Monday, August 29, 2011

Dewey-Free: The final results

Last June I told you that we were saying adios to the Dewey Decimal System in our non-fiction area. It was a lot of chaos squeezed into a short amount of time. 

The good news: we survived! With lots of helpers, we re-catalog, re-labeled, and re-shelved almost 6,000 books in less than a week. The most difficult part was developing a manageable number of categories. 

The non-fiction genres I finally arrived at work for us. They might not work for you. Remember, our collection is tailored to 8th and 9th graders and New York State Learning Standards for these grade levels. This is reflected in the categories we chose. Here's a breakdown of what we went with. The order that they're listed in reflects the order they appear on the shelves. The spine labels are also color coded as reflected below. 

* Paranormal

* Games and Sports
* Travel
* Hobbies
* Cooking
* Performing Arts
* Fashion

* Transportation 
* Computers and Technology
* Art & Architecture

* Crime and Punishment
* Warfare
* Social Issues

* Global Studies
* Religion
* Ancient Civilizations
* Renaissance 
* Middle Ages
* American History
* Civil Rights

* Literature and Language
* Mythology
* Shakespeare

* General Science and Math
* Inventors and Inventions
* Elements
* Earth Science
* Life Science
* Pets
* The Environment

* Biography

Here's what a shelf looks like under the new system:

The "Hobbies" section.

Each spine label has the genre in huge, color-coded letters, and then the letters "NF" for Non-Fiction, followed by the first three letters of the author's last name. 

I'm having the kids do video tours with iPods for orientation this year, so click here to see what the kids will watch when they stop at the non-fiction section. 

I'll let you know how it actually works when the kids arrive next week. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

MS Office 10 and the Dreaded Works Cited Page

I don't know about you all, but showing students how to type a Works Cited page is one of the most painful lessons I teach. Getting them to include all the appropriate information, alphabetize, and put the punctuation in the right spot can be excruciating.

This year, my district is switching to MS Office 10. I don't have it on my home computer, so it wasn't until I attended a little workshop today that I learned the most marvelous thing: the latest version of Word has a BUILT-IN reference generator. No more taking students to an external site to generate citations with NoodleTools, CitationMaker, etc.

This new feature allows students to create citations while they're typing a Word document. They start by picking the style (MLA, APA, etc), then the source type (book, Web site, magazine), and then it gives them labeled boxes with examples so they can plug and chug with the relevant information. You can go back and add citations at any point, as long as you save the document in between. 
Once they've input a citation, they just pick the source from a drop down menu and it will add the in-text citation to the document they're typing. If they click another button, it will use the citations they've input to create a Works Cited page - no need to mess with indenting, formatting, etc - it does it all automatically.
It's AWESOME! If you want to check it out for yourself, you can use MS Word 10 to play with it. Click on the "References" tab to get started.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Teaching Study Skills

Is teaching study skills part of my job description? I'm not entirely sure, but that's why I love being a librarian. My job description is fluid - it can expand and morph when something interests me - and even though I hated learning about it in high school, teaching study skills actually interests me!
Image by Austin Kleon via Flickr

For the first time this year, I'm going to be teaching note taking and studying techniques to five sections of  pre-AP Global Studies students. In my building, these are 9th graders who are doing a warm-up for the official AP class next year. They're learning how to be be more sophisticated students -- accessing higher level texts, learning independently, and polishing their writing skills.

My first task is to to teach different note taking styles. You might think that by the time they reach 9th grade, they'd have note taking figured out - but you'd be wrong. Most of them are clueless. Soooo... in a series of 3 mini-sessions (think 15 minutes or less), I'm going to introduce different note taking techniques. We'll focus on taking notes from a text (rather than a lecture), and give them a couple weeks to practice each of the three techniques. By November, we expect them to have selected a style that works best for them, and to actually employ it every time they need to take notes.

My tasks to get ready for this:
  • Identify 3 appropriate styles.  I'm trying hard to find techniques that correspond to different learning styles. 
    • Cornell Style (something for everyone)
    • Mapping (Visual Learners)
    • Topic and Concept Cards (Kinesthetic Learners)
    • ? Auditory learners don't do well with written notes . . . so we're going to have to think about this one.   
  • Develop a 15 minute lesson to teach each note-taking style
  • Develop a rubric to assess their success with each note-taking style 
  • Find a quick test that students can use to identify their learning styles
  • Figure out a way to prevent the lessons from being deathly boring . . .
This should be interesting . . . .

Sidenote: In searching for info on different note-taking styles, I really liked this resource: