Year 7 Orientation Sessions in the School Library
The start of a new year means new incoming year 7 students. For my school, that means a mix of students coming from our Junior School and a large cohort of new students. There is something so fresh and enthusiastic about year 7 students. A mix of nervousness and an eagerness to try things. They get exciting and they are not afraid to share that excitement and I absolutely love working with them. But how do I get them excited about the library.
This year, I’ve been fortunate to be able to run orientation sessions for all of our year 7 classes during their English classes (thank you, English teachers!!). I run a flexible schedule in the Secondary School Library, so I only get to see classes if their English teachers book in with me. Last year with a bit hit and miss with the year 7 cohort, so I was utterly thrilled when all the teachers booked in their classes this year for an orientation lesson and regular fortnightly bookings.
Across my different schools, I’ve approached the orientation sessions for year 7s in a lot of different ways. For some, I’d have regular timetabled lessons, others sessions when I could get teachers to book in and for some, I’d only see the students on a orientation day where I’d get just 5 minutes with them. No matter when or how, I knew it was important to catch these students and show them all the things the library could do for them.
Catch their attention
I’ve got one shot to set the tone for these students. What does the library do and what sort of a place is it. It’s really important I try to convey how fun and awesome the library is. I try to do this with something fun to start the sessions – a scavenger hunt around the library or a quest of some sort, questions to answer and clues to find, VR or AR technology to try out or something creative to get involved in. Unfortunately, in our current temporary location, there is hardly enough room to fit a class, let alone move around, so these types of activity were out. I can’t wait until we are in our new space and I’ll be sure to run those sort of activities then. For now, I had to catch their attention by showcasing all the fun things they can do in the library and the different groups they can join. D&D received a good reaction.
It’s your library
The next thing I really need to convey to the students is that the library is their library. One of the big ways I do this is make sure they know I will buy the books they want. I show them how to request a book and I encourage them to ask me to purchase anything they are interested in that we don’t have. I also ask them to let me know if they have any ideas for activities, groups or events and share stories of those we’ve created from previous student requests, like our crochet and knitting group.
All that information!!
There are a lot of basics to cover – how to find the Library platform, how to search, how to borrow, loan limits (there are none!!), ebooks, audiobooks and more. While I do cover a few of these, I am well aware that it can be information overload so I make sure the students have someway to find that information again in the future. This year I created a Getting Ready for Year 7 LibPath on our library platform. It has everything from our opening hours to a step-by-step video guide on borrowing ebooks. Instead of a ppt for the session, I use this page as a guide to show students during our first session
From Brochures to Bookmarks
I love to leave the students with something. Back in the day, when I only had 5 minutes to speak to new year 7 students, I created a booklet for the students. As well as all the library information, I included a few recommended reading lists. When I joined my current school, I consented the booklet down into a trifold brochure. It was handy to have to hand out to students and new families, but I noticed the students didn’t really read them. This year, I took it digital, creating my LibPath. That will be so much easier to update each year and save on printing. But, I still wanted something to leave with the students, so I created a bookmark with a QR code to the LibPath, our library opening hours and covers of a few recommended books for them to try. I handed these out to students during our session.
Of course, I take some time to book talk some of our newest books to the students. I target topics they are interested in, like graphic novels, horror, adventure and non fiction, as well as books related to their English unit.
I love having the chance to recommend books to the students during the session. As they are browsing, I work with them, taking requests and offering recommendations. I love to hear what sort of books they are looking for, as that helps me purchase other resources that fit their interests. This year horror has been a very popular request, along with books about footballers (soccer, that is), gothic fantasy and a variety of books about teenage experiences. I was blown away by some of their requests and the different interests they have. I can’t wait to source some more resources for them and create lists of recommended reading around their requests.
Any follow-up sessions I have with these classes will involve showing them in detail how to access the ebooks and audiobook platforms and practice logging into our databases and video platforms. I’ll also mix in some creative and hands-on activities. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that scavenger hunt around our new space really soon, get the Lego out and show them just how fun and varied the library is. I’m looking forward to it.