Looking Back @ Teaching Online Subscription Resources

Looking Back @ Teaching Online Subscription Resources - By crafting and scaffolding relevant Library Lessons about online subscription resources, and by focusing on types rather than format, students and teachers learn a wide range of information resources, and understand that both print and digital resources can contribute to student success.At first glance, a School Library today looks much the same as a half-century ago: rows and rows of books. However, a second look reveals the influx of technology with desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. By the turn of the millenium, computers and their associated digital applications, along with online subscription database information resources available through networking and the Internet, had already begun to significantly change schools and School Libraries.

So Many Online Services, So Little Time!

Online subscription resources in K-12 schools began as add-ons to print resources and were distinct—digitized copies of familiar print resources, like encyclopedias and periodicals, and a few specialty databases, like biographies. They were costly, so most schools had only one, or just a few. As online subscription services proliferated, they became affordable, and now may be the primary reference resource in many schools. Service providers began to combine different types of reference into their brand-name tools, so now a single resource can provide multiple forms of reference beyond what the tool’s common name would suggest.

In my medium-sized district, our middle schools have access to nearly 50 different online subscription databases—4 encyclopedias, 9 periodical databases, and more than 30 specialty reference databases and e-books. Imagine that long list of resource names on a school webpage: teachers and students, pressed for time to find information, are too bewildered to determine which to use for their information need, and the numerous features of each service make resource selection even more difficult for the intermittent user. It’s no wonder they become discouraged and simply type some search terms into Google.

It’s unrealistic to expect teachers or students to be told about and remember all the online subscription database services—if it isn’t relevant to classroom learning, it’s meaningless and quickly forgotten. These online subscription services do provide online help about the features of each resource, but it’s even more unrealistic to expect teachers or students to examine the ins & outs of these database services in order to use them.

School Librarians are the professionals who are trained in information resources; we are the educators who are familiar with everyone’s curriculum; we are the FutureReadyLibrarians who curate, manage, and integrate digital resources for our students and teachers. It’s our responsibility as School Librarians to know what each of these online subscription services offer, and to determine when and with whom to use each feature of each resource. So, rather than telling teachers or students what’s available, we need to integrate specific features of specific tools into classroom activities, progressively building their skills so students become proficient in the use of our online subscription database resources before they leave our campus.

Integrating Online Subscription Resources

I treat online resources the same as the collection of print materials. I don’t introduce all the Dewey Subject books at once, but rather, each topical group as it applies to a classroom assignment. So also, I introduce online resources during subject area visits, focusing on features that fulfill the purpose of the library visit, and avoiding anything that does not achieve that purpose.

My Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Composite example of an older version for the 1st grading period.

Sample Library Lesson Matrix

I use my Library Lesson Matrix to organize online resource lessons. Just as I began with one subject curriculum guide to identify the need for a library lesson/visit, so I also pick a single online subscription service to begin adding online resources to my Library Lesson Matrix. I examine each feature to see how it works and which middle school curriculum need it can satisfy, that is, it provides the subject information needed and is suitable for the grade level. I record the brand name into the subject unit on my Library Lesson Matrix; then I move on to the next feature to see what it can provide for curriculum needs. It takes some time to go through all the services, but I become comfortable enough with each tool to correctly integrate it and teach it to students.

How I Teach Online Subscription Services

Carefully crafted Library Lessons, customized for each grade level, scaffolded throughout the school year, and aligned with classroom curriculum activities, help students (and teachers) become adept at determining which online subscription resource feature to use for their information need. It takes a lot of time and curriculum savvy to create these lessons, but we can use them year after year if we keep the same online services.

WebQuests are my favorite way to introduce online subscription database services. Using the term “WebQuest” to introduce these online resources emphasizes to students that they are the first, best choice for gathering information online. My WebQuests are designed for a single class period, with only 3 different online resources and just 1 or 2 features of each resource. Teachers appreciate the guided online introduction to high-quality resources, and, because students respond on a printed or digital worksheet, they have an instant daily grade for the class period.

I believe an encyclopedia is the best reference tool for students to begin research, so the first WebQuest of the school year introduces a grade-appropriate online encyclopedia, and it’s used for that grade’s online lessons throughout the school year. By repeatedly using a familiar tool, we activate prior knowledge and students become comfortable using the tool, and we can develop online browsing and searching skills that they can apply to other online resources.

As an example, my first two 6g WebQuests—one for Science, one for Social Studies—occur about 2 weeks apart. The only difference is in the features I introduce to meet the needs of the two different subjects.

6g Science Biography WebQuest 6g Social Studies Countries WebQuest
  • introduce WebQuest concept
  • introduce WebQuest structure
  • introduce grade-appropriate encyclopedia
  • 2 features of encyclopedia & search strategies
  • biography database
  • periodical database
  • same WebQuest concept
  • same WebQuest structure
  • use same encyclopedia
  • 2 new features of encyclopedia & search strategies
  • countries database
  • map database

Any following 6g WebQuests begin with the same encyclopedia and offer two additional resources that meet the needs of the subject, the project, the research, and the lesson. 6g students learn to locate and use features of all the online tools relevant to their grade-level; I bypass other tools, which I assure them they will learn about in higher-grade-levels.

Bookmarking and compiling articles into created folders is a feature now offered by most online subscription services, so we can guide students to specific topical information within the limited time frame they are given for an assignment. Once we create a named folder within a service, we can use that same folder and its articles for the same lessons in following years, as long as we have the online service.

I use the bookmarking feature across all 3 middle school grade levels for an English/Language Arts unit on expository text. The unit theme (technology & the power of information), content skills (summarization, inference, and interpretation), required resources (non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, memoirs, speeches), and the final product (an expository essay) are all perfect for using bookmarked online articles. I can progressively build student Info-Lit skills using different formats of resources to activate prior knowledge and lead into new experiences.

6g 1) Examine components of non-fiction print books (table of contents, index, glossary, graphics).
2) Learn how to summarize a print magazine article.
3) Access a librarian-chosen subscription database and read a bookmarked online magazine article for an expository essay poster.
7g 1) Compare non-fiction print books and e-books.
2) Locate and summarize bookmarked online magazine article from a new librarian-chosen subscription database.
3) Access the same subscription database and read at least 2 topical online newspaper or magazine articles for their written essay.
8g 1) Examine print memoirs from the Biography area.
2) Access and compare a topical non-fiction print book, an e-book, and a free Web-based memoir.
3) Access various online services and read bookmarked and self-searched articles to produce an online e-zine.

Once students have learned how to access and use grade-appropriate online subscription services, I guide them less formally to relevant online resources through customized Resource Lists. Others may call it a Subject Guide, Library Guide, or Pathfinder, but I use the term “Resource List” because that’s what it is—a list of resources which drive a research assignment. (Academic librarian Patricia Knapp devised and named the “Pathfinder” in the 1960s as course resources for college students.)

I build a Resource List using my Library Lesson Planner, just as I would any library lesson. Why so much work?

  1. I want to be sure the Resource List fulfills subject & information literacy standards and meets research requirements of the final product.
  2. Teachers typically intend a library visit as an introduction to a research project, so I want a short, meaningful lesson to cultivate the requisite Information Literacy skills along with presenting the Resource List.
Resource List Example

LibLessonPlanner example

As I fill out my Library Lesson Planner for “Resources students will use,” I refer to my Library Lesson Matrix to glean print and online resources I’ve already selected as grade and subject appropriate for the assignment. I also enter any guidelines from teachers or subject curriculum guides to help me choose other Web sites that will be helpful for students.

I organize my Resource List according to the problem-solving model I’ve chosen as best for the particular research assignment, and I create it as a webpage so students can access it 24/7 (and so I can make changes or additions without issuing a new handout). Here is a brief enumeration of what I might include on my Resource Lists, as applicable to the project and the problem-solving model:

1. Problem-solving model as organizational structure
2. Recommended resources for background reading/investigation
3. Guidelines for creating questions about the research topic
4. Search strategies for different resources
5. Reminders about citation and creating a bibliography
6. Reminders about paraphrasing and summarizing
7. Resources available in the library (books, reference, other)
8. Recommended online subscription resources
9. Recommended Web sites chosen by the librarian or teachers
10. Reminders about assignment requirements (from the teacher’s checklist)

Correct Use of Informational Materials

There’s continuing confusion about requiring students to use print or digital or online resources for their assignments. I believe that the format of information (print vs digital vs online) is NOT important, but rather we need to focus on the TYPE of resource and its content value:

  • Encyclopedias for general information and overview of topic;
  • Content-specific resources for in-depth information;
  • Periodicals for short, current articles.

Encyclopedias and periodicals, in print, digital, or online versions, are pretty obvious, but content resources aren’t as obvious to students and teachers, so I always include specifics about these:

  • Print content includes all those specialty tomes we have in our reference area or topical books in the Dewey area.
  • Digital includes CDs and DVDs that we got for teachers to use but actually students can be using them, too.
  • Online includes e-books, subscription services (like a biography database), and Web-based books (like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Digital Book Index).

I collaborate with teachers to articulate the different types of resources available and recommend what is best for students to use for the assignment. Through my Library Lesson I then teach students about the types of resources and how to use whichever format is accessible—print version, in-house digital version, or online version—when they are working on the assignment. This is especially important in a digitally-divided school where students may or may not have online access from home.

By crafting and scaffolding relevant Library Lessons about online subscription resources, and by focusing on types rather than format, students and teachers learn a wide range of information resources, and understand that both print and digital resources can contribute to student success.

Looking Back @ My Favorite Tool: Foldables

Looking Back @ My Favorite Tool: Foldables - Students never tire of good ole cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool we can use to help students compile and organize new information. Here are 4 foldables that I've found especially successful.Educators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, I’ve found that students never tire of good ole cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool we can use to help students compile and organize new information. In the School Library, they also provide an opportunity for students to collaborate as they learn, and foldables provide the teacher with an excellent quick assessment for a daily grade.

The vast chasm of time since I was in school prevents me remembering if foldables were part of my education, but once I discovered them, I’ve continued to add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they’ve “stood the test of time” during my 13+ years as a Middle School Librarian.

The Biocube

biocube for character study, adapted from ReadWriteThink.

Click to open larger image.

A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable Special Collection of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes, and, instead of doing a whole class novel, wanted each student to read an historical fiction book. I suggested that, rather than a standard book report, students could use higher-order thinking skills to create a “BioCube Biography” about a character in the book, and the teacher was excited to try it out.

Students use the ReadWriteThink biocube planning sheet  to gather and refine “biographic” information about their book’s chosen character:

  • name and personality traits
  • personal background
  • time period and location of story
  • significance in U.S. History
  • biggest obstacle to overcome
  • important quotation from story.

I adapted the RWT cube to fit our preferences, and copy the 2”x 2”x 2” paper cube onto colorful paper. Students write the condensed information about their chosen character on each side of the cube, then cut out, fold, and paste the pattern together into a finished cube. They then attach a 2-ft. length of string and a bent paper clip to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and we use the paper clip to suspend cubes from the acoustic ceiling dividers in the ELA classroom. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for classroom visitors.

The Basketweave

Click to enlarge image

This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher to use during a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library kits & books. Created with one sheet of letter-sized color paper and a second ½ sheet of a contrasting color, the foldable has front & back covers, 2 inner flaps, plus 6 woven pages that are perfect for summarizing information: 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and 2 “secret hidden” pages, as shown in the picture below.

basketweave foldable finished & showing the "magic secret pages"

Photos courtesy of Mary Williams, Math Teacher, Midlothian HS, Midlothian, VA. For more great foldables, see her blog at https://mrswilliamsmath.wordpress.com/.

For the Library Lesson, the teacher creates learning groups and, in the classroom, students create their book and write on the left inside flap the 4 different cultural aspects about Texas Native Nations they will explore. On Library Lesson day, I distribute resources to library tables, 1 Nation per table. When the class arrives, each student in a group picks a different Texas Native Nation library table, and works with students from the other groups to summarize information about that Nation on one “hidden” column of their foldable.

After a suitable time, we have the original learning groups regather at library tables to report their findings. Students record information about 5 other Texas Nations onto their foldable’s columns as it is shared by their fellow group members. On the right inside flap students summarize information about all nations for each cultural aspect. At the end of the period, every student has collaboratively collected the information needed to pass the quiz given during class the following day. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun for students that they keep it throughout the unit (which they wouldn’t if it were just a sheet of paper).

The Accordion Booklet

I learned about this foldable at an International Baccalaureate workshop for Middle Years Program Librarians. It is so flexible it can be used for any subject or purpose depending on which size paper is used and how it’s folded. The original student examples I saw—for an ELA Shakespeare project and a Social Studies project—were 8½” x 14″ paper for the accordion and construction paper for the covers.

Creating ATL Toolbooks with 6g StudentsFor a series of IB-MYP Approaches to Learning Library Lessons I used 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, folding up the bottom third for the pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the ends. (I told students the way we cover the index cards and attach the accordion ends is the same way the covers are made for our library books!) At the end of each following lesson I gave students a small memento to put in the corresponding pocket of their Toolbook to remind them of their learning.

Teacher's ATL Toolbook

Click to enlarge

Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created ATL Toolbooks for them, which held small brochures of information on & applications for each ATL skill. They loved using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they could include.

The Tiered or “Waterfall” Flipbook

Template for Teacher Flipbook

Click to enlarge.

The beauty of this foldable is that it can be as simple as a single sheet of letter-size paper glued down into an interactive notebook or as complex as the 4 sheets of 8½” x 14″ I used to create my Library & Technology Services Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning and a digital publishing application, but a student project can be much simpler.

The easiest way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the bottom edge of the top portion is offset about ½-¾” above the bottom edge of the bottom portion, then add outside pages so each bottom sheet and top sheet have the same offset as the first sheet. Once the sheets are tightly creased, students can progressively glue an inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or they can staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this, which any Super-Librarian has!).  Keep in mind that the top portions get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively.

My Teacher Flipbook for Library & Technology ServicesFor younger middle school students we keep it very simple—just 1 or 2 sheets—and the teacher or I designate what students will write/draw on each flipsheet, but older students can plan their own publication depending on how much space they need for each part of their project. To make it especially eye-catching, students can use different colors of paper, as I eventually did with my Guide.

The Future of Foldables

These 4 foldables have been very popular with students, and there are others I’ve used for my Library Lessons. A simple Google Image search for “foldables” can net any teacher or school librarian a myriad of great foldables to try.

As successful as foldables have been in my middle School Library, I can’t imagine that they will ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place for simple cut-and-paste activities in education.

Looking Back @ Student Interview Projects

Looking Back @ Student Interview Projects - Interviews can spice up any student project and give students a new perspective on their content. School Librarians can collaborate with any Subject area to give Library Lessons on Interviewing Techniques.Who doesn’t love hearing stories and insights from interesting people? Interviews can spice up any student project and give students a new perspective on their content. School Librarians can find several opportunities to integrate student interviews into collaborative lessons. Here are a couple examples…

A 7th grade Multidisciplinary Project

During the 1st grading period of the school year, 7g ELA students write personal narratives and 7g Social Studies students learn about the immigration of various groups into Texas. Many students don’t know their own history of how they came to be in Texas, so when I approached my 7g teachers—avid library supporters—about doing a cross-discipline project they were willing to try it. Our collaborative unit “My Texas Heritage—How and Why Am I in Texas?” gives students a sense of their own identity (important for middle schoolers) and provides a more personal understanding of conceptual factors that have brought people into our State.

Example of a KWHL chart for an Alternative Energy ProjectEnglish/Language Arts classes visit the Library first for a brainstorming lesson. I begin the Library Lesson with a read aloud, Allen Say’s picture book Grandfather’s Journey, a personal story of how he reconnected with his family background. Next we pass out a KWHL worksheet (example from a different unit at left) and I model ‘What do I Know?’ to guide students in writing down what they already know about themselves and their families. Then we generate interview questions in the ‘What do I Want to know?’ section. For homework students take the KWHL sheet home and use the interview questions with their parents to fill in as Source #1. Any ‘What do I Want to Know’ questions that parents can’t answer become the basis for further research.

Texas History classes are the second Library visit. I tell students they are learning the history of themselves in the same way they are learning the history of Texas, so the goal of their Library visit is to gather historical background in order to answer W questions their parents couldn’t answer and to create more questions to take home to parents. I help students generate Keywords for searching and review search strategies so students can skim & scan the print & online Texas History resources I’ve prepared ahead of time. Students will continue to use the back of their KWHL worksheet for note-taking (and bibliographic info) and I model note-taking—there is always a tendency for students to write out everything, so modeling “Does this answer the question on my KWHL sheet?” keeps students on track.

During the next phase of the project students continue to gather information through interviews and research. We don’t expect a family tree from the time of the conquistadors, but every student learns about the lives of their parents & grandparents. Texas History teachers help them discern the similarities & differences between historical events they are learning about and the lives of their own family.

To encourage students to mail questions to other family members, the ELA teachers model letter form and reinforce good writing habits. Texas History teachers schedule another Library visit so I can guide students through a variety of primary and secondary sources, like biographies and autobiographies, speeches, letters & diaries, and songs & artwork, all related to Texas History, both in print and online.

This project lends itself to several products, and we offer 3 product options to students—written, crafted, or oral, with options for using technology tools:

  • At an ELA visit I show students how to create a webpage so information can be shared with family members who live far away. Students learn that information displayed on the Web must be well-written and concise, forcing them to thoroughly think through and edit their research results.
  • The crafted choice is a photograph poster of family mementos. For students who choose this option, I show them how to use our digital cameras and check them out, usually over a weekend. When they return I show them how to download & print out the images.
  • 7g students also enjoy playacting, so mock newscasts appeal to them. Students with common events in their background can group together to give “eyewitness” accounts. This helps students discern that historical “truths” often depend on one’s point of view—a valuable lesson as they study Texas history.

At a final Library visit we watch oral presentations, followed by a walk-around to view webpages on computers and crafted items on the tops of our eye-level bookcases. It’s a great way to begin the school year and satisfies the curricular needs of both ELA and Social Studies.

An 8th grade Spanish Television Show

In the spring our 3rd-year Spanish students demonstrate their Spanish-language skills with a group project, en Español, based on a game show or an Oprah-type entertainment show, and we “broadcast” the finished projects through our closed-circuit TV channel to the classroom. Both shows require students to do interviews, a short one for the game show and a more in-depth celebrity-type interview for the entertainment show. For this project we have 2 Library Lesson visits: at the first visit students learn about creating good personal interview questions, and during the second visit students prepare for the TV broadcast.

The short interview is a 30-60 second introduction of the ‘Players’ where the show host says “Tell us a little about yourself” and the Player responds with their ‘home’ city/state (it can’t be ours), their ‘career or job’, something about their family (this can be true or made up), and a favorite hobby, song, or movie. The goal is for students to demonstrate their Spanish-language skills, so we encourage them to be imaginative with their responses and also as they create the game show activity.

For the in-depth interview I make available a few books on video & TV interviews and short celebrity biographies, along with printed sheets of interview questions derived from a Web search. I help students generate open-ended questions that prompt the responder to answer with greater depth and variety than just yes or no. Again, the objective is to use as much of their Español as possible.

We Do Video Broadcasting! image from my middle school Library.The second visit is a Library Lesson about having a good “on-camera presence” so students learn about which colors are best for clothing, where to look while asking and answering questions (at the camera!), how to modulate their voice and pace their talking, and which type of gestures are OK and which ones distract viewers. We critique a couple demonstrations, then students break into groups to practice their TV shows, during which time I walk around scheduling when they’ll be doing their “on air” broadcast.

Watching the actual TV broadcast in the classroom lends an authenticity to this lesson that excites students. After we did this the first time, word got around the school that “Ms. P has a Television Studio in the Library!” and students from all grades began asking teachers if they could “do TV shows with Ms. P” for their various projects. A School Librarian can be kept pretty busy giving Library Lessons on Interviewing Techniques and transmitting TV broadcasts to classrooms!

A Resource for Interview Questions

If you’ve never heard of StoryCorps, you’ll want to check them out. They began in 2003 with a Storybooth in Grand Central Terminal in NYC and they continue to give people a way to share conversations. They have recording sites, mobile story tours around the U.S., and an app on their website, all dedicated to providing a legacy of real voices that are archived at the Library of Congress.

“Our mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

Great Questions” on their website is a wonderful resource that anyone can use to promote more effective and enjoyable interviews.

Looking Back @ 3 (more) Strategies for a New School Librarian

Looking Back @ 3 (more) Strategies for a New School Librarian - A month ago I offered 3 Strategies for a First-Time School Librarian: learn everything, listen to everyone, and leave things as they are. Today I want to share 3 more strategies for a New School Librarian that focus specifically on Library Lessons: use my Library Lesson Planner Template, partner with the local Public Library's Youth Services Librarian, and follow some simple Classroom Management Tips to handle your much larger learning space (and often much larger groups of students!).A month ago I offered 3 Strategies for a First-Time School Librarian: learn everything, listen to everyone, and leave things as they are. Today I want to share 3 more strategies for a New School Librarian that focus specifically on Library Lessons: use my Library Lesson Planner Template, partner with the local Public Library’s Youth Services Librarian, and follow some simple Classroom Management Tips to handle your much larger learning space (and often much larger groups of students!).

Library Lesson Planner

When we become a School Librarian we don’t stop being a Teacher, in fact, we take on a larger responsibility: to teach a wider variety of literacies through integration with classroom activities in all school subjects. Another big adjustment from classroom teacher to school librarian is that we won’t see students day after day for lessons; most of the time we have a single class period to influence and inspire their learning. Due to these 2 major changes, a New School Librarian will find that the typical lesson planner used for classroom instruction is unsuitable for planning library lessons.

Library Lesson Planner Template, page 1After a few years of trying various LP forms with limited success, I’ve now combined the best of several forms to create my own Library Lesson Plan Template. The key to a good Library Lesson is to make it relevant to what students are studying in the classroom and avoid anything that does not achieve the purpose of the library visit; otherwise, it’s all meaningless to the student and quickly forgotten.

To that end my Library Lesson Planner incorporates Subject area Content Standards with AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action, and includes both subject and info-lit understandings, key questions, objectives, and performance tasks. Furthermore, it follows a specific instructional model for presenting the lesson. This may seem like a lot of work for a single lesson, but taking time for detailed planning—maybe more time than the actual lesson takes—makes a better lesson.

Habitually using my Library Lesson Planner has made me a better teacher and librarian, and I am convinced it will help a New School Librarian, too.

You can download my Library Lesson Planner on my FREE Librarian Resources page.

FYI: I’m a big fan of graphic organizers as learning aids for student success, thus my lessons usually have some sort of graphic worksheet. I’ve used many types for lessons, and I feel it’s my responsibility to support classroom learning by using as many of their forms as possible. Teachers LOVE graphic organizers for library visits; not only does it hold kids accountable for what they need to be doing, but it also gives teachers the concrete evidence they need as a daily grade for students when visiting the library.

Partner with the Public Library’s Librarian

Many of our students are within walking distance of a public library or are regular visitors with their parents. One of the most valuable steps a New School Librarian can take is to establish a partnership with the Youth Services Librarian at the local Public Library. Having this colleague visit your school during the school year will provide Library Lessons that you don’t have to create!

Now I’m going to let you all in on a little secret—I don’t do literature. My teaching background is Secondary Social Studies, Science, and Math; my least favorite class in school was English/Language Arts. I detested whole-class novel studies, dreaded poetry units, and the only writing I truly enjoyed was a big research project using the library. My greatest achievement as a School Librarian has been integrating with ELA teachers who have been oh, so patient with my deficiencies. Thankfully they also guide students to great books to read because I DON’T DO BOOKTALKS!

The best “lessons” the Public Librarian can do for you, a New School Librarian, is to give Booktalks to students, featuring books common to both school and public library and also books only available through the public library, which often has multiple copies of the most recent best sellers. I honestly don’t get the allure, but my students—even reluctant readers—sit, rapt with attention, as our public librarian does 8-10 booktalks in a single class period. And according to her, their circulation always goes up for about 2 weeks after her visit to our school. Here are the visits and booktalks I arranged with my Public Library Librarian:

  1. September is Library Card Sign-Up Month so at that visit she shows students how they can get public library services both in-house and online, and she booktalks new releases over the summer.
  2. December marks the announcement of our State Reading Lists, so at that visit she booktalks the books for our grade level and passes out flyers of public library activities taking place during the school’s coming winter break.
  3. March is our spring break, so she visits beforehand and passes out flyers of public library activities during the break, as well as coming activities in April for School Library Month and National Library Week. Her booktalks are typically something unique, such as their extensive collection of graphic novels or informational books on popular age-appropriate topics.
  4. May‘s visit features Summer Reading activities at the Public Library and she booktalks stories aligned with the topical theme of the summer reading program to entice kids to visit throughout the summer. It’s especially helpful to have this visit the second week of May because that’s when all our school library books are due, so promoting the public library at this time encourages kids to visit there to check out new books.

Even if you are a normally voracious reader, having this booktalking partnership during your first year as a New School Librarian allows you to attend to other pressing needs without sacrificing the needs of your students.

Classroom Management Tips

I’ll admit I’m a shoddy classroom manager, but these tips really helped me improve, especially when dealing with 2 classes of more than 60 hormonal middle schoolers! I printed them out and taped them to my presentation station to always remind me what I needed to be doing. They don’t really have anything to do with a Library Lesson, but they’ll surely help you when you’re presenting your Library Lessons!

  • Stand still when you’re giving directions (don’t do 2 things at once).
    Be specific about what to do (what to have on the tables, what not to have; thank them as they complete task).
  • Correct misbehavior with the positive expectation, not the negative wrong.
    Acknowledge as “Thanks for behavior that meets expectations.”
    (Praise is a value judgment for what’s truly special or exceeds expectations.)
  • Control should be for purpose, not power.
    (We don’t do that in the library because it keeps us from making the most of our learning time.)
    Step outside of your own head. Teaching depends on what other people think, not what you think.
  • Go from student who gets it wrong to students who get it right, then back to student who gets it wrong & ask a follow-up question to make sure they understand why they got it wrong & why the right answer is right.

Remember the Purpose of Library Lessons

I’m convinced that the purpose of Library Lessons is to make things easier for students, not harder or more confusing, to teach only what they need and avoid anything that does not achieve the purpose of the library visit. I design my Library Lessons with this in mind—and my Library Lesson Planner keeps that to the forefront while planning. As a final bit of counsel for the New School Librarian:

The rigor in our school library should be content in the materials, not finding the materials; 
the challenge needs to be the academic purpose for which we have a school library, not in using the library.