Creating an online book club: professional development for school library staff

This is a guest blog post from Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethutch) If you wish to join in, please either contact her on Twitter or on this email: ehutchinson@library.gg

Elizabeth Hutchinson is Head of Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey. She is a chartered librarian with special interests in school libraries.  This includes raising the profile of school libraries and qualified librarians through advocacy, promoting the importance of information literacy within the curriculum and working alongside teachers using technology to support independent learning for students. She was runner-up in LILAC 2016 information literacy award and is also an international speaker.

I have always felt that I do not read enough non-fiction for my own professional development. I regularly read the CILIP Update and The School librarian, which if I am honest, amounts to a quick flick through unless something really shouts out to me. I enjoyed reading non-fiction when I was studying for my degree and then my masters, and when I think about this I realised that it was because there was a purpose to it. Professional development is a journey and part of my journey was about understanding that I find reading non-fiction very difficult without a reason.

Social media changed my professional development journey when I began to understand how I could use it to support my own learning. No longer did I have to hunt out the information that would be useful for me. If I was following the right people they would be curating the useful articles and research that I needed for my role as a librarian. I have read far more because of these wonderful people who are so willing to share and encourage discussion.

However, I still had this niggling feeling that I should be reading non-fiction books but knowing what to read or finding the incentive was difficult for me. I have run a fiction book club with a group of my friends for over 5 years now. What I have learnt from this book group is that there are real benefits from letting others choose the books. I have read several that I would never have picked up on my own and I have enjoyed discussing the books I have not enjoyed as much as the ones that I have.

The moment to start a PD online book club came out of the blue. I had done no research. I did not know what platform I was going to use. I did not have a list of books and if I am honest I did not know I was going to do this until the moment I decided to respond to the last question on the first ever twitter chat for #ukslachat. “What is going to be your new years resolution? If you are making one” I posted this response without really thinking about it. “I would like to start a #PD non-fiction book club. Probably online. Anyone interested?” I immediately had 5 responses saying that if I did they would love to join in.

For those of you that don’t know me should know that I am the kind of person who is very spontaneous. I do have a lot of experience and knowledge of school library services and if I think something feels right I am the kind of person to give it a go and learn by my mistakes rather than spending hours weighing up the problems or consequences. This is why I then found myself trying to work out how I was going to make this book club happen.

A little planning and thought did have to go into the next bit and luckily I do have a good knowledge of twitter hashtags, padlet platforms and access to a lot of lovely librarians who wanted to join in. Once I realised that I would not have to come up with the list of books and the librarians were willing to share books that they wanted to read I knew that this could be done and the new online non-fiction book club (#nonfbc) was born.

I have created a page on padlet that anyone who messages me via Direct Message through twitter can have access to. I have tried to keep it small but maybe this is not manageable so will have to monitor this. There is also a twitter hashtag #nonfbc for comments. We chose the first book Reading by Right: Successful strategies to ensure every child can read to succeed on the 5th December and will chat about it on the 23rd January. I think I will be using both platforms for the discussion as not everyone is on twitter or in the same time zone. There will be a set time for each discussion but anyone can join in at a later time/date if they wish. I still need to think about questions for our discussion but that will happen as I read this first book. I think that is all I need to do for now so it is just a case of watching and learning as I go along.

If you would like to join in just get in touch and come along for the ride. It may not be perfect but hopefully we will all learn something on this journey.

Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

 

 

 

Reigate and Banstead writes!

Kay Hymas, Librarian, The Warwick School, Redhill  writes about a highly successful venture she set up in her area:

“When I was 10 years old, I won a story competition, which was run by my local paper. I can remember the thrill of being told I had won and my great pride in receiving not one but two Easter Eggs as a prize.

Fast forward to May 2016 and I am now working as a School Librarian (The Best Job in the World), at the Warwick School, Redhill.  A conversation with a student, who wished to enter a smallish writing competition, led me to search for something suitable but to no avail.  Coming up with nothing suitable I had a brainwave. Why not set up our own?

What comes first, the chicken or egg? The very first step was to check my Head Teacher, Ron Searle was happy for me to proceed, especially with using the Warwick School’s name in the promotion.  The idea as then put to rather wonderful local school librarians.  Katie Hill, Sue Sullivan and Helen Connor from St. Bede’s, Redhill, Reigate School and The Beacon in Banstead respectively. Did they think an inter-school competition would work? They agreed with much enthusiasm and offered to promote any competition in school. Without this support, there would have been no Reigate Writes! Local primary schools, with whom I had strong links were also keen enough to justify setting up a separate competition for children in years 5 and 6.

We now had the seeds of our ‘hyper-local’ competition.  The name and logo had to be settled without delay. I needed to assemble judges and prizes.

Jane McGowan, Editor of the Surrey Downs Magazine and theatre critic, readily agreed to act as ‘Head judge.’ She has been amazing with publicity, advice and hammering out the golden rules for judging the competition.  She was ably backed by Chris Bedford from our local Waterstones, Neil Richards from Surrey Library Service, a local Councillor – Frank Kelly, and Michael Rattigan a peripatetic supply teacher and published poet. All have been just brilliant and I own them all a huge debt.

Attention turned to prizes, as Katie Hill had said, decent prizes would incite the students to get writing! Here is where I struck lucky. I composed a large email out to local businesses asking for support with prizes.  Andy Nash (hereafter known as the magnificent Andy Nash) the General Manager of the Belfry Shopping Centre responded within 20 minutes with offers of prizes and in helping to promote the competition. This was closely followed by support from local cinemas, leisure centres, coffee shops, Sainsbury’s, signed books from authors as and the Recycling plant close to my school. I perhaps make this sound easier than it was. I have had to do a lot of chasing up both with prizes and publicity.

November 2016, Reigate and Banstead Writes is ready to launch. Entry forms and rules were distributed and School librarians went into action and we had several straplines to fire up the imagination and to grab attention.

A murder mystery in Priory Park. Or a Timeslip in Reigate Castle Grounds. Have Aliens landed on Earlswood Lakes? Is the Merstham Landfill site a Secret Volcano? A day out with friends on Banstead Common, or a voyage of discovery from Redhill Train Station. Do Merstham F.C Make it all the way to the Premiership? Are Reigate Caves a secret base for spies? Can you write a story set in your area?

January 2017. @RBWrites1, the twitter account promoting the competition went live. More than anything this got the word out and helped to cement the competition. Various authors such as Eve Ainsworth tweeted and retweeted. Jane McGowan published a piece in her Surrey Downs Magazine. My librarian colleagues worked tirelessly to promote in their own individual schools and made sure details ran in their school newsletters. Local councillors (from all parties) and the local MP Crispin Blunt, tweeted and promoted the competition and the local shopping centre put up a big display, complete with entry forms outside Waterstones.

Closing date 28th February. After verifying and counting. Reigate and Banstead Writes received 402 Entries from both primary and secondary age groups. A mammoth judging process lay ahead. Each judge shortlisted their favourites from their ‘pack’ which met the Entry criteria with the favourites being read and discussed by them all. The stories that did well were all set very clearly in our local area and had done exactly what we had asked.

Grace Moore, (pictured with her Year 5 teachers

Grace Moore won the Primary Category with her mystery story, BENEATH

Ben Herneman, a Year 8 student won the Secondary Category with his hilarious story, LORD OF THE RAILS (all southern rail users should read this)

We also had 2 x runners up in each category and several highly commended students who will be invited to the planned celebration afternoon taking place in June. I am busy organising that and on the hunt for an author to come and give out the prizes!  It has been a marathon and much more exciting, demanding and bigger than I thought. But the moral of this is:

Nothing was behind Reigate Writes, no publicity budget, no funding, no money set aside for prizes no big name supporters.  Rather, a good grassroots idea which harnessed the power of School Librarians working together to provide an exciting, creative opportunity for local children.

Pictured: Leon Patey 2nd place in Secondary and Laura Edwards, a ‘highly commended’ entry.

The winning stories can be read at:

http://www.warwick.surrey.sch.uk/2016/reigate-and-banstead-writes/

http://redhillbelfry.co.uk/news-events/news/reigate-and-banstead-writes-winners-announced/

www.readingzone.com (thanks to Caroline Horn)

 

Creating zines: creative library lessons at Fort Pitt Grammar School

Kim Davis, Librarian at Fort Pitt Grammar School in Chatham, got very creative with zines with her Year 8 Library lessons.  This is what she says:

I wanted to combine some research with a bookmaking activity and found that Zines were ideal. It was around the time of the US elections too, and many of the students wanted to be more politically active in response. Firstly we had a lesson using Barnard Zine Library’s “What is a Zine? What is the value of protest?”


We looked some example zines I’d printed and compared zines to magazines before choosing a zine to pull apart. We looked at how clear the message was, use of images to inform and entice readers and how persuasive they were. For homework the girls had to decide groups and pick a topic to focus their zine on.

Then we spent a lesson focussing on how to make a zine, using a zine about making zines from the Umamu Design Blog. Students were then encouraged to make a mock-up and decide on content for each page.

In the final lesson all the zines were brought in and we gave feedback on each other’s work based on how attractive they were, how well laid out information was and how clear and persuasive the message was. I was surprised by the quality of the work and the originality of some of the ideas! There was also a real journey from the students not knowing what a zine was at all, and being very confused in some cases, to creating amazing and expressive zines of their own. Definitely a recommended activity, especially if you have time to include some information credibility and plagiarism in there too.

 

Taking information literacy lessons into Google Classroom

Valerie Dewhurst, Librarian at QEGS Blackburn recently made her first step in to moving her information literacy lessons online.  Her school has moved to Google Classroom, and she emailed me about her first online lesson.

Firstly my main priority was to make sure students know just exactly what Information Literacy actually means/covers ….. So students are being well-informed as I go on to explain that IL is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognise when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. This initial breakdown has worked well, and is getting us off to a really good start.
It’s been a while coming but finally I have managed to upload my IL resources to Google Classroom, and start to deliver these to my Yr 7, 8 and 9 during library lessons. My main concern for speeding up with this move was because I could see our students drowning in information, and misinformation.  Information Literacy skills to my knowledge are not tested in schools – so teaching IL has never been more important. However, as all librarians are fully aware teaching IL is just not that straight forward; lack of library contact time with students or lack of our own confidence in teaching these skills.  I was prepared to upload my existing resources to Google Classroom because I wanted to continue teaching IL skills but in a more up-to-date way, in-keeping with how many subjects now teach in my school.  I also at the same time wanted to deliver these critical, all-important information skills in ways that would capture and hold our student’s interest. We all know how quickly some students can switch off – so being prepared for this is much needed.
I purposely waited until students were familiar with the system – it was introduced here in 2015. I was indeed apprehensive to start with – but now feel there is no going back. I have attended twilight training in school – and very much wish to keep this training up.
Pupils work through the uploaded tasks at their own pace – I am aiming for two tasks to be completed per lesson as Accelerated Reader takes priority. Pupils can access from home and work through more tasks if they so wish – many Year 9 students have requested to do this. What I have recently found is that when students are logging into  Google Classroom to complete homework for subjects some are actually logging into the IL section too – completing a few tasks.  So I need to speed up uploading my resources as students are working at a pace far greater than I imagined.
Some topics planned to be covered are:
Planning, research or posing a question – e.g. “Is global warming real.”
Organising a way to search for the answer
Finding resources – such as databases, documentary films, Web sites, print sources etc.
Evaluating the resources and thinking about them – Who made the message and why? What is left out of the message? How might others view the message differently?
Expressing the information learned in meaningful ways – e.g. student produced podcasts, wikis etc.
 
Following on from Information Literacy I also intend to upload many Library & Research Skills – with much work featured on Dewey.  I am amazed at the excitement, engagement, and collaborative working students have show using these resources.  I have asked if students would like to see anything in particular uploaded – requests are already coming in, more Dewey is a popular request.
There are still some hands on tasks – even using Google Classroom you can still maintain this.  Tasks are easy to modify and upload.  Students comment/answer on your set tasks – as a librarian delivering these tasks you can see the results. You can give feedback – you can instantly reply.  You can differentiate your groups – you can start small and aim high.  You can upload short YouTube videos, Dewey game links, it’s your choice – you are the creator. You can add tasks or full on assignments. I am slowly adding over 11 years of Information Literacy/Library Skills etc – while adding I am also updating them, which can only be a good thing.  There are a multitude of skills I want to teach – this is giving me the opportunity to do so while not taking up too much time – plus just think how much I am saving on paper and ink!
Now that I have received some comments back/work completed I have started to look over students answers and I am amazed, delighted – proud.  I couldn’t have expected anything more.  There is no excuse for students to be bored – there is always something for students to move onto – this is your area, these are your tasks, your teaching.  Google Classroom is also convenient if you ever need your group to be covered – cover work set would be to work through IL tasks on GC – just remember to have lots uploaded, and tell your students that you have high expectations of their answers.
I must thank the SLA website for their very detailed schemes of work – which have helped me in my own work. Don’t forget you as a librarian can take the IL course with the SLA – just to get yourself up to scratch, and feeling a little more confident when delivering your sessions.
Hoping others start to make the switch too, and enjoy the freedom of teaching online.
V B Dewhurst, Head of Library, QEGS Blackburn

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Programme

This year, nanowrimoin my school, we plan to take part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.  There is a Young Writer’s Programme for the under-18’s.  So I have created my Virtual Classroom, added in the participating students and their teacher, and await November 1st to see how it all pans out.  Has anyone else taken part in this with their students?  How did it go for you?  Leave a comment!

Here’s the website if you want to join in too: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

Alive Poets Society

Michael Hughes, who is an English teacher has set up Alive Poets Society site for pupils to publish their own poetry.  Schools can request access for their own area of the site. It looks like a wonderful idea to me! Great for encouraging pupils to write poetry, especially leading up to National Poetry Day (October 16th). For further details please contact Michael on michael@alivepoets.com