Bell Library News

January-March, 2014

It's Almost Spring!

Since this is our first newsletter since November, there's a lot to report here at Bell Library! It's been a busy winter with new programs, services, and collection updates. As always, if you have ideas for how we can better serve the Ethel Walker community, please use our online suggestion box, or send us an email.

Click on any of the images in the newsletter to enlarge them.

Classroom Collaboration

Write Arounds

A "write around" is a way to facilitate collaborative annotation and inquiry. Students are grouped at tables and take time to examine a core passage from any text. They can highlight, take notes, draw--do anything they want with the space around the passage. They then move to other tables, where they can respond to others' notes or write their own responses to the passage. This has been a great way for the students find deeper understanding of their texts, for them to identify questions and themes, and for their teachers to help guide them through challenging concepts.

Collaborative Inquiry

Inquiry is just a fancy word for asking questions. Why is inquiry so important? Because it helps us identify concepts that are not only worth exploring, but that are interesting or important to us as researchers. Rather than selecting a topic from a list, inquiry-based projects allow students to take the time to find ideas that they can connect with on a personal or intellectual level. There are many methods for facilitating the inquiry process, and one of our favorite things to do here in Bell Library is to make the process collaborative.

The Middle School Olympics teams spent several days in the library doing preliminary research, determining major areas of research, assigning tasks, and checking in with their teachers and me about their research plan. They used Diigo to share resources with each other and with their faculty advisors, and they used library databases and academic search engines to seek out information about their assigned countries and the Olympics. (See above for photo.)

AP Chemistry began their research for their Maple Syrup Project in the library. Students were divided into groups and assigned basic tasks: summarize big ideas, take notes on specific content, and find connections. They then spent 20 minutes reading through Wikipedia, Google News, and other entry-level resources on the topic of maple syrup, jotting down notes as they read. The students then visited other tables, responding to each other's ideas and adding new information or questions. Finally, the students added Post-its to a board with Questions and New Information. They each took one Post-it and used it as the jumping-off point for their in-depth research.

Forensics had a similar class experience, spending the first part of class reading through the Wikipedia page on their topic, taking notes, and then rotating to other tables to ask classmates questions based on the notes there. All of the students visited each table and then went back to their notes, now covered in questions and thoughts. They then selected one question or idea to research.

What do all of these activities have in common? They encourage students to work together to solve problems, identify questions, and share knowledge. They allow teachers to observe the learning process and the beginning steps of inquiry and research. And they guide students toward selecting a research path that makes sense to them. By the time students finish with these activities, whether it's a 45-minute class or three 90-minute blocks, they are well on their way toward becoming experts on their area of research. They've also been able to hone in on topics that are accessible within the parameters of the project.

Book Tasting

Last fall, we kicked off the Thanksgiving break with Book Talks, a time for students to come to the library and hear about new books they might want to read for pleasure over the long break. This spring, we tried our hand at Book Tasting, another way to help students find fun and interesting books to read.

Book Tasting is simple: students browse books that have been displayed by genre. They pick up to five books that look interesting, and then spend at least five minutes with the book, reading the front flap or back cover copy, as well as as much of the first chapter as they can. They may know right away that the book's not for them, or they may end up loving it and spending more than five minutes with it. They jot down notes on a worksheet, including onw or two sentences' worth of reflection and a rating on a scale of 1-5. This is a self-paced activity that requires no teacher or librarian input; in fact, it's discouraged! The students are there to find books on their own that they will want to keep reading.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes visited the library on the Friday before spring break. They've probably never been so quiet in the library before! Every student picked out at least one book...some, even more.

New and Enhanced Services

Fun Events

Crafts and Minecraft

Upper School students visited the library in February for an evening of arts and crafts, cookie decorating, and a blind chocolate taste-off (the winner? Cadbury). 26 students and many faculty members (and their children) attended this event, which was a fun and relaxing way to unwind on a Friday night. (See above for photo.)

The Minecraft Club is also taking off, with twelve new members from the middle and upper school. Students have begun teaming up and building on the new EWS server. The club meets on Thursday afternoons at 3:30. If you are interested in joining, please either come to our next club meeting or email Ms. Ludwig.

Divergent Movie Release Party

During lunch on March 6, 28 middle and upper school students visited the Library Cafe for pizza, trivia contests, temporary tattoos, a raffle, and a screening of the Divergent trailer. The film adaptation of the first novel in the popular YA trilogy comes to theaters on March 21. Thanks to the popularity of this event, the library plans to host more lunchtime events, including a movie release party for The Fault in our Stars in June.

Upcoming events!

Stay tuned for more info on the following events:

An evening of a capella

Visiting a capella groups from Trinity College will perform at the library cafe. Come enjoy refreshments and great music! (April 4, details to come)


A repeat of our successful fall coffeehouse. Watch your email for details and date/time.

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Release Party

Celebrate this amazing book with a pizza lunch, a trivia contest, crafts, movie ticket give-aways, and more! (June, details to come)

Game Night

The Library Advisory Board is planning a fun evening of video and board games! Stay tuned for details.