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Orientation inspiration

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

And so, each year I find myself  searching for orientation inspiration.

Whether it’s your incoming kindergartners, sixth graders, ninth graders or those returning students you already know and love, you’re going to want to welcome them back in a special way.  And you are likely to have made a few fabulous summer discoveries that will rock their information and communications worlds.

I searched “library orientation” and “school library orientation” on Pinterest and discovered some very promising and replicable ideas for all levels–posters, scavenger hunts, videos, games–designed to engage and introduce skills and behaviors that will be developed through the school year.

And then I crowd-sourced the exploration using the #tlchat, #tlelem and our Google+ TLChat Community.

Here are a few of my discoveries, thank to the generous sharing of our colleagues.

No real blood or brains were used in Kathy Kaldenberg’s (@scsdmedia) orientation presentation for Solon High School.

Kathy shared her goals for the incoming 9th grade class:

Over my last ten years at Solon High School, I’ve tried a variety of ways to keep our orientation fresh and interesting, including a this/not this video with faculty playing the roles of students and an interactive jeopardy game. But with the popularity of The Walking Dead television series and high interest in our zombie genre fiction, last year I decided to build my message around how the undead should use the media center. It was a fun way to get the message across.

Things are different at the high school, so we like to let 9th graders know what to expect. It is pretty dry stuff and we don’t like to harp on rules. I’ve tried to change it up a bit by having zombies deliver the message. I pair it up with a display of our zombie books and a few posters.

If only we had a real zombie. Sleepy students don’t count.

Like me, Shannon McClintock Miller is exploring strategies for ensuring that library can be in every kiddo’s pocket.  I’ll be rolling out our kid-developed app next month, ensuring that the kids have instant access to the tools we’ll be using regularly, including our new discovery service.  (More on that in a future post.)

Shannon approaches her own 1:1 mobile goals with style.
I want them to have this information and access at their fingertips from the very first day.
When she welcomes her secondary kids, who visit with their teachers for a 30-minute hands-on orientation, Shannon will make sure her students install the resources she considers critical resources on their devices.  Her attractive, engaging communication with students and parents include the Van Meter Voice Facebook page,  Remind101 (for text updates), a Smore newsletters for both elementary and secondary, as well as her Tweets as @vmlibraryvoice and @vanmeterschools.

Shannon also passed on the simple planning strategy she shares with teachers over the summer.  She invites them to fill in their general monthly goals on a Google Doc:

We get more specific with this Google Doc as the year goes on.  As we plan, we add technology integration ideas, information literacy integration ideas, and more.  We also use it for cross-curricular space to bring our classrooms together even more.  This is the third year we have done this and it has been so successful.  And it soooo helps me.  Also, it keeps every accountable and on the same page.  Great to share with administrators and parents.

At South Orange Middle School, Elissa Malespina (@SOMSlibrary) is planning aurasma tours for her 6th graders.

My 8th grade students from last year produced videos of different important areas of the school–like library, office, cafeteria etc.  I am going to make auras out of the videos and, instead of a the normal [physical] tour of the school.  We also have a aurasma tour for library.  It has been a really cool way to introduce augmented reality to students.

Elissa shared screen shots of the Aurasma app from her phone, including shots of  her fiction, nonfiction, and  biography tours.


Don’t miss The Unpretentious Librarian, Sue Fitzgerald’s (@sue_fitz) Tips to Start a New School Year.  Here is the Prezi Sue plans to update for September 2013 at Gene Pike Middle School.

Sue explains a more personal approach to connecting with her students:

I’ve changed orientation to more of a meet and greet the librarian. I have a Prezi with some pictures of my husband, myself, and our four performance whippets that we amateur race.  I go through the different personalities of our whippets while showing some awesome pics of each dog.

Torin – always runs to his best ability, is happy with his results, never wins
Sophia – doesn’t follow the rules, has been DQed, has to sit out, and is not happy
Brodie – born with ability, always runs his best, doesn’t fool around, wins many races
Mason – he’s still learning, looks like he has ability, we are still working with him to see his potential, he could be awesome, with practice and more work time will tell
I didn’t make any of these personality traits up.  I relate it back to the students and their abilities and personalities and we talk about their animals.  At the end, I slip in library information and expectations.  I have students stop me in the hallways, at parks, or on the  streets when I’m with the dogs and tell their parents all about their traits.  This year I plan to frame pictures and have them on a wall in my office.  It’s more of a connection exercise rather than a true orientation.
If you go to my Google+ profile you will see an awesome picture of Mason as my banner.  The kids love this.

Deb Schiano (@debschi) shared an outline of her recent orientation strategies for the Lounsberry Hollow Media Center, using centers as a strategy:

After a brief intro which included a video of students telling new students about the library (“the library is a place to…..”), we used center based activities for 5th graders. I think we had 4 centers:

-creating Destiny login information and playing
-self check out
-physical library map fill In
-and my favorite was Meet & Greet (I took a pic of the group and we got to know each other)

The next meeting we talk about our virtual space. Sometimes a scavenger hunt, but I think it’s better  to have  groups of 2 or 3 analyze a page and then explain to the whole group what they learned. (Analyzing info text, speaking skills)

Middle School Librarian at the Detroit Country Day School, Cheri Dobbs hopes to

record a variety of 7th and 8th graders giving advice/information about the library to our 6th graders. I’d compile the short clips into a movie that would show to the 6th graders as part if their orientation. Either that, or, towards the end of this year I’ll have the 6th graders make short videos about different aspects of the library, and I’ll use those videos with next year’s group.

Jane Lofton (@jane_librarian)  at Mira Costa High School, shared her introductory game:
I am thinking of changing it up this year, but I have been using a Prezi-based “game”  with an iPad image. I tell the students each “app” represents a library feature. I give a clue for each, and then after they guess I tell a little more about each feature. Features include books and reading, research, teacher librarian, etc.  On the second day, they do a scavenger hunt exploring the library and library website.

Sarah Worden, librarian at Ft. Sam Houston Elementary is opening with interactive storytelling:

I wrote a “choose your own ending” story using‘s inklewriter program.  I was the student and made bad choices, got corrected, and had to go back and make a better choice.  I wrote simple stories for entering and leaving the library. 

Via LM_NET, Susan Grigsby, librarain at Elkins Pointe Middle School shared an interactive approach:

I am setting up an orientation in [student response system] where the students will all have iPads in their hands and can answer questions in the “Space Race” function of the program. So, instead of just coming in to “sit-and-get” they are going to get some basic information then they’ll have to move through the library in groups to locate specific items, answer a question about that item and try to get their group’s space ship to the finish line first.

I’m actually working on that right now! For my 3rd-4th we’ll be doing a QR code orientation throughout the library.

Lisa Castellano, Library Media Specialist, at Larkspur Middle School, Virginia Beach, VA, also plans to use a QR code approach for her incoming 6th grade:

We got the idea from a presentation at our state conference. Students scan a QR code that is a question. Students will then go to the section of the library that will have the answer, find the correct resource and find the next question. For example students might need to find out another word for wonderful – they group would go to reference and find a QR code by the thesauruses.

They have to answer the question and then scan the QR Code by the thesauruses. That code might ask them to list a book by Gary Paulsen, which brings them to fiction. The orientation is designed to have them physically tour the library, work as a group, and enjoy some technology. I attached the lesson plan and one of the paths.  We use iPads for students to scan the QR codes and we have about six different paths for students to follow.  The groups number no more than five students.

Lisa shared her lesson and a couple of handouts.

Cheryl Youse, Media Specialist at Colquitt County High School shared her Jeopardy game, a get-to-know-you scavenger hunt, and an Xtranormal video, and noted:

I get bored (with 40 or so orientations), so this year I am doing different things with different classes.  I usually show the video New Spice Study Like a Scholar to get their attention and/or the Dewey Decimal Rap and/or Gotta Keep Reading.

Cheryl’s scavenger hunt

Monica Dennler, from the K-8 Eastamptom Community School and President of the Burlington County Association of School Librarians (NJ), shares:

The best thing that I do for orientation for the first two weeks, besides covering house-keeping issues, is to have each of my classes design their own set of classroom rules. I appoint a scribe to write out the list; each class dictates their own set of library guidelines. I then post the rules in a highly visible area.

Once that is done, we do a library  treasure hunt designed for each grade level to find resources and books in the library and on the computer. It helps break the ice and establish a fun tone for the year. This also helps work as a pre-assessment or bench mark to help focus on areas that students may need to be reminded about during the first month (or first four classes) of school.

Arlene Laverde. Librarian at John Bowne High School, shares her bingo-based orientation:

For our high school freshmen I combined a picture PowerPoint and bingo game. I took pictures of various parts of the library and put them in a PowerPoint. I used an online bingo card generator to create various bingo cards of library terms. I explained to the students that they mark the terms as I go though the presentation BUT as soon as the game became more important the presentation the game was over. There are two types of bingo regular and full card. Prizes are candy or other little things. It goes well with good classroom management.

And finally, one of my favorite orientation videos is this one from Michelle Luhtala, New Canaan High School, focusing on the very positive message encouraged by the library and the school, We Trust You.


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I just read this morning about Andy Plemmons’ plan for his orientation in his new library using QR Codes, iPads, and YouTube. It looks like a lot of interactive fun.

    • Arlene Reynolds says

      Thanks for sharing the link to Andy Plemmons’ QR Code Orientation. It was wonderful! Now, I just need to get the technology.

  2. Elissa Malespina says

    Great ideas! And thanks for including me Joyce! The best twitter account to follow me at is @SOMSlibray

  3. I’ve created two new library orientations. One is created with powerpoint using memes, the other is created with Google Sites using animated gifs.
    I’ve put both on a blog post 🙂


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