Monthly Archives: March 2016

Assignment Three: Establishing Relevance in the Teacher Resource Reference Section

Illuminating The Resource Section

Evaluation of current conditions

I am actually quite pleased with the current state of reference services for students in the our school library, however the reference services for teachers is another story!  The present condition of the teacher resource reference is not meeting the needs of the current staff, it is underused and rarely accessed.  There is such a mix-mash of resources crammed into one small space in the back corner of the library, housing everything from fabulous to laughable resources.  We have several duplicate resources because staff members and previous teacher-librarians have made purchases without consulting the existing inventory, further illustrating the lack of use.  As it functions right now (or doesn’t!) these resources are rarely used, and most members of staff are unaware of the resources available to them.

Evaluation of Current conditions-6

While personally, and professionally I can see that this section of the library is failing, I found it incredibly interesting to assess them using the Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada resource.  While the areas for evaluating this specific area in the library are limited, I did find that technically we are either considered “acceptable” or “exemplary” which makes me realize the success of this section isn’t determined solely on what exists but more in how it is presented and marketed.

 

 

Evaluation of current conditions-2

If teachers are unaware of the quality resources that exist it means they are not using them, and therefore not putting the lesson plans, and teaching practices to use, which of course affects student learning in a trickle down effect.  Classroom budgets are small and are often not used towards purchasing teacher resources like the ones that are found in our school library.  Many teachers will not go beyond the four walls of their school, or recommendations from trusted colleagues when it comes to professional development references, therefore, if those references aren’t being accessed the effect on students learning must also be questioned.  Teachers need exposure to quality reference resources and collegial dialogue as a means of bettering and reinvigorating one’s teaching practice. Ultimately, if teachers aren’t pursuing lifelong learning their students will suffer.  The current system for housing these materials allows for them to go unnoticed, and become forgotten; we need to illuminate the teacher resources so that staff are more inclined to access them, breathe some life into that section of the library and develop professional development as whole school initiative.  

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Evaluation of current conditions-4

The change will take place gradually over the course of the year by weeding through materials, determining what holes there are in the current stock, and inviting staff members to weigh in on what should stay, go and be purchased.  This is a school wide issue, therefore an invitation will be extended to all staff, however, it will ultimately only involve those who are interested and participating on their own accord.  
Communication will take place formally through verbal updates at staff meetings, and casually in encounters between myself and the staff.  It will also take place nonverbally through presence and exposure of a rotating resource display in the staff room.


Steps:

1 a.) Teacher-Librarian Weeding. As the first step I will pull all of the teacher resources to evaluate them.  Using an abbreviated and adapted version of Riedling’s evaluation criteria I will tag resources based on three categories: Yes, No, Maybe.

Content Scope

 

1 b.) Collaborative Weeding. I will personally invite at least one trusted teacher from each team to join you in the weeding process so that there is representation from each grade, while also offering a general invitation to all members of staff who are interested in being a part of the process.  This will provide a starting point for professional conversations around the learning materials.  For this event I will provide drinks, snacks and make it a fun after-school activity that depending on the depth of conversations could be a weekly event for several weeks.  

2 a.) Illuminating the Quality Resources in the Building through Direct Communication with Staff.

Highlight  2-3 resources at each staff meeting that are worthy of mention.  Once resources start to actually be used ask the staff members to give a quick review thumbs up/down why?  etc. at staff meetings, so that multiple voices are speaking on the resources in our building.

Check in with staff, what would they like to see in the resource section?  What resources could support their teaching?  Find out what is happening in the classrooms and make suggestions for resources that could positively influence the learning within those lessons.


2 b.) Illuminating the Quality Resources in the Building through Indirect Communication with Staff.   Create a display showcasing teacher resources based on themes that will be on rotation in the staff room.   Include a sign out sheet so staff can remove resources, but be accountable for them.  Check in with teachers after use about their thoughts, and ask them to share a two-minute review with staff at the next staff meeting.

 

Evaluation of current conditions-5

The follow-up for this plan will be to check in with teachers for feedback about the changes.  The success will be determined by the use of the resources:  Are people using the resources? Has circulation increased in this area?  Are professional conversations happening around the school?  

Give summary of findings in last staff meeting/ get together of the year and ask for feedback and request direction for following school year.

 

 

 

References

Asselin, M. (2003). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian School Library Association.
Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.
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Theme Three – In House and Digital Reference Resources

 

Theme one_SErving the clientele-2

Can you say information overload?! Wowie! I am once again feeling a bit overwhelmed with the role of being a teacher-librarian!  I am trying to remind myself that there will be a learning curve, and eventually this will be second nature, and thinking back to this moment will be funny, at least I am hoping.

Theme Three included an abundance of information on a variety of reference materials found both in house and online.   While I felt familiar with many of the items discussed on some level (even if just surface level), there was also a lot to take in.  I really appreciated the sharing of online resources that were throughout this theme, not only did they provide context for the information provided, but I can see sharing many of them with my students.

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1.) When it comes to utilizing, or selecting resources of any kind critical thinking is a major prerequisite!  As researchers, and educators we constantly need to be evaluating the information we receive and reevaluating as time goes on.  Once a resource has been deemed appropriate for one’s school use it is the TL’s job to continue to ask questions: Why am I using or recommending this resource?  How does it meet the needs of the students who will be using it?  What are the biases?  How will it help students reach their learning outcomes? Just because something passes the test in September, doesn’t mean a year later it will still hold the same value, and therefore we need to constantly be engaged with the materials and looking at them objectively to determine if they still command the respect and honour of holding a place in our learning commons.

2.) Maybe Wikipedia isn’t so bad!  If students have the skills to perform research and discern between quality resources and ones which lack credibility then Wikipedia shouldn’t threaten the learning process.  I love Chris Harris’ point in the article Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia,

“To be quite frank, continually bad-mouthing Wikipedia to the very people who use it—successfully—makes us look a bit daft.”

Harris is absolutely right, we need to get with the times instead of fearing the worst, if we educate our students then maybe we can help them avoid the very things we hold against Wikipedia.

3.) Starting at square one has never been more clear.  There should be an entire unit of lessons devoted to completing research before the research process even begins!  So often we as teachers put the cart before the bull and set students off on research without giving them the fundamental tools to actually perform that research.    I often do an introduction to researching that is about 2-3 lessons, but in reality I’m not sure that is really enough.  Students depend on their skills to use Google, however to truly understand how to research a specific topic effectively that will not be enough.   Being familiar with middle school teachers I feel so often we assume students have been taught some of these foundational skills, and in most cases they haven’t.  We can’t always depend on last year’s teacher to have done the work, and therefore we must structure the appropriate amount of time into fully preparing our students in the research process, after all these skills will be ones they use for a long time to come.

Did you know that Google has actually worked along side Google Certified Teachers, and their Search Engine team to develop  lessons to help teachers teach the skills of utilizing Google in their search engines for the best results?  I just stumbled across this in my journey to find a better starting point and boy am I glad I did!  Click the picture below to explore their lessons now, or copy and past the link at the bottom of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.13.45 PM

 

Questions

Something I still feel a bit conflicted about is whether digital encyclopedias and databases trump hard copy ones?  Students prefer online access, information is updated more frequently, and can be accessed by multiple users at once, from multiple locations.  However, what would the loss of presence do to the rest of the hard copy resources?

Google Search Education.  Basic Search Education Lesson Plans – Google Web Search Education. Retrieved August 19, 2015.

Harris, C. (2007, June 1). Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia? Retrieved August 19, 2015.

Assignment Two – Collaborating and Mentoring a Teacher to Evolve Practice

Examples of potential resources in way of book covers, and citations.

 

**Disclaimer: Mr. Gains and Ms. Middleton are fictionalized characters pulled from a variety of experiences and encounters in my teaching career.  Names and details have been changed or modified to allow for anonymity.

 

Case Study #1Mr. Gains is a grade six teacher who is in the tail end of his career.  He has the school year down to a science: his lessons are organized by what worksheets will be completed on what specific week and day.  The worksheets are compiled from a variety of sources: teacher/student text book black-lined masters, and worksheet booklets based on subjects like math, English, science, etc.  Some may be worthwhile in conjunction with other tasks, but in the context that they are delivered it ends up being busy work for the students.  Mr. Gains often complains in the staff room that his students aren’t “what they used to be” and that they are “like trying to corral cats,” other teachers on his team would say it is because his students are not involved in their own learning and are therefore checked out.  At the end of the year students have become masters at rote memorization activities and have no conceptual understanding to accompany the “learning” that has taken place over the course of the school year.  These specific skills that have been acquired from spending a year in Mr. Gains’ classroom have no transference into any practical real world use.   For novel studies he has a set of questions that correspond with each chapter that students respond to individually with little, to no opportunity to discuss or extend their thinking/understanding.   Mr. Gains relies on his worksheets, and textbooks for all lessons, and while he does utilize and access some decent reference materials, he does not implement them into his lessons in a way that engages his students.

Goal: To help Mr. Gains reconnect with his students in methods of practice which allow students to be involved in their learning, and not merely a subtext of it.

Approach:

Mr. Gains loves any opportunity for extra help in his class, therefore i think it should be relatively easy to convince him that collaborating and team teaching could be a worthwhile experience for the students as well as himself.

Here is a great video by Elizabeth Buckhold, a grade eleven teacher, outlining her experience using literature circales with her students.  I would use this as a video to further illustrate the purpose of literature circles and to give a bit more exposure to the concept to Mr. Gains.

Potential Roadblocks:

Not being open to trying a completely new approach.

Ways to combat roadblock:

  • Provide examples of success stories from the past.  Speak passionately and confidently about the process and why it works.
  • Reassure that we will tackle this together and that I am there for support throughout the entire process.
  • Only as a last-ditch effort: Merge new ideas with existing so that elements feel familiar.

 

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Step One: The Hook

Offer Mr. Gains the opportunity to have an extra teacher in the room for the duration of a class novel study.

Introduce the idea of literature circles, where students will be given individual, rotating roles within a small group followed by weekly opportunities to discuss chapters in a formal small group setting.

Step Two: Planning

Provide choice of novel study, either the whole class reads the same book, or various books are chosen based on a similar theme at varied reading levels.

Pull literature circle teaching resources from the library and allow Mr. Gains to peruse the various graphic organizers and to further understand the process and purpose of literature circles.

Discuss what roles should be permanent, and which roles will be integrated in as occasional roles.

Create an end task where students will showcase what they have learned.  (Movie book trailer, book review, etc.)

Step Three: Implementing

Invite Mr. Gains’ class to use the Learning Commons space for the weekly or semi-weekly meetings.

Take turns sitting with each group and listening to their conversations.  Asking questions to continue conversations when appropriate or necessary.

Debrief after each meeting and share personal notes with Mr. Gains about students’ thinking and progress.

Provide feedback about where students are at and personal interpretation about how meetings are going.

Check in: How do you feel? Do we need to reevaluate our process? What will our next lesson look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Ask students to reflect on the process, what worked for them, what didn’t? Is this a format they would like to continue to work with in the future?

Reflect with Mr. Gains: What worked? What didn’t? What would you be willing to try next time? How can I best support you in the future? Where do we go from here?  How have your students’ reflections impacted your feelings about this process?

Case Study #1-2Ms. Middleton is a grade seven teacher who is also at the tail end of her career.  While she takes the time to build relationships with her students and genuinely cares about them, her laid back approach to life is evident in her teaching style.  Ms. Middleton frequently pulls lessons or free units from the internet to “keep kids busy” while “checking off the PLOs for the year”.  In teaching one unit she printed six pages of questions on the topic from the internet, made no modifications, handed them out to students and gave them hours of internet access to find the answers.  She provided no purpose, background, or lessons around performing research for the process, she also did not mark the work once it was submitted.  In spite of some of these actions, Ms. Middleton can be motivated by other teachers and can be open to new ideas, so long as she is not required to invest too much time or energy into revamping.  She does have the understanding and experience to identify fun and engaging learning experiences versus the mundane, she just doesn’t always take the time to look objectively at her units/lessons to ensure that they are contributing to student’s higher level understanding and learning experience.

Goal: To help Ms. Middleton create meaningful learning experiences for her students that fit her style, but are reflective of quality critical thinking challenges.

Approach:

Based on Ms. Middleton’s laid back style of teaching I think introducing the concept of Project-Based Learning is something that could be easily implemented into her practice through exposure, mentorship and guidance.  She currently embraces student driven learning, however she needs a bit more purpose and direction in order for her approach to be worthwhile.

Below is a video from Edutopia that serves as an introduction to Project-Based Learning.

Potential Roadblocks:

The biggest roadblock I can foresee is that Ms. Middleton would be afraid that integrating this new approach would be too much work.

Ways to combat that fear:

  • Provide examples of past success stories
  • Provide choice and appearance of being in the driver’s seat (topic choice, right to veto, direction of lessons)
  • Emphasize that this is a team effort and that I am there to support her throughout the process through: collaboration, team teaching, resource selection and individual lessons that I can offer to help set students up for success.
  • Once Ms. Middleton has agreed make it hard to back out.  Check in regularly, communicate excitement as well as the work I am doing on the side to bring things together.

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Step One:  The Hook

Invite Ms. Middleton to be one of a small select group of staff that I could collaborate, and team teach with this term in the role as Teacher-Librarian.

Discuss potential subject areas that might be of interest for Ms. Middleton this term and introduce the concept of project-based learning.

Provide examples of successful Project-Based Learning experiences to motivate Ms. Middleton to agree.

Step Two: Planning

Review new curriculum together and narrow down potential PBL topics and establish a critical thinking question to drive the project.

Pull and select potential resources that will support student learning and the research process.  Discuss together which ones would be considered credible, good quality etc. and create a plan for how students will understand and come to similar conclusions about resource selection.

Create timeline for lessons – what will we teach together, individually, mirrored in small group.

Consider possible guest speakers who are experts in the topic to come in and present to students as a “hook” at the beginning of the learning.

Discuss how students will show what they have learned.

Step Three: Implementing

Check in daily to see how things are going.  How can I continue to support you? What is working?  What needs reworking?  How are you feeling? What will tomorrow look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Reflection:

How can I support you in integrating a similar approach to teaching in the future?
What worked?
What would you do differently?
What can I do to help continue the momentum?

 

References

 

Loucks-Horsley, S. (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved August 12, 2015.

Edutopia. Resources for Project-Based Learning. (2015). Retrieved August 12, 2015.

 

Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.