Sunday, 22 July 2018

Fun with Library Llamas

Our book club's Youtube channel, the Library Llamas, has been up and running for over four months.  Earlier this year, I blogged about getting started.  We now have 40 subscribers, 18 videos (with two more coming as soon as I finish editing them), and over 1,000 views.  It has been a big learning curve, but a fun one.  

One Club becomes Two

It became clear that if students didn't want to appear on camera then they didn't get as much out of the club.  I had already planned to start a Year 5 book club after I got through Book Week in Term 2, and I decided to allow those Year 6 students who weren't connecting with the Library Llamas to join as well.  The new club, the Pink Fluffy Unicorns (yes, the boys voted for that!), is run using the key ring challenge format that was so successful last year.  I now have around 14 students in the Library Llamas (more manageable) and 40 in the Pink Fluffy Unicorns (!).

One thing that I'm proud about is that both my book clubs have students in them that are dyslexic and/or struggling readers.  They're often brought along by their more bookish friends, but they stay because they're comfortable in the club and are able to read and discuss books at the level that is right for them.


Initially, the kids all wanted to set up their own themed 'channel' within our channel.  So far though, I've not had any of them do a second video on the same theme!  Lately, I've been encouraging students to make videos that tie in with two areas:

  • Llama drama - scenes based on books
  • Llama listens - a short book review with our llama puppet (which they get to name).
We also have 'Book Buzz', which is the interviews we've done with visiting authors and illustrators.  I've enjoyed these interviews and the kids have done really well with them.  The feedback we've had from our guests has been positive too, with one saying that they felt so special when asked to be interviewed.

The other playlist we have is 'Double Trouble', which has more in-depth book reviews, done by two student librarians (not necessarily Library Llama members) wanting to earn their gold certificates.  I do give student librarians the option of getting their gold certificate by doing written book reviews, I am careful not to require on-camera appearances as that can disadvantage shy students.

Llama Drama!

One of our Year 2 classes really enjoyed this video:  

Apparently, several of the students went around afterwards yelling "Roar!, roar!, roar!" all around the playground!  They also tried it in the Reading Wonderland, where the video was shot, but were told off by Esther (our library assistant who unfortunately hadn't seen the video!).

Lessons from Filming

  • One of the biggest technical problems we have is that we often film at morning tea, and it is very noisy outside.  I also think we could improve with better camera techniques, so I have contacted our local tertiary institution and am in the process of setting up a visit from a person from their Moving Image team.  I think the kids will enjoy getting ideas to make their videos better, I know I will.
  • So far, I have turned down one video after we filmed it.  It is a fine line, I don't want to crush creative ideas, but at the same time there does need to be a certain standard for our videos.  Fortunately, the boys took it well and have gone on to make other, better, videos.
  • I accidentally filmed one video where the boys were wearing their name badges!  I'm trying to work out if I can blur these somehow or if we will need to reshoot.  I do specify that due to privacy reasons all students must remove their name badges, but I'm often busy filming and organising and I obviously forgot to remind them this time.

Author Feedback

One thing that has been a thrill for the students is when they've received feedback from the authors of the books they have reviewed.  Here are a couple:

The students are still full of energy, ideas and enthusiasm and I'm looking forward to seeing what we come up with for the rest of the year!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Displaying your Reading History

Last year, I started displaying the covers of the books I was currently reading.  Here's what I was reading last week:

This display has generated a bit of interest.  Recently, I've had students ask me why it's taking me so long to read "The Heroes of Olympus" series!  (In my defence, I've been listening to the audiobook versions only while exercising and doing chores and I obviously don't do enough of either of these things!).  

Fortunately, once I'd finished reading a book and had removed the cover from this display, I kept it.  I thought I might have a use for it someday.

A few months ago, I saw a post from librarian Zac McCallum, on the NZ school library listserv.  Zac has a wall filled with ALL the books he has read so far this year.  It looks colourful and interesting, and given I had most of my covers in a pile already, it was easy for me to implement.  I put them on my door:

I had no idea how much interest this would generate.  Far more than my "currently reading" display.  It is a great way to show students, and teachers, the amount and variety of children's books I read.  Many have asked about particular books, and have gone on to read them themselves.  I make sure that I only include books that are in our library (well, except for "Illegal" by Eoin Colfer, I put that up but I'm still deciding whether I think it is suitable for a Year 1-6 primary.  If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you think).  I do read a lot of children's books from our public library, but if they're not good enough for me to buy for our school library I don't put them on my door.  I also don't include picture books (too many!) or the YA and adult books I read.

This display has given me some unexpected benefits:
  • When asked to recommend a book, I have a quick way to remember all the good books that I've read so far this year.  
  • I can point out a cover as I talk about a book so a student can see what it looks like.
  • I'm finding filling up the door surprisingly motivational!  It is quite satisfying to move a cover from the "currently reading" display onto the door.  And it is pleasing to see the space on the door filling up!

I am really pleased with how successful this display has been and would highly recommend doing it.

At the end of the year, I'm going to take a photo of the door (and possibly the adjoining windows if I fill the door up) before removing all the covers.  

I'm also thinking that I should promote this idea to the teachers in our Teachers' Reading Group when we meet again early next term.  Earlier this year, I encouraged them to display the covers of the books they have read aloud, and some of them have been doing that.  Displaying the books they have read themselves would take it one step further (and perhaps encourage them to read more children's books).