Every day people want to know more about my library stations (or library centers). Incorporating them in to your library can help students take ownership over their learning and also free up more time for you to take care of other tasks during a library class.
I gave a brief explanation of my schedule on this page, but I hope this post will help clear up any confusion. If you're looking for more specific training on the topic, consider checking out our Library Centers eCourse. Looking for ideas to use with library stations? We share some here.
Why Do You Use Library Stations?
I primarily used stations the first two years because I worked at a school where I saw each homeroom for an hour each week. The students were not very well-behaved. Standing in front of them the entire class period just didn't work. Working with smaller groups helped keep their behavior in check, so I thought we'd try something new. Surprisingly, it worked really well. The students liked it better. I liked it better. Best of all, they learned much more in a small group than in the whole group. Win-win situation for all involved.
I don't see my students for an hour. Will this still work?
Fast forward two years to my current school. I see these students for only 35 minutes each week, so I wasn't convinced I could make centers work. At my former school, I had 3 groups and switched stations every 15 minutes, leaving about 15 minutes for checkout at the end of class. I discussed this with my husband one day, and he said, "Why can't you just rotate every week instead of spending just 10 minutes per station during a single class?" Brilliant! Sometimes you just need a little kick in the pants to realize you don't have to do things the way they've always been done. Rotating each week means that students get at least 30 minutes in each station.
So, how does this work exactly?
I plan my stations according to how many computers I have in the room, because I always have a computer station. My library has 9 working student computers (most of the time), so my groups have no more than 9 students. On the rare occasion that I have a class with 28 students, I form one group of 10 and I let a trustworthy student use one of my teacher stations. This doesn't happen often, of course, because there's usually at least one person absent. Have your groups established ahead of time. I display mine on the Smartboard each week. Don't change them unless there's a problem.
The other two stations vary depending on what we're working on at the time. I usually set up one station for review. Those students will work on a skill we've already discussed, so it requires minimal teacher involvement. That frees me up to work with the third station. I normally introduce something new in that one.
That sounds pretty good. What are the biggest challenges?
It's not a perfect system. You do have to teach the same library lesson plans three weeks in a row. Plus sometimes things come up in the other stations that you have to deal with. My rule is, "Ask three before me." If you ask three classmates for help and they don't know the answer, then you can ask me.
I don't have many behavior problems in stations. Be sure to keep mischief makers separated as much as possible. I use the Group Maker from the Super Teacher Tools website to randomly create my groups. Sometimes you have to switch a few students around, but it's a real time saver once you get the classes typed in and saved.
If you have to squeeze book checkout into your weekly class time, stations will be even more of a challenge. I think you'll find it's worth it in the long run, though, once you get your procedures in place. Try to automate checkout as much as possible, especially if you don't have an assistant, like me. Make barcode cards for each student. This will help you avoid typing their names in. If you have to, make one station the "checkout station." Then work with those students until they get the hang of it.
The bottom line is this: you can only do the best you can do with the time and resources you have. I always try to keep this in mind when I find myself getting frustrated.
That doesn't sound so bad. What are the benefits?
We don't always have to come up with the latest and greatest innovative activity to convince our students that library class is awesome. The truth is, kids really don't want a dog and pony show every time they walk through the doors. They'll tell you they do, but it's really not true. Kids need rules and structure. The beauty of what we do in the library is that we can change around the activities within the confines of that structure. It still seems like something cool and fun, even though it's really not that groundbreaking to us.
I love library stations because the kids are working, but they're doing it in small groups. They do more group teaching than teacher led activities. It gives them different and exciting activities to do each week, but you won't feel like you always have to put on a show.
If you're following my library lesson plans, I have stations already set up for you. Each month, I do a station overview in Week 1, then Weeks 2, 3, and 4 are the individual stations. I do my plans this way so they'll work if you want to use stations, but they'll also work if you prefer to teach the whole group. I sometimes switch it up a little in November and December, since they're short months because of the holidays.
Are you using library stations? How are they working for you? How do you make library stations work with your schedule? How are you overcoming challenges? Please share with us in the comments!
Janette Amstutz says
I am new to library centers and excited to try it here in our library. I would be interested in seeing how you arrange your centers in the library and how that works when there are classes from different grade levels coming in each with different centers,
These are great ideas! I have been wanting to implement stations in my library for a while now, but am intimidated by the organization piece. I have classes back to back with not break, how do you go about switching out stations for each grade level between classes? I looked at your curriculum map and it looks like the stations are different for each grade level? Do you set up each station for all grade levels and just leave them out, labeled with each grade level? Since I have virtually no transition time between classes, I'm trying to wrap my brain around how I can implement this idea.
Also, I have taken on the role of teaching technology and digital citizenship on my non-check out days. Do you have many technology lessons (introducing it to youngers and navigation to become responsible users for olders) included in your lesson plans for purchase? I saw a few in the older grades, but not much at all in the younger grades.
Elementary Librarian says
Sign up for our free Library Centers eCourse! I go over all this in detail there!
I would like to sign up for your course but I'm looking over my schedule and wondering about how long the eCourse is?
The Library Centers eCourse runs for about 30 minutes.
Alison Lucon says
Will it be recorded? I am working during all those time slots and the Sunday one is at 8:30pm - I must be in bed by 9pm or I can't function the next day! ha!
Mary Kate Witry says
Thank you so much for this overview. My situation is almost identical to your original one. I see 23 classes per week/1 hour each session/grades k-8. In addition, I have to assign grades for exams, homework, classwork, and quizzes.
In my K-3 building, I have lots of space and materials for potential centers.
In my 4-8, I have 4 tables/3 computers/ limited floor space.
Any ideas on how I can create centers for the upper graders????
thanks in advance!
I also have 45 minute sessions with grades K-4 and some of the classes have 28-30 students. I also have students come and go during that 45 minutes so for some classes I don't even have the whole class at once. That makes it very difficult to teach any kind of lesson. For 2 of my 4th grades classes, I have 8 students who are only there for the first 10 minutes! I liked the library center idea. I have 6 round tables in the back of my library (my library is a big rectangle). I set up 6 different stations and change them every month. In the past, students chose whatever station they wanted, knowing that once they had the opportunity at one station, they had to chose a different one next time. I have "I can" instructions at every station and ask them to "ask 3 and then me" also. I really like the idea of creating groups. I will have to try that this coming school year. I do whole classes lessons and find on those days we do not do centers. I work that into my monthly rotation. I'm pulled for car duty, among other things, and also have to create my own lesson plans, shelf books, manage a budget, etc. etc. I have found that the kids love having the activities to do. I do have some kids that would rather read (it's their only chance to read for pleasure) which is why I sometimes do whole group lessons.
As far as making lessons work for my schedule..... I have forty five minute sessions and see each class once a week. I teach a 15 minute mini-lesson at the start of the class, ten minute-ish book check out follows, and then I have six stations set up for students to go to when they finish book check out (approx 20 minutes). The stations all follow the mini-lessons I have previously taught or include some form of review activity. Each station has an individual "I Can" chart and directions. I have two sets of stations- grades 2-3 and grades 4-5. This seems to work really well for me! I have the kids choose their own centers but they have to sign in at my desk for the center they want. Yes, the stations are up for six weeks, but I have a chance to chat with the kids and get to know them, I get more of a chance to help find books in book check out, and it also allows me the ability to reteach as needed.
What an interesting routine! I would love to hear more about your mini-lessons.
Elementary Librarian says
All our lesson plans are now available in the Elementary Librarian Community. Click Library Lesson Plans at the top of the page to learn more. You can also get free lesson plans and resources by joining our email list (on the side of the page).
I would also love to see your sequence for the mini lessons.
The sign in sheet is a great idea, thanks!