How to...be a big noise in the library

20th April 2007 at 01:00
I'm off to the library with my class for some research.

To put your feet up, or to do something interesting?

I thought I'd lose myself in an Ian Rankin mystery while the kids read magazines.

Sarcasm doesn't suit you. A Learning Resources Centre is an exciting place and not necessarily quiet. It's a place where learning can be active and fun. There are periodicals that encourage reading, as well as a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. It's certainly not a dead book store like some old school libraries. It's a centre for reading, resources, for learning, for research and for discovery.

Famous Five and The Chalet Girls?

Still on the shelves, but that's not the whole story. It doesn't all have to be serious: there are online and multi-media resources, as well as books and press cuttings. In other words, it's a place to find out the answers to anything and everything.

And they can browse the internet?

Search but not browse. Make sure they frame a suitable question and look methodically for answers. Emphasise information skills, self-directed learning, finding out and developing research skills. Avoid aimless browsing. But they could follow a WebQuest, a guided tour through targeted resources.

Something like: "Find out everything you can about the medieval times?"

Aagh. Teach them a structured approach with a focus. Follow a six-step plan: ask, find, choose, do, present and review.

Research is a life skill - it's not just finding the answer to the immediate question, but learning how to find out, evaluate resources and present the results in the most effective way.

It all sounds a bit elaborate.

Not at all. Young pupils can follow the three steps: preview, do and review. If all pupils follow the same basic pattern and research tasks reinforce it, your pupils should be skilled enough to go out into the world with a real understanding of how to find out. It's a basic skill.

So I can put my feet up after all?

Ha! Now's the time for real teaching - helping individual pupils to learn.

You might learn something, too

Duncan Grey is author of 100 Essential Lists for Teachers, First Aid Kit for Teachers and Getting the Buggers to Learn (published by Continuum)

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