NYLA SSL: Make, Learn, Inspire

I was fortunate enough to attend the NYLA SSL Conference again this year as a Laura Wedge Scholarship winner.

It is an honor and a privilege to share and learn from my colleagues across the state. I always come away with more ideas than I can implement in a school year.  This year was no exception.  I had so much difficulty choosing which workshops to attend.

I was so impressed with the librarians at the Localvore WORKSHOP I attended.  Librarian Gail Brisson and special education teacher Melissa Bryant collaborated to create a monthly teacher luncheon totally grown, cooked and prepared by the self contained ISS students.  I was totally overwhelmed with the extent of the student involvement, from creating an entire vegetable garden with materials donated by Cornell University.

I also attended the Copyright and Fair Use workshop by Jim Belair, SLS Director and Anne Dalton, Esq.

They simplified the teaching exemption to the Fair Use Laws by reminding us 1: it must be tied into teaching, don’t show a movie without a lesson attached, 2: material must be from a legal source, don’t use something you found on Youtube. and 3:it must be shown for display and performance only, not a money making opportunity.  Keep a record of the questions that you presented with the film to show that you were using it for teaching purposes.  They shared 2 excellent resources created by ALA:  The Fair Use Evaluator:  which will help you justify the material you showed as fitting under the fair use exception  and the Digital Slider which clarifies when copyright laws expire.

Programming Made Easy was another workshop I attended which gave me some fast, practical ideas for programming in the library.  Some of the ideas explained and demonstrated were a Battle of the Books competition run by  different middle schools in the area and culminating in a competition between the schools, a family reading night, coffee house days and poetry slams.  I was excited by the comments of the librarians about how the students look forward to the events from year to year and begin requesting specific programs as early as September.

Some of the resources are now available online.   More are to be added shortly.

I thank NYLA SSL for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference through the Laura Wedge Scholarship Award.

I encourage all my fellow New York State school librarians to become members of NYLA.    The dues are very reasonable and open you up to exciting programs and resources.  It is very easy to remain isolated when you work in a specific school, but when you become part of a larger organization, you grow your network of professional contacts and are able to learn and grow exponentially.



MyLibraryNYC and Learning About the Library

MyLibrary_light-blueThis past month we were busy with distributing new MyLibraryNYC cards to all our students at Flushing High School.   These new cards gave our students access to NYC, Brooklyn and Queens public library systems.  I compared the library card to a passport, with these cards our students can “travel” the world.   These cards permit our students to borrow books and other media from all three New York City public library systems.    They also have access to all of the databases that the NYC public libraries subscribe to.

It was very important to me to distribute the cards with great panache.  We  wanted students to take advantage of  the many databases, fun programs and materials available from the public library.  This lesson was given to all high school students.  We modified our lessons for different learning styles and grade levels.

A great introduction to the lesson was short ten minute film:  Libraries Now: A Day in the Life  , available for download on the NYPL site.


Depending on student interest and time allocation, I sometimes abbreviated the film and just had students view the first four minutes of the film, then went to the 8 minute point and showed the teen advisory meeting and the conclusion.

Following the film, I gave out postcards produced by the Queens Public Library and had students write their representative about why the library should be open at least six days a week.

The next activity was a short reading about library services.  I used 4 different handouts with the students:

  1. For ninth and tenth graders I used a handout “Library Services” from Your Taxes at Work, Community Resources. (8). Suter, Joann.  “Library Services”. Community Resources Student Worktext. Saddleback Publishing. (2011)
  2. For eleventh and twelth grade students, I distributed the article: Greer, Jeff. “4 Reasons Why the Library Should Affect Your College Choice.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 17 June 2010. Web. 17 June 2014.
  3. For more advanced students, I also used the following articles:“10 Facts about Americans and Public Libraries.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 June 2014.
  4. Performance Indicators: Queens  Borough Public Libraries:”Public Libraries.” page 9. Mayor’s Management Report. New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, 2013.


I created question sheets for each document and had different groups of students analyze different documents. Below are examples of sample student answers:

4 quad worksheet












2 quad worksheet











For a final assessment students wrote answers with permanent marker  to the following questions on light bulb templates (see post below for example of student work).

  1. What have you learned at the Flushing High School library?
  2. How can a school librarian help you?
  3. Why are school libraries important?
  4. importance school libraries lightbulb2lightbulb3school

Lesson Closure Through Exit Slips

Exit Slip with graphics and text
Exit Slip with graphics and text
Exit Slip with text
Exit Slip with text

Lesson closures are important for several reasons. They serve as a quick review, help the instructor evaluate what was learned and allows the instructor to see where the students are to plan for the next lesson.  A great way to provide closure is through the “exit slip.”  Exit slips are short term assessments for what students have learned from the class.  They are useful for the presenter to help understand what students took away from the lesson.  These assessments can be oral or written; however, I prefer written exit slips as they can be used as artifacts for our personal portfolio.  I also use them to plan and modify future lessons.  “ Lesson Closure With Examples” by Ann Sipe is an excellent article about exit slips with 40 different ideas for leaving a lesson.

With our focus on differentiation to reach all of our students, exit slips should include several definitions for our ELL students and questions which require different levels of understanding.  I am attaching a sample of an exit slip modified for ELL populations and an exit slip for the general population.  We used these exit slips following a series of research classes where students created brochures about different planets.

I asked the question: “Which resources were most useful to you in your research? Why?”

Most of the responses were either “the internet” or “google.”

One student said Grolier, two said World Book and two said Wikipedia.

If you rephrase the question to state “List 1-3 resources you used in your library activity today and list some examples: Flushing High School database title, or LibGuide title” you may get more specific answers.

Differentiating by Content, Process and Product

Using context clues, glossaries and dictionaries to understand vocabulary on the Regents Examinations

Student Flashcards with words “capital”

capital resources

As a librarian and a teacher I often see students struggling with reading comprehension. Many state assessment examinations require students to be able to understand what they are reading in order to successfully pass the exams.  This year our school is focusing on differentiating instruction for students through content, process and product.  The research is based upon Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, how students learn through a variety of ways.  Students will remember what they learn if they experience the material through many different ways. 

With a large number of English Language Learners in our school this year there is a school wide emphasis on improving students’ “academic vocabulary.” In this vein, our principal asked the librarians to collaborate with the ELL teachers to construct a lesson having students use dictionaries and glossaries.   I incorporated the Global History Regents and the US History Regents into the lesson by having the students read several questions and circle the words they were unfamiliar with.  Students were directed to look the words up in both glossaries and dictionaries and compare the two resources.  Students had the most trouble with understanding the meaning using context clues because many of them did not understand most of the words in the sentence.  The advanced students explained the meanings to the newer students.  I then had the students draw pictures of the words and create flashcards to help them remember the definitions.  I divided each class up into seven groups of four students each and had each group work on one regent’s question.  I gave each student one 4 x 5 ½” sheet of paper and had them write the word on one side of the paper and draw a picture on the back.  We reviewed the new words by showing the class the picture and had the students guess the words.  At the conclusion of the lesson, students compared the glossary with the dictionary and explained how context clues provide hints to help the students understand which definition applies to the particular sentence.

This lesson appealed to the visual senses by using color and having students draw the words. The kinesthetic sense was involved by having the students touch the flashcards.  Students also defined the words by using dictionaries.  The kinesthetic sense was involved when they touched the dictionaries and physically looked up the words.  These multiple entry points help make the material accessible to a wide range of students.

Common Core Fever: Argumentative Essay Writing

With the implementation of common core in full swing here at the high school where I teach, students are busy writing argumentative essays and citing evidence from the text to support their arguments. (ELA  Reading Standard 1). As librarians, we are encouraging students to use our databases to search for articles to help them develop their claims.  We subscribe to Libguides, a Spring Share product, to develop our web pages.  These libguides direct students to the databases and assist them in  finding credible websites.  The article and database libguide directs students to government websites, databases and news websites.  To encourage detailed note taking, our library has adopted a “Fact/Feel Journal” from Achieve 3000.  This note taking device requires students to create a citation BEFORE they begin the note taking practice.  The students then choose quotes and write their reactions in the column next to the quote they choose.   Our fact/feel journal also requires a citation at the top of the page. Students get into the habit of properly citing their sources when they complete the citation box at the top of their note taking page before they start to cite the text.  This is the first step for research for our students.  Our English teachers will carry on from here and help our students write convincing arguments using the information the students researched.

Claim Counterclaim

Recently our school is charged with teaching our students how to develop claims and counterclaims.

Our mission is to teach our students how to interpret text and cite textual evidence for each claim and counterclaim they make.  Students are encouraged to use templates to formulate their thinking and improve their note taking skills.   I recommend two books which I found very helpful to develop critical thinking and engaging students while attacking various texts.

Texts and Lessons
Texts and Lessons

One excellent book is  Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading, With More Than 75 Articles from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Car and Driver, Chicago Tribune, and Many Others by: Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, and  Nancy Steineke,

It contains some great ideas for teaching students how to react to a text, including shoulder to shoulder writing where students partner with one another and write one side of an issue, then sit across from each other and argue the points they listed in the writing exercise.

Another great book I highly recommend is Teaching With Text Sets by Mary Ann Cappiello, published by Shell Education, ISBN 978-1-4258-0688-0. It has sample units with student work sheets and model units. This book focuses on note taking and unit planning ideas.

Looking for student templates?  I highly recommend the New York State Information Fluency Curriculum, published by the New York City School Librarian System.

If you are looking for lessons and curriculum plans, Engage NY now has complete modules for English Language Arts, grades K-12 online.  Full modules can be downloaded here: http://www.engageny.org/english-language-arts.  The ninth grade ELA curriculum is best aligned with our goads of teaching point counterpoint articles.