This is my 26th year of teaching in the Lake Washington School District. I spent 10 years teaching in a 6th grade classroom then earned my library credentials and moved to the library. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to open Blackwell Elementary in 1998 and work in a beautiful library.
I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to be a helpful, caring adult in student's lives. I am reminded on a daily basis by my interactions with students to appreciate the wonder of life through a child's eyes and I love learning something new with them every day. I love it when students are eager to learn and I assist in that process; whether I help students find a book to read or show them how to apply a technology skill it is exciting to see them want to gain knowledge and make connections.
A Lion’s Pride of ProgramsInvolving the community is such an important part of a library program. This year I tried a couple of new ways of connecting with the community that incorporated my newly created blog, the Bobcat Blurb. First, I invited in a college student (Erin) who had traveled to Trinidad twice with her high school biology teacher to talk about her work with Leatherback Sea Turtles. Fifth and sixth grade students listened intently to her presentation and asked many thoughtful questions.
(Erin presenting to students)
They also had the opportunity to blog with Erin and continue the conversation about leatherback turtles. My students loved this opportunity to learn from someone closer to their age. Erin’s presentation kicked off an endangered species research project and PowerPoint presentation that students worked on all spring, and then shared with their classrooms.
The project included many library, technology and writing standards. The students improved their research, technology, cooperation, and time management skills and they were totally engaged in learning about an endangered species of their choice. I think this is a great example of how library instruction really can impact students’ educations. We are so limited in the time that we have with them but we can make a big difference!
Here are some quotes from sixth grade students:
“I learned how to pull out the important pieces of information to put into a slideshow.” Alanna
“I improved on being able to work well with partners and include their thoughts as well as mine.” Rebecca
“I realized that it was important to research before you start making the presentation. I usually research as I go but I get mixed up on my sources.” Anisa
“I learned how to use reliable data and not just go looking around Bing. The Google Advanced Images site has helped me a lot and I use it a lot!” Natalie
“I improved on my note-taking and use of online resources like ELibrary.” Katie
“I learned that you should use more than one website. Also, I learned how to make a PowerPoint interesting and fun.” Hank
“I learned that you need to keep looking at sites until you see a consistent answer.” Bennett
“The most meaningful activity in library class this year was when Erin came in and talked to us about the leatherback sea turtle. I improved on how to make a legible PowerPoint and how to make people interested in the subject.” Ryan
“I improved on making citations and getting the information needed to make them. I learned how to add a video and how to crop photos on PowerPoint.” Luke
“I improved on giving credit to the websites/sources and creating a Works Consulted.” Connor
“It was fun to learn so much about the Great White!” Connor D.
Finally, a comment from a fourth grader who listened to a few presentations, “They made me really concerned and curious about these animals. It made me want to do something about it!” Annabelle
Another community connection occurred after a vacation to Iceland.
Our “community” expanded to Iceland thanks to technology and Gunnar’s willingness to answer questions. I also researched answers to their questions and modeled for students how to find information by contacting experts via email and looking up information on reliable websites. I had 50 comments posted about Iceland; many students loved this opportunity to connect with me outside of library class, as well as other students and our new friend in Iceland. I will continue to use blogging as a method for connecting students to the library outside of their weekly library class and to expand our “community”.
Readers Roar: (Let’s hear from the kids!)“You know lots about books, cameras, and technology. We check out books and learn something new every time!” Mitchell, Grade 5
“Thank you for finding a lot of good books for me. You are the best!” David, Grade 4“You are one of the most helpful people in the school. You’re always helping kids inside and outside of class with problems, especially finding books. You also are one of the kindest people I know.” Ivan, Grade 5
“You have always been a great librarian and a magnificent Battle of the Books host. I love books because of you! Thank you so much!” Abosh, Grade 4“You give reading a whole new meaning, from your fun and positive websites to your fun activities. You really do give reading a purpose.” Josh, Grade 5
“You have inspired me and someday I want to be a librarian or a writer and then donate my books to schools.” Julia, Grade 4“You are the best librarian in the whole world! I love how at the beginning we read books and then we get to check them out.” Emily, Grade 3
“You are a great library teacher and I probably would never have read some great books that I went crazy for. I wouldn’t have read the Hunger Game series and the Warriors series.” Max, Grade 3
“You are the best librarian ever! You give us cool projects and help me find books if I can’t find them.” Anouska, Grade 5“I found learning about how to use the library system and genres the most meaningful. I also learned how to look through the library to find a book off of a call number. One of my favorite books this was the One and Only Ivan. I found it very interesting and I am glad that it was brought into the library.” Anna, Grade 6
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
Wonder by Palacio, R. J. has been very popular. This realistic fiction story provides insight into the life of a fifth grade child with a grossly disfigured face who attends school for the first time. It exposes fears and situations that all students, to some degree, probably experience and can certainly relate to. The story is told from different points of view allowing the reader to think about how actions affect different people in different ways and perhaps to ponder how they would react in the same situation. The topic connects to everyone’s awareness about their own physical appearance and what is truly important about a person. Teenagers and adults have also found the book to be moving and thought-provoking.
4th and 5th graders show their favorite books.
“I liked Dragon’s Keep because it’s interesting and keeps the adrenaline pumping!” Peytra, Grade 4
“I liked Palace of Mirrors because it’s mysterious and keeps you flipping to the next page and it is full of adventure.” Ashley, Grade 5
“I liked Julie’s Wolf Pack because the pack takes you through and adventure of life with animals.” Josh, Grade 5
Great author visits combine information about the writing process that students can apply to their own writing, specific interesting details about the author’s books that readers don’t know from reading their books or getting the inside scoop. Topics that students can relate to tend to grab the attention of the audience; humor always adds interest. Students like to hear about how authors get their ideas, how they organize their ideas, what it is like to be an author and how they get published.
Teachers like to hear about the need for revising, editing, and writing about something that you know. Interactive presentations keep students focused and visual information is helpful to keep students listening. This year we had author and storyteller Margaret Read MacDonald visit our school.
Folktales from various cultures and storytelling fit in perfectly with new Literacy Core Standards. The kids loved the participation aspect of her visit and teachers learned some storytelling techniques to use in their classrooms.
Last year we had a wonderful author, named Janet Lee Carey J visit our school for Read Across America. Here is an excerpt from a letter one of the teachers wrote to me after her visit:
Dear Kathy,When you invited author Janet Lee Carey to visit Blackwell, I was thrilled at the opportunity it would present my students. Twelve years ago, I bought her newly released book, Molly’s Fire, at a signing event in Kirkland. I stood in line with everyone else there so she’d sign my copy and asked that she personalize it to my students. I’ve read the book and its inscription aloud to every class I’ve had since then.
Your effort to connect authors with students has a lasting effect on the lives of students. One such story begins last year when one of my kids asked, “What IS Molly’s fire?” It was a brilliant question that usually doesn’t come up until the end of the story, so we started making a list of ideas as they occurred to us during read-aloud. By the time the book ended, our list had almost 20 references to fire; some real, others implied and still others metaphorical in nature. I was so proud of the students’ work that I left the list posted in our classroom long after we finished the book.
Then, we got word that Janet Lee Carey was coming to Blackwell. My class wondered if we could share our list of ideas with her. They wanted to hear from the author herself if they’d interpreted her text in the way she intended. On the day of her visit, we carefully rolled up our chart paper of ideas about Molly’s Fire and brought it to Ms. Carey’s book talk. Our time with her went right up to the dismissal bell but we still hadn’t gotten to show her our list. The class crowded around her and asked if they could show her their thinking, even though the bell had rung and others were packing to go home. They were invested. When she read their ideas back to them, a smile affixed itself to her face and we all knew that yes, we’d understood. It was such a real and potent moment for the kids as readers.
After school, Ms. Carey gave me her contact information and asked me to send her a copy of our ideas. I did, and a while later, she responded with a thank you and an idea. Would it be alright, she wanted to know, if she returned to Blackwell…
Note from blog host: J
Library Lion’s Roar: ONE LAST BIG ROARI have a sign on my library wall that defines libraries as:
1. A forum for new ideas
2. An escape to other worlds
3. A connection to different people
4. A place of learning and growth.
2. An escape to other worlds
3. A connection to different people
4. A place of learning and growth.
My goal is to make the Blackwell library a warm and welcoming place for students related to all four library definitions. Most days during lunch recess somewhere between 10 and 40 students choose to visit the library. They play educational computer games and visit, they check out and read books, they work on homework, they ask for help on projects. Through class instruction, recess visits and now blogging, I think I am making progress towards the goal!
Let’s LinkBlog: http://bobcatblurb.edublogs.org/
Library Website: http://www.lwsd.org/school/blackwell/Library/Pages/default.aspx
Thanks again for the great interview, Kathy!
Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at email@example.com for an interview slot.