Familiar Beginnings

The beginning of the year brings familiar topics in the elementary media center:  orientations and finding “just right” books.

I just finished my rounds of orientation with classes, and I began to notice a theme.  My students knew a lot more about the library than I was giving them credit for.  Perhaps it’s my intentional scaffolding of how to use Destiny to find resources, but my hunch is tht students are teaching students how to use tools as they actually use them in real situations.  This made me begin to question the routines of library orientation, its purpose, and how students could be more involved in the process.  I started wondering things like “What would orientation look like if students taught students how to use the library?  What could I learn about student use of Destiny by having students rotate through student-led modeling of Destiny’s features?  What strategies do students use for finding books in the library and how might that help other students?  How do students take responsibility for library materials and how would their strategies support other students?”  I really think that these questions will lead me to a different orientation next year.  I don’t know what it will look like, but I really don’t want it to be a session where I stand and deliver a laundry list of library “stuff”.

I’ve also been working with students in 1st and 3rd grades on how to find a “just right” book.  One of the most familiar strategies that students use is the 5-finger rule where they read a page and put up a finger for each word they don’t know.  If all 5 fingers go up, the book is too hard.  However, I’ve really tried to support students with a whole picture of book selection.  I’ve found that many times students say they used the 5 finger rule when in reality they thought they read every word correctly even though they missed multiple words.  We’ve been talking about how if you get to the end of the page and don’t know what you’ve read, the book may not be just right.  I found a great YouTube video of students singing a song called I-PICK.  (Note: YouTube is blocked in our district, so I used KeepVid to download the video at home, emailed it to my school address, and played it from my email)  I-PICK comes from The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  This strategy paints a more holistic picture of book selection than the 5-finger rule.  The parts of the strategy are: I-I choose my books, P-purpose, I-Interest, C-Comprehend, and K-Know most of the words.  After teaching this strategy and asking students how they know a book is “just right” for them, I’ve noticed that more students talk about their interest in the book along with whether or not they know the words.  I invite you to listen in as I ask some 3rd grade students how they found their book, and I invite you to share any other strategies you have for orientation or finding “just right” books.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA




About plemmonsa

School librarian, connected educator,Google Certified Teacher, NSBA 20 to Watch, speaker. Expecting the miraculous every day! http://about.me/andy.plemmons

Posted on August 21, 2010, in Best practice, Ideas, Reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Andy, those are some great thoughts. I’ve also been dissatisfied with the five finger rule. In my 2nd-5th grade orientations I have been teaching and modeling a process of flipping through a book, noticing how many pages it has, reading some of it, and using your own intuition about what kind of book it is. I’m careful to model what happens when it is not right, so they can see it is normal to find a book that’s not “just right” and have to put it back with their shelf marker. One other thing I started doing this year, when I say “just right book” I accent each word and clap my hands together, with one hand turned like a karate chop. By the end of the presentation I can do the hand gesture without speaking and the class will say “just right book”. 🙂 I’ve been thrilled to find that most of my classes this year have already been exposed to the concept of “just right book” by their teachers.

  1. Pingback: GLMA Post « Barrow Media Center

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