Newey Decimal System

Dewey vs. the Bookstore Model

When fourth graders are in charge of classification

“Dewey was so 1800’s.”

No, this is not a comment overheard at a librarians’ forum dedicated to the implementation of the bookstore model in libraries. These are the words of a 4th grader upon completion of our Dewey Decimal study unit.

Back in November we began our exploration of the breadth and depth of topics housed in the (primarily) nonfiction section of the library we call the Dewey Decimal section. Melvil himself guest lectured to introduce his classification system to the students. Early on, there were rumblings about some of Dewey’s designations and decisions. “Hey, we should make up our own system called the Newey Decimal System,” quipped one student.

Now here’s where the lesson could have gone in two directions. “Oh, what a cute idea”, I could have thought, diminishing the creativity and critical thinking of said student and sticking with the almighty planbook. Or, I could have been blown away by the thought of a NEW Dewey, one created by the kids themselves. The fastidious Dewey-obsessed librarian would have opted for the former. (I used to be that librarian). But the Librarian 2.0 said to herself, let’s get messy and give this a try.

And so, the day arrived after we had journeyed through all ten categories to take that giant leap forward. I started with a class assessment. To create something new, we needed to understand the old first. So, I challenged the students to recall the ten Dewey classes, which we recorded on the left hand side of the whiteboard. Surprisingly this was much easier for them than I had thought it would be. Future librarians all? Then we started brainstorming how we could make the classification system more child-friendly.

The ideas began to flow. Every single child contributed. Ideas coincided, collided and overlapped.

“There should be a separate category just for nature. Animals and plants together. Pets, gardening, wild animals and trees.”

“Geography and languages and cultures and cookbooks should go together.”

“You know how the ghost books are in one section (100’s) and the alien and mysterious creatures are in another (000’s)? They should be together.”

“There should be a ‘How-To’ section. It could have the drawing books, origami books, how to put on your own play…” “Maybe we should call it the ‘Boredom Busters’ section.”

“We need to have more than just ten sections.”

And then this one, which really surprised me–a suggestion to put the biographies, history and the historical fiction together, by topic. “They’re all about history” was the (obvious) explanation. Interestingly enough, this idea is not new and has been adapted (loosely) in at least one school library.

As of this writing, this Newey concept is still just that, something theoretical–a great culminating lesson, a summative assessment designed by the students themselves. But, why not get messy? Why not empower these children to ring out the old and ring in the Newey?


Celebrate, Celebrate

An earlier post entitled “Tradition, Tradition” might have given you an inkling that music provides a soundtrack to both my personal and professional life. Those of you who have hiked with me can vouch for the fact that I am wont to break out in song on the trail, often with lyrics that fit the moment. Climb Every Mountain comes to mind, but usually the connection is slightly more cryptic. I have also been known to cut the rug when the mood and music are just right.

Today’s post “Celebrate, Celebrate” brings together Three Dog Night (Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music) and Kool and the Gang (Celebrate Good Times, Come on!) These two tunes, with their repetitive but catchy lyrics capture the spirit of my library and my school these days. They serve both as a literal introduction to the exciting projects and activities I will feature below, but also provide a metaphor for the direction of my blog.

Warning: Metaphor (in the form of a corny story) ahead! Hang in there, please, the celebrations are not far behind.

Once upon a time, I decided I was ready to be a blogger. I had grand plans to philosophize about the Common Core and named my blog “Common Cor(e)relations”. And so I invited the Common Core to the ball. We danced the stately foxtrot and the waltz. We stayed within the confines of the dance floor. The music was orchestral. We were a lovely but somber and serious couple. But when the music changed, I glanced across the room and noticed there was some shimmying and shaking and some rocking and a’rolling going on . I realized that even though I came with the Common Core, it didn’t mean I couldn’t dance with any of those other cute boys. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the messy metaphor.) There was a party going on and I didn’t want to miss it. So, today, let’s celebrate, all the wild and wonderful and (yes, sometimes) messy projects and activities that are what educating the whole child are all about. There’s a time for staying within the lines and there’s also a time to let loose, on the dance floor as well as in life.

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

There’s a party goin’ on right here
A dedication to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate and party with you

Come on now, celebration
Let’s all celebrate and have a good time, yeah yeah
We gonna celebrate and have a good time.

Celebrate a whole school reading celebration–One School One Read. Spearheaded by our Reading Specialist (with support from the school literacy committee) all students in our K-5 school will hear the classic Beverly Cleary story,  The Mouse and the Motorcycle, over the course of the next three weeks. Several gutsy staff members lent their acting talents to the production of a short skit introducing the program at an all-school assembly. My particular favorite was our head custodian, gamely wearing mouse ears and tail to play Ralph and ride around the stage on a toy motorcycle.

Celebrate kindergartners creating a mural with the help of our Technology Specialist, who also happens to be a graphic artist! More buzz for our One School One Read program and the recognition of the importance of literacy in our lives. Also, a great example of collaboration and the fact that low-tech/hi-touch still has its place in schools.

Celebrate first graders who loved the story Somebody and the Three Blairs so much that they begged to do a Readers’ Theater performance. Thanks to a recently attended iPad workshop, a cooperating teacher, student artists and the enthusiasm of an entire class, we will soon have a video short to share with the whole school (and maybe the world)!

Celebrate second graders who became so interested in the Underground Railroad after honoring Henry Cole’s Unspoken with a Peasleecott Award that their teacher and I created an enrichment group to research and report back to the class. More to come on this exciting collaboration.

Celebrate second and third graders who wrote to the Peasleecott Award-winning illustrators and decorated the giant letters with award designs of their own. Now comes the hard part, waiting to hear back from them. David Small? Ed Young? Henry Cole? Paul Zelinsky? Where are you?

Celebrate fourth and fifth graders who participated in the annual bookmark contest sponsored by the Massachusetts School Library Association producing an honorable mention winner who earned a trip to the State House.

Celebrate fourth and fifth graders who, on short notice, eagerly participated in a collaboration with a high school in Spain to create a short video in honor of World Read Aloud Day. (Yes, I wrote about this in my last blog post, but so proud of them, had to post it twice.)

Celebrate fifth graders who give up recess to volunteer in the library, recommend books to each other using our online catalog, and come up with the most interesting topics for self-directed research (rollercoasters, home construction, Industrial Revolution, nutrition, endangered auks).

Celebrate teachers and a principal who are student-centered, innovative, supportive, always willing to lend a hand, try something new, push the envelope, and are just the greatest colleagues a gal could ever have. Thanks for joining the dance with me.

World Read Aloud Day 2013 Collaboration

World Read Aloud Day Video Collaboration

A six hour time differential made Skyping impossible, but through the magic of digital editing, Emily Kellner, Associate English teacher at IES Leonardo da Vinci in Majadahonda, Spain and Nancy Kellner (yours truly), Librarian at the Peaslee School in Northborough, MA, USA created this video of our students reciting a poem for many voices–Cinderella by Mary Ann Hoberman

More to come in a future post.