Sunday, 27 November 2016

Diversity in Picturebooks





On Thursday, I attended the inaugural picture book seminar at The University of Waikato.  The theme was "Diversity in Picturebooks".  There were 15 speakers from public libraries, tertiary institutions, school libraries and the National Library, as well as a teacher, writers and an illustrator.  It was a wonderful mix of approaches and content, a diverse line up to discuss diversity!

I don't have the time to do justice to the speakers and the topics they discussed, so I thought I'd mainly just share a few of their book recommendations (with mostly just three book covers each or this post will be huge!):

Professor Bronwen Cowie 
- Launch of Waikato Picturebook Research Unit




Gameedah Jonas, Hamilton City Libraries
"Diversity in Picturebooks in Public Libraries"

Gameedah recommended the resources on diversity from the ALA's site.



Plus "Last stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Pena, "Whoever you are" by Mem Fox and "My two blankets" by Irena Kobold, which are great and I already have in my library.


Rosemary Tisdall, National Library (or Mrs Tisdall, if she was previously your Form 2 teacher!)
"Diversity in Picturebooks at the National Library's School Collection"

Mrs Tisdall, okay, Rosemary, talked about diversity in relation to religion, identity, family, occupations, culture, gender, LGBT, physical appearance and disability. 



Add to these "Mirror" by Jeannie Baker, "Azzi in Between" by Sarah Garland and "Fiapule" by Catherine Hannken, which we have at school and are awesome. And then lots more on top of that.  As well as working for the National Library, she runs her own agency, as a children's literature and educational resource consultant, so no wonder she had plenty of books to recommend


Joan Gibbons, Wintec Library
"How Picturebooks Present Māori Knowledge and Values"

Joan looked at the way three picture books expressed Māori values and knowledge of the world.



Unfortunately, "Haere: Farewell, Jack, Farewell" is now out of print.


Gerri Judkins, previously librarian at Southwell School, now retired
"Diversity in Beliefs, Culture and Refugees"

My lovely friend Gerri drew on the recent IBBY congress in Auckland to discuss picture books that highlight diversity.  She was inspired by many of the poster presentations which featured picture books, and the conversations she had with the presenters.



Gerri also mentioned "Old Hu-Hu" by Kyle Mewburn (teaching materials here) and "Badger's Parting Gifts" by Susan Varley as examples of books that deal with dying and grief.


Dr Darryn Joseph, Te Pūtahi-a-Toi Massey University
"The Price of Reversioning Picturebooks to Te Reo Māori"

Darryn's talk was a fascinating exploration of the idea that "cultural integrity is more important than cultural exploration".  When books are published in English and then translated into Māori, attention needs to be paid as to whether the books selected are culturally appropriate.  Darryn spoke about the lack of agency for the Māori character in the book "The Little Yellow Digger", which he did not really notice until the book was translated into Māori.  He also described why "In the Night Kitchen" breaks tapu.  I would love to hear Darryn speak again, hopefully he will return next year.




Kate Morgan, Matangi Āwhio - Auckland Point Kindergarten, Nelson
"You Have to Start with Something"

Kate held a University of Waikato Summer Research Scholarship "investigating picturebooks to promote young children's understandings of queer cultures, gender and family diversity".  She selected 60 children's books published between 2005 and 2015.  Here are her top six favourite books:




Here's another one on family diversity, plus two more that have been published since her study:



She also mentioned "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino.


Trish Brooking, University of Otago
"Navigation to Safety:  Using a Human Rights Lens to Develop Empathy and Validate Refugee Children's Experiences"

Trish recommended this website address - mirrorswindowsdoors.org/wp/themes/news.  The whole site is well worth a look.




Janette Kelly-Ware, Wintec
"Two Daddy Tigers and a Baby Tiger and Other Research Stories"

Janette noted that during her research with preschoolers no child ever suggested that you could not have two mummies or two daddies.





Marilyn Blakeney-Williams, University of Waikato
"Using Picturebooks in Diverse Primary Classrooms"

Marilyn talked about her study of how two teachers used picture books in Year 4-6 classes.




Brenda Bicknell, University of Waikato
"Using Picturebooks as an Integral Part of a Mathematics Programme to Cater for Diverse Abilities and Interests"

So basically this talk was about using picture books to teach maths, and it was great.  Brenda mentioned a few things that I will look for the next time I purchase a picture book about counting - has it got the number spelled out?  Does it have pagination, and if so, is that distracting (as another number on the page)?  Does it count forwards or backwards or both?  She also mentioned that teachers can find contextual maths problems from the book they are reading at the moment e.g. "Counting on Frank".  Brenda is another person I would love to hear more from, but actually that is everyone!



Brenda mentioned lots of other picture books - "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" by Dr Seuss, "Ten, Nine, Eight" by Molly Bang, "One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab" by April Pulley Sayre, "Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews, "How Much is a Million?" by David M Schwartz and "Measuring Penny" by Loreen Leedy.


Nicola Daly, University of Waikato
"Picturebooks in Initial Teacher Education"

Nicola talked about how teacher educators were using picture books to teach different learning areas from the New Zealand curriculum.  For example, teaching science using "Koro's Medicine", maths using "The Nickle Nackle Tree" and social and cultural issues using "The Woven Flax Kete".

Nicola noted that picture books were being used extensively across the curriculum in teacher education for multiple purposes.



Nicola is also responsible for the New Zealand Picture Book Collection, an excellent website which links picture books that reflect "diversity in New Zealand society" with "specially designed, curriculum-linked classroom activities.



Sarah Johnson, Writer and Editor
"Wooden Arms/Poupou Tauawhi"

Sarah described the editing process for her book "Wooden Arms".  There were a number of changes made that related to Māori cultural practices depicted in the book.




Deborah Hinde, Illustrator
"Picturing Diversity:  An Illustrators' Role"

Deborah gave a fascinating insight into the work that she does to ensure that she uses her awareness of cultural and physical diversity to accurately illustrate a text.  The amount of research that she does was a real eye-opener.  For example, she looks into things like what coconuts really look like, what kinds of crabs would be in Fiji and what types of wheelchair someone might use depending on their disabilities.  




Sharon Holt, Writer and Publisher
"Helping English Medium Schools and Preschools to Access More Diversity in Te Reo Māori Picturebooks"

Sharon talked about how she came to self-publish her "Te Reo Singalong" books.




During the breaks we were able to look through books that speakers and attendees were invited to bring in to share.  Here is a look at some of the ones I'm going to buy: 




Nicola and her team hope to run this picture book seminar again next year, and if so I will be first in line to attend.  I have so much to share back with the teachers from our school, loads of books to purchase and a lot to think about in relation to diversity.  A day well spent.

A final recommendation from me:



Ruben finds a lot of money that has fallen out of someone's purse, enough to buy him a bike like his friend Sergio's.  He struggles with what the right thing is to do with the money, given that his family sometimes doesn't have enough money for everything on their grocery list.  A nice story that acknowledges income equality and has a great ending (but it doesn't involve a bike).

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Birth of TT TV

Over the holidays I was lucky enough to attend uLearn, an educational conference being held in Rotorua.  One of the sessions I went to was run by Colin, a teacher from Marina View School.  It was about how the Year 7 & 8 students run their school's TV studio.  Twice a week they go to air live across their school for their 15-20 minute show.  They present items that other students or teachers have filmed, and sometimes have younger students in to present particular segments.

Colin brought down from Auckland a number of his TV crew and they demonstrated how a show goes to air.  It would have required some time and effort to coordinate bringing all the students and equipment down so I am very grateful to Colin that I had such a fantastic opportunity to watch the show in action. 

Over the years MVTV has got more and more sophisticated, to the point where they now have a sound board, Tricaster (Colin described it as a TV in a box), wireless microphones and a green screen.  You can see some of MVTV's shows here.




One of my responsibilities at my school has been working with two teachers and twelve students to put together the Te Totara Times, a weekly school-wide blog.  I wrote about it here.  One of the problems with the blog was a lack of readers.  Good Keen Librarian consistently got more views than the Times, even though we have over 800 students in the school and we had the homepage of the school website link to the blog.  The only time we got a big boost in numbers was if our blog post included video footage, and this was the reason I chose to attend Colin's session at uLearn.

Differences in student ages, resourcing and equipment meant we were never going to replicate MVTV.  However, it provided the inspiration and motivation to switch from the blog to a TV format and our poor Te Totara Times teachers got an email on the Sunday before the first day of term suggesting some radical changes!  Fortunately they were really keen, and so were our students.  By Wednesday evening, less than a week after my uLearn breakout, the first episode of TT TV1 was uploaded.  Casey, the teacher in charge of TT TV, even came up with a school watermark for the show - how flash!

The video format has proved popular with our community and it also makes the information more accessible to our junior school.

The first episode took a lot of time.  Things like finding copyright-free music took time to source (this site is good).  We also had to create the first segments ourselves, although I quickly signed up some willing students to film items for episode two.

Our new introduction, also created by Casey, premiered in episode two.  We still have lots of things we need to do:

  • work out how to run the teleprompter app closer to the camera so it's not so noticeable
  • start using a microphone
  • buy our own green screen material and work out how to use that
  • work out a better division of labour between the students

So we will be on a steep learning curve for a while yet.  But I love seeing the students come up with ideas, like "can we click our fingers, you pause the camera and then we dress up?"  And I love showing them how to edit all the footage together.  If we do this next year then I'm sure that the students will take more and more ownership over the whole process.  It's exciting!




1The name TT TV, by the way, was suggested by one of our students when we asked for name ideas, and I hadn't even told them about MVTV.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Juggling Work & New Ideas

In the first week of the holidays I blogged about completing the wonderful Raising Readers course by the National Library.  I was wondering how I could find time to implement all the great ideas I was learning about.  In my post I talked a bit about time management - "The one that really stood out for me at the moment was about taking time for important, non-urgent actions...I'm going to have an hour put aside every Monday where I will close my doors, ignore emails and focus on library initiatives."

uLearn

Last week, the second week of the holidays, I attended 
a conference for educators called uLearn.  I attended the conference showcase, listened to four keynote speakers, attended a breakfast session and seven breakouts...and had one weekend to digest them all before school started again.  And of course, now I have ideas from the Raising Readers course AND ideas from uLearn.  Not to mention the constant stream of ideas from Feedly, podcasts and Twitter.  For reasons that should be quite apparent I haven't ventured on Pinterest for a while!


The last keynote at uLearn, by Karen Spencer, provided me with some more things to think about in relation to the choices we make about what to focus our attention on.  Here are some of the things she said:

At times, many times, I think I spread myself too thin.  There are so many good ideas, activities, clubs etc that the students will love but I can't do them all, and if I try to then I can't do them justice.  I absolutely have to get better at making choices and giving myself enough time to work on a small number of important things in depth.

This seems obvious doesn't it but it is surprisingly easy to find your day taken up with things that aren't that important.  The idea about making an appointment to work on important, non-urgent goals ties in with this.

Yep, guilty of this one too.  I can very quickly get caught up in the next cool thing without thinking about the time required to do it properly or what I will have to postpone or give up in order to do it.  A pause is a great idea, difficult for someone as impatient as me but I will be giving it a try.

Note to Self

I sometimes listen to a podcast called "Note to Self", which is described as "the tech show about being human".  One of the episodes, that I've only recently got around to listening to, describes the benefits of "single-tasking" (click here for the episode, start at 5:26).  It basically says that multi-tasking is a myth.  To be more accurate we are actually just rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, all the while depleting our limited neurological resources.  The more often we shift focus, the more exhausted and stressed we feel.  Apparently, if our external interruptions are high in one hour then even if they calm down in the next hour, we will shift tasks on our own, interrupting ourselves!

So single-tasking is much more efficient, if we can make it happen.  Also useful is making to-do lists, so those tasks aren't competing for neurological resources (your brain is so clever it knows that once you've written something down you don't need to hold it in your head).  Other advice was to be deliberate so we don't let the environment tell us how to spend our time, and to prioritise the important things.  Part of the reason I wanted to put aside an hour every Monday to work on library initiatives was to try and take advantage of the benefits of single-tasking.  In fact, I actually decided after the conference that I really should have at least three hours to work on library intiatives.

The Reality

So what happened when I went back to work?  A teacher had trouble with her laptop, I had to track down a spare one but had to find the teacher aides to ask them where they kept theirs as they had moved rooms and then a new teacher started and she needed a laptop and her photo taken for the website and bio added and then we had to order new equipment for the staffroom but the kind we wanted didn't seem to be available and then another teacher's laptop had problems and then we had to swap over another one coming off lease...a lot things that were hard to plan for and many that were beyond my control.

I did get my one hour of single-tasking time, but not three.  You've got to start somewhere, don't you?!  I made my list, prioritised it and did my best.  Oh, and I helped start a new school TV channel, more on that in another post!

Tweets

If you want to experience uLearn through tweets, I've embedded mine below.  Most are from the keynotes and lots are retweets, I'm lazy like that!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Reading for Pleasure - The Start of an Adventure


It's not something I've ever thought about wanting, but being in a press release is quite cool!  It also means I can finally talk about this exciting opportunity that has come my way.

Back in April, I read a blog post that really got me thinking.  It was by my friend Jeannie Skinner from the National Library and it described a visit from Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Reading Agency and Empathy Lab.  The article mentioned that reading for pleasure is specifically included in the UK national curriculum, there's a reading for pleasure civil servant in the Department of Education, and Ofsted inspectors (like our ERO review officers) have questions to ask schools around reading for pleasure.

I immediately started wondering whether having reading for pleasure as something that inspectors have to look at, was something that could be leveraged by school librarians.  If inspectors have to look at whether the school has "welcome and conducive reading environments" and "access to rich collections of literature," do schools then pay more attention to their libraries?  I am very lucky to be in a school which values its library, and library staff.  However, I know this is not always the case in New Zealand and I wondered whether it would be worthwhile trying to emulate the UK's approach.

I remembered that NZEI had scholarships for support staff and I took a look at their website to see when the applications closed for those - less than two weeks away.  A sign!  And now here we are, I found out my application was successful back in August and have had to keep quiet until after the announcement at NZEI's annual conference.

Here is what I will be doing for my scholarship:

  • Recording and disseminating the latest international research on the academic benefits and increased empathy skills that arise for students who are reading for pleasure.
  • Ascertaining whether the UK's increased emphasis on reading for pleasure has had a positive impact on the working conditions of its school librarians.  If so, I'll look at what could be done to replicate this in New Zealand.
  • Looking at the ways in which UK teachers and librarians are promoting reading for pleasure in their schools, including how they specifically include their culturally diverse communities in their reading for pleasure initiatives.

I booked my flights on Wednesday and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.  I arrive in London on 26 February 2017 and leave on 17 March 2017.  I have somewhere to stay, thanks to Jeannie Skinner and a chance encounter at the IBBY conference last month.  I am beginning to put together some places to visit, thanks again to Jeannie and also to author Peter Millett, who thankfully does not seem to have a limit on the amount of favours he does for people.  

If you have any suggestions for schools/organisations to visit in the UK, or any book-related things to do, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 2

Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay

Last week was the final week of the National Library's online course; I posted about the first couple of weeks here.  In weeks 3 & 4 of this five week course, we were put into seven different groups and given a list of scenarios to choose from.  My team chose to look at improving transitions between early childhood and primary, and primary and secondary school libraries.  We bounced ideas off each other and then our team leader pulled them together into a document and shared that with the other groups.  It was great to focus on different areas and then be able to learn from and comment on other groups' ideas.  I have a page of little notes saying things like "have a theme for holiday reading" and "take photos of origami made by families"!

During this time, I scheduled a meeting with my principal.  I had so many ideas from the course to work with but I focussed on our school's strategic plan and what I could do to support that.  It went really well and I am hoping that I will have more time to spend on library initiatives next year.

In the last week of the course we were asked to plan an initiative for our school and given a planning sheet that had really useful questions to consider.  I chose to look at increasing the amount of parents who visit our school library and take out books.  In particular, I want to work on a kit collection that I mentioned in a blog back in October last year (para.5).  If we have high interest items like telescopes, microscopes and sewing machines, to lend only to parents, then that will be a drawcard for them to come into the library.

The sharing of these initiatives meant I have access to detailed plans from other participants to refer to.  Some considered the same goal as me, bringing more parents into the library, from a different perspective.  Others had completely different initiatives.  All of them have given me more things to consider and their plans are a blueprint to how they can be done.

One of things I was concerned about was just how I was going to find the time to implement all these amazing ideas I was getting excited about.  Jeannie addressed this in one of her emails, and linked to a wonderful article by Robyn Pearce which gives her eight top time tips.  I have heard most of these before but it was great to be reminded of them and take stock of whether I actually do them.  The one that really stood out for me at the moment was about taking time for important, non-urgent actions.  Having a split role between library and ICT often means the urgency of an ICT "emergency" takes priority over library activities.  The advice to make an appointment to work on long-term goals is one I'll be taking in the new term.  I'm going to have an hour put aside every Monday where I will close my doors, ignore emails and focus on library initiatives.

If you have the opportunity to do this course then I would highly recommend it.  I think we have come a long way from the days when you learned only from your tutors.  These days smart course providers are also tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists in the other participants in the course.  The combination of Jeannie and Tino's excellent course structure, their in-depth knowledge AND the experiences and ideas of the other course participants has made this Raising Readers course one of the highlights of my year.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 1

I've just completed two weeks of this online course offered by the National Library.  I've been on the back foot a bit, having recently finished running our Book Week and then our Book Fair.  The timing was not great to be starting a course, and I told myself not to, but one of the moderators is the wonderful Jeannie Skinner so I just couldn't resist. 

One of the suggested extra tasks is to share a blog post about some of what we have been learning.  In the first week, we had several articles to read and a few videos to watch.  A report from ERO on parents' views on engagement with schools brought up the fact that many parents would like more contact when students do positive things, rather than just when their child does something wrong.  I see this as something that libraries can do really well.  I started a Facebook album called "Stories from the Library" which had photos of students reading and doing other positive things in the library.  It has fallen by the wayside a bit as other things have taken up my time, but I can see the benefits in this context.  

I am really keen to ask a teacher to do our own school version of this awesome video, showing parents how to get the most out of sharing books with their children:




There are over thirty of us doing the course and it is interesting to read in the discussion forum what others are doing to connect with parents around reading.  There are so many great ideas!  

This is the end of second week, and I think everyone got a lot of interesting information from the self-review and "reading walk through" worksheets.  Going through your school thinking about how your reading culture is made visible to visiting parents is a very worthwhile exercise, and the questions on the worksheets quickly brought to my attention areas that can be improved.  Our foyer could definitely have some more messages and displays that show how much we value reading.

I'm also keen to attract more parents to our library when we are open before school on a Friday, and to promote to them the importance of reading aloud and reading for pleasure.  One of the worksheet points was about communications with new entrant parents and I see this as a great way to hook them early into visiting the library.  I'm going to approach our new entrant team leader and see if it's possible to talk with new parents on their transition visits.

Well, that's it for the first two weeks.  Next week we start a group project, which I am looking forward to.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week

In earlier posts I have talked about how I got started with my "Spies and Detectives" theme for Book Week and some of the things I learned while filming videos for it.

Last week, our Book Week began. The week started with the video from author Peter Millett, which was shown prior to morning tea.  Pete obviously knows how to make videos look good and it was a great way to start things off:



Students were encouraged to come up with their own code names - I made a Random Code Name Generator for if they needed help with that.

Then at lunch, we showed our first "Spy School" video:



After that video, our Year 3-6 teachers hung up a poster about Morse code and another advertising our "Design a Gadget" competition (one of our teachers complained that students left her huge note after lunch, written entirely in Morse code!).

The next day, we showed our "Channel Z News" report:



To tie in with the report about a theft from the "elves that live in the forest", our artist, Jenna, added some extra pictures to our Reading Wonderland mural:





The News report showed a clue found at the scene of the crime, written in Morse code.  The pattern of getting a clue and then finding out how to answer it by watching one of the Spy School videos, continued until Thursday lunchtime, when the last clue was decoded and GPS coordinates to the location of the missing jewels could be "passed on to police" by the teachers.  I deliberately made the location of the jewels outside of Hamilton so no students could be tempted into going and having a look for the treasure themselves!

Friday's videos were another Channel Z News report, describing the apprehension of the thief, and a final video from Peter Millett congratulating the recruits for helping solve a crime and welcoming them as junior J.S.A. agents.

This week, after a viewing for all the spies and getting their permission to share it, the classes had a good laugh watching the Bloopers video:




Illustrator / Poet Visits


I told both our guests for Book Week about our theme and asked if they could incorporate something to do with spies or detectives.  Both of them were happy to do so.

Illustrator Daron Parton talked with our Year 3-6 classes.  He drew a cool spy wearing a hat.  Then he took suggestions from the students and drew different spy gadgets coming out of the top of the hat.

We also had Poet Judi Billcliff come and work with our Year 1-2 classes.  She created a new song to do with looking up, down and all around, based on the Hokey Tokey.  She also had the kids play the "Hot and cold" game to find a couple of simple clues to work out.



Guess the Book Title


Another activity we had was a competition to guess the book title.  Our younger students just shared with each other what the books were, while the older classes filled out entry forms.  I encouraged everyone to have a go and announced there would be random prizes for anyone who entered, as well as prizes to those who got the most right.






Junior School Book Week Activities


We issued "Where's Wally" and other puzzle books for our Year 1-2 classes and gave them some laminated Where's Wally characters to hide in their classrooms in different places every day.  The students loved this!

Many of the classes also watched the Spy School videos, but didn't watch the Channel Z News Reports or decipher any clues.

I had some lovely feedback from these teachers.  Their students were building spy gadgets out of Mobilo and spying on each other in the playground.  One group of Year 2 students had been pulled out of class to work with a visiting maths consultant.  Unfortunately, a parent wearing black shades walked by and the students cried out "It's a spy!".  When they got back to their class their teacher asked them how it went and their answer was "we saw a spy!".

One teacher got so involved she printed out her own spy ID badges for her class:




Resources


Here are all my resources if you would like to run your own Spies and Detectives Book Week:

  • The plans I shared with our Year 1-2 teachers and our Year 3-6 teachers.
  • The list of items I put into an envelope for our Year 3-6 teachers.  A number of them shared out the ID badges at the start of the week instead of the end.  If I did it again I would create a different badge for J.S.A. recruits to wear.
  • The clues (you'll probably need to change the one that says "fridge" - that was a reference to our Book Fridge.  If you choose a location you have control over you can keep track of which classes have solved all the clues).
  • The script for the Channel Z News episodes (if you want to do less filming you could just film these two short clips and change the place where the thief has taken something).
  • The scripts for the Spy School episodes (I did cut some scenes out of these, and change words that students had trouble with).
  • The script for an adult (I asked our Principal to do this so that I wasn't giving vital information about solving the clues to our student actors ahead of time)
  • The Certificate of Appreciation was a Word doc and looked like this:


It came from the "New Zealand Crime Fighters Association" as I didn't know the legalities of saying it was from the police!
If you do have a go running your own Spies and Detectives Book Week I would love to hear how you get on.  And I'm happy to help if you have any questions.


Lessons Learned


I kept the videos unlisted and this turned out to be a good idea.  There were a few students who had a look on Youtube to see if they could see the videos ahead of time.  I did get caught out with students looking at the spy books we put on display.  It wasn't a good idea to put the ones dealing with codes in the display, there were some very keen students who used them to decode one of the first clues!  After that we took those books away.

The timing of the Book Week was really unfortunate.  There was a LOT on for the teachers in that particular week and I would definitely try to have it during a less busy time of the year so that the whole school could get completely involved in it.  

While some of the Year 3-6 teachers said my plan was easy to understand and follow, others were a bit confused.  It would have been better to attend team meetings and explain it verbally.


Final Reflection


The Book Week worked really well.  I loved having a theme - it generated ideas and tied everything in together.  I had students mention books that were talked about in the Spy School videos, and actively search for spy books - yay!  

Overall, everyone seemed to have a great time, and although it was very time-consuming it was a lot of fun for me to put together.