Week 9

Currently reading: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Tuesday, March 26

This was my third day at Madison Elementary. I can’t believe how fast this semester has gone by! Today we did a “seeds and trees” activity with PreK students, as part of a unit they have been doing. To begin the lesson, Ms. Hefner read them a nonfiction book about pine trees, oak trees, acorns, and pine cones. Then she introduced the activity, which involved organizing information graphically. I loved that she told the students that they were going to be “scientists” and “organize the information” they gathered about the trees and seeds. She always introduces new vocabulary to students during her lessons, and never acts as if a word is too long or too complex for them to understand. I love that! Students were given a large piece of construction paper which had been divided into three sections, and were asked to place images of oak and pine trees, the words “acorn” and “pinecone” and seed”, and images of acorns and seeds into categories. This was a great way to introduce the students to the concept of categorizing and organizing information. An especially fun aspect of the activity is that each student was also given an actual pine cone (gathered from my grandparents’ farm in northern Louisiana), a real acorn, and a real apple seed that they could take home. They loved feeling and studying these things, and that tactile experience is a great teaching tool. It is one thing to tell a child what something is, or to describe it, but to give him or her the opportunity to experience it for themselves is so much better. I loved working with the younger children on this activity, and thought they did a great job of categorizing the trees and seeds! If you’re curious, I have a funny quote from today: When asked what kind of tree was in the image, a little girl answered “a popcorn tree?!”…don’t you just wish!

I spent the rest of the morning working on a project for Ms. Hefner in preparation for the genre read-around that is taking place Thursday. The event will be  a good reminder for the students of the definition of “genre” and what aspects of a book identify it as a particular genre. In order to prepare, I made lists of each genre’s defining characteristics and pasted each list on a piece of green paper. Then…I laminated them! This was my first time to use a laminator. I know it probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it made me feel a bit more like a teacher. Ms. Hefner will make flip charts for the third through fifth grade teachers so that they will have a resource to turn to when reviewing genres with their students.

Thursday, March 28

Today was my last day at Madison, and was filled with more projects in preparation of things Ms. Hefner is doing with classes. The first project had to do with genres, just like Tuesday’s project. I gathered 25 books from each genre from the fiction collection so that Ms. Hefner can use them during an activity next week. Next, I photocopied reviews from Student Library Journal and Booklist. She will use these to teach third graders how to write their own book reviews. I love that she is always introducing students to these kinds of things! Then, I pulled books from the nonfiction collection about Oklahoma (history, famous Oklahomans, the OKC bombing, animals, etc.). These activities helped me to learn more about the collection, which was good. Near the end of the day, I was able to watch Ms. Hefner do a story time with a biography on Jim Thorpe. I haven’t seen a librarian do a nonfiction story time with a nonfiction book before, and I learned something from her technique-she reads the next page while turning it so that the story flows easily from spread to spread. Brilliant! I plan to practice doing it the same way she does.

Next week I will be working at the Instructional Services Center with Buffy, and going to the Oklahoma Library Association conference in Ardmore.



Week 8

Currently Reading: Crossed by Ally Condie

Tuesday, March 12

Today I returned to Madison Elementary. I was excited to be part of the Read-Around which Ms. Hefner put together for second graders. Students heard book talks about ten different biographies from ten different adults (teachers, school staff, administrators, and myself) as part of their biography unit. I did a 3-minute book talk on Boss of the Plains: The Hat that Won the West by Laurie Winn Carlson, which is a biography about John Stetson. I really enjoyed doing the book talks, and felt more and more comfortable with each group (we split up the students in order to make the groups small). I was able to incorporate some classroom management skills as I made sure they were listening and paying attention to me, and practiced keeping their attention by leaning in, making eye contact, asking questions, and using different voices. I’m not sure John Stetson was the most popular biography today, but the read-around was a fun activity and I was happy to be a part of it!

Later this morning, I observed Ms. Hefner doing a story time with preschool students. They were all so adorable and I loved the activity they did following the story-Ms. Hefner had them build a pizza on the chalkboard and create a diagram by labeling the various parts. I love that Ms. Hefner uses these times to expand kids’ vocabularies, especially before they start kindergarten!

Something else I’ve realized about working in an elementary school is that activities involve more preparation as far as cutting things out, gathering paper, etc. To prepare for a sorting activity Ms. Hefner is doing later this week as part of a trees and seeds unit, I cut out pictures of trees and seeds and created tables for students to paste the pictures into. Ms. Hefner always has something to cut out, glue, and create in order to prepare for a lesson!

I was excited to hear that Ms. Hefner was doing “Literary Lunch” today with third graders. Students can bring in their lunch and listen as she reads a novel (right now it is Freaky Fast Frankie Joe). She reads a bit each day for a couple of weeks, until she finishes the novel. Students are not required to turn in a reflection or do an assignment-it is purely a fun activity! Of course, it is a great way to increase these students’ fluency as well. I would love to do my own “literary lunches” in the future!

Thursday, March 14

I worked with Buffy Edwards again today, and had the opportunity to visit multiple sites with her. We started our day at the Instructional Services Center, where we talked about the barcodes the school district uses for each of its schools, and how the district works with publishers and each librarian to purchase books and materials such as spine labels, Mylar covers, etc.

Next we visited Wilson Elementary. The librarian, who I recognized from one of my classes, is in her first year. Buffy thought it would be a good idea to hear from a brand-new librarian how to adjust to a new school and library program. The librarian has made a lot of positive changes to the library at Wilson Elementary, including rearranging furniture to improve the look, feel, and function of the space, weeding and updating the collection, and changing some of the operations of the library in order to make it a warmer and more welcoming place for students (this involved increasing the number of books students could check out, etc.) She shared many ideas with me-her rationale for making changes to the current checkout policies, how she handles overdue and lost books, etc. One idea I really like: having students bring a bead with them to the library from their classroom and dropping it in a fishbowl when they enter the library. This tells the librarian “I have permission to be here right now” and helps the students feel empowered to move around the library and look for books as they please.

I also had the opportunity to visit Dimensions, which is the alternative high school in Norman. Buffy is the librarian there, and was excited to unveil the newly arrived Google Chrome books to the students. The kids were so excited and loved looking at their email from the Chrome books, checking out the apps, and setting their personal profile preferences. I hope to be able to return to Dimensions later this semester in order to see how Buffy does instruction with the students there. It is a small and close-knit community, and I can tell that the teachers are really passionate about these kids!

Next week is Spring Break, but I will back at Madison the week after the break.


Week 7

Tuesday, March 5  – Thursday, March 7

Currently reading: Matched by Ally Condie

This was my third and final week at the Norman High School Library. It will be hard to leave this setting because I have enjoyed it so much. A large portion of my time at NHS this week was spent helping the library assistant process new books. We stamped them and prepared the spine labels for the shelves. The work was a bit monotonous but helped me to better understand how the librarians organize books into the different areas of the collection (graphic novels, biographies, nonfiction, etc.). I also helped shelve books, which further increased my understanding of the organization of the collection. I enjoyed reading the titles of the newly arrived books and added several to my reading list!

I returned to Mr. Widener’s class with Martha to do another Google Presentation project with 12th grade students. The students were self-motivated and did not need a lot of assistance or guidance during the class period, apart from help with the set of laptops we brought to the classroom to the library. It is so interesting to see the change that takes place in students from ninth to twelfth grade. The content is mostly the same, but the approach is very different!

An important aspect of a school librarian’s job that I had not given a lot of thought to before this week is providing professional development. Many groups of teachers met during a three-day period this week for intelligent classroom training. The librarians and a district staff member led the professional development times, which were designed to help teachers discover more ways to incorporate technology into their classrooms. I was able to attend the planning meeting for these sessions last week, and then saw them played out this week! Many teachers do not use technology in their classrooms beyond the smartboard, projector, and document camera. Others use many free online applications and have a lot of great ideas about how to incorporate technology. It was good to see teachers sharing and creating ideas together, and many surprised me by being willing to learn new things. Several had specific things they wanted to learn-for example, one wanted to know how to use Pinterest and another wanted to learn more about Google tools. I came away with a lot of new ideas as well! The development times were some of my favorite parts of this week because I learned a lot and got to see teachers, rather than students, working together in a new way.

Another important concept in school libraries is digital citizenship. This was mentioned multiple times this week in interactions between the school library staff and the students. Martha spoke with an English class, who used the library’s set of iPads to take pictures of themselves instead of to conduct research as they were instructed to do, about the importance of taking care of and responsibly using technology that is not their personal property. This concept can be extended to plagiarism, illegal downloading, etc.-things students make decisions about in and out of school on a daily basis.

I had the opportunity to work alongside Calypso to plan a lesson for the special education class, and was able to attend a reading time with the library secretary in the special education classroom as well. It was neat to be able to spend some time interacting with the students, and I learned how to adjust lesson plans based on the students’ needs. From the planning session I learned the steps the librarians go through as they plan lessons (both formally and informally). Informal planning usually takes place in the form of a casual conversation in the classroom or teacher break room, while formal planning involves the use of a planning guide and is a sit-down, give-and-take conversation. Calypso and Martha do more informal planning than formal planning. Calypso said that she usually finds out which teachers are in the computer labs each week and then stops by their classroom or chats with them in the break room to see what materials they are using or could use. She always suggests ideas of materials to use or routes to take, and uses it as a time to tell teachers about resources the library offers. I like that she does it in a way that is convenient for teachers and also advocates for the role of the library in the classrooms. The librarians told me collaboration is less common at the high school level than at the middle school or elementary levels, and making themselves relevant in this way has been the most successful approach they have found for increasing collaboration. I am thankful for this insight and glad that I could see them do this firsthand!

I will be back at the Instructional Services Center and Madison Elementary next week. This semester is going by so fast!


Week 6

Currently Reading: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (what can I say…I am obsessed!)

This was my second week at Norman High School. It is definitely my favorite setting so far! It is very different from being in an elementary school or even in a middle school. The high school library is more laid back than at other levels, and although fewer students use the library to check out books, many more students come in to use the computers or other technology such as Nooks or to work on multimedia projects for a class. There is more one-on-one interaction between the librarian and student, which I like. There are fewer opportunities to co-teach than I expected, but many opportunities to provide teachers with ideas and resources for their lessons. I like the laid-back atmosphere and enjoy providing readers’ advisory to the students. Because of their age, there is a greater range of materials they can read and enjoy and I feel less restricted in recommending books to them. I can see that all members of the library staff have built friendships with the students. Cultivating friendships with students is particularly effective at the high school level for impacting students’ lives-I would love to impact my future students the way the library staff at NHS does!

Tuesday, February 26

Today I observed Martha and Calypso co-teach a class in the computer lab with a history teacher, Mr. Widener. The class used Google Presentation to create a newspaper consisting of biographical articles on historical figures. The students were required to include a primary and secondary source, testing their knowledge of different types of information sources, and to write a  “letter to the editor” pointing out high and low points of one or more of the articles (incorporating writing, responding, and summarization into the lesson). I enjoyed seeing how the two librarians co-taught together and alongside the teacher. Calypso provided instructions and Martha operated the Google Presentation, and both helped students one-on-one around the room. I liked the assignment because it included a range of information skills, and it was good to see how the librarians interacted with each student.

Thursday, February 28

Today the library assistant, Kayla, and I worked together to process books recently received in the library’s annual book order. Processing the books only involved stamping them, but when we process the Sequoyah MasterList books next week it will be a longer process. I saw a lot of books on the carts that I want to read, and this activity was useful for seeing which books students are interested in and hearing the librarians’ rationale for selecting specific books.

I am looking forward to another week at NHS!