Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - The Beginning

Last year, I attended a SLANZA conference workshop by Cathy Kennedy about how she approaches Book Week at her school.  I was inspired by a number of her ideas, in particular choosing a theme and keeping activities manageable for teachers, so you're not adding too much to their workload.

I decided our theme should be "Spies and Detectives", which would then allow me to promote mystery books.  I didn't want to encroach on too much teaching time, so I thought about using our 'eating for learning' time, the ten minutes that the students spend eating their morning tea and lunch.  Perhaps I could have a series of little activities for the teachers to do.

Then I delved into learning about spies.  They are so cool!  In particular, I liked learning about various ways of encoding secret messages.

When it came time to choose an author to visit during Book Week, my first choice was Peter Millett, author of the popular Johnny Danger books.  Unfortunately, he's in Auckland and we're in Hamilton and we couldn't make it work.  In a decision he might come to regret, Peter said he liked our theme and offered to Skype in or to record a video answering questions from students.

At the same time, I had decided that we could have a spy school and teach various spy skills as well as promoting our spy and mystery stories.  But it would be more fun if there was a practical application for them - how about some secret messages for students to decode?  Of course that led to an idea to have a news item about treasure that's been stolen from the elves who live in the Reading Wonderland.  Our lovely artist, Jenna, agreed to come in the weekend beforehand and add some little elves to our mural.

I decided the only clue located at the scene of the crime could have different coded messages on it.  Then we could have some students introduce some short videos about codes that I could find on YouTube and show a different clip at each eating for learning time.  Only there weren't any videos that were the right length and handled the way I wanted, and isn't it better to have one code lead to another clue in a treasure hunt kind of way?  And then, what about other spy skills, shouldn't we teach them?  Oh, and we can't have a student teach about the codes anyway because then they might be able to decode them ahead of time...  And that, dear friends, is how you go from a simple idea to scripting, filming and editing two news reports and six spy training videos, with additional footage about codes provided by your principal dressed as 007!  Not to mention having the temerity to ask an author if he wouldn't mind filming a couple of short videos pretending to be head of the J.S.A - the Junior Spy Agency.  Although if you've read the Johnny Danger books its pretty apparent Peter has a good sense of humour!

So, that's what has been keeping me busy lately.  I have filmed all my spy training videos and just need to avoid having the police called in after sunset as my son dresses as a robber and uses a torch while breaking into the Reading Wonderland and taking off with the elves' treasure.  I think it may be a good idea to let my principal know what's going on ahead of time!  I think my filming experiences could fill another post, so watch out for that soon.

Book Week starts on 15 August and before then I still need to do all my editing and work on some activities for our younger students.  Once I've recovered from the event I'll do another post, update you on how it went and link to all my resources in case you want to do something similar.  That's all for now, remember, this information is extremely TOP SECRET!