Inspired by illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft

Congratulations to Year 4 at Pilgrim School, Aberfoyle Park Primary School Campus, South Australia, for sharing a great new Photo Peach slideshow, “Our favourite parts of Australia”. The students were inspired both by the artwork and written text of “Why I love Australia” by Bronwyn Bancroft (which is one of this year’s CBCA shortlist, Category: Picture Books), and the digital slideshows Penrith PS students have been creating in recent months.

The shortlist treasure hunt

The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) released its 2011 shortlist of nominated children’s book titles for Book Week last Tuesday, and the mad scramble – to make sure school library collections have the books – has begun in earnest.

When the stores say a shortlisted title is “not available”, that’s because it has already sold out of its initial print-run everywhere (ie. the warehouses are often empty long before the nominations come out, or they are cleaned out the day the shortlist is announced), and the publisher is now attempting to get a second printing done in time for Book Week. That attempt is usually successful, at least for the city stores in most states. Sadly, books that don’t make the shortlist often never get a second hardcover printing. That precious nomination is often their key to longevity. Publishers are very frugal and only very strong sellers and award nominees get a second bite at the market. Paperback versions of nominated hardcovers often don’t get scheduled until the approaching Christmas season, too late for Term 3 Book Week celebrations.

I have permission from my Principal to round up the titles in whichever bookshops I happen find them in, hopefully in ones that offer us a decent discount. I haven’t bought any books for the library since last Easter (except the 2010 shortlist) because of our BER rebuilding, so my 2011 shortlist shelves were totally bare. I’ve been treasure hunting shops since last Tuesday when the list came out – and I have actually found almost everything (including most of the Crichton Award nominees for first time illustrators). Often it’s the lone copy on a shelf I find, but a surprising number of the titles have been in reasonable supply this year. I resist just back-ordering the whole list from one seller at this time of year, because inevitably I see older, first printing copies in forgotten corners all over Sydney, when I could be using them with the students, but the shops also dislike it when you keep canceling books from the order. This time of year drives the booksellers crazy, and it also seems unfair to think of all those wonderful books that just missed out making it to the Notables list, since they are probably destined to be a distant memory.

So there’s no easy answer. I happen to enjoy the treasure hunt, and am usually very successful. Several of my favourite haunts see me walk in the door and they say, “Ah, we know what you’re looking for!”, even if it’s been a year between visits.

The theme this year is “One World, Many Stories”, and is neatly served by this cute song on Youtube.

The spirit of Schumann the shoeman?

My bizarre Book Week story:

Shoe mystery

When I spotted these shoes on a recent foggy winter morning, I was originally convinced I was seeing two birds on the rail. Trying to work out why one bird was seemingly hanging upside down, I approached slowly. Was it a bat? As I took out my iPhone to snap a quick shot, I was also bewildered as to why the other bird hadn’t yet flown away.

What remains unexplained is that these beautiful shoes aren’t even a matched pair! If you’ve read and enjoyed the poignant CBCA shortlisted picture book, “Schumann the shoeman” by John & Stella Danalis, you’ll understand why this local example of urban art gave me a few chills.

Cool Creative Commons!

I’m really getting the hang of converting students’ collaborative Keynote presentations into video podcasts – and I’m *really* loving adding “Creative Commons” music as soundtracks!

I started to investigate “Creative Commons” sites last year, and found a few pieces of music that would have worked (the Stage 2 students wanted copyright free music that you could cha cha or belly dance to, and we did find one example of each!) but it all seemed too tricky last year, so our PowerPoints stayed mute. However, the website is well laid out and it is quite simple to search for “Creative Commons” music by theme, musician or style. (I’ve found “scary”, “happy” and “circus” style pieces via the search engine – but beware of possible unsavoury lyrics. Stick with instrumentals only, unless you’ve previewed all the songs you will “listen to” with students). The site tells you the exact wording to place in the credits of the video podcast, movie or whatever media. After you’ve uploaded the podcast, you can relay the URL to and they’ll add the online link to their searchable database.

So, just in time for Book Week, you might like to use my students’ “Mr Chicken” book trailer, and/or our “Across the Story Bridge” video podcast, and/or a revamped (from two Flickr slideshows) “Bear & Chook Adventures”. Click HERE!

Penrith PS podcasts

According to feedback, these video podcasts may require installing the latest version of Quicktime or, at least, clicking that you agree to MIME being associated with Quicktime on your computer. I’ve had the video podcasts working on Mac and PC, and they look really great on an interactive whiteboard (IWB). One teacher colleague had an earlier version of Quicktime on her IWB to enable her to run Kid Pix, and the podcasts did refuse to run on her machine.

Meanwhile, Happy Book Week!

Across the story bridge – a video podcast!

Here is Stage 2’s latest “Book Week” video podcast, which works best with the latest version of Quicktime. Click HERE to view the podcast.

Billy goats

I was able to play this new trailer to a group of students who were contributors to a brainstorm, only a week earlier, for many of the sequences, character suggestions, dialogue snippets. But the final shot list and script had been developed by a different group. It was such fun watching individual faces light up when “their” suggestion was suddenly up on the screen, as part of the cohesive whole. The power of collaborative writing, producing a final work which is greater than the sum of all the already-great smaller parts.

Penrith PS podcasts

If you have trouble viewing Quicktime podcasts, please try the Flickr slideshow instead. When the slideshow opens, click “Show info” to read the captions.

Hanging around!

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on my renovation project!


These metal skirt hangers might be the best $2.49 (per set of three) I’ve spent during the library’s “shoestring renovation”. Previously, posters and displays of class work would be hung in the library from a motley assortment of unmatched clothes pegs and rusting paperclips. I had intended to purchase special hangers before Book Week this year, but I suddenly realised that, with the eventual arrival of our brand new Building the Education Revolution (BER) school library, that I’d be asking our General Assistant to affix many special hooks to the library ceiling twice in a rather short amount of time.

Pondering how to efficiently hang up to eighteen large Book Week displays, I happened upon the sets of skirt hangers and had a brainwave. There were already cords stretched across the top of most of the library’s window blinds. The wall that had been stripped of pinboards and painted green, for the IWB, was no longer available as a display space. Maybe the skirt hangers would look neater, and hang more securely and lower, than attempting to use plastic and wooden clothes pegs?

I’m quite pleased with the result!

hangers on poster

Nobody owns the moon by 4/5M

Book Week 2009

At my school, it’s been a long tradition that every class prepares a Book Week display for the library. The displays, either 2D or 3D, stay up until just before the next Book Week, and help the library to be a colourful and fun environment. Here are our displays to celebrate Book Week 2009. Theme: “Book Safari”. Click photos to see bigger versions.

Collecting colour by SCLB
Collecting colour by SCLB

Sign for Book Safari culture pod by SCHMBook Safari culture pod by SCHM
“Book Safari” culture pod by SCHM – “It’s culture – in a pith helmet!”

Every picture tells a story by 6P
Every picture tells a story by 6P

Nobody owns the moon by 4/5M
Nobody owns the moon by 4/5M

Puffling by KFM
Puffling by KFM

Pull to see 1C - #1
Pull to see 1C - #2
Pull to see 1C

Book safari by 4W
“Book Safari” poster by 4W

Tuart dwellers by 1S
Tuart dwellers by 1S

How weird is that by 2CH
How weird is that… by 2CH

The wizard of Rondo by 5/6D
The wizard of Rondo by 5/6D

Sunday Chutney by KB
Sunday Chutney by KB

The big book of happy sadness by 3G
The big book of happy sadness by 3G

Tom Tom by 2KS
More Tom Tom by 2KS
Tom Tom by 2KS

Book safari tree by 3M
“Book Safari” tree by 3M

How to heal a broken wing by KI
How to heal a broken wing by KI

Book safari decorated box by 5BOther side of decorated box by 5B
“Book Safari” decorated box by 5B

Leaf by SCHC
“Leaf” by SCHC

Safari cameras by 6W
Shoot animals with a camera, not a gun! by 6W

Safari print balloons

Communicating: home & school

Now that the Beijing Olympics & Book Week 2008 rap has come to a conclusion, I decided to select a variety of extracts from my groups’ rap responses (sports articles, a few photos, a wrap rap up message) and combined them as a mini-newspaper (double-sided A4, folding down to make a simple four-paged booklet of The Shaggy Penrith Times), which will slip inside our school newsletter tomorrow. Price = three carrots.

The back cover of the booklet explains the educational parameters of this rap, shows a frame grab from the blog, and gives URLs for both the NSW DET rap blog site, and our own Library wiki pages, encouraging our parents and caregivers to look at the students’ work online.

It didn’t take me very long – but a wombat probably could have done it faster (see The Shaggy Gully Times by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley). An efficient way of communicating with the parents, and giving them access to further information!

A brochure that came out to promote National Reading Day – 3 September 2008 suggested doing something similar online, or in hardcopy, and that was always in the back of my mind as we added things to the school wiki pages, but it’s only now the rap is over I found time to dig back through the archives. Of course, schools needed to have registered between 3rd and 7th September, when the rapping schools were all deep into the rap! Maybe next year?

CBCA announcement looms

My students are so excited. In recent weeks, I’ve worked them into a bit of a frenzy over which books will win the gold and silver medals. Not the Beijing Olympics medals, but the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, which are announced at noon tomorrow.

Like last year, each class has been creating a column graph of their preferences. Everyone’s voting in the picture book category, plus Stage 1 is doing Early Childhood, Stage 2 information books and Stage 3 the novels. This helps them to invest a little more into the announcement of winners.

Picture Book of the Year? Even though the graphic novel, “Requiem for a beast” by Matt Ottley, is aimed at a Stage 6 (Years 11 and 12) readership, I bought a copy for myself and took it into school to expose the students to the book’s unique qualities: they were fascinated how the style changed from picture book, to chapter book, to storyboard, to almost-motion picture widescreen, to comic book, to scrapbook, and back to chapter book. Many of the students had the gut feeling that it may well win Picture Book of the Year. “Dust” and “The Peasant Prince” have also been well-received and, for a few classes, I ended up presenting these books in the same lesson and the students enjoyed their similarities and differences. “The island” is as confronting and challenging as “Dust”, and it will be interesting to see which books end up winning.

We ran out of time to do much justice to the longer novels in the Books for Younger Readers category, but an unexpected favourite (of both theirs and mine) has been “Sixth grade style queen (not!)” by Sherryl Clark. Many students picked up on its similarity in style to the work of poet Stephen Herrick, who visited our school last year for National Literacy & Numeracy Week. The senior students are keen on Emily Rodda’s work, especially since she visited a few years ago and told the students she was “happily retired” but then we discovered she’d secretly been writing “The key to Rondo”, much to the surprise of even her agent and publisher! Writing without a deadline was a special treat she’d given herself. “The Shaggy Gully Times” is also a bit of a dark horse, but I’ve had to work with the students to appreciate the cleverness of its humour and wordplay; luckily the current book rap is helping with this.

It’s always hard to pick the Books for Early Childhood category! As a teacher reading to groups of students, I think I had the most fun with “Cat” by Mike Dumbleton & Craig Smith. As the owner of two ginger cats in my life, I could relate to every page! (I actually have a photograph of Dugil sprawled over the mat where I was trying to mark papers, and an earlier shot of Meggsie stealing the heater from both my younger brother and the family dog! This will be an impossible category to pick; all six entries are so worthy.

Information book category? My prediction (from this time last year!) has always been “Parsley Rabbit’s book about books” by Frances Watts & David Legge. Oh, how i wish I’d written this book. It says everything ‘ve ever needed to say about “parts of a book”. “Parsley Rabbit” turned up in my local bookshop the week before Book Week last year, and was my special treat for each class. It’s remained a much-coveted, much-read – and much-requested – book in our school library. Most of the students are expecting this book to win. And so am I. We also have a soft spot for several others, including “The Antarctica book: life in the freezer” and “Australia’s deadly and dangerous animals”, which seem to be very accessible books for primary students.

Noon on Friday can’t come soon enough…

Beijing, books and bungee-jumping

This term, I’m working with at least seven very enthusiastic groups of Stage 2 students on the New South Wales Department of Education & Training’s Beijing Olympic Games & Book Week 2008 rap.

Firstly, as with the other raps which ran this year, I’m promoting the rap blog URL in the school newsletter so that students can show off their group’s rap responses with their families each week.

In case the URL doesn’t make it home, I’m also explicitly modelling a search strategy (ie. how to use Google to find the rap pages) each time the students come for their blogging session. I show them what happens when we type in raps and book raps as search terms (almost 1.5 million hits!) and how the abundance of riches can be reduced by using inverted commas. (ie. “raps and book raps” gives only 5000 possible sites – and, in any case, the NSW DET Raps webpage appears as choice #1).

Also I demonstrate the pathway to get to the blog itself. For the last two raps, many students tried out visiting the rap blog from home, and we received great parental feedback.

Secondly, I brought in a collection of stuffed animal toy mascots (plus others that were already decorating the library). The Bruce Whatley drawing of Tammy the Tortoise (in the Children’s Book Council of Australia shortlisted book, The Shaggy Gully Times) is uncannily like a toy tortoise I had at home, especially with the addition of a battery-operated pocket fan strapped to her back.

Now each group is selecting (and often naming) one of the animal “reporters”, who’ll represent them in the upcoming newspaper article rap point. Each one has his or her own “Press card” to get them into Olympic venues. The animal characters (a flying fox, the aforementioned tortoise, a Puffin Books puffin, a Chinese New Year dragon, a large green frog, Selby the taking dog, and my trusty big, black, furry, bungee spider – it’s a long story) might prove useful for some f(p)unny photojournalism in the playground. We’ll be able to upload the pictures to the Gallery of the rap blog – and they should provide inspiration for some typically Jackie French-esque animal puns.