Monday, November 14, 2011

Reflecting on the School LIbrary: An Invitation to the Possibilities for Learning

From Hugh's Daily Cartoon Newsletter

This is my fourth year as an elementary librarian after 21 years as a classroom teacher. I enjoy lots about the job of a librarian but one of my main frustrations is the limited time I see students. We are on a fixed schedule so I see each class for 45 minutes every four days.  When I started the job, I knew it would take 2-3 years to really build a program and I have to say, that I think that the library is a great place to be. But I don't often take the time to realize what is happening and I really don't always even notice. With 400+ K-5 kids, it is so easy for me to focus on what didn't get done in a week and how much more we wish we could do. This week, I decided to stop and take a breath and notice the little things that were happening in the library. Buffy Hamilton often reflects on her library in this long-term way and I thought this might help me see things more clearly so that we can move forward.

One of the philosophies I have been living on this year in the library is Inviting kids to do things rather than Commanding that they do it. (#invitationnotcommand). (Tony Keefer has a post about this new philosophy and how his class is embracing it in a powerful blog post today.) I want kids to see the library as an Invitation to Learning.  I want the library to offer lots of opportunities to kids and to build in authentic choice. I feel like much of my job is to open possibilities for students but not to necessarily "assign" them extra things to do.  That is not to say that we never all do the same thing. We have a minilesson type time in which we all gather to learn/introduce/think about something for about 15 minutes each session.  With the time limits, this is hard to pull off and it often feels like we aren't getting anywhere. But when I force myself to really think about how it is working, I realize lots seems to be happening.  The challenge for me is having enough quality Invitations in the library and to keep options fresh so that kids can find the things that matter to them as learners. Over the years, we have added books, games, building toys, tech tools, etc.  Here is some work I am excited about that has happened over the last few weeks--some big things and some great moments:

2nd grade classes are in the midst of a unit in which each child is creating a comic ebook. This is a collaboration between the classroom teachers, the art teacher, the technology support teacher and myself.  We've been working for weeks learning to look hard at graphic novels and comics, to think about the characteristics, to think about ways to tell stories in this format and to plan out our stories. This week, the kids started using the draw tool, PIXIE to begin creating. We'll use their illustrations and drop those into Comic Life. Then we'll save them as ebooks to be viewed by others on computers and iPads.  A long process but kids are doing a great job and the steps leading up to the actual creation have been worthwhile.  The kids have learned a lot and are creating pieces that they'll be excited to share. (This one is a #command-all kids are expected to create this. Once in a while, I am good with that when we all coordinate efforts and when I know the skills they learn will transfer to other learning for years.)

Some 3rd graders are working on book trailers.  It is not an assignment--just an invitation for those interested. As a group, we've studied book trailers and I've shared the process I have used in my own creation (much harder than I could have imagined--more to come at a later date...). In the process, they are learning about quality writing of book reviews, finding copyright free photos, using and editing imovie choosing sound that matches feel of book, and more. Kids are learning lots and I think many will choose to create book trailers for our morning news show and for our website.

I am getting ready to begin to introduce Diigo to our 4th grade students. Diigo has a new educator account with privacy settings for students.  There are so many options for student research and nonfiction reading with this social bookmarking tool. Excited to jump in.  A few students helped me figure a few things out with it this week and they were all excited about the possibilities of the tool. It is fun to watch people when they discover a new tool and imagine what it can do. These 9 year olds said exactly the same things about diigo that I did when I discovered social bookmarking--they can't believe there is something that can not only organize their bookmarks, but also a tool that lets them share with friends and lets them access bookmarks wherever they are. 4th graders seem to be a good age for this since they understand bookmarking, online reading, etc.

The Newbery Club has met twice but I touch base with kids in this group daily.  They are in and out of the library trading in books and choosing others constantly from the JOG THE WEB list I created for them to browse. Many have finished 1-2 books on our list of 30 and they are thinking hard about these books. It is fun to see a few like WONDERSTRUCK and BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX being passed around from one child to another.

We have 5 Kindles in the library.  We haven't done much with them because of management but since I had so many Newbery Club students interested in reading THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann, Since all of the copies are always checked out, I decided to add that book to our accounts and a few of the kids have chosen to read this one on a Kindle. We met for a while to learn about notetaking and highlighting features. It will be fun to see what they have to say about the experience.

A child stopped me in the hall today to say, "Mrs. Sibberson, I don't know what is happening but I have been finishing a LOT of books this week!" as she flew past.

Several students are using the Popplet App on the iPad to think through books.  They are brainstorming thinking, ideas, etc. and are really pushing themselves. Since Popplet invites collaboration, many kids are working together to do this type of thinking.

Kids are playing lots of games and learning a great deal in the process. Games we've added this year that have become popular are Qwirkle and Make N Break Junior.  Next week, we'll add 4 Way Countdown. Set has also been extremely popular this year. We finally have several sets of games cataloged and with indoor recess happening more often now that it is November, kids are beginning to check these games out for recess time.

Kids are excited about QR codes. I introduced them a bit and have them sitting around the room a bit. This week, I had 6 QR codes that extended thinking around BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa Sweet. After reading the book, kids were invited to use iPods or iPads with QR readers to visit various sites if they wanted to dig deeper--Melissa Sweet's author site, an interview with the author about the book, the Macy's Day Parade website,  and a video on how marionettes work are a few options kids had. We also have baskets with QR codes from past lessons that are available in the library.  Kids are noticing QR codes out in the world and are bringing those in to share when they find them. It is fun to predict where online they might take us and then to test that out!

Our kids are using building toys in new ways.  Flexeez are a new building toy that has become popular. It is fun to see the level of sophistication grow as the time kids have with the toy grows.  They are creating some amazing things. One of the things that is happening is that kids are beginning to share with others in new ways. After showing the kids the website I had recently discovered for Straws and Connectors, another favorite building toy, and sharing the "Instructions" pdfs, a few kids began putting together their own sets of instructions to designs they created. These will be posted online soon.

2 groups of students decided to create a series of podcasts for the younger students in our school. They are using Garage Band to create podcast read alouds of several books that will be posted on our website. The first few are basic but they have plans to include sound effects for the next one.

Several book matches were made this week. One of our Wimpy Kids fans  is reading WONKENSTEIN and is ready to begin recommending it by creating posters for the library.

A 5th grader happened to pop in the library while 3rd graders were trying to figure out the loops on garage band as they thought ahead to their book trailer. The 5th grader took a few minutes to share the "tricks" that he knew with this group of boys.  Plans were made for a future recess time lesson for the younger kids to learn more garage band tips from our 5th grade expert.

We used Wallwisher to record questions we had about our online reading this week. Students loved the tool and saw lots of possibilities.

We used Wordle to think about what we understood about research. Each of the 4th and 5th grade classes brainstormed words they thought of when they thought of research. We turned each set into a wordle. Then each group was able to look at all of the wordles to see how their thinking might change and grow based on others' definitions/thoughts about research.  I had never used wordle in this conversation-starting way but it was a great way to build talk and connect ideas between classes.

JOG THE WEB is a new favorite tool. I have used it to connect information for students. We now have a few kids who are beginning to create their own sets of sites on a topic.

Our fall book fair was the biggest ever. Kids bought lots of books.  And they bought good books. The way they are thinking about their reading lets me know that they are building habits of lifelong readers. They come in asking for authors, topics, books like another, etc. They have become very purposeful about their book choice strategies and that showed up at bookfair. One exciting thing that I noticed was that kids continued to talk about the books they purchased at book fair for weeks.

Many new Pigeon stories began this week. A few kids chose to write new versions of the pigeon story and they are quite hysterical, as you can imagine. I love that young children will work for days over time on projects that matter to them.

It is a funny place, the library. When you look around each day, the learning happening isn't always obvious. The learning in the library rarely stands alone. It is a place for kids to connect the learning that they do all day and to explore new interests.  I am lucky to work in a school where kids have great opportunities in the classrooms and beyond.  I am going to try hard for the rest of the year to focus more on all of the things that are happening in the library than on the things I can't get to.  I am already looking forward to the next several months in the library.  I can see that we are in a good place to move forward. Lots of learning happening when kids are invited to try new things.


  1. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Really enjoyed getting a little peek into your library this morning. Really big stuff at the end.

    "It is a funny place, the library. When you look around each day, the learning happening isn't always obvious. The learning in the library rarely stands alone. It is a place for kids to connect the learning that they do all day and to explore new interests."

    Thanks for giving out these invitations

  2. So much going on! It must be wonderful to be the place and the source for connecting all those learning/thinking dots.

  3. Franki~
    I am amazed at all you do in one week! Remember to take this time often, reflect on your accomplishments and where you are going next! You and your readers will be amazed!

  4. imagine a city.. like you just described your library. city as floorplan.. facilitating communities of practice.. peer choice.


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