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Active Learning in Library Instruction


Time Required: 10-15 Minutes

Moderate-Length Activities

If you have more than a few minutes available, you may consider including a 10- to 15-minute activity that allows students to interact with the material, the resources, and each other. Like the quick activities, these slightly longer activities are easily adapted for your class size and session content, and could be used at different points in the session for different purposes. 

Activities for Individuals or Small Groups

Concept Map: Students create a visual map independently or in groups. This may be useful for narrowing research topics (who/what/where/when/why map) or for creating a visual representation of students' search strategies (flowchart) before and after the session.  These maps could be paired with another strategy, such as a gallery walk or chain notes, to encourage peer collaboration.

Paired Annotations: In pairs, students are provided with two resources or short readings to examine and annotate. Each student takes one of the items and annotates it. Partners trade items and repeat the process, responding to their partner's annotations as well. Pairs discuss their thoughts and then report out to the class. This activity can be adapted for a variety of lessons in which resources need to be evaluated or compared: fake news vs. reliable news, primary vs. secondary sources, popular vs. scholarly sources, scholarly sources in different disciplines, etc. 

Scavenger Hunt: Create a digital or physical scavenger hunt for students to embark on in teams or individually. Questions or tasks can be as general or specific as needed. This activity works especially well for skills such as navigating a catalog, using search limiters, or getting familiar with a new database. 

Snowball: Each student writes a question or some other response to a prompt at the top of a sheet of paper. They crumple it up into a "snowball" and toss it into the center of the room. Every student must then choose a snowball from the center of the room and contribute in some way to the original student's answer or response. Crumple, toss, and repeat as time allows. 

Whole-Class Activities

Gallery Walk: Students move around the room to examine various items, such as information resources or questions/statements on posters. A low-tech option, such as poster-sized items taped to the wall, would allow students to physically comment or annotate the gallery items. A higher-tech option, like laptops or tablets around the room with different databases displayed for students to test, is also an option. Depending on the size of the group, students may share their thoughts with the class or in small groups. 

Chain Notes: Each student writes a response to a prompt at the top of a piece of paper (ex. their research topic, a barrier they are having in the research process, etc.). Students pass their papers to the left and respond to a peer's note. This can be useful for generating potential keywords or other group brainstorming activities.

True & False Flags: Using True (green) and False (red) cards, students respond to questions as a group. The words or letters for True and False should be printed on the cards for greater accessibility. These cards can be used as a standalone activity ("Is this an example of plagiarism?") or repeatedly throughout a lesson to check for comprehension. Students could use these cards individually, or in a larger class, in small groups that respond with a card after discussion.

Give One/Get One: At the end of class, students write three takeways on one side of a piece of paper. Students move around the classroom exchanging papers with others. Students read their peers' takeaways and then contribute another, different takeaway on the other side of the paper. A short debriefing after the activity ("What was one surprising takeaway that a peer shared with you?") can be useful if time allows, and will allow the instructor to clarify or correct any points that arise.