Monday, May 1, 2017

The Forest of Making - A Way to Reinvigorate My Reading Program?

There is a commonly mis-attributed quote that says:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
 but what about doing the same thing over again and expecting the same result - but not getting it this time around?

This past week, the day after Spring Concert, I ran my Ontario Library Association (OLA) Forest of Reading voting day. The official voting day was April 21 but I try to make it as late as possible so that as many students can qualify to vote. To their credit, OLA accepts votes until the very last day in April. When program coordinators submit their votes, they also indicate how many students initially joined and how many qualify to vote. I find this to be a useful statistic for me - in fact, last year, I shared on my blog a decade's worth of data about this very topic. Thank goodness for work friends like Brenda Kim, who came to the library after school to help me count the results! This year's results were disappointing for me. I saw a significant reduction in the number of original participants as well as the amount that qualified to vote. My assumption is that for some reason, the usual activities (e.g. the passport chats, the trip to Harbourfront, the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl and Red Maple Marketing Campaign) aren't motivating the students enough, or other factors are drawing students away from participating. This concerns me.

A possible way to recapture the interest of my students lies with a project the great Peel DSB teacher-librarian Melanie Mulcaster has been tinkering with and one of my incredible ECEs Jennifer Balido-Cadavez has been modifying - the Forest of Making. To summarize, Melanie creates a three-part experience for every nominated book: a Mind's On, Let's Read, and Let's Make. There are several possibilities for makerspace-related tasks that students can undertake to expand on their experience with the books. I haven't done it with the primary division classes because our time has been taken over by our clothing inquiry. I've been trying out the tasks with the kindergarten classes and they've enjoyed it immensely.

What I myself have enjoyed is collaborating (via Twitter DM, no less!) with a really gifted and enthusiastic Early Childhood Educator. It is difficult to find the time during the day to consult with Jennifer about what direction we should take the media and library lessons. We know that our idea for term 2 centers around connectedness - that library talk can happen in media class and vice versa. This is a different slant from last year, where I made an effort to separate and distinguish the subjects to help the students understand the variations (and prevent multiple requests for drama games during library or music songs during media).

I admire how Jenn has taken the courage to make her once-private Twitter account public and she does an awesome job of documenting the children's learning and adventures, while still respecting their privacy. (Girl, you need to teach me how to add the stickers from your phone so I don't have to keep downloading them to a desktop computer, altering them on Photoshop, and then posting them!) Jenn took the initiative to borrow a set of Blue Spruce books from the public library to read and reinforce the content in the regular kindergarten class outside of my prep time with them.

We touch base beforehand about which tasks from Melanie's site are doable for our group, and Jenn gets inspired to create her own versions of activities. She knows what moods the students are in and which activities will soar and which might flop. We record when we've completed tasks and she uses as prompts, writing aids, and conversation starters the OLA Blue Spruce passports (available only if you officially register for the program - so I recommend you do!)We even have an idea for a title that seems to be tricky to implement as a maker task for youngsters; after we've tried it, we'll share it with Melanie for her site. Take a look at just some of the activities the students have engaged with!

It's been seven days of seeking silver linings. I've broken rules, been conned, said things that have unintentionally hurt people I like, been late (twice) for meetings and had to wait for other meetings. Yet the difficulties can lead to new opportunities. Maybe the poor results from my Forest of Reading will mean I try new ways and retire some favourites that aren't quite making the same positive impact. Waiting in line for a long time meant I had the chance to meet a Syrian refugee and hear about her experiences, making me both impressed and grateful. As I said to my sister (who was in town for part of this week visiting from Calgary), it's important to talk about "cloudy" topics and not just the "sunshiny" ones - that's when relationships can strengthen and deepen (and for that educational slant, when learning can really occur).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you as always for your kind comments. I learn so much from your school! It's a pleasure to work with you both. Thank you for being in my PLN - you're in for life. I can't wait to collaborate with you two next year. BIGGGER....GRANDER....we'll blow their socks off! :)