Of Planning for Instruction

Candidates in school librarian preparation programs collaborate with the learning community to strategically plan, deliver, and assess instruction. Candidates design culturally responsive learning experiences using a variety of instructional strategies and assessments that measure the impact on student learning. Candidates guide learners to reflect on their learning growth and their ethical use of information. Candidates use data and information to reflect on and revise the effectiveness of their instruction.

American Association of School Librarians. (2019). ALA/AASL/CAEP school librarian preparation standards. ALA.

At the heart of any educational pursuit is instruction itself; and since the library is the heart of any school, instruction in the library, by the school librarian, is poised to have an incredible impact on student learning. In order to achieve this, the school librarian must reach out to other members of the learning community, seeking and suggesting opportunities for collaboration. Careful planning must occur, to ensure that national, state, and school librarianship standards are met. Moreover, the school librarian should be an intensely reflective practitioner, so as to ensure effective instruction that engages students AND models moral and responsible digital citizenship. Indeed, school librarians do so much more than checking in and shelving books.

Collaboration enables teachers to more effectively understand students, and provides the chance for team teaching and more varied instruction, which in turn provides an opportunity to better meet students’ needs.

Throughout my school librarianship experiences to date, I have attempted to integrate collaboration into lesson planning. One such lesson was “There’s Magic in the Web of It:” Spiders, Studied. The unit of study included the exploration of spider mythology and tales from different cultures (and the comparison of these to more current fiction and nonfiction that feature arachnids), direct observation of spiders (in habitats), and weaving projects.

During the course of the past several years, it has become alarmingly apparent that a crisis of content consciousness has arisen. Many people--both adults and children alike--are unable to discern between fact and opinion or determine whether or not information is accurate or heavily biased.

Words and terminology have power. One phrase that was bandied about--not that long ago-- was “witch hunt.” Considering the original historical context is an important--and, sadly, too-often neglected--intellectual pursuit, for studying the immediate social and life-altering ramifications and further-reaching, longer-lasting impact of the witch trials--both in Europe and America--can shed a great deal of light on our current political climate.

Enter “Where My Witches At?: An [Eleventh Grade] Historical Investigation of the Salem Witch Trials. This cross-curricular unit seeks to illuminate students’ understanding of the perspectives represented during the events leading up to and occurring during and after the Salem Witch trials, particularly as they relate to issues of free speech, slander, civil and legal rights. Students are invited to interpret and implement informed and ethical research practices as they compare and contrast the aforementioned happenings with current events, and as they present their findings in one of several ways (theatrical, cinematic, visually artistic, or musical).

When creating opportunities for learning for one’s students, it is ideal to incorporate a variety of strategies and techniques in order to engage learners to the greatest extent.

To engage students on many levels, Fly Me to the Moon utilizes oft-trending paired concepts: gaming and the break-out box. In this unit, students use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in groups as they work together to “crack” codes via clues, puzzles, books, and curated websites. Along the way, they explore and discover information about the moon’s phases and the moon’s effect on Earth, and also expand their knowledge of the moon in culture and throughout history.

Evaluating progress and outcomes is a practice that is helpful for discovering what pedagogical styles and techniques, materials, and resources are most effective in imparting knowledge and enabling students to become the architects of their own understanding of concepts. The work of assessment must be purposeful. There are many different ways to check for understanding and measure growth, ways that actually involve student input and ownership; and there are just as many ways for teachers and librarians to reflectively appraise their own practice to verify the extent of its effectiveness. These may be informal or formal, formative or summative, verbal or written; they may involve the use of rubrics, direct observation, or creative products.

In Simplus Ex Machina, a unit related to simple machines on which I collaborated with our third grade teaching team, the methods used to assess student comprehension included pre-tests and post-tests (Google forms), video presentations, personal reflections in writing, and simple machine construction(s).