Building Common Ground • Classroom Teachers

A key stakeholder group to begin fostering partnerships is classroom teachers. As we look at the sample school librarian job description from AASL, one of the key points is to collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists to design and implement lessons and units of instruction. And assess student learning in instructional effectiveness. It's right there. The part of the job description is to collaborate with classroom teachers. In collaborating with classroom teachers, school librarians are fulfilling one of the important roles of the school librarian, as well as building potential advocates in their classroom teacher colleagues.

In this lesson, we'll talk about curricular connections, critical thinking in inquiry, assessment, and effective communication with classroom teachers. When we think about curricular connections, also looking at that sample job description, we aim to collaborate to design and implement lessons, and we want to assess. When we think about those two elements, the designing and implementing lessons connect not only to areas of expertise from the school librarian, but also the subject matter of the classroom teacher.

This is where curricular integration is an important part of your role and then important step in building common ground. When the school librarian synthesizes subject area goals with information literacy and inquiry goals, or working with student's development of both process and content area learning which is sometimes the product of maybe an inquiry experience, a reading interaction or some other form of engagement with text and information.

One way to think about this is that this focuses on that process component. Identifying a topic and question, finding resources, synthesizing and organizing what was read. And it's okay for you, as the librarian, to work across the continuum of collaboration. You might be coordinating with the teacher, cooperating or full out collaborating, or you're co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessing and they're reflecting for the next time. Collaboration is doable across great levels, schedules and subject areas.

When we're collaborating, we're supporting students critical thinking and inquiry, which is one more element of that job description where we're empowering students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information. When students inquire, according to Lim and Callison, they are finding and using a variety of sources of information and ideas to increase their understanding of a specific area of the curriculum. That's really important to convey to classroom teachers.

What this inquiry might look like, will really vary across different subject areas. It might be helping a teacher to build a non-Googleable assignment, assignment that has more layers and complex questions. Maybe inquiry looks like creating learning products for real audiences, maybe accepting multiple answers or ways of solving problems. Something that school librarians were really good at with their horizontal and vertical view of the curriculum is revisiting big ideas across content areas. 

One of the ways that school librarians can fuel this partnership is through assessment. They know what those big ideas look like across different areas and through student achievement because of the integration of assessment with instructional outcomes. As Harada and Yoshina describe, assessment is fully integrated across curriculum and instruction. If you're teaching or co-teaching, you should be assessing. And it may not be a familiar role for a school librarian when you're working with the new classroom teacher or classroom teacher who's new to school library partnerships. This might be, in your role as the librarian, and it probably will be the more formative working progress stage, or maybe you'll be assessing final products, or components of student's final products.

Now, I'll caution you, this is not something to promote, something that makes a teacher's job easier. And well that it may be true, what you want to emphasize is that you're providing specialize expertise, particularly in terms of strategies for assessing stages of inquiry, including student's health assessment. Through checklist, rubrics, logs, again this come from Harada and Yoshina, personal correspondence. You are documenting part of the learning process that you have a special eye for as the school librarian.

Finally, when we think about collaborating with teachers and building these partnerships effectively, we want to work with strong sound communication, especially where we're just getting this off the ground. Email is an obvious and easy way to go, but it's still a subtle and fine art. In this lesson's resource, I have given you an example introductory email where a school librarian is proposing a collaboration with the Spanish teacher.

A couple quick tips for you, be friendly but professional. Not too cutie. Not informal. No, "Hey Suzanne," kind of greeting. And be sure to include some questions and openness. It's a tricky balance. Being detailed about ideas, so the person can envision the benefits of the collaboration, but without, suddenly you got the whole thing mapped out already. When you use simple phrases like, "Maybe we could, I was thinking that, perhaps the student might," you open to the teacher's ideas as well. As we have learned and talked through curricular connections, critical thinking and inquiry assessment and communication, you can start building effective partnerships with the classroom teachers.

An important area of expertise that the school librarian brings to the collaboration is the student's information and inquiry process. This might include identifying a topic and question, finding resources, reading for information, synthesizing and organization what students have read, creating new content, using media tools to share learning and exploring dispositions of learning.

MLA Citation Morris, Rebecca J. "Building Common Ground: Classroom Teachers." School Library Connection, September 2015,

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Entry ID: 1980849

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