By Elizabeth Wroten
On 06, Feb 2017 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Forgive me, but I’m about to get a little passionate about kids and education. We recently had an author come visit our library (shout out to Bruce Hale, he was awesome and we have a lot of budding author/illustrators thanks to him!). He was really great with the kids and had lots of interaction with the audience and at one point asked what some of the kids in the audience wanted to be “when they grow up”. It’s a pretty traditional and mundane question and we got the range of answers: vet, doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect. But we also got a couple YouTube stars. That led to a couple chuckles and a lot of eye rolling from teachers.
I had forgotten that I had heard a rant about this a few months back. I cannot, for the life of me, remember where or who was ranting or anything beyond a collective hand wringing over “kids these days”. But I think we need to stop wringing our hands over this particular phenomenon and need to step up to harness this interest. (I have a lot of choice expletives about getting off kids backs when it comes to things adults deem unworthy, but I’ll spare you that rant for now.)
For starters, “YouTube star” is a pretty nebulous concept, especially for these kids. Why don’t we roll our eyes at lawyer? I mean for a third grader what the hell does being a lawyer mean? Nothing more or less than a YouTube star. It has very little meaning to them. Except it YouTube star DOES mean these kids want to be content creators. We love to spout off about how we’re teaching kids skills for jobs we can’t even imagine. One thing I think we can know about their futures is that they will need to be content creators. Be that writing, report making, building, or scientific research. They will be creating content of one kind or another. So all those potential YouTube stars have a head start over their peers in that they already want to be doing what they probably will be doing.
Instead of rolling our eyes, we need to be harnessing these kids’ energies and interests and showing them how to bring their ideas into the world. Teach them to record themselves, make podcasts, write scripts, sing, play instruments, draw and animate, and make technology a tool (e.g. stop fucking wringing your hands over kids using technology). Teach them to make things and sell them on Etsy. Help them find what they are good at and enjoy and then help them put it out there into the world. Encourage them to be creative. Certainly if you have a makerspace, this is where it comes in and plays a HUGE role in our children’s education. But even if you don’t, that’s okay. Providing them with the support and a few materials is better than all the eye rolling and hand wringing I see going on right now.
As a fairly creative kid I made all kinds of crap. From voice recordings on an old-ass tape recorder we had, to scripts for a TV show I performed in a box, to fully illustrated picture books, to weird “inventions” out of leftover foam, and comic books. I even sold them to my friends and family so I could go to the drugstore after school and buy comic books, candy, and makeup. There is no reason any of those projects couldn’t be updated with modern technology and put online. And no reason why we shouldn’t be encouraging our children to use their creative skills to make a few extra bucks to pay for fun little things. Why should be discourage our kids from doing these kinds of things? Because a few crusty, technology-phobic teachers think kids shouldn’t want to make money or create videos?
YouTube star is probably not a realistic life goal for most of our students, but let’s not lose sight of what these kids are really telling us. Instead of throwing up your hands, help them form that interest into something they can be proud of, even if that involves wacky videos posted to their YouTube channel.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 01, Jul 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I thought since I talked about the summer reading lists that I created I thought I would share pdf versions of them here.
Our lists go home with a letter attached that explains summer reading. In it, in all grades, we encourage parents to read WITH their children. Thus you will see books that are not necessarily grade level. We also point parents to ALA award lists (actually I have pdf versions that I typed up that we post to our website for parents to download).
Note that I was asked to add back in a few titles. Titles that were not diverse. Ones that I had removed because I figured that parents visiting any bookstore would find these classics and popular titles and did not need me to tell them about. It’s fine. They’re all good books. But it does skew the numbers I shared in my statistics posts. The lists are less diverse because books were added back without being intentional. It’s a work in progress and I’ll be updating them again next year too, so I can keep making it better. I am not sharing the fifth grade list because the one published is not the one I came up with.
We also include a Bingo card at the end of each list and ask that the kids fill out each square (there are only 9 so it isn’t an insurmountable task!). Here is a copy of that in case you want to use it or do something similar. The kids who fill it out can come to the library for a treat and a summer reading badge in the Fall.
Here is a reminder about my Creative Commons License:
This work by Elizabeth Wroten is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
If you want to use these for personal use, please feel free! I would also be happy to see them built on and if you do drop me a line to let me know. I would love to know what people add and subtract from them.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 07, Apr 2015 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
The next two days of library time I spent with the fifth grade actually gave them time to work on their research with me and the librarian present to help. I put together a Diigo site that provided them with pre-approved website. Ideally they would be working on evaluating websites themselves, but there just wasn’t time or practice enough in place for this to happen. And you know, that was just fine.
The first day I shared the Diigo site with them and showed them how it worked. Then I explained that they would be writing notes on notecards. Watching the kids try to maneuver between Diigo and any websites they pulled up was so awkward. If you have kids that are more computer saavy, using a computer or web-based program for note taking would be fine, but I am SO GLAD we had them physically write out their notes.
We reminded them about citations and gave them a list of information that they needed to get off their site, database, or book and told them to copy it onto the notecard. Each notecard had notes from one site, article or book (at least in theory). The students got some really good practice at finding website titles and copyright dates with this.
The second day there was more time for research. We also introduced the options for presentations. The kids would be allowed to create an infographic (a glorified poster), a Prezi, or a video. Mostly we were curious about what the kids would choose (it appears they all went for the Prezi because it was familiar)
I had a few thoughts for next year. The first is that the kids need an example of each type of presentation. That was a mistake I saw coming, but just did not have the time to correct. Second, I would ultimately like them to have some experience evaluating sites and doing Google searches just to see how hard it is. This is really not the project to do that on, especially since they have no experience with it yet, but I will find a way. Third, and this is something I fixed from the first group that came in the morning to the second that came in the afternoon, don’t share the presentations ideas and tools until after giving them 20 minutes or so to research. Once you tell them they can use Prezi or Canva (the site they could use to make an infographic) they just want to spend the period tinkering around on it. It was a major head slap moment, of course they would want to and that was fine. I just wanted them to spend a little more time researching too.
Find the full lesson plan for both days here: Research Days Lesson Plan
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 03, Mar 2015 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I have noticed two things about how research has been conducted at my school, particularly in Lower School. One is that it’s book heavy. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but the kids will be expected to use a variety of sources in middle and high school and there’s some expectation that they will know how to work with databases and websites by the time they reach middle and high school (not a high expectation, but an expectation nonetheless).
The second thing I noticed is that the books are found by the librarian, pulled from the shelf and either put on a book truck or delivered to the classroom and into the kids hands. There is a lot of effort put into making sure there are nonfiction series that align with the project/topic to make it even easier. This happens across the school. I completely understand the thinking behind this and know it’s necessary to some extent, however I think it also robs the students of the opportunity of seeing that research can be a long and complicated process and that all the information you need will not be found in one book that is handed to you. I don’t advocate getting rid of this system, but I think the kids need to be involved in the process at various points and a balance needs to be struck where they can help find resources and sift through them, but also be handed resources that will have information they need in the interest of time and sanity.
Before simply setting the kids loose on websites, databases, and books for this particular project I wanted to give them some hands-on experience with them that didn’t have such high stakes as finding information that they would have to use. To this end I created four stations that had them work with a resource in a way that was tangential to their project.
Here is the basic break down of the period.
- Video and run down
- Stations (8-10 minutes each)
- Book station
- Wikipedia keyword station
- Database station
- Website evaluation station
Here is the link to a much more detailed version of what we did and what the stations were: Research Stations Lesson Plan
I tried to run the stations simultaneously, having the kids rotate every 8-10 minutes, but their knowledge and ability to work independently made this difficult. Next year I will have a short 3 minute intro to each station and will take them through that, then turn them loose in groups to do the activity while I circulate. This way there can be A LOT more hand holding. (This need will be particular to the school. If your kids have more experience with either independent work or with the resources they may be more capable of running through the stations the way we originally did.)
The whole day was intended to give them some exposure to the resources they would be using in the project, but also to give the teachers a sense of where the students were in their ability to use the resources. A few of them actually remembered using a database before, but no one actually knew much about them. Even using the index and table of contents in a book was hit or miss. Again this can be particular to a groups of kids, but it was eye opening to see how they functioned in a less controlled, less directed environment. I wish they had stronger skills, but I can see now where I need to build in support and practice to get them where I ultimately want them.
Finally, I walked the kids through the databases and talked to them about what is in them and we looked at features together, but ultimately I would like this to run a little more independently. I want some of the exploration to come from them and not me telling them “look here, click this”. I just don’t know how to do that yet.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 03, Feb 2015 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I have been volunteering in the lower school library at the school where I was working pre-baby for about two years now. This year the librarian and I decided I would take on working with the fifth grade when they started their research project on intertidal life. So I spent most of December out of the library planning what I was going to do with them, deciding what skills I really wanted them to come away with, and what topics I wanted them to have some exposure to. I also collaborated with the fifth grade teacher and the other librarian on redeveloping the project so it could fit with the library framework.
None of the content requirements have changed, but the format, presentation, and research pieces have been changed pretty dramatically. The kids have done a fair amount of research over the years, but I think there’s a lot that can be done to introduce them to more and put some scaffolding in place so they are ready for middle and high school and the requirements (like citations, using databases, and using a variety of resources in their research) that they will encounter. What we’re doing this year in fifth grade will probably be pushed down into fourth grade at some point while running simultaneously with the fifth grade. That way the fifth grade gets to work on these skills and the fourth grade will be ready for more when they are in fifth. Part of what we’re doing is just an experiment so see what the kids know already, what they can do, and where they are. Which is to say the project will evolve, especially since in two years the fifth grade should be ready to do more.
This is a long lead up to say that I’m going to share the program I’m doing with the kids. We have four days set for the library. Because of crazy scheduling (conferences, pep rallies, etc.) they are not consecutive days, but I think we’ve got it worked out well enough. We had our first day in the middle of January and I decided to cover citations and plagiarism. Most of the kids were not very familiar with either of those topics (or were, but did not recognize the vocabulary I was using), so I’m glad we did this first thing. We are also requiring that they use two different types of sources (print and online), that they create a bibliography, and that they keep note cards with their sources on them. By starting with the citation presentation I wanted to start them off right instead of inserting once they had already started researching.
Here is the basic overview of the program. See below for a downloadable pdf with more information and links:
- Video- from EasyBib about citations and plagiarism
- Defining plagiarism and respect
- why do we create citations?
- Whose Is It? Activity- from Common Sense media, gives the kids scenarios and has them decide if it’s plagiarism and why or why not
- Assignment requirements- at least two source, one print, one online, bibliography
- What does a citation need to be useful?
- Practice creating citation with EasyBib- they won’t be required to use this, but I wanted them to see that they could, how it worked, and simply see what a citation looks like
- Fill out plagiarism worksheet- this was just a couple questions that helped the kids recap what we had discussed in their own words
Here is a link to download the more detailed notes of what we did: Citations & Plagiarism Lesson Plan.
I had a few reflections on what I would do differently next year. The kids were so quiet! I think they were shy around me and the format for library time was really different. Next time I want them to be more interactive and I would like to try changing up the seating arrangement.
I also really hate worksheets. I think they’re just busy work, so I want to move away from that in the earlier part of the lesson. I really like inquiry driven study so my ultimate goal is to move toward that. That being said, I think there is value in having them do the reflection at the end and putting what they’ve learned into their own words and physically writing it out. It does help them retain the information.
I was also surprised how few of them really knew anything about plagiarism and giving credit to other people for their work. They knew a little bit and they knew a little more about copyright, but they need more. Especially since they are doing research all through lower school. Which is why I ultimately want to see this in fourth grade.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 02, Sep 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
<—-This is the book. It was required reading the summer before ninth grade. And I hated it. There were some sex scenes in it that, as a young and immature ninth grader, I was not ready for. I think we all have one or two Required Reading books that we’ve really hated. I’ve been thinking about writing a bit on this topic, especially because I think required reading is problematic. Since it’s back-to-school season and because The Hub also wrote up a post related to the topic I thought now would be a good time to tackle it.
There were plenty of required texts that I liked. Several I loved (Jane Eyre, The Scarlett Letter, and The Heart of Darkness). And some I wasn’t fond of but could appreciate (The Great Gatsby, Beowulf, Gilgamesh). I can only think of two that I really disliked (The Chosen and A Separate Peace) but I know it’s because I didn’t get them. I doubt I would adore them if I did get them, but I could have respected them.
Then there are a couple text that tended to be required reading that we did not read and I am SO GLAD. Because I read them when I was a little older and could appreciate them more, specifically The Joy Luck Club and Things Fall Apart. Things Fall Apart is one of my all time favorites and, along with Jane Eyre, I reread it every couple years.
Some of this required reading kicked off a classics reading binge. Or maybe it was the looming AP test? I’m not sure, but I went on to read most things Bronte and loved them. And that turned me onto gothic novels and ghost stories. I loved The Jungle and Fitzgerald’s short stories (Flappers and Philosophers is a great anthology, I’m really glad Gatsby didn’t turn me off to his work all together). There were plenty of other American and British novels I went on to read.
I went through another classics phase when I was living in Cairo. I needed to fill the time I wasn’t in class or at the museum. Reading options were limited, but the AUC had a wonderful bookstore that was well stocked with British versions of the classics. I started to read through a ton of those. Moll Flanders, Wilkie Collins ghost stories, Rebecca, The Four Feathers, and many more that I don’t remember. I’m glad I came to all those when and how I did.
I think there is a conundrum of required reading. I understand why we have required reading, to get kids to read outside themselves, to read outside their comfort zones and to expose them to classic, quality literature. But what if that exposure turns you off? I worry that by taking such a rigid tactic, that in some ways presumes to tell kids we know what they should be reading, we run the risk of turning them off to good books, good authors, or, worst of all, reading in general. For me, I went out and found more and kept coming back to the classics, but that can’t be said for a lot of kids. Working in a high school library I heard more complaints about the books they “had” to read than compliments or expressions of a desire to read more.
How do we keep require reading from making that mistake? First and foremost students need a good English teacher to walk them through many of those books. Often you are too young to appreciate or relate with the themes and characters and situations, so having a knowledgeable adult walk you through it is essential. That is what I needed when I read Leaving Cheyenne. It wouldn’t have been my favorite book, but I doubt I would have taken as much issue with it as I did. I think as librarians we can help kids find YA novels that can speak to them more directly. That they do enjoy. I think we can also encourage English teachers to use a few well-written YA novels in their curriculum. I know there are a lot of complaints about YA, but there is well written content out there (The Giver, anyone?). By showing students that reading material can be great and lofty (with classics) and can meet them where they are (with YA) I think we would do them a great service. It would give them the gift of pleasure reading.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 25, Sep 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Since I have been plowing through all these novels lately I haven’t made much of an effort to read anything online. Now that I’m reading a bit less, though, I have come across a few articles I thought I would share here (both for others and to help me remember to refer back to them!).
First up is a blog post from Meredith Farkas about how important it is to understand where errors are coming from. I could not agree more with this and think it’s applicable to all levels of education and across all subjects. When I first started out after college I began tutoring and I had one student that was really struggling with math. She was trying to do pre-algebra and it just wasn’t clicking for her. She was bright and I was baffled. It took me awhile but I finally realized, based on some mistakes she made, that she didn’t have any basic math skills (like fourth and fifth grade math) or any understanding of how numbers worked. As soon as I discovered that, we went back and covered the basics. I even stopped working on her pre-algebra with her to get her up to speed, except to limp through her homework. After a few weeks and before we had even finished her crash course in basics she was already better understanding the harder mathematical concepts. That was a turning point for me. I realized how important it was not to just see that students make errors, but what those errors can tell you about gaps in their learning and understanding.
Last Friday I was listening to Science Friday and they had on some guests talking about science fairs. Personally I wish we did a lot more with science in our schools, but for those self-motivated enough these science fairs sounded amazing. One comment that was made that really stuck with me, though, was that working on science projects is a good way for kids to learn about failure. I think our current system of testing kids like crazy really doesn’t value failure and what it can teach us. It makes kids see failure as something to be afraid of and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Apparently David Truss also had failure on the brain, because I came across this post from his blog two days later. It’s short but has some great thoughts.
And I guess I’ll get on the Banned Books band wagon. I came across this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox about changing the discussion of banned books. It reminded me of one of my classes in library school. I can’t remember which one, but the professor gave us some tips for dealing with upset patrons that might object to a material in the library. The very first thing she told us to ask (after apologizing that they were offended) was, what was it you were looking for when you found this and can I help you locate what you were looking for? That always sounded to me like changing the subject to avoid conflict, but in light of this post from TLT I realized it can be more about redirecting the conversation and not validating their complaint. Not sure how I would actually handle this situation IRL, espeically if a patron was irate, but it’s definitely something to chew on.
Okay that’s it for the time being. I may have more in the next few weeks, but in the mean time enjoy the reviews. I have ton of them to write still!
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 13, May 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I talked briefly in an earlier post about my research into parenting philosophies that had led me to ecuational philosophies, which in turn led me to begin thinking about how I want to teach in the library. I was reading the CUE journal a few weeks back and these connections occurred to me again. I was struck by this quote from one of the feature articles by Ferdi Serim:
“In reflecting back on two or three decades in which the rallying cry was ‘integrating technology into the classroom,’ I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to call the contest. We didn’t win. But the opportunity to learn from failures is how we progress. The classrooms we were trying to integrate into were still ‘stand and deliver, lecture driven, knowledge transmission’ environments. In too many classroom the lecture now shines on a whiteboard.”
So many people think technology is going to be a silver bullet. If you put technology in the classroom all students will be engaged and learning and they will all ace the test. But if you want students engaged in the learning process, technology alone is not going to do this. Technology is a fantastic tool, but it is only a tool.
The issue of On Cue and the article were focused specifically on blended learning and I take Serim’s point in regards to it, but I don’t think the issue is limited to blended learning. One of the biggest failures in (American) education, in my opinion, has been it’s failure to innovate and change on a pedagogical level. Or at least it took a wrong turn and focused on the wrong pedagogy. Like Serim says, classrooms are still lecture based. This is the transmission model of education in which people belive there is a body of knowledge that must be taught to students (and then tested to ensure they have learned it) and I really disagree with strict transmission.
I think educators need to accept the idea that students have valuable contributions to be made to the classroom and to content. One of the reasons blended learning really appeals to me is because it encourages using a variety of ways to interact with information and curriculum. I think it also encourages a mix of transmission and discovery. You engage everyone (or should) and have the flexibility to meet students where they are and teach them in a way that works best for them. It also creates a much more autonomous classroom where the teacher can be both a resource and a facilitator of learning. They help the student gain knowledge through exploration rather than exclusively giving it to them. I think that takes some of the pressure off the teacher, too. It’s okay to say you don’t know and that you will find out together. I suppose in theory this could happen in a traditional classroom, but I have yet to see it.
I realize this isn’t necessarily a library issue, but I do think as central learning hubs, school libraries are well situated to make shifts in their pedagogy and in their programs. They can then serve as evangelists of sorts and even help with integration of new ideas into the classroom. I also think blended learning doesn’t necessarily have to focus on technology. To me it’s so much more than any one physical piece (like an iPad or a laptop), it’s about pedagogical change. Libraries are already champions of knowledge and content creation. They are already facilitators of knowledge. They are already resources for knowledge. It seems a natural step into pedagogical shift and blended learning.
I know none of these ideas are new and I’ve even talked about them here before, but I guess this article really made me realize how important I find it. Apparently CUE really gets my feelings about education and how it needs to innovate.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 08, Feb 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just a few links this week to share.
This one from Stephen’s Lighthouse is a pyramid of learning showing how much students retain of a lesson depending on how you present it. I think this is informative and bears remembering when you are doing lesson planning. I think the point is not to discourage you from ever lecturing or stopping required reading so much as encouragement to be sure you are using a broad range of teaching methods.
While I am not a writer and never will be, I found this response to Philip Roth telling an aspiring writer not to bother very inspiring and humorous. I think the underlying message is good no matter what you do: you have to try and if it’s between giving up and doing something you are passionate about then go for the passion.
I came across this article in the class I’m taking through ALSC on information literacy. I thought it was very interesting that they used anthropologists to help create and execute the study. Their findings that students aren’t nearly as research savvy as we like to think is also very interesting. I can’t say I’m surprised having seen what skills high schools students in an elite prep school come away with (or don’t). The findings also remind me that kids always seem to be a lot more tech savvy than they really are.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 04, Feb 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
So I guess that new bookless library that is going to open soon in San Antonio is causing a bit of a titter in the media – in and out of Libraryland. If you haven’t heard about it you can read a bit about it here on NPR’s website. The story has now run on NPR’s All Things Considered and also on APM’s Marketplace. I think my husband even told me he saw something about it on Gizmodo.
I thought, however, that the idea was interesting in light of two other blog posts I read on The Ubiquitous Librarian and on Censored Genius. Admittedly they aren’t exactly about the topic of ditching books, but they have ties to it. And they got me thinking about adding my two cents to the whole maelstrom.
I guess what irritates me about this whole debate is that it should be a non-argument because places like this new bookless library are really outliers on one end of a spectrum where most libraries fall somewhere in the middle. We should remember that library services are varied. We offer readers’ advisory and we offer computer classes. We offer study space and collaboration space. In the end I don’t think anyone, except for a very few outliers, are advocating that we drop everything in favor of buying the latest and greatest technology or that we abandon books altogether.
In some ways my irritation hearkens back to my thoughts on how librarians (or at least the slice of Libraryland I happen to follow) like to predict the next big thing in technology. That isn’t our job, though. And neither is going bookless when that isn’t a fit with your institution’s mission. I’m 100% for being innovative and looking ahead to provide services your patrons couldn’t even articulate a need for. But at the end of the day you need to take into account your community’s or institution’s culture. Know thyself.
In fact maybe this ties in with the blog post I read about on Hi Miss Julie about recognition and outrage at people getting lots of it for shiny new ideas that don’t really relate to the day to day literacy that goes on in libraries. I get irritated when people try to argue against the (imagined?) bookless revolution, too, by essentially saying that libraries are all about books and how can we even think about implementing technology? I understand that Miss Julie wasn’t really making that argument (in fact her point had nothing to do with the future of libraries debate at all) and that she is in a unique position as a children’s librarian. But we also need to recognize that we are living in a digital age. Even children will have some exposure to technology and need the skills to cope with a digital world. It doesn’t really matter if we personally like the idea of using screens and gadgets. They’re going to, and if that is what we need to encourage their literacy and build their information literacy skills, then that’s what we need to use. Especially if that’s what our institution’s or community’s culture demands.
I touched on this a bit in my piece about crossover from my parenting research. The thing about our patrons these days it that they are becoming as much creators of information and content as they are consumers of it. In Brian Mathews’ piece on The Ubiquitous Librarian he says:
At Virginia Tech we’re positioning ourselves to not only provide content, but to support content production. We think of this as not only about access to information, but also about enabling the creation of new knowledge. We’re evolving from a warehouse model toward a studio model.
And this is what we need to take into consideration when we add gadgets, books, and anything else to our library space and collections. This is how people interact with the world these days- through books, through the Internet, through Facebook, through crafting, through Tumblr, and through a million other content creators and aggregators.
I guess the crux of all this is that I believe libraries are more community hubs of learning, and always have been, than they are bastions of literature. Sure we offer books. But that isn’t the only way people learn and connect, now or in the past. Despite all the heated arguments for libraries being 100% books or 100% technology, no library really is. We all fall in the middle. With the exception of that one in San Antonio, of course.