Sunday, June 11, 2017

LLED 469 - Access for All Learners and Formative Assessment

Module 9 addresses the important concept of ensuring that learning takes into account all of your students’ learning needs. I believe it’s very important to meet students where they are and to treat them with dignity. Putting this philosophy into practice can be challenging as a teacher on call as I am often working with a class for just a day and I don’t have time to get to know the students well. It’s challenging to try to figure out if a student is not following directions because they don’t want to, or they can’t understand the language you are speaking, they are going through something at home, or they have special needs, etc. I look forward to future jobs where I get to know the students by working with them for a year at a time, or even for multiple years as the teacher-librarian. I think being a teacher-librarian is a special role and I am excited at the thought of someday having the opportunity to follow students as they progress through school.
I will consider the individual learning needs of my students when planning for my inquiry unit on coding. I ensured I had a variety of media when I was selecting my top ten resources for assignment 2 and I think the mix of books, videos, games, and websites will be suitable for a wide range of learners. Tomlinson's "Appendix: Tools to Guide Planning for Differentiated Instruction" offered many suggestions for how to differentiate content, process, and product. Having a variety of resources, including audio and visual, fits with how I'm planning my inquiry unit. Small-group instruction is often an effective way to help students and playing the Robot Turtles board game would be an example of how I'll incorporate that into my unit. In terms of product, I think the option of varied modes of expression gives students with a range of strengths the chance to show their understanding in a way that works for them. Inquiry-based learning naturally incorporates this flexibility into the process and is well-suited to meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners.
I enjoyed Tomlinson’s metaphor of an audio equalizer when considering the varied needs of students at different levels of readiness. Some students might need the dial to move further to the left towards concrete concepts (for example, using manipulatives like base-ten blocks in math when they’re struggling with the concept of place value) and others are ready to turn it up to the abstract level. I can see myself looking at a class and visualizing little equalizers over each of the students’ heads and watching the equalizers change all the time as the students made progress or had setbacks in various areas. It can be a little daunting to consider the complexity of a classroom full of 20-30 individuals with a wide variety of learning needs, but I know it will always be the case, and that gives me all the rationale I need for designing learning experiences that work for a diverse group of students.
Module 10 was all about assessment. When reflecting on formative assessment, I realized that I do it all the time. It’s often informal and looks like checking in with a mini conference to see how a student is doing on their project, having students look to their peers to check over their work, and stopping to clarify information if I find that many students are confused about an aspect of their work. To learn more about formative assessment, I was interested to read Kristin Fontichiaro’s take, as I’ve been enjoying reading her Nudging toward Inquiry series. Fontichiaro says that formative assessment is a key element of responsive teaching and reflective learning and that it is a feedback loop that helps both the student and teacher understand how learning is progressing. I like the idea of non-punitive assessment that helps the student see where they can improve and shows them where they are succeeding. As a student, it’s nice to know if you’re on the right track so you can have a chance to focus on areas to improve before you get your summative assessment.
I will definitely be building both formative and summative assessment into my inquiry unit. One option that was suggested was a Google form, which is a format I have used for surveys in the past, but not with students. I like how easy it is to see results and I will consider creating a Google form survey for my unit.
Fontichiaro’s article on summative assessment recommended rubrics as a quick way to assess (once the time-consuming process of creating the rubric was complete). I liked the suggestion that a teacher sent in of writing forms for early primary students with icons to remind them to self assess and check that they had drawn, written, left spaces, checked the word wall for spelling, and used punctuation. I could see scaffolding the students with writing sheets like that and then graduating them to lined paper once they had internalized the directions. It would be easy to differentiate this writing format by giving lined paper to individual students only when they were ready for their “equalizer control” to be moved to the right towards paper without instructions.
I read Louis and Harada’s “Did the students get it? Self-assessment as key to learning” article with interest because I know that self-assessment is an important factor in inquiry-based learning and it is also being incorporated into report cards across the province. What I particularly appreciated in this article were the specific examples of learning goals in both the rough draft and refined states. It was interesting to read how the Grade 6 students were involved in creating the rubric for their own project and how a student reacted by saying, “I like having a say in how my work is assessed. It makes me work harder.” It was also helpful to see how the authors modified self-assessment for emergent readers and writers by including happy, neutral, and frowning face icons for the students to circle. I think if students are introduced to self-assessment in kindergarten, they will build on their skills and be confident in reflecting on their work as they go through school.

This week, I added the words in blue to my mind map of Inquiry-Based Learning terms and ideas. Words in black are from week one and words in purple are from week three.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

LLED 469 - Inquiry Learning by Design and Essential Questions

Module 7 starts with comparing traditional research and inquiry and lists the reasons inquiry-based learning is superior to traditional research models. Traditional research is seen as teacher-centered, linear, and shallow, whereas inquiry is student-centered, active, and participatory. While I can understand the intellectual argument for inquiry-based learning, I find that I have an emotional reaction to this viewpoint. I was taught in the traditional way and was a successful student, so perhaps I am feeling defensive because the module implies that my education was shallow.
I think it’s useful to notice this initial reaction and realize that others may feel defensive about the way they teach. Being aware that my colleagues may feel unsure about IBL will help me plan for Pro-D teaching opportunities. If I know some staff members are already familiar with inquiry and are perhaps taking part in their own professional inquiry, I might choose to work in a small group with them before bringing ideas to the whole staff as suggested in Fontichiaro’s “Nudging toward inquiry – Building inquiry understanding with colleagues”. I liked her suggestions of activities such as “Inquiry looks like this, but not like this” and analyzing an anonymous unit plan to transform it into inquiry.
Wiggins and McTighe outline an education planning approach in Understanding by Design. I like how it works backwards and looks at the outcomes you want to see and starts from there. By thinking about assessment in step two, you ensure the assessment is authentic and not just an afterthought.
Transforming a school culture to one that supports inquiry-based learning seems to go hand in hand with transforming a library to a library learning commons. A learning commons offers many features that work well with inquiry-based learning. It has modular furniture that can be moved into different configurations for individual and collaborative work. It has access to the internet and the wide variety of digital resources that can be found online. It also has quiet spaces necessary for reflection.
I found the discussion of Makerspaces exciting and can see how the variety of materials in a Makerspace would lead to inquiry. In the school where I teach one day a week, we have some elements of a Makerspace in our library, but there is much more we could do. We have a computer lab with thirty desktop computers as well as a set of about thirty iPads. Next year, one teacher plans to teach coding. We have a loft above the library stocked with multiple types of yarn and a knitting club meets there occasionally. I’d like to purchase some supplies so we could explore areas mentioned in Fontichiaro’s “Nudging toward inquiry – Makerspaces: Inquiry and CCSS” such as sewing with eTextiles, electronic circuits, and coding. However, before rushing out to buy robots, I will be making a plan for what I want the Makerspace to accomplish. I found another article by Fontichiaro entitled “Sustaining a Makerspace” that advises that teacher librarians have a purpose for their Makerspace. She also drew on her experience running Makerspaces to suggest using reusable materials that are flexible. Another useful recommendation was to ask for donations of time, money, and supplies to outfit your Makerspace .I am personally involved in the Vancouver Maker Community as a founding member of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and I have participated in the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire since its inception in 2011. I would certainly be happy to bring in a sewing machine and some of my scrap fabric to let students build their sewing skills.
I can see how my inquiry into inquiry will have a recursive nature as I move from an initial introduction to IBL concepts to further experiences with inquiry. For example, the readings in module eight gave me an understanding of essential questions, but I’m sure that will be deepened when I develop essential questions for my inquiry unit. The recursive nature of inquiry is mentioned in the Points of Inquiry framework.
The importance of learning how to ask good questions was clearly shown in the readings in this module. Unfortunately, many students have had their innate curiosity quashed in traditional classrooms, so they need to re-learn the skill of asking questions. Fontichiaro had a suggestion of teaching primary students how to ask open-ended questions by giving them coloured tongue depressors so they could show whether they thought a question was a red light question (closed) or a green light question (open). I could see myself trying this as I find that students need scaffolding in order to ask essential questions. Rothstein and Santana also believe that students can successfully ask excellent questions when given practice. In “Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions” they give a framework for question formulation. I am familiar with the brainstorming step with no judgement and feel that the next steps of improving questions, prioritizing the best ones, researching, and finally reflecting are a useful methodology. I look forward to giving this a try in the classroom and seeing how the students enjoy the process.
I enjoyed Fontichiaro’s two articles on using picture books to unlock prior knowledge and spur questions. I believe that picture books can be powerful hooks no matter the age of the students and I would like to see more teachers using them past the primary years. I particularly liked how the sticky note model allowed for a misconceptions section and allowed for modelling of how to switch an idea from one category to another when new ideas are learned.
Article that wasn’t part of our readings:
Fontichiaro, K. (2016). Sustaining a makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 43(4), 39-41. Retrieved from
This week, I added the words in purple to my mind map of Inquiry-Based Learning terms and ideas. Words in black are from week one.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

LLED 469: Evaluating resources and curation

Reflecting on Module 5 and the selection and appropriate use of print resources is both exciting and a little overwhelming. When there are so many options to pick from, it seems like a challenge to assess and choose the resources that will best fit your users’ needs. However, I feel hopeful when I think of the collaborative community of teacher-librarians and reviewers who share their knowledge. ERAC’s K-12 Resource Collection is a particularly helpful tool as it evaluates resources based on connections to the BC curriculum. I was able find a review of Louis Sachar’s “Holes” and saw that it is a recommended resource. 

Reading “Copyright Matters!” and “Copyright Considerations” helped me further my knowledge of how to respect copyright in a school setting. I was happy to read that information that is freely available online can be used when properly cited. It seems that fair dealing covers most educational situations, so I am confident that I have been following the rules with print materials. I have some questions about the use of music and videos in schools. It seems that you need to pay licensing fees to play music in the background when it doesn’t have a specific educational purpose.  I’m curious if my district or school pays any fees to SOCAN or Re:Sound, as I know I’ve heard music in the background while students work. I wonder how carefully teachers follow these rules and am pondering how I’ll address potential infractions in future. I’m glad to have read these documents about copyright and will endeavour to keep current with any changes in copyright law, as I believe the teacher-librarian is often the go-to person for copyright issues in a school. I found an infographic about Copyright Compliance and Your Copyright Go-To Person ( on the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada website and it seemed logical to me that the TL would be the person in the know.

The Hay and Foley article had many ideas for school libraries as centres of 21st century learning and I appreciated how they see the role of the teacher-librarian as an advocate, leader, and change agent. Some of the suggestions they included for how teacher-librarians can build capacity were to share websites of interest, to give talks on how to use online databases, and demo how to use technology and Web 2.0 apps. Hay and Foley stated, “the future is here and there is no turning back” and I agree. This means that I will always be learning and incorporating new ideas in my library. I haven’t found a way to do this yet with my one day a week temporary contract in a library, but I will bring my desire to be a life-long learner to more permanent roles in future. I have a blog where I keep my learning logs in this course so I can reflect back on them when I’m in a position to put all these ideas into action.

In Module 6, we were looking at digital resources and curation.  I enjoyed Bromann-Bender’s “You Can’t Fool Me” article on website evaluation that detailed a way to teach students to evaluate websites they were using for research. Her evaluation form hit on the key elements to consider when looking at a source such as currency, credibility, bias, accuracy, and appearance.  Bromann-Bender stated, “The idea is that, after filling the form out a few times, they will begin to internalize the criteria and think about what makes a good website each time they are searching, even when the librarian is not there.” I think this is an admirable goal that will be a useful life skill for these students.

Several of the readings in Module 6 focussed on encouraging students to use online databases. The ERAC video gave many reasons why databases are excellent resources and the students in the video understood that it was easier to work with pre-vetted articles rather than doing a Google search.  Badke wrote in “The Convenience Factor” that the main problem with getting students and faculty to use databases was that they viewed them as inconvenient. He went on to describe a demonstration that showed how quickly he could find relevant, peer-reviewed articles using a database compared to Google or even Google Scholar.  He felt that once students were familiar with these resources, they would see how convenient they were. I have been working to increase awareness of databases as a teacher on call and I believe that if students are introduced to these resources in the primary grades, they will become comfortable with them and will be in the habit of using them when they move on to secondary school and university.

I was interested to read about curation as I can see how it would be an important role for a teacher-librarian. I have taught classes who were doing research projects starting by starting at a curated library website with links to information and videos and images. Valenza in “Curation” said that digital curators filter online resources and prevent the firehose effect. I liked the concept mentioned in that article of “informed playlists”. Valenza mentioned that one of the benefits of digital curation is that it is available to students 24/7. As I work with elementary school students, I feel that it is even more important to provide curation services before sending the students off to research online. I enjoyed Johnson and Marsh’s Content Curation YouTube video and appreciated their analysis that curation saves time and helps us make sense of information we get. The quick synopses of various curation apps were interesting and I would like to give Symbaloo a try. I have been using Pinterest for curation of my personal bookmarks for years and I’m interested to see the benefits of different apps. I can see many uses for curation, both as a teacher-librarian, as a tool for students as they develop personal learning environments, and as a repository of professional learning.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Library Policies and Supporting Staff

Module 5 reflection post for LIBE 461 Administration of the School Library Resource Centre

Welcoming Policies:

As a TOC, I have had the chance to work in many different libraries and I try to pick up different ideas from each one. Last week, I taught in a vibrant library in a large Vancouver elementary school. One policy that was successful for that library was accessibility! It seems simple, but by having the library open for twenty minutes before and after school every day of the week, students were encouraged to visit often. I only wish every school had this policy in place!

Circulation was high at this library and there was an entire wall listing holds on popular books. Another library I saw recently had a list of student names written on a sticky note on a new book to indicate the order in which it was to be borrowed.

In my children's school, the former TL used a positive reinforcement strategy in regards to overdue books. Classes with no overdues at the end of the year earned a pizza party.

The Bacon article suggests that if you don't have a book, you could offer to order a copy or borrow it from another library. My daughter's librarian has ordered books based on her recommendations, and it has been great for my daughter! Although I have yet to witness an inter-library loan, I assume that they happen in my district. Do any of you use inter-library loans?

Discouraging Policies:

I have seen evidence of "no borrowing if you have overdues" policies at several libraries. This obviously discourages some students from interacting with the library and it upsets some students. I understand that it is important for young students to understand the routine of returning books to the library, but it is hard to console a kindergartener who is crying when they're told they can't take out a book today. As someone who wants to get books into kids' hands, this doesn't sit right with me.

The opposite of the encouraging accessibility policy above is when libraries aren't open outside of class time. At my children's school of 275 students, the library is only open after school twice a week and it's never open before school.

Staff Issues

In my opinion, staff will want to work with a teacher-librarian who makes their lives easier and creates units that build students' research and literacy skills while meeting curricular needs. Lambert mentions that she solicits ideas from teachers and then creates the plan and does all the prep in order to make it simple for the teacher to bring their class to the library. If teachers can share some of their job and get support in teaching and assessing their students, they are more likely to want to collaborate with the TL in future.

Friday, January 13, 2017

New "Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!" book coming soon!

I'm sure most of you who work with elementary students or have young children in your life are aware that Mo Willems has written his final Elephant and Piggie book and he is now overseeing the publication of books in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series. The first two books are The Cookie Fiasco and We Are Growing! and my five year old has been enjoying them. I just saw today that there is a new book in the series coming out in May 2017. It's called The Good For Nothing Button and it's written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper. I'll be watching for it!

The Five Laws of Librarianship

I'm currently taking a free online course called "Cataloguing for Non-Catalogers" from WebJunction (the learning place for libraries). I've just learned about the five laws of librarianship and the infographic below contained html code for sharing, so I believe it's ok to paste it here.

USC Online Library Science Degree

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

Module 1 reflection post for LIBE 461 Administration of the School Library Resource Centre

As a wannabe teacher-librarian, I'll have to use my best guess to prioritize the various areas of the job. I don't have a current SLLC, but I hope to have one within five years. In my hypothetical library, clientele comes first to me, as the goal of the library is to support student learning. In order to do so, I need updated, relevant resources (both physical and digital) as well as efficient and welcoming facilities. Image fits into this high-priority area as well, because if your library isn't known as a welcoming and interesting place to be, you won't succeed in engaging students.

Lower down on the list would be budget as I would guess it will be extremely low, so I can't get my hopes up for too many purchases for the library. It's hard to select any other aspects as less important, but as a new TL, I'm thinking it would take me some time to build up my leadership and Pro-D skills as I'd need to get to know the staff and feel confident in my role first. I think these areas could be challenging but also exciting once I've built up my skills and have new ideas to share.

Policy is one of those tricky items that is important in theory, but doesn't make the cut in terms of day to day tasks. I would probably put policy lower on the priority list and reflect on it after settling into the job for awhile.

The wide variety of roles that a TL takes on is intimidating because I can see how there would always be more work to do, but it's also thrilling, because it's exactly the type of work I'd love to be doing!