Thursday, September 17, 2020

We're Baaaack! Four Hundred Independent Reading Books Borrowed and Counting!

It is so fantastic to be back in IRL school! We learned a great deal from URL school, but we will save that for another post. There is too much exciting brand new information to share.

First our library is hybrid! Since the physical room is serving as a study hall right now, our virtual library is open during the school day. Virtual learners can drop in anytime!

At the virtual library, we answer questions about research and reading. We can also refer students to someone who can help with learning tools. To access the virtual library, sign in to Chrome with your email address, then click on the VIRTUAL LIBRARY link on the library homepage at You can also email the Student Help Desk for help with your learning tools. 

We started the year by booktalking up a storm. Ms. Sheehan made an outstanding handout featuring our summer reading list and many other titles. Click on the preview image below to see the entire document. 

Eleventh graders have been selecting independent reading materials. Students were surveyed about their reading interests and we produced the following booktalks to align with learners' survey results. As with summer reading, there is a book for every student, but not every book is for every student. Book selection is a part of the independent reading experience. 

Course: Junior English

Course: AP Language

Course: American Street Law

As juniors prepare to start working on the first of the two major research papers they will complete this year, we explain that we will provide feedback as they reach the following checkpoints:
  • Research questions
  • Works cited lists
  • Thesis statements

The first 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 collected juniors' research questions for the past three years and classified them 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 3 years of research questions into word clouds, which are images composed of research questions in which the size of each word indicates its frequency of use, then we selected book talk titles to align with these word clouds. See below:

Booktalk Aligned with Junior Research Paper Research Questions:

In order to comply with the district's COVID-19 mitigation plan, students are requesting their titles via a Google Form, which is linked to the library homepage at

Here is the form:

We then retrieve the books from the collection, check them out to students, and send them to their classroom.  

Our collection includes over a thousand ebooks and hundreds of audiobooks. This tutorial will help learners find our ebooks and audiobooks:

We are promoting ebook and audiobook discovery by posting these flyers around the school and making this slide deck available on our website at We, along with our fabulous corps of virtual volunteers, are adding to the list regularly:

In the event that  a student requests a book that is currently unavailable, we send them an email featuring alternative titles. We base our recommendations on our expertise as reader's advisory specialists, our experience with NCHS readers, and, occasionally, Goodreads, which has a helpful "Readers Also Enjoyed" carousel, and displays popular tags. 

Here is our list of alternate choices so far. This is a "living document", which means it will grow. A lot.

Well, there is more, but we'll save that for the end of the month. Be safe and be well!
Ms. Sheehan
Ms. Luhtala

Friday, March 6, 2020

In Celebration of Digital Learning Day....

To celebrate Digital Learning Day (February 27, 2020), we are dedicating this post to showcasing the wide range of digital learning resources the New Canaan High School learning community can access anywhere, any time.

NCHS Library
At New Canaan High School Library, we have a plethora of digital resources that students can access remotely. We have approximately 
  • 120,000 curated eBook chapters in EBSCO's Academic eBook Collection
  • 25 digital magazines in Flipster
  • 75 databases including periodicals, books, and specialty information such as curated international census data and public opinion surveys
  • 2,000 eBooks
  • 400 audiobooks
  • 370 YouTube research lessons created for NCHS students by NCHS librarians

The slide show below shows students how to access these resources. 

Check out the NCHS Library reading collection. Did you know that NCHS has recommended reading called VIDE, which means love of learning in Latin?  These books can be found filed in front of the circulation desk and have a yellow V label. Also, students come in for book talks to find out about different popular and notable books. Students are welcomed to check out more than one book. Please note that our own Megan Mabee is a writing contributor to BookRiot, a website that is like the BuzzFeed of books. Check out ↙her articles by clicking this link.

New Canaan High School Vide Collection

Featured new books at NCHS

Book displays

NCHS On-Line Resources
NCHS has a plethora of resources available with a click of any character or word in the search box. All the database resources will populate and let the search begin.

Did you know...?

Signing Up for a New Canaan Library Card
Any current resident can sign up for a library card upon proper presentation of identification. Children under 15 years of age may have a card in their name with proper identification and signature of a parent or guardian. Registrants are issued two cards, one wallet-sized card and one for a keychain, which may be selected from several designs. The card is valid for three years.

Identification Process
Proper identification must be provided in person at any public service desk to obtain a library card. Preferred forms of identification include the following:
  • Current Connecticut driver's license with current address
  • Government issue ID cards or documents (US passport; US Permanent Resident Card)
  • Utility bill, bank statement, tax bill or other official mail with recent postmark showing residence address
  • Rental receipt or mortgage paperwork
Managing Your Library Account
Your New Canaan Library card creates an account in your name, which can be accessed by clicking "My Account" on the library's website. Your account gives you access to items checked out with due dates, fines due, holds pending and other information. You can also renew checked out items online.  Usually, email reminders of items coming due are sent.

Check Out the YA Section

Check Out Special Events
New Canaan Library is hosting Leonardo at the Library.  The name of the program is Celebrating the 500 year Genius of Leonardo DaVinci. It is an exhibition of large-format photographs by renowned artist Ahmet Ertug. One highlight is Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, which is photographic images in three triptych-like panels that are nearly nine meters in length and reveal amazing details of this masterpiece.

New Canaan Library and NCHS Library work well together for you!

Friday, February 7, 2020

All Roads Lead to Learning

Reading and Research

  Ninth grade English students read a non-fiction books, such as Little Princes by Conor Grennan, A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah, Enrique's Journey by Sonia Ensario, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg, Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif and A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming. Students then did research on an issue related to the book and wrote a persuasive speech that identified a social problem and possible solutions. Students incorporated information from their research and created a bibliography. Teacher-librarians modeled effective research techniques and gave students feedback on their bibliographies and students revised them.

The Collapse of a Civilization

What does the collapse of a civilization and design thinking have in common? Global 1 students are learning why a civilization collapses by studying Jared Diamond's ideas presented in his book. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Students are creating a Rube Goldberg machine that simulates how civilizations like the Easter Island, Angkor, Anasazi, and Norse Greenland collapsed. Students used design thinking to plan out the machine in order to demonstrate how the effects of one factor of collapse, like deforestation, could lead to another factor of collapse, starvation. After reading and thinking about the collapse of a specific civilization, students got to work designing their Rube Goldberg machines.

Students then set to work to build their machines in the makerspace. They documented their progress each day and noted successes and failures in design.

The machines are teaching tools used by students to explain why a certain civilization collapsed.

Power of Words

    Junior English students saw a one-man play called Frederick Douglas: An American Slave by Daniel S. Campagna at the Kline Auditorium, which highlighted Douglas'writings and life. A copy of the play is available in the library. Students also participated in a panel discussion and saw an original version of Douglas' book, Life and Times of Frederick Douglas, printed in 1882 by the Park Publishing Company in Hartford, Connecticut.

Friday, January 17, 2020

New Year, New Learning

Happy 2020!

NCHS's Most Circulated Books of the DECADE
Fun fact about the list below is that we omitted the MLA handbook, which was circulated 27 times. We also omitted research-related loans such as Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. We wanted our list to reflect the interests of our students. It is now official: the popularity of Twilight and all of its bad-boyfriend paranormal spinoffs officially died out this decade. Whew!

Podcasts for Research
As a follow-up to our last post we wanted to share something about using podcasts as resources for research. Check out our first try at podcasting!

In-Text Citations 
As juniors wrap up their English research papers and freshmen wrap up their speeches, they have been asking a lot of questions about how to reference their sources in the narrative. We created a lesson around that which we will record shortly.

Digital Wellness and Digital Citizenship

Ninth graders are thinking about digital wellness and digital citizenship in health classes as the ICT team collaborates with health teachers to deliver lessons on creating a positive digital footprint, cybersafety and digital citizenship. Ninth graders discussed changing passwords for security, taking specific steps to be safe online, practicing online citizenship, which means thinking critically before posting.

Junior Research
Juniors are researching topics of interest after crafting a research question to solve an inquiry problem. Teacher librarians have been co-teaching with English teachers to support students in their research. Lessons on keywords, curating sources effectively and locating and accessing a variety of credible sources guided students in practicing best research practices.

Makerspace News
Economics students are prepping for mid-terms by taking their learning to the makerspace to design either a newsletter, board-game or book to review course concepts.