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

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.

Year 1 Step Inside the Character 2018

In a previous post Imagine If You Could Step Inside The Character In A Picture Book! I outlined and provided ideas for a series of lessons related to the visible thinking routine Step Inside the Character. Leading up to Children’s Book Week, Year 1 was introduced to the Children’s Book Council of Australia six short list books. After each book was read the students worked with a partner and answered one question related to the Step Inside thinking routine:

  • Who is the main character? Are they human, an animal or an imagined character?
  • What can the character see?
  • What might the character think?
  • What might the character care about?

The responses were collated to form a group summary. Students chose one of the books to respond to by drawing and writing. The use of writing prompt assisted students to respond to the Step Inside questions.

 

 

K-2 Vote!

Over the past weeks, the six CBCA Short List Early Childhood books were read to each class from Kindergarten to Year 2. The children were shown the voting chart at the start of the series of lessons and looked forward to voting for their favourite book. The voting chart was very exciting and lead to many hot discussions. It also helped to explain the Book of the Year and Honour books and how special it is for a book to have such an award. The children are thrilled when they find other award books in the library collection recognised by the shiny award sticker.

Trove – access to primary sources for student research

Recently I was asked to provide Year 6 classes with historical research skills focused on inquiry to investigate primary and secondary sources. The students were at an early stage of a historical inquiry unit involving investigation of stories of groups of people who migrated to Australia and the reasons they migrated. In addition, students will be inquiring into their personal history that has shaped who they are, their community and identity.

By coincidence, I am currently completing the subject – Describing and Analysing Education Resources which involved investigation of Trove as an example of a federated search system managed by the National Library of Australia. Knowledge of Trove’s access to extensive online resources enable me to demonstrate to students a way to search and access digitised primary sources such as photos, journal entries, and newspaper articles from the past. As Trove is comprehensive it was important to provide students with suggestions of what to search, how to search and how to review the search results.

What to search:

Bonegilla from Migration Blake Education, 2014

Start with a nonfiction book at the student’s level. Highlight images and image captions as a source of information and keywords that would be useful to use in a search. For the migration example, I used Bonegilla Migrant as the keywords and then demonstrated a search. We were able to view various images, including the photo of a group of men playing volleyball on Trove which was the same photo in the text. We also accessed a Certificate of identity, for Irena Terkiewicz, relating to her immigration to Australia, 1949 after viewing this in the Migration text. From the book Coming to Australia: post-war immigration by Australian Geographic, 2015, we located important keywords such as displaced persons, refugee camps and the name of the Minister of Immigration in 1945, Arthur Calwell which lead us to newspaper articles from that time frame.

How to search:

Trove has created a video explaining how to search, taking a few minutes to view this and then some time to explore is highly recommended.

How to review the search results:

Understanding the different zones assists with viewing the results. Two important things to refine a search include selecting a time period or decade and clicking the Available online option.

Although we are at an early stage of investigation, Trove provided a platform to guide students to sources of information for their research rather than just using Google. Searching for family names was very stimulating for students, one student searched for the name of an invention by a great-grandparent and came across a newspaper article from 1913.

Trove provides a wealth of opportunities for teaching and learning purposes. Being able to access articles, photographs, and letters from the past is extremely valuable for historical research and inquiry learning.

Book Week Lessons & Ideas 2018

Book Week suitcase!

Each year The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) promotes and celebrates children’s books with the major event of Children’s Book Week during August. The 2018 Book Week theme is Find Your Treasure.

The six CBCA short list book categories offer schools a wealth of opportunities to engage with reading, respond to, and celebrate literature. Exploring the short list books aligns with the Australian Curriculum and provides important opportunities to build students’ literacy skills by incorporating rich, objectively selected, and aesthetically valuable texts.

This Post provides a landing page for a variety of ideas to connect with Book Week this year. A SCIS Connections article I wrote in 2017 Read, respond, celebrate: engaging with the CBCA short list provides some background to the ideas presented below.

Exploring the Short List

Create a book character bunting display

Year K – Read and explore the Early Childhood short list, focus on the main character. Create your book character bunting – students select one book and draw the main character, as an extension write the characters name and book title. Using ribbon arrange and tape the students work – hang for all to enjoy!

Step Inside the Character

Year 1 – Imagine if you could step inside the character in a picture book. Explore the Early Childhood short list using the Visible Thinking Routine – Step Inside the Character. Visit a previous Post for more information.

Exploring story elements

Year 2 – What makes a great picture book? Explore story elements of the short list Early Childhood books to design and create a diorama. Visit a previous Post for work samples, a lesson sequence and templates.

Colour – Symbol – Image

Year 3 – Explore the short list Picture Books to discover what ideas and connections can be identified in picture books. Visit a previous Post for work samples, a lesson sequence and templates.

Visual literacy 

Year 4 – Explore and examine the short list Picture Books to discover and identify visual literacy vocabulary and techniques used by the illustrator. Visit a previous Post Visual Literacy – Some Examples to access the guide and background. Additional information can be found via a Guest Post I wrote in 217 for Softlink.

Celebrating the theme

Library displays

Create a display in the library that promotes the Book Week theme.

Student vote

Create a voting chart for younger students, provide each student with a star to place next to their favourite book. For older students create a Google Form or digital voting chart.

Promotional video

Use the Book Week theme to make a short promotional video that can be used in the school assembly.

Competitions and lunchtime activities

QR Code Treasure Hunt

Back by popular demand, the QR Code Short List Treasure Hunt is sure to engage students. The QR Code Treasure Hunt has a question for each of the CBCA Short List books in the Early Childhood, Picture Book and Younger Readers categories. Full details 2018 QR Code Short List Treasure Hunt.

Missing Book Character poster

Imagine if a book character went missing! Write a Missing Poster so they can be found. Full details including instructions and templates click here.

Postcard from a book

Imagine if you stepped inside a book! Who would you meet, where would you go, and what would you do? Write and draw about your book visit using the Postcard template. Full details of this activity click here.

Design a Book Trailer

Create a book trailer for a book or the Book Week theme Find Your Treasure. Organise a production team, make a plan, get filming! Keep your trailer between 1-2 minutes long that way it is short and sweet! Visit Tristan Bancks webpage How to make a book trailer for a wealth of information and to keep you on the right track.

Stage 1 Geography – People and Places

During Term 1, Year 2 were busy investigating Stage 2 Geography – People and Places

For the library sessions, I focused on places in Australia and how people connect to places. I see the Year 2 classes once a week for a half hour lesson. I generally plan a series of lessons that allow students to progressively build on knowledge, skills and understanding. For this series of lessons, two picture books provided stimulation for the learning activities.

In summary, the two books were explored, students were guided through searching for places using Google Earth, labelling maps and reflecting on how the characters in the books connect with their environment. As a final reflection, the children wrote about a special place where they live.

The picture books included:

Hello from Nowhere by Raewyn Caisley.

Our Island by Alison Lester, Elizabeth Honey and the children of Gununa.

 

How does our library organise books?

How does our library organise books? This was the question I asked Year 4 in order to find out what they knew. The question was opened and students were told they could write, draw and label as much detail as possible, they were required to stay seated, looking around was allowed – they had 5 minutes. The timer was set and students were very serious about the challenge set. Observing student response and enthusiasm in action it was quick to see key ideas and understanding.

Once time was up each student shared one idea (names called out in random), if an idea had already been shared the student was prompted to build on an idea, for example, one response was A-Z this was added to explain author’s surname which was further added as fiction. A question prompt would be what does nonfiction mean, how do we know it is nonfiction and so on.

Ideas were recorded on the IWB for further reference and as a class summary. It was a great way to gain an understanding of what students already knew and allowed for learning from others. The lesson was an introduction to a series of lessons on using the library focusing on nonfiction.