Out and about 

Helping teachers and students in literacy and tech

Sometimes it can be hard to find teacher librarian Rachel Burrow in the library.  She is often in classrooms giving book talks, helping students create videos, and collaborating on research projects such as an eighth grade one-to-one project on the Star Spangled Banner.  She provides a critical link to literacy and technology,  helping students grow as readers and showing them how to use their literacy skills online.

Her collaboration begins by going to Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings with her colleagues at Norwalk Middle School, part of a growing district south of Des Moines.  She asks classroom teachers how she can assist with their curriculum.  Social studies teacher Lynda Downs takes her up on this offer at least once a month.

Downs has found Burrow to be a great asset to her teaching.  “I can take an idea that I want to do in social studies or history, and she identifies what is needed through technology,” said Downs.  “We collaborate together to see what is the best instructional skill to use and what is the best way to infuse the technology in my lessons.”  For their project on the Star Spangled Banner, they taught eighth grade students to use their one-to-one Chromebooks to access primary sources, use graphic organizers and create their final presentations. 

In other classrooms, Burrow can be found helping students create Google presentations on viruses and bacteria and teaching sixth grade students how to find and cite relevant sources for their research papers.  Whenever she teaches research, Burrow shows students how to use their literacy and critical thinking skills to find and evaluate online information.  “Just because something is on Google,” she said, “doesn’t mean it is a high quality source.”   

Burrow also spends time in classrooms promoting reading. She works with small groups of readers, gives book talks, and collaborates on the Iowa Teen Award unit on young adult literature.  She is currently helping seventh grade English teachers run a pilot project for more advanced readers, meeting one-on-one with the students to discuss their progress on their personal reading ladders.

For all this work in classrooms, she still invests in the library, making it a real and virtual hub for learning.  Students can go to the library to find the latest fantasy novel or meet with the new book club.  They can also use the library webpage to download e-books, search AEA databases and access the PE website for tracking their physical activity.

As a teacher leader serving as the district library curriculum lead, Burrow encourages teacher librarians to make collaboration a key part of their teaching.  “All of our library skills are embedded in the Iowa Core,” she noted.  “When I help teachers meet their standards in the content areas, we meet both of our skills at the same time.”  

Burrow, who earned a School Library Studies M.A. degree at the University of Northern Iowa, has been a teacher librarian for nine years. She has seen the profession continue to grow and change and noted, “We are truly are collaborators especially at the secondary level.”


What should I read?

As a middle school language arts teacher, Jessica Elliott noticed her students were increasingly more likely to look to their devices rather than to her for book suggestions. While researching students’ book selection preferences, however, she discovered that teacher and peer recommendations still matter. Elliott concluded, “Both male and female students strongly prefer selecting materials based on recommendations, just in more passive ways, such as book displays, posters, and bulletin board displays.”  Read more.



Sharing tips on supporting literacy

A teacher librarian panel shared their insights and experiences with a group of new and pre-service teacher librarians on November 8, 2014 at the University of Northern Iowa.  UNI alumnae Colleen Nelson, Deanne Thiede and Brandy Bingman responded to a variety of questions about their roles as teacher librarians and addressed the many ways they support literacy.  When it comes to collaborating with classroom teachers, the panel was clear that it is the teacher librarian’s job to be a leader and find opportunities to work together. Read more.


Hunting for books

Leann Seddon, the teacher librarian for the Albia Community School District in Iowa, noticed that a lot of her students were interested in hunting, but the district’s libraries did not have many books that involved the subject. When she discovered that there were no comprehensive lists of hunting books that included the way the book portrayed hunting, she decided to create a bibliography as part of her master’s research paper. Seddon’s complete master’s research paper and bibliography, “101 Books for youth that feature hunters & hunting” is available on Seddon’s website. Read more.



College ready?

Dr. Jean Donham studied assignments from first-year classes in Iowa colleges and universities to see how effectively schools preparing their students for further education. She found that college faculty expect students to come to college with well-developed research skills, which is something that often gets overlooked in high school. Donham published her findings in an article in School Library Research Vol. 17, 2014 titled “College Ready—What Can We Learn from First-Year College Assignments? An Examination of Assignments in Iowa Colleges and Universities.”  Donham retired from teaching in the UNI School Library Studies program in May 2014. Read more.


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