Young learners come to the school library possessing skills and talents just waiting to be revealed. The school librarian also possesses talents. The librarian knows how to connect students with literature that incites curiosity. The librarian knows how to select books and information sources that are developmentally appropriate for students and pertinent to specific topics and themes. The librarian knows how to curate digital tools that connect students with content, presentation software, and people. The librarian also knows how to facilitate engaging instructional strategies that inspire critical thinking and problem solving. Even though the school librarian possesses these skills, it never hurts to look for new resources and lesson ideas. If you are an elementary school librarian, you will definitely want to add Project Reaching Academic Potential (RAP) to your toolbox.
Project RAP has been developed through a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education, Jefferson County (Kentucky) Schools, the University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University. According to the program’s webpage, “The purpose of the program is to carry out a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities designed to build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the exceptional needs of gifted and talented students” (para. 3, n.d.). Project RAP supports elementary school teachers and librarians who are looking for activities that will engage young learners in the creative process and high level thinking.
Project RAP utilizes the Young Scholars model. This model identifies and nurtures advanced academic potential in students from historically underrepresented populations (Young Scholars (K-12), n.d.). The model gives diverse learners opportunities to engage in tasks that show their talent, emphasize their ability to solve problems, and support their success in advanced coursework.
Project RAP gives young learners opportunities to express creativity and develop advanced cognitive ability. One of the goals of Project RAP is to increase student readiness for gifted program participation through engagement in challenging curriculum and cluster grouping for instruction. Students from underrepresented backgrounds need opportunities to showcase their skills and creativity. Project RAP gives that opportunity to students, making the selection process for gifted and education more equitable.
Best of all, Project RAP has Selected Response Lessons. The lessons target students in grades K through 2. The lessons spawn from a picture book that the school librarian reads aloud to the class. One example of a RAP lesson is “Lots of Dots” for first graders. Students read the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crew. Students then draw some dots on their paper or place dot stickers on the page.
Students exchange their dot papers with a partner who connects the dots to make a picture. Students write about their picture in a few sentences. This is a great way to engage students in divergent thinking and collaboration.
In the lesson “Math, Math Everywhere,” second grade students practice critical thinking and creativity. Students find relationships between skills they are learning in math and when they must apply their learning to real-life experiences. After the students read the picture book Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, they create a Math Curse Class book. Each student writes a page to the book that should also include an illustration. Students act out their real-life math experiences and ask classmates to guess what math skills they are using. This activity helps students make real-world connections to what they learn in school, and it gives them opportunities to display their talents and creativity.
You can download all of the lesson plans on the Project RAP webpage. You and your colleagues will love implementing these high-level and creative activities with young students. Your learners deserve opportunities to find and/or demonstrate their talents. Give them the chance with Project RAP.
Reaching Academic Potential (RAP). n.d. https://www.wku.edu/gifted/rap/
Young Scholars (K-12). n.d. https://www.fcps.edu/academics/elementary-school-academics/k-6advanced-academics/young-scholars-k-12.
Author: Sam Northern
Sam Northern is a National Board Certified Teacher-Librarian at Simpson Elementary School in Franklin, Kentucky. He currently serves as President of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians. In 2014, Sam was selected for the Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars Abroad Program where he spent four weeks in China. Since then, Sam has voyaged to Antarctica as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and worked aboard a research vessel on the Atlantic Ocean as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. From January to April 2018, Sam traveled to Finland as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program to research best practices for project-based learning. Connect with him on Twitter @Sam_Northern and Facebook @themisterlibrarian.