Formative Assessment in the Media Center Post # 1

Cheryl Angel

LiteracyTeacherThis is the third year that I have registered with the Literacy Connection professional development program. If you haven’t participated in this amazing program, you can learn more about it by clicking here. Basically, teachers from central Ohio school districts read a professional book, attended two Saturday presentations by the author, and meet several times over the school year to discuss ideas from the book. This type of sharing helps me to reflect on my current practices and think of new possibilities. Even though most of the participants are classroom teachers, my Media Specialist friend, Beth Clark, and I have enjoyed the programs tremendously.

This year I was hesitant to sign up. To be perfectly honest, when I first heard about the topic, “Using Formative Assessment to Plan Literacy Instruction,” based on The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook by Jennifer Serravallo, I was not sure if the topic was relevant to my situation.As a Media Specialist, I don’t teach Literacy the same way as a classroom teacher does and I wasn’t sure if the information would be transferable to what I do. On the other hand, I have been struggling to incorporate formative assessments into the Media Center program for the last few years, so I decided to give it a go. It was a good decision. In the next several blog posts, I will reflect on my thinking and learning.


#cyberPD Connecting with other Wild Readers

I just finished tonight’s #cyberPD chat and it was so very inspiring.  One thing that stuck out to me is how to use technology to expand our reading communities.  Last year I started a library Twitter account and we followed other libraries in our district.  We shared what we were doing and learned things about them, as well, but I’m sad to say it was one of those things that kind of fizzled out after a month or so.  This year I hope to make sharing with others and building our reading community an important part of our time together in the library.  I think connecting with other wild readers outside our district would make our Twitter experience much more meaningful, as well. I started thinking about this more during the chat and read some thoughts of others, too..

Twitter chat 1

Twitter chat 2Twitter chat 3Twitter chat 5
I’m hoping to create a list of our #cyberPD teachers and students who would like to connect this year.  If you have a class Twitter account, blog, wiki, or other digital format and would like to connect with other classes to build your reading community this year, please leave your name and information in the form below.   Click on this link to see all of the results so you can find others to connect with, too.  I’m looking forward to connecting with your class soon!


#cyberPD Reading in the Wild, Part 3

cyber pdSorry for being a bit behind for this last #cyberPD post.  I’ve been on a family vacation in England and had hoped to write the post before I left.  That did not happen.  Then, with spotty wifi, very busy days, and trying to be present in the moment, my post was delayed. I am however, loving seeing all of the children’s books inspirations for Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit, Paddington Bear, and The Secret Garden, just to name a few.  Some day I will travel back to England to do the children’s literature version of this trip, maybe with some book friends who would appreciate it more than my family…any takers?

As I read chapter 5, I realized how much Donalyn knows her students as readers.  The things she writes are true and I know because I have experienced them the same way in my own classroom and library.  I’m glad she is able to articulate them so well and to write about them in such an engaging way.  While I would definitely have used her sections about reading habits conferences when I was a classroom teacher (and would recommend it to any teacher struggling with meaningful conferring in the reading workshop), I do not think the library is a place that such conferences can or will happen due to time and continuity constraints.  There were, however, many other library takeaways from this last chapter of the book:

  •  Student reading preferences offer us much insight into students as readers.  Donalyn states that “true preferences come from wide reading and positive encounters with books (p.167).”  Asking students their preferences can help reveal how much experience they’ve had with books and just the opposite, how little experience they have had.  Either way, we’ve learned important information that can inform us and allow us to better help our students.
  • Librarians and teachers must push ourselves to read widely in order to best serve our students.   We need to be reading role models to our students and we need to be able to recommend books to all readers, not just those readers who like the same books as we do.  This has been a goal of mine this summer, as I’ve been reading lots more science fiction.
  • “Students’ preferences can provide a starting point for building positive reading relationships between us and our students (p.168).”
  • “Preferences are not fixed.  Wild readers move between different types of reading material depending on their needs and interests at any given time (p. 169).”   I thought the types of reading preferences Donalyn listed, as well as, tips for how to help readers who may be stuck were interesting and helpful.
  • I appreciated the fact that she included so much information about graphic novels.  Before moving into my role as a librarian I did not truly understand the power of graphic novels.  I inherited a library with almost no graphic novels and have been working to build our graphic novel collection.  They are the most “in demand” books in the library.  I love the fact that all readers enjoy them and that they offer struggling readers the opportunity to be part of the reading community.
  • I realized when I read the section about nonfiction that my experiences in the library are in line with Donalyn’s in her classroom.  Younger students check out a great deal more nonfiction than older students.  They are still interested in what these books can offer them and they are still curious.  Older students often look for nonfiction books to fulfill research project requirements.  Though, I have been buying quality nonfiction books for older students, they have not been getting checked out.  I need to focus on nonfiction more with older students this year (and not just when it’s “research time”).
  • A great nonfiction author that I would recommend is Meghan McCarthy (  She visited our school last year and our students and teachers love her books!  Her goal is to write nonfiction that’s fun and she does.  Our students liked that her books were about topics they did not know much about, like the invention of bubble gum and the War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

Participating in #cyberPD was a great experience again this year.  Thanks to those that hosted and put in so much effort to organize and comment!

I’m looking forward to learning together again in the upcoming Twitter chat!

#cyberPD Reading in the Wild (Chapters 3 and 4)

cyber pdI’m really thankful that our hosts for cyberPD chose Reading in the Wild because a lot of my thinking this summer has been focused around integrating technology into my teaching in the media center.    The elementary media specialists in my district have been working together this summer to create a technology curriculum and teaching plan for next year centered around technology.  This curriculum will be in integrated with the state standards for libraries that we are also responsible for teaching.  We felt that we needed to reflect digital literacy more in our libraries, in addition to more traditional literacies.  It is also our hope that having a set curriculum will also allow students in each building to have the same experiences with technology in the media center, regardless of their varied experiences in their classrooms.  Reading in the Wild has allowed me to also focus on my students as readers and to think about how to help them develop their lifelong wild reading habits (and to also think about where technology may fit into these habits).

reading in the wildFirst, some shameless self-advocacy.  I have heard Donalyn speak two times now and she has always been a promoter of libraries.  As a school librarian I was so glad that she included the quote “Although school libraries and degreed librarians have a positive effect on students’ achievement and engagement at school (Francis, Lance, & Lietzau, 2010; New York Comprehensive Center, 2011), too many schools have eliminated professional librarians and slashed library budgets,” (p. 95).  On the same page she also writes, “Hire a degreed librarian.”  Of course I was glad to see these words in a book that I know so many engaged educators will be reading.  However, just having a certified librarian in a school is not enough.  As school librarians/ media specialists we must make sure that we are supporting the goals of our students, teachers, our school, and our district.  The time for collaboration is here and we must make sure that we are not a separate entity in our school, but a crucial part of the learning.

Okay, I’m off my soap box!  Donalyn writes about inviting readers “into a society that reveres readers and writers,” (p. 91).  I think many students come to the library thinking it is such a society, so we must figure out ways to capitalize on this thinking.  Or if students do not see the library as such a place, we have to figure out how to get them there.  Here are the take away ides for I have for our library from Chapter 3:

  • To foster the sense of reading community in our library I like the ideas of both the reading door and the “I am currently reading…” sign (I also liked that students decorated their lockers showing what they were reading-I’m thinking about where my students could do this, since we have no lockers…).   Turning the reading door over to students after the first few weeks of school is also something I hope to do.  I can think of several students who would love to be responsible for our library door reading display.
  • Book recommendations on morning announcements are a great idea and I just happen to coordinate the students who present our school announcements.  I see a new weekly book recommendation feature happening this year!
  • I communicate with parents in our monthly school newsletter.  Adding book lists to this communication would be easy to do.
  • A big goal I have is to get students to share their book recommendations with each other.  A recommendation from a friend or another student in the school goes father than one from me.  One thing that I implemented last year was based off of the meme “It’s Monday!  What are You Reading” hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  My friend and blog co-writer Cheryl Angel was the inspiration for this idea.  We decided to incorporate this idea in the library by month.  We used our library wiki and taught students to post what they were reading and gave opportunity for others to read and respond in the comments section.  A screen shot of the wiki page is below (it’s password protected and includes students names, so I can’t include a link to it).  It’s kind of like our own little online reading community.  I think it was successful because it allowed students to see what others (in and out of their class) were reading, it also allowed for students who aren’t as vocal to have a way to share, and it was accessible from home, so students could share and find recommendations outside of the library, as well.  I included the October version because you can see even months later students were still commenting.  We created a new page for each month of the school year.

wiki screen shot

  • Students have also used the Quicktime software already built into our library computers to record book commercials.  Quicktime provides a quick and easy way for students to record video or audio.  Using an iPad is another easy option for recording quick book commercials.  We can then play these recordings during transition times in the library, or out of the library, during times like lunch or morning announcements.
  • Another idea I will definitely use is to display pictures of students with favorite and/or just read books, or even just the covers of new books in the library, on digital picture frames, the look-up station computer (as a screensaver) or even on the TV that we have in the library.  I could also have such a stream of photos running on the Smartboard as students enter the library.

Chapter 4 was all about having a plan.  Being a big planner myself I really identified with this chapter.  Donalyn writes, “Students must learn how to make their own reading plans, reflect on their individual accomplishments, and find personal reasons for reading or they will never become wild readers,” (p.139).  It is often hard to have the continuity in the library for the planning and reflection that Donalyn describes in the chapter, but I did identify several ways that they could be implemented.  First, before breaks and certainly before summer vacation we can make plans for reading (I have made summer reading plans with my students the past two years and include a link to a resource wiki for both students and their parents to expand upon the plan during the summer).  The types of reading plans that Donalyn described in this chapter (commitment plans and challenge plans) were also interesting to me and I think that talking specifically about such plans would help students with the process of goal setting, which can be difficult for some.  I know I will incorporate these into my discussion next year.   I think I could also have students make reading resolutions at the start of the new year.  Developing a personal must read list would also be something students can do in the library.  It may even be a good way to start the year, helping me to get to know my students better as readers.  One final thing that stuck out to me in chapter 4 was the list of questions Donalyn included on page 144 for helping students pick what book to read next.   Like the questions she included for building preview stacks in chapter 2, I will add these questions to my teaching toolbox.

Thanks for reading and for a great online discussion.  I’ve enjoyed reading so many of your posts and look forward to participating again next week!


#CyberPD Reading in the Wild (Chapters 1 and 2)

cyber pd

This week I was so very fortunate to hear, Donalyn Miller, the author of Reading in the Wild speak at nErDcamp in Parma, Michigan.  She is incredibly funny and passionate, and I just love her Texas accent.  After I heard her speak I was also lucky enough to participate in a session with her and to talk and share with her in a small group!  My nErDcamp experience will change the way I read the rest of the book because I now feel like I have connected with the author (if only just a little bit).  I’m so happy I made the very long drive from Ohio to Michigan.  You can access her slides here.  Thank you so much Donalyn for sharing your knowledge! Even though I’ve only been out of my third grade classroom for two years, as I read the first chapter I was thinking how much I needed this book when I was a classroom teacher.  So many of the things Donalyn writes about in chapters one and two are the exact things I experienced in the classroom.  I work in a school library now and teach students in grades K-5.  I often do not know my students as readers in the same way that I would if I was their classroom teacher facilitating a reading workshop.  And since I see students every four days for 50 minutes, I often do not have the continuity that leads to the reflection and conferring that would help me know them better as readers, like I may have if I had access to their reader’s notebooks, if I could observe them during reading workshop, or if I could read aloud to them every day.  This frustrates me.  On the other hand I think the library does offer students more flexibility in their reading lives.  It is a place where they don’t feel like they are being assessed and graded, and a place where they have choice.  A goal for this year for me is to find a balance:  I need to work harder to find ways to get to know my students as readers and to find ways to support their development of wild reading habits in the limited time I have. I read the book with the thoughts of what are the “take-aways” for my library instruction:

  • Students may need to be specifically taught to find reading time outside of school.  An explicit discussion of ways to find “edge” times for reading should be a library mini lesson.  This lesson could also include the ideas of where students prefer to read and what obstacles prevent students from reading as much as they want.  We often talk abut this when preparing for summer reading, but it should also be a discussion before the end of the year.
  • I really liked the specific strategies that Donalyn included for conferring with students who are fake reading, including firm, but positive language to use, ways to suggest books to give such students a push into reading, and ways to set attainable goals that would help students to feel successful while also holding them accountable.
  • One of the things I miss the most about having my own classroom is the time I spent with my students reading aloud longer texts.  Of course I read aloud to my students in the library, but there is not the same sense of community around this reading.  However, chapter two did give me some things to think about in regard to reading aloud in the limited time I have.  I like the idea of focusing on five authors my students in each grade level should know.  This seems manageable to me, even if I only read the first chapter or book talk the books by an author.
  • I think one of my roles can also be to help expose my students to a variety of texts read aloud.  Certainly shorter nonfiction texts could be tackled in the library, but also poetry, shorter graphic novels, and online articles could be a focus.  Wonderopolis is a site I have used in the past, but definitely need to revisit again for this purpose!
  • I will also participate in World Read Aloud Day in the library.  Several classes in our school participate in the Global Read Aloud and I think participation in World Read Aloud Day, which is several months later, would be a great way to continue to promote global literacy with our students.
  • Like Donalyn I have had the same problem of how to handle all students (not just the first library class of the day) gaining access to new books in the library.  I think implementing the drawing system as I book talk these new books will  definitely help build buzz about the books and the guidelines developed by her students are perfect for the library, too.  I also plan to code all new books with a red “new” sticker for the first few months they are in the library this year.  These coded books will not be shelved, but displayed around the library once they are returned.  Hopefully, this system will help all of my classes of students to have equal access in reading the hot, new books in our library.
  • Discussion of “selection reflections”, including abandoning books should also be another library mini lesson.  I do think this is a discussion that classroom teachers have with their students (I did), but I believe that hearing it in the library, as well, validates its importance and it can be a discussion that builds as I see my students year after year.
  • Building preview stacks as a way to scaffold book selection is something that I have done as both a classroom teacher and teacher librarian.  I like the questions that Donalyn included as a way to help build the stack and will definitely add these to my teaching toolbox in the library.
  • I was really glad that Donalyn included a section for curating a classroom library (and the librarian in me appreciated the flashbacks from library school with Ranganathan’s Five Laws and the MUSTIE acronym).  I have recently read some comments made by other school librarians about the fact that classroom libraries are not neccessary, if a school has a library.  I do not believe this to be true at all.  Classroom teachers know their students as readers in a way that librarians do not and can add to their classroom libraries to meet students needs.  School libraries offer a place for students to try something new and to build on what they read in the classroom.   There is an important and crucial place for both classroom and school libraries.  It should not be about competition, but collaboration between the two.

Looking forward to reading the rest of Reading in The Wild and to reading what you think!


Moderating My First Twitter Chat

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I am definitely a novice when using Twitter, but one of my goals this year is to participate more actively in Social Media. As a teacher in 2014, especially one charged with teaching technology, this is especially important. A few months ago Melissa Eddington, an ELL teacher in our district, started a Twitter Chat (hashtag #DubChat.) I read one of the archives and knew right away that this was something I wanted to learn more about. A few weeks later during the discussion she tweeted an invitation asking if anyone was interested in guest hosting a chat. I contacted my colleague, Jamie Riley, and we signed up to co-moderate a Twitter Chat two weeks later.

Despite my initial nervousness, this turned out to be an amazing experience and I thought I’d share a few things that I learned along the way.

1. First of all it is easy to participate in a Twitter Chat. To join the fun, simply sign on your twitter account and search for the chat. Our chat was #DubChat. The hashtag always starts with a “#” followed by the name of the chat. This links all tweets created by participants.

2. Next, start by lurking. The day after the chat that I hosted a few people told me that they did sign on and lurk, but were not ready to post yet. That’s okay. Lurking is a great way to see what it’s all about.

3. If  you still aren’t ready to jump right in, consider responding to other’s tweets. 

       There are a few ways to do this:

  • There is a menu on the bottom of each tweet. If you select reply before you tweet, your message will include the handle (twitter name) of the tweet creator. The handle starts with an “@” and followed by the name of the tweeter that you are responding to. My handle is @CherylAngel4.
  • If you select favorite, the author of the tweet will get a message that you “favorited” her tweet and you will be able to retrieve it in the future.

4. When you are ready to add a message, click the pen icon. There are 3 important things to think   about before you tweet:

  • The syntax – Start the message with A1, A2, A3, etc… to designate which question (Q1, Q2, Q3) that you are answering.
  • The message – Your tweet is limited to 140 characters. Using links makes this more manageable.
  • The hashtag (i.e., #DublinChat)– which links your message to the chat

My guess is that you will probably enjoy participating in Twitter chats so much that you will look for reasons to host one. I would strongly suggest finding a mentor to give you guidance. When we decided to moderate, Melissa was a tremendous help and gave us some invaluable suggestions such as:

  • Use TweetDeck – which is a program that organizes your tweets and the chat. Most importantly it allows you to schedule the questions (tweets) in advance. It appeared like we were real time, but actually we scheduled questions a week prior to the chat.
  • Welcome people as they join the group.
  • Respond to and favorite people when they make comments.
  • End the session by thanking the participants and talking about future chats.

The technical part of moderating was easy. To be honest, I think I will join as a participant a few more times before I host  again in order to get a better feel for the moderator role. I can’t thank @Melsa777 enough for the opportunity and the help that she gave us. I must admit that I have a new appreciation for what she does each week.

#DubChat is taking a break for the summer and I am looking for a few other good chats to follow.

Any favorites?

Reflect, Rethink, and Refresh

It has been about a year since I started this blog with my friend and fellow media specialist Cheryl Angel.  I have had a slow start.  The year since I wrote my first post has been a very difficult one for me and I’ve definitely been distracted from meeting goals that I had, like blogging on a regular basis.  As I reflect on the year I realize that with the bad did come some good, especially in the media center.  This year I was given a great gift of support and funding from my school’s PTO and this summer my school’s media center is getting a “refresh”.

I began working as a media specialist in the media center at my current school two years ago and at that time I thought I was incredibly lucky to have such a large, open space.  I also realized I was lucky to have a computer for every student, a story pit area, lots of tables for group work, and a great collection of books.  Before moving into the library I taught third grade for many years, so my vision of our library program continues to evolve.  As it has evolved, I began to realize that the library space itself wasn’t evolving and it wasn’t meeting our needs anymore.  It was time to rethink the media center space.  My students felt the same way and they played an integral role in how our library space will change.  I hope to share with you the process we went through in the next few blog posts and to document the ways our space has changed, as well.

We decided to call our redesign process a “refresh” because refresh means to provide new vigor and energy, to stimulate, to make fresh again, and to freshen in appearance.  The first thing that I did was to do some research about library spaces.  This research started my first year in the library and I read books and articles, watched webinars, and visited lots of public and school library spaces (including some media centers in our district that had the same layout as ours).  If you are embarking a project like this for your library or classroom I recommend The Third Teacher and The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for the 21st Century.  Both of these resources apply to all educational spaces.  For redesigning library spaces specifically, the books Library Spaces for 21st Century Learners and The Learning Commons: 7 Simple Steps to Transform your Library will be helpful.  The most useful tip from the Learning Commons resource was to keep track of the questions kids ask over and over (and the things that most bug you over and over about your space) and use those things as a place to begin your change.  For example, even though I had functional tables I was constantly moving them around to accommodate for meetings in the library and students working in groups (and they are heavy!)  So our new tables are on casters to allow for the flexibility we needed.

Demco also has a great webinar series for library media specialists looking to make changes to their spaces.  I highly recommend watching the following webinars about library spaces:

Rethink and Re-envision:Dramatic Redesigns of Existing Spaces

Zoning in on Children’s Spaces

Innovations in Teen Spaces

Collaborative Spaces

Make it Last: Choosing Colors, Fabrics, and Finishes.

Next time I will write about how my students became involved, the goals that we developed as a result, and how we started to gain support from our PTO.  I’m looking forward to sharing our refresh with you!

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