Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Show Me Your Data: Infographics with 7th Graders

Last week I started working with two classes of 7th graders on creating infographics. This is a joint project with one of our related arts teachers that has daily access to the computer lab. I'm working on my National Board application this year and I've been trying to decide what student work I wanted to submit. Most of my student work comes from research projects, but I couldn't use those because the big research projects are done in the Spring when the application is due. So I had to think of other ideas. This teacher came to mind because we spoke before the start of school about increasing the rigor of one of her newsletter assignments. I've wanted to try infographics with our students for a while so this seemed like a perfect fit. All these factors came together with this project.
Only a few students are finished, but they are creating such wonderful products that I wanted to share the project with others. Students have already started newsletters on a topic of their choice. The related arts teacher helped them pinpoint a topic and begin gathering information. I came in and led the infographic portion which will be one page of their newsletter.
I started by explaining the concept of infographics and the steps they will follow to create their own. You can find my presentation, student research worksheet, rubric, templates and citation guide here. Feel free to use. I've cited my sources at the end of the Power Point if you want more information. My most invaluable resource was Kathy Schrock's page. After going through the steps with them we gave them time to explore all types of infographics online. This helped them find inspiration for creating their own.
The following day I came in and talked more about citation and showed them how to use Son of Citation Machine. They were mad that I had not shown them this last year, but I explained that the teachers' asked me not to because they wanted them to learn the old fashioned way first. I hope they will continue to use this site in the future. After a few practice citations we let them begin finding images and data that they could use for their infographics.
The third day we began creating the infographic in Power Point. That's right, Power Point. This is what I use to create library posters and even an infographic showing the steps of this project. I've looked at other infographic creators online and haven't found one that I really like yet. After showing them a few tricks like sending images to the front or back, setting a transparent color, changing orientation, and importing an Excel graph they were off. They are creating amazing products and seem to be having so much fun with this project.
Here is an example of one of the infographics. I'm so proud of these students and can't wait to share their creations with our administrators.

Anorexia Infographic

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Common Core: Love it or Hate It?

Whether you love the Common Core standards or hate them, this is an issue in which librarians need to be active, vocal participants. Thanks to Gwyneth Jones, my colleagues, Kristen Hearne & Monique German, and I were interviewed for an Edweek article. Kristen was our spokesperson and Monique was our lovely model. Overall I believe the journalist did a good job explaining how librarians play a role in the new standards. I do have one issue, the title.
Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

The leadership role we play in our district isn't a result of the standards. We simply used the new standards to highlight skills we already had. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if is wasn't for my bold, sometimes annoying habit of sticking my nose into everything we might have been left completely out of the implementation of the standards. When I look at the standards it screams librarian to me, but that isn't so obvious to others. Actually this is why we had the idea of calling ourselves a "Common Core Secret Weapon". Librarians are not the obvious go-to person, but we should be. The standards didn't inspire our administrators to think of us. We were left out of the initial preparations.  Our district administrators started scheduling Common Core training at the end of last year. I found out about the training from emails sent to the English teachers. Was I invited? No! Did I sit back and pout about how nobody ever thinks about librarians? No! I invited myself. I asked my school principal if I could attend with our teachers and he agreed. During the training I frequently raised my hand to share how librarians could fit into the implementation of the standards. Looking for novels that fit the new criteria? We can help with that. Looking for interdisciplinary projects? We can help with that. Looking for ways to integrate nonfiction? We can help with that. You get the idea. Even more important, the administrators leading the training got the idea. After the meeting ended she asked if I thought we should have a special meeting with the librarians to talk about the new standards. Yes, please!!

The librarian meeting was scheduled with our Director of Elementary Education who organized the Common Core training. We all had an opportunity to share our concerns, ask questions, and suggest ways we could help with the new standards. During the meeting our Superintendent and Associate Superintendent came in to see how the training was going for the day. He was surprised. He thought the only training that day was for the special education teachers. He asked why we were meeting? Surely not about Common Core. In fact, yes. So we had a few minutes to tell him how we fit in. Is this a poor reflection on him? No, we all love and respect him. He is a wonderful superintendent that has done his best to protect librarians and our budgets during these tough financial times. I tell this story to show you that we are a small part of a big education system. Classroom teachers are the majority and administrators have to focus on them most of the time. And rightfully so. That means we have to work extra hard to make sure we are not forgotten and that we share our contributions and impact. If that means you crash a meeting now and then, by all means, do it!
We have come a long way since that first meeting and we are looking forward to sharing what we have done at the next TL Virtual Cafe webinar.

If you read the Edweek article you may have seen the comments from Stephen Krashen. You can see them here as well. I highly respect him and can't think of a single time when I've disagreed with his articles, comments or speeches. The same applies in this case. I agree with his concerns over too much testing and that poverty is the real enemy of education, not teachers, old standards, or teacher evaluation. In fact I've written about poverty and the library before. The way I see it we have a few choices about what we do next. We can sit back, change nothing and feel sorry for ourselves that the standards have been forced upon us. Or we can take this opportunity to highlight libraries and librarian contributions. If you agree with Krashen's comments about the standards, take action.
Here are a few ways you can get involved in education and library policy.

  1. Sign up to receive the library text alerts so you can email, tweet, call and write your legislators when library legislation is under consideration. 
  2. Get involved with education organizations that speak on your behalf. Just joining an organization sends some funds to national advocacy efforts.
  3. Does your state library organization have an advocacy or legislative committee? If so, join. I'm on both and was the legislative committee chair last year. 
  4. Does your state send a representative to Library Legislative Day? Find out. Volunteer to go if no one else is representing your state. I've been the last two years and it is a wonderful experience.
  5. Get involved in state initiatives like our SCASL Snapshot Day. Nothing like that in your state? Start one.
  6. Vote! It boggles my mind that there are teachers who chose not to vote. These are the people that determine your salary and the policies that govern you. Do you need more reasons to vote?
You are probably like me, no one asked if you wanted the Common Core standards. Like most education policies it was decided for us. Now it is up to us to make the most of it. Love them or hate them, we have to act. You can continue to voice your issues with the standards and still use them as an impetus to do good in your own school. If they create some new kind of standards in a few years, you better believe I'll be searching for ways librarians fit in and advertising it to the administrators. We have two jobs, voice opinions about education policy and do the best with what we have right now.

Hope to see you at the webinar where you can hear about what we've done and share your own ideas.

Make Your Mark: Dot Day

I have the pleasure of serving two special education classrooms at my school, one class is for profoundly mentally disabled (PMD) and one class is for trainable mentally disabled (TMD). This week we had two fun projects going on. We celebrated International Dot Day and they conducted research projects.
For Dot Day, I read the book to the students then we used the Doodle Buddy app on the iPads to create our own dot artwork. I even wore my polka dot dress for the event. We had a great time and their artwork turned out so beautiful. You can see more Dot Day ideas on the Fablevision site when you sign up to celebrate or follow the #dotday hashtag on Twitter. Also check out Matthew Winner's Dot Day Connector's Map. I love the message of making your mark in the world.

The class conducted research projects this week as well. I pulled nonfiction books that were written at an elementary reading level range with lots of pictures. The teaching assistants read the books to the students several times and used an outline to fill in information about the topic. Posters were made using the outlines and pictures of the students being read to. The teacher recorded parts of the outlines on a speaker button. The students came to the library and presented their topics. The teacher's assistants held up the poster and the students touched the buttons to play the recorded reports. I can't take much credit for this project. The PMD teacher is excellent at thinking of ways to adapt assignments to fit her students' abilities. 

The class comes to the library once a week. Sometimes we have lessons or special activities. Next week we are making Fall trees. The tree trunk is pre-drawn on the paper and the students tear construction paper to make leaves and glue them on. We will read Fall themed books to go along with the activity. Sometimes we just have storytime. Occasionally I read to them, but my student helpers usually take over and want to read to them each visit. This year we are using genre cards to make sure the students check books out from each fiction and nonfiction area. We created a list of each area and printed one for each student. My library helpers mark off each genre when checking out the books. To make sure the students have choice we printed the sticker for each area and put a few out and have the students choose which sticker they like the best. For example, the teacher will hold up the Animals, Fantasy and Science stickers and the student will point to or grab the picture they like. Then we lay books face out on a table for that area. The student can look at the covers and pick a book from the table. This system is working great so far and it is helping the students read a variety of books instead of picking from the same favorite books. 
Do you serve any special education classes? If so, what types of activities or lessons do you do together?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Faculty Book Club: Choose Kind

We had another faculty book club meeting today. We had a great time with the 12 in attendance. This time we talked about Wonder by RJ Palacio.
We listened to the songs from the book and discussed the book. I used these questions on the Wonder web page and a few from the Sharp-Schu Twitter book club meeting to prompt discussion. I printed a copy of the precepts for everyone to take home. There are so many powerful lessons in this book that discussion was lively and engaging. Some of the highlights for me were hearing thoughts from one of our special education teachers and listening to our assistant principal's opinion of how they introduced Auggie to the students and how we would handle a situation like this at our school. I wanted to show the Choose Kind Tumblr, but it is blocked at our school. I did share the link with them and hope they take a look from home.
We will be voting on our next book soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Librarians: The Common Core Secret Weapon

Last year I had the pleasure of presenting a TL Virtual Cafe session, PD With a Twist, with my long distance librarian bestie, Tiff Whitehead. I was honored when I was asked back. This year I'm thrilled to be presenting a TL Virtual Cafe session with my best buds, Kristen Hearne and Monique German. I am so lucky to work with these two ladies and I can't wait for everyone to virtually meet them. We adapted the Common Core  presentation that we presented this summer at the Upstate Technology Conference. The original presentation was to administrators. We will be sharing how librarians can become Common Core experts and how they can play a leading role in helping their school implement the new standards.
If you would like to hear more, we invite you to attend. We would love to hear your ideas too. The wiki page for the session is here.

Be there for the first TL Virtual Cafe session of the school year, Back to School Special with Tiff Whitehead, Jennifer LaGarde and Gwyneth Jones. I look forward to hearing all of the creative ideas that they will share next Monday night at 8.