We 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.
FROM SERVICE-BASED TO PRODUCT-BASED THINKING
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.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ESSENTIAL LESSONS
Librarians 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!
THE LIBRARY LESSON CURRICULUM MATRIX
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.
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.
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.