Monday, May 21, 2012

May Book Displays: Roll Into A Good Book

Better late than never, right? For May, our book displays celebrated National Bike Month. If your school sponsors a "bike to school" day, this kind of showcase is a great way to promote it.

Because I was late taking photos this month, certain parts of our display are looking a little weary. Not everything we come up with is a home run - check out our sad "bike tires" - repurposed trufella tree trunks. Though, the bike was a hit - kids loved ringing the bell on the handle bars. Eventually we scraped the "tires" and just moved the signs to the columns on either side of the desk.


We used tricycles and scooter type toys on the display shelves, along with Fourth of July table decorations.

We used the theme to display books that in some way deal with wheels, including NASCAR, skateboarding, and cards.

We REALLY wanted to include a couple of stationary bikes, so kids could pedal as they read, but we couldn't find any, so we scrapped that idea at the last minute.

What are your May book display ideas?






Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SSL Conference Presentation

Over the weekend, I presented at the 2012 NYLA/SSL conference. It's New York's state level school librarian conference. I got to listen to some great speakers, including Joyce Valenza and David Wiesner.

I presented with my librarian co-worker (and neighbor), Leslie, on using apps for instructional purposes - our workshop title was App-ealing Instructional Practices - aren't we creative? :)

At the presentation, we handed out bookmarks featuring the apps we used. Here's Leslie's suggestions for elementary apps:
 And here are my suggestions for secondary apps.

Also, I did a guest post for the SLJ blog Touch and Go. I talk about applications for many of the above apps - check it out here.

Do you have a favorite app that we should have covered?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What do kids think about study skills?

Are you sick of hearing about note taking yet? If so, you're not alone - our students are right there with you.

We've finally wrapped up our study skills unit, and had the kids take a survey to assess the experience. We needed to know what was successful and what was unsuccessful.

So we asked.

When you ask a 9th grader to list the ways in which you bombed as a teacher, be prepared, 'cause they aren't afraid to tell you exactly what they think. Here are a few of my favorite gems from their survey:
  • "The entire system of SimpleMind [a concept mapping app] was, in my opinion, superfluous at best, and a waste of technological resources and time."
  • "...Grading the cornell notes on a RUBRIC is RIDICULOUS...I found that totally ridiculous, stupid, and unnecessary. like seriously, who grades notes?"
  • "Most students simply don't like doing the extra work that goes into study skills, so even though you taught us the information we will probably not use it later in life."
Honestly, though, their feedback is instrumental in perfecting our methods and fine tuning the experience for next year's classes. This quote pretty much sums up their overall sentiments:

"The cornell notes, while annoying, are actually useful for studying, taking notes, and planning documents." 

So although study skills aren't especially delectable (like brussel sprouts), students do realize it's good for them (like brussel sprouts).

Based on their feedback, we're going to try to do the following:
  • Start the year with a lesson on how to identify and differentiate between main ideas and supporting details in an argument. Some students complained that we asked them to do this, but they didn't know how. One said, "I would have preferred if you went over how to find key points and important concepts and details vs. unimportant details." Another said, "It would have been nice to have been given a lesson on how to properly identify the main idea and sub ideas of a paragraph." I didn't realize we'd need to teach 9th graders how to do this.
  • Teach the listening skills in October, at the latest. Many students suggested that we move this skill up. "Doing the listening first would help students listen all year long."
  • More technology with the iPads, and sooner in the year. More opportunities to use the iPads consistently in class. Introduce Evernote in the fall.  The kids LOVED taking notes on the iPad and most of them really liked Evernote, especially because it allowed them to see their peers' interpretation of the same lecture. "Using the technology helped because you can plan everything out right in front of you on an iPad and it made it a lot easier." "The Evernote app was good because could either get the app at home, or go on the Internet version." "I loved LOVED evernote! I went on it last night and doing the lisitening activity in class with evernote made it much more fun and educational."
Almost ALL of them HATED the fact that we graded their notes. Although they suggested we change this next year, we're not going to. We're teaching a skill, and we need to assess whether they've mastered the skill. Therefore, we grade the notes. We'll have to look for ways at making this more palatable - although they had the opportunity to re-do notes for a better grade, maybe giving them more time to practice before assessing them would be better. 

Overall, it was a great experience! I'm actually really looking forward to starting fresh with a new class and fine-tuning our study skills experiment.