Let’s Get Together Thursday – Collaboration in the Real World

Today’s guest blogger is Mary Woodard, the Director of Libraries in Mesquite Independent School District in Mesquite, Texas.

Collaboration has long been the holy grail of school librarians. We all know that library instruction is much more effective when done “in collaboration” with the classroom teacher.

The term “collaboration,” however means something different to everyone.

Pulling books for a teacher to use in the classroom? Some would say this is collaborating.

Booking a guest speaker for a teacher and having the presentation in the library? Collaboration, according to some.

Doing booktalks on biographies to help students select books for an upcoming book report at the teacher’s request? Some call this collaboration.

In her Collaborating to Meet Standards books, Toni Buzzeo defines collaboration as “two or more equal partners who…create a unit of study…that will be team-designed, team-taught, and team-evaluated.”

While this definition of collaboration is what we all aspire to, not many of us can get there in the real world. As viral sensation Sweet Brown says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

For this reason, in my district we have started using the term and focusing on the practice of co-teaching.

I recently had this question from an elementary principal:

I believe first and second grade classes are going to the library for 30 minutes.

What would I expect to see in that 30 minutes? What is the responsibility of the teacher/librarian?

This was my answer:

The ideal would be for there to be some type of lesson focusing on either reading, research or technology where the librarian and the teacher co-teach.

The teacher sets the purpose for the instruction and ties it to what is being taught in the classroom. The librarian then teaches the skill lesson, with the teacher interjecting as needed and monitoring groups or independent practice. At the end, the teacher again ties the learning in with what is going on in the classroom and both talk about why the skill is important in the real world.

For example, if the class is working on main idea, they could continue this in the library. The teacher would review the definition of main idea as she taught it in the classroom. Then the librarian would introduce a read aloud, asking students to listen for the main idea. After the reading, the librarian would lead a discussion about the main idea in the story. Students would tell what they think the main idea was, while the teacher scribes these ideas. Then the librarian and the teacher would help them come to a consensus on the correct answer based on the definition of main idea.

A research lesson might be how to use a picture dictionary. The teacher would tie that in with spelling, vocabulary, reading, etc. The librarian would teach the lesson. Both the librarian and the teacher would monitor as students practice using the dictionary, then the teacher would talk about why it’s important to learn to use a dictionary.

Co-teaching is a term and a practice with which administrators and teachers are familiar. They are used to a co-teaching model in the classroom with instructional specialists, special ed inclusion teachers, and bilingual/ESL specialists. In my district, they now expect to see this type of teaching in the library too.

Author: Jennifer Laboon

Jennifer LaBoon is the Coordinator of Library Technology in Fort Worth ISD. She serves on the AASL Blog Committee, on the Executive Board of the Texas Library Association, volunteers with a local children’s musical theater group, and is an avid TCU fan.



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