"If you want to find your happy place, just go to the library." ~ Lizzie K. Foley, Author

Horror on the Homefront

Well, this has nothing to do with work, really…. I took a half-day yesterday to take my now-15 year old daughter out for her birthday. Our first stop was the dreaded DMV. That was an adventure in itself as there was a man up there ranting about his daughter being killed, and later his cousin, and then he went to prison and served 7 years of his 25 year sentence, but no one ants to hire him as a masseuse and it’s not fair because he doesn’t eat pork. But even worse…. My baby girl passed her tests and was given her learners permit.

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As we were pulling out of the DMV, waiting at a stoplight, a car carrier drove past carrying a load of squashed cars. My darling daughter immediately pipes up with, “Look, Mama! That’s what your car’s gonna look like soon! ”

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Do children not realize that this sort of comment does not instill confidence? Most terrifying day of my life. Lol

Books I Grew Up With

This is a trending topic on Twitter, but I’m hesitant to participate.  When I think back on my childhood I know I read.  A lot, in fact!  But what did I read? I remember Cordouroy and Paddington from when I was young.  More importantly, I remember that my mom, older sister, and younger brother would gather together at night to read bedtime stories together.

As I got older I read the classics like Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer, and A Tale of Two Cities.  I read these at home, books I owned, not at school.

I don’t remember reading much in middle school either…. Flowers for Algernon, Of Mice and Men, and The Diary of Anne Frank were all assigned in my 8th grade English class.  On my own I read a lot of King and Koontz.

By high school I read very little beyond what was assigned.  Unless you count magazines…  I wasn’t a big fan of most of what was assigned.  Catch 22 and 1984 were tolerable.  I despised most of the other books.  Through self-selection, I developed an appreciation for Faulkner, however.  I read The Sound and the Fury in both the 10th and 12th grades for self-selection assignments.  I mimicked his style for a writing assignment in a college writing course.  How can you not like reading about families way more dysfunctional than your own?

But the book I grew up with?  The one that made the biggest impact?  The one I loved the most?  The one that somehow shaped me into the reader I am today?  I really can’t say.

If forced, I’d probably have to say the big treasury of stories we read from at night.  My time with my mom, sister, and brother.  More for the experience than the stories themselves.  I always loved those times and cherished spending that same quality time with my own children as they were growing up,  no matter what it was that we read.

Starting Over….

A new year, new Common Core implementation, new ideas, new worries, new hopes, new plans… One goal of mine is to spend more time blogging.  I’ve also created a new twitter that isn’t covered in my daughter and her friend’s postings.  I want to follow more of the #tlchat conversations in hopes of learning new and improved methods I can implement in my own library.

 

I don’t know how I’ll active I’ll be here, or on Twitter, but I’m planning to try!  

This is not my work, just something that was shared with me to pass along:

VERY important article by Keith Curry Lance and Linda Hofshine, School Library Journal, Sept 1, 2011:

“Something to Shout About: New research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores”

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/891612-312/something_to_shout_about_new.html.csp

Laying off librarians has a negative effect on fourth grade reading scores (2004 to 2009): “fewer librarians translated to lower performance—or a slower rise in scores—on standardized tests.” Most important, Lance and Hofshine present evidence showing that the negative effect was due specifically to laying off librarians, not overall staff changes.

“We found that 19 of the 26 states that gained librarians saw an average 2.2 percent rise in their National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth-grade reading scores. Meanwhile, 9 of the 24 states that lost librarians had a 1 percent rise … the increase in scores of states that gained librarians was two times that of states that lost librarians. Scores remained unchanged for 6 states that gained librarians and 12 that lost librarians. Three states that lost librarians had an average decline of -1 percent, and one state that gained librarians experienced a -0.5 percent decline in scores.”

” … the magnitude and significance of the relationship between librarian staffing and test performance was reduced only very slightly when taking into account overall staff changes in schools … Whether a school had a librarian remained an important factor in reading test performance, regardless of what was happening with overall staffing numbers.”

Correlation between percent change in school librarians and percent change in reading scores for all students: r = .567.  Correlation when controlled for percent change in total school staff: r = .562 (partial correlation).

Bullies are becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in our schools.  Many schools respond to this situation by implementing zero tolerance policies, but are they working?  Are school-wide anti-bullying programs an effective measure against peer victimization?  Educators need to look at their school dynamics, consider their student population, and make informed decisions.

What is bullying?

Bullying is the physical, verbal, or psychological abuse.  In an educational setting, it usually occurs in the “unowned” areas, such as hallways and restrooms, where adult supervision is minimal.  Examples of bullying behaviors include name-calling, racial slurs, hitting, spreading rumors, or social ostracism.

Who becomes a bully?

Is a bully a kid with low self-esteem?  Is he the biggest kid in the class?  These are our stereotypical associations, but research actually shows this is not usually the case.  Bullies tend to be seen as “cool” kids. They have a high self-esteem and many friends.

Who becomes a victim?

While bullying is often associated with such personality characteristics as shyness, sometimes it is a temporary predicament brought on by transitional factors such as moving to a new school, or delayed pubertal development.

Is being bullied a natural part of growing up?

No, it is not.  Bullying is not a character-building experience our children need to live through and learn from.  It lowers their self-esteem and increases their vulnerabilities.

Are boys more likely than girls to be bullies?

No, they are not.  In fact, there has been much research done in recent years on the so-called “mean” or “alpha girls.”  These girls tend to be psychological bullies.  Their bullying often involves damaging reputations or social ostracism.

How should educators intervene?

The first thing we need to realize is that one size does not fit all in this situation.  There are three groups to consider, all with different needs.

  • The bully needs to learn to control their anger.  They need to accept responsibility for their problems and learn to acceptable, healthy ways to deal with them.
  • The victim needs support to develop their self-esteem and a positive self-image.  They need to know it is not their fault that they were targeted by the bully.
  • The by-standers that observed the bullying taking place need to be educated on the proper responses.  They need to know that it is not okay to watch these kinds of things take place without doing anything.

Teachers need to be sure they never ignore a bullying incident.  This shows the bully that their behavior is unacceptable as well as helping the victim to feel less defenseless in the situation.  These incidents can serve as a “teachable moment” in which they can discuss with the class what happened and what could have been done differently by everyone involved (not just the bully and/or the victim).

Perhaps the most powerful lesson we can teach our children is a respect and appreciation of diversity.  By accepting the differences in one another, the students will find fewer faults and learn tolerance.  How can we teach this?  Through literature, movies, studying history, learning about other cultures, talking, writing, collaborating, and interacting.  By creating 21st Century learners.

Project-Based Writing

I was reading a newsletter I subscribe to today and came across a link to a blog post about using Project-Based writing with “tweens.”  This is the article:

http://tweenteacher.com/2011/09/06/the-power-of-teaching-something-you-know-nothing-about/

This is just the sort of thing that gets me excited!  When the kids are enthusiastic and excited about learning, it doesn’t seem like “work.”  The learning becomes authentic and meaningful.  As a result, the children learn better,  with greater depth, and are able to apply their skills.

Another “perk” of such assignments is the curriculum integration.  This teacher is working on a writing assignment.  But the subject isn’t writing, it’s science.  They could be incorporating math skills, as well, as they are researching and coming up with solutions to the question at hand.  They’re going to be integrating technology.  They’re working with others in cooperative groups.  They’re assigned roles and responsibilities.  These are students who are working as 21st Century learners.

Are the kids focused on their writing?  Yes.  But it’s elaborately disguised as an intriguing assignment with all kinds of exciting bells and whistles thrown in.   Are they learning to write effectively?  Yes.  And in such a way that they are more likely to be able to repeat, as opposed to being taught a set of skills in isolation and then having to learn how to apply them.

This is the kind of educational practice our students need, and deserve.

The way we teach is changing here in North Carolina, and all across the country.  To be honest, we’re going back to the basics.  It’s hard to believe, but yes, we’ve come to the point where it finally dawned on someone somewhere that our kids aren’t learning effectively.

Oh, and just a heads-up before I delve in…  For anyone who doesn’t already know, “Common Core” are our Math and English Language Arts Standards.  The “Essential Standards” are everything else (science, social studies, etc.).

So, this year, we’re working on the Common Core and Essential Standards.  What does this mean?  Well, for starters, we’re going to spend more time working on fewer topics with the kids. They’ll get a thorough knowledge of a few things, instead of a touch of a whole lot of things.  No longer will our kindergarteners be expected to learn Algebra – that’s going back to middle school where it belongs.  Instead of teaching a subject in first grade, and reteaching with a little more depth in second, then reteaching with a little more depth in third, and so on, the kids will learn what they need to know of a simple topic, and then move on through the years to the more complex.  The way it used to be.

So, is Common Core and Essential Standards a bad thing?  I think not.  What’s more, it’s planned to be a Nation-wide endeavor!  A student who starts school in North Carolina and moves to California will be learning the same material when they get started in their new school.  If they move to Massachusetts two years later, they’ll still be on the right track.  All of our children everywhere will be learning the same things at the same time.

Even better…  It will lead to the end of the dreaded EOG testing!  Instead of tedious, meaningless multiple-choice tests, students will be using higher-level thinking skills as they write open-ended responses to something given to read.  Instead of answering 150 math questions, students will need to solve a problem and explain how they got their answers.

And there are lots of resources on the Internet to make the change even easier for you.

Commoncore.org is a great (paid) resource site, in which educators are coming together to help one another implement the standards.  They have designed curriculum planning maps of 6-week long units to cover all of the English Language Arts standards.  Their original version is FREE (http://commoncore.org/free).  They even offer essential questions and ways to tie the essential standards into the units by including additional informational texts with the units.  Their newest version is available for members who pay $20/year and has a lot of additional resources available.  Personally, free sounds good to me as we get started on this endeavor…

Corestandards.org is another useful site.  Here you can find out which states have already adopted the Core Standards, as well as links to the English Language Arts and Math standards, in addition to other useful resources including a webinar.

Illustrativemathematics.org is still under development as I write this, but it’s going to be another great resource.  Here teachers will network to share ideas and activities working with the Common Core standards in mathematics.  Currently the standards are available to view, but upon completion, the standards will include links to activities developed by other teachers.

Nctm.org is the home of The National Council of Mathematics.  They have suggestions on how to incorporate the Common Core standards, as well as power point presentations to share with your colleagues.  There are a lot of great resources here including problem banks, lessons by theme or grade level, and ways to get parents involved.