Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Our School Library Transforms Learning . . . And Learners

If you weren't already aware, it's School Library Appreciation Month.

This year's theme is School Libraries Transform Learning.

It seems like an obvious choice to those of us in the library world. It's what we do. Libraries empower learners. Yet there are still some who picture libraries of yesteryear, not quite sure what it is that happens in the library. They're unsure of how libraries have transformed and are transforming.

So I decided to ask some of my students to help tell our library's story. After all, it's their story to tell. In two different projects, I asked my students to share what it is that we do in the library and what impact it has on their learning. Here's some of their thoughts:

And this just a small sampling of the answers I received. But the message is loud and clear: What we do transforms learners.

Happy School Library Month!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What happened when we Found Poetry

I still have goosebumps. It was one of those magical experiences all teacher and librarians hope to have. Every students engaged. Authentic conversations. Inspired minds. 

And all because we'd "Found Poetry" in our library.

What is Found Poetry?

Found Poetry is a type of poetry created when words, phrases, or sometimes longer passages from published work are reworked into poetry.

I'd seen examples of Found Poetry before and I'd always wanted to try it with my students. And then my fellow Teacher Librarian friend, Nate Balcom, shared some examples of the Found Poetry he'd been creating.

Original Found Poetry created by Nate Balcom.

I decided to give it a try too. 

What did we do?

Found Poetry can take several forms. Although I'd seen examples of Book Spine Poetry before, but I had recently discarded several books in the library, so I decided to go with the Blackout Poetry option.

The concept is simple. Students are given a page of a book. Students then read through the page, lightly underlining words or phrases that stand out to them. Students then go back to reread the words or phrases they'd underlined, working them into a free verse poem. The parameters I gave students were simple:

  • You may only use the words on the page (you can't add), but words can be modified. Example: "sandstorm" could be used as either "sand" or "storm."
  • You must read the words in the order as they appear on the page (seems obvious, but when working with elementary students, it never hurts to state it anyway)
And I left the rest up to them.

And the results?

It was absolutely amazing. All day long, students spread out around the library, fully engaged, reading alone or in small groups. They were reading, conversing, creating. And they were hooked.

When you think about the concepts and skills a lesson like this reinforces--vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, collaboration, creative writing--it's incredible. But what happened during this lesson was more than just an application of concepts and skills. It was the passion, engagement, and excitement for literacy that made this lesson so special. 

And the icing on the cake? One of my 5th grade teachers asked if she could stay for the instructions because she's heard so much buzz about this activity all day long. After hearing the instructions, she willingly gave up her plan time to stay and participate too.

In the time since introducing this activity in the library, Found Poetry examples have continued to flow into the library. Students are excited about poetry. Students are excited to share what they've created with everyone who will listen. What more could a librarian ask for?

And now I'm excited to share some of them with you:
Found Poem created by Jaxton A.
Found Poem created by Kayla
Found Poem created by Lilly I.
"My Grandma" created by Avery H.