Looking @ Customized Orientations for Each Grade Level

Looking @ Customized Orientations for Each Grade Level - A library orientation sets the tone for the entire school year, and there are definite advantages for creating customized orientations for each grade level. Here's how I customize my first visits with returning students to rejuvenate their interest in the library. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #middleschool #library orientation #ELA #reading fiction #handsonlearningWe all give a library orientation to our lowest-grade-level, new-to-the-school students so they can learn about their “new” school library, but how many of us have one for our returning students? A library orientation customized for each grade level is a powerful way to connect with students and teachers at the beginning of the school year. I discovered very quickly that the effort I expend on higher-grade-level orientations generates multiple benefits throughout the rest of the school year.


  • Rekindle interest in the library – The first library visit influences a student’s attitude toward subsequent visits during the remainder of the school year. Since so many schools now have a high level of student transience—mine is 34%—we also need to introduce the school library to a lot of brand new higher-grade-level students.
  • Introduce students to new reading choices – New grade level = increased maturity + new subject content. Customized orientations can align with the new grade’s curricula and the changed interests of students, especially topics or formats they may not have noticed before.
  • Convince teachers to use a whole class period for a library visit—especially at the start of school before benchmarks, testing, etc. In my case, ELA teachers want students to check out a fiction book, so my library orientations focus on reading and narrative literature, but I also have created unique orientations for Social Studies, for Science, for World Language, and for Art classes!
  • Stimulate teachers to consider more library lessons – My ELA teachers so appreciate how my orientations support their curriculum, that when their unit of study changes—first to expository literature, then to persuasion, and finally to poetry—they allow me to give a Library Lesson at the start of each unit, and even short lessons at later visits during the unit. I always include a classroom-related activity for students to practice what they learn.

My ELA Literary Text Units are available 
in my No Sweat Library TPT store.

  • Use the same orientations every school year – With so many demands on a school librarian at the start of school, having “returnee” orientations that are unique to each grade level is a time-saver that alleviates stress about having to develop first-visit lessons.


The key to a successful “returnee” orientation is to give students a stimulating, interactive, hands-on activity that is completely different from their previous grade’s orientation. It should also revive prior knowledge or give a new perspective on the library and/or its resources.

Sample Library Info Bookmark & Brochure

Click to enlarge

Don’t bore returning students with rules and procedures they already know. Summarize information on a Library Bookmark to be picked up at checkout. Give top grade level students a Library Brochure with resources for larger projects and planning their future. These two library info tools save time to allow for longer, more complex activities with higher-grade students, yet guarantee any new students learn our library expectations and can ask us specific questions later on for clarification.

A new school year brings excitement but also apprehension. To relieve new-grade-level uncertainty, provide a familiar structure to returning student orientations. Of the 4 segments for any of my Library Lessons—direct instruction, modeling/guided practice, independent practice, and sharing/reflecting—I keep 3 of them the same as students have already experienced:

  • Direct instruction for all student orientations is a review of safety procedures for fire drills and code Red—they’re too important to omit—and library expectations, which for returning students is simply holding up the bookmark or brochure they’ll get at checkout.
  • Independent practice during any regular book checkout visit includes students browsing the shelves and choosing a fiction book they can enjoy reading. Since this is the reason the teacher brings them to the library for an orientation, I’m diligent to give students plenty of time to fulfill that purpose.
  • Sharing/reflecting for any regular book checkout visit is our standard checkout procedure where students read quietly while I invite each table to check out their selections. I encourage students to reflect on their book choice as they begin reading their new book so their book choices improve and their sustained reading time increases.

By maintaining consistency, I need only customize the modeling/guided practice segment of each grade’s orientation and allow returning students to fully engage in, and enjoy, this new group activity.


We may need to try several orientation activities before discovering those that work best for our particular students.

  • In-the-middle grades need reminders about what they learned the previous year, presented in a fun new way.
  • Our highest grades need to see the library in a new way, a different perspective. They are the perfect “guinea pigs” to try out big changes in organization, materials, facility arrangement or technology.

Even after settling on the perfect lessons, be open to a new activity that might prove more engaging or relevant for a certain grade level. If you are a middle school librarian, the following ideas, which I’ve tried at various times, might work for you.

Seventh graders enjoy interactive game-like tasks that allow them to talk or move around. Library Bingo, Library Jeopardy, Scavenger Hunts, and Breakouts are all activities that refresh their library knowledge while constructively fulfilling their need for socializing. I do a Scavenger Hunt.

image of 7g Scavenger HuntMy 7g  Scavenger Hunt reviews various library locations, features new formats of reading materials students may have overlooked, and introduces books related to grade-specific subject content, like topical Dewey books for their first two Science units and the Special Collection of fiction & non-fiction books to support 7g Social Studies. It does get noisy, but students have a fun review, don’t get bored, and the Hunt sheet is handed in for their daily grade.
(Clipboards for students to write on are invaluable for this activity.)

The key to a successful scavenger hunt is to have the same number tasks as library tables. Each group begins with the same numbered task as their table number, which takes students to different library locations and avoids jostling and overcrowding.

Eighth graders prefer sophisticated tasks that entail analysis and application, and provides guidance but not overt supervision. Speed Dating Fiction, Progressive Dinner of Tasty Reads, Breakouts, Playlists/HyperDocs, and Viewing Book Trailers with QR codes are all popular with this age. Using QR codes to view Book Trailers finally captured my 8th graders attention; I give details about it in an earlier post.

image of 8g Book Trailer ActivityI briefly show students how easy it is to make a video book-talk using copyright-free pictures and an online video creation tool, then play my 40-second sample. Since the first ELA project is a video book-talk, teachers appreciate my “sneak peak” to get students excited to do their own. Several book trailers provide an introduction to new reading choices appropriate to 8g maturity and curricula, particularly specially selected high school State Reading List books and the Special Collections of fiction and non-fiction books to support 8g Social Studies.


My success with Customized Library Orientations means I never have to convince teachers to bring their classes to the library at the start of school. In fact, they seek me out to schedule them the week before school begins!

For a few years I offered a 4-part Library Orientation with ELA classes for fiction books, then Math classes for Dewey books, followed by Science and Social Studies for topical books and online resources. To get teachers interested, I simply look at the first few weeks of everyone’s curriculum, determine which classes can benefit from a library visit, then create inviting lessons the teachers can’t resist. As others realize my Library Lessons are developed to coordinate with their classroom content, they also ask for early-in-the-school-year visits to familiarize students with library resources.

I know you, too, can reap the benefits of customized library orientations. You may want to begin as I did, especially if you are a new librarian or starting at a new school: create an orientation for your lowest-grade-level students but do it with all the grades, then the next year create a new one for the next-higher grade level, and the third year create another new one for the third grade level. Keep going until you have a unique orientation for all the grade levels in your building!

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

Get my 7g Library Orientation or 8g Library Orientation through my NoSweat TPT store, or save with the 678 Orientation bundle.
This 1-visit Orientation product is customized for 7g ELA classes. A Scavenger Hunt reviews the School Library and features new materials especially appealing to 7th graders. This 1-visit Orientation product is customized for 8g ELA classes. A Book Trailer activity refreshes student interest in the School Library and features new materials especially appealing to 8th graders. Bundle of my 3 Common Core & NSLS aligned Library Orientation Lessons for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades that promote Reading and support English Language Arts study of narrative literature. Includes Library Lesson Plans, slide presentations, editable docs or PDFs of student Activity worksheets & bookmarks, and 4 mp4 videos. #NoSweatLibrary #libraryorientation #ELA

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