How to Create Information Literacy Habits

Let’s start with a quiz.

Select the definition/idea/skill you consider challenging to assess student mastery of:

  • Satire
  • Habitat
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • Reading Laterally

Did you choose option four: reading laterally? Congratulations! Your answer is correct.

Now you may think this was a terrible quiz because you had to compare definitions and ideas and skills. You may have a good reason why option one or two or three is more difficult to assess than reading laterally. You would be wrong.

You would be wrong in my opinion, but therein is the problem with this example: it is subjective. It fails to capture respondent answers, thinking, and reflection. During a recent workshop I gave on information literacy and misinformation, educators lamented the “one and done” tendency of instruction, the checklist approach to content coverage. Check if it was taught and move on! If students give a definition or example of a topic, idea, or skill, they have proven they know it. But do they? How do you know the knowledge is in their long-term memory? How do you know if they can apply what they “know” in a different context or build their understanding based on this prior knowledge?

Reading laterally involves investigating and cross-checking source authority with other sources to detect bias, evaluate evidence, and pinpoint inaccuracies or misinformation. A multiple-choice quiz fails to capture student mastery of this skill. Assessment of how to do something involves demonstration or various demonstrations if you want these abilities become a lifelong habits.

The good news for us school librarians is we have flexible schedules and collaborative instructional approaches. We work with educators across the grade-level and curriculum spectrum to insert best information literacy practices. Our lack of a content-driven curriculum works to our advantage because we can teach students how and why to use information skills to problem-solve and critically analyze the digital, multimedia, multi-format information they study and consume. We can teach students to master these skills by not doing a single approach in instruction. Students must read laterally for every research assignment, detect logical fallacies in arguments, and debunk propaganda and digital manipulations until they become habits.

Why habits?

Habits are everyday routines and practices we do. If student research habits are to go to Google and click on the first link that comes up for what they type in, we are doing poorly. We need to replace those poor research habits with good ones such as click restraint and fact-checking. Start by increasing your knowledge about media and information literacy by visiting these curriculum and lesson plan resources:

The John Green videos are perfect (about 10-13 minutes each) as content for lessons and professional development. Offer to give professional development workshops to teachers to build collaborative relationships and discussions around media literacy to decide how to integrate these habits and content across grades and academic disciplines. Curate online resources and share widely with parents, teachers, and students. Start all lesson development and instruction from the perspective of information literacy and the learning process (claim vs. opinion, reading laterally, identifying logical fallacies, evaluating source authority, etc.).

You cannot do this work alone; information literacy must become a school-wide practice to reach every student.

Let’s end with a quiz.

I practice click restraint when looking up information.

  • False
  • True

Now go out and model those good habits!

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Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Instructional Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Literacy, AIS, and Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and just started facilitating an online course on Information Literacy for Spring 2019.



Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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