What’s a Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix & How Do I Use It?

What's a Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix & How Do I Use It? - School Librarians often struggle to create a cohesive library skills curriculum when subject area library visits are so unpredictable. Here's a visual organizer that lets you take control of your lesson planning and promotes collaboration with all content area teachers! #NoSweatLibraryWhen we become a School Librarian we don’t cease being a teacher. What changes, however, is how we plan and present our lessons.

  • First, we no longer have a standard curriculum designed to be presented chronologically on a daily basis.
  • Second, we rarely have contiguous days with students, so we must spread learning across random, irregular library visits.

So, how can School Librarians teach Library Information Literacy Skills under such circumstances? We must scaffold stand-alone topical lessons that gradually build up knowledge, so students receive a comprehensive program of Information Literacy instruction.

In short, School Librarians must integrate info-lit skills into every subject and grade level, during single class periods throughout the school year. And the only way to do that is to become familiar with everyone’s subject area curriculum.

A VISUAL ORGANIZATION TOOL FOR SUBJECT CURRICULA

School Librarians must support what students are studying in the classroom, otherwise, teachers won’t allow time for a library visit. We don’t need to know course content as teachers do, but we must familiarize ourselves with content area units and their assessments so we can discern when students need an information literacy skill to do what they’re expected to do—even if it’s not written down and the teacher doesn’t realize it.

Once I decided this was the best approach, I had to devise a way to organize it: First, to identify when a library lesson was needed for students, and second, to track intermittent lessons and progressively build Info-Lit Skills. I decided to create a grid with different subject areas along one side and a chronological listing of my Library Info-Lit Lessons along the other side.

I worked my way through subjects and grade levels, and as I added actual lessons, I also entered Library Standards. The grid became quite unwieldy, but after digitization into a set of spreadsheets, with a few modifications & adjustments, I finally arrived at the finished product that I use even today:
the No Sweat School Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix.

No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - School Librarians often struggle to create a cohesive library skills curriculum when subject area library visits are so unpredictable. Here's a visual organizer that lets you take control of your lesson planning and promotes collaboration with all content area teachers! #NoSweatLibrary

USE MY TEMPLATE TO BUILD YOUR OWN CURRICULUM MATRIX

Colleagues have asked for more specifics about my LLC Matrix, so for this blog post I’m explaining the template I created so any school librarian can fill in their own subject curricula and library lessons.

No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - This is the visual organizer Template that lets School Librarians organize subject curricula and Library Lessons to create a cohesive Information Literacy Instructional Program. #NoSweatLibrary
My Matrix Template is available at No Sweat Library, my TPT store, but for my email group it’s a free download from our e-List Library.
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The No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template contains 5 tabbed spreadsheets:

No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix snip of tabs

  • a year-long Library Scheduler overview page.
  • 3 tabbed pages for Grade levels, in my case 6g, 7g, and 8g. (Add additional pages by copying one of the spreadsheets and rename tabs to align with your own grade levels.)
  • an Example sheet with some of my No Sweat Library Lessons entered to guide you through filling in your own information.

For each grade level spreadsheet, the Subject Area rows are listed down the left side, along with rows for Information Literacy and National School Library Standards. The Grading Period Week columns are across the top and between each subject. There is a separate block for each of the two semesters. Notice the “Freeze” entry: this feature allows you to slide the relevant time period next to the Subjects column.
(Customize subjects & grading periods for your situation.)
Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Grade Level sheets - Grade level pages of the visual organizer Template that lets School Librarians organize subject curricula and Library Lesson. #NoSweatLibrary

Here’s the step-by-step process for filling in the LLC Matrix Template:

  1. Begin with a single subject area for your lowest grade level.
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  2. Using the subject’s curriculum guide/scope & sequence, enter content unit titles/themes into the field for the week they begin. (I italicize these to keep them distinct from my library lesson information.)
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  3. Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix snip of color blocks - Lesson color blocks of the visual organizer Template that lets School Librarians organize subject curricula and Library Lesson. #NoSweatLibraryLook through the cg/ss for classroom assignments that could benefit from a library lesson or library resources. For the week you think it’s needed, colorize the block (the same color as the subject area) and type “Library Lesson” or “Library Resources.”
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  4. In the Information Literacy row, under the corresponding week, add the skills that can be introduced and/or type of resource.
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  5. Grab another subject area cg/ss for the grade level, and fill in units & identify probable library lessons or resources. Do this for each different subject at that grade level.
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  6. Move to the next grade level and fill in subject area units and possible library lessons & resources. As you progress through each grade, keep in mind what you identified at prior grade levels, so you can plan a review and then introduce new skills.
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  7. Once you have a preliminary LLC Matrix, pull out Library Lesson Plans that you regularly teach and replace your own Lesson info as shown in the example above. Be sure to enter National School Library Standards into the appropriate fields. (I like to enter my lesson Title into the subject row and the lesson Theme or Learning Target into the Info-Lit row.)

When you’ve finished your LLC Matrix, you’ll have a thorough picture of all subject area curricula and where you can create more lessons to introduce, review, and build Library Information Literacy Skills. You may also see the need to enhance the library’s print or digital collection to meet a curricular need you weren’t aware of.

Your LLC Matrix may occasionally need changes as standards and course curricula change, but if you keep up with it, you’ll always have a broad view of library visits and the Info-Lit Skills you cover for the grade levels.

The Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix is a great tool to show your principal during evaluations, so they understand how valuable you are to classroom learning!

HOW TO USE YOUR LIBRARY LESSON CURRICULUM MATRIX

Collaborate with Teachers using the Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Use the No Sweat School Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template to plan Library Lessons with subject area teachers, and take a printout along when approaching them to schedule a library visit. They'll be convinced that collaborating with the School Librarian will benefit their students! #NoSweatLibraryCreating the Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix is the easy part. Creating specific Library Lessons is a bit more challenging. The really hard part is convincing teachers that students will benefit from a Library Lesson! Here’s how I do it:

  • At the start of each grading period I look over the upcoming library lessons & resources for that span in my Matrix. I select & print out enough of the Matrix so those teachers see how important their place is in building Info-Lit skills.
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  • I also print out each Library Lesson Plan so teachers can see how I incorporate their unit Standards and activities as a focus for the library skills lesson.
    When only library resources are needed, I use my Library Lesson Short Form for Teacher Requests (available on my FREE Librarian Resources page).
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  • During their conference period, I go to each subject area teacher and show them the LLC Matrix and their Library Lesson Plan. I make it pretty easy for them to say “Yes, indeed, let’s do this!”
    (For resources & Short Form, I suggest a “quick lesson” so students know how to best use the materials.)
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  • I also bring a selected print-out of the Library Scheduler spreadsheet and when I pull it out for scheduling their library visit they’re pretty impressed to see what a School Librarian’s job is all about!

You may be thinking, “Wait, shouldn’t we collaborate with the teacher before we create the Library Lesson Plan?” Uh, NO. In my experience, teachers who are unfamiliar with librarian collaboration can’t envision how we can help them. But, they’ll consider a library visit when we show them a concrete example of how we use their content to teach library skills that enhance classroom learning and increase student achievement.

NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Template - page 1

My No Sweat Library Lesson Planner Templates are available for download from my FREE Librarian Resources page!

Learn more about using my Library Lesson Planner Template from these blog posts:

Library Lesson Short Form for Teacher Requests - Print out this abbreviated form of the Library Lesson Planner Template and use it when teachers walk in with lesson requests! #NoSweatLibrary
Short, Simple, and Relevant School Library Lessons
How to Build a High Quality, Standards-Based School Library Lesson

GO FORTH & COLLABORATE WITH YOUR CURRICULUM MATRIX

Once you’ve completed your Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix, I know you’ll rely on it to develop your lessons and purchase resources. And when colleagues, teachers, and administrators see this tool, your professional standing with them will skyrocket! BTW, I’m open to any suggestions you may have for improvement…just put it in the Comments below.

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Book Lists & Book Reviews to Help School Librarians Choose Books!

Book Lists & Book Reviews to Help School Librarians Choose Books! - I don't do books...but there are school librarians who do. Here are the booklists and book reviews that help me choose quality books for students, and they may help you, too. #NoSweatLibraryI don’t do books. … Wait…what?!

I realize this is a startling statement from a School Librarian, but let me clarify.

I’ve never been much of a “literary” reader, so I’m not adept at Fiction booktalks or book reviews nor can I “find the perfect book for a student.” As a former science & social studies teacher, I’m definitely a NON-fiction School Librarian.

So, when it comes to the Fiction area of our school library, I rely on book lists & book reviews from other library and education professionals, both to purchase books for our school library and to recommend books to students.

Here are the book list and book review sources I use to help me choose high-quality books for students. I think they can help you, too.

GREAT LISTS OF RECOMMENDED BOOKS

State Reading Lists

I love that here in Texas we have 10 different reading lists, for preschool to adult, all chosen by our Texas School Librarians. Half of the lists offer selections appropriate for the middle school students I serve:

  • Lone Star – fiction & nonfiction for middle school: I get at least 2 copies of all of these every year.
  • Tayshas – fiction & nonfiction for high school: I buy selected titles for our YA collection aimed at 8th graders.
  • Maverick Graphic Novels – for grades 6-12: Nearly 3 dozen titles for middle-school-aged students.
  • Spirit of Texas – by Texas authors & illustrators for grades 6-12: up to a half-dozen choices for middle school.
  • Tejas Star – Bilingual/multicultural for ages 5 – 12: I ask Spanish teachers to select appropriate titles to support our IB second language program.

If your state offers reading lists—either from librarians or literacy teachers—take advantage of those vetted titles and buy two or more copies of every book that’s appropriate for the age & grade of your students.

You may also want to use other state award lists for additional titles to buy. A great source for those is Simon & Schuster’s Current State Award Master List webpage. Just click on a state in the list or on the map for their list of award or recommended books.

Association & Organization Book Lists

There are a few organizations that I trust to recommend great books for students. Here are my favorites:

The American Library Association is a one-stop shop for book lists. Their Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) and their Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) have a variety of book lists:

The American Literacy Association has 3 “Choices Lists” elected by their readers: Children’s Choices, Young Adult Choices, and Teachers’ Choices.

The National Education Association’s Read Across America has partnered with Colorín Colorado to create 10 lists to promote diversity, culture, and equity, including a list of books whose settings are in each U.S. state. They also offer 6 other organizational sources of book recommendations.

Book Vendors

Many large school library book vendors, such as Follett, offer customized lists or advanced sort features that produce a customized list. For example, you can sort by “popular” books or “best sellers” to find what other school librarians have purchased. I do this in the early spring to pick up titles I may have missed for my final book purchase of the school year.

You can also use the drop-down checklist of professional book review journals, such as School Library Journal and Voice of Youth Advocates, so you can specify starred or highly recommended titles to create your own quality list. This feature has rescued me from having to comb through piles of professional magazines for reviews of the best books to purchase.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM LIBRARIANS

Book Reviews By Librarian/Teacher Bloggers

School Librarian Bloggers With GREAT Book Reviews! - Many folks review books on their blogs, but School Librarians specialize in books for kids in grades PreK through 12. Here are some School Librarian bloggers that have helped me choose quality books for our middle school library. #NoSweatLibraryA number of School Librarians have created online book reviews for students and fellow librarians to learn about “good reads.” Here is a list of LM_NET and TLC listserv folks I rely on for good book reviews:

  • Richie’s Picks – Richie reads a book nearly every week and posts his review to the LM-NET listserv. If you’ve missed them, you can search the LM-NET archive, but it may be easier to browse Richie’s Pbworks wiki-web site.
  • Pamela Thompson is one of my favorite school librarians. She’s been reading and reviewing books for years and has a huge compilation on her website Young Adult Books-What We’re Reading Now.
  • Mrs. Readerpants is another of my long-time favorite librarians. She has quite a few book reviews on her website, along with some “Genre Personality” information that can be helpful for students to identify their favorite reads.
  • Barb Langridge has a wonderful collection of book reviews on her website, A Book and a Hug. Some have been contributed by teachers and students. She also has a Reader Personality Survey form for young folks to fill out and submit for an overview of their type along with a visual list of books they’ll enjoy reading.
  • Laurie Evans reviews elementary & middle school appropriate books, which she has curated on her website, Blazer Tales. She offers 3 ways to sort and find the perfect books.

Here are other librarian & teacher bloggers who do regular book reviews, including student reviews which can be insightful for buying multiple copies of books. You may recognize a couple names as nationally-known authors:

  • Nerdy Book Club is a group of 4 teachers, including Donalyn Miller of Book Whisperer fame, who write reviews of books for elementary through high school.
  • Pernille Ripp is a middle school teacher who’s a passionate promoter of reading. Each year her students compose Our Favorite Books, a list with reviews of their favorite reads for the year.
  • Books in the Middle are reviews from 5 librarians and teachers who work with middle school students. Their reviews cover a wide range of topics/genres.
  • Libres is a website of professional book reviews by librarians & teachers in southeastern Michigan. They’ve been receiving publisher copies and reviewing books for 4 decades and once reviewed, the books are donated to schools and libraries in their geographic area.
  • Gaijin School Librarian, aka Ashley Hawkins, hails from a high school in Brooklyn NY where she writes book reviews and recommended lists for manga graphic novels and anime. She has links to other places to find manga information.

Just recently I learned about this site, “62 great books by Black authors, recommended by TED speakers.” These are recommended fiction & nonfiction titles that can bring diversity into your collection.

Book Talks & Book Trailers

There’s nothing quite like a book talk to get students interested in books. Since I’m no good at booktalks, I rely on other sources to interest students in books.

One of those resources is the public library’s Youth Services Librarian. Our school boundaries encompass 2 different public libraries, and both allow crossover access for our students. I have the benefit of 2 wonderful ladies who I invite to our school 4 times a year for booktalks and to promote public library activities to our students: early fall after school begins, and before our winter, spring and summer breaks. It’s a WIN-WIN for me, for them, and especially for our students.

Combining the best of booktalks and online book reviews are online video booktalks. Here are two you won’t want to miss:

  • Naomi Bates has written book reviews for years on her blog, YA Books & More. Now she’s upped her presence to a vlog—a video blog—where she booktalks a new book nearly every week. You can also use the playlists on her YouTube site to show a series of video booktalks while your students are browsing for books!
  • Colby Sharp, one of the “nerds” from the Nerdy Book Club, has an amazing YouTube site with lots & lots of video booktalks!

Students love book trailers, and so do I. They’re like movie previews only better, because you can create a QR link code and tape it onto the book so kids can use their smartphones to view the trailer when they pull a book off the shelf. Here are two good resources for book trailers:

PROMOTE READING WITH FIRST-LINERS & BOOKMARKS

Easy Reading Promotion with First-Lines & Topical Bookmarks! - As a NON-Fiction School Librarian, I read aloud the first-lines of fiction books so students know why reading the first page is on our checklist. And I create 21 different topical & series bookmarks to give students additional choices for story types they already like. #NoSweatLibraryOne way I help students find a book that appeals to them is with my IT IS FOR ME checklist, where the F is for the First page of the book. When I get new books in, I scan the first pages to find really catchy first lines. At a library visit I read these first-lines to students to emphasize why opening the book and reading the first page is worthwhile.

Though I’m not so good at book reviews or booktalks, I put special effort into creating “if you like this, you’ll also like…” bookmarks for students. I have templates for 21 different topical & series bookmarks, which I place in Demco acrylic displays on top of the circulation counter. Our Fiction area is organized by Subjects using color-coded sticker labels & transparent label covers. so I copy bookmarks to cardstock that matches the color for the Subject so students know where to go to find the books.

Many School Librarians love reading books from their school library and doing booktalks & book reviews. For those of us who don’t, we can benefit from these folks and return the favor by blogging about what we do do best!

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