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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Win-Win: Teacher-Librarians Bridge the Library to the Classroom for Success

by Donna Kistner (Baxter Junior High Librarian, Everman I.S.D)

I am a teacher-librarian: a teacher in the library and a librarian in the classroom. When I was in the classroom, I constantly gave books to students generally about a skill students were learning at the time.  So when I became a full time librarian, I noticed a gap, between my goals as a teacher; wanting students to learn skills, and wanting students to just read as a librarian. So I developed a way to link the two, read for your TEKS and hook your readers.  Now, as a librarian, I help teachers achieve their goals, while I achieve my goals as well. However, the students are the real winners!

Using the knowledge I gained of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills as a teacher in the classroom and combining that knowledge with the skills necessary for students to learn in the library, I developed a technique to link the two together so students will achieve success in classroom.  As I read a novel, I look for snippets of text teachers can use to teach the TEKS.  I note those books and the snippets to share with teachers. I tag the books to help students connect with a TEK as they read the snippet, then they become more interested in reading the book. This helps me become more successful linking reading to the classroom.  I make assignment cards called Trade for a Grade cards.  These are cards posted in the library with skills that students are using in their classrooms but require students to read snippets of books to complete the assignments. The assignment is completed in the library but turned into teachers in the classrooms to take the place of missing assignments or grades.

 The more students read, the more they are prepared for the TEK when it is taught in class. “Remember that good teaching is not about covering a new list of standards; good teaching is  grounded in practices proven to sharpen our students’ literacy skills” (Gallagher, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom, 2015). To me this means  good teaching is about reading, encouraging students to read, helping students find great books to read, and achieving teacher’s and student’s goals.  So I continue to add the snippets to my file so that I am prepared when teachers are looking for just the right piece to read to help students understand a TEK. 

For example, the text in Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) helps students recognize many reading skills, especially in drawing conclusions since characters are on the “Isle of Conclusions” (which they jumped to). Drawing conclusions is a difficult skill to teach without reading a long text.  Many students get lost in the wording and can’t see it. However; using short pieces will allow students to easily see the pun in the first two pages. Juster is a master at using word play and vocabulary.  This book is great for teaching figurative language because you can turn to any page and find great use of metaphors, hyperboles and more. Students who like funny stories will immediately see the humor in Juster’s writing.  I use this appeal to bridge the library into the classroom.

The teachers and I collaborate about skills they are using in class. When teachers add TEKS to their lesson plans, I find snippets to help teach and support those skills with the books in the library. Blue Lipstick by John Grandits is an example of concrete poetry which correlates to skills 8.3 and 7.3 TEKS, asking students to identify different types of poetry.  My Trade for a Grade card asks students to explain the differences between a Blue Lipstick poem, and any poem from the Extraordinary Poetry Writing by Margaret Ryan.  Using the two books, students make their own Venn diagram to explain the differences in the stanzas, shapes, and rhyme schemes.  To extend the lesson, I ask the question, “How do these two types of poems differ from a novel in verse like The Crossover by Kwame Alexander or Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder.  After reading just one page of each book, students can note the differences and similarities.  In addition, The Crossover intrigues the boys and Chasing Brooklyn entices the girls.  Students quickly check out the book, and I need to make another Trade for Grade card. This is a win-win; more students find books they enjoy and learn skills while reading high interest pieces. 

Trade for a Grade cards also help students who need to make up missing assignments: they achieve classroom goals while they make up missing projects.  If a teacher will accept the Venn diagram as an alternative assignment, she/he signs the back of the card. Then students may turn in their Venn diagram to take the place of their missing assignment in class. This is one of the hardest skills for students to do on their own, but it is one of Robert Marzano’s nine high yield strategies.

Many students come to school with no literacy skills. They do not have homes full of books. Few in my district have a library card and most are very poor.  So the only opportunity to interact with books is through the school library. I want to maximize their time in the library to help them be successful students.  In my classroom, I wanted to surround the students with literacy options such as newspapers, comics, books, magazines and more.  I believe if you find what a student likes, they will read about it. What a better place to do that than in the library where you have every subject possible almost.

I read Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead and found snippets to use with a TEK for teachers to use in class, or that I can use in the library as they read. I ask the students how the setting influences the story. This story begins with the main character in the hospital and a nurse saying, “There must be a reason you survived?” I encourage 7th and 8th grade students to use the short prologue in this book to make inferences as to what may happen in the story by predicting from that point. This skill will be discussed in the classroom, and students will remember what we discussed in the library. Asking students to show me, using text evidence, gives me an opportunity to teach citations skills and quoting. 

I am working toward creating a Trade for a Grade Card for every subject area and grade level using the library to meet goals. My major goal is to help struggling readers apply skills from class to their reading.  This increases learning because students are more likely to read books they select.  Finding ways to help students use skills in a variety of reading environments enhances students’ ability to read with understanding. Win-Win yet again.


  1. This is excellent information for administrators to see the library DOES play a role in a student's academic career!

  2. Your creativity with the Win Win cards is genius. I see a marketable item here.

  3. Love library and TEKS connection! Great idea and article!!