Sunday, March 9, 2014

Olga Nesi--Transformative Power of Care

Applying painstaking attention to an issue can really transform a program in your school.  Olga Nesi described how using incredible care helped her transform the reading culture in her school.

Nesi described her school's well-intentioned reading program as a "dead horse" and described the process she used to carefully, slowly and intentionally to shift the culture so that the entire school bought in to transforming her middle school to become a school where reading is valued, participation is increased, and EVERYONE participates in a culture of reading.

Nesi's step (which she describes as useful for any big library shift) include:

Form allies--who can you approach to help you?  look for natural allies (e.g., new teachers, reading staff, parents); think about THEIR goals for the shift--what concerns do they have, what outcome do they want to see

Prepare for change--bring a team together and discuss HOW this will happen; use great care in explaining why the change needs to happen (what is the dead horse?) and talk about how you can carefully and intentionally change the culture--get buy-in

Step 3:  Roll out--Olga described a new reading program that her team developed that got rid of many of the elements that were not working (book reports, summer reading assignments, etc).  Some of the components of her program included:

  • book hooks--instead of book reports, students used short forms to keep track of what they read and these were stored in ELA classrooms; included short "what is the hook?" and 3 words/phrases that described the book
  • language to describe books--Nesi used a list of adjectives that she overtly taught to kids through ELA classes to help them acquire a vocabulary they could use to discuss the book's pacing, tone, characters.  Her book "Getting Beyond Interesting" discusses how this works.
  • reading bulletin boards--as school began EVERY bulletin board in the building had a message that the school was a READING school; Olga provided classes with book hook forms to post on the boards as students reported on what they were reading at the beginning of the school year (no more summer book reports)
  • stress free books--in a school with many SPED students, Olga encouraged the kids to also include "stress free" books on book hooks--those considered below grade level, such as picture books and a list of stress-free book hooks is available to everyone
  • book pamphlets and reading lists--at different points during the year, pamphlets and online promotions are created using students' book hooks and these are shared widely
  • All school read--Principal purchased Diary of a Wimpy Kid book for everyone in the middle school--teachers and kids
  • teachers as readers--Olga encourages all teachers (apart from reading with students) to read current YA books to introduce great new literature to faculty
  • promoting the program to feeder schools--Olga goes out to the elementary schools in the spring before kids come to her school to promote reading and the library