Sunday, 29 March 2015

Library Skills Session - Year 5-6's

In my first library skills session with our Year 5-6's I started by talking about Sophisticated Picture Books.  This is a section of the library that doesn't get as much use as I'd like so I took the opportunity to promote it, pointing out the scary books, the funny ones and the ones with messages and themes aimed at older children.

For the rest of the session I chose to focus on book selection.  I wanted to make sure everyone had a range of techniques to help them find good books to read.  I began by showing the students three books that I confessed I had hated reading.  I explained that if all I ever read was those books then I would think reading sucked - that is why choosing books that interest them is really important.

I used the library lessons that came with this book (as a separate supplement):

The lessons talk about book selection by using the acronym "A just right book".  Working through each of the letters gave us plenty of opportunity to discuss different ways to find a good book to read.  I made the mistake with the first class in working through all the letters by myself and telling the class what they meant.  Although we discussed some of the letters together, at the end of the session I felt like I had done most of the talking and wasn't completely happy with how it went.  For the rest of the classes I had them guess what most of the letters meant, and that got them talking more.  

Here are some of the things we discussed:
  • Favourite authors.  I mentioned Roald Dahl, who they are all familiar with, and then they shared some of their favourites.  Some weren't sure of the authors' names so I got a lot of responses like 'the guy who writes the Captain Underpants books', which I then translated into the actual author.
  • That authors of chapter books aren't usually the people who illustrate the covers of their books.  Therefore it is not their fault if the cover of their book is boring, and we shouldn't 'judge a book by its cover'.  I used the example of our library's copy of 'Gregor the Overlander' by Suzanne Collins.  I love this book, with it's underground world of giant rats, spiders and cockroaches.  Inexplicably the edition we have has a picture of a building on the cover.  A building!  The students were impressed that the author had written 'The Hunger Games', even though we don't have a copy in our library due to its violence.
  • The five finger rule for working out if a book is too hard.
  • Barrington Stoke, the publisher who prints books on off-white paper and with a font that is easier to read.  I deliberately didn't mention dyslexia, although these books are particularly good for children who have it.  Instead I talked about some students finding it harder to read books with white paper, and that for some the words might seem to jump around a bit.  In one class in particular I had a lot of students nodding in agreement with this.
  • I read the blurb from the back of 'Artemis Fowl' by Eoin Colfer and then talked about whether they would be interested in reading about a fairy with weapons.  I also read the first few paragraphs of 'The Golden Door' by Emily Rodda and asked if they would like to read about winged creatures with pointy teeth who like to eat humans.
After we had gone through all the acronyms I announced that I was setting them a genre challenge.  I explained that sometimes we can get stuck reading one particular genre and that it can be a good idea to explore them all.  I said that some people who like reading adventure might also find that the fantasy section has good adventures in it, and that the historical fiction section has some good war adventures in it.  So my challenge, which I had cleared with the team leaders beforehand, was for the students to read one book from each of our genres (ten) plus a graphic novel and a sophisticated picture book.  This would carry on through to the end of Term 2, or later if they were still going and wanted to finish it off.  

I have a special sign that will go up with the names of the students who complete the challenge, and I will also have that online.  There are some little prizes of posters and stickers and they can get their name in the draw each time they finish one of the books.  That way I thought even those students that wouldn't be able to complete the challenge still have the opportunity to win a prize.  I had one student ask 'what is the monetary value of the prize box?'.  I was not expecting that question!  But I freely told him that it was worth nothing, (the prizes weren't supposed to be the main motivation, I was hoping they would be intrinsicly motivated).  One of the teachers offered her students an ice cream sundae if they completed the challenge (I'm not sure what will happen when the students from the other seven classes hear about that!).

I'm happy with how the sessions went.  The students were keen to discuss the book selection techniques and talk about different books and authors, and the genre challenge has already been completed by a couple of our prolific readers.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Library Skills Session - Year 3-4's

This week I taught library skills to some of our Year 3-4 classes.  I had many things I wanted to cover but when I tried to fit them all in it was very rushed.  Here is what I ended up doing:
  • Introduced myself and talked about Esther, our library assistant
  • Pointed out our request book and explained that I want to buy books for our library that students like, and if they have a book they like that isn't in the library they can request it
  • Cleared up the misconception that our books are on loan for one week.  Our classes come every week so most of the students thought that that's how long they could have a book for.  Given some are moving on to longer books I wanted them to know that they could have them for two weeks.  We also talked about being able to renew books if they are still reading them after two weeks.
  • Asked 'How do we decide what letters to put on the spine of fiction books?"
  • Discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction
  • Explained that we would be having a quiz and the winning team would be able to get one extra book out on their next class library visit.  I was about to share the information they needed for the quiz so they needed to pay attention.
  • Talked about our Fiction section and how students would be moving from our Quick Picks (early chapter books) to that section when they were ready.  Explained that our fiction section is arranged by genre, and used books from our Quick Picks section to describe what each genre was.
  • Got the teacher to put their students into five groups and then ran my quiz.  I picked a book from each of the different genres, summarised the key details and asked them to guess what genre it came from (while keeping my hand covering the genre sticker!).  They had time for a quick chat to reach a consensus and then I counted "3,2,1" and they had to hold up the correct answer from a set of laminated answer cards I had given them.
  • A couple of classes needed tie breakers - I asked them to guess how many books were in the library.

The quiz created a real buzz amongst the students.  They were all really engaged with it and got excited when they got questions right.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to work out an interesting way to teach the concepts.  I have a book which has a lot of library skills worksheets in it, but personally I don't find that at all appealing.  I remember seeing something once, along the lines of "would you like to be attending a class you teach?".  I try to keep that in mind because if I've only got 30 minutes with a class I think the way I teach is as important as what I teach.  I want students to have positive feelings about the library after having spent some time with me.

I think that as an introduction to the genres the quiz worked really well.  I covered a lot of information and the students didn't suddenly become experts, but it got them, and their teachers, thinking more about genre and that is something I'm happy with.  I wonder if I introduced this too early though.  The Year 4's were ready but perhaps next year I will do this later in the year when more of the Year 3's would be more likely to be considering moving from our Quick Picks to our Fiction section.

Other things I noted:
  • Our students at this age were still unsure about the fiction spine labels being the first three letters of the author's surname and many still got fiction and non-fiction mixed up.
  • Most classes got excited about getting an extra book out as a prize.  Yay for books! 
  • Showing the students Quick Pick books and talking about what genre they were in was a good way to show students what Fiction section they might like to try based on what Quick Pick books they were reading.  For example, I explained that the "Boy vs Beast" series is from the Fantasy genre and that when they were ready to read from the Fiction area they could try that genre.
  • It was really important to pick books from each genre that weren't ambiguous.  Initially I choose a book about the America's Cup from the historical fiction section and some choose sport as the genre (I gave them points for that and we talked about how some books could fit in more than one genre).
  • I had to emphasise that it was one answer per group and they needed to decide together what their answer would be.  In a few cases I would get a couple of answers being held up for the same group.
  • Some of the teachers were really interested in watching the group dynamics.  A strong personality could sometimes override the rest of the group's thoughts.
  • I found it interesting to see the differences in feel of the classes, some were definitely quieter, others particularly boisterous.  I wonder how much the teacher influences this, or whether it is just the personalities of the kids in that class?