Nice video clip from Education Scotland on some uses of the library at Beeslack Community High School .
List compiled by The Sunday Times and broadcast on Channel 4, Christmas 2015. I’ve not discovered how the list was created though, or whose opinions we’re sharing, but I assume that books in brackets were the most voted for out of particular series.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, for lists of this type, the illustrations are not deemed as important. It appears that the Sunday Times has nominated its preferred illustrator each time e.g. the original Tenniel for Alice and Shepherd for Pooh-Bear, but later illustrator Blake for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In those instances where the author is also the illustrator e.g. Maurice Sendak, Dr Seuss, Judith Kerr, their artistic contributions are ignored. Even for picture books like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, illustrator Helen Oxenbury is relegated to brackets, while Michael Rosen gets all the glory.
Equal rights for illustrators!
- Winnie the Pooh / The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne (E H Shepard illustrations)
- The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – C.S. Lewis
- Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) – J.K. Rowling
- Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
- The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
- A Bear Called Paddington – Michael Bond
- The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson (illustrated Axel Scheffler)
- The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
- Cat in the Hat – Dr Seuss
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen (illustrated Helen Oxenbury)
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
- Alfie and Annie Rose (Dogger) – Shirley Hughes
- Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lingren (illustrated by Lauren Child)
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Judith Kerr
- Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson
- The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit) Beatrix Potter
- Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson
- The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson (illustrated by Nick Sharratt)
- Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Morpurgo
- Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian
- Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell
- A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (illustrated by Jim Kay)
- The Railway Children – E. Nesbitt
- Millions – Frank Cottrell Boyce
- The Snowman – Raymond Briggs
- The Arrival – Shaun Tan
- The Snow Queen – Hans Christian Andersen
- Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
- Famous Five (Five on a Treasure Island) – Enid Blyton
- Just William (Just William) – Richmal Crompton
- Holes – Louis Sachar
- Stig of the Dump – Clive King
- The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
- Charlie and Lola (I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato) Lauren Child
- The Jolly Postman – Allan and Janet Ahlberg
- Horrid Henry (Horrid Henry Strikes it Rich) – Francesca Simon (illustrated by Tony Ross)
- How to Train your Dragon – Cressida Cowell
- The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett
- Alex Rider (Stormbreaker) – Anthony Horowitz
- Mortal Engines (Mortal Engines) – Philip Reeve
- The Secret Garden – Francis Hodgson Burnett (illustrated by Inga Moore)
- Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling
- This is Not my Hat – Jon Klassen
- Fortunately, the Milk – Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Chris Riddell)
- Charlotte’s Web E B White (illustrated by Garth Williams)
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney
- Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Borrowers Mary Norton
- Gorilla Anthony Browne
- The Poems of Edward Lear (Owl and the Pussycat) Edward Lear
- Pig-Heart Boy Malorie Blackman
- Orlando the Marmalade Cat Kathleen Hale
- The Silver Sword – Ian Serraillier
- Elmer (Elmer the Patchwork Elephant) David McKee
- Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
- Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney (illustrated by Anita Jeram)
- The Little White Horse – Elizabeth GoodgE
- Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce (illustrated by Susan Einzig)
- The Phantom Tolbooth – Norton Juster (illustrated by Jules Feiffer)
- Flour Babies – Anne Fine
- Centrally Heated Knickers – Michael Rosen (illustrated by Harry Horse)
- The Way Home – Oliver Jeffers
- Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie
- Asterix – Uderzo and Goscinny
- The Family from One End Street – Eve Garnett
- Mr Gum – Andy Stanton (illustrated by David Tazzyman)
- Fairy Tales – Berlie Doherty (illustrated by Jane Ray)
- Wolves – Emily Gravett
- The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy
- The Blue Kangaroo (I Love You, Blue Kangaroo) Emma Chichester Clark
- The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams (illustrated by William Nicholson)
- Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
- The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd
- The Sheep-Pig – Dick King-Smith
- Chrestomanci (The Lives of Christopher Chant) Diana Wynne Jones
- The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – T S Eliot (illustrated by Nicholas Bentley)
- 101 Dalmations – Dodie Smith
- Emil and the Detectives – Erich Kästner
- A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket
- Handa’s Surprise – Eileen Browne
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
- Babar – Jean de Brunhoff
- Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden
- Captain Underpants – Dav Pilkey
- Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers
- The Tom Gates (The Brilliant World of Tom Gates) Liz Pichon
- The Casson family (Saffy’s Angel)Hilary McKay
- The Percy Jackson (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) Rick Riordan
- Thomas the Tank Engine – Rev W Awdry (illustrated by Peter Sam)
- The Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin
- The Inkworld (Inkheart) – Cornelia Funke
- War Boy – Michael Foreman
- The Wizard of Oz – L Frank Baum
- Goosebumps – R L Stine
- Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
- Tintin – Hergé (Georges Remi)
It’s usually quite easy to recognise plagiarised work. Scansion, vocabulary, grammar; they all point to a more mature person, even if you’re not familiar with the pupil in question’s work. And then of course, they have to rewrite and there’s a whole lot of time wasted.
So how do we encourage pupils to avoid plagiarism in the first place?
Make sure they actually do the work?
The pupil took a long time to select a topic and failed to find any information once he had. Instead he was happily being distracted by, and distracting, those sitting around him. So we moved his seat, made sure he had a suitable book and confirmed that he knew exactly what to do. Sadly by now he was far behind.
When his first two paragraphs were handed in, they were obviously plagiarised. In fact they were identical with the book, with the sole nod to originality swapping two paragraphs around (which did make me laugh actually – cheek!)
In one sense, plagiarism was an obvious choice. The pupil had not used the time given and when asked to type up a first draft, he quickly bunged together the only stuff he had. He admitted later that he had risked it in the hope that it wouldn’t be spotted rather then not handing in anything.
So how do we encourage pupils like him to avoid plagiarism?
Make sure they understand EXACTLY what plagiarism is?
Different class, and we explain in minute detail what plagiarism is and demonstrate how to avoid it. We have warned the pupils to within an inch of their retractable pencils that plagiarism will not be tolerated, and will in fact mean redoing their project from scratch. And still, three pupils hand in final work that is clearly not their own.
Before the teacher talks to the pupils, I identify the sources of the originals, and provide copies. One pupil has taken a table of information from one website and added in an additional column of information from a second website. She claims that this makes it ‘all her own work’ (although later admits it was actually all her dad’s own work. Maybe we spoke to the wrong class).
We have since adapted the plagiarism talk to include the mix-and-match method. Obviously our ‘minute detail’ wasn’t quite precise enough.
So how do we encourage pupils like them to avoid plagiarism?
Also make sure the staff get the story right first?
A 3rd year pupil was typing up her final draft. Reading over her shoulder, specific phrases jumped out at me, totally out of place. In fact the whole piece felt halting and hesitant. When the issue was raised, she got irritated; she had actually used the thesaurus to choose ‘better words’ and was mightily offended that I had believed her work plagiarised after she had ‘worked so hard’.
I saw the original later, and it was clearly superior. The language wasn’t as highfalutin, but it was hers and it flowed better. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts that plain language is preferable to multisyllabic nonsense. Sadly she wasn’t for listening any further and handed her work in as it was; partly because I had insulted her work, and partly because she had genuinely worked hard to improve it in the way she knew best, and here was someone else telling her it still wasn’t good enough.
So how do we encourage pupils to avoid plagiarism?
Teaching pupils how to take notes is difficult but not impossible, with practice.
Teaching pupils how to read something and rephrase it so that only the sense remains is more difficult, but not impossible, with practice.
Teaching pupils how to do this repeatedly until they have enough to arrange all of their notes into a whole new creation, within a strictly limited time frame, with little chance for practice, is frankly, impossible. They need to practice, and get it wrong, and make mistakes and learn from them. Just like any other skill.
I’m occasionally bemused by Google’s choice of doodles – the 23rd anniversary of this event, the 374th birthday of that person, but this doodle dedicated to Diana Wynne Jones is welcome. Hopefully some who don’t understand the reference to Howl’s Moving Castle will be intrigued sufficiently by the doodle to want to know more.
What I do know is that there are plenty DWJ novels on my library shelves and they just don’t get borrowed. They’ve got lovely covers, make great displays, they’ve been recommended, they’ve been added to cunningly to piles of new or returned books that catch the eye and just beg to be rifled through, they’re on suggested reading lists and yet they sit there as pristine as when they were bought 😦
Sadly, they’re not the only books to suffer this way. Getting pupils to lift books off the shelf is becoming more and more difficult, never mind getting them to read the flippin’ things.
No matter, Diana Wynne Jones is worth the effort (especially the Dalemark Quartet, a series with a difference).
Recently a colleague and I were discussing attempts to improve presentations. Most schoolkind can share tales of endless screeds of plagiarised text read straight from the screen without any reference to the audience, enlivened only with stretched, pixelated images taken without thought from Google images. This defines too many presentations using Powerpoint or Keynote or similar software. She expressed her frustration:
I’m fed up with pupils using Powerpoint to write reports.
I thought that was an interesting way of phrasing it:
- Are pupils using Powerpoint to write reports?
- If they are, is it wrong to use Powerpoint in this way?
- Does it matter what software is being used?
- Why do so many pupils use Powerpoint all the time, for everything?
So I asked them : what do you use Powerpoint for?
The pupils all looked at me with that familiar, she’s-lost-it-again expression, and told me
It’s for making powerpoints.
And that I think is precisely the problem. Pupils are not considering whether they’re writing a report or a presentation or making notes – they’re making ‘a powerpoint’. It’s a stand alone piece of work which they often don’t connect to any particular purpose, because it’s a purpose in itself.
And to be honest, staff (including me) are equally guilty of telling pupils that they’re going to ‘do a powerpoint‘ as shorthand for ‘present your learning in an interesting way with the assistance of presentation software‘.
No surprise that pupils’ focus is on the slides, rather than their talk: they’re doing what we ask them to do.
Today in the Library pupils discovered:
- how to fend off attacks from polar bears;
- the true meaning of Christmas;
- that people are ‘meat’;
- Brian Blessed
Challenge X continues to adapt, mainly following on from pupils’ ideas and suggestions. Most recently it seemed that pupils weren’t looking beyond the first suggestion available to them so we’ve created a page to collate all of the websites we’re suggesting.
That caused an inundation of shark defence suggestions during which I suggested punching the shark on the nose (I know I read it somewhere). My puny efforts were mocked – how on Earth could you punch a shark? – when I remembered that Brian Blessed had punched a polar bear in his tent. So I told them that too.
Isn’t it lovely to hear children’s laughter? Hmm, time to get some work done methinks, so pupils are asked to check their log sheets, complete their last task and select another. Remember the purpose of this period was to expand their ideas? Congratulations, Jen, you’ve now got half the class researching sharks and most of the rest researching polar bears.
There are still one or two individuals. One girl called Natalie is looking for a short reading connected to her name. After drawing a blank on connected author (Natalie Babbit – Tuck Everlasting – is missing), I suggest a Christmas connection (since Natalie comes from Latin natale domini. She selects a book, reads for a while, then comes over,
Miss, did you know Christmas is Christ’s Mass? I can’t believe I didn’t see that before! Wow! That’s amazing!
See, finding things out for yourself is still one of the best feelings in the world 🙂
Meanwhile the shark hunters are getting on swimmingly (sorry) and want to know about sharks around the coast of the UK. So we look up basking sharks, and discover their size, their feeding habits and where they hang out. Pupils were keen to share locations they’ve swum on holiday, including the Black Sea, California and Greece. Are there sharks? Are they going to die? Will sharks attack beaches?
As head know-it-all, I am naturally assumed to have this information at my fingertips (!) but even though the point is to get them researching, I do suggest that while it’s rare, I have seen footage of sharks close to beaches and that maybe if a shark was hungry enough, it might not be able to resist a meal just waiting on the shore.
At this, one pupil drops her book, turns pale and asks in horror,
Miss, are we MEAT?
Now you don’t want to get into a conversation about cannibalism, but to be honest there aren’t many answers to that question.
At this point, the other wildlife squad appear to check ‘the name of that guy that attacked a polar bear’. They don’t believe me – how would he get a polar bear in his tent? – and want to confirm it for themselves, which is fabulous. So we find a biography of Brian Blessed, and I draw their attention to some of his adventures and they’re hooked. As they leave the Library, I can hear them quoting him.
Discoveries of all sorts, information checking and a new hero. One hour in the Library. Mission accomplished 🙂
Research is like a jigsaw but the pieces are hidden and you don’t know what the picture is until you’re finished
I tell the pupils a version of this all the time, usually when they’re frustrated at having to collect information from lots of different places. Most of them get the metaphor about jigsaw pieces, but the whole picture is a different problem.
Today a class was gathering information for their investigation when I started getting requests to help with their final reports. I’m confused. Surely they’ve only just started taking notes? But yes, they are attempting to write their report already, adding to it as they find a new bit of information. When the 10th kid asks for the same assistance, I call the entire group to a halt and we review the various stages involved in this piece of work.
- select specific task from list provided
- brainstorm possible ideas and keywords and existing knowledge
- locate the information required from available materials
- evaluate sources for reliablility
- decide whether to gather this information or not
- carefully gather information with proper note-taking (NOT copying)
- continue search for information
- ongoing review of information analysing what is still required and adapting search parameters accordingly
- synthesise data collected to create an overview – the whole picture
- write the report
Except that pupils are jumping from 1 to 3 to 6 (and copying verbatim, not making notes) to 10. Sorry, boys and girls, but that doesn’t work. You’re trying to write a report. A report that you can’t write yet because you don’t know what you’re going to write: you need the full picture first!
Unfortunately, investigations in the Library are heavily time restricted. Usually we have three periods – introduction and preparation, followed by two research periods, with the class writing their reports in their own time. Teaching staff are usually sympathetic to the research process, but also struggling to get through everything in the syllabus. And the Library often can’t accommodate more research time either, but it’s absolutey vital that the pupils understand how all these little pieces come together to make the whole picture, and why it’s necessary in the first place. So what can we do?
This was all at the back of my mind the other day when I saw the Sketchtoy website, which provides a space to draw online, and also allows drawings to be shared. I am no artist, at least not with a brush or pencil, and certainly not with a mouse. My mind cannot take an image, break it into its constituent parts, and arrange them back in the proper order. An imaginary picture is even worse. Where do you start? But watching in fascination as a Sketchtoy picture was recreated before me, I began to understand the process.
And that’s I wondered about sketching as a visual metaphor for the research process?
- Can you take this picture apart?
- Where would you start?
- What different parts can you identify?
And then show them the video of the picture creation process. Once they’ve got the idea, then try the same with a report, and finally guide them through the investigation stage by stage. It’s the same as learning how something works by taking it apart first.
I know some will get incredibly frustrated at the delay (staff and pupils) but I think it’s worth trying. We’ll see what happens with the next investigation.
One of those moments today that make the job so worthwhile.
R is one of those kids: likeable but often the recipient of requests to be quiet or stop mucking about or pay attention. Reading isn’t on his list of priorities, and we have plenty of pupils like him. The Reading Trail is one way we try to point out the door that leads to enjoying reading, and help them open it.
Last time, he discovered the animal books, and today he returned looking for something similar. There were a lot of pupils requiring literary match-making, so I made sure he knew what he was doing and went to help someone else. Five minutes later, R was still gazing dejectedly at the animals section, still clutching his original book.
He opened the book at the back:
I’ve finished this one, he said, but there’s this list at the back, and I’m looking for one of them.
Hmm (scanning the list), afraid I don’t know if we’ve got any more of this series any more. But we’ve got other books on wolves and birds of prey and orcas (pulling them off the shelf to show him). Any of these any use?
Yeah, he said, I know about them.
Ah, not impressed then.
And then salvation presented itself, and as I passed over the precise book he wanted his body language changed entirely, his face lit up and he happily dived back to the class hugging the book to him.
And that’s why we continue with the Reading Trail. It always brings the usual mix of readers, from fascinated to bored and every stage in between, but we never stop trying to match readers and books. And it’s worth the slog through antipathy and apathy for moments like that one.
Source: Staples eReader Department
This Speed Reading Test is fun, but frustrating. I tried it on the phone, but couldn’t get it to the right size to read, I tried it on the laptop, but couldn’t see the Finish button at the bottom. I guess it wasn’t made for these specific devices.
My score was somewhere just below high powered executive, which is nice, but otherwise useless as I’d read the thing twice already by this point. There wasn’t any information about the purpose of the questions, and anyway, I knew all three answers from previous readings of the book. Besides having run through the rest of the information, I realised I’d forgotten the score.
And perhaps most importantly, like most people I read at different speeds according to what I’m reading. If there are questions at the end, I’ll read at a different speed, gather information carefully, and not skim – which it tells you not to do anyway – but I also find my eyes scroll up and down the page sometimes jumping ahead, and sometimes zipping backwards to catch something I missed.
So, a bit of fun, but frustrating for the more competitively minded of us 😀
I have the joy of working with a fabulous English Department. Together we have ensured that pupils have a variety of interesting investigations, are encouraged to read and to continue to gain confidence in finding, selecting and using information. And as often as possible, we make sure that pupils have the chance to follow their own interests. It can be challenging for yours truly, but soooo satisfying when you manage to provide resources for a whole class.
This term is a busy one for 2nd year and we didn’t want to squeeze in even more work for pupils and staff; on the other hand it’s important that Library visits continue, that research and reading continues, so we’ve decided to initiate Challenge X across the whole of S2.
Having already run a pilot last year, we decided to make some changes, for example, each class are coming once a fortnight so personal challenges have to be completed mostly at home between each visit. We also ask pupils to identify and read a book that has some sort of connection to their personal challenge – vague but imaginative connections are perfectly fine :-).
The first visits were all about introducing the idea but now we’re onto the second week and things are getting interesting. Classes are recognising this as a chance to follow their own interests, and natural curiosity is exploding all over the place. Some are taking on ideas from the original blog: learning to introduce themselves in British Sign Language, figuring out how to use Hero Machine, exploring countries, creating posters, leaflets and presentations. But what I love are the quirky ideas, pupils stretching their creative muscles rather than sticking with what us old guys come up with. So many new ideas in fact, that we’re adding to the original.
One pupil was hunting through world records and was tickled by the greatest number of bounces on a space hopper. For her Weird and Wonderful section she wanted to create her own hopper challenge, and she worked on a plan and rules for the event for the remainder of the period. I thought it was a wonderful idea; from the gleam in her eye, she did too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a space hopper handy, but it turned out that the English teacher had one under her desk – my reputation for being able to supply anything is now in tatters.
Different class, and another group of pupils is working on the Food Challenge. One of them told me that she wanted to make a model so we passed ideas back and forth until she told me that her uncle was a butcher and was forever telling her about which bits of which animal was on her plate. She’s now creating a model showing which bits of sheep go into a haggis 🙂 Lovely!
Others have the beginnings of an idea and just need a gentle wee shove to make something more compelling out of it. Two boys joked that they should eat large burgers for their Food Challenge. They were obviously expecting a negative reaction; instead I suggested they analysed the ingredients, and figured out whether it was good or bad for their bodies.
Yup, so long as I don’t have to pay for the burgers.
So one is creating an informative poster on the dietary impact and the other a pseudo-advert using the plain truth from his information.
There are so many benefits to this wee programme: learning how to develop and follow through ideas, practising lateral thinking, identifying and expanding on personal interests and existing knowledge, exploring the Library, experimenting with new software, working together, researching, and creating all kinds of excitement while learning.
And of course, more pupils are reading, and more pupils are being enthusiastic about what they’re reading. So far, so good. We’ll keep working on the rest.
I was recently introduced to the lovely Bookwitch, and spent time today catching up. One post was about moving on from children’s literature to adult literature. And there was my bête noire: John Steinbeck.
At school we read The Red Pony (in 2nd year) and The Pearl (in 3rd year) and I loathed every second with them both. They made no sense to me, they were completely foreign in setting, in tone and in understanding, and I was left with a deep distaste for anything by the vicious swine who so happily poured death, disease and destruction upon his unhappy characters.
As a teenager, I struggled to move on from the childhood books. I disliked, and still dislike, books set in my world, concerning the problems of people like me. I already live in this world, and I already have my own set of problems; instead let me loosen my mind to explore elsewhere with people overcoming issues that I will never (hopefully) have to face. And while there was the beginnings of young adult material, it was all so worthy, and to be honest, completely boring. So I struggled, and also put up with a fair bit of grief because the rest of the class were determined to read the grown up stuff, and I just couldn’t. Not hanging around the right shelves didn’t help in the cool stakes – not that I ever had any desire to be cool (which is just as well really).
However, I did feel a bit lost so one day, I turned to our school librarian for advice – I have nothing to read. You got any suggestions? – and she laughed – oh come on, Jennifer, how can you have nothing to read. That’s ridiculous! – and walked away.
(Incidentally, I have a sneaking suspicion that that’s almost certainly when I became a school librarian, and definitely someone who would never do that to another person).
I remember staring after her feeling totally bereft, and then turning around and seeing the Earthsea trilogy in the shelf. Thank you, Ursula Le Guin, and every other fantasy, science-fiction, steampunk and writer of the unusual I’ve managed to read since.
I certainly never forgot that feeling of being lost as a reader with no idea of where to move on to, and it’s a feeling that many pupils have. Where do you go after Jacqueline Wilson? Michael Morpurgo? Roald Dahl? Jeff Kinney? Dave Pilkey?
Two 2nd year pupils brought this home to me last week: one of them was a pupil who asked for a reading list to expand her literary education, and the other was my daughter whose report card suggested exactly the same thing. Stop what you’re reading, and go read grown up books. Go read classics.
Well, first of all, I don’t think there’s any need to move away from anything. If you like an author, keep reading them!
Secondly, the list I’m creating for school includes a vast variety of authors, and not just ‘the classics’. What keeps people reading are good stories, told in a way that brings the characters alive, bringing them into the very heart of the action. Some classics do that, some don’t.
Thirdly, the date of a book has absolutely no bearing on whether it’s worth reading or not. As a result, it’s a constantly growing list as I discover new things to add to it.
And of course, it’s vital not to forget that every pupil is entitled to books that meet their needs, and that includes those who want to read about exploding star freighters, or Mary Queen of Scots, or dragons, or people living in normal streets doing normal things or all of them at the same time!
Finally, I’m including some books usually aimed at younger children too. Why? Because they deserve to be read. Because variety is vital in keeping people interested. Because moving away from the known to the unknown is a scary business: there’s got to be a leap of faith and that requires trust, so we make sure the leap is only as big as the reader is able to make at any given time.
Besides, you never know when a reader is in need of saving: I want to have all the lifebelts I can lay my hands on at my disposal, ready and waiting for whenever they’re required.
It’s been a busy day, and my notebook is missing. This is not good 😦
Period 1 the library has no classes booked, so I spend some time researching sources for the death of Henry, Stuart, Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary Queen of Scots. We’re planning a cold case for the upper school Scottish Studies class, and we want it to be as realistic as we can. It’s a great story for research because there is no definitive answer, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into, and we can demonstrate that human foibles have existed for a long time. The House of Stuart are their own soap opera, so let’s share it with the masses.
It’s also incredibly complicated, and there isn’t enough time to work through everything, so we’re trying to focus on the main points to create a relatively straight route through the chaos. And for each of those main points we need a source for which we create guide questions. The point is to encourage pupils to judge the reliability of a source, primary or secondary, and use that evidence to synthesise a plausible solution to the murder of Henry Stuart.
My notebook contains pages of links, questions, timeline, mind-map connected with the case and now it’s gone missing.
Period 2, and I’m introducing another second year English class to the delights of Challenge X. Just like yesterday’s troops, they aren’t impressed with it at all to begin with. I’m particularly pleased though that they quickly grasp the point and get stuck in, offering new ways of completing each challenge, and realising the benefits of having a book to go along with it!
As usual, we have the ‘books are good’ discussion and as usual, the arguments that ‘I don’t read’ but there’s no malice in it. There is a willingness to try, and far fewer attempts to get out of it than they did a year ago during the Reading Trail. Whether this is because they know neither I nor the teacher will budge, or because they trust us more, I don’t know, but it’s lovely to see them jump into the catalogue, swm through the records and come out the other end with a book gripped between their teeth – metaphorically.
My notebook contains all the details of who’s working with who, and what challenges they’ve set for themselves, and now it’s gone missing.
Tutor time I spend adding material to blogs and e-mails, and after interval is the Interdisciplinary Learning class. The class gets settled, the teacher and I agree some minor changes to our plan of work, I collect more material, and attempt to download a PDF for the benefit of a couple of numpties looking up the Internet Movie Database instead of Lanarkshire Tourism – five minutes to download a small PDF!
The last class before lunch is first year. Back to the Reading Trail, with me attempting to simultaneously demonstrate mind-mapping and issue books to the class. Managed it – just – but it’s taken almost every ounce of concentration available to me. However, I do notice how many of the brand new books that were added to the shelves last night have already been grabbed for borrowing.
At lunchtime, we’re discussing part-time jobs with some senior students – how to deal with people ordering double cheeseburgers then being upset because they contain cheese – and the teacher I’m expecting 5th period pops in to cancel.
Excellent, I can get more books prepped for the shelves and get the press release written. I just need my notebook, which is right … actually, where’s my notebook?
Seriously, where’s my notebook?????
Now instead of having an afternoon of catching up, I lose an hour tracking down staff from earlier to check that they haven’t accidentally lifted it, hunt through boxes, and drag through my memory of when I saw it last (period 2 to be precise).
I even miss And Now This as I churn through ever more frustrating piles of paper looking for a single very specific collection of spiral-bound papers. Many of the excessive papers do get binned – can’t believe how much junk staff and pupils print and then abandon – but a lot has to go back into other piles as I get ever more desperate.
I remind myself that the sellotape was invisible to me yesterday when it was merely blocked from view by my own elbow, and hope that the notebook will also re-appear by magic tomorrow.
Today I introduced the first of the 2nd year classes to Challenge X, an initiative created by school librarians, including myself, a while back as a grown up version of the summer reading scheme.
Our English department has an incredibly busy term ahead so we’re introducing Challenge X as a little downtime with a little encouraging reading time, with library visits once a fortnight to review challenges completed and change books over.
Reading the faces of 2nd year this morning, they are not impressed. I explain that it’s a way to learn about the local area or beyond as they choose, that it’s a way to practise existing skills or learn new ones, that it will stand them in good stead whenever research is required and that above all else, we want it to be FUN!
Nope, not impressed.
However, I remain confident: the wee pilot session we ran a year ago was very popular, so I stop talking and let them go explore the website.
Except that exploring the website isn’t helping, mainly because they’re not listening to what I’m saying – which of course also suggests I’m not saying it in a way that they’ll listen. There are endless girns of
Do we have to?
Can I not just make something up?
Why do we have to do this?
This isn’t working!
And then suddenly, they stop complaining and start asking proper questions about what they are allowed to do. And then they cheer up, and start getting stuck in, and then the best question of all.
Can we do some of this at home?
Looks like it might work out after all. Most of them saw the book as an additional element rather than being an integral part of the process, but we can work on that.
Another 1st year class came to the LRC for a round of Viking research, and to improve my education in class management.
Make sure the class listen and understand their instructions.
Quick introduction and review of existing knowledge and into the first task: watch the video clip and write down which activities or jobs took place in the Viking settlement of Jarlshof, using evidence from both the images and the voiceover.
Their first three answers:
It’s beside the coast.
They had fresh water.
The archaeologists are digging things up.
So we stopped. I pointed out that they weren’t asked to take notes on everything, just the possible activities in the Viking settlement of Jarlshof, and discussed with them what activities might take place because the village was by the sea. And I also explained what the archaeologists were doing (and when).
The rest of the possible answers pop up, along with a couple that weren’t mentioned – raiders! leader! – and we add in trade too.
OK, let’s try that again, Jen. Make sure the class listen and understand their instructions
Task 2: each person in the group is going to select one activity or job from your list, and find out more about it.
Pupils’ chosen activities:
archaeologist, raider, fisherman, bone comb, farmer, craftsman, writer, woman
Hmm. So we sort out the archaeologists, the raiders (already been vetoed since we’re talking about a peaceful village) and the women (!), and turn the bone comb into another craftworker.
I send the first three tables up to get logged into computers, and share out the books with the others, rescuing a pile of FOUR books from under one arm – one at a time please, let’s share. Everybody settles down to work, including the staff.
OK, now, Jen, are you convinced they all know what they’re doing now?
Well, up at the computers, pupils have found the school website. But now they’re stuck. So I show them where the links are on the page.
Pupil clicks on the first link, looks at the page and turns back to me
But where’s the information?
Because of course, it’s not jumping up and down shouting, “LOOK AT ME!”. Sorry, folks, but you do have to read.
A quick wander round the other webnauts leads me to explain yet again that they should be writing down information about their own activity, not Vikings in general, explain how research works, and persuade them that they can’t write powerpoints before they’ve got information before heading back over to the book jockeys.
Just in time for the usual plaintive cry,
There’s nothing in this book, Miss!
Have you checked the index? The contents page? Flicked through it? OK, so what do you think you should do next?
Change my topic!
I persuade him to check out a different book instead, and demonstrate how to look for the relevant information using indexes, contents pages and send him off with a page or two to peruse before assisting victim 2.
What does this say?
Poppo – says he was a priest.
So, what bit should I copy then?
Sorry, no copying, just write down anything that’s relevant to your Viking activity. What is your activity anyway?
? So why are you writing about a priest?
Oh right, I thought you just had to to write anything down from the book!
Miss, I can’t find anything about farming, it’s all about food!
Miss, I can’t find anything about fishing, but I found out what Viking women wear, so can I just find out about that instead?
Miss, he (points to member of group) won’t do the same as the rest of us, he’s researching games!
And as we expand our minds with lateral thinking, make allowances for personal interests, and reiterate the task outline for the umpteenth time, I ponder with the class teacher why enthusiasm seems to lead to selective deafness and an inability to think outside the box. Maybe I’ll have a cure by the time they’re back on Friday.
And if not, bring back the Vikings!
1st year Social Subjects class were investigating an environmental issue today, specifically the funicular railway on Cairn Gorm. Is it an environmental disaster? Is it an economic blessing? Is it both?
I’ve set up a page on the school website to provide links to national parks, Cairngorms National Park and the funicular itself. The issue is a good one for them, but not simplistic. They are aware of both the need to care for the environment and the need for jobs, so their tendency is to gather data backing up their preferred argument. However, the information includes very few direct statements regarding the benefits or disadvantages of the funicular so most of the evidence requires a bit of lateral thinking, and that’s where the fun begins.
My preference is to ask them to gather as much information as possible and lay it out in two columns (one appearing to be for their argument and one against) demonstrating that the same information can be used to make different arguments. Other staff prefer to tell classes to make their minds up right away and seek out the information that backs up their argument.
Either way, as the pupils get stuck into the material, I wander around gently messing with their heads, challenging their ideas, pointing out evidence to support the opposite of their position and generally being helpful but awkward. Good fun, especially when the pupils start arguing back. It’s modelling the process for them, making the thinking visible, and giving them something to kick against.
Waiting for the bell at the end of the period we asked what they had discovered so far and it turned into an informal debate. They were brilliant. Every child wanted to have a say, and argued their points cogently and when one finished, the next was waiting.
Pupils aren’t always keen to share information, just in case they’re wrong. This was frankly, enchanting.
Independent, Monday 30 December 2013
Recent research suggests reading an exciting plot sparks neurons associated with physical activity so that your brain believes you’re actually taking part as you read.
It suggests what readers have known for a while: that good writing puts you into the heart of the action, as if you’re actually there. How many times have you read a book and ended up out of breath? Crying? Laughing? Angry?
It’s only a small study, but it suggests all sorts of follow-ups:
- does this happen with other forms of storytelling or just books?
- are books are more powerful than films because they have a direct link to our brains, without an intermediary?
- can people physically experience activities in their minds even if they’ve never experienced this activity before in real life?
- how will storytelling forms evolve in reaction to this continuing research?
- and most importantly, can we encourage young people to read more with this information in mind?
Last day of term, and the library isn’t exactly tidy. Not as bad as that bit in The Mummy though (looks a whole lot of fun – wonder how often they had to film it?)
I learned a long time ago not to think about work during the holidays, but there’s so much to look forward to next term. As usual, we have the S1 Reading Trail, investigations on nutrition, slavery, rainforests, medieval Scotland, the Cairngorms, the Kennedy assassination as well as more classes undertaking the Vikings and Scotland History/Mystery. Burns Week will run at the end of January, and 4th years will be needing access for a variety of Added Value Units.
Plus, we’re writing a new whodunnit investigation on Mary, Queen of Scots for Scottish Studies, launching Challenge X with S2 English, and piloting a new idea to promote reading with 3rd year 🙂
I was asked today if I don’t get bored being a Librarian. When would I get the chance? 😉
We’re not completely useless without our computer suite, but we did have to make alternative plans.
Our Viking research has followed the same basic outline for the last few years:
- show video clip and ask pupils to identify as many activities as they can taking place in Jarlshof Viking village;
- pupils work in a group, choosing one activity apiece to research;
- two periods of research, using books and web;
- pupils finally create a powerpoint as if they were Viking settlers welcoming visitors to Jarlshof, explaining what the villagers are up to (complete with Viking names).
Each person submits just one page to the finished product, so there’s also a requirement for pupils to select their best information.
Rather than cause an argument about who had already used which resources, we decided to show video clips (mainly BBC class clips and Horrible Histories) and used the opportunity to talk to the class about making notes. Too many people assume that making notes is an instinctual ability, whereas in reality it can take years for an individual to find methods that they’re comfortable with (and I know it’s not just me).
On this particular occasion, we discussed:
- how they took notes already;
- the fact that they wouldn’t be able to write everything down;
- the fact that they shouldn’t indiscriminately write everything down anyway;
- what to listen out for: keywords, synonyms;
- what to look out for: visual information equally important to audible or written information;
- how to note the information: abbreviations, ignoring words, using symbols, emphasis;
- how important it was to write down where the information came from!
Having searched and found numerous clips, I was rather dismayed that half of them weren’t appearing in our list, until I realised that I’d fallen into the common trap of creating a search for “Vikings” rather than “Viking”; using the plural ensured half my resources would be ignored.
Honestly, call myself an information professional?!
Watching the clips was good fun. The pupils were involved, concentrating, entertained, interested, participating and learning. There were plenty of questions (allowing me to show off my Viking knowledge – always a pleasure 🙂 ) and even some singing along, literally …
Since every pupil had gathered a barrel-load of information, I suggested a final detour for a game of hnefatafl. It went down a storm, with kids yelling, ‘No, not that one, THAT ONE!’, demanding information about the game and giving us a final opportunity to get them using their imaginations:
Close your eyes, folks. Imagine you can smell smoke, and dirt, and you’re surrounded by your pals, it’s warm, it’s dark, and everyone’s yelling, telling you what to do. Because you guys are acting like Vikings right now!
A bit of fun, a bit of singing, a bit of learning, a lot of laughing. Not a bad lesson, even if I say so myself.
Another fantastic author visit, but with a difference, because while Kirkland Ciccone supposedly came along to promote his book, Conjuring the Infinite, he actually spent his time promoting libraries and librarians and reading and the myriad paths that stories take you on.
The 3rd years making up the audience are old hands at author visits; this is their fourth author this year, so they’re waiting patiently to see what this one tries to grab their imaginations 😛
And he what he did was describe a life very similar and yet so different to theirs; a life growing up in Cumbernauld a town where the library was the only lovely thing available (his words); a town where people played as youthful detectives with dodgy gang names; where Betty the Machete made sure he wasn’t bullied at school, despite the Kurt Cobain lunchbox.
And as he went on, he brought his reading material with him, explaining their power on his existence at a given time, leading him up to the present day and writing his own book.
The 3rd years are nice kids, but they’re at that stage when being amused is not that cool, yet they were giggling after the first five minutes, with regular glances at the staff to check that this was genuinely a genuine author, and not just some random guy – cos, like, he’s so normal (and just a wee bit mental).
And then they ran to fetch their English jotters to add another author’s name scrawled across it – so I assume they believed us that Kirkland is, like, for real, a published author, honest.
I particularly recommend Kirkland’s version of When Book Titles Go Bad, a collection that hopefully bears no reality to his previous existence as a library assistant!
We had to make sure this was a short visit so the class could get their buses at the end of the day, but so much was packed in, it felt like a lazy double period blethering with friends.
Many thanks to Kirkland the normal, Kirkland the mental, and Kirkland the all-round-nice-guy who managed to squish us in at really short notice, not forgetting the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature Funding for making possible another fantastic author event for our pupils.
There’s a 3rd year class studying conditions in the textile mills during the Industrial Revolution. They’re looking into working hours, food, pollution, punishments, accidents, workhouse children, scavengers and the kinds of work done, as well as how Robert Owen’s mills were run different to the norm. We’re asking them to identify primary and secondary sources as they go along so there’s a fair bit of archaic language about.
Seems straightforward but you never know what will come up. For example, one pupil suddenly bursts into hysterics. As we try to calm him down, he bursts out,
But, Miss, it says here that children were beaten with thongs!
So while the hysteria spreads round the class, the teacher and I try to calm things and she explains that it’s just an old-fashioned word.
It’s not what you’re thinking, says the teacher, who’s trying hard not to use any words that will cause further mayhem . It’s made of leather.
And as anarchy reaches new levels, we decide that wasn’t perhaps the best place to start.
Eventually, I manage to make the meaning clear, but it sure makes them focus as they search for new and interesting uses of the English language.