The School Library Journal will be publishing an article I wrote on school libraries and English Language Learners, but I thought readers might be interested in a couple of interesting (at least they are to me :)) ways I use our school library with my mainstream ninth-grade students.

One is having students complete a simple goal sheet prior to our going to the library. It can be downloaded here.

It just takes a minute or two for students to develop their goal for our period in the library — to find a book on soccer to read, to get caught-up on our class blog assignments, to talk to the librarian about mystery book recommendations, etc. It helps students to focus, and we use it with both our mainstream and English Language Learner students. We collect the forms, go to the library, and then, five minutes before the period ends, ask students to complete the second two reflective questions — did they achieve their goal and how would they evaluate their behavior.

My colleague Katie Hull, who’s the best teacher I’ve ever seen, came up with the idea and form and gave me permission to share it here.

The second way I’m using the library is as a place for two book discussion groups to meet.

In one, ten students in my class who would like to enter our International Baccalaureate program have begun reading some higher-level literature. They’re starting with “Bless Me Ultima.” They read about fifty pages each week on their own, and then will start meeting twice a week for twenty minutes each on their own (supervised by the librarian, who has graciously agreed to the arrangement). They’ll be working on their own and together to answer some questions and discuss them while they’re in the library. Those periods of time are when the rest of our class are silently reading their books in class. It’ll be a bit of test on a number of levels, including if they can be independent learners. They’re pretty excited about it. I’ll write a future post sharing how it goes.

After hearing about the Bless Me Ultima “club,” another group of my students decided that they, too, wanted to have a book discussion group, and chose “Always Running,” the great book by Luis Rodriguez. After talking with me, they approached a few students in Katie Hull’s class (we’re neighbors and mostly teach the same classes at the same time — in some future post I’ll write about the extraordinary quasi co-teaching arrangement we’ve developed) to ask if they would be interested. They now have eight members (including some crossover from the other group). They’ll be meeting weekly at the library on different days.

The discussion groups will be an interesting experiment, one that wouldn’t be possible without the support of our exceptional librarian. The independent nature of the groups are both their lure and their danger. I’m hopeful….

What are some ways you’ve been able to effectively utilize your school libraries, and work effectively with your librarians?