When you are working to build your reputation as a collaboration-worthy co-teaching partner, it is important to remember that although your classroom is now a library, you should still be teaching like a teacher.
I recently observed several librarians in our district during a story time with elementary students. It was eye opening to me to watch this as a principal might, thinking about how I would evaluate these teachers using the teacher evaluation instrument rather than the one for librarians. Principals are generally doing two things during an observation–looking for alignment in the curriculum, instruction, and assessment of the lesson, and watching how students are learning. Applying those two filters to the story times I visited, I found myself suddenly flashing back to some of the stories I’d shared with classes. Fun story? Yes! Kids listening? Well, sure, mostly, I think. What did we learn? Hmmmmm… well… They had fun? How did I know? They were, uh, laughing…
What would I tell first year librarian me about developing meaningful lessons around story time?
1) What was the objective for the lesson? In some cases, yes–listening for pleasure is a reasonable objective here, but unless you’re winning awards for theatrical performance, most of us can’t fall back on pure entertainment as an objective for every story time. While you’re choosing objectives–do they match the curriculum for the grade you’re teaching? Align those objectives, librarian! Are you choosing too many? Pick one, maybe two and make it your focus during your story. You will lose your focus if you have too many and won’t do any of them well. Write down your objective and post it. Tell your students what they will be learning today.
2) Keep students engaged while you read the story and teach the objective. Use classroom management tools to keep students focused. Having story time rules and expectations is important. Use music as a signal. Make sure you aren’t having them sit too long–while experts say there is quite a range, one method is to multiply their age times 2 and figure that you need to change activities or take a brain break and move after that many minutes have passed.
3) Are you assessing whether your lesson is successful? How? Teachers are expected to evaluate student learning in both formal and informal ways. Are you doing this? Are you utilizing formative assessment tools to determine if students are learning what it is you are teaching? Are all students participating in listening and learning? Use a think/pair/share method to get students actively participating. Make a graphic organizer. Use an exit ticket.
Truthfully, many librarians are not evaluated by their principals using the same instrument as a teacher. That makes sense on many levels–teaching is only one of the jobs librarians do. However, don’t let that allow you to become complacent about your responsibilities as a teacher. Writing a lesson plan, assessing student learning (and our teaching in the process!), keeping students engaged in the lesson–these are can never be set aside if we are to maintain our credibility as teaching librarians.
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.