Thanks Gary Warrick for the great pic, too.
Today was Penrith Public School’s annual reading picnic, this time celebrating our 97% success rate in the Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) in this, the National Year of Reading. It was also the second anniversary of our occupation of our BER school library. How the time has flown!
Our special guest was Judith Ridge, of WestWords. Judith is a recognised expert in the field of children’s literature, a former editor of the School Magazine and a member of the PRC selection and reviewing panel.
Our Guest of Honour, Judith Ridge of WestWords.
Parents, caregivers, toddlers and community members brought with them books, picnic rugs and snacks and joined the 400+ students and teachers for a relaxed afternoon of reading in cosy corners of the playground. Some students sat in class groups, and others sat with family and friends. And Mother Nature turned on some perfect picnic weather after several days of looming thunderclouds.
The school also received a special package from author and illustrator Emma Quay! A beautiful giclée print (Mr McLean had to look up that term on Wikipedia!) and a lovely handwritten letter, explaining that this artwork is a preview of her forthcoming picture book, Not a cloud in the sky (2013).
Judith Ridge, who was very complimentary of our students’ work with digital storywriting, book rapping and our school’s blog and wiki, shared a quote from E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s web and Stuart Little:
“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people — people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”
This is the Year 4 (of 4/5P) students’ response to the famous Ocoee Middle School Youtube flashmob.
The rappers decided they wanted to try using the forward and back buttons of PowerPoint for creating a stop-motion animation to the Youtube-famous version of “Gotta keep reading”. They brought in soft toys from home, and some from the library, and we spent about half an hour doing the main shoot in the playground. It works really well on my laptop, but when we tried to video podcast it, the file was just too big. This .mov version is miniscule, but it’ll give you a taste of the fun we had making it.
The original flashmob is at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6D9jiEYxzs
I feel like a proud father. The students at my school, Penrith Public School, were asked (late last year) to be the “poster children” of this year’s NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge poster. The posters arrived today and they look fantastic! Not that I’m biased. Definitely one to get framed for our new BER school library when it’s built.
Meanwhile, a teacher-librarian colleague recommended this great Youtube video clip:
Ocoee Middle School’s “Gotta keep reading” Youtube song, based on a Black-Eyed Peas hit song.
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”?
I was remembering back to my own primary schooling in the 60s. I had a great rapport with my inspirational teacher-librarian, Janette McKenny (later Janette Mercer when she married my equally-inspirational Year 4 teacher, years after they left the school). One day, Mrs McKenny decided that we needed to revamp the “Ghost Stories” section of the library, and several of us were elected to create a papier-mache skull, that would act as a scary bookend for the section of old wooden shelves (which had been lined with black crepe paper and a sign made out of spooky letters). We spent several hours tearing up newspaper and soaking it in a garbage can of water, but none of us could remember what held wet papier-mache together as it started to dry.
Mrs McKenny remember that papier-mache needed starch, and bought a box of the stuff on her way to school. We scampered off to the storeroom and sprinkled in the powder. Again, the papier-mache refused to clump together. Imagine our horror when Mrs McKenny asked, “Are you ready for me to boil up the starch?”
Luckily, we found another box of starch in the art store room and a quantity was boiled up, the papier-mache was drained and we began to create our skull. The paper was so sodden, it was essentially impossible to get it to hold its shape, even with the addition of thick, warm, boiled starch. After school, Mrs McKenny drove me home with it, and one of the boys who’d been part of the team at school came over to help me have another go at moulding it. I forfeited a “Noddy” beachball from the toy box and we constructed the skull around it. My mother then dutifully took the board holding the model in and out of the sun every day – for about two weeks? – until the papier-mache had hardened. It never needed painting, the newspaper pulp having taken on a suitable, consistent, grey colour from its many hours soaking in the water.
The skull sat in pride of place in the library at Arncliffe Public School for many years after I departed for high school. Gosh – maybe it’s still there?
I was pondering this old anecdote the other day as I passed a local fancy dress shop and, when I saw the skull (pictured above), I realised how perfectly it would dress up our sometimes-popular “Goosebumps” shelf. $13 for a lightweight, lifelike, plastic skull seemed like a great investment – just so long as I didn’t have to endure the weeks of waiting for overly-sodden, overly-starched, papier-mache to harden!
And the effect? “Goosebumps” books are once again flavour of the month with our students, and have been flying off the shelf all month. Several of the students borrowing them are saying, “This is my first time borrowing this year!” and “My first ever chapter book!”. Maybe I should soon try moving them on to a few other spooky authors and titles now that they’re hooked by the reading bug? But at the moment, apparently, “‘Goosebumps’ rulez!”
We’ve deliberately made the annual Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) simpler to administer each year, as more and more students and teachers take up the Challenge.
Our first year, 2006, the teacher-librarian spent a lot of time providing booklets of titles for all students and teachers, parent information notes (very few came back), and little slips that parents also signed-off on for every book read, and we used them to record those titles as they were returned during borrowing sessions. Class teachers maintained paper records for each student, and the T-L did all the data entry. The K-2 (Red) books were placed on a special stand. All PRC levels were labelled with Syba Signs spine stickers. A huge amount of work, but 209 students out of about 400 completed the Challenge. We did note that, for many students, the PRC gave them a buzz about reading, so we considered it all worth the trouble.
In 2007, I returned to a T-L position and we made the parental note an “opt out by signing” form (we already knew that one existing family would be taking that option). The students filled in their own paper records. (No need for the weekly parent slips; either the student is honest about reading the books or they’re not. If anything, the students are going to be more honest than some gung-ho parents.) As T-L, I did all the data entry. 313 students out of about 400 completed the Challenge.
In 2008, the parental note was an “opt out by signing” message in the school newsletter, and the students still filled in their own paper records. I did some of the data entry, but my new clerical is much faster at it, so she helped me whizz through them in no time. I did show students that “soon” they’d be able to access their own records online. Since most of the time they’re reading they are nowhere near a computer, the paper records are still very useful. One of my parent helpers misunderstook my instruction and pulled every PRC book off the regular shelves. I decided, rather than reshelve them in secret, that I’d create a “Green” and “Purple” PRC section of the library. This worked surprisingly well, and will work even better when OASIS locations match properly in OASIS Enquiry. 329 students out of 410 completed the Challenge, and three students, who’d started PRC at previous schools, received their Gold Certificate from our State Government representative!
In 2009, the “Green and purple” PRC section of the library now has a comfy purple couch against a green wall, as part of our ongoing library makeover. I’ve still made hardcopy student booklets of titles; the paper for doing this is part of our Priority Schools Program (PSP) funding, with the Challenge an intrinsic part of the school’s literacy programs. I’m hoping the students will enter their own books online this year, and I’ll only have to do the K-2 classes (copied records from each teacher’s master list) and acknowledge the 3-6 entries online. We have many students aiming for their gold certificate in our fourth year of running the Challenge here. Again, the PRC still gives most of the students a buzz about reading, so we consider it all worth the trouble. We are aiming at 100% participation this year.
I was up and out of the house before 7.00am this morning, and did a detour past school, to drop off messages for my casual teacher replacement, so I could attend the Premier’s Reading Challenge presentation ceremony, an annual event.
This year, a new venue, Riverside Theatres at Parramatta, and a new Premier of NSW, Nathan Rees. Once again, we had glorious weather, and the lucky groups of students who were invited to attend had a great time rotating around various activity stands, meeting lots of Australian authors and the newly announced PRC “ambassadors”.
They tried something a bit different this year. Nathan Rees participated in a reading of a rollicking poem from Norman Lindsay’s “The magic pudding”, and Peter FitzSimons led a short panel discussion about favourite books. The student participants were so eloquent.
I was assigned to be minder/chaperone for author Frances Watts – a huge honour, since I’m a great admirer of the book she did with illustrator, David Legge: “Parsley Rabbit’s book about books”. Between denials to hopeful school students, many of whom assumed that I was David Legge (who at home trying to meet a deadline on their third book together), I was able to swap anecdotes with Frances about how her book is used in schools. She mentioned that many years of observing teacher-librarians introduce new books gave her the inspiration for the book.
What a coincidence that I wore my black and silver Superman jacket today; Frances was giving out bookmarks for her book, “Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud”, the story of two unlikely young superheroes. And, yes, the bookmark even has its own secret identity! Flip it over and make your own superhero domino mask!
I have organised a wiki activity page based on the picture book, Arthur by Amanda Graham and Donna Gynell, which is the book being used for the upcoming ALIA National Simultaneous Storytime on Wednesday 21st May at 11.00 am (Term Two, Week 5). A group of nearby Priority Schools Programs (PSP) schools have recently formed a professional network, to prepare for our forthcoming interactive whiteboards. The Penrith Reading Project: Books from Birth (another local PSP initiative, containing different local schools), has also been invited to join us for the reading.
My colleague, Kerrie Mead, and I have been brainstorming possible activities to support Simultaneous Reading Day. Here’s what a draft of what we plan to present to the staff of our own school on Monday, and we’ll be making the material available online – as a blog and wiki – for the other schools. (An email today tells me that the ALIA site offers even more activities, many downloadable.)
On Wednesday 21st May 2008, at 11.00 am, children all over Australia will be reading, listening to and commenting on the same story at the same time. The featured book is Arthur by Amanda Graham and Donna Gynell.
At 11:00 am we could:
* Gather in the hall and listen to the story en masse: one reader, readers from a single group (class, Student Representative Council members, captains and prefects, teachers, parents or __________________ ).
* Gather in three groups (Early Stage 1 and Stage 1; Stage 2; Stage 3) in the hall, upstairs area and library and read the story as above.
Before the day: (in class, at Stage meeting, at assemblies)
* Let the students know about it – the purpose of the exercise, the significance of this kind of literary activity, how it might be the same/different in each school. (Great Circle Time material!)
* Familiarise your students with the text. (See ideas below.)
* Outline how the event will be held – ask for ideas which the students think might improve the plan and let us know before the day!
* Promote the event in the school newsletter.
* Signage around the school for parents and students.
* Supplement our resources with official posters and the link to Era Publications.
After the event:
* Ask your students for feedback – eg. The best thing was… ; I didn’t expect that to happen; next time… , etc.
* Tell the PSP committee what you really think.
Some ideas to familarise your students in all the wonderful ways you know how to capture their imagination! (Our school has rounded up several copies of the Arthur picture book, a big book version, two sequels and an Arthur hand puppet.)
Early Stage 1/Stage 1:
Who is in the story? Where does it take place? (eg. Paint Arthur or your pet, write a list, make a shop diagram, role play, add a pet image to the wiki.)
What is Arthur’s problem? How does he try to solve it? (eg. Feelings barometer, descriptive writing, pet ownership graph, alliterative pet adjectives for the wiki – perfect pup, quaint quarrion, timid tabby.)
Pets need… – but what might pets want?
If I was a pet I’d like to be a ………………………. because …………………………
Interactive learning objects from TaLe (click on Primary and use search engine).
Any or all of the above, plus
Descriptor matrix (eg. “Purple, spotty, three-headed wombat”) – and then create it.
Research – eg. Which animals are the most difficult to keep as pets and why? What is the best dog breed for (type of person/situation)? Who is the most famous pet and why?
Extend-a-story – eg. What other pets could Arthur have imitated and what would he have done? Write a new version of the story. Compare this book with the similarly-themed Edward the emu by Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement.
The perfect pet for ………………….. would be a …………………… because.
As above, plus
“Unpack” the form of the story (repetition, chorusing, types of words used).
What are the conventions of picture books? Examine favourites from home and the school library to discover similarities/differences. Write and illustrate your own picture book.
Read the story with your buddy (Buddy Classes – pairs of students from different stages) and ask them some prepared questions about it.
What is the moral of the story? What is a moral? what is the point of stories with morals? What other moral stories (and traditional fables) do you know? Which ones make good sense… or not?
Check out the interactive Stage 3 learning objects from TaLe (click on Primary and use search engine).