How a School Librarian Responds to Teacher Requests & Lesson Ideas

How a School Librarian Responds to Teacher Requests & Lesson Ideas - Every school librarian experiences the teacher who comes in with an idea for a library visit—something from their previous school, from a book/curriculum guide, or from a meeting or conference. How do we decide whether we can accommodate this teacher's request? Here's how I do it. #NoSweat LibraryEvery school librarian experiences the teacher who comes in with a new idea for a library visit—something they did at their previous school, a suggestion from a book/curriculum guide, or a great project they heard about at a meeting or conference. How do we decide whether we can accommodate this teacher’s request? Over the years, here’s what I learned:

We can’t discourage teachers from bringing us lesson ideas, but they can’t expect us to instantly put together a lesson.

So, when a teacher approaches me about an idea, I grab a Library Lesson Request Form and use it to fill in information as they tell me their proposal. Then I ask them these 2 questions:

  1. Can I learn more about this from a book, handout, Website, or lesson plan?
  2. Can I have the rest of the day/until tomorrow/a couple days to make sure we can meet the needs of the visit?

I find that this response is better than a simple yes or no, because the teacher sees I’m taking their suggestion seriously enough to investigate it. Having some time to cogitate helps me put everything in perspective and to prepare myself for the next conversation with the teacher. When I return to them with “Yes, let’s do it!” and what we can do together (or “Sorry, this isn’t possible and here’s the reason.”), they are impressed and I create the pattern for future dialogue.


Using info on the Library Lesson Request Form, I begin my ‘thinking-time’ by asking the same question I ask for all my school library decisions: How will this impact students? How does this lesson:

  • Promote reading?
  • Promote problem-solving?
  • Support the subject and the library curriculum?

School Librarians Consider How a Teacher Request Impacts These 5 Areas - When a teacher's idea or request for a Library Lesson visit has a positive impact for students, School Librarians still need to ask how it will impact these 5 areas of the School Library. #NoSweatLibraryIf I can answer ‘Yes’ to any of those questions, I know the lesson can have a positive impact on students.

However, I also need to consider the library, so I ask myself this question: How will this lesson impact library management? How does it affect…

  • Collection development
    • Do we have the materials for the lesson?
    • If we don’t have materials, do I have enough time to gather them through Inter-Library Loan?
    • If I purchase materials, will they be used again?
  • Facility
    • Can we accommodate this lesson in the library?
    • Do we have the audio/video/digital equipment needed for the lesson?
    • Will we need to rearrange the facility or bring in anything else for the lesson?
  • Library schedule
    • How much time will students need in the library?
    • Will this be a single visit, or do we need more than that?
    • Is the teacher flexible with the timing of the visit, or must it be within a certain time frame?
  • Library Promotion
    • Do we need involvement by other teachers, administration, the district, the community?
    • Will this lesson advertise the library program in a positive way?
  • Professional development
    • Do I have the expertise to do this lesson?
    • Can I get help from another district librarian or on one of my listservs?

Answers to those questions determine preparation time/effort and whether it can be accomplished before the teacher wants the library visit. I may need to offer suggestions about how to implement or improve their original idea, which is a delicate process:

We don’t want to patronize teachers, but rather use tact to infuse their idea with what we know is best library literacy practices and guide the lesson toward student-centered inquiry.

If the lesson request is a viable one, I transfer the Request Form information to the Library Lesson Planner and fill in how I can implement the lesson.  Usually when the teacher sees my Library Lesson Plan with detailed consideration of their idea, they readily accept my suggestions and appreciate the work I’ve put into making their idea come alive.


Teacher Lesson Requests Increase Use of the School Library - Here's an example of how one teacher's 1-visit lesson idea blossomed into a collaborative unit between the School Librarian and ELA teachers lasting the entire grading period. And you can get it in my TPT store! #NoSweatLibraryOur 6g Multicultural Folktales Unit is an example of developing a lesson from a teacher request. It began as an idea from a student teacher for a single English Language Arts visit. Our collaborative lesson was so successful with students that the following year ELA teachers asked to repeat it.

I suggested, and teachers accepted, that we have a second lesson visit to enhance their unit of study. The next year I suggested a third visit where teachers could introduce the student project and take advantage of the library’s resources. This entire unit has become a truly joint-taught collaboration between 6g ELA teachers and the School Librarian.

We use multicultural folktale picture books because they can be read during a single-period library visit and even struggling readers can do the lessons. Initially I borrowed from elementary schools, but purchases now allow me to host two ELA classes together for the lessons. (Theater and art teachers also use them for projects, so they were a good investment.)

1st Library Visit
Multicultural Cinderella Double-Bubble Graphic OrganizerWe introduce plot and story elements using the fairy tale Cinderella as an “exemplar.” As the teacher presents story elements and each plot element, I read aloud the pertinent segment from the traditional Perrault Cinderella story. Then, student partners read one of the multicultural Cinderella picture books from their table and use a double-bubble graphic organizer (the daily grade) to compare/contrast story elements of the original French story with their cultural version. I have some very humorous Cinderellas, so even boys enjoy this activity.

2nd Library Visit 
Multicultural Folktales Zoom In-Zoom Out Graphic OrganizerTwo weeks later we introduce unity/diversity of cultural beliefs, customs, and traditions with the 5 types of folktales—myths, fables, legends, tall tales, and fairy tales. The activity is similar to the earlier visit, but with deeper examination of a story. Student pairs choose a folktale picture book from their table and, as they read it, use a ZIZO graphic organizer (daily grade) to “Zoom In” on cultural details of the tale and “Zoom Out” to universal ideas common to every culture.

3rd Library Visit 
At the next visit, two weeks later, I begin with the oral storytelling tradition of folktales, relating “Little Dog Turpie and the Hobyahs”, an Old English tale I learned from my grandmother, using dressed pipe-cleaner dolls as storytelling accessories (also from my grandmother). Then teachers introduce the student project using the project guide/rubric worksheet and elaborate on the presentation choices, while I show other examples so students know what is expected.

Multicultural Folktales Project Presentation Slide

Students will create their own cultural folktale, including cultural story elements and unity/diversity principles, and then present it in a unique way:

  • tell it orally with an accessory
  • create a book, handwritten or digital, with a handmade book cover
  • create a graphic novel, by hand or digitally

4th Library Visit 
About 2 weeks later students come in to present their folktale project. We begin with students seated and intersperse oral storytellers with browsing “books” on tables so students have a chance to move around. Not only do 6g ELA students enjoy this project, but it coordinates with their study of World Cultures in Social Studies.

The 7g teachers were impressed with our options and began offering similar choices for their mythology unit project: a diorama or mobile illustrating a created myth (which we display in the library), a narrated group pantomime, or a compare/contrast interview with a “mythological” actor, pop star or sports figure. The latter appeal to 7th graders, who need movement and peer interaction.

Folktales-to-Fiction Presentation SlideContinuing the “Story”
At the regular ELA book checkout following the folktale project I present to students that folktales may have “morphed” into the different subjects of our fiction literature.

Students and teachers are fascinated by this idea, as are other librarians. I don’t know if I’m right, but it excites kids into expanding their reading choices of fiction books!

Get these great “No Sweat” lessons from my TPT store!

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A School Librarian’s Favorite Library Lesson Tool: Foldables

A School Librarian's Favorite Library Lesson Tool: Foldables - Students never tire of cut-and-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool to help students compile and organize new information. Here are 4 foldables that are especially successful in my school library. #NoSweatLibraryEducators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, students never tire of good old cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool to help students compile and organize new information. In the School Library, they also provide an opportunity for students to collaborate as they learn, and foldables provide the teacher with an excellent quick assessment for a daily grade.

The vast chasm of time since I was in school prevents me remembering if foldables were part of my education, but once I discovered them as a teacher, I continually add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they stand the test of time even in our modern digitized world.


biocube for character study, adapted from ReadWriteThink.

Click to open larger image.

A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable section of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes. Instead of doing a whole class novel, she wanted each student to read an historical fiction book. I suggested that, rather than a standard book report, students could use higher-order thinking skills to create a BioCube Biography about a character in the book, and she was excited to try it.

Students use the ReadWriteThink biocube planning sheet  to gather and refine ‘biographic’ information about their book’s chosen character:

  • name and personality traits
  • personal background
  • time period and location of story
  • significance in U.S. History
  • biggest obstacle to overcome
  • important quotation from story.

I adapted the RWT cube to fit our preferences, and copied the 2”x 2”x 2” paper cube onto colorful paper. Students write the condensed information about their chosen character on each side of the cube, then cut out, fold, and paste the pattern together into a finished cube. They attach a 2-ft. length of string to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and the cubes are suspended from acoustic ceiling dividers with a bent paper clip. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for visitors to the ELA classroom.


Click to enlarge

This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher for a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library books and kits. Created with one sheet of letter-sized color paper and a second ½ sheet of a contrasting color, the foldable has front & back covers, 2 inner flaps, plus 6 woven pages that are perfect for summarizing information: 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and 2 “secret hidden” pages, as shown in the picture below.

basketweave foldable finished & showing the "magic secret pages"

Photos courtesy of Mary Williams, Math Teacher, Midlothian HS, Midlothian, VA. For more great foldables, see her blog at

In the classroom, the teacher creates learning groups and students create their book. On the left inside flap they write the 4 cultural aspects of Texas Native Nations they will explore. I prepare for Library Lesson day by organizing materials so information for each Native Nation is on a separate table. When the class arrives, each student in a group goes to a different Nation table and works with students from other groups to summarize information about each cultural aspect down one column of their foldable.

After a suitable time, we have students rejoin their original learning group. Students record information about the other 5 Texas Nations onto their foldable columns as shared by their group members. Students then collaborate to summarize, across a row, the information for each cultural aspect and record it on the right inside flap. At the end of the period, every student has the information needed to pass the open assessment given the following day, during which they can use the basket-weave.

This foldable is perfect for jigsaw learning, plus every year a few students discern the connection between using a basket-weave for learning about Native Nations. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun that students keep it long after the unit is finished, which they wouldn’t if it were just a sheet of paper.


I learned about this foldable at an International Baccalaureate workshop for Middle Years Program Librarians. It is so flexible it can be used for any subject or purpose depending on which size paper is used and how it’s folded. The original student examples I saw—for an ELA Shakespeare project and a Social Studies project—were 8½″ x 14″ paper for the accordion and construction paper for the covers.

Creating ATL Toolbooks with 6g StudentsFor a series of Library Lessons on learning skills, we use 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, with the bottom third folded up for a pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the bookends.

As I show students how to cover the index cards with paper, I mention that this is exactly how the hardback covers are made for our library books. As we glue the end segments of the folded booklet to the inside of the cards, I remark that this is the same way the endpapers of a book are pasted to the book cover. These tidbits of information always prompt a couple kids to walk over to the bookshelves and grab a book to see what I’m talking about!

At ensuing library visits I give students a small memento at the end of the lesson to put in the corresponding pocket of their booklet to remind them of their learning. Some are useful, such as a large colorful paper clip, and some are fun, like a peppermint hard candy!

Teacher's ATL Toolbook

Click to enlarge

Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created IB-MYP Toolbooks for them, which hold small brochures of information about the program’s Approaches to Learning. They love using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they can include.


Template for Teacher Flipbook

Click to enlarge.

The beauty of this foldable is that it can be as simple as a single sheet of letter-size paper glued down into an interactive notebook or as complex as the 4 sheets of 8½″ x 14″ paper I use to create my Library Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning, but a student project can be much simpler.

An easy way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the edge of the top section is offset about ½″ above the bottom edge of the back section. Add an outside page so the bottom sheet extends below the first by the same offset and fold so the top sheet ends above the first by the same offset. The tops get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively. Once the sheets are tightly creased, glue each inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this).

My Teacher Flipbook for Library & Technology ServicesFor younger middle school students we keep it very simple—just 1 or 2 sheets—and the teacher or I designate what students will write/draw on each flipsheet, but older students can plan their own publication depending on how much space they need for each part of their project. To make it especially eye-catching, students can use different colors of paper, as I often do with my Guide.


These 4 foldables have been very popular with students, and there are others I’ve used for my Library Lessons. A simple Google Image search for “foldables” can net any teacher or school librarian a myriad of great foldables to try.

Foldables have been so successful in my middle School Library that I can’t imagine they’ll ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place in education for simple cut-and-paste activities.

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