5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 3 Information Literacy

5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 3 Information Literacy - Our students need to be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies and School Librarians can integrate a Library Literacy component into any class visit. In Part 3 we look at Information Literacy Skills: problem-solving models, search & evaluation strategies, and academic honesty. #NoSweatLibraryIn our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, literacy is no longer just knowing how to read and write. Students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies to be successful in our global society:

  1. Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  2. Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  3. Information Literacy (the library curriculum)
  4. Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  5. Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered Reading Literacy and Content/Disciplinary Literacy, so this post looks at Information Literacy.


In its new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) defines information literacy as “knowing when and why information is needed, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use, and communicate it in an ethical manner.” (p 277) We can embody this definition in our Library Lessons using these 3 Components for Information Literacy:

  • Research Process Models help students plan a project, determine sources of information and select materials, synthesize information, create a unique product, and reflect on product and process.
  • Search and Evaluation Skills help students find, access, and evaluate resources in a variety of formats.
  • Academic Honesty & Note-taking give students an understanding of, and respect for, intellectual property, copyright, and fair use when extracting & using information, creating work products and presenting results.


How School Librarians Can Overcome the Obstacles of Info-Lit Integration - Here's how one School Librarian overcomes the 3 obstacles to integrating information literacy with classroom activities: embedded curriculum, arbitrary library visits, and collaboration ignorance. #NoSweatLibraryWe School Librarians face several obstacles to teaching Information Literacy Components to our students:

  • The Information Literacy curriculum is often embedded into subject curricula, but not identified as taught by the School Librarian.
  • Class library visits are arbitrary and haphazard, making consistency and continuity of lessons difficult.
  • Teachers are ignorant about collaboration with a school librarian or have had negative experiences.

To overcome these obstacles, our Information Literacy lessons need to be short purposeful chunks that provide only what students need for the assignment. Such lessons encourage teachers to collaborate often so we can scaffold the necessary Info-Lit skills for each grade level through the school year. I’ve written previously about my Library Curriculum Matrix, an organization tool I use to plan & track my lessons, so let’s look at some specific strategies we can use for each Information Literacy component.


I’ve used many Research Process Models, and each has its benefits and flaws, but all can achieve our goal to develop a problem-solving mindset in students. Some models have more steps, some fewer, but all research process models have 4 basic phases:NoSweat Research Process Models Comparison Chart- image

  1. plan
  2. aggregate materials & information
  3. create a product
  4. evaluate outcome.

Download my FREE chart of research process models to choose a model most suited to grade level, subject, and assignment. To make the process clear and understandable, give students an infographic of the model. I use just 2 simple models for 6th graders and scaffold the planning process throughout the school year. During 7th & 8th grades I present more models, so before they leave our campus, students have learned how to use a variety of research processes.

Teachers rarely include planning as part of a research assignment—students have a single topic, gather the same information, and regurgitate the same product. We can change that by showing teachers quick planning strategies to incorporate into a library visit. Simple brainstorming with Post-It® Notes, a Thinking Map Circle©, or a KWL chart stimulates students to think in terms of problem-solving and are quick & easy ways to begin a project.

image of 6 Question Research Topic PlannerUse a graphic organizer to help students formulate questions for research. Questions also help students sift through resources for specific information, and because they require analysis and decision-making, they form that problem-solving mindset. Here are 4 graphic organizers I’ve used to generate questions:

The plan phase of a Research Process Model is followed by the aggregate materials & information phase, and we move seamlessly into that Info-Lit component when presenting resources students can use for their assignment.


We need to teach students 3 different elements of this Info-Lit component: source selection, search strategies, and resource evaluation.

Clipped KWHL chart for Alternative Energy Research unit.

Source selection may be proscribed by the teacher, the grade level, or the assignment. Based on the type of resources students need, we may offer a book-cart of library materials, an online Resource List of Web-based sources, or expand a KWL chart by adding How (as shown at right) to make a KWHL chart listing a variety of resources.

Convince students they will “save time and find better information” by using subscription databases and e-books provided by the state and school district. I use this 2½-minute video from Yavapai College: “What Are Databases and Why You Need Them.” If you really want to convince students, mention that they don’t have to evaluate these sources since they’ve already been approved!

My own Keyword Search Form with search modifiers.

Keyword search form

The most important lesson we can teach students about search strategies is how to generate keywords. For a quick lesson students can write keywords on a Post-It® Note (which can be used as an Exit Ticket!). When we use a graphic organizer—such as the KWHL above—have students highlight or underline important words in their questions. To help students master the basics, download my keyword search form and provide it at library computers to reinforce the importance of keywords.

Pre-HS students don’t need to know the term “Boolean operators, as long as they know how to use them. I include the search modifiers AND-OR-NOT on infographics, in graphic organizers, and as part of my keyword search form.

We can quickly teach students to sift top-level domain extensions when searching the free Web by typing site:gov, site:edu, or site:org into the search field of a search engine.

ABC: A Simple Acronym For Website Evaluation - Website evaluation is a topic with many checklists and acronyms. To keep things quick, easy, and memorable, use this simple 3-letter “ABC” acronym which is enough for evaluating the quality of any resource. #NoSweatLibraryThis is a perfect segue into resource evaluation, a topic with many Internet checklists and acronyms. To keep things quick, easy, and memorable, I use this simple 3-letter “ABC” acronym which I believe is enough for evaluating the quality of any resource:

  • Authority — Who is the source of the information?
  • Bias — Why is this published, for what purpose?
  • Currency — When was this information published or updated?

You may wonder why I don’t have all the criteria other evaluators use:

  • I don’t include validity/usefulness, because it’s implied when students select sources that answer the planning questions for their topic. If a source doesn’t provide answers to any questions, they don’t need to evaluate it; if it does, then they use ABC.
  • I don’t include reliability, because it’s part of Currency and Authority. If the site creator has the proper authority, then we can accept it as reliable.
  • I don’t include accuracy, because that can’t take place until the “create” phase, when students analyze and compare information after it’s been aggregated from sources. If the information isn’t accurate, the source isn’t used.

Part of the aggregate materials & information phase of a research process model is extracting information from chosen sources, and that’s when we discuss Academic Honesty Guidelines & Note-taking Skills with students.


It’s important to give students an understanding of, and respect for, intellectual property & fair use so they legally access and ethically use information & media, and properly cite copyrighted text, images, music, and video to avoid plagiarism or piracy when producing their end product. For years I struggled through these lessons, but as soon as I began to use the phrase “academic honesty,” students became more positive toward these lessons—I believe it empowers students to meet high standards and builds their self-esteem.

A previous blog post about how I teach Academic Honesty includes examples and resources, but here’s a quick overview of the 3 conceptual elements of Academic Honesty, organized in the order that best complements the problem-solving mindset we’re trying to implant in students:

  1. The Academic Honesty Bundle at No Sweat Library on Teachers Pay TeachersIntellectual property – creations of the mind that belong to the originator or other designated owner.
    1. Citation
    2. Bibliography
  2. Copyright – legal rights given to owners of creative work so it can’t be used or stolen by others.
    1. Note-taking by quoting/paraphrasing, in-document citation
    2. Note-taking by summarizing
  3.  Fair Uselimited legal use of copyrighted material.
    1. Public domain – works whose intellectual property rights/copyrights are expired, given up, or excluded.
    2. Creative Commons
  4. Plagiarismpresenting someone else’s words, ideas, or creative expressions as one’s own. An ethical (not a legal) issue of academic dishonesty/fraud.

This conceptual separation of Academic Honesty can allow us to incorporate a short lesson on any concept throughout the school year.


Research process models, search and evaluation skills, and academic honesty complete the Library Information Literacy curriculum, but in our modern technological and global world students need more. Technology skills are crucial for future schooling and employment, and students also need to learn how to ethically interact with and evaluate all the media around us, so come back for Parts 4 & 5 of Essential Literacies as I offer ideas for incorporating digital literacy and media literacy into library visits.

This is the third entry in my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.

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Research Process Models

You can find the Research Processes chart & keyword search form on my FREE Librarian Resources page.
 NoSweat Research Process Models Comparison Chart- image

My own Keyword Search Form with search modifiers.

Keyword search form

The 6-Question Research Topic Planner mentioned above can be downloaded free by joining my e-Group mailing list. Click on the invitation below. You can find the Notetaking Worksheet mentioned above at No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store.
image of 6 Question Research Topic Planner NoSweat Research Notetaking Worksheet available on my TeachersPayTeachers Store
You can find my 4 Academic Honesty lessons featured in NoSweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store.

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School Librarians Can Use Professional Development to Create “Essential” Lessons

School Librarians Can Use Professional Development to Create "Essential" Lessons - Teachers have "essential" lessons for CCSS, C3SS, and NGSS, but where are those for Information Literacy skills? School Librarians can use professional development to create Essential Lessons that integrate library skills with subject area classroom learning to enhance student achievement. #NoSweatLibraryWe who are School Librarians moved from classroom to library because we wanted to have a greater impact on all students in all subject areas. We are eager to collaborate with teachers—the reason a school needs a certified School Librarian—but we soon discover we’re the only ones who know that collaboration is supposed to happen.

Alas, most teachers and administrators view us as merely a paraprofessional who checks out books, and we lament that teachers don’t make time to collaborate. Well, we learned about teacher-librarian collaboration during our library coursework, so we can’t expect other classroom teachers to know about it either. 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 advocating this way for years and no one understands us; I believe it’s because we offer collaboration as a “service.” Teachers are already overwhelmed with curriculum, grades, parent communication, IEPs, school meetings, and other duties when they aren’t working with students. Why would we expect them to set aside time to meet with us when we have nothing concrete to offer them?

Instead, let’s offer a specific “product” to teachers—an integrated Library Lesson that gives students an Information Literacy Skill and the teacher a better learning plan. Further, let’s offer not just any lesson, but an integrated Library Lesson for one of their “essential” lessons.

Classroom teachers have “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 don’t have to know why these lessons are considered “essential” in order to integrate library skills into at least a few of them. And we don’t have to do it alone.


PD & "Essential" School Library Lessons Ensure Student Success - School Librarians can use professional development to integrate Information Literacy skills into subject area "essential" lessons and increase student achievement. #NoSweatLibraryLibrarians in my school district have mapped out library skills at each grade level, building advanced skills from one grade to the next. This K-12 Information Literacy Scope and Sequence, coordinated with National School Library Standards, guides us as we create lessons for any grade, any subject. It doesn’t, however, ensure that all kids in X grade learn what they need to prepare them for X+1 grade because it’s hard to convince teachers to allocate time for a library visit to serve our needs. Thus we’ve begun to use our professional development meetings to make “essential” lessons of various subject areas even more “Essential” by integrating information literacy skills.

Since Info-Lit skills are applicable across all content, we first identify each grade’s “essential” lessons for each subject area throughout the school year. Then we determine where we can integrate the introduction, reinforcement, and mastery of grade-specific library skills with the subject-area lesson. 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 Info-Lit Skill Y into Teacher A’s English/Language Arts “essential” lesson,
  • reinforce Info-Lit Skill Y through Teacher B’s Social Studies “essential” lesson, and
  • help students master Info-Lit Skill Y during Teacher C’s Science “essential” lesson.

This type of scaffolding is familiar to classroom teachers, and they will understand us scaffolding our Essential Lessons into their “essential” lessons, rather than teaching a discrete lesson for a random classroom activity. As we use our professional development to create more Essential Library Lessons, we’re improving student achievement, increasing use of the library and its resources, and enhancing our visibility in the school. We owe it to our teachers and our students—and ourselves—to do this!


My Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Composite example of an older version for the 1st grading period.I’ve written about my Curriculum Matrix and how I use it to create my Library Lessons. I actually began it during my second year in the school library. It has been so successful a way to scaffold my lessons and market specific lessons to teachers, that now my teachers seek me out for a library lesson if they even sniff an opportunity to visit the library during their units. The image at right is the overview tab of my Matrix spreadsheet.

Other spreadsheets in my Library Lesson Matrix I also have a tab 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.

Finally, I have a tab 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.

I encourage you to create your own Library Curriculum Matrix and look for which “essential” lessons of your subject area teachers can become Essential Library Lessons.


“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.

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