WHEN I taught as a school librarian, teachers and administrators had a couple big misperceptions about what I was up to in the library.
The first big misperception was that I was “only” motivating students to read for fun and giving students the opportunity to borrow books.* To counter this misperception, I constantly tried to share that I was up to three things in the library: 1) motivating students to read for fun, 2) teaching research skills, and 3) teaching technology skills.
The second big misperception was that I was not guided by any educational standards and that I could do whatever fun activities struck my fancy. Library time was fluff time — a fun add on to the core curriculum being taught in classrooms. To the contrary, school librarians are guided by two sets of educational standards: the AASL’s National School Library Standards and the Common Core State Standards. In fact, school librarians have a central role to play in implementing the Common Core State Standards.
It is this role — the central role of school librarians in implementing the Common Core State Standards — that I want to highlight today.
But first, why should our schools — via strong school library programs — be teaching research skills?
- Research skills are empowering. When students graduate and head off into the world, we want them to be able to find accurate answers to their questions: How should I care for my pet? How can I find a job? Who should I vote for? Should I get a vaccine? etc.
- Research is engaging. When students ask and answer questions, they become actively engaged in their learning.
- Research helps students retain knowledge. When students create new knowledge by asking and answering questions, they are more likely to retain it.
For these reasons and more, research skills instruction is mandated by the Common Core State Standards.
UNDER the Common Core State Standards, research skills instruction is integrated throughout the curriculum. The introduction to the Common Core State Standards states that the following is a “key design consideration” of the standards:
“Research and media skills blended into the Standards as a whole
“…The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.”
Here are five key research skills — embedded throughout the Common Core State Standards — that school librarians should be teaching students. I will be sharing tips for how to teach each of these research skills here at The Curious Kid’s Librarian.
1. Asking Good Research Questions
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 (K & up) “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.”**
2. Finding Print & Digital Sources to Answer Research Questions
3. Searching for Information Within Print & Digital Sources
4. Avoiding Plagiarism
5. Evaluating the Credibility & Accuracy of Print & Digital Sources
Teachers and administrators, school librarians are trained to teach the research skills mandated by the Common Core State Standards.
School librarians, if you are only motivating kids to read for fun, you are a) engaged in valuable work, but b) missing a big important piece of what you could be contributing to your students’ education. The Common Core State Standards should be guiding what you are teaching in the library.
*While I say “only,” I believe that motivating students to read for fun and providing students with free access to books is extremely valuable. Numerous studies have found that high quality library programs — characterized by full-time, licensed librarians and solid funding — increase students’ reading test scores (Sinclair-Tarr and Tarr, 2007; Lance 2018).
**For those unfamiliar with the Common Core State Standards, the standards listed here are “anchor standards.” For each anchor standard, there are corresponding grade-level standards for each grade. For example, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7: “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation” is an anchor standard. The 2nd grade version of this standard (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2.7) states that 2nd graders should be able to: “Participate in shared research and writing projects.” The 6th grade version of this standard (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6.7) states that 6th graders should be able to: “Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.”