Amp up your Classroom: Collaborate with your School Librarian

Laura Gardner, NBCTOctober 17, 2016

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We’re all better when we work together. I’m lucky as a school librarian because my job is all about collaborating with the other adults in my building; my program depends on it. I’m lucky to be in a building that values and fosters collaboration among adults; we already have built in curriculum meetings for teachers in the same grade/subject and these meetings are held next door to the library where I often listen in on their curriculum meetings and try to help where I can.

Ways I collaborate with teachers as a school librarian:

Book Buffets – Every student in our middle school needs to have a free reading book at all times. A book buffet is a good way to expose kids to lots of books they may not have found while browsing the shelves. I put books out on tables face up, give kids 3 minutes per table and have them move from table to table looking at and discussing the books. Kids leave with a book to read and an “on deck” list of books to read in the future.

Book Talks – Whenever I see kids for research projects, banned book presentations or even when I just need to go chat with a teacher, I try to have a couple of books on hand to quickly booktalk. Inevitably a kid wants one of the books I’m “selling” and I give it to them on the spot and write down their name and the book’s barcode. This way I can go where the kids are and the library can be mobile and responsive. We also have started putting book talk commercials on the morning announcements and on video using Flipgrid.

Contests and Celebrations – Writing contests like our annual scary story contest and annual poetry competition are run through the library and the literacy committee. We also celebrate reading improvement and accomplishment with our Reading Wall of Fame outside the library (see below). Teachers nominate students for the wall using a Google Form; it can be for being a super reader or for finally finding a good book. I photograph every student with a book they love and their certificate and print them all in color. Instant display with peer recommendations!

  

MakerSpace – My MakerSpace began with green screens and duct tape, but it has evolved to include robots (Ozobot and Sphero), circuit kits (Snap Circuits and Little Bits), 3D printers, Google Cardboard and much more. Primarily our MakerSpace is designed for fun and individual exploration; my mission in the library is for kids to find their passion. Many academic support classes (study hall) end up in the library MakerSpace for “free time,” which I love. The green screens are used for curriculum projects across the school; we have created more than 200 videos using my favorite video/green screen app, Touchcast in the last two years. Classes have also borrowed our Google Cardboards for virtual field trips and I hope to do even more with academic classes in the MakerSpace in the future.

  

Research projects – There’s nothing I love more than collaborating on a high quality research project. We do a lot of group PBL in our school whether through video projects using Touchcast, an iPad app that is easy to use with green screens or with other platforms like Animoto, Voicethread and Google Slides A lot of our projects with our 8th graders these days are using platforms that allow students to collaborate in real time like Padlet, Prezi, Google Slides, Weebly and Canva. We also have eased up on the pre-teaching of content before these projects start; we find it’s better if students are coming at the content fresh and it’s fun to have them teach the rest of us what they learned.

Teacher Book club – We have had professional book clubs (Teach Like a Champion), but mostly we read teen fiction from our library. We eat snacks, chat about books (and students who might like them) and connect with each other. Work can and should be fun!

I also try to eat lunch with teachers, stop by their rooms to say hi and generally be as friendly as possible. Our school library is the heart of our school and collaborating with the fabulous teachers in our building is one of my favorite parts of the job. 

Laura Gardner, NBCT

Laura Gardner, NBCT

Laura Gardner, a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, is Teacher Librarian at Dartmouth Middle School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Laura was awarded the School Library Journal (SLJ) School Librarian of the Year Co-finalist Award in 2016 and is a 2017 Star Touchcast Ambassador. She is on Twitter and Instagram as @LibrarianMsG.