Category Archives: Reflection
It’s always difficult trying to anticipate what books with be popular with your students. Sometimes I think I have hit on a no-fail series, just to watch the books gather dust on the shelves. It seems like lately nothing can compare with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series—all those books just fly off the shelves. I think, though, I might have found some series that rival Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Recently I bought the entire Katie Woo series, and the students love them. One of my second graders last week told me: “I am going to read every one of the Katie books. I really like them.” Music to a librarian’s hears!!! Who doesn’t want to hear a second grader say her goal is to read the entire series?!??!?!
There are about 30 books in the Katie Woo series, written by Fran Manushkin and Tammie Lyon. The AR level range is between 2.0-3.0. Even though the plot of the books are universal, meaning the subject matter is appropriate for boys and girls, the girls will gravitate toward the books—I haven’t had one boy check out a Katie Woo book. The main character is a girl, and some of the covers are purple or pink—not exactly colors elementary school boys want to tote around. But that’s okay—I am thrilled the books are flying off the shelf and the girls are excited to read! It’s also a great series for 4th and 5th graders who read below grade level— the series has chapters, the series is not a graphic novel, and when the older girls earn a good AR score they feel successful.
Bone is another series that brags good circulation statistics. This is a graphic novel series by Jeff Smith that appeals to both girls and boys. Initially I ordered just the first three books, and recently ordered the other volumes—there are about 10 books to date in this series. Although younger readers who read above their grade level check out these books, it seems more popular with my 4th and 5th graders.
So does anyone have a series they could recommend? What’s popular in your library? Would love and appreciate any sage words!
Thanks so much-
Anja Tigges, Ed.S.
Scott Elementary School Librarian
1752 Hollywood Road
Atlanta, GA 30318
Pogo said it well, didn’t he? But what did he really mean? Allow me to muse on this since it’s been on my mind as I look at the continuing dismal picture that is Georgia’s K-12 public education.
It is this writer’s humble opinion that Pogo was commenting on the fact that we are all personally responsible for the polluted waters in which we live. It reminds me of a concept in Zen Buddhism that says (and I’m paraphrasing) if you meet an obstacle in your path that does not yield in spite of your every effort to overcome, then you need to understand that you put it there yourself.
Every single day I see emails and hear stories from teacher-librarians about how things don’t work in their schools. The culprits range from uncaring administrators to micro-managing central offices to incompetent clerks to not enough money to… You get the picture. Yet in nearly every one I yearn to hear the suggestion of a solution. Take a look around this state at the teacher-librarians that are making their programs work and are making a difference in their schools and the one thing you will NOT find is an absence of any problems like those mentioned above. They work in spite of those things, folks. So what makes the difference in programs/teacher-librarians that work and those that don’t? I belive it is a kind of divergent thinking exhibited by those who are successful.
Do you have an uncaring administrator? Okay…maybe you’ve talked until you’re blue in the face but nothing has changed. Have you thought of a different approach? Maybe that administrator needs to be shown what you do, not asked if you can do it. Maybe that’s a person who will be impressed with results and turned off by complaints. Maybe you should take a moment and re-examine how you’ve dealt with this person in the past and get suggestions from your successful colleagues about how they’ve overcome this issue. It IS possible but the possibilities begin with YOU.
Do you have a micro-managing central office? How have you approached your building level staff for ideas and suggestions on implementing successful programs? Is there a colleague at your school that is able to get innovative lessons/ideas into practice that you could collaborate with? Sometimes approaching successful staff members with an attitude that includes admiration, respect, and “how can I help you make it even better” will go a long way to changing the status quo.
Do you have a clerk that has no training or experience in a media center? First and foremost, ask yourself what you have really done to bring that person up to speed. Maybe you’re working with someone who needs their duties spelled out in a list format prioritized by daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. Is it extra work? Yes, but isn’t it better than simply complaining that the assistant isn’t assisting? Working with someone who carries a bad attitude with them is probably the most difficult thing in the world and will bring you down quicker than almost anything else. Does that mean you throw up your hands and give up? Well, you could but how does that make YOU look? Find a spot in your school or your media center where you can go and center yourself. Take some deep breaths and repeat “I can handle this. I can rise above this. I can smile and do my job.” I’m not a Pollyanna, folks. I’ve been there. It’s hard. It’ll make you question if you’re really doing what you were meant to do and it’ll make you question whether you even want to get out of your bed and show up every day. But keep one thing in mind – you serve a purpose that is more global and far-reaching than just about anyone else in the building. Allowing one person with a bad attitude to subvert that purpose is ultimately on you. And, who knows, if you can find a way to shift your focus from problems to solutions you may find an administrator willing to entertain suggestions on solving the issue. Show that administrator how your program works, how it affects every single stakeholder in your school community, and how appropriate personnel makes a difference and you just might get some relief from an untenable situation.
These are difficult times made more trying by the economy and a social climate that places public education and public school teachers somewhere in the spectrum of used car salesmen. What are WE doing to change that? Look critically at your situation and determine where your realm of influence ends – then work backwards. Change your world and change the world of a student. That’s why we’re here, after all, isn’t it? To improve student achievement? To help them navigate the tangled overload of information thrown at them every day? To help them think critically about what they see or hear or read? Yes, there are problems – deep problems – but look at them in terms of solutions and you will soon find your focus in a different place. You do indeed have the power to move the obstacles, my friends. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you and don’t be afraid to tackle it head-on. You make a difference when you choose to do so. What will you do differently today?
Is Your Library Program Remarkable?
Dictionary.com defines remarkable as “worthy of notice or attention”. In a 2003 TED video of Seth Godin (“Seth Godin on Standing Out”), he describes remarkable as “worth making a remark about”. Is your library program defined, is it worth making a remark about? Have you been spreading your word, your programs, and your ideas; or do you feel stymied by management and teachers?
In this time of educational flux, library media specialists need to use marketing techniques to promote our efforts. In the same TED video, Seth Godin talks about “idea diffusion” and I took this to mean, in library speak, “collaboration”. It’s taking one good idea and spreading it so people will buy into the idea and want to purchase more. As a media specialist, I have used collaborative successes to effectively market my programs to my principal and teachers.
Marketing Starts with Self Promotion
At the 2010 GLMA Summer Institute, colleague Martha Powell and I gave a presentation titled “Turn Your Desk Around”. This title is descriptive about our media programs; if we are open, friendly, and visually show that we are willing to help (hence the outward desk) we have begun the first step in marketing ourselves. We need to become self marketers and promote our programs and accomplishments to our patrons. Furthermore, I’d suggest that we need to review and update our library programs regularly so we have new things to promote.
Change Perceptions – One Idea, One Program at a Time
As teachers we know the foundations of our lessons are based on a student’s prior knowledge of the subject. Prior knowledge can also be the source of how our library programs are perceived by teachers, principals and our parent community. Patrons who have been exposed to exemplary media programs are more likely to support our current endeavors. Likewise, if their prior experiences of a library program were not positive, you may need to market your media programs in order to change their perceptions.
One way to self promote yourself and your program is through teaching. Find a teacher or a team who you can share ideas (“collaborate”) with about a lesson that incorporates state standards. Offer to teach the research skills of the lesson plan so you become an integral part of the class. Market the collaborative process and the class success to other teachers. Don’t be shy, ask the teacher(s) to give you positive recommendations. Let your principal know about your accomplishments and add them to your newsletters. Use these achievements as springboards for other collaborative lessons.
Other ideas for self promotion are to keep candy on your desk, observe and listen for ideas to help the staff and students in leadership meetings, and attend team/curriculum meetings. I have an M&M dispenser (the Statue of Liberty) and a bowl of Life Savers always available in my office. Many of my lessons and library programs have begun from an idea that was garnered from a brief discussion as a teacher was picking up a Life Saver!
In addition to teaching lessons, I started another new concept for teachers this year. After my media paraprofessional commented that staff morale was low (due to various reasons) we decided to see if we could modify the school atmosphere. With the backing of my principal, we coordinated a monthly café with Publix donating sweets, the school providing the coffee and tea, and the media center staff hosting and providing the location. Teachers smile as they walk through the media center looking for their cup of Joe and we have subtly marketed our library as being a sanctuary for their minds and body!
More ways of marketing your expertise include teaching a workshop on Web 2.0 topics (Prezi.com, Animoto, Movie Maker, etc), sponsoring a Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team, and volunteering to help in various capacities. Media specialists may also want to review and revise reading programs each year. Each time you put forth positive ideas and changes that demonstrate a willingness to support your patrons you are marketing yourself and your library program. Once you get a few accomplishments promote them to your principal and ask their help in marketing your program to the teachers and community.
Let’s Be “Remarkable”
Let’s not let library programs become stagnant. Continual revision of lesson plans, adding new displays to our libraries, partnering with new teachers for ideas, welcoming students to the media center, and being a leader in our schools are all ways to positively promote media programs. Let’s be remarkable in our personal positions and for the overall promotion of our profession!
Beth Miller, Library Media Specialist
My Top 4 Thought-Provoking Readings for January, 2011
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to complete my GLMA Blog post in a timely manner. I have many websites and articles that I would like to share, but I have culled it down to my top 4 (plus that gives me another couple of blog posts so I can keep the resolution going for several months.)
1. Tony Vincent presented at the Dalton ETC Media Consortium and shared the following: http://engagetech.pbworks.com . Several schools in Northwest Georgia are using the framework by Phillip Schlechty. Tony’s presentation was based on the WOW framework, but he has excellent ideas for integrating instructional technology for all levels and subjects. Explore this website for creative ideas to share.
3. The next article addresses the importance of reading for pleasure. Only my grandmother reads books— Each semester, assistant elementary-education professor Heather Rogers Haverback poses a question to her students: “What was the last book you read for pleasure?” In a recent ASCD Express article, Haverback shares that nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. aren’t reading for pleasure at all, a point reinforced by the lack of answers she’s been getting from her students. Haverback discusses the importance of reading and offers six strategies for helping students get into the practice. Read on.
4. Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians is a must read for us all. The following SLJ Blog post is an updated Manifesto from December 2010. A Revised Manifesto posted by joycevalenza on December 3rd, 2010.
Send me your suggestions for thought-provoking articles and websites for the New Year so I can share, plus it will keep me on track towards fulfilling my 2011 resolutions.
Cawood Cornelius, Ed.D
Library Media Specialist, NBCT
Sonoraville High School
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened.”
–Alexander Graham Bell,
Last year, I blogged about a project I did with 3rd-5th graders who were reading below grade level called Student Voice, Student Choice. These students had individual budgets to buy books for the media center that they were interested in reading. My hope was for these students to begin finding what they enjoyed in our media center and hopefully inspire other students to find things they enjoyed in the media center, too.
This year, I continued my plan of having students as part of the budgeting process, but I focused my attention in a new direction. Our school began school-wide enrichment clusters this year. Every Wednesday from 9-10AM every student in the school goes to a self-selected cross-grade cluster. The cluster topics are chosen by teachers, but the students make the decisions about what happens within those clusters. At the end of 8 weeks, students must have a product, performance, or service to showcase.
This structure gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a new way of involving students in the budgeting process. Once again I wrote a grant for $1,000 and matched that grant with $1,000 from our book fair profits. Twelve students in grades 3-5 selected my cluster, leader librarians, as their choice. It was interesting that 10 of the 12 students were male and 3 of the students were participants in last year’s student voice project. To begin our time, I told them our budget and that it was for books for the media center. From there, the students started brainstorming how to spend the money. I shared with them my thought process of how I set goals and assign percentages to each goal. I shared the challenges I face in limited funding and making tough decisions about what to buy and not buy.
In the end, their plan was to buy books that could be for anyone in the school instead of only buying books that they wanted to read themselves. They set out with clipboards and paper and began asking students at every grade level PreK-5 what they like to read. Next, we took this data and looked for patterns and themes. Eventually, we came up with the following categories: scary stories, mysteries, superheroes, comics, sports, nonfiction animals, pop stars, and Star Wars. Students divided into pairs and assigned themselves categories to focus on. The budget was divided equally between categories. The students were interested in what last year’s group did with Capstone Press and sales representative Jim Boon, so we invited him back. We also invited Frieda Julian from Children’s Plus, Inc. Both individuals brought book samples and catalogs for students to look at and helped students create lists of books to use in the final selection. Frieda Julian even took the students’ paper lists and made list on the Children’s Plus website. Before the order was placed, students sat down with calculators and narrowed their lists down until they spent as close to their budget allotment as possible.
As students waited for the books to arrive, they worked on an Animoto video of the process and eventually made an Animoto video of the books to use on our morning broadcast. When the books arrived, students made two assembly lines: one Capstone and one Children’s Plus. In each line, one student unpacked, one highlighted the packing slip, one checked for damage, one stamped the books, and others displayed books for photographs. Finally, we all grabbed some books, sat down, and began reading.
This month, we held an enrichment fair where the students showcased their 108 books to students, parents, and community members. They showed their Animoto videos and talked about the process. Some students were even interviewed by the local newspaper. The next day the books went into circulation and only 24 books remained by the end of the day. The next day the rest of the 108 books were checked out.
The projects over the past two years have been so much more than just asking students what I should buy for the media center. They have given students control in the decision making process in the media center. Students have faced the same dilemmas that I face as a media specialist and they wrestled with the best way to spend the money they had. Most of all, when students buy the books and materials in the media center, they create a buzz of excitement among the student population because they have a real connection to what students like. Whether I write more grants or not, I am committed to preserving a part of my budget for student decisions, especially profits from book fair. After all, it’s the students and their families that shop at our book fair, so why not allow them to make decisions about how the profits are spent? I look forward to continuing this work and seeing how this process grows over the years.
David C. Barrow Elementary