Talk at home about…watching magic happen!

Take 48 6th graders, add 3 teachers with a dash of inspiration and a spirit of collaboration, allow time for learning, and watch the magic happen! Alpha 6 students just celebrated six weeks of integrated learning. I’d like to highlight a few aspects of this collaborative experience because I think they tell the story of how school library programs add value and opportunity to student learning.

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Ms. Duthie-Fox, Mrs. Sumner and I began weeks ago with a conversation that identified learning outcomes for our students. We wanted them to practice close reading strategies in a book club format that also tied in to learning in Social Studies about the Revolutionary War. Then, we researched historical fiction novels. We tried to locate engaging titles that offered multiple perspectives on this time period in history. The combined collections of our supervisory union libraries helped us gather enough copies for all readers. Sharing resources means we can make sure that everyone gets what they need without breaking the budget.

Our books:

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

War Comes to Willy Freeman by James Lincoln Collier

Sarah Bishop by Scott O’Dell

April Morning by Howard Fast

Groups were facilitated by teachers, staff, and parent volunteers. This was a great opportunity to put our human capital to work and for students to participate in learning as part of a small group. Students really drove the discussions each week, using close reading signposts found in their readings as their guides. We found that they thrived as readers in understanding content-specific vocabulary and big ideas that they were able to transfer from their learning in social studies. They learned to cooperate and disagree using evidence from their readings to back up their opinions.

Students were all curious about what each of the other groups were reading. We decided to capitalize on that curiosity and motivation and had each group create book trailers to promote the different titles. We led the groups through a mini-lesson on how to write and choose images to develop a book trailer that would entice others to read a particular title. In creating these products, they had to write effectively and efficiently, perform effective keyword searches using Creative Commons to locate appropriate, rights-cleared images, navigate the technical aspects of the creation tool (we used iMovie), as well as edit and assess as they progressed through the project. We found the products to be wonderful, but the best parts of the project were the conversations that happened among the groups during the creative process. Lo and behold, they were pulling in all the same techniques they learned while discussing the books. This was an incredibly rich learning experience.

This is an example of a unit that might not necessarily fit neatly into the scheduled minutes of a school day.  It is unscripted, and took collaboration and work from myself, the classroom teachers, support staff, and parent volunteers. It took knowledge not only of the standards, but also of our students. We needed to know where they’ve been, what they’ve learned so far, and where we want them to be next. Making time to figure it all out was key. Our flexible library schedule allowed the space, time and resources for the student learning to happen. It really was magic.

Close reading strategies based on Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kyelene Beers & Robert E. Probst

Common Core State Standards addressed through this unit.

I love this handy infographic “Book Trailers and the Common Core Standards” created by teacher librarian M. Harclerode that highlights how this type of content creation incorporates multiple literacy skills.


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Filed under 6th Grade, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Common Core, InformationLiteracy, Learning, reading, Writing

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