NPD Poetry Slam at Heartlands High School

Helen Swinyard, LRC Manager at Heartlands High School, wrote to tell me all about the wonderful Poetry Slam she held at her school:

‘We celebrated National Poetry Day in style with the first Poetry Slam of the year. Pupils and staff performed either their own poems, or some of their favourites, and were judged in categories by our scoring judges and an avid audience. Our wonderful host poet, Michelle Madsen, kept things running smoothly and performed her own poetry too.

Winners in each different category won prize bundles including a poetry book. 

Category 1: First Story poets

Category 2: performers reading favourite poems

Category 3: performers reading own created poetry

We discovered some great new year 7 poets as well as hearing from some seasoned performers. There was a wonderful mix of poetry too – some funny, some poignant, some clever. We also learnt some Poetry Slam jargon such as ‘score creep’ where judges get more enthusiastic as a slam goes on (that’s why you have several judges and discount the top and bottom scores).

Michelle Madsen is our current Poet in Residence, running the First Story creative writing club with pupils for the second year in a row.  You can find out more about First Story here and on Twitter @FirstStory. You can find out more about Michelle Madsen here and on Twitter @mishmadsen .

Mr Bola is our secret Poet in Residence. By day he is one of our Engage Officers; by night, a world-class poet. You can find our more about his poetry here or on Twitter @JJ_Bola ‘

Sounds like a great idea for next year!

National Poetry Day 2015 – what did you do?

QEGS Blackburn, where librarian Val Dewhurst works, always celebrates NPD in style!  This is what she reports from this year’s celebration:

On Thursday, 8th October the Senior School Library held a mass celebration of poetry and all things poetical –  which also marked the 21st birthday of National Poetry Day.

The day began with groups from Year 7, 10 and 11 from the English Department working with our storyteller and poet for the day, Sue Allonby.  Pupils in Year 11 were given the opportunity to write their own emotion and antonym diamante poems and also recite their poems using the theme of ‘light.’ Sue Allonby was absolutely thrilled by what she read and heard, saying  “It was a delight working with the English groups at QEGS on National Poetry Day, I was so impressed and thrilled with the Year 11’s poems; if they can do that in 20 minutes…..” Year 7 and 8 enjoyed writing Kennings poems (riddles made up of several lines of kennings to describe something or someone – expressing one thing in terms of another) and also had fun with jumbled up poems (rearranging to improve.)

Following on from the morning session a Poetry Picnic took place during lunchtime with over forty Year 7 and 8 students attending.  Tables packed with poems and anthologies not to mention cakes and treats adorned the Library annexe  – with a lively buzz of poetry in the air …..including the following chosen poems being read aloud …..creating much poetic discussion:

Playing with Stars – Brian Moses
Eternity – William Blake
The Owl And The Pussycat – Edward Lear
Six Facts About Light – Rachel Rooney
Bright Spark – Michaela Morgan
I Love The Moon, But – Roger Stevens
A Light Exists In Spring – Emily Dickinson
Light-Bringer – Joseph Coelho
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas

Head of Library, Mrs Dewhurst commented “I was very proud to see so much interest in the day especially the lunchtime session.  We had great pleasure in listening to so many poems by such confident readers, a real  treat for all who attended – just for the day our pupils had the opportunity to dream, speak, live, act and think like a poet. Sincere thanks must go to Sue Allonby who helped to make the day extra special, the English Department and also Mr Vyse, Mrs Fleming, Mrs Frost and Mrs Parker for all their help and support, thanks also to Mr Sutton and his catering team for the delicious picnic food provided and not forgetting all the pupils who took part in the day.”

Poetry themed bookmarks were also created in the Bookmark Club leading up to National Poetry Day and stories through poetry were shared the following day in the  Telling Tales Club.

More details/photos can be found here:

So – how did you celebrate? Share your stories here, we love to have inspiration from all of you!

Save Scotland’s School Libraries

Watch this brilliant video about all the great work that school librarians in Scotland do.  Their jobs are under threat.  So when you’ve watched, please sign the petition here.  But hurry! You only have until the 16th to sign the petition.  The campaign group Save Scotland’s School Libraries has organised a rally in Edinburgh this Saturday (17th).  Let’s do all we can to help!


Celebrating 20,000 loans last school year at Plumstead Manor

Plumstead 20000 loansJennie Paton, Librarian at Plumstead Manor, held a very special celebration at the end of last year.  This is what she told me:

Plumstead Manor is a London girl’s school with a little under 1500 students and last term at PML we noticed our students were on the verge of doing something spectacular: they were well on their way to borrowing 20,000 resources in just one year!  Well, we couldn’t not celebrate, could we? We had high hopes and lots of plans but with the end of term approaching we had to settle on just three of our original schemes. So, we chose one idea which would reward the whole school, one to celebrate our best readers, and one that would let us share our student’s love of books with the world.

To reward the whole school we allowed students, much to their delight, to take a book over the summer holidays. It might not sound like much, many schools do it every year, but after years of books lost in exotic locales it was quite a leap for us (and were waiting with baited breath to see how many we get back!). There’s nothing like getting a cheer from a class full of year 8’s when you tell them they can read more, that is what they mean by ‘reading culture’!

To reward our best readers and our regular visitors we gave awards for some of the more (and less) obvious achievements, most books borrowed, most reviews written, biggest otaku; and prizes for the borrower of every 500th book until we reached our total. Students loved checking our totaliser in the school reception every day to find out if they were the umpteenth-hundreth borrower.

The hardest and most ambitious part of our celebration however is the one that is going to continue to be the most rewarding for years to come: we decided to Bookcross ( 100 of our school’s favourite books of all time! Bookcrossing lets you ‘release’ a book into the wild and track its journey wherever it goes.  

Leading up to the last week of term we sent surveys to every form group and every member of staff asking them to nominate their top ten books of all time and let us know why they were so great. Then we had a couple of weeks to work out the top 100 (surprise, surprise John Green got a lot of votes), find the books, and get them all labeled up ready for their adventures.

On the last Wednesday of term our Readers’ Club headed out to London with many bags of books, to drop off as many as we could at landmarks around the city. We live tweeted our whole adventure (@pmschoollib) and the girls, and even some of the authors loved it!  Cathy Cassidy sent her followers straight out to find the copy of Cherry Crush we hid in Leicester Square!  Though I think by far the best moment of the day was outside the Tower of London, when the girls spotted a couple picking up the book we had just left. They were ecstatic!

Anyone else have comparable figures? I would be very pleased to loan out half as many books!


Alice in Wonderland Celebrations at Bishop’s Stortford

DSC_8849On Monday 29th June, the Prep School had a day full of Alice in Wonderland. For the Prefects Charity Day pupils were invited to dress to meet the Alice theme! There was also a themed Tea Party as part of the Library book club, at which over 60 pupils, from Year 3 to 6 attended, ate some truly wonderful cakes which had enticing messages, and answered questions in the Mad Hatter’s Quiz.

The White Rabbit made a very late appearance… There was a dormouse librarian, who unfortunately kept falling asleep.

The pupils over the last few weeks have been enjoying a range of Alice themed activities – from maths lessons featuring Alice in Numberland, to entering a short story competition in which they were invited to describe their idea of Wonderland.

As this is the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carrol’s children’s classic, it was the perfect theme to celebrate the end of term for the Prep School who have all worked so hard this year.DSC_8850

Festival of Literature ends term at Bishop’s Stortford College

The Sixth Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature was another fabulous event. With guests ranging from the controversial David Starkey, to the coastal adventurer Nicholas Crane and political columnist Steve Richards, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Festival Co-Ordinator and Prep School Librarian, Rosie Pike, said: “The highlight of this year was to see the excitement on the children’s faces at so many of the events during the week. The youngest were spell bound by Jan Blake’s captivating storytelling; pupils cheered loudly as the winner of the Picture Book Award was announced, and Sixth Formers were moved from tears to laughter by Luke Wright’s poetry.  For in this way we can hope to nurture a future generation of story–loving, fact-discovering and poetry-guzzling visitors to Festival events for many years to come.”

The 2015 Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book Award was also part of the Festival of Literature. Fifteen local primary and secondary schools cast over 1900 votes to pick the 2015 winner out of a shortlist of nine titles. “Oi Frog” written by Kes Gray and illustrated by Jim Field was this year’s worthy winner and was the clear favourite in seven of the voting schools. Kes’ funny, fast paced rhyming book had pupils in fits of laughter as he read it aloud. Cats sit on mats, pumas sit on satsumas and, before he left the stage, he revealed a Kes sits on his Fez to much amusement!

In second place, which was clearly a secondary school favourite, was Chris Haughton’s “Shh! We have a Plan”, and in third place was Alex T Smith’s “Foxy and Egg”.

Award winning illustrator Nick Sharratt hosted the event and the College were delighted Peter Bentley, Kes Gray, James Mayhew and Richard Byrne were able to attend the award ceremony along with 200 pupils from the College and local schools who had voted.

Bishop’s Stortford College’s resident cartoonist Simon Bailey presented his unique College adaptation of Kes’s “Oi Frog” at the end. This will be placed proudly on display in the Prep School library.
The College also joined in the first ever Harry Potter Book Night as part of the Festival where the Prep School could celebrate everything Potter.

Prep School Pupils received their invitations by owl post which caused great initial excitement. After being grouped into Hogwarts houses by wearing the Sorting Hat, Harry Potter themed games, including a version of Quidditch, earned all the pupils house points. Wizarding Snacks and Pumpkin Juice was followed by a quiz and the winning House, Slytherin, was awarded an Owl trophy.

The hall had been fantastically decorated in true Hogwart’s style; pupils could even pop by Ollivanders for a new wand or visit Gringott’s Bank for some chocolate coins! A fantastic time was had by all.



Author Dan Freedman scores with QEGS!

Val Dewhurst, the librarian at QEGS, sent me this article:

Snip20150709_66“The senior school library recently received a wonderful gesture and gift from author Dan Freedman which included a copy of his prequel to the Jamie Johnson series, Born to Play to use as a prize for the most promising football player in Year 7, and to celebrate the end of the school year and football season. This was swiftly forwarded on to our PE Department where Mr Hindle took control and was quick to announce that Tom McCann 7NJP was the student who deserved this award.  The author Dan Freedman is eager to know of our student choice and has promised to include this news on his own website
Dan commented “over the last few weeks to celebrate the end of the school year we have been sending copies of Born to Play to some of the schools around the country, that I know well (QEGS being one of those schools) and have asked that they be presented to their most talented footballer in Year 7.  I’m sure it’s been a very difficult choice for them but I am very much looking forward to hearing their news.”
Dan Freedman who came to visit QEGS 2 years ago, has himself a strong passion for reading, writing and for football and loves nothing more than to encourage reading through sport and sport through reading… particularly football.”