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BANNER, March, 2015: Research and Creativity

Middle schoolers make wide-ranging use of the library's many tools
"An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them." 
- Stephen Fry

Middle Schoolers, grades four and five, would surely agree.  Although they use the Brookwood library for research, book reviews and general reading enjoyment, this group also uses their library time to craft and explore unique and distinctive projects that combine our library resources, classroom literacy work, and the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity that are integral parts of both the teaching and learning in our Middle School.
"Fourth graders have a dedicated library block," explains Grade 4 teacher Elizabeth Highgas.  "The students are given an overall view of how the library functions and learn how to access and use available resources.  When choosing books, for either independent reading or classroom assignments, the children are encouraged to consider authors' intent and to explore a variety of literary genres.

The fourth grade also "produces" the Mystery Book of the Month during their library time.  They incorporate plot and character "clues" in an iMovie which is shared with our larger community at School Meeting.  "In the fourth grade library class, we have a lot of fun making the Mystery Book of the Month video.  Students first select the book; they then write scripts, learn to use the video camera, green screen, make editing decisions, and orchestrate the overall feel for the short film," explains Librarian Sheila Geraty.  Lower and Middle School students submit guesses to the library and a winner is chosen from all correct answers.

Book Character Day, hosted by the Middle School, honors and seeks to nurture reading at all levels.  Fourth and fifth grade students assume the persona of their chosen character and deliver a short oral presentation to the Lower School audience. "Book Character Day, a long standing Brookwood tradition, is especially well suited to our Middle School age children.  They are still young enough to make strong and meaningful connections with favorite literature remembered from early childhood," comments fifth grade teacher Gynna Ames.  "Additionally, fourth and fifth grades are Buddies with Pre K and K.  This is very helpful as we discuss our audience and what we think they would most enjoy in our presentations."  She adds, "Middle Schoolers also participate, in alternating years, in Vocabulary Day.  Again, a wonderfully age-appropriate activity thoroughly enjoyed by all.  It's both a creative and, quite often, a collaborative effort where our children may choose to work together or individually, portraying various vocabulary words.  Great fun always...and especially so when students choose to portray homonyms/homophones!"

These engaging and energetic literacy-centered activities are only a small fraction of the Middle Schoolers' library work.  Students also use the facility for traditional classroom assignments such as book reviews and research.  For example, fifth grade science teacher Dr. Oettinger assigns a project on "Famous Scientists and Inventors"; he accompanies the class to the library for multiple periods of research where they explore both web based and hard copy resources.

Sheila and assistant librarian Becky Keller work closely with grade level teachers creating LibGuides individually tailored to classroom projects and specific assignments. LibGuides are sets of web pages that consolidate specifically targeted and carefully adult reviewed information to be used by students on classroom assignments.  Fourth and fifth graders are first, overwhelmed, and secondly, unable to evaluate the vast amount of information available on the internet.  Through LibGuides, teachers and librarians provide our children with guidance and support throughout the research process.   "Fourth grade uses a LibGuide when researching Ancient China. This assists students with managing the multiple online and printed resources, and gives the teachers greater control over appropriate and accurate information," adds Elizabeth. (Click 4th Grade Ancient China LibGuide)

And, of course, there is the general reading students do as part of their literacy coursework.  "All students are encouraged to visit the library at least once a week, and although we do not have a dedicated library period in fifth grade, teachers often coordinate with the librarians and spend portions of literacy periods browsing books and quietly reading...nice 'down time',"says Gynna.  "The children spend time chatting with classroom teachers and librarians as they make reading choices.  This is particularly helpful when we ask students to read 'window' and ‘mirror' books where knowledgeable adults are integral in the selection of reading material.” 

Both fourth and fifth grade teachers and students would add, "The most important asset of any library goes home at night - the library staff,” as Timothy Healy, former President of the New York Public Library once said. This is indeed true at Brookwood. Thank you Sheila, Becky and all of our wonderful parent volunteers!