One Book, One School, One Great Impact!

Illus. by W.W. Denslow; Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Looking for creative ways to engage your entire school—across grades and content areas—in learning? Cathy Evans, director of libraries at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, created a project that did just that. Even if you’re not lucky enough, like Evans was, to have extra money available, you’re sure to be inspired by this project. So sit back, give this a read, get inspired, and start thinking now how to adapt it for your own school!


What started as a gift grew into an idea and blossomed across the school community. In 2011, our school received a generous gift, in honor of a longtime friend of the school, to create an ongoing speakers series. The mission of this series is to bring to our campus thinkers and doers whose ideas challenge conventional wisdom and spark new thinking.

As the director of libraries and one of the people on campus with the most experience in bringing speakers to campus (mainly authors), I was put on the speakers series committee. At our first meeting we tossed around topic ideas and possible speakers, and finally settled on the topic of global hunger, food, and sustainability. Since we wanted to have speakers come to school in the fall, we had about six months to find dynamic speakers and build an exciting curriculum around the topic.

Linking Speakers with the Theme

The result was a unique pairing of internationally known activists in the field. Ido Leffler, the founder of the Yes To line of beauty products, Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of Feed Projects and founder of the 30 Project, and Dr. Cary Fowler, founder of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Leffler’s Yes To seed fund helps create gardens at schools located in impoverished areas across the country. Gustafson’s Feed Project takes simple burlap grain bags and turns them into chic accessories, funding school meals for children across the world. Dr. Fowler’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault deep inside a Norwegian mountain contains seed samples from crops around the world, more than 250 million seeds to date. Continue reading “One Book, One School, One Great Impact!”

The Many Faces of Collaboration

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns. You can read the latest about the initiative here.

“The Many Faces of Collaboration” by Stacey Gerwitz. School Library Connection, December 2015.

Much to my dismay, there are no hallway traffic jams caused by teachers lined up at the library door anxious to collaborate. In fact, some teachers might never cross our library threshold if I didn’t reach out and offer my services. Working with different faculty members can be quite the adventure, and it is never the same experience. There are different levels of collaboration. Some will be full co-teaching experiences, while others will include a division of skills and teachable moments. Whether you are just beginning your career or are a seasoned veteran, you may already know—or may someday meet—this assembly of collaborating teachers.

The Dream Teacher

This is the teacher who makes a librarian’s life amazing! When you meet with the teacher for the first time, you become instant collaborators. You want to work with her as often as you can throughout the year. In fact, the year isn’t long enough for all the ideas you have. She realizes the potential and increased cognitive gains for students through collaboration. It’s a win-win-win for the students, teacher, and librarian. Her units become your units and vice versa until you can’t tell which unit belonged to whom in the beginning. It’s a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Continue reading “The Many Faces of Collaboration”

Redefining Reading: Comics in the Classroom

If you haven’t already heard, graphic novels and comics are gaining popularity with librarians as their value in promoting reading fluency, especially among beginning readers, reluctant readers, and ELL students, becomes more apparent. In this piece from our archives, Deborah B. Ford shares some ideas on using graphic works in your library or classroom.

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The Return of the Saturday Matinee!

Recently we decided to do Saturday Matinees @ the IMC, a teacher’s lending library for San Diego Unified School District staff. These one-hour classes for teachers focus on the resources available to them. With Comic-Con just around the corner, I decided to do “Comics in the Classroom”

Literature? Comics? Yes, comics. When was the last time you looked at a comic without reading? Don’t you have to determine sequence of events, character, plot, and resolution? And don’t forget that these panels have a beginning, middle, and end in as few as three squares. Using Follett Destiny as a search tool, I found a website, professorgarfield.org, that allows you to sort the panels into correct sequence, and then you have to answer questions about them. It is not as easy as you might think!

Comics in the Curriculum

Teachers can use comic books and graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction) to teach curriculum and standards. Publishers see the interest that students have in graphic novels. Some companies have published graphic novels of the classics. These versions make it easier for second language learners or students reading below grade level to grasp the storyline, as well as give them some background for reading the original. Stone Arch books and Capstone Press have created graphic libraries of content related curriculum. Now students can read what they want and learn something while doing it. As with any literature, teachers and librarians will want to pre-read before using graphic material with students. Continue reading “Redefining Reading: Comics in the Classroom”

Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 10: School Improvement

“Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!” by Ann M. Martin. School Library Connection, March 2016.

As I decluttered the other day, I was astounded by the number of maps I had accumulated and stored in a cabinet. With navigation systems available on numerous devices, I certainly don’t need all those paper maps anymore! Seeing all those maps, though, made me begin thinking about the importance of mapping your way to a destination, particularly when managing a library program. In our culture of high-stakes testing, assessment of the library program verifies the library-classroom connection (Martin 2012, 63), but just as importantly, assessment is a navigation tool designed to move goals and objectives—and consequently the library program—forward.

Hitting the Road

No matter what navigation choice is made when charting your course, in order to begin, you have to know the point from which you are starting. One place to begin is to identify obstacles impacting library program success using assessment instruments. Ever since the 1950s, when Dr. W. Edwards Deming emerged with the concept of continuous improvement, assessment has stressed the importance of eliminating root causes of problems. Deming changed the focus from “Who is causing my problems?” to “What processes are hampering change?” (Turner and Inman). Examples of processes impacting library programs are new policies mandated by legislatures, strategic plans targeting specific instructional strategies, and emerging technologies. Today, our navigation devices assess road obstacles and provide alternative routes as needed. Similarly, librarians can “correct course” and make measureable improvements to their program by analyzing it to identify the root causes of its strengths and weaknesses. By understanding these core causes, librarians can brainstorm solutions and create action plans to address each area of need (Martin 2012, 47).

Continue reading “Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!”

School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 9: Operations and Management

“School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning: Moving Critical Conversation beyond the Medium” by Lucy Santos Green and Kathryn Kennedy. School Library Connection, May 2016.

Much of the professional discussion surrounding our role as school librarians focuses on the ever-changing and flexible nature of the job. School librarians have quickly added a large list of technological responsibilities: maintaining a school website, delivering professional development on technology tools, coordinating school-wide BYOD programs, establishing computer coding camps, and more. Change in the profession has also resulted in change in the library space itself. The Learning Commons movement is still going strong, while makerspaces invite students to explore, create, and contribute their own artifacts and experiences to the library collection. One particular aspect of education, K-12 online and blended learning, is quickly and quietly impacting school librarianship, and yet, professional discussion of this topic remains minimal.

Brenda Boyer, a school librarian in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and a leading voice on the topic of school librarianship and K-12 online/blended learning, passionately explains why school librarians must engage in this critical conversation: “Libraries need to meet learners where they are, and where they are is on their laptops, tablets, and phones. To remain relevant in the lives of our digitally connected students, school libraries must be both available and useful” (Boyer 2016, 4). Continue reading “School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning”

Getting Second-Language Parents Involved…Here’s How!

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 8: Meaningful Engagement of Families and Community

“Getting Second-Language Parents Involved…Here’s How!” by Lee Ayoub, Greg D’Addario, Anne Malleck, and Sandra Sterne. School Library Connectin, September 2015.

It’s 7:00 on an October evening at Long Branch Elementary School in Arlington, VA and the library is buzzing with the sound of many languages. Families are arriving for the monthly Reach for Reading family literacy program. The Reach for Reading team, which includes ELL teachers, the family resource liaison, librarian, classroom teachers and administrators, greet the families in costumes from Mother Goose for this evening’s program. Children become quickly involved with the beginning activity of coloring a Mother Goose character with their parents. All the while, conversation flows amongst families and students. Everyone is excited to be there.

Our first program introduces parents and children to formal reading instruction. This year we’ve decided to use Mother Goose. First, families gather and receive personal nursery rhyme readers from Mother Goose herself. Each reader is a teacher-made booklet with the five rhymes that are featured in the evening program. As children and parents rotate through each nursery rhyme station, they will repeatedly read the rhyme written on chart paper and in their booklet, help point to the text, act it out, and finally, identify it with the appropriate sticker in the booklet. ELL students benefit from exposure to nursery rhymes, which are a foundation for building beginning literacy skills, such as voice to print matching, rhyming, chanting, and dramatizing. ELL parents become acquainted with nursery rhymes and acquire valuable techniques used to teach beginning readers. The heart of the program lies in making connections with parents and encouraging them to become partners with the school in their child’s education. Continue reading “Getting Second-Language Parents Involved…Here’s How!”

Differentiating for Adult Learners

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 7: Professional Community for Teachers and Staff

“Professional Learners. Differentiating for Adult Learners” by Melissa P. Johnston. School Library Connection, May 2016.

This issue’s focus on differentiating to address the needs of learners got me thinking that in the case of providing professional development, we have to differentiate for our adult learners as well. In looking back at the columns from this past year, we have talked about a variety of strategies you can utilize when working with adult learners, but I was just reading a new study that finds that the attention span of the average adult has now dropped to about eight seconds (Gracey 2016). After just eight seconds, teachers are going to be chatting with their neighbor, texting, checking emails, and/or looking at their social media feeds instead of paying attention to you. So how do you hold the attention of teachers in a professional development session?

Differentiate for the Needs of Your Learners

Differentiated instruction refers to a “systematic approach to planning curriculum and instruction for academically diverse learners” (Tomlinson and Eidson, 2003, 3). Differentiated instruction is based on the assumptions that students differ in their learning styles, needs, strengths, and abilities, and that classroom activities should be adapted to meet these differences. Differentiated instruction involves giving learners a range of ways of accessing instruction and assessment; interacting and participating in the global classroom; demonstrating and expressing what they learn; and understanding and taking in information (Powell and Kusuma-Powell 2011). We all know that these are best practices when it comes to teaching our students, but why does it seem that professional development for teachers is still a “one-size fits all” experience? Continue reading “Differentiating for Adult Learners”

The Administrator’s Academy

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 6: Professional Capacity of School Library Personnel

“The Administrator’s Academy: Changing a District’s Technological Mindset” by Bridget E. Belardi. School Library Connection, January 2017.

The “Before”

As a second grade teacher who loved children’s literature and thrived on trying new technologies in the classroom, I followed the suggestion of my principal to pursue a master’s program in library science. Despite memories of myself as an eight-year old who disliked ripped pages, the smell of dirty books, and the utter silence of the neighborhood library, I was excited at the mix of books and technology the program offered. Early in my graduate program, I attended a local educational technology conference. My mind was filled with words like wiki, blog, Web 2.0, etc. I couldn’t wait to return to school and give my students new learning opportunities. I set up a teacher blog and a class wiki and began planning collaborative projects right away.

When I got to school the following week, I opened the wiki to edit it. Blocked. I tried to log into my blog. Blocked. All of the revolutionary technologies I had just learned about were blocked, locked, and frowned upon. My blog collected virtual dust for a year. What could I do? Continue reading “The Administrator’s Academy”

Leadership: School Librarian Evaluation

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 4: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

“Leadership: School Librarian Evaluation” by Judi Moreillon School Library Monthly 30, no. 2 (November 2013).

Teacher evaluation is a hot topic in many school districts across the country. Spurred by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and other state or district level reforms, evaluation instruments for educators are under review. It is, therefore, important for school librarians to make sure that their evaluation, too, is an essential part of this review process. School librarians need to take a leadership role in suggesting the most effective ways to measure the impact of the librarian’s role in the school system.

Validation

In many states, teacher evaluation is or will be based, at least partially, on student achievement scores in standardized tests. This approach to evaluation presents a challenge for many school librarians who must provide specific information on which, if any, learning outcomes are taught and measured only in the library. One way to address this challenge in the library is to demonstrate the positive results of teaching by collecting formative assessment data. Librarians can validate their impact on instruction by using pre- and post-tests and assessments, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and reflections, and combining these with the students’ final products. Continue reading “Leadership: School Librarian Evaluation”

Exploring Your School Continent by Continent: An Approach to Multicultural Sharing

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article a day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 3: Equity and Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness

“Exploring Your School Continent by Continent: An Approach to Multicultural Sharing” by Judi Paradis. School Library Connection, January 2016.

Who’s In Our Schools?

More and more the answer is “everyone from everywhere.” Plympton School in Waltham, Massachusetts, is typical of many urban districts with students from around the world. Almost half our students are English Language Learners (ELL), and while most of these students are Hispanic, we have substantial numbers of students from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. As Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel point out:

Diverse work teams, scattered around the globe and connected by technology, are becoming the norm for 21st century work . . . Understanding and accommodating cultural and social differences to come up with even more creative ideas and solutions to problems will be increasingly important throughout our century. (Fadel and Trilling 2012)

The library can play a role in giving students the understanding and skills to be comfortable and adept in this multicultural world. We also serve as a strong welcoming point for families, with an ability to engage and provide outreach. The Plympton Library has become a key player in the school’s Multicultural Committee, which seeks “to promote, in a caring and enthusiastic way, the value of diversity in a community that is child-centered.” Continue reading “Exploring Your School Continent by Continent: An Approach to Multicultural Sharing”