Musical Book Tasting+Padlet: A Recipe for Participation


Last week, Jennifer Lund and I tried a new variation on our musical book tasting activity we piloted in January.  Our LSTCs, Hope Black and Logan Malm, wrote a grant for a set of Chromebooks for teachers and students to use with a focus on cloud based applications and resources.  After consultation with ESOL teacher Dr. Melinda Byrne, we decided to have students post to a class Padlet wall for their book tasting activity using the Chromebooks rather than the traditional paper ticket we had used with other classes.   Because these classes were a little smaller than what we usually see and because these classes had used Padlet in the classroom, we felt this would be a meaningful opportunity to use the Chromebooks with students; we were also curious to see how public responses to books during the book tasting might impact student interest and engagement.

When students arrived, we helped them log into the Chromebooks and the student wireless network.  We then helped them navigate to the LibGuide for our book tasting and the Padlets we had created for each class section.   Finally, we reviewed the procedures for the book responses on the Padlet and incorporated the See Think Wonder structure since these classes utilized it frequently as part of Dr. Byrne’s classroom instruction.   Our initial example response was in paragraph format, but after our first class, we realized that numbering responses made more since to align with the response directions we provided students and we adjusted our examples for the subsequent classes accordingly.

We then jumped into the activity with the same structure as before.   We noticed two big differences with this variation of book tasting:

1.  Students seemed to take more care with their responses since they were visible to peers as opposed to private with the paper “tickets” we used.   I’m always intrigued by the private/public (both positive and negative) aspects of student responses.

2.  Students seemed more focused on the reading during the “reading time” and not worried about trying to complete the responses.

Dr. Byrne shared these reflections on the activity with her four sections of classes:

This was such a fun day for our ESOL kids! Each student was able to “taste” a sample of several books during one class period and provide thoughts and comments about each book.

Padlet provides a great opportunity to publicly share the thoughts and ideas from EVERY student. Many times, reticent students are hesitant to speak aloud in class, but they are all comfortable responding electronically! This was a really unifying activity, and it allowed some our less vocal students to shine as brightly as those who are comfortable in the spotlight.

Incorporating the See-Think-Wonder MTV routine into the exploration process took the book tasting to a higher level.

The use of Chrome books was a fantastic way to ensure that all students were able to have a positive and engaging experience during the book tasting. Many of my students don’t have cell phones, so activities that incorporate individual cell phone responses alienate a portion of my student population. Using Chrome books allowed for full participation.


One of the terrific elements of Padlet is the ability to export the responses in multiple formats; whether you are using the Padlet responses as a formative or summative assessment, the ability to archive student work is a tremendous asset, particularly if you are looking at student growth over time.

The only challenge we encountered was with the log-in process with the Chromebooks.  Because we are not a Google Education school at this time, we are not able to do the simple one-step process.   The alternate procedure for logging in students and connecting them to the student wireless network, while not difficult, does involve several mouseclicks than can be potentially confusing for students, especially those new to the Chromebooks.  Aside from that, the Chromebooks worked beautifully, and we’re excited to explore other ways to utilize these as mediums for learning with our teachers and students.  A heartfelt thank you to Dr. Byrne and all her students for such a terrific day—their enthusiasm is truly energizing!  We also are grateful to our colleagues Hope and Logan for helping us facilitate the activity and their support of learning in multiple formats.

New DMLcentral Post—Writing in Libraries: Processes and Pathways to Inquiry and Learning

Writing in Libraries: Processes and Pathways to Inquiry and Learning | DMLcentral via kwout

I invite you to check out my latest post for DMLcentral as I explore the possibilities for writing literacies in libraries.  In this post, I share how we are using writing as a springboard for inquiry and engaging with texts here at Norcross High; the post also features a video interview with colleague and friend Sara Kelley-Mudie and her use of written conversation strategies.  Many thanks to our faculty here at NHS and to Sara for sharing their experiences and being willing to explore the boundaries of writing as a tool for inquiry and learning.  Please be sure to check out my previous posts in this series for DMLcentral that explore the ways libraries can and might function as sponsors of literacy.

New DMLcentral Post: Writing as “The Mass Literate Experience” of Our Age and What It Might Mean for Libraries

 “For perhaps the first time in the history of mass literacy, writing seems to be eclipsing reading as the literate experience of consequence. What happens when writing (and not just reading) becomes the grounds of mass literate experience, when more and more people ‘think about audiences’ as part of their daily routine engagement with literacy? How does a social shift in that and energy toward writing affect the ways that people develop their literacy and understand its worth?  And finally, how does the ascendant of a writing-based literacy create tension in a society where institutions organized a reading literacy, around a presumption that readers would be many and writers would be few?
Dr. Deborah Brandt, “How Writing Is Remaking Reading.” Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading, and Society.

I encourage you to read my latest post in a series exploring the ways libraries function as sponsors of literacies and learning for DMLcentral.  In this new post, I outline Dr. Deborah Brandt’s arguments for writing, not reading, as the primary literacy of time, and what that might mean for libraries and how we function in a larger ecosystem of learning.  If we accept Brandt’s assertions, what kinds of profound shifts might take place in libraries and how would that accelerate the movement for library as a space for multiple literacies, creating, and making through multiple mediums? How do we help all members of our communities engage in lifelong learning through writing, and how might that impact the ways literacy impacts communities at an individual and collective point of need?   Where and how might this paradigm shift fit with the model of connected learning? I invite you to think aloud and inquire with us at DMLcentral.

Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life Speaker Series-Metanarratives of Literacy Practices: Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies

I would like to thank friend and colleague Dr. Antero Garcia and the Colorado State University Department of English for the opportunity to participate in “The Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life” speaker series here in Fort Collins, Colorado.  I appreciate everyone who came out to hear the talk in person; we also captured video of the talk through a Google Hangout.   The joy in these experiences is not only having a chance to contribute to a conversation, but to also learn from others—my thinking has been pushed today through my interactions with the CSU English Department community as well as wonderful morning of discussion with fellow librarian Ally Garcia of the Clearview Library District.  I feel confident seed ideas that have been planted and nurtured today will find their way into future blog posts!

If you are interested in the ideas central to the talk, I encourage you to check out my ongoing series of blog posts from DMLcentral here; I will have a new blog post soon for this series that relates directly to some of the concepts in this talk.  Thanks to a historic winter storm that is battering Atlanta, my stay here is extended that will give me the chance to explore Fort Collins and relish some “found” writing time.

Informational Text Write Around Text-on-Text with Biology/Chemistry Classes


My co-librarian Jennifer Lund and I are continuing our efforts to introduce written conversations strategies to students and teachers across content areas here at Norcross High.  Yesterday we had the pleasure of collaborating with Science Department Chair Logan Malm and her 9th Accelerated Biology/Chemistry students. Logan teaches three sections of this course that meets for approximately an hour and half daily.   Our collaborative efforts began when Logan, who was in the library working on a video project with her classes, saw our write-around text on text activity with Emily Russell’s Language Arts classes and became interested in how to incorporate that technique into her subject area.  Jennifer and I were excited by the prospect of partnering with Logan for the write-around text on text activity since this would be our first attempt to use it with 9th graders and in a non-Language Arts content area class.

Logan’s classes are currently finishing an ecology unit and preparing to transition to a new biochemistry unit with a focus on molecules and enzymes.  She decided to use the write-around text on text strategy as a way of  helping students  link the prior knowledge from the ecology unit of study to information they are about to learn in biochemistry.  She selected three National Geographic articles with a focus on enzymes:

Since two of the articles did not offer a print friendly option, I took them and converted them into single page printouts with Word; the third article I was able to keep at one page thanks to the print friendly option.  After checking with Logan about the number of students and groups, Jennifer and I prepped for the write-around by printing the copies of each article, getting our colored butcher paper for each group,  taping each of the three articles on every sheet of butcher paper, and writing the names of each group member on their sheet of butcher paper with the articles. Because Logan wanted to build a conversation around the concept of enzymes, she decided to use the same articles for each group and have them respond to the entire article since all three were fairly brief.

Photo by B. Hamilton

Photo by B. Hamilton

At the beginning of each class, we did a similar mini-lesson on how to participate in a write-around; however, we did make modifications to the “idea/writing sparks” for conversation to be more reflective of the informational texts.  After distributing colored markers and Sharpies, we cued the students to begin reading and writing.  We honestly did not know what to expect in terms of depth of responses, how long the students might write, or how easy/difficult it might be for them to engage in a sustained participation since this was our first effort with informational text in the context of a science class unit; the students also did not have any previous scaffolding for this activity like Emily Russell’s classes.  Because the class is a hybrid course that covers elements of two classes, it meets for roughly an hour and a half daily; we decided to see if the students could engage in the writing for at least 25 minutes (Emily’s students wrote for about 20 minutes).  We were pleasantly surprised in several ways:

1.  Each class wrote approximately 30-33 minutes; some could have continued writing had we not called time!
2.  Most of the written conversations were rich and nuanced just as the literary conversations had been.   Although the content was more academic and subject specific in nature, the written discussions still felt very conversational.  We also noticed students using more visuals/graphics/drawings as part of these conversations.
3.  The trajectory of energy and momentum to the conversations paralleled those of Emily’s classes—it is akin to a crescendo in music where the sound builds in loudness and intensity.  We saw the written conversations building in those same ways.
4.  Like Emily’s classes, students enjoyed using hashtags as part of their written conversations.  I think #maggot was one of the more popular hashtags of the day.

We all participated as co-learners in the process as well, which gave us an opportunity to model for students as well as “listen” and respond to their ideas.  Since we had the longer block of time for class, we were able to give students more time for the small group discussion/share/reflection that we incorporate after the silent writing time.    We also did a slight variation on the small group share reflection format and utilized the “3-2-1” strategy this time.  After discussing their responses as a small group for about 15 minutes, Logan then facilitated the large group conversation.    We began the large group discussion with each small group reporting their reflections, insights, and questions;  some of the questions students posed included:

  • How did the deep sea shrimp evolve to primarily consume wood in an environment completely devoid of it?
  • Can scientists alter human enzymes to be better suitors for utilizing new resources?
  • Has the maggot healing been put into effect since its discovery?
  • What happens if the wood “goes away” for the shrimp and the trees/nectar “go away”  for the ants?
  • Is the tree and the ant more than one symbiotic relationship?
  • Are the ants able to think and care for themselves? Do they have the freedom to choose what happens to them?

Finally, the large group conversation then culminated with discussions around the key concepts in the articles (natural selection, enzymes, mutualism, adaptation) and questions that Logan posed to students.

Write Around Informational Text

Just as we’ve seen before with other groups, each class definitely had a unique vibe that was reflected in their work.   Two of the classes were very strong in terms of the quality of responses and interaction in the written and oral conversations.  A third class that is strong in creativity shined a bit more in the small and large group discussions than in the written conversations; some of the students in that particular class are very bright but not quite as mature right now as some of their peers.  While they struggled more to engage in sustained written conversations, we feel that they still benefited from the experience and that this activity can be a means to help them grow their skills in participating in this form of group think.  Overall, all three sections were delightful, and we are deeply appreciative of Logan’s willingness to share her classroom with us and for the opportunity to learn together.

Students seemed to feel positively about the experience as well.  One constructive suggestion we had from several students was to perhaps mix up the articles a little more.   One student recommended having three articles on the butcher paper for half the tables/groups, and then to use a different set of three articles for the other half.   While the focus of using the same articles at each table and giving students a chance to move about and respond to those was to help students make the connections to concepts of ecology and enzymes, we definitely think that the student suggestions are ones we’ll use in the future.  We also think that self-selected articles (like we did with the literary conversations) are another option to explore in content area write-arounds.

As I mentioned earlier, Jennifer and I were happy to see students engaging with informational text in a deep and engaging way through the write-around.  We both continue to feel a bit awestruck by how such a simple learning structure yields such powerful impact and dialogue with students; each time we have the chance to co-facilitate the written conversation strategies with teachers and students, the more excited we feel about the possibilities.  We are also delighted that Logan shares these sentiments in her post-activity reflections:

Impressions – LOVED this activity. It was really special watching the students write about scientific topics and develop questions based on their thoughts and the thoughts of other students. I enjoyed seeing them question the validity of certain claims, argue in favor of/against scientific ideas using their prior knowledge and create questions that they had after reading each article. This activity gave me a chance to see my students in a way that I have yet to observe. They had an opportunity to act like true scientists, and didn’t even know it! Overall, this was a wonderful activity that I will be doing again!

We look forward not only to working with Logan and her students again, but we also are happily anticipating working with other teachers and their classes, too.   Jennifer and I are delighted to contribute to our learning community and to foster these kinds of literacy practices that situate literacy as meaning making across content areas and units of study.   Our next efforts with write-around strategies will be on Valentine’s Day with Jeff Cerneka’s Health classes–stayed tuned!  In the meantime, I invite you to view the photoset from the this session here.