Monday, February 10, 2014

Working with the time you have

I am a librarian at The Packer Collegiate Institute. Here, we have two libraries. Our PS/LS library (The Hart Library) is used by Pre-K to 4th grade and runs on a fixed schedule. Our MS/US library (The Blackburne Library) is used by our 5th-12th grade and is used on an as needed basis.

There are known concerns with both these models. The LS librarians often find it difficult to find the time outside of their schedule to collaborate with teachers as much as they would like. We at the MS and US level love working with teachers and incorporating information literacy skills in an applicable way, but by not having our own classes, find it difficult to assess their knowledge base. We are also only able to work with those teachers and grades that are open to collaboration.

I would love to have an Information Literacy class but I also find a lot of value in our collaboration. Through collaboration I can give purpose to these skills and allow students to see their value. It also helps me to understand what is being taught throughout the school. Though our current schedule currently does not allow for a class dedicated to this we have found a way to work with what we have.

The sixth grade English teachers wanted to create a Non-Fiction based assignment that would be interesting to the students. My colleague and I then created a program with them that fulfilled all of our needs.

I work with one teacher and my colleague the other. We meet with 4-5 students for a total of of five weeks throughout the year. The fifth meeting is presentation day. With this schedule, students meet at different times throughout the year. We formed this assignment inspired by The Big6 though we do not follow it hard and fast.

We start by defining the problem. We go over the assignment sheet and determine what is needed to do a good job. Students then think of a topic that is of interest to them and then develop a research question based on their interest. We discuss why a topic can be too broad or too narrow. We also use this time to talk about and develop keywords.

The next steps are a combination of information seeking and location and access. We determine what materials we will need and how to find them. This includes a quick refresher on using our catalog and our databases. We usually start with the first group in October so we have worked a little bit with it but the first group definitely needs more time than say our group that meets in April. Working in small groups makes this easier to do quickly and efficiently. Based on their topics, different sources will be useful for different people and we also discuss why.

During this time, we also review the importance of using reliable sources and citing sources before taking notes. We use EasyBib to both cite our sources and as our note-taking platform. Their notes signify their use of information. I am a huge fan of EasyBib and have introduced it to several teachers in our middle school in place of physical notecards and other online note-taking options. I also love the new addition of SweetSearch to their site, which is what I often have our younger middle school students use in place of Google.

Our next step is for them to present what they have learned or synthesis. We have the students use Google Presentation and it has been great. We can look at what they are doing and leave comments. We are able to use time outside of our dedicated 50 minutes to make any adjustments or tweaks.

Our assignment sheet and Thesis worksheet are also on Google Documents and this way we can see their process and comment on it. Additionally it allows students to do some work at home and we can focus on their exact needs when together.

Our Final step is evaluation. On our final day together prior to their actual presentation day, we go over their Google Presentation document and review the assignment sheet. We and the teachers have developed a rubric that we work on together. There are three separate portions that we focus on. The first portion is entitled The Research Process and is graded by the librarians alone. This section includes criteria such as development of a research question, appropriate use of sources including finding reliable sources & citation, development and use of a thesis statement and efficient use of time. The second set is entitled Google Presentation and is graded by both librarians and teachers. The final portion is the oral presentation, also graded by both parties.

This process allows us, the librarians, to get to know the students, teach them basic information literacy skills and makes us a part of the assessment process so that we can determine how much of these skills they have absorbed.

There are many other forms of collaboration that we do throughout the year that vary in length and level but this continues to be one of my favorite projects. Please let me know if you would like me to share our Presentation worksheet with you.

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