For school libraries, it can sometimes be difficult to get students comfortable with coming into the library and engaging with librarian(s). A good idea to make the library seem more approachable and more responsive to student needs and requests is organising a class at the library for a new generation of students.
I’ve been thinking lately about some engaging activities I could try out with the students. The activities should be designed in the way to make them find out how the library can help them succeed in reaching their educational goals. My major objectives would include interacting with students in a fun and relaxing way, while also introducing elements of learning and feedback.
I wonder if it is outdated to stick to the idea of ‘library’ as a place of knowledge, intellectual freedom, equity, reflection… as with the rapid expansion of digital information technologies students can access resources anywhere, anytime, without entering the library. In the era of the Internet, digitized and audio books, I am well aware of the importance to teach information and media literacy to students.
I understand that libraries need to evolve with the world; however, as a book nerd I am drawn to the approach to libraries as contemplative spaces where you can enjoy reading and good coffee. I love that atmosphere of serendipity, emotion and action… The power of libraries is certainly not in their collection of books or high tech, but in that insatiable pursuit, creation and sharing of knowledge and ideas.
What I also love about libraries is that they develop intrinsic motivation in learners, which is very important in education, as the conditions that support intrinsic motivation promote greater creativity and better conceptual learning. According to research (Kohn 1993), intrinsic motivation is associated with greater pleasure and more active involvement in activities; intrinsically motivated learners are also more likely to select challenging tasks.
“Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning.” (The Risks of Rewards, by Alfie Kohn)
Activities I am planning to try out with 1st year students in September
Introduce myself, then say a few words about the library and wish the students “good luck” for the coming term.
Divide the class into 3 groups of about 8 students. All the groups do these three 10 minute activities (but rotating in 3 stations: A, B, and C).
Place the required materials at each station, set the rules and give guidance for students. Assign the roles to students:
reader: reads the instruction aloud
facilitator: makes sure that each member of the group has a chance to speak, pose questions; writes down students’ responses/ suggestions
materials manager: handles the materials at the station and makes sure the materials are put back in place at the end of the activity
A. Activity 1
What do you expect from your school library/ librarian in the next four years of education?
[Think for a few minutes and write the responses/ suggestions on a paper as a group]
B. Activity 2
Ask your librarian whatever you want to know about the library.
[Make some interesting questions and jot them down on small papers, then please put the paper into a box. You’ll find the responses next month on our library blog]
C. Activity 3
Gift of words – 20 beautiful single sentences in literature
[Read the sentences printed on slips, then pick a sentence you like best, and say in English why you’ve chosen that sentence]
*The library is filled with library information handouts and sweet treats.
Some practical thoughts & ideas:
1 Ensure that library is an inclusive, vibrant and collaborative space where teachers and students learn from each other and try out their ideas in an environment where they’re comfortable exploring and taking risks.
2 Have conversations about literature and reading, and try to motivate students to read more (and not only the books that are in the Serbian language syllabus). Fill the library with the books that students and teachers recommend (& get some quirky books, too)
3 Take an inquiry stance to building a library culture by wondering and asking questions.
What books do you love reading?
What’s the last really great book you’ve read?
Is there a book that you expected to like but didn’t like?
Is there a book or author that you always return to?
Do you prefer to read on paper or on a screen?
How do you use digital books/ audio books?
What do you know about using information ethically: citing information appropriately, guarding their privacy, sharing information without plagiarizing?
4 Pay special attention to the culture in the library: foster polite behavior and healthy conflict resolution (conflict as normal part of life can be resolved by applying active listening skills).
5 As Serbian and English language teachers & librarians share similar passions, a good idea is to maximize all of our talents by combining forces to achieve our goal: do project works, set up book clubs, reading/ writing contests, extensive reading sessions, school e-magazine…
6 Encourage my colleagues to enhance their personal learning network by reading this blog (there are a lot of really useful links here). This way they can access some great ELT blogs and other reliable websites with materials for a student-centered classroom.