Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wintery Books and Getting Embedded

'090216-A-4676S-020' photo (c) 2009, James - license:
Week 13

This week, a team of teachers employed me as an embedded librarian, really a first for our school. 
Similar to journalists embedded with troops in Iraq, the embedded librarian works alongside the teacher to teach research skills.

The back story:
Although we've had flex time for grades 4 and 5 for the past two years, this is the first year I've found a way to keep bigger blocks of time open to make true integration possible. The secret: schedule grades 4 and 5 checkout sessions at the same time I teach younger students. There's plenty of space for two classes to choose books, and when everyone is settled at the end with their books, we can do some cross-age reading.

The advantage of this double-booking is that 8 blocks are now open to go into classes to work with grade level teams to embed research skills into their existing units. 

Grade 4 project:
Teachers designed a project listing various topics related to the Middle Ages (inventions, people, weapons, events). Students will create a keynote presentation showing their understanding of either a cause or effect for their topic.

I will work with the four sections of grade 4 for double blocks each morning for three weeks teaching lessons and being an extra support to teachers and students as they work through basic skills, note taking, organization of information, citations, use of images, and evaluation of the task.

Research Skills, week 1, Guiding Question: How do I begin a long-term research project?
Students had practice with...
- Defining a research question
- Understanding the difference between a search engine and websites (video)
- Learning how search terms and search tricks help get better results (video)
- Using questions to decide if a website is suitable for the task (Internet detectives)
- Using digital sticky notes to record information (

All of the resources used are on the grade 4 tab of our library website as well as linked above.

The Upshot:
Students were fully engaged in the lesson because they knew they would be applying the skills right away and using them to learn about information they were already interested in. The combination of video clips, discussion, and group work kept everyone focused.

Grade 3 - Guiding Question: How can understanding text features help me find information about a topic?

Grade 3 began a mini-research project this week. It ties into their unit about Rights and Responsibilities. We examined various countries looking for how the basic rights of the citizens are met: Housing, Food, Transportation, Jobs, and 

Using a set of country books, we examined the structure of the text (Table of Contents, captions, charts, index, glossary) to get a sense of how we'd find the information. Students noted their facts on a digital board for their class, so all the information about all the countries will show there. 

Students will compare the information they gathered with facts about their home countries. We'll continue next week!

Grades PreK 3 - Grade 2 - Guiding Question: What happens in the animal world when winter comes?

When Winter Comes, by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Susan Gaber
A rhythmic pattern of repeating questions asks readers to guess where various creatures such as caterpillars, field mice, birds, and fish go in the winter time. We end with a cozy scene of a child a home to make the point: we adjust to nature's changes too! Simple text makes this good for grades PreK 3 - Kinder.

Under the Snow, by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Constance Bergum
This nonfiction picture book asks us to think about what's happening under the snow as we go about our winter fun. We see ladybugs huddled in a mass inside a stone wall, a sleeping woodchuck - heartbeats and breathing slowed, and a toad nestled into leaves - frozen solid but still able to survive. The combination of surprising facts, spare text, and realistic watercolors engaged students, grades 1-2.

50 Below Zero, by Robert Munsch
Some classes also read a funny winter story. It's about a boy who's constantly woken in the night by the sounds of his father sleepwalking. When Dad takes a spin outside on a super cold night, the boy has to go to extremes to get his stiffly frozen body inside the house. Finally, our hero solves the problem by tying his father's big toe to his bed. But will that really end the sleepwalking for good? 

(We make up silly motions for this one since there's lots of repetition. It's also found on Tumblebooks). This is a fun read for grades Kindergarten and up.


  1. Being in Budapest, you probably haven't yet seen Kate Messner's latest 'Over the Snow, Under the Snow'? But it could be a great one to add to the acquisitions list for next year. ;)

  2. You're right, I haven't had a chance to see Kate's new book. But, I'm heading home for Christmas, so I'll be sure to check it out back in the US. It looks wonderful! Thanks for your comment.