It is a snow day (or more specifically an ice day) for my district. Which means, I am home, planning lessons, cleaning out email, learning from #ncsnowchat, and reflecting on my teaching. I’m in the process of putting together a large research process unit and activity for 4th and 5th grade. While I should spend my afternoon delving in the curriculum and ensuring standards are in the project, I am reflecting on my library program and it’s importance to the school. In particular, I am thinking about a question posed by one of our district library coordinators. Just as I sitting down to eat lunch, I looked at my phone. There in my Twitter feed was this profound question: How does your school library program model global literacy at your school? So much for digestion and a quality nap I had planned. Work on my unit has also ceased. My mind is swirling with am I doing enough and have I designed my library program to model global literacy?
In order to quiet my mind, I need research. Off to ALA’s (American Library Association) website I go. There I find two articles that have begun to frame this question for me: The ParentAdvocate Toolkit and Who School Librarians Are and Learning4Life. According to the former, school librarians empower students to become:
- Critical thinkers
- Enthusiastic readers
- Skillful researchers
- Ethical users of information
It is easy for me to check off each one saying of course I do that but do I really? I need to further examine my instruction. At staff meetings, teachers in my building are presenting how they infuse the 4Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) into instruction. When I look at my instruction, I easily can see how I’ve embedded the first 3 Cs. But I need to better target critical thinking not just relying that it comes as a byproduct from higher order questioning or a particular research project. The unit I am currently designing focuses on helping students to better evaluate research tools, hone research skills, determine appropriateness and application of information, and teaches ethical use. Therefore it does hit on Critical Thinking. But as I build the unit’s mini-lessons and formative assessments, I need to ensure I am targeting critical thinking. My previous school had created definitions and posters for each of the 4Cs as applied to our school’s STEM focus. Pointing to the posters helped me remind students and myself the importance of thinking critically. While I cannot use those posters, I can create a visual to help me to teach the 4Cs—especially critical thinking—as I go through this research unit.
As already mentioned, this new unit hits squarely into cultivating skillful researchers and ethically using information. I believe these are strengths within my typical instruction and can often be found infused within my lessons.
That leaves enthusiastic readers. While I have not ventured to genre-fying the library and I am not sure if I agree with the process, I do have some special collections. Certainly, Mr. Dewey would be unhappy with my library shelves and design. The shelves are messy because I am a “close enough” shelver. This means weather is in the “weather section” but believe when I tell you 551.5 and 551.6 are completely mixed and I am embarrassed to discuss the 560s. But Dewey would not like my “popular series” or “graphic novels” sections. I have pulled particular and more popular books for these sections. Yes, I have heard they are “gateways” to more enriching literature but who is to say these books are not already enriching? I want my students to have quick and easy access to books they want. This is an on demand generation. My library needs to help and it does. But I know I need to help students find the other 80% of the collection more easily. I need to create better signage and teach browsing. But in the meantime, I know they are reading and using the library.
So I realize that I can technically check off each of the four areas but I know that I have more work in each area. As a teacher-librarian, I know we never stop learning, growing, improving and I have much to learn, grow, and improve. This is certainly true when I broaden the term “literacy” to go beyond books. There are so many tools and resources online. The amount is suffocating if I were to constantly jump from one to another to the next new thing. But I know that I have developed patterns and habits. Even with this unit I am currently creating. As I build it and find resources to introduce to students, I need to remember to not rely on my “old standbys” but look for something that helps me grow and learn as well. I need to think about what skills my students already have and what skills I want to cultivate. So they will not receive paper for this unit. All handouts will be Google Docs, their work will also be in Google Docs. Students will use my website to find all web resources and library catalog. And as I write this reflection, I realize I need to allow time for creative expression. At the end of the unit, I want student groups to indicate which resource they found to be most useful and why it is to them. I now envision students using an online tool to create a visual or presentation to share with the class and beyond. While I am globally connected, I want to give my students the opportunity to be as well. This unit might be the first step.OK, so I am inspired! A spark is lit to ensure this unit hits the 4 areas ALA and incorporates communication literacy and visual literacy in a presentation. I need to plan.
Please share any thoughts or ways in which your library is a model for global literacy at your school?