As we are midway through April with our Poetry Month celebrations, I am pleasantly surprised at the participation and response from our students. I’m also reflecting over some of the benefits I have seen. Let me share some surprising perks from our Spine Poetry Activity.
Perk 1: Growing stock of student created spine poems for display
At the beginning of the month I shared our planned activities. As expected our English department took a keen interest in the Poetry Month plans. A couple of classes have actually scheduled to come in and build poems. What has been helpful is offering to print the poems using the library’s laser color printer for display purposes, and providing the teacher and the student with a copy to keep. Even my collaborating teacher from this class made one. We are ALL happy. I have poems to add to my growing display, the teacher has a set to share in the classroom, and the students like having a crisp colorful printout too. (A few have asked for a digital pic to keep as well, so I hope they are sharing in their virtual spaces like me.) Seeing the growing displays and I’m sure having my English department who eats lunch together daily share about the activity has brought in more classes. Seeing the growing display has made visiting individual students want to create too.
Perk 2: Using the Destiny catalog for a different purpose
Lisa Richie, one of my collaborating teachers, decided to get in on the fun and set out to make one for herself. After collecting a few books, she asked about finding books with titles that began with certain words. She wanted to use the word “teach” in her teacher-created spine poem. I showed her how to use the catalog to search by title. We input just the word “teach” in the search box, set the parameters to search by title, and then used the link “browse by titles” to get an alphabetical listing of all the titles that began with the word “teach.” Happily Lisa went off in search of her title. And immediately students began looking up words in the catalog to build their prefect poem that reflected literary theory and criticism, which was the goal of the class. They learned catalog skills and strategy. Here is my collaborating teacher Lisa Richie’s spine poem.
Perk 3: Discovering books!
If you’ve ever done this you know that one of the results is a ton of books pulled off the shelves. It makes for a load of work reshelving. I initially took the idea from Andy Plemmons in his post and considered his directions to keep from having too many books pulled off shelves. Tiffany Whitehead took a totally different approach, and instead made pictures of tantalizing titles from spines, even going to a bookstore to find really interesting titles to use. She printed them out and provided these printouts for her students to use instead of actual books. Both of these approaches effectively get students thinking out of the box and creating. In the end I decided the reshelving was worth the work. Our instructions to students were to take to the stacks and find book titles that could be used. I pulled out four empty book carts, and simply asked that once a poem was completed, students place the books on the carts.
Perk 4: Increased circulation
If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that we had a big pile of books that were going to need to be shelved. But the kids were having a great time working and being creative. My collaborating teacher from this particularl class saw the work it was going to take, as by the time she brought this class in, we had four carts full. She pulled me aside and told me the group was savvy enough that if she told them to shelve their books they could do it right, and it would save us some work. I told her no, absolutely not! I told her to let the students use their time for making spine poems (and Gami’s using Tellagami) and we’d worry about the books later. The perk from allowing so many books to be pulled and handled were enormous! Students were constantly exclaiming “I did not know our library had this book!” or “I really want to read this one!” And of course, a lot of books were checked out as each class came to create spine poems. I never turned down a request.
Perk 5: Weeding
During fourth block, when the library staff and student workers tackled the reshelving project, once again it gave us an opportunity to really evaluate titles. I found a couple that had obviously been wet (no, we don’t always catch the titles that are turned in damaged.) I weeded those, as well as a few copies that were ratty and unattractive.
Perk 6: Getting to know the collection
Handling so many books really helps get to know what IS on the shelves. Every year after weeding, we have to shift books. I always make sure I do not pass this off to student helpers. Handling books is a nice way to really know what is on your shelves. Most of the time our library assistant shelves books. We also engage our high school student workers who have shown the capability to shelve. With this project and over four carts of books, I took the time to shuffle the carts’ books in order, making the reshelving an easier task. By handling each book individually, not only was I able to weed a few books before we actually shelved them, it helped me get to know our books just a little better. When you inherit an established collection of over 24,000 books, it’s not so easy to know what you have on the shelf. This exposure is priceless and SO beneficial to me.
The classes that visited to participate in the activity were very excited to not only share their creations, but also discover good books to read. Let me just suffice to say we had a lot of books checked out. And THAT was maybe the best perk of the day. The perks of allowing students to pull and handle the books for this activity far outweighed the disadvantages. What say you?