Lights, Camera, Action

Pedro's book trailer-click to watch

Pedro’s book trailer-click to watch

I wrestle constantly with how much time I should devote to information literacy skills and how much to promoting the sheer joy and love of free, independent, voluntary reading. My passion is the latter, but my lessons for upper grade students often favor the former. The older my students get, the less cool recreational reading is for many of them. Is the emphasis on information literacy, then, misplaced?

As the “invested, introspective and inspired’ librarian that I aim to be, my mission is to save my students from the terrible fate of a bookless future. (Okay, that’s a little melodramatic, but it got your attention, eh?)

Click here to watch AIdan's book trailer

Click here to watch AIdan’s book trailer

So swings my pedagogical pendulum. And did I mention that there’s technology integration to think about?

Kerri W's book trailer-click to watch

Kerri W’s book trailer-click to watch

Tick–Information Literacy

Tock–Free Independent Reading

Tick–Big 6 and the Inquiry Process

Tock–The Book Whisperer (awakening the inner reader in every child)

Tick — Digital learning

Tock – Old-fashioned paper based instruction

Tick–Standards for the 21st Century Learner

Tock–Readers Advisory

As is often the case, a conversation in the teachers’ lounge morphed into a project that quieted all this incessant tick-tocking. One of my colleagues asked me if I could teach the students how to make book trailers. She had seen me working on one during a summer iPad workshop. Here was an opportunity for me to “practice what I pixel”—I could “sell” books to reluctant readers, while teaching a valuable 21st century skill with an authentic purpose. The Fifth Grade Book Trailer Project was born. Still a novice with iMovie, I enlisted the help of our technology specialist and we were off and running.

Information Literacy? Check. Students learned about both safe and copyright free image searching as well as crediting sources.

Free Independent Reading? Check. Students were given (almost) complete autonomy in choosing books for this project

Grace's book trailer-click to watch

Grace’s book trailer-click to watch

Inquiry Process? Check. Successful image searches required thoughtful development of key words.

The Book Whisperer? Check. Allowing and encouraging students to read what they want, in class and out.

Jasmine C's book trailer-click to watch

Jasmine C’s book trailer-click to watch

Digital Learning? Check. Not only was the creation of an iMovie a motivator, but it also became an authentic task when we determined that we could link the book trailers to our online catalog. How exciting to see your own production featured in the school’s catalog for everyone to see!

Old-fashioned paper based learning? Check. Storyboards were created by hand so that students knew exactly what they were expected to do before beginning the movie-making process.

Hayden's book trailer-click to watch

Hayden’s book trailer-click to watch

Standards for the 21st Century Learner? Check. Students used “technology… to display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess”.

Readers’ Advisory? Check. What better reader’s advisory than a recommendation from a fellow student?

Amanda's book trailer, click to watch

Amanda’s book trailer, click to watch

Actions speaking louder than words, please enjoy these short iMovies (45 second to two minutes) about our students’ favorite books. (And if you would like to see more, contact me for the links to the rest of these award-winning productions!)

Roll the credits, please…. Thanks go to Andi Daunais, Nick Greenwood, Lisa Miranda and Jenn Potter and all the wonderful fifth graders at Peaslee School.


Writer’s Block and Caldecotts Mock

Presenting a long overdue blog post in which I talk about Writer’s Block and Caldecotts Mock.

Coming soon and sticking with the same rhyme scheme: Taking Stock and Pedagogical Tick-Tock. Topics will include fifth-grade book trailers, “Newey Neighborhoods”, the fourth-grade “Wondering Project” and my pedagogical pendulum swings between the digital and paper-based library world.

Writer’s Block

After a flurry of writing in December, January came and went with nary a post. This despite a flurry of snow that extended the holiday break to two full weeks and the gift of a long weekend two weeks later.

Now I am finally ready (and thanks to yet another snow day), but before I begin I’d like to revisit the problem of my recent writer’s block especially after such a successful spate of writing. Well, okay, there were bumps in December too. But I managed to work through them with more ease.

Used under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License Photo by Jeremy Brooks

Used under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License Photo by Jeremy Brooks

I’ve come to the conclusion that I was overwhelmed with an abundance of topics and rather than choosing one and diving in I just stared at the screen. No, not true, I didn’t even approach the screen. Creative paralysis had hit. It was as if I was presented with an all-you-can-eat buffet or one of those endless menus one finds at the local diner (with the tiny kitchen) where somehow you can get everything from a grilled cheese sandwich to veal cordon bleu. What am I in the mood for? What is everyone else ordering? Should I go healthy and hearty or hedonistic? I literally could not make up my mind and so I wrote nothing.

I wonder if this is how our students feel? Write about what you know. Write about a favorite experience. Write about your best friend. Maybe the inability to write that first sentence is not too little to write about, but too much. Food for thought.

Caldecotts Mock

I have written about our school’s Mock Caldecott process before here and here but I would be remiss if I did not share this year’s game-changing Peasleecott experience.

Just like my students, I am a learner. Lately, my best teachers are the members of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. It’s amazing what can be shared in 140 characters or less. I have also been blessed with two smart, passionate and inventive student teachers. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is the mentor and who is the student. No one dare call me a stodgy ol’ librarian! Between embracing the ideas of my youthful student teachers and taking advantage of 21st century learning on the twitterverse, I took a tried and true unit and made it even better. This year I decided to go with depth instead of breadth:

  • Art gallery-To prepare my students for evaluating art, we make art. As before, the students created illustrations using different media and techniques. This time, however, we took the “gallery” piece of it a little further by discussing how to view art and by modeling art gallery behavior. The results were significant. The students were more observant and made thoughtful comments about each other’s work and their own.
  • Experiencing and evaluating the contenders-There is truth to the statement “Less is More”. I narrowed down the potential winners to ten (from 24-28 in previous years). We spent two full weeks reading all ten books in small groups. Every student was able to make a closer, deeper connection to the illustrations and text. In previous years we have narrowed the original field down to eight by using student committees, but not every child had the opportunity to see every book. I realize now, the shortcomings of that approach. There really was not enough time to make a thoughtful decision. 
  • Voting-Instead of each class making their own choices, I opted for a school-wide approach this time. I used ballots instead of a showing of hands (where everyone peeks, even when asked to keep their eyes closed). The ten contenders were narrowed down to four which were then read again to all students. The final vote also required a sentence or two from the student defending his/her choice. A built-in assessment where before there was none! And the winners were:
    • Peasleecott Gold-The Day the Crayons Quit written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
    • Peasleecott Silver-Journey written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
    • Peasleecott Honor-The Story of Fish and Snail written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
    • Peasleecott Honor-Warning: Do Not Open this Book writtten by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
  • Award Design-In the fourteen years I have been teaching this unit, the students have designed their own version of the Peasleecott Medal, sometimes before and sometime after the final votes are in. This has depended more on the school calendar, snow days and assemblies (which throw the best-laid plans up in the air), rather than any instructional design, but this year I expressly waited until after because I was curious about the images the children would choose to draw based on the winning books. I was NOT disappointed. Another easy assessment and another unique way to honor the winners.

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  • Writing to the Winners-Although this is an experience that won’t likely be replicated in the future, I can’t help but gush over the serendipitous moment when one student’s idea changed the course of the lesson (and for the better I might add). As I stood in front of the giant chart paper scribing brainstormed ideas that would become a class letter to Oliver Jeffers, a third-grade boy raised his hand and suggested that each kid write their own letters to Mr. Jeffers in the voices of the crayons. Genius! Everything about the idea was better than what I had planned. Opportunity for demonstrating voice in writing, more involvement from students, choice of working alone (for the introverts) or in small groups (for those who might need some support or socialization). And such creativity. I was bursting at the seams with pride as I looked over the final products.
  • Twitter as a platform for announcing the winners-This year I announced the winners on Twitter. In less than three hours, I had heard back from both Deborah Freedman and Aaron Becker, both active users. A week later, this beautiful thank you arrived in the mail from Deborah Freedman. I love the connectedness of it all.
Just a little something we got in the mail.

Just a little something we got in the mail.

And so, although I taught the same unit, I didn’t teach it the same way. And I never will again.