Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Circulate Those Magazines!

We want our students to become voracious readers.  We want them to read for information and for pleasure.  We want them to engage in materials that appeal to their interests.  So, why do most school libraries choose to not circulate magazines?  Every school district I have been employed in--from Rhode Island to Florida--the school media center policy was...magazines don't circulate!!!   This was something I just couldn't accept and fortunately I always had a principal that agreed.  So, I changed that policy in every school media center including PES.

Just take one look at these happy faces and 
you will agree with this policy change which was effective immediately!

Fifth graders showing off their first magazine checkout!

Why borrow magazines?

In the pages of children's magazines, readers will find:
short stories
informational text
biographical sketches
crossword puzzles
jokes and riddles
diagrams, charts, maps
art and poetry contests
sports highlights
science experiments
and even more!


Here's your big chance... Cricket Magazine is offering the opportunity for students to help create a fantasy story.   Fred Durbin and Emily Fiegenschuh, author and illustrator need your help inventing a hero or heroine, a sidekick, a villain, and an imaginative fantasy world.  Students can visit: and add their ideas while reading what other kids from around the world are suggesting.  Participate in Cricket's first-of-a-kind crowd-sourced fantasy!  One challenge is to help invent magical words for the "Fantasy Dictionary."  Check it out!

FOR MAKERS: Come check-out the September issue of Appleseeds and read all about skyscrapers. Then you will be ready to create your own magnificent structure.  Here's your chance!  Design and build a model of a skyscraper.  Use any materials you want and make it as big or small as you desire.  But... it has to be able to stand up on its own.  Take a picture of your amazing creation and submit it to the Appleseed contest.  All submission details are found in the September issue- available in our PES Media Center!

FOR SCIENTISTS:  ASK (Arts and Sciences for Kids) focused on the "Drop It!" theme for the September issue.  Did you know that all around the world, scientists are busy dropping things? Sometimes even on purpose.  This issue is chock full of interesting tidbits and concludes with an opportunity to enter the "Drop the Art" contest.  Check-out the magazine in our school library!


ONLINE VERSIONS:  Today's students and their families are so fortunate to have the vast amount of free resources available at their fingertips through the internet.  Here are links to several online magazines which are perfect for the PES students.

Time For Kids

Highlights for Kids

Cricket - publisher of several magazines provides free access to samples of each publication.

National Geographic Kids


Kids Discover

Sports Illustrated for Kids

Amazing Kids!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Visual Literacy

Visual Literacy = Reading Pictures 
We are a visually illiterate society. … Three R’s are no longer enough. 
Our world is changing fast—faster than we can keep up with our historical modes 
of thinking and communicating. Visual literacy—the ability to both read and write 
visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain—will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life.
            —Dave Gray, founder of visual thinking company XPLANE

Visual Literacy was the focus of my summer professional development.

What is Visual Literacy?
Visual literacy has been defined as the “ability to understand, interpret and evaluate visual messages” (Bristor & Drake, 1994). According to Wikipedia (2011), “Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading."

Library of Congress

In July, I spent a week in Washington, DC at the historic
Library of Congress, learning how to teach with primary source documents. The resources available through are extraordinary. As a school media specialist, pointing teachers and students to this resource is essential. Integrating primary source documents into my instruction and locating resources to support content areas will be a priority this school year. Sharing with my colleagues the teaching strategies I gained from this experience will be critical to impacting students' engagement with primary source documents.
Primary Source Document
Fantastic experience

In August, I attended a weekend workshop by the Eric Carle Museum which was hosted by the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA.  It was a delightful, retreat-like experience which beautifully complimented my studies at the Library of Congress. The essence of my learning at this workshop was using visual literacy strategies with picture books in order to deepen students understanding of a text.  Not only did we learn many strategies from the Eric Carle Museum staff, we were also treated to workshops led by award-winning authors/illustrators Vera B. Williams and Floyd Cooper.
Vera B. Williams
Our accommodations

And there were even more surprises... To satisfy our appetites...a gourmet chef who prepared delicious meals.  And...we were gifted with six exemplary picture books to take back to our libraries/classrooms.  One of these books was just perfect for my first class with this year's first graders.

Knowing that the first grade teachers kick-off their readers' workshop with wordless books, I had the perfect title from this workshop to teach visual literacy strategies with my first class in the media center.   The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett is simply perfect for visual literacy as students must "read" the illustrations in order to extract the meaning of the story.  It's a great tale of persistence and generosity.  It carries a message of selflessness and a sweet surprise ending.  Seeing the students engaged in the illustrations and observing how they dissected the illustrations, which were projected on a large screen using a document camera, was exhilarating.  Hearing the students gasp and then squeal with delight when certain illustrations were revealed was more than satisfying as a teacher.  This lesson builds the skills necessary so students can eventually meet the Connecticut Core Standard: RL.1.7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events. In addition, providing the students with an interactive read aloud experience builds speaking and listening skills particularly SL.1.4: Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.

Utilizing the "Whole Book Approach," another strategy I learned through this workshop, allowed the students to integrate the book jacket, board cover, and end papers into the main body of work and then synthesize their observations into deeper meaning. This was a terrific way to start the school year in the media center!

Mark Pett also created another touching wordless book titled: The Boy and the Airplane. 

Also in August, the last professional development opportunity of the summer was held right here in Connecticut at Mystic Seaport. I spent time with a group of 15 CT teachers over three days engaged in a variety of hands-on workshops, and for two nights we slept aboard the Joseph Conrad. 
Sleeping quarters

Just like the other two professional development programs I attended this summer, this one also focused on primary source documents. Mystic Seaport has a wealth of historical artifacts related to maritime history.
Meeting characters
The vault


RESOURCES:  Here are links to various resources that will be of value when integrating visual literacy strategies into content areas.

Discovery Education-search for images

FREE TECH TOOLS: A sampling of technology tools which would enable students to share their thinking as they analyze images. Keep in mind, any digital storytelling app would work well.

Here are a few suggestions:

Fotobabble: Turn an image into a talking photo/image.  Students would upload an image into Fotobabble, and then record their thinking. Share their "babble" via a web link, email, twitter, embed in blog or website.  Also app version available.

Educreations: Students could sequence several images and create a video of their discussion as they scroll through and construct knowledge about the images on each slide.  Since we want students to be able to connect ideas/concepts, this would be a great way to synthesize information from a variety of images. Educreations includes tools to annotate as the students discuss the details within the image. Share easily through email, link, embed on website or blog.  App version also available.

PicCollage: Available through Itunes and Google Play. Teachers could use this as an initiating or hook activity in which the teacher creates a collage of images related to an upcoming topic or unit. The students would closely observe the collage.  Then generate questions/wonderings which would foster ownership of the learning, since the inquiry questions would be student generated.  Or students could create a PicCollage on a device, and then upload the image into one of the other tools mentioned above.

Tellagami: One of my favorite tools that all ages can utilize with ease. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. There is a new paid EDU version which would be worth exploring.  Students could create and share a 30 second video.  Students would upload the image they have been analyzing into the app, choose an avatar, and then in 30 second record new understandings.  The video saves to the camera roll and since the clips are only 30 seconds, you can email them or merge them into another app like iMovie.

  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, ideas, and feelings clearly.
  • Ask and answer questions.
  • Write opinion pieces, supporting point of view with reasons.
  • Explain how illustrations contribute to the story.
  • Acquire and use accurately, grade-appropriate conversational, general, academic, and domain specific words.
  • Write informative and explanatory texts.
  • Write narratives.
  • Use information presented visually to demonstrate understanding of character, plot, and setting.
  • Engage effectively in collaborative discussion, building on the ideas of others, and expressing ones own ideas clearly.
  • Determine the main idea and supporting details of information presented in divers media, including visually.
  • Explain how information presented visually contributes to the understanding of text.
  • Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively.