A fun language arts lesson making use of the library media center as a resource involves kids making book lists of selected titles in genres or subjects of their choice. This can be tweaked to work at grade levels ranging from 2nd or 3rd (depending on typing skills) through 12th.
Create your Own Booklist
Kids of all ages love getting to make their own choices and voice their own opinions, and this lesson revolves around putting together book lists made up of titles they have selected themselves. Kids also love any type of lesson that allows them to get on the computer and create something, and this lesson plan will not only involve using the library as a source of books, but will also allow students to practice technology skills such as the use of word processing or desktop publishing software.
When the lesson is finished, students will each have their own self-produced brochures featuring books they have selected and described. They will also have the satisfaction of knowing that copies of their brochures are going to be added to the library collection to serve as resources for other students and teachers.
Discuss Genres and Subjects
Before you begin the lesson, start off with a brief discussion of different fiction genres such as fantasy, mystery, historical, contemporary, etc. Compare the concept of genre to the concept of subject, i.e. books about horses, books about WWII, etc. You may also wish to touch upon the difference between fiction and non-fiction, depending on grade level.
With younger students you may have to spend more time explaining these concepts, but with older students you should still mention different examples of each category so as to give them some ideas to get started. Although many librarians tend to focus solely on fiction titles when it comes to creating book lists, you may tell your students they are free to use nonfiction titles if those fit with the themes they have chosen.
Once the students have decided on the themes of their booklists, whether subject or genre, have them go through the library looking for titles to fit these themes. If you have online library catalogs, this would be a great time to introduce or reinforce a lesson in how to search by subject and/or keyword.
The students can select titles with which they are familiar, or titles they have not read but that look intriguing to them. If the latter, they will need to do a little skimming in order to determine whether the story does, in fact, fit their topic as well as to find enough information to allow them to write brief annotations. Give the students a minimum/maximum number of titles to work with - for early elementary grades you may wish to stick with about 5 or so, but upper grades may select up to 20 or so.
Have the students annotate each title by writing one or two sentences describing what the book is about, i.e. "This is the tragic tale of two children who climbed up a hill to fetch water, and of the terrible accident that prevented them from completing their mission". It helps if you can provide some samples of annotated book lists - try your public library to see if they have any to give out or, failing that, print a few examples off the internet.
Have students use the computers in the library or the classroom to produce their brochures. Before you start this step, make sure you yourself are familiar with the word processing or desktop publishing software on your computers, and any templates they may have for producing brochures. If you want to stay simple, you can have the students make book lists on one sheet of paper, but if you want to get fancy, you can have them experiment with producing trifold brochures.
A helpful hint is to fold a sheet of blank paper in thirds, then write on each section what part of the brochure it represents – i.e. front cover, back, inside flap, etc. When the paper is unfolded, it will show where the text needs to be typed. Be sure to check how to select a three-column format if this is the type of brochure you wish to produce. Allow students to download clip art to illustrate the brochures, if desired, or even thumbnail photos of the jackets of some of the books they've included. (For older students, you may wish to use this as an opportunity to discuss copyright law.)
Use a color printer if you have one; if not, make do with what you have. Print up several copies of each student's book list – one for the student, and the rest to be kept in the library as resources for other students and teachers. If any of the brochures are on particularly popular topics, you may wish to print out a large number to keep on hand and distribute to anyone interested. Make sure you check with the students who have produced the brochures first, however – make sure no-one has any objection to having their work reproduced and distributed before doing so.