Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blogging Kids

In an effort to reflect and communicate a bit more, I am strongly encouraging my students to begin blogging. The following Genius Hour student has a passion for animals. Last year her project was to collect food for shelter animals and it was a success. She gathered many boxes of delectables and distributed them to the local shelter. This year she chose to continue on that thread. Here is her voice:

My name is Lily. For my Genius Hour project I made peanut butter dog treats and donated them to animal shelters. So far I have made six pounds of treats. The reason I chose to do this project is because I love animals and I would like to help animals that don’t have homes still get to eat tasty treats.
Smile and keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Space- a new frontier

Although I have been a librarian for 8 years, somehow I have become a first year teacher again, and it is not a bad thing. I find myself revamping every lesson, tackling individualized learning in a new format, and trying to collaborate in many different ways. What was the change? My library became a Library Learning Commons- my space almost doubled in size allowing for a more flexible, fun, comfortable environment. Whereas I used to have barely enough space  for one class and a few extra students, I can now accommodate 3 full classes at once.

If I am teaching a class in the new cozy reading area, another class can be using the cafe tables with the computers and whiteboard and yet the older students can comfortably be working in the YA area on couches, beanbags, and hassocks. Music quietly plays in the background and collaboration is abundant. Students WANT to use this space now. This is a vast difference from years past and I love it. Learning is changing and growing in front of my eyes and it is making me question how I teach.

Hearing students work together in this space and watching grades co-mingle ( second graders working near sixth graders) appropriately and modeling good work ethic and behaviors is thought provoking. I have discovered I need to be available almost all the time due to the amount of students in the LLC, and I like it! I see kids taking charge of their learning while understanding and following the clear boundaries I have put in place. I love our new space and so does the clientele which promotes an attitude of achievement and success.

Every student should be given the opportunity to learn in a safe, pleasant space that gives the freedom to access various types of information and help when needed- we are expanding on that and the learning curve is challenging but enjoyable for me too.

                                               Collaboration at all levels.

                                      A fun place to read together.

                                       A meeting of the minds.
                                                        Working hard in the YA section.

                                                  Reading in comfort.

                                                 It's a student's life!

Keep watching us grow and learn together,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guiding or failing

Out of over 50 students in 7th and 8th grade, 34 have signed up for Genius Hour. Of course, that number will fluctuate as kids drop in and out of GH, but it is an impressive start to our second year. One of the parameters we have for GH is that it is an individual project. We allowed several groups to work together last year and only one completed their original project. Not only was it a lesson for us a mentors, it served as a small lesson for those that "failed." Sadly some of those students chose not to return to GH partially because the process was not only undesirable but the reflection was not satisfying to them.

This year we had a large number of students want to collaborate on projects. I struggled with allowing them the opportunity to work together and sticking with the philosophy of letting them learn while internally thinking it was a set up for failure. I want them to succeed or at least learn from their First Attempt In Learning, but how do I help facilitate that? When teachers begin to say "no" to a project, does it then become "ours" and not the students? When students pick something that is costly and seemingly unattainable, how do I strike a balance between real learning and crushing the creativity and desire to succeed? These are the questions I struggle with and even the teachers I am working with this year question me on the defining line.

I have one good example of an overly excited team that wanted to collaborate but reigned themselves in before delving too deep. Three students, who participated in GH last year, wanted to work together to form a business. One wanted to learn about corporations and the role of a CEO, another wanted to examine the financial aspect of a business and the final student wanted to investigate the creative-product side of the business. I was extremely skeptical of this undertaking but knew if I said no, it would be going back on what I told kids about GH belonging to them. I decided that I would tell all the students that while collaboration is encouraged, each student must do his/her own research. Collaboration would occur when students made appointments with each other to have a meeting and take notes on their shared findings. I stressed that this would be similar to a business model and it would be a sharing of knowledge so that if a team member decided to "fail," the rest of the team would have access to the expertise of that member. Essentially, I guided them to what I foresaw as a viable solution. This allowed them to choose and work on something they were interested in, collaborate, and practice a model that is frequently used outside of the educational realm.

What happened? At first they were very excited about the concept but that did not last long. Each one came to me and expressed that while their vision was fun, they weren't passionate about it. The plan was never executed. The take away in all of this is not that they didn't choose to complete the project but that given the choice and freedom, they each realized it wouldn't work. In essence, that is more important to me than if they had succeeded by forging ahead with this topic. It demonstrated that they could think it through and see the holes in their plan. They felt safe enough to take a risk, evaluate, discuss, and come to a decision individually and as a group. They owned it; not me. All three students have gone on to other projects they are more passionate about with good plans. In looking at the big picture, this kind of student who perseveres is the one I want to cultivate.

Check back as I will continue this line of thought with other projects that are happening. See, GH is teaching me a lot too!
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian