Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Happens When Schools Skip Feshman Library Orientations?

This morning the plan was to get all the English Language Learners through their initial entry assessment (LAB-R) but just as I was checking their schedules to go find them, Ms. S., the new 9th grade English teacher came running in asking if her kids could please, please come for a library orientation during the upcoming period (about 10 minutes away) and the period just after lunch. She seemed completely desperate to get her kids into the library and jazzed about books. Who could say no to that?

The unfortunate thing is that if all three schools' administrations would insist on, and allot time for, freshman and sixth grade library orientations for all incoming students, then this sort of panicked, hastily prepared, hit-or-miss sessions would be a thing of the past. I'm hoping against hope that my message will get across in time for next year... Be that as may, I quickly wheeled out my projector and SmartBoard and before I could manage to put together a couple of introductory PowerPoint slides the kids were knocking at the door.

The first section was a very well-behaved group; downright angelic by freshman standards, actually. Two volunteers jumped at the chance to sit at the librarians desk and sign the books out to their classmates using the OPAC.

The hurriedly arranged orientation called for a brief intro by Ms. S., a several minute talk about the specifics of out library, including an interactive "What do you like to do at the library?" slide andpp plenty if time for kids to rove around, select a book or two and get some reading done. Section one went off without a hitch.

Afterward, I ran around assembling my new ELLs only to find that yet another new enrollee from Ecuador had arrived just today, so she came with us and sat with the three other studious and well behaved girls for the first few sections of the test before it was time for lunch.

During lunch I tweaked and expanded my PowerPoint orientation slides and in came the next group. Ms. S. warned me sotto voce upon entering that this was the rowdier section.

In fact, I was pleasntly surprised. I found them quite attentive during my intro talk and kind of fun to work with during the book browsing phase of the class period. They were a tad noisier and a few had a harder time settling on book choices, but they were also kind of witty and playful, which I didn't mind a bit, although I'm afraid Ms. S. may now think I'm overly permissive.

I trained one volunteer J., on the OPAC and he was the quickest study I've had yet. He was soon joined by a female classmate X. (too shy to be photographed head-on) and the two hardly needed any help navigating the system except when a new student whose name wasn't yet on the rolls needed to be added manually and they seemed to pick this kind of thing up quickly as well.

Groups of kids chose books quickly and settled in at tables right away to enjoy them. Ms S. and I worked to find books for the several lost souls who weren't having any luck.

By the end if the period, everyone had checked out at least one book and some had even come back to the desk to get one or two more.

I was sad to see them go, but the next period arrived I had to get my LAB-R test takers back together, which turned out to be no small feat in terms of tracking them down, and we managed to get through almost all of it. A few last pieces to wrap up tomorrow.

Finally, I stopped into an extra after school enrichment class in US history to help two struggling ELLs, who seemed to really appreciate the attention and support, and ended up staying with them the whole period.

The ELLs, both newly arrived and those continuing from last year are requesting a self-contained class. Ben, the co-director in charge of programming is going to set one up next week. This should be a big boost to the suddenly burgeoning ELL population and a good way for me to further my ESL classroom teaching practice, which I always enjoy. How it will all fit into my schedule is a worry, but, oddly, and perhaps over-optimistically, I feel as though I just might be up to the challenge.

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