Saturday, February 23, 2019

THE BEGINNING Library Centers Deep Dive: A 15 Part Series

Ladonia Elementary School
1997-2005


This 15 part series is a deep dive into the why and how of establishing Library Learning Centers.

THE BEGINNING


During my first year as an elementary school librarian in the mid-90’s I was a worksheet queen. Worksheets teaching how to shelve books by drawing a line from a book to the shelf where it belonged. Worksheets teaching Dewey order through cutting and pasting books in the correct Dewey order. Worksheets about book care for students to color. Worksheets where students labeled the parts of a book. Worksheet after worksheet after worksheet.




I also noticed that the students were less than enthralled with the barrage of worksheets they were confronted with during their library time each week. The students were fidgety and it was a struggle to get them to sit still, be quiet, and learn a formal lesson with or without worksheets. Students would draw pictures on their worksheets, fold them into paper airplanes, make origami fortune tellers and inevitably, throw the worksheets in the trash as they left the library. The lessons rarely resulted in the students ability to actually internalize and demonstrate through action the lesson taught.


During this same time I was struggling just to find time to shelve books as over 800 students a week visited the library at 30 minutes intervals. One afternoon after a particularly “tooth pulling” day, surrounded by carts filled with returned books and putting together worksheets for the next days lesson about the Dewey Decimal System and Ordering Books on the Shelf, one of those face-palm moments hit me. Why was I having students draw lines, circle, cut and paste where books belonged on shelves on a worksheet when I had a whole library full of books that needed to be shelved?! Wouldn’t learning by doing not only be a much more effective way of teaching these skills, but would also assist with the seemingly never ending task of shelving books.


I had the wherewithal to know that setting loose all 20+ students in each class to check in and shelve their own books would be a catastrophic disaster. I had to find a way to teach, model and supervise students in small groups as they gained hands on learning with the who, what, where, when, why and how of basic library skills like shelving books. I also wanted students to learn other skills that supported the overall elementary curriculum and gave them some hands on learning and fun. From there the idea quickly cascaded into the development of library learning centers.


WARNING: Development of quality, curriculum based centers requires a great deal of upfront planning and development.  The upside is that after all of that planning students will be the leaders of their own learning within the centers with the librarian serving as a facilitator.


In the blog posts to follow I will share each Library Learning Center in detail. This will be followed by posts that explain ways to set up Library Learning Centers as well as what Free Center days look like, why you might need them, and tips and tricks on how to run them. This series will conclude with a look at whole group lessons, mini-lessons, and storytime within a center based library.