Inquiry and the Library – Discovering New Opportunities

When I moved to Hong Kong Academy last August, it was decided that we would give a combination of fixed and flexible scheduling for class time with me and in the library a try. Every class from PK1 (3-year-olds) to G5 (10-year-olds) would visit the library for 30min each week. The focus would be on supporting literacy development by promoting reading through read-alouds, author studies, and book talks. Teachers would schedule additional time with me for the integration of other information literacy skills within units of inquiry, such as information seeking strategies and resource citation.

I wish I could say that what then happened was all planned and expected, bringing inquiry also into the 30min library visits; but it all happened more by chance at first. I used it with one class, and then seeing its success, applied it with other classes too when introducing a new author. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t something that happened by accident but rather the result of me experiencing inquiry as a learner (see “Teachers as Inquirers – Post 1, Post 2 and Post 3 for more about this). It almost seems that experience has changed my whole thinking, making an inquiry-based approach the most logical and spontaneous choice when approaching learning.

So what does this look like when introducing an author to students in the library:

Tuning in: We look at the author’s books and make some predictions about him/her and the type of books he/she writes. Then we write down all of our questions and wonderings. Next, we make a plan on how to find answers to our questions.

Finding out: We look through the author’s books, we search for other information sources in World Book and the online catalog (books and websites).

Sorting out: We sort our information, matching questions and answers. We usually move back and forth between these two phases: as we find a piece of information, we check which question it answers, then go back to finding more information.

Going further: We look for answers to questions that we couldn’t answer yet with the resources we had, thinking of additional sources of information. We also look for answers to new questions that emerged while we were finding out.

Drawing conclusions: We put together our main conclusions, what did we learn about this author.

Acting and reflecting: We think about what we can do with our learning now. In most cases so far, students suggested that they would continue reading books by the author and would tell others, e.g. family members, about the author.

With the help of the class’ respective co-teacher, I record the process on paper or in digital format using multi media. I find these records not only helpful in making students’ thinking visible but also powerful reflection tools at the end of such an inquiry.

Here is an example from an inquiry about Ezra Jack Keats with G2 students.

2ai’s Ezra Jack Keats Inquiry from tgaletti on Vimeo.

I think the video speaks for itself – students and I love our author inquiries! I am not only excited about this because it has made library visits more fun for everyone involved but because it has shown me other opportunities to support students in becoming successful inquirers. Looking back, when I first started to work as a librarian in the PYP almost six years ago, my main focus was providing resources for the units of inquiry. I also taught some information literacy skills but as a stand-alone in isolation. The next step was that I became more involved in units of inquiry, as some classroom teachers allowed me to collaboratively teach the skills when and where they are needed, i.e. embedded in units. Now, I feel I have taken the next step in embracing inquiry-based teaching, not only because it makes total sense but also because it helps students in their development as inquirers as they experience learning through inquiry both in their classroom and the library. Exciting times!

About tgaletti

Primary School Teacher Librarian in the PYP in Hong Kong. I am passionate about reading, inquiry and technology.
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9 Responses to Inquiry and the Library – Discovering New Opportunities

  1. Brendan says:

    Wonderful provocation going on there in linking literacy/library and IBL. Most impressive questioning techniques too. Happy teaching, Brendan, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.


  2. kdceci says:

    I really enjoyed reading this as I have been working with our librarian on how to make the library a more active, inquiry-filled place. This is great and I’m passing along. Would love to hear more on how this is all working in the future!


    • tgaletti says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am happy to hear you enjoyed reading about this – and hope to have more to share soon. It’s great to see how quickly the kids become familiar with the process and terminology as they are seeing and applying the inquiry cycle in the library and the classroom.


  3. Pingback: OTR Links 02/04/2013 « doug – off the record

  4. Marg Bergin says:

    I loved seeing the excitement of your students as they engaged in this inquiry. I’m going to show this to my students as inspiration for an author study. I’m working with all our class teachers this year. No more library stuff in isolation! Thank you for sharing your work!


    • tgaletti says:

      Thanks, Marg, for your comment. I have just recently started another author inquiry – which would be the third one with this group of students – and it’s wonderful how familiar students are with the process now. They not only drive the inquiry with their questions but also in knowing what to do next in the process, e.g. making a plan for finding the information, finding the information, then sorting it out, etc. I can let them be more and more in charge, which is great.


  5. HI Tania!

    What a lovely post – thanks for sharing it. I love the way the role of the library (and the teacher librarian) can both promote and celebrate great literature AND support students as researchers. As I read through the application of the model – I wondered whether the ‘action’ pr ‘application’ phase ever had students making a connection between the author they had studied and their own work as a writer – as well as a reader. I imagine one powerful action would be to endeavour to use the texts they have explored to inspire and inform their own development as authors? I also wondered whether the ‘finding out’ about the author has led the students to contact authors directly? – powerful way of getting some primary data. Thanks again for sharing!



    • tgaletti says:

      Dear Kath,

      Thank you for your comment, encouragement and great ideas! I hadn’t thought about guiding students towards making connections to their own writing, but it would be such a great connection since many young writers often struggle with coming up with ideas on what to write. Many of Ezra Jack Keats’ stories, just as the stories of the author we are currently learning about in G2 (i.e. Niki Daly), are inspired by what the authors themselves experience(d), by the people they met, the environment they live(d) in. Perfect!
      Contacting the author directly (students usually mention Skype) comes up all the time and just today we made plans of putting a comment on Niki Daly’s blog after the break. We still have so many questions to which, in our opinion, only he can give us the answers. Let’s hope we will hear from him.


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