Friday, October 3, 2014

News Flash for Teacher-Librarians!

This morning at WLMA Conference, I had to "skip" my last three slides to wrap up in the hour.  However, the message is too poignant not to share!  Here goes:

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation from a NYS "Regent Fellow" (i.e. a big dog at the State Education Department) - whom I respect.   He forwarded me an invitation to attend (with them) an upcoming conference in Seattle being held by the Common Core parent organization, Student Achievement Partners (SAP).  

The interesting note was that SAP were REQUIRING  state teams to bring at least 1 librarian with them.  Listen to the language below:

SAP are venturing down the next road of CCSS implementation, and they have devised a new concept of providing "close reading sets" they are calling the "Text Set Project" to meet national standards within Social Studies and Science.  Vendors have jumped all over this movement, as they anticipate a new way to increase their bottom line.  

This "text set" concept I believe was born from Marc Aronson's presentations around the country where he has paired, or grouped together, sets of engaging-appropriately-Lexiled-high-quality books-on a certain curriculum topic...that could be used within a classroom to meet reading requirements of the standards.  A great idea.  

We can do this.  We do, do this.  This should be easy.  Go for it! Stake your territory.  Insure that you are creating "text sets" for your district, and indicate that they do not necessarily HAVE to spend money for what you may already be able to create with existing resources.    

This should be a creative, connection to the classroom -- We can be ahead of the curve!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Looking for a Lesson Plan on Censorship?

I received an email from my Assistant Superintendent  a couple of years ago, asking me how to teach "censorship" at the HS level.  What an invitation.   I immediately said, "it has to be hand's on and real world."   What I brainstormed in a couple of minutes ended up being a huge success as a collaborative librarian-ELA-SS teachers short project.   Here's the outline and you can use this to inspire a couple of real-life scenarios for your school: (A variation of this could easily be done at lower levels also.) 

  • Content:  Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment, Censorship (history), Banned Books, Close reading of content. 
  • Essential questions:  Does the government have the right to tell you what's appropriate? 
  • Texts:  Picture books notoriously "banned."  See images below - and gather your list from sites such as this eplBibliocommons There are many picture books that held "hidden agendas" for which they were banned.  The Lorax was accused of that as well as Green Eggs and Ham.  
  • Prepare a graphic organizer to guide the students in their evaluation 
  • Hold a discussion and debate to active thinking and guide students to understanding.  Here are some guiding questions:
    • What did you find offensive? 
    • What historical reasons are people objecting to this book? 
    • How does the Bill of Rights protect or impede this in our society?  
    • Does the Government hold laws of influence? 
  • A short-term research endeavor is a good follow-up to answer additional questions students will have.   The discuss and debate should follow this and demonstrate a more robust understanding of the topic.  Research questions can be brainstormed by the kids and hopefully will include thoughts such as:  
    • Where in the world does censorship exist today?  
    • Would our Bill of Rights fit within their society? 
    • Has Censorship been historically successful? 
This lesson is a snap-shot of a very Common Core aligned lesson where the students are engaged - discussing, closely reading (the SS teacher should be able to find a primary source on censorship he can use within his class also), and endeavoring in "short-term" research assignments to answer questions.  That's an example of how we can incubate the CCSS Anchor standard:  Research to build and present knowledge.  Kids need a reason to research--questions to answer. 

In a one-to-one device classroom, research is easily supported and should include your Point of View databases.  The Common Core would want the students to create an EBC (evidence-based claim) to support their view on Censorship.   Vocabulary of the discipline should be required in all knowledge products.  Students could create PSA's cautioning about : Censorship;  Cautioning about violations of censorship world-wide; caution to travelers headed to foreign lands, or any other "claim" they can support with evidence from their research.  

We all have a moral compass and the intelligence to choose with what we fill our brains,  but should be thankful that the government hasn't defined that for us! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Standards Tsunami?

As the standards-change tsunami sweeps the nation, we now see the National Council of Social Studies teachers post new standards.  Yes.  So, lest you think that new standards in ELA, Math, Science weren't enough, we also have changes in Social Studies Standards that are intended to rock the history world.  Awaken to viewing SS through the lenses of: Chronology, Economics, Geography, Civics and more.   

Author  of the C3 Standards, S.G. Grant spoke today at our SCDN meeting in Albany and shared, "Social Studies has too long been about facts and dates.  It's now time to think." 

New C3 Social Studies Standards are operating under an "Arc of Inquiry" and want teachers to frame their lessons around questions which engage the learner.  The official site puts it this way: 
      "The Four Dimensions highlighted below center on the use of questions to spark     
        curiosity, guide instructiondeepen investigations, acquire rigorous content, and 
        apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings to become active and engaged 
        citizens in the 21st century." 

The four new SS dimensions shout…"'Want to come to the library for an Inquiry Investigation?


Sounds a bit like the Common Core to me….
[Read more at:}

Be sure to investigate your own state's SS Standards to see whether they were recently updated to embrace national C3 new standards. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MASHABLE Synthesis!

This weekend I was in the was in the car with my "hotspot," my husband driving along Interstate 87, when a virtual friend posted a  "" collage  on Facebook.   I commented,  "Wow.  You could use that for Revolutionary War characters and then upload it to ThingLink and add comments." Someone replied, "How would you do that?"  Here's the answer and I challenge any reader to add a "thing link" dot to a character and comment--just as though you were on my collaborative team of 5th graders!

We could do this in education for many uses such as Biographies, Presidents, or Imperialists.  Let's use this American Revolution idea to model.

  • Below is a photo collage created at  This is free and only requiring an account based upon email.  (Yay!)  
  • The photo collage can be downloaded to your desktop, shared on a webpage, Smore, or as here on a blog.  
  • The photo can be then uploaded at -- named -- shared -- and tagged with comments as modeled below.  The comments represent the "thinking" or synthesis required of research that has been previously done.  
  • The only information literacy issue is that when searches the Internet for photos, it does not give you the URL for attribution.  Therefore, this has to be back-filled when you add a Thinglink.  Luckily, when using "old" images and documents, most are within public domain. 

This sample below is what I'm calling "mashable synthesis."  That is, I've used more than one web tool, and the knowledge product intention requires more than fact-fetching.  I am asking students to synthesize facts they have found and draw conclusions.  The essential question for this below would be something such as:  If you were building Wall of Fame for the American Revolution, who would be on it and why?  Tell me in the first person voice of the hero.

It is interesting to note that the new National C3 SS standards really require the students thinking to investigate way beyond merely characters and their roles in the American Revolution and want students to get to deep understanding of conflict and change.   As noted below, they are asking early as 5th grade, for kids to consider the impact of the Revolution upon culture, economics, governance, and the other "lenses" of Social Studies.    

Your state may not have "adopted" these standards verbatim, so it's best to check your local STATE standards, rather than these national ones.  NYS, for example, reformed their SS "Frameworks" aligning generally with national recommendations but not verbatim.

(A piece of) Washington State Fifth Grade SS Standards, for example, looks like this: 

Although our example was cool, it was not rigorous.  It may have required that students synthesize the facts-found, but it did not necessarily meet the new SS standards in Washington, for example. To tweak the this for alignment, we could ask students essential questions such as these below:   

  • How did the culture, governance, economic conditions, compel you to join the  Revolutionary War? 
  • Why did you want to be free? Why did you fight in the American War? 
  • What were the causes of the Revolution from your first-hand perspective?
  • How does the Declaration of Independence reflect the cultural, economic, and governance issues of the time?  
For all these questions, students could still write in the first person voice of the hero, colonist, or activist. This also helps meet CCSS ELA standards and the shift of integrating literacy across the disciplines.  

I trust you get the moral of the story -- When choosing technology for "knowledge products"  insure that what you are planning to do, is aligned with the standards.  We are after all, teaching to the standards…not just having a good idea that is "close".   


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

9 Ways to Increase Visibility...and Indispensibility!

  1. Send an email showing teachers how to navigate to your ONLINE RESOURCES. Send a simple snippet - A picture is worth 1000 words.  You may think this is too "basic"  but believe me...there's probably someone who needs to know.  Notice how we're right up there with "poison control"?! 
  2. Share your ESL resources with ESL teachers and foreign language teachers:  Spanish Encyclopedias, BrainpopESL, translation tools within our database systems. - Remember... we (WSWHE SLS) purchases  for the ESL students at our level.  This is available to you. 
  3. Share your digital eBooks - Example: Scan the new Social Studies Frameworks to lessons that could be connected to our ROSEN publisher  SPOTLIGHT ON NEW YORK BOOKS.    Share a sample lesson plan idea from the teachers guide.   Check these out at our link: 
  4. Reach out to the PTA and offer to host a "Cool Tools for Home" show.  Strengthen your connection with parents, so that when you need their'll have it. Share your links to Overdrive and other online ebook, audiobooks, and resources for kids!  Don't assume people know about this.  
  5. Offer to take classes and teach "research" for substitute plans that are "scheduled" -(I used to do this and would know..."Oh yes.  Nanette will be out next Friday 'sick'."  I didn't care, however, because I knew her kids were learning vital skills.)   
  6. Offer to provide a "Book Mobile"  in the classroom.   Hotpicks for pleasure reading, or a subject-specific print cart.  Ask your PTA if they will purchase additional carts for classroom mobile libraries, if they have deep pockets.  Be innovative with your bookmobile ideas.  See Sue Kowalski's postings of her mobile library as their school re-builds! 
  7. Reach out to new teachers and offer to "help them meet their CCSS "Research Anchor Standard"  - Offer to increase the "rigor" in their research.  Kids need to "transform, not just transfer" information.  We need to build knowledge, not present mere facts.  
  8. Brainstorm an AIR program in your library.  For more information on "Accountable Independent Reading, see this blog posting - Got Air? 
  9. Prepare Screencast instructions on a tool such as   Don't assume that teachers will know how to use your database tools.  Make it easy to meet their needs, even if they are in their classroom with their 1-to-1 devices.  Regain the foothold lost to devices, by creating easy links and easy instructions.  Try to keep instructions to as few steps as possible such as: 

    • Choose a database 
    • Keywords
    • Search 
      • Cherry pick (choose from the hitlist)
      • Closely Read 
      • Comment -Notes
      • Comprehend 
      • Communicate  
    And for number 10?... You share your's! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Using Seed Texts to Spawn Research - Elementary Examples

For those of you who attended the NYLA - Section of School Librarians Leadership Conference, there was a discussion on elementary examples of "Seed Texts."   ( When I delivered PD, we modeled one HS example and the binder included another HS Biology example as well as a middle school ELA - SS example).  

Here are a few examples of later elementary articles that could be used as "seed texts" for discussion and debate, evidence based discussions, and to spawn Inquiry Investigations: 

Elementary articles for use as “seed texts."  Each of these articles could be used as good examples of intriguing, captivating, close reading examples that get kids to think.  

These seed texts were found in EBSCO's Kids Search, but you can look into any database for similar texts.  These are hyperlinked for access, if you subscribe. 

·        N.J. outlaws ivory trafficking

By: Hanna, Maddie. Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA). 08/07/2014.

By: Gibbons, Brendan. Times-Tribune, The (Scranton, PA). 08/03/2014.

Al Jazeera (Qatar). 06/14/2014.

20,000 African Elephants Killed for Ivory in 2013

Arabia 2000. 06/13/2014.

 Dangerous Pets:  Should they be outlawed?  Are our laws sufficient? 

PBC looks at new rules for dangerous pets, not just pit bulls

By: Sorentrue, Jennifer. Palm Beach Post, The (FL). 07/01/2014.

Weird, wonderful, and deadly animals.

Mail on Sunday. 11/24/2013, p7. 1p.

Exotic-pet store owners fight bylaw

By: Kate Allen Toronto Star. Toronto Star (Canada). 03/10/2012.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 New Bulletin Board Ideas!

Here are a few more bulletin board ideas for the start of school! Send me a photo if you've used any of the ideas on this blog and I'll be glad to post them! 

  1. Wall of Shame - A Character Building Adventure
    Give your students a lesson on finding news articles and have them contribute to a wall of shame.  Keywords can be "crime, arrest, teens, plagiarism, cheating, etc"  Spot-check a few of the keywords to insure that the scandelous articles which are returned are not X-rated.  Here's an article to jump-start the conversation:  (What was he thinking?!) ---- 
    Believe it or not, some kids don't believe they'll get "caught."  And, some students dont' believe something is wrong unless they are caught. ----You can even post a Bill of Rights and ask the students to synthesize whether any of these articles relate to the Bill of Rights.
  2. Wall of Fame - This needs to be placed Juxtapose to the Wall of Shame to spotlight the two ends of the spectrum.   An essential question such as, "Which wall do you want to end up on?"  will bring the message home.
  3. Rich Words to Impress Your Friends - Have students contribute vocabulary words from books that they have read.  Don't leave all the work for yourself.  When you ask for student contributions, they "own" the space and it validates their learning process.
  4. Read Around the World - Place a world map up on the bulletin board and ask students to "Pin" where the setting of their book is.  Tell them that you'd like to get "around the world in 80 days" or some goal such as that.
  5. What'z Happenin? - Place a world map up and ask students to post headlines from around the world.  Once again, this builds a 21st Century frame of reference and places perspective on their community. Once again the Bill of Rights may prove to be a good "conversation piece" in discussing world news.  Would this be happening in the USA?     
Incase you missed the previous postings, here are the links:
The movement for bulletin boards is to embrace "interactivity." Don't just post something that is "readable," but rather design a display that requires participation. Pick a theme and see whether your students can participate. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Are Your Kids Sluething or Snoozing?

For those out there in libraryland on a fixed schedule, you may be looking for "fresh" ideas to increase rigor and higher-level thought in your scheduled library time.  Despite the fact that you may be contractual "classroom coverage," you can seize every opportunity to prove you are a vital member of the instructional team-- while still valuing literature, reading, and having fun.  

Here are two examples of morphing the old paradigm of "library time" into innovative instruction in the library.  These two simple examples model adding rigor to transform an old passive "storytime" into a time for close reading, examination of the text, and discovery of meaning.  

If you really want to shock your building principal, consider asking him for the "item analysis" from annual testing, by grade level.  Tell him that you'd like to contribute to the weak areas and target a few instructional periods to address items such as inference, decoding vocabulary words, main idea and supporting details, and more.  After suggesting this once locally, I had a new librarian share that her principal looked at her in shock and said, "I've never had a librarian ask me that before."  (Instant SCORE!)

Another way to foster the "instructional partner" paradigm is to eliminate the "book exchange" from your scheduled library time.  When I was an elementary librarian (back in the Neolithic Age), all books were "returned" to the library in the mornings.  That way we reduced our library book exchange time by 5 minutes per class.  That may not sound like a great deal of time, but every 5 minutes counts. I've heard of schools where kids who want to check out a book, have to come during lunch, recess, before or after school, or with a library pass.  Every situation is different, so only you will know what works for you.  

The research says that the "more kids read the better they read.  The better they read, the more they'll comprehend.  The more they comprehend, the higher the achievement."*  Get those kids reading.  Increase your circulation.  Enlist the help of honor society students needing volunteer time.  Let them shelve your books! Increasing your instructional value is the best way to advocate for your position! 

*(Self-quote from "The Importance of Increasing the Volume of Reading" written for Expeditionary Learning, NYSED . 'Based on the research of Marilyn Jager Adams) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

3 Simple Summer Goals?

     Next to December, June is about the busiest month of the year-- only no one is singing carols or baking goodies.  We're all bemoaning grading, taking inventory, and shouting things like, "Who cares if the book is out of order! Would someone kill that beeper?!"  
     We spend time hunting down book thieves and rummaging in lockers for MIA titles. We wish for one of those little "Do not disturb" signs from the Hilton and long for a chamber maid to arrive to tackle housekeeping. If we're lucky, someone has stopped to wish us a nice vacation and remind us why we enjoy working with these packages of adolescent hormones.   (Disclaimer:  I was a middle school librarian for about 10 years...)
     By the time we get poolside drinking [soda] with little umbrellas, we have 10% more gray hairs and a few less brain cells.  We've baked the cookies and eaten dozens claiming we deserved them and we desperately hope to rouse up a little patience for our own kids.   

Fast forward three weeks: 
  • Yes.  I did agree to the PLC and where is that book? 
  • Yes.  I did take home ten books to read so that I can recommend good books. 
  • Yes.  I did agree to look at Piktochart and learn how to create infographics. 
  • Yes.  Perhaps I can find time to read
To keep yourself professionally equipped in our tsunami of change, we can't afford to ignore our profession during this extended time of respite. Just as the kids experience the "summer slide," professionals often take on a Rip-VanWinkle persona and wish that everyone will just leave us alone.  Educational changes are make us feel like we're in a NASCAR race and to keep current, we need a little inspiration.  

Three goals seem manageable.  Three goals are easy to meet.  Three is a friendly do-able number.  Take time for yourself and family, but also take time to equip yourself for change.  Partner with a colleague, listserv, or PLC for accountability.  Here are 3 simple goals to embrace: 
If you don't know where to start, here are a few ideas:
  • Review the narrative nonfiction winners and pick a few
  • Review the Newbery and Printz award winners and pick a few
  • For professional reading... you can "do" twitter, but Twitter is often a surge of surface reading.  It's great-don't get me wrong.  I tweet.  I read tweets, and I follow links for ideas.  But that's like being fed with breadcrumbs.  Occasionally, you really need a meal.  There are great professional books which will help you equip yourself for our changing educational world.  Here are a few that I recommend in order to equip yourself with the tools for Inquiry, Common Core, and the latest buzzword for libraries...Makerspaces. Choose one and enjoy it with a friend, poolside, sipping soda and making plans. 
Essential Questions - because it is a vital skill to understand.  It enables us to move away from rote 'n recall.
Rx for the Common Core - because I wrote it and know it's easy to read, packaged for easy understanding and will equip an educator with a plethora of skills for the CCSS, Inquiry Based Learning, questioning, and higher level thought.
Teaching for Inquiry - because everything that these authors write is good.  It will equip you with a strong foundation in Inquiry Based Learning.
School Library Makerspaces - because this is the latest buzzword and we should understand order to weave this into our learning common space. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reading: The Past, Present & Future

Last week at a state meeting of curriculum gurus, I presented on eBooks.  To us, eBooks are old news, but these people are sitting with so much on their plate that and it is one more item they have had no time to figure out.  We look at this through library eyes.  They look at this through "textbook" eyes.  They know there has to be a textbook solution, but don't know what it is.  We've been waiting in the wings, wishing they'd ask us because when we cry from the rooftops and send emails, their ears are filled with other problems. The tipping point is here. People are ready to listen.
I chose to frame the ebook conversation speaking of: the past, present and future.  

Most of use have seen this video of medieval monks figuring out the "book." Very funny as we can all relate to something new which we can't wrap our head around.  Many teachers fall in this camp and need to be reminded that technology does not move backwards.   

If they complain about eBooks, show them this link at and they should be duly scared.  (Be sure to click in the window to see reading at 250+ WPM) 

See your librarian for present choices. Why? 
  • Kids are connected 
  • Devices are prolific and multiplying like bunny rabbits in Spring. 
  • Titles are engaging 
  • You don't have to carry a heavy load on your back 
  • It justifies those "testing devices" to be used for something other than "assessment" 
  • We need to keep current 
  • You can search by keyword and don't have to find the page -- it comes to you! 
  • You can read at night without a light on...your devices light it up  
The moral of the story for administrators was that we already have eBooks. They need to find out what is currently available.  

If your district is contemplating eBooks for eTextbooks, likely they are talking to the same textbook vendors without considering these innovative options: 
Overdrive for Fiction  

These provide a look into textbook alternatives.  These are options to consider. We are not talking flat PDF's or home-grown uploaded papers.  We're talking interactivity and more.  Wrap your read around eBooks and eTextbooks today.  Be ready with the answers.  Provide solutions.  Be part of the change.