Sunday, November 15, 2015

Break down the four walls in the library!

This week I took the first step along my journey of breaking down the fall walls in the library. One of my top goals for my first year as a K-2 library media specialist was to harness the power of social media to add audience and purpose to my students' experience in the library. While at ISTE this summer in Philadelphia, I met library media specialists who regularly used Skype and Twitter with their students to connect with authors, other classrooms, teachers, and audiences around the globe. They broke down the 4 walls of the classroom, and little by little I hope to do the same.

My students video conferencing with 8th grade students in district

I figured the best way to begin this journey was to start locally within our own school district. Having taught 8th grade social studies for the past 9 years, I had a long history of working on interdisciplinary projects with other 8th grade teachers. Just because I moved to the K-2 school didn't mean that this collaboration with my old colleagues had to end. One 8th grade language arts teacher and I decided to continue this collaboration. Her 8th grade students created their own picture books using the website pixton.  Their picture books were inspired adaptations of the young adult literature novels that they were reading in class.  Through the FaceTime app on the iPad (which we mirrored on the SMART Board with an Apple TV), her 8th grade students read their stories to my K-2 library classes.  At the end of their stories, they asked the K-2 students questions about the reading, and engaged in a discussion with them. This experience seemed particularly meaningful for both cohorts, as it added an audience and a purpose to the work being done. My K-2 students are currently thinking of projects that they want to create and share back to the 8th graders.

In addition to video conferencing with the 8th grade students in district, we also moved a little closer to breaking down the 4 walls thanks to a wonderful opportunity provided by @MrSchuReads. I had the great pleasure of meeting John Schumacher in our own library when we met with a Scholastic team to plan our book fair. I had already begun following John on Twitter, and was thrilled to be able to show him around our library. We spoke after the meeting, sharing the new experiences that this year was providing for each of us - me as a first year library media specialist, and John in his new role as Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic. When I saw @MrSchuReads post an offer on Twitter to Skype with a library class each day of November for picture book month, I had to take up this generous offer. It did not disappoint.

We read Mo Willems' new Elephant and Piggie book, I Really Like Slop, with three separate Kindergarten classes that day. The kids loved John's enthusiasm, questions, and book recommendations. I loved being able to see and learn from John's wonderful style of engaging with the students. It was a terrific time, which really demonstrated the power of Skype to break down the 4 walls of the classroom, and open up new opportunities for collaboration and learning.

 This week we took the first steps. I can't wait to see how the adventure continues.

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