Thursday, September 1, 2016

Library Orientation - Pokemon Style!

Many school libraries have been successful in making library orientation engaging and even fun with interactive activities like scavenger hunts, mapping activities, or series of videos with embedded quiz questions.

This year at South East Junior High in Iowa City, my teaching partner, Elizabeth Schau, and I were inspired by Karissa in the Library's approach: using Pokémon to introduce our students to the library! Of course, Pokémon Go has made the collectible cards and video games popular again for students.... but also for adults! I happen to be Level 22, Team Mystic... no big deal.

Like any other orientation, we wanted to make sure our lesson introduced students to library staff, our basic expectations, help them find where books are located, and inform them of our checkout policies. We began with a short introduction to the library as a large group, scheduled with each section of 7th grade language arts. We then explained to students that they would have to discover how the library works by hunting for Pokémon.... but with no apps involved.

In pairs, students were to move about the library and answer the questions listed on their "Pokédex" by finding the printed Pokémon. Get a copy of our Pokédex questions here.

Each Pokémon was printed with a speech bubble giving a short description of something we wanted students to know. I used Google Drawings to create each image and printed 2 of each in landscape orientation. We spaced them out in the relevant sections to avoid too many students crowding in one place. Students found the Pokémon, read the questions, and then wrote the answers on their paper. 

This low-tech orientation worked perfectly in our 47 minute class periods, giving students time to complete the Pokémon hunt, find a book to checkout, do some silent reading, and review a few of the most important points at the end of class. Because students were working at different paces, it was easy to assess their understanding at various points, and as students completed their work, to check their answers.  For example, we were able to quickly reteach a few skills to partners who missed questions like using Destiny Quest to find the call number of a book. 

In addition to the achieving our objectives for content, we were also please that students were consistently engaged in this library orientation. We were a bit concerned that some students would be disinterested in Pokémon, or that not knowing enough about the game would make them less successful in the activity.  However, all students seemed to enjoy moving around the library to hunt for answers, and even those unfamiliar with Pokémon were able to ask classmates or teachers for clues when needed.

Bonus? When orientations were done, we added the Pokémon to our bulletin board as a visual reminder of library expectations!

This gamified orientation could be easily adapted to other lessons or subject areas.  Imagine students with vocabulary words locating Pokémon to find out their definitions. Or students on a number hunt locating Pokemon with number stories that match. You could use technology to make it paperless, or even add augmented reality to make it more like Pokémon Go. 

What are you doing for orientation this year? Did you use a Pokémon hunt, too? How else do you think you could integrate Pokémon Go into your lessons?