Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week 5

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston
Read to 3rd and 4th Grades (7 classes)
Targeted Skill: Review Literary Elements

This book is a MUST READ for all librarians because it captures the essence of what we do; when we put books into the hands of kids, we change lives. We don't need a fancy library with walls and shelves to live this legacy--it's really all about the book and the connections that we make  with the people who read them. (Can you tell that I am a cheesy librarian?) I chose this book because I want my students to understand how LUCKY/BLESSED/FORTUNATE they are to have access to a school library. I want to give them a world view through books--that there are people in this world who will go to great lengths to make sure that kids get books even when there is not a library in their town. Miss Dorothy is a real person, and the author wrote this book based on her experiences growing up in Miss Dorothy's library-less community, so I classify it as literary nonfiction. I still have a pseudo concept about this genre, so I could be wrong about classifying this as literary nonfiction. If you have read this book, let me know how you would classify it.

We started with a quick review of the plot, character, setting, and theme. I then read the book, which is a little lengthy, and I stopped to discuss and clarify the concept of a bookmobile. I asked the kids to imagine me cramming as many books as I could into my mini-van and driving to their homes for them to check them out. They thought this was a fabulous idea (me, not so much), but then we talked about the problems with this, and they decided that our school library worked much better than a library on wheels. They made connections to ice cream trucks, mail trucks, and pizza delivery when thinking about a bookmobile (However, I made sure to stress that Miss Dorothy did not SELL the books just like I don't make them pay for books in the library). The conclusion of the book has two pictures of the countless readers that Miss Dorothy impacted, and the kids noticed some details in the pictures that I had missed. I love it when this happens--my kids teaching me something new. 

In the spirit of full-disclosure and to put my fallibility right out there, I want to make it very clear that the purpose of this blog is not to hold myself up as some rock star librarian who teaches in Library Land Utopia. Um, NO. I invite any of you to come spend a day with me, and you will see the messy, chaotic mistakes that I make in a feeble attempt to try to keep up with this monster that I have created.  The purpose of this blog is to simply chronicle what I do in the library. As a writer, it keeps me writing and thinking about the intentionality of my lessons. Because I know others might read this (fingers crossed), it is keeping me accountable for the quality of my lessons. Are these lessons always going to be perfect? No. I teach in the real world. I want there to be more collaboration among my colleagues--teachers AND librarians. We need to share what works well and what doesn't. We are all in this together!

This lesson is a perfect example of me trying to do too much in too little time, which is one of my many faults as a teacher librarian. I still try to teach like I did in the classroom, which is a good thing, but it's also a bad thing when I only have about 20-30 minutes for a lesson (as a former high school English teacher, I am use to teaching on a 90 minute block. You can go DEEP with that amount of time.) I did not even get to my question about Miss Dorothy's character, but I included it because...well, I think it's an example of a higher-level question, so maybe you can find a way to work it in. This week I really struggled with this realization: My lessons have to be MINI; I can't go into the depth that I want to when the kids also have to checkout books in that little chunk of time that we have together. Full-disclosure: most classes only got about 7 minutes to checkout, and it looked like Wal-Mart on Black Friday--a mad dash of frenzy and grab and go. NOT what I want the checkout experience to be for my kids. I try so hard to maintain the balance of STRONG lesson and ADEQUATE checkout time, but it is HARD with a school my size and a small library. Those are my librarian problems. Just trying to keep it real.

All of this is to say that we are ALL feeling the squeeze of time and too much to cover, and it's so hard to find that BALANCE. The teachers at my school, across my district, and I think across the great state of Texas are trying to CRAM as much as possible into their lessons because of the looming pressure of high-stakes tests. (I will refrain from stepping up on my soap box--that's a entirely different post.) At one point this week at the end of a crazy afternoon where my timing was off, and I just wasn't feeling like I was in the groove, I stopped and thought, "Am I doing more harm than good? Is this the way I'm suppose to teach? Cramming it all in?" After talking with some of my colleagues in the classroom, I know I am not alone in this feeling.

Because of my time constraints, I think I should have just focused on one element with this book--Miss Dorothy's character traits would have been excellent--or discussing the theme of the book, which is  higher-level thinking because kids have to infer so  much. The theme of this book is wonderful: sometimes our lives don't work out exactly as we dream them, but we can still be happy and make an impact. Maybe I should have asked each teacher what SPECIFIC element their class needed to focus on--that's the essence of true collaboration and co-teaching  that I still struggle with. I share all of this with you so that you can take my ideas and improve them. That's the purpose of this blog--to share what I do so that you can do it better.

Even though I don't feel great about the effectiveness of this lesson, this is still an excellent book to share with kids because it teaches them so much about the power of books and libraries, and to keep doing what you love even if it doesn't quite work out the way you envisioned it. Thank you for that important reminder, Miss Dorothy. Lesson learned.

Lesson Frame & Literary Elements Anchor Chart:

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
Read to 2nd and 6th Grade (6 classes)
Targeted Skill: Asking Questions to Monitor Comprehension (2nd Grade) Theme (6th Grade)

Everything I wrote about Miss Dorothy, ditto for this lesson.Trying to cover too much, running out of time, feeling like I did more harm than good...check, check, check.  But this is another MUST READ, and I think it would be excellent to pair this with Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile because they are essentially the same book with the same theme.

During the reading with my 2nd graders, the curriculum focus was on asking questions, and it quickly became apparent that my kids, like most I assume, have a hard time asking questions while reading. It's probably our own fault--we always want them to ANSWER our questions, but do we ever give them an opportunity to ASK them? (Once again, lack of TIME might be to blame.) Honestly, I think our educational system beats that inquisitiveness out of children, and then we stand appalled when they are apathetic about learning (once again, another soap box post for another day). This book is an EXCELLENT mentor text because it illustrates the connection between reading and writing,  the imagery is glorious, and the story is strong. I simply adore it.  And it makes me cry (I told you that I was a cheesy librarian).

I read this to my sixth grade bilingual class, and I had the luxury of time with them because I got to spend 45 minutes on the lesson. Full disclosure time: I suck at Spanish. Seriously. After 14 hours of college Spanish, I still suck. I memorized my way through those classes, and I can't roll my r's to save my life (even with the help of tequila). So I had to apologize upfront to my bilingual students for butchering their beautiful language, but this was an opportunity for them to be the experts and try to help me say the Spanish words correctly. Even they they tried so hard and were so patient and sweet, it didn't help. I am a hopeless cause. But at least I own it. The teacher and I had an authentic co-teaching moment during this lesson because he knows the true story behind this book, so he could interject and share his knowledge. I love it when this happens.

The older kids were very interested in this story and this real person. I think I see a research project forming, and I have another sixth grade class coming next week, so I might share this book with them and see if they have the same level of interest. I put my librarian skills to work and found a few resources that I want to share with my 6th graders:

CNN Article

Excellent video from PBS documentary

I have searched for 2nd grade-friendly expository texts about Luis Soriano, but I have not been able to find anything. I might show them this video next week so that they can see that he is a REAL person. I have some lesson ideas that I want to expand upon with Dorothy and Luis, but I am not sure how it will all come together. I'll keep you posted.
The REAL Biblioburro, Luis Soriano with Alpha and Beto (Alphabet!)

Lesson Frame and Higher-Level Questions:

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley
Read to Kinder & 1st Grade (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Using picture and word clues to make a prediction; Distinguishing between fiction and nonfiction books; Identify Title, Author, Illustrator, Spine

This is a sweet story that the kids really enjoyed. It works well with making predictions because the kids had to access their schema and use the picture and word clues. It is a quick read that emphasizes the joy of using your imagination.  It also rhymes, so there is an easy rhythm that flows when read aloud.
My students could easily distinguish that this was a fiction book because of the narrative, and they were also quick to point out that dragons are not real. Good to know. 

Lesson Frame:

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