Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thanksgiving THINKING: "Got a real problem?"

EQ: Do we have an "attitude of gratitude?"   
EQ: Are we blessed, or distressed? 

EQ: How do our personal issues stack-up against issues in the news? Are these issues being addressed?

Let's face it.  We live in a world of issues, problems, disease, distress and... blessings. 
Our students, children, and family often live in either a blessed-bubble or a world of trouble. I am amazed at how often students who are from "blessed" families, embrace an attitude of oppression, while others from less fortunate situations seem optimistic despite their struggles.  

Here's an Inquiry-based lesson to challenge students to overcome struggles or over-look slight "first world problems."  My former library aide used to tell students, "You need to get a real problem." Kids would laugh and get it. Sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade. 

Activate thinking:  

  • Give each student 3 Post-it notes and ask them to write their three biggest problems--one on each note.
  • Using a bulletin board or wall, ask students to post their "problems" anonymously under the appropriate heading: "Problems" or  "Perceived Problems" 
Connect to the real world: 
  • Ask students to find articles in the newspapers of real-world issues...pictures, headlines, articles, and other items can serve as real-world connections.  
  • Post the pictures, articles, and other fodder on the board next to their "problems." 
Discuss and question: 

  • Discuss "perspective" 
  • Brainstorm questions for research 
  • Ask students to choose a "real-world issue" - Or, perhaps connect to their reading choices asking students to choose an "issue" that might be within the book.  
  • Taking the brainstormed-questions (wonder), students can look for evidence to support their thinking.
  • Students should research their "issue" to make an Evidence-based Claim (EBC) as to why this is a problem needing to be addressed, seriously. 
  • Ask students to open their "claim" with a juxtapose comment about their "issue" compared to a real one, or acknowledging that a problem they are dealing with is a real-world issue.    
Share Knowledge - and advocate: 
  • Give the opportunity for students to "create" a poster, ePoster (Smore), technology communication product, or to create a campaign, advocate, raise money, etc... for a cause of their choice. 
  • One goal of the new C3 standards is to compel students to civil action. Let's allow them to change the world. 

If you are a librarian and don't have scheduled classes, consider collaborating with an ELA teacher, or Social Studies teacher, embarking on this learning adventure before Thanksgiving.  Let's try to challenge our students to identify real-world issues or perceived -- First world problems vs. Third World problems. 

Image: Desktop snapshot from Google image search "homeless famine"  

Post an image of your "wall" below, if you do this lesson. Thanks!  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

RESEARCH (!) will help improve your SAT Score!

Along with the announcement about content changes in the  SATs, comes a bit of unrest in the ELA community.  Culture has changed. Standards have changed.  Students have changed.  Why shouldn't the SAT's be allowed to change? Just because they've always done it that way, doesn't mean they should continue. With David Coleman (ELA contributor to the Common Core) at the helm of College Board (SAT company), it would have surprised me if they hadn't changed.  Be sure to read the following article from the NY Times, if you were unaware that the face of the SAT will look different.  

So according to Tamar Lewin in this NY Times article, (note my "evidence") the test has been "redesigned with an eye toward reinforcing the skills and evidence-based thinking that students should be learning in high school, and moving away from a need for test-taking tricks and strategies. Sometimes, students will be asked not just to select the right answer but to justify it by choosing the quotation from a text that provides the best supporting evidence for their answer...."  

Students will  now "receive a source document and be asked to analyze it for its use of evidence, reasoning and persuasive or stylistic technique."

Access the whole article here: CLICK 
Or, this one: Click 
Or, read this related article:  CLICK

So in conclusion, why not share with your teachers at a faculty meeting that: 
  • Research is really an Evidence-based claim 
  • Research prepares students for taking tests that require them to think, analyze, conclude, and support their conclusions with data, quotes, evidence, information and more.  
  • Research is a CCSS anchor standard for College and Career Readiness
Therefore, RESEARCH will prepare our students for the SAT's, national testing, and equip them for rigorous work that stands juxtapose to their daily operation of... 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Got Primary Source "Sets" from LOC?

If you haven't visited the LOC site lately, check out how they have bundled Primary Sources for ease of access!  I have my favorites.  In fact, I love the idea of using this "Patriotic" set for lower grade levels and get them used to using historical artifacts from our past.  Why?

  • The new C3 standards want us to create little "Historians" 
  • These are creative and interesting --even to young second graders. 
  • This is an easy way to meet C3 standards creatively.  
The LOC have developed teaching guides which are ... in general, good guides.  If I have one beef, it's that their questions are too often "concrete" - that is they are answered with simple facts.  I would encourage you to brainstorm better questions that get to the "moral of the story."  Why are these Primary Sources important?  How can they help use meet the standards.  Here's an example: 

The C3 standards call for us to teach "patriotism" at early grades.  You could print out sets of these documents and ask the students :
EQ: What does it mean to be patriotic?  How are you patriotic? How does being patriotic glue us together?   
Your task:  Create a Patriotic Guide for Americans.   

Or, challenge your students this November: 
EQ:  Does adversity incubate gratitude? 
EQ:  How does adversity promote thankfulness? 
EQ:  How does our gratitude measure up with the colonists? 
TASK:  Prepare for an Evidence-based discussion.  


Happy thinking!  Join us at AASL for our pre conference workshop
We will be creating lessons together to get students...THINKING!  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Long Live the King...

With the recent announcement that Arne Duncan is stepping down as Secretary of Education, and Dr. John King would take his place as acting secretary, I can't help but share a file from my YouTube channel. While Dr. King is not without controversy, let me remind people that he did not bring the CCSS to NY, but rather inherited these standards when his predecessor, David Steiner, resigned just after signing on to  the "Race to the Top" (RttT) bottom line--and the necessary adoption of the Common Core Standards to compete for the pot of gold.  At that time, I heard one Superintendent remark, "the rats are the first ones to abandon ship." 

John King had to make the best of it, and when NYS won RttT money, we saw the bulk of it was placed into teacher-training programs. Most people fault King, but it is not the CCSS that wrought havoc in New York, but rather the teacher evaluation system.  What a messy, dysfunctional, and inaccurate way to evaluate teachers. (Why should we quantitatively try to measure a qualitative job?) My intention here is not to debate the CCSS or the controversial NYS teacher evaluation standard, but to share how this man, Dr. King, understands the vital role of research in education. 

All this said, I do believe John King is a library supporter. He values reading, libraries, and research.  Here's a clip that I heard him deliver at a CCSS Teacher Training Day (NTI as they were known here in NY).  After this speech, I emailed his office asking for the few minutes of video...And--a week later, this was delivered in a DropBox link.  Thank you Dr. King.  I have this on tape on the power of research for our librarian file! 


One of many Secretary of Education announcement articles which can be found online: 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Incubate Heavy-Duty Thinking!

Let's incubate some out-of-the-box thinking with this fun Bulletin Board for secondary students:   Only in America...  

Place those words front and center and all around jump-start thought with the following absurdities from our culture. Leave space for students to add their own "Only in America..." thoughts.  Challenge them by leaving a sentence starter pre-copied paper available for their out-of-the-box contribution.  Here are some seed sentences: 

  • Only in America...do drugstores make the sick walk to all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front. 
  • Only in America...do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters 
  • Only in America...do we leave expensive cars in the driveway and put junk in the garage. 
  • Only in America...do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight. 
  • ONLY in America...do we use the word "politics" to describe the process so well: "Poli" in Latin means "many" and "tics means "blood-sucking creatures." 
  • Only in America...do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.  

Not only will this get your students to laugh and view our cultural absurdities, but it will get this generation...THINKING!  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 100 Learning Tooooools?

100?  Really?   
EQ:  How can we detect when we're on technology overload?  
          How can I assess whether we're using tools for Quality or quantity? 
          Does our IT Dept enable us to use these? 

Time for true confessions. I love technology and once upon a time, I was a tech-guru. Our program implemented Microsoft Moviemaker ten years ago.  Our students created Animotos, iMovies, Audacity MP3 files and more.  I built a library portal via Dreamweaver that had its' own domain name, and our students were info lit savvy.... all back when tech was in its fledgling status. BUT -- There was a limited number of educational tech tools then. Inquiry-based learning was just beginning to take hold, and not all our tech projects were stellar works of thought.  

Now, we have to be even more careful to embed thought, as time constraints have hit us like a parasite zapping precious planning time from our schedule. Now, we have tech in abundance, and if we're not careful we can be consumed with the upkeep of our program and state-of-the-art technology. This sometimes results in cheating the quality of our assignments when we should be requiring the kids to think and not just to report

We have a prominent UK educator, Jane Hart, to thank for her survey and list of the top 100 tech tools, of which I have listed 51 below.  As we survey this list, I would encourage you not to be consumed by them, but to eat sparingly.  Treat this like a gourmet menu where you ponder: 
  • "What can my students experience this year to enhance their education--not their toolbox." 
  • How many can they eat and not be overweight?  
  • How can we exercise their mind using a few of these?  
It's fun to consume new gourmet foods, but we have to insure that we get our exercise to work off the calories.  All that said, here's the top 51!  

2015 Top Tools - As per Jane Hart - Click here

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Half-dozen Bulletin Board Ideas!

Good bye to the old paradigm of bulletin board being a "content delivery" system. By adding an interactive element, expecting students to contribute to the postings, you are transferring ownership to the students.  They begin to see the space as a place for contribute.  Here we are again starting another school year, with interactive bulletin board ideas for you!

Carpe Diem! - Seize the opportunity to give your students a voice on a bulletin board.

1. CAUTION!  At your local hardware store purchase a roll of yellow CAUTION tape and use it to surround your bulletin board as trim. Provide a center yellow paper template stating "CAUTION! These books will keep you awake at night!"  Ask students to contribute book covers for captivating page-turners.  I remember one at-risk student sharing that when he read the book, DUNK, (David Lubar) "It was so good and hilarious that I'd rather read than watch TV."  I hadn't read DUNK at the time, but took mental note that it must be a winner!  

2. Global Connections: Flat-world? Place hints on the board, and ask the students to figure out where this place is. The questions should or could, come from the news and cause the students to: identify keywords for correct searching skills, or increase their global exposure. A world map from National Geographic would provide a good background.

  • Bujumbura is the capital of this impoverished nation. How can they crawl out from poverty?
  • This nation is below sea level.... 
  • Tell me about the city of Chittagong. How could we help them? 
  • Timbuktu is a real city located at what longitude and latitude
  • Where do the Hutu's live? 
  • This country's currency is a Baht. How many would you need to purchase a $10.00 (US Dollar) toy? 
  • Etc. - Or, ask the students to create questions for others!
3. WONDER WALL  - What are you wondering about?  Allow students to post their random questions and then teach them to find answers.  When the bulletin board gets full, you can teach a lesson on "investigating" or finding answers, keyword searching and more. 

4. Life's a Puzzle -- Using a colorful puzzle, ask the kids to complete the puzzle on the bulletin board, by gluing pieces in place when they find one to fit.  Every week include a puzzle-riddle near the board that they can contemplate as they look for pieces to fit. 

5. WANTED a Few Good Readers!  Have students  suggest titles and create Wanted Posters with book covers. Hang them on the bulletin board. Wanted a reader who [fill in the blank]!  Ex.  Wanted: A reader who likes to read murder mysteries and who wants to figure out who killed the mother!" "Wanted: Readers to learn about paranormal probabilities!"  "Wanted - someone to help me find another book this good!

6: Notable Quotable! Cut out some speech bubbles from copied black line masters such as those pictured below. Ask the students to find a great quote within their books.  For instance, I just finished reading, The Silent Boy, (pre-publication to be released Oct 2015...a page-turner-murder-mystery). While I'm reading, I always stop and note a good quote or two that I stumble upon.  In The Silent Boy, the main character comments, "Facts are solid things. You can trust them, unlike people."  These quotes can arose curiosity in readers and be a platform for discussion and discovery. 
In case you've missed previous ideas!...  

Good luck and feel free to post some pictures, of your creation! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back-To-School Essential!

Here's an older posting, but it's a good reminder to purchase a lazer pointer for Back-to-School Essentials.  This librarian made quite the impression on her principal who thought she was rather resourceful.  If you are "Aide-less" and need another appendage, consider this: 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kwame’s Pulchritudinous Book

Three chapters of Crossover had convinced me that Kwame was a genius... a genius-wordsmith.  Look at this list of SAT words, or valuable vocabulary, embedded into the text of the first few pages:

There you go: Pulchritudinous.  So, even if we knew the others on the list, we probably haven’t used pulchritudinous in the last few days.  It was easy to decode from the context clues—simple in fact, and even defined on the following page.  Kudos to this hip-author writing basketball books, in captivating almost-rap-style modeling the value of articulation. 

It wasn’t vocabulary, which won him the Newbery award, however.  It was the weaving of words, to spin a yarn, which the reader could relate to. Who hasn’t been jealous of their sibling?  Who hasn’t lost a hero? Who hasn’t been proud of ability or upset by loss?  So, I take off my hat to a man who writes with distinction, articulates the difficulties of coming of age and overcoming adversity. He models hope to teens, encouraging them to triumph over life’s difficulties.

Hat's off to Kwame as he accepts his Newbery award this Sunday at the Gala in San Francisco for this pulchritudinous tale. (Yes. I know. I know. I've used this word out-of-context.)

Instructional EQ’s:
How does vocabulary reflect a command of the English language? 
How does literature reflect real life issues?

Pictures below of Susan Polos, librarians, Bedford Central Schools, NY with her visit from Kwame.  See this great article (click here) spotlighting getting "Fired UP for Reading" with Kwame pictured on the front, and featured story beginning on page 17. These two local programs highlighted in this article, spotlights the value of a strong reading program.  
Kwame Alexander and the Newbery Banquet held in Bedford Hills Elementary School 

Kwame Alexander, students, and Susan Polos, President-elect NYS Section of School Librarians

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blackholes, Beauty, Adjectives & Discovery

This TED talk was thoroughly beautiful, amazing, spectacular, unbelievable, puzzling, and more!  When I viewed this my mind immediately thought of educational uses. Fact:The person doing the thinking, is doing the learning. Fact:The brain is lazy, and needs to be inspired to work. Fact:Students need a reason to read or research. Fact:There are soooooo many opportunities to inspire curiousity, that teachers have no excuse for putting kids to sleep. Let's wake up the class and get them: THINKING, READING, AND RESEARCHING. Who knows? Perhaps someday they'll be studying "Blazars."
 Quick CCSS-aligned lesson to encourage "short term research assignments:"

  • Show this TED talk and amass a list of questions. 
  • Essential Question: How does space science (astrophysics) puzzle us?
  • Ask students to describe what they saw.  Tell them you "value vocabulary" and ask for expensive adjectives. (model this)
  • Brainstorm a list of questions students might have, after watching the video. 
  • Have each student pick a question or two. 
  • Research the answers - a "mini-Inquiry" 
  • Hold a "meeting of the minds" and share new knowledge.