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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Creative Learning Commons!

Today, someone asked about books modeling creative writing for 2nd graders.  Wow and kudos. That was one high-expectation teacher!   Some second graders can hardly write, while others need challenge, but why not plant the seed of creativity even as it emerges? 
CCSS standards do not stipulate creative writing in the 2nd grade, but focus more on: Opinion, Informative, and Narrative.  In fact, the word "creative" is only mentioned twice anywhere in the standards: Once in the introduction and once in 11th grade.   Read this CCSS ELA introduction disclaimer: 

So you see, creative writing is not a standard, but they believe it could be an ability based upon what you've taught them. The only thing wrong with that approach is if students never try, how will they ever know they can?  Do they ever make the connection between what they read and trying to replicate that creativity?  

Here are a few lesson ideas aligned with the Common Core that might be more appropriate for 3rd or 4th grade or 5th grade, but if you want to try with 2nd...go for it!  

  • First have them read closely a creative book. (Group them or individually) 
  • Identify characteristics of a "creative book"  or "creative writing" and simplify them down to elements in a checklist which students can look for:

·         Hide your message in a picture
·         Weave in a theme
·         Drama words
·         Color words
·         Words that paint a picture
·         Fancy words 
·         Feeling words
·         Describe rather than state 
*    Foreshadowing (hinting) 

  • Have them read closely to identify those  elements in a book - (There are so many robust book choices so choose ability-appropriate titles.) 
  • Choose a wordless book (examples below) and have students create words for the illustrations. 
  • Choose a great creative book, and cover the words--asking your students to create the narration for the pictures.   Then compare their writing with the original text so they can see (read) the difference and learn from the model.  

I say... if you have time in your library, why not try this? If you are observed, perhaps they will see your students closely reading for details in the text.  The students should be able to share their "text-based answers."  The students will be speaking with "evidence from the text."  Students could be using synonyms and vocabulary tools to add valuable vocabulary to their creations...Go for it!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Research: Are you anchored?

As a kid I grew up near the water where we knew the value of an anchor.  No one in their right mind would ignore the condition of their anchor line.  If you were out for a sail on a sunny summer day or out fishing on an incoming tide, you needed to know you could drop your anchor and that it would hold.  That's what an anchor does: It keeps you rock solidly placed where you need to be…for a reason.

The ELA Writing Anchor standard, Research to build and present knowledge, is  there for a reason. However, teachers all over are ignoring this. They haven't checked on their anchor.  They haven't thrown it overboard in a port of call where kids could engage in this activity, and many haven't learned what real research is.

A sailor should never be afraid of an anchor.  An anchor is a friend.  It's a tool.  It's an essential piece of equipment.    Tell your teachers you'd gladly "cover" this ELA Writing standard for them.  Invite them to your port of call to participate in an investigative, research and writing project.  Model how this tool can be used to experience depth of knowledge and deep understanding.

Celebrate the ELA Anchor standards which will help keep students grounded in a sea of misinformation.

There are many reasons why students should be dropping anchor in your library.  Here are a few from the Common Core: 

Remember. It's all about the kids.  Let's teach them to anchor their views with credence.  Anchor them in data, information, evidence, credibility, reliability, and safe ports of call.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Connecting to the Classroom: How and Why

For next Tuesday's AASL webinar on Repackaging Research, I have created the schematic below.  Basically, if you are aiming to increase your collaboration, you'll want to bait your hook.  Know the reasons teachers should be opening your doors.  You should need a revolving door...or devices connected to your virtual librarydoor.  

These are information, or "evidence," reasons for which classrooms should be visiting your library if you are operating within Common Core Standards.  If you are not living in  a CCSS state, that doesn't preclude this reasoning.  Tune in on Tuesday the 20th at 7:00 EST if you'd like to get ideas for improving your research program.  

Paige Jaeger:  Think Tank Library, Libraries Unlimited, Dec 2014

Repackaging Research - Recipe for the Common Core

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
7:00 p.m. Eastern / 6:00 p.m. Central / 5:00 p.m. Mountain / 4:00 p.m. Pacific

As a follow-up to the AASL archived webinar, "Brains Change @ Your Library, this webinar will address how to ensure your research "projects" are challenging today's hyperconnected. Research—done correctly—will hit almost every one of AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the "anchor standards" in the CCSS. This webinar will cover:
  • Moving beyond "information Hide 'n Seek" 
  • Why research is the next big thing
  • Reaching the hyperconnected
  • Reaching teachers and administrators
  • Technology integration 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Googling is NOT College and Career Readiness

This morning I received a desperate plea from a super-librarian who has seen her program go down-the-tubes with the arrival of one-on-one devices incorrectly implemented in silo-classrooms.   What a shame.  As a district adopts a new "writing program" with built-in research tasks,  old tasks get dropped in order to accommodate new instructional models that have been crafted to increase someone's bottom line. 

Ironically,  this school with a flexible schedule to allow for innovative learning endeavors, is reverting to a model of one-size-fits-all learning tasks demoralizing a cutting edge model of flexible scheduling to accommodate curriculum needs. 

If this sounds like your scenario, please wrap your head around a few poignant truths for advocacy.   These three teacher-assessment questions below are a great starting ground to discuss at faculty meetings, principal appointments or in the lunchroom.   Simple truths such as these may help to open research collaboration doors.   These are merely three of many possibilities, but are effective one-liners to help secure and maintain your foothold in research--in spite of new writing programs, learning modules, or other packaged products that arrive in your building! 

Inherent in transforming information is synthesis and a conclusion….  Transfer requires only reporting of data without deep understanding.  Most commercially-sold writing programs do not understand this.   If assignments don’t include an element of transforming information, they are low level thought and do NOT meet our state’s model of investigation nor the objectives of the Common Core.    

·   We are living in an Age of Misinformation – not the information age. – Students need to learn how to access information as well as synthesize it to draw conclusions.  This is college and career readiness.  Not, finding information on Google or mere vetted websites and jotting those notes into a pro-forma document or virtual index cards.  

·    We are also living in a data-driven world and so this data below should speak.

·   The PARCC tests will be 30% based upon correct “research” – If your students are not learning how to research,  they will NOT score well on the PARCC tests.    See this link:    
Or, read this language from the PARCC site.   (Incidentally, the Smarter-Balance tests are also based about 25% on a research task.)  I loathe the invasive testing paradigm, but if it will help you advocate for necessary instructional time, then play that card! 

Research project: The Model Content Frameworks give special prominence to research tasks, reflecting the deep connection research has to building and integrating knowledge while developing expertise on various topics. When possible, research should connect to texts selected for close readings, requiring students to closely read and compare and synthesize ideas across multiple texts. One avenue within the Model Content Frameworks is to ask students to extend their analytical writing on a text or texts by gathering additional information as part of a research project. Through a progression of research tasks, students are called on to present their findings in a variety of modes in informal and formal contexts appropriate to the grade level (e.g., through oral presentations, argumentative or explanatory compositions, or multimedia products).   
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So, do your best to advocate for your instructional foothold.  A purchased curriculum package should not displace a person who is capable, equipped, and connected!  

At the New England Library Association conference where I help pre-conference PD a few weeks ago, I met many great librarians who also bemoaned this scenario.  We jokingly said we'd come up with a 12-Step program for recovery.  Well, we've done better than that!   We've boiled it down to 5 simple steps, because we know that brain research says the brain can't remember more than 4 at a time! 
  1. Administer the Google litmus test 
  2. Insert Essential Question at the beginning which will foster synthesis of those facts and conclusions 
  3. Require credible library resources to be used 
  4. Embed technology for engagement - somewhere 
  5. Insure that students have an opportunity to "present" their knowledge 
Now we really know that there is more to it than that, but these simple 5 will not scare them away from "Repackaging Research" 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Got AIR?

When Nike launched their "Air" brand, the word became synonymous with 'height'   and achievement --thanks to Michael Jordan.  That had nothing to do with a reading program, but perhaps we can leverage the positive association in our Acountable Independent Reading (AIR) programs.   Another acronym has been added to our educational alphabet soup.  Our state has just recommended the use of an AIR, to help close the achievement gap. 

All over the web and on great Pinterest Boards you can find reading incentive programs intended to inspire kids to read.  (Such as this one:  Click here.)  However, the growing trend, or focus, is on reading incentive programs which include: student self-assessment; student self-selection; student self-motivation;  and independent accountability.  Students however, need a framework.  They need a skeleton.  They need a plan.  They need direction, perhaps.  They need a reason.  They need a goal and more.  We librarians know that all too well.    

As a vital link to closing the achievement gap, reading has always been front in center in the elementary years.  However, all the mandates of assessment dare we say, have pushed this vital skill off its pedestal and into the background.   Programs such as RIF or 1000 books club are still as vital as they were years ago.  If you are at the elementary level, insure that your district has implemented a connection to the community if possible.  Locally, our Barnes and Noble does a book drive every holiday season towards our local 1000 book clubs.  Last year our elementary libraries received over 3000 books for their clubs, courtesy of generous B & N customers.   Contact your local bookstore to inquire whether they would do this. 
Thanks to Saratoga B & N for their donations! 

Pictured below are students in a local rural district holding their new "Passports to Reading"  which we recently aligned with the shifts of the CCSS to increase reading of nonfiction, spotlight vocabulary, and find meaning.   Feel free to download and print this document if you are looking for a program for summer reading or for next year.   We printed over 5000 copies of these passports for our local elementary library programs.  Kids bring them to the library weekly.    Our 'passports' were tweaked from the Macy's sponsored reading program from NYC.  Attribution is given on the back cover of our modified version.   You may find the link to this PDF, for downloading  here:  Click. 

(Photo had all parents approval for posting...) 

We realize there are "electronic versions" of rating and accountability such as GoodReads, Opals and Follett "star rating" features, etc., but there is something kids find special and novel about holding this paper booklet.  It also requires no connection at home.  

So put on your thinking caps and plan a program for this summer or for next school year!  Use this to increase your visibility.   Brainstorm any great reading incentive program for your area.  Feel free to share links or ideas below!  Here's one I found yesterday:  "Iditeread"!   Click Here.