“Libra-pedia”

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2; R.9

What you Need: Library catalog, foam-core boards (sizes can vary), assorted art supplies, yarn, pushpins

What to Do: We’ve all fallen down the “Wikipedia wormhole,” clicking link after link as one curiosity leads to the next. With Libra-pedia, bring the excitement of a wandering Internet search (but with solid sources) to the school library.

With your class, choose a variety of research topics (events, people, places, inventions). Topics can connect to your curriculum or be chosen according to student interest. Once the list is finalized, assign one topic to each individual or small group of students. Then, head to the library.

Starting with the assigned topic, have students use the library catalog to find a hard-copy resource about their event, person, place, or invention.  Encourage your retro researchers to dig into this first resource and find a related topic that piques their interest. For example, students might stumble on Winston Churchill while researching World War II, and then discover the Allied Powers while researching Winston Churchill.

Allow students to meander from topic to topic, resource to resource, creating a web of interconnected and relevant people, places, events, and inventions of their choosing. The format of their web may vary from bulleted lists to a literal web using foam-core board, pushpins, and yarn to connect people, events, and concepts.

All sources should be cited, and students should write up short paragraphs about each of the topics discussed to present alongside their web.

Be Puzzled

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4; SL.5

What you Need: Library catalog, stencils of various countries or a map template (of chosen continent), assorted art supplies, oaktag paper, craft knife

What to Do: Former sixth-grade teacher Shannon Romagnolo incorporated library research into her world geography unit at North Miami Middle School in Florida. First, she chose a continent for her class to explore. Then, she paired students, and assigned one country from that continent to each group. The goal of the lesson: to create a puzzle-piece map of the chosen continent with accompanying reports on each country.

Romagnolo brought her class to the library to research topics about each country, including national flags, languages, population, primary exports, major cities, and historical facts. Students were instructed to use the library’s catalog or consult with a librarian to find sources from encyclopedias, reputable websites, and news articles. Next, students worked with Romagnolo to trace the outline of their country onto a sheet of oaktag paper and to cut out the shape with a craft knife. Then, they colored in their country, adding visuals to represent research findings. For example, Team France included a drawing of the tri-color French flag, the national flower (the iris), and Bastille Day (July 14).

Once puzzle pieces were finished, the class worked together to create a complete map of the continent. Tip: For unassigned countries, make cutouts to fill the spaces.

Research Is Infectious

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1; SL.4

What you Need: Computers, Cornell Note Sheet, CRAAP Test Graphic Organizer

What to Do: Teacher librarian Tasha Tolbert collaborates with instructors at Fort Lupton Middle School in Colorado to teach students how to access a wide range of information and determine its credibility. For this lesson, Tolbert worked with former seventh-grade science teacher Charma Glitzke to help students explore the physical, emotional, and social impacts of infectious disease and then present their findings in a video created using Animoto.

Students were directed to use resources such as the Centers for Disease Control’s website (and its BAM! subsection for kids ages 9–13); the World Health Organization’s website; and biographies. The teachers made a sample Animoto video highlighting the criteria teams would be graded on that included references to two or more scientific resources and information about the team’s research process.  
Glitzke discussed building background knowledge about the immune system and using the Cornell note-­taking system, a two-column format with notes and questions. Tolbert taught students how to select credible sources and public-domain digital images. The two teachers also made a model with the CRAAP graphic organizer to sort findings based on currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. Finished student video projects ranged from analyzing the impact of tuberculosis on industrial countries in the 19th century to physical education programs and the obesity epidemic in contemporary American schools.

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Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Romagnolo