March 15

Social Media and Our Relationships

Grades 6, 7, and 8 visited the library this week for a lesson on the effects of social media on our personal relationships.  Whether they are allowed legally to be on certain platforms or not (most require you to be at least 13), the reality is that most middle schoolers are on Snapchat, Instagram, Tic Toc, or other social media.  By grade 8 social media has become completely enmeshed with daily life and plays a huge role in friend dramas.

This workshop started off by having students discuss what are some benefits of social media.  What they love about it.  Many students mentioned their ability to connect with family and friends far away, as well as feeling like they are safe and can always get in touch with someone when they need them.  Then we discussed what some of the drawbacks were that they or their friends personally experienced.  This included feeling angry seeing snaps of friends out without you, feeling jealous that others have more followers, and being constantly distracted.  Everyone was eager to share during these discussions.

We moved on to oversharing and how it can be harmful to post things in the heat of the moment, post things that will leave a permanent stain on your digital footprint, or post things that can even put your safety at risk.

The next concept was something called ‘Red Flag Feelings’ and was an important concept defined as follows;

red flag feeling is when something happens on digital media that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried, sad, or anxious. It is a warning that something might be wrong. (commonsense.org)

We discussed how to approach these bad feelings by reflecting on their cause and trying to come up with strategic ways to cope with them.  We divided into four groups.  Each group was given a scenario and had to identify both feelings and possible responses and then share out their answers.

 

I genuinely hope that they will take the tools from this lesson with them into their daily lives and can better understand their feelings when difficult situations arise.

For resources on this lesson please visit common sense education.

March 5

The Rings of Responsibility

Today I hosted two workshops, one with grade 3 and one with grade 4.  Our topic was a biggie… RESPONSIBILITY.  More specifically, it is about how we can become responsible digital citizens.

We watched a video of a stone being dropped into still water.  Through this we learned that each action and word has a ripple effect that extends from SELF to COMMUNITY to WORLD.

The class broke into three groups, self, community and world and discussed what each of those kind of responsibilities looked like.

We then played a game where I read out statements such as “I only use Apps and Websites that are ok for people my age” and students had to decide which ring to physically stand in.

After that we got more practice by using a handout which asked more questions of a similar nature.

This lesson was created by the brilliant educators at common sense education.  They are leaders in the field of digital citizenship education.  I highly encourage teachers to take advantage of the amazing resources available on that site.

February 6

Black History Month in the Library

The world celebrates Black History Month in February and the library has a great collection of books to support teachers on this topic.

A few notable ones…

 

The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel.  A wonderful book to share with grades 2 and up.  These two men connected through their shared experience of discrimination.  A powerful story about equality that even younger readers can handle.

 

 

 

 

 

This book is part of the brilliant Who Was series which covers important biographies for beginning readers.  I could see this book being used as a read-aloud this month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book explains what the Underground Railroad was and what life was like traveling on it.  A book that could lead to an activity of students writing short fiction pieces where they imagine the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

A graphic novel biography about Mandela for middle schoolers.  Action packed, informative, and highly recommended!

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February 1

Practicing Proper Notetaking Skills

I met with students in grades 3 and 4 this week to practice the art of proper notetaking.  Something which can come so naturally for adults is really a skill that needs to be taught and practiced so that bad habits don’t form early.

I’ve heard many middle schoolers tell me that they cut and paste from various websites while taking notes and then put it all together for their final project.  That is a fast-track route to a zero for plagiarism!  Many are not aware that there is anything wrong with this method.  By starting with younger grades I am hoping to catch them before it starts.

We decided to use books for this exercise so that students could practice using the table of contents and indexes to find the information they were looking for.  They then had to write their notes in their own words and keep track of their sources using a bibliography template.

 

We also watched this helpful video about how to figure out what is and is not important to our research questions when researching.

Let me assure you that this wasn’t as boring of a workshop as it sounds. The grade 3s especially got into it and some chose to work over recess, which was wonderful.  They are all on the right track now!

January 31

Learning About Coral Reefs with the Kinders

One of the best parts of my week is when I get visited by our K1 and K2 classes for storytime.  They’ve been working hard with Morah Yaffa learning all about oceans and sea life.  After a conversation with a kinder during morning care who talked about his upcoming vacation to a place that has a coral reef, I decided it was the perfect topic for our next storytime.

The book we read, Coral Reefs by Jason Chin, is gorgeously illustrated and talks about both the science and the importance of reefs to the ocean.  The kinders were fascinated by the illustrations and asked lots of questions and shared some of their own knowledge on oceans and on food chains, which was quite impressive.

They then had a chance to examine real coral and see the tiny polyps that comprise coral.  They were very into it and we had so much fun exploring this topic.  Can’t wait for next week!

January 22

Detective Club Laser Training Course

Detective Club has been the best ever this year thanks to the creativity and direction of two of our amazing students in grades 4 and 5.

Each week they plan really amazing activities for our grade 1 and 2 sleuths including things like creating fake identities, setting traps for rival spies, cracking codes, etc…  This week students were tasked with getting through our Laser Security Training Course.  It is obvious that a blast was had by all!

January 17

The OJCS has read over 2170 books so far!

The OJCS Reading Challenge is in full swing and every class is doing an incredible job.  Books are flying off the shelves in the library.  I’ve never seen students so excited about reading and sharing about what they’ve been reading.  Students have been posting book reviews on our catalogue and also sharing flipgrid videos.  There has been a tangible shift in reading culture at the school and everyone is working hard to continuously motivate the kids.  The kids are also working hard to motivate each other.

Each grade is reading books that are appropriate for their age and grade level, so of course, the older the kids, the bigger the books and the longer they take to finish.  Here are our numbers so far…

Grade 8 – 26

Grade 7 – 68

Grade 6 – 72

Grade 5 – 56

Grade 4 – 330

Grade 3 – 945

Grade 2 – 261

Grade 1 – 397

K – 15+

These numbers are enough to bring tears of joy to a librarian’s heart.  I need a tissue.

January 15

Understanding Keywords with Grades 3 and 4

Today grades 3 and 4 learned all about strategies for effective internet searching.  Students tend to type long questions into the search bar of search engines and click on the very first site that comes up, regardless of the quality or relevance of the site.  Over the past few years I’ve been trying to convey to students the importance of selecting a few important words from their questions (keywords) and using those to bring in targeted results.  I have also been trying to get students to use some of the many excellent kid-friendly search engines to narrow their searches to results that are geared to their grade level.

Students worked through some research questions and experimented with keywords to find good results.  For example, with the question: How many teeth does an adult dog have?  The keywords were teeth and adult dog.  After a bit of practice they picked up finding keywords very quickly.  The keyword worksheets are available through the marvelous resource Common Sense Education.

Ms. Bennett and Ms. Mellenthin are going to practice this each day in the classroom.  I think it will have a really positive impact on the quality of student research.

December 12

Reimagining the Library

It’s Spring cleaning in December!

I have started clearing out rows of books no longer in use since the Hillel days to create more space for student work areas, more computers, new movable furniture and whiteboards.  I’d really like to see the library become even more of a learning centre; a place where small groups of students are sent throughout the day by their teachers to collaborate, research, complete projects, or when they just need some time outside the classroom environment to complete their work according to their specific learning needs.

I want the library to act as a work hub for students from all grades and become a place that is accessible not just during their recess library times or during their once-a-week  class visit, but as an extension of classroom space.

To aid this, I am envisioning a system based on one I read about in at Big Walnut School in Ohio where students are given a prescription from their teacher that would look much like this;

This prescription would act as a directive for both me and the students as to what they should be using their time in the library for and to keep them on track lest they be sent back to class prematurely.

This space has so much potential, I am eager to see how it all unfolds in the coming year.