During July I took some time to reflect upon the impact, role and overall effectiveness of Library lessons. I had been asked to take ownership of three of the seven English lessons in the new academic year.
Over the last two academic years, year 7 were offered a single Library lesson every week through the English department. Each of the seven classes would come to the Library with their English teacher for one of their timetabled lessons and, during these lessons, they received a Library induction consisting of six lessons planned and delivered by the Librarian (i.e., me) where they would be inducted to the Library on the following:
- Library provision and services
- How to choose fiction
- Accelerated Reader
- The DDC system and how to find non-fiction
- Using the Library e-catalogue
After this induction the lessons took on a less definite approach. The goals of the Library lesson provision was to give pupils time to read independently and to participate in the Accelerated Reader program. The format this would take was not defined by myself and was more of a collaborative approach with the English teacher. Depending on the English teacher this had varying success, with the most successful classes reading well independently, taking part in Accelerated Reader and reading a class reader during Library lessons. The least successful deteriorated and pupils did participate in any sustained independent reading of value, using the lesson to browse through a book or magazine they had no interest in reading, or continuing to read after the lesson, and talking with their friends.
After reflecting on the relative successes and failures of Library lessons I concluded the following:
- Some pupils lack the skills to choose appropriate books
- Some pupils lack the focus to read for a sustained length of time
- Reading was not an appropriate activity for a 50-minute lesson
- Library lessons that lack structure, focus and objectives were more likely to be problematic
So, my thoughts for improving the overall effectiveness of Library lessons and student engagement, as well as their participation in Accelerated Reader and independent reading, were as follows:
- Library lessons should be planned in the same form as their regular lessons, i.e. with learning objectives and outcomes linked to their learning in English lessons
- Independent reading time should make up only part of the 50-minute lesson. This will form the starter, or settling activity, of every lesson and the amount of time pupils will be expected to read for will be displayed on the interactive white-board (IWB). This will never be for more than 20 minutes, and will give a clear and finite length of time for reading, which will encourage them to settle quickly.
- Structured, and fun, learning activities should help to form the basis of lessons.
- I needed to take the lead in planning and delivering lessons, using the English teacher to support with behaviour management where appropriate. This would help to exemplify my authority as the teacher in the Library and command a greater influence over classes and behaviour.
- Lessons should be grouped and planned using the modular cycle adopted by the school, to ensure consistency of format.
So what?… Solutions
I decided that I would take my thoughts to the Head of English to discuss the issues and so that I could get her opinion and support. She agreed with my conclusions and fully supported the idea of developing a “scheme of learning” for Library lessons, and the following topics were agreed upon:
- Module one: Induction to the Library
- Module two: How to be an independent reader. Pupils will reflect upon their own reading habits and abilities and set their own developmental objectives. Activities during this module will be focussed upon broadening their exposure to different reading material, talking about and sharing opinions on books, writing book reviews and creating a book trailer.
- Module three: Research project. Linking in with the class reader of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, pupils will undertake an independent research project on World War Two. They will be able to choose a topic of their choice within this topic umbrella, such as codebreakers, battle of Britain, Nazi Germany etc., to give them ownership of the work and to elevate interest. During this module they will have lessons that will seek to develop their information literacy skills, linking to the Academy’s “information competency”, ensuring that pupils are learning these vital skills within the context of an actual piece of project work.
- Module four: Class reader. We will read a novel as a class. In response to feedback gained from some pupils, classes will be given a choice and the selection has been updated to include Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy, a novel that is currently very popular and that will hopefully enthuse many pupils.
- Module five: Reading media. A module that will expose pupils to reading a variety of different texts from the range of media including TV, web, print etc.
During the independent reading sections of the planned lesson, we discussed the idea that lower-ability groups may benefit from an approach more akin to “story-time”, with a book being read together in a more comfortable seating arrangement. Floor cushions and bean bags have been ordered to facilitate this and they will be used as an incentive in all classes. Pupils who settle down to read quickly and quietly at their desks will get the opportunity to move to these comfortable seats as reward for their model behaviour.
Over the Summer holiday period I have planned the first three schemes of learning, and purchased the relevant books in preparation for the fourth module. My aptitude for planning lessons is not particularly refined, having had limited experience when training to be a teacher (and failing!) and so going through the process for modules two and three was particularly hard work. Using the Academy’s four-part lesson planning structure and lesson objective format was a task I had not undertaken previously, and so became a further skill to learn and adopt.
The proposed lessons have now been planned and will, I hope, ensure the year 7 Library lessons are much more effective. I hope to see greater pupil engagement in the Accelerated Reader program as a result of more structured independent reading time, along with lessons that pupils will find more valuable, relevant and engaging.
These lessons have carried extra significance by the fact that I have been asked by the Head-teacher if, as part of my CPD, I would be happy to take three of the seven weekly lessons as the main teacher, without the relevant English teacher being present. While wary of the implications, I was convinced that this would indeed present an opportunity to develop my own professional practice by being considered the “teacher” and Librarian during three of the seven Library lessons. Having ownership of the planned lessons, and being confident with the content and value of the lessons meant that I was more happier to take on three classes in this role.
The challenge will be to reflect upon, evaluate, and improve these lessons when necessary, on a regular basis to ensure they are successful. It will be vital that lessons plans are tweaked, activities are tested, habits are developed and outcomes are evaluated and accounted for. As part of this process I will be attending sessions for NQTs during the academic year to develop my own skills as a teacher, which in turn will have an impact on the lessons that I plan and deliver.
I hope that in July next year I am able to say that Library lessons in 2010-11 were more successful and of a greater value than those delivered in 2009-10. At present, evidence will consist of my own reflections and feedback from staff. I hope to be able to implement some form of data capture and analysis that will also present more quantitative evidence of impact.