Monday, January 31, 2011

Use Your Noodle

Fourth and Fifth graders in our school have just completed informational writing pieces AND bibliographies! Students learned the importance of giving credit to their resources and how EASY it can be to do so. In the process of teaching this unit and pulling my hair out a little, I learned about Noodle Tools, which I WISH had existed when I was doing research papers in high school, college, and grad school. Noodle Tools MLA Easy Bib starter was designed for students in grades 1-5 and does not require an email address to make an account. We tried for a uniform logon and password to match the school accounts but this did not work for all and making accounts and remembering the personal IDs and passwords proved to be the most difficult step to using Noodle Tools. Actually creating citations was easy peasy. And the process of entering the information helped students to learn how to look for the publisher and copyright year for a book, the author of a website and what constitutes the title of an article and the importance of utilizing a variety of different sources. Students also learned what great print resources we have both in our school library and available through the public library consortium as well as how to access our subscription based online encyclopedia. All of this was completed through a hands on assignment tailored to an existing classroom assignment. In an effort to improve this project for future classes, I solicited feedback from each class through a survey/form on google docs thereby giving students the opportunity to give genuine and honest feedback. So far it has been very positive and I'm happy with the growth I have seen in the student's information literac as a result of this project.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Dewey Challenge

Third graders spent the first quarter of the school year learning about the Dewey Decimal system. While some may think it is outdated or unnecessary to learn, it is truly an inspired and ingenious method of organization. Every book has a home. Some people advocate for an organization more similar to a bookstore with topical headings - all the sports books over here and all of the science books over here. News flash! The DDS, not to be confused with DDR, DOES organize books by subject and even mine down further than that, grouping all the animals together and one step further all the mammals together and one step further all of the dolphins together and if you want to get really specific all the dolphin habitat books together. But I digress. In an effort to arm students with the skills they need to independently AND efficiently find materials in the library, they DID learn what the DDS is, how Dewey came up with it and why. They practiced grouping actual books together and are now undertaking the Dewey Challenge. It is relatively simple in concept. I created two sided bookmarks with spaces for students to fill in the titles of one book from each number section as well as one from fiction, picture books, and biography. There are six additional choice areas as well. The idea is for students to try something different. In order to complete the challenge, they only need to fill their bookmark with the titles they read. Then I ask them to select a favorite and I photograph the student with their favorite book to recommend to others. They discover new books, or at least books new to them, on the shelves and recommend them to others and the students gain a better understanding of what each section means by matching that title to the number. And it doesn't cost a thing. Students are be owing more independent patrons of the library and trying something new. Not a bad challenge to undertake at all!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 3 F's

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Fables of course! When I asked the previous librarian if there was one thing she wished she had done more of or had more time for, she indicated that she felt students didn't have a strong foundation of fairy tales and nursery rhymes - that, perhaps especially in the past few years, there had been a larger focus on fractured fairy tales or funny versions that they never really heard the original. In an effort to combat this, I have scaffolded the different oral tradition stories through the early grades. In the first part of the year, for kindergarten, each of the six tables was labelled with, first farm animals for grouping, then during a nursery rhyme unit, pictures from six different nursery rhymes, and most recently during our folk tales unit, pictures from six different folk tales. By merely grouping the students in this way and calling them by singing the corresponding nursery rhyme or talking about the characters or setting of one of the folk tales, I reinforced the student's understanding of each of these. I plan to introduce and review fairy tales in a similar manner. Examples of corresponding stories were Mary Pope Osborne's "Kate and the Beanstalk" and then we compared and contrasted this version to Jack. We are currently reading the Emberley's "Chicken Little" and "The Red Hen". We've discussed common elements of The 3 Pigs and Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. First grade has reviewed folk tales reading different versions of Goldilocks and talking about how to find "just right" books and investigating Jan Brett books - many of which are based on folktales. Second grade is reviewing folk tales and fairy tales through a Paul O. Zelinsky study, looking at Caldecott Medal winner, Rapunzel; and Caldecott Honor book, Rumpelstiltskin. Third grade reviews folk tales and fairy tales and, prior to our "Here's to our Heroes" book fair in the fall, we introduced Tall Tales, taking a look at "Davey Crocket Saves the World" and we have reviewed tall tales looking at Paul O. Zelinsky's "Swamp Angel" and "Dust Devil" as well as Brian Pinkney's "John Henry.". We did a unit on fables leading up to this year's Caldecott announcement since "The Lion and the Mouse" was last year's selection. We looked at Arnold Lobel's 1981 Caldecott Medal winning collection of fables and Jerry Pinkney's Fable collection as an ebook on Google Books. Following the announcements this past Monday, we studied Jerry Pinkney as an author and illustrator which afforded the opportunity to integrate a reading of his "Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King.", which also connected to third graders' biography/wax museum projects that they are beginning. Very timely indeed. I'm sure there will be more of the 3 F's coming soon but I'd say, modestly too, that our library earns an A for integrating a smattering of oral tradition stories into the library curriculum this year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let them Look

First of all, I want to say that I was excited to discover blogger in draft which allows me to utilize blogger on my iPhone, except that I have now realized after already typing this blog, and clicking preview that I evidently have to save before doing so. Nothing is perfect.

So, onto the blog title that has been left unfulfilled for over a week now! Kindergarten book selection has been a bit of a conundrum for me. On one hand, I do not want to limit student's choices just because they happen to be 5. On the other hand, I know that K kids can leave a path of destruction in their wake. But, so can some 2nd and 3rd graders I can think of off the top of my head. A request was posted on LM Net (a library email list serv that I belong to) asking for ideas about kindergarten library selection. Being in much the same boat as the post-er, I requested a hit (meaning that the sender would compile all responses and share them out). Most of the responses confirmed what I knew to be true, that I needed to let them look. One of the teacher librarians posted a rule that she uses during selection to the effect of if she sees a student with his/her shelf marker and a book, then that was their book to check out or put on hold. At first, I thought this was a bit harsh. The more I thought about it, I decided it was just RIGHT. Just the thing to get my point across about the importance of using a shelf marker and taking care with putting books back on the shelf in the right place and the right way. For both K and 1 classes, I introduced the song "The Booky Looky" with my own twist, sung to the tune of the hokey pokey and posted below if blogger will cooperate. I made a BIG deal about how for K students this was the FIRST time EVER in the whole time they were in kindergarten that they would be able to look at any book on any shelf IF they did the booky looky. There was buy in. Overall, the sky did not fall - we read Rebecca and Ed Emberley's "Chicken Little" and students found books to love. The knots that had become commonly associated with helping some hard to please K friends find their perfect book disappeared as they worked hard to help themselves more. I let them look and I hope I am brave enough to make the transition even sooner next year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year Glitches

On December 29th, our school website host rolled over some changes. While most features look the same some do not and any content created and added after December 15th went missing. At first, there was no panic because I saw my folk tale links and surely they were my most recent addition. As I powered up my teacher computer and double clicked on the large blue e for Explorer, I gulped. Due to the rollover, the address for individual pages was just slightly different, probably off by just a number or two, but as a result, instead of going to the designated home page, all computers and their users were going to get an error message. So, I sent a clarifying email with directions to reconfigure your homepage, but I knew this was not what anyone wanted to walk into on the first day following winter break. I also told each and every class that I saw about this and we reviewed how to get to the district home page - the old fashioned way - by typing in the address - gasp!

Then during my third period, I realized the link lists for that period and my last period were gone and irretrievably so. Yuck. Feeling very poorly prepared, I decided I would fix it. I showed them where the theoretical page would/will be and promised that I would have that page re-constructed, as if nothing had happened, in a snap. By the time they were done checking out books. Then I encountered the new site manager layout and felt..quite lost. And I'm good at these things. Really good at these things. Needless to say, the page has not yet been reconstructed. Nor was the page for the last period. There was a tutorial video. I was supposed to watch it before the rollover. I didn't. I will. Tomorrow. And then I'll rebuild what was lost and improve even further.

The home page debacle forced me to do something I'd been meaning to do. The computers on the lab side of the library were still set to a computer lab homepage and the computers in the circulation area were set to the school's homepage. When I finally got around to re-setting the homepages, I set them all to the library's homepage. There were also two shortcuts on each desktop for the library catalog. One with a tile icon (functional) and one with an Internet explorer icon that went to the high school catalog. Every so often, students would click on the explorer icon and search for something in the high school catalog or try to log onto Destiny through the high school portal (which doesn't work for elementary students). So I took the opportunity to also

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Here and Now

Rather than play catch up today (there is plenty of time for that...later) I thought I would focus on the here and now. What is it about the new year that truly feels like a fresh slate, a chance to start anew, to redeem oneself and REALLY stick to goals? Whatever it is, I'm going to ride this wave for as long as I can. My reading resolution in 2011 is to read a book a day. On twitter, many readers follow a posting of this sort with a hashtag, like this: #bookaday. I noticed this, particularly over break and thought that I would like to try it. But I set my bar a bit high for myself, what with the baby and the family gatherings and what not. Then I realized one of the true beauties of being an elementary librarian - I could count picture books (smacks head, but of course!). This all seemed much more do-able in that light. So, I've committed to doing just that. Yesterday's was a bit of a stretch. I really finished the audiobook of Judy Blume's "Going, Going, Gone with the Pain and the Great One the day prior in the car, but I had to count something and had neglected to bring Cece's books in from the car. When I finished "Scumble" on Thursday, I visited the library to replenish my supply of children's lit only to discover that since it was NYE the library was closed. I went into a bit of a panic as I knew we were leaving for a weekend trip on Saturday and highly doubted the library would alternatively be open on New Year's Day. I would have to BUY books. No worries, I had recieved 2 gift cards to B & N for the holidays for just such an occasion. Deep breaths. But, no... My husband had just left and the gift cards were in that car! Off to spend real money on real books. I have a book downloaded on the iPhone ereader but I just can't yet wrap my head around relying on that. And since I forgot a charger, it's a good thing I didn't rely solely on that. I decided I would get a book for the library. Two birds. But I wanted it to be hardcover for the library(limited choices) and I wanted it to be something we didn't already have (limited further) and not the second or third in a series that I hadn't read the first of yet (limited EVEN further). To make things worse, I know we need "The Last Olympian" but since I'm only on book 3 and have not yet completed book 4, I could not justify purchasing book 5 for myself to read on a long car trip. And I'm pretty sure we need the "Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles" but then I would want to get all 3 and couldn't justify that either. I looked at SPaceheadz but ultimately put it down, worried it would be TOO fast a read. Hugo Cabret looked like it might be a bit large for my clientele, but as an award winner, I felt we should have it, but at the price, I also felt we could get a better deal. I settled upon two books: Mockingbird and Saving Zasha. Both look excellent and different while filling a percieved need on our shelves. I'll write mrs about each in a future post... Probably. Hopefully, Mockingbird will be finished in the car ride home today from Hershey and be my book a day for today. And if not, it will serve as a good reminder to read to Cece before she goes to bed. And that is the Here and Now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reading (and Writing) Resolutions

I wrote a little about one of my resolutions over at my personal blog, Reflections. I also have quite a bit of catching up to do here as well. I have been neglecting this extraordinary opportunity to reflect on my professional practice and share with other school librarians about the lessons I am teaching and the lessons I've learned in the school library. If you aren't able to follow the link to the other post, let me sum up that I'll be blogging from my iPhone and posts may not include all the elements I would love to see, but if ever there is time one day, I can always add pictures, links, videos, etc. Also, the autocorrect function may, at times, hinder my ability to express thought, but I'll do my best!

Yesterday, as we anticipated a new year, I had my 100th follower on twitter. Since I have been fortunate enough to have won a few book giveaways for the library, I thought I'd do my karmic duty and host one myself. So, from now through 1/10 (when ALA will announce this year's Newbery winners) I am hosting a Twitter giveaway of Ingrid Law's books - the Newbery honor book, "Savvy" and it's sequel, "Scumble" which I just finished reading the other day. To enter, you can follow me @ontheshelf4kids on twitter and retweet a contest tweet and reply with your reading resolution or comment with your reading resolution below.

Happy reading in 2011!