Monday, October 16, 2006

Blog Interaction with Nancy McGriff - Mon. Oct. 16 to Wed. Oct. 18, 2006

Nancy McGriff is another school library media specialist with a proven "track record." She has headed up school library media programs at all grade levels. At two different schools and in three different school years (1992, 1999 and 2005) her media programs have garnered outstanding awards. She is a strong mentor and leader in the profession and frequently presents at conferences.

To learn more, be sure to visit

Recommend that you first visit her blog interactions with last year's students, Sept. 22-24, 2005. She is willing to share her expertise and insights about any facet of school library media programs and her career.


  1. Anonymous5:35 AM

    Let me tell you that I am returning from the AASL Fall Forum on Assessment in the School Library Media Center and it was a great professional development experience. I am excited!

    I have a K-12 facility in a small rural school corporation. Although this may seem rather odd to most, it is a unique opportunity to look at media program development.

    I am happy to answer questions of any kind.

    Nancy McGriff

  2. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Hi Nancy,

    I am wondering if you could share some advantanges and disadvantages to working in a unique setting like yours (k-12 facility). It seems that in this setting it might be easier to develop a smoothly flowing program that connects across grade levels. Is this the case? I would love to hear about your experience! Thanks,

    Heidi Lauger

  3. Anonymous12:31 PM

    It is easier to establish some things, certainly. We do get a significant number of new students each year with the biggest influx being 6th and 9th grade, when students who live in unincorporated areas get to choose where they want to go to school. Sometimes we get as many as 20 new stduents per grade level and their LMC experience is quite different from what we do here. It can be difficult to get those students caught up.

    Basically all students in grades 2-12 participate in a minimum of 1 collaborative project each year.
    I use the ELA standards for benchmarks i.e. in 2nd grade *students use titles, tables of contents, and chapter headings to locate information in text, *interpret information from diagrams, charts, and graphs, *understand the purposes of various reference materials, *write or deliver research reports that use systematic research process, etc.
    These clearly are information literacy skills, and using the grade level benchmarks, I can develop a scope and sequence. Then I design lessons based on what skills the students have and what they need to learn.

    You know how it goes... I taught that last year, they should know it. Well, I know what we did and I can see where my instruction wasn't good or where we need to go back and reteach. That is helpful. It is also great to see growth.

    I have to admit that the area of assessment is one that presents lots of challenges. I have been doing evaluation (grading) as part of all the collaborative units for years, but I have a way to go using assessment to measure where students are before, during and after instruction. That is my current project, especially after the workshop I just attended. I think well designed assessment (I am thinking right now about the checklist I am going to make for 3rd graders who are starting a Native American project) is something new SLMS need to think about. I really hadn't thought about diagnostic preassessments much until Saturday. One idea that surfaced is using a pretest to find student misconceptions about a topic. Read Vi Harada's book.

    A disadvantage to being in the K-12 setting is it can be overwhelming. I would like to be able to do scaffolding.Frequently I feel in a rush to get projects completed so I can go on to the next one. It's hard to be the only professional in the corporation also. I want to collaborate with every teacher so that students have multiple experiences each year, but that isn't likely to happen with just one person.

    If I have strayed from what you want to know, please redirect me.


  4. Graphic organizers are wonderful! My school is getting ready to purchase Kidspiration. I was recently thinking about how many copies we should buy, considering we have two computer labs and 4 computers in each classroom. I was asking myself if these teachers were actually going to have their kids use Kidspiration in their room if only 4 kids can work on it at a time. I realized that some of the teachers probably would not because their class is so predictable, meaning kids working on different things would be way outside of their box. Therefore, the only time they would end up using this program is if they came down the lab with the whole class. As someone who is very interested in Inspiration and technology integration, I have a couple of questions for you…How often and under what circumstances is Inspiration/Kidspiration used at your school? Technology in a classroom offers different ways of working on the same thing and can lead classes down unpredictable paths. Do you have teachers in your building that have a hard time using technology because of these reasons? How have you helped teachers overcome the confines of their own box?

    Were teachers already using graphic organizers as a tool for learning before the introduction of Kispiration/Inspiration? If not, how did you not only convince them to use technology but also change the way they teach?

  5. Hi Nancy,

    I have question(s) regarding assessment. I don't think you've covered this already, but I apologize if I'm duplicating anything. I read in one of your earlier posts that you are involved in the assessment of collaborative projects. I guess I'm interested in some more specifics. Do you assess on ALL collaborative projects that you're a part of? Do you and the classroom teacher BOTH assess, just you, or do you share the responsibilities? How do you handle the logistics of all this? Do you use rubrics to assess or do you use other methods?

    Was the AASL forum you attended about assessing student work or about assessing all media center services, or both?

    Thanks for your time,

    Jennifer Clifford

  6. Anonymous3:35 PM


    Your reply covered my questions quite thoroughly! I think it's great that you teach students at a young age how to read informational text. This is something I have been working on with my 7th graders (I am a science teacher), and most of them have not learned this before. I also think it's great that you incorporate ELA standards into your curriculum. As students approach middle school, the ELA benchmarks become essential building blocks for other subject area classes. For example, I use graphic organizers almost daily with my students. It is great if they already know how to use them when they enter my classes.

    What types of technology-related standards do you teach, and how eary do you start teaching these?


  7. Nancy,

    An an English teacher, I am always interested in reading. What types of reading programs do you have at your school? Do you use any reading incentives? How do you modify these incentives based on the diverse age group that you work with in your building? Also, as the media specialist do you have certain strategies that you use to promote new materials within your media center?

    Amy Acree

  8. Anonymous6:15 PM

    We used graphic organizers before Inspiration/Kidspiration, basically Venn diagrams, KWL charts, etc. I started using graphic organizers in the early 90s and brought them with me to South Central. I remember showing teachers note taking grids and gathering grids and they were excited about the possibilities and when they saw how easily young kids could organize with a grid, they were sold.

    All teachers have Kidspirations/Inspirations on their machines (the license allows for you to put software on a teacher computer for every student computer) and it is on all lab machines. Most teachers use in the lab setting. However, I know many teachers create organizers using the software and hand out paper copies to kids in small groups.

    We use Kidspiration for brainstorming, also for final product. In Kindergarten, students create ABC books, 1st grade does food pyramid, 3rd grade uses the five facts for Native American research, 5th we ue template for Colonial Leaders, etc. Sometimes I have kids brainstorm as a group and we create template. We color code the main ideas, and use colored stickies for note taking. Then children meet in groups to go over their notes and decide on the "best" facts and create a typed final organizer.

    I feel that my role is to enable students and teachers to use technology as a tool. Every project uses some type of technology, even if it is just OPAC. We try to match the appropriate technology tool to the type of project, student needs, etc.

    Of course there are teachers at SC who are not as able in their technology use. I would say that they trust me to not push them too far or fast but they know they have to keep trying.


  9. Anonymous6:26 PM

    The workshop I attended was on Assessment of Student Work in the Library Media Center. We didn't cover program assessment at all.

    When we plan collaborative projects, we decide on the form of assessment we will use. We design rubrics or checklists or whatever we will use, at that time. The process skills are always part of the project rubric - so we decide how we are going to split up the grading. Sometimes we grade the entire project together. Sometimes we grade the entire project but split the kids so I have half and the teacher has half. Sometimes we all grade sections. It just depends on the teachers. It also depends on how comfortable we are with one another. I have been doing projects with some teachers for 10 years so we know how each other works.

    I personally don't think you can call a project collaborative if you don't assess anything. How do you know how the kids did? How do you know if your instruction was good?

    I am NOT advocating for giving a grade on every kids report card. I am advocating for clearly knowing what the child is supposed to learn, what skills are required, what instruction needs to happen, whether instruction was effective and learning occured.

    We don't always use rubrics. If we don't need to assess quality, a checklist works well. I have experimented with letting students develop assessments and it is interesting. I need to become more comfortable with student self-assessment.

  10. Anonymous6:29 PM

    We use the Nets technology standards. I start using technology with Kindergarten students. I don't think it can be too early to start. Certainly in first grade our students are creating books and graphic organizers, using OPAC and web sites.


  11. Anonymous6:47 PM

    We have many reading programs.

    GEAR - elementary schoolwide reading outside of school 300 minutes per month. We have monthly assemblies to recognize achievement and promote reading. GEAR day celebration in spring with multiple activities.

    SC READ - elementary one school, one topic reading. SC Reads About Bullies is just starting tomorrow and we will introduce 4 books about bullies and kids can read a book, demonstrate their understanding with a drawing or simple 5 item test, and qualify to come to the after school book discussion. I'm using Hooway for Wodney Wat, Ant Bully, Jake Drake Bully Buster and Bully of Barkham Street. Kids can read up, but not down i.e. 6th grader can't do Ant Bully. We haven't included primary grades before so I don't know how many kids I will get. I have done this with 1 school 1 book in the past and had 45 4-6th graders at a discussion. Teachers are great about helping.

    STARS is our junior high eqivalent of GEAR - read 400 minutes per month outside of school. We divide kids into groups and 8 junior high teachers "sponsor" a group. Each month at the assembly we announce group with high percent of participation and recognize top readers. They love the compeition.

    Undercover Talk is junior senior high book discussion group. We are in our 6th year and usually have 25-40 students at the discussions. We meet monthly and some months we all read and discuss a book, sometimes we select a genre, sometimes it is free choice. We have officers who run meeting, but it is informal and we serve pizza.

    In the junior senior high we have daily silent reading that rotates through the departments. On Monday, kids read for 20 minutes in English and Business classes, Tuesday in Math, etc. This has been in effect for 5 years.

    Elementary does Reading Counts, especially in the primary grades. It is not reqired and we don't give them anything. Kids like to take the tests, especially younger students. I buy tests for the Rosies and YHBA books each year as well as any test a teacher asks for.

    YHBA, Book It and all other programs count as part of our GEAR. Teachers have daily SSR in the elementary.

    We have a faculty book club that meets monthly. We have about 12 people who are regulars. We call it - It's Not About the Book.

    Special reading events - Teen Read Week, Read Across America Day, Children's Book Week. I have Undercover Talk Kids plan activities.

    I sponsor a Name That Book group of 6th graders who compete in a countywide contest sponsored by the Public LIbrary annually. They read 15 books and have to answer questions in a quiz bowl format.

    We have reading buddies - high school students and higher ability elementary readers who meet 2 times a week in the LMC. The high school students are part of an advanced Novels class and they get credit for working with the younger students.

    We also have a new materials breakfast in the fall. We put out the new books, etc. have food, drawings, etc. for the staff. When we put the books out for students, we had over 100 students come in at lunch time. We put items on the annoucements, sign outside the doors, etc. We have special shelving for YHBA, Rosie, new books and other promotions. I guess that is about it.


  12. How many students do you have in your corporation? How do you serve all of them? Do you have help? Are all of the students in the same building or do you have to travel?

  13. Anonymous8:21 PM

    Our enrollment is approximately 870 K-12. I have 2 full time adult assistants and we have 5 student aides. The school is under 1 roof, with the offices and LMC separating the two sides of the building. Our elementary is K-6 and the junior senior high is 7-12. The LMC is a large space with 4 seating areas, story area, professional collection, lab, head end room, office and circ desk. We shelve elementary and high collections separately but have 1 database with location codes in the OPAC.

    Elementary teachers bring classes in weekly for checkout. They stay and supervise students. Some teachers bring in classes to use lab or for one day searching that doesn't involve me. Sometimes teachers ask for mini lessons, book talks, etc. lessons that aren't part of collaborative units. Most of my time is spent in planning and teaching as part of units and those typically last 2 -3 weeks with kids coming daily.


  14. Hi! I have a queston baout the separation of your collection. How do you determine which books go where? Are students given access to books in the other part of the collection from their grade level?

  15. Anonymous3:33 PM

    When I read reviews and build the book order, I decide which books to put in the elementary and which to put in the junior senior high. Sometimes copies go in both. That is based on reading and interest level and curriculum support.

    Basically, I allow junior senior high to check out anything. Fifth and sixth graders can check out from the high school collection as long as the material is at their reading and interest level. If I have a high ability elementary student, fourth grade or lower, who wants or needs material from the high school collection, I have them bring a note from home.


  16. Anonymous6:46 AM

    I read in one of your earlier comments that you do more of a fixed schedule with the elementary students. How do you handle the junior high and high school students? Do they get to come whenever they need to? Does their teacher have to schedule a time on a need basis? How do you handle "crowd control"?

    Emily Schubel

  17. Anonymous8:47 AM

    I thought I'd asked this question a couple of days ago, but I think my comment got lost in cyberspace somewhere. If I'm just not seeing it I apologize for repeating myself.

    I was wondering how you dealt with overdue books at your facility. Do you charge fines or is there a better way to get back late books?

  18. Anonymous10:14 AM

    Checkouts are fixed, but I don't cover checkouts. The teacher stays with the class and my assistants checkout.

    My time is on a flexible schedule and first come, first serve. Teachers see me when they want instruction and that is scheduled totally separately from the space. Since we have multiple spaces, usually not a problem.

    We might have a class checking out, a class working on a project with me, a class using the computer lab, kids on passes checking out books or using computers or whatever. It's busy. Kids can come on passes if they have a need. We also open before 7:30 and are open until 4:00 after school, during lunches, etc. To get a whole class in for instruction the teacher does have to schedule, whether elementary or high school.

  19. Anonymous10:16 AM

    I wish someone would invent a really good way to get matreials turned in. We do charge fines to high school kids, to a max of a dollar and use that money to buy the supplies used most often by kids like kleenex, markers, staples, paperclips, folders, etc. We usually have lots of overdues because we have a heavy checkout. I only get concerned when I hear they are leaving the school. Usually at the end of the year, we get things back.


  20. Hi Nancy,
    I'm sorry I missed your blog window. I work in the Michigan City Area Schools and just want you to know you are always mentioned in very high regard. Your time at MCAS impacted the staff and other media specialists.

    I've used your materials, Collecting the Data: Templates and Resources for School Library Media Specialists, and found them to be very helpful.

  21. Nancy:

    I read your replies where you mention matching information literacy standards to teacher projects. I feel information literacy is crucial for graduating students; I'm a high school LMS.

    What future do you feel such standards have in the face of ISTEP and a push for content area standards?

    It seems teachers and administration are only concerned with test scores and information literacy becomes the step-child. Do you agree with this? Do you think it will ever change?