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Moving Beyond the Norm

Written By: Angie Jameson (Library Media Specialist - Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools)

Research Across the Curriculum
As we focus educational efforts on promoting future-ready skills, including collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication, research units allow us to target all of these areas. Typically, we target specific content areas to co-teach research skills and strategies. Conversations with numerous school library media specialists (slms) tell me that the two most popular classes we work with include English and social studies. If we’re lucky, some science teachers will welcome us into their classrooms as well.

My conversations with slms also indicate that many library media specialists may not have had the chance to explore the fantastic potential in co-teaching with elective teachers to embed research into their curriculum. Not only does this practice reinforce the skills students need in their core academic classes, but it also creates a sense of collaboration and shared interest within the building. The more classes we visit to co-teach research, the better for all involved.

In my first year as a media specialist in a 7-12 position, I set my professional goal to work with at least 30% of the 7-12 teaching staff throughout the year. At the start of the year, I visited English classes and social studies classes to support various research endeavors. After speaking with elective teachers about their course loads, I realized how much freedom some of these teachers have within their curriculum. I immediately began pushing elective and foreign language teachers to assign mini-research projects, and I found great success. This practice led to students feeling more confident with the resources and support tools, and the complaints about how difficult the research process subsided. 

Getting Started

When encouraging elective teachers [or any teacher] to jump on the research train, provide as much scaffolding as they need getting started. This may be their first experience teaching research in their classroom. Make time to walk the teachers through whatever steps of the process they need help with. Support them through writing the assignment, pairing the assignment with content, writing the rubric, teaching the lessons, and assessing the assignments when necessary. If your schedule allows for it, teach the lesson with the teacher and help them grade the final product presentation or assessment of choice. If your schedule does not allow for this, set time aside to walk through the lesson with the teacher before they facilitate it on their own. 

To find success in teaching across the entire curriculum, it’s vital in this process to really get to know the resources that you have access to— whether that’s resources that you’re paying for out of your budget or the free resources provided by your state. Serving in the state of Ohio gives us a plethora of free resources through INFOhio. Take advantage of them. It’s also crucial to remember that many of our resources are continually changing and expanding. Take the time to review and explore your resources every few months. Meet with a support specialist to go over new content and features once a semester if you can. 

What Does This Look Like In Practice?

When a new choir director took over the 7-12th grade program in the 2018-2019 school year, I saw the opportunity to build a collaborative relationship for our choral students. After reviewing the chorus learning targets set by the state of Ohio, I brainstormed how I could support this teacher and his students for the upcoming school year. I set up a meeting before the start of the school year, and I offered my assistance and partnership in teaching a research unit or two throughout the school year. I provided examples of research endeavors we could assign, and I walked the new teacher through the resources I would direct students to for the assignments. At the beginning of December, the teacher reached out with some open days in their calendar following the winter concert. I used a shared Google Doc to collaborate on writing the final assignment and rubric, and I co-taught the unit for a few days.

We used Gale In Context: Elementary (Available through INFOhio) and Gale’s Research in Context as our middle schoolers collaborated on Google Drawings to create a graphic to demonstrate an understanding of a specific style of music. Once the students completed their graphic designs, we used a Google Form asking teachers to vote on the best design per style of music. The winning posters were printed using a wide format printer in our creation lab and displayed in the halls outside the choir room for all to see. The friendly competition was a great motivator for this assignment, which you can view a copy of here.