I have been spending time each day working with students in reading small groups. Some kids love it and others not so much. I have one group of kids who get so wrapped up in what I am reading that they are fully engaged. They ask questions and make connections all the time. The stories that they stop and tell me make me laugh. I believe that they are getting the chance to understand characters in books, and to see how they relate to their own lives. The students that I am reading with want to read parts of the book too. I spend lots of time trying to find books that they can help me with. This part of the 50 hours has been my favorite.
This week happens to be Fall break at my school. Next week starts homecoming week at the high school and I am really looking forward to the festivities. I can remember homecoming week being one of the best parts of high school. I plan on observing earlier in the week so that the festivities haven’t completely ruined the class schedule. I hope everyone has a great break whenever their’s happens to be!
I decided to use my reading small group hours with four first grade students identified by their teacher as needing significant help. These four students met with me for 15 minutes twice a week for 3 weeks. My observation, of course, noted how significantly below grade level these students are reading but more than that, I observed four kids willing to try. Not once did any of the four students tell me they did not want to read or that they couldn’t. Each one looked at the page, the pictures, and to me for help with the words on the page. They listened to each other, encouraged one another, and were genuinely curious what we would be reading next. I talked with them each meeting about sight word practice and finding time to read with someone at home. I have a real connection to these early struggling readers who need an extra push and some extra motivation. I was indeed one of them myself. It always reminds me that no matter where a student is, there’s room for growth and in some cases, with the right intervention, amazing possibilities.
This was the Banned Books Week display our librarian made. The caution tape really drew the students’ attention to the table. I noticed that many students were curious about these books. I think the rebellious side of some teenagers makes them want to read some of the books just because they have been challenged. When I looked at the books, I was surprised that anyone had a problem with some of them; others I would not recommend. I did, however, think that most of them warranted a place in the library collection.
I think as a teacher, I do have to be careful about what I require my students to read. Tessa Powell stated in her WIKI that “It is important to be informed, and I believe literature has made me more open to others’ ideas, but there are some texts that are just inappropriate in school.” I agree with her statement completely. I use that standard when selecting the texts we study in class. I do think the library has to be more open, though. While a text may not be one I would have as required reading or that I would even recommend, I don’t feel that I am the ultimate judge in some things. I guess I might employ “silent censorship” in that I may not recommend it or display it, but it would be there if the student was looking for it. Jacqueline Melton said there is “a fine line” we have to tread, and someone else spoke of balance. I agree with them both. I think we have to stay informed and we have to ask ourselves if a book is really bad or if it just treads on our sensibilities. Okay, that will be yet another challenging aspect of the job!
I am preparing to start a research unit with my students in the next few weeks, and it is always critical for me to work with the school librarian when we get started. I had the opportunity to visit with our librarian to discuss options for using Kentucky Virtual Library and, of course, the collection within the library. Students spend several days finding information for their research and our librarian stresses the various ways in which they can search. I quickly learned that librarians are a sort of human thesaurus when it comes to Internet and database searches. Students become quickly frustrated when their initial search doesn’t result in the information they need, so knowing how to search the Internet and databases is an essential part of the school librarian’s job.
Our librarian is also in charge of the computer lab scheduler. We have an electronic system at our school that allows teachers to book a computer lab months in advance, including the computer lab in the library. I’ve learned how critical it is to be able to use the library lab because it has access to the librarian! When I saw that the library lab was booked when I need it for doing research with my class, I thought, “How am I going to do this without the librarian?!” I met with her so that she could go over all that I needed to know in order to do research outside of the library.
This week I was able to work at my high school library during my planning periods and before and after school. I was also able to visit the library at Marshall County High School when I went there for an academic coaches’ meeting and training. Both libraries are similar, although the MCHS library is much bigger than Mayfield High School’s library. I was noticing the things the libraries have that my high school library did not have. Both have round tables at which the students can work, either alone or in groups. Both have overhead projectors and screens. This is to accommodate the teaching that goes on in libraries today. Of course, both libraries have computer stations to assist students and teachers and librarians to access information. The set ups seemed to encourage students to stay in the library for a period, whereas I just went into the library to check out books when I was in school. In Empowering Learners, it is stated that “the school librarian must work to create an environment where everyone is a teacher, learner, producer, and contributor” (10). I felt that both of these libraries were set up so that that environment was created.
My classroom is located right off the library at Mayfield. Since we don’t have doors to our classes (Ugh!!), my room is basically an extension of the library. Most afternoons after school, students can be found working at the tables in the library on various projects. Since I am handy, the students come to borrow markers, scissors, and tape regularly. Mrs. Schorr has mentioned the need in our school for student access to some of these materials. She told me of some of the libraries she had seen that have a space with those materials commonly needed for posters, etc. This would be seen in the learning centers we studied in the last lesson. Since many of our students are from low income households, being able to use art materials at the school would meet a need for our students. Setting up this zone is a project I am contemplating for the future.
After finally working through all of the issues that I have been dealing with, I finally got to do some observations. Today I went back to my old high school and spent the day with my old librarian. It was a lot of fun getting back to my old school. I loved seeing all of the changes that have occurred since I was there. They have begun to implement a “mobile computer lab” program. Watching how this works is really interesting. I also had the privilege of helping the librarian catalogue some new books that had just arrived. I look forward to learning even more!
Just when I thought I just about had the library figured out at North, we finished processing our new books and added those to the shelves. Right now we have all/ most of the new books on our new read bookshelf, but eventually those will make their way to their permanent homes on the shelves. With that being said, we/ our librarian have some big decisions to make. This week we discussed a new push in library media: shelving your books (especially at the elementary level) by interest/ topic. This would mean a total overhaul for our library, but would be much more appealing for young readers and would allow our students to find books in their subject area of choice much more easily. We discussed the drawbacks as well as the positives of such a move. For right now we are going to continue to shelve as we always have, but not to say a drastic move isn’t coming in the near future. One of my newest jobs is to redo shelf tags to help our youngest readers find
It’s been another great week in the library at NCE. We have worked hard to help kiddos make it closer and closer to their AR goals. It’s amazing how full the library is the now that we are in the last week of the nine week period. I am loving getting to see kiddos become hooked on new books and series. We almost had a throw down this week between two fifth grade girls because they both grabbed the same book at the same time. We closed the library yesterday morning to students so that the students would all be on time to the gym for a test score celebration. I never knew closing the library before school could upset so many kiddos! I am loving all that I am learning and being able to see and meet new kiddos and what they are interested in. The countdown has begun… 3 weeks until the book fair. Let the real craziness begin!
Observation of Public Library
After work one day, I went to visit the local library. They were having an event for students thought the fifth grade. When I got there they were engaged in a story about Legos. They sat around the reader on the carpet and listened. She add character voices and read with enthusiasm. The kids loved it; I loved it, and caught myself interested in the story.
Once the story was finished the kids were able to try to make the things that they saw in the story. It was a contest to see who could build the tallest tower, and the best airplane. They were having so much fun with the Legos, that the time went by super fast. There were parents helping their children and children working together. It was all around a positive experience.