Visual Grammar Guide

Visual grammar provides a way to describe and communicate the features of an image. Close looking and thinking about the image helps build meaning.

This Post provides an updated Visual Grammar Guide that can be used as a teaching and learning tool for responding to images in picture books. The Visual Grammar Guide was presented to the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) via a Webinar on June 5, 2019.

Previous overviews of visual grammar / visual literacy are available via the Softlink Blog Exploring visual literacy with picture books and past Posts on the Library Owl Blog Visual Literacy – some examplesVisual Literacy using the CBCA Short list Picture Books, and Relationship between literary elements and verbal/visual details in picture books.

National Reconciliation Week Library Displays

The 2019 National Reconciliation Week theme is Grounded in Truth Walk Together with Courage. The library displays feature a selection of our nonfiction and picture book collection.

Books featured: Welcome to country – welcome words by Aunty Joy Murphy with illustrations by Lisa Kennedy; Custodians of the Land by Ellen Rykers; Indigenous Australians Before and After British Settlement by Melanie Gulie; Albert Namatjira: Gordon and Marilyn Darling’s gift to the nation artwork; and Postcards by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr featuring illustrations from Little Bird’s Day written by Sally Morgan.

Bronwyn Bancroft picture book selection and Aboriginal artwork.

Books featured: Why I love Australia; Patterns of Australia; Kangaroo and Crocodile; and 1 2 3 of Australian Animals.

New displays for the library

The first two library displays for 2019 featured being kind and friendship. The theme linked in with school values and recent staff professional learning and implementation of the URSTRONG program.

Following that, we assembled a Roald Dahl and Mem Fox author focus for our library. As always it is a delight to gather resources for the displays and enjoy watching children and teachers look into the display cases.

Focus on reading

As the new school year approaches and time has been taken to refresh and refocus, it is important to begin by articulating thought to the purpose and role of a teacher librarian. Two essential aspects of a teacher librarians role include reading and information literacy. This Post focuses on reading and highlights plans to ensure reading is fundamental to all students K-6.

It is appropriate to start the year with a reading action plan, in 2018 there was a significant decline in library visits which had a negative impact on borrowing numbers and scope of books loaned in the upper primary years. It is important to note that the decline was linked to a restructuring that incorporated inquiry learning blocks for Years 5 and 6. The new structure removed the more traditional library lesson and regular borrowing/reading time. In 2019, Years 3 and 4 are scheduled for such change and the concern for a negative impact on exposure to books and time scheduled to visit the library to browse, borrow and read are of utmost importance.

The recent work of Margaret Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni provides practical ideas and strategies to ensure teacher librarians are proactive in encouraging continued reading beyond students reaching reading independence. Merga’s work is highly admirable and provides clear direction for all educators concerned for student reading. It is specified that it is essential for educational institutions to promote and support youth in the development of regular reading practices. The action plan to follow is based on a select few of Merga’s recent research papers. I look forward to reading Merga’s newly released book Reading Engagement for Tweens and Teens: What Would Make Them Read More? in the coming weeks and extending my learning journey.

“While libraries are sites of constant change in response to policy, resourcing, and technological developments, they remain essential sources of books for young people.” (Merga 2017a, p.609)

Focus on reading is a broad concept, in order to construct an action plan the specific area of interest is based on book reading – including fiction and nonfiction, and how the school library can support this. Although book reading is essential K-6 and beyond, it is necessary to promote reading for primary students in Years 3-6 due to the recent restructure in my workplace. Fortunately, the research of Merga concentrates on this age range which involves students who have reading competence.

"...effectively communicate the continued importance of engaging in recreational book reading” (Merga 2017b, p.220)

An action plan incorporates three elements – specific tasks, time frame, and resource allocation, to follow are initial ideas to execute.

Specific tasks

  • Review the 2019 timetable for classes K-6: does each class have a scheduled regular session to visit the library for the purpose of browsing, reading, being read to and introduced to suitable books, and borrowing? If yes, terrific, if no, immediate follow up with key participants to stress scheduled time will be essential.
  • Continually ensure the library collection is up to date and appealing to students. Fortunately, the fiction library collection has just had a stocktake and several books were deselected, there are also numerous new books ready to offer providing a sound range of choice. However, it would be beneficial to conduct a survey to gain student feedback on the collection and plan accordingly.
  • Teach and promote strategies to assist students to find engaging books. As noted by Merga many students did not have strategies helpful for finding books. “Children need to be explicitly taught choosing strategies”(Merga 2017b, p.220). Three key factors linked to choosing strategies involve “familiarity, complexity and interest” (Merga, 2017a, p.624-626).
    Familiarity Complexity Interest
    Series loyalty  Reading skill Page sampling
    Repeat reading  Matching skill level Book title and cover appeal
     Genre enjoyment  Extending skill level Author familiarity
     Supported choice Series engagement
  • Inform parents of the importance of encouraging and supporting their children to continue reading, make time for reading and reading together (Merga, 2018b).
  • Administer and provide summarised reports to class teachers of what their students are reading. It is important to note that the focus is not just on the borrowing statistics but looking at what the students are reading. A summarised report on borrowing by students would be valuable information for teachers during parent meetings. Library catalogue systems offer a wide range of reports, taking time to investigate is something that I plan to perform more regularly as a disappointing report at the end of a school year is not greatly helpful or encouraging.
  • Ensure teachers are aware of “…foster(ing) reading valuing and will.” Merga, 2018a, p.150
"Children's perceptions of the importance and value of reading can influence their motivation to read." Merga, 2018a, Abstract.

Time frame

  • Ensuring each class has a scheduled regular library visit – immediate
  • Library collection update – ongoing
  • Survey students – by the end of Term 1
  • Teach choosing strategies – during Term 1, therefore additional reading regarding this area is necessary
  • Inform parents – by the end of Term 1 and update during the year
  • Summarised reports – before the first parent-teacher meeting, at the end of Semester 1, end of the year, and on request
  • Promote ‘reading will’ to teachers – propose to share key findings in a staff meeting, share a selection of quotes by Merga during Term 1.

“Reading needs to be more successfully presented as a valuable and enjoyable recreational pursuit, with ongoing importance beyond independent reading skill acquisition.” Merga, 2018a, p. 148.

Resource allocation

  • Meet with key participants at school. In 2019 we have a new Head of Primary commencing having a constructive meeting will be helpful in relationship building.
  • Present the case to teachers formally and informally – courage and subtle persuasion will be necessary.
  • Continue to read Merga’s work and related research.
  • Survey students to gain feedback.
  • Utilise library catalogue reports and statistics.
  • Keep the library collection updated, fresh, accessible, exciting and appealing.

In 2017 I presented at the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Biennial Conference – Challenge to Change. My presentation and paper can be found via a previous blog Creating a Community of Readers – Our purpose is to make a difference. In reviewing the presentation and paper I was very happy to see reference to Merga’s earlier work, it is obvious Merga’s research will guide and influence teacher librarians and educators in the coming years.

References

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2017a). Choosing Strategies of Children and the Impact of Age and Gender on Library Use: Insights for Librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 57(6), 607–630. doi:10.1080/01930826.2017.1340774

Merga, M. (2017b). What would make children read for pleasure more frequently? English in Education, 51(2), 207-223. doi:10.1111/eie.12143

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2108a). Children’s Perceptions of the Importance and Value of Reading. Australian Journal of Education, 62(2), 135–153. doi:10.1177/0004944118779615

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2018b). Empowering Parents to Encourage Children to Read Beyond the Early Years. Reading Teacher, 72(2), 213–221. doi:10.1002/trtr.1703

Primary Library Overview 2018

2018 has been a productive year for the Primary School Library with the update and introduction of new programs for Stages 1 – 2 and support to the newly implemented grade inquiry focus for Stage 3 – Years 5 & 6. The review is a snapshot of teaching and learning, special events, resource use and top books loaned by grade.

It is interesting to compare the overview to the previous year and reflect on areas of strength and those requiring improvement. Unfortunately, reports referred to for this overview highlighted a major reduction in borrowing for Years 5 and 6. Not only were borrowing statistics significantly reduced, the range and level of books being borrowed by Year 6 were also disappointing in comparison to the younger grades.

I believe a key factor that has caused such a change is the reduction of visits to the library and the fact that they became impromptu. The change to a grade inquiry block removed the weekly library lesson and borrowing time which included time to recommend books, browse and read. The result is of great concern and has prompted the need to provide a thorough report to the Executive team. In addition to statistics, I plan to revisit an article I wrote Creating A Community Of Readers and refer to current research by Margaret Merga  who has written extensively about reading promotion. It is critical to highlight the concern and suggest ways to encourage more reading and engagement with books.  In 2019 Stage 2, Years 3 & 4 will move to grade inquiry blocks which will affect the regularity of library visits. The best way forward is to consider practical ways to ensure students are exposed to books and encouraged to read. The change in support to inquiry units will require a tighter approach to information and digital literacy guidance and instruction to both teachers and students.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the support and commitment of Michelle the Primary School Library Assistant. Michelle has worked meticulously in managing circulation, processing resources, library upkeep and assisted in book selection and library displays. Michelle and I have both taken time to deepen our familiarisation with our cataloguing system Oliver by Softlink and we are about to embark on a Stocktake – thanks to Michelle’s recent training!

In 2019, I look forward to presenting at the 2019 Oliver v5 User Conference on information literacy for Stage 1 and running a Webinar for the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) in regard to visual grammar / visual literacy using picture books. Oh, I also have two subjects to go with my Master of Education – Teacher Librarianship at Charles Sturt University.

One final note, the overview was created using InDesign. Recently I attended a professional learning course for InDesign provided by Design Workshop Sydney. I was determined to create the summary using InDesign as my first project and it was the perfect opportunity to try out the program and execute my learning.

Colour, Symbol, Image summaries

Although Book Week was some time ago now this Post showcases a selection of Year 3 responses to the six CBCA Short List Picture Books 2018. The students were introduced to the Visible Thinking Routine – Colour, Symbol, Image at the start of the series of lessons. After each picture book was read a brief sharing of ideas was completed to gain feedback on the response depth and to prompt additional ideas by building on what students shared. One additional task introduced was to list ideas that were interesting or important from the story – this assisted in building responses.
Although some responses were a little brief it allowed students to respond to each book. Lessons were around 30-40 minutes so overall I feel it was an achievement to read and respond to each of the six short list books. As the activity was repeated for each book students quickly became familiar with the routine. It was also helpful for students to reflect on their Colour, Symbol, Image summary as they voted for their favourite short list book. For additional information visit this previous Post Exploring The CSI Thinking Routine Through Picture Books.