In defense of messiness

Children are messy. Their work is messy. Their handwriting is messy. Their thinking is messy.

But their enthusiasm, their joyfulness, their energy is wonderful, and so I am ok with a little messiness if it is produced in a rush of eager creativity.

For instance, I have been reading Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa to one of my Y3 classes, and we finished it this morning. It is utterly charming, and worlds away from anything else we have read recently – the simple language and imaginative story remind me a bit of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, while being totally different in setting and characters!

Anyway, we finished reading it this morning, and everyone enjoyed it, so when I discovered that my other planned activity wouldn’t work I threw in something else I’d been thinking about – writing letters like Giraffe and Penguin! I wrote an example on the board, and invited everyone to write a simple letter, using their own name and giving a clue as to what animal (currently proven to be living on the Earth, so no dinosaurs, Bigfoot or dragons) they were. Letters were hastily written, folded up in a variety of ways, then randomly distributed around the room, to be opened upon the count of three. The most fun part happened next, as students read out the clues and made their guesses, some perfectly accurate and others hilariously off the mark. We ran out of time to read out every single letter, but the boys had so much fun, and so loved the little puzzle and the connection to the book, that I have to say it was one of the best things I’ve done with them this year.

Renovation is not the be-all

I have just read an interesting blog post by Laura Fleming which argues that if the library isn’t being used, just changing the space won’t make a difference. She says you should bring about a revolution in the culture of the library before trying to renovate. Laura is very emphatic on the importance of student input when considering changing space organisation, furnishings, technology and of course choosing resources. It is refreshing to see something which does not rely upon spending $$$ on the latest new furniture in the hopes that the ‘shiny’ will be attractive enough to bring in more users.

Key takeaways:

  • repurpose your existing fittings, furnishings and equipment
  • get student input
  • let students choose books
  • meet student needs

Things which might be a hard sell in my school? Food in the library, or games in the senior library. I believe that the school executive would like to improve the academic tone of the senior school, including in the library (statements at the start of the year about the library as a quiet study space), so I might not get a lot of support for radically changing that.

Spatial difficulties: we have an echo-y glass box for our SS library, which makes things like private study spaces difficult. What I would love to do is have diner-style bench + table seating along at least part of one wall which would give students places to work together but keep the noise of conversations down to a manageable level. Some more variety in the rest of the seating would also be welcome. An idea I heard from another TL recently is to apply an adhesive whiteboard surface to the top of existing tables – quick and relatively cheap way to provide write-on tables. (quick look puts a piece large enough to cover a 4-person table at about $90; new whiteboard desks start at $250+)


Food for thought…


Defining literacies

This statement from the US National Council of Teachers of English is interesting:

“Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to

    • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
    • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
    • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
    • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
    • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
    • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.”

Not much there is “traditional” literacy, but all are so important now!


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