School librarians, along with Principals and Curriculum Coordinators, are the only people in the school who work with all of the curriculum across all grades. Leverage this opportunity to lead.
Just-In-Time Research Skills
Beyond the Research Paper
The best method for teaching research skills to students is via collaboration with faculty.
Students learn best when given “just-in-time” research skills instruction, as opposed to “just-in-case” instruction.
Use a short “Content Area Research Rubric” to share with teachers across grade levels and subjects. Try to make sure that all parts of the research process are covered by a variety of classes and that students hear a consistent message coming from across the disciplines. It's exciting to see the language used in English is now used in Wellness and Science and Social Studies, etc. Students are now finding evidence to support their claims, rather than searching the Internet for topics.
Take time to remind all of our faculty (through staff meeting presentations, PLC collaboration, quick emails, or one-on-one discussions) about the Common Core Standards that address Research literacy. See "Research Standards" for your grade levels on the top of this page.
Oftentimes frequent research gets sidelined in the classroom because of the amount of time it takes to write, revise, and publish a research paper. While writing research papers is critical for our students, smaller and more regular research projects can take on a variety of forms, and short, frequent research projects help solidify student skills.
Podcasts. Integrating narrative elements in student writing, allows for students to focus their research on a small, meaningful task. Use podcasts like The Memory Palace for history classes and Minute Earth for science classes as models for how students can do bursts of research and publish their work for a greater audience.
Infographics. Visuals are wonderful ways for students to display facts they have uncovered through the inquiry process and wonderful for web publication. The Civil War 150 Infographic is one of our students’ favorites (as is this very cool site that explains how the infographic came to be). There are many great tools for students to use when creating infographics--and most of them are easy to navigate without a great deal of frontloading.
miniTEDtalks. Encourage students to break away from boring research presentations filled with regurgitative slides to meaningful miniTEDtalks that have a clearly stated thesis.
PSAs. Health classes can make powerful video PSAs that integrate research with message. These can be video or audio messages, hosted on school websites or YouTube channels.
The Importance of a Reading Culture
There is no greater correlation between student achievement in literacy than the amount of independent reading a student does. As the librarian, we are at the forefront of literacy practices and must do everything we can to cultivate a reading culture in our schools.
Choice in reading. When we ask students when they stopped loving reading, most of them tell us it is when they stopped having choice in what they read. Share Penny Kittle’s work on implementing free choice at the high school level or Donalyn Miller’s books for middle and elementary school. Read Kelly Gallagher’s Readacide and start up professional conversations about the research presented on the importance of choice in the English classroom. Ask a teacher if they are willing to embark on an action research project with you--and see if you can undertake a reading workshop model to gather data. Slowly introduce the idea of choice in reading to your staff and see if they will maybe shift to a unit or semester of it.
Book clubs. When running a book club, you need to get the word out to everyone. Instead of promoting your book to the kids who have historically joined book club, visit every single classroom during first period once a month and talk up the next read. Every month you will be surprised by a new reader. Sometimes kids may take the book and never come to book club, but stop in and say they’ve read the whole thing. Some kids don’t end up reading it. But even so, the culture has been set--it was cool to take that book in the first place. Seeds were planted. By regular classroom visits and signs in the hallway, book club will become a piece of your culture.
Visiting authors. Invite local and national authors into your library in person or via Skype to work with and talk books with students. When kids see their authors as people, they are inspired to understand that as a career path. It makes the unknown normal and it makes writing cool. Students love hearing about the research that goes into even their fiction books, and so it is also an excellent segue into a research lifestyle.
Just in time purchases. You know the kid: he is in the library because his teacher is making him read, yet none of the 20,000 titles in the book interest him. Ask him (or her) what he does like. And then jump on Amazon with him and start searching. Buy him a book right there. When students see that you are stocking the shelves for them, they are invested in the library. It may mean you have some unexpected titles on Welding or Video Game Design, but you also have students who are ready to come back and find something, because they trust that you are going to put the right thing in their hands.
Curating resources for classes is something librarian’s have always done. We were developing our collections and putting materials on reserve long before the development of digital curation tools. Most of us probably started curating information when we made our first mixed tape for our best friend in middle school. But times have changed! We now have access to services like Pinterest, Libguides, and Scoop.It making curation both easy and fun. However, we need to continue to be mindful and reflective of the resources we post for our students and faculty. Before adding a link to your school library website ask yourself these questions:
Benefit: Does it benefit my students and faculty? Or is it just another link to a basic website on the topic? Look for the best of the web before you share anything with your students. Consider how each link could increase student achievement. It’s not about putting up the most links on a page, it’s about putting the up the most-beneficial links.
Google it: Could they have found it with a basic Google search? If you are curating information on the Renaissance and you search for “Renaissance” in Google and provide a link to one of the resources on the first two results pages, you are linking to something your students could have easily found. Try advanced searches for high quality, academic focused websites.
Reading level: Is it an appropriate reading level? And, are there
alternatives for challenging advanced students and for providing access to lower-level students? Ideally, links would be provided at three different reading levels: basic, grade-level, and advanced.
Evaluation: Have the links been fully vetted? evaluated? verified? It is vital that we check, double-check, and triple-check the validity of sites we are sending our students to. Bias, political slants, satire, and religious beliefs are definite red flags. At times we are directing classes to sources that contain bias, but it is crucial that we explain the context and the circumstance for the link.
Purpose: What is the purpose of the links you are curating? This is a big one. Are students looking for evidence from a source? or are they gathering background information on a topic? Are you providing links to databases where they can do their own research? Or linking them directly to a source? This is a great opportunity to talk to the teachers and get a full understanding of the assignment before embarking on a fruitless mission to fill up an unused LibGuide.
Currency: Are the links current? Once you curate resources for a project, it’s convenient to be able to use them semester after semester. However, check to be sure that links are still active and that there is not a better, more recent resource to add to or replace links.