Fake News

By | General | One Comment

Image by Wikimedia Commons

One time or another, we all fall for fake news and fake information especially when the information touches our heart and mood. As a librarian, I am a firm believer of not posting information without double checking for facts but just the other day, someone forwarded a message on Whatsapp sincerely urging the readers to share the information and help young students receive a scholarship by a very multinational company, and the message also read that it was not a fake message, and to please pass it (and it sounded urgent).  Being human and vulnerable, at this point, I highlighted the message and passed it on immediately, and thankfully, I had passed on this to my Library Group, who very ethically asked me to double check my information and reminded me that the message was a HOAX. Thankfully, this saved me the embarrassment in other groups.

As adults, we often succumb to social media pressure, what about our students? This incident, only reminded me how necessary it is for us to have constant reminders about the importance of constantly checking for the credibility of information, especially in this fast-paced world of news and information.

Here are some gentle reminders: How to identify Fake News on Whatsapp in Hindi (Video -3.44)

How to identify Fake News in India by Dhruv Rathee in Hindi (Video – 9:17)

How to spot Fake News in India by The Quint in English (Video – 3:22)

Besides using the strategies mentioned in the videos, we could also check out the alternative/fact-checking websites and some are:

Why should YOU care whether you get real or fake news? I think it is because:

  • You deserve the truth
  • Fake news destroys your credibility
  • Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people
  • Real news can benefit you

That’s why it is important for us to always double check our information and have the real information benefit our lives.

Summer Writing

By | Creative Writing | No Comments

Writing and Reading are like “Daal & Chawal,” you can’t have one without the other. When you read, you read to learn, feel and think, not read to know what happens at the end of the story. (That’s the small part) Reading is a journey, where you think about the characters feeling, problems, her/his journey and the alternative forms of arriving at solutions, it is learning about different societies and cultures. It is a way of deciphering purpose and meaning. Reading is learning to have PersPective, because everything has a point of view. Reading and writing are like a handshake, and the author inspires you to think, write and share your ideas and your story. So, when you read, you identify and underline the words and sentences, the author has used to express his thoughts. By doing this, you are learning the craft of writing.

Imitation of style NOT CONTENT is the greatest tribute you can give an author for his inspiration, till you discover your own. Having a “Writers Notebook” or “Writers Diary” is the first step towards learning how to write. We must encourage our students to write; we do not want our students to face the Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Tedx). Writing is cathartic. Write, Write and Write. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” Octavia E. Butler. Revising your writing is the critical component in learning how to write well. 

Why is writing important?

  • To communicate your thoughts, opinions, emotions, and ideas clearly to multiple people at the same time
  • To validate our existence, choices, experiences in life
  • The framework of our communication at the workplace is in forms of –  Reports– Press Release

    – Communicating ideas via email

    – Maintaining a blog

    – Summarizing your work or creating reflections and goals

    – Writing recipes

    – Writing notes, communicating effectively with family

Writing personal narratives is the first step towards learning how to write. Here is some personal description prompts to help you.

Writing prompts for children

Writing prompts for parents & teens

Other writing prompts with technology social media, the internet as the main idea.

Rewriting, revising,  rephrasing and editing are essential parts of a writing process. You are not done with writing until you have gone through the whole process from ideation to sharing.

Summer Reading

By | Summer Reading | No Comments

Reading Time: 2 min 37 sec

Students who do not read during the summer have a hard time when they return to school in the new academic- it’s called the Summer Slide. To avoid the summer slide, educators recommend that students read. Read to learn, Read to become knowledgeable, Read to have a Hero, Read to have Courage, Read to have Conviction, Read to create Meaning of the World around you.  Oxford Statistics show loss of learning during the summer if one does not participate in some learning.

Reading a book is not simply devouring the words and understanding what happens at the end of the book. Read for Pleasure; it is subjective. Read whatever makes you tick. When you can’t put the book down and your brain fizzes, questions rush to your head, whether it is about a plot, character, theory, method or the heart, or you lose track of time, then you know you are reading!

Read to discover new words, new meaning, new relationships. Ask students to Connect – connect with the characters, connect with the setting, connect with the world around them. Do not think about the format: it could be digital or print. Reading is the key, not the platform.

Here are some questions to think about while reading, taking reading to a level of deep comprehension. Superficial reading does not help anyone. The present 21st-century skills require the individuals to have deep comprehension skills by analyzing, comparing, synthesizing and questioning the texts. ASK THINK & QUESTION.

Reading Reflection

Remember your thoughts, opinions, and ideas about the story; they are essential.  You may write down your reflection or share your observations about the story with an adult.  Be sure to share your thoughts in complete sentences, adding details to support your thinking.

  1. Who was your favorite main character in this story? What are the actions and personality traits that was most likable or appealing? Why?
  2. What is the author’s purpose for the story (to Persuade, Inform or Entertain you)? Explain with evidence.
  3.  Quote a passage from the book that sticks to memory, and explain why that idea or message impressed you so much. What is the main message in the story (not the ending of the story). What does it mean to you? How is it connected to you or the world around you?
  4. What is the most significant hardship experienced by your favorite main character? How did his or her difficulty affect your emotions while reading the novel? How are these hardships similar to people you may know in your life? How is it different or the same?
  5. Summarize the most crucial scene, or climax, of the story. How does the climax affect your favorite main character? Does the climax create greater happiness for him or her? Does it allow this character to accomplish his or her goal within the story? Please explain.
  6. Recall a favorite character from your book. Now, using the first person point of view (“I” and “me”), become that character and write a short episode about one of “your experiences,” based upon the storyline.  
  7. What questions would you like to ask the author before you read this book?  What are you wondering about as you look at the cover and back of your book?
  8. As you’ve been reading, what pictures have been in your mind?  If you were in the story, what would you hear, taste, smell or feel?  What does the character/setting look like in your mind?  Tell me what you imagined in your mind as you read that page/paragraph.
  9. Summarize what you have read today? Retell the essential events in sequential order.
  10.  If you have read a nonfiction book, what have you learned, and what are some of the connections you see with other disciplines or subjects. 
  11. What areas would you like to research about after you have read this book? 
  12. What are the ideas, concepts or plans you have about the topic that triggered your imagination?

Here is another reading reflection for Elementary Students

“Research Roundup: 2014 Summer Reading Suggestions.” Science and Children 051.09 (2014): n. pag. St. Temple School. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <http://stmarys-temple.org/documents/Summer%20Reading%20List%20Assignment%20(1).pdf>.

Understanding Media

By | Media Literacy | No Comments

There are three purposes of Media – To Persuade, To Inform and To Entertain, however, in my opinion, there is the fourth purpose and that is understanding perspective. Many young people are sharing their ideas, opinions and views on social media using self-created media. With over 1 billion people using Facebook, 1 million using Instagram, 1.5 billion using Whatsapp on a daily bases, it is so important for librarians, teachers, and technology teachers to have students understand media.

All our news, entertainment comes from Media. Dr. Anubhati Yadav, Department Head of New Media and Course Director of Advertising and Public Relations Course says, from 2 years old to adults all respond to media, therefore, it is important for students to learn about the purpose of media, how it is created and how students can use media effectively to create, learn and share. Today, being literate, meaning able to read and write is not adequate, it is important to be meta-literate, that is individuals can draw inferences, conclusions, and ideas from a variety of media products like infographics, maps embedded with media, videos, and virtual reality products.

Media literacy is the ability to understand how the media work, how they convey meaning. Media Literacy also involves critical thinking about the thousands of messages we are bombarded with on a daily basisFrank Baker in Media Literacy

Other than reading to students, librarians can embed “Media Literacy” in their curriculum. They can use advertisements in magazines and digital media products to teach students the elements of media and what it takes to create a message for the audience.  Common Sense Media and Media Smarts, have resources to support teachers. Mr. Frank Baker, a specialist in Media Literacy has a Media Literacy Clearinghouse to support educators. Renee Hobbs founder of Media Education Lab has resources to teach media literacy. Check out this video from Common Sense.

Library & After School Clubs

By | ASA, General, Reading and Writing, School Libraries | No Comments

Library and enrichment programs or after school activities are becoming very popular in both local and international schools. There is merit in our role in inspiring our students who can find refuge, respect, and freedom in the choices that they make — a safe environment to explore their world.

Librarians can offer all kinds of workshops for all ages. It can be ideas from the Maker Trends, ranging from knitting to crochet, creating logos and websites, using 3D printers to replicate to make prototypes that are useful. They can learn digital art, paints, color, and design in the learning space of the Library. Librarians can either mentor the workshops or offer the venue for all these activities.

Librarians can offer – Reading Clubs that allow students to look deeper into the craft of writing, analyze and understand the genre by pointing out different writing crafts that make that book a particular style.

Writing Clubs, where students write their narratives and librarians can support by hosting their stories online or in print. As librarians,  we need to provide a space of free expressions where students can write about every and any topic without being judgemental. In a world where students are influenced by biases based on gender, class, caste, race and economic differences, the library can be a venue where students can assert their voice and feel acknowledged.

Picture Book Clubs bring about lots of interest to little as well as older children. In the picture book clubs, one can read different picture books, keeping the focus on genres; writers can collaborate with artists to create their picture books. Explore folklore from around the world. Or even look at different artwork in the picture books and learn about them.

Wellness Clubs can be in many formats. It can include poetry, dance, simple mindfulness techniques blended with picture books or writing.

Creating eBooks, Graphic novels, Calligraphy, Photostories, Photojournalism, Spoken Poetry are some of the clubs that can be a part of the library engagements.

Should you think of other engagements you have conducted in your school, please add them to the comment section, it will help inspire me.

Should Librarians Ban Books or Stand Up for Freedom?

By | Collection Development, General, Reading Program | No Comments

Should librarians ban books that are controversial or stand up for freedom of expression?

The primary role of a library is to promote the progress of knowledge, promote love for reading and through this give people a better quality of life. Libraries are centers of all forms of learning. Scientists, artists, and philosophers have discussed, learned and grown in their fields of knowledge only because of libraries. Libraries have always witnessed controversial debate only to bring out the best of knowledge.

Looking back into history there has been many classics and other novels that have been banned at schools and in many countries. More often than not, books with sexual content, profanity, offensive language, stories based on chemical abuse (drugs), satanic themes, religious preferences have been subject to complaints and have pressured librarians not to include such content in the schools. Sometimes, it is the plot or the characters’ viewpoint that impacts morality making it the contention for books to be banned.

Robert A. Heinlein said about censorship: “The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak.” A library is a venue to provide the users with all forms of information and not control it in any way, even if librarians do not like or agree with some of the content.

You may argue, that the librarians have a moral duty to their students and therefore needs to carefully curate books and help them have a balanced approach to all forms of knowledge. And, on the other hand, we do want our students to think, make informed decisions and choices, have an opportunity to discuss, learn, and find solutions to the problems that may have cropped up in the story.

In Rodney A. Smolla research paper, “Freedom of Speech for Libraries and Librarians” she says, “Like art museums, libraries will be among the repositories of knowledge and culture in a modern society that can expect to find themselves under increasing pressure to serve as society’s censors.” And as librarians, we must have the courage to fight against censorship. Here are some examples of books that were banned at one time or the other.

To kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple was banned for a while because it was said to promote racial discrimination and racial hatred. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was considered immoral and for having sacrilegious content. Harry Potter series was deemed to be anti-family, violent, and satanic. Another classic, Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, was banned because of profanity. Looking For Alaska by John Green as taken away from libraries for “offensive language” and “sexually explicit content.”

Recently, a group of parents and teachers talked about banning fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and other such tales which had wicked plots and made step parents and abandoning of children, unnerving plots and they believed that these stories created a negative impact on little children. So, where do we stop and what do librarians do?

Do we become strong and stand up for freedom of knowledge by supporting challenging options, when adding books to our collection? Do we introduce students to LGBTQ books? Do we create an open society of communication and individual rights or do we shun them under hypocrisy and fear? Do we provide an opportunity for healthy discussion and openmindedness, where students can learn and discuss? Or close their minds under the garb of protecting them. What do we do? Do we begin to have an open discussion with parents and share our rationale with them? Do we trust our children to be intelligent enough to have a rational discussion or think of them to be dumb witted? Do we stand up for a reason or given in to being the nurturing and protective agents? Here is a list of books that were banned in India. And here is a list of LGBTQ Books and here is a list of controversial books you might want to have in your library.

Book Reports with Purpose

By | Book Reports | No Comments

Book Reports -Source: Pixabay CC0 License

Meaningful book reports to help students think deeply:

How do we challenge our students to use higher order thinking skills to help students think deeply about what they read? Book reports have always been a vital part of a librarians role. And, somehow we end up with students writing a summary or a description of the book.

How do we change the book report style?

To help students interpret the book or analyse the story deeply, we will need to encourage them to select a book of their choice and have them use different strategies and not summarization. Here are some thoughts:

1. Settings of the novel: Why has the author chosen the context to explain? Describe with evidence that demonstrates the difference between the settings in the story with your background. For example: Why was the story in the mountains,? How is it different from the city? Whey did the author choose the hills instead of the town? What are the implications of the settings on the goal/meaning/intent of the story?

2. Characterisation: Explain the protagonist, how is he/she is different from the other characters in the story? What part of the books describes the person as a stereotype or someone different. Explain the personality traits with examples. Explain the moods of the major and minor characters, their feelings, actions and thoughts.

3. Point of view? What point of view is the story written in? First person, second or third person? Why do you think he chose to write it in this format? How would the author have written the same story from another point of view? Give examples from the story.

4. Conflict: Students can identify the problem or the conflict in the story. Is it between people, nature versus human, self-conflict, society norms versus one development? Explain the conflict and how does the main character/protagonist grow or learn from the battle?

5. Theme and Symbols: Think and explain what the author’s purpose was to write this book? The subject of the novel is the big idea which is often universal, for example, it could be friendship, saving the environment. The symbols in the story are metaphors or symbols used to add depth and meaning to the story. They can be identified and explained with examples.

Reading Logs and DEAR

By | Book Talk, General, Literacy, Readaloud, Reading and Writing, Reading Program, School Libraries | No Comments

What is a Reading Log?

Are they useful? Do you think reading logs can help readers be accountable for what they are reading and how much they are reading?

Adding time and page numbers to the reading log – Will that accurately tell how much students are reading, why they are reading and what they have accomplished from their reading? Do we as adults follow it?

Reading logs are now being replaced by reading responses, that is nudging students to be analytical thinkers by carefully analyzing the structure and word choice of text while reading. An interesting article Goodbye Reading logs from Scholastic shows you how you can help build readers during your library classes with your students.

What is Dear?

DEAR – Drop everything and read is another opportunity provided for students to stop and read. Language class teachers often use this strategy to support learning in class. Librarians can also use DEAR for 10 minutes of their class and have students read with meaning, you may use graphic organizers to compare settings, characters or even the genre of the books or magazine that they are reading.

Other reading responses could be:

  1. Analyze the character in the book with someone you know or compare the character with your sibling?
  2. What is the author’s purpose, and how do you know that?
  3. If it’s a nonfiction book – compare and contrast.
  4. What are the facts and opinions in the passages, and explain them with pieces of evidence?
  5. What are the problems that you infer in the passage/story? What makes you say so?
  6. Identify the character’s point of view? Compare them with your views. (You can use emotions too)
  7. What current events come to your mind, while you are reading this passage?
  8. What connections can you make with history or modern-day technology?
  9. What inferences can you make about the passages you are reading?
  10. Identify some of the sensory words and create a poem with those words?
  11. Write five words or phrases that might summarize what you have read.
  12. Explain your reading with a metaphor or a meme.

Of course, teacher librarians will need to model the responses and demonstrate with an example so that students too can closely read with deeper comprehension.

Plagiarism: Take it seriously!

By | Copyright, General, Information Literacy, Research Skills | No Comments

Recently, a few poets accused Ailey O’Toole of selecting parts of their poetry and using it in her poetry to express herself. Incidentally, she was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her poem Gun Metal (which was plagiarized). The Guardian has all the details about the case. This incident made several publishers pull down O’Toole’s Works from their sites.  Although she has been very apologetic about the accidental plagiarism, I noticed that her credibility has been affected and her future works will be always be looked at with doubt and skepticism.

Reflecting on the past I have noticed, how quickly I have merely ‘copied and pasted’. I have rationalized saying, “this is exactly what I want to say” so why to reword it, simply ‘copy and paste’ and this will save my time and effort. Well, if that is the intent of saving time and effort, then what I have also learned is to take an extra minute or two to put it in “Quotes” and cite the author’s name. What about you? Are you guilty of plagiarizing too?

Examples of plagiarism are many, here are a few International examples, NDTV has compiled a few Indian cases and a story about 3 Academic Thefts by professors in Rajasthan.

iPleaders Blog Post on Plagiarism law gives us a glimpse of India’s views on plagiarism. This makes me wonder and reflect on our Indian Education System. In the local schools, I  have observed that students photocopy school notes and college notes, memorize them and then finally regurgitate the content in their exams, to get scores or marks that will make him/her eligible to one of the best colleges in India. Are we preparing our students for a ‘copy and paste’ world or do we want them to think, reflect and create?

I wonder how will this individual function in the real world? How will he/she respond ethically in the information world, where he/she has not learned to paraphrase and use his/her thinking faculties to express ideas or create something unique?

Here are simple six steps by Write Check to avoid plagiarism. BibMe recommends other ways. Some important ones I have learned are to:

  1. Use multiple sources of information to get a perspective and in-depth knowledge on the topic.
  2. Acknowledge one’s ideas, beliefs and thoughts that are gathered after much reading.
  3. Paraphrasing correctly and not merely replacing parts of a sentence with synonyms but also the syntax of the sentences.
  4. When quoting other peoples work, it’s important to give credit.
  5. Using a proper citing format according to the discipline.

Using a plagiarism checker can be very helpful when writing, it helps prevent accidental plagiarism.  Invest in one; it’s worth it!

Guided Reading Program- Raz Plus

By | Digital Resources, General, Internation Schools, Literacy, Reading and Writing, Reading Program, Writing Program | No Comments

Recently, I read in the local newspaper in Mumbai, that the latest key education trends to watch out for in 2019 are:

  1. The growth of integrated learning solutions: that is integrating technology with teaching content
  2. Adoption of formative assessment solutions: we know that the assessment of rote learning is not going to help our present generation of students
  3. Learning through regional languages: using bilingual mode of teaching and learning
  4. Increased demand for professional development for all educators: having a growth mindset and learning the craft of teaching and learning with new and updated teaching-learning strategies the and pedagogy.

Recently, I learned that many International schools are looking at adopting reading and writing programs and are moving away from the textbook. Some are adopting a dual program – text book + a reading program. This in my perspective, is a great opportunity for teachers to build on their craft of teaching English.

Learning A-Z is a great resource, well known in the International circuit and is used in over 140 countries, thus validating and supporting accreditation in schools. The research and awards received by the program, shows that the content is vetted both qualitatively and quantitatively  leveraging good reading and writing practices, thus moving away from ROTE LEARNING to develop DEEP LITERACY SKILLS  for critical thinking.

In my opinion, Learning A-Z  supports all of the above. It teaches teachers how to teach reading and writing involving skills and  strategies of the 21st century like analyzing character, analyzing plots, analyzing settings, understanding author’s purpose of entertainment, information, and persuasion, cause & effect, identifying points of view, making inferences and drawing conferences, problem solution, understanding different genres, sequence of events and more. All resources books are available in a blended format – both print and digital.

This program offers students direct and explicit instruction on key comprehension skills with the Comprehension Skill Packs. Each lesson plan follows the teaching, practice, and apply an instructional approach to support students as they build meaning from texts.  It includes guided reading books (leveled), worksheets, professional development lesson plans, visual devices, graphic organizers and all the necessary documents for teaching – thus saving lots of google search time.

A blended program that offers the students an opportunity to read at their reading level, complete a quiz on their device. The results of the quiz can help teachers identify areas of teaching and support student learning.

The Writing A-Z  delivers online writing lessons, resources, and tools to meet the needs of every student, at every learning level for Elementary and Middle School Years.

  • Lessons and resources to teach writing
  • Interactive online writing tools for students
  • Online reporting to track progress and growth

You can get your free trial here for 14 days and also download their samples and check them out. I am sure this program will benefit your students and enhance your teaching practice.