Part 1: Data-Driven Instruction Within The Library Media Center

What is Data-Driven Instruction?

Data-driven instruction (DDI) is a concept that was introduced to me in August 2013. EngageNY describes data-driven instruction as “assessment, analysis and action and is a key framework for school-wide support of all student success.” This process asks three questions that include: Where are we in our goals? What phase are students in for preparation for college/career readiness? And how do we get students to that place?

Since September, I have participated in a data-driven study group. The purpose of this group is to learn how to implement the concept at school. Twice a week for one hour, I have met with a group of my school’s teachers to learn about DDI in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Driven By Data
  • Phase 2: Digging In Deeper Chapter Reading and Reflections
  • Phase 3: Data Analysis and Action Planning

We collaborated and communicated. We learned exactly what DDI is, and how to implement it at school. We had a mix of special-area teachers, special-education teachers, math and reading AIS teachers, the school psychologist, grade-level teachers and teaching assistants. We used the book, “Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction” by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, as the guide to our study group. The text emphasizes how vital it is to have quality over quantity for tests, and allowing teachers time to assess the data to determine whether students meet standards or need assistance. This happens through data meetings with a team.

This study group has massive amounts of information. As a new teacher, there were times I felt overwhelmed. But, after attending more sessions, I became more familiar and comfortable with this concept of DDI. More importantly, how could I make DDI relevant to my data and students that come to library special?

How Does DDI Relate To The Library Media Center?

My district has chosen to adopt the modules from EngageNY. Assessments are built into the modules, and these are given frequently mid-unit and at the end of each unit. Students also take local assessments: STAR, SRI and DRA. There are no modules or local assessments for information-literacy and technology-related skills. So, how do I assess my students?

My school has a fixed scheduled for library special. Students come in once a week for a 30-minute lesson and a 10-minute book exchange. I’m lucky if I see all my classes once a week; there are snow days, delays, PD days, half days, testings, trainings to lead, field trips, assemblies and so much more that might prevent specials. These questions frequently popped into my head the first few weeks of school:

  • What set of standards do I use?
  • How will I grade my students based off the standards?
  • What kind of assessments can I give that are relevant and realistic for the situation?
  • How do I assess students and analyze data if I only see students for a half-hour block a week?
  • Will I have the same assessments as the other three elementary teacher-librarians?

Part 2 & 3 coming soon: A breakdown of these questions and a sample Excel spreadsheet to show how data is gathered and analyzed.

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Library & Social-Studies Collaboration: Ancient India Website Part 1

The Idea

At a study group meeting in late December, the sixth-grade social-studies teacher and myself started randomly talking about projects. Soon, we had an idea for a collaboration. After the Christmas break, students would learn about Ancient India. He wanted to do something big for the final project. Something more than a PowerPoint or a poster. We decided that students would make a website to showcase five pillars of Ancient India: government, geography, culture, economy and religion.

The teacher would be responsible for teaching the content and finalizing the rubric for the website. I would show students how to build a website and upload photos, as well as gather resources to help with research and citations.

It was exciting to tackle this project. Eleven and 12-year-olds creating websites? Why not? Our school has adopted the Common Core Modules from EngageNY, and the schedule is so packed, it is challenging to have wiggle room for technology or creative projects. This was a perfect opportunity to give students the opportunity to collaborate and create.

The Process

It was vital to make a webquest for this project, a one-stop shop for students to have resources and information for the project. Gathering resources and making tasks was simple. Explaining to students they would make a website is another story.

When I told students they would build a website, many had the deer-in-headlights look. They didn’t think they could do that, and weren’t sure they would be successful. I promised that as long as they tried, they could and would.

After looking at various website builders, Weebly had the best options. It is user-friendly and has the needed safety features for logins and passwords. The teacher can set up student groups with a unique username and password. Students can drag and click text boxes, slideshows, title boxes. Students do not have to code, but arrange these options the way they want on the pages.

We spent about two weeks going over web design best practices and building the foundation (pages with title box and text box for each page). Students then used the LiveBinders resources page for more info about Ancient India and citations. After they wrote out their info, they typed it on the webpage.

Challenges So Far

Going into this project, I thought students would have the hardest time with the aesthetics of the website: too many font choices, not a solid layout. But, I was wrong. Some students were not comfortable putting research into their own words, while a few simply copied and pasted info and didn’t cite at all. For these students, we made appointments to show to read an article, pull out key ideas and put into that info into their own words. After a few tries, the concept clicked with students.

Final Steps

Right now, students have all the research on the site. They are choosing the final themes and font styles/colors. Soon, students will present these to the class and write individual self-reflections on their blogs. It has been so exciting to see self-confidence grow these past few weeks. They are so excited to show their progress and the research they find.

Look for Part 2 of this topic to include: Example of students’ work, students’ self-reflections and ways to make this collaboration project more effective in the future.

The Beginnings Of A Makerspace With Lots Of Help

A few months ago, I received an email from one of my listservs. It called for project ideas for the development of a new library service. And now I am working with the team of four from the iSchool. It feels wonderful to collaborate with people from my old program.

Last week, I met with the group of phenomenal students from the iSchool at Syracuse University. As part of a semester-long class project, the group of four will create a project plan, marketing plan and assessment plan for the start of a makerspace at Granby’s library to implement in September 2014.

But you might ask, “What is a makerspace?” Jennifer Cooper defines makerspaces from an Edutopia article as a “hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent.” Students can create, collaborate and innovate with electronics, fabrics, robotics, etc.

At first, I was a bit nervous to even submit a project idea. I am a first-year teacher. Do I have the authority or experience to take on an idea like this? Then I thought, “Why not?” I need to start somewhere, so why not start with a bang? I need get uncomfortable and take leaps to achieve the vision of Granby’s library. Stepping outside my comfort zone is a worthy challenge.

Also, with a small budget, my library cannot afford 3D printers, iPads, iPods or robotic stations. I’ll have to rely on grants or donations for these items, and am hoping to find grants for that technology. But then I thought, Granby’s future makerspace doesn’t have to be completely tech-filled. There are other creative, innovative solutions out there. And that’s where the iSchool team comes in.

When meeting with the group, I gave an overview of the culture, vision and goals of the library. I showed them the physical space, and right away, everyone sprouted out ideas. Legos, seed packets (which turned into a convo for a garden club), puppets to enhance literacy skills, video-creation and so much.

I cannot wait to see what this group comes up with for the final project. In late April, their class will present a poster session to showcase all the 613 projects. So until then, I must wait in anticipation to see what ideas they have for a makerspace at Granby.

How To Overcome Judging A Book By Its Cover?

Kids do judge a book by its cover. Though a book may sound interesting to my students, they will not check the book out if the cover is old, worn-out or not aesthetically pleasing. Many of my students want a book to look brand-new, with shiny covers and beautiful illustrations.

I can see the appeal to this thought-process: an interesting cover invites you in, it intrigues you. But what about treasured stories that have worn-out covers that students scoff at? This was a challenge that I was faced with at the start of the year.

For example, a fourth-grade student came up to me during book exchange. She wanted a realistic-fiction book about families, friendship or animals. Right away, I pulled out the Shiloh trilogy, Because of Winn-Dixie, Tuck Everlasting, Black Beauty, Little House on the Prairie series, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables series. Most of the covers were older and in OK, but not great, condition. She took one look at the books and changed her mind.

We looked some more, and she kept pulling out the newer covers with glossy, beautiful covers that did not match her initial request. She took those instead.

During book talks, students are hyped up about a book I’m talking about, but when they get in line to sign up for the books, they will take one look at the cover and change their minds.

There are many classics in my collection that have not been replaced. One goal is to replace these in the next two-three years to keep the collection fresh.

At the end of 2013, I ordered some new versions of the classics: Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, etc. A few weeks ago, I pointed students to the new book area, and immediately most of the newer classics were checked out. The covers were new, whimsical, cartoon-like and realistic-like. They appealed to my students.

I went down the line to ask students what they checked out. They showed me the covers. Some said they didn’t know what the book was about, but the cover made the story look interesting. I was excited to see that classics were finally checked out, but still a bit disheartened that they again judged books by the covers.

I will keep ordering newer versions of classics because the current ones in my collection are falling apart, but how can I better explain to students to not judge a book by its cover? I appreciate covers of books as pieces of art to be admired, but what about the story? Whatever happened to appreciating the soul of a book?

Information and data are constant changing. Kids want the best and newest of everything, maybe even books. I want to provide my students with the best materials and resources possible. Maybe this shift is something I need to accept more. Or maybe there are other ways to promote books with older covers more effectively, especially if there isn’t enough money in the budget for new everything immediately. Any ideas?

Thing 6: Curation Tools

Pinterest is one tool that has helped me my first year of teaching. Before, it was a personal network, but I have found ways to make it part of my professional social-network circle.

Being a teacher-librarian, I need to do a little bit of everything. Bulletin boards, PR for events and programs, promote reading and literature, etc. I have used Pinterest to gather ideas for displays and bulletin boards, events/programs and how to change the physical space of my library.

But, I want to take Pinterest-using one step further. I want to make it student-centered. I want to create a kick-butt summer reading program. Instead of simply a brochure for books to select for summer reading, I want to create a board for each grade level to post pins of books. As part of a summer project and incentive, students will make a board starting the following school year to showcase favorite books read.

Also, rubber-band bracelet-making and beading has become popular at my school. Why not take photos of pieces students have created and put on Pinterest? Why not take photos of step-by-step instructions and make a board for that on Pinterest, as well.

To Weed, Or Not To Weed: That Is The Question

Too much of anything cannot always be a good thing. That includes overstuffed shelves in a library.

Another goal my first year is complete another weeding project. In the past few weeks, I’ve done research, talked with colleagues and researched some more. Finally, a weeding policy has been created.

Being a first-year librarian, it can be nerve-wracking to complete big projects like this. You need to know the collection, what resources the curriculum requires and what students like to read.

The ultimate goal is to go Dewey-free for the fiction collection by the end of the 2015 school year. So, I need to get my butt in gear now. I’ve pulled the circulation statistics for biography and fiction collections; I’m slowly going through the data to analyze.

Here is the criteria used to decide if a book should be weeded or not for my library:

  • Has the book been circulated in the past three years? (It was hard to decide how many years to go back for circulation. Three, five, 10?)
  • What year was the book published?
  • Is the content of the book still relevant, or is it outdated?
  • What is the condition of the book? (So many times, I’ve seen a student become excited about a story, but they take one look at the old, worn-out covers and put it back on the shelf)
  • Is this something I would want to read?

After asking these questions for the individual book, it goes in the keep or weed pile. The goal is to print and review all the circulation records, then weed. Then look at best processes for going Dewey-free, then actually completing that step.

I’ve received some comments that have made me think about this decision: “Why are you getting rid of books?” “Aren’t librarians supposed to love books?” “How could you even think of throwing a book away?”

I love books; I love reading. But, students deserve the best resources possible in the library. This includes updated, relevant books and book of high-interest to read for pleasure. Each book has its time and place. Some are long-lived classics, while others are current trends.