A guide to literature genres

A Literature Companion for Teachers by Lorraine McDonald has certainly been a companion to me! As an example Chapter 2 – Types of Literary Texts overviews a variety of genres and provides inspiration for practical approaches to provide meaningful learning experiences with reference to specific texts.

Recently I created a Genres Guide that students could refer to. This guide was used with Year 4 students to introduce the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Younger Readers chapter books. Reading an extract from the books and referring to the guide the students were able to identify the main genre. Providing students with extracts from a variety of book genres and getting them to examine and respond to the main genre with evidence from the text is another way to enable students to build knowledge of literary genres.

Reference: McDonald, L. (2018). A Literature Companion for Teachers.
Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)

Primary and Secondary Sources

Providing students with an understanding of primary and secondary information sources and guiding location and selection of such sources is fundamental. After a deep search for a suitable educational video, I decided it was time to create one.

For further information about primary sources visit Trove – access to primary sources for student research

Extending Thinking Routines

As part of our staff professional learning to kick start the school year, we had the perfect opportunity to deepen our learning and build our practice with visible thinking routines. The presenter Simon Brooks was engaging and notably competent of cultures of thinking and encouraged us to share our thinking and extend our ideas using a selection of thinking routines.

Over the past few years I have implemented some thinking routines into my teaching and learning sequences – particularly See Think Wonder, Colour Symbol Image and Step Inside the Character. However, spending a full day immersed in visible thinking has assisted my approach to teaching and learning planning.

A key takeaway from Simon Brooks was the idea of removing the front-loading of information to allow thinking to occur. The session also assisted me to consider what thinking routine would suit a lesson and year group. Whatever the lesson focus is I will consider – how could visible thinking be embedded.

To follow is a brief overview of how I started the year:

Zoom In

Year 1 – Introduction to a series of lessons on what can we learn from Fables, Stories from other Cultures and Aboriginal Dreaming Stories. The image from the fable The Lion and the Mouse from the delightful book Children’s favourite animal fables retold and illustrated by Graham Percy, 2000, provided the stimulus. Following the steps of the Zoom In routine, a section of the image was revealed in stages. Students were asked to look closely and respond to the question – What do you see or notice? What ideas might you have about this image.

Revealing a little more of the image the students were asked

  • What new things to do you see? Has the new information answered any of your wonders or changed your previous ideas?
  • What new things are you wondering about?

On the final reveal, the key question was

  • What questions remain to you about this image?

This routine inspired thoughtful discussion and anticipation as the image was revealed. Depending on the time, some of the Year 1 classes just had time for the thinking routine, while one class had time for the story in one session. It did make me smile when children shared fascination in seeing the same image in the story.

In the past, I had started the series of lessons introducing the word fables and getting right into it – pretty much front loading. I have in mind to read three fables before we even think about the connections between the stories and lead into what is a fable and what have we learnt from each story?

See Think Wonder

Year 2 – The thinking routine See Think Wonder allowed me to slow down and start with thinking for the first lesson of the year with Year 2 classes. The image from Emily Gravett’s book Wolves provided the stimulus to respond to the visible thinking routine questions:

  • What do you see? (I see…)
  • What do you think about that? (I think…)
  • What does it make you wonder? (I wonder…)

Wolves by Emily Gravett

By taking the time to view the image and respond to the questions the students demonstrated engagement with the task and took turns to talk and listen. When I revealed the book Wolves it was encouraging to hear connections to the image and excitement while reading and when the page was opened in the book.

4C’s

Year 5 organised breakout groups to introduce students to Ghana as part of a geography and science inquiry unit. My lesson was based on folktales from Ghana. I had not used the 4C’s thinking routine before, however, the overview highlighted making connections, asking questions and identifying key ideas and seemed a good fit.

The book How Anansi got his stories by Cooke and Violet was short enough to read fully and allow time for students to respond to 3 of the 4C questions.

  • Connections – What connections do you draw between the text and your own life and/or other learning?
  • Concepts – What key concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding onto from the text?
  • Changes – What changes in attitudes, thinking, or action are suggested by the text, either for you or others?

Although the time to respond felt rushed and I did not feel confident with this new thinking routine some of the responses were reflective and valuable as a whole group summary. I look forward to working with this routine again.

3C’s Thinking Routine

Internship at the State Library of NSW

In July this year, I spent two engaging weeks as an intern at the State Library of NSW. An overview of my learning journey can be found on the SLNSW Blog Internship at the State Library.

Sydney from the North Shore, 1827 / J. Lycett. Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales

A highlight of the internship was spending time in the Exhibition Galleries to observe and select paintings from the collection suitable for a learning activity. One particular painting Sydney from the Nort Shore, 1827 by the convict artist Joseph Lycett, provided the inspiration to explore visual literacy and aspects of History – First Contacts for Stage 2 (Years 3-4). This lead to the creation of a learning activity which is now available on the SLNSW Learning at the Library resources ‘Visual Grammar – responding to historical paintings.’

As mentioned in the Blog Post ‘the two weeks at the Library was inspirational, I have grown from the experience, and I am energised and excited about what is ahead.’ Thank you Information and Access and Learning Services at the State Library of NSW for allowing such an experience.

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.