Sunday, September 14, 2014

MASHABLE Synthesis!

This weekend I was in the was in the car with my "hotspot," my husband driving along Interstate 87, when a virtual friend posted a  "" collage  on Facebook.   I commented,  "Wow.  You could use that for Revolutionary War characters and then upload it to ThingLink and add comments." Someone replied, "How would you do that?"  Here's the answer and I challenge any reader to add a "thing link" dot to a character and comment--just as though you were on my collaborative team of 5th graders!

We could do this in education for many uses such as Biographies, Presidents, or Imperialists.  Let's use this American Revolution idea to model.

  • Below is a photo collage created at  This is free and only requiring an account based upon email.  (Yay!)  
  • The photo collage can be downloaded to your desktop, shared on a webpage, Smore, or as here on a blog.  
  • The photo can be then uploaded at -- named -- shared -- and tagged with comments as modeled below.  The comments represent the "thinking" or synthesis required of research that has been previously done.  
  • The only information literacy issue is that when searches the Internet for photos, it does not give you the URL for attribution.  Therefore, this has to be back-filled when you add a Thinglink.  Luckily, when using "old" images and documents, most are within public domain. 

This sample below is what I'm calling "mashable synthesis."  That is, I've used more than one web tool, and the knowledge product intention requires more than fact-fetching.  I am asking students to synthesize facts they have found and draw conclusions.  The essential question for this below would be something such as:  If you were building Wall of Fame for the American Revolution, who would be on it and why?  Tell me in the first person voice of the hero.

It is interesting to note that the new National C3 SS standards really require the students thinking to investigate way beyond merely characters and their roles in the American Revolution and want students to get to deep understanding of conflict and change.   As noted below, they are asking early as 5th grade, for kids to consider the impact of the Revolution upon culture, economics, governance, and the other "lenses" of Social Studies.    

Your state may not have "adopted" these standards verbatim, so it's best to check your local STATE standards, rather than these national ones.  NYS, for example, reformed their SS "Frameworks" aligning generally with national recommendations but not verbatim.

(A piece of) Washington State Fifth Grade SS Standards, for example, looks like this: 

Although our example was cool, it was not rigorous.  It may have required that students synthesize the facts-found, but it did not necessarily meet the new SS standards in Washington, for example. To tweak the this for alignment, we could ask students essential questions such as these below:   

  • How did the culture, governance, economic conditions, compel you to join the  Revolutionary War? 
  • Why did you want to be free? Why did you fight in the American War? 
  • What were the causes of the Revolution from your first-hand perspective?
  • How does the Declaration of Independence reflect the cultural, economic, and governance issues of the time?  
For all these questions, students could still write in the first person voice of the hero, colonist, or activist. This also helps meet CCSS ELA standards and the shift of integrating literacy across the disciplines.  

I trust you get the moral of the story -- When choosing technology for "knowledge products"  insure that what you are planning to do, is aligned with the standards.  We are after all, teaching to the standards…not just having a good idea that is "close".   


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

9 Ways to Increase Visibility...and Indispensibility!

  1. Send an email showing teachers how to navigate to your ONLINE RESOURCES. Send a simple snippet - A picture is worth 1000 words.  You may think this is too "basic"  but believe me...there's probably someone who needs to know.  Notice how we're right up there with "poison control"?! 
  2. Share your ESL resources with ESL teachers and foreign language teachers:  Spanish Encyclopedias, BrainpopESL, translation tools within our database systems. - Remember... we (WSWHE SLS) purchases  for the ESL students at our level.  This is available to you. 
  3. Share your digital eBooks - Example: Scan the new Social Studies Frameworks to lessons that could be connected to our ROSEN publisher  SPOTLIGHT ON NEW YORK BOOKS.    Share a sample lesson plan idea from the teachers guide.   Check these out at our link: 
  4. Reach out to the PTA and offer to host a "Cool Tools for Home" show.  Strengthen your connection with parents, so that when you need their'll have it. Share your links to Overdrive and other online ebook, audiobooks, and resources for kids!  Don't assume people know about this.  
  5. Offer to take classes and teach "research" for substitute plans that are "scheduled" -(I used to do this and would know..."Oh yes.  Nanette will be out next Friday 'sick'."  I didn't care, however, because I knew her kids were learning vital skills.)   
  6. Offer to provide a "Book Mobile"  in the classroom.   Hotpicks for pleasure reading, or a subject-specific print cart.  Ask your PTA if they will purchase additional carts for classroom mobile libraries, if they have deep pockets.  Be innovative with your bookmobile ideas.  See Sue Kowalski's postings of her mobile library as their school re-builds! 
  7. Reach out to new teachers and offer to "help them meet their CCSS "Research Anchor Standard"  - Offer to increase the "rigor" in their research.  Kids need to "transform, not just transfer" information.  We need to build knowledge, not present mere facts.  
  8. Brainstorm an AIR program in your library.  For more information on "Accountable Independent Reading, see this blog posting - Got Air? 
  9. Prepare Screencast instructions on a tool such as   Don't assume that teachers will know how to use your database tools.  Make it easy to meet their needs, even if they are in their classroom with their 1-to-1 devices.  Regain the foothold lost to devices, by creating easy links and easy instructions.  Try to keep instructions to as few steps as possible such as: 

    • Choose a database 
    • Keywords
    • Search 
      • Cherry pick (choose from the hitlist)
      • Closely Read 
      • Comment -Notes
      • Comprehend 
      • Communicate  
    And for number 10?... You share your's! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Using Seed Texts to Spawn Research - Elementary Examples

For those of you who attended the NYLA - Section of School Librarians Leadership Conference, there was a discussion on elementary examples of "Seed Texts."   ( When I delivered PD, we modeled one HS example and the binder included another HS Biology example as well as a middle school ELA - SS example).  

Here are a few examples of later elementary articles that could be used as "seed texts" for discussion and debate, evidence based discussions, and to spawn Inquiry Investigations: 

Elementary articles for use as “seed texts."  Each of these articles could be used as good examples of intriguing, captivating, close reading examples that get kids to think.  

These seed texts were found in EBSCO's Kids Search, but you can look into any database for similar texts.  These are hyperlinked for access, if you subscribe. 

·        N.J. outlaws ivory trafficking

By: Hanna, Maddie. Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA). 08/07/2014.

By: Gibbons, Brendan. Times-Tribune, The (Scranton, PA). 08/03/2014.

Al Jazeera (Qatar). 06/14/2014.

20,000 African Elephants Killed for Ivory in 2013

Arabia 2000. 06/13/2014.

 Dangerous Pets:  Should they be outlawed?  Are our laws sufficient? 

PBC looks at new rules for dangerous pets, not just pit bulls

By: Sorentrue, Jennifer. Palm Beach Post, The (FL). 07/01/2014.

Weird, wonderful, and deadly animals.

Mail on Sunday. 11/24/2013, p7. 1p.

Exotic-pet store owners fight bylaw

By: Kate Allen Toronto Star. Toronto Star (Canada). 03/10/2012.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 New Bulletin Board Ideas!

Here are a few more bulletin board ideas for the start of school! Send me a photo if you've used any of the ideas on this blog and I'll be glad to post them! 

  1. Wall of Shame - A Character Building Adventure
    Give your students a lesson on finding news articles and have them contribute to a wall of shame.  Keywords can be "crime, arrest, teens, plagiarism, cheating, etc"  Spot-check a few of the keywords to insure that the scandelous articles which are returned are not X-rated.  Here's an article to jump-start the conversation:  (What was he thinking?!) ---- 
    Believe it or not, some kids don't believe they'll get "caught."  And, some students dont' believe something is wrong unless they are caught. ----You can even post a Bill of Rights and ask the students to synthesize whether any of these articles relate to the Bill of Rights.
  2. Wall of Fame - This needs to be placed Juxtapose to the Wall of Shame to spotlight the two ends of the spectrum.   An essential question such as, "Which wall do you want to end up on?"  will bring the message home.
  3. Rich Words to Impress Your Friends - Have students contribute vocabulary words from books that they have read.  Don't leave all the work for yourself.  When you ask for student contributions, they "own" the space and it validates their learning process.
  4. Read Around the World - Place a world map up on the bulletin board and ask students to "Pin" where the setting of their book is.  Tell them that you'd like to get "around the world in 80 days" or some goal such as that.
  5. What'z Happenin? - Place a world map up and ask students to post headlines from around the world.  Once again, this builds a 21st Century frame of reference and places perspective on their community. Once again the Bill of Rights may prove to be a good "conversation piece" in discussing world news.  Would this be happening in the USA?     
Incase you missed the previous postings, here are the links:
The movement for bulletin boards is to embrace "interactivity." Don't just post something that is "readable," but rather design a display that requires participation. Pick a theme and see whether your students can participate. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Are Your Kids Sluething or Snoozing?

For those out there in libraryland on a fixed schedule, you may be looking for "fresh" ideas to increase rigor and higher-level thought in your scheduled library time.  Despite the fact that you may be contractual "classroom coverage," you can seize every opportunity to prove you are a vital member of the instructional team-- while still valuing literature, reading, and having fun.  

Here are two examples of morphing the old paradigm of "library time" into innovative instruction in the library.  These two simple examples model adding rigor to transform an old passive "storytime" into a time for close reading, examination of the text, and discovery of meaning.  

If you really want to shock your building principal, consider asking him for the "item analysis" from annual testing, by grade level.  Tell him that you'd like to contribute to the weak areas and target a few instructional periods to address items such as inference, decoding vocabulary words, main idea and supporting details, and more.  After suggesting this once locally, I had a new librarian share that her principal looked at her in shock and said, "I've never had a librarian ask me that before."  (Instant SCORE!)

Another way to foster the "instructional partner" paradigm is to eliminate the "book exchange" from your scheduled library time.  When I was an elementary librarian (back in the Neolithic Age), all books were "returned" to the library in the mornings.  That way we reduced our library book exchange time by 5 minutes per class.  That may not sound like a great deal of time, but every 5 minutes counts. I've heard of schools where kids who want to check out a book, have to come during lunch, recess, before or after school, or with a library pass.  Every situation is different, so only you will know what works for you.  

The research says that the "more kids read the better they read.  The better they read, the more they'll comprehend.  The more they comprehend, the higher the achievement."*  Get those kids reading.  Increase your circulation.  Enlist the help of honor society students needing volunteer time.  Let them shelve your books! Increasing your instructional value is the best way to advocate for your position! 

*(Self-quote from "The Importance of Increasing the Volume of Reading" written for Expeditionary Learning, NYSED . 'Based on the research of Marilyn Jager Adams) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

3 Simple Summer Goals?

     Next to December, June is about the busiest month of the year-- only no one is singing carols or baking goodies.  We're all bemoaning grading, taking inventory, and shouting things like, "Who cares if the book is out of order! Would someone kill that beeper?!"  
     We spend time hunting down book thieves and rummaging in lockers for MIA titles. We wish for one of those little "Do not disturb" signs from the Hilton and long for a chamber maid to arrive to tackle housekeeping. If we're lucky, someone has stopped to wish us a nice vacation and remind us why we enjoy working with these packages of adolescent hormones.   (Disclaimer:  I was a middle school librarian for about 10 years...)
     By the time we get poolside drinking [soda] with little umbrellas, we have 10% more gray hairs and a few less brain cells.  We've baked the cookies and eaten dozens claiming we deserved them and we desperately hope to rouse up a little patience for our own kids.   

Fast forward three weeks: 
  • Yes.  I did agree to the PLC and where is that book? 
  • Yes.  I did take home ten books to read so that I can recommend good books. 
  • Yes.  I did agree to look at Piktochart and learn how to create infographics. 
  • Yes.  Perhaps I can find time to read
To keep yourself professionally equipped in our tsunami of change, we can't afford to ignore our profession during this extended time of respite. Just as the kids experience the "summer slide," professionals often take on a Rip-VanWinkle persona and wish that everyone will just leave us alone.  Educational changes are make us feel like we're in a NASCAR race and to keep current, we need a little inspiration.  

Three goals seem manageable.  Three goals are easy to meet.  Three is a friendly do-able number.  Take time for yourself and family, but also take time to equip yourself for change.  Partner with a colleague, listserv, or PLC for accountability.  Here are 3 simple goals to embrace: 
If you don't know where to start, here are a few ideas:
  • Review the narrative nonfiction winners and pick a few
  • Review the Newbery and Printz award winners and pick a few
  • For professional reading... you can "do" twitter, but Twitter is often a surge of surface reading.  It's great-don't get me wrong.  I tweet.  I read tweets, and I follow links for ideas.  But that's like being fed with breadcrumbs.  Occasionally, you really need a meal.  There are great professional books which will help you equip yourself for our changing educational world.  Here are a few that I recommend in order to equip yourself with the tools for Inquiry, Common Core, and the latest buzzword for libraries...Makerspaces. Choose one and enjoy it with a friend, poolside, sipping soda and making plans. 
Essential Questions - because it is a vital skill to understand.  It enables us to move away from rote 'n recall.
Rx for the Common Core - because I wrote it and know it's easy to read, packaged for easy understanding and will equip an educator with a plethora of skills for the CCSS, Inquiry Based Learning, questioning, and higher level thought.
Teaching for Inquiry - because everything that these authors write is good.  It will equip you with a strong foundation in Inquiry Based Learning.
School Library Makerspaces - because this is the latest buzzword and we should understand order to weave this into our learning common space. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reading: The Past, Present & Future

Last week at a state meeting of curriculum gurus, I presented on eBooks.  To us, eBooks are old news, but these people are sitting with so much on their plate that and it is one more item they have had no time to figure out.  We look at this through library eyes.  They look at this through "textbook" eyes.  They know there has to be a textbook solution, but don't know what it is.  We've been waiting in the wings, wishing they'd ask us because when we cry from the rooftops and send emails, their ears are filled with other problems. The tipping point is here. People are ready to listen.
I chose to frame the ebook conversation speaking of: the past, present and future.  

Most of use have seen this video of medieval monks figuring out the "book." Very funny as we can all relate to something new which we can't wrap our head around.  Many teachers fall in this camp and need to be reminded that technology does not move backwards.   

If they complain about eBooks, show them this link at and they should be duly scared.  (Be sure to click in the window to see reading at 250+ WPM) 

See your librarian for present choices. Why? 
  • Kids are connected 
  • Devices are prolific and multiplying like bunny rabbits in Spring. 
  • Titles are engaging 
  • You don't have to carry a heavy load on your back 
  • It justifies those "testing devices" to be used for something other than "assessment" 
  • We need to keep current 
  • You can search by keyword and don't have to find the page -- it comes to you! 
  • You can read at night without a light on...your devices light it up  
The moral of the story for administrators was that we already have eBooks. They need to find out what is currently available.  

If your district is contemplating eBooks for eTextbooks, likely they are talking to the same textbook vendors without considering these innovative options: 
Overdrive for Fiction  

These provide a look into textbook alternatives.  These are options to consider. We are not talking flat PDF's or home-grown uploaded papers.  We're talking interactivity and more.  Wrap your read around eBooks and eTextbooks today.  Be ready with the answers.  Provide solutions.  Be part of the change.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Creative Learning Commons!

Today, someone asked about books modeling creative writing for 2nd graders.  Wow and kudos. That was one high-expectation teacher!   Some second graders can hardly write, while others need challenge, but why not plant the seed of creativity even as it emerges? 
CCSS standards do not stipulate creative writing in the 2nd grade, but focus more on: Opinion, Informative, and Narrative.  In fact, the word "creative" is only mentioned twice anywhere in the standards: Once in the introduction and once in 11th grade.   Read this CCSS ELA introduction disclaimer: 

So you see, creative writing is not a standard, but they believe it could be an ability based upon what you've taught them. The only thing wrong with that approach is if students never try, how will they ever know they can?  Do they ever make the connection between what they read and trying to replicate that creativity?  

Here are a few lesson ideas aligned with the Common Core that might be more appropriate for 3rd or 4th grade or 5th grade, but if you want to try with 2nd...go for it!  

  • First have them read closely a creative book. (Group them or individually) 
  • Identify characteristics of a "creative book"  or "creative writing" and simplify them down to elements in a checklist which students can look for:

·         Hide your message in a picture
·         Weave in a theme
·         Drama words
·         Color words
·         Words that paint a picture
·         Fancy words 
·         Feeling words
·         Describe rather than state 
*    Foreshadowing (hinting) 

  • Have them read closely to identify those  elements in a book - (There are so many robust book choices so choose ability-appropriate titles.) 
  • Choose a wordless book (examples below) and have students create words for the illustrations. 
  • Choose a great creative book, and cover the words--asking your students to create the narration for the pictures.   Then compare their writing with the original text so they can see (read) the difference and learn from the model.  

I say... if you have time in your library, why not try this? If you are observed, perhaps they will see your students closely reading for details in the text.  The students should be able to share their "text-based answers."  The students will be speaking with "evidence from the text."  Students could be using synonyms and vocabulary tools to add valuable vocabulary to their creations...Go for it!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Research: Are you anchored?

As a kid I grew up near the water where we knew the value of an anchor.  No one in their right mind would ignore the condition of their anchor line.  If you were out for a sail on a sunny summer day or out fishing on an incoming tide, you needed to know you could drop your anchor and that it would hold.  That's what an anchor does: It keeps you rock solidly placed where you need to be…for a reason.

The ELA Writing Anchor standard, Research to build and present knowledge, is  there for a reason. However, teachers all over are ignoring this. They haven't checked on their anchor.  They haven't thrown it overboard in a port of call where kids could engage in this activity, and many haven't learned what real research is.

A sailor should never be afraid of an anchor.  An anchor is a friend.  It's a tool.  It's an essential piece of equipment.    Tell your teachers you'd gladly "cover" this ELA Writing standard for them.  Invite them to your port of call to participate in an investigative, research and writing project.  Model how this tool can be used to experience depth of knowledge and deep understanding.

Celebrate the ELA Anchor standards which will help keep students grounded in a sea of misinformation.

There are many reasons why students should be dropping anchor in your library.  Here are a few from the Common Core: 

Remember. It's all about the kids.  Let's teach them to anchor their views with credence.  Anchor them in data, information, evidence, credibility, reliability, and safe ports of call.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Connecting to the Classroom: How and Why

For next Tuesday's AASL webinar on Repackaging Research, I have created the schematic below.  Basically, if you are aiming to increase your collaboration, you'll want to bait your hook.  Know the reasons teachers should be opening your doors.  You should need a revolving door...or devices connected to your virtual librarydoor.  

These are information, or "evidence," reasons for which classrooms should be visiting your library if you are operating within Common Core Standards.  If you are not living in  a CCSS state, that doesn't preclude this reasoning.  Tune in on Tuesday the 20th at 7:00 EST if you'd like to get ideas for improving your research program.  

Paige Jaeger:  Think Tank Library, Libraries Unlimited, Dec 2014

Repackaging Research - Recipe for the Common Core

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
7:00 p.m. Eastern / 6:00 p.m. Central / 5:00 p.m. Mountain / 4:00 p.m. Pacific

As a follow-up to the AASL archived webinar, "Brains Change @ Your Library, this webinar will address how to ensure your research "projects" are challenging today's hyperconnected. Research—done correctly—will hit almost every one of AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the "anchor standards" in the CCSS. This webinar will cover:
  • Moving beyond "information Hide 'n Seek" 
  • Why research is the next big thing
  • Reaching the hyperconnected
  • Reaching teachers and administrators
  • Technology integration