Newsletter Launched

I recently started a newsletter at Flushing High School to inform staff about recent updates and websites which are useful to teaching.  I am using to publish the website.  I like it because I get analytical updates which let me know how many people looked at the newsletter and where they viewed it.  It is also easy to use and format.  Here is the latest newsletter: Flushing H. S. Library Newsblast.  Enjoy!


Breakfast Buddies Combine Healthy Eating with Brain Food

During the months of April and May I ran a “breakfast buddies club” at 7:15 am.  Each morning a group of students would meet and create healthy smoothies to start their day.  They would also read the Wall Street Journal, which our school subscribed to.  A special thank you goes to Amie Hamlin, director of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, which helped us get a Vitamix blender to create the smoothies!!!  I received a service learning grant to create the Breakfast Buddies program.   Students learned  how to eat healthier and at the same time observe how eating a healthy breakfast impacted their mood, energy and grades.  I collaborated with the health teachers and trained students how to research.

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Find your Destination with our Career Research Unit

FullSizeRenderIf you don’t know your destination, you wind up lost. Many of our students do not have a clear plan for what to do upon graduation. To help our students plan for the future, we developed a career research project to help our students reach their goals. We created a College and Career Readiness Libguide  to help our students create their own future.

We teach a three day research unit to help our students explore different career paths. On the first day we introduce our students to our extensive print collection. We give the students time to explore our books and complete our Fact/Feel journal organizer.  Students skim the books, collect five facts they can respond to and write responses to each fact.

The second day of the research is spent online examining the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Students read the text and compare the handbook with the findings learned from their prior research.  The third day of the research is spent introducing our students to our databases and having them research three articles from the databases dealing with their career. The students then follow up with research projects assigned by their English teachers. . At the conclusion of the research part of the project, students completed a survey using google forms. The survey results can be viewed at this link.

This project has helped the students see purpose for their education. They are now beginning to think of a career and see the importance of education in helping them pursue the career of their dreams. When looking through college admission requirements, they see what “GPA” is required and begin to realize the advantage of having high grades.
They also read about successful people who have achieved careers they would like to pursue and see how a college education helped them.

Picture Books are Not so Elementary!!!!

We just received a new shipment of books for our library.  I am so excited to share the new books I ordered illustrated by Bryan Collier.  I first met Bryan Collier at the New York Library Association Fall Conference.   He spoke to us how he tried so hard to find a job as an illustrator.  For seven years he went door to door with his portfolio showing it to various publishers until one day finally somebody gave him a break.

These books can be used with high school students to teach symbolism, poetic license and comprehension of text.  The large and colorful collages and paintings are filled with details and nuances.  Our student population has many visual and English Language Learners.  I highly recommend the following titles to be used in the subject context areas.

I too am AmericaI Too Am America  by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier  (Simon and Schuster 2012)Bryan Collier takes the simple poem by Langston Hughes and relates  it to the plight of the Pullman porters and the effects segregation had on their lives.  He includes a detailed explanation of the images he emphasized in his artwork.  This book would be a great addition to a social studies unit on segregation, an English class on imagery and symbolism and/or an  art class.

Fifty Cents and A DreamFifty Cents and a Dream Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim Illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little Brown  2012)

Jabari Assim takes the small details of Booker T. Washington’s life and creates it into a read aloud picture book that sounds like poetry and is extremely inspiring.  He describes  the struggles Booker T. Washington faced learning  to read and write, physically walking the 500 mile journey, to finally reach Hampton Institute and become the great writer and spokesperson that he is more well known for.  Bryan Collier’s illustrations were done in watercolor and collage.  The text was set in Zemke hand and the display type was Sodom Regular and Civil War type.  Students can analyze the typeset, the position of the text on the page and how Bryan Collier used design to interpret the words.  This book could easily fit into social studies, English or art class.  It could also be used as inspiration for students trying to create goals and life mission statements.

Dave the PotterDave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little Brown 2010)

It is almost a miracle how the pottery of Dave survived.  Dave the potter wrote poetry and engraved it on the sides of the pots he created.  He was a slave, who belonged to Mr. Miles and created the pots in the 1830s. He created his own living legend by having the courage to engrave his messages into his pots in a time when slaves were not allowed to read, or write and could be killed for being independent thinkers.  Bryan Collier again creates detailed paintings using collage technique filled with deep symbolism and imagery.  This book too can be used to convey mission and purpose.  Long after the book is done, the images that Bryan Collier created will remain in the reader’s mind.

These books are not just for the young.  Older readers, including adults, can read these books and take away their own individual life lessons.  Each book has a detailed summary in the back with a bibliography and  in some cases a timeline.

Some additional titles we purchased which I highly recommend are:

Clemente by Willie Perdomo, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Henry Holt 2010)

Twelve Rounds to Glory by Charles R. Smith,  illustrated by Bryan Collier (Candlewick Press 2007)

America the Beautiful : Together We Stand by by Katharine Lee Bates, illustrated by various artists (Scholastic 2013)

Separate is Never Equal written and illustrated by Duncan Tonathiuh. (Abrams 2014)

Engage Your Students

This past November, I attended the New York Library Assn. Annual meeting “Open Libraries, Open Minds.”    Sara Kelly Johns, the former president of NYLA, opened the meeting with the prophetic words reminding librarians to be “game changers.” Librarians are at the center, our role is to build a new path, make connections and reengage our communities.

Here at Flushing High School where I am the school librarian, we are fortunate to have teens as our “captive audience.” Teens are our future, they have leading persuasive influence on many decisions in their homes, from who their families vote for, to what car they drive and what cell phone plan the family subscribes to. Rich Harwood, of the Harwood Institute reminded us that libraries build trust, they teach people to read.
As school librarians, we teach our students how to be smart consumers. They are learning to analyze, cite textual evidence for their decisions and in the words of the common core, are learning how to “practice close and careful reading” of complex text to prepare them for college and a career.

To achieve these objectives, our plan at Flushing High School was to create at least three lesson units so students would be able to delve into the research and practice the skills we were teaching independently. This semester we created unit plans for research based units aligned to the common core standards. To complement the teaching of the book, My Bloody Life, The Making of a Latin King , by R. Sanchez, the teacher assigned an argumentative essay dealing with one of the themes developed in the memoir. We co-taught the research part of the assignment by instructing the students how to use the databases to find articles to fit their needs. We created a libguide to gather all the research sites in one location. You can view the guide here:
We also posted models of term papers and taught the students how to analyze the text by using close reading techniques such as underlining, highlighting and annotating.
These skills are easily transferable to many different areas. Our students will make use of these skills as they hunt for colleges to attend, careers they wish to pursue, or even purchasing decisions they will make.
It is our job to show students the relevancy of the skills learned and practiced in the library to their life. They get to see how essential these skills are and will continue to use them throughout their life.

Analyzing Historical Documents and the Common Core

This year there is great emphasis on the Common Core.  Students and teachers are emphasizing citing textual arguments to support your points. The Common Core State Standards Initiative states on its website that

“The Common Core emphasizes using evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. Rather than asking students questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge and experience, the standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having read the texts with care.”

While browsing the nonfiction collection in a school library I was working in this summer, I found: NonFiction for the Classroom on Writing, History and Social Responsibility by Milton Meltzer, introduction by E. Wendy Saul.  Although the book was written in 1994 the points he makes are as relevant today as they were then.  When studying documents, artifacts, video archives or other sources, whether from today or from ancient times the questions the researcher asks remains the same:

Meltzer gives the reader these questions to ponder:

What is worth knowing?

Who is a reliable source?

What facts in a given document are emphasized or ignored?

Whose sense of normal is evident in the description or recreation of events-whose values?

Whose perception of time?

Whose perception of pleasure or pain? (Meltzer 7)

I recommend asking the same questions today when teaching information literacy.  In the age of information, we must teach our students as much about misinformation as information.  It is up to us to help our learners distinguish between the two.

I often direct students and teachers to iWitness History when looking for personal testimonials about World War II. These witness testimonies are a great starting point for students to hear what happened during the war.  They can then create questions based on what they read and compare different sources of history to get a balanced view of the war. I highly recommend teachers watch the 20 minute video entitled Ethical Editing before using the site.


“IWitness. One Voice at a Time.” Home/IWitness:Video Testimonies from Holocaust Survivors and Witnesses. University of Southern California, 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.

“Key Shifts in English Language Arts.” Common Core: State Standards Initiative. Common Core State Standards Organization, 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Meltzer, Milton, and Wendy Saul. Nonfiction for the Classroom: Milton Meltzer on Writing, History, and Social Responsibility. New York: Teachers College, 1994. Print.

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