Tag Archives: literacy

The Power of Flexible Seating

FullSizeRender.jpg

Some may have some doubts or concerns when they see a set of ‘bouncy balls’ in a classroom, which is quite understandable.  However, I saw it as a chance to enhance not only the furniture and overall look of the space, but also to further student engagement in all aspects of study during my lessons.

This week, provided my first chance to test this all out.  Along with the colorful, bouncy balls, I also provided area mats, floor pillows, and a small ‘cafe’ table.  Upon entering the library media center, the students’ enthusiasm and excitement were visible instantly.  There was a lot of celebration and questions, and they were all very eager to try out all these new things.  But, there was a catch…

They had to earn it.

I took the opportunity of it being the first days of school to test the waters with all of my classes.  I had them sit on their ‘old,’ regular tables and chairs for the majority of the class.  I explained to them that if their behavior was great during the first half of class, I would allow some free reading time in a seat of their choice.  Most of my classes took the challenge head-on.  They wanted to get to move around and try out new things.  Their maturity and dedication was rewarded, and they were able to choose their seats at the end of class.

As seen in the photo above, the end result was amazing.  It took them a couple minutes to get settled and find balance, but after a quick ‘tutorial’ on how to sit on them without slipping or falling, the students were loving it!  They found the happy medium of light bouncing or rolling while reading their books.  It made my heart smile watching the risk pay off.  Instead of trying to talk, making noise, and interrupting their peers, my students focused their energy into their new seats.

Flexible seating will work.  It just takes some patience.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

cti4ffnxeaayphb

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Club Meets Movie Night

For my final Book Club title of the school year, I had selected Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.  I thought our end-of-May meeting would correspond perfectly with the June release date for the movie.  Not only did this get my “loyal members” a little more excitement than usual for our discussion, but it also had new students gravitate towards the club.  I even have some of them asking if we can all see the movie together!

Some die-hard book lovers argue that the movie almost always ruins the book and completely alters the story.  Now, that may just be the case, however, I say use that movie to your advantage.  Our students, especially teenagers, generally enjoy going to the movies.  So why not use that to propel them to read?  Why not use the new release as a tool to inspire a student to pick up a book and read for leisure?

I am thrilled to see that all of my Book Club members, both old and new, are excited to read the book and then compare it to the movie.  It will be enjoyable for all, and the best part is that it inspires literacy!

In addition to our monthly Book Club meetings, I also host a Page-to-Screen monthly movie night in the library.  Since the beginning of the school year, once a month I selected a movie that was based off of a book, and I invited students to purchase a ticket (only $2!).  I would pull out my projector screen, pop in the DVD to my projector, and make some popcorn.  Then we would all sit around and enjoy the film depiction of a beloved book.  This, too, is a form of literacy.  Quite a few times I’ve had a student want to read the book AFTER watching the movie!

Sometimes as educators it is easy to grumble and point fingers at something or someone else for the apathy our students feel towards reading.  But why not DO SOMETHING to fight against it?  Use something that already interests them to inspire them to pick up a book.  Even if only a couple students out of a huge group start to read, it is a victory!

I once saw a cartoon that had the caption, “Why did you become a school librarian?” and the answer read, “To avenge the decline of literacy.”  Even though it gave me a chuckle, I couldn’t agree more–whether you call yourself a librarian, a media specialist, a cybarian, et cetera,  one of your main duties is promoting literacy.  And, I believe you must do anything you can to ensure that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Changes to Standardized Testing

Working in a school in New Jersey this year has been quite stressful in terms of overcoming many changes and shifts in everything education-related.  There is an entirely new observation system, SGO requirements, and the biggest challenge of all:  new standardized testing.  PARCC is being introduced to our schools next year and it has many students and staff worried.  And, as if this isn’t enough to worry about, a new SAT format was announced yesterday.  

There is a complete overhaul in its format–everything from its scoring to its writing section is going to be vastly different come Spring of 2016.  However, to make all of these transitions a bit easier is the fact that the upcoming PARCC exam and the new SAT have many similarities in nature.  They are both going to have a bigger focus on nonfiction text and asking students to choose excerpts from the text to support their answers.  These expectations make literacy an even bigger hot button now.

Our students have to be ready in every way to tackle all of these changes–and it is up to educators to prepare them. 

 

The New York Times has a wonderful article explaining the new SAT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/education/major-changes-in-sat-announced-by-college-board.html?emc=edit_na_20140305&_r=0

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Classics for Toddlers: Yay or Nay?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/books/a-library-of-classics-edited-for-the-teething-set.html

 Any child who was read to as a baby has most likely come across “board books,” which are the thick, cardboard-paged books that are durable enough in the hands of a toddler who is teething.  We all know board books; they are usually very basic in content–focusing on shapes or colors–a subject matter that is understood by its very, very young readers.

But that is all changing.  Publishers are now creating board books that feature classics of literature, such as Moby Dick and Sense and Sensibility.  The first question that would probably come to mind is:  “why is this being done?”  or “how can a toddler benefit from a canonical piece of literature?”  Well, the argument is that babies most definitely will not comprehend the struggle between fisherman and whale, but they will process the ship and the ocean’s waves.  The entire mental process behind this idea is rather similar to the idea of playing classical music to your children (or even while pregnant).  As the baby’s mind is shaping and forming, exposing them to these great pieces of work can further along their growth and development.

From my own personal stance, I am not quite sure if these classic literature board books will do anything to support that argument, but I still don’t have anything personally against them.  However, some people may strongly take offense to turning wonderfully written, iconic pieces of literature (that have lasted through years and years) into board books that will most likely be physically chewed and sucked on by babies.

It begs the question: what would Herman Melville and Jane Austen have to say about this?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Neil Gaiman Gives a Beautiful Lecture on the Importance of Literacy, Libraries and the Love of Reading

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu

Neil Gaiman, the unbelievably talented writer, gave a moving lecture on reading, imagination, literature, and libraries in London just a few days ago.  His words were so eloquent and so on point that there truly is not a better way to deliver the message than the manner in which he did.  

He opened up his speech with a rather startling reality:  “I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.”

Now, this may seem rather blunt.  A statistic like this surely has some wiggle-room–and it does.  But, we must recognize that everything starts off as a child, whether good or bad, and reading is a key to development.  This is the point Gaiman is trying to make:  reading holds the key to growth in every possible way.

He makes the point that literate people are more likely to do good things with their lives, and in turn, literate people read fiction.  The reasoning is this:  children learn to love to read when they are very young and are following the guidance of those around them.  He (and I) encourage parents to read to their kids.  Read anything and everything that engages their children!  There is no such thing as a “bad book.”  Because, the more a child reads, the more s/he will explore the world of literature.  They will become more comfortable and expand their interests.  Our job, as adults, is to support and foster that passion from the very beginning with an open mind.

Gaiman points out the powers of fiction, no matter what format:  “Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”  This is an incredibly wonderful way of examining fiction and the way it can affect individuals for the better.  Reading opens up our thoughts and it breaks through the limits that reality sometimes creates.  It shows the endless possibilities and the joys upon achieving them.  To put it simply, fiction EQUALS empowerment.

And libraries are one gateway to the empowerment.  “Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.”  Gaiman recognizes the immense importance of libraries and why these institutions need to remain standing and continue gaining strength and support.  Libraries serve as an equalizer.  They give a means to people without and they help those who do go further.  

And now, we come to the end of his wonderfully moving lecture, where his point truly hits home:  “Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.”  This is a rather simple example in nature, but it is one that certainly reverberates.  Imagination is something that shouldn’t be titled ‘childish’ and a ‘waste of time.’  Imagination is how this world we live in has advanced so much.  Now, more than ever before, people are thinking of new ways to do things–to do it faster, better, more efficient.  How could this be accomplished without imagination?  And, if there was nothing to support that imagination?  Let children read and explore.  Let them imagine.  Let them never stop believing in something that is only just a possibility, because one day, they may make it a reality.

I want to leave you with Gaiman’s closing words:  “Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. ‘If you want your children to be intelligent,’ he said, ‘read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’ He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

NYC Public Schools Moving to Get Rid of School Librarians

A couple of weeks ago, The Huffington Post reported on the New York City Department of Education moving towards trying to cut school librarians out of the district for reasons that mainly stem from budgetary issues (see post here: http://huff.to/14qVsIp).  This seems to be  a sweeping trend across the board, nationally, in terms of educational systems trying to cut corners to save money in their depleting funds.  What is deemed as an ‘additional service’ is usually the first to go when the DOE starts making cuts.  Unfortunately, one of the first areas to be affected is the school library.

This is exactly what is going on in New York City.  If you’ve been watching television lately, you would have most likely seen the various ads and news reports on the mayoral race in NYC–and a spotlight has been placed on public school funding, or lack thereof.  So with the possibility of a new city leader, NYC public schools may be at risk to lose their libraries and SMLSs.

There have been public demonstrations and petitions circulating in order to fight this possible decision, and the librarians seem to be fighting the good fight.  To support their cause, please sign their position at:  http://bit.ly/15BL1MY.  Fight for children’s literacy.  Fight for public education.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized