Thursday, August 20, 2015

Library Orientation in Middle School

This is my second year as a middle school Teacher-Librarian.  During my time in this position, I have learned that library orientation for middle school students is most successful when there is less talking and more doing.  Kids also love it when the “doing” can incorporate some kind of technology.  So, I designed and used a QR Code Scavenger Hunt to teach my students about the most important parts of the library.  Last year, I presented a Power Point before the students began the QR code hunt.  This year, however, as I thought about less talking, more doing, I decided that the majority of orientation would involve students learning about the library through the scavenger hunt.  So, I scrapped the PowerPoint and incorporated some of the items from that presentation into the hunt. 

How does a QR code scavenger hunt work?  First, students need to have access to smart devices with cameras and a QR scan app.  We used iPads.  As I created the scavenger hunt, I turned websites, pictures, and videos into QR codes using a QR code generator site such as  I designed my hunt to cover a variety of the areas in the library while also trying to expose students to the most important things I thought they needed to know as library users.  Students shared an iPad and worked in pairs, but each student turned in a completed hunt.  They used the clues on the scavenger hunt handout (Follow this link to see the handout). to find items and QR codes in the library.  Then, whatever they found or scanned (some items did not have a QR code) was used to answer the questions on the hunt.  For the tasks with a code, I hung large, printed QR codes in the appropriate areas of the library and labeled them with their number from the hunt.  After finishing (overall, the hunt took about 30 minutes for this year’s 5th graders), we talked about some of the answers, and I added details when necessary.  At the very end, students had about 15 minutes for check-out. 

Both this year and last, I worried about whether or not this type of orientation would crash and burn or be successful and fun.  I experienced a few technical difficulties with codes that wouldn’t scan, but I was able to make some changes at the last minute that worked and kept the tasks on the hunt basically the same.  Just in case, I also created a back-up scavenger hunt that didn’t involve QR code scanning.  Plus, I spent at least 5 minutes demonstrating how to scan QR codes and handle the iPads before the students began the hunt.  Despite my worries, both years of doing this type of orientation resulted in happy, productive kids, who scored really well when I graded their hunts (I always offer to grade the scavenger hunts for teachers).  More than once, I heard “This is so much fun!” and was excited to see that students didn’t have any trouble staying on task.  Even though I might not always use QR codes in library orientation, I will always try to design an orientation activity that allows students to be active learners.    

J.T. Moore Middle

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