AASL Books in Action | Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action

Written By Selene Athas

The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner have been critical to me as an independent middle school librarian. Students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade come to library class for one, two-week module per trimester. I teach students for two straight weeks at a time. Since I was new to the position and there had not been a full-time librarian in the middle school for about five years, I had to create my curriculum from scratch.

Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action
Author and Publisher: American Association of School Librarians
eEditions e-book
Item Number: 9400-5076
Price: $23.00

AASL standards are the backbone of my curriculum. I was first introduced to the Standards in Action publication in library school, when it was a required textbook for one of my classes. Not only was the book helpful to my coursework, it also became an essential reference book for my current job. The examples provided got me thinking about how I could implement meaningful lessons into my curriculum. The benchmarks for each grade proved to be useful when I had to consider how to differentiate my lessons for the different grades. Although I taught many of the same lessons across grades for this school year, since this was the first time students were going to library class, I was able to adjust my expectations based on the benchmarks proposed in the book.

One assignment that addresses some of the benchmarks is the nonfiction comic strip assignment. A blog post from Mary at www.teachingwithamountainview.com inspired me to create a similar assignment. Students were required to pick a short-term event from history and research it using library resources. I required them to identify at least two credible sources that would give them the needed information. In prior lessons, we had frequent discussions about how to identify reliable sources. Once they located the books or articles, they were to read about their chosen historical event and write a one-page summary of the event, and properly cite the sources. The final step was the creation of the comic strip. I printed out several comic strip templates, and they were free to choose which one. The comic strip needed to illustrate the event, and include color as well as captions to help tell the story. I did not grade on artistic ability, but rather on the way in which they were able to capture the most important parts of the event to tell the story.

All aspects of the assignment were part of Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge. Students really enjoyed the comic strip aspect of the assignment and demonstrated a great deal of creativity during this stage.

I recently learned that the AASL Standards are undergoing a revision and will be released later this year. It is comforting to know how much research has gone into revising these standards, and how much the Editorial Board has included community feedback in developing the updated standards. The current standards are already quite comprehensive and are an excellent foundation for the wonderful work I’m doing in my library. I am very excited to see this new iteration of standards and refreshing my own plans to adhere to them.

If I did not have the AASL Standards and examples that were included in this publication, I would not have known where to begin my quest for middle school library assignments. The standards give structure and meaning to the curriculum that I develop and execute. AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action will continue to be one of the most important resources in my professional library.


Selene Athas is a middle school librarian at Glenelg Country School in Maryland, where she teaches students research skills and other library-related content. She is about to receive her MLIS from the University of Maryland in May 2017. Contact Selene at sathas@glenelg.org


The AASL Publications Advisory Group is looking for “Books In Action” contributors for the Knowledge Quest blog. Have you read an AASL Publication and implemented new practices or programs as a direct result of your learning? Contact aasl@ala.org with questions, or submit a post for KQ using the Books In Action submission form.



Categories: Blog Topics, Professional Development

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1 reply

  1. Well done, Selene!

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