Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Think-Aloud Librarian

Over the weekend, I helped an 8 year old girl find a "Jack and Annie book." I led her to the Magic Treehouse books, talking the whole time: "Oh yeah! The Magic Treehouse books. I know exactly where those are. They are in our Chapter Book section, under O. The author's last name is Osbourne. So here's books by authors who start with N.... Okay, O! Here we go, Osbourne. Right here."

Sound familiar?
You're a Think-Aloud Librarian.

Why Do We Do This? 
It sounds like we're talking to ourselves, right?
In the education world, we call it the "think-aloud": a little tidbit that helps students follow your train of thought or reasoning; or, in a student-directed lesson, help you understand the student's train of thought or reasoning. In either instance, it's a chance an opportunity for learning.

So are we going to get on the Story Time Goose meme, or what?! Also Slender Man is totally creepy

YS Librarians do this already, they might just not know that they do it. Mostly, one might see this during  a story time:
"We're going to start with the same song every week, because at this age your kids are craving routine." --tidbit for parents in a baby/toddler story time
"It looks like ______ is the author of this book. I know this because their name is on the front of the book right under the title." --tidbit for kids during toddler story time
"What do you think might happen next? How do you know?" --This question in preschool story time might need to be used sparingly. They may talk forever. I may write another post based on this thought alone.

Like an old wives' tale, thinking aloud might come naturally to some. You do it and you can't remember why. Maybe you picked something up at ECRR training that has you thinking aloud more for vocabulary building than comprehension development (side note: has anyone ever read that literature review?) which is also okay but is not harnessing the true power of thinking aloud.

We need to think aloud all the time.**

What Good Is It? 
Today I had the pleasure of hearing Joan Frye-Williams lay down some webinar law when it comes to libraries and communities. And, this post half-written three days ago, the following note resonated with me:
Upselling is more scalable than bibliographic instruction. Teach when they need it.
Basically, kids--all people, really-- need information when they are ready for it. This is where librarians can thrive: a class is great, but knowledge queried right now is a lesson learned and internalized. And since it's not school, kids' brains might turn off when they hear, "let me show you how" or let me teach you". But if you just start talking your way through it? Their brain will soak it up like a sponge.

This isn't do-all-end-all, and they won't leave the library knowing alphabetical order or how to search everything on the Internet or in the catalog. They might need to hear it 8 times. But the little, teachable, think-aloud moments are tiny tidbit of authentic, meaningful learning that they will get with varying success in school. Librarians hold a powerful key: segments of uninterrupted time with kids who may be struggling readers. The kind of time teachers are always told they should be having, and might only dream about getting. And we get it. The kids come to us, and ask us questions. They invite us into their brains. It's up to us to make those little moments as deliberate as possible.

The Deliberate Think-Aloud Librarian
I've done enough talking for today so I'd like to open up a discussion. Seeing each of these as deliberate teachable moments, what could you say or do to make their visit the most meaningful it can be?

1. A kid asks for help on the computer. He doesn't know how to get to the Internet. Or alternatively, he knows how to get to the Internet but doesn't know how to get to his favorite site.

2. A child comes in saying "My dad told me I need a book for a third grader."

3. A kid wants "books about dogs."

4. A child is  using the catalog or self-check-out by him/herself, does not ask for help but is clearly having trouble.

What would you do? Do you have any success stories with thinking aloud with kids at the library? Think out loud in the comments!

**This reminds me of the Florida State Marching Chiefs motto: "Marching Chiefs All the Damn Time!" but it was the South so for shirts and stuff it would just say MCATDT.
Side question/stroke of genius: if I made merchandise that said TAATDT would anyone want it? Maybe have "I Talk to Myself" on the back? Shirts? Lanyards? Destiny's Bounty? Did you need to Google that last one or have you been doing last post's homework?!