LIBRARY CLASS OVERVIEW FOR FIRST GRADE
Throughout the school year, students attend a “special area class” at the library every six school days. During part of the 45-minute visit, students exchange their library materials. During the students’ book exchange time, the librarian provides reading guidance by helping them individually to find books that they will enjoy and have success in reading. For this reason, there is a strong emphasis on easy readers, books that students can read independently or with the help of a parent. The rest of the time, they participate in other learning activities that incorporate literature enrichment and information-literacy skills. Personal reading and lifelong learning are their own reward. That is why a report card grade for library class is not given.
Library citizenship is an important part of the library curriculum. Students learn to use the library properly by following its rules and checking out materials independently, one item per visit. The students are expected to return their library books on time and in good condition. The school year begins with a review lesson on class and library rules, using David Shannon’s David stories. Later in the year, a theme-based lesson featuring books about manners reinforces these rules.
For the second lesson of the year, students learn about library organization by going on a tour of the library, identifying over thirty locations and sections. During the semester, about every other week, students visit an area of the library to learn more about the books located there. These areas included folktales, science, animals, sports, poetry, geography, biographies, and other non-fiction collections. After the booktalk, students select books from the area introduced. For the entire school year, materials outside of the easy section, students are limited to choose books designated as an easy reader or picture book format (“Discover Reading” labeled books in the nonfiction section).
Understanding library classification allows students to independently find materials they need. During one lesson, students play a game using special spine labels, such as, dogs, cats, mysteries and various holiday labels, which helps them to become more aware of how to easily find different genre and themed books. The students play the “A-B-C Game” three times, once with easy books, then fiction (chapter books), and finally, biographies. They are required to stack a pile of books in alphabetical order, as they would appear on the library shelves, using the information on the books’ spine labels.
Literary understanding and appreciation is a significant part of the library curriculum for first-graders. Students have many lessons during the semester that promoted different kinds of literature. Students learn to distinguish between picture books and easy readers in the easy section. Some of the author studies feature easy reader series, such as Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, Elephant & Piggie by Mo Willems, Pinky and Rex by James Howe, Minnie and Moo by Denys Cazet, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, Commander Toad by Jane Yolen, and Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold. Each year, usually in the spring, students have an in-depth author study, lasting a few lessons, in preparation for a visit with a significant author of children’s books.
Many students enjoy reading mysteries. As a lesson, this literary genre is introduced, featuring several easy reader series, such as Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, High Rise Private Eyes by Cynthia Rylant, and Young Cam Jansen by David Adler.
Students learn to recognize fairy tales through two lessons that involve the students in retelling traditional tales by acting out the story with puppets. The tales are The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Little Red Hen.
Recognizing nonfiction as information-based literature is demonstrated by several theme oriented lessons during the school year, including pigs, elephants, cows, frogs, rabbits, and giraffes. These booktalks compare and contrast the literary genres of fiction and nonfiction, as well as, realistic fiction and fantasy.
Recognizing nonfiction as information literature is also promoted through the use of the “Easy Nonfiction” Cart—the red one. The cart contains rotating collections of books selected by first-grade “library helpers.” Age-appropriate magazines, Your Big Backyard, Princess, and Zootles, are available in the “Easy Books” Cart—the green one.