Keeping Track of Summer Reading and Learning Google Slides


I am spending the summer with my fabulous 8 year old niece Fiona and doing lots of summer reading. We decided to keep track of the books she's read using Google Slides and use YouTube to create video reflections on each book. It is a work in progress.  Stay tuned for updates! We are having lots of fun learning transitions, backgrounds, inserting items, etc.  There is sure to be lots of changes! She can't wait to finish books so she can create her next slide and video reflection!  Excited that technology is boosting a love of reading and not detracting from it!

Teenagers & Summer Reading - A Raffle to Inspire Readers

When I began my new position this year at the high school and middle school my colleagues warned me that "teenagers don't read."  Of course, I know that pleasure reading decreases during the teen years.  When I worked in the elementary school libraries, I would tell the 6th grade students to read as much as possible for fun during that year, life was going to get busy really fast when they leave elementary school.

I remember how much homework and reading was required to be successful in my classes during my teenage years.  Add to that after school sports, clubs, activities, and part time jobs, there is barely enough time to sleep let alone pleasure read. Ok yes there is the digital distraction too.  But guess what?  I did not have a digital distraction, unless you count the landline phone.  Any pleasure reading I did was in the summer. 

Knowing the obstacles in front of me did not discourage me.  During the school year, I would talk to both students and teachers whenever I could and suggest books that I thought they might like.   Sometimes all it took was for me to hand a student a book that they knew I had carefully selected for them (I have known most of my high school students since they were in elementary school which helps.)

I recently read Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst's Disruptive Thinking: Why How We Read Matters.   The authors state that state "We have sticky-noted reading to death" (46). Education has made reading an undesirable activity for students, limiting student selection based on their reading level and then asking a endless amount of questions to assess understanding. AMEN!!

I thought about Disruptive Thinking as I talked to my friend Casey LaPlante, the Granby Memorial High School librarian.  Casey is also a voracious reader, I highly recommend following her on GoodReads.  We talked about summer reading ideas to encourage teens to read.   I was determined to make sure any summer reading activity sponsored by the school library  was not going to be based on assessments or rubrics.  No reporting to English teachers during the first week of school.  No required books, minutes, pages.

Casey share with me her idea and gave me permission to use it at school and discuss it here.   Casey had posted in one of the professional Facebook Groups that she was looking for new ideas.   The summer reading activity I created was based on her research and her ideas.  

And so our Summer Reading Raffle was born.

For every book a student reads, they fill out a Google Form and it counts as an entry into a raffle for prizes such as a 2018 yearbook, homecoming dance tickets, season football passes, and school gear.  I have to note that our school athletic director, Jim Buonocore was so supportive of this idea when I approached him about prizes.  I am really excited that we are connecting reading, athletics, school spirit!  I consulted the district reading consultant who shared my enthusiasm for this idea and it was was given official district approval.  

I am not sure what to expect for participation as nothing like this has been done before, from what I understand there has not been an official "program" offered for high school students through the school district.  At the very least I thought something that would give students who do love to read, an opportunity to do something fun.  And maybe get even just one kid who would not otherwise think of picking up a book to try to read something this summer.   I even decided I would count partially read books.  I would rather a student attempt to read something and be comfortable abandoning it if they do not like it.  I want them to get credit for trying and for putting it down to start something they will enjoy  more.  

I created a LibGuide with all the details including direct access to the Google Form which I have also included below.  Scrolling past the Google Form, teachers shared with me their top 10 lists of books they would personally recommend because they LIKED the book, NOT because It was required reading.  State award nominees and links to the Connecticut Governor Challenge are there as well. 

Students can also find a tutorial to access ebooks and the @ColonelsLibrary Instagram #ebookslhs which features our ebook collection to inspire.  

I have been using social media to get the word out, Twitter, Instagram, PTO Facebook Groups and even emailing students inviting them to participate.  I encouraged students to check out books for the summer. 

We have been on summer vacation for 5 days and there have already been 15 entries.  I can't wait to see what happens the rest of the summer!   I am hoping that this idea inspires students to read and grows in to an annual event.  

Give Students the Skills, Not the Links

Updated June 2, 2017

This was our first year using Google Classroom and it was for the most part a success.  We did find some limitations, like grading individual students on group work.  But thanks to Alice Keeler, there were work-arounds. Google Classroom is a great way to manage your assignments, notices, and more.  It definitely kept improving throughout the year thanks to feedback from users. 

As the middle school and high school librarian, I am concerned with how some teachers are using Google Classroom. I see them pushing links out to students for research.  In fact, a colleague recently told me that there was no need for the web site I was creating, a virtual library of databases, resources, curated web sites, tutorials and classroom assignment links.  They said, with Classroom they just push out the specific links they want students to use for research.  

WHOA!!!  This is a HUGE problem.  One of the biggest lessons we should have learned this year is that everyone needs to know how to determine what sources are valid, how to search for unbiased information, and how to evaluate information and resources.

This is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT skills that should be taught in schools today, not just for academic reasons but to create well informed citizens who can think critically.   

I understand time constraints working within a school day but this is middle and high school. We cannot spoon feed students.  We cannot list links on a class web site or push out through Google Classroom.  Students need to learn how to navigate their way on the web. 

Students will not learn critical thinking skills needed to evaluate resources if we are handing them links.  If teachers push out links, they should be explaining to students WHY they have selected particular databases and web site links.  

I come back to the question that everyone seems to be asking is 
"How do we fight 'fake news'?" 
(Note: I dislike and avoid the term "fake news" when talking to students).

We fight it by not handing students the links and resources they need.
We fight it by not using the term "fake news" but correctly labeling what is found on the web - misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, satire, editorials and hoaxes.  
We fight it by teaching students to abandon their own bias when performing a search.
We fight it by teaching students to think critically, not skeptically.
We fight it by providing databases and teaching students how to use them.
We fight it by teaching students how to evaluate resources in all formats.
We fight it by teaching students the role of journalism in our society.
We fight it by teaching students to use social media responsibly, checking sensational stories before sharing and perpetuating falsehoods.
We fight it in schools, giving students opportunities to learn, to search and to make mistakes.
We fight it with certified school librarians who have the knowledge and skills to curate resources for a 21st century library, to instruct students on choosing and using resources, to support teachers through collaboration, and to be a leader in the quest for facts and truth.  

Keep using Google Classroom to manage your classrooms, but please do not use it as an alternative to teaching students the life skills of navigating the Internet to locate accurate information.  

I work in a middle school and in a high school library. Thank you to Nadine Bailey who reminded me that scaffolding is needed to teach research starting in the elementary schools and that it needs to be a collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarian.  Please see her comment below as well as Elizabeth Hutchinson's as we continue this conversation.  Thank you both for your feedback. 

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