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.
After 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.