21st C Library Learning Commons LLC

McHugh P.S. 2011 - 2014

Learning Commons Partners

  • Sandra Fobert - Student Work Study Teacher
  • Sylvia Hatzidiakos - Grade 4/5 Teacher
  • Mary Walters - Grade 1 Teacher

  • Jane Kempe - Principal
  • Jody Bayes - Resource Teacher (RT)
  • Ryan Tackaberry - Early Literacy Teacher (ELT)
  • David Cruz - Information Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT)

  • our students

Years 1 & 2: What's all this about the LLC?

Most of my time and effort as a first year .5 Teacher Librarian (TL) went toward spending the last third of a $100 000 grant from Indigo Canada. I barely had enough time to help students when they visited the library.

Over the summer I reflected on how I could move the library forward. I wanted my focus to be on supporting teachers to provide high quality instruction to our most vulnerable students. I chose poetry, differentiated instruction and social justice themes (Social Justice Begins with Me, ETFO kit).

I had recently completed Special Education Part 1 and wanted to incorporate differentiation and Universal Design for Learning (http://www.udlcenter.org/) in my program. I knew that what we do to support our most vulnerable learners supports all our learners. By focusing on differentiated instruction I would support our teachers and students while working toward a model of co-teaching and co-planning with the goal of moving the library forward to a Library Learning Commons (LLC).

Social themed children's literature delivers messages of diversity and inclusion, as well as developing a safe and welcoming school environment. It supports teachers in implementing the ministry’s Equity and Inclusion Strategy and provides an entry point to social issues. Through social justice literature students have the opportunity to see themselves and their experiences represented in the curriculum. It also promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills and introduces our students to advocacy.

I decided to focus on poetry to support teachers and students prepare for the school's Poetry Celebration assembly and because poetry helps students with reading fluency and critical literacy skills. It links to the dramatic arts and is a lot of fun!

As a second year TL, I provided planning time one day a week. In my lessons we worked on performance poetry, critical literacy and books in our excellent Social Justice Begins with Me collection. As I taught classes 1 period every 2 weeks, it was challenging to provide depth to the lessons.

I started a poetry group for teachers with the goal of meeting twice a month to share activites and ideas. The challenge with this group was to find a meeting time. Those who joined the group were willing to meet during Nutrition Breaks. This group never got off the ground and then was stopped due to teacher action of the 2011 - 2012 school year.

During this year I collaborated with other staff members to implement the Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) kit at McHugh. I brought guided reading into my program using the LLI kit with a group of grade 2 students.

The differentiated learning project was more successful. Our Resource Teacher (RT) and I met to discuss ideas. I then approached our grade 2 teacher about working with us. He agreed to join the inquiry with some hesitation. We also met the challenge of meeting to co-plan and co-teach. This left our RT and me to co-plan. It was a step in the right direction, but not nearly as powerful as the inclusion of the homeroom teacher in these meetings. As well, during the teacher action of the 2012 - 2013 school year, we met resistance from other teachers even though all the co-planning and co-teaching occurred during the regular school day.

Using "Differentiated Instructional Strategies" and "The Differentiated Instruction Scrapbook" (edugains.ca) as our references, the RT and I co-planned lessons to introduce different learning styles to the students. Their teacher asked us to focus on Auditory, Kinesthetic and Visual learning styles.

We decided to identify and focus on 2 - 3 students selected by the homeroom teacher.

Our collaborative inquiry statement was:

If we become more familiar with the learning styles of student 1, student 2 and student 3; then their academic success and/or their behaviours will improve.

The statement was focused on my own learning and what I was committed to trying. It was kept mindful, simple but intentional.

In the first lesson, I introduced the 3 learning styles to the class. Next, we spent 2 classes filling out a learning preferences survey based on pages 14 - 15 of "The Differentiated Instruction Scrapbook". I had wanted to have lessons that exposed students to the different learning styles through activity centres (auditory, kinesthetic, visual activities) but I responded to the teacher's wishes. I feel that the activity centres would have improved student learning and understanding of the concepts. In the next lesson, students tallied their survey results (challenging for grade 2's!) and identified their strongest of the 3 learning styles. The chose a foam hand cut out which they decorated with their name and attached to the chart paper representing their learning style. This ended up being my last meeting with the class.

We had planned to collect assessment as and for learning data on an iPad, take anecdotal notes, through conversations, observations and products. Flexibility and responsiveness to student needs were keystones of our assessment plans. Anne Davies has written excellent books about student assessment.

Originally the project was supposed to be supporting a science unit, but the homeroom teacher changed it to the presentation of prodecure writing. For example: When making a presentation, I prefer to..... present a written report (verbal), present an oral report (auditory) or present a physical model (kinesthetic).

Although I realised that the inquiry had not gone as I had hoped, it was another valuable step to developing a LLC.

Our biggest challenges were buy-in of teacher professional collaboration and time management/scheduling.

McHugh was part of the Leveled Literary Intervention trial (LLI) created by Fountas & Pinnell. This resource is a "small-group, supplementary intervention system designed for children who find reading and writing difficult. LLI is designed to bring children quickly up to grade-level competency—in 14 to 18 weeks on average." (pearsoncanadaschool.com).

I was approached by our Early Literacy Teacher (ELT) about providing guided reading support. He gave me some training on LLI and I jumped in with both feet. I saw 3 grade 2 students throughout the year. Scheduling, always a challenge, continued to be a challenge along with student attendance. Students continued to visit the library during the guided reading sessions expecting that I could drop what I was doing to attend to them. This impacted teaching and learning. I realised that the school needed more information about the LLC and that I had more room to grow. The change to a LLC was going to happen along a continuum.

I also started doing some work with voicethread.com. This website (also available as an app) proved very popular when used during the 2012 SilverBirch reading program.

Voicethread is an interactive collaboration and sharing tool. Users create a document using images, text and videos. Other users can add text, voice, audio or video comments.


Create an account to really see how it works.

Year 3: The emergence of a dynamic School Library Learning Commons

Moving into my 3rd year as .5 TL and having completed Library Part 2 and Part 3 the previous year, I knew that now was the time to get the LLC, with a focus on using inquiry and technology, up and running.

During Year 3, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a Student Work Study Teacher (SWST), Sandra Fobert. As well, i collaborated with our grade 4/5 LTO, Sylvia Hatzidiakos, and Mary Walters, our grade 1 teacher.

This was an exciting time in our library, the emergence of a dynamic School Library Learning Commons. This approach opens up a world of opportunities for our students and for ourselves. The opportunity to learn together, wonder and explore through 21st Learning and Teaching.

Ms Fobert is a former Teacher Librarian who opened a library and developed it into a LLC. We worked with a group of grade 1 students who would benefit from enrichment. This gave their teacher, Ms Walters, more opportunities to focus on the many students in her class working below grade level.

We started with a focus on the student creation of digital books with the iPad based on student-led science inquiries. Through discussion with the grade 1 students we discovered they were very interested in learning more about plants. We used various online sites (PebbleGo, BookFlix, Kids Info Bits, National Geographic Kids) to research the answers to student questions. The teachers recorded information the students wanted to include in their digital book. We used the iPad app, Book Creator to create the books.

Below is the artifact I wrote about the inquiry project, an inquiry for the students but also for us.

Big Idea: Plants are Living Things

Cluster of Curriculum Expectations

Language (Writing):

1.2 developing ideas

1.3 research

1.5 organizing ideas

3.7 publishing

Language (Media):

3.4 producing media texts

Science (Understanding Life Systems):

2.4 investigate the physical characteristics of plants

2.7 use a variety of forms to communicate with different audiences for a variety of


3.2 identify the physical characteristics of a variety of plants

Students will generate questions that they have about plants and research the answers to these questions using a variety of sources. Small groups of students will present their research findings in a digital book that they create using the app Book Creator.

Learning Goal

We are learning that there are many kinds of plants and that plants have different characteristics. Through the creation of a digital book, we will communicate our questions about plants and the answers that we find for these questions through our research.

Theory of Action:

If Grade 1 students are engaged in curriculum-based, self-directed inquiry in Science, then student engagement in their learning in this subject area will increase, resulting in increased student performance in Science.

Success Criteria: I can…

· create a question about plants for which I want to know the answer

· use books, websites and databases to research the answer to my question

· share the information that I find by creating one page in a digital book

· explain the information that I have included in my digital book page to others

· answer questions from others about my digital book page

Next Steps: continue to model and teach…

· inquiry, providing lots of opportunity for small group practice

· asking & researching thick questions based on topic of study

· clearly organizing & recording scientific thinking on paper & in a book creation app

· a variety of ways to communicate scientific thinking & discoveries

· sharing and responding to each other’s scientific thinking orally

· using apps (BookCreator, others) to communicate scientific thinking

· clearly organizing & recording scientific thinking on paper & in a book creation app

Key Learnings:

· students need to be taught inquiry process

· inquiry skills necessary for academic career and lives (similar model)

· grade 1’s require modelling and opportunities to communicate throughout inquiry

process (create thick questions; find, organize and analyze information, evaluate


· inquiries are not linear; may not result in one right answer or have an answer

· model, scaffold and provide opportunities to develop metacognition

· keep the focus on the information & message (students love the technology!)

Questions for Further Inquiry:

As we continue to focus on explicit teaching and modelling of asking and answering thick questions within scientific inquiry, what further learning might be documented by the end of this school year?

This collaborative inquiry was conducted with Grade 1 students who require an enriched program. What results and key learnings might a similar collaborative inquiry yield with Grade 1 students not requiring an enriched program? What results and key learnings might result from working with Junior students?

With modelling and support will Grade 1 students be able to do some online research in small groups and/or independently?

Grade 1: Guided Reading as a stepping stone to inquiry

After completing the above inquiry, Ms Walters and I decided to go back to guided reading with the grade 1 group. My guided reading program was consistent, based on assessment for learning (runnuing records, observations) and also provided a stepping stone to other differentiated activities based on student interests. For example, some of the readings were well suited to writing and performing a readers' theatre based on the book and one, in particular, was well suited to another science inquiry.

One of the guided reading texts we read (Nelson Literacy) was about similarities and differences between 2 animals (e.g., catepillar & worm). The students wanted to work on another inquiry to find the similarities and differences between 2 animals they each chose.

We worked as a group to create a Venn diagramme of 2 animals compared in the reading, developing other questions about the animals and doing some research using kid friendly websites (e.g., BookFlix, Kids Info Bits, National Geographic Kids). The students then chose their 2 animals of interest, filled in a Venn diagramme based on their knowledge of the animals and developed questions to research. They conducted the research in pairs and created an EduCreations presentation.

This project looked at the following Question for Further Inquiry from our previous inquiry.

With modelling and support will Grade 1 students be able to do some online research in small groups and/or independently?

This group was able to do a considerable amount of online research. Our challenge was recording the information. Grade 1's write slowly!! They did a great job though on the project.

With students at this grade level (or any grade where taking notes is a challenge) I would have small groups of students work on researching the same questions instead of each student researching a different question/subject. I'm wondering in what ways other than taking printed notes students could capture their learning during research.


How Are They the Same and Different: Bees and Wasps


Octopuses and Squids

Collaborating with Grade 4/5

The grade 4/5 teacher and I collaborated, co-planned and co-taught throughout the 2013 - 2014 school year.

We started off the year working together on guided reading. This was the teacher's first full year and she put in a lot of effort to develop a consistent and purposeful guided reading program.

To better support the students in their first science unit of the year, Ms Hatzidiakos taught the grade 5's while I taught the grade 4's their science unit (rocks & minerals). Although we used student questions to drive instruction in the latter half of the unit, we were not yet teaching through inquiry.

This class also worked on the creation of digital books. McHugh P.S. is very lucky to have quite a few tablets and a considerable number of iPads. We had received a grant of approximateIy $19 000 from Future Shop based on a grant application I wrote with an emphasis on the creation of the Library Learning Commons.

Our Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) introduced a group of the students to some digital story telling apps (e.g., Book Creator, Haiku Deck, Bookabi, EduCreations). In turn, these students took the lead using the apps and mentored the rest of the class on their use. Most students are very capable when it comes to figuring out how to use apps. The students used these apps to work collaboratively to create digital books for the narrative writing strand. I have not posted any of the work created as students have included pictures of themselves in the books.

Ms Hatzidiakos and I collaborated on teaching the Heritage and Identity Social Studies strand (Grade 4: Early Societies 3000 BCE - 1500 CE, Grade 5: First Nations and Europeans in New France and Early Canada). The vision of the Ontario Social Studies, History and Geography curriculum is a focus on developing responsible, active citizens who value diversity and an inclusive society. It aims to develop student problem solving and is inquiry based.

We met with our Resource Teacher (RT) for a couple of collaborative sessions and then worked together on the unit.

We used many activities from "Comprehension & Collaboration" by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels to introduce student inquiry. Each student received a Wonder Book in which to record their questions and research. The students were very excited about the books.

Ms Hatzidiakos and I were able to manage our schedules to find the time to co-plan and co-assess as well as co-teach the Social Studies unit. She not only understands and values collaboration between professionals, she expects it as part of her career.

Our practice as educators must be more about transformation - developing critical thinking, inquiry, wonder and excitement - and less about the transfer of facts.

As I move on as TL, I wonder how do we create a culture of collaborative inquiry in a school? How do we create the environment so that collaboration becomes the habit of the school, not just something that happens with a few staff members who are open to change and doesn't live on?

Please contact me with your comments and/or questions and your ideas for collaboration.