Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Latest Author Interview now available

Our third graders were most fortunate to spend some time with author Roni Schotter.  She has written many wonderful books, filled with beautiful, figurative language.  After her presentation, student representatives from each class interviewed Ms. Schotter, asking her questions brainstormed with their classmates.  Click here to listen to the interview on the Mohansic Library podcast page, and here to view the slideshow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Reflections on a conference

I spent only one day at the NYLA/SLMS Spring Conference, yet came away with so much. The keynote speaker was Dr. Ross Todd, an inspiration to the school librarian's changing world. He reminds us that the largest effect on the education of our children is quality teaching. Alongside excellent resources, excellent teachers foster learning. Todd asks us to step back from the image of the library as the "hub" of the school, the resource-centric view. Instead, our school libraries should be centers of teaching with a vision based upon inquiry and imagination. The emphasis is to inspire students toward deep knowledge creation, rather than emphasizing resource location skills. He advises us not to teach process in a vacuum. Knowledge outcome is far more critical. This is so much what our national Learning Standards are all about. "We need to teach kids to work with ideas." He points us to a Canadian study, "What Did You Do in School Today?: Transforming classrooms through social, academic and intellectual engagement. Much food for thought...I look forward to reviewing his slides when he posts them on the conference wiki.

A session on the NYSED SLMPE Rubric was illuminating. Our State Education Dept is asking us to become familiar with this document and share it with our administrators (rather than the other way round...!) A high school librarian and an administrator from her district shared their experience, and this was extremely valuable.

But wait...there's more! I was honored to receive at the luncheon a scholarship to the wonderful Summer Leadership Retreat in Ithaca this August. I have attended the past two years and highly recommend it to school librarians in NY State. James Preller addressed our group at lunch with an engaging account of his journey as an author.

And...let's face it, sitting near Laurie Halse Anderson, our school library hero, in a session on Boys and Books was a thrill! All in all, a highly rewarding day...

Wordles for Character Analysis

Here is a wonderful use for wordle, mentioned in an earlier post. (Don't miss this info on how to make wordle safe for classroom use.) Second graders studied author Tomie dePaola, and created a character analysis for Big Anthony.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Group work

I am reading Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry circles in action, by Stephanie Harvey & Harvey Daniels. In reflecting on this book as part of a ning group discussion, and from threads of inquiry from last summer, I have been attempting to implement more student collaborative work into instruction. I am working with two second grade teachers on an author study. Students are evaluating character traits for a character of their selection from one of many books they have read by the author, Tomie DePaola. (Don't miss his video interviews on Reading Rockets.) We are able to climb Bloom's Taxonomy a bit as students evaluate the relative importance of the different traits they uncovered for their character. We'll develop wordles based on their evaluations.

It's fascinating to facilitate group work among students, especially 7 year-olds. My reading of the Harvey & Daniels book has made me acutely aware of the importance of this work, yet as a nation of educators, we do not do enough to prepare students for the essential skill and experience of productively working together.

As part of a reflection piece mid-project, we read Lousy, Rotten, Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini. It's a fabulous, fun read aloud, and a perfect springboard for discussing group behavior. The kids had so much to say about both positive and negative group experiences. They came up with amazing options for dealing with challenging behavior on the part of team members. It's my hope that this type of discussion recurs frequently in their elementary education.

Thanks to my friend Sarah for nudging me to wake up my blog from a long snooze. Here's a shout out to Christine, one of Sarah's students: Thanks for tagging me!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Handwriting in this day and age

I recently read Script & Scribble: the Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey.

Handwriting is of so little concern these days. We don't worry, the computer takes care of it. In her book, Florey shares stories of people who thought quite differently, people who devoted their lives to their passion for penmanship.

This book was a nostalgic read. I thought, for the first time in years, of my grandmother's beautiful cursive writing. She used to write with such an even scale. And yes, she wrote her script 'Q's like large '2's. I found myself pondering when handwriting will become obsolete. Penmanship like my grandmother's is now so rare. Most adults write with a hybrid style. This is a wonderfully enjoyable book, written with appropriate lightheartedness for its subject, yet sharing an obvious passion for reading and writing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Karla Kuskin

I was so sad to read about the death of Karla Kuskin, the children's poet, author and illustrator. Read the obituary in the New York Times here. I find her poems to be so satisfying in their rhythm, both line by line and overall. One of my favorites is in a collection I just purchased for my library, Wonderful Words: Poems about reading, writing, speaking and listening, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. It is called "Finding a Poem", and goes like this:

Dig deep in you,

Keep everything you find.

Sketch the ever changing views,

dappled behind your eyes,

rustling in your mind.

Unlock the weather

in your heart.

Unleash a thousand whispers,

let them shout.


when you feel

the presence of a poem

wating to spring

to sting

within you,

bewitch it

into words

and sing it out.

There is no doubt that Kuskin loved (and understood) cats, frequent subjects in her work. On the cat or dog question, I place myself in the dog camp, yet I love to read these stories and poems because she shares her special insight so poignantly and with few words.

Some favorite Karla Kuskin titles in the Mohansic Library:

Any Me I Want to Be: Poems
Dogs & Dragons, Trees & Dreams: A collection of poems
Moon, Have You Met My Mother: the collected poems of Karla Kuskin
Soap Soup and Other Verses (An I Can Read book)
The Upstairs Cat
I Am Me
A Boy Had a Mother Who Bought Him a Hat
A Great Miracle Happened There: A Chanukah story
The Philiharmonic Gets Dressed
The Dallas Titans Get Ready for Bed
So, What's it Like to Be a Cat?

Here is a link to a workshop with Kuskin on Scholastic's Writing with Writers site.

Thank you, Karla, for sharing your voice with all of us. You will be missed, but fortunately, we will continue to read your poems and stories and enjoy the gifts you shared.

Friday, August 7, 2009

SLMS Leadership Conference

From August 2 -4, I was fortunate to attend the NYLA SLMS Leadership Retreat on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca with my friend and colleague Renee. Starting my third year as a library media specialist, I find this annual conference to be particularly useful. Kudos to the library media specialists who organize this event, always featuring a noted speaker from the information and education fields. I attended last year when the featured presenters were Barbara Stripling and Gail Dickinson, who helped us process the new AASL Learning Standards.
Photo: McGraw Clock Tower on flickr.com by rdesai

This year we worked with Carol Koechlin, who along with David Loertscher and Sandi Zwaan, has been a leader in instructing teachers and teacher-librarians about the inquiry process. She taught us the importance of getting our kids to learn how to learn by asking deep questions. We learned "questioning is cross-curricular." With curious, observant minds, our kids will soar. It's not a matter of some kids have it and some don't: we must teach this mindset. (A fascinating recommendation from Carol: read Mindset by Dweck. A quick read - I highly recommend it.) How do we as library media specialists do this? We need to start by building a community of learners, reinforcing observation skills, modeling effective questioning, and creating a desire to know. A strong reminder resonated with me: I need to model strong questioning more with my young students. Their natural curiosity and enthusiasm does not automatically transfer to deep thinking, though there's a natural progression there to be supported.

Toward this end, Carol supported us in extending our own questioning skills, reviewing three levels of questioning which she attributed to Manzo (1969):
  • on the line - it's clearly stated in the text
  • between the line - inferring from multiple references in the text
  • beyond the line - it's not there; students must do further study and connect to prior knowledge
Carol shared wonderful exercises to deepen our questioning. We closed the day by linking questioning to the AASL Learning Standards. The second day focused on applying questioning to learning. Carol left us with The Big Think, from her work with Loertscher & Zwaan. When students complete the unit project, there is more work to do...we need to reflect with our students on what the content and process mean to us ("so what?") and to ask ourselves "what next?", helping students to go beyond the basic questions and to continue the learning journey.

Recommended Professional List:
Beyond Bird Units! Thinking & Understanding in Informaton-Rich and Technology-Rich Environments by David V. Loertscher, Carol Koechlin, and Sandi Zwaan

Brain Matters: Translating research into classroom practice by Patricia Wolfe

Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century by Carol Kuhlthau

Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn by Jamie McKenzie

Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the learning imperative for the 21st Century by Allison Zmuda

Mindset: The new psychology of success by Carol Dweck

QTasks: How to empower students to ask questions and care about answers by Carol Koechlin