Monday, 30 June 2014

What I learned in Kerikeri

I've recently come back from a trip to Kerikeri.  I was invited up to do a workshop by SLANZA Te Tai Tokerau.  Actually, I ended up presenting on three topics because I gave them a few things to choose from and they chose them all!

This post is not about what I shared with them*, rather what I learned while I was there.  First off, I was wowed by how they promoted the event.  Julia, the librarian at Kerikeri High School, came up with this fabulous poster:


It was done on a site called Canva, which is worth having a look at.  Julia also taught me that vegan meals can taste delicious, when she invited me to a very scrummy dinner.  And lastly I got some great ideas from looking around her library, which hosted the event.  



I love the way these displays bring the online world into the physical environment.

I was impressed by how the event was set up.  Rather than sitting in rows of seats there were tables to sit around.  Jeannie, the National Library's Programme Adviser for Northland, made sure everyone at each table had introduced themselves to each other.  After each of my talks there was time built in for people to chat with each other about any thoughts they had and ideas they might like to implement in their libraries.  We also had time to hear from a public librarian who had interesting things to add to my talk on gamification.  

At the end of the event there was a raffle for books that had been donated by various committee members.  There were so many books that everyone who bought a ticket won at least one book, and I won three!  Best of all you got to go up and pick a book rather than be given one that might not be suitable.

As there was a committee meeting taking place after the event Jeannie and Julia had organised to bring soup so the committee could have some lunch.  They extended the offer of soup to everyone and this was a big hit.  A lot of people stayed and chatted, and it was a nice alternative to having everyone meet up at a cafe.

So, I got to see how a different SLANZA region ran an event, and I found that extremely worthwhile.  I will bring these ideas back to my own committee and see if we can use some of them.

I'd like to say a big thanks to Jeannie, Julia and everyone else I met at Kerikeri.  I had a wonderful time and they made me feel very welcome.


*But if you are interested in what I was presenting about, here is my virtual library tour and my talks on gamification and genrefication.

Friday, 16 May 2014

PlayBuzz - Seriously cool tool for creating quizzes

Which Percy Jackson character are you?  What faction from Divergent do you belong in?  Not only does PlayBuzz have some interesting quizzes for you to choose from, you also get to make your own.  How cool is that?!

I had been looking for a way to do the "What's Your Genre?" quiz I saw on Mrs. ReaderPants' blog.  She graciously invites everyone to use/modify her quiz to fit their needs.  I love the idea of the quiz but I had time constraints and younger students to contend with so I wanted to find a way to do the quiz electronically, with no manual adding up involved.  Enter PlayBuzz - www.playbuzz.com.

If you're interested in making your own quiz, here's how it's done.  First, click on the Create button.


PlayBuzz lets you create a definitive answer quiz, a two choices poll, a list or a personality quiz.  Hovering your cursor over the options will bring up a description and examples, like the panel on the right in the image below.


Before I started making the personality quiz I had already created a list of questions and answers to choose from, based on Mrs. Readerpants' quiz.  Something you should know early on is that with PlayBuzz you can only have eight possible results at the end.  I wanted to create a genre quiz for the ten genres of books I have in my library, so I ended up making two separate quizzes.  The bonus is that students get two different genres to look into.

Once you've clicked on the Create button for the personality quiz you will need to sign up, either via Facebook or with email.  The name that you register under will show when people do your quiz, so in my case I chose to sign up under our school name.

This screen will then appear:


The media you add next to the game name will be the image people see when they start your quiz.  I chose to upload a Wordle made up of the genres in my quiz.  

Under "Manage the Questionnaire's Results" click on "Add result" to add more results (answers) to your quiz (up to eight).


Scroll down to enter your first question.  You can add media (photo or YouTube clip) for the question itself, but I chose not to.  The default setting is for the answers to be text only, but you can change that by clicking on the image box (first arrow below).  Images have to be at least 190 x 178 and can be from file or from a URL.  I did a Google image search filtered by usage rights to find some photos to use.  PlayBuzz automatically inserts a photo attribution for you.  You need to be careful when selecting a photo to use because it will need to fit into a square box, so you end up cropping a fair bit. A couple of times I have been unable to use a URL for an image but it has worked if I download it.

To add more answers click on the "Add answer" square.


Next, you need to choose which results are associated with each answer.  For example, for the question "What would you most like to do on holiday?" I wanted those whose answer is "Go white water rafting on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe" to earn points towards the adventure genre.  I left the other possible answers at 0 (no association) and changed the adventure result to 2 (strongly associated).  You do have the option of entering a 1 for "normal" (a medium association) but I thought it might complicate things and give an extra weighting to certain genres.


Click on "Add question" and repeat the process until you have entered all your questions.


Click on the blue "Preview" button to see what the quiz looks like in action.  Then click on the blue "Publish Game" button when you are happy with the quiz.  You will get a message "Our editors will review your submission and decide whether to post it on playbuzz.com within 48 hours".  To be honest I don't even know if my quizzes are published on the site.  What mattered to me was that the links were live and I could embed the quizzes on our website.  

You can edit after your quiz is published, which is good news if you spot an error.

I made a QR code so my students can scan it with our library iPads and have a go at the quizzes.  Originally I linked straight to the URL for each genre quiz, but I discovered that more games are listed after the quiz, some of which might not be appropriate for children.  Embedding on a website allows you to choose not to have recommendations for more games, share buttons or Facebook comments.

In the tradition of Mrs.Readerpants I invite you to use/modify the bits of my quizzes that I modified from hers.  Your quiz doesn't have to be about genre though, it could be about a specific book like the Percy Jackson and Divergent examples above.  You could even make it specific to your school somehow, I would love to see what you come up with.




Thursday, 24 April 2014

Genre Shelving - the (almost) finished product

Original Plan

My original plan was to roll out new genres at the rate of one every three weeks until I finally had all ten set up at the end of 30 weeks or so.  There were a few problems with this plan.  First, as we processed new books it didn't make sense not to put them straight into their rightful genre, regardless of whether we had "launched" that genre or not.  This meant that there were a few books that had different stickers and my student librarians weren't sure what to do with them.  The main problem however was that it was taking too long and I wanted to see it happen sooner!

Revised Plan

In the last couple of weeks of term I decided to get stuff done!  I started walking past the shelves and picking out the books that had really obvious genres.  I took them home and stickered and taped them and then changed their genres on the catalogue.  By the last day I had done 738 of the 1300 fiction books and was ready to go.  On Tuesday  I went in and, with the aid of a few helpless children I roped in to my dastardly plan, we rearranged all the fiction shelves.  Here is what we did...

We removed all the books that had genre stickers and put 
them on the floor under their genre headings.


We put all the books currently without genre labels in one place 
(a very visual to-do list).



Then we put the books back on the shelves in their own genres.






We have two bays on either side of the main fiction wall.  These hold our humour and horror genres.  Fantasy is a big section and I left two empty bays underneath as I know there are more books to come. 

It took less than two hours to do the rearranging and I am really happy that we will start Term 2 with all the genres in their own sections.  I have decided to do a genre challenge where I challenge our older students to a) write down what genre their favourite book is in, b) read a book in that genre by a different author and c) read a book from a completely different genre.  If they complete the challenge within a month they get to go into the draw for prizes.  Hopefully that will encourage teachers to start a conversation about the different genres.

I'm also in the process of creating some online quizzes to do for a fun way to find out "What's my genre?".  I have found a cool new tool to use to make the quizzes and will be sharing that in my next post.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Genre Shelving - the pros and cons so far

First off, here are my lovely new science fiction and humour sections.  I don't think I'll have them next to each other permanently but it will do for now.  



And this week we launched the horror section and decorated it up a bit.




A comment on one of my earlier posts on genre-fication made me realise I hadn't listed the ten genres I chose for our library.  So here you go: fantasy, science fiction, adventure, mystery, humour, animals, historical fiction, realistic fiction, horror and sport.  I think if you have fantasy and realistic fiction as genres then you are never going to be without a genre for a book to go into.

And now on to the things I've discovered about the project so far:

Pros

  • I LOVE the stats I can get on each of the genres.  By making each genre a "collection" in my catalogue I am able to run statistics showing me each genre's most popular books.  It makes it far easier, for example, to find the most popular horror books when my normal fiction statistics would be dominated by humour books.  
  • I can also see how many books I have in each genre and how many are issued at any one time.  This will be really helpful for my purchasing decisions.
  • Each launch of a new genre section gives it prominence and promotes discussion among students and teachers.
  • It has tied in nicely with my book club, as we have a challenge to read three books from each genre as it is launched.

Cons


  • The biggest problem is finding a genre for each book when some books don't fit nicely into just one.  I know some schools use multiple genres but I prefer to keep it simple (for the students, but not for me!).
  • For each book that we already own I have to choose a genre for it, scan the book, change the book's collection to the right genre, and tape a genre sticker to the spine of the book.  This takes a lot of time, even if the taping can be done by parent helpers and I can change the genre on batches of books at the same time.
  • I want it done FASTER!  I want it finished but I don't have the time for it to happen any sooner.
So, the pros outweigh the cons, which is good because there is still a lot of work to be done. 

In terms of dealing with the problem of deciding on one genre for each book I have a system of sorts.  Some books are easy to categorise, either because I have read them or because the title says "Things that go bump in the night" or the blurb talks about "Jane enters a tennis tournament, can she win?".  For the more difficult books I check the subject headings and also have a look on GoodReads.  The genres other people have assigned to a book can be helpful.  I do find though, that not everyone is shelving using the same genres and people seem to get sci fi and fantasy confused (or maybe they don't use a sci fi category), so I don't necessarily pick the most popular shelf.

The hardest book to pick a genre for so far?  The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.  Set in 1952 it includes magical transformations, espionage and a race to stop a hydrogen bomb.  Subject headings include "Magic - Fiction", "Adventure Stories" and  "Historical Fiction". Goodreads members have listed it as fantasy, historical fiction, adventure and mystery.  With so many possible genres to choose from it did my head in, and eventually I chose adventure, only because it didn't seem right to put it in historical fiction when there were strong elements of fantasy, or to put it fantasy when there were so many historical touches.  This is where "didn't seem right" and personal gut feeling has to come in and I agree that it doesn't seem as clear as it should be but I still think the end result is worth it.  In fact, I will probably take some fantasy books home to tape over the holidays just to hurry the process along a bit.  Patience not being one of my virtues.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Genre Shelving - The students have their say

With our science fiction and humour books now sporting snazzy spine labels, but still shelved A-Z, I thought it was time to survey the students about whether they thought shelving by genre was a good idea.  I talked with our six Yr5/6 classes (172 students) and then gave them a very short questionnaire.



Off to a good start!  Interestingly four of the five who said "no" mentioned issues with understanding books.



I wish my book recommendation powers were greater but this result reflects how little time I get with classes in the library.  The power of the series reigns supreme but the interesting results for me were those for author and genre.  Even with our fiction collection currently shelved A-Z, so that authors are readily found, selecting by author ranked around the same as selecting by genre.  I will be doing another survey later in the year and it will be interesting to see the impact of shelving by genre on these figures.



17% of our students reported that they didn't find it easy to choose a book to read.  The main reason given was that there were "too many books". 



So there you go - overwhelming support for shelving by genre.  I told the students that if they wanted it I would do it, so on Monday morning I will make the changes and give science fiction and humour their own sections.  We will continue to shelve most of the fiction A-Z and every three weeks we will add a new genre.  This makes it manageable for me, although I must admit I wish I could do it all sooner.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Blogging Meme

Earlier in the year my twitter friend Marnel (@1MvdS) tagged me for this blogging meme.  I was particularly busy at the time but she reminded me about it today and I'm in the right mood so here goes:


The task includes:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
  • List 11 bloggers
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all of the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you


11 random facts about me

  1. When I am engrossed in a book my husband has learnt to call my name a few times and wait a few seconds while I return to the real world   
  2. I enjoy playing badminton
  3. Most of the things that make me busy at work are my own fault as I've had or seen a new idea and want to implement it
  4. My eldest son (12) has just grown bigger than me, by 3cm, and has taken to calling me "shorty"
  5. I can't have chocolate in the house or I will eat it - even the chocolate chips for baking
  6. I can juggle
  7. I enjoy blogging as it makes me reflect on what I am doing
  8. Next week I am going on my first school camp since I was a student and I am dying to try out archery
  9. I absolutely love PD
  10. I am going to be too timid to ask other bloggers to answer questions for this meme
  11. I don't like reading sad books.

My answers to Marnel's questions

1.  What inspires you?
People who are passionate about what they do.

2.  What are you reading now?
"Ophelia and the marvelous boy" by Karen Foxlee.  A fantasy children's novel that was mentioned on a blog at some point.

3.  If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
OK, so the easy way out is to say librarian, as I'm not a teacher.  But I will be good and pretend the question is "If you weren't a librarian, what would you do?"  I think I would like to train people in how to use technology.

4.  If you could change something about the education system, what would it be?
I would make it easier for children with learning difficulties to get access to the help they need.

5.  When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
I think several years ago a friend complained she didn't get interesting mail any more so I wrote her a letter.

6.  Android or iPad tablets? Why?
I have an iPad simply because I knew my school were looking at getting them so used that as an excuse to get one.

7.  What do you find hardest to teach your students?
That books go back on the shelves in the right place, the right way up and the right way round. Sigh.

8.  What will you be doing differently this year?
I am running my book club differently this year (see previous post) and really enjoying it.

9.  If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be and why did you choose this language?
I would choose Russian or something else really unexpected just so I could show off when I spoke in it :)

10.  What is your favourite way to waste time?
There are a few reality shows (Masterchef, Project Runway, The Voice) that I like watching when I am too tired to do anything meaningful.

11.  What is your life motto?
I am really not organised enough to have a life motto.


Because I'm recklessly avoiding the last two parts of this meme that is all for this post.  But here is a photo from July of last year, just to prove that it wasn't so long ago that I was taller than both of my boys.



Friday, 28 February 2014

Ninja Readers meet Star Wars

My Ninja Readers Book Club has started with smaller numbers than I had hoped but I am pleased with the more structured way I have planned our meetings and those who do come have been enjoying it.

I have been getting ideas from this book:





Burgess has pages of what he calls 'presentation hooks' which encourage you to think more carefully and creatively about how to capture students' attention and keep them engaged.

Here is what I have done for the first four weeks:

Week 1 - Talk about genre, hand out readers' notebooks, explain how challenges work (three weeks to read three books in one genre and earn a genre sticker).

Week 2 - Play Star Wars theme song and ask to guess first genre.  Book talk a few Sci-Fi books  and discuss what books students have already read in this genre.  Review how the readers' notebooks are working. Discuss books read.

Week 3 - Discuss books read.  Show a YouTube playlist of Sci-Fi book trailers.

Week 4 - Discuss books read.  Talk about abandoning books if they don't capture interest.  Give out first genre stickers.  Take suggestions for the new genre in Week 5.  Have students take an online quiz to find out which Star Wars character they would be (disturbingly we seem to have quite a few Darth Vaders, I was Yoda).

I have lots of ideas for presentation hooks for each of the genres we will be covering.  These hooks help me keep our meetings fresh and interesting and are a fun way to finish up after we have talked about what we are reading.  I'm also looking forward to the end of term when we will eat Ninjabread Men Cookies!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Genre-fication, Ninja Readers, eBooks and a Proposal

Even though the school year does not start until Monday I have done a whole lot of planning over the holidays (as well as opening the library to students every Monday afternoon and issuing over 1000 books!).

Here's what's on the agenda for 2014:


Genre-fication

After reading Jennifer LaGarde's article in Collected Magazine I revisited the idea of shelving by genre and just couldn't find any reason not to. Surely anything we can do to help our students find more of the books they like to read is a good idea.  I found an excellent website by Mrs.Readerpants that gives lots of information about the process of shelving by genre.  She also has a fun genre quiz that I am in the middle of adapting for a NZ primary school.

I worked my way through which genres I wanted (ten of them) and then had fun choosing spine label stickers for them.  On advice from NZ library guru Miriam I approached Book Protection Products, used some of their spine labels and also got them to make up some of my own.  I found a great site for copyright-free clipart called Pixabay that had just what I needed.  I can't wait to see the finished products.


      


Ninja Readers

I started a book club last year for our Year 6 students and while it went OK it didn't meet the visions in my head.  So on to bigger and better things this year.  First, I chose a new name.  I thought it would be empowering for last year's members to choose their own name but then they came up with "Very Important Readers" and I hated it!  I want my book club members to be brave and explore new books so I came up with "Ninja Readers".  Hopefully I'll convince my husband to make a logo for me, but I've had him doing other tasks - more on that later.  

I'm opening the club to Year 5 & 6 students this year and will run two divisions, either by year level or gender.  Given I'm genre-fying I thought I would work through each of the genres with my book club.  I'll start each division with a different genre and give them two weeks and then they can swap genres and recommend books to the other division.  I bought some little notebooks for them to record their reading, based on ideas from Donalyn Miller's "Reading in the Wild" (LOVE this book!).  I also thought I could give them a challenge to read three books from each genre and then they could earn a genre sticker to go in a "challenges" section at the back of their notebook.  Thanks to Donalyn I also have a lot of ideas for conversations around books that I can have with my Ninja Readers. 


e-Books

Thanks to a large parent donation at the end of last year we will be venturing into e-books this year.  I'll have to wait until I can pin down our IT guy so I haven't done much thinking around this just yet.

Proposal

The length of a library visit for each class was reduced in Term 4 last year from 40-45 mins to 25-30 mins.  This was due to an ever increasing number of classrooms in our school.  So, I asked to speak to the Board of Trustees and proposed that we expand the size of the library so that it is possible to have two classes in there at once, and therefore be able to return to 40-45 minute visits.  This took a huge amount of time as I prepared a slideshow, visited our wonderful National Library Adviser in order to get statistics about other school library sizes, and spoke nicely to my husband so that he could make 3D computer models of what the library would look like.  The BOT were impressed and have asked me to investigate further!

So, four big projects and I'm excited to get started on all of them.  And just to prove I did have some relaxation time in the holidays, here's a photo from our lovely holiday in Napier.




Monday, 11 November 2013

The Benefits of Presenting: How it can help you and your library

I'm doing a couple of things this term that I feel are vital to ensuring that the value of the work I do in the library is recognised and appreciated.  I am going to do an annual report for our BOT and present it to them.  And last week I gave a 30 minute presentation at a staff meeting.

In the bustle of my work days I have time for neither of these activities.  During Labour weekend I made time to practise my presentation and all of the preparation was done at home, in the evenings and on weekends.  Was it nerve-wracking speaking in front of staff? YES!  Was it worth giving up my own time? Well, the feedback from staff has been fantastic.  An experienced teacher said she doubted one of my statistics (the UK's National Literacy Trust found that 48% of low achieving children have trouble finding things to read).  When she asked her class (of typical 10- and 11-year-olds) one-third of them admitted to finding it hard to choose their next book.  Then she followed another suggestion and once she'd returned the library books for her class she spread them out on the issues desk and invited her students to have a look at what others in the class were reading.  About half the books were re-issued.

I've had teachers get their students to write me a letter suggesting books to get for the library, others have talked to their students about the importance of reading for pleasure, and one class earned their first ever special award for having no overdues this week.  Many teachers have said that I have reminded them of the importance of the library.  How cool is that?  So YES, it was worth spending my personal time working on the presentation.  I have requested extra hours for next year, but who knows how that will turn out.  At least for now I know that teachers and management are thinking about the library and what I do in it.  They know I don't just cover books and tidy shelves because I've told them. They know what I can do to help their students improve their academic outcomes and increase their enjoyment of reading. I guarantee you they're not wondering if the library needs a librarian in it.

Here are my presentation slides:




Saturday, 27 July 2013

SLANZA Conference 2013

I have just typed up my notes from the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) conference in Wellington.  I have six pages of them but I have been inspired by the lovely Glenys Bichan from Cambridge High School, who told me that she prepares a report for her principal that includes five things she is going to do as a result of the conference.  I think this is a great idea as at the end of the day we want to show that something practical came about from attending the conference.  So, here is what I am going to do:

1.    Help children select books.  The National Literacy Trust (UK) found 48% of low achieving children have trouble finding things to read.  This was part of the keynote from Dr Cathy Wylie on "How reading matters to children's development".  She raised a number of issues but this is one I want to focus on.  Here is how I am going to start:
a.     Begin book talks with the senior school, making sure to include books suitable for struggling readers
b.     Include my Goodreads shelves on our library OPAC and publicise that to help parents choose books for their children.
c.     Introduce new shelf talkers based on this one I found on Pinterest.

2.    Watch YouTube videos to learn correct Maori pronunciation.  Sharon Holt ran the workshop “Make the most of te reo Maori resources”.  She suggested looking for the Maori alphabet song and Ahaka ma and singing along to those to get Maori pronunciation right.  I can do that!

3.    Write down my vision for the library, identify all the services I already provide and make a wish list of services I would like to add or develop.  Senga White’s workshop “Making a lasting connection with your school community” was overflowing with great ideas.  First on my list, though, is to actually take stock of what I’m currently doing in the library and what I want to see done in the future.  This is a basic step but I’ve been so busy doing everything I haven’t made time to get a good overview of it all.

4.    Megan Davidson ran a fantastic workshop – “3-minute PD: how to raise the library’s profile by offering mini how-to lessons at morning briefings or staff meetings”.  I think I could do this but would have to clear it with management first.  The problem with big PD sessions is that you get overwhelmed with information.  That is why little tips brought up on a regular basis are such a good idea.  Realistically I think Term 4 would be something to work towards – book talks first!

5.    Share critical literacy ideas.  Dr Susan Sandretto did a keynote – “(Re)considering information literacy through a critical literacy lens”.  She shared a great series of critical literacy questions found here.  In my school this is not something I am personally involved with, however I will try to share these questions with our DP because I loved the discussions that they prompted.