Sarah Forfa is the School Librarian at West Springfield High School. She also serves on the MSLA Executive Board as Co-Director for the Western region and was the recipient of a 2018 President's Award.
How many times have you stood in front of a group of students at the beginning of a school year, and watched their eyes glaze over as soon as you begin your tried and true “Welcome to the Library” presentation? Orientations are an essential part of our work as school librarians. How can we expect students and faculty to take advantage of all our great resources if they aren’t properly introduced to the library? Although necessary, we all need to face the fact that traditional orientations aren’t always the most engaging of activities for us or our students. A poorly planned, boring, or overly detailed orientation has the potential to turn students off from the library in one fell swoop. In turn, we may come away from the experience feeling disheartened and disconnected from our students - which is the opposite of our goal. So the question becomes…. how can we make orientations more interesting and successful for everyone involved?
Kim Young is a Social Studies teacher who collaborates with Librarian Alida Hanson at Weston High School.
As a Grade 9 World History teacher, I believe that research projects are often more about skill building and process than content. But, let’s face it - skill building isn’t always the most exciting part of class and it can take a lot of practice to get things right. I was introduced to the idea of adding gamification principles into my classroom this November at the National Council of Social Studies conference. Never being afraid to experiment, I decided to gamify a lesson plan on finding traditional print sources in the library to prepare students for the completion of a long-term research project. While most of my students are aware that using an online catalog is the best way to find books in the library, many struggle with identifying relevant keywords. The database and internet searching skills students intuitively have are transferable to developing catalog keywords to a certain extent, but students are less resilient when initial keyword searches result in what they perceive as “failure.” The game focused on the following goals: