More than just answering the question “where are the Hunger Games books?”; how I wormed my way into teaching Library Skills and became part of the curriculum

I’ve been a Librarian for a long time and have seen and been a part of a lot of changes. Not only has the technology changed – sometimes right before my eyes – but everything I do is somewhat different than when I first started in this wonderful profession (36 years ago!).  I came to my current independent school via a public school where the administration’s idea of using the Library meant closing up for a breakfast or a lunch for a group of region administrators or visiting teachers.  The laminating machine was used more for covering pretty placemats than for anything else.

Imagine my joy and delight when I came to this middle school and students were in the Library – doing research, working on class notes and reading!  Teachers were bringing their students to use the books and computers.  The students were checking out books and loved talking about what was good to read. Oh, was I happy!  I also started teaching, which was something I hadn’t done in any of my previous Library positions (Law, Business, and Public Library).  The 6th grade schedule includes a rotation of classes during the last period of the day and Library Skills is a part of this plan.  The previous Librarian left a few notes, but I have changed the lessons many times over (I just improved the lessons this week!) to keep up with the current technology and current projects.  Everything was fine for a while until I started to get restless; I felt there was more I could be doing.  I wanted to get more involved with what the students were researching, showing them all the ways to use the Library as effectively as possible so they could be successful.  I wanted them to be able to know how to find information on their own. But I wasn’t sure about how to go about getting this information to them in way that would work for the teachers as well.

As luck would have it, the rotation changed and the 6th graders weren’t getting the information from the Library that they needed for their first projects of the school year.  Now there was a definite need to get the information to the students in a timely fashion so they could have the tools they needed to research and complete their first projects.  I approached the head of the English Department and asked (really begged & pleaded) to have the Library be a part of the first 6th grade project.  The teachers agreed (reluctantly).  The plan was that the students would come to the Library for 3 half day Library Lessons.  The lessons focused on where to find information and getting familiar with the Library, using search terms, plagiarism, web evaluation and bibliographies.  The lesson plans also included 2 worksheets that the students would hand into me; after grading the worksheets, the teachers would include the grade for the project.  This would insure that the students would actually pay attention while I was teaching! I also presented the information in an entertaining and informative way so that the students wouldn’t be just sitting and listening to me talk.  I began this process about 7 years ago and it has become a solid part of the English 6th grade project. The teachers now schedule time in the Library that will include the lessons for the task.  This success gave me the courage to ask all the teachers when they were scheduling Library time, “What can the Library do for your class?”, and then we give them a list of Library & Research Skills to choose. We’ve been successful and  have created lesson plans and teach for the 7th and 8th grade interdisciplinary projects, as well as creating TIP sheets (handouts that have information on using the OPAC, which databases to use for a particular project & bibliography information) that get handed to almost every teacher for almost every project that is done here at the school.  The lesson plans and TIP sheets are updated on a rotating basis and new ideas are always brought into the plans (especially after attending an AISL conference).

I’ve noticed that the students are more independent when they come to the Library to do their research, so I’m glad we pushed and pushed to get this going and have managed to keep it going.  After teaching a lesson, the teacher receives a copy of the TIP sheet, the power point, and whatever else we’ve used for the students.  My superiors also get an email with the information. The other change that has occurred is that teachers are now making sure that the Library is part of their projects, I get contacted to create a lesson and present to the students as they begin a new project.  I’m hoping that someday, the teachers will contact me as they are preparing and planning a project – one must have dreams!

For the most part, the teachers have been on board with all of this, of course, it doesn’t hurt that I thank them with homemade chocolate covered pretzels!

2 thoughts on “More than just answering the question “where are the Hunger Games books?”; how I wormed my way into teaching Library Skills and became part of the curriculum

  1. Thanks, Barbara! These are such great ideas!
    I find this sentence especially helpful, “…ask all the teachers… “What can the Library do for your class?”, and then we give them a list of Library & Research Skills to choose.”
    Might you post some of those choices to the aisl list (or here)?
    Best,
    Diane

    • Absolutely, Diane! For a basic research project we do lessons on 1) using the OPAC; 2) which databases work best for the individual project; 3) web evaluation; 4) search terms (customized for the project); 5) citations (we use Noodlebib); 6) in text citations; if the teacher needs us to get more specific for their project, they will tell us exactly what they want is to teach the students. Hope this helps!
      Barbara

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