Assessing Your Lessons

As one plans their lesson, it is essential to consider how the students will be assessed on their learning. I admit that in my daily choral classroom, sometimes this assessment might look as casual and informal (and not data driven). Examples might be as simple as a thumbs up for how much the singer understands a phrase, page or measure, or asking students to , “rate the difficulty level of this sight-reading line using their fingers with 1 as the easiest and 5 most dificult.” Even these simple ideas can give the teacher an idea of how the students perceive the lesson and their understanding of it. I am going to give three examples and ideas of assessments I have used in my choir classroom, and in my library practicum.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

Three Assessment Methods

Interactive white board

In my first year of teaching, we had a multiple days long professional development session on Ruby Payne’s, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. This was a confusing time for me. I had not yet started teaching and I believed that my love of music and zany personality would win over any student to love everything I taught them. I very quickly realized, however, that this was not the case and that students come into the classroom with the widest ranges of needs and skills. I was then introduced to the work of Robert Marzano, who impressed the idea that the lecture style that I had grown up with does not lend itself to “sticking” in the mind of a young learner as powerfully as the visual image. For this reason, it was suggested that whenever possible to have students draw visual representations of vocabulary or any concepts they are learning. In this way, the image is more efficiently and effectively processed (Marzano, 2013). The interactive white board is a perfect instructional technology tool to use to assess students on their learning. When teaching an 8th grade PACE lesson on George Washington, in the final part of the lesson, after having analyzed various renderings of GW by different artists, I asked students to make their own depiction of Washington using an online interactive white board. The students not only synthesized the purpose of the lesson, by utilizing the white board, it was done in a way that was engaging, fun, creative and artistic. It is an assessment tool I will continue to use in my time in any classroom.

Collaborative work

While I have not yet spent much time in this piece, having students collaborate and create is a dynamic, engaging, high order thinking and 21st Century form of assessment. This could take the form of students creating their own podcast, Google site, or Wiki. This could be students creating a presentaiton using VoiceThread, Loom, or Google Slides. The creation of Wiki’s or websites could be used to “facilitate peer review” (Perez, 2013, p.23). This not only allows students to create in formats of their choosing, which leads to greater autonomy and buy in, but also builds 21st century skills of creating, reviewing the work of others and oneself. In addition, it allows students to practice a multitude of digital citizenship skills ranging from honoring copyright policies which include using the work of others in a ethical manner and being aware of the digital footprint one leaves.

Exit Ticket via google forms

The exit card is a gem. It is a way for students to put into words and synthesize what they have learned. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is another opportunity for the librarian to offer a safe place for students and offer their service and care. I always end my exit tickets with “What would you like me know?” and, “What questions do you have?” It allows for all students, whether outgoing or introverted to share what they are thinking. This allows a venue for introverted students to pose a question they wanted to ask in class, but were afraid to. It can also result in students sharing information that should be shared with counselors. Lastly, it can result in students asking me questions about myself which leads to relationship building.

References

Marzano, R. J. (2003). Instructional strategies. What works in schools : Translating research into action. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Perez, L. (2013). Master librarian. Knowledge Quest, 41(4), 22-26.

Learner Diversity and Learning Differences

My time and experience in obtaining my Master’s of Library Science has fundamentally changed my purpose. I began my coursework with the idea that I would be the curator of books. Now I know that collection development is just one of many responsibilities and expectations of school librarians. Other factors include collaboration with teachers, and other things. Even more so is the importance practicing cultural competence, and inclusiveness for all library users.

How have you displayed inclusiveness, cultural competence or a support of individual and group perspectives during your practicum hours?

New Library Display

When my school librarian lamented that she could not purchase more ALA READ posters due to vendor and purchase constraints, I suggested an idea I had seen on a TED talk in which students who actually attended the school were photographed and made into a mural on the walls of their newly renovated school. We set out to do something similar.

We made announcements for anyone who was interested to participate in a photo shoot. In this photo shoot, they would pose in various places and positions in the library with their favorite book. While this event was a volunteer event, care on our side was taken to ensure that as many demographics were represented as possible. We wanted the students on display to look like a snapshot of at least some aspects of representation of the school.

This displays inclusion of students because having a library with beautiful photographed pictures of students who actually attend the school fundamentally change the library. The library becomes a place that is their home, where they see themselves and where they are the stars of their own library. This is validating to the students and works toward the mission of the library being a haven.

Culturally Responsive Practices

A big challenge with practicum, student teaching or any internship, is that while one is getting on-the-job training, the job is still not your own. So, while I am learning from wonderful mentors, it is not my place to change the expectations, procedures and teaching that is already in place. Therefore, here are a few culturally responsive practices I will consider when I obtain my future library job:

  • Allowing students to check out book(s) if they forgot to bring their library book
  • Not including books or the checking out of books as a punitive measure to undesirable behavior
  • Doing Read-Alouds to ESL, SPED visits
  • Allowing talking during morning library time (with volume expectations)
  • Having extended library hours
Student Interactions

Interactions with students is one of my favorite parts of being a choir director. I love talking with them, getting to know them and making connections. In my time as a teacher and in my master’s program, I have been exposed to the importance of relationship building, restorative practices and embedding social emotional learning into the classroom. Even when a student gets in “trouble,” I look forward to my interaction with them because it is an opportunity for honesty and reflection from the student and an opportunity for me to model conflict resolution and restorative practices.

In my time during my practicum, I have had the opportunity to have many student interactions. Some of the highlights include:

Interaction: Helping facilitate book club with my mentor with 5th graders for the book Holes

How I’ve displayed support of individual perspectives: listening without judgement to opinions and thoughts of students; asking questions about how they arrived at a particiular opinion or conclusion

Interaction: Helping ESL Newcomers with their Social Studies homework

How I displayed cultural competence: Asking students about themselves before we started, speaking a blend of English and Spanish to make both cultural and language connections

Interaction: Participating in book club meetings

How I displayed support of individual and group perspectives: In book club, as students would share their opinion I would make sure to give validation to that opinion even when I felt differently; In addition, I had individual conversations with students about what was important to them in a book, or their favorite genres and why they liked them.

Interaction: Planning and executing the Library Display Event

How I displayed inclusiveness: While participation in the library display photo shoot was optional and based on volunteers, I did reach out on a one on one basis to to demographics that I did not see represented. It is important for students to see themselves represented, in this case, in the photos displayed around the library.

What changes could you make to the library to make it more accessible to people with special needs?

  • Offer students a Safe Zone with materials and activities for
    • Self-regulation
    • students who need a break
    • social emotional learning practice
  • Quiet zone
    • For students who need a place that is tucked away
    • For introverted students
  • Before and after school library hours
    • Students who need a safe place before or after school
  • Offer Playaways for all studentsStudents with visual impairments
    • ELL or ESL learnings
    • Reluctant Readers
    • All students
  • Ensure that bookshelves are in compliance with American Disabilities Act recommendations
  • Ensure that space between chairs, bookshelves and tables allows for wheelchair space

My First Book Display

I almost always grab a book off of a book display. They tend to be children’s books, young adult or graphic novels. So, while I am a single example, I can say, albeit anecdotally, say that displays help circulation.

If we are going old school with display ideas, one need to look no further than the king of library science himself, S.R. Ranganathan. In his book Five Laws of Library Science, he suggests using displays to increase circulation of otherwise low circulated books. Phrases such as “Interesting books just unearthed,” “Books of the hour,” and “Long-forgotten but useful” are not too far from displays that librarians use now to attract the attention of the user (Ranganathan, 1931, p. 306). Ninety years later, Grover upholds this concept by saying that the first purpose is to “give books that are usually overlooked some limelight” (2021).

With all these thoughts in mind, I set out to create my first display. Based off a few Twitter feeds and articles such as Grovers, I had my own ideas for displays. However, the time in which the opportunity presented itself to me to execute my display was in January of 2022. So, I decided on the theme of learning something new.

The Look

For the visual posters, I used Canva. I decided on a positive, joyful message. In my casual interactions with students last semester, I found them to be stressed, overstimulated and just done.

For the second poster, was the main theme of the display which is, “Learn Something New,” in which I encouraged the students to use the hastag #ottolearns to post and tag themselves doing what they decided to learn in this new year.

The Books

The books I selected for this display were all pulled from the non-fiction section. I found it easy to focus mainly on topics of the arts such as cooking and drawing, so I made sure I included other topics such as, camping, learning about being a journalist, graphic design, careers if you like science and books in Spanish.

My First Display- January 2022

Takeaways

This is not my library, but keeping up with circulation based off the display should be as important as the display itself. That will be my goal for my next display. When I have stopped by the library, and have seen books that have been pulled from the display, I have replaced them with other books. Lesson learned? I need to have a system or utilize my collection analytics to see what change, if any, the display is having on user tendencies.

Secondly, while I lightly applaud myself for encouraging social media with the “Post a pic of your learning using this hashtag,” it does not have a focus. I myself have not yet posted a picture of myself using the hashtag and I doubt anyone else has. Perhaps a side display of posts from students could encourage this second element of the display, which is also more native to current middle school users.

Lastly, the amazing display ideas I have seen on Tiktok, Twitter and Pintrest almost always have a 3D element. For a Halloween theme, this might be cobwebs and little pumpkins peppering the display or anything that brings it to life more.

In any case, I was happy with my first display and am excited to already be working on my next one.

References

Grover, R. (2021, November 01). The art of creating book displays (part 2). Knowledge Quest. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/the-art-of-creating-book-displays-part-2/

Ranganathan, S. R. (1931). The five laws of library science. Madras Library Association. 

INFO 5200- Information Organization

Why is this class suggested to be so difficult? Why do UNT advisors recommend not taking INFO 5200 in addition to other classes?

Image by Слава Вольгин from Pixabay 

In the semester I took this course, INFO 520, Information Organization, I decided that although it would make further my graduation date, it was worth my mental health with two young kids and my teaching job to just take this class.

Lesson #1

Read directions and then check your work against them

Lesson #2

If you are not proficient in technical writing, you will fail or get better at it

Lesson #3

Turning in your system at the end of the semester is the sweetest feeling

Lesson 1- I remember feeling very good about my first submission where we were instructed to outline the “Collection and Information Objects,” the “Users’ demographics and knowledge” and predict “User’s problems and questions.” I appreciated many aspects of our professor, especially the weekly chats in which he answers questions as long as there are questions. Secondly, in creating this system for this collection, I thought it was incredibly beneficial for the student to choose what their collection wanted to be. In this way, this painstaking process of creating this system has a powerful purpose. In my case, I was creating a collection of diverse books. This allowed me to explore books with diverse characters and come up with what constitutes diverse. In the end, my ten objects included books with LGBTQIA+, Latinx, Native, African American, and immigrant characters as well as characters suffering with mental illness and addiction.

And then I got my first “grade” back. My work was unable to be graded because I did not follow the format given. I submitted it again. It was again returned because my format did not meet the format requirements. I remember screaming and crying. When I calmed myself, I looked again at the format and realized, no, I had not in fact followed the format. Read directions and check your work.

Lesson 2 – As an undergraduate, I once started a Shapespeare essay with “In addition.” I was a horrible writer and only received an A with any writing that I did when it was creative writing. I remember my professor of music something compared my writing to Camus or Satre. Writing like Camus does not help when you are creating a 40 page document of an information system. Thankfully, my first few semesters of my master’s had helped me tame down my writing and write logically and coherently with no sentences starting with “In addition.”

The key to writing technically is being succinct and less is more. At one point, Professor Enoch, answering a question, said that we were welcome to copy phrases and apply them throughout. For example, in my forty page IOP, I wrote “this is because” a total of forty seven times. I use the term “information object” fifty nine times. I use the phrase “is required” twenty times. My favorite fiction writers would never write like that. Chimamda Adichie would never have used such redundancy in Half of a Yellow Sun in describing the horrors of the Biafran War in Nigeria. Gabriel Garcia Marquez would never have used such phrases to demonstrate unrequited love in Love in the Time of Cholera. No, because this is technical writing. I really did improve in this writing style although it was taxing. At one point, I noticed my thinking face during this writing process, froze my facial expression and took a selfie. Technical writing is not my best look but I made it work.

Technical writing thinking face

Lesson 3 – In the end, this mega assignment and journey was a huge success. I cried twice and according to my husband, once said in my sleep that I was quitting my master’s. But I did it and the experience that I had will serve me in understanding my future users (students), tagging, thesauri and most importantly (in my opinion), technical writing. I can be an artist through and through, but whether I am writing a grant proposal or demonstrating the value and worth of the library using statistics and data to my administrator, my writing will need to be technical, succinct and free from verbosity.

Final draft of my IOP

References

Image by Слава Вольгин from Pixabay

A Book Review – Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music.

As a light lyric mezzo-soprano, I never felt any great need to watch and listen to Wagner operas. I studied them in music history class and that was the scope of my exposure.

I knew, however, someday, the time would come to end my abstinence of this larger than life composer. One moment of presentiment occurred in 2010. My husband and I were in Chicago, ready to run the Chicago marathon. We had just walked around the University of Chicago and had found our way to a bookstore. It was a used bookstore and as I walked the aisles, I noticed the music. It was dark, and heavy. The orchestration was gargantuan. The music, seemingly, never resolved. Unlike bel canto or verismo operas, there were seemingly no arias. I, of course, knew it was Wagner. There, walking the aisles in a Chicago bookstore, overhearing employees swapping Saul Bellow stories, on the eve of running 26.2 miles, was the most I had ever heard a Wagner opera.

Still, it was not until two months ago, that I decided to enter his world. I am currently taking INFO 5367, Music Libraries and Information Services, and our mid-term assignment is to read a book and review it. I had recently started reading The Rest is Just Noise: Listening to the Twentieth, by Alex Ross, and knew that he was coming out with a new book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. I knew that it was time. I have read the book, and written the review and more importantly, have begun watching his operas. Where do I stand now? I see Wagner everywhere. I hear Wagner everywhere.

Over a decade after the release of his award winning book, The Rest is Just Noise: Listening to the Twentieth, Alex Ross has recently published his new and exhaustively comprehensive book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. In addition to studying music at the university, Ross has written as a music critic for almost 30 years, and currently writes for The New Yorker

While this work deserves a place on the shelf of the academic and public library, it is wholly accessible to the non-musician reader who has interest in music, literature, art or history. Even at an epic 660 pages, it is an accessible read and maintains an interesting and energetic narrative. Only at the beginning is there an excerpt of music notation, from Das Rheingold, the first opera of the Ring cycle, and is less to showcase harmonic structure, but rather to demonstrate the beginning of a new era in art and music.

The book is organized by chapters that are mostly chronological and are each titled with a reference to various mythologies of Wagner operas. The chapter entitled, “Siegfried’s Death: Nazi Germany and Thomas Mann” is a latter chapter that covers the aforementioned time and people. Siegfried is both a key character in Wagner’s operas and also the name of Wagner’s son. Ross expertly weaves these real and mythological characters into a seamless narrative. Resources at the end of the book include a chronology of Wagner’s life, an extensive reference section and an index. A welcome guide that is easy to miss (it is noted in the reference section in the smallest of fonts) is a url link to reviews, a glossary, and an audiovisual companion to the book.

While the title of this book narrows the scope of the behemoth that is Wagner, to art and politics, it remains impressively comprehensive. Ross gives examples from seemingly every art medium to judge Wagner that include literature, philosophy, art, dance, and culture.The strength of Ross’s narrative lies not only in his extensive readings and sources that reference Wagner, but in the manner in which he organizes and ties them together. He recounts how a literary figure first encountered Wagner or his music and how he influenced their work. Ross quotes passages from such figures such as Willa Cather, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Bernard Shaw, Marcel Proust, W.E.B. du Bois and James Joyce. Stories of dancers, choreographers also pepper the tale, with characters such as Isadora Duncan and Serge Diaghilev. In the current national climate of race inequality, it is refreshing to have references, albeit few, of Black Americans in Wagner’s world with stories ranging from opera goers such as W.E.B. du Bois and Langston Hughes to Black opera singers in Germany. 

Wagner is treated with as much objectivity as the primary documents allow. Throughout these anecdotes, Ross consistently addresses the recorded racism of Wagner. The underlying and inescapable question throughout the book is, how do we reconcile Wagner’s antisemetic views with his oeuvre?  Ross confronts Wagner’s antisemitism with directness, quoting or paraphrasing his horrid statements from primary sources. To that end, the main argument of Ross is that, while Wagner published and spoke abominable words against Jewish people, his work has left an indelible mark on every art. Ross tells of how Wagner and his music was used in the most nefarious ways. Leading up to and during World War II, Wagner’s words and music are used everywhere from Nazi propaganda, to military operation[s] with names such as “Siegfried line.”  Yet Ross points out that in reality, “Wagnerism was on the decline in Germany at this time” and that Wagnerites, including Jewish Wagnerites, extolled the themes of love and understanding present in such works as Parsifal. In his postlude, Ross astutely asserts, 

“To blame Wagner for the horrors committed in the wake is an inadequate response to historical complexity: it lets the rest of civilization off the hook. At the same time, to exonerate him is to ignore his insidious ramifications…the ugliness of his racism means that posterity’s picture of him will always be cracked down the middle…” 

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music is an essential work in understanding the momentousness of Wagner’s influence on culture and the arts while understanding his deeply flawed racism. He was just a man. His music, however, is, was and forever will be as transcendent and ever reaching as the gods in his repertoire. 

Bohlman, Andrea F. “Ross, Alex.” Oxford University Press, 2016. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2289326.

Ross, Alex. Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020.