Aligning Your Practice to the AASL National Standards: Quick Reflection Activities to Get Started

When the AASL National School Library Standards were released in late 2017, I was a little nervous. The release coincided with my first year as my district’s lead librarian, so I knew I would be responsible for helping the librarians in my district implement the standards. I wasn’t sure how or where to start. But as I studied the standards and read articles on the topic, I realized it’s not so much about implementing the standards as it is aligning our practice to them. Like school librarians everywhere, we incorporate the six Shared Foundations — Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, Engage — in our work every single day.

So, during my district’s library department meetings this year, we’ve spent time reflecting on and talking about the standards to determine which ones are a prominent part of our practice and which ones we need to make more of an effort to integrate into our lessons and programs. The reflection activities we’ve engaged in are quick and thought-provoking. It’s helpful to do them in a group setting with other librarians so you can talk about your conclusions and share ideas, but the activities can be done alone, too.

Highlighting Activity. Paige Jaeger created this activity and shared it in the January 2018 issue of School Library Connection. Grab three different color highlighters (or pens), print out a copy of the AASL Standards Framework for Learners, and look at the chart on pages 4-5. As you read over the Competencies, highlight areas you do well in one color, highlight Competencies you are close to doing well in another color, and highlight areas you know you need to work on in the third color. Then, look at your results. What patterns do you notice? What surprises you? What do you need to work on? Decide on one action you can take to bring your practice into closer alignment with standards. If you do this activity with a group, share your observations and goal with someone else — it can lead to a great conversation.

Be sure to read Jaeger’s article as it contains helpful suggestions, including a list of “power verbs” for each of the Shared Foundations.

Analyzing Library Lessons & Shared Foundations. My goal in creating this activity was to show librarians that many of the lessons they teach on a regular basis reflect the standards. I created 10 Google slides, each with a picture and title of a commonly taught library lesson, such as library orientation and book selection lessons. I put the slides in a Google form that asks which Shared Foundation is most closely associated with each lesson. After the librarians individually completed the form, they were able to look at the summary of responses and discuss with each other. This led to some excellent conversations about how and why the same lesson can have a slightly different emphasis depending on the librarian teaching it and the students participating in it.

Individual Lesson Reflection. This activity provides an opportunity to think about a favorite or recent lesson in light of the standards. I created a template using Google Drawings and provided a link that prompted each person to make their own copy. Each librarian filled in the title and summary of a lesson and dragged over the icon(s) of the Shared Foundation(s) embedded in that lesson. Then, each of them added a short note explaining how the Shared Foundation(s) is reflected in the lesson and how others might be incorporated with a little revision. Once everyone was finished, they shared in small groups. Not only did it allow them to focus on the standards, but they also shared some wonderful lesson ideas.

Comparing the Shared Foundations to the Profile of a Learner. My school district is starting the process of writing a new, five-year strategic plan. As part of this effort, the district recently unveiled an infographic called The Profile of a Rockwood Learner that “reflects the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of our school community.” These hopes, dreams, and aspirations include thinking creatively and critically, engaging thoughtfully and respectfully, developing strong character, collaborating with others, and exploring our world. The first time I saw this document, I wanted to gleefully shout, “This profile matches the AASL Shared Foundations!” At our next library department meeting, I shared the profile with my colleagues and asked them to work in groups to compare it with the AASL Standards. Each group added their observations, thoughts, and comments to a shared Google document. Anne Reed, a creative librarian and a talented sketchnoter, made this visual representation of the connection between the two documents:

Drawing by Anne Reed (@Anne_Reed_Reads)

We are going to continue to build on these ideas as we plan our professional development activities and our advocacy efforts for next year. Our goals are to make sure we are doing all we can to support the district’s vision and to remind our administrators of the vital role librarians and libraries play in in the education of our students.

National School Library Standards Card Game. Although I haven’t used these cards yet, I’ve looked at them. In fact, they were the inspiration for the activities I created, and I intend to use them at a future department meeting. According to the AASL website, the “game was designed to aid in conceptualizing the standards, developing implementation strategies, considering differing approaches with stakeholders, and promoting conversation among practitioners.” You can purchase the card game from AASL or download the cards free from the AASL website and print them out.

These activities represent the first steps on our path to adopting the AASL National School Library Standards. Reflecting on and talking about our practices and how they align with the standards has led to a greater comfort level and a deeper understanding of the Shared Foundations. Our next steps include devising a plan to communicate the standards to all of our stakeholders and revising our curriculum so that it better aligns with the new AASL document.


Jaeger, Paige. “New AASL Standards, So What?” School Library Connection, January 2018,


Author: Margaret Sullivan

Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.

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