Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the ninth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

As an advocate for inquiry learning, I am in total agreement with Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana: student-led questioning is an effective way to guide students into deeper learning. When students (or adult learners, for that matter) are invested in finding out why, they are more motivated to pursue answers to their questions and solutions to the world’s pressing problems—especially when the answers are illusive, the process is difficult, and the outcome is uncertain.

In their book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, authors Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana note that student-led questioning helps ensure that students are learning and practicing thinking skills. Rothstein and Santana are the directors of the Right Question Institute (RQI), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization.

They developed the Question Formulation Technique™ (QFT), which involves students in brainstorming questions as a way to launch an investigation. All students’ contributions are accepted and weighted equally. The question recorder documents all questions verbatim as asked without comment, response, or discussion. Statements are turned into questions as well. Students then prioritize questions to determine which are most compelling; their priorities set the learning agenda for the next class period (or subsequent lessons).

Educators can guide students in other types of questioning processes such as Question the Author (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan, and Worthy) during which students discover various aspects of the writer’s and illustrator’s craft as well as persuasive techniques and bias. When readers question the texts they encounter, they are engaged in an active learning process that has the potential to increase their content knowledge as well as improve their overall reading proficiency.

Questions are a way for students to uncover the gaps in their understanding. Questioning can also help them identify misconceptions. The ability to question, whether applied to reading and responding to literature, identifying bias in a political cartoon, or analyzing data in a scientific journal article, is an essential, lifelong-learning skill.

Santana and Rothstein call student-led questioning a “shortcut” to deeper learning. I agree. If you have not used the QFT™ in your teaching, I hope you will check out the RQI Web site and read their book. (Side note: One area RQI is exploring is “microdemocracy.” Their idea is that “ordinary encounters with public agencies are opportunities for individual citizens to ‘act democratically’ and participate effectively in decisions that affect them.” Brilliant work, if you ask me.)

That said, my experience tells me that educators who are teaching future-ready students need to do more than just this one thing to help prepare students for today and tomorrow. Honoring students’ agency and helping them explore their interests through student-led questioning is an essential and critical place to begin. Inquiry learning can be an essential part of the next steps, the “more” that future-ready students need.

Works Consulted

Beck, Isabel L., Margaret G. McKeown, Cheryl Sandora, Linda Kucan, and Jo Worthy. “Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 96, no. 4, 1996, pp. 385-414.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2015.

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the seventh in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

On June 12, 2017, I attended an ASCD Webinar presented by authors Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray. (If you missed it, I highly recommend the webinar archive.) Their presentation was centered on their hot-off-the-presses book Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. After the webinar, I preordered a copy of their book and read it as I was completing my own manuscript.

This book focuses on creating a culture of innovation and leading change. In reviewing their table of contents, I found so many parallels between their book and mine that I was, at first, reluctant to read it… until after I had submitted my manuscript. However, my curiosity won out. And I am glad it did. Reading their work at the 11th hour in my process gave me an opportunity to further develop my thinking, reflect, and include some quotes from their book in mine.

In Learning Transformed, Sheninger and Murray identify “eight keys for intentional design.” They are:
1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation.
2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal.
3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by Return on Instruction.
4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered.
5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal.
6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning.
7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture.
8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success (24-27).

I could not agree more about the importance of leadership and culture in creating the context for educational transformation. I believe future-ready librarians are positioned to be leaders and culture-builders in their schools.

For those of us in the school library profession, “inquiry” is the process that we promote for redesigning learner-centered/personalized learning. Sheninger and Murray offer thoughtful strategies for leaders to make student agency a reality in their schools. Among them are standards-aligned learning activities and assessments, student mastery of selecting the right tool for the task, portfolios as authentic assessments, student involvement in rule making, and participation in feedback loops—choice and voice (76-77).

Decision-making based on evidence also resonates with school librarians who develop library programs using evidence-based practice. One term that Sheninger and Murray use with which I was previously unfamiliar was Return on Instruction (ROI). They used this term in relationship to the funds and time spent on the latest technology tools and devices and ROI, evidence of improved student learning outcomes.

I found the parallel between ROI and Return on Investment an important one. School librarians who serve as technology stewards evaluate and field-test digital resources and tools based on sound pedagogical practices and learning goals can be leaders in their schools in ensuring a positive ROI. School librarians also provide formal professional development and job-embedded personalized learning for colleagues through coplanning and coteaching.

School librarians who have developed a learning commons model in their school libraries may be particularly interested in the chapter entitled “Designing Learner-Centered Spaces.” I suspect they will echo the authors’ contention that flexible spaces that “provide areas for movement, and promote collaboration and inquiry” (25) are needed if students are to explore creativity and reach for innovation.

As a reader, I found the format friendly, quotes thoughtful, and examples from the field compelling. I suspect many readers will compare their teaching and learning environments to those described in the book. It would be important to find as many similar assets with these sites and explore how your own school could further expand its areas of strength.

As an author, I was impressed by the endorsements Sheninger and Murray received for this book. Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Daniel H. Pink, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan, and many more education thought leaders have high praise for Learning Transformed.

If you are in a formal or informal leadership position in your school or district (e.g. future-ready librarians and school library supervisors), then you will want to read this book and discuss it with the decision-makers in your school and district.

Work Cited
Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2017.

Unleash Your Passion for School Library Programs

April is School Library Month. This is a time of year when school librarians across the country spotlight the transformational learning and teaching that is happening through school library programs.

School librarians who continually improve their expertise and collaborative skills build effective school library programs. Their exemplary programs are the foundation they need for advocacy. In her chapter entitled “Becoming an Expert Teacher,” Hilda Weisburg writes this: “Many librarians have struggled with getting teachers to work with them but you (school librarian) will never be regarded as a leader if you work alone in the library” (47).

From my personal experience, students’ learning experiences can be especially empowered when they are cotaught in collaboration with classroom teachers and specialists. When educators coteach, they learn from one another and provide more feedback to students, more timely interventions, and support student success. In all ways, two heads and four hands are better than one! (And working with a trio—or more—of educators increases student support exponentially.)

In support of preservice school librarians’ understanding of and commitment to the power of classroom-library coteaching, I curated a collection of video testimonials of classroom teachers and specialists talking about their positive experiences collaborating or coteaching with their school librarian.

Along with Teresa Starrett, preservice principal educator colleague at Texas Woman’s University, I crowdsourced a video of principal testimonials about the essential work of their exemplary school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”

While it is ideal for students, classroom teachers, principals, parents, and other library stakeholders to advocate for school librarians and school library programs, it behooves school librarians themselves to unleash their passion for the difference their work and the resources and environment of the school library make in empowering students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

At the invitation of Jennifer LaGarde, school librarians from across the country are providing testimonials about their understanding of future-ready school librarianship. Reedy High School (Frisco, Texas) librarian Nancy Jo Lambert submitted a video response to the question: “What is a future ready librarian?” I believe that Nancy Jo’s response is brilliant because she confirms her focus on curriculum and classroom-library collaboration in order to positively empower student achievement. Brava, Nancy Jo.

Please view Jennifer’s crowdsourced flipgrid and get an idea of how your future-ready colleagues express their future-ready roles.

Here’s to all the school librarians who shout out about the privilege of learning with and from awesome students and collegial educators. Here’s to the librarians whose stakeholders shout out about the indispensable role school librarians and school library programs play in the education of future-ready students.

Happy School Library Month!

Work Cited

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image credit:

Howard Lake. “Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard.” n.d. Flickr.com, https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5260/5540462170_d5297d9ce8_b.jpg

Logo courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians

Harmony in Difference

tt54-coverSaturday, December 10th, was the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Making the connection between human rights and finding “harmony in difference” feels like a timely post for me.

In 1992, when I was serving in my first school librarian position, my father-in-law gave me a copy of the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine Teaching Tolerance.  Founded in 1971, SPLC is a U.S. non-profit organization monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.

Shortly after reading my first issue of Teaching Tolerance, I became a card-carrying SPLC member and have religiously renewed my membership every year since. Over the years, Teaching Tolerance has given me inspiration, encouragement, and teaching tips to make social justice a central component of my service as a school librarian and school librarian educator.

On their “about” page, Teaching Tolerance notes that their definition of “tolerance” aligns closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference” (UNESCO).

The Fall 2016 issue of the magazine (cover above) was published before the election. (It is downloadable.)  Read or review this issue and think about the fact that SPLC counted 867 incidents of hateful harassment in the ten days after the U.S. election. How can educators, and school librarians in particular, teach young people to find “harmony in difference?”

Read the latest from Teaching Tolerance: “New Report: School Climate Worsens in Wake of Election.” More than 10,000 educators took the survey; 90% of respondents reported that their school climate has been negatively affected by the election.

These are some tips for school librarians who serve as information specialists, instructional partners, and leaders in their schools:

1.    If you don’t already have a free Teaching Tolerance subscription, sign up for one or read the magazine online. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
2.    If you receive a print copy of the magazine, share it among your colleagues or send the link to the .pdf version to them. Encourage your colleagues to subscribe to the magazine and newsletter.
3.    Engage students and colleagues in discussions related to the articles in the magazine and newsletter.
4.    Reflect on your own practice of teaching tolerance.
5.    Reach out to colleagues to coteach lessons and units of instruction that affirm diversity.
6.    Consider following Teaching Tolerance on Twitter and Facebook.

As we approach the winter holiday season, it is especially important that our nation’s “public spaces,” including our school libraries, honor the traditions of all of our citizens and library users. Even in homogeneous communities, and maybe most especially in religiously homogeneous schools, the season for caring and giving is a time to acknowledge that diversity is, thankfully, an essential and laudable aspect of U.S. society.

Cover art by Nigel Buchanan
Magazine cover reprinted with permission of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. www.tolerance.org

Fake “News” in a “Post-truth” World

fake_news
In the wake of a contentious U.S. presidential election cycle, researchers and educators are shining a spotlight on critical “information literacy” skills. Determining authority, accuracy, and bias have long been essential aspects of analyzing content and sources of information. Today, this is no easy task for students (and adults as well) when authors of “information” do their best to deceive readers or hide their identity behind domains, such as .org, factual-seeming but phony statistical data, and authoritative-sounding language based on “pants of fire” lies.

In her 2014 book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, researcher danah boyd wrote, “becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age” (177). While the amount of fake “news” has increased exponentially, the problem of determining authority and validity in information sources has been a critical skill since the early days of the Internet.

How long have school librarians been challenging students to determine the bias in Stormfront’s Martin Luther King Jr. Web site (a site often used by David Duke) began using it in 2002 when I moved from an elementary to a high school position, and I am certain others were using it before me.  (See the 7.3 Category Matrix from Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact Challenging “Determining Main Ideas” Lesson Plan.)

Researchers at Stanford University recently conducted and released the results of a 2015-2016 study, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.”  The study showed what school and academic librarians have known through their own observations and action research related to middle, high school, and college-level students’ information literacy proficiency: “Young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (4).

Last week on LM_NET, school librarian Andrew van Zyl of St. Alban’s College, Pretoria, South Africa, raised the responsibilities of school librarians in a “post-truth” world when he posted information about Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement that “post-truth” reflects the “passing year in language.” It defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Some who entered the conversation wondered if librarians should be engaged in “politics.” For me the answer is clear. Literacy is “political” because it empowers people. From my perspective, school librarians are required to teach youth to determine the authority and accuracy of information and we are charged with coteaching with classroom teachers to ensure that students are information literate.

Taken together, “fake news” in a “post-truth” world create an even greater need for the information literacy expertise of school librarians. Information is supposed to be factual, whether or not it is considered “news.” (Even in the halcyon days when people read printed newspapers, reporters and editors frequently rushed to “get ahead of the story” and published “errors” that later had to be corrected.) When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they can coteach with classroom teachers to help students develop critical literacy skills that are even more essential in the online information environment.

I think this recent post on FactCheck.org “How to Spot Fake News” shows what librarians have long called “information literacy” is finally getting traction as a set of must-have skills for 21st-century students and adults as well:  (Information literacy and reading comprehension skills in parentheses)

• Consider the source. (Authority)
• Read beyond the headline. (Authority)
• Check the author. (Authority)
• What’s the support? (Accuracy and Reliability)
• Check the date. (Relevance and Reliability)
• Is this some kind of joke? (New in the post-truth world!)
• Check your biases. (Questioning)
• Consult the experts. (Questioning)

Like all educators, school librarians must continually self-assess and develop our skills. But we have a strong information literacy foundation on which to build and the desire and responsibility to share our expertise with students, colleagues, and community. Fake “news” and a “post-truth” world call all school librarians to step up  and lead.

Works Cited

boyd, dana. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

Robertson, Lori, and Eugene Kiely. “How to Spot Fake News,” FactCheck.org. November 18, 2016, http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/how-to-spot-fake-news/

Stanford History Education Group. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning: Executive Summary,” Stanford University. 22 Nov. 2016, https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf

Image Credit: Newspaper Clipping created at Fodey.com

Additional Recommended Reading:
Stevenson, Sara. “Information Literacy Lessons Crucial in a Post-Truth World,” Knowledge Quest Blog, 18 Nov. 2016,
http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/information-literacy-lessons-crucial-post-truth-world/

Valenza, Joyce. “Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation, and the Librarian Way: A News Literacy Toolkit for a Post-truth World,” Neverending Search Blog, 26 Nov. 2016, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/

Flexible Scheduling = Time for Learning

flick-gator_cheerleadersDuring the SLC Connection “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th, several participants asked questions about library scheduling. Some of us stayed online after the hour to talk a bit more about scheduling for classroom-library collaboration.

This has long been a tension for school librarians, particularly those who serve in elementary schools. Without a flexible schedule is it difficult to collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and provide students with deeper learning opportunities.

In fact, a week later during Leslie Maniotes’ “Guided Inquiry Design in Action” Webinar on October 27th, Leslie noted the importance of classroom-library collaboration and stressed the inquiry phases needed before students formulate their questions: open, immerse, and explore. Thorough preparation for successful inquiry learning takes time.

In my experience, inquiry phases should occur over a reasonably short period so that students’ passions are engaged. This helps them become self-motivated as they begin their inquiry and supports them in making a commitment to their learning. Fixed library schedules were school librarians are working with students at one set time each week, usually for 30 to 50 minutes, simply does not lend itself to classroom-library collaboration for guided inquiry.

Roger Grape, school librarian at Blackshear Elementary in Austin, Texas, created at a digital advocacy story to promote flexible schedules: “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” In his Animoto video, Roger notes that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) promotes flexibly scheduled school libraries as a best practice.

“Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist” (AASL). See the entire AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.

As Roger says, “You need the best from every member of your team” (Grape). Librarians with flexibly scheduled libraries have the opportunity to serve students and teachers at the point of need. They have the opportunity to engage students and collaborate with teachers to guide deeper learning.

As I suggested in the “Coteaching” Webinar, school librarians can find a friend on the faculty, or one who teaches an age-level or in a discipline in which you have a particular strength, or approach a colleague who has expertise you lack and form a collaborative relationship. If you are working in a fixed schedule, ask that person to “give up” her/his planning time in order to coplan and coteach and build a case with administrators and colleagues for the efficacy of classroom-library collaboration supported by flexible scheduling.

Side note: If you are attending the Arizona Library Association Conference in Tucson this week, please considering participating in my session: Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories. You, too, can make an effective advocacy video like Roger’s; his has over 800 views!

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” American Library Association. 17 July 2014, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched.

Breeze, Chris. “Flick-Gator Cheerleaders.” Wikipedia: Cheerleading, 25 Jan. 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheerleading#/media/File:Flick-Gator_Cheerleaders.jpg.

Grape, Roger. “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” YouTube.com. 20 Mar. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWo3FWmQVhM

The Recruitment Conundrum

readerToo many jobs, not enough applicants…

Successful school librarians lead by example, and share the passion for their unique role within a school community with their students, colleagues, administrators, and the wider world.  For the past four years in this venue, BACC bloggers have attempted to capture some of the joys and challenges that keep us energized and committed to our profession, even in the face of budget cuts, ever shifting educational “reforms,” and the information and technology tsunami.

Now we are looking to a future that includes renewed possibilities for strengthening school library programs across the country.  Traditional school libraries are being reinvented as 24/7 learning spaces or learning commons, in a variety of schools. Makerspaces are the current buzz. Research studies continue to demonstrate the correlation between strong school library programs and student success by multiple measures. ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) is finally on the books and language that recognizes the role of school library programs, resources, and certified professionals is included. There are new guidelines that open areas for funding resources for school libraries and professional development for school librarians.

Telling our stories, listening to others…

As Judi and Karla have shared in their posts this month, there is a growing need for new school librarians to replace retirees and to staff open school library positions in school districts across the states. They have suggested ways for practicing librarians to encourage teacher colleagues to consider making a shift to the largest classroom in the school-the school library.  We need to tell our own stories of how we made the journey, and the difference that it has made in our lives.  (Indeed, the bloggers did that in February 2016!)  We need to listen to their stories, too, and to encourage them through collaborative teaching experiences, and by suggesting that they sample a school librarianship course or two.

With the idea that we tell and listen to stories to promote and recruit new school librarians, I decided to ask a few of my current students about their journey to the world of librarianship.  The adult learners in the course are very goal oriented and focused on new ideas and skills that will help them succeed as school librarians.  They have a range of backgrounds and experience in education, mostly in literacy or humanities, and more recently, from educational technology.  Each person brings a distinctive voice to the group, and it is a pleasure to have them contribute to our shared learning.

So here’s a sample of what I heard:

  • Having been an educator most of my professional life, I find library work to be a really wonderful fit for me at this time. It gives me an opportunity to lead collaboratively with a focus on curriculum.  It provides opportunities for teaching and learning for me, though not the full time role of a classroom teacher.  I love children’s literature and the difference it can make it readers’ lives, and my life. Libraries are exciting places to be:  They have the potential to be on the forefront of innovation—providing new resources, equipment and learning environments to bring education forward in this changing world.  Libraries create a space for creativity and curiosity whether it be makerspace, arts programs or reading clubs.  Libraries can be a vestige of welcome, calm and delight, and an antidote to high stakes testing.    —-Eileen Riley: email correspondence April 22, 2016
  • As a child I dreamed of becoming a librarian. I had a collection of books that I would check out and stamp. I found that I was attracted to the LMS endorsement because there were only 6 classes in the sequence that I would take in order to gain my endorsement.  It seemed to be a manageable goal that could be accomplished since each class was taken during a fall, spring, and summer semester. I did have two other classes that I have to take since I do not have an education degree.  I have been able to take one of the classes last semester and have one other class to take.  The classes are a hands-on experience for me.  I enjoy working with the other classmates and am able to discuss different situations that occur in the library.  The benefits of the LMS are to provide an environment where one can gain life long learning skills, and to be a leader who promotes literacy and technology skills.        —-Faith Lucas: email correspondence April 19, 2016
  • I always wished to be a librarian. I kind of forgot about that wish, though, when my “real life” became my life! Four years ago I was a traveling literacy specialist for kindergarteners in suburban CT, and worked in a bunch of different schools each week. I used the libraries for books, for work space and to take my kiddos to…it all came back to me that I wanted to be a librarian, especially in a school. When we moved up to VT and I realized I could have a fresh start, I went for it. Our pivotal conversation two years ago changed my life! Thanks, and hooray!    —Kristen Eckhardt: email correspondence April 19, 2016

We need you in our school libraries!

In Vermont, the Agency of Education publishes a list of shortages for educator positions, and the library media specialist (school librarian) position has a perennial spot on the list. The University of Vermont School Library Media Studies courses are designed for educators who want to add that endorsement to their teaching licenses. There is also an option for enrolling in a Masters of Education program, with a concentration in school library media studies and additional education coursework to complete the program with an advanced degree.  Some candidates are experienced educators are looking for new options, and are attracted to the program. Other candidates who enroll in the courses have been hired to fill vacant jobs, and are working within provisional licensing regulations.

Telling our stories to administrators:

In this small rural state, there has been a continued tradition of support for school libraries, and there are not enough certified professionals to fill all the positions in the state. Professional school librarians continue to advocate, individually and together for school library programs, by communicating with administrators about the impact of school libraries on learners.  Administrators play an important role in recruitment, and they need to have current data and information that will inform their decisions about the role of the school librarian..

Superintendents and principals are often the headhunters and recruiters who identify educators from within their ranks who might be willing to make a shift to the role of the school librarian. Those folks are encouraged to enroll in the UVM two year program, or some other recommended graduate program in school librarianship. Once the educators are committed to the required coursework, they may be hired as professionals with a provisional license under the direction of the school district. Upon completion of the courses and a practicum, the educators are eligible for a Vermont prek-12 endorsement as certified library media specialists. When administrators recruit from within, and encourage and support the professional learning of potential school librarians, they will get a return on their investment through a valued employee whose professional skills will enhance the teaching and learning for all members of the school community.

We are all stakeholders in the future for school library programs, so get out there and do your part. Spread the word locally and globally! Tell your story!

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

STEM, STEAM, and STREAM

This month, the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how school librarians can be and are being essential team members in STEM, STEAM, and STREAM initiatives. These interdisciplinary efforts offer sky-is-the-limit opportunities for school library leaders.

STEM_TagxedoSTEM, STEAM, and STREAM are hot topics in education. Some would say these are THE 21st-century subjects and the key to students’ futures. With a focus on innovation to solve the world’s persistent problems, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, and yes! reading are particular areas of focus in the taught curriculum across the United States.

On February 2nd, I attended Terry Young’s Webinar: “STEM, STEAM, and STREAM… What Do They Have in Common? Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” Hosted by EdWeb.TV, Terry’s presentation was sponsored by Libraries Unlimited. Here’s the link to his Webinar: https://edweb.tv/stem-steam-and-stream/

Terry framed his presentation in terms of the “learn by doing” Next Generation Science Standards. The “quick search” guide on this Web site is a useful tool for any school librarian looking to connect her/his teaching and planning and coteaching with classroom teachers. Knowing these standards are step one in order to be a STEM-ready educator.

Terry’s presentation focused on resources for school librarians to use to increase their own knowledge, build  STEM/STEAM/STREAM library collections, and use resources to reach out to classroom teachers and specialists for interdisciplinary learning and teaching. He recommended resources such as Science Books & Films to help school librarians build their collections. Terry also recommended setting up “search alerts” for magazine tables of contents and following publications by children’s science book authors.

Terry talked about science read-alouds for younger students and recommended the book: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Science Books to Teach Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. He noted that What Is Science? written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by SachikoYoshikawa should be included in every elementary school library collection.

He noted that STEM/STEAM/STREAM fairs, formerly “science fairs,” should take a problem-solving approach. In this vein, Terry encouraged school librarians to help students answer their “why” questions, especially if classroom teachers shy away from pursuing questions with uncertain answers or outcomes.

As an elementary school librarian, one of my favorite and oft-repeated teachable moments was when a small group of children brought in a “wonder” from the playground… an as-yet unidentified insect or other critter or plant they had “discovered” at recess. I relished my responsibility to guide students in asking questions about the “wonder” and to have ready-reference materials on hand for them to find the answers. Classroom teachers often gave students time to conduct these spontaneous learning opportunities and some picked up on these investigations and furthered them with the whole class.

There is much individual school librarians can do to shore up their own knowledge and the library’s resources in order to teach and support classroom teachers, specialists, and students in exploring interdisciplinary STEM, STEAM, and STREAM curriculum. On Thursday, I will share a K-12 district-wide initiative that seeks to support and build classroom-library instructional partnerships for these efforts.

Word cloud by Tagxedo.com

Coteaching Inquiry and Reading Comprehension: A Perfect Match

PM_logo_3_sizedToday, I am facilitating a half-day preconference workshop titled: “Coteaching Inquiry Learning and Reading Comprehension Strategies: A Perfect Match.” I am a long-time practitioner and staunch advocate for the school librarian’s instructional partner role.

In this workshop, I bring together two areas of teaching and learning about which I am passionate: inquiry learning and reading comprehension strategies (RCS). These two processes can be aligned in order to increase students’ success with both. Inquiry and RCS are metacognitive processes that invite learners to think about their thinking. They can help learners grow their ability to “learn how to learn.”

And both processes are best taught with a coteaching approach. In the workshop, participants will review these processes, complete a puzzle that spotlights how they are aligned, and practice coteaching close reading with literature that can lead to an inquiry unit of study. Coteaching RCS builds on the school librarian’s strengths in teaching information literacy skills and makes a more successful learning outcome for students.

When classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians combine their knowledge, skills, and talents, everybody wins!

This workshop is based on my previously published books regarding coteaching RCS as well as one that I am authoring: Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy (ALA Editions 2016).

The AASL Conference is just getting underway today. If you are not in Columbus and attending this event, check it out on Twitter at #aasl15, on the Knowledge Quest Blog, and on the AASL Facebook page.

P.S. Since I am not able to be at Treasure Mountain this morning, I am sharing my thank-you note video to Dr. Loertscher via the BACC.

Word cloud created at Wordle.net

Embrace Your PD Role

hatsTeacher librarians wear many hats, and some hats cross many roles listed in a job description. In our daily school library hustle and bustle, we may not think of ourselves as professional developers for our colleagues, but indeed we wear that hat in many ways.   This is not a radical new idea, but merely a recognition that providing access to new information, new literature, new technology,  and new pedagogy for teachers in our schools, has always been part of our mission, and is based in a collaborative model. As Ken Haycock has said, teacher librarians lead from the middle, not from a position of power, but through social influence. (2010, 2)

So let’s take a minute to focus on the myriad ways we interact to share access to information and ideas with our teaching colleagues, and to be intentional about improving and expanding our PD offerings. As you begin your new school year, set a goal to incorporate your PD hat into your other roles.  Be sure to share that goal with your administrator, so s/he will be able to see that you wear a PD hat!

This month BACC bloggers have opened up a discussion about reaching out to our colleagues with PD opportunities-the why and how.  Judi emphasized the necessity for building personal and professional relationships as a foundation for credible PD, and she shared the experience of  Becky McKee, a District Librarian in Texas.  Both Judi and Karla spoke about the curriculum connections that are at the heart of our work with our colleagues.  That’s our ticket into the game!  Karla introduced a metaphor for the teacher librarian as a  lighthouse, a beacon to guide our fellow educators to new professional learning. Karla suggested multiple access points to provide PD.  Both have shared many excellent ideas, all with the aim of collaborating for student success in our schools.

Goal setting for integrating PD through collaboration

Step 1: Self Assess: Think about your daily, weekly, monthly schedule-as an instructional partner, curriculum specialist, technology integrationist, educational leader, and teacher.  Ask yourself:

  • What do I know about the various school improvement initiatives in my school district? How does my SLP support both student and teacher success? How can I help?
  • How do I know what teachers need to help improve student learning in the various content areas?  How do I/can I find out? Do I wait for them to come to me, or do I approach them with a new idea about teaching and learning, or new resources? How do I build relationships?
  • What do I do well?  What activities have worked well for sharing meaningful professional development opportunities? One to one, small group, team, PLC, PLN, or CoP? Face to face, online learning management system? Virtual library website resources? Where do I look for new PD ideas?
  • What are some new (or underused) curricular resources in the library collection that meet the initiatives in the district? What is the best way to introduce them? How will I engage teachers who are in their silos?  How can I make the learning interactive? How can I provide a feedback loop? How can I make it fun? How can I be the guide on the side?
  • How can I model new technology applications and ways to integrate 21st Century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration) for both educators and students? How can I provide meaningful connections to their interests and passions?

Step 2: Make plan to try something new.  Gather resources, outline a framework and timeline for your activity.  Provide for continuous feedback to monitor success.  Design the activity with individual choice and engagement in mind. Learning should be fun! Give it a go!

Step 3: Evaluate and reflect on strengths and challenges. Make adaptations for the next time.  Encourage others to share and reflect.  Hand out badges or rewards-recognize effort and results. Take photos, and share through social media!

Work cited:

Haycock, Ken. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” Ed. Sharon Coatney. The Many Faces of School Library Leadership. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2010. 1-12. Print.

Image:  Judy Kaplan Collection