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Making Reading Accessible for Learners with Dyslexia June 22, 2017

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Online Teaching, Reflections, Tech Tips.
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Though my sabbatical classes are over for the semester, I still have a lot of information to process and apply to our library program.  I hope to post some of my presentations and other resources over the next couple months leading up to the back-to-school season.

Online Teaching Program, Spring 2017, Week 15 - Reflections, Thoughts, and Questions

My second class was called “Responding to Individual Learners,” and it was about personalizing online and face-to-face instruction for students, particularly students with special needs.  The culminating project was to choose a characteristic/disability/trait to study, write a paper on a peer-reviewed research article, and then present the research findings to the class.

I chose to research how different online reading experiences affect learners with dyslexia.  Through my research, I learned that it’s relatively easy and not very time-consuming to modify documents to make them easier to read.  Furthermore, offering modified reading materials can help not only students with dyslexia, but also students with other reading disabilities or challenges.

From my research and the many resources I came across, The British Dyslexia Association’s Style Guide and other resources for educators was especially helpful, and they are worth checking out.

You can read my paper on Google Docs, and view my screencasted video presentation on YouTube.  The Google Slides presentation is also embedded below.

One of my takeaways from the research article was that I think more teachers would take the time to modify their reading assignments to make them more readable if they had a template to use.  So I created one on Google Docs so teachers can copy and paste a text into it and share it with students as one reading option.  You get your own template by clicking the image below, going to “File” then “Make a copy” in the Google Docs menu.Dyslexia-friendly Google Doc | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Another takeaway from this project was that the technology we have today, even very simple PDF readers and ebook apps, often have some accessibility tools built-in.  For instance, the apps I highlighted in my presentation allow student to change the background and text color of reading documents.  As part of reading instruction at the beginning of the year, I think we should be teaching all students, not just our students with special needs, how to customize these tools to what works for them.  Knowing how to “hack” their tech tools empowers students to take a more active role in their own education.

If you have a tip for accommodating reading assignments for students, or if you have a recommended app or program for online reading, please share it with us in the comments!  And stay tuned for more research-based ideas and reflections from my Online Teaching classes.  Happy summer!

A Freebie for Your Patience May 7, 2016

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections.
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I know it’s been over 5 months since my last post, and well…life got in the way.  In the past few months, my husband and I became (very happily) pregnant, and it seems like everything just went crazy from there.  I know this will probably come as no surprise to the parents reading this, but things just…change.  There’s a gradual, but very noticeable, shift that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t have the same drive to blog, or tweet, or create, or innovate.  To be fair, my body’s a little busy doing plenty of creating, however, I don’t feel the same ambitious desire to do anything innovative or new in my library.  It’s disconcerting, but I’m emotionally and professionally fine with it.  It’s been easier than I expected to just let it go.

Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe has an excellent blog post on how first-time fatherhood affects his professional life.  I read it last summer, and it came to mind again a couple of weeks ago.  It captures rather well how I’ve been feeling (except for the partner judging/shaming…my hubby has taken over all the cooking and most of the cleaning, so I blessedly can’t relate to that part).  I admire his ability and willingness to write about how his personal and professional lives interact.  And I wish more librarians and educators would be so honest about the realities of the elusive work-life balance.

A Freebie for Your Patience: Independent Reading Library Center | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

So for my readers’ patience, here’s a freebie of one of my library centers that I’ve used for a couple of years.  A commonly used center is the “reading independently” or “book buddies reading” center, and some other versions are available from my teacher-librarian PLN.  I made my own version for two reasons:

  1. I color-coded my library centers based on my 3 types of centers: Research Skills, Reading & Language, and Makerspace.  I assigned the color red to all the Reading & Language centers, so I wanted my Independent Reading Center to be red.
  2. I wanted to add options for reading material to include magazines and ebooks, as well as whisper-reading to a beanbag buddy or “book buddy.”

So if you’d like to try my version of this popular center, click on the image below or on THIS LINK to download it.  The zip file download contains the center sign below in PDF and Microsoft Word file formats, and an editable lesson plan in Microsoft Word file.  The clipart is from Glitter Meets Glue Designs and Empty Jar Illustrations.

Thank you for staying tuned during my temporary hiatus.  Enjoy!

Independent Reading Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Reading Aloud in School: An Endangered Practice? July 23, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, PSLA.
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Reading Aloud in School: An Endangered Practice? - Research & Resources | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

At the recent PA School Librarians Association (PSLA) Annual Conference, I read a worrisome tweet from a participant in a concurrent session. Some Pennsylvania librarians reported that administrators recently told them that reading aloud isn’t “rigorous enough.” Not even as part of a larger unit or with young students.

I was horrified to hear that statement, however, it wasn’t the first time, I’ve heard similar whispers about “rigor” in relation to library class time and reading aloud. It’s particularly frustrating to hear when in some districts (not mine), the teacher-librarian is viewed as “just coverage” for a classroom teacher’s planning period, regardless of how rigorous (or not) the information literacy instruction is.

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TL Blogging Challenge #19 – Glows, Grows, and Professional Journals July 3, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, PSLA, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #19 – What is one thing you wish you were better at.  Just one!  Why?  What could you do to improve in this area?

GlowsandGrowsAs part of my reflection process, I have a section in my lesson plans for “Glows and Grows.”  My favorite professor at Messiah College, Dr. Anita Voelker, taught me that phrase, and I use it to focus on both the positive things that happened in a lesson, the glows, and the things that I need to work on next time, the grows.

Professionally, one of my all-the-time “grows” is keeping up with professional reviews for collection development.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say I am 4-5 months behind in reading School Library Journal, the one professional journal I subscribe to in print, and I rarely read others like Library Media Connection, Teacher Librarian or PSLA‘s Learning and Media Online.  It’s just not a very high priority on my ever-lengthening to-do list; there are too many other things that I feel are more important than reading reviews.  Plus, sometimes, I think the print journals often mirror what I’ve already read in my Feedly RSS reader.  (See the PLN links on the right to see who I follow by RSS.)

When I first met my New York Giants-loving husband, I often used football games to read SLJ.  I could read the articles and all the reviews in a single issue in the span of one football game, and it was always nice to curl up on the couch with my hubby while catching the main highlights of the game.  I’m not a huge football fan, so this worked well for me.  This past year, though, the Giants had such a terrible season that it wasn’t even fun to watch.  So my SLJ-reading time didn’t happen a whole lot, and I never really caught up since then.  I’m now in the middle of reading the March 2014 issue, and I haven’t gotten the July one yet.

My dream solution would be to have online reading options as well as integration with the major school library distributors like Follett and Mackin.  I want to read SLJ‘s articles and reviews on a computer or tablet, and when I like a review enough to add it to a buying wish list, I could just “check” it somehow within a SLJ digital edition (or app) and it would automatically add that title to the list on my Follett Titlewave account (or Mackin account).  Right now I just circle a review of a book I think our library should have, or I might mark it “maybe.”  When I look up the book in Follett’s Titlewave collection development tool, I read the other reviews of the book within Titlewave, and then decide if it should stay on the buying list, or if it gets cut.  My materials-reviewing time could be cut in half with digital integration like the above idea. 

Still, barring that dream of seamless tech integration, my plan for next year is to try again with the football-watching-SLJ-reading time.  Additionally, I might try reading SLJ at school, during my lunch hour or any spare moments of my day.  I don’t know what to take “off my plate” to make time to do that, but it’s a possibility if I (hopefully) have the same semi-fixed schedule as last year.

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

TL Blogging Challenge #5 – Booktalks February 17, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Reflections.
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booktalks

Pixabay and MS Office Clipart

I’m not really a huge booktalker.  I realize that’s almost blasphemous as a teacher-librarian, but honestly, it’s about limited time.  After teaching 20 classes, managing 6 sessions of RtII, supervising TV crew, ditching the Dewey decimals, managing the Android tablets, and ordering fantastic and exceptional books, there isn’t a lot of time left for dedicated booktalking.

Here’s what I do instead:

  • Personalized book recommendations – During almost every library class, I offer to help anyone find their next book based on their genre preferences and past reading.  This takes 3-5 minutes per student, so I can’t do it for everyone, but the ones that take me up on the offer get my undivided attention.
  • Book tastings – In September, the four 5th grade teachers and I collaborated for the first time in several years.  We schedule book tastings in the library with 7 library tables of books, 1 genre per table with a mix of fiction and nonfiction.  The library was a mess for days, but it was worth it!  The classroom and several learning support teachers came with their students to help with choosing and evaluating reading levels.  By the end of 90 minutes, each student left with a list of 7-10 books they wanted to read this year.  Many checked out one or two that day.  I’d like to repeat the tasting again for the spring, but I think it might have to wait until after PSSA tests.
  • RtII literature circles – When over 60 students need to choose new books for literature circles, the gifted teacher and I decide on a few choices, and I booktalk them to the students before they vote for their favorite.  Lit circle groups are organized by student choice of books.

And that’s about it.  I used to do more booktalks when teachers did monthly or quarterly book projects/reports on a particular genre.  Book projects have fallen out of favor in our school in the past few years, and perhaps that’s for the best.  Though students were forced to read a variety of genres, inevitably the genres that were less-respected by teachers such as humor, poetry, and science fiction were overlooked.  Besides, I prefer students to read what they want, instead of what their teacher wants them to read.  I’m a reading rebel like that!

I sometimes wish our teachers and public schools could be more focused on reading for fun or for enjoyment (Rosenblatt’s aesthetic stance) instead of almost exclusively on reading for information or learning (Rosenblatt’s efferent stance).  Booktalking was always a great way to promote reading from an aesthetic stance, and it introduced students to books they might not have read otherwise.  I think students would be more likely to become lifelong readers and learners if we could.

For more information about Louise Rosenblatt’s instructional stances, check your local public or college library databases for “transactional theory of reading” or “reader response theory.”

Rosenblatt, J. M. (1991). Literature — S.O.S.! Language Arts, 68, 444-448. Preview available on JSTOR.

The TL blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

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