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Creating Teaching and Learning Materials

Rather than thinking about creating "lessons" consider how you will design the learning environment. Then, what materials will the teacher need and what materials will the student need to be successful?

You'll still need to create a lesson for yourself, however inquiry environments require that teachers spend much more time on designing the materials that will help guide students through the learning experience. The library media specialist has an essential role in providing coherence to the K12 program.

Traditionally teaching materials were complex because they contained the details of instructor-lead learning such as teacher lectures, teacher demonstrations, and teacher-lead discussions. Although these techniques are still used today, the constructivist environment focuses more on student discoveries, student explorations, and student-lead discussions. As such, much more depth must go into the design of student materials. The teacher materials include less content and more ideas for motivation, overviews, reflective questions, and mini-lesson ideas that could be incorporated the learning environment as needed. For example, rather than wasting the time of the entire group, a mini-lesson might be used to review search strategies with a small group of student who seem to be having difficulty locating quality resources.

try itExplore Teaching with Historic Places from the National Park Service. Learn to write lessons that focus on history and primary sources materials. Explore their sample lessons in Social Studies.

Teaching Materials

Lessons are used by the teacher as a guide to facilitate learning. Sometimes a lesson can be taught in a single class session or period. In other cases, a lesson might take a series of days or weeks to complete. A lesson or lesson series should be based on a single topic, theme, or scenario. In addition, it should be focused on a set of related academic standards that will be introduced, reinforced, or mastered with the lesson. Outlines, storyboards, timelines, and other materials are part of the lesson. They serve as a guide to help the teacher facilitate learning.

Teaching materials might include short presentations that provide a springboard into an inquiry activity, lists of reflective questions for use in student conferencing, and mini-lessons containing examples and short demonstrations.

Learning Objects

Library media specialists often find themselves reviewing the same knowledge and skills in different contexts. During the year, you might collaborate on projects with an English teacher, science teacher, and social studies teacher on topics that deal with evaluating information and separating fact from opinion. Rather than creating three separate lessons, consider creating learning objects that can be reused in different situations. For example, the basic concepts might be the same you'd just need to provide different examples.

try itGo to BBC Education - Literacy. This activity could be used in many different grade levels and subject areas.

Learning objects are particularly useful at "teachable moments" when individuals or small groups of students reach a point in their work where they feel uncertain or lack direction. A classic example of learning objects is a mini-lesson using plastic manipulatives to help children learn a basic math concept. Vygotsky identified a zone of proximal development in teaching and learning. The zone is used to describe the difference between what a child can do with help and what the child can do without guidance.

Based on the ideas of Vygotsky, Carol Kuhlthau described a zone of intervention in the information process. This zone is based on the idea that interventions are most useful to learners at a particular time. It's the teacher's job to diagnose when intervention is needed and what activities will be enabling and enriching. Rather than wasting the time of self-sufficient students, focused interventions help those students who need help without distracting those that are already on task. Since learning objects are "ready-to-use" they're great for addressing the need of this type of intervention in the information search process.

Learning Materials

Equally important are the learning materials. Think of them as the lesson from the student's point of view.

These materials may include handouts, anticipation guides, concept maps, checklists, rubrics, and other resources to facilitate learning. Many teachers are designing these materials into a web-based environment such as a simulation, activity web page, or WebQuest.

try itCheck out the Raccoon Babies Big 6 resource. Also, check out some other online activities such as Revolutionary Viewpoints, Who Dunnit? and Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.

try itCheck out the Library of Congress activities for integrating primary source documents and other resources into the classroom in their Discovering American Memory project.

try itGo to How to Do Research from KY Virtual Library, Research 101, and A+ Research and Writing from IPL. They provide tutorials on research skills.

The key to effective learning materials is that they must be effective, efficient, and appealing to students. They should be written in the language of students and aimed at students. As such, they should be written at the reading level of students. They should contain text, visuals, and other elements that will assist the diverse group of learners succeed. They should include analogies, scenarios, and examples that are motivating and interesting.

Learning materials should use techniques that stimulate creative and critical thinking. They may contain reflective questions or ideas for organizing thinking. The key is providing the scaffolding that students need to be successful in the learning experience.

WebQuests contain some of the best examples of teaching and learning materials. Most WebQuests start with student pages and link to a teacher page. You don't need to create a WebQuest to use this approach. The same categories can incorporated into a self-running PowerPoint presentation or even a sheet of paper. The key is to focus on a student-centered lesson that includes an introduction, task, process, resources, product, evaluation, and conclusion.

try itNeed help with lesson planning? Try one of the following resources:Designshop: Lessons in Effective Teaching from Virginia Tech or Write a Lesson Plan Guide.

video clipView Lesson Planning (5:59).

In this video, Annette Lamb discusses the lesson planning process: learner, what you want them to do, standards fit, resources collection, learning environment, technology & learning standards, assessment. – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

video clipView Fifth Grade Class (7:12).

In this video, Bonita DeAmicis (5th grade teacher) discusses content and technology standards providing an example in art using Inspiration in prewriting – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

eye means readRead Students and the Information Search Process: Zones of Intervention for Librarians by C.C. Kuhlthau (Advanced in Librarianship, Vol. 18, 1994).

eye means readRead Key Word: Lesson Plan in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy, 411-420.

Read Key Word: Scaffolding in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy, 523-526.

Key Words

Learn More

McKenzie, Jamie (2000). The Ties that Bind and the Links that Set Us Free and Part 2. From Now On.

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