This was the second year in a row I was lucky enough to present at the MassCUE Annual Technology Conference, held at Gillette Stadium.
Alongside Paula Pickett (Library Media Specialist at the Holmes Innovation School) I was able to speak about how having a makerspace has added an entirely new dimension of literacy to the Shaw library. From storytelling to game design, students can make truly meaningful connections to stories. They can explore the possibilities and try at coding a story, an animation, or game. This helps to ensure high levels of learning and meaningful student engagement. Paula and I spoke to attendees about the learning opportunities that emerge when bringing student imagination to life. We showed how making ties in perfectly with what we want our students to be able to accomplish. We displayed real project examples, showing attendees resources they can use in their own space. Maker spaces are a chance for educators to take stories and bring them to life. In our library, students can use hands-on materials to take control over their own learning and become an active part of the learning process when reading stories. Check out our presentation slides here!
The presentation was well received and I am so thankful I was able to share some of the incredible making Shaw students are doing!
I spent the summer thinking of how I could make our library into a more inviting, collaborative space. I received a grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, which included money for paint and painting supplies to add color to the library. With a tremendous amount of help from an amazing group of volunteers at Brownmed, we brightened things up with “Spirited Yellow” to make the library become a more vibrant space. Check out the video to see the library transformation!
Inspired by the color change, I wanted to make the library space not just welcoming but also flexible for our community of diverse learners. We now have a variety of seating options. There are comfortable cushions, perfect for students wanting to get caught up in a book. There are stools and yoga ball seating to allow for movement. There are movable tables that can be pushed together for group work or separated for those students that like to work in a quieter setting. This dramatically increased the flexibility of our space by allowing us to rearrange tables and chairs to suit our needs.
I believe the library is now better able to meet the needs of all its users.
We have spent the first month of school exploring the library rules and delving deeper into how students can take care of themselves and others in the library. Students have been making the connection between their passions and dreams and the school rules and routines. We have read some wonderful books connected to our school core values.
I am so happy that the library is a place where students feel comfortable enough to read, collaborate, and create.
Summer is an important time for students to keep reading and improve their language skills. BPS has collaborated with the Boston Public Library to keep students motivated and excited about reading. Check out the following programs and events!
Summer Book Lists can help students and families choose high-quality literature. All of the books on the list are available at your neighborhood library. Make sure you’re exercising your brain over the summer and increasing knowledge through reading!
One of the biggest problems I see as a school librarian is the lack of access to diverse books. The scarcity of children's literature that is representative of urban children, people of color, and the broad diversity of society is real. This is worrisome because as Rudine Sims Bishop said, "when children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about who they are devalued in the society of which they are a part of.” With help from our amazing friends at Wondermore, we decided to end the school year with an author visit from Susan Tan, giving students a chance to meet an author they could connect with.
As Toni Morrison wrote, "If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Susan Tan did just that. Susan Tan is the author of Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire and Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is A Classic. The third book in the Cilla series will be released in 2019.
Tan showed the students a day in the life of a writer. She showed students where she gets her inspiration and how she goes through the writing process. Students loved learning that Tan writes on her phone and does some of her best work while on the go. Tan mentioned that students might even see her writing while riding the T! Tan drew from real stories to write the Cilla series, explaining to students that her work is based on her own life and family. Students loved learning that the chapter where Cilla puts sparkles in her hair is something that actually happened in Tan’s childhood!
The books available to students need to be as diverse as they are. Many of the students were able to personally identify with Tan’s story and characters. She inspired many of them to continue working on their own creations and let them know that they are ALL writers. Her books are culturally-relevant and resonate with students’ own experiences. I believe that in order to make our students be passionate readers, it is important for them to feel that they can make connections.
Today was truly a day to celebrate, as eight P.A. Shaw students and their families graduated from our Tech Goes Home course. Tech Goes Home (TGH) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to bridge the digital divide so that low-income, under-served populations in US cities have full access to technology and the Internet.” This is my second year teaching a TGH course, and they have helped provide the opportunity, tools, education, and access required for 21st century skills development.
I worked with parents and students, showing them how to embrace online tools. We created emails, made Google Slides presentations, found free summer resources and things to do in the city, and learned about educational apps and websites. Participants completed 15 hours of technology training and received their very own Chromebooks. The looks on their faces were priceless when they got to take home their very own computer. After having worked so hard, it really gave students and their families ownership of the device. I had a wonderful time teaching this course, getting to connect on a more personal level with students and improve relationships with families.
Congratulations to all of the families that completed the Tech Goes Home course! Great job acquiring 21st century technology skills and getting those brand new Chromebooks! I couldn’t be prouder of your hard work and dedication.
The P.A. Shaw students are full of questions, and over the past few weeks we have been focusing on inquiry-based learning to find some actual answers. Students have been learning about choosing topics, creating keywords and search terms, and taking notes.
All classes began with a discussion about what research is, why we do it, and how we do it. We started by defining the task. We talked about what students would be looking for and how to get specific results. We learned about keywords and how search engines perform well only if keywords are used. Students then practiced coming up with their own keywords to get the results they needed. They learned about the importance of using appropriate tools. Students explored different databases and books to begin conducting their research and finding answers. They also practiced taking notes and compiling information.
Here is an update on the learning taking place in the library!
Kindergarten- Students have been getting more comfortable using the computers in the library. They practiced using a search engine to find appropriate websites. They have been getting much better at their typing skills and computer operations.
First Grade- Students investigated facts about their favorite animals. They practiced proper note-taking skills.
Second Grade- Students learned about biographies and researched a famous person of their choosing. Students picked soccer players, presidents, singers, astronauts, and authors.
Third Grade- Students researched wolves. They looked at how wolves are portrayed in fairytales compared to what wolves are really like in the wild.
Teaching them to do research has been a great way to help them become mature readers, writers, and thinkers.
This past Tuesday we were able to host an incredible event at the Shaw called HERStory. HERStory was a chance to share the mission of celebrating women’s achievements and empowering our female students in particular. Teaming up with the BPS Office of External Affairs and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, we were able to work with some wonderful volunteers and bring in guest readers to every classroom.
Vertex “has grown into a leading global biotech that repeatedly innovates to bring transformative medicines to people around the world.” All of the volunteers that came for this event were women working at Vertex. The shared with students STEM-related picture books that had strong female characters.
Students were then able to ask the volunteers questions about their careers and how they reached the point where they are now. Some of the women shared photographs and talked about where they went to college. A few even shared their personal struggles throughout their own school experiences. Some of the classes are currently studying community helpers and jobs, so this was a great tie-in with what they are learning.
Women and men of color are grossly under-represented in STEM careers, so one of my personal goals is to help my students develop an interest in these fields. This event was great exposure to people and careers in STEM! It was a chance for our students to meet strong, dynamic women making a difference.
A good teacher never stops learning. I recently finished a course at Lesley University called "The Maker Mindset”. I was able to engage in hands-on activities that model learning through play, fostering opportunities for self-awareness and identity affirmation, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. I also learned about some beneficial technology to start using in the Shaw library.
Using Scratch and Makey Makey, our K0/K1 students can participate in Reader's Theater! They can press the characters to have them speak for each role. This helps our non-verbal and shy students be included in our literacy activities, giving them a voice they didn't have before.
Using the Stop Motion Studio app, students can start making stop motion videos! They will be able to create their own videos, bringing stories and poetry to life.
Learning about circuits, students can combine natural materials with electronic components to make a nature bot!
Learning doesn’t just happen. Rather, it’s something you work at. Making can help students develop that growth mindset we want them to have, teaching them to push through obstacles and be resilient in the face of failure. Our students need the skills to succeed in a constantly changing world. Robots, computer programming, upcycling, and STEAM building challenges are all engaging ways of learning the essential skills of collaboration, communication, and digital literacy. These skills are critical to providing children with opportunities relevant to today's world, and having these resources will help to put our students on a level playing field in the future. Building and making is a way for some students to know something deeply. We have the opportunity to ignite a passion in them so they become doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers. We can start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so. According to Dale Dougherty, Editor & Publisher of Make Magazine, “By the process of tinkering, we learn how to change and shape the world in small but significant ways and adapt it to our personal needs.” Making will open doors of opportunity for all our students, and I know they will have a positive impact on the world.
Even on a weekend, my students and the Shaw library are never far from my mind. Sunday led me all the way to Worcester, MA where I attended the The Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) Conference. This conference was called “Future Ready” and focused on the work school librarians are doing to transform their own schools into places of fruitful learning. The morning started off with an inspiring talk from author A.S. King. Her own school library experience helped shape her as a writer, and she spoke to how much of an impact school librarians can have on students that otherwise feel excluded or different.
With King’s moving message resonating, I participated in a presentation titled, “Using Action Research to Improve Your Practice” alongside Boston Public Schools library colleagues. During this panel presentation, I talked about an action research project I have been working on in the library. Over the past few months, I collected data to see if reading selection influenced student story comprehension. I shared my findings in the hopes of increasing coherent school library teaching and learning access for students, and improving my own practice through the use of data. My research showcased active student learning in the library.
Lunchtime offered up-close and personal conversations with some amazing authors and illustrators. I was able to get an inside look at the creative processes of Mike Curato, Matt Tavares, and Lisa Yee.
I was lucky enough to be one of the few chosen to exhibit the Shaw’s vibrant library community and the foundational skills being built. Library teachers from across the state commended the work being done in our library and commented on how engaged our students seem in their work.
I accepted the President’s Award, which goes to someone "who has made an impact on student learning and positively contributed to their school in a career of five or fewer years as a School Librarian."
The evening concluded with a presentation by author and teacher Jennifer Casa-Todd. Casa-Todd spoke about how our role as educators is to embrace social media and inspire students to use it positively, making them digital leaders instead of just followers. The shared experiences and conversations I had with school librarians from all across the state allowed me to see all the positive work being done in the field. Speaking with my colleagues gave me some wonderful new ideas to try out in my own library space, and I am excited to see what the future has to hold for all of us in this field.
Blizzards and floods couldn’t stop us from celebrating one of my favorite times of the year - Scholastic Book Fair Week! The gym was transformed into a lively space filled with books, giving our school a chance to celebrate the importance of reading.
The difference between a disinterested reader and an engaged, enthusiastic reader is access to great books and lots of time spent reading self-chosen books. The fair gives our students a chance to browse and choose books for themselves. They are able to keep these books and call them their own, reading them over and over again. Being able to read books they actually want to read can ignite a passion for literacy. I truly believe that reading cultivates curiosity and opens a world of possibility.
Hosting the book fair takes a lot of planning and hard work, but it’s worth it to see the students falling in love with reading. I love seeing the excitement on their faces when they walk into the fair for the first time. In the end we made over $2,500! This is the most we have ever made in the history of book fairs at the Shaw. Thank you to everyone for being part of a successful book fair. It was wonderful to see so many families exploring the fair and choosing books. On top of hosting a successful fair in the school building, every single item on our online school wish list was purchased! Thank you to those friends in neighboring towns of Newton and Arlington who supported our school. We will be able to add some wonderful new books to the library collection. I appreciate everyone’s ongoing support!
Mrs. Keohane is the School Librarian at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)