Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Long Live the King...

With the recent announcement that Arne Duncan is stepping down as Secretary of Education, and Dr. John King would take his place as acting secretary, I can't help but share a file from my YouTube channel. While Dr. King is not without controversy, let me remind people that he did not bring the CCSS to NY, but rather inherited these standards when his predecessor, David Steiner, resigned just after signing on to  the "Race to the Top" (RttT) bottom line--and the necessary adoption of the Common Core Standards to compete for the pot of gold.  At that time, I heard one Superintendent remark, "the rats are the first ones to abandon ship." 

John King had to make the best of it, and when NYS won RttT money, we saw the bulk of it was placed into teacher-training programs. Most people fault King, but it is not the CCSS that wrought havoc in New York, but rather the teacher evaluation system.  What a messy, dysfunctional, and inaccurate way to evaluate teachers. (Why should we quantitatively try to measure a qualitative job?) My intention here is not to debate the CCSS or the controversial NYS teacher evaluation standard, but to share how this man, Dr. King, understands the vital role of research in education. 

All this said, I do believe John King is a library supporter. He values reading, libraries, and research.  Here's a clip that I heard him deliver at a CCSS Teacher Training Day (NTI as they were known here in NY).  After this speech, I emailed his office asking for the few minutes of video...And--a week later, this was delivered in a DropBox link.  Thank you Dr. King.  I have this on tape on the power of research for our librarian file! 


One of many Secretary of Education announcement articles which can be found online: 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Incubate Heavy-Duty Thinking!

Let's incubate some out-of-the-box thinking with this fun Bulletin Board for secondary students:   Only in America...  

Place those words front and center and all around jump-start thought with the following absurdities from our culture. Leave space for students to add their own "Only in America..." thoughts.  Challenge them by leaving a sentence starter pre-copied paper available for their out-of-the-box contribution.  Here are some seed sentences: 

  • Only in America...do drugstores make the sick walk to all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front. 
  • Only in America...do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters 
  • Only in America...do we leave expensive cars in the driveway and put junk in the garage. 
  • Only in America...do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight. 
  • ONLY in America...do we use the word "politics" to describe the process so well: "Poli" in Latin means "many" and "tics means "blood-sucking creatures." 
  • Only in America...do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.  

Not only will this get your students to laugh and view our cultural absurdities, but it will get this generation...THINKING!  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 100 Learning Tooooools?

100?  Really?   
EQ:  How can we detect when we're on technology overload?  
          How can I assess whether we're using tools for Quality or quantity? 
          Does our IT Dept enable us to use these? 

Time for true confessions. I love technology and once upon a time, I was a tech-guru. Our program implemented Microsoft Moviemaker ten years ago.  Our students created Animotos, iMovies, Audacity MP3 files and more.  I built a library portal via Dreamweaver that had its' own domain name, and our students were info lit savvy.... all back when tech was in its fledgling status. BUT -- There was a limited number of educational tech tools then. Inquiry-based learning was just beginning to take hold, and not all our tech projects were stellar works of thought.  

Now, we have to be even more careful to embed thought, as time constraints have hit us like a parasite zapping precious planning time from our schedule. Now, we have tech in abundance, and if we're not careful we can be consumed with the upkeep of our program and state-of-the-art technology. This sometimes results in cheating the quality of our assignments when we should be requiring the kids to think and not just to report

We have a prominent UK educator, Jane Hart, to thank for her survey and list of the top 100 tech tools, of which I have listed 51 below.  As we survey this list, I would encourage you not to be consumed by them, but to eat sparingly.  Treat this like a gourmet menu where you ponder: 
  • "What can my students experience this year to enhance their education--not their toolbox." 
  • How many can they eat and not be overweight?  
  • How can we exercise their mind using a few of these?  
It's fun to consume new gourmet foods, but we have to insure that we get our exercise to work off the calories.  All that said, here's the top 51!  

2015 Top Tools - As per Jane Hart - Click here

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Half-dozen Bulletin Board Ideas!

Good bye to the old paradigm of bulletin board being a "content delivery" system. By adding an interactive element, expecting students to contribute to the postings, you are transferring ownership to the students.  They begin to see the space as a place for contribute.  Here we are again starting another school year, with interactive bulletin board ideas for you!

Carpe Diem! - Seize the opportunity to give your students a voice on a bulletin board.

1. CAUTION!  At your local hardware store purchase a roll of yellow CAUTION tape and use it to surround your bulletin board as trim. Provide a center yellow paper template stating "CAUTION! These books will keep you awake at night!"  Ask students to contribute book covers for captivating page-turners.  I remember one at-risk student sharing that when he read the book, DUNK, (David Lubar) "It was so good and hilarious that I'd rather read than watch TV."  I hadn't read DUNK at the time, but took mental note that it must be a winner!  

2. Global Connections: Flat-world? Place hints on the board, and ask the students to figure out where this place is. The questions should or could, come from the news and cause the students to: identify keywords for correct searching skills, or increase their global exposure. A world map from National Geographic would provide a good background.

  • Bujumbura is the capital of this impoverished nation. How can they crawl out from poverty?
  • This nation is below sea level.... 
  • Tell me about the city of Chittagong. How could we help them? 
  • Timbuktu is a real city located at what longitude and latitude
  • Where do the Hutu's live? 
  • This country's currency is a Baht. How many would you need to purchase a $10.00 (US Dollar) toy? 
  • Etc. - Or, ask the students to create questions for others!
3. WONDER WALL  - What are you wondering about?  Allow students to post their random questions and then teach them to find answers.  When the bulletin board gets full, you can teach a lesson on "investigating" or finding answers, keyword searching and more. 

4. Life's a Puzzle -- Using a colorful puzzle, ask the kids to complete the puzzle on the bulletin board, by gluing pieces in place when they find one to fit.  Every week include a puzzle-riddle near the board that they can contemplate as they look for pieces to fit. 

5. WANTED a Few Good Readers!  Have students  suggest titles and create Wanted Posters with book covers. Hang them on the bulletin board. Wanted a reader who [fill in the blank]!  Ex.  Wanted: A reader who likes to read murder mysteries and who wants to figure out who killed the mother!" "Wanted: Readers to learn about paranormal probabilities!"  "Wanted - someone to help me find another book this good!

6: Notable Quotable! Cut out some speech bubbles from copied black line masters such as those pictured below. Ask the students to find a great quote within their books.  For instance, I just finished reading, The Silent Boy, (pre-publication to be released Oct 2015...a page-turner-murder-mystery). While I'm reading, I always stop and note a good quote or two that I stumble upon.  In The Silent Boy, the main character comments, "Facts are solid things. You can trust them, unlike people."  These quotes can arose curiosity in readers and be a platform for discussion and discovery. 
In case you've missed previous ideas!...  

Good luck and feel free to post some pictures, of your creation! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back-To-School Essential!

Here's an older posting, but it's a good reminder to purchase a lazer pointer for Back-to-School Essentials.  This librarian made quite the impression on her principal who thought she was rather resourceful.  If you are "Aide-less" and need another appendage, consider this: 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kwame’s Pulchritudinous Book

Three chapters of Crossover had convinced me that Kwame was a genius... a genius-wordsmith.  Look at this list of SAT words, or valuable vocabulary, embedded into the text of the first few pages:

There you go: Pulchritudinous.  So, even if we knew the others on the list, we probably haven’t used pulchritudinous in the last few days.  It was easy to decode from the context clues—simple in fact, and even defined on the following page.  Kudos to this hip-author writing basketball books, in captivating almost-rap-style modeling the value of articulation. 

It wasn’t vocabulary, which won him the Newbery award, however.  It was the weaving of words, to spin a yarn, which the reader could relate to. Who hasn’t been jealous of their sibling?  Who hasn’t lost a hero? Who hasn’t been proud of ability or upset by loss?  So, I take off my hat to a man who writes with distinction, articulates the difficulties of coming of age and overcoming adversity. He models hope to teens, encouraging them to triumph over life’s difficulties.

Hat's off to Kwame as he accepts his Newbery award this Sunday at the Gala in San Francisco for this pulchritudinous tale. (Yes. I know. I know. I've used this word out-of-context.)

Instructional EQ’s:
How does vocabulary reflect a command of the English language? 
How does literature reflect real life issues?

Pictures below of Susan Polos, librarians, Bedford Central Schools, NY with her visit from Kwame.  See this great article (click here) spotlighting getting "Fired UP for Reading" with Kwame pictured on the front, and featured story beginning on page 17. These two local programs highlighted in this article, spotlights the value of a strong reading program.  
Kwame Alexander and the Newbery Banquet held in Bedford Hills Elementary School 

Kwame Alexander, students, and Susan Polos, President-elect NYS Section of School Librarians

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blackholes, Beauty, Adjectives & Discovery

This TED talk was thoroughly beautiful, amazing, spectacular, unbelievable, puzzling, and more!  When I viewed this my mind immediately thought of educational uses. Fact:The person doing the thinking, is doing the learning. Fact:The brain is lazy, and needs to be inspired to work. Fact:Students need a reason to read or research. Fact:There are soooooo many opportunities to inspire curiousity, that teachers have no excuse for putting kids to sleep. Let's wake up the class and get them: THINKING, READING, AND RESEARCHING. Who knows? Perhaps someday they'll be studying "Blazars."
 Quick CCSS-aligned lesson to encourage "short term research assignments:"

  • Show this TED talk and amass a list of questions. 
  • Essential Question: How does space science (astrophysics) puzzle us?
  • Ask students to describe what they saw.  Tell them you "value vocabulary" and ask for expensive adjectives. (model this)
  • Brainstorm a list of questions students might have, after watching the video. 
  • Have each student pick a question or two. 
  • Research the answers - a "mini-Inquiry" 
  • Hold a "meeting of the minds" and share new knowledge.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Are You Ready for Research?

Here's an idea to tuck into the back of your mind for next year.  Prior to our 8th grade annual "inquiry based research project,"  I decided to poll the students to capture their pre-assessment on video.  This was not a scientific measurable pre-assessment, but more of a qualitative, fun endeavor.  I asked the 8th graders a variety of questions and they candidly answered.   After creating this short movie we showed this in the ELA classrooms prior to this, their first large research project. Not only did they laugh, but they serendipitously, were ready to listen.  We were amazed at the success of exposing ignorance.

You may hear a reference to www.librarydoor.com, as that was our school district research site that I had maintained for years, but subsequently has been replaced. It was set as the homepage on every library computer in the building (we had 75 computers in the library and the attached two labs).

I'd like to share that my goal after this, was to vertically align the research skills taught so that students wouldn't arrive in 8th grade needing so much triage. This worked.  We were able to get district support to incrementally build capacity starting in the early grades.

As with many projects, once I started this, I was able to enlist the help of techy 8th graders (Andrew, specifically featured in the movie), to help splice comments and free up my time to move on to other things...).  Enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Questioning is the KEY for Success!

When Wiggins & McTygue launched a focus on Essential Questions, almost twenty years ago, they were ahead of the pack.  With the evolution of the Tech-dependent Millennial generation, EQ's are imperative for instruction.  The correct EQ will turn an assignment into a "discovery" to find the correct answer, using the vocabulary of the discipline!  The wrong assignment question will provide nothing more than a fact-fetching online session.

 EQ's can  transfer the learning responsibility into the student's hand and prevent the scenario pictured below. 

(Text from Sorry You're Lost, by Matt Blackstone) 

I'll be delivering PD on this Monday morning, in Missouri --for any educator attending MASL Conference, but most reading this will not be in Mark Twain territory for this event.  Listed below are a few sample EQ's which demonstrate how the right EQ can empower a student to learn.  These samples are 9 examples of the 99 Essential Questions found in our book, Rx for the Common Core, available via Libraries Unlimited.  (Use discount code: Q21520 for 20% off.)

EQ: Why do we need to be concerned about Plate Tectonics and your local plate.  
EQ: How is health and wellness defined by the technology of the time? 
EQ: How has the discovery of [your Chemical Element] changed the world?
EQ: How has the migration of people, changed the culture where they landed? 
EQ: How did Jim Crow cause the South to revert to a pre-Civil Way society?
EQ: How do animals think like scientists?
EQ: If you were living in Europe during the 1700's, would you have emigrated to America? 
EQ: How did scurvy impact sailing? 
EQ: Why is your digital footprint a real-world character reference

I'll be talking about EQ's, GQ's (Guiding Questions), TDQ's (Text-dependent Questions), and more, on Monday!  See you if you are in the area!  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Librarians @ the CORE

Every other week we delightfully see a salary deposit from employers and are reminded that they are at the helm. We work for them--to support their goals, their mandates, and their mission of academic achievement and college and career readiness.   That's right.  They set the direction, not us. States set the standards, grade level benchmarks and more.  They have told us we are to teach to the Common Core Standards and in order to keep the money flowing, we happily accept that challenge knowing that we can package content creatively within any set of standards. We are teachers.

There was a fad almost 20 years ago to have students re-write the poem, "If I Ran the World."  While this was a cute activity, I cannot say it was rigorous or aligned with standards.  In fact, I dare to say...it was rather easy, self-centered, and entertaining? I actually did this after attending an elementary librarian conference where it was suggested. What were they thinking? There was no standard attached.  There was no learning objective.

We teach in an age that requires us to think critically about why we are teaching what we teach.
If you see students for 45 minutes weekly,  you see those students for 30 full hours annually.  Ask yourself the following:

  • What are your learning objectives for those hours?  
  • How can you support College and Career Readiness in those 30 hours?  
  • How can I "show" rather than "tell"?
  • Have I carefully crafted lessons that are: creative, engaging, and providing skills to equip students for success? (We could teach them 30 new tech tools for "Publishing" and I would be aligned with standards....)
Teaching is tough work.  It is not for the faint-of-heart.  But--those with creative ideas and fortitude are amply rewarded by seeing students smile with pride when they authentically craft their knowledge into something they can share.   I remember visiting the HS library a couple of years ago and running into some former middle school students.  Kyle made my day when he remarked, "Mrs. Jaeger!  I miss you and I'll always thank you for turning me on to vocabulary!"    Of course the words he began to proclaim were less-than-stellar such as, heinous, civilian, moniker and other words extracted from Al Capone Does My Shirts.  He was our star rapper when we used Audacity to record. The year was 2007.

Wrap your head around "new standards" remembering that you can be creative with just about anything.  Just weave your standard together some tech tools, valuable vocabulary, an Inquiry Investigation! 

If you do not know how to align your instruction to standards and are looking for ideas, may I suggest our newly published books as pictured below.  These THINK TANK books provide lesson examples for library instruction which have standards noted.  Recently, I received thank-yous from librarians who took the time to email stating these Think Tank books provided just the examples they needed to understand new standards.  

Available via ABC Clio - click here