"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, October 2, 2015

Policy vs. Rule: Teaching and Learning about Technology Use

Over the past three years, my colleagues and I have been revising how the students learn about our district's Acceptable Use Policy. Finding the balance between the appropriate amount of information and the delivery method has been the greatest challenge. What is most important for the students to understand? What method of instruction will help them take ownership? How can we create visually engaging signage with a clear message?

I have an issue with the title of the policy and the language. I don't like "Acceptable Use" because it feels passive and it feels limiting. Two years ago, I begin creating a video. wrote of calling it a "Responsible Use Policy." I liked this better because I I think it is more flexible in its interpretation and puts the onus on the students to make good decisions when using school technology. This is also my issue with the word rule versus policy. According to my handy Scholastic Children's Dictionary, a policy is, "a general plan or principle that people use to help them make decisions or take action." This feels right to me. I want it to be a general plan. I want the students to feel that they can be creative and make choices. This year I am talking about a Technology Use Policy that relies on the students being responsible and respectful users of technology.  We'll need to come to consensus as a department, a consensus on the language and on the delivery methods. I am excited though because I think we are getting close. One colleague has created a Google Presentation and another has created an infographic. I created this Animoto video:
We're all contributing products along with feedback and suggestions. I like that we are moving toward a more engaging, authentic, and inclusive curriculum. I like that we have the same message begin delivered in multiple formats.

After this, we'll be moving onto Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. One person found this great idea for a digital citizenship survival kit: filling a sandwich bag with a small tube of toothpaste, a lock, a key,  a permanent marker, and a bar of soap. With this activity the students have been meeting in small groups to guess how the objects relate to Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. This is all making the teaching and learning of this important area feel more engaging and memorable for the students. We'll see how it goes.  

How do you teach your students or children about these topics?

Monday, September 28, 2015

ReedALOUD: Little Tree

The students and I have been reading little tree written and illustrated by Loren Long.
Loren has turned a personal story connected to his son's entrance into kindergarten into a universal story about having the courage to let go.

About little tree:
In the middle of a little forest, there lives a Little Tree who loves his life and the splendid leaves that keep him cool in the heat of long summer days. Life is perfect just the way it is. Autumn arrives, and with it the cool winds that ruffle Little Tree’s leaves. One by one the other trees drop their leaves, facing the cold of winter head on. But not Little Tree—he hugs his leaves as tightly as he can. Year after year Little Tree remains unchanged, despite words of encouragement from a squirrel, a fawn, and a fox, his leaves having long since turned brown and withered. As Little Tree sits in the shadow of the other trees, now grown sturdy and tall as though to touch the sun, he remembers when they were all the same size. And he knows he has an important decision to make.

A few things about this book. I have enjoyed sharing it with all my students, from grades kindergarten through grade five, which speaks of its universality and appealThe students hear Loren's story seed. Some see the tree as Loren and his son as the leaves. Other students see his son as the tree. It's been interesting to hear their conversations.

I appreciate this line after the little tree has let go of his leaves, "As his last leaf floated to the ground, for the first time Little Tree felt the harsh cold of winter." I used this sentence as an opportunity to remind students that growth and comfort take time and that things will not get easier right away. A good reminder in this instant gratification world that there isn't always a quick fix.

It's important that Little tree let go at his own pace, the gentle concern and encouragement from forest friends was great modeling, but so to was the fact that Little Tree let go when the time was right.

These same friends were their to grow with Little Tree.
We're taking a page (or leaf) from Little Tree and talking about ways to be courageous learners -- to let go so we can let grow.

I was able to meet Loren and share with him how much I love this book. I think you will too.

How will you let grow?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Creating Rules and Establishing Routines

We've spent the week reviewing rules and practicing routines. After changing my style midway through the year last year, I am back to writing a daily message. This week it looked somewhat like this: 

Welcome Library Learners, 

Today we will learn our library routines for entering and leaving the library as well as browsing and borrowing. We will also reflect on last week's lesson and review our new library rules. 

 ~Mrs. Reed 

What is the difference between a rule and a routine? 

Why are rules and routines important? 

(I am placing my two questions after my closing because I want the questions to feel separate from the message and therefore reinforce the fact that they help frame the conversation for that day.)

First, we reflected on last week's lesson which used the book If You Plant a SeedI took all the rules that the 493 students shared with me last week and condensed them three ideas that seemed to encompass much of what the students shared, such as: raise your hand, listen, treat materials carefully, share, be thoughtful, help others, etc. 

Be Kind. 
Be Courageous. 
Always Do Your Best Work. 

We talked through them and I explained that we would explore each one in the next few weeks. 

With the rules sign behind me for reinforcement and my message beside me, I moved the conversation into routines. The second through fifth graders needed very little explanation of a routine, so we jumped into differentiating between the two. We generally came back to the idea that rules are something you follow where as routines are something you adopt and do without thinking. 

I have been explaining to the children that if we adopt these routines and they become automatic then we will shave off valuable minutes in each library class that can be given to learning and creating. 

I am really hoping that the time spent practicing routines will have an impact. We talked about what it should look like and sound like when classrooms are entering and leaving the library. We practiced coming into the library calmly and quietly and finding a good learning seat.  We practiced pushing in chairs and logging out of computers and lining up calmly and quietly. We practiced browsing and borrowing, with a significant amount of time on browsing. The student volunteers did a fabulous job of modeling what it looks like: scanning the shelves, exploring titles and covers, reading excerpts, and flipping through pages. Students also modeled what good reader's advisory looks and sounds like. 

This was a different kind of week. There was a good deal of explaining, some talking, a bit of moving, and a lot of watching and listening. I am looking forward to getting back to books next week, but if what I have seen and heard this week is any indication, I've got even more evidence that great year lies ahead.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Summer Reading Stories: the where and what edition

We're kicking off our fourth year of connecting with our library pals in Minnesota. Laura Given and I started this connection after meeting at AASL and again at ALA.  
We're getting things started by sharing summer reading stories. My students drew a picture of their favorite summer reading spot and then wrote about one of the more memorable books they read. 
Here's a sample of where my fourth graders read this summer and what they read when they were there.

We'll see where this year takes our connections!

ReedALOUD: Swan: the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Swan: the Life and Dance of Anna Pavolva may just be the most beautiful book I have read this year. Laurel Snyder's graceful words dance over Julie Morstad's stunning art stage. Like the dances of Anna Pavlova, the reader is brought to emotional lows and highs as Anna's life unfolds.  

This is clearly a story that is personal to Laurel Snyder and you can hear it in her writing. Laurel's words, which dance across the page, are light in one moment and carry weight in another. We catch our breath and we sigh, just as watching a ballet. 

Through Morstad's striking and evocative yet graceful and light illustrations (might I say transcendent art?), we begin to understand Anna Pavlova's life and adopt this daughter of a laundress as one of our own. Rarely does a picture book hold such heart-rending power. We readers are privileged to join this dance. 

Swan: the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is a book that must be on your book shelves, but even more, Swan should be a read aloud because all students should have the opportunity to know this book. It will spark important conversations around resilience and bravery. it will also spark conversations about hard work and following one's passion. 

From Goodreads:
The world is big.
Anna is small.
The snow is
and all around.
But one night . . .
One night, her mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. Anna finds a beauty inside herself that she cannot contain.

So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Planting Seeds of Kindness

We started school on Tuesday and already I know that we are going to have a great year. 

How do I know? 

The students have shown me. They have shown me in the seeds of kindness that they have been planting.

It's always difficult to choose the first read aloud of the year. There are too many great choices. The book I choose has to tie into building our community of learners. This year my library themes that will guide all of our learning are:

Be Kind and Let's Grow.

There are a few books that I could have chosen to support the kindness theme. Last year I read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. This year, Kadir Nelson's If You Plant a Seed fit perfectly with our growing theme.

This beautiful book is a gem. Kindergarten through grade five have reacted with the same appreciation for the story and art. Sparingly written, Nelson relies on his gorgeous art to convey the message and carry the story forward. One student asked if the images of the vegetables were photographs of real ones and the spread with the birds looking at the reader made each class gasp with pleasure.

After reading the story, we discussed what kindness looks like and what it sounds like - both our actions and the words that come out of our mouths. Students in grades three through five planted individual seeds (see above), while students in grades kindergarten through second planted seeds of kindness by drawing on large pieces of paper.

It looks like it is going to be a great year. Don't you agree?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ReedALOUD: Circus Mirandus

I love this book! It is one of those books that, once you reach the last page, makes you want to flip it over and start it all over again, even though you know the ending because the journey is just so special. Circus Mirandus is as magical as it's title. It's a book about strength and courage. It's a book about letting go. Circus Mirandus is more than just a story, it's characters that you grow to understand and for whom you care. It's characters that you grow to understand and still do not like. It's the characters that give you hope. Circus Mirandus is about believing in the unbelievable and finding others who believe in you. This is a book that should be on your shelves. Don't take my word for it, listen to these students:

"Have you ever visited a magical circus? Well, in Circus Mirandus you will!  This wonderful book is made of new friends, sick grandfathers, a magical circus, and more amazing things that will REALLY blow your mind. Cassie Beasley wrote the best and most magical book that will take you on a big journey and in the end once you are finished it is that kind of book were you look back and say “ Wow, that book was truly amazing. Am I really done already?” It is that good." ~4th grade student

Dear Ms.Reed,
I have been reading the book Circus Mirandus that you have let me read. This book is amazing and I couldn’t put it down from the first page. You are the only person who have given me books to read that I have been that interesting in, I am not fully done with the book because of my busy schedule, but every time I have had time to read this book it was very I say very hard for me to put it down.

This book to me had no flaws at all, but I have a LOT to say that is good about this book. I am so happy with this book if I were to meet the author I would give her a big hug and tell her how much I loved this book. So for the start of this paragraph of good things to say I would like to say if I miss anything that I would like to say after I finish it I will change it. First of all, I love how at every chapter there is a new picture. Its not plain and boring its very detailed. Also, I love the personalities are clear on all the people. Aunt Gertrudis is mean and angry, Grandpa Ephraim has a lot of imagination and spirit, Micah is very determined and sweet, and Jenny is very smart and open to people she likes. Something else I loved was that the events in the book happen slowly, but in a very interesting way. For instance, when they get to the circus it's in the 200 page range, but you don't care everything before that is interesting too.

I hope you liked what I liked and didn’t dislike about this book!

Love {the now 6th grader}

From Goodreads:

Do you believe in magic? Micah Tuttle does.

Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather.

The only problem is, the Lightbender doesn't want to keep his promise. And now it's up to Micah to get the miracle he came for.