Facts & Myths

What do you think you know about the English language learners in your school? What do you know about teaching English as a second language? Sylvia Vardell, our reVIEWS+ collections editor, debunks four common myths about learning English as a new language.

Subscribers can find a new editorial by Sylvia every month as well as our archive of reviews and other content at reVIEWS+

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ESL students learning English as a second language are the fastest growing group in U.S. schools today. These learners come from a multitude of countries and backgrounds with many born right here. They speak many languages, and their reading levels range from preschool to high school. These students can experience great cognitive and emotional demands as they are asked to quickly learn both language and content in order to participate fully in the school curriculum and in classroom life.

As we as librarians and educators think about our students who are learning English as a new language, as we select appropriate books for our libraries and plan meaningful programs and instruction, it can be helpful to consider some of our questions and preconceptions about language learning. What do you know about what it’s like to learn a new language? What can you do in the library to support students learning English as a new language?

MYTH #1: Most students learning English as a new language are born outside of the United States. Continue reading “Facts & Myths”

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?”

How Do You Assess Student Outcomes in Makerspaces in Your Library Program?

Maria Cahill asked this question recently and found that nearly a third of the school librarians who said they have initiated makerspaces choose not to assess student outcomes, and another 40% do so only informally through observation. In her One-Question Survey column below, Dr. Cahill discusses these results and encourages readers to include assessment in their makerspace programs.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here. And don’t forget to take our latest One-Question Survey, open until 10/19/2016, by clicking here.  

Ten years ago, a school librarian would have been hard pressed to find any professional articles, blog posts, email discussion threads, conference sessions, workshops, or professional development sessions focused on makerspaces. A resurging interest in self-directed and experiential learning, which goes hand-in-hand with the Next Generation Science Standards (2013), has brought makerspaces to the forefront of librarians’ attention. This latest educational trend is especially well-suited for school libraries.

Thus, we were surprised to learn that more than half of the 201 school librarians who responded to our One Question Survey, “How do you assess student outcomes in makerspaces in your library program?” had actually never worked in a school library program with a makerspace, and the comments that accompanied the “other” category indicated that an additional four percent of the responding librarians had either just launched or were still in the planning stages of designing a makerspace.

Continue reading “How Do You Assess Student Outcomes in Makerspaces in Your Library Program?”

Meet Margarita Engle, October Author of the Month

Margarita Engle has been writing poetry since she was a child. She also spent her summers in Cuba, her mother’s homeland, which sparked a passion for all things Cuban. Put those together and you end up with passionate stories of Cuba written in free verse that pull you in and keep you moving along with the flow of the verse.

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Photography by Sandra Ríos Balderrama ©

Margarita Engle’s books for young adults regularly receive awards, which will come as no surprise to those who have read her stories; her latest work, Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words, received a highly recommended rating from our reviewers. Lion Island “completes a cycle of loosely linked biographical verse novels about heroes of the struggle for freedom and social justice in 19th-century Cuba,” Engle explains. “That cycle began,” she goes on to tell us, “with The Poet Slave of Cuba, and continued with The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, and The Lightning Dreamer.” Her books, then, also serve to fill a gap in children’s literature about Cuba.

These sometimes brutal and heartbreaking stories deal with an unstable period in Cuba’s history and Engle’s accounts do not sugarcoat this reality. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano does not gloss over his treatment as a slave; The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom depicts a Cuba torn apart and ravaged by war; and Lion Island speaks to the injustice of slavery, indentured servitude, and racism. But these books also speak to the resilience of the human spirit and how one person can make a difference. In fact, when asked what she would like students to take away from her books, she responded with one simple word: “Hope.” Continue reading “Meet Margarita Engle, October Author of the Month”

Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign

olson-teaserLooking for ways to get students interested in how the political process works? In “A Campaign Simulation for Authentic Learning” David Olson describes a popular collaboration that helps his AP U.S. Government students practice what they’ve learned by working together on simulated U.S. Senate campaigns.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles with great ideas like this by visiting School Library Connection.

The school library is, at its best, an incubator of democratic values and a haven for inquiry.  At James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach social studies, our students utilize library resources, with the support of school librarians, in nearly all courses. Starting as first semester freshmen, our students approach the issues of immigration and migration by exploring their own families’ journeys. Through modeling, think-alouds, and mini-lessons from the librarians, students use Ancestry.com (purchased by our library) to find primary resources relating to their families, learn proper citation and database search techniques, and connect their personal stories to broader themes using the ABC-CLIO American History database and a curated collection of print materials. Eleventh grade students use Biography in Context and Gale Virtual Reference Library to create fictional universities centered on the social and political protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. My upper-level students visit the library several times during the course of the semester to conduct research from books and databases, play iCivics games, explore webquests, and collaborate in small groups. All of these lessons are planned and instructed in collaboration with the school librarian.

A few years ago, when my department began offering AP U.S. Government and Politics, I was faced with a conundrum. In a second semester AP course in a state where school doesn’t end until June, what do I do with the last three weeks of class? I found my answer with my school librarian, Robin Amado, who helped me craft a campaign simulation using library resources. In each class, my students divided into campaign teams to run for a U.S. Senate seat. Campaigns featured a candidate, campaign manager, website team, advertising team, social media team, and policy wonks (specialists in policy details). The project allows students to simulate the election process and put into practice everything they’ve learned about the political world. Continue reading “Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign”

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!

Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains
Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains

The National Park Service is celebrating the 100th birthday of our national parks. In case you missed it, BJ McCracken discusses a climate change unit taught at Great Falls (Montana) High School and how schools can—and should—play a central role in educating students to be well-informed and proactive citizens.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Glacier National Park had 125 recorded glaciers in the 1850s. Today there are 25 glaciers. It is predicted they will all disappear by 2030.

Citizenship and an individual’s responsibilities to society and global well-being should be a purposeful part of all curricula, not just social studies. There is a social contract within democracy that requires individuals to be informed citizens who seek quality information especially when determining what to believe in situations involving conflicting viewpoints. Basic citizenship skills should include knowing how to locate quality information, being able to apply that information to problem analysis or solutions, and using critical thinking skills. These are used in daily life.

Verb Citizens

This idea of personal responsibility for national or global issues and that an individual’s personal decisions can affect society, is often a foreign concept to freshman high school students. While they may have encountered concepts such as social contracts, citizenship, and stewardship in an abstract way, they often do not see what they personally can do to make a difference. In other words, these concepts are perceived as nouns, not verbs.  And unfortunately, education too often fails to clearly identify and emphasize that the choice to be a well-informed citizen is central to being an active citizen in a democratic society. Making the choice to be informed is just as proactive as choosing to recycle. Both actions require intent and effort. Education should be modeling the same intent and effort to proactively promote citizenship as an ongoing process of making informed choices.

Our Foundations of Science teacher at Great Falls (Montana) High School, Beth Thomas, wanted her climate change unit to move beyond the mechanics of science and into that awareness of personal citizenship responsibilities. To implement this unit she pulled together a collaborative planning and presentation team that included a literacy specialist, a classroom technology specialist, and what she calls an information specialist, the librarian. One of the team goals was to assist students in viewing themselves as “verb” citizens. Continue reading “Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!”

From Wonder to Social Justice: How One Book Changed a Community

coverOver here at SLC we were touched by R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder about a boy coping with a craniofacial disorder. In her article, Angela Hartman describes how she shared  the message of Wonder with her school and the wider community. If you haven’t read the book, you need to go get it right now and see if it doesn’t inspire you to “choose kind.”

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this at School Library Connection.

A number one New York Times bestseller and still winning awards, the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio continues to be a favorite of people of all ages. For those not familiar with Wonder, it is a middle-grade novel about a boy named August Pullman who was born with severe craniofacial anomalies. As a baby and a child, Auggie underwent twenty-seven different surgeries. He is finally able to begin public school for the first time in fifth grade. Chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, illustrating how Auggie is treated because of the way he looks. Readers learn that Auggie just wants to be a normal kid and to be accepted for the person he is. This book transformed our community.

One Book/One Community
Inspired by Palacio’s book and by a session I attended at the annual Texas Library Association Conference in 2015, I began a One Book/One Community project in Hutto Independent School District (HISD) using Wonder. After explaining my ideas to and getting backing from the entire library staff in our district, I wrote a grant proposal. Thanks to a generous grant from the Hutto Education Foundation, we were able to purchase over 800 copies of the book, both in English and in Spanish, to share at our campuses and with our community. The books were purchased through an organization called First Book (https://www.firstbook.org) at a greatly discounted price. Our superintendent, Dr. Douglas Killian, encouraged me from the time I presented my grant proposal idea to him.

The success of the One Book/One Community initiative was due in great part to the library staff on each HISD campus and to the teachers who grabbed on to the idea and participated enthusiastically. The HISD library staff made sure the books got into the hands of teachers and kids?, endlessly promoted the book, and encouraged “choosing kind.” Teachers made time to share the book aloud. Teachers and library staff had discussions with kids about compassion, friendship, and tolerance. Parents, siblings, and grandparents talked about Auggie. It genuinely took a village of supporters.

Wonder was read at all campuses by most grade levels. Teachers were able to choose if and how they wanted to participate. Some classes read it together with a set of books. Some teachers read one copy aloud and some classes listened to the audio recording. We had copies available for checkout in each library and we had “floating” copies that students, staff, and others could read, sign their name in, and pass on to a friend or family member. Wonder provided a connection at campuses between students of all ages and all abilities. We all loved Auggie and loved to talk about the book.
Continue reading “From Wonder to Social Justice: How One Book Changed a Community”

Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories

With the return of Harry Potter to bookshelves everywhere, the world is starting to feel just a bit more magical again. However, the story of The Boy Who Lived is not the only one to be told! Check out these great titles recommended by SLC reviewers that take readers on journeys through worlds filled with magic and adventure.

We’re excited to include an exclusive sneak preview of this first title that will appear in our upcoming August/September issue. Subscribers can always find reviews of other great titles like this at reVIEWS+

Auxier, Jonathan
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
2016. 464pp. $18.95 hc. Amulet Books/Abrams. 9781419717475. Grades 4-8

The second Peter Nimble adventure introduces Sophie Quire, a feisty young bookmender who expertly and lovingly restores the pages, covers, and spines of many treasured tales. Storybooks are on the verge banishment in the city of Bustleburgh, and because she cannot imagine a world without stories, Sophie rescues a handful of books from their Pyre Day fate. Just as Sophie is apprehended by the nasty Inquisitor Prigg, Peter Nimble and his companion Sir Tode come to her rescue. Peter presents Sophie with the Book of Who, one of the Four Questions. When complete, this set of books protects stories and holds the world’s magic. Sophie learns she is the last storyguard, entrusted with finding the books of What, Where, and When, stopping Pyre Day, and saving her world. Magical obstacles like quickbramble and kettle bogs can’t stop Sophie from completing her quest, for she is supported by an odd yet impressive cast of characters and creatures—including a talking silver tigress and an old tattooed scrivener. Auxier has created an electrifying and extraordinary story. Middle grade readers will likely wish to reread to appreciate the wonder that is this book. Aimee Haslam, Graduate Student, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
Highly Recommended

 

Black, Holly & Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial
2014. 304pp. $17.99 hc. Scholastic, Inc. 9780545522250. Grade 3 & Up

If your students were fans of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, they will like this first book in the Magisterium series. Callum has always known about magic and his family’s abilities. He is about to go to the Iron Trial to test and see if he will be chosen to train at the Magisterium. Because of a family tragedy, Callum’s dad does not want him to qualify and has taught Callum to fear for his life if required to attend. Callum does his best to fail, but he is still picked. As the novel progresses, Callum becomes a reluctant hero like Harry and Percy, especially with his male and female companions. Callum and the reader both begin to realize that something is just not right. Can he and his friends survive their first year? This book is perfect for fantasy and adventure lovers. Neely Swygert, Information Technology Specialist/Librarian, Gadsden (South Carolina) Elementary
Recommended

Continue reading “Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories”

Beyond Junior Shelvers: Involving Students in Creative Library Work

Have we got a GREAT author line-up for you this fall, dear readers. First up, we’ve got an issue examining the school library as an incubator for our democracy. Hot on its heels, the October issue will focus on Making, where you can look forward to a fabulous new article by Melissa Techman and Lars Holmstrom looking at fostering a maker culture across the curriculum. To whet your appetite, we thought we’d share this article by Melissa from our February 2016 issue. How do you involve your students in creative library work? Let us know!

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from School Library Connection, February 2016, “Collaboration 360*”

Whether or not your library has enough staff, there are compelling reasons for involving students in the work of the library. The widespread interest in makerspaces and student tinkering has pulled students into libraries, giving them new creative roles. Including students in design decisions and outreach projects builds their sense of ownership and increases their interest in libraries in general. Not only do these efforts connect the school community in new ways, but there are easy advocacy benefits as well.

Be Open to Clubs and Informal Groups

Open up your library as much as possible. If you’re in K–5, keep working toward a flexible schedule, if you don’t already have one. In high school, welcome lunch groups and students with study hall periods. Enlist students who are already in the library but also seek out those who aren’t and invite them in. I have an informal group of 30 students I call Design Crew. We meet occasionally and I email them requests and solicit ideas. Everyone who contributes in any way is a member. Students making things for the library is new for my school, but I’m seeing growing interest. Continue reading “Beyond Junior Shelvers: Involving Students in Creative Library Work”

ICYMI: September 2015 Author of the Month Bruce Hale

We all know summer and fun go together, but we’re also aware of the not-so-fun summer reading gap. So why not suggest some books from Bruce Hale that will bring summer, fun, and reading all together?

We were thrilled to have a chance to meet Bruce in person last August when he was gracious enough to visit our offices for an author of the month interview. Be sure to look for our review of his new book, The Curse of the Were-Hyena, in the August-September issue of School Library Connection. Subscribers can see reviews of Bruce’s books and our complete archive of reviews on reVIEWS+.

bruce hale“If it’s not fun, why read it?” That’s children’s author and illustrator Bruce Hale’s motto. And fun is a word that definitely describes Hale and his books.

Hale considers himself to be a very lucky man; it’s not everyone who gets to make a living doing something they love to do. He hasn’t, however, always been an author. Hale has worked as a magazine editor, actor, gardener, and surveyor, just to name a few of the careers he has pursued. He won a Fulbright grant to teach storytelling and study folklore in Thailand, and his energetic storytelling comes in handy for his school visits. Despite this rich and varied background, the idea of becoming an author was never far from his mind.

Eventually, Hale took the leap and turned his focus to writing children’s books. Hale has written and/or illustrated over thirty books for kids, from picture books to novels and graphic novels. Many of his titles speak to an affinity for lizards and detectives, which often are one and the same in his stories. Continue reading “ICYMI: September 2015 Author of the Month Bruce Hale”