The new curriculum in British Columbia focuses on inquiry and student-centered learning. Teachers have been working hard, even before the new curriculum was implemented, to create classrooms based on the ‘4 principles’. My former classroom was based on space, place, voice and choice. I have only been a Teacher-Librarian since September, but I wonder if my library is also based on the ‘4 principles’?
SPACE – Is the space “creative, dynamic, mobile, emotionally safe and cognitively agitating”? In a library, it can be difficult to be creative, as the space is generally not considered one where students create. As libraries have shifted to a learning commons model that can include a Makerspace, then yes, the space can be creative. In my own library, I have brought in Lego, unifix cubes, wooden blocks, magnetic animals and letters, and some loose pieces that students may use to create.
There are two couches, an IKEA Poang chair, and 4 beanbag chairs that students may sit on while reading. A large soft carpet has just been added to my primary reading area, and this has also attracted the intermediate students. Even when there are classes in the library, students will come to use the computers, check out books for class, or use part of the library to complete some work. It is constantly busy.
Some items are mobile – bean bag chairs – my tables can be moved, but with some difficulty. In the future, I would purchase tables with wheels to allow for more flexibility.
As for emotionally safe and cognitively agitating (I really love that phrase), it is the responsibility of the TL to create an environment where students can voice their opinions, feelings, ideas, and questions without judgment. Students are more willing to become critical thinkers and ask “why?” and “why not?” when they know their contributions will not be ridiculed.
PLACE – does the space honour students’ history, stir their curiosity, allow them to connect in non-academic ways, reflect their needs, and allow students to feel they can make an impact? A library honours all of these needs, in many different ways.
History is honoured because students can read stories or find information about their history, which can answer their questions, or create new ones. Stories help students form new connections, with life, books and other people. A TL must ensure all needs are reflected through the literature in the library collection. We must attempt to make a personal connection with all of our students (which is sometimes hard in a large school) so that we include literature for everyone. The type of literature can vary from school to school as all of our populations are unique.
I am privileged to teach every class in my school. By connecting with every class, I have the opportunity to meet every child, learn something about them, and hopefully, teach lessons that make an impact. Our school goal for November and December is ‘Choose Kindness’. The November assembly introduced students to the goal, and every student is contributing to a school-wide art project during their library blocks. Once the project is complete, all of the art work will be posted throughout the school. We hope the students will see that each and every one of them can make an impact by choosing kindness.
VOICE/CHOICE – I have combined voice and choice, because in the library, my time with the students is limited to one 30 or 40-minute block once per week. Voice and choice are important in the library, but in different ways. Voice is still given to students during discussions, where all opinions and ideas are valued. Students are also asked what types of books they would like me to add to the collection. It is their library, and it should reflect their interests. Choice is honoured as students are always allowed to choose books they find appealing. My only restriction is that the Ks and 1s must choose from specific areas in the library. The primary area is stocked with picture books, and information books, suited to their interests. As for choosing the learning content, due to time restrictions, there is usually a short mini-lesson, chosen by me. I’ve discovered though, that each lesson follows a different path, and explores different content, with each class. This, I find truly exhilarating, because each class is unique in their opinions and understanding. So even though I may have a plan for the lesson, I allow the students to take the lead, and guide the direction of the discussion. So, content, pace and sequence is chosen by the students.
Each classroom and library will apply the ‘4 principles’ in a slightly different manner. It is important to remember that each school, and each student, is unique. The path we follow to “put the needs of the students over the conveniences of planning, policy, & procedure” will differ (teachthought, 2014). We must consider ‘space, place, voice, and choice’ when creating our learning spaces, and plans for our students, so that our places of learning allow our students to be successful.