Refreshing Library Services

I spent some time this morning catching up on my professional reading, and I am mulling over two posts in particular.

8 ways to rescue public school libraries from becoming obsolete

This article discusses environment, services, programs, resources and outreach as methods for engaging young people and remaining relevant.
Library of the future: 8 technologies we would love to see
By contrast this article is about imagining possibilities – digital interfaces that work on your printed page, drone book delivery, geolocation on your library card that takes you to the book you want… and an augmented reality app that guides you through the library.

Old books
With our JS library having a makeover at the end of this year, the idea of reinvention is uppermost in my mind. What kinds of spaces should we have? Should we be changing how we shelve, display and promote resources? Is it time to introduce a makerspace program?

At the same time as looking forwards, I am looking back: scanning the shelves, looking at the state of our non-fiction collection, it is time for a serious re-evaluation of our physical resources in terms of relevance to the curriculum, readability for the students most likely to need them, currency of materials on topics like digital technologies, political issues and modern day heroes. Where do I need to cut back? Where do I need to increase physical resources? Where do I need to develop more comprehensive pathfinders for digital resources?

This is a somewhat daunting prospect for a drizzly Monday morning, but once I plot out a plan of attack, I will feel more confident.


Coming back into the fold

I wanted some ideas this week about effective, valuable ways to use ipads in K-2 classes, because I am part of the team working on how we will be making good use of these devices when they arrive in classes later this year. For me it always boils down to the practicalities of how something will work in the classroom – I read a lot of philosophical and erudite discussion of enhancing pedagogy and moving through the stages of the SAMR model of technology adoption and integration etc, etc, etc, but when it comes down to helping teachers on the ground, I want to hear what is working for other people in similar situations.

Enter the PLN. I hopped on Twitter on Tuesday night (I am only a sporadic, purpose-driven user) and put the question out there, pinged a few people with direct tweets, and then spent the next little while marvelling at the wonderful suggestions I received.

Since then I’ve added 3 more apps, 2 more people, 2 more blogs, and several articles – oh and a very kind email list of schools to check out!

This is proving to me yet again that social media can connect us to people with the knowledge we need, if you build those networks purposefully. I found that my Twitter network grows most rapidly, and more richly, when I actively seek out people who tweet insights during conference streams. I want to connect with people who have lively, curious minds, who seek out new ideas and information and are so thrilled with what they find that they just want to share their excitement! I want to read about brave new projects, and about what goes wrong, and how they tried to fix it. Fortunately for me, I have just enough people in my PLN now that I can ask a few questions and get some helpful answers back in a reasonable timeframe, and with far less effort than trawling through endless search results in the-major-search-engine-of-your-choice. I guess it comes back to that sense of knowledge being curated information; a search engine can return data, but for a query about how to use ipads effectively in an early childhood setting, the personal responses from experienced educators are exponentially more valuable.

And speaking of gems found in the Twitter feed, just this evening I followed a tweet from @SJBetteridge to discover (on Free Tech 4 Teachers, a fabulous blog!) this lovely little homage to Libraries and Librarians in the Internet Age, by Common Craft:


And to get back to the point about PLNs and Twitter being awesome, this week a retweeted link led me to a post on Langwitches by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano about Unpacking a Twitter Conference Feed – this is amazingly helpful for anyone who is new to the whole thing!

Finger Puppets and more

This term the Prep teachers and I wanted to really focus on visual literacy skills and hands-on activities to get the Prep students actively looking for meaning within the illustrations of the books we read. Visual literacy skills are so important in this world of screen media and magazine advertorials, and picture book storytime is a fantastic opportunity to explore and develop these understandings with children.

Last week we used the two ebooks hosted on the Little Big Book Club site to explore stories on the iwb. The book Cat by Mike Dumbleton and Craig Smith was particularly good for this activity – the endpapers of the book present a birds-eye view of three suburban backyards, typical of any older town in Australia. Asking the children to name the things they could see gave them a list of the characters and objects they could expect to find in the story: a cat, a dog, grass, fences, a ladder, trees, a bird, people, a hose. This was particularly important for our students as Hong Kong is a city of medium to high-rise concrete apartment blocks, where even balconies are highly unusual, so items such as the sprinkler on the end of the hose, or the Hills Hoist clothesline, would be strange to many of our students.

Reading the story together there were many opportunities for the children to interpret the pictures, especially since the text in this book is both minimal and very repetitive! We invited the children to explain what had happened every time the cat or another character said “Thank goodness for that!” – for instance they needed to put into words that the cat ran up the tree to escape from the dog.

We did not provide a paper-based activity with Cat, but instead relied on having the children read the text as a chorus, and discuss the meaning of the illustrations. Also, this being an ebook, there was the added bonus of built-in sound-effects – by hovering the cursor over parts of most pictures we discovered that we could play the sounds of the different animals and events in the story, prompting lots of barking and meowing noises from the children!


Now lets talk about finger puppets!

This week we read a different book, coincidentally about another cat: Mr Muggs the Library Cat, by Dave Gunson. This book lent itself to discussing perspective, particularly the second double-page spread where the viewer is floating high up in the rafters, looking down into the Library. The rats sitting on the rafters look very big and the people down below look small, so this prompted the children to comment on their size and use explanations such as ‘things that are close look big, and things that are far away look small’.

On another page the story talks about the cat wanting to stay in the nice warm Library, but our view is of the street outside, where it is dark, raining and windy – the children have to interpret the angle of the rain across the page, and the way that people are clutching coats and umbrellas to understand that it is cold and windy, giving us the reason why it is a good idea to stay inside where it is warmer.

When we finished reading this story I handed out small pieces of paper and asked the children to draw Mr Muggs on one piece, and Pablo his rat friend on the other so that everyone could make finger puppets. Next week the children will be able to retell a bit of the story, or make up a new conversation between Mr Muggs and Pablo, using their finger puppets. I think that this simplest of activities is going to prove highly engaging for all of our students – this is important as for many of them English is their second language, so giving them opportunities to re-enact parts of the story is a way to enrich their vocabulary and develop their confidence.

Other plans this term include:

  • making predictions about what will happen next, and splitting the story over two weeks to keep the suspense level high;
  • comparing two wildly different characters, such as in the book Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley
  • creating a visual Character Map, where the children add words and pictures around a drawing of the main character to show what that person likes, dislikes, does, looks like etc.

We don’t have any particular genre or theme planned, just wonderful books that lend themselves to these activities.

It promises to be a fun term with Prep Library, full of creativity and rich thinking!

All images sourced from the publishers’ websites wherever possible, or from a bookseller. These images are copyrighted by the original illustrators, and are used under the Educational Fair Dealing clause of the Copyright Act 1968 – used for the purpose of education and review. As an Australian teacher working in an Australian school I abide by the Australian laws regarding copyright.

One Week In…


View of Hong Kong: "Vibrant" by Gabbian, CC licensed (click to view original)

We have now been in Hong Kong for 18 days, and Friday marked the end of my first week of teaching at AISHK. I have now met almost all of the classes from Prep to Year 6 (there were a few interruptions for various things), and truly and honestly it was lovely! The majority of the children are happy, friendly, reasonably polite, quite a few are precocious in their conversation, and seemed quite interested in ‘The New Library Teacher’! I have to give a huge vote of thanks to the outgoing Teacher Librarian (I haven’t asked her permission to name her, but believe me she deserves the recognition!). She has left behind a school of children who have been immersed in advanced research skills, exposed to referencing and inquiry skills at every year level, who see Library lessons as something to look forward to, and has left me with a very high standard to meet!

Walking around the school on the preceding Thursday and Friday I detected a certain level of anticipation and foreknowledge in  the cries of “Hello Mrs Reid!” and “Hello New Library Teacher” from students of various heights. This led me to implement a Plan for my first lesson with every class – I did not introduce myself.

The Plan: Step One

The students obviously all knew who I was, and the class teacher (they stay with their class for Library) would often tell the students to greet me, so self-introductions seemed a bit superfluous. Instead, I asked the classes to tell me what they already knew about me – this was usually an entertaining 5 minutes 🙂 Generally we covered:

  • where I had come from
  • the major climate differences between Hobart and Hong Kong
  • my previous school
  • the fact that I’ve been reading boys books for 3 1/2 years due to previous school
  • my 3 children
  • my 2 dogs

with occasional diversions into my previous life as a Japanese & French teacher, or my award last year (kind of embarrassing hearing about that multiple times during the week!).

The Plan: Step Two

Next I told the children that as I was so new to Hong Kong there are lots of things I need to know, which they could teach me. I asked the children to Think-Pair-Share to come up with things they thought were important, and gave them about 20-30 seconds. I’m really pleased with this activity – the children got to share with me their local knowledge, it was a very inclusive way to start our teacher/class relationships, and I learned a great deal in a very short time! Also it didn’t get boring because as the week went on I warned each class that I had had X number of classes giving me information before their turn, so they had to be creative! Things I learned:

  • the name of just about every major shopping mall in the Hong Kong metropolitan area.
  • the ice rinks and cinemas therein
  • that we have to try Dim Sum (which Australians refer to as Yum Cha) – they were saddened to discover that we already had, somewhat by accident, when looking for lunch that was not too expensive and not in a Food Court
  • go to Shenzen, but don’t shop on the main tourist drag
  • all the local markets – we are only a few blocks from Temple Street, which has already yielded good results!
  • where to go at Stanley markets to find the Aussie lolly shop (Whizz Fizz!)
  • Megabox
  • the nightly light show
  • the Peak, and the walks, trams, restaurants, and vantage point it provides
  • which are the good beaches
  • that I need access to a boat to get to the good beaches
  • that barring a close friendship with someone wealthier than your average teacher, I should sign up to the staff junk trip – which is equivalent to a harbour cruise, I gather – in order to visit or even see any of these beaches
  • Groupon – email discount coupons for everything under the sun
  • the second-hand book market
  • that frozen yoghurt is fabulous
  • that Milk Tea is kind of like ice coffee – very milky, very sweet, and something I will approach with caution
  • that I should try the dai pai dong eateries for great food
  • and lots of other snippets, such as if you are being pushed by other people in the crowd – on the MTR (subway), street or anywhere else, you have to just shove back

    Atlas, it's time for your bath

    Grabbing the world! Image by woodleywonderworks (click to view original)

As I said above, I’m really glad I took this approach – it let me start by showing respect for the experience and knowledge that children bring with them to my classroom, and it gave me a fabulous list of things to do and see around Hong Kong!

This coming week will see me diving into a lot of reading promotion activities, while I get a handle on the students, on how the Library program can complement classroom work, and how things work generally at this new school. I’m having fun designing a Reading Passport for Year 3 – looking at a Blooms X Multiple Intelligences framework to inspire different and creative ways to respond to books in a format that will fit within a folded A4 page.

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