On Tuesday, May 14, more than 300 educators gathered in New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum for the New York City Department of Education’s Exploratorium, an annual, day-long event filled with learning opportunities for the city’s public school librarians.
In addition to a tour of the Beaux-Arts building, shoptalk on the MyLibraryNYC collaboration between the city’s public libraries and schools, and the SummerReading.Org initiative offered by the three NYC public library systems, attendees were treated to workshops on topics ranging from instructional strategies to databases to collection development, all conducted by educators and publishing professionals.
Among the sessions was “Creating Multimodal, Multigenre Text Sets,” presented by Mary Ann Cappiello, co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (Shell Education, 2012), member of the Uncommon Corps, blogger, and monthly co-contributor to the Curriculum Connections “On Common Core” column.
Cappiello explained her approach to teaching with text sets—related books on a topic—by offering five models of instruction that “scaffold, immerse, and extend content,” in her words, and sharing sample lesson templates. Attendees had an opportunity to explore some of Cappiello’s teaching models, with approaches ranging from focused comparisons to in-depth coverage. As an example, she presented a unit on trees that included such titles as Wendy Pfeffer’s A Log’s Life (S & S, 1997), illustrated by Robin Brickman, and Donna Jo Napoli’s Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya (S&S, 2010), illustrated by Kadir Nelson, that also incorporated a related hands-on activity. Participants agreed with one librarian who said that the session opened her eyes to an leveled teaching approach that was an efficient tool for initiating collaborative units.
“Teaching is hard work in the digital era,” admitted Michelle Luhtala, a self-described “fierce advocate of free-range media and BYOD,” during her presentation “Instructional Strategies for Mobile Devices.” Luhtala, the New Canaan (CT) High School Library Chair (twitter: @mluhtala), discussed some digital projects that have engaged her students and discussed how her role has changed over the past five years.
Commenting on some of the student trends she has seen, as well as statistics she’s recorded, Luhtala noted upticks in cloud computing, mobile learning, and content creation, along with declines in book and ebook circulation and database usage. She also predicted that the downturn is database use would continue as app use increases. One of her best purchases this year? An expensive, but well-used AP review app.
On the second floor of the NYPL, librarians crowded into one of the paneled conference rooms to hear Junior Library Guild (JLG) professional development specialist Leslie Bermel booktalk some of JLG’s current titles, from picture books to novels suitable for “mature” young adult readers. With a JLG subscription, librarians can choose to receive new titles from up to 52 book categories chosen by the subscriber. Librarians can pay for an annual JLG subscription up-front and continue to receive new books each month. Suitable for readers from pre-K through high school, the books, with special-interest areas including biography, humor, and sports, are selected by JLG’s group of children’s and young adult literature experts.
This system is perfect for busy librarians and those like the attendee who purchased graphic novels through JLG because who felt she didn’t know the genre as well as the avid comic fans in her school. Titles on JLG’s current list include Lemony Snicket’s The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Little, Brown); Stephen Pastis’s Timothy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Candlewick); and Shaun Tan’s The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook (Scholastic).
During the DOE event, experts were on hand to offer participants instruction on databases throughout the day. Publishing representatives from Scholastic, Lerner, Capstone other companies were also available to discuss their digital products and services.