In my last post, I wrote about how to make the instructional shift from content to process to have students critically think about what they learn. At a recent workshop, a participant made the astute point that students will be more likely to think critically about information if they like reading about it. In other words, resource selection is essential to librarian-teacher collaboration. So look for articles to have at the ready for teachers to help them add a fun angle to their curricular unit.
World History. Navigation. Exploration. Trade. Accidents.
How about having students research the Bermuda Triangle? Databases like Gale in Context: Middle School have topic coverage on this infamous geographical area. You can approach the subject through the lens of accidents, shipwrecks, disappearances, the paranormal, and/or mysteries. Who among us doesn’t love mysteries and being challenged? And let’s not forget the thematic connections to the Salem Witch Trials, conspiracy theories, UFOs, climate change, or any topic where people feel supernatural or conspiratorial plots explain what they struggle to understand. And while you have the teacher’s interest, mention the critical thinking skills this topic lends itself to:
- Point of view
- Making Inferences
- Claims and evidence
- Cause and effect
- Challenging our assumptions
- Fact vs. opinion
- News vs. claims
- Asking questions
The Rock Cycle.
Who doesn’t love studying the difference between sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks? Maybe some individuals. But what if students confront the headline: “How to Bend Rock” from Highlights for Children. This story angle appeals to their curiosity and speculative minds. Make curricular connections to plate tectonics, earthquakes, and the science fair. Have students demonstrate how rocks can bend (using stand-ins like paper, of course).
Explorers. Trade. Economics. Food.
Most units on exploration start with Marco Polo. Did you hear the story Marco Polo tried noodles in China and liked them so much he brought the recipe home to Italy? Nice tale but it’s not true. The Ask article “Noodles! A Twisty History: SLURP! Another Delicious Noodles Snakes Its Way into a Hungry Mouth” details numerous fun facts like the March Polo myth. What a great tie-in to culture, cuisine, and history. Or why nations wanted to explore. Or as an introduction to economics and trade.
The commonality of these resources is their appeal to students’ sense of wonder, curiosity, love of being challenged, the unknown, and mystery and suspense. So select a source with a voice and tone that is personable, funny, or ironic. Make it fun. Make it appealing.
What good learning must be.
Author: Leanne Ellis
I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.