August 2nd, 2015
Library lessons help students master information literacy skills and also support the regular classroom curriculum. The library is an extension of classroom teaching and learning experiences; a place where students can explore topics in a number of exciting ways.
When planning for library classes, librarians can include a variety of teaching and learning methods that will engage students and have them eager to participate and learn. This is when a lesson is not just a lesson, but one that consistently moves the learner into the learning experience. These lessons not only teach concepts; they also generate the “wow” effect in learning.
Steps to Creating Highly Engaging and Highly Effective Library Lesson Plans
1. Visual Introduction: Library lesson plans either introduce a new learning concept, such as the dewey decimal system or how to evaluate a website. Others will directly support classroom learning and will review or supplement what students are learning in the classroom. The introduction of a lesson may involve a quick verbal review if you know that students have already had extensive learning in the classroom or there may be a five to ten minute review discussion if you have found by way of data reports or collaboration with teachers, that students need extra support. In the introduction of your lesson, the use of visuals is highly effective. After the class settles in and you are ready to begin teaching, having a Powerpoint presentation or a short video in place will help get your students attention and move them to a point of being focused and ready to learn.
2. Books: Using books in a lesson is a great way to grab student’s attention. Picture books are great to use with all students and you will find that even older students enjoy a good story. That same story can be used to connect to a learning concept, and the magic generated from the characters and events in the book, then leads to the magic in how students grasp information and learn.
3. Technology: Technology is another essential and highly effective tool in the creation of engaging library lesson plans. Web 2.0 tools and Smartboard activities, for example, are exciting for students. It’s what they are used to and in the digital age of learning; it is complementing to what is going on around us. The use of technology in a library lesson also prepares our students for experiences that they will face in the future.
4. Interactive Learning: Interactivity in a lesson ensures that all students are taking an active role in the learning experience. Bringing interaction into a lesson strengthens critical thinking and communication skills. Students have the ability to explore a concept individually, such as using a computer and a Web 2.0 activity, or through other activities as a part of a group.
5. Learning Games: Whether they are technology-based or more traditional-styled games; students enjoy learning through challenges and competitions. Introducing a game in your library lesson plan is a great way to engage students and a sure way to get them excited. Games that are competitive; however, can sometimes add a little too much excitement, so it is important to introduce rules at the beginning. There are a number of free games on the internet that can be used in a lesson. Powerpoint games with a format such as Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are exciting for students, and many games can be created by using the simple format of forming teams, asking questions, and keeping score.
6. Other Visuals: In addition to a visual introduction, other visuals such as pictures, handouts, Powerpoint or Prezi presentations used within the lesson, and videos are all very beneficial in a library lesson.
Highly effective and engaging library lesson plans should incorporate three or more of the six steps listed above. Consider what will be the “hook(s)” in your lesson. What parts of your lesson will create the “wow” effect and keep your students excited about learning?
Keep it Moving
It is important to keep the lesson moving. For example, if your lesson plan involves you introducing or reviewing information, the amount of time for the lecture should not be overwhelming. Students should also be encouraged to join the discussion. A story being read to students should not be extremely long (for one day lessons) and a game should not be played until students lose interest.
The steps that you create in your lesson plan should keep students interested, involved, and eager for the next step of their learning journey. When designing your library lesson plan, consider how, and at what point(s) you can get your students involved in the discussion and sharing their own ideas. Asking open-ended questions or using techniques such as turn and talk to a partner are great ways to promote critical thinking and interaction.
An Example “WOW” Lesson
A group of fourth grade students are learning to compare and contrast characters and events in stories. You design a lesson plan where students hear two different versions of a fairy tale.
Step 1: Introduction: You explain that there will be two stories for the day and that students should listen closely and focus on the details. They will be comparing and contrasting the stories later in an class activity. You do not necessarily need a visual here, as the objective is very clear and students already have background knowledge from classroom learning experiences. Your visual will also come quickly with the introduction of step 2.
Step 2: Technology: You show students a five minute video of the first fairy tale.
Step 3: Books: You read the second fairy tale aloud.
Step 4: Interactive Learning: Students are introduced to a table activity, where they are provided with strips containing details from both stories. They work with a group to discuss and sort the strips on to a venn diagram, determining which belong to the first story, the second story, or both stories.
Step 4: Interactive Learning/Technology: Step four could also be technology-based, where students discuss with a partner/group using a printed graphic organizer, how the stories where the same or different. After coming up with ideas, students could use the information on their printed graphic organizer to complete a Web 2.0 activity, such as the online compare and contrast tool from Read, Write, Think.
Post your ideas for “wow” lessons in the comments below. If you have questions about designing library lesson plans, visit our Question and Answer page.