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Celebrating Literacy in the Library and Inviting Participation

How do you invite a participatory culture in your library?  For me, this is a term that is an embedded part of my philosophy.  I strive to find ways for students to have multiple opportunities to connect, participate, collaborate, and create in the media center throughout the year.  All students don’t participate every time, which is fine, but my goal is to offer enough variety of experiences through collaborative lessons, resource promotions, and incentives/contests that every student has a chance to find a place to participate during the year.

After several impromptu conversations with parents and teachers recently, I’ve come to value the power of library sponsored literacy contests and reading promotions.  Teachers have mentioned that they love the “choice” that is a part of these contests and promotions because they see such a variety of students who participate.  Parents have commented to me that their child had no interest in writing poetry or essays until a contest came along.  Multiple parents have mentioned the motivating power of these contests.  My parapro and I have seen how the simple interactive component of stamping a box on a piece of paper can give direction in choosing new books outside of comfort zones and motivation to try something new.

What have I done this year?

  • In September/October, students had sheets where they were asked to read books from different categories of the library such as biographies, informational, graphic novel, fiction, etc.  Each time they read one of these books, they earned a stamp, and they stamped their papers themselves.  When they completed their sheets, they had their name displayed in the media center on our book fair decorations and had their name entered into a drawing for a book fair gift certificate.  Requirements for the sheets were different for each grade level.
  • In October, we partnered with a few other schools in the district and Avid Bookshop, a local independent bookstore, and held a Mysteries of Harris Burdick writing contest.  Students in every grade wrote stories based on the images of the book by Chris Van Allsburg.  We judged the final pieces at the school level to choose the best pieces and sent those on to Avid Bookshop for a local competition.  Avid recruited authors and other community members to select several finalists who were honored at a celebration at the bookshop.  One winner was chosen to enter a national competition.  All students who entered the contest received a certificate of participation.
  • In November, we celebrated National Picture Book Month.  Picture books were promoted all month long on our morning broadcast, and students kept a record of all of the picture books they read for the month, no matter where they came from or whether they were read to them or by themselves.  Depending on how many books students read they earned a bookmark, picture book month certificate, and their name in a drawing for free picture books.  We had about 180 students turn in sheets out of 500 students and over 3,500 picture books were logged during November.

What else is coming this year?

  • In January and February, we will sponsor a persuasive writing contest.  At the moment, we think this will be a spin-off of picture book month.  The picture book month site has several essays by authors about the importance of picture books that could serve as mentor texts for students.  I have already promoted this in collaborative meetings with teachers as a possible project I might work on with whole classes or groups of students.  Students will write pieces about the importance of picture books.
  • In March, we will hold another reading promotion leading up to our spring book fair where students earn stamps.
  • In April, our 2nd annual poetry contest will be held.  This was a huge success last year with over 150 entries from students.  Poems can be written in any form (rhyming, list poetry, free verse, acrostic, etc) and any platform (a napkin, hand written on paper, typed and printed, Animoto, Photo Story, etc).  This year we may partner with Avid Bookshop to extend the contest beyond our school.  The contest will culminate in our annual Poem in Your Pocket Day open mic cafe where all students share poetry into a microphone in the media center.  This event will be broadcast live on the web through Adobe Connect.

These contests and promotions are just one layer of the participatory culture of the Barrow Media Center, but they have come to be a piece that students, teachers, and families appreciate and expect.  These promotions and contests run simultaneously with the multiple collaborative lessons and projects that take place in the library and by no means replace other purposes of the library.  I will continue to evaluate their relevance to our program and always look to give even more students opportunities to connect and create in our library.  How are you celebrating literacy and inviting participation in your library?

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

Happy Poetry Month 2011

Poetry month is here!  We’ve already seen some great posts on the GLMA blog to get us thinking about this creative month:

Poetry Resources in Galileo

Looking Ahead to National Poetry Month

Later this month, I’ll share some of the products we’ve made and celebrations we’ve had in the Barrow Media Center, but I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a Happy National Poetry Month and to pose some questions for thought:

  • In what ways are you incorporating poetry into the lessons you are already teaching in your libraries?
  • What kinds of poetry are your students creating in the media center?
  • How are you celebrating the joy of reading and writing poems in your library?
  • How are you honoring student work?
  • How are you incorporating technology for both inspiration and creation of poetry?
  • What special poetry events have you planned in your school (poetry picnics, poem in your pocket day, contests, etc.)?
  • How are you sharing poetry beyond the walls of your library?

Here are a few of the things that we will be doing over the next month in the Barrow Media Center.  Some things are already underway while others are still be fleshed out.

  • PreK Poetry:  PreK students are writing their own shape poems on large cut-outs of symbols from their classroom and will video record their final poems to upload to Teacher Tube.
  • Joyce Sidman collaboration:  A few groups of students will be studying the poems of Joyce Sidman and writing poems inspired by her writing.  These poems will be created in multiple ways from using Photo Story to simply writing them on paper.  The poems will be featured at Joyce Sidman’s keynote speech at the NCTE conference in November.
  • List Poetry:  Using Georgia Heard’s collection, Falling Down the Page, students will study list poetry, write list poems as a whole class, and write individual list poems in a variety of ways.  A first grade class is planning to use Photo Story for this project.
  • Book Spine Poetry:  Students in various grades will create a kind of found poem using books from the library shelves arranged in a stack to write poems using the titles on the spines.  Classes will photograph their stacks and record themselves reading their new poems.
  • Poetry Display:  5th grade has an autobiographical poetry and photography display on the media center shelves.  This project was a collaboration between the art teacher and the media center.
  • Poem in Your Pocket Day:  The official national poem in your pocket day is April 14th this year.  We’ll be celebrating on April 15th.  The media center will be transformed into a poetry cafe with tablecloths, special lighting, and an open mic for all classes to read both original poetry and favorite poems.
  • 1st Annual Poetry Contest:  Students in all grades PreK-5th can submit poems to our media center poetry contest.  A panel of judges will read and select the most creative poems at PreK-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th grades.  Top poets will receive autographed books that I had autographed at the Decatur Book Festival, and other special poets will receive things such as pens, bookmarks, and other special trinkets donated from Borders.

Resource:

  • Poetry Tag Time:  For $0.99, you can download a creative e-book called Poetry Tag Time. The book features unpublished poems by top children’s poets.  Each poem is somehow connected to the one before it as each poet tags the next poet to write a new poem.  There is also a blog connected with the book.  You can also follow the Gotta Book Blog and Poetry for Children Blog, where free poems will be posted each day of poetry month.  This would also be a fun way to start a poetry project in your school among students or teachers.

Have fun this poetry month and feel free to share the exciting things going on in your library in the comments section of this post so that we can all continue to learn from one another about how to honor this genre of our collections.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian
David C. Barrow Elementary
Athens, GA

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons