Learning from Rock Star Librarians

This month’s One-Question Survey asked our readers to name the ‘school library rock stars’ who are the biggest influence on their work and what it is that makes these individuals stand out. The resulting word cloud of school library luminaries is certainly fun to view but really not too surprising—much more intriguing are the explanations of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that set these individuals apart. What can we learn from these rock star librarians? decwordle4_616x
This month we asked the question, “What ‘school library rock stars’ are the biggest influence on your work?” followed by the sub-question, “Why do these individuals stand out for you?” Our underlying purpose in asking these questions was to better understand what sets a school librarian leader apart.

The 347 responses identified 174 leaders with an additional 14 general responses (e.g. the students I work with, teachers, other librarians in my school district, etc.). The list of school library leaders, displayed in the word cloud, is certainly of interest and fun to view but really not too surprising—we all know that Joyce Valenza rocks this profession!!!

Much more intriguing, on the other hand, are the explanations of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that set these individuals apart as leaders in our field. Continue reading “Learning from Rock Star Librarians”

November Author of the Month John Coy

John Coy tells us that he decided to become an author after, on a whim, he typed his name into the library catalog and got zero results. “That,” he explains, “is when I realized that if I wanted something to come up, I needed to write.” Today, his fans are certainly glad for those zero results.

Be sure to look for our review of his new book, Gap Life, which received a highly recommended rating in the November-December issue of School Library Connection. Subscribers can see our complete archive of reviews on reVIEWS+.

coyJohn Coy loves writing, and sharing that process with students is one of the things he loves the most about school visits. “It’s so different compared with what many of them imagine, with lots of false starts, mistakes, and rejection,” he tells us. “It’s an amazing process to start with nothing other than an idea and turn it into a book. I love inspiring students to see reading and writing in new ways.”

He also encourages teachers and librarians to try their hand at writing: “Many teachers and librarians enjoyed writing when they were younger but don’t get many opportunities to write for pleasure now. I’ve been in schools lately where teachers and librarians have set up writing groups where they write together and read their writing to each other. These groups have many benefits including giving instructors a stronger sense of what students are struggling with as well as students being able to see their instructors as writers. With writing, we’re all in it together, all of us trying to become better.” Continue reading “November Author of the Month John Coy”

Pop’s Finger

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The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.26720

In his November editor’s message, Carl Harvey shares a story to remind us of the importance of primary sources. If you’re sharing Thanksgving with relatives this year, be sure to ask them about their stories, look for the primary sources that go with those stories, and be sure to ask about that jar at the back of the cupboard!

Our November issue is all about primary sources. All kinds of primary sources. Subscribers can view the issue online here. Not a subscriber yet? Click here for information on how to become one. 

When I was in high school and college, my mother and I used to work on our family genealogy. In the years that have followed, we’ve continued to do that but jobs, family, and life seem to keep us from spending as much time on it as we might like. Through all our searching, primary sources have been so powerful. We’ve been able to prove—and disprove—so many myths and legends in the family because of the information we’ve uncovered.

One of my favorite stories (and the kids at school always got a kick out of this one) was the story of Pop’s finger. Fred S. Cogdill, who we all called Pop, was my great-grandfather. He passed away at the age of 96 in 1987. Pop was a very old man by the time I was born, but I still have memories of going to visit him in the nursing home. My Mom commented once that Pop was missing a finger, and he always told his grandchildren (there were thirty-three of them) that a lump of coal had fallen on it when he worked in the coal mines in the early 1910s.

Continue reading “Pop’s Finger”

Using Primary Sources in the School Library

How frequently do your teachers/students use the library to access different types of primary sources? This month we asked this question about the primary sources teachers and students are using in the library. The results reveal the popularity of textual sources, but also yield some surprises and inspiration. In her One-Question Survey column, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses these results and encourages readers to use primary sources as an avenue for collaboration.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

survey-3We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words; thus, it’s not surprising that images are one of the two most frequently accessed primary sources along with written documents.

While it stands to reason that teachers and students in elementary schools would access fewer primary sources than their middle and high school counterparts, as the chart illustrates, the minimal use of visual sources (i.e. images, maps, and video files) in the elementary grades is unexpected. School librarians at any grade level, including elementary, should consider using images, maps, or objects to launch an inquiry unit as Kristin Fontichiaro (2016) proposes, and elementary librarians looking for additional approaches for using primary sources with students should be sure to check out the recently released SLC video workshop “Primary Sources for Elementary” presented by Tom Bober. Continue reading “Using Primary Sources in the School Library”

Library Friends

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By Carl A. Harvey II

I just ended a few days back home in Indiana attending the Indiana Library Federation. It was a great conference—good sessions, great keynotes, a full exhibit floor, and a well-organized and fun conference. But, I have to tell you my favorite part was networking with my friends. Sure, now that I’m living in Virginia, it is even more special to get together with my Indiana school library friends because it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it’s more than that. These are the librarians I “grew up” with in the field, and for that I’ll be ever grateful.

Over the last almost 20 years (good grief….where has the time gone?), these are the folks with whom I’ve shared my successes, commiserated when things didn’t work out well, and brainstormed the next great adventures. We’ve done that for each other countless times. They have been (and I’m certain will continue to be) invaluable to me.

School librarians are often the only ones in their building who do what they do. These types of networks and friendships are so important to the success of the school librarian and the library program. You need that support network to build and grow. Nowadays, we can have our PLN online with Twitter, Facebook, etc. These are wonderful ways to connect, but I have to admit my favorite is a table of friends, some good food, and wonderful conversation.

Continue reading “Library Friends”

Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children

graphic-novels-rights-clearedDo you have graphic novels in your collections? Do you include them in your picture book collection or do you think graphic novels are for older readers only? Just in time for National Picture Book Month, our reVIEWS+ Collections Editor Dr. Sylvia Vardell suggests that the line between the picture book and the graphic novel is blurring and, furthermore, that in this highly visual culture in which we live, the graphic novel represents another way we can get our students to read.
Subscribers to SLC/reVIEWS+ can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection/reVIEWS+.


OK, it’s true confession time. I am not a big fan of graphic novels. There, I said it. Actually, I like LOOKING at graphic novels, I just don’t really enjoy READING them. My eye is not sure where to start, go, move, and follow. And I get impatient with the pictures and want more words. Ridiculous, I know. And those are some of the very reasons that students really ENJOY graphic novels:

#1 Because many adults don’t like them, so graphic novels seem a bit taboo and thus even more inviting.

#2 Because they like looking at graphic novels.

#3 Because they do know how to scan, read, and follow the story.

#4 Because they want their story from the visuals as well as from the text.

#5 Because they don’t want to wade through so many words.

And for many more reasons.

I share this because one of my biggest pet peeves is working with librarians who let their own personal tastes and individual reading preferences get in the way of connecting kids with books THEY like, but we may not like as much. People often refer to our “gatekeeper” status as the people who build library collections and choose which books to purchase and then promote our collections to students. We owe it to them to build the collection that they want and need.

How Graphic Novels Help

I also share this because I see the value in graphic novels from many different perspectives that go well beyond personal preferences. This is not just a trend in publishing, graphic novels offer a new dimension for a literary experience that draws new readers into the fold—and that is powerful. Karen Gavigan and Mindy Tomasevich share some of their basics in their article, “Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Beginning Reader Graphic Novels,” one of our Essential Readings this month. And in her article for School Library Journal, Allyson Lyga (2006) noted, “Graphic novels help all different types of learners. For children who are incapable of visualizing a story, the artwork helps them create context…. and [they] help reluctant readers understand the plot of a story…. And cross gender lines.” As children are developing as readers, the format of the graphic novel helps them use their stronger visual literacy skills in gaining story from pictures. Continue reading “Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children”

Growing Readers and Parent Involvement through Picture Book Month

picture-bookPicture books. Who doesn’t remember looking at a favorite picture book over and over until it became worn and tattered? Who doesn’t love sharing favorite picture books now with those eager little readers as they delight over the colors and drawings that come together to tell a story? To celebrate National Picture Book Month, we’re sharing an article from our archives by Jennifer Kelley Reed about creating a successful picture book celebration at your school.


Picture Book Month is “an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November” (http://picturebookmonth.com/). The initiative affords libraries, schools, and literacy organizations the opportunity to promote the power of the picture book. Our school has participated for the last five years, and each year we have been building on our experiences, extending the reach of the activities from the library to the classroom to students’ homes. Our most recent celebration was a success on many fronts—it reminded K-5 students about the richness, information, and enjoyment of picture books, boosted library circulation, and strengthened the connection from our school to students’ families.

Individualizing Student Experiences

In our latest observance, the celebration lasted for the entire month of November, and we focused activities on students’ individual connections with picture books. Students in grades three through five challenged themselves to read a specific number of picture books from one of three “neighborhoods” in the library: biographies, picture books, or nonfiction. They were encouraged to set realistic goals for themselves, and to keep in mind that they weren’t in competition with other students, but instead enjoying the opportunity to explore and read books in a neighborhood they didn’t often frequent. It was clear that students heard the message, with some committing to read ten books, while others committed to fifty.

For the students in grades one and two, we focused on a nonfiction Picture Book Month challenge. For the month of November, I had more students than ever before coming to the library to exchange books, sharing what they were learning while reading, and marking the numbers on their challenge sheets. (This video on my blog shows the state of the library in the midst of Picture Book Month: http://reederama.blogspot.com/2014/11/what-does-school-library-in-midst-of.html.) Continue reading “Growing Readers and Parent Involvement through Picture Book Month”

Civic Learning and Primary Sources

 

capitol-three-rights-clearElection Day is the perfect time to remember the importance of teaching students about citizenship and civic responsibility. In this article from our November issue, Noorya Hayat and Abby Kiesa with the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement discuss ways school library practitioners and K-12 educators can work together for high-quality civic learning linked to primary sources.
Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Engaging Students in High-Quality Civic Learning

Civic learning is an important mission of schools, and school library and media educators can and should play key roles. Not only do these educators play a role in what information and media youth are exposed to, but engagement with information, news, and other media also creates the opportunity to emphasize and develop literacy skills needed in many parts of life, including civic life and democracy. At the core of civic life is the ability to research issues and candidates to understand policies and related discussions, as well as finding and developing solutions. As such, the skills developed through interaction with and communication about information on public issues is a critical piece of civic learning.

In 2011, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools published the “Guardian of Democracy” report, which outlines a comprehensive view of civic learning outcomes with six proven practices as inputs and civic outcomes focused on building knowledge, skills, and dispositions. These involve in-class and out-of-class activities that can all use primary sources to provide holistic civic education. These six promising practices for civic learning are:

  • Classroom instruction for knowledge in government, history, economics, law, and democracy;
  • Discussion of current events and controversial issues in the classroom;
  • Service-learning connected to school and class curriculum;
  • Simulations of democratic processes;
  • Extracurricular activities in school and the community; and
  • Student participation in school governance.

These practices can be used simultaneously in an activity or integrated over the course of a semester to teach powerful civic lessons. Coordination between educators in different roles and subject areas deepen and connect lessons for students. These practices can ensure high-quality civic learning outcomes in K-12 students—including through the integration of digital primary resources. Continue reading “Civic Learning and Primary Sources”

What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?

new-picture-13The familiar MLA Handbook changed recently, taking a new approach to bibliographic citations. Are you prepared? In this installment of her column Adding Friction: How to Design Deliberate Thinking into the Research Process, Debbie Abilock tells you what you need to know about introducing MLA 8th to your students.

Subscribers can see more of Debbie’s columns here.

The preface to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook (MLA) argues that accurate citation is more important than ever. Writers owe their readers precise pointers to the sources they use since “documentation is the means through which scholarly conversations are recorded (MLA Handbook x).  Yet digital sources migrate, merge, and mutate. It has become increasingly difficult to identify “the” original—or if a copy is faithful. Nor is generic credit sufficient. Only precise documentation enables “a curious reader, viewer, or other user to track down your sources” and evaluate “whose work influenced yours” (MLA Handbook 126).

Hand in hand with this new emphasis on precision, the handbook proclaims new flexibility. Rather than continue MLA 7th’s prescriptive models which itemize distinctive citations for each source type, MLA 8th proposes a series of principles in Part 1 to guide writers in identifying the common elements (author, title, etc.) among sources, a framework which can accommodate future “modes of academic writing” (MLA Handbook xiii). MLA’s new mantra: capture the information available, rather than require information that is not. The result is Lego-like assembly of core content elements grouped into nested “containers” (e.g., a website, anthology, database aggregator, digital archive) that modularly build a “reliable data trail for future researchers” (MLA Handbook ix). Continue reading “What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?”

Sneak Peek: Tips for Using Primary Sources with Elementary Students

You can use primary sources with even your youngest students. Just in time for our November issue, “Get ‘Em Hooked with Primary Sources,” we have a new video workshop from Tom Bober on using primary sources with elementary school students.

Take a sneak peek:

 

In this six-minute lesson from his new video workshop “Primary Sources for Elementary,” Tom Bober offers ideas for using primary sources in science and literature classes and shares practical advice specifically for working with K–5 students.

 

If you love primary sources, or want to know more about using them with your students, be sure to visit School Library Connection. Subscribers can see the entire workshop, along with the rest of the new issue, here. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to learn more.


boberheadTom Bober is an elementary librarian at RM Captain Elementary in Clayton, MO, a former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and a Digital Public Library of America Community Rep. He has written about the use of primary sources in classrooms in Social Education magazine and the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. Bober also presents at regional and national conferences, runs workshops, and has presented in Library of Congress webinars on a variety of strategies and topics for students’ use of primary sources in the classroom. Follow him on Twitter @CaptainLibrary.