Read, read, read!

Our school has been invited to participate in the 30th annual MS Readathon for the month of June. Mrs Janice Frape (a veteran of fifteen visits to our school!) talked at an assembly today about the medical condition known as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Students are encouraged to find sponsors and raise money to aid in researching MS. There are reading rewards and certificates for successful students. Those already reading for the Premier’s Reading Challenge can count any books read during this month as MS Readathon books.

Information on how students can register to be involved in this fundraising activity is available online at:

As usual, our students made us proud; we have trained them to be an excellent audience, and we always receive lots of warm fuzzies from guest speakers who find that they get a good hearing for their efforts.

Coincidentally, a teacher-librarian colleague, new to the position, happened to mention today that they’d had an odd encounter with a teacher at their school. The teacher felt the T-L was not doing their job by insisting that three students read “a more appropriate book”, ie. one where each word could be understood by the students. The books in question were titles in the excellent “Zac Powers” series, by H I Larry.

I said, “Most teachers and teacher-librarians I know use and promote three levels of reading with students:

* Instructional level (at the student’s reading age, aiming to nudge him or her over into the next highest level)

* Practice level (where the student is expected to read fluently and independently to practise and consolidate skills already learned)

* Recreational reading (totally free choice, made by student, in their current realm of interests).

As teacher-librarians we could easily be bouncing across all three levels with our students, depending on the task at hand, and the outcomes needing to be achieved. But it sounded to me like these students were using “Zac Powers” for recreational reading. And good on them! “Zac Powers” titles have labelled diagrams and humorous captions for a very good reason: because the author knows that many of his fans can’t read all of the main narrative text. Yet.

Or would that teacher insist that poor readers in Year 6 only ever read “Hop on Pop” and never be allowed to look inside a “Guinness Book of World Records”?

Wikis for learning support

This afternoon, I’m being whisked off to Leichhardt to speak about wikis to educators in the Professional Association for Learning Support.

Main points will include: what is a wiki?; setting one up; and uses in the classroom.

I’m hoping to impart: enthusiasm; the importance of being a practitioner in Web 2.0 (to become familiar and confident with its facilities); and tips for embeding ICT (information communication technologies) into pedagogy.

Much of what I will speak about can be found online at:

Double identity

Last year the School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit of NSW DET conducted a rap, Identity: Sharing Our Stories for Stages 3 and 4. Due to the success of this rap, via the Edublogs blogging facility, it is being run again this term!

The rap addresses outcomes in English, HSIE, PDHPE, Music and Aboriginal Studies. It draws on a range of contemporary texts, including personal stories, to explore Aboriginal perspectives on what builds strong identity. The rap is helpful for cultural understanding for all students. It also supports the Stage 4 secondary COG unit, “Cultural identity”.

Many teachers complain that they find it difficult to make sure they address Aboriginal perspectives in their programs correctly, and to find relevant resources to support their units of work in this area. Even if your school is not planning to participate, I would again urge teacher-librarians to visit the pages as the rap unfolds. Rapping is a great learning experience – for students, teachers, teacher librarians, AEOs (Aboriginal Education Officers) and community members. A range of excellent online resources is available, including: programming and planning, proformas, music, and online factual texts. This rap offers an excellent way to develop an educator’s familiarity with blogging as an educational tool, embedded in your program of work.

This year, our Year 5 students will be working in groups on the rap activities, and utilising our brand new interactive whiteboard (IWB), which is located in our library. Now that’s exciting! The new version of the Identity rap starts the week of 18 May 2009, and runs for about six weeks. Schools can use as much or as little, as suits their unique situations.

Sheep thrills

The annual National Simultaneous Storytime is almost upon us again! 27th May, 11.00am. Our school had so much fun with “Arthur” last year, and we are sure the students will enjoy this year’s picture book, “Pete the sheep” by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.

I just received an email from ALIA containing a link to a downloadable “Pete the sheep” PowerPoint presentation. (We’ll be able to use it to christen our new interactive whiteboard!) HarperCollins Publishers Australia has organised for “Pete the sheep” to be available as a PowerPoint presentation for NSS participants to assist with large storytime readings of the book.

Register on ALIA’s site to access the PowerPoint file. The email also contained a link to some promotional “Pete the sheep” blackline activity sheets, drawn by Bruce Whatley himself, and these are also downloadable from the National Simultaneous Storytime site. Bruce is to be a special guest at Shoalhaven Libraries’ Storytime in Nowra, for those in that vicinity.

Mmmm. How can we top that? Well, one of our teachers lives on a farm, and we are now wondering if she has a friendly sheep she can bring to school on the day?

Weaving a wiki on the Central Coast

Today I had a relaxing break from the daily school library grind, travelling by two express service trains to Gosford, on the NSW Central Coast, to speak about wikis and blogs (eg. this one!) to teacher-librarians of schools in the Brisbane Waters group.

I kept wondering why I wasn’t feeling too nervous about the presentation itself, but I guess I knew my topic and audience fairly well. As I warned them, I can talk all day (be warned!) but it was great to be given a sizable chunk (about 90 minutes) of their quarterly professional development session to share the learning journey and achievements of my students (and teaching colleagues) in the area of Web 2.0.

Much of what I spoke about can be found online at:

Many thanks to Pam Howes and Christine Harpur for your wonderful hospitality!

What time is it when the clock chimes 13?

Answer: Time to get a new clock.

You may recall my emergency repair job on the library’s “Auckland” clock, part of our set of “newsroom” clocks in the revamped library? Well, the clock mechanism has failed again. I can’t get it to run longer than a few minutes. I very much doubt I can buy a matching replacement for a clock bought six months ago “on special” – and, rather than put up with a clock that was always giving a totally random time, I decided to go back to an idea I used a few years ago when I was teaching Stage 1 full time.

I’d realised that many students in that had no concept of a longcase grandfather clock, so I created one with corrugated artboard on the classroom wall, utilising the regular schoolroom clock that came with the room. We added a mouse to the clock when we were studying the nursery rhyme, “Hickory Dickory Dock”, and the students were shocked one day when the battery ran out right on the dot of one o’clock!

Anyway, “Auckland” has now been officially replaced by “Storyland” – and that clock’s time is permanently striking one, so to speak:

Revised clocks

At least it’ll also be the right time every lunchtime!

I also took the opportunity to make a better version of my laminated “Time 4 Learning” signage, and changed the “Library Rules” chart to match the green colour of our core values signage. Previously, it had been white.

Clocks x 4
(Click photos to see larger versions)

Web 2.0 – where to start?

Today, a teacher-librarian colleague asked for what she called “an idiot’s guide” to getting started with a school library blog.

It got me thinking back to where it all began for me. In 1996, just after getting my first home Internet connection, I was eager to start my own home page immediately, and I bought the book “Creating websites for dummies” – which warned that the biggest mistake new web composers made was not exploring what’s already out there, good and bad, before creating their own site. Nothing worse than a pretty web site that took many minutes for the graphics to upload. “For dummies…” recommended a good three months of ‘Net surfing first.

Extrapolating that warning to Web 2.0, which was a whole new learning curve, I would encourage potential Web 2.0 educators to become a surfer and commenter on other people’s education blogs, wikis and library sites first – to satisfy themselves as to what works well, and what doesn’t work. Also, they can sample the list of blog links of their favourite library blogs. They’ll hopefully start to realise the strengths and weaknesses of various Web 2.0 software, the importance of currency/relevance of information, how well each web composer responds to their commenters, and so on. With Web 2.0, you can really only learn by doing. Try some links off this site’s blog roll, for example.

Then, I suggested, make notes of what your dream school library blog might include. What pages can be static, and what parts could be regularly updated via a blog or wiki? Are you planning to permit indivisual responses (beware of cyber bullying, and who will “approve” messages), or will group-negotiated student responses be done in cooperative cohorts with teacher guidance?

My colleague had asked for an “Idiot’s Guide” – I really like the commercial “For Dummies…” format myself, so if you feel you need such help after a few months of browsing/commenting, I’m sure there’s a great “Wikis and blogs for dummies” title out there. Also, most Web 2.0 sites have excellent user services attached to their pages. Edublogs has a bbs where questions, no matter how dumb, can be answerered by other users and Edublogs volunteers.

As for wikis, “pbwiki” is now known as “PBworks”, and all old “pbwiki” URLs are automatically reverting to the new confiiguration for the moment. I have found “pbwiki” to be very easy to use, although the new upgrades have taken some getting used to.

My school library wiki, which has been referenced in several “Scan” articles, is now at:

Our school’s two Kinder wiki projects are fully annotated – with attached pages of pre- and post-evaluations, student comments, teacher decision-making, etc. – so those pages might be useful for teachers wondering just how to take the plunge into Web 2.0.

I recently received an email from the “PBworks” team congratulating me on the popularity of our school library site. I don’t have any analytics program attached to it, so it was a nice surprise to realise how heavily it is being used across the world. I also recently noticed that our wiki URL popped up during a search for resources on “TaLe”. Here I was, looking for good online sources of activities using nursery rhymes, and my own work from the previous year was being suggested to me! 😉

I also suggested trying the next rap (using blog format) from NSW DET. This strategy gives a fledging Web 2.0 educator a change to see a blog working that is fully integrated into a school or class program, addresses outcomes, and encourages cooperative learning and collaborative teaching. There’s always a “Teacher” section, where teachers and teacher-librarians can chat about their learning curve, and receive prompt advice re problems.

The “Identity: sharing our stories” rap starts very soon, but there are also links to many completed raps and book raps on that menu page.