Being there for students and teachers
A teacher librarian panel shared their experiences and insights with a group of new and pre-service teacher librarians in the UNI School Library Studies program on November 7 at the University of Northern Iowa. High school teacher librarian Kim Traw and K-12 teacher librarian Beth Janssen (pictured at right), along with recently retired elementary teacher librarian Dave Tallakson (left), provided advice based on their many years of promoting reading, collaborating with teachers, and integrating technology.
Collaboration was a key issue for both the graduate students and the panel. One student asked, “How do you make time to collaborate with teachers in your building?” Tallakson, who recently worked in a Cedar Falls elementary school, stated, “Look for opportunities all the time.” Often, helping a teacher with technology is a way to connect with teachers. Once he got in the classroom, he looked around to see what is going on in the class, and he offered to help the teacher other ways.
Janssen, an alumna of the UNI School Library Studies program and a teacher librarian at AGWSR, described a yearlong Native American unit for fifth graders. She collaborates with the teachers to guide students’ research on Native Americans. At the end of the year, they create a museum of student-made Native American artifacts and invite the community.
A teacher librarian’s role in integrating technology was mentioned frequently by the panel. Traw stated that because of the 1:1 environment at Cedar Falls High School, the focus is no longer on using technology, it’s now on how to use technology. Classroom teachers are motivated to use technology, but sometimes they aren’t sure how to utilize it in their classrooms. This is where the teacher librarian can help. The panel recommended providing training to classroom teachers, helping students and teachers during instruction, getting classroom teachers involved to form a community of collaboration, and organizing resources for classes on the library website.
They also see teaching digital citizenship as one of their key responsibilities. When talking with elementary students, it is important to promote technology in a positive way but to also let students know that they need to be careful in the digital world. Tallakson noted that it is important to get classroom teachers talking with students about digital citizenship as well It can’t just be a conversation in the library.
The teacher librarians all put a priority on making the library a welcoming space. Tallakson discussed the importance of a simple greeting to everyone who walks through the library doors. “Be a friendly face, make people feel comfortable, do a lot of talking with people who come in,” he added. He also noted the importance of physical space in connecting people to the library program. He liked to display student work throughout the library and invite parents into the library to look around during conferences.
Traw reminded the new and pre-service teacher librarians that students are vulnerable. “Treat them kindly. Make it a welcoming place,” she said. Janssen added, “You’re there for the student.”
Research skills can be found throughout the Common Core, and graduate students in the School Library Studies program develop a number of strategies for teaching research and inquiry skills. In the most recent School Library Studies Reference course, students worked in pairs to create Inquiry Pathfinders at either the secondary or elementary level. Read more.
Creating a common language
To help students improve their research skills, teachers at Waukee Middle School, Iowa, collaborated to develop a common language for the inquiry process. Teacher librarian Kelly Reinhold along with Franny Frey and Stephanie Jansa presented "Common Language: Inquiry Process, Credible Online Sources and Copyright" at the Iowa Association of School Librarians (IASL) conference April 14, 2014, in Cedar Rapids. Their presentation included the Waukee Middle School Inquiry Process and other tools. Read more.
Texts sets and the Common Core
The Common Core Curriculum Standards call for students at all grade levels to “Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.” This invites the teacher librarian to collaborate with teachers in developing and teaching sets of texts for students to read and compare. Students in the School Library Studies course Library Resources for Children (SLS 5132) create text sets around science and social studies concepts in the Iowa Core Curriculum. Read more.
Two UNI School Library Studies alumnae, Shannon McClintock Miller and Chelsea Sims, collaborated with teachers in their schools to design inquiry lessons included in the new book Inquiry and the Common Core: Librarians and Teachers Designing Teaching for Learning. Inquiry learning is a key part of the Common Core's Research to Build and Communicate Knowledge strand. Shannon Miller, a K-12 teacher librarian in Van Meter, Iowa, worked with teachers to design an animal research project for kindergarten students based on the Stripling Model of Inquiry. Chelsea Sims, a teacher librarian at Hills Elementary School and Southeast Junior High School in the Iowa City Community School District, submitted a lesson from a seventh grade zombie-themed science research project. Read more.