How 2020 Pushed My Instruction to the Next Level!

by Kaitlyn Benavides

Engaging both traditional and distance students simultaneously in a library lesson has been a challenge! I wanted our library to be accessible to all students and to remain relevant to teachers and students alike, but the idea of providing high quality resources and facilitating hybrid student interaction left me scratching my head.

Reflecting on this school year, I realized that teaching in a pandemic has certainly forced me to push myself in regard to my teaching techniques and using digital tools in the library. I’ve had some great success with hybrid multimodal learning and would love to share my journey.

First of all, I am a middle school librarian in Rutherford County. This year, we have opted for hybrid learning. Parents had the option of sending their kids to school as a “traditional student”, or they could opt to keep their child at home as a “distance learner”, meaning teachers were challenged to teach both parties at the same time. Yikes.

I tried using Microsoft Teams or Zoom to put students into breakout groups in which they had to work together to complete a scavenger hunt style activity using digital and physical resources. It took a fair amount of planning at the forefront, but really paid off.  I am going to share an 8th grade ELA lesson as an example. The purpose was to enrich and complement the Amplify lesson, Liberty and Equality

First of all, I collected a series of digital and print resources surrounding the topic of study. Students were studying the impact of slavery on United States and deeply analyzing brave acts of defiance, such as slave spirituals and the Underground Railroad. I found some really great free multimodal resources, such as interactive maps through Google that show you the various routes and stopping points of the underground railroad. Students can click on each route, learn more about the distance, geographical challenges, and what each checkpoint looks like today. I also found another on WWII Germany. You could click on all of the Nazi Concentration camps throughout Europe, which complemented another 8th grade Amplify Unit. Students can click on each camp to find out the location, size, and see images of what it looks like today. Many camps are now memorials or museums that they can explore. Who knew that Google Maps provided so many historical geographic resources! 

The US Census Bureau has a great number of resources for a variety of content area activities. For this particular activity, I used their population data from before the Civil War. I used an interactive map showing the spread of US Slavery according to census statistics from 1790 to 1860. The map will also show you the percentage of the population that consists of slaves, free African Americans, and total population in every county in the United States. Check it out here.

I also used a PBS free pdf document on the Hidden Messages in Spirituals, as well as a variety of primary documents from The Tennessee State Library and Archives and TEL’s Tennessean Archives (1812-1922)  for students to analyze, investigate, and make connections to their text readings from the Amplify Unit.

There are also Google Expeditions for traditional AND distance students. The historical virtual trips are particularly interesting. For instance, students can transport to The Gettysburg Battlefield from 1863 to today. You are the tour guide, as you are prompted with information and leveled guiding questions from your own screen. Students can follow along from home, similar to a video, as they navigate through a 3D scene on their screens. Please contact me if you’d be interested in acquiring Google Expeditions for your library (I promise I am not a sales rep.). I’ve been able to bring a wide variety of grade levels and content areas into the library as a result!

Lastly, students were grouped up into chat rooms on Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and they worked together to complete a series of tasks. It was outstanding to see both traditional and online students dig into rich text and other multimodal resources (primary source images, videos, songs, etc.). They would communicate, collaborate, and create meaning together, whether in the library or at home. Using this format was also a great way to advocate for the library during this time, as students were able to participate in dynamic activities at a safer distance than they could in the classroom. I was able to work with multiple content areas and grade levels by advocating for our space and resources. If you’d like to take a look at these interactive lessons, I published this particular series on my webpage for the time being. 8th Grade Station Exploration: The History of American Slavery and 8th Grade Oral Tradition Song Analysis – Slave Spirituals.

If you are interested in trying a multimodal hybrid lesson with your students in the library and have some questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I currently have a number of others created, from Edgar Allan Poe text based activities (7th grade Amplify) to Ancient India scavenger hunt (6th grade Social Studies standards). It takes some work at the forefront, but the student centered learning I witnessed made it worthwhile. These activities can easily be carried over to next school year, regardless of what the future holds and are directly related to AASL framework and your chosen content area standards. Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to share. Let’s finish this year off strong!

Kaitlyn Benavides taught 8th grade ELA for seven years before she opened the Rocky Fork Middle School Library in 2017. She just completed a Reading Specialty Ed.S at Lipscomb University and resides in Nashville with her husband and 15 month-old Pandemic baby, Ava June. You can contact her at and follow her on Twitter @RFMlibrary.

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