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Sunday, September 4, 2016

4 ways you can build your school reading culture

Every year Scholastic Books release a report on the state of reading; Australian Kids and Family Reading Report. Pairing this up with the Professional Learning event that I went to earlier this term, I am currently reflecting on how to build a strong school reading culture.

We know that our kids do more reading than children 50 year ago, but most of that reading is fragmented and tends not to directly benefit them from a cognitive point of view. Reading a novel introduces students to concepts, expressions, words and challenges that they might not get in real life. The idea of a plot and story works their brain when they are not reading, playing through scenarios.



Students who are regular recreational readers are much stronger when it comes to comprehension and writing tasks.

If you are a teacher, consider the following changes through your practice:
  • Encouraging students to pick up a book if they finish their academic work.
    As a classroom teacher we are all guilty of rewarding students with more work or finishing homework if they finish early. But what if we encouraged students to pick up a book? Perhaps continuing to read their English Novel or perhaps something that interests them. Imagine a class test where all students had something to read if they finished early.
  • Teachers actively talking about what they are reading.
    Students need to see that all teachers read, not just English teachers. Opportunities to share what you are reading might present itself during pastoral care sessions. Recommending books to students (I think you would like this book because …). One of the most powerful things that a teacher or parent can do is recommend a book to a student. “I recommend this because I think you could identify with the main character”. Make your recommendation genuine. It could be a fiction or non-fiction book. Making links between the curriculum that you teach and fiction that might inspire students. We don’t often think of Science or Maths when we think of recreational reading. But there are lots of genre’s that stretch across the curriculum.
  • Adding a fiction reading list to your subject synopsis can add an extra level of engagement in the classroom.
    Teacher Librarian’s are happy to assist with resource gathering and can even create small “chapter samples” to be used as part of your tool kit. They are experts in engaging with students about what they read. Every teacher in your school can get their hands on the Year level booklists, and should be encouraged to read some of the novels that their students are studying. Asking students about the novels that they are studying in English places an emphasis on the importance of studying texts and encourages students to vocalise their opinion about these books to someone other than their English Teacher. If you don’t have time to read these novels your Teacher Librarians will gladly point you in the direction of the spark notes for them!
  • Making reading visible throughout the school.
    When was the last time a student saw you reading? If you are too busy to read, perhaps that is the reason why they often see themselves as “too busy to read”. Share with students the books that excite you, “hey, have your read this book?” or relate it back to a movie that you have seen. Have you read the book version of the movie? 
What do you think of these ideas?

Would you be prepared to do one of them to build your school reading culture?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

5 things Teacher Librarians can do to make themselves valued

A great article by Audrey Church about "Ten things that your school administrators need to know for the start of the (American) school year" sparked some discussion amongst colleagues about how do you make yourself and your role within your school visible, transparent and valued; even if the educational administration of your school doesn't support you.

It is hard to believe, but there are some schools out there that can't see the worth of a school library or employing teacher librarians. And then there are some colleagues in leadership positions in schools who would much rather see teacher librarians trained as baristas.


I am sure that this instagram post was only meant as a joke, but it emotes a much wider view by some educational leaders that teacher librarians are a waste of time ....

So how do you make yourself visible, and hopefully intern, valued?
  1. We can build social capital within our school.
  2. We can redefine what it means to be a Teacher Librarian.
  3. We can encourage and build on the reading culture within our school.
  4. We can shatter the idea that Teacher Librarians are all about books by focusing on service rather than product.
  5. We can show that we are continually improving (Kaizen) upon what it is we are doing by evaluating and reflecting on our role within the school.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Free Bookmarks for your School Library

We love Canva in our Learning Commons. We use it for most of our advertising and poster needs. It is easy to use and we can share publications amongst the library staff when working on larger projects.

We had run dry in terms of bookmarks, so I whipped up a few designs using free images in Canva. Students grab a bookmark when they are borrowing fiction, or we use them to write things on the back for students. We try and turn the bookmarks over to suit the "season" in the Learning Commons.


You should be able to save these images and print it as an A4 landscape document using thick card (180gsm).


I set up the document using Canva Frames effect, so that I could manipulate each image individually, zooming in on a point of interest.


Each of these pages are spliced on the guillotine, 5 sheets at a time.

Did you use these bookmarks? Let us know!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Divergent Thinking with a Paper Clip

I had never heard of the paper clip test before, "How many ways can you use a paperclip?".

This is an animation of a well known Sir Ken Robinson talk. It emphasises how we beat the curiosity out of our students as they move through school.


While chatting over the dinner table, my hubby recounted a similar joke/myth about an interview question at Microsoft dealing with a giraffe and a refrigerator.

It is all about thinking outside the box.

Want more?




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thoughts on Self Check out in Learning Commons

Discussions have surfaced yet again about self checkouts in school library or learning commons environments. Being a technology nut, I love the idea of using technology such as this and giving students autonomy in their interactions and learning. However, over the last few years my views have changed.

In our school we do not have self checkout or check in. Students need to approach the circulation desk if they wish to borrow and we have the traditional returns chutes, although many like to hand books back to us and talk about whether they liked or disliked them.



When a student checks a book out of our collection we can:
  • Affirm their choices "This is a great book", "Once you finish this one, read that one"
  • Converse with them about books they have read "What did you think of this book?"
  • If they return their books to the circulation desk we can ask them what they thought of it and if they liked it or would recommend another book.
There is so much perceived anonymity in what our students do online, is it in their best interests to allow them to be anonymous when borrowing from a school collection?

Public Libraries love self check out because at the end of the day, they are not investing in the learning of their clients. But as a Learning Commons, our goal is to encourage recreational reading and make it a positive and fulfilling experience.

I recently read an article which supports my views about encouraging student reading. Willingham (2015) talks about the importance of engagement in the reading process and the role of the teacher in this skill development.

References: 

Willingham, Daniel T. "For the Love of Reading Engaging Students in a Lifelong Pursuit." American Educator 6.2015 (2015): 7. http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/ae_spring2015.pdf

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Dumbest Generation

An interesting TED talk by Mark Bauerlein about the effect that social media is having on our children.


Our students are doing more reading, writing and texting than any other generation.  The proliferation of smart devices has meant that students are using and dealing with language acquisition more than ever. But has that resulted in better academic and workplace skills? Mark Bauerlein would argue that the increase of remedial writing and research classes at the tertiary level is just one bit of evidence to support the decline of intellectual rigour in teenagers. 

Have a listen to his talk. Do you agree?

Reference:

Bauerlein, M. (2013). Language, age segregation and digital teens. Presentation, TEDxWakeForestU. Viewed at https://youtu.be/0vbMWDtc4ms

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Meddler in the Middle: Erica McWilliam

I was fortunate to hear Erica McWilliam present last night at Methodist Ladies' College as part of the IB Schools Visiting Speaker Series. A lot of what she spoke about resonated with me, not only as a teacher librarian, but as a classroom teacher.


Being a problem solver, I started to think about what hurdles teachers have to overcome in order for their classrooms to change and evolve. What support do they need? What support can I provide as a Teacher Librarian?

One item that was spoken about last night was how the start of a lesson is so important for the student. I recently observed some classes in a flexible learning space and the teacher took 20 minutes to do the roll and get the class started. Half the kids fell asleep!  Dr. Adam Fraser would say that it is important to transition the student into your classroom space, but then you need to get the kids on task and engaged.  How can we encourage independent and learning and thinking without getting bogged down in administration?

Attention spans are short in the students who are coming through and their learning needs are different to what they might have been 50 years ago.

Erica spoke of an example of a teacher using a tennis ball to start every language lesson with french. If the kids are working on a project, perhaps they pick up their project folder. If students have to hand in homework, you can tick off their work and do the roll at the same time.

There are strategies that you can use to identify who is or isn't in the class without stealing time from the curriculum.

I am still unpacking lots of ideas that I gathered from this talk, but I wanted to start with the simplest idea that I took away from Erica. 

Some further reading on starting your lesson.
Here is another great lecture from Erica.



Monday, February 22, 2016

Celebrating Library Lovers Day #morethanalibrary #blinddate

I love the idea of ALIA's Library Lovers Day, but if you are a Learning Commons, ie. #morethanalibrary, what can you do??



In our Learning Commons his year we did the blind date reading campaign, but this time a bit differently to what we did a few years back.



We wrapped the books up and copied the barcode number onto the front of them.



Organisationally, we borrowed all these books out to a "blind date" borrowing account on the system as we were wrapping them up. So that if someone was looking for a novel and it had been borrowed out to blind date, we could easily identify and locate it quite quickly.

At the end of the campaign we could also measure how successful the campaign was by how many of the books remained on the blind date account.

The teachers loved it and the Year 7's thought that it was a great idea!

"It is kinda exciting taking the book home, not knowing what is inside"

If you want to do your own blind date campaign, here are the files that we used to create the display.

Downloads:



Monday, January 18, 2016

Don't confuse your google search with my degree

This mug appeared on my facebook feed about a week back. Since then all my teacher librarian friends have been clicking like and sharing.


The funniest thing about this is that it isn't a new design or phrase. A bit of searching (aided by my library degree) revealed many different companies selling a similar genre of mug, there is even one on Amazon (lets talk about copyright here!).

But for me the message of the phrase is indicative of the discrimination that I once felt when I first started working in a school library as a Teacher Librarian.

When I had maternity leave with my second child, I decided to start my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) journey.  I had tried to start it a number of times but there were unforeseen circumstances that had prevented me from completing the applications. But after Nicholas was born, I knew that I needed to do something, I wasn't happy with "just teaching" anymore. I was teaching Information Technology and Humanities, yet still yearning for the opportunity to be creative like when I was a Head of Learning Technologies (or equivalent).



A former Teacher Librarian at my school had commented that she thought I would be good working in the library, I had the knack. So when Nicholas was 6 months I applied to study and got in. With a few RPL's under my belt I returned to school with a year of the degree under my belt and the timetabler at the time was very supportive in giving me a 0.2 and then 0.4 in the school library as a teacher librarian.

But everyones attitudes were not so positive about my career move; one of the teachers that I shared my office with commented that "all you do is read books and drink coffee". This teacher also believed that the library databases were a "waste of money because the kids had google to do their research with" .... Of course I had just completed the first few units of the degree filled with all the positive aspects of what a teacher librarian was meant to do. I was armed and ready to argue the case for a proactive Teacher Librarian within in the school.

Another colleague asked me whether I was "moving into retirement", because "that is what teachers do when they don't want to teach anymore". The school Principal told me that there was no future in Teacher Librarianship and that I should study Knowledge Management and go into consulting. The Director of Curriculum, didn't quite understand what we did in the Library and was therefore quite reluctant to support any new initiatives or funding.

In my first few years as a Teacher Librarian, I felt that I was continually fighting against the establishment when all I wanted to do was raise the academic standards of that school. Needless to say, I moved schools when I got my degree.



What I have learnt from my first school experience is that Teacher Librarians have to be visible and build social capital with the teaching staff.

I love being a Teacher Librarian because I get to solve problems on a daily basis and improve the teaching and learning environment for both teachers and students. My job is hands-on and hard bloody work at times. Sometimes I have to work like a demon in order to meet the needs of my teaching staff. Teachers come to us because they see us as part of their collaborative team, we help them with preparation, authenticating tasks, workshops; there isn't much sitting around and reading occurring! My reading occurs on weekends in a mad rush to finish a book to support a teacher or student.

We say yes to anything and everything within reason to support the learning environment.

So please don't confuse your google search with my Library Degree!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

With all this technology, what do we need [teacher] librarians for?

Many years ago, when I first started my M. Ed (Teacher Librarianship) at CSU, a colleague that I was sharing an office with asked me "What do you actually do in the School Library?".

His perception of the school's library was that it was "old fashioned", "where teachers go to retire", a place to drink coffee and read books and that students didn't need to use the library because they had access to the "University of Google".  We know that this mindset is narrow minded and fails to recognise the different learning styles that students have and also the specialised training and value that Teacher Librarians can offer to a learning community. This theory is clearly articulated in the article by the Bulletin by Abby Spegman called "With all this technology, what do we need librarians for?"

There is an article in the newspaper today which talks about how Bendigo South East College are closing their School Library and distributing their books throughout the school. This is not a new thing as there have been many schools who have gone down this road including, Coburg Senior High. My daughters school has also decentralised their library resources, but not their Teacher Librarians.

For me the true crime is that Bendigo South East College has not recognised the value of having a fully trained curriculum specialist such as a teacher librarian on staff.

The job title of "teacher librarian" doesn't do our profession any justice. 

Teachers and parents seem to understand and value the role of "curriculum specialist" a bit more and this title clearly communicates our role as an educator to support and improve teaching and learning programs.

If the school community does not value the role of the teacher librarian and school library, who is at fault? I know that this is a closed question for an open ended topic ... but work with me for the moment!

  • Is it the School Executive's or Leadership Team fault for not supporting and promoting the school library?
  • Is it the Faculty or Domain Leaders that don't understand how teacher librarians can be used to raise their academic standards?
  • Is it the parents, who are not exposed to what a teacher librarian can do to help their students?
  • Or, is it the Teacher Librarian's fault for not promoting themselves enough or making themselves indispensable?

Teacher Librarians need to be proactive in building social capital and make themselves indispensable by supporting the needs of their school and learning community.

Do you agree?