Looking Back @ My Favorite Tool: Foldables

Looking Back @ My Favorite Tool: Foldables - Students never tire of good ole cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool we can use to help students compile and organize new information. Here are 4 foldables that I've found especially successful.Educators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, I’ve found that students never tire of good ole cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool we can use to help students compile and organize new information. In the School Library, they also provide an opportunity for students to collaborate as they learn, and foldables provide the teacher with an excellent quick assessment for a daily grade.

The vast chasm of time since I was in school prevents me remembering if foldables were part of my education, but once I discovered them, I’ve continued to add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they’ve “stood the test of time” during my 13+ years as a Middle School Librarian.

The Biocube

biocube for character study, adapted from ReadWriteThink.

Click to open larger image.

A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable Special Collection of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes, and, instead of doing a whole class novel, wanted each student to read an historical fiction book. I suggested that, rather than a standard book report, students could use higher-order thinking skills to create a “BioCube Biography” about a character in the book, and the teacher was excited to try it out.

Students use the ReadWriteThink biocube planning sheet  to gather and refine “biographic” information about their book’s chosen character:

  • name and personality traits
  • personal background
  • time period and location of story
  • significance in U.S. History
  • biggest obstacle to overcome
  • important quotation from story.

I adapted the RWT cube to fit our preferences, and copy the 2”x 2”x 2” paper cube onto colorful paper. Students write the condensed information about their chosen character on each side of the cube, then cut out, fold, and paste the pattern together into a finished cube. They then attach a 2-ft. length of string and a bent paper clip to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and we use the paper clip to suspend cubes from the acoustic ceiling dividers in the ELA classroom. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for classroom visitors.

The Basketweave

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This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher to use during a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library kits & books. Created with one sheet of letter-sized color paper and a second ½ sheet of a contrasting color, the foldable has front & back covers, 2 inner flaps, plus 6 woven pages that are perfect for summarizing information: 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and 2 “secret hidden” pages, as shown in the picture below.

basketweave foldable finished & showing the "magic secret pages"

Photos courtesy of Mary Williams, Math Teacher, Midlothian HS, Midlothian, VA. For more great foldables, see her blog at https://mrswilliamsmath.wordpress.com/.

For the Library Lesson, the teacher creates learning groups and, in the classroom, students create their book and write on the left inside flap the 4 different cultural aspects about Texas Native Nations they will explore. On Library Lesson day, I distribute resources to library tables, 1 Nation per table. When the class arrives, each student in a group picks a different Texas Native Nation library table, and works with students from the other groups to summarize information about that Nation on one “hidden” column of their foldable.

After a suitable time, we have the original learning groups regather at library tables to report their findings. Students record information about 5 other Texas Nations onto their foldable’s columns as it is shared by their fellow group members. On the right inside flap students summarize information about all nations for each cultural aspect. At the end of the period, every student has collaboratively collected the information needed to pass the quiz given during class the following day. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun for students that they keep it throughout the unit (which they wouldn’t if it were just a sheet of paper).

The Accordion Booklet

I learned about this foldable at an International Baccalaureate workshop for Middle Years Program Librarians. It is so flexible it can be used for any subject or purpose depending on which size paper is used and how it’s folded. The original student examples I saw—for an ELA Shakespeare project and a Social Studies project—were 8½” x 14″ paper for the accordion and construction paper for the covers.

Creating ATL Toolbooks with 6g StudentsFor a series of IB-MYP Approaches to Learning Library Lessons I used 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, folding up the bottom third for the pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the ends. (I told students the way we cover the index cards and attach the accordion ends is the same way the covers are made for our library books!) At the end of each following lesson I gave students a small memento to put in the corresponding pocket of their Toolbook to remind them of their learning.

Teacher's ATL Toolbook

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Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created ATL Toolbooks for them, which held small brochures of information on & applications for each ATL skill. They loved using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they could include.

The Tiered or “Waterfall” Flipbook

Template for Teacher Flipbook

Click to enlarge.

The beauty of this foldable is that it can be as simple as a single sheet of letter-size paper glued down into an interactive notebook or as complex as the 4 sheets of 8½” x 14″ I used to create my Library & Technology Services Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning and a digital publishing application, but a student project can be much simpler.

The easiest way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the bottom edge of the top portion is offset about ½-¾” above the bottom edge of the bottom portion, then add outside pages so each bottom sheet and top sheet have the same offset as the first sheet. Once the sheets are tightly creased, students can progressively glue an inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or they can staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this, which any Super-Librarian has!).  Keep in mind that the top portions get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively.

My Teacher Flipbook for Library & Technology ServicesFor younger middle school students we keep it very simple—just 1 or 2 sheets—and the teacher or I designate what students will write/draw on each flipsheet, but older students can plan their own publication depending on how much space they need for each part of their project. To make it especially eye-catching, students can use different colors of paper, as I eventually did with my Guide.

The Future of Foldables

These 4 foldables have been very popular with students, and there are others I’ve used for my Library Lessons. A simple Google Image search for “foldables” can net any teacher or school librarian a myriad of great foldables to try.

As successful as foldables have been in my middle School Library, I can’t imagine that they will ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place for simple cut-and-paste activities in education.

Looking Back @ Student Interview Projects

Looking Back @ Student Interview Projects - Interviews can spice up any student project and give students a new perspective on their content. School Librarians can collaborate with any Subject area to give Library Lessons on Interviewing Techniques.Who doesn’t love hearing stories and insights from interesting people? Interviews can spice up any student project and give students a new perspective on their content. School Librarians can find several opportunities to integrate student interviews into collaborative lessons. Here are a couple examples…

A 7th grade Multidisciplinary Project

During the 1st grading period of the school year, 7g ELA students write personal narratives and 7g Social Studies students learn about the immigration of various groups into Texas. Many students don’t know their own history of how they came to be in Texas, so when I approached my 7g teachers—avid library supporters—about doing a cross-discipline project they were willing to try it. Our collaborative unit “My Texas Heritage—How and Why Am I in Texas?” gives students a sense of their own identity (important for middle schoolers) and provides a more personal understanding of conceptual factors that have brought people into our State.

Example of a KWHL chart for an Alternative Energy ProjectEnglish/Language Arts classes visit the Library first for a brainstorming lesson. I begin the Library Lesson with a read aloud, Allen Say’s picture book Grandfather’s Journey, a personal story of how he reconnected with his family background. Next we pass out a KWHL worksheet (example from a different unit at left) and I model ‘What do I Know?’ to guide students in writing down what they already know about themselves and their families. Then we generate interview questions in the ‘What do I Want to know?’ section. For homework students take the KWHL sheet home and use the interview questions with their parents to fill in as Source #1. Any ‘What do I Want to Know’ questions that parents can’t answer become the basis for further research.

Texas History classes are the second Library visit. I tell students they are learning the history of themselves in the same way they are learning the history of Texas, so the goal of their Library visit is to gather historical background in order to answer W questions their parents couldn’t answer and to create more questions to take home to parents. I help students generate Keywords for searching and review search strategies so students can skim & scan the print & online Texas History resources I’ve prepared ahead of time. Students will continue to use the back of their KWHL worksheet for note-taking (and bibliographic info) and I model note-taking—there is always a tendency for students to write out everything, so modeling “Does this answer the question on my KWHL sheet?” keeps students on track.

During the next phase of the project students continue to gather information through interviews and research. We don’t expect a family tree from the time of the conquistadors, but every student learns about the lives of their parents & grandparents. Texas History teachers help them discern the similarities & differences between historical events they are learning about and the lives of their own family.

To encourage students to mail questions to other family members, the ELA teachers model letter form and reinforce good writing habits. Texas History teachers schedule another Library visit so I can guide students through a variety of primary and secondary sources, like biographies and autobiographies, speeches, letters & diaries, and songs & artwork, all related to Texas History, both in print and online.

This project lends itself to several products, and we offer 3 product options to students—written, crafted, or oral, with options for using technology tools:

  • At an ELA visit I show students how to create a webpage so information can be shared with family members who live far away. Students learn that information displayed on the Web must be well-written and concise, forcing them to thoroughly think through and edit their research results.
  • The crafted choice is a photograph poster of family mementos. For students who choose this option, I show them how to use our digital cameras and check them out, usually over a weekend. When they return I show them how to download & print out the images.
  • 7g students also enjoy playacting, so mock newscasts appeal to them. Students with common events in their background can group together to give “eyewitness” accounts. This helps students discern that historical “truths” often depend on one’s point of view—a valuable lesson as they study Texas history.

At a final Library visit we watch oral presentations, followed by a walk-around to view webpages on computers and crafted items on the tops of our eye-level bookcases. It’s a great way to begin the school year and satisfies the curricular needs of both ELA and Social Studies.

An 8th grade Spanish Television Show

In the spring our 3rd-year Spanish students demonstrate their Spanish-language skills with a group project, en Español, based on a game show or an Oprah-type entertainment show, and we “broadcast” the finished projects through our closed-circuit TV channel to the classroom. Both shows require students to do interviews, a short one for the game show and a more in-depth celebrity-type interview for the entertainment show. For this project we have 2 Library Lesson visits: at the first visit students learn about creating good personal interview questions, and during the second visit students prepare for the TV broadcast.

The short interview is a 30-60 second introduction of the ‘Players’ where the show host says “Tell us a little about yourself” and the Player responds with their ‘home’ city/state (it can’t be ours), their ‘career or job’, something about their family (this can be true or made up), and a favorite hobby, song, or movie. The goal is for students to demonstrate their Spanish-language skills, so we encourage them to be imaginative with their responses and also as they create the game show activity.

For the in-depth interview I make available a few books on video & TV interviews and short celebrity biographies, along with printed sheets of interview questions derived from a Web search. I help students generate open-ended questions that prompt the responder to answer with greater depth and variety than just yes or no. Again, the objective is to use as much of their Español as possible.

We Do Video Broadcasting! image from my middle school Library.The second visit is a Library Lesson about having a good “on-camera presence” so students learn about which colors are best for clothing, where to look while asking and answering questions (at the camera!), how to modulate their voice and pace their talking, and which type of gestures are OK and which ones distract viewers. We critique a couple demonstrations, then students break into groups to practice their TV shows, during which time I walk around scheduling when they’ll be doing their “on air” broadcast.

Watching the actual TV broadcast in the classroom lends an authenticity to this lesson that excites students. After we did this the first time, word got around the school that “Ms. P has a Television Studio in the Library!” and students from all grades began asking teachers if they could “do TV shows with Ms. P” for their various projects. A School Librarian can be kept pretty busy giving Library Lessons on Interviewing Techniques and transmitting TV broadcasts to classrooms!

A Resource for Interview Questions

If you’ve never heard of StoryCorps, you’ll want to check them out. They began in 2003 with a Storybooth in Grand Central Terminal in NYC and they continue to give people a way to share conversations. They have recording sites, mobile story tours around the U.S., and an app on their website, all dedicated to providing a legacy of real voices that are archived at the Library of Congress.

“Our mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

Great Questions” on their website is a wonderful resource that anyone can use to promote more effective and enjoyable interviews.

Looking Back @ 3 (more) Strategies for a New School Librarian

Looking Back @ 3 (more) Strategies for a New School Librarian - A month ago I offered 3 Strategies for a First-Time School Librarian: learn everything, listen to everyone, and leave things as they are. Today I want to share 3 more strategies for a New School Librarian that focus specifically on Library Lessons: use my Library Lesson Planner Template, partner with the local Public Library's Youth Services Librarian, and follow some simple Classroom Management Tips to handle your much larger learning space (and often much larger groups of students!).A month ago I offered 3 Strategies for a First-Time School Librarian: learn everything, listen to everyone, and leave things as they are. Today I want to share 3 more strategies for a New School Librarian that focus specifically on Library Lessons: use my Library Lesson Planner Template, partner with the local Public Library’s Youth Services Librarian, and follow some simple Classroom Management Tips to handle your much larger learning space (and often much larger groups of students!).

Library Lesson Planner

When we become a School Librarian we don’t stop being a Teacher, in fact, we take on a larger responsibility: to teach a wider variety of literacies through integration with classroom activities in all school subjects. Another big adjustment from classroom teacher to school librarian is that we won’t see students day after day for lessons; most of the time we have a single class period to influence and inspire their learning. Due to these 2 major changes, a New School Librarian will find that the typical lesson planner used for classroom instruction is unsuitable for planning library lessons.

Library Lesson Planner Template, page 1After a few years of trying various LP forms with limited success, I’ve now combined the best of several forms to create my own Library Lesson Plan Template. The key to a good Library Lesson is to make it relevant to what students are studying in the classroom and avoid anything that does not achieve the purpose of the library visit; otherwise, it’s all meaningless to the student and quickly forgotten.

To that end my Library Lesson Planner incorporates Subject area Content Standards with AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action, and includes both subject and info-lit understandings, key questions, objectives, and performance tasks. Furthermore, it follows a specific instructional model for presenting the lesson. This may seem like a lot of work for a single lesson, but taking time for detailed planning—maybe more time than the actual lesson takes—makes a better lesson.

Habitually using my Library Lesson Planner has made me a better teacher and librarian, and I am convinced it will help a New School Librarian, too.

You can download my Library Lesson Planner on my FREE Librarian Resources page.

FYI: I’m a big fan of graphic organizers as learning aids for student success, thus my lessons usually have some sort of graphic worksheet. I’ve used many types for lessons, and I feel it’s my responsibility to support classroom learning by using as many of their forms as possible. Teachers LOVE graphic organizers for library visits; not only does it hold kids accountable for what they need to be doing, but it also gives teachers the concrete evidence they need as a daily grade for students when visiting the library.

Partner with the Public Library’s Librarian

Many of our students are within walking distance of a public library or are regular visitors with their parents. One of the most valuable steps a New School Librarian can take is to establish a partnership with the Youth Services Librarian at the local Public Library. Having this colleague visit your school during the school year will provide Library Lessons that you don’t have to create!

Now I’m going to let you all in on a little secret—I don’t do literature. My teaching background is Secondary Social Studies, Science, and Math; my least favorite class in school was English/Language Arts. I detested whole-class novel studies, dreaded poetry units, and the only writing I truly enjoyed was a big research project using the library. My greatest achievement as a School Librarian has been integrating with ELA teachers who have been oh, so patient with my deficiencies. Thankfully they also guide students to great books to read because I DON’T DO BOOKTALKS!

The best “lessons” the Public Librarian can do for you, a New School Librarian, is to give Booktalks to students, featuring books common to both school and public library and also books only available through the public library, which often has multiple copies of the most recent best sellers. I honestly don’t get the allure, but my students—even reluctant readers—sit, rapt with attention, as our public librarian does 8-10 booktalks in a single class period. And according to her, their circulation always goes up for about 2 weeks after her visit to our school. Here are the visits and booktalks I arranged with my Public Library Librarian:

  1. September is Library Card Sign-Up Month so at that visit she shows students how they can get public library services both in-house and online, and she booktalks new releases over the summer.
  2. December marks the announcement of our State Reading Lists, so at that visit she booktalks the books for our grade level and passes out flyers of public library activities taking place during the school’s coming winter break.
  3. March is our spring break, so she visits beforehand and passes out flyers of public library activities during the break, as well as coming activities in April for School Library Month and National Library Week. Her booktalks are typically something unique, such as their extensive collection of graphic novels or informational books on popular age-appropriate topics.
  4. May‘s visit features Summer Reading activities at the Public Library and she booktalks stories aligned with the topical theme of the summer reading program to entice kids to visit throughout the summer. It’s especially helpful to have this visit the second week of May because that’s when all our school library books are due, so promoting the public library at this time encourages kids to visit there to check out new books.

Even if you are a normally voracious reader, having this booktalking partnership during your first year as a New School Librarian allows you to attend to other pressing needs without sacrificing the needs of your students.

Classroom Management Tips

I’ll admit I’m a shoddy classroom manager, but these tips really helped me improve, especially when dealing with 2 classes of more than 60 hormonal middle schoolers! I printed them out and taped them to my presentation station to always remind me what I needed to be doing. They don’t really have anything to do with a Library Lesson, but they’ll surely help you when you’re presenting your Library Lessons!

  • Stand still when you’re giving directions (don’t do 2 things at once).
    Be specific about what to do (what to have on the tables, what not to have; thank them as they complete task).
  • Correct misbehavior with the positive expectation, not the negative wrong.
    Acknowledge as “Thanks for behavior that meets expectations.”
    (Praise is a value judgment for what’s truly special or exceeds expectations.)
  • Control should be for purpose, not power.
    (We don’t do that in the library because it keeps us from making the most of our learning time.)
    Step outside of your own head. Teaching depends on what other people think, not what you think.
  • Go from student who gets it wrong to students who get it right, then back to student who gets it wrong & ask a follow-up question to make sure they understand why they got it wrong & why the right answer is right.

Remember the Purpose of Library Lessons

I’m convinced that the purpose of Library Lessons is to make things easier for students, not harder or more confusing, to teach only what they need and avoid anything that does not achieve the purpose of the library visit. I design my Library Lessons with this in mind—and my Library Lesson Planner keeps that to the forefront while planning. As a final bit of counsel for the New School Librarian:

The rigor in our school library should be content in the materials, not finding the materials; 
the challenge needs to be the academic purpose for which we have a school library, not in using the library.

Looking @ Using Professional Development to Create “Essential Lessons”

Looking @ Using Professional Development to Create "Essential Lessons" - Classroom teachers have created "essential lessons" for Common Core State Standards, C3 Framework for Social Studies, and Next Generation Science, many of which integrate ISTE Technology Standards. Significantly missing are "essential lessons" which integrate the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. We librarians can use our professional development opportunities to create such Information Literacy Essential Lessons, thereby promoting collaboration with teachers and thus ensuring student success for future endeavors.I decided to move from classroom to School Library because I wanted to have a greater impact on all students in all subject areas. I was eager to collaborate with teachers, which was, after all, touted as the most important reason a school needed a certified School Librarian rather than just a clerk to check out books. I soon realized only librarians know that collaboration is supposed to happen!

Why should that surprise me? I only learned about it during my library coursework and from fellow librarians, so why would I expect other classroom teachers to know it? We may lament that teachers are too locked into their curriculum to make time to collaborate, but really it’s our responsibility as School Librarians to promote collaboration. We can’t expect teachers to come to us; we have to go to them, and we’d better have some incontrovertible examples that their students will benefit from a Library Lesson.

I believe we need to quit thinking in terms of “marketing our library” or “our resources” or even “ourselves” as a way toward collaboration. We’ve been marketing this way for years and no one hears us. Instead, let’s offer a specific “product” to teachers—a particular lesson that gives students a particular Information Literacy Skill that is essential for their future and, more importantly, that gives the teacher a better assessment product from students. This is why professional development with our fellow librarians is not just helpful, but integral to us as teachers.

Professional Development & Essential Lessons

The librarians in my school district have mapped out very clearly the essential skills students must learn at each grade level, meticulous that, what is needed to learn and understand them, has been taken care of at prior grade levels. We have a clear pathway, with stepping stones along the way, to guide us through a concise and specific K-12 Library Information Literacy Scope and Sequence, written in Information Literacy Standards language that we can translate directly into meaningful lessons for any grade, any subject, any teacher. It’s a great foundation, but it won’t ensure that all kids in X grade learn the information literacy skills they need to prepare them for X+1 grade…or for their future.

What I’d like to see through collaboration with other librarians is the creation of “Essential Lessons.” Information Literacy skills are applicable across all content, so we can develop “Essential Lessons” for introduction, reinforcement, and mastery of a grade-specific skill through the entire grade level curriculum. If we know kids at X grade level need to master Info-Lit Skill Y, then we can create Essential Lessons to introduce that skill into Teacher A’s English/Language Arts lesson, reinforce it through Teacher B’s Social Studies lesson, and help students gain mastery during Teacher C’s Science lesson. This scaffolding is already happening in the classroom, so we librarians need to embrace scaffolding Essential Lessons rather than teaching a discrete lesson for whichever teacher we can convince to collaborate with us! To do that we need a way to wade through everyone else’s ocean of curricula in order to create those “products” to market to teachers and convince them of the value of our Library Lessons.

My Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Composite example of an older version for the 1st grading period.

I’ve written previously about my Curriculum Matrix and using it to create my Library Lessons. Because I used it to scaffold my lessons and market specific lessons to teachers, my teachers began to seek me out for a library lesson if they even sniffed an opportunity to visit the library during their units. I believe such a document, created through collaboration with other librarians during professional development would help us create Essential Lessons for every grade level and subject area. We could then market each Essential Lesson to a particular teacher to peak their interest and convince them of the value our lessons provide to them and to their students. When students produce a significant assessment product, the teacher will want us to teach another lesson later on, which gives us an opportunity to either introduce or reinforce another Info-Lit skill through an Essential Lesson.

Through nearly 25 years of Professional Development I’ve learned a little something from every session, no matter how inconsequential it may have been to me as a Classroom Teacher or a School Librarian; however, the best PDs were the ones where I’ve collaborated with others to create something that generated authentic, relevant learning for students. Classroom teachers have created “essential lessons” for Common Core State Standards, C3 Framework for Social Studies, and Next Generation Science, many of which integrate ISTE Technology Standards. Significantly missing are “essential lessons” which integrate the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. We librarians can use our professional development opportunities to create such lessons, thereby promoting collaboration with teachers and ensuring student success for future endeavors. We owe it to both our teachers and our students to do this!