Time to rhyme

Stage 1 has continued to add contributions to the Jack and Jill page of our Nursery rhyme wiki!

Four Stage 1 classes have now completed the lesson in which they suggested rhyming pairs for flashcards, made changes to the colour coded template (an online matrix I created by saving a Word document as HTML) on our wiki page to create their own nursery rhyme parody. It has been extremely effective to demonstrate how editing the screen on one computer and uploading the change is shown on all other monitors after refreshing the page (ie. pressing the “Enter” key).

What fun!

My three Flickr slideshows have proven to be useful, and I’ve been using these blog posts as bookmarks. I must set up a del.icio.us account some day!

But I learned something very exciting yesterday. When the mouse is dragged across the middle of the frame, a large “i” icon appears. I assumed this meant “information” but I never thought to test it. Children don’t seem to have that lack of impulse to click a button; thus I discovered that my photo titles and description, in white text, superimpose the photos at the click of a mouse! Simple, but effective. Technology makes adults feel dumb sometimes!

Chinese New Year K-2
Bridges – Stage Two
Antarctica – Stage Three

The joy of S.C.U.M.P.S.

I was first introduced to the mnemonic acronym, S.C.U.M.P.S., in 2003, when I was teaching a Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) class. Presented in a matrix, students can use the attributes of Size, Colour, Use, Materials, Parts and Shape, for describing, comparing and contrasting objects. (The SCUMPS model can be found in Teaching complex thinking #6122, Hawker Brownlow Education, 2000, and has been used in HSC online activities.)

S.C.U.M.P.S. encourages and supports students, especially when working in cooperative learning groups, to record their topical field knowledge, show gaps in their research or sources, and can scaffold talking, listening, reading and writing.

Today, after demonstrating to the first Stage 2 class for the week how to use a S.C.U.M.P.S. proforma to compare and contrast a gluestick and a picture book, the class teacher and I sent the students off, in groups of three, to begin recording their comparisons between two distinctly different bridges of their choice. The proforma was used to compare a selection of the online Bridges photographs from the Flickr slideshow I set up for them two weeks ago.

The students were actively engaged in their task, and I noted a maximising of time spent on practical issues, and talking, listening and cooperation.

Of pails, crowns and brown paper

As I explained in my post about the fables wiki post, Term Four for our Early Stage One and Stage One students concentrates on fables. Now that we’ve started a new year, the school-based (three year, cyclic) literacy program devotes Term One to an exploration of nursery rhymes, Term Two to fairy stories, Term Three to Dreaming stories – and back to fables again in Term Four.

On Fridays, I take eight Early Stage One and Stage One intensive language class students for an additional lesson, to help prepare them for their immersion into English lessons the next week. These students perform best in English when they have had lots of exposure to the field knowledge of the topic being studied. For the nursery rhymes unit, I like to emphasise the repetitiveness of rhyming words, the relative ease of memorising nursery rhymes, the historical context (as often reflected by the illustrations in children’s picture book collections of nursery rhymes), and really explore the often archaic vocabulary.

Last year, these language students were integrated into several different English classes, and it was important that they entered Monday’s lessons full of confidence about the topic of each nursery rhyme (a different one each fortnight). This year, they come to the library on a Thursday (for their team-taught lesson) accompanied by junior students from our hearing support class. It will be interesting to see how these students work as a cohesive group in the upcoming week.

Last Friday, we examined Jack and Jill, which they’d already learned by heart with their class teacher – so I brought out the book we used last year, which has bery old-fashioned artwork to illustrate the nursery rhymes. I had the students predicting what they would see in the pictures, and they did extremely well: “a boy; a girl; some water (in a well? – What’s a well? Will it be made of bricks, stones, wood, etc.); a bucket; a boy getting a bandage put on him…”

We also discussed why they were called “nursery” rhymes, and then the meaning of the word “rhyme” in its context. Who are nursery rhymes told to? What’s a nursery? What’s a ryhme? Why weren’t they written down at first? Who do we tell nursery ryhmes to? I was thrilled that the Stage One students were remembering details from a similar set of lessons this time last year!
We said the rhyme together. Where was the bucket? It wasn’t mentioned in the nursery rhyme. Or was it? (It took another recitation before someone realised the bucket must be the pail.)

Then I asked some questions: will we see the city or the country (harking back to last year’s The town mouse and the country mouse fable); will there be a rabbit in the picture (there was!); will we see a mother/cow/shark/bottle of vinegar (what’s vinegar?), etc.; a cat?; a crown? (What will the crown look like…?); and so on. There is always a major emphasise on opportunities for the students to use repetitive oral language, in ways I had modelled, as they answered these questions.

Next, I revealed the pictures and we ticked off our predictions. The students were getting very excited that they had predicted so well. (Again: “Where was the crown?” – I even demonstrated finding it on a real boy called Jack!)

Next, we did a dramatisation of the nursery rhyme: miming the exhausting climbing of the steep hill; fetching the water; “Jack” rolling down the hill (the illustration had the bucket upturning onto Jack’s head, to great hilarity; “Jack” hurting the crown of his head; “Jill” tumbling after him; “trotting” home for medical attention; “Jack” crying out as vinegar was splashed on his head, etc. I also had a chance to tell an anecdote about my paternal grandfather, who always used to maintain that the best cure for injuries like Jack’s was a Depression-era poultice of Friar’s Balsam and brown paper!

Sometimes I look at these five- and six-year old students and worry that I’m aiming too high, but they thrive on it! Their eyes grow wider and wider as we act out the words, not overlooking any of the quirky, now-anachronistic, terms. Their reactions as “Jack” suffered loudly his indignities with the vinegar soon had them telling their own anecdotes of various medical treatments for their cuts and scratches over the years.

The dramatisation of the (rather abstract, to them) concepts in Jack and Jill have definitely became more real, and I know that they will surprise their class teacher on Monday with their newly-acquired field knowledge, and renewed confidence, in saying – and performing – the rhyme.

Update (25 Feb): Success! Now check out Stage 1’s Nursery rhyme wiki page! First Stage 1 class for the week suggested rhyming pairs for flashcards, which were typed onto an online matrix on our wiki page to create their own nursery rhyme parodies.

Memories of the Bookmobile

Bookmobile, circa 1950s

A friend just found this wonderful contemporary postcard last week, promoting the City of Sydney Library Network, an area which includes the public libraries at Customs House (Circular Quay), Glebe, Haymarket, Kings Cross, Newtown, Surry Hills, Ultimo and Waterloo.

The postcard depicts the iconic 1950s Mobile Library, more commonly known as “the Bookmobile”. (There are no copyright details on the image, although it’s #SRC124, City of Sydney Archives).

We had a Bookmobile in the Rockdale Municipal Council area, when I was in primary school in the 1960s. I recall distinctly our beloved teacher-librarian, Mrs Janette McKenny, telling us that there was such a thing – and, for months, I envisaged a colourful, open-to-the-elements Mardi Gras-like float, festooned with feathers, streamers, book posters, balloons and glitter. And loud, zany people selecting books.

I was more than a little deflated the day I actually saw its rather bland, neutral tones rumble past our school sportsfield one Friday afternoon. (I think I was supposed to be fielding. Or something.)

But this card made my friend smile with nostalgia. Ditto for me.

The glass half full

A teacher-librarian colleague recently said, on a listserv, “I think we need to be a bit more open with what’s happening in our schools in relation to the library.  As we are all aware, we’re pretty isolated because we have no-one else in a similar position at the school.”

While I agree wholeheartedly that teacher-librians do need to be prepared for those feelings of isolation when things get grim, there are certainly already many effective avenues we can go to for support: professional associations (ASLA NSW and ALIA); “Scan” articles left in key locations around the school; other professional literature; ringing the School Libraries and Information Literacy unit (NSW DET); networking with local TLs and valued, like-minded staff members; and input (and a sympathetic ear) from the Teacher’s Federation contact person. Etc.

When I was doing my teacher-librarian retraining in 1990 at University of Technology Sydney (UTS, Kuring-gai), there was a lot of emphasis on TLs being proactive (thanks Ross J Todd, Barbara Poston-Anderson, Jill Buckley, Michelle Ellis and Joyce Kirk).

I often read horror stories on the teacher-librarian listservs – about TLs not being appreciated – but I can honestly say that, of the eight or nine long-term Principals I’ve had over my teaching career, they’ve either already been staunch or open-minded supporters of the school library (and the teacher-librarian), or else I’ve helped to educate them into being supportive. I once proved to myself – in a large school – that the effective way to the Principal’s ear was through the executive staff – one by one… until they were all on-side. My side. My proactive message, proudly modelled for all to see in collaboratively planned and negotiated lessons every week, eventually won through – because it wasn’t ever only me repeating the mantra of what was to be the TL’s desired contribution. (And I shocked even myself, turning a “non negotiable timetable set in stone with no team teaching” into a fully cooperative timetable after only one full year at the school).

And if I’ve somehow led a charmed life and simply fluked it into good schools with good Principals my whole career, I apologise. I reckon I’ve made plenty of lemonade out of my piles of lemons over the years.

Since when have Principals been the enemy? (So much for the old stereotype of the Principal married to a teacher-librarian.) I think that it’s great that Principals swap notes about what their TLs do. Because surely no one is going to be convinced to downgrade their TL’s contribution – on the whim of another Principal’s misguided opinion –  if the whole staff at a school hold that TL and their work in high regard. Surely, even the most stubborn, unconvinced staff can be won over, person by person, if you have to.

The poster also mentioned TLs being used as “dogsbodies”. A few times, as TL, I’ve been delegated a job that might be considered a dogsbody’s job. Current case in point: distributing The School Magazine to teachers every month, which no one else wanted to do any more. I made it my special duty last year (and this year): mentioning exciting ways to use it in staff meetings, finding the links to class programs, printing out free online guidebooks, and (even) making teachers feel a bit guilty for not using the resource wisely.

Custodian of the school web site? Suddenly the school library became the hub where all material for the web site is generated and maintained, and integrated into collaborative planned and/or taught lessons in the library.

I know of other TLs who have inherited Stewart House Rep, SRC Coordinator, School Yearbook Editor, School Historical Artefacts Cupboard Custodian, Chess Club, or Choir – and each can become either an intrinsic joy of the job, or an unwanted albatross, depending on the way you look at that glass: half full, or half empty.

Feedback: good. Regrets: bad

Today I received lots of encouraging feedback on yesterday afternoon’s staff meeting about blogs, wikis and OASIS Web enquiry, so I’m feeling a lot bouncier than last night.

I will be ensuring to revisit the wiki pages with each class group that comes into the library. The more often the teachers see their students reacting positively with wikis and blogs the more I hope they see the same potential in Web 2.0 as I do.

A few people from outside of the school asked me today what handout I used. It was one I conjured up myself yesterday. It’s expressed as layman-ish as possible – and I hope I didn’t send anyone off in a wrong tangent with incorrect descriptions. Please let me know if you find the glossary useful. (It’s not alphabetical; rather it’s more chronological. I hope. Going from “Most likely to be known about” to “Huh? What’s that?”)

Blogs & wikis vs websites

Email: electronic letter writing. Advanced users attach files and graphics. You can “cc” (carbon copy) to others of your choosing.

Listservs: one post of an email can be received by all people subscribing to the listserv, even though you’ve posted to the one address. Unable to change content of an email once people on the list have received it. Set up and administered by a “list owner”. Send automated commands to an email address to join or quit a listserv.

Electronic bulletin board services (BBS): Similar to a listserv, but you can see everyone’s responses on a web page (click heading to see contents of an entry). Can often edit your replies after the fact, or view them as threaded responses, following a discussion with many participants. An example of a mailing list archive is at: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/schoollibraries/listserv/possummagic07/maillist.html

Websites: text and images on a particular theme or topic, presented in “pages” with clickable links that lead to other pages in the site – but also other Internet sites, forming a “web” of interrelated information. Commercial or hobby-related. When used with students it’s important to use judgement re accuracy, editing, validity of site publisher, date of upload, frequency of revisions (“What’s new?”), etc. Requires knowledge of HTML or web design software, such as Dreamweaver, plus uploading software (eg. Fetch). Our school website (est. intranet 2002; Internet 2004) deliberately does not have too many bells and whistles and is at: http://www.penrith-p.schools.nsw.edu.au/

Web 2.0 is the next, new wave of interactive Internet services and web tools (all-inclusive when designing/uploading), including:

Blogs: similar to online diary entries, but ease of uploading, editing and dating of new text entries and images means blogs may replace many websites. Blog is short for Web Log. Can specify other individuals to contribute (can be moderated or not) plus encourages feedback comments from general public or nominated groups (can be moderated, edited, or not). Our school is currently participating in a book rap in blog form at: http://rapblog.edublogs.org/

RSS feed: Automated updates (eg. via email) of nominated blog contents, so you know immediately when new entries have been posted. RSS feed won’t show later corrections by the list owner though. For people who want info coming to them, not browsing the net at their leisure. The RSS acronym has multiple meanings including:

· Really Simple Syndication

· Rich Site Summary

· RDF (Resource Description Framework) Site Summary.

Wikis: scrapbook-style entries of text and images, but ease of uploading, editing and dating of new entries means wikis may replace many websites. Can specify other individuals to contribute (original versions can be restored if owner disagrees with changes) plus encourages feedback comments from general public or nominated groups (can be moderated, edited or not). “Wiki” comes from the Hawaiian word, “wiki wiki” meaning, “Quick!” Our school’s wiki (est. 2007) is at: http://penrithpslibrary.pbwiki.com

Why Web 2.0?

I’m exhausted.

Nursing a vague headache yesterday, I found myself eagerly agreeing to do a quick overview of wikis for the teachers at this afternoon’s staff meeting.

On Friday, I’d boasted joyfully how quickly the wiki (short for“wiki wiki”; Hawaiian for “quick”) page I made for a Stage 1 class had come together. Ten minutes, I reckon! They’d written a jointly-constructed recount about last Monday’s in-school Chinese New Year celebrations – and even I was surprised how easy it was to pick up their Word document, add a photo image, upload the information and do a print out. Over the weekend, I even adjusted a few more images, and uploaded them, for the Stage 1 classes to see this week during library lessons. Similarly, we all were surprised by the ease with which S1K English and I added one more word to the final draft (“mask”, to match the mask artwork now displayed) on Monday morning. And what fun this morning to see that we’d had many recent visitors… from New Zealand, country NSW, Queensland, California and Normandy – all just minutes earlier than our current visit with SIC English!

Anyway, I prepared a short spiel on Web 2.0 (eg. wikis, blogs, social networking websites, RSS feeds, etc) and made sure that our school’s customised OASIS Web enquiry page, and its hotlinks to our school website and the library wiki pages, were able to be easily accessed on the school’s laptop computer and data projector. This required, of course, a quickie revamp of the school website (which had a few annoying dead links from an unsuccessful attempt at adding the weekly school newsletter last year), changing the dates on key pages, adding hotlinks to the wiki pages at various places, and making sure the templates still worked. This, in turn, required that my library clerical and I find our hastily-written page of FTP uploading instructions which I distinctly remembered asking her to “file carefully” about two years – and a computer upgrade or two – ago.

Found them!

Needless to say, my vague headache of yesterday returned to haunt me all day. Every time we tried to find a moment alone – just us and the FTP software – we’d be interrupted by a library class, a stray borrower or three, the photocopier breaking down, recess, requests for books, lesson preparation, shelving, first-half lunch duty in the library, the phone (inevitably a bookseller), or incoming introductions on the Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge book rap and/or its associated rap blog. All in a day’s work.

As I said, I’m exhausted – and by 3.15 pm I was due to commence my talk.

We got there! And I hope I was suitably enthusiastic. However, I’m still rather concerned I didn’t “sell” the idea of the wiki well enough. Several staff members reserved their judgement, wondering aloud why all the wiki material can’t just be “put on the website like all other schools do” And who is ultimately responsible for a school’s web presence? And what parts of a school newsletter should be for public consumption via the World Wide Web? Good questions!

I tried to convey that writing website pages with HTML code (I really don’t know FrontPage or Dreamweaver well enough to use them with students, and I feel one needs an inservice course to use them efficiently) and then uploading the files with FTP (and using the secret password) really is rather dry. And that using wikis and blogs are far more interactive, creative and stimulating for students – and quick enough to get great results in just one lesson. But I’m not sure I convinced enough people.

Several teachers, however, seemed quite excited by the possibilities of being able to launch up colourful, online scrapbooks of texts and images for sharing on home computers. So… we’ll see what happens…

Early days, yet. Still.

Penrith PS logo

It pays to network

Sometimes I network with other teachers and students without realising it, and it’s fantastic when it pays off.

One of the advantages of collaboratively programming and planning lessons with each Stage group at school is that I can adapt each library activity to suit the various classes, taking into account the need to share available resources, and how best to complement the learning styles of the students and the teaching styles of their teachers.

Essentially, though, the lessons are repeated several times in a week – albeit with variations. By the end of the week, I’ve usually mastered my patter that leads into the activities. I also like to keep every stage informed about what units other stage groups are studying, simply because one never know when networking possibilities will arise. In fact, in my last school, I kept a large noticeboard in the library foyer – updated, week by week, as to which unit of work, key learning area or KLA, and type of text each class was being focused upon during their library lessons. (I’d do it at my current school, if only we had a noticeboard in the right place.)

Last week, no matter whether intending to use the Chinese New Year Parade photos (taken for Early Stage 1 and Stage 1) or the Bridges photos (taken for Stage 2), I recycled the same jokes with each class (ie. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have time on Sunday to get to Antarctica to take some photos for Stage 3…”). I’m so glad I did, because one teacher announced that her brother had just returned from a vacation to Antarctica – and had CDs filled with photographs of… icebergs, Antarctic cabins, icebergs, penguins, more icebergs, humpback whales, and did I mention – icebergs!

What a lucky break! And so, I was able to add a third slide show to my Flickr account, called Antarctica which the Stage 3 students will be able to use this week without worrying about the copyright of other Antarctica photos they may have found on the Internet!

As I said, it pays to network. Or rather, it often pays to be loquacious, because that can lead to very effective networking.

Blog with us!

Next week, the NSW DET’s “Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge” Book Rap goes live! Ian McLean and Jenny Scheffers, teacher librarians, will be coordinating this book rap.

The “Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge” Book Rap, discussing the picture book by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas, is aimed at students in Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) and has programming and planning information by Mandy Kirk and Jenny Scheffers, addressing outcomes from the NSW English K-6 syllabus. (Interstate and overseas rappers are also welcome.)

The Rap is live for viewing and subscribing (at no cost) the week of 18 February 2008. The Rap itself starts 25 February 2008. We hope that primary school teacher librarians and teachers will enjoy taking part in this exciting learning experience. This year, instead of an email listserv, we are using blogging tools and wikis to share the responses between participants in the rap. The blog format will have many advantages over a listserv, so please think of this as a learning adventure.

When teachers and teacher librarians first log in to the “Edublogs” site, they should be aware that the user name they choose for themselves will appear each time they post a blog message. For example, my “Edublogs” user name is “ianmclean”, but I could have chosen “mrmclean” or “class2z” or “penrithbloggers” instead. “Edublogs” suggests using a school-related email address if you’ll be posting blog entries from school, because you’ll need to acknowledge receipt of your welcome email message before your first post. If that message goes to a “hotmail” address, for example, that mail service may well be blocked by a firewall, or “Edublogs” might assume you’re not really connected to a school. “Edublogs” is a free blogging service from “WordPress” for legitimate educational purposes.

Further details are at:

The rap blog also has a Teachers’ area, to support the learning of the adult learners as we all gain more confidence with Web 2.0 facilities. The updated rap FAQs and “beginner’s guide” is at http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/raps/beginnersguidetoraps.htm and should prove useful.

During the first weeks of the Rap, participating classes post a short group introduction to the Rap Blog (under the tab called “Introductions”). In their post, they can describe the class group participating in the Rap and give brief, interesting details about the school. For example, you may wish to tell us about the size and location of your school, the uniform and emblem, or any special facilities. Please make sure that students’ individual surnames never appear on blog entries; it’s best to keep to a class identity.

As groups of students are reading other schools’ Introductions during the next few days, your class may wish to plot the locations of other book rappers on a Rap Map, templates of which are available on the book rap site. Schools might also use websites such as “Google maps” or “Whereis.com”.

Teachers are encouraged to visit the Teachers’ section regularly. We look forward to rapping with you all.

Ian McLean (Penrith PS) and Jenny Scheffers (Caddies Creek PS),
“Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge” Book Rap Coordinators.

If you feed them…

Okay, I’ve accepted the ALIA challenge to hold a Library Lovers’ morning tea in the school library tomorrow. The staff who are on the social committee have really put themselves out, helping me to plan a Recess feast of heart-shaped Valentine edibles in the library for the teachers and other school workers.

I plan to have the library’s Internet computers set up, alternatively, to show: this blog; OASIS Web enquiry; the Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge book rap page; and the Library wiki pages. Newly-laminated articles about OASIS Web enquiry, a print out of its home page (and how to find the My applications hyperlink on the Teacher portal page); more from Side-by-Side newspaper and Scan professional journal (including one from me), have already been pinned to a display board by the front door.

Aha! Nothing like a well-fed, captive audience!