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

Right Write – Hampshire SLS writing competition

Right, Write front cover

Isabelle Pearce from Hampshire SLS sent me the details of this amazing competition.  I think the schools there are very fortunate to have such a supportive SLS, when so many of us have lost ours. 

Last year in Hampshire SLS we decided to support our secondary schools with creative writing as well as the reading activities we do. We designed a short story competition to complement the new English curriculum requirement of “developing [pupils’] knowledge of and skills in writing, refining their drafting skills and developing resilience to write at length”.

The word count was 500-1000 words, and pupils chose one of three themes. Submissions were made via our Moodle VLE, so we enrolled hundreds of pupils and dozens of teachers and librarians to mark the stories. The mark scheme was out of 40 points, 10 each for Plot, Characterisation, Impact and SPAG. Judy Waite, children’s author and university lecturer, acted as the final arbiter and gave feedback to the shortlisted authors.

The top ten stories were then published in an ebook and made available to the participating schools to upload to their LMS or publish within school. The overall winner’s school will receive a writing workshop from Tarzan author Andy Briggs, and the overall winner (a year 7 pupil) £25 worth of vouchers.

Mercifully the take-up for this first run was not overwhelming, as it was tricky to organise on the VLE, but we hope that teachers will find it a useful tool in the classroom come September.