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Elementary librarians Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman were able to attend this year’s PA State Librarians Conference “Limitless Learning” at Hershey Lodge on the afternoon of May 4th and Friday, May 5th. This afforded us genuine opportunities to network with colleagues from around the state, experience makerspace items hands-on, meet with potential vendors, and attend a variety of workshop sessions of choice to further our professional development.

Descriptions of attended workshops are as follows:

Limitless Learning with the AASL National School Library Standards (Attended by Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman) Presented by PSLA President, Jennifer Bates, and President-Elect, Allison Mackley, who had 1 ½ days of training, introduced the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries to us in a three hour session. The framework for the standards was explored which reflects best practices for implementation.

Keynote Address: Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian- Choose to be Fierce and Future Ready (Attended by Stacey Fisher and Tina Hagarman)

Gwyneth, a middle school librarian from Howard County, Maryland, and “a blogger, a trope and meme archivist, creator of content, a citizen of advocacy, and a resident of social media” was a very engaging speaker who stressed that as technology moves forward, we must move forward with it to maintain rigorous instruction for our learners.

Session A:

Mobile Media in the Classroom: Diving into Digital Discoveries (Attended by Stacey Fisher) Examples of mobile strategies such as new ideas for QR codes, Kahoot, Instagram, Bitmoji, Augmented Reality, and Boomerang were presented to interactively engage learners by Gwyneth Jones. She also encouraged participants to try one new thing at a time and to make library happenings public to our stakeholders via social media, particularly Instagram. She was adamant that this is program promotion, not personal promotion.

Making: A Curriculum (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

Elementary librarians from the Penn Manor School District shared how they incorporate ‘making’ into their fixed schedules. In grades one through three, classic literature is used to tie in with project-based activities, as the students come up with solutions to problems within the stories. The students design something to improve the situation by using materials such as K’NEX, Legos, clay, 3Doodler pens, straws, magnetic and traditional blocks. In grades four through six, students conduct independent research, then create a group project on the curriculum-based subject by using primarily recycled materials. Discussions on logistics provided great information on how to combine essential library curriculum with makerspace activities.

Session B:

#10M2M-Makerspaces for a Fixed Schedule  (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

“Ten Minutes to Make” offered librarians who operate on a teacher release schedule a way to incorporate makerspace philosophy in a set amount of time. This offers learners free and creative choice on a regular basis. Presenter Sarah DeMaria from Hempfield School District teaches at the elementary level and showed a very accessible way to include makerspaces on a fixed schedule.

Straight from the Source: Engaging Students with Primary Resources (Attended by Tina Hagarman) Lisa Lopez-Carickhoff from The Baldwin School and Courtney Dalessandro from POWER Library expanded on ways to engage students using primary sources and make learning fun! Primary sources help students with critical thinking skills and connect with history. In addition to using digital resources from POWER Library, Library of Congress and Digital Public Library of America, librarians/teachers can loan text and non-text exhibits/resources from local historical societies, museums, and national parks to display or use for research projects.

Session C:

Connecting Back to the Future-It’s a Mindset  (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

Each gear of the Future Ready Framework was unpacked during this workshop by Jennifer Boudrye, Director of Library Programs, District of Columbia Schools and Project Connect Librarian Leadership Team. It was emphasized that many of us already apply this mindset and call to action. Connections to standards, Model Curriculum, and Deeper Learning were made as well as application for best practices. Collaboration with the public library was emphasized to build partnerships to provide more access to all stakeholders, especially those who do not have internet access.

The 5 W’s of Library Makerspaces (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

This session explored the questions many have when integrating makerspaces into the library. Why? To help students problem-solve, be creative, think critically and address differentiation. What? Determine what tools are going to teach without dismissing low tech. When? Making should be intentionally and purposefully integrated into the curriculum. Where? An area with open access to everyone. Who? In addition to students and teachers, administrators, and maintenance staff should be involved. How? Start with a plan, determine funding needed, look for lessons already created and tailor them to your curriculum/what students need to learn.

Session D:

Beyond the Book: How to Experience Books with Making (Attended by Stacey Fisher)

This session was a whirlwind of children’s literature presented book talk style by Maren Vitali, Elementary Librarian at Milltown School. Creative projects to enhance and enrich learning for each book were shared and placed on display for attendees to look at and ask questions.

Beyond Library Walls: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work (Attended by Tina Hagarman)

Michele Naas and Michelle Wetzel shared a variety of creative ways to build relationships with students, teachers/other specialists, community members (parents and other librarians), and school administration. Going beyond the library walls creates valuable  partnerships that enhance the student experience and overall library program. I’m looking forward to incorporating some of these ideas to what is already being done in the district.


I attended the 2018 Research Pre-Conference and the National Art Education Association National Convention from March 20th-24th in Seattle, WA. The theme this year was Art+Design=STEAM.

Research Pre-Conference-Making Knowledge/Moving Knowledge:

The pre-conference began with a plenary panel discussion on knowledge building by B. Stephen Carpenter, Amelia Kraehe, Christine Marme Thompson, and Marilyn Stewart. Topics discussed included what people have been writing about, what counts as knowledge in art education, qualitative verse quantitative research, and how to move the field of art education forward. The panel discussed the relevant topics that are the focus current art publications: STEAM, arts integration, pre-service education, arts as therapy, arts equity/social justice/human rights, choice and freedom-what does it look like? Potentials? Pitfalls? Other topics included assessment, credentials, early childhood, art museums/sites of learning, visual methodologies, feminist theory/pedagogies, post-critical thinking, post-qualitative work, and disabilities. The panel also mentioned the interactive discussion board on Collaborate from NAEA where you can get an immediate sense of what is on people’s minds.

The conversation then moved to the classroom and focused on how there is a desire for quantitative research because assessment is high on a practitioner’s agenda. There is a general hunger for numbers because they help defend art practices and programs; therefore, practitioners are looking for a synthesis of research to help substantiate their practice. When looking at the landscape of knowledge construction in the field, where should we focus our attention to move art education forward? The panel mentioned centering research around and with children in the classrooms because researchers have a tendency to research what is convenient for them, especially in Studies for Art Education. They would also like to see more research with young children, ESL students, and international contexts. Furthermore, the panel discussed the importance of incorporating other types of publications such as NPR and Edutopia, which would offer additional spaces for sharing research.

Finally, the panel shared how they might encourage more K-12 art educators to publish research. They felt that when we call teachers practitioners, we limit their ability to conceptualize themselves as researchers; therefore, the panel discussed how they might build incentives to encourage K-12 art educators to publish. Consider all the teachers that blog-how might they be nudged to convert their blog writing into articles?

Several breakout sessions followed the plenary panel discussion. I attended Researching Spirituality in Art Education and The Role of Research in High School and Middle School. I found the second session both informative and thought provoking. Megan Leppla shared the importance of journaling, which is the processing of information and making deeper connections. Most student experiences with journals are teacher-driven spaces where they are told to write down words. Here, students have no personal connection. How do you teach visual journaling/visual thinkers? We want our students to think and engage in the process. Currently, students are brought up in education where the teachers teach the information and the students regurgitate it. How do we allow students to think for themselves? We want students to have the ability to ask questions and be okay with failure. How do we foster this type of environment? We need to begin by creating a safe space where students feel socially comfortable with peers.

Kimberly D’Adams shared how we underestimate what teenagers are capable of. She teaches both metacognition and constructivism practices where big interdisciplinary topics are explored in art. She asks her students, what is your investigation? In her classroom, students design their own course of study and are immediately interested in it. There is an emphasis on metacognition-learning about learning. Allowing students to find their own area of passion and acknowledging the social issues that are happening outside of school creates a space for students to reflect and make their own art. When art becomes real, there is a major shift in motivation.

The afternoon of the pre-conference consisted of the second plenary discussion focused on knowledge mobilization featuring Juan Carolos Castro, Graeme Sullivan, Dennis Inhulsen, Gino Molfino, and Sarah Ackerman followed by more break-out sessions. The panel defined knowledge mobilization as empowering circumstances to allow others to join you in what you are doing and the ability to learn what others do. They also posed the following questions: How can we better help members become reflective practitioners? What empowers teachers to read and comprehend on a daily basis? If the role of research is to continuously build knowledge, how does it move? How do we engage teachers that do not feel comfortable with research? How do you translate what researchers do into something that is usable? The panel also shared how teachers (especially new) tend to read in 150 words or less because of social media’s impact. How are we to change that? Perhaps providing easy access to journal articles or developing 100 character moments to engage teachers that are not ready. Ultimately, we need to build confidence in our educators so that classroom teachers are not afraid to share their own challenges in art education.


National Convention Sessions:

There were hundreds of sessions offered throughout the three-day convention focusing on all aspects of art including STEAM, curriculum, pedagogy, advocacy, national standards, research strategies, and artmaking. I found myself most interested in the sessions focusing on TAB (teaching for artistic behavior), choice-based art, design thinking, creative inquiry, and art critiques. Below are highlights from these sessions:

I Think I Can, I Think I Can…Create a Choice-Based Design Thinking Studio 

By Pamela Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich runs a student-centered studio that helps facilitate student ideas. She creates a structure for her students to think and act as artists. Her students are not use to choice; therefore, Ehrenreich assists them in becoming autonomous learners by first scaffolding the discovery of an overarching theme. She lays out artwork centered on a common theme and the students have to make connections between the artworks to research the theme. Once the theme is explored, the students move into skill builders where they are challenged without a lot of rules and the pressure of completing a final piece. Examples include a cardboard challenge, installation art, and media mania. Next, the students explore a personal theme by visually researching and questioning what they want to make. After exploring, the artist begins to design-planning out what they want to create. Here artists sketch, play with materials, and make models with modeling clay (if working 3D and have a difficult time drawing it on paper). These designs become the impetus to create the artwork. Once the artwork is made, students reflect on their process using the RAT critique via the platform SeeSaw where they R-respond to the question posed, A-ask a question, and T-tell something they are doing or have done really well. This type of critique provides meaningful feedback from peers and helps facilitate conversations.

Ehrenreich told us the planning is different in a choice-based classroom. She facilitates ideas and responds to students’ needs. She does not create final products, but plans broad themes and curates resources/materials for students. Her job is not to tell an artist how to do something, but to facilitate his/her idea by giving them the tools and materials they need.

What’s Wrong With STEAM? Why Teaching Disciplines Doesn’t Work if Creativity is the Goal! 

By Cindy Foley and Julie Toole

The presenters gave a background of STEM and what rationalized this movement. They discussed the critical importance of art and how our discipline is not meant to make other disciplines fun. They questioned why we still teach in discipline-specific boundaries and how we engage minds and foster creative dispositions. Foley and Toole discussed trans-disciplinary research where you start with an idea and all disciplines are in service to that idea. The conversation then moved to creativity and the question “is this even art?” was addressed. What does quality art look like? A child’s aesthetic is different from an adult’s aesthetic. Art teachers need to consider the quality of engagement and the ability for a child to reflect and innovate. The focus of artwork should be to engage children’s thinking. The assignment in art class is to grow as an artist.

Creative Inquiry in Art and Science: The Heart of STEAM 

By Julia Marshall, Amy Pfeiler-Wonder, and Erin Kraal

Marshall, Pfeiler-Wonder, and Kraal discussed the similarities between how artists and scientists work. They discussed the beauty of collaboration-how it both inspires and challenges. They questioned-how can we use arts integration to promote deeper understanding of contemporary art? Contemporary art is not cozy because it is unfamiliar/surprising/difficult therefore compelling deeper thinking.

Creative inquiry is the spinal cord that is science and art. It is testing things out, making observations, and drawing questions that provide a wonder and the desire to know more. Artists and scientists question, analyze, envision, imagine, play, invent, and resolve. Both disciplines use visual imagery to conceptualize and think through problems, which make inventions come to life. Real science is messy, complicated, and involves explanation. The scientific method is not linear, but a complex process that intertwines structure and function with cause and effect. The creative process in art shares this language. Making art is the generation of new knowledge-it is the aspiring process of asking good questions and seeking answers.

The presenters talked about research workbooks to foster creative thinking. These notebooks dissolve the notion that the teacher is the expert and opens a space for artists to be inspired by their own curiosity. Here, a student begins with a question to follow their curiosity which leads to digging deeper into places that were not even imagined. In this situation, learners can see that they are agents of understanding and not just doing research to earn a good grade. What is it like to smell, hear, see, and taste knowledge? These workbooks allow the student to become the researcher and to construct new knowledge. Students feel competent that their thinking matters. It also becomes an incredible way to document student learning because “being curious and asking questions is something we don’t outgrow”.

Danielson, Choice-Based Art, and the Distinguished Evaluation

By Cynthia Gaub and Mary O’Brien

Gaub explained the importance of communicating and educating administration on what a choice classroom looks like. Student choice allows students to work at their level using the time, space, and resources available. It is key for the teacher to provide demonstrations and mini lessons that focus on the students’ needs and interests. Choice is not a free for all; there is a lot of behind the scenes planning that is not always visible. Assessment looks different where the focus is on how the student understands the process of art through their work and written reflections.

Gaub shared the structure of her studio classroom. For the students that are not use to choice, she scaffolds and provides parameters. She finds this especially important for the artists that are reluctant and need redirection. In this scenario, Gaub asks students if they can relate to an idea/theme from the previous year. Choices provide times for exploration and experimentation. The teacher questions student work and how they plan to move forward rather than telling them what to do. Here, teachers adapt to the needs of their students-they are flexible and responsive.

The Art Critiques: Challenges, Strategies, and Solutions

By Clara Lieu

Lieu began by asking the question, what is a critique? It is a bunch of artists sitting and talking about artwork; a creative discussion space where you can hear viewers’ reactions to your work. It is also an opportunity to leave your head and step outside yourself. It provides an opportunity for you to expand your thinking, as artists tend to work in their heads and in their own universes. Lastly, it is a chance to expand the options of your artwork-have you thought about this?

Critique Topics:

Intent-what are you trying to do?

Motivation-what got you to do this? What created the spark?

Subject Matter-why did you choose that subject matter? Would your idea be better conveyed if it was something different?

Use of Materials-How did you use your materials?

An effective critique is a group effort. If the students do not understand this, they will think it is the teacher’s job. A successful critique helps the student move forward. It is not a personal attack, but an opportunity to get an overview of different opinions. Lieu reinforces the importance of respecting every opinion if if a disagreement arises. Students need to be in the right frame of mind to absorb a critique; they have to decide to absorb the information. Lieu suggested having students watch a critique before they participate in one. Critique strategies included the sandwich, playing devil’s advocate, and pushing diverse opinions. The sandwich is when you start with a positive statement, move to suggestions, and end on a positive note. This strategy opens the door for students to hear the critique because many of them look for validation. Devil’s advocate is when you take on multiple opinions and say things that you do not personally agree with forcing students to see another side of the artwork. Pushing diverse opinions stops everyone from jumping on the bandwagon and just agreeing with the first comment. It encourages others to disagree with the group. When students provide vague comments such as, “I just think it’s cool” or “It just does it for me” respond by asking why.

A teacher’s role in the critique is to ask questions when it falls silent. What do people think about…? Is the composition too crowded? too simple? Teacher’s also recommend artists from history and contemporary art, refer to and compare to previous artist’s works (only by the same student), say what the student won’t or can’t say, and recognizes effort. Lastly, we foster conversations; it is not a one-way street where students get information and walk away.

The Seasons of a Studio-A year in a Choice-Based Studio

By Julie Toole

Our role as an art teacher is to allow students to develop their voices. We have the power in our program to tell students that their ideas and voices matter. Every decision she makes revolves around the core belief of TAB: What do artists do? The child is the artist. The art room is their studio. Toole provided an overview of her TAB classroom throughout the year and discussed the ebb and flow over time.

Back to School-Toole considers room flow because she wants her students to be autonomous and easily move throughout. She finds herself consistently getting rid of furniture and reflecting on open space. Some storage has moved under the tables such as cardboard and cardboard tubes. Studio centers are designed for student autonomy so that students can independently find what they need, set up their workspace, and put materials back. A digital portfolio via SeeSaw allows the students to track their progress. She also has each artist create a portrait on SeeSaw where every student records his/her voice and talks about who he/she is as an artist. Also tracking progress are sketchbooks, which are meant to be a visual journal to plan ideas. It is not a tool that everyone is required to use, but available for those that chose to use them. Goal setting based on SHoM is covered in the fall. She tells her students that their job is to grow as artists and how they grow is up to them. Students set goals at the beginning of the year which relate to envisioning, developing craft, stretching and exploring, or expressing. Twice during the year, students refer to their goal sheet and reflect on their growth. This takes the responsibility off of you and puts the students at the center of their own learning. In addition to goal setting, each class sets a group agreement. This sets the tone and creates a safe space for students to take risks and see themselves as part of an artist community. However, with great freedom comes great responsibility; therefore, students are asked how they will care for the studios, how they will care for each other, and care for themselves. Toole summarizes each class’s answers and incorporates them onto a sign where she obtains the students’ signatures. Media exploration is also completed in the fall where students participate in a round robin to explore different materials. The goal is to play and then talk about the discoveries. In John Dewey’s words “We don’t learn from experiences, we learn from reflecting on experiences.” Toole also utilizes the fall to introduce creativity and team building games such as the task party, tantemounter, and the cardboard challenge. Procedures and systems are also introduced so that students understand the expectations to maximize artmaking time.

Winter-Toole finds that some students face a creativity slump, so this is when she looks at emergent ideas and responds to the patterns that are occurring in the studio. Winter is also a time to open mini-centers like encaustic, collograph, bookmaking, and Styrofoam printing. Portfolio reflections and the critique process are also introduced at this time.

Spring-Group agreements and natural consequences are revisited. Students are required to take ownership of their studios; therefore, if a center is not cleaned up properly it is closed. An agreement is a living document and students need to be held accountable for their choices.

Summer-Toole defined this season as the time of year where the most growth occurs as a teacher. It is a time to nurture yourself as both an artist and teacher through professional experiences, reading, deep planning, making art, and reflecting.

The Psychology of Creative Thinking: What Does Teaching and Learning About Creativity Imply?

By Angela Foreman

The characteristics and behaviors of creative thinking consist of risk taking and having the courage to be wrong, a sense of humor, and trusting intuition and a willingness to trust thoughts.

Foreman outlined and discussed fluency, flexibility, and elaboration as they relate to creative thinking. Fluency is the ability to produce multiple ideas quickly. To experience this, students receive a sheet of paper filled with empty circles. In 10 minutes, the students need to fill as many circles as they can without doodling. The goal is not to focus on drawing skills or the quality of drawing, but to focus on idea building. Following the activity, she discusses originality and higher creative thinking strategies such as taking two circles and combining them into one or drawing outside of the circle. Furthermore, a conversation surrounding cliché images like smileys, suns, and peace signs occurs. Flexibility is the ability to adapt and change your ideas in thinking relative to a task. This ability relates to the comfort and willingness to change ideas like in an artist’s thumbnail sketches. Students need to know that it is okay to make mistakes and change their ideas. Elaboration is the ability to ad details to existing ideas. Ideas are built from other ideas just like research. Foreman simulates this in an activity where each student draws a monster or alien. The drawing is then passed around to another student whereupon he/she must add details onto someone else’s original idea. The task becomes more difficult each time the drawing is passed.

Foreman ended her session by sharing three steps to transform our classrooms into a creative powerhouse:

  1. Establish brain compatible learning environments that include differentiation, safety, choices, sense of humor, and constructive and positive praise.
  2. Build ongoing awareness and reflection. Teach students about creative thinking to build metacognition and awareness of thinking through a process. Incorporate critiques and assessment.
  3. Provide regular practice and thinking opportunities that allow time for experimentation.


Kimberly Porter and I attended the 45th Annual Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Conference on Friday, May 4th. This year’s theme was ”Limitless Learning” which is a theme we want to instill in our students as well. As school librarians, we need to help our students grow into lifelong learners by facilitating the skills necessary to live in a world that has limitless resources at their disposal.  We attended various workshops for our own professional learning and we were also able to meet many vendors to peruse new YA literature and hear about new technologies in our field. The side conversations with our peers across the Commonwealth was also extremely valuable to learn best practices in our field.

Mobile Media in the Classroom: Diving into Digital Discoveries

Loved this session! Gwyneth A. Jones, The Daring Librarian, shared many examples she uses in her library teaching practice to communicate with her kids, parents, and community. Mobile apps to engage, create, and interact with students include QR Codes, Kahoots, ioT, Instagrams, Augmented Reality, Bitmoji, Flipagram, and Boomerang. She shared fun ideas for library signage, lesson printables, newsletters, business cards, and library/literacy promotion ideas.

#bookface idea #Sherry

Books of Note 2018 by TriState YA Book Review Committee

A panel of 5 librarians presented and booktalked the books of Note 2018.  These titles have been evaluated as the best of the current materials. The panel not only highlighted favorite titles but also provided tips for providing limitless learning for your students. I came away with many great YA title for our collections.

Connecting Back to the Future-It’s a Mindset

Jennifer Boudrye, Director of Library Programs, District of Columbia Schools presented on the framework to be a Future Ready Librarian. She made connections to standards and best practices and gave us clear actions to ensure that we are preparing our students for their futures.


Science E-Resources & TrueFlix in Power Library
Power Library has a multitude of resources available to learners of all ages.  The Science E-Resources database is just one of the research tools that has valuable information for students and teachers alike.  Researchers have access to over 150 full text reference books and encyclopedias. They can also search publications and journals as well as images and videos.  Teachers have access to the curriculum standards, lesson plans, and worksheets. The research guide also helps students to narrow or broaden their search terms, find experiments, and get help citing their sources.  TrueFlix offers over 140 digital social studies and science units in grades 3-6.  However, the resources are also very well suited for ELL and older learning support students.  The digital titles have unlimited, simultaneous usage so that one title may be accessed by whole classes at the same time.  Lesson plans are also included for teachers to use. One of the features of the database is the “Explore the Web” tab. Vetted, age-appropriate websites accompany each of the units so that students can use the Internet and find reliable information.  Along with the many valuable resources the Power Library makes it easier to access by providing links to each database that can be added to individual library webpages thereby allowing libraries to customize Power Library for their schools.

The 5W’s of Library Makerspaces
This session shared ideas on how to start a makerspace as well as how to keep an existing makerspace viable and exciting.  The importance of the makerspace in today’s schools helps prepare students for the future, provides opportunities for new learning, fuels curiosity, creativity, and engagement.  The makerspace does not have to be about coding, robots, and high tech gadgets. Low tech, inexpensive or free materials can also provide valuable learning experiences in the makerspace.  Makerspace challenges and projects help students learn to persevere and it provides differentiation and taps into multiple intelligences. Even ELL students can benefit from the creativity making provides and is not dependent on language competence.

I had the opportunity to attend the Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association Conference from Thursday, May 3 through Saturday, May 5, 2018, at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  All three days were jammed-packed with professional development, networking opportunities and vendor booths. Interspersed throughout the sessions were committee meetings for the Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award – I sit on the review committee for the grades 3-6 strand.  Also, I was sworn in as the Treasurer for the next two years, effective July 1st, so there were several business meetings to attend to learn new information.

Here are descriptions of the workshop sessions (ranging from one to three hours) that I attended over the three days:

  • Limitless Learning with AASL Standards An introduction to the new American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, exploring the standards integrated framework which reflects professional best practices for effective school libraries.
  • Choose to be Fierce and Future Ready with Gwenyth Jones, the Daring Librarian In the tumult of today’s technical and pedagogical innovation, it’s time to take action! As fierce and future ready librarians our language has shifted to connect, collaborate, create, construct, make, flip, share, advocate and empower to move forward into the universe of rigorous instruction.
  • Awards Breakfast Outstanding Pennsylvania Author awarded to Jordan Sonnenblick; 2018 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award winners announced.
  • Windows and Mirrors: Celebrating Diversity in the School Library I was the presenter of this workshop which took librarians through the collection development process of a diverse collection, and shared a variety of ways to promote the materials.
  • Makerspaces for a Fixed Schedule “10 Minutes 2 Make” is the perfect solution for any elementary library to utilize a makerspace within a fixed schedule. Attendees learned how to incorporate a makerspace philosophy in the library by giving students free, creative choice for a set amount of time.
  • Connecting Back to the Future – It’s a Mindset At its core, being Future Ready is a mindset. Understanding and demonstrating future readiness is a great way to connect with people who may believe that librarians are anything but Future Ready. During this session, we looked at the Future Ready Framework and made connections to standards and best practices.
  • George and Martha Who? Examining Primary Documents Federal Law requires schools receiving federal funding must “hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17.” Libraries are perfect places to celebrate Constitution Day; where primary documents are introduced to all patrons.
  • This Story is for You Author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli discussed his work and gave a peek into the process of how he created his newest picture book.
  • Refreshing the Library and Creating a Brand Attendees learned how two libraries took some paint, some (wo)manpower, a few pieces of furniture and created a space students wanted to be in, parents valued, and staff used. This approach also supported tangible goals that tie into the Core Standards. In addition to refreshing the space, refresh the very idea of library.
  • Sky’s the Limit: Graphica Clubs as Sites of Learning Attendees learned about an established after-school bookclub that specializes in graphica in the elementary school library. The presenters shared the different ways they have engaged with students and offered tips for using graphica in school libraries.

Shannon Resh
Park Hills Elementary School Librarian

Tara Staub , Tracey Coppersmith, Anna Molison and Denise Helt attended the PESI conference on April 23, 2018.

The conference started with an overview of behavioral problems/diagnoses and etiology. Things to consider when a child is exhibiting behavioral problems include: hormonal issues, gender, and home/school environment.  The presenter, Steven T. Olivas, Ph.D., HSP then reviewed DSM-V diagnoses and behaviors we may expect to see with those diagnoses.  A few diagnoses and exhibited behaviors were:

  • ADHD – Fidgeting, squirming, leaving seat often, often “on the go”, difficulty awaiting turn, interrupting
  • ODD – often loses temper, argues with adults, deliberately annoys others, easily annoyed, angry, resentful, spiteful, blames others for his/her misbehaviors
  • Conduct Disorder – Aggression towards people and/or animals, destruction of property, theft

The rest of the conference covered techniques for helping children with behavior problems.  Ideas included:

  • Anger – thermometer scale to gauge level of feeling anger, standing 8 count, stick of dynamite (teach how to lengthen their fuse), remove audience, get attention and distract child if you see a child start to escalate (say their name and ask them to run an errand), give a paper plate to make a mask (on the front write things people know about you and on the back write things that people do not know about you), long term change can only happen through relationships – we need to build relationships with these children, print a sequence of emojis that express different emotions and place the emotion word that goes with the emoji – you can use this to help the children mirror their own facial expressions with how their feeling
  • Depression – journaling, storytelling because it is not about them, negative self-talk kids need to learn how to do positive self-talk (ex. “Don’t believe everything you think.”, “I’m good enough.”, “I will get through this.”)
  • Anxiety – breathing (blow on a pinwheel, blow bubbles, breathe in and smell the soup, breathe out and cool it off)
  • Autism – end of year tends to be worse because they know change is coming – utilize YouTube videos to identify the emotions in other people, utilize facial expressions and social cues with emojis, talk to the family about have thing child wear a compression shirt that is 2 sizes too small to help provide pressure like the “squeeze machine” from Temple Grandin

Overall, we gained more tools and strategies to help with the varying needs of our students.

The PMEA District 7 Songfest festival participants arrived at EHMIS at 7:00am and traveled to Middletown Area High School by 8:30am on April 7, 2018 . The teachers were instructed to share materials with the participants and seat their students on stage. The singers began their rehearsal at 9:00am. The chaperoning teachers observed the rehearsal techniques of Dr. Lynell Joy Jenkins. Dr. Jenkins is Artistic Director of the Princeton Girlchoir and choral teacher at the Timberlane Middle School of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District in Pennington, New Jersey. We observed the rehearsal from 9:00-12;00. The teachers then escorted the students to lunch, stripped the stage and prepared the stage for the afternoon performance. Following lunch the students resumed their rehearsal and the teachers continued their observation of the conductor. The SWSD music teachers also met with the current Vice-President of PMEA District 7 to discuss the logistics of hosting the PMEA District 7 Songfest in 2019. The morning and afternoon observations provided many rehearsal techniques and tips. We observed the conductor rehearsing each piece, discussed the rehearsal techniques and vocal pedagogy. The discussion included ways to implement these strategies in our own elementary chorus rehearsals.

At 3:00pm, the teachers were assigned duties to help the students through a snack/restroom break and with the logistics of entering and exiting the stage. The students presented their portion of the concert for friends and family at 4:00pm. The concert concluded at 5:00pm. Overall, it was a very enjoyable day and it was rewarding to watch the students perform after preparing for the concert since January!

Claudia Simmons and Missy Snyder attended the Read Live Hands-on Training and Strategy Workshop, presented by Read Naturally, on March 14th, in Harrisburg. This full-day workshop included information on the strategy behind Read Naturally, a hands-on training of Read Naturally Live, and how to read and analyze student data reports.

This program combines the research-based strategies of teacher modeling, repeated reading, and self-monitoring to improve fluency, support vocabulary, and promote comprehension in developing readers. Students read along with recordings of a fluent reader which in turn, helps students increase accuracy and expression. Students practice until they can read at a goal rate and then answer comprehension questions based on the text. Teachers are able to progress monitor students and make informed decisions about teaching, using detailed reports and graphs generated by the program.

Read Naturally is currently being used to support our struggling readers across the district. This interactive, cloud-based, reading intervention offers teachers and specialists options to easily customize the program in order to meet individual needs. Students are able to work at their own pace on the level and skills best suited to meet their individual needs. Teachers have opportunities to work one-on-one with students to set goals and meet grade level expectations. This program is inexpensive compared to many intervention programs and offers a wide range of levels and skills to our developing readers. Students are motivated by the program and continue to make great gains in their reading skills. Read Naturally is a great addition to any well-balanced literacy program.


MACPL 2018

Eric Barshinger, Megan Pilarcik, Judy Berryman, Danielle Looman
Let’s take a meta-moment: what is appealing to us about Mass-customized or Personalized learning? How do we see it working for us in our plans, our classrooms; for our students? The Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning sought to engage its attendees and presenters in this very “meta-moment,” as coined by one presenter. The various session opportunities provided some variation in topic, yet the real benefit and learning experience in attending this conference (at least for us), was being able to present our own topic and interact with others who are new to PBL, struggling with it, or just wanted extension pieces for their students. The opportunity to lead others toward incorporating PBL and inquiry-based learning into their own classrooms marked this experience as a high point of our year.

With a host of session choices, we three core teachers of English, Math, and Social Studies selected those that most appealed to us; and were still able to attend some together. One such session, the Escape the Room, saw all three of us working on breaking out of the “box” as well as making connections with the teachers present. Although this session promised to be germane to SW teachers because of our recent grant for the Breakout Boxes, the task itself was simple and the resources sparse. Fortunately, the interactions with teachers hailing from Georgia, Rhode Island, and even as close as Waynesboro redeemed the session. The MET School in RI is a public school that is entirely career-focused. Each student is encouraged to set up internships, and they often spend 1-2 days of the school week in these internships to gain practical knowledge and experience. Penn Trafford SD in Pittsburgh is piloting a 9th grade Academy, where the students work in cross-curricular studies. These two extraordinary experiences gave us insight into how other schools are working towards personalization.

Later, a session entitled “Driving Student Agency through Inquiry Based Authentic Learning Experiences” featured she of the “meta-moment” coinage: Michele Huffman. She opened our session by addressing something very dear to our SW Hearts: voice and choice. And while she appreciates voice and choice as being an important step in students’ learning lives, she also acknowledged them as just that: a step. They are meant to take us to what is the real goal: student agency. She provided myriad resources in different formats, including images, encouragement strategies, and hands-on manipulative examples. We as teachers were required to use manipulatives to create a representation of a student’s learning path After getting over our lack of creative ability, we made a “path” of popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and stickers. And only one of those stickers went on Megan. This exercise, though it initially elicited groans from many a teacher in the room, was supremely successful in showing how to involve all students in variations of learning and expressing understandings.

Another session regarding the relationships built in a PBL classroom examined Central York High School’s analysis of the power of relationships–an element often overlooked because we do not (and perhaps can not) collect data on it. In this process, Central’s teachers collect data from their subjects: the students self-assess and reflect on their progress in course standards, but also their assessed skills: synthesis, contextualizing, reasoning, and perspective, as well as time-management and communication. Furthermore, this “Apollo School” engages its students in three honors credits, “not based on longer papers or more books but on the extra level of rigor required to connect cross-curricular content and needing to manage entire projects.” Consulting Marzano, McTighe, and Pickering, this school “forces [their students] to think for themselves and gives them the freedom to ask questions.” This may illustrate the concepts more clearly:

Industrial Mode: Content = constant; Skills = variable

Future Ready Model: Content = variable; Skills = constant

At the conclusion of the day, we held our own session on how to Launch PBL. And despite the one nay-sayer in the back, our experience with the majority of the group was very positive. We shared our experiences, thoughts on how “messy” PBL is, and some important strategies and concepts to keep in mind while preparing to interpolate some PBL into an already packed curriculum. Eric shared the three tracks of PBL (set-product, problem, and open-ended) as well as how to create appropriate LEQs. Danielle discussed how to grab the attention of the students, and Megan illustrated how to shape driving questions created by the students. We allotted time for reflection and discussion during the presentation, and fielded comments, questions, and hypothetical situations. It was exciting, uplifting, and heartening. These teachers couldn’t wait to use PBL to engage their students. And although the other sessions were not quite as uplifting and exciting, we couldn’t wait to get back to our own students to implement what we could from our experiences here.

On March 14-16, I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Migrant Education Program and English as a Second Language Conference in Harrisburg, PA. Their theme is Education Without Borders—Together We Rise.

“School climate is about how students feel when they enter the building” Peter Dewitt.

Principal at Hatboro-Horsham High School, Dennis Williams, Jr., presented “The Climb: Engaging the Community in Meaningful Ways.” This interactive institute was designed to provide participants with the insight on engagement with families and the community, its positive impact when effectively implemented. School districts, although not always, may be unaware of how to best take advantage of community resources that are easily accessible. Best practice techniques and easy-to-use strategies were shared.

Williams firmly believes that with strong parent and community engagement, demographics do not matter! There is a big difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. Engagement means this is what we want to accomplish, and this is how we can work together to achieve it. He polled the audience to see their perspective on how well school districts are engaging in and embracing their local communities. A common response that districts were doing an average job at engaging and embracing their local communities, and when they do reach out, the reach out is focused on a specific population and not all the families within the district.

Solutions to this disconnect, according to Williams, are cost-effective and necessary because involved parents make a huge impact on the success of their students. When you engage, you spark involvement. Following these five pillars of

Ask yourself: What’s your dream/vision for parent/community engagement?

Williams’ Five Pillars of Engagement:

1: ACCESS: districts make it difficult. Make the conditions easier for parents to find information; information not presented in a way they can understand it; is

One way to address this, put a translator on the page; create pages that are easy to navigate; have a resource fair at beginning of school to educate parents on how to find information and navigate them (grades, district calendars, etc.). Provide the opportunity for parents to access information and resources. Create a clothing closet of new and gently used clothing and a food pantry for parents. Local communities and parents help to stock shelves.

2: Availability: break the barriers (child care, transportation, and work schedules) that keep parents away from school. Make food available to buy or sell during events, access certified high school kids to provide child care, and/or take the involvement/engagement to them.

3: Clear Communication means face-to-face time. Once or twice per marking period (8:30-10:00) offer the opportunity for parents to come in and meet with administrators to discuss goals, meeting that goal, and what team work is needed. At the end of the day, it is about customer service. For this parents who cannot meet in the AM, provide an afternoon or evening online chat. This cost the district nothing, just one hour or so. Know the community and know where our families go: churches, businesses, barber shop, etc. Take information to these areas so the word can get out to the hard to reach families.

4: Resources and opportunities:Invite community members in to hear out goals. Many times they can assist with reaching our vision/goals. Reach out to local businesses and see how they can bring the district  and school money.

5: 360 degree feedback (qualitative and quantitative). Every so often (every other year) a customer. When people are satisfied with a service they typically tell two to three people, but when they are not satisfied they tell 80% of the people they communicate. Questions stretch from quality of service when they call, does school provide enough information, school clean and is there someone in the building with whom their child/ren connect (for example). This should help us drive goals for the following year.

Another important component to getting parents involved/engaged is to better understand three types of parents and how to pull them to our side, to be a team member.:

1. Fully engaged: National poll 20% of parents fall into this category: emotionally attached and loyal to their child’s school. They are strong ambassadors and they will go above and beyond to promote/support the school.

2. Indifferent/emotionally and rationally neutral: National poll 57% parents here (most dangerous to a district/school). The hey aren’t necessarily negative about the school, yet they lack positive energy.

3.Actively disengaged: emotionally detached from the school. They consistently voice their negativity about the school.

Overall, this interactive session is highly valuable for administrators and educators because it brings an awareness of the importance of involving/engaging parents in our district. Meet parents where they are, so we can get information out to them. “When students feel the school is a place they belong, so then parents will feel like they belong?” Dennis Williams, Jr.

The Trouble with My Name: Keynote speaker, Dr. Javier Avila, author and Professor of English at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA provided a fascinating perspective of American Latinos who struggle to dispel misconceptions about their identity and their place in the world. His presentation addressed the issues of language, race, and social-injustice in what it means to be an American in the future. His message transcends boundaries of color, ethnicity, and geography by embracing a nation whose has a rich history and is colorful.

Another breakout session I attended was “Strategies for Teaching Academic Language and Content to English Learners,” which was presented by Diane Staehr, President of SupportEd in Fairfax, VA. The session was framed around her book Unlocking English Learners’ Potential. We explored the three levels of academic language: word; sentence; and discourse to consider when giving reading passages to ELs.

  1. Word: general academic words, content or technical words, multiple meaning words, words with Affixes, and idiomatic phrases
  2. Sentence: grammar, syntax, language structure, conventions, and mechanics
  3. Discourse: quantity/variety of oral and written Text, organization/cohesion of ideas, and type/purpose of text

An additional area to consider when selecting text and vocabulary is the socio-cultural context. Some things to consider are the ELs background knowledge, what are the expectations for the EL, and how much knowledge does EL have in their first language.

Teaching at the word level, instructional strategies that can be used by ALL teachers of ELs, and these strategies can be embedded in the teaching of academic language of content instruction. Practice tools discussed included: Context clues; Word parts; Cognates and false cognates; and Words with multiple meanings and Teaching academic language at the sentence level.

Strategies for teaching discourse language:

Jason Fitzpatrick (Director of Student Services at PA Virtual) and Jennifer Brodhag (Director of Parent Education and Engagement at PA Virtual) presented the Parent education: Equipping Parents as Educational Partners session which discussed how teachers and schools can include parents in their child’s educational journey by equipping them with the necessary education to be effective partners with the educational system. Another key component to the success of parent involvement and engagement is to celebrate and recognize achievements. Find a variety of ways to celebrate parents’ successes.

During this session the following topics were addressed:

  1. Parents as educational and engaged partners: resources are posted in a learning management system, like Blackboard, create a parent ambassador mentor program, promote a parent and student learning lunch program (weekly 15 minute sessions that parents can ask questions—administrators or others who are able to answer teacher questions), offer professional learning for volunteers. These measures help equip the parents understand and identify their roles and responsibilities.
  2. How to equip parents to be educational partners. This involves the communication to parents so they know, understand, and find value in their roles. Ensure help and support from school administrators/teachers. Know your parents so you are better able to make decisions that effectively tap into their talents/skills. Let them know that we need them and we will equip them with what they need.
  3. How to effectively inform parents in a 21st century world and in a way for them to access and understand. It is important to reach out to parents in a variety of formats (verbal, written, etc.) and locations. Other things to consider is that the communication should be easy to understand using common terms, a variety of languages, and avoiding acronyms.
  4. How to effectively design an intentional parent education program. Incorporate parent involvement/engagement to all departments in the school, making real world connections. This helps enhance the role of parents as partners. A few things to consider” the needs of parents, their schedules and availability, understanding their educational goals/expectations, their background, and their need for child care.

Some things to consider when involving and engaging parents:

  1. What are we doing well? What is working?
  2. What would we like to change or enhance?
  3. Why are we doing this?
  4. Who do we want to collaborate with?
  5. When will it be implemented?
  6. Where will it be implemented?
  7. How will it be implemented?

Laurie Namey, Supervisor of Equity and Cultural Proficiency at Hartford County Public Schools in Maryland presented the session on Promoting Equitable ACCESS and Culturally Responsive Family Engagement Practices. Namey’s message is consistent with the other presenters of family engagement and involvement; however, she incorporates a culturally responsive approach to family involvement and engagement. She asserts that as our families change so should the way we engage and involve our families and community. Namey presented culturally responsive practices that engage/involve families while honoring their cultural differences and backgrounds. Her approaches attempt to make the school more engaging, welcoming, and accessible for all families in a district.

Looking from the outside in is how some parents view their involvement in the school community. Looking from the inside out is how the school sometimes views the parent community—the services we provide is general and should be focused. This is time consuming and difficult to achieve because of the barriers (cultural, language, conflicting schedules, etc.). Parents cannot always make it to the school. Namely suggests that in order to meet the diverse needs of our families, we should examine closely what the needs are of our families. Equity is work. What is good for most is not good for all. Access and opportunity must be considered when providing equity.

Scheduling issues: provide more than one time to meet with parents. For example, meet with the parent and the learner at times that are convenient for them—home, school, local cafe, etc.

Involving and engaging parents in our schools can have a tremendously positive impact. Ask parents: “What barriers do we present for our students and families?” Invite parent and discuss this with them. If transportation is an issue, provide busing to families to these events. Remember that attendance to our events does not equal a love, commitment, or acceptance of our schools and districts. Empower our parent partners, build trust with them, and remove barriers.

Breaking down walls such as with a parent who has had poor experiences with schools. Sometimes it requires teachers and administrators to conduct home visits or meeting with parents in every day clothing because they parent is less intimidated.

As educators we know:

-that our families love their kids and they are strong advocates for them.

-we see things from our own perspectives.

-students and families populations are changing rapidly from the way the communicate                             and problem solve.

-that the traditional family is evolving and changing.

-authentic family engagement is diverse and unique in every family.

The list of what we know is limitless. Since we know all of this, it is time to show that our parents and families, regardless of their diverse needs, feels accepted in the school and its community. Lead with our eyes and ears, seeing and hearing what our families need. Involve our families by engaging. (Doing with them) to create a genuine partnership. Figure out what issues are important to them, build trust, and engage them with information that is valuable to them.

Educating our parent and equipping them with the knowledge to empower them as valuable members of our school community can have long lasting effects for their students and for the parent, as well. Parents will see the value in their role and the value of their role in their student’s education. As a result, the parent’s opportunity to learn a long side of their student and be a positive role model is powerful.



  • Conference Report for attending PA Conference for Kindergarten Teachers
  • Attended on Thursday, February 8, and Friday, February 9, 2018
  • South Western School District personnel that attended were:  Katrina Small, Brittany Miller, Lucy Neiderer, Kristy Schrum, and Eric Klansek



We attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Kindergarten Teachers in Harrisburg. Jack Hartmann began the day as the first keynote speaker, where we were provided with live demonstrations on incorporating kinesthetic movement with phonological awareness. These songs and dances can be incorporated during morning meetings, skill work time, and as brain breaks.

Next, we attended a session with Mary Amoson on games and activities for sight word fun. During this time, we learned games to play in small groups, whole group and as a form of assessment. We were provided with materials to take away from the session and utilize in our own classrooms.

Following this session, we went to a session lead by Crystal Radke on hear it, say it, learn it: phonemic awareness. This presentation affirmed that at South West, we are providing best practices when instructing early literacy skills.

The last session of the day was presented by Palma Lindsay focusing on emergent reading. During this time, we saw engaging activities that would help develop a love of language.

The keynote on Friday was with Crystal Radke. She shared tips on staying positive even when it feels like you are performing a juggling act. This first session for the day was focused on literacy and interventions for reading time. We heard about the RTI tiers and some good ideas for collecting and using student data.

The second session discussed guided reading and what it should look like in the kindergarten classroom at different reading levels. We were able to pull out things to bring back to South West and build fluent kindergarten readers.

The focus of the third presentation was phonics and making it fun for students. We have been able to successfully implement the ideas from this session in our own classrooms since we came back from the conference. We have a sight word rotation that allows students to be hands on while practicing their sight words.

The last session was focused on technology, as well as writing. We were introduced to many great websites that can be incorporated to our school day. The writing piece assured us that we are providing best practices in kidwriting. Overall, we felt that we were able to bring back new and innovative ideas to incorporate into our kindergarten classrooms.

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