Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What Juniors Want to Know (perhaps not what you'd expect?)

As juniors continue working on the first of the two major research papers they will complete this year, we provide feedback as they reach the following checkpoints:
  • Research questions
  • Works cited lists
  • Thesis statements
This research paper, which is assigned in English, uses The Great Gatsby's examination of social class, equity, and The American Dream as a launchpad for research. Students choose their own topics for research. We classified our juniors' research questions into 11 broad categories:
  • Civil/Equal rights/Discrimination/Social justice
  • Cultural messaging
  • Education
  • Family
  • Law enforcement/Military/National security
  • Mental/Physical Health/Wellness
  • Politics
  • Prosperity/Business
  • Science
  • Social pathology
  • Technology
The chart below shows how many students gravitated to each topic. 

As one reviews the above classifications, it is surprisingly easy to let ones' personal viewpoints influence expectations about the subcategories that could nest under each parent classification. Go ahead. Give it a try.
... pause

Our juniors are independent thinkers who are grappling with current issues in their own way. They are bringing their experiences, interests, and ideas to their understanding of, and predictions about the world they will inhabit as adults.

We compiled all 138 research questions we have seen so far into word clouds, which are images composed of research questions in which the size of each word indicates its frequency of use.

This deep dive into our junior's curiosity provides us with ideal collection development information. We are building a research pathfinder to help our learners access seminal work on their topics in a variety of formats.
  • articles
  • books
  • radio or podcasts
  • video
and also ideas and people that/who are getting a lot of traction in the media.

The pathfinder is a work in progress. This exercise will guide our next additions and revisions. For example, our book recommendations need to be reorganized. We have the right books, but our classifications do not consistently align with students' research questions. For example, we placed books on race relations under civil rights, but student research questions in that category focused on women's rights. Students who chose to examine race did so through the lens of either education, law enforcement, or prosperity.

Student work informs our practice. Co-teaching with our colleagues empowers us to improve our collection, our instruction, and ultimately student achievement. We are very fortunately to teach in such a collaborative learning community. Have a wonderful holiday. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

December is a Flurry of Reading, Research and Writing Good Questions

NCHS Reads

There is a general perception that teenagers do not read. Our data collection tells a different story. We've circulated nearly 1,700 books this year. Clicking through the slides below tells us that students prefer print reading for fiction and digital reading for research. Our students read more books on social sciences and history than any other Dewey classification. The database chart suggests that students carefully align their database use with their inquiry research tasks. While Gale (comprehensive one-stop-shop for K-12 research) usage was high in September, it dropped off in October. On the other hand, JSTOR (scholarly research) and EBSCO (primarily eBooks and academic research) usage surged in October. Overall database usage increased in October. Once we get the statistics, November will likely show a surge in ProQuest usage. This is our National Newspapers database, which is a core resource for the Junior Research Paper.

Freshman Reading

Ms. Magilnick and Ms. Fitzpatrick's students selected books for literature circles. Their books will prime students for research on a theme explored in their chosen narrative. They will deliver a speech on their inquiry findings as a culminating experience to conclude the unit. Students were presented with a selection of 25 or so possible titles. What follows is a list of the books students chose. 

Ms. Hamill launched a graphic novel reading unit. Her students will read one of the following two books. 

Research Begins with Inquiry

Teacher-Librarians are co-teaching with English teachers to give juniors feedback on research questions, thesis statements, and works cited. Juniors analyze their research notes to develop original thesis statements and create properly formatted works cited that reflect the in-text citations used in the research paper.

Citing Sources MLA Style

Freshmen are learning how to cite sources using Modern Language Association formatting. Students watch video tutorials at their own pace and complete a short assessment to practice creating proper works cited.  

Makerspace Moves

World Language students creatively prepared for International Day.

AP Government and Politics students designed a Presidential Election Game that had a mix of strategy and luck. The game addressed ideas, such as assembling a campaign staff, Invisible Primary, and Electoral College.

AP Economics classes investigated market structures, specifically monopolistic competition, by creating hamburgers. The student's work demonstrated why fast food restaurants are excellent examples of this type of market. Very similar, but with important differences, students worked to create the "best" burger and then marketed their design to the class in the following period.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Second Quarter Begins!

As we move into budget season, we reflect on how students use our collection. This year, we noticed a few trends we wanted to share.

Students are borrowing more books!

In response to a slight dip in circulation in 2017-2018, we amped up our independent reading program this year. As of October 18, 2019, our booktalking activity is up 220% (16 classes in September and October), our print book circulation is up 20%, and our eBook circulation is up 25 % as well.

While the graph below shows that student use of ABC-CLIO, EBSCO, and Statista dipped last year, use of Gale (social studies research database), the newspaper collection (Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post), and JSTOR (peer-reviewed academic journal articles) doubled.

This may sound like a mixed report, but it is a great one. It tells us that our instruction has been effective. In 2018-2019, we learned from reviewing student work that students were not selecting resources that were appropriate to their inquiry tasks. We built new instructional experiences designed to improve higher order thinking, and source selection skills. This graph shows that students used fewer reference resources and doubled their use of more challenging materials. Here are some sample lessons:

While we would ideally love to have all students shift their research to the rigorous databases, we still need to subscribe to materials that will meet the learning needs of our incoming 9th graders. Britannica, ABC-CLIO, and EBSCO help us meet their needs.

  • Is Geography Destiny (9th grade Global I)

  • It is clear that we are visiting 10th grade history classes with these lesson on distinguishing reference from more substantive content quite regularly. For most classes, we will see them at least once more for Imperialism, and possibly also before that for the Industrial Revolution. Our aim is to have our current sophomores ready for their two required research papers (English in the fall and social studies in the spring) right at the start of their junior year so that we can focus our junior year instruction on inquiry synthesis, not source selection.

    If we were to create a macro picture of our library program's inquiry instruction, it would look something like this:

    We construct this learning around social studies and English because those are required courses. Students have more flexibility in selecting their Math, Science and World Languages classes, so we tend to focus our assured experiences in other disciplines. This is not to say that we do not work with other disciplines, only that we acknowledge that our instruction in those course will not have universal impact. 

    Thursday, October 31, 2019

    October Leaves Wondering What New Learning November Brings

    Easy to Access School Databases
       Tech Tip of the Week
    Did you know that our library collection includes numerous databases that can be accessed at school and at home?

     When at home, students open Google Drive and open the library homepage. Enter a word in the search box to access databases.

    Databases in Action
        Students in Global II are putting Napoleon on Trial.  Was Napoleon Bonaparte a great leader or patriot or was he a power-hungry dictator? Students are conducting research and assuming a role from a cast of historical characters that will testify at the trial.  Teacher Librarians are collaborating with the classes to show students how to effectively search for information and create a bibliography.

    Makerspace Notables
          Hats Off to Mr. Staffaroni's class on Makerspace clean-up. Using class notes, reading notes, and outside sources, students determined how to best represent one or more aspects of President Wilson's presidency. When they were done, the makerspace was left ready for the next class to use.

           Sophomores in English class read and annotated William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily." Then they came to the makerspace to create a 3D depiction of an image that is important to the story as they dig deeper into the symbolism in the story.

    Students in American Studies are making children's books to explain Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience."

    Somewhat Virtual Book Club Meets-
     November 6, 2019, at 6 p.m.
          The book club is discussing Dear Martin by Nic Stone and New Kid byJerry Craft. Check out copies at the NCHS library and get in on the conversation. Dear Martin is about an African American high schooler headed for an Ivy League school who becomes a victim of racial profiling. New Kid is about a new kid at school who struggles to fit into a school culture, which is not very diverse. He is one of the few students of color at his new school and must learn to navigate this new school culture.

    Scary and Not so Scary Sightings
         Students in the Child Development class brought scary and not so scary visitors to the library on Halloween. Trick or Treaters paraded around the library giving New Canaan high schoolers the treat of seeing their costumes.

    Friday, October 18, 2019

    School Spirit-ual Learning

    Tech Tip of the week
    Did you know that our library collection includes 26 digital magazines? The following 3 minute video tutorial shows you how to access and search them.

    Here is the complete list of digital magazines:
    • Aperture
    • Architectural Digest
    • The Atlantic
    • Automobile Magazine
    • Car & Driver
    • Elle Decor
    • Esquire
    • Food Network Magazine
    • Forbes
    • GQ: Gentleman's Quarterly
    • Horse & Rider
    • Kiplinger's Personal Finance
    • Mother Jones
    • Motor Trend
    • National Review
    • The New Republic
    • The New Yorker
    • Reason
    • Rolling Stone
    • Scientific American
    • SLAM
    • Vanity Fair
    • The Week
    • Wired
    • Bon Appetit
    • Poets & Writers
    We also have print magazines, and a database (National Newspapers) that features:
    • The Christian Science Monitor
    • The Boston Globe
    • The Hartford Courant (include archives going back to the 18th century)
    • The Los Angeles Times
    • The New York Times
    • The Wall Street Journal 
    • The Washington Post
    and, even though it is a magazine rather than a newspaper, 
    • The Economist
    Inquiry and Innovation
    We've had a busy few weeks in the makerspace!
    • Mr. Stevenson and Ms. Greco's Global History II students designed monuments to highlight the achievements of Enlightenment thinkers
    • Mr. Stevenson's AP Psych class built brain models
    • Mr. Forcucci's U.S. History students examined the impact of imperialism
    • Ms. Arastu's and Ms. Rothschild's Global History I students examined the anatomy of ancient civilizations

    A few non-makerspace projects were launched as well
    • Ms. McLellan's Chemistry students analyzed the chemical dangers of vaping to create public service announcements

    History Reads
    To examine U.S. involvement in war, Ms. Rothschild's U.S. History class checked out fiction and nonfiction books for history reading groups. Offered a selection of 25 books to choose from, students "voted" for their top choices and formed reading groups around themes of interest. Our offerings follow. 

    Somewhat Virtual Book Club
    Our book club (virtually) met with two schools in South Carolina on October 10 to discuss a fast paced high school mystery novel called "One of us is Lying" by Karen McManus. The book's plot twists surprised all in attendance, which is saying something, since we have an impressive cadre of mystery readers.

    Our next selection is "Dear Martin" by Nic Stone with a companion graphic novel recommendation, "New Kid", by Norwalk-based author Jerry Craft, whose children attended New Canaan Country Day (in case you know the Craft family).

    The class of 2023 is full of innovative maker enthusiasts! We have several students who are contemplating becoming Techxperts. Throughout the day, students visit the makerspace to tinker with their chosen specialties, including virtual reality, 3D printing, electronics, robotics, and computer building, and Raspberry Pi.

    Book Displays 
    Ms. Mabee is a display master! The library features enticing book displays everywhere. Please take note, and check out a book!

    We've added virtual book displays to the announcement screens throughout the building. Focusing on what to read next, our slides feature recommendations for follow-up reads to books that circulate widely at New Canaan High School.