Sunday, 21 January 2018

My 5 Star Reads from 2017: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry

At the beginning of the year, I always find myself surrounded by new books that have appeared on other people's "best of" lists.  I sheepishly go and pick up piles of reserves from the public library - when you have a lot you have to ask at the desk instead of getting them yourself from the reserve shelf.  I even reserve books on my mother's library card because her public library has a wider range of books than mine!  At the same time, I attempt to not become a hermit, and to pay some attention to my family.  It's not always easy!  Anyway, I have broken the spell long enough to finish off my best books from 2017.  My best picture books are here.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
This is a beautifully written book about a girl, a witch, a swamp monster, a madwoman, a young man and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.  It deservedly won the Newbery Medal last year.  A must read for any lovers of fantasy.

Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
Mira Levinson is 12 and of part-English, part-Indian heritage.  Her grandmother, Josie, is dying of cancer and Mira has to work out how to deal with the imminent loss of a very special person in her life.  At the same time she is dealing with bullying, friendship and first love.

This is a very powerful book that would be suitable for mature Year 6 and up. 

Beetle Boy by M G Leonard
I loved this book about a boy, Darkus, whose dad has disappeared, bugs who can communicate with humans, an evil woman (who reminds me of Cruella De Vil, but with bugs), and bad men who want to turn Darkus into a pie.  There's lots of action, combined with facts about beetles.  It turns out that's a great combination!

The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen
Ade lives with his mother in a tower block.  His mother has become mentally unwell after an attack and Ade is having to shoulder more responsibilities to look after them both.  As if that isn't enough, strange plants appear, buildings start to fall down, and the world he lives in begins to change, while his mother sleeps on...

This is a fabulous, unusual, survival story, with well-rounded characters and some moments so tense I had to skip ahead a bit to make sure everything would be okay!

The Pest in the Nest (Rabbit & Bear #2) by Julian Gough, Jim Field (illustrator)
A bird arrives, makes a racket and really upsets Rabbit.  I love the developing friendship between Rabbit and Bear, and the patience Bear shows as he helps Rabbit, whose "brain is getting into a fight with the world".  One of our Year 2 teachers read this to her class, I thought they might be a little young, but they LOVED it!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale 
This book is funny and filled with action.  It has references to Marvel characters, squirrels with cool names, and an evil villain - a very enjoyable read!  (It was also nice to read a book with a great deaf character in it).

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Roz is a robot who is shipwrecked and ends up on a remote island.  She has to adapt to the different conditions there, and deal with the local animal population, who think she is a monster.  Her adoption of an orphaned goose egg is a catalyst that leads to her and the other animals learning from one another.

A beautiful survival tale that celebrates nature, kindness and friendship. 

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
I'd highly recommend listening to the audiobook of this story, especially if you like the lovely Scottish accent of David Tennant.  He does great voices for the characters, and we loved the way he says 'spoon'!  The story itself is humorous, well-paced and full of interesting characters.


Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Don Tate, illustrator
An interesting non-fiction picture book about Lonnie Johnson, his life and his inventions, including his most famous invention - the Super Soaker.


Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka
I am not a huge poetry fan, in fact, this is the fourth year I've blogged about my 5 star reads and this is the first book of poetry I've ever included.  This is a very clever collection of shape poems, you really have to see it to understand how brilliant it is.  The poems and the shapes fit perfectly together, making a book ideal to share with people who claim they are "not a huge poetry fan"!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

My 5 Star Reads from 2017: Picture Books

Here are the brilliant picture books that I gave five stars to in 2017:

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Some insects watch as a plant grows.  Such a simple premise for a story and yet it is turned into something very special.  The illustrations are quirky and fun, but it is the fact that the whole story is told with an invented language that brings this book to a whole other level (and it's not too hard to work out what it means).  This was a 2017 Caldecott Honor book.

Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus
A counting book with rhymes that flow off the tongue.  As an added bonus, looking at a construction crew at work will be of interest to many readers.

My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems
Elephant & Piggie books are hugely popular at our school.  I'm not sure how I missed this one, but I'm glad I got there in the end.  Piggie has a new friend, Brian the Bat, and Gerald and Snake are worried they will be forgotten.  A sweet story about friendships.

Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (illustrator)
Last year, I learned about the wonderful work done by the Empathy Lab, and this book came up as one that is good for encouraging children to think from someone else's perspective.  Bat is new to the neighbourhood, and the other animals quickly decide that she is daft, after all, she has asked for an umbrella so her feet don't get wet!  Wise Owl encourages the animals to try looking at things from Bat's point of view, and once they are all hanging upside down from a tree it all makes sense.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
In this, the very last Elephant & Piggie book, Piggie decides to thank all of her friends.  Gerald is convinced that Piggie will forget someone...but it's not who we think!  A very fitting end to a fantastic series.

The Covers Of My Book Are Too Far Apart by Vivian French, Nigel Baines (illustrator)
This is a must for libraries.  A fantastic book that gives answers to all those statements librarians often encounter, like "reading's rubbish", "I can't find a book I like" and "pictures are for little kids".  The fun illustrations ensure the book doesn't seem too preachy.

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator)
I was blown away by this book.  The rhymes are effortless and a joy to read aloud.  It's a wonderful story about an imaginative girl and her paper dolls, the power of memory and the beauty of passing on shared activities between generations.  This was an easy pick for my four year old niece's birthday.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin (illustrator)
Farmer Brown's cows start leaving him notes asking him for things and when he doesn't give in to their demands they go on strike.  A very funny book that deals with the power of communication and negotiation.

My Pictures After The Storm by Eric Veille
This is a quirky book that deals with "before" and "after" in a hilarious way.

Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (illustrator)
This was another book that tickled my funny bone this year.  Tadpole and caterpillar fall in love, and caterpillar says "promise that you will never change".  Some good information about the life cycles of tadpoles and caterpillars, with a deliciously dark ending!

The Legend Of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, Adam Rex (illustrator)
This humorous book is an excellent read aloud if you can give it the drama it deserves.  There are lots of fun battles as we learn the legend behind the game rock, paper, scissors (or as I  would say "paper, scissors, rock").  When you're reading it with kids, allow time to play the game afterwards!

Something Else by Kathryn Cave, Chris Riddell (illustrator)
This was another book that was recommended as being great for sparking discussions about empathy.  It's about a creature called "Something Else" who struggles to fit in because he is different, yet when he meets another creature who is also different he initially treats him the same way.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (illustrator)
I learned about this sweet story at a Diversity in Picturebooks seminar.  It has caused a bit of a stir in some communities, as it is about two male penguins who become partners and raise a penguin chick.  It is based on a true story, which happened at Central Park Zoo.  I'm happy to say it has not caused a fuss in our library.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
This is a gorgeous book - the artwork is beautiful to look at.  It's also a lovely, offbeat story about making mistakes and fixing them by coming up with something even better.  Some of our teachers with students who are perfectionists have been particularly interested in sharing this book.

After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
It turns out that after Humpty Dumpty had a great fall he became terrified of heights.  Santat tells the story of Humpty Dumpty facing his fears with brevity, humour and sensitivity.  This is also an absolutely gorgeous book to look at, the cereal aisle is a particular standout!

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Another incredibly beautiful Oliver Jeffers book.  It came about after he brought his newborn son home from the hospital and started explaining the world to him.  It talks about things like being kind to one another no matter what we look like and looking after the world we live in.

Fox by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks (illustrator)
In this sophisticated picture book, a magpie who can't fly and a one-eyed dog become friends, but then along comes fox.  The ending is so emotionally powerful, and dark, that it makes this one of the most unexpectedly shocking books I have ever read.

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen, James Foley (illustrator)
Another sophisticated picture book described as "a hilarious rhyming tale about a zombie bunny who comes back to visit his owner".

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Starting a CoL Librarians' Group

Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet with some lovely librarians in Ipswich.  They are part of a group called FLAPS, which I was so impressed with I shared it as part of my presentation at the SLANZA conference in July.  Here's the slide I used:

Once I found out about FLAPS, I was very keen to see if it could be replicated in NZ.  I felt that this idea might work within the framework of a Community of Learning (CoL).  My school became part of a CoL last year, and it seemed like a good idea to take an existing structure that the government promotes and gives funding to, and work within that.  I like the fact that the meeting takes place during the day, not after school when many of us have a lot of other things to juggle.  I also thought that meeting once a term is not a prohibitive amount of time, and therefore hard to refuse!

I could have approached the other librarians in our CoL directly, however I wanted to have the explicit approval that being discussed at the CoL principals' meeting would bring.  I have to admit that I was keen for the principals who value their libraries and support their librarians (like mine) to be positive role models on those who hardly think about their libraries at all.  I also felt like it was the best option for getting librarians, library assistants, teachers with library responsibility and teacher aides who don't normally go to any other meetings.  Having an email forwarded to you from your principal implies that they are keen for you to go and happy for you to be away for the time needed.

Going down this route did mean having to be patient.  It took several months before librarians were discussed at the CoL principals' meeting (to be fair, they were in the process of setting things up so had lots of other things that needed to be covered).

Once it had been agreed that we could run a CoL Librarians' Group I emailed all the principals in our CoL, talked about setting up a meeting and asked them to pass on the email to anyone involved with their school library.  I asked them to indicate which days would suit them best on a Google doc that covered a couple of weeks later on in the term.  I had set the time as 9.30-11.30.  A bit later on I followed up with an email directly to the librarians of schools which hadn't responded, as I suspected there were a couple whose principals had not passed on my email!

Twelve librarians (I'll call them that although some were teachers, teacher aides etc) from nine schools attended our first meeting on 28 August.  We had seven primary schools, one intermediate and one high school.  It was held at my school and we started by getting to know each other better and talking about our hours and the conditions at our schools.  I was reminded how lucky I am to work in a big school that has a generous library budget.  I showed everyone our library and talked a bit about how we ran things.  As usual, when I am surrounded by librarians I pick up little things that will help improve my job.  Like when students have overdue books recommending that they take out an eBook instead.  Simple but not something I had been doing.  I was pleased that there was an offer from another school to organise and run the next meeting in Term 4, and we decided we would have stocktaking as our theme.

Our second CoL Librarians' meeting was held at the end of October.  We had librarians from three new schools attend!  Our new host seriously upped the ante and made a slideshow about her library and how they handled stocktaking.  It was interesting to hear about a wide range of stocktaking practices and Esther and I picked up some good ideas around training student librarians too.

Looking forward to 2018, I've had offers from our lovely National Library ladies to help should we require it, and we may pull in outside experts too. 

Overall, I'd say that the CoL Librarians' Group has been successful.  It's not a big burden to organise, I've met some new librarians from our local schools, acquired and shared knowledge, and it appears that everyone is happy for it to continue.  If your school is in a CoL, I would definitely recommend setting up a CoL Librarians' Group.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - The First Five Sessions

At the end of May, I started a Teachers' Reading Group at my school.  I have nine teachers who attend fortnightly, on either a Tuesday at lunchtime or a Wednesday after school.  Interestingly, of the nine there are three teachers who are in their first year, at our school and in teaching.  This is actually all of our first-year teachers, so I had a 100% success rate signing up that group.  It is a shame though, that it appears that they're not being introduced to more children's authors as part of their teaching qualification. 

I also have two teachers in the 1-3 year category, and four who have been teaching for over ten years (including one who has taught for over thirty), so I have a wide range of experience levels.

I selected each of the topics for the meetings from the "Building Communities of Readers" booklet by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona Collins and Sacha Powell.

First Meeting

Our first meeting was on "widening knowledge of children's authors and contemporary writers".  We went over more of the teacher questionnaire results.  In particular, we talked about how a lot of teachers had written the names of authors who were their childhood favourites, and there was a lack of current writers.

I gave the teachers copies of reading for pleasure research (from my earlier presentation at a staff meeting).  I wanted them to always have that to remind them of the importance of reading for pleasure.

Everyone signed up to Goodreads and we set a goal to have read a book by the next meeting.  I brought some good books from our library, as I've done at each of the meetings since then.  I take a piece of paper and record the barcodes so I know what's gone where.

Second Meeting

This meeting was about "reflecting upon personal reading histories and current practices and exploring consequences for classroom practice".  However, it started with sharing the books that we had read (which we do at every session) and then going over a few of the results from the student surveys I had helped our teachers carry out prior to the meeting (I ended up doing eight classes - 200 children).

It was surprising that within each class there was a range of answers to the same question.  For example, in each class some students thought their teacher read aloud every day and some thought it was less than once a week!  We talked about individual class results, which showed that when teachers read aloud more often (as indicated by the answers from the majority of students), their students were more likely to believe their teachers definitely read and that they love reading.  

The teachers went on to discuss the difficulty in protecting read aloud time when other things encroached on it, and shared ideas for dealing with that.

Then we looked at our personal reading histories and how they could be shared with students - doing things like talking about the books we liked when we were children, or bringing in old books from home.  During the conversation, one of the teachers mentioned that she did reading recovery as a child.  I asked how she felt about sharing that with her students and she said she hadn't thought about it but was happy to do so.

At the end of this meeting, I took a photo so I could share it on the library's Facebook page and let our school community know what we are up to.

Third Meeting

Our third meeting was about "planning, organising and sustaining regular opportunities for children to read independently for pleasure".  We talked about the opportunities children have to read independently for pleasure, where they get to read, and how it gets worked into the school day.

We also looked at the questions in the student questionnaire about whether students liked reading, whether they thought they were any good at it and whether they read with anyone at home.  We discussed the fact that 66% of our students read more at home.  The most common reasons they gave were because they have more time, their favourite books are there, it's quieter and they're more comfortable.  The students who read more at school felt they did so because "it is a subject" (in other words they have to!), because it's busy at home and because there are more books at school.

We talked about ways to encourage children to discuss their reading with each other.  I shared something that I'd seen work well for a teacher several years ago.  She sat her students down in the library and before they returned their books she gave them time to talk about them with each other.  A lot of teachers from our Teachers Reading Group have now been doing this with their classes and it is very successful.

Fourth Meeting

At this meeting we looked at "extending knowledge of children's comics and magazines".  I brought in a huge selection of graphic novels and we browsed through these.  I'd recently been looking at the borrowing histories of some of our "priority readers" and could see that several had found their passion for graphic novels.  I talked about some of the more popular graphic novel series that had hooked these developing readers.

During this session a Year 2 teacher reported back about what happened when she talked to her class about her own reading journey.  I found her story really heart-warming, so I asked if she could write something so I could share it, and here it is:
This week I shared with my Year 2 class how I found it hard to read when I was little and that a beautiful lady, Mrs Howl, helped me to learn to read.  This created a discussion about Paula's role when she comes into our class at reading time to help some students.  The discussion took many directions with the tamariki [children] saying "we read together to help each other".   One beautiful 6-year-old said, "wow, if you didn't learn to read then you wouldn't be able to be our teacher and teach us how to read".  Another boy said, "as long as you try your best you can learn to read or do anything".  I shared that is why I love to read as the passion and support from Mrs Howl made me want to keep trying to learn to read.  This meant that after lots of hard work I was able to read my own chapter book and now any book I wanted.  Year 2's are so fantastic and it was definitely inspiring sharing my own reading journey.  I observed some of my students sitting on the mat listening with big smiles on their faces.  It was a beautiful, honest, feel-good moment that I will remember so thank you Michelle for inspiring me to share my history with my class.
This teacher said that in particular some of her lower achieving students were very inspired by hearing her story.

Fifth Meeting

The fifth meeting was about "discovering useful information about children's out-of-school reading habits, cultures and practices".  We talked about valuing all kinds of reading - online, paper-based, recipes, signs, receipts, games etc.  I shared the idea of reading rivers and gave them some handouts about it, including Jon Biddle's example on the Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I also showed them the one I had made.

A reading river is where you record everything that you read over the course of 24 hours or a weekend.  It helps the children to notice how much they are reading when they don't realise it.  It's also really good for teachers to get an idea of what kids are reading at home.  Our teachers were very enthusiastic about this, they liked the idea of putting reading rivers up on display so students' peers could see what they are reading.

I was pleased to see that one of the teachers took this idea and shared it back with the other teachers in her team.  The impact of the Teachers' Reading Group is moving wider and I'm really happy about that!

As we have gone along the teachers have got to know one another better (none of them are from the same team and several are new to the school).  We have had some great discussions around reading, not always directly related to what we've been covering!  I'm learning a lot and the cross-team pollination of ideas has been wonderful.

We have just had our sixth meeting, with a guest speaker talking about poetry.  I'll cover that in my next post, as this one is already quite long!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - Getting Started

Late last year, I read an excellent book called "Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for Pleasure" by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona M. Collins, Sacha Powell and Kimberly Safford.  The book is based on two studies by the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) on teachers' knowledge of children's literature, and how they can improve it and build reading communities in their classrooms. 

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to fly to England and research reading for pleasure.  I met with Teresa Cremin and heard her keynote at the UKLA National Conference.  She was very inspirational and it was a highlight of my trip.  I was really keen to share her work with the teachers at my school.  I felt it would be an excellent way to work with teachers and help them to better help their students foster a love of reading.

Less than a week after I returned from England, I persuaded our DP to let me attend a staff meeting and administer Teresa's Teachers as Readers questionnaire (choose the 'Review your practice" tab).  This is part of the Open University's Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I copied the questionnaire and made a couple of little adjustments (like changing 'literacy coordinator' to librarian).  I didn't want the teachers to do it online as I wanted to collect the results myself.  

Part of the questionnaire has the teachers name six children's authors, six children's poets and six children's picture book authors/illustrators.  I had several teachers come up to me later on to tell me that they had remembered more names after they handed in their questionnaire, or that they were embarrassed that they couldn't name more authors.  One put a little sad face directly on her questionnaire!  It definitely got them thinking about their knowledge of authors.

My main aim for administering the questionnaire was to initiate our own Teachers as Readers project at my school.  I was told this would need to be voluntary; I would have to convince our teachers to give up their own time to be part of this project.

The following term, I was able to get ten minutes to talk about my trip at a staff meeting.  I  chose two things to talk about, that I thought would be of particular interest to teachers - Empathy Lab (see my SLANZA conference slides to find out more about that) and Teachers as Readers.  

I started by emphasising the importance of reading for pleasure.  I shared some research from the OECD (Slide 2 below).  This had quite an impact - I could hear mutterings and surprised comments arising from it.  I also shared other research (Slide 3), showing the impact reading for pleasure has on academic achievement.  I talked about the fact that reading is not just learning to read, but wanting to read.  The will as well as the skill.

Then I talked about the Teachers as Readers work done by Teresa and her team.  I reported back about the results from the questionnaire (Slides 6-8).  I compared our results with those from the 1,200 UK teachers that Teresa's team surveyed.  We were quite similar in our knowledge of writers, worse when it came to knowledge of children's poets, and better in our knowledge of children's picture book writers/illustrators.  Then I shared the conclusion from Teresa and her team based on the results of the research (Slide 9):

I talked about phase two of the Teachers as Readers research, which was a project to help widen teachers' knowledge of children's literature and build communities of readers in their schools (Slide 10). 

Then I flicked over to the last bit of our research (Slide 11).  This was our teachers' own rating of their repertoire of children's books.  Only 25% of them gave themselves a seven or more.  I said that I felt that they should all be aiming for a seven or above, for the reason I showed them in Slide 9 - to support their students in their development as readers they need to have a good reading repertoire.  I said that if they were interested in improving their rating, I would be running our own Teachers as Readers project.  I went over this in Slide 12.  I didn't want to put them off by talking about the questionnaires involved or the length of the project, but I did want them to know what they were signing up for.

I sent them out an email after the staff meeting, with a Google doc attached so they could indicate what the best times were for our Teachers' Reading Group, and how often they wanted to meet.  And then I crossed my fingers!  I was hoping for four teachers, one from each of our Year 3-6 teams.  I got nine!  They teach from Year 1-6 (in fact, one was a new entrant teacher who didn't even have any students yet!).  I also have another two teachers who can't attend in real life but did join our Goodreads group.

I ended up with two Teachers' Reading Groups, as I didn't want to have to turn anyone away.  I have a Tuesday lunchtime group and a Wednesday after school group.  The consensus was for fortnightly meetings, which has worked well.  Having the two days has also proved useful, as we've had teachers switch between the two as commitments come up.

So, I started with the questionnaire and that highlighted the gaps in some teachers' knowledge and made them feel uncomfortable.  Then I showed them the research that proved why it's important, and I think those two things really helped get teachers on board.

In my next post I'm going to summarise what we covered in our first five sessions.  The "Building Communities of Readers" booklet is a big help if you are going to run Teachers' Reading Groups as it goes through what you can cover in each session.

I am SO pleased with how things are going - I am having lots more conversations about books and reading with teachers, even those not in my Teachers' Reading Groups!  I think running the project has positioned me as an expert in children's literature and reading for pleasure in a really visible way.  There has also been some lovely feedback from the teachers about the impact on their students.

Another benefit that arose after I administered Teresa's questionnaire on our staff, was that I encouraged our principal to promote reading by having his photo taken each week while reading various picture books.  This has proved a popular segment on our library's Facebook page.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

#slanza17 - Wednesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday

Wednesday, the final day of the conference, arrived all too quickly.  I was just getting warmed up!  The keynote (Flipping the Format - How Contemporary Teens Connect to Story) was from Adele Walsh, who I had the pleasure of meeting the day before (although it took me a while to realise I was talking to a keynote speaker!).  I'll admit I was worried that because the focus was on teens I wouldn't get as much out of this keynote, but it turned out to be one of my favourite sessions!  Here are some of my notes (you can find more in the tweets from the day, below):

  • This padlet has all the websites referred to
  • Commit to the world of teens - it's not about you!
  • Embrace discomfort, otherwise you're not learning
  • Digital is not just ebooks - expand your thinking.
  • Digital storytelling, transmedia storytelling - telling stories through multiple platforms
  • The majority of teens online are creating content, making stories.  Digital stories aren't less important than other stories
  • Stop saying 'in real life', digital life is real tool, being online is real life for teens
  • Don't take over their content creation, support them in what they're doing
  • Stories are not just the written word, they're video, photos, emoji
  • 'Reading' can be a loaded term for teens, but they're used to stories being everywhere - connect with their world
  • Adele runs the 'Inside a Dog' website. Teens are involved in content creation for the site, including creating the longlist and shortlist of the Inky awards.
  • Have bookmarks with book covers and checkboxes (Love this idea! I'll be using it).
  • Got feedback on what teens want to feel in a digital community, how they felt about the site.  Going to relaunch.
  • Teens love to discuss book covers (will try this in my book club).
  • Dog Advisory Board for website, teens advising.
  • Polandbananasbooks - popular book review site (can we do something similar with our kids?)

How many of these do you recognise?

The last keynote was from Steve Braunias - "How I Survived the Bad Librarian at Mt Maunganui College, and other tales".  He was hilarious.  I immediately reserved "The man who ate Lincoln Road".  

For me, the conference finished after lunch.  I didn't attend the library tours because I had already visited one of the libraries and to be honest I quite liked the idea of beating the traffic!

A big thanks to the organising committee - I think the event was extremely well run and I really enjoyed the new additions, the quiz and the unconference.

Here are the final lot of tweets for the conference:

Saturday, 22 July 2017

#slanza17 - Tuesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

Day Two of the conference, Tuesday, started with an author breakfast.  Those of us staying on-site were lucky enough to be able to hear from Stacy Gregg.  Stacy is a popular author at my school, however because I considered her to be a "horsey" writer I hadn't read her books myself.  After hearing her speak I can't wait to read her books!  The details behind each of her stories were fascinating.  For example, she wrote a letter to Princess Haya, daughter of the King of Jordan, asking if she could please write her story, and ended up travelling to Jordan to meet her.   

A lot of Stacy's stories involve embellishing real life events to make them fiction, she likes to write strong women role-models and she loves to write books about places she wants to visit (so she can go there to do research!).  I am very keen to ask Stacy to speak at my school one day.

The keynote was by Hamish Curry, from design thinking firm NoTosh.

Here are some of his key points:
  • It is important to take the time to really understand our problems before trying to solve them.
  • Sitting by a window is an incredibly powerful way to allow yourself to relax and slow down 
  • To see how students are using a space, at three different times during the day put a dot on a floor plan to show where students are 
  • We need to have visible learning and model the same practises we want students to do - Hamish suggested doing this in a bunker room in the library
  • You need to work out patterns and what they mean, make connections
  • Use 'hexagonal thinking' as a tool for thinking, ask good questions to connect concepts together
  • When you are prototyping you need to be open to feedback on how you can make something better
  • Management is about problem solving, leadership should be about problem finding, pattern finding
  • Don't start analysing in a secret laptop, do it in an open, visible way
  • There is a difference between space and place - place has belonging, character, community
  • Get the students to speak to search - once they start asking a device a question, they'll ask more because it's easy
  • We should be inspiration service providers
  • When you want to share an idea you don't need an hour, ask for ten minutes - everyone has ten minutes
  • Put things on ceilings and floors to surprise people
  • How do we create space to slow people down so they can relax and enjoy - e.g. corners, windows.

A bunker room with visible learning

This was for a local history unit.  The teacher buried a suitcase on the grounds for the students to find.  They were totally engaged and the teachers enjoyed the unit more too.

There is more from the keynote in the tweets from the day (below).

Following the keynote, I attended Georgi de Stigter's session "Digital Technologies #FTW (For the win)".  Here is a link to her slides.  It turned out to be mainly on Google Forms which I have used before, but I did learn some more tips:

  • Use a linear scale so students can choose from 1 to 5
  • Use humour in the choices e.g. 'never, ever, ever' or 'you are the best'
  • Use sections to take students to different questions depending on if they answer yes or no
  • Ask open-ended questions e.g. 'why do you think...?'
  • Ask students and staff how effective you are e.g. 'On a scale of 1-5 how helpful do you find the library staff?' and 'What can we do better?'

Next up was Rachel Van Riel's workshop "Improving your Library Environment without Spending a lot of Money".  Here are my notes:

  • Angle bookshelves to face the door
  • There is a difference between destination and impulse.  Impulse is not planned, whereas people will ask for a destination e.g. toilet, reserved books, photocopier, OPAC.  Keep your impulse items in the best places as people will search for the destination ones.
  • We should learn from retail.
  • Paco Underhill - "Why we buy: the science of shopping" (I've reserved this)
  • We need a rest for the eye - don't fill up every wall with posters
  • Trial different locations for things and see what works
  • There shouldn't be a visual clash with books e.g. posters.  It is better to focus on the books
  • Use smaller Dewey signs to be less intrusive
  • Bay ends are rests for the eye, don't cover them with posters or books
  • Put face out books amongst the shelves, sometimes in the middle, sometimes to the left or right
  • Let the book jackets do the talking
  • People will go through a space e.g. doorway, when there's more space around it (so don't narrow the space with trolleys etc nearby)
  • Don't shut yourself away, get out on the library floor as much as possible
  • Let pillars and staircases sing - don't cover them with posters
  • If you have glass display cases put them in the foyer as they're transient areas
  • Bookshelves should always be more than 70% full, preferably completely full, otherwise people will think that the best has gone
  • Empty shelves signal that you don't have enough books

Participants in this session had been invited to send in photos of their libraries so that Rachel could give suggestions.  I'd been too busy working on my presentation to send mine through, but I did manage to catch up with her on Wednesday and she generously went through some of my library photos too (she did say in her email to participants that she would be around on Wednesday for free advice, so I wasn't stalking her!).  I'm going to do another post about the advice she gave me and show some before and after photos as I put it into practice.  

After lunch was Hamish Curry's workshop "Designing Library Discoveries".  Hamish talked about how children don't learn how to work AS a group, they're just asked to work IN a group.  They need to learn what collaboration looks like.  He said we need to spend as much time analysing a problem as solving it.  We are answer rich, question poor.

Hamish asked us to write down on post-it notes two challenges and two opportunities that had come out of the conference.  We put them up on the whiteboard and then they were grouped into common themes.

Next he showed us "the squid".  We picked a topic and then came up with three questions, then switched into answer mode.  The idea is to switch from question mode to answer mode, not work through each thread separately.  Then we had to circle the two best questions and two best answers (we hadn't got far enough through so we circled "future answers" in the expectation that some good ones would have been generated if we had gone further!).

I found some more free tools and resources from NoTosh.

My final workshop was with Joanna Ludbrook - "Ka-boom! Working with Primary Classes, Creating Solid Foundations for Life-long Learning".  Here are my notes:

  • Good site for list of topics covered during library classes -
  • A Google a Day challenge -
  • Recommended books:
    • 'How to read a story' - Kate Messner
    • 'The children who loved books' - Peter Carnavas
    • 'Keys' - Sacha Cotter*  Joanna had a set of keys that she uses to prompt children to create their own stories with.  That sounds like fun so I'll be giving it a go at our school.
    • 'Chester & Gil' - Carol Faulkner*  Joanna asks children to define the qualities of Chester and Gil and it promotes good discussions.
    • 'The three bears (sort of)', and 'Little red riding hood, not quite'  - both by Yvonne Morrison. These books are great to encourage children to question what they read.
    • 'Mr Archimedes' Bath' - Pamela Allen.  Joanna uses this book alongside Aesop's fable 'The Crow and the Pitcher' to illustrate the scientific theory of displacement.
  • Make jars of physical things to represent a book.
  • Include volunteer hours and duties in your library reports
  • "What's-on-Wednesday" - shared at the unconference
*These two books were the only two I didn't have and are both out-of-print! I managed to pick up copies on Trademe.

I was able to catch up with Rachel Van Riel at the end of day to get her opinion about how adding reading for pleasure to the curriculum has impacted reading and libraries in England (for my NZEI scholarship).  We talked for an hour and a half - she is so generous with her time, and such a lovely, knowledgable lady to speak with.  I walked her back to her room, which was in the same boarding house as mine, however I still managed to get lost trying to back to my room!  Fortunately there were helpful librarians to point me in the right direction!

The day ended with the conference dinner.  The entertainment was great but hard to describe so here's a link to the conference Facebook page with photos and videos of the evening.

Here are the tweets from the day: