in new situations although they like these to mirror their own experiences and issues.  Animals and toys in human-like dilemmas allow them to discuss and reflect on their own situations, setting up the foundation for the development of critical literacy skills. They prefer their stories to be completed in one sitting although many will listen to serialized stories where there is a complete adventure in each chpater such as The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton.
  • transitional readers are able to use a variety of strategies to make meaning from texts and adapt their reading to different types of text. They understand the basics of story construction such as setting, plot and characterization and are beginning to think critically about texts. They are making the transition from basal readers and picture books to novels which have short chapters, larger fonts and monochrome illustrations which still support the storyline. They’re willing to move beyond settings and characters with which they are familiar and into the realms of the imaginary and the fantastic.  Series are popular and they are beginning to identify favorite authors and topics.

A willingness to explore the imagninary and the fantastic take these readers to new worlds.

Books for this stage are characterised by short chapters, larger font and monochrome illustration which support the story.
Books for this stage are characterised by short chapters, larger font and monochrome illustration which support the story.
  • independent readers are just that.  They can read, retell and reflect on texts choosing from a wide range of authors, series, subjects and genres.  They have favorites and can justify their choices, and select according to need, interest and mood. They have developed the emotional connections that lifelong readers possess and share an innate love of reading.
Adapted from Reading Developmental Continuum. Education Department of Western Australia, 1994
Even if our clientele do not span the range of readers, we should know where they have come from and to where they are headed.
Miller tells us
The path to lifelong reading habits depends on internalizing a reading lifestyle along with reading skills and strategies.
And she also says
We must push ourselves to read widely in order to best serve our students – as role models who read for diverse purposes and reading advisers who know a lot about books that appeal to all types of readers.  The more widely we read, the more expertise we offer to our students.
This is where we must put on the reader’s hat.  If we are to help our students along their road to independence then we must read and read and read so we can assist them with their choices, and assist their teachers in their choices. It may be that during term time your pile of to-be-read books comprises only children’s literature but it will pay off because not only will the staff and students view you as the go-to person when they’re wondering what to read next, but it puts the library at the hub of the school’s literacy program known for a collection that is built on professional knowledge and tested against a set of selection criteria that ensures it meets certain standards.
Just as we should not let personal bias interfere with the selection of resources for the collection, so we should not let personal preferences dictate our reading selections.  Of course, as we first start to learn about the collection from the inside out, we will start with our favorite authors, topics, series and genres but we need to read beyond those boundaries so we can build a broad base of knowledge and understanding.
Many of us will have childhood favorites or those we have used in our classroom practice and which we know children enjoy and it’s worth finding these and re-reading them as a starting point.  Then start to branch out. There are many sources…
  • Publishers have regular free newsletters that you can subscribe to so you can keep up-to-date with new releases. As well as Australian publishing houses, I also subscribe to some in the US and UK which is how I had copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on the shelves when students came in demanding it.  I also like Publisher’s Weekly which has a range of free e-newsletters including Children’s Bookshelf which has a plethora of articles related to children’s literature including reviews, meet-the-author, podcasts and news.
  • Seek out blogs which review the titles for your target age group.  There are many of these, particularly for YA,  and I’ve gathered some of them on Blogs About Books. Three that are great for younger readers are A Book and a Hug (have your readers take the What kind of reading superhero are you? quiz to find out what they might like); The Book Chook which has a strong Australian flavor and The Bottom Shelf where I review picture books, old and new, for the under-8 group. Create your own blog where you share your reading with others.
  • Read reviews.  There are many sites dedicated to reviewing children’s literature and I’ve collated some of these on the Read a Review page.
  • Get recommendations from other teachers and teacher librarians using your personal learning networks. Everyone has a favorite they like to share.
  • Use crowd-sourcing sites such as Goodreads  and Shelfari where you can get recommendations as well as creating your own reading journal.
  • Talk to the students about what they are reading. Miss 9, an avid reader, told me that the favorite story among her peers this year was the classic Black Beauty and she was delighted when she found a copy of it among a collection of other classics on my home shelves.  She’s now reading her way through them, as well as War Horse by Michael Morpurgo which is of a similar nature to Black Beauty. One conversation and she had two pathways to follow – the classics, which may well open up new paths in themselves, and the other works of Morpurgo. 
  • Ask the students what they think you should be reading. Many will have favourites that they have sourced beyond the school library and which you need to know about and consider for the collection.  Peer recommendations are powerful, as even the most reluctant reader wants to be part of the in-crowd.
  • Troll the best-of lists that come out at the end of the year from a range of sources. It’s surprising how many titles are common entries on these lists, indicating that they are worth considering.  If you want to discover the best of the best of times gone by, look for publications such as 1001 Children’s Books you must read before you grow up 

1001 Children's Books you must read before you grow up
  1001 Children’s Books you must read before you grow up

  • Look at the award winners such as the Australian Children’s Book of the Year, the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, The Kate Greenaway Medal and The Carnegie Medal
  • Look for and explore “if-you-like-x-then-try… lists.  They are a great source of new titles that match an identified preference.
  • If you want to try before you buy, check out what your public library has.  Build a relationship with your local children’s services librarian and discover what are the most commonly borrowed titles there.
  • Maintain your professional reading with books like The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, Readicide, The Rights of the Reader, The Power of Reading, The Read-Aloud Handbook and Igniting a Passion for Reading. Each will help you understand how to wear your reader’s hat well.
Wear your reader’s hat in public. Let the children see you reading in those rare spare minutes that you get.  Let them see your pile of to-be-reads.  Let them see the reading goals you have set yourself and which you celebrate as you achieve them.  Let them flip through your reading journal where you keep an annotated record of what you’ve read, what you want to read and their recommendations.

If you put your reader’s hat on, they will too.

Barbara Braxton


How teacher-librarians support students in becoming independent readers, by Barbara Braxton

Being an “independent reader” is much more than the mastery of the mechanics – it involves having an emotional attachment that makes the experience a part of who we are as a person, embracing the affective domain as well as the cognitive and the physical.
Being an independent reader means developing a lifelong habit that continues because we want to read  and not because we are required to or have to. It means that we read even when daily support such as dedicated in-class reading time such as the DEAR and USSR programs are no longer available.
In her book Reading in the Wild , a professional text that has had the greatest impact on my beliefs and actions of any I have read for a very long time, Donalyn Miller identifies five key characteristics of an independent reader…
  1. They make time to read and dedicate part of each day to doing so.
  2. They  have the confidence, experience and skills to self-select reading materials
  3. They share their books and reading experiences with other readers
  4. They have a reading plan - they know what they will read next.
  5. They show and share preferences for particular authors, genres and topics.
While Miller’s book focuses on her experiences with her classes who have access to an extensive classroom library, the purpose of this blog post is to examine how we, as teacher librarians, can put in place supports that will enable students to move along the spectrum of reading mastery to complete independence.
Read the research
Apart from the research about the value of being able to read well which Miller cites in her books, there are also some important studies being undertaken that we should know about, particularly if there are moves afoot to abandon print resources in the library or discourage the reading of fiction.
Firstly, there is a growing body of evidence such as that by Combes and Coiro that for students to read effectively online, they must first build up a traditional literacy skill-set which is based on print.  Secondly, there is research from Kidd and Castano that reading fiction can have a lasting impact on brain function, which is currently receiving considerable publicity   All should be on our professional reading lists.
Time to Read
No one will deny that reading proficiency is dependent on practice and that, of course, requires time.  But students, like adults often find it difficult to find this time both at school or at home. However, if students see that the significant people in their lives read and make the time to do so becasue they value reading they want to be be a part of that reading community, belong to that “in-group”, sharing experiences and forging bonds that help them define themselves as readers.
Students often see reading as an all-or-nothing event – something that is done in blocks of 30 minutes or so, 30 minutes that they don’t see themselves as having in their hectic school and after-school lives.  Miller suggests the solution to this is to get students to read “on the edge” although “in the gaps” might create a stronger visual image, but they need to learn how to identify those gaps, such as waiting for the bus or an appointment or during a sister’s soccer practice.  As TLs, we can lead a lesson where we help our students identify those gaps and turn them into opportunities.  Teach parents to read in the gaps too – encourage them to have a book in their bag that they can read aloud to their child, such as I did yesterday when I had the chance to look after Miss 2 while Miss 7 was busy so we sat and read together, much to the delight of the other patients who enjoyed her version of The Gruffalo’s Child and did not have a bored 2 year-old disturbing them. It teaches the young child so much about reading…
Miller suggests having them keep a reading itinerary for a week, identifying when they read, where they read and for how long. This not only helps them look for those opportunities but also helps them understand where they are most often and most comfortable reading. This can lead to individual discussions that help the student gain insight into their reading habits, and that it can be done anywhere, anytime even just for a few minutes.
As well as helping the students make time to read, look for opportunities to promote reading within the community and read aloud to students.  Consider…
A place to read

As the TL we should be able to set up areas that are conducive to personal reading within the library and which students can use during breaks. There should be spots for individuals who like to curl up in out-of-the-way spots and be alone in the world of their book as well as places where they can share what they’re reading with their friends. Have a special story-teller’s chair where they can role-play being the TL or their teacher -anywhere that invites them to spend a few minutes just reading.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Library Centers? What do you think?

Friendship and Kindness!

Can you think of any other literary friendships?  

List as many "friendships" as you can that are found in books, not movies!