One of the most critical lifelong skills that you can teach children is information literacy. Defined by AASL, information literacy, (which includes digital, visual, media, textual, and technological literacy) education gives all students the inquiry based research skills to access, collect, and evaluate information credibly, accurately, and ethically. In other words, information literacy means teaching young children how to evaluate information that they encounter in their world. This skill is crucial for all children, even our youngest primary students. Young learners tend to believe everything they hear and see. Information literacy teaches them how to review new information critically. In this blog post, you will hear from two library professionals about their partnership on a recent shared research project with 1st grade students teaching information literacy.
Research can be challenging for young students, but this Spring we incorporated a Shared Research approach with first grade students to teach different countries of the world. Shared Research is a structured format introducing children to research and information literacy skills for the first time. The learning is “shared” in small groups, which allows students to read and discuss new information together. When they have questions, students discuss their questions with the members of their group, rather than going right to the teacher, in order to gain meaning. If they still have questions, there are at least two teachers on hand to lend their expertise or clarify any inconsistencies. Partnerships between the school library media specialist, classroom teacher, and children’s librarian (from the local public library) were crucial to the success of this shared research project.
The School Library Media Specialist (SLMS) and classroom teachers met several months before the project was set to begin. We outlined the social studies unit and defined our roles. The shift to shared research would mean the classroom teacher would spend more time in the library with their class. Our principal believes in flexible scheduling and adjusted prep times accordingly.
As the Children’s Librarian from the Upper Saddle River Public Library, I spoke with Mrs. Cucci to determine her needs for the project. We determined that the children would require a sampling of non-fiction texts about various countries ranging from Kindergarten to third grade reading levels. The books would need to have specific information about each country’s foods, landforms, transportation, and animals. I researched whether these texts were in our library system, and ordered them. If they were not, I conducted research as to whether these types of books were in existence elsewhere, and whether it would be beneficial for my library to purchase them. I was in contact with Mrs. Cucci several times in order to discuss the progress. The books were then checked out to Mrs. Cucci and sent to the schools. We spoke during and after the project so that I could gauge whether or not the books I selected met the needs of the students and project as a whole.
Each class was assigned one country to research together. Students and teachers came to the library during their regularly scheduled class period and worked in their groups to read and gather information. Children picked their subtopic and used an inquiry approach to find answers. For example, Mrs. Mende’s class researched Japan. One group had to answer the question, “What kind of transportation is used in Japan?” Students were taught how to ask questions by thinking about “What do I want to know about this country?” The questions became the conduit which would then lead to finding answers.
Each group worked with a teacher to write the information in their own words on chart paper. Students read and reviewed this document to be sure it was accurate. In the next sessions, students each selected a new fact and typed it using Kid Pix, and then drew an original illustration. Students saved their work on the local network so that they could complete it over a few class periods.
With the passing of ESSA, we are all interested in creating highly effective school library programs. One way to ensure this, is to teach the lifelong learning skill of information literacy in your library program. Even young children need practice in asking questions to establish inquiry. In our collaborative project, we used Shared Research with 1st grade students, and they asked questions to learn about a new country. This scaffolded inquiry project helped students feel confident in their first research experience and depended on the library program as the backbone of knowledge.
Christina Cucci is a School Library Media Specialist in Upper Saddle River, NJ. She teaches Technology and Media skills to students in grades K-2.
Mary DeNunzio is the Head of Children’s Services at the Upper Saddle River Public Library. She works with children aging from infancy through grade 5.