How School Librarians Can Integrate the Workshop Model & Classroom Libraries

How School Librarians Can Integrate the Workshop Model & Classroom Libraries - School Librarians must make the school library about more than just reading. When we focus on integrating Library Lessons into all subject curricula, we won't lament curriculum changes, such as the ELA workshop model & classroom libraries. #NoSweatLibraryIt’s not unusual to see a School Librarian post something like this on my listservs:

The English Language Arts department adopted a reading & writing workshop model and classroom libraries. Students choose books in their classrooms and read for 10-minutes at the start of class, so teachers no longer bring them to the library. Our library circulation has plummeted and I don’t think students have the time and freedom they previously had for free reading.

Friends, this is why our library program MUST be more than just books and reading! If we focus only on promoting reading and checking out books, we will suffer when classroom libraries and reading workshop programs are implemented. Our school library must be a multi-faceted learning space, not just a book repository.

I’m a School Librarian who has gone through this experience, and I can tell you that, because I built strong curricular relationships with ELA teachers, I wasn’t adversely affected when our district adopted such a program. Well, we did follow the “rules” for the first semester, but teachers were very unhappy with our reading results, so the following semester we reverted to our already-successful regular recurring ELA library visits with sustained silent reading. Yes, because of our long record of DEAR/SSR, we were able to see the shortcomings of the new model.

PITFALLS OF POOR WORKSHOP IMPLEMENTATION

  • 10-minute reading doesn’t allow story immersion
    Students need 2 or 3 chapters to really get into a story, and that takes a lot longer than 10 minutes. Teachers found that students weren’t continuing to read a book they’d chosen the day before, but would look for a new one. Limiting their browse time didn’t solve the problem and students just grabbed any book off the shelf, read for the allotted time period, then put the book back and grabbed a new one the next day. Students weren’t really “reading” nor finishing books; they were just fulfilling a “requirement.”
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  • 10-minute reading doesn’t foster comprehension
    Try it yourself. Pick up a new book and read for 10 minutes, then mark your place and put it away. The next day, pick up the same book and begin reading where you left off—don’t reread—for 10 minutes. Do the same thing for a third day, and when you put the book down, write a short summary of the story. The fourth day, start a brand new book at the beginning and read for 25-30 minutes, then write a short summary of the new story. Compare the two summaries: you’ll shake your head at the shallow understanding those short reading periods gave you and how much more you got out of the longer sustained reading session. You’ll also want to continue reading that second book!
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  • 10-minute reading doesn’t build reading endurance
    When we reverted back to our regular library visits with DEAR Time, kids would look at the clock after 8 or 9 minutes to see if the “10 minutes” they’d gotten used to was over—and then they’d get restless and disruptive. Even upper grades who had enjoyed extended reading in prior years did this. We cajoled and stuck with it–providing the same long DEAR Time in classrooms in the off weeks–and eventually students settled into reading for 25-30 minutes.

So ended our experiment with daily reading as a “bell-ringer” activity. In all fairness, the workshop model is intended to provide lengthier reading times, but all too often teachers make “reading workshop” into chopped-up text analysis instead of free reading and an ending summation activity.

DON’T FIGHT CLASSROOM LIBRARIES – SUPPORT THEM

I rarely purchase more than 2 hardback copies of any book, even if popular, because extra copies sit on the shelf after the first burst of interest and are weeded for non-circulation within a couple years. I’m happy to have teachers build classroom libraries with several paperback copies of best sellers. By the time popularity wanes, the books are worn out and latecomers are satisfied by the 2 library copies.

Classroom libraries mean fewer intermittent book checkouts, but those aren’t a huge contributor to circulation. With nascent classroom libraries, teachers limited students to 1 book at a time from their shelves, and with the workshop model’s increased reading, I decided to increase book checkout limits from 2/student to 3/student and, by the end of the school year, to 4/student. Students also read during downtime in other subject areas, so by having an extra book from the school library, they can start a new story instead of waiting for ELA class or bi-weekly library visit. Continued reading increased our circulation beyond what was expected from just increasing checkout limits!

Classroom libraries did produce 2 problems for ELA teachers: lack of shelf space for books and lack of funds to keep purchasing new books. Because they were so supportive of the library program, I wanted to help:

  1. Support Classroom Libraries: An Idea for Surplus Shelves - If your school library has extra bookshelves laying around, use them for short paperback bookshelves that fit under a whiteboard. English Language Arts teachers LOVE them for classroom libraries, your principal is impressed with your initiative, and you've gotten rid of dust-catching clutter! #NoSweatLibraryFor the library’s 5-foot high bookcases I use 3 shelves for books and the bottom shelf to display new or topical books. Since each bookcase came with 5 shelves, I had more than 100 extra solid oak shelves stacked up.
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    Deciding to use these extra shelves, I designed a 6” deep, 2-shelf bookcase to fit under whiteboards in ELA classrooms. I had a high school construction class build 4 of these for each ELA teacher. You can imagine their surprise when I gave each teacher 20 feet of additional paperback shelving that didn’t eat into their classroom space!
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  2. I’d been running a school store during lunch in the cafeteria for a couple years. Priced from 25¢ to $2, students gobbled up these fun & flashy school supplies, and the income purchased more supplies. Still, I had accumulated some significant profits, so I decided to donate $385 of school store profits to the ELA department to purchase new books for their classroom libraries.
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    If ELA teachers were delighted with the bookshelves, they were over-the-moon about the money! They met at our local brand-name bookstore that very weekend and chose dozens of new books–substantially discounted, thanks to a supportive store manager. They praised students for helping to get those books by supporting the school store, and my business boomed even more during ensuing weeks. At the end of the school year I donated another $160 to ELA teachers.

The point here is, instead of complaining about classroom libraries, I found a way to solve the problems my ELA colleagues were having with this curricular change. Instead of a drop in circulation, ELA teachers were even more consistent about bringing students to the library and my circulation soared!

INTEGRATED THEMATIC LIBRARY “WORKSHOP” LESSONS

School Librarians Can Re-align Library Lessons to Fit a Workshop Model - The 4 Instructional Activities of my Library Lesson Planner align with the 4 steps of the Workshop model. Through collaboration with ELA teachers, each literary text unit now has meaningful Library Lessons that align with classroom learning and ensure continued library visits. #NoSweatLibraryIn its simplest form, the workshop model has 4 parts: opening, mini-lesson, work time, and debriefing. This coordinates with the 4 instructional steps of my Library Lesson Planner: direct instruction, modeling & guided practice, independent practice, and sharing & reflecting, so I configure our library visits as Reader Writer Workshops:

Warm-up – I share Learning Targets and allow for the return of books.
Mini-LessonDirect Instruction and Modeling & guided practice to the whole class.
Workshop is Independent practice. Usually we have Reader Workshop where students browse for new books and have DEAR Time free reading. Sometimes the lesson is Writer Workshop where students complete an activity.
Sharing & reflecting – The last several minutes of the period is our by-table book checkout and I can talk to each student about the books they’ve chosen.

With the first Library Orientation visit, 6g ELA teachers liked my adoption of the Workshop model, but I knew I could do more. I studied the new scope & sequence, and I could see opportunities for Library Lessons that would provide a more enriching experience covering the entire class period.

Teachers and I collaborated to customize Library Lessons with Literary Text Unit Themes and integrate their classroom learning activities into a full-period Library Lesson visit. The new Library Lessons are spread out over the entire unit, yet we still allow plenty of time for book browsing and silent reading. Because we collaborated, English Language Arts is intricately woven into every-other-week library visits, and the content and pacing of curriculum is not just preserved, but enhanced.

I’ve adapted 6th grade Literary Text Units for use by any middle school librarian. Units for Narrative text, Expository text, and Persuasion units are available from No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store. A poetry unit is under construction.

MAKE EVERY LIBRARY VISIT IRREPLACEABLE

I clarify that my school library program wasn’t negatively impacted by the workshop model and classroom libraries for 3 reasons:

  • We’d already established regularly scheduled library visits with silent reading every other week for all ELA classes.
  • I’d already created short Library Lessons for some visits that supported classroom learning.
  • The strong relationship between School Librarian and English Language Arts teachers prompted collaboration to overcome the deficiencies of the workshop curricular plan.

The School Library can’t just be about reading books. School Librarians need to rigorously contribute to student learning by fully integrating Library Lessons into all subject curricula. Otherwise, we can’t lament a lack of appreciation for the library when curriculum changes affect our circulation.

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How to Build a High Quality, Standards-Based School Library Lesson

How to Build a High Quality, Standards-Based School Library Lesson - At first glance, the complexity of my FREE Library Lesson Planner can be daunting compared to other lesson plan templates. Let me take you step-by-step through each section so you'll understand what it does and why this process is important. #NoSweatLibraryA school librarian may see young children every week, but the older students become, the less we see them, maybe only a few times a year. Fortunately, we have most of these students over a 3-5 year period, depending on whether we are an elementary, middle, or high school librarian.

We can scaffold short lessons throughout the school year, so by the time students leave us, they’ve mastered what they need for their next stage of library use. The question is, how best to do that? How can we build high quality, standards-based library lessons? I’m here to tell you: DON’T start with library curriculum—start with everyone else’s curriculum!

CREATE A CURRICULUM MATRIX

School Librarians are masters at integrating Library Information Literacy Skills into any subject. To do that, we don’t need to know the depth of a subject as teachers do, but rather, we need to look at the breadth of subject curricula and determine when students are likely to benefit from a library lesson.

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

I’ve written about my Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix and how I use that visual organizer to plan when each subject area needs a Library Lesson and what Info-Lit skills students are likely to need. The next step is to develop the actual lesson plan.

You’re thinking, “Wait, shouldn’t we collaborate with the teacher first?” Uh, NO. In my experience, teachers who are unfamiliar with librarian collaboration can’t envision how we might help them. But, they will consider a library visit if we show them how we’ll enhance their classroom learning. Thus, we need to bring them something concrete, a printed example of how we’re using their content to teach library skills. So before approaching them, we need to build the Library Lesson Plan.

MAKE LESSONS SHORT AND USEFUL

Think back to your college courses: 60 minutes, 2 or 3 a day, maybe 2-4 times per week—intervals of learning and study. Now think of your last education PD: two 3-hour sessions with a few 10-15 minute breaks and a lengthy lunchtime, and when the day is over we’re exhausted.

These two contrasting incidents are within our own discipline with which we’re familiar, yet we expect kids aged 5-18 to spend 7 hours a day, 5 days in a row, learning new information in 6 or 7 or 8 subjects with a 3-5 minute break and 30 minutes for lunch…and we wonder why they can’t pay attention and don’t remember all that wonderful stuff we tell them!

This is an even more important consideration for a Library Lesson, because we rarely see students on a daily basis. If we want students to learn and remember, we need to make each lesson memorable.

  • First, teach only the information or skill they need for the task at hand.
  • Second, kids remember something they DO, so give them an activity that allows them to practice what they learn.

MY LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER

Through my 25 years in classroom and library I’ve used many different lesson plan forms, depending on what the district specified, the principal wanted, the teachers used, or the library director liked. I tried all the “best” models for lesson planning, but they all had flaws when planning library lessons.

The AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action has a lesson template (p.116) that inspired me to combine the best of other planners and create my own. I’ve written about my Library Lesson Planner but its complexity can be daunting compared to other lesson plan templates. Let me take you step-by-step through it so you’ll understand what each section does and why it’s important to follow this process.

NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Template - page 1

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NoSweat Library Lesson Planner - page 2

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LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER – OPENING SUMMARY

The top section of the Library Lesson Planner gives a summary of the classroom topic, why students will benefit from a library visit, and what the Library Lesson is about. We use our curriculum matrix to fill out this section, because we’ve already compacted into that the information from the subject area scope and sequence document.

Image of my Library Lesson Planner - Summary section

By starting with a clear purpose for the library visit we can keep it clearly in mind throughout our planning process. Showing just this part to an open-minded teacher could persuade them to schedule a library visit, but for most we’ll need more. It is, however, an ideal quick-planner to fill in when a teacher approaches us about a library visit. I print 2/sheet and cut in half to keep handy at the circulation desk when teachers walk in. (You can also find this on my FREE Librarian Resources page.)

LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER – SECTION 1: DESIRED RESULTS

We know it’s important to start with the end in mind, answering the question, “What do we want students to understand and be able to do by the end of the lesson?” Begin with Subject Standards for the classroom lessons with which we’ll correlate our library lesson. (We can also add Technology Standards that apply to the lesson and/or the final product.) When we use Subject Standards as the foundation of the library lesson, we show the teacher that we are enhancing their subject material…plus it keeps us focused on integrating library skills into classroom learning.

Image of NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Template Section 1: Desired Results (Standards, Understandings, Key Questions, Objectives, Vocabulary)

Next enter any National School Library Standards that are pertinent to the Subject and to our preliminary ideas for the lesson. Enter more than can be completed during the actual lesson, and as you work through this section, decide which are imperative and delete those that aren’t.

Start With Subject Standards When Planning School Library Lessons - School Library Lessons integrate perfectly with classroom learning when we begin our planning with Subject Standards. Use my FREE Library Lesson Planner Template to do it the right way: backward planning from Standards to Assessment to Instruction. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #librarylesson #standardsFrom Subject and NSLS Standards, we derive the entries for each following field, incorporating at least one entry that addresses the Subject Standards, to connect what students are learning between library and classroom. Since each field builds upon the previous one, we refine the Library Lesson to those essentials of both Subject and Information Literacy that fulfill the purpose of the visit.

From chosen Standards, construct 2 or 3 Long-Term Understandings; these are the “big ideas” we want students to remember and apply to future learning. From the understandings create 2 or 3 Key Questions that focus on the content needed to attain those understandings.

From the questions generate the ‘answers’ that “Students will know” by the end of the lesson, that is, the specific Content Objectives for both Subject and Info-Lit. Finally, from Objectives choose the Critical Concepts and Vocabulary to emphasize during the lesson. These last two fields—objectives and concepts/vocabulary—help us build the teaching and learning activities in Section 3, but going through this process first—Standards to Vocabulary—ensures that the lesson is truly worthwhile.

LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER – SECTION 2: ASSESSMENT EVIDENCE

How will we know the Desired Results listed in Section 1 have been achieved unless we have some evidence? More specifically, we must give the teacher something on which to base a daily grade that demonstrates student learning. This section, more than any other part of the lesson plan, will convince a teacher to collaborate with us because they now have documented accountability for “deviating” from their own lesson plan.

Image of NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Section 2: Assessment

Performance Tasks—what “Students will be able to do”—must be specific and measurable. For this entry I still use Benchmarks from Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action that relate to the Library Standards chosen in Section 1. I may also include Behaviors from the Dispositions or Responsibilities Indicators.

The Final Product and Product criteria may already be specified by subject curriculum or the teacher’s lesson plan. That student product may indeed be a good one; however, it’s typically conceived by teachers who don’t have the background in Information Literacy (planning, problem-solving, research, resources, media and technology) that school librarians have. Therefore, we must conscientiously fill in this section to be sure the final product and its criteria are both authentic and possible with our library resources.

We can translate Technology Standards from Section 1 into Technology Integration criteria, then add that and our Info-Lit criteria to Product criteria—teachers appreciate seeing these written down to include in their rubrics and checklists.

If it’s difficult to coordinate entries in this section, we need to reconsider what the teacher is expecting students to accomplish and suggest an alternative product. Because we use their Subject Standards as the foundation for building our lesson, new product and performance task suggestions are more readily accepted by the teacher.

LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER – SECTION 3: INSTRUCTION & LEARNING PLAN

While working through the preceding sections, we’ve begun to accumulate ideas for this section, and possibly written some down. The top areas that list student resources and teaching aids, such as handouts, online sites, equipment, and examples, means we can quickly glance here the day before the visit to be sure we have everything ready when students arrive.

Image of NoSweat Library Lesson Planner - Section 3a (Student resources, Instructor resources)

Now we’re ready for Instructional Activities—exactly what we teach and what students do. I like to have a Theme for each library visit, related to a Key Question. Learning Targets and Differentiation Strategies are typical requirements in most schools/districts nowadays. A learning target is simply a student-friendly version of an objective from Section 1.

Image of NoSweat Library Lesson Planner - Section 3b,c (Instructional Activities, Differentiation strategies)

Library visits are rarely contiguous, often days—or even weeks—apart, so each Library Lesson visit must cover a complete lesson cycle. The AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action template (p.116) is perfect for a library visit: Direct instruction, Modeling & guided practice, Independent practice, Sharing & reflecting.

The prompts from other lesson planning tools such as UbD, UDL, and 4MAT help me formulate my lesson activities, and I delete the prompts after I’ve completed each part. If I have a slide presentation, I use the Notes feature to write my speaking script so I only have to write the Slide# on the lesson planner with follow-up actions for the slide.
(I use PrimoPDF to convert the Notes to a PDF and print it out to use during the presentation.)

Because this lesson planner lends itself to single lesson or whole unit planning, we can use the Instructional Activities section for one or for multiple library visits. If I have multiple visits, I copy & paste a new Visit Theme-through-lesson cycle below the first, then add a number to each: Visit #1 Theme…, Visit #2 Theme….

LIBRARY LESSON PLANNER – SECTION 4: REFLECTIONS & EVALUATION

After presenting a lesson we always think of ways to make it better, so a section to record problems encountered or suggestions for improvement means we won’t forget them when we prepare the lesson the following school year.

Image of NoSweat Library Lesson Planner - Section 4 (Reflections and evaluation)

BACKWARD PLANNING IS WORTH IT

Use Backward Planning with my FREE School Library Lesson Planner Template - By starting with Subject Standards and progressing through each hierarchical step, we enrich our School Library Lessons with more meaningful and authentic elements. My Library Lesson Planner is available from my FREE Librarian Resources page as an editable MS docx or as a printable PDF. #NoSweatLibraryThis may seem like a lot of work for a single 40-50 minute lesson, but taking time for detailed planning—even more time than the actual lesson takes—makes a better lesson and makes us a better teacher-librarian. By starting with Subject Standards and going through each hierarchical step to the specific actions students will take, we enrich our original idea with more meaningful and authentic elements.

A teacher will surely be impressed with our efforts, and once we’ve completed and refined the lesson, it’s useful for many years. Using the Library Lesson Planner, alongside the Library Lesson Matrix, for all our lessons can positively influence our entire school library program.

My Library Lesson Planner is available as a digital editable MS docx from my Free Librarian Resources page. If you have questions about my Library Lesson Planner or how to use it, feel free to put them in the Comments below!

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