Redefining the School Library
It is time to re-envision how a school library can be utilized. Teachers and librarians have long been collaborators for co-teaching lessons, but what if they took this collaborative relationship one step further and employed blended learning strategies to better meet the needs of students? This is exactly what we have done at Traner Middle School.
The library at Traner Middle School has undergone a major change this year. We have evolved into a learning commons. No, we didn’t replace the library. The learning commons includes the library- but is so much more! One innovative practice that happens here is using blended learning strategies. According to the Christensen Institute, Blended learning is a formal education program that is in part online learning where students have control over time, place, path, and/ or pace. At Traner MS, the library media specialist and teachers employ the “individual rotation” model. In this model, students have an individual course or “playlist” where they rotate between learning stations and complete different learning tasks. This model allows both the teacher and the library media specialist valuable time to work with small groups in different ways. It also gives students a certain degree of autonomy and choice to the students. Stations are interconnected in learning objectives and long term in nature- classes meet every single week over the entire school year. This is NOT a "one and done" lesson model.
Below is an example of how this “looks” in a science enrichment class.
Students in Ms. Pettengill’s science enrichment class are scheduled weekly in the learning commons. When they arrive for their weekly class, the library media specialist and teacher review the options and stations for that day- the “playlist”. Many activities are ongoing and connected to long term goals- stations that the students engage in weekly and work at their own pace. Some are more short term learning activities that are new to them. We try to introduce a new station to the playlist weekly. In our most recent meeting, the students had several options and one mandatory station (small group instruction with Ms. Pettengill). Students generally rotate through 2-3 stations in a class period. The long term options include learning to code. Students are enrolled in a coding course online and continually work at their own pace. We have a leaderboard to gamify the process and make it engaging. They also have the option to practice their coding skills as an alternative station by using the coding program Scratch. In the Scratch station they use project and gaming books that allow them to learn in a self directed manner. Other stations include circuitry- creating squishy circuits or Makey Makeys, or vocabulary enrichment and silent reading.
As you can see from the pictures, student engagement is high and students have true ownership over their learning. They have opportunities to receive differentiated support from their teachers, but also get valuable experiences that support 21st century learning skills- especially self-regulation and creativity and innovation. It is a win-win for all!
Image 1: Independent reading station
Image 2: Coding in Scratch
Image 3: Squishy circuits with collaborative partners
Image 4: small group instruction