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.
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!