Currently Reading: Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (I love this series!)
Tuesday, January 29
Today I again spent four hours with Terri Street, the librarian at Longfellow Middle School. This was my first opportunity to spend an extended period of time with middle school students-there is a definite difference in this age group from elementary students! One thing that I noticed in these students is the ability to more clearly express their information needs. Several students approached me and asked for specific books or for books by a specific author.
Not all students can express their desires clearly, though. Readers’ advisory has been the most difficult part of working with middle school students so far. It was easy to help students with specific requests (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, biographies) find books, but I had a hard time assisting the student who wanted a “scary” book or the one who wanted a “dramady” (his words, not mine. It turns out he wanted something similar to the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian…who knew?). Talking with the students was a great way for me to learn what they are interested in right now and what they think is “cool” or “boring”. I have been reading a lot of young adult literature during my time in graduate school, and these kids gave me several new titles to add to my “to-read” list!
When I arrived at Longfellow today, Mrs. Street was busy administering a test to several students. This was just another reminder to me that flexibility and a willingness to be involved in every aspect of the school is an essential part of being a school librarian!
Something that really stood out to me about Longfellow is their 1-to-1 technology to student ratio. Mrs. Street, together with several other people, applied for a grant which provided funding for one Dell Netbook per every student in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I know they have since created many maintenance headaches, but I love the idea behind putting a laptop in every student’s hands that they can use at school and at home. Teachers have been able to incorporate the Netbooks into their classroom activities, and students are gaining experience using and caring for a personal laptop-pretty incredible!
Another thing that appeals to me about the library at Longfellow is that it is a multi-use area. An Explo class uses the space for lessons and activities during third hour, which provides the librarian with more opportunities to co-teach, and the after school program takes place in the library after school. I definitely want to create a school library environment like this one, where students and teachers feel comfortable coming in and using the space!
To give you a better idea of the arrangement of Longfellow’s library, I have included some pictures of the teaching and reading areas, as well as the computer workstations, and periodicals section (below).
Thursday, January 31
Today I spent eight more hours at Longfellow Middle School. The day started off with more testing, but soon I had the opportunity to provide readers’ advisory for students in seventh grade language arts classes (one teacher brought in students from each of her four classes today). For the most part, students were actively involved in finding a book and didn’t need much encouragement or guidance in finding something they were interested in. I think a large part of this interest comes from the teacher requiring leisure reading in her classroom. Middle school students read less than elementary students overall, but requiring leisure reading in the classroom encourages students to continue visiting the library without forcing them to read any one book in particular.
The most exciting part of my day was preparing for and participating in a planning time with the seventh grade language arts teachers (there are two at Longfellow, along with two student interns from OU’s education department). Mrs. Street and I met with the teachers and interns in the library during the teachers’ planning time to discuss plans for a lesson to take place in each seventh grade language arts class next Tuesday. Seventh grade has been doing a unit on different types of information, including informational texts, consumer information, historical and biographical information, and now directional texts.
Mrs. Street was asked to co-teach the lesson on directional texts. She thought using some how-to books on origami or pop-ups would be a fun way to teach the students how to write and respond to directions. I pulled several books about origami, paper folding, and creating pop-ups from the shelves and marked different activities which were simple and required few materials, since these would be easiest to incorporate into the lesson. I presented a variety of activity ideas to the teachers during the co-planning session, from which they selected an origami card activity that could also be tied into Valentine’s Day. We discussed what we wanted students to take away from the lesson (the objectives-which were to have students be able to follow visual, verbal, and written directions as well as direct another student verbally and through writing), and how we wanted to the lesson to work. Mrs. Street contributed several ideas to the session, and it is obvious that the cooperation between teachers and librarian have come from several years of communicating and building trust. I am excited to have the opportunity to see this lesson develop from beginning to end, as I will be at Longfellow again on Tuesday when they plan to teach it!