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:


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.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Disrupting a Conference

I have spent the last two days at a conference with fantastic keynotes, or 'provocations' and wonderful workshops.  However, what I was inspired by the most was the unique way the conference was organised.  I suspect you're thinking 'huh?' so let me explain.  I went to the #edchatNZ conference, organised by the amazing Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher) and her team of passionate teachers. 

The organisers claimed the conference would "disrupt conventional conference practice".  Here's how they were planning to do that: 
We believe that quality conversations are the key to a transformative conference experience.  Therefore at the heart of the conference will be our "learning tribes".  Conference attendees will be grouped in tribes and guided by a tribe mentor.  This will ensure that every single participant will have the opportunity to make personal connections and to be pushed in their thinking.
They went further and issued a challenge to the tribes "to create an action plan (a Possibilities Project) of something that you will work on collaboratively post-conference".  To support this the tribe mentors all received mentor training from a sponsor.

So what did this look like in practice?  At registration we were given the name of our learning tribe (they were named after NZ birds).  Straight after the conference welcome we had 45 mins to get to know our tribe better.  The tribe was made up of primary and secondary teachers plus any support staff and also sponsors (we didn't have a sponsor in our tribe but as far as I could tell those in other teams were well-behaved and didn't try out their sales techniques!).  From there we went to our workshops, but we arranged a meeting place so we could share lunch together.

I often attend conferences or unconferences aimed at teachers, and one of the problems I have is finding people to eat lunch with as I inevitably end up going on my own.  I get to mix with a fantastic group of educators, and I've been slowly getting to know more of them, but I'm quite shy so I still get 'lunchtime anxiety'.  Having a place to go for lunch was therefore a huge bonus for me.  I think this idea alone would be hugely reassuring for anyone considering attending a conference on their own, something that primary school librarians, who are usually sole charge, often have to contend with.  Even at a library conference, where I know loads of librarians, I think having a learning tribe is a fantastic idea to meet and make connections with even more people.

A small activity first up on Day 2, to sit in a random group of four and have a quick chat about the previous day, was another idea that worked really well.  I met even more people, we had plenty to discuss, and it set a nice, friendly vibe for the start of the day.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the "Tribe Possibility Planning" event following afternoon tea on Day 1.  I found out about what was discussed when I caught up with my tribe the next morning and then they did their "pitch" and we listened to the pitches of other teams.  New teachers who were attending just on the Saturday were invited to join up with tribes whose pitches caught their interest, and we had a few more members join us later that afternoon when we met up with our tribes again.  This meant an infusion of new ideas, always a good thing!  

There were some things about the conference that worked better than others.  I think if you're experimenting with a new format that is always going to be the case.  #edchatNZ has always been, as they say "the little hashtag that could" and I am so pleased that they were willing to head fearlessly into the unknown and change the whole way they ran their conference.

I would love for all the future conferences I attend to have learning tribes, even if they don't have the time in their schedule to take it further and have the tribes collaborate to create action plans.  Just the act of putting people into new groups and letting them talk to each other is a fantastic idea and really enhanced my whole conference experience.


As a side note, there was also the opportunity to pay just for the conference and not for any meals.  You could bring your own food and pay a mere $30 for the two day conference.  I love this idea because it makes professional development accessible even if you don't have the support of your principal (I did, but that isn't always the case and at $30 I was prepared to pay for the conference myself if necessary).

I learned a great new Google sharing tip -  first, allow anyone with the link to view.  Then go into the URL and change the word 'edit' at the end to 'copy' instead.  That way it will force the people you share it with to make their own copy.  If you need people to make their own copies of your work so they can make their own changes, this is a great way to make that happen.  See it in action here with a random Google doc.

I didn't tweet a lot at this conference, but I did re-tweet a few gems and they are worth having a look at.  The double photo in the first tweet doesn't seem to come up, which is a pity because the tribe were pitching the idea that what we need is a way to connect with other people who can mentor us for certain things, so the slide was about having a Tinder for teachers to match others with your superpower!  Click on that tweet to see the other image.