Monthly Archives: July 2009

Abby’s Ad

Last week in our media studies lesson we tackled a couple different issues.  We read from Judy Blume’s book, The Pain and the Great One to illustrate point of view.  Next, we discuss the point of view of companies trying to draw attention to their products through their ads.  The Media Awareness Network has an online game that students can play to learn about different gimmicks companies use in their ads.  Over the last 3 quarters we often found ourselves trying to do this lesson when computers were being used for testing so we changed the lesson so that students do not use the computers.  Instead, I show them the highlights of the game and 5 gimmicks that companies use.  We tell students to devise their own ads for the cereal that they liked best when we were doing the taste test.  Students can do a single sheet ad like for a magazine, or a storyboard for a commercial.

The kids really get into this activity.  In fact, one student went home and made another one just so I could include it here in my blog.

Abby's Ad

Abby, who’s in first grade, was so excited about it that she didn’t even finish the coloring, but you get the idea.  She illustrates 3 of the 5 gimmicks.  Her theme is underwater adventure.  Her spokescharacter is a toothy fish.  And her catch phrase is in the speech bubble.

When students get so excited about something you’ve done in the classroom that they act on their own initiative, teachers can’t help but be excited with them.  Now I have to figure out how to turn those storyboards into cartoon commercials.  How many more students could catch this excitement then?

Battle of the Books

One of my primary goals is to help my students fall in love with reading.  I’m always looking for ways to give them an extra reason to read.  For the last several years, my oldest students have participated in a Battle of the Books competition during the fourth quarter.  A competition can be one way to inspire students to read some books they might not have read otherwise.  They not only get a list of books to read, but also must work together as a team and sometimes that can be difficult.  I still have two more classes that will compete, but so far this year the competition has been much better than in the past.

Unfortunately, I spent all my money before the fourth quarter so I needed to take a look at what titles I could use that were already in my collection.  There should be 5-7 copies so that there are enough books for several students to be reading at the same time.  I tried to find titles that we used in the past that these kids had not seen yet.  Choosing the books is a challenge because I need to take into consideration the make up of each class, the number of books we have for each title, and the reading levels of the participants.

Here’s how the game is played.  Students, who are assigned to teams, read from a list of books and try to remember the stories.  I ask questions that can only be answered by recording the correct title on a small white board.  Students get one point for each correct title and 3 points if the author is also correct.  Each kid is responsible to their team.  They don’t have to read every book on the list because they are relying on their teammates.  I try to have 3 students with different reading levels on each team.

This year I had lightning rounds every week.  I deliberately seated students by their teams so that we could have tiny games for practice.  This was also a way to keep students interested in the books.  We have the winning teams for the South Village 4th and 5th graders and next week those winning teams will compete.  It’s fun and challenging.  Not only are students reading, but they’re also collaborating and competing.

Helpful Software

  • I do not need to know the name of the scanner software every time I do a scan.
  • I’m scanning a picture, not a document.  Why do I need to tell the scanner this fact every single time?
  • Save to file should be the automatic choice, not one I have to make every time.
  • The location for the saved file needs to be flexible.  I don’t want to save it to that folder that the software made up.  Browsing for a file every time takes a lot of time.
  • When I scan a picture I want to save the entire picture.  Having the option to crop it and save part of it is nice but not necessary.  For every picture I had to determine what part of the picture I wanted to select.  There was no apparent rhyme or reason to this.  Sometimes there were even 3 or 4 selection boxes and I had to delete them until I only had one.  Out of a total of about 75 pictures there were 6 where the selection box actually covered the entire picture so that I didn’t have to resize it.
  • Only 2 more pictures to go and the scanner crashes requiring a forced shutdown by unplugging it.

I just spent the entire day scanning student pictures.  It wouldn’t have taken so long if the scanner software hadn’t been so helpful.  To be truly helpful, software must be able to learn.  There are several places in the above list where the process could have been made faster and more efficient if the software had been able to remember what I told it to do the time before.  The really sad part is that I am only half done.  I guess I know what I’ll be doing next Saturday.

Standards for the 21st-Century Learner

Harambee Elementary School is/was a multiage school.  Unfortunately, curriculum is not written for the multiage perspective making it extremely difficult for teachers and so next year we will be looping.  I have always devised my own curriculum, based on standards such as the MEMO scope and sequence and/or ISTE standards for students.  Now that we will be looping I need to rethink my scope and sequence and decided to take a closer look at the new AASL standards.  They have a PDF file, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner that can be printed out for personal or educational use.  So I printed it out because it’s hard to read online.  I was going to supply a link to the PDF file until I read the following restriction:

Permission must be requested for publishing or posting a portion of the text or the original document in a print or online publication or on a Web site as well as linking to the PDF. 1

In the past I’ve made a spreadsheet with the standards and benchmarks in columns.  On the other side of the sheet are columns for each teacher at each grade level.  Every quarter I write a summary of what students learned in the library based on the standards and I note which classes worked on which standards.  Unfortunately, because of the copyright restrictions, I will not be able to use the AASL standards to do this. Once again I quote from the copyright restrictions page:

Permission must be requested to use the learning standards document in works or presentations that are derivatives, adaptations, or any work of which the learning standards are the core content. 2

The AASL standards are useless to me if all I can do is look at them.  If AASL actually expects us to use these standards we have be able to take the document apart to put into a form like I suggested.  I guess I’ll go take a look at the MEMO standards again and retool my spreadsheet from there.

When Your Best Is Not Good Enough

How do you do the job of two people?  Since it can’t be done, what do you sacrifice?

On Thursday I had a half of a 2nd and 3rd grade class adding their book reviews to the Harambee Library Wiki.  The other half was checking out and reading.  I have the circulation software loaded onto a computer that the students can access so some of them can check themselves out.  However, if students have overdue books they will not be able to check out at that station and must come to the circulation desk to check out.  I was pulled in two directions, trying to help students working on the computers and trying to help those who were checking out.  I can’t help feeling that I did a poor job assisting all the students.

The media center clerk is not in the library all day.  She leaves to supervise lunch and recess, then works in the office at the end of the day.  It leaves me running around the library (literally), trying to do her job and mine.  Studies show that one of the biggest advantages for student success on high stakes tests is student access to the collection.  In a middle or high school this could mean opening before school starts and staying open longer at the end of the day.  In an elementary setting it means that students can come to the library at any time during the day to get books to read.  That ideal is not possible with only one person running the library, unless that person ONLY checks out books and does not try to teach.  This has given rise to libraries that are manned by clerks while there is no media specialist, or one who services more than one school.  I’m lucky that I don’t live that nightmare.  However, next year the media clerk will be working more in the office and even less in the library and I’m exhausted just imagining what that will be like.

What should I sacrifice?  I could change the protocol so that students could check out, even if they have overdue books.  How would this help students become responsible citizens?  I could ask the teachers to be more involved in the library, but if they need to work with individual students at that time they won’t be able to help their class.  I could give up on the teaching side of my job and just check out books…well, no, I couldn’t do that.  I guess I’ll just keep banging my head against that brick wall of lowered expectations and hope that my head is hard enough to take it.

Browsing Sticks

Browsing sticks ready for new paint

Many school libraries use paint sticks donated by friendly neighborhood hardware stores as browsing sticks or shelf markers.  Students can use them to hold a place on the shelf for a book that they are looking at so they know where to return the book if they don’t want to check it out.  These are a real time-saver if used correctly.

In about a half hour we will have kindergarten roundup.  We have activities for students to do while visiting the rooms, including pattern blocks, play doh, coloring with templates, and painting browsing sticks.  Students have fun painting and we usually do it at the beginning of the school year.  We’ll still do that but we thought that it would be advantageous for us if this activity happened while parents and other adults were around to help.  After the sticks are painted at a newspaper covered table, they dry next to the student’s name tag on butcher paper.  When the sticks dry, which happens quickly with tempura paints if the stick isn’t soaked, we write the name on the stick.

The sticks pictured above are ready to be recycled and reused by a new student.  We actually let students take their sticks with them at the end of 5th grade if they want it, but some are left behind.  After the stick is painted and dried we print out the patron barcode and tape it to the stick.  Sticks can then have a dual purpose as library cards as well as browsing sticks.

Tech Play Day

On the last day of every month I am inviting any interested teachers or staff to drop by the library to play.  It’s after hours so everyone is free to play with apps they are personally interested in, not just professional ones.  Our first monthly play day was in June, before we went on our 4th of July break.

There were 3 people there and me.  It was a big success.  The first person to arrive was interested in learning how to do spreadsheets.  I was able to get her started on that then went to help the next person who was interested in some of the “stuff” I put in my email invitation.  I showed him flickr, delicious, and my igoogle page.  That excited him and he signed up for a google account, started his own igoogle page, and then got interested in the calendar and email I had on my page.  While he was exploring these apps I helped the third person get pictures off her camera and showed her how to find them when she saved them.

Three was just the right number to start with.  I was able to help everyone and if there had been more people I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.  Several people said they really liked the idea and wanted to come another time.  I hope this will help my colleagues become more comfortable with using technology.  Any time that can be spent using technology will help, it doesn’t have to be directly related to teaching.  I’m a perfect example.  I learned my way around my computer by watching anime.  😀