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Background to IDEA

Page history last edited by Teresa Diaz 14 years, 7 months ago


How IDEAcademy Came About


While collaborating with various teachers on research-based projects within the library, I continued to come up against two issues:

  • There never seemed to be enough time to really deal with the skills and strategies students were weak in, because we were under a time crunch
  • The only face time I had working with students was through a collaborative project set in the library; and then, it depended on the teacher and the project


Another factor involved having a short mini-lesson or activity ready to go that would work if I noticed that students just weren't grasping a particular process or skill--something that could be laid over, in a way, like a template, with "spaces" for specific content related to the project at hand.


After some exploration of both print and online resources, I did have some success, at least with finding good ideas or descriptions of potential lessons in seedling form, as well as finding some lessons that could be tweaked, combined or jigsawed with other lessons to really address both the students' gaps and their learning level.  Of course, they took time to shape, and they could only be "tested" within the context of a project.


I am also very intriqued by brain-based teaching and learning, and wanted those approaches to be an obvious, prevalent core component somehow.  After reading about metacognition, how the brain learns, and other current professional discussions and writings, "doing research with the Brain in mind" seemed like a no brainer--that's what information literacy has been about all this time, except now the word "brain" has become more prevalent in learning and teaching, as well as terms like "problem-solving," "real world," and "21st Century" when talking about how to transform kids from students into "lifelong learners."


Luckily, an opportunity presented itself through a series of circumstances involving an elective titled "Academic Individual Motivation," taught at 6-8 grades by various content-level teachers on teams.  Although there are some curricula connected to this elective (character education and study skills, primarily), the responsibility for deciding what to do with the students fell mainly on the teachers themselves; teachers on some teams broke it down into various focus areas, while others who were not fully teamed were left to their own devices to figure out what to do besides having a study hall.


One day, two creative and energetic 7th grade science teachers approached me about bringing their AIM classes to the library to find an article on a topic of their students' choice.  After working with their classes on this simple two-day project, we talked about coming into the library on a regular basis to work on various information literacy skills.  This turned out to be a great collaborative experiment--the teachers had a chance vary up their AIM routine with students, while I got a chance to try out some lesson ideas in a trial-and-error library lab setting.


At the end of the previous school year, we found out that due to scheduling changes and stafffing issues, AIM would only occur at the 6th grade among teams.  So, I approached one team and asked if "library skills" could be a component of their AIM curriculum that they devised on their team.  Based on scheduling this school year, AIM occurs during the same class period on two of the three teams. So, the initial piloting team decided to structure AIM around 9-week rotations, with four of the five team teachers being responsible for four areas, and students rotating each 9-week period; within each week, two of the days are dedicated to the rotation focus area, one day is a study hall, another is character development and leadership, and the last is a visual day with a corresponding video connected to one of the content areas that doesn't fit into a regular 45-minute class period.


Currently IDEAcademy occurs two days a week in a 9-week rotation among two teams; we are still tweaking, and even the best-laid plans continue to evolve, as the experiment continues.  6th grade also poses healthy challenges and checks as to what is planned, what actually happens, and what really works.  Next semester, I hope to broaden this timeframe into a whole semester with one of the original AIM teachers who was seminal in its inception--who luckily just happens to now teach at the 6th grade level.


-Teresa Diaz

Librarian, Eisenhower Middle School

North East ISD, San Antonio, TX

November 2009



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