Are Classics Worth It?

By Book Reports, Book Talk, General No Comments

Are classic books worth the time and effort? Are they relevant to today’s time and place? Some adults: parents, teachers, and librarians swear by it and feel, if the students haven’t read any classics – they have wasted their time! However, with the changing times, some find that classic books must be shared with the young. It could be done by incorporating movies.

What makes a book a classic? Italo Calvino’s 14 Criteria for What Makes a Classic

Fundamentally, the work focuses on the style of writing or if it is a new entry in a particular genre. Secondly, it addresses fundamental topics in beauty stimulating visual delight or describes the complex nature of the socio-economic-political structure of a specific place and time. Thirdly, the book reflects values that transcend race, time, and location, providing profound wisdom and teachings of life.

A way to engage students in delving into classic literature might be to introduce students to movies based on these classics. Discussing value systems, character, the period the story was written in, settings, and/or author’s purpose. For example, using Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, you could describe the lifestyle of the girls that grew up in those times and compare and contrast them with the present times’ virtues, and freedom. Discuss the role of women and men who lived in those times and now, in the present. How much has changed and what has remained the same? How can we change and evolve? Why should we develop, grow and change? 

Another example could be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why did she write this book, what prompted her to write? What are the experiments related to stem cells? Could these experiments have been influenced by the story or any other literature? How are the different characters in the story relatable? What conditions or situations in the story remind you of our present-day problems? How were outliers viewed in the previous century as compared to the present day? Here are some links to peruse and use for classic analysis with films. 

 PBS Movies with lesson plans

CommonLit – Lesson Plans

Youtube list that houses a variety of Classics

World Classics Movies list

Audio List of Classics

When students watch the movie and read excerpts from the book, impressions about the character, research on the topic, debates and writing reflection can become an interesting learning experience. Variations in the film and its narration can sometimes be taken off from the book narration, those experiences or topics or themes can be analyzed and discussed.

School Library Association – India

By General, Librarian's Role, School Library Association No Comments

School Librarian Association’s first Newsletter for you! SLAI Scoop FINAL(SLAIndia Newsletter) Vol.1 Issue 1 Oct (002). 2019

School Library Association – India has recently been given a separate entitlement in India. Earlier, they were clubbed under one umbrella of all Indian Libraries. But, school Librarians are a different breed altogether. They have come a long way from being merely a book collector or a maintainer of the resources to playing several dynamic roles in an educational organization. Right from organizing the library, supporting and building the curriculum, to transforming the library into a creative space using all kinds of resources building on students’ imagination and dreams.

Librarians work towards building and supporting all forms of literacy from language, research, technology, et.all, contributing to the emotional, social wellbeing of various individuals through stories, and becoming knowledgeable.

The mission of the School Library Association India is to serve as a national platform. It aims at supporting professionals as knowledge ambassadors (SLA – India) while collaborating with all government bodies to support School Librarians.

The main aim is to:

  • Advocate for school libraries
  • Promote understanding of school librarians and their role
  • Integrating and raising the standards of school library programs into the curriculum
  • Promote research, publication and support professional development
  • Promote all forms of Literacies

Information about awards and grants can be found on this page. All updates and communications can be found on this website.

Librarians support Reading OR Learning?

By General No Comments

Librarians are always associate with READING, I wonder WHY? Shouldn’t we be associated with LEARNING?
My colleague and I were talking about why is reading the key purpose of the librarian’s role. Are we teaching students to read letters to make into words, OR are we inspiring students to think and learn, providing the resources to create, evaluate and build on their belief system and supporting and providing information to build on their knowledge?

The definition of reading is defined as an action or skill of reading. When we use the word READING, we use reading as an act to scaffold the content of the subject, so that individuals have a better understanding of the topic or subject. Librarians are in the role of providing opportunities to students to either scaffold, peel out or support students to dive deep into the content.

When librarians read aloud, we often focus on what is obvious. We ask questions like – Who is the character? Where is the setting of the story? What happened at the end of the story? What is the moral of the story? Students pretty much know these answers. We need to challenge the students to ask questions beyond the basic and ask Questions like: Why do you think so? What might happen if…? How is this connected to our lives or our future generation…? How has it changed over time…? Why is the change necessary? What are the different aspects that have led to the change…? How can we make sure that when we are writing, we are paraphrasing, evaluating, synthesizing and finally citing our sources

Mission Statement for Libraries?

By General, Library Vision & Mission No Comments

Every educational institute has a vision for their students and learning community. It guides the entire school program and provides a direction to the learning community. With more and more institution looking for a flexible curriculum, the library is becoming the central service point. Therefore, it is essential for a library to have a guiding mission statement that defines its purpose, direction, and who it serves.

The Library Mission statement stems out of the school vision and identifies what it will achieve, what it values and the commitments towards achieving the goal of the school. The Library mission is directly related to the school’s aims and policies.  Many school libraries have library policies with rules and regulations for all students and teachers; they have guidelines and procedural manuals.  But, often fails to have a vision or a mission, which is where everything must stem from.

How do you create a Library Mission or Vision?

1. Look at your school’s mission and vision carefully
2. Make a list of values and identify what might the Library undertake to ensure that it supports the vision of the school. What is the purpose of the Library?
3. String the list together to match the school vision
4. Once you have a view – the big picture – that statement forms the vision of the library. The statement will express what the library wants to achieve in the future.
5. Then, you can plan your mission. The mission will describe how the library will get there? What are your objectives and goals? You may have a library program, that will help you achieve your goal.

It’s a good idea to look at several library visions and missions to create one that is unique and relevant to your school. You cannot do this exercise alone, involve all members of your library team and the curriculum advisor, a collaborative effort, brings a broader perspective with meaning.

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.

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.

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.