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What Have You Read Lately?

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The project below is being used with seventh grade students to address the goals in language arts.  The project will begin around October and will last for about 4 - 6 weeks.   Students from the town of Lemont will collaborate with the Lemont Public Library to create ways of improving and promoting student attendance.


Old Quarry Middle School students receive a letter from the children's librarian at Lemont's Public Library inviting them to visit the library.  When the students arrive at the library they are divided into two groups.  One group is taken on a tour of the library, while the other group is taken into the conference room for a presentation.  During the presentation the children's librarian tells students the real reason she has asked the students to come to the library.  She explains that the board of directors at the library has noticed a decline in student attendance at the library.  They are concerned and wondering what is causing this decline.  Is it because the library doesn't have the types of books students enjoy or need?  Whom do they ask for help in figuring out this problem?  The library's funding for children's books is in danger of being cut for lack of student interest.  We need your help in making the library a place that students would like to use.  We need your help in determining the kinds of books kids really like to read.   I want to know what kinds of books appeal to kids your age.   Can you help me? Then the group on tour gets the presentation and the presentation group gets the tour.

Upon returning to school the class discusses why there has been a decline in student attendance at the library and brainstorm a list of possible reasons.  One student says, "I've never been to the Lemont's Library before.  I only use the library here at school."  Another responds, "I didn't realize how many books they have.  Our school's library doesn't have that many books."
"I wonder if other students know about this place."  Another student says, "Why can't our class go there once a month?"
"How can we get other students interested in going to Lemont's Public Library?" responds another student. Well, the librarian
thought that it might be that they don't have the types of children's books students enjoy or need.  Maybe, we need to figure out just what types of books students enjoy and need.  A student is chosen to make a list of these books.  Lists are combined into genre categories:  science fiction, fantasy, award winning books, historical and biographical fiction, biographies, etc.  "Ok, how do we decide on titles of good books?"  Well, we need to ask kids.  What about other librarians?   How do we do that?  We could interview kids and librarians.   We could send out a survey asking kids at Old Quarry what their favorite books are.  The conversation now turns to "Are Old Quarry students the only students who use the Lemont Public Library?  No.  Wouldn't it help if we could find out what the kids at St. Cyril's School like to read?  How do we contact them?  We could use the Internet and email them.  We can also use the Internet to find out how other libraries in other communities select their books.

The next day is spent getting organized and developing a general plan to solve the librarian's problem.   The class discusses that everyone can't do everything and that maybe sharing the tasks would enable us to solve the problem that much sooner.   The teacher explains possible roles they might take and why it is necessary to assume different roles throughout the project.  Students decide to form groups, share tasks and rotate roles every other day. One group works to create a tool to gather information and thinks about how to manage this information.  Another group uses email to invite students from Old Quarry,
St. Cyril's, and librarians from other towns to participate in our project.  This group will also read the email responses, as well as, share the results with the class.

While the research group is developing a survey for students and librarians to complete they decide that just providing a title of a book might  not be enough to convince the librarian to purchase it for the library.  In addition, they wonder how to get kids to come into the library once the books have been purchased?  Students ask, "How do we get students interested in reading some of the books that they have never heard of?  "We could tell them something about the book"' says another student. And yet another student says, "How about a book review, or maybe, making some kind of presentation about the book."

The teacher sees this new idea forming and decides to bring the whole group back together to see if everyone is in agreement with changing the survey to include a book review.  Students agree that they need to provide Lemont's librarian with more than just a book title.  One student says, "but how do you put a survey into an email message?"   The teacher says that there is another way our participants can complete the survey.  A web page.  We can put the survey on our school's web page and all participates can visit the school's web page and complete the form.  One student says, "I don't know how to do that.  It sounds like a lot of work to me."  The teacher says not to worry.  In fact, we have Mrs. Warren, an expert here at school, that could help us do just that.   Mrs. Warren comes in the next day and talks with students.  She then takes the survey and create a web page template for the students.  The next day she shows students how to use it.  Students are asked to complete the survey themselves as a required assignment.  The next day students come together to evaluate the survey.  They may decide to make modifications before posting it to the school's web page.

 At the same time, the communicator group is writing an email message inviting students and librarians to participate.  Students decide which schools and librarians to invite for participation in the project.  One student says, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get real authors to recommend books that they think we would like to read?"  "Well, how could you ask an author to recommend a book, states another student.   The teacher tells the students that there are authors who have web pages with their email addresses on them.  A student asks, "Which author should we ask?"  It would be great to get a recommendation from a real author!"  Students use the project web page to locate email addresses for possible participants.
Further on in the week when the email invitations are completed the students send them out to the possible participants.

As students begin to receive information the communication group shares the survey results with the class.   One student asks, now what do we do with this information?"  Students decided that they need to organize it.  One student says, "My mom uses a database to organize information for her job.  She puts information into something like a chart."  Once again the teacher steps in and mentions that Mrs. Warren knows a lot about databases and could help us.  The next day Mrs. Warren meets the students in the computer lab and shows the kids how to use a data base.  The students are required to complete the M&M database activity as an assignment.  Now that students know how to use a database they discuss whether or not to use it to organize the book reviews.  The class votes to see if everyone thinks the spreadsheet is the answer to managing the information. The vote is unanimous for using the database and a simple spreadsheet.  One student says, "We need to put our book reviews into groups."  "Why don't we group our reviews by genre?", said another student.  We have to decide what the titles of each column need to be.  Students design spreadsheet.  To make the job more manageable the students decide to form new groups of  4 or 5 and to have each group specialize in one genre.  Students complete spreadsheets as information becomes available.

Daily assessment sheets and journals will be kept for each student in this project. These sheets will be used to keep track of and help the teacher to monitor and facilitate the project. Each student's assessment sheet will contain the particular job that was done for that day, where the student worked, what information was generated from the day's work. Did the student e-mail another student or librarian, did the student work on a book review/presentation, or did the student work on updating the database of information, etc. These daily assessments will determine the future focus of the project and if any changes will be necessary and will be collected daily.

Another important part of this process is for daily group coming together to share what everyone else has found. Mrs. Dranter uses large chart pads to record the groups summarization. In addition, through the use of questioning Mrs. Dranter encourages students to evaluate their own progress and to make plans for the coming days.

The students will spend the first 4 weeks (or so) doing the gathering of information, analyzing and processing the data, and posting book reviews on a web page.  Once a sufficient amount of information has been generated the whole group needs to come together again to talk about the progress of the research and the direction we need to go next.

 A sufficient amount of time must be set aside for presenting this information to the Lemont Public Library.  .In  March students schedule a meeting with the library board to present their findings and offer suggestions.  The presentation will highlight everything that happened in the process of developing a plan to creating ways of improving and promoting student attendance.


Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Ronda Larson-Dranter (rlarson-dranter@oakwood.s-cook.k12.il.us) Mary A.Warren (mwarren@enc.k12.il.us)
School: Old Quarry Middle School, Lemont, IL (http://www.sd113.s-cook.k12.il.us/oq/oqindex.html)
Created: February 18, 2001 - Updated: March 5, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/library/ronscenario.html