Put Some Excitement into Citations!

As an English teacher, I struggled to teach my students to use MLA citations.  Why?  Students didn’t see the need for citing.  They failed to understand its purpose and if students don’t comprehend the purpose of a task, they often don’t put forth their best efforts to accomplish it.

In South Carolina, tenth graders take the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test during their spring semester.  As part of the ELA section, the research questions can include the proper form for MLA citations.  So, although I prefer to use citation generators like BibMe and KnightCite, I know that our students need practice in creating citations to prepare them for THE TEST. (Please don’t shoot me – I don’t agree with THE TEST, but it is a reality, and if I am not doing my part to prepare our students for it, then I can’t look teachers in the eye when I offer to assist them meet their objectives.)

The World of Citation

Last February, an awesome post appeared in my Google Reader from K-M the Librarian, Sara Kelley-Mudie.  In order to impress the importance of citation to her students, she used a great analogy:  citations are the addresses where the resources reside.

Please take a moment to go read her post – it is darned well worth it and I can wait while you read it.

Now- wasn’t that awesome?!  Doesn’t she inspire you to approach citations from a different perspective?

Switching Things Up

The next time you are preparing to teach citation, why not use K-M’s plan and begin with the address analogy?  Then show her Slideshare presentation (it’s awesome, too!).

Another Trick to Toss In:  Conquer Citation Chaos Kits
When I was a classroom teacher, I started using a hands-on approach for citation practice.  After reviewing the parts of a citation I gave groups of students jumbled citations:  I had written individual parts of citations on index cards and the students had to arrange them in correct order.   Students enjoyed the activity because it was like solving a puzzle.
In preparation for reviewing MLA citations with sophomores recently, I began putting together Conquer Citation Chaos Kits – gallon sized Ziploc bags filled with color coded slips of cardstock.  The picture below shows just two sets of jumbled citations, but I added one more (an encyclopedia article) before using these with my sophomores.
The hot pink strips are parts of a book citation while the orange strips are from a website citation. Currently the strips are not laminated, but if the lesson is successful, I’ll be laminating them for future use. (Note:  The strips are now laminated!  The teacher and students enjoyed the activity and we will use it again.)
The next activity I would like to create -and I’d love suggestions from my readers! – is a hands-on approach to working with in-text citations.

Online Citation Games

You can find several games online to further reinforce the proper formatting of citations.  I must thank Karen Hill, media specialist at Byrnes High School, for introducing me to these games. (Karen probably does not even realize that she “hooked me up” with the games as I found them on her website!)  I have linked to two of these from our library’s website.

Readers:  What do you do to add some ex”cite”ment to citation instruction?
Image attribution:  “Sky Blossoms” http://www.flickr.com/photos/96223849@N00/74626966
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Gearing Up for the New Year: Preplanning

Pencils and Moleskines 04 by Paul Worthington.

In June, I posted our library’s annual report.  In it, I included four goals for the 2010-2011 school year:

  • Increase collaboration with classroom teachers.
  • Continue to improve both the content and currency of our collection.
  • Increase participation in READissance.
  • Master Destiny software and complete inventory.

Our first day for the 2010-2011 school year will be August 9th.  I plan to hit the ground running on that day and thought I would do as my friend Heather Loy did earlier this week – share some of my plans with you.

Increase Collaboration with Classroom Teachers

After reviewing our 2009 HSAP scores, I shared my concerns about the low scores on the research portion of the ELA test with colleagues.  I had been following Buffy Hamilton’s effort with the Media 21 project and was impressed with the scope and sequence of the program.  I knew that I needed to take a proactive approach to collaborate with an English II teacher on research but would not be able to accomplish anything as comprehensive as Buffy’s project just starting out.

I scheduled a meeting with my principal after the 2009-2010 school year ended and shared my proposal with him. After he had time to review it, he gave it two thunbs up.  Once teachers’ schedules had been finalized for the upcoming year, I approached an English II teacher with my proposal and she enthusiastically agreed to work with me.

We have our work cut out for us as we plan and implement our research unit, but we have been exchanging ideas and look forward to sitting down for a more formal planning session.  We agree that teaching students how to conduct research is vital.  Plans now include a pretest using the TRAILS 9th grade standards and incorporating a research model such as the Big6.

I’ll share more as the plans come together and we begin to pilot the program.

Continue to Improve Both the Content and Currency of Our Collection

As we prepared to move into our new facilities, we aggressively weeded our collection based on age and condition.  This year we will begin to use a five year plan to systematically analyze and improve our collection. (Dewey Decimal classifications are given below.  All items in the collection identified with these classifications will be inventoried in the designated year.)

2010-2011: 500-799 and equipment

2011-2012: 900’s

2012-2013: 000-499 and Professional Library

2013-2014: 800’s and Biography

2014-2015: Fiction and Story Collection

Increase Participation in READissance

When our READissance founder, Sally Hursey, moved to the Boiling Springs Ninth Grade Campus, our READissance planning committee disbanded.  I have already asked one teacher to serve on the committee this year and need to recruit at least one other teacher and a couple of students to review the program and make needed adjustments.

We will survey the faculty and students and use the data to guide us as we begin to make changes.  I don’t want to be making what Buffy Hamilton referred to in her post “Milkshake Mistakes.”

We are a High Schools That Work (HSTW) school and, in an attempt to address their standard of having students read 25 books a year, we have raised the  number of books we require students to read in the READissance program.  Comparing participation data before and after the adjustments uncovers the negative effect of our changes. (We have increased the number of books required by two for two years, raising the number from 7 to 11 required books per semester.) By our current requirements, if a student reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages), he/she will get credit for reading one book.  However, HSTW defines “books” as a set number of pages.  If HSTW considers 200 pages the equivalent of a “book,” then the same  Harry Potter book would qualify as three (nearly four) books by that standard.  How do we address this to encourage, rather than discourage, participation?

Several other aspects of the program need to be reconsidered as we seek to increase both student and teacher participation in the program.

Master Destiny Software and Complete Inventory

Of the four goals, this one will take top priority as the year begins, but it should be accomplished quickly, allowing us to focus on our other goals as well as the day-to-day administration of our library program.

Destiny will be used for the first time this school year as our records were converted at the end of last school year.  The district has scheduled a two hour webinar and a full day of training to prepare us to begin using the program.  Inventory will need to be completed to activate the program so we had to wait until the beginning of the new school year to inventory our collection.

Other Plans

1) Reading promotion – using technology to promote books

2) Revamp our library website

3) Continue to work on branding our library – we will be known as “The MC”

4) Create a community of educators who want to explore using Web 2.0 tools in instruction

And, of course, there will be more.  I have never been one who is happy to sit on the sidelines.

What are you planning this year to improve your services?

Photo Attribution:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulworthington/82648702/