Monday, September 19, 2016

Potential beyond imagining

Ada’s Violon: the story of the recycled Orchestra of Paraguayby Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport is a book I’ve been waiting for ever since I first heard and watched a video about this orchestra.

The Landfill Orchestra

What an amazing concept!

It works on so many levels. An extremely poor community in Paraguay is built around the recycling of garbage taken from a local landfill. As both the video and book explain, to own a valuable instrument is impossible because of the risk of theft. Because instruments are expensive to buy, it’s difficult for everyone to have an instrument of their own to play. The solution is to construct instruments from recycled materials, again derived from the landfill, instead.

The book provides more backstory than the video. It focuses on Ada Rios (shown in the video) and her family of recyclers giving us a sense of what the community is like: very poor with few opportunities of a better life and the threat of gang life as a way out. Though she does go to school, there aren’t many opportunities to go beyond the boundaries of her community, until the day her grandmother sees a sign advertising music lessons and encourages Ada to go. Immediately, Ada selects the violin as her instrument of choice.

The story continues with how the instruments were constructed and it’s fascinating to see them in the video. Paint cans, oil drums, forks, pipes and packing crates are all used to fashion these beautiful music makers.

With lots of practice, these novice musicians become good enough to perform in front of local audiences. Word spreads and they hold concerts for international audiences in other countries.

What a success story.

In terms of classroom connections, this kind of story has so many possibilities. There’s the grade 4 science unit on waste and our world which often ties into recycling. There’s the grade 3 social studies unit about quality of life that would work well with this story.  This would make an interesting book to bring into a fine arts classroom. I can see connections to the STEM/STEAM and maker movements, too. Or even a story from which to draw inspiration for activism at local levels.

This would definitely work across the elementary grades. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Getting the word out

A new crop of undergraduate student-teachers start classes today. The energy is most palpable at the moment.

So with lots of new faces in mind, I thought I’d go over a few of the ways we in the Doucette Library try to convey information about resources.

Workshops: We do workshops – lots and lots. We should rename ourselves Workshops-R-Us, in fact. These are not your typical library workshops that review research strategies or searching databases or catalogues. We promote the resources that can be found in the Doucette and also illustrate our workshops with the very resources that student-teachers can also use in their work as both students and teachers. We often teach about how to think about the resources: why would I use this? how would I use this? what do I hope to provoke from the students with this? is this the best resources to accomplish my objectives? etc. These sessions are challenging but really fun to do – almost like playing, really. We offer these workshops through classes, the Education Student Association and on our own in something called Black Chair Sessions. The BCS sessions are 20-30 minutes and super focused on a very narrow topic. Bing. Bang. Boom. You’re in. You’re out. You’re better informed.

Library/Subject/Research Guides: Whatever you want to call them, these are incredibly rich resources that the staff in the Doucette Library have created that again direct student-teachers to materials that will help them with their own school work, when they’re out on practicums or even once they’ve become teachers. We organize them around topics that are centred around lesson planning, teaching specific curriculum topics such as social studies, science, or fine arts, specific areas of importance in teaching K-12 grades such as children’s literature, English language learners, technology, interdisciplinary teaching, early childhood education and so on. We recommend web resources, online journal articles and Doucette Library books and kits, of course. It’s about finding information even when you’re not on campus.

Blogs: Well, if you’re reading this you know that I blog in the name of the Doucette Library. But you may not be aware that a colleague, Paula Hollohan, also writes a blog about using technology in the classroom. Doucette Ed Tech reviews many types of resources including apps, gadgets, and trends. It’s a great place to start with getting a grasp on the Maker movement or design thinking, for example.

Pinterest:  Both Paula and I have created Pinterest boards that are filled with resources (again, mostly from the Doucette Library) specific to topics relevant to curriculum or classroom practice. My boards (found as Doucette Library) are really focused on the Alberta program of studies and there are boards for elementary social studies, science and math. Every topic in very grade level has a board dedicated to listing mostly juvenile resources appropriate for classroom use.  Paula has boards related to educational technology.

Goodreads: Again, this is something both Paula and I have joined to help us keep track of the books we read. It also allows student-teachers or anyone else for that matter to see what we’re reading. I’ve made a link from this blog to get to my account and welcome you to ‘friend’ me if you wish to join in.

Litsy: This is brand new for us. Recently, Paula and I have been struggling with trying to revamp a book club that we use to run for student-teachers. This wasn’t the kind of book club that required everyone to read the same book and then discuss it. It was a way for Paula and me to recommend fiction and nonfiction with curriculum tie-ins to students. We also encouraged students to talk about the books they were using or seeing in the classrooms when they were on practicum. But with program changes, there has been a real time crunch for students and we haven’t been able to run it. This year we thought we’d try something new with a new social media-type app. It’s being described as: if Goodreads and Instagram had a baby it would look like Litsy. So Litsy lets us (and you) list the books you’re reading (or have read) plus add pictures and comments much like what you’d see on Instagram. It is easy to use and I’d recommend you stop by for a look and perhaps sign up.
And that’s about it – at least, for now.  We’re always looking for ways to share our expertise and recommend the resources that will help student-teachers excel and enrich their own teaching practices.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Guest Blogger - Picture Books that Promote Curiosity, Imagination and General Wondering

 Today's blog is contributed by Paula Hollohan, writer of the Doucette Ed Tech blog. Here at the Doucette Library, she's responsible for being conversant on all things related to technology in the classroom but sometimes her passion for children's literature gets the better of her and she has just gotta share. The following list is a terrific collection of titles mostly for elementary students that promotes deeper thinking in conjunction with curiosity.

And before I let you delve into Paula’s list I would highly recommend a book I read over this summer, Curious : the desire to know and why your future depends on it by Ian Leslie. It, too, outlines the importance of being curious for children and adults about wide-ranging topics for one's entire life. It touches on many facets of human development some of which have implications for the field of education. As Paula says, "Igniting curiosity is a game changer."

Now, here's Paula:

In a departure from the usual technology analysis, I will spend today looking at some new picture books that can be resources and browsers in a K-4 classroom to get kids wondering about the world around them. 

These picks are from some recent arrivals in the library and are chosen for high interest and engagement.

What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Both by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom.  Interesting juxtaposition of two great concepts – things you need to wonder about. An idea looks like an egg with a crown.  A problem looks like a big swirly, dark cloud.  Is an idea good? Does a problem present an opportunity?

Ideas Are All Around? by Philip C. Stead. How do you begin to write something? Taking a walk with your dog gives you many experiences. Are they worth writing about? What do you notice? Stop War – now there is a good idea.

The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  “Know this: there is magic around but it hides.” “Be open to it.” Hone your powers of observation, around you, above you, near you.  Allow your feet to determine where you may journey and notice all there is to explore.

City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Notice all that is around you and tie it to some of your knowledge.  Recognize shapes in your environment as a beginning understanding of your world. This book would be a great provocation for a grade 1 photography project.  A way for students to study their community through the lens of a camera or an iPad.

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Brian Won.  S.A.M. (get it?) has a unique view of the world and all the adventures that are to be had.  Discover a unique perspective on shoe shopping by one imaginative boy.

Use Your Imagination (but be careful what you wish for!) by Nicola O’Bryne.  A typical fairy tale re-telling becomes a whole new story with a little imagination.  Can you change other stories? What would be a more unexpected twist or turn in the stories you are reading?

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  True to life, people in a grey neighbourhood re-imagine it with colourful murals and paintings.  The entire neighbourhood joins in and life is forever changed.  Art changes people.  One person can change a neighbourhood or their school or city or country or the world.

These are a few picks to invigorate your current classroom library and to engage students in a deeper thinking process.  Igniting curiosity is a game changer.

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