Teaching in our UK School Libraries

by Suzanne Schultz Pick, Senior Assistant, INALJ UK

Teaching in our UK School Libraries

Suzanne Schultz PickWe all know that libraries in schools are important for students, but do we really know how to use them effectively? Sometimes the school libraries are run by Teaching Assistants, or a teacher who if manning the library shelves half the time while working for the English Department the rest of the day.

As I’ve seen in Primary Schools, students are often given tasks on computer software by the lead of their classroom teacher. Many of these resources are paid through by the school and set with a specific outline in mind. Some teachers ask students to research using Google searches or requesting that students simply “pick a book” and do their own informative brochure based on the content of their chosen topic.

In Secondary Schools, some libraries are in disarray without any real direction for students to find books that would interest them. Often teachers require students to “pick a book” and do a project or book report on what they’ve read. Without someone to guide them through their own knowledge of the materials, or even current, popular teen titles, students really don’t know where to begin. Many, many times students are at a loss for what book to pick, what would be interesting to them, and what books are available and tell a story about a topic they would find worth their classroom reading time.

As far as research goes, most of the times, despite our best efforts as teaching or learning support staff, students will resort to a Google search rather than using the reference books that are within arm’s reach.

We have so many reluctant readers in schools now, that I’d hate to think that teachers or teaching assistants don’t have any lessons curtailed for the library.

I find it quite sad that the school library, as small as most of them may be, are not used to their full capacity. That is why I’ve listed some activities that teachers can use in the classroom during their visits to the library.

Research skills lesson using fake websites – A nice PowerPoint that demonstrates why we shouldn’t trust every website full of information, no matter how authentic it may seem.

Library Challenge Cards – These cards are probably very similar to what English teachers may already use for their students’ reading for pleasure assignments. These cards encourage students to be interested in the author and characters of their books.

Maths Murder Mystery 11 – Death in the Library – A nice way to incorporate the internet into a math lesson with fun. Students must solve five mathmatical clues to figure out who of the 32 suspects are guilty.

Library Treasure Hunt – I always loved using treasure hunts and web quests with students in my library. It gives them a sense of freedom to explore the internet. This treasure hunt asks for students to use books instead of Google, so they can answer the questions on the treasure map.

The Struggle for Votes for Women – this activity for Secondary Students is a good way to engange learners in history while using various library resources. The lessons include a newspaper clippings, cartoons, and prompts for debate on the issues of women voters.

Graphic Novel booklist for KS1 & KS2 – I’ve noticed that many Primary School Students aren’t even aware of graphic novels, so having these kinds of resources available really help reluctant readers. Even if your library doesn’t have funds for a lot of new books, just letting students know that these books are out there is something they can research and find interest in for outside reading.

The Hunger Games – Being a huge fan of the films, I would definitely incorporate these novels into a Secondary School lesson. Not only is it modern, so students can relate to the work, but they are big, action-packed blockbuster movies that will be useful for students to write essays, or engage in classroom debates on the differences between the novels themselves and the film adaptations.

Whatever activity you do decide to use in your school libraries, just please remember to use the libraries. They are there for more than just holding books that get neglected on the shelves. Many students don’t have the luxury of a bookstore or internet access at home, so using the library in school is their only time to open up their world to technology and literature.

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