Does it go without saying that the best way to teach library resources is inncontext and while co-teaching with content-area teachers? I think so, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t always work that way in real life.
Recently, I have been asked to deliver one-shot lessons to all of our 8th graders about to embark on a research paper unit. The topic: how and why to use library resources, especially the online databases purchased by our school district. And so, knowing that a 40-minute introduction to the resources is better than no exposure at all, I have made the most of my time with the students. Yes, I wish I had had time to do something more interactive than a lot of show and tell and asking a few questions along the way, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.
Here’s my plan in a nutshell:
Show this State Farm commercial (French Model) and talk about the message it is sending (besides buy State Farm insurance). It’s pretty easy to get to “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.”
Talk about the recent hoax involving the lighted rings at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi–and how some of our students believed it and were upset about it.
Change our school website–briefly–to say that there will be free ice cream in the library after school. Observe that no one burst into the room to stop me from posting false information. (and then change it back, of course)
Tell students that my job is to guide them to resources that they can trust to be accurate and useful in their research. My advice is meant to not only show them exemplary resources but also to save them time.
Remind students that information exists not only online–informational texts can be great sources as well. Then I go through the diagram I created that shows what steps it takes to get a book from idea to library and talk about authority, accuracy, etc. It helps to pick a great book to use as an example. This time I used The Night Olympics Team: Fighting to Keep Drugs out of the Games by Caroline Hatton. Eighth graders understand that if Hatton had been inaccurate in reports of a particular Olympic athlete using performance enhancing drugs that both she and the publishing company would be looking at a lawsuit.
Remind students how to search my library’s online catalog and how to tell if the call number is fiction or nonfiction comes next.
Show this great PSA from Purdue Libraries about the difference between searching Google and using the library’s databases. So I show it, and we talk about it. I like pointing out that even college students benefit from the help of librarians. Another idea that comes out of the discussion is that Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers can be edited by anyone with an account so we discourage their use for scholarly research, even though they do have other informational uses.
And now to the resources: for this lesson I feature World Book Encyclopedia Online, Gale Virtual Reference Library, and Gale Student Resource Center. They can all be found on the website I share with the other three middle schools in our district. I tell students that because the e-books, excerpts, articles here go through much the same rigorous process as published books, their authority and accuracy are trustworthy and that using them can save students time, too.
For each resource, I do sample searches, compare/contrast with Google results, show how to navigate each resource and highlight special features, and show where the citation information is for each. This part actually takes up the bulk of the time, although I just described it very briefly here.
To end the lesson, I once again stress to students that the information I have shared with them is meant as advice to lead them to excellent resources. I also remind them once again that using said resources will save them time. Their first questions can be, “Is this information useful to me?” and “Does it answer my research question?” instead of “Can I trust whom or where this information came from?”
Again, the ideal situation would be for me to co-teach the entire research process, but that is just not something that can happen given my current job assignment and responsibilities and our Language Arts teachers’ new curriculum. And so, I use this chance to give the students (and their teachers) some tools useful tools and a great head start–while hoping for an increased level of involvement in years to come.