Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Musical Bean Bags!

It's Back-to-School week and many middle and high school English classes are coming to choose new books! Whoo-hoo!

To follow our "Summer Reads" promotion, I wanted to do something with the song "Summer Breeze." It seemed like a version of "Musical Chairs" would work well.

I wanted the activity to...
1) Expose students to various high-interest titles
2) Build capacity for sustained reading
3) Practice book-choosing behaviors 
(read summary, read into the book, take some time!)
After Round 1: Two 'winners' (in red) chose books!

For this version of Musical Chairs, everyone always has a spot, but gradually people leave the game as they find a book they'd like to read longer. In each round, they have two books at their place to review and read for about 4-5 minutes. 

When the music is ON they dance around the area in one direction. When the music STOPS they sit at the nearest spot and read.

I needed 24 places to sit, one for each student, so I did 20 bean bags in parallel rows with two chairs on each end to 'contain' the scene. 

I didn't use only chairs because I felt students might choose to leave the game just to go sit in the bean bags. This way, if they decided to leave the game (yay, with a book!) they'd be choosing to leave their bean bag to go sit in a regular chair.

(I'm probably overthinking, but it's always all about the bean bags!)

Here's a slide with the directions. The Spotify logo clicks over to a "Summer Reads" playlist. 

This activity is super fun the first time, but probably not great to repeat over and over. Still, it was easy to set up, the kiddos enjoyed it, AND, best of all, many went home with one of the books I picked out!

Some details:
We played three rounds which allowed time for free-range browsing and checking out at the end.

When someone exited the game, I added another title to their spot from a backup stack, so the whole thing took 72 books (48 to start + another 24 as backup) plus more for other classes. 

I did the activity for all grades who wanted to come and pulled books of various levels within that age band (middle grade or young adult).

Titles at each spot were paired to be appealing to a boy or a girl. (In general, I find that girls read anything and boys don't usually choose "girly" covers).

Friday, February 21, 2020

Summer Reads...made me feel fine!

I was actually in Boston winter during vacation. Oh well!
To celebrate our community's summer reading, I asked faculty members to send a photo of themselves with a book they read over the vacation. 

I turned their pictures into slides showing them with their books in various vacation-related locations. This was quick, easy, and fun!

The Steps:

1) Upload the faculty photo into Remove.bg to remove the background and then download the new image

2) In Google Draw, insert the desired background image

3) Insert the new faculty picture on top 
(Arrange > Move to front, if needed)

4) Add a text box with whatever words you'd like

5) Download the whole thing as a .png or .jpeg

When teachers participate in something like this, I send them the final image as a little "thank you." I swear that increases participation!

Loads of possible uses with students as well! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Source Evaluation Moves with Linda Hoiseth

The synergy of Twitter always amazes me. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was planning a lesson with our grade 9 Science team on source evaluation. In middle school, I had taught students the CRAAP model but now wanted to take them to the next level: to help them listen to their own instincts and push toward more critical thinking rather than checklists. 


With high school students, I have been introducing the idea of evaluation "moves" - actions we take to verify, question, and critique a source. 

I found John Green's Crash Course, "Navigating Digital Information," particularly helpful and now talk about active evaluation skills, such as lateral reading and reading upstream, as an extension to the CRAAP model.


But I was looking for a new tool. Something that would provide structure to students as they work through the process of choosing sources but encourage them to dig deeper than a checklist.


Enter, Linda Hoiseth, via Twitter! 


Linda is a librarian I have admired from afar for her thoughtful and innovative work in research skills with students. Although we've never worked together, we have been Twitter pals for many years and I've learned so much from her. 


Just as I was stuck in mid-planning mode, she posted this grid that reenergized my approach. She calls her process "Inside/Outside." 


It provides guiding questions to help students evaluate what's within a source and what can be found beyond the source. She focuses attention on four areas: Authority, Bias, Content, and Date. A final category, Evaluation, is completed at the end.



Here's how I used her grid in my plan for Gr 9 Science:

1) Students work in small groups on a particular topic

2) They review the list of sources I chose that range from too biased, to overly complicated, to unsuitable purpose, to just right.


3) As a group, they identify the best source to answer the overall question of the unit: "How do environmental factors affect genetic variation?"


4) To make their choice, students work through source evaluation moves, guided by the questions on Linda's chart

These "Inside/Outside" moves include:


  • Skimming and scanning (is it understandable for your reading level?)
  • Identifying the purpose of the information & any possible bias
  • Lateral Reading (Read across the internet to see how the source connects to others. I use the analogy of a web)
  • Reading Upstream (Read "up" to get as close to the original source of the information as possible. I use the analogy of cows pooping in a river :)
Here is an example of a group's completed grid. It took 45-60 minutes to view the sources, identify the best one, and complete the chart.

In the next class, students used the source to complete a "CER" (Claim, Evidence, Rationale) paragraph to answer the overarching question.

Shortly after teaching this lesson, I learned of another tool with a similar focus: SIFT. (Stop, Investigate, Find other sources, Trace claims)

SIFT is a set of moves created by Mike Caufield in 2017.
via Mike Caufield
SIFT Infographic

I asked Linda if she would like to share some of her thinking about the tool she created.


Here is the backstory!


by Linda Hoiseth, American Embassy School, New Delhi


"I keep this article about a Stanford study bookmarked to remind myself of the importance of teaching real-life web evaluation, and have been looking for a framework to teach that is useful in both academic and personal settings. I’ve been using ABCD rather than CRAAP for several years, particularly with middle school students, because I like its simplicity (and it doesn’t make them giggle). Each time I approach the topic with students, they repeat outdated messages about site evaluation that they’ve been taught: “If it’s a .com it’s bad but a .org is good,” “It has ads, so it’s unreliable,” etc., and I know that we have to move them beyond that simplistic thinking. Mike Caulfield’s SIFT post was enlightening to me, and I wanted to incorporate his ideas into my teaching. Thus, the Inside/Outside ABCD.

The seventh grade social studies teachers at my school and I have been working with students on the National History Day project. The assignment requires annotated bibliographies, which we’d already introduced to students as they used print and database sources. We know that website evaluation requires an additional level of attention, and NHD addresses that in their guidelines.


In our lesson with the grade sevens, we talked about the need to look carefully at what creators of a site say about themselves, but also what they don’t say. We asked the students to look at all of the websites they will use for their project with this critical lens, so we didn’t require them to fill in every box on the evaluation form. If they find something that tells them immediately that a site is unreliable or not useful for their purposes, they should just move on. Likewise, if they already know about the site or it is recommended by a teacher, they only need to gather enough rationale to complete their annotation.

My hope is that this process is quick enough that it isn’t onerous and simply becomes part of their thinking whenever they encounter websites. Let’s be honest: I don’t fill out a checklist whenever I approach a new website, but I do think about who is behind the site and what their bias is and whether or not the content is backed up elsewhere. Ultimately, I want my students to do the same."

Thank you, Linda, for sharing this and for making your work available to me and others. Our international librarian community is strong because of our culture of collaboration.

Going forward, I like the idea of teaching source evaluation skills as "moves" - actions we take versus viewing a source passively and trying to glean its value from what it presents about itself. I like the ownership and power we experience as researchers when we actively fact-check and seek different perspectives.


So now, with Linda's ABCDE Inside/Outside chart and the SIFT tool, I have two ways to guide students in the source evaluation process. By using both, students will begin to internalize the "moves" needed to become independent evaluators, not dependent users of a checklist or acronym to remember.

Monday, October 28, 2019

You've Been Booked: The Halloween Version




Elementary school librarian and fountain of creative ideas, Shannon Miller, recently shared an idea she uses with teachers to generate excitement around reading picture books called "You've Been Booked!"

The concept: A bag of books travels around to various classrooms and when it arrives, the class stops what they're doing and READS the books in the bag.

For our Middle School, I wanted to do a Halloween version. I picked Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (in English and Spanish), read the stories myself, and tabbed the ones I thought would be the most fun. I made some notes ("Gross!" or "Ghosts" or "Very short") to help teachers choose quickly. 

Teachers signed up a week ahead on this document. At the start of Halloween week, I print the teacher list and include it with the books, so the class can see where to send the books next.

Today is the first day. Let's see how it goes! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Community-Building with the Library Whiteboard

Every library I've worked in has a "usual crew" - a group of students who consider the library a home base at school. They come every day, sometimes multiple times. 

I understand why they come; it's for all of the same reasons I choose to work in libraries myself. The library feels safe, expansive, private, and social. It feels personal and inclusive. It's a mix of many feelings that add up to: "I want to be here."

My personal challenge as the librarian is to create a climate in the library that expands the numbers of the "usual crew." 

I love the regulars and I want more of them.

Right now, after four years together, we have a lot of regulars. On an average morning, almost 200 middle and high school students fill up every chair, bean bag, sofa, pillow, or square of laminate flooring available. 

Many elements keep them coming (and perhaps this post is the start of a series of ideas on those) but today, I'm grateful for the simple strategy of our weekly whiteboard prompt as a way to welcome and continue to attract teens to the library.

At the beginning of each week, I write a question or prompt on the large whiteboard at the entrance of our library. Throughout the week, students (and teachers) chime in with their ideas. When we also housed elementary students, I changed the prompt daily because it got so filled up. But now, with only middle and high school students, the responses come more gradually and even, sometimes, more thoughtfully. 

As I watch them pour in each morning, I love to see their faces light up (or smirk, or grimace) as they read the latest responses. Invariably, the notes interact with each other and the collective responses become a kind of community.

This week, it has been foggy in Lima (STILL). 
So, on Monday, I wrote: "Talk about the sun." 
In response, we've got diagrams, odes, encouraging words, and a dose of snark ("Good luck seeing it in Lima"). 



Each week, the board captures the fun, the depth, the wisdom, the wonder of Teen Thought. I love to see what they come up with, and I think they love having a place to contribute their ideas.

Sample prompts:
What color are you?
Whom do you admire?
What are you reading?
Favorite restaurant in Lima?
Talk about the universe.
What would you like to know?
What can you make?
Write a six-word memoir.

I do take suggestions - such as "Favorite Dinosaur." Now that took an interesting turn!
Another use for our Whiteboard: 
Stick Together Puzzles