I moved from classroom Teacher to School Librarian because I wanted to have a greater impact on all students in all subject areas. I was eager to collaborate with teachers, which was, after all, the most important reason a school needed a certified School Librarian rather than just a clerk to check out books. I soon discovered only we School Librarians know that collaboration is supposed to happen!
Since I only learned about teacher-librarian collaboration during my library coursework, why would I expect other classroom teachers to know? We may lament that teachers don’t make time to collaborate, but it’s our responsibility as School Librarians to create collaborative opportunities. We can’t expect teachers to come to us; we have to go to them, and we need to show them how their students will benefit from Library Lessons.
I believe we need to quit thinking in terms of “marketing” our library or our resources or even ourselves as a way to promote collaboration. We’ve been marketing this way for years and no one hears us. Instead, let’s offer a specific “product” to teachers—a particular lesson that gives students a particular Information Literacy Skill that is essential for their future and, more importantly, that gives the teacher a better assessment outcome from students.
Through nearly 25 years of Professional Development I’ve learned something from every session, but the best PDs were the ones where I collaborated with others to create authentic, relevant learning for students. As a group of school librarians, we can use our professional development times productively by collaborating with each other to create common lessons that integrate library skills with different subject classroom content.
Professional Development & Essential Lessons
Classroom teachers have created “essential lessons” for Common Core State Standards, C3 Framework for Social Studies, and Next Generation Science, many of which integrate ISTE Technology Standards. Significantly missing are “essential lessons” which integrate the Library Standards. We school librarians can use our professional development opportunities to create such lessons, thereby promoting collaboration with teachers and ensuring student success for future endeavors. We owe it to both our teachers and our students to do this!
The librarians in my school district have mapped out the library skills students must learn and understand at each grade level, building more advanced skills from one grade to the next. We have a clear pathway, with stepping stones along the way, to guide us through a concise and specific K-12 Library Information Literacy Scope and Sequence, written in Information Literacy and National School Library Standards language that we can translate directly into meaningful lessons for any grade, any subject, any teacher. It’s a great foundation, but it won’t ensure that all kids in X grade learn the information literacy skills they need to prepare them for X+1 grade…or for their future.
Thus we’ve begun to use professional development time for the creation of “Essential Lessons”. Since Info-Lit skills are applicable across all content, we can develop specific library lessons that address the introduction, the reinforcement, and the mastery of a grade-specific skill throughout that grade-level’s subject area curricula.
For example, if we know kids at X grade level need to master Info-Lit Skill Y, then we can create Essential Lessons to
- introduce that skill into Teacher A’s English/Language Arts lesson,
- reinforce it through Teacher B’s Social Studies lesson, and
- help students gain mastery during Teacher C’s Science lesson.
This type of scaffolding is already happening in the classroom, and all of us need to embrace scaffolding Essential Lessons rather than teaching a discrete lesson for whichever teacher we can convince to collaborate with us.
The Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix
Our biggest challenge is how to wade through everyone’s ocean of curricula in order to create the Essential Lessons we can “market” to teachers. I’ve written about my Curriculum Matrix and how I use it to create my Library Lessons. Because I use it to scaffold my lessons and market specific lessons to teachers, my teachers seek me out for a library lesson if they even sniff an opportunity to visit the library during their units.
The image above is actually just the overview page of my Matrix. I have a separate, but similar, spreadsheet for each grade level with every unit for every subject listed by week and grading period, with any school- or subject-wide testing dates, such as MAP and State tests noted. With these sheets I can scaffold grade-level skills across the different subjects within that grade, so I’m sure that, by the end of the school year, students will master all the necessary library skills for their grade level.
I also have a separate spreadsheet for each subject across all 3 grade levels, again with every unit by week and grading period. With these sheets I can scaffold skills from one grade level to the next, building more complex and advanced skills upon what students learned the year before. This way I can be sure that students will fully master all the necessary library skills for middle school and are prepared for the increased demands of high school.
Market the Product
“Essential Lessons” can boost our teacher collaborations at every grade level and subject area across our entire school district, as we use these “products” to convince each teacher that our lessons provide value to them and to their students. And when students produce a new authentic assessment product, the teacher will want us to teach another lesson later on, which gives us an opportunity to introduce or reinforce another Info-Lit skill through another Essential Lesson.