Tag Archives: reading

A Meditation on Collaboration in Summer School

John Drew, a famous American actor, playing th...
John Drew, a famous American actor, playing the part of Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Collaboration with a librarian opens many windows of possibility for lifelong learning.  As the summer librarian at Monticello CSD, I have strived to collaborate during these short six weeks. Being a newbie in the district and a summer employee to boot, it has not been easy to persuade colleagues to work with me. My efforts have been semi-successful.

Successes: One small class has participated in the summer reading contest, as well as one student outside the class. The goals of the reading program were to promote reading and improve literacy through a reading contest in which students had to write book reviews. Students would be rewarded for their efforts with a library party at the end of term and individual prizes for the top three reviewers. The more students practice reading and writing, the better readers and writers they become. In the meeting prior to the summer term, the administration presented students’ success statistics of the previous summer and their correlating subjects / teachers, a.k.a. accountability. My plan was to improve students’ overall academic performance through literacy practice in the library, but such grand plans fall through with a time crunch like summer term.

Collaboration was a little more successful than the reading program. Two teachers worked with me: one teacher of ninth and tenth grade English and another of twelfth grade English. The ninth and tenth graders were beginning an environmental impact unit using “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell as the touchstone text. As an introduction to the subject matter, I taught students how to use Animoto video creation software to create videos on endangered species and the environmental organizations working to protect them. The project was successful, with students finding lots of research, photographs, and videos to embed into the Animoto program. Students enjoyed working with the program and customizing their videos, as well as discovering information about their animal’s habitat, food sources, and the reasons behind their impending extinction.

As for the twelfth grade class, its summer session theme was feminism. Students read Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in addition to ancillary materials to prepare for their culminating Scoop.it research project. Scoop.it is a blog / magazine hybrid. Students can create a digital magazine about a topic and “scoop” resources to their magazine, adding reflections on the content and likes / comments to the post. A search bar at the top allows students to browse through the Scoop.it program for other articles or digital magazines related to their topics, proving a useful research tool. The “follow” feature is reminiscent of Twitter, customizing the dashboard with recent scoops from other Scoop.it magazines of interest or relation. For the assignment, students were given a sheet with options to choose six powerful women in modern society to research. They had to find two articles for each woman and four general feminism articles. Each source must be scooped to their magazine and be accompanied by a 200-word summary / reflection on the content and its study or representation of powerful women. Furthermore, students were required to follow each other’s magazines and post seven 200-word comments on their classmates’ various scoops.  This way, students would fully utilize the program and learn about a variety of modern women who rose above the expectations of their gender. The class liked the program’s capabilities, but found the some of the features difficult to find and use.

Failures: The Animoto videos and Scoop.it magazines were mostly a success, though there is always troubleshooting and confusion with learning new technology. The teacher and I had to constantly monitor students’ work to ensure that they used all of the features correctly and well—some students even taught us a bit about the programs! I created a library wiki for summer school and posted the resources that students would find most useful, but looking back I would have given them a hard copy of the resources as well. Students forgot that the wiki existed or had trouble typing in the URL. In an ideal situation, I would connect the wiki to the school’s website for easy access, but being a summer librarian and guest in the district, this was impossible.

My greatest failure was the summer reading contest. As much marketing as I did, teachers felt so crunched for time—only six weeks to pack a whole course into—that they did not want to spend even one class attending a presentation on the program in the library. If I am the summer librarian again next year, I will do more to convince the teachers of the worth of a summer reading program, especially when considering those accountability statistics at the beginning of each term. Teachers know that reading and writing improve all-around literacy; I simply must show them that the summer reading program would not take up too much instructional time and that the benefits could be vast. To top it off, one student plagiarized the summary portion of his book reviews from sites like Cliffnotes or Yahoo forums. It’s so easy to do, he couldn’t resist.

The greatest difficulty lay in cultivating relationships with the faculty.  As a newbie, most teachers were too preoccupied with their own jobs to get to know the new librarian. These relationships take time, and these six weeks run short. The best plan would be to come back each year and slowly chip away at their walls until the library becomes as essential in the summer term as it is in the full school year.


World Book Night USA

What a successful first WBN in the US! We made so many people happy that night. Looking forward to participating again–join me next year!

NYPL’s Summer Reading Program

If you’re looking for a way to get kids reading this summer, check out NYPL’s Summer Reading Program.  This year’s theme is “One World, Many Stories.” To get started: sign up, generate a cool username, and build a fun avatar of yourself!  The summer reading website is run like a social networking site.  Add books you’ve read or are reading to your personal shelves, review books, add friends, and much more, all while earning reading badges.  It’s not just for kids, either!