Tag Archives: teacher librarian

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.

Thanks for Subscribing!

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.

Theme Two: Managing Reference Materials

Theme one_SErving the clientele I am feeling a little less overwhelmed after completing the second theme.  Not because the job description is any less intimidating, in fact there are probably more bits and pieces to consider now!  However, it feels a bit more humanly possible to try to achieve the goals of being a good teacher-librarian.   So often in university courses, text-books and “how-to” manuals we are left feeling a sense of rigidity that doesn’t allow for or factor in the human element.  I felt relief in this theme with the acknowledgement of how being a relatable human being with skills to communicate can and will influence how the success (or failure) of a learning commons.   Thanks for Subscribing!   1.) Give credit for what you bring as an individual to the role.  One of the resounding messages that kept popping up, especially in Riedling’s Reference Skills chapter nine, was the role that the T-L’s personality plays in creating a successful learning commons.  So often this stereotype of the introverted, quiet and meek librarian is perpetuated, even though I never felt that this was some sort of common goal or characteristic in reality there was  a sense of validation I felt upon reading  Riedling’s acknowledgment of what an individual’s unique set of skills and  personality can bring to a learning commons experience.

 “Both tangible and intangible skills combine to create purposeful and interesting communications between the school library media specialist and the student, and hopefully, a successful reference interview.” – Riedling pg. 102

2.) Finding Balance.  Another strong takeaway I took from this theme is how crucial balance is to a learning commons.  Not only does balance play a role in the budget, but it also applies to the distribution of resource selections; being mindful of balance in all its forms is imperative to the success of a learning commons in a multitude of ways. I can only imagine each T-L’s individual struggle when comparing the purchase of hard copy or digital reference resources.  After looking over an example of what a hard copy set of encyclopedias cost, compared with an annual digital subscription my initial feeling is to go with digital.  It almost seems foolish to invest in the hard copy resources at those prices when it is merely a matter of time (the clock starts ticking the second that order has been placed) that it becomes outdated and in need of replacing.  Having said that, I can completely argue the other side saying it is not foolish to invest in print copies of resource materials.  It is important that we have a balance of various types of resources for students to engage with and from which they will learn.  So, how do T-Ls decide the allocation of funds and feel good about their decision?  I guess it goes back to some of the thoughts outlined in module six, we need to be PICKY when selecting resources, and get as many different inputs as possible from the people who will be utilizing them.  I have seen many great resources go unnoticed in a library because teachers didn’t know they existed, and neither did the T-L!  In fact, at one school the staff bought a selection of resources without realizing it already existed in the library, no one had checked!  I guess that goes back to one of the takeaways from theme one: Know your stuff!

Here is some follow up food for thought on the growing trend of moving from hard copy to digital:

Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital by Bill Hicks for the BBC.

References

Hicks, B. (2013). Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital.  Accessed August 22, 2015.
Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.

Assignment One: French as a Second Language Resources in Middle School

Teaching French in middle school can be a daunting task, especially when there are a lack of quality resources in your school.  For several years as a classroom teacher I found myself I piecing together bits from all over the place, but longed for something that was more comprehensive with a consistent approach; speaking with colleagues I heard I was not alone in the pursuit  to replace the patchwork approach with a quality program that reinvigorated the teaching and learning process.

Feeling this need first hand has made this search a personal and passionate one for me.  As a means of helping me narrow down and evaluate potential resources I have used my goals for an FSL program in my middle school to create a rubric.

Criteria Not Meeting Meeting Exceeding
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Language is too complex or too simplistic for entry level FSL learners.
and/or
Images/themes are too juvenile for middle school students.
Language is simple and accessible for beginner FSL learners, but does not provide a challenge.
Images/themes are mostly age appropriate, but can sometimes feel too corny or high reaching.
Language is appropriate for beginner FSL learners.  Allows for students to feel successful and challenged.
Images/themesare engaging for middle school students and have relevance to the context in which it will be used.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Teacher’s guide does not support teacher knowledge, either assumes the teacher has strong background, or does not provide context for how the material can/should be implemented and used. Teacher’s guide is fairly straightforward to use, however teacher may at times need to go elsewhere for further breakdown or explanation of content.
Lesson sequences are easily adaptable for classroom use.
Teacher’s guide supports teacher’s ability to teach the given theme in a confident manner.
The guide provides a comprehensive approach to teaching each theme and the content within.
Lesson sequences can be used as presented.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences. Teacher guide does not provide variety of activities for language practice.
Activities are mostly worksheets or activities with little rigor or relevance.
Activities may need to be modified; however, overall they support student learning and language practice.
Activities tend to be repeated, with slight modification to keep students engaged.Both written and oral language is emphasized.
Guide provides a variety of engaging lessons and unique activities for language practice.
Activities are varied and allow students to feel challenged yet successful.
A variety of new activities that promote oral and written language are presented.
Connections/activities may continue in an online format.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Images or content is dated.
Resource doesn’t seem to take into account the audience is middle school aged (11-13)
Activities may seem too young or old.
Context for learning does not transfer into real life.
Images and content is relevant to middle school learners.
Resource mostly provides age appropriate activities for 21st century learners.
Skills and language learned can often be transfered into  real life situations.
Images and content are current or timeless.
Resource provides learning in a context that is relatable to the average 11-13 year old student living in Canada.
Skills learned is easily transferred into a real life context.

As a starting point I have decided to turn to the resource that  currently sits on the shelf in the teacher’s resource closet to establish its validity and relevance.   Every single edition the school owns sits here looking as though years have passed since its last use;  is this a sign?  Visages is “a highly visual, full-colour magazine” published by Pearson Canada, and authored by none other than Judy Mas, the now retired coordinator of Languages and Multiculturalism in our district.  It is now becoming clear why I have seen this resource grace the shelves of pretty well every single school I have been in within the district.

Flipping through I have instant flashbacks, this was the program used in 1995 when I was in fifth grade!  The “Télévision” unit makes references to popular TV shows at the time: Little House on the Prairie and Asterix.  The CD which plays theme songs to accompany each unit is cringe-worthy upon first listen, but smoothed over by colleagues as the hook that is so silly and ridiculous that kids just buy in (I’m not so sure I’m buying that!).  The activities are juvenile, but of course upon further inspection on the Pearson Canada website it is aimed at “grades 4-6,” not 6-8 which is now considered middle school in our district.

On the bright side, the teacher guide does provide lessons that would benefit even a novice FSL teacher, and are organized in a way that provides a choice of two routes for teaching the various themed units.  At the end of each unit is a performance task, which allows students to practice their oral skills in a fun, interactive and social way.  Even with those positives, I’m not sure I need to go back to the rubric to know this resource is no longer in the realm of reasonable for today’s students.  Originally published in 1994, over twenty years ago, it no longer meets the needs of today’s learners, and does not provide context that transfers real life.  Using it because it is the only resource available isn’t fair to anyone and tells me this needs replacing ASAP to prevent further torture to the delivery of the program!

AIM-2

Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Meeting/Not Meeting While the language is at an appropriate level, the lessons are too juvenile for the intended audience.  The recommended delivery and materials feel too corny and forced
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Meeting Looking past how dated this resource is, (which is extremely difficult to do) it does support the teacher with options for delivery as well as English and French explanations, so it gets a very reluctant pass.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Not Meeting The activities are juvenile and simplistic for this age. The assessment activities don’t have a lot of rigor and it feels like a stretch to see the relevance or purpose as to why a teacher would assign them.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Not meeting Images and content are over 20 years old, and completely unrelatable to a middle school aged student in 2015.It is hard to see a real life connection where students will have to use their knowledge of 90s TV shows to communicate.

Overall this resource fails.  Whatever merits it had 21 years ago when it came out are lost because it is just so unrelatable now.  Clearly this resource needs replacing, it is taking up too much valuable space on our shelves and it isn’t right that teachers are left with this as the only choice.

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Years ago I had done a search for a current resource that would replace the piece-meal program I was using.  The problems I encountered when I called publishers were that unlike the rest of Canada, BC doesn’t introduce French as a Second Language until grade four/five.  So, all of the resources I came across that were aimed at my target audience were either far too advanced, and the resources that were at an appropriate level for beginners were far too juvenile as they were aimed at primary students.  Coming back to this search this time around I decided to try something different and start by calling friends in the profession rather than publishing companies.  That is how I was introduced to the program AIM: Accelerate, Integrate, Motivate by Wendy Maxwell.

The teacher who introduced me to this resource had nothing but incredible things to say about how successful the program has been in her classroom.  The following video brought to life much of what she described to me in our conversation.

 

Here is an example from the AIM website of one of the stories for this level.  Note: the theme connects cross-curricularly, and since the images are drawn it will have a more timeless look to the context of the material.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 2.25.48 PMAIM

Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school.   Exceeding Even though there is no English is spoken during the French lessons students are set up for success with most common phrases, and words used in the French language along side gestures, which help to reinforce understanding and vocabulary enrichment.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed.  Meeting This program requires teacher training workshops which may not be available in every city.Each unit is accompanied with songs, posters, gesture DVDs, reference materials, assessment activities, power point presentations, and a video example of the final task.There is online support for teachers in the format of: online workshops, forums to connect with other teachers, and video tutorials.There are SMART board digital downloads available for purchase.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Exceeding There is a combination of oral and written tasks throughout each unit.  The structure of the program promotes regular language use amongst all participants.  The activities often utilize movement and group involvement and set students up for real world application.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Exceeding The AIM program uses familiar stories as a mean of providing common ground to reinforce lessons.The images and storylines are relatable to middle school aged students.There is an option to access an online portal to extend learning beyond the classroom.Real life language skills are learned that will help students be successful using French outside of the classroom.

The only two draw backs with the AIM program that I can see at this stage of my research are:  Training availability, and the level of commitment required to implement this new resource.  If staff are not on board with learning a new approach and really emerging themselves in this new technique there will be no point in purchasing the resource for the school, no matter how superior the product may be.

If we can assume that staff would be enthusiastic about the AIM program I would recommend  it should replace Visages in our school as the primary resource available for teaching French as a Second Language.   AIM appears to be current, engaging in its approach, while providing material that is relatable for students and a variety of means to support teachers.

The introduction kit that I would recommend would be the  Le garçon qui joue des tours kit based on the write up on the website it sounds most appropriate for late FSL students.

“This entry-level play is suited to the older elementary student. It is a story that deals with sibling rivalry and appropriate behavior toward others. A boy who constantly enjoys playing tricks on others at their expense learns an important lesson about kindness.

This kit is for students with no prior knowledge of French, but pushes students a little bit farther and faster than Les trois petits cochons.

Students are introduced to approximately 500 words. Present and passé composé forms of common verbs (regular and irregular), adjectival agreement, the formation of questions and the use of ne…pas are introduced.”  AIM Language Learning

According to AIM’s price list found on their website each kit is valued at
$495 which includes: Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 1.36.06 PM

With the option to include: 

  • Student DVDs (min. 10) @ $15
  • SMART board digital download @ $49.95
  • Student workbooks (min. 10) @ 15.95

I would start by purchasing one copy of the first kit, along with 30 student workbooks, and the SMART board digital download (assuming there is a SMART board in the classroom).  In my experience student DVDs are impractical and will not be used, which is why I have not included them in my breakdown.  Perhaps the teachers using the resources will feel differently and we can revisit this purchase at a later date.

The grand total for our introductory kit would come to $1023.45 + taxes and shipping.

References

AIM Language Learning. (2010). Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Mas, J. (1994). Visages plus Paperback. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Pearson Canada. Explore French as a Second Language (FSL) Products. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

The Regents of the University of California. (2015).  Evaluating resources: Home.  Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Association. (2003). Tips for Writing Evaluation Reports. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

 

 

 

Theme One: Serving the Clientele

Theme one_SErving the clientele

After completing theme one (heck, after completing lesson one!) I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed at the extensive job description and expected wealth of knowledge that a Teacher-Librarian is expected to have.    Of course I know that the job of a Teacher-Librarian isn’t  just circulation and story time, but after going through the readings and weekly lessons I can’t help but wonder how long it will take before a new TL really feels that they have a good handle on knowing their “products” and supporting the clientele?  Perhaps some of this struggle stems from the fact that I have only TTOC’d in the library, and not actually had a library/learning commons to call my own.  This lack of experience certainly makes the hefty job description sound next to impossible to achieve, experience always helps to calm those nerves.   Whether or not it is reality or just the  interpretation of reality the job is complex and the better acquainted a TL is with their space, and the resources and tools within the better they will be at supporting the staff and students in the building.

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Here are a few of my  takeaways from theme one:

1.) Know your stuff!! –  As a librarian it is critical that one knows the resources available (both print and electronic), and also knows where are the resources found for quick and efficient referrals.

Perhaps more complicated than just knowing about the resources is also knowing which  resource to select that will meet the individual needs of the student searching.  Quality of resource is important, but so is knowing the individual’s learning style and which resource will best support their search based on how they learn.

2.) Support learners in the research process.  Beyond providing resources for use it is also important that TLs assist their students in their information seeking skills whether that is through conversation, questioning or providing a graphic organizer such as BCTLA’s The Research Quest’s Student Guide

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Something that felt poignant, and therefore stayed with me when reading Riedling’s discussion of “The Reference Process” on page five of Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips, 2nd Edition was her thoughts on approaching every situation open to possibilities:

%22As fixed as this process may appear,

“As fixed as this process may appear, school library media specialists must keep in mind that each question is unique; therefore, each process will be unique as well.”

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BC Teacher Librarian’s Association. (2001). Research Quest Student Guide. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.

Middle Years Inquiry Planning Guide

This is a document I would like to share with Middle Years teachers to help guide, support and inspire their efforts to create an inquiry based project.  Sometimes we are lost and we don’t know where to begin, other times we may have an idea of where we want to go but need a bit of inspiration for ways to get there, wherever you are coming here are a few places that can help you get where you are trying to go.  No one is expecting you to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes finding quality resources or information can be arduous with little show for the time you’ve put in.

I have broken down the guide into four curations:

  1. A starting point for planning.
  2. Activities/Lessons for students to teach key skills involved in the research aspect.
  3. A sampling of quality resources for student during research.
  4. Presentation – a selection of presentation tools for students to show what they have learned.

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So, you want to start an inquiry, or research project with your students but are unsure of where to start?  In this curation I have selected both resources that offer specific information about inquiry projects, as well as general teacher resources from quality sites created for supporting teacher planning and student learning.  I invite you to explore all of the sites to some degree, and narrow done the ones that will best aid you in your planning process.  Click here to begin.

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In this section I have curated a grouping of lessons and activities that can help teach students the skills they will need to be successful in their researching.  Ideally these lessons are taught before students are independently performing research, as it will help to guide their process.  Here you will find lessons and teacher supports to aid in the teaching of fundamental areas such as: avoiding plagiarism, learning how to cite sources, establishing credibility of websites, how to search, how to critically evaluate information, etc.

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By the time you are ready to use this next curation you will have a plan in place, and your students will be ready to start their independent research process.  In this curation you will find quality websites that you can pass along to your students to aid them in their research.  The websites in this section are geared towards students, the formats are easy to navigate, and the topics/information available is suited towards many learning outcomes of middle school curriculum.  In my experience, students appreciate this list as it gives them a bit of confidence as they begin their research and the daunting task of discriminating their sources to find the answers for which they are searching.  The list can be found here.

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Here I have curated a selection of presentation and tech tools as options for students to use to showcase their learning.  You may want all students to use the same format, or perhaps a selection of ones you’ve identified.  These are all tried, true, and teacher recommended options.  I would encourage you to spend a bit of time checking them all out to some degree, and playing around with the tools so you have an idea of which ones will be the best option in your specific project.  Note: while many of these are web-based, there is also a link to iPad app suggestions.  Our school does have iPads available, if there is a particular app you are interested in that we do not have please come see me as we may be able to purchase.

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In this section I will utilize some of the tech tools found that can be found in the presentation curation above as a medium to not only inform, but also expose you to some of the options highlighted for student use.  For example, all of the graphic posters you have seen thus far have all been created for free using Canva (found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

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This resource was created in efforts to support the staff at the school I teach, however, it would be nice if it could also serve the global community in some sense as well.

While this is a tech tool, it is not meant to eliminate the person from the process.  I am here to assist you throughout your journey.  This resource will hopefully provide you with focus and a plan, once you have those in place I can personalize the support I provide to you and your students.  I would also like to reinforce that this is a collaborative document, if I have left out tools, or websites that you (or your students) feel are worthy of sharing please let me know and I can add them to our shared document.

How can I support you?
Watch this clip I made on Powtoon to help you understand ways I may be of service to you and your students. (Powtoon’s website can found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

Outcomes: 

When planned and executed in a mindful way that is specific to your group of learners,  inquiry projects are incredibly successful as they allow students to individualize their inquiry and process, which supports a bigger buy-in and in turn a more meaningful learning experience.

Students will learn about the process of researching a topic and how both print and online sources can support one’s search.

Students will gain competency with technology tools, how to effectively use the internet for specific searching and how to discern between a good/bad source.

While the plan is in place, we want students to get from A to B, the journey of how they get there is not prescribed.  This approach meets the needs of diverse learners as the students will work with tools that appeal to them, and find content that is meaningful to their process.  Students can personalize their learning by the ways they approach their research and how they choose to present their information.  Students who require a more regimented and assisted approach can be provided a short list of resources, such as the ones provided above, but with a more direct route to the information they are seeking.  Since technology will be used ELL learners will have direct access to online translators as they perform their research.  Software is available on the computers for students who require assistance in reading the material, or scribing their thoughts as they go along.  The technology available is limitless, and therefore virtually any learning obstacle can be managed to assist students in their inquiry research.

This is an online tool, so the information is accessible anywhere there is internet and a device ready for use, which means students can continue their learning at home, in the classroom with the portable computer lab, or with their own devices on our wi-fi network (when permission has been granted).

Cross-curricular and integrative opportunities: Primarily this project meets prescribed learning outcomes for Language Arts and Technology across the middle and high school levels, and as many research based projects are routed in Social Studies or Science topics will be easy for your inquiry projects to meet the prescribed learning outcomes for multiple subjects.

Multiple Literacies addressed in this project are bolded in the list below, and explained in the Padlet image below. ( A link to Padlet can be found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

 Digital Is outlines the various forms of literacies as:

  “Digital Literacy Cognitive skills that are used in executing tasks in digital environments

   Computer Literacy Ability to use a computer and software

   Media Literacy Ability to think critically about different types of media

    Information Literacy– Ability to evaluate, locate, identify, and effectively use info

    Technology Literacy– The ability to use technology effectively in several different ways

    Political Literacy– Knowledge and skills needed to actively participate in political matters

    Cultural Literacy– The knowledge of one’s own culture

    Multicultural Literacy- The knowledge and appreciation of other cultures

     Visual Literacy The ability to critically read images”

 For a closer, more interactive look click here.

If you have any further questions, or would like to add to the any of the curations above please feel free to contact me in person or online.

Let’s get started on something great in the Learning Commons today!

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Library Vision Completion and Farewells

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Click the picture above to be taken to the Shop Talk section of the blog.

This course has given me a lot of time to reflect and dig deep into the things that have really helped me in my career thus far, and through that understanding I have recognized the need to foster and to help create more opportunities for those events to occur so that they hold a place of permanence rather than merely happening by chance.  This journey is what brought my vision project Shop Talk To life.  It is kind of ironic how you have to take a journey that takes you down many different paths to fully see what was in front of your eyes the whole time, but if not for this journey and exploration I am not sure I would have fully been able to appreciate my newfound, old knowledge in the same way! The idea of Shop Talk emerged out of my experiences before this course, however the real articulation and creation can mostly be attributed to the experiences I have gained through completing coursework and engaging in online conversation with my 477b crew.

This course has helped me think about how to craft an engaging blog that is both artistically and mentally stimulating, and through this process I have had the pleasure of learning through new platforms, and making virtual connections with classmates who have offered not only support but inspiration.

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The overall journey was challenging, and personal and so much more meaningful than I ever expected from an online course.  I honestly feel that the connections we have built in this class are ones that will go beyond these four months together.  No, we likely won’t be meeting for dinner dates, but I know if I had a question or wondered about a new technology tool I could email some of the people from this course, or our instructor, without hesitation and be able to pick up where we left off.  In fact, I really hope that my classmates’ blogs are maintained so I can continue to learn from them in their personal journeys.

There have been roadblocks with using technology, and things I wish I could have done (if only I had more time, more skills, etc. etc. etc.) but alas, there comes a time where you just have to be proud of the challenges you have overcome.  While I wish I had the means of creating the 30 second summary video as an example for this Shop Talk, I did not, and I must move on and be happy that my ideas are articulated, and out there for the world to see.

Finishing this final post for 477b is a little bittersweet, on one hand I am thrilled to have completed the course, and astounded by the amount I have learned, and on the other hand I am sad that it is over and there are no other options for learning in this format.  I am not sure I can return to another regular online course knowing that this is how it should be shaped.  Such is life.

It has been a blast; thank you to the Bears crew for sharing your experiences with me, and for offering insight and kind words for me in my journey.

Thank you to Aaron Mueller for creating a course that will forever top all others.  You are truly an amazing teacher, I hope I have the opportunity to learn from you again.

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If you’re like me and you like hearing heartwarming stories of good teachers, check out this link, and enjoy the rest of your day!

A bientôt

 

 

 

Reflection?  What? In a course for teachers about teaching?  Are you crazy?!

Poster courtesy of venspired.com – Click the photo to be linked to their site.

It is hugely ironic that certain teaching practices which we know to be beneficial and proven are often neglected (I’m talking verrry often neglected) when it comes to teaching adults.  That’s why when I saw the topic of this week’s blog post my literal reaction was shock, and awe, followed up with a very Full House “Duh!”.

It’s my generation, and I stand by my Uncle Jesse love!… back to the matter at hand.

We know reflection is so so so so so so so SOOO important in learning, it tackles where we’ve been, it helps us create goals around where we’re going and it reinforces what we have learned.  I feel like this course has been so beneficial to my professional development as a teacher, the assignments have been inquiry based and personal to my own interests, which has made the takeaway so much greater.

So, what is my biggest takeaway thus far?

I don’t know that I can say one particular lesson was most impacting,  the overall process of going in-role as the learner has given me new perspective.  The actual process in which we are being asked to explore, dig deep, connect and share has been so much more meaningful than pretty much any class I have taken, ever.  Why? Because the work I am doing is for myself, based on my interests within a given area or genre set out by Aaron Mueller, our fab teacher.  This is the most relevant and purposeful learning I have done in university.  Because of this, I recognize the need for more of these types of learning experiences within my classroom (and in everyone else’s too).  As much as I believed I knew this “lesson” before, I feel I know it and understand it in a whole new way through the process of completing the assignments for this class.  It doesn’t feel like I am actually doing work because I am enjoying myself!  However, unlike a personal project I am being kept accountable by the timeline and the great teachers who are also part of this course.  I have always believed that learning should be fun, engaging and relevant to the students, but through this experience I feel like I have some great frameworks for what this may look like on a broader scale.

Another big “ah ha” moment I’ve had with this course is the specific and thoughtful feedback we receive for each assignment.  I, like most of my students, am very grade oriented, once I put my heart into an assignment I am instantly attached to my work like it is my child, and I want it to be well received, and proof of it being well received is my grade (I see another side to this when I am the teacher, but that is another story).  Whatever the outcome it doesn’t really matter (or at least shouldn’t) as much as the understanding of what was good and what could be improved.  A personal reflection is not entirely possible if the teacher marking the assignment merely gives you a number, or a letter.  This has frustrated me with many university courses, especially the online ones, because I find often times grades are arbitrarily given.  (I am fairly certain that at the end of term when half of my assignments are all being marked at once and I am being given an 85 on each of them it is because the person marking knows it is a good enough grade that most people won’t complain or question, but not so good that when the majority receive it  your grading tactics are given away).  Ok, while I am a skeptic I am also a learner who wants to understand why and how I earned the mark I did, and really, anyone who has put any sort of level of commitment into an assignment deserves this acknowledgment and explanation.    In this course we have been given feedback in a way that makes me feel acknowledged for the work I have done, with some understanding or suggestion for how it could be improved.  Trust me, I understand from the perspective of a teacher that providing this feedback is challenging, and time-consuming (oh so freaking time-consuming) and often times those notes are overlooked just for the grade, but it is also one of the most important parts of the lesson and learning processes.

So, in summary, these are my two golden learning nuggets which have come from the role reversal of teacher/student:

1.) Providing learning opportunities that are personal and inquiry based within given parameters.

2.) Quality feedback acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of assignments.

What I felt resonated with me most in the student role were things I knew and practiced beforehand in the teacher role, however through this course my thinking was challenged, and deepened with the understanding of “why”, which could only have taken place by going back into the student realm for a little while (another argument for educators being lifelong learners).  This course should be offered multiple times, with opportunities to explore different avenues and pedagogy.  I only wish all classes could be this valuable.

Reading Review – Three of Three

Having established my topic for the Reading Review of how technology can support teaching critical thinking, I decided to take a look at the BC Integrated Resource Package (IRPs) to see what the Ministry of Education has deemed important subject areas for teaching critical thinking.  I hope you’re as shocked as I am that critical thinking barely appears in the IRPs K-7 beyond Social Studies where some variation of the same learning outcome appears in each grade!  Shouldn’t critical thinking be woven into all of our subjects?  I suppose that just because it isn’t explicitly stated doesn’t mean it isn’t important or not being taught.  However, the reason I chose my topic was because as a grade six and seven teacher I was finding my students had very little experience applying their own thinking and common sense to school work.  For example, one of the very first science lessons of the year I sat down with my new class and we had a big discussion about Indigenous Knowledge.  We read an article in the textbook and had an interactive class discussion around the term for a good 30 minutes.  During this discussion we pulled out key parts of the article that illuminated different examples of what indigenous knowledge is, why it is/was important, how their knowledge bank was created etc.  Collaboratively we orally defined what indigenous knowledge was, and when it seemed as though they had a good grasp on the topic I asked students to write down the definition in their own words, a seemingly easy task given the depth of our group conversation.  I purposefully did not write down a definition for them to copy, as I wanted the students to put the learning into their own words, to make it meaningful for themselves.  A good chunk of the class was able to do this no problem, but you can imagine my shock when about 30-40% of them could not.  What was more shocking about the responses was that a large number of students wrote definitions that were illogical and bordering on nonsense, scarily many of these responses were seemingly identical.  This wasn’t because they were sharing their answers; in fact this part of the lesson was completed 100% independently.  So, how did they have the same answer?  It became clear that they returned to the article we had read and came across the bolded words “indigenous knowledge” and just copied down the words that followed.  However, unlike your typical textbook the sentence that followed the bolded words was not a definition, but instead just a sentence in which the words indigenous knowledge was used.  They had copied down the remaining part of the sentence as if it were a definition.  What was more shocking was that this large number of students didn’t trust their critical thinking skills to read it over and say, “Hmm, this doesn’t sound right.”  Instead, they submitted it and were fairly confident in this submission.  What became clear to me was that these students were masters in the informational-text scavenger hunts.  They were extremely proficient in finding exactly the word, or phrase they being asked to search for and copying down the information that preceded, or followed.  They could not however, interpret, find meaning, or apply any critical thinking towards their schoolwork.  I find that by the time they get to me they have been so inherently trained in finding that one true answer that the very thought of an idea being open to multiple explanations or answers is often frightening or intimidating.  They feel unsure when they are asked a question that is not black and white.  When did we stop asking our students to think for themselves?  Going back to the IRPs, perhaps teachers have taught these kids exactly what the ministry of education has set out for them to teach, but if we aren’t teaching kids how to make informed conclusions on their own is it really worthwhile?

Ok, long rant, especially when the focus of this post is supposed to be about the process of searching for resources, and how the highlighted ones will benefit my teaching.  I apologize for taking a “walk” but I felt it was important to share this story so that a bit of context for my subject was provided.

Moving beyond the IRPs, it wasn’t surprising that on my search I found a lot of information that was really relevant to today’s teaching, mostly in the ways of blogs, or collaborative teaching resources.  What was alarming was that when searching for scholarly papers and articles a lot of the information, while sounding relevant, was really not.  In fact, many of the articles offered through the UBC online library around critical thinking and technology were written between 1998- early 2000s.  So, while I still overviewed some of these resources for interest’s sake (hey, just because it’s old doesn’t mean there can’t be something of usefulness there) sadly, most did not have enough relevance in today’s world of ever evolving technology.  Saying that, I did think Carol B. MacKnight’s article Teaching Critical Thinking through Online Discussions was still incredibly relevant, despite being fourteen years old, because it wasn’t so much about specific technology as it was about written language and the ability to interact, communicate and share ideas through an online forum.  I appreciated the guidance with tips and suggested questions that her article offered.  In this article she also provides a list of “Socratic questions” an idea that was new to me, (however along my search appeared multiple times), I dug a bit deeper with the Socratic theme, and found there to be many great ideas on incorporating opportunities both on and offline for students to share their thinking in a meeting of the minds.

Three of my five resources come from similar backgrounds: The Teaching Channel, Edutopia and Edudemic all stem from the premise that teaching is a worldwide collegial network.  I found these sites useful as an educator because it was coming from the minds of fellow educators, people who have experience in the classroom, who know what the day-to-day looks like, not just someone pushing papers, or running statistics.  These sites offered relatable thinking, specific tips, and a network of ways to interact with other teachers looking to try similar things and make their classrooms better.  Have you ever been to a dog park?  Breeds seem to know each other, “You’re a doodle? I’m a doodle! Let’s do this!!”  Teachers are the same way, “You’re a teacher? I’m a teacher!  Let’s compare our stories of success and failure and figure this out together!” This mentality and powerful connection beyond geography is why sites like this are so useful and important to our field and why 3 out of 5 of my resources fell into this category of reference.

Moving away from teacher-generated products, another fabulous resource I came across was one called Media Smarts; a bilingual, Canadian site aimed at educating kids, parents, and teachers about internet use.  I chose this one because it seemed like a good one to have in my back pocket.   It is a place you where teachers can find the appropriate internet rule setting activities, or awareness lessons to support online lessons regardless of subject.  I like it because it has different target audiences (all of whom are very important in the world of education: teacher, student, parent) and it seems to be pretty conscientious about how it delivers the information.

So while my searched served up a lot of fluff, and outdated information as you have read there was also a wealth of amazing resources (too many to document).  The wonderful thing about the internet is that if one knows how to use it properly to navigate and sift through the opportunities for learning are endless.  Because my topic is so interconnected with the lesson of how to teach critical thinking I found myself going through a very similar process in this assignment to what I would be asking my students to do; going in role as the learner is such a powerful experience to improve the teaching process.  I had the opportunity to see what worked, what didn’t, how to problem solve and adapt along the way, which will help my lesson go a little more seamlessly.  Perhaps most importantly it also gave me the understanding that this process is an important one to recreate for students when teaching about critical thinking and internet use.

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For those interested in learning more about the socratic seminar check out this video from the Teacher Tube.