Friday, November 6, 2015

Primary Sources in Primary Grades

When we think of using primary sources,  I would guess that most of us assume that's in the realm of middle school and high school research. However, Tom Bober, a teacher in residence at the Library of Congress, set out to challenge that assumption.

We began by talking about primary sources - what are they, defining different types of sources as primary or secondary. Next, he shared some great resources that people (especially at the elementary level), might not be aware of, mainly from the LOC.

Among the resources offered are:
Primary Source sets, which include detailed teacher guides to go with each set
A wonderful primary source analysis tool that guides students through the process
Idea Books/Resources for teachers 
Chronicling America, historic newspapers through 1922
Student Discovery Sets
Lesson plans 

There were also resources from the World Digital Library and the Internet Archive .

In terms of using primary sources with the youngest students, he recommended using images, because they're easy for kids to relate to, they help personalize history, and they don't require any reading skills. Students should work in collaborative partnerships to analyze images to deepen their understanding and learn from each other, which I loved. He suggested that whenever possible, link to the original source and have this analysis be done online so that students can zoom in on the image, but with really young students, he puts the image up on the SmartBoard/ActivBoard and then uses the annotate tool to record their questions and observations.

What was really eye-opening for me is that the use of primary source images doesn't have to relate just to social studies. He described giving students a picture (that we got) of students at a Thanksgiving parade in 1911, which was used as a jumping off point to talk about their own Thanksgivings. With 5th graders studying Black History Month, students looked at the image of Ruby Bridges being walked out of school by the marshals, and it helped them respond to it on a deeply personal level. Another assignment, done with either 4th or 5th graders, saw the traditional "write as though you were on Columbus' ship" assignment replaced with a comparative analysis of Columbus' diary entries with later depictions of his arrival. They even used primary sources to teach students about the planets - students were given historic images of the solar system and asked to examine the pictures to see if they could discern the meaning of the words geocentric and heliocentric. They then had to justify their conclusions by referring back to their image.

It was a great presentation that has left me filled with ideas about how to inject primary sources into the elementary library. 

Innovative Research for Elementary Students

Librarians with ELL focus gave lots of concrete ideas about how to roll out research with young students.  They broke out the research process and provided several practical, easy-to-implement ideas that are included in the google doc notes attached here.

Some BIG take aways:
  • Use multimodal ways to connect with ELL (and all) students including visual images, discussion and movement to help students understand
  • Breakdown tasks, model, practice and gradual release is essential
  • Embed minilessons into research projects to ensure authentic understanding
  • Research always needs an authentic purpose and it can be high tech or low tech

My favorite pieces:
  • Always end every student research checklist with "I can share what I learned"
  • Great links to tools I've not seen before
  • Wonderful rethinking of rubrics and citations for small people

Hacking the Organization

Joyce Valenza led a VERY late night session devoted to looking critically at AASL as an organization for school librarians--addressing big issues around equity and access, recruitment of diverse voices, and most importantly--how do we make ourselves cooler (think YALSA, think ISTE). In a room packed with AASL past-presidents and regional leaders and a good sprinkling of people who'd never been to a national conference, the group dug in and tackled a range of specific topics--concluding after midnight with a slew of suggestions for positive change, including:
  •  Committee work--making it easier to understand what committees do, the time commitment required, and making it easier for new members to join committees
  • Thinking about how to fund conference attendance for members who are not funded through schools or state organizations, and to look at holding some virtual conferences on "off-years" when the large national conference is not in session
  • Recruiting more widely to increase the number of school librarians from under-represented groups, and perhaps to target teacher organizations as a means to explain what we do and how you get here
  • Setting up informal places to meet and hold discussions within the conference; asking conference attendees about their learning goals before they come
  • Providing guidance for newbies who want to present, such as providing exemplary proposals to examine
  • Becoming more techie!