Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Handy weekly planner for students

While the PocketMod, as previously mentioned on this blog, is a handy-dandy, cute as a button one-week planner for students, the site's availability seems to vary.

Plan B is this less cute, but just as effective planner from Victoria: http://www.vcehelp.com.au/resources/vcehelpstudyplanner.pdf

So if you have a mentor group, or year group, or kids needing study/organisational help, this might be just what you're looking for.  More than a grid, but less (alas!) than the folding and cutting fun and cuteness factor of the PocketMod.  (Confession: I ended up making a version of the PocketMod using Publisher, just to share with my kids here.  But the VCE planner is a good one too).



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

John Marsden writes about the film of Tomorrow When the War Began

I cut out the copy of this article from the Saturday SMH Spectrum section and pinned it up in the library for the students to peruse.  It's online here, with video too (and the picture above).  John Marsden on the film of Tomorrow When the War Began.  Much anticipated film.

It opens 2 September, next week.  I've blogged in other entries about the trailers etc.

Last week, one of the kids was THRILLED to find that there were books for this film.   Can't remember if I could find the first one for him; we have multiple copies, but there has been increasingly brisk John Marsden business in the last couple of months as the film gets closer.

The Blue Mountains west of Sydney NSW were used for some of the location filming - it will be fun to see if the kids pinpoint any particular places they know.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Historical Facebook: and more links that you thought possible.

The wonderful SLAV blog, Bright Ideas, has a brilliant entry today about how to use the format of Facebook (not the site itself) for a biography task; and links to a freely-available template.

Find it here.

Another blog that is a constant cornucopia of wonderful links is Anne Weaver's Reading Power.  Just toddle over there regularly and you'll find roundup after roundup of links, ideas, inspiration.  She's the blog I've featured on our school's (internal) staff blog this week.

Find Reading Power here.

Will Richardson (Weblogg-ed) offers in his most recent blog entry some thought-provoking and challenging ideas about Unlearning Teaching.  Worth reading and thinking about, and talking about with colleagues.

These blogs are in my blogroll (over in the right hand column).  Don't forget to check this regularly, as it shows the most recent entry for each blog - always something good to be found there.

Tagxedo (tag clouds With Style) was one of the Web 2.0 tools I mentioned at the WeSSSTA conference presentation I gave last night.  I've been amused to see the Sydney Morning Herald use Tagxedo to create graphics related to the election - eg. the party leaders' launch speeches.



Friday, August 13, 2010

Parent-Teacher Night: reflections, and 10 questions for your child's teacher

We've just had a parent-teacher night here.  I make a point of attending, as a member of the teaching staff.  I may not, in advance, have many (or any) appointments with parents - kids tend to make them with their class teachers.  But I'm not lonely.  A number of parents stop by to say hello - I was year adviser to one of their older children, or am mentor to one of their senior students now, so I hear how the older ones are going, talk about the ones still at school.  Some I'm able to help find other staff members (the kids may know what each of their teachers looks like, but parents need the name tags on the tables). 

And my colleagues see me there, part of the teaching staff, spending my afternoon and evening at school the same as they are.  Good library PR.  A couple of them refer parents to me, or include me in a discussion.  The principal knows I choose to attend; a couple of times he's brought parents to meet me who may have asked about or been appreciative of the library.  As I said, good library PR.  I also have home-made muffins and make a cuppa for the teachers in the faculty to which I belong - they're deep in interview after interview, and I can escape for a few minutes to make a cuppa and bring it to them at their desks.

I've had some teacher librarian colleagues rubbish the idea of attending parent-teacher night, for various reasons.  Me, I know it's my time, I know I probably don't HAVE to be there, but I choose to be there and am happy to demonstrate my professional commitment.  I've had a couple of colleagues ask, bewildered, why are you here?  But they know I am, and will be.  It's my choice, as a teacher.

Years ago I got one of the best bits of advice about parent-teacher night from an English teacher (who I now can recognise was one of my most important mentors in teaching): the parents want to hear something positive about their kids - whoever their kid may be.  It works for me.  It doesn't mean you can't get down to brass tacks when there are problems that need addressing, but it's a useful mindset for a productive, appreciated discussion.

Darcy Moore's excellent blog has a brilliant entry on ten questions he wishes parents would ask him:

How would your child’s teachers fare if asked these questions:

1. What is your educational philosophy?

2. How are you assisting our child to become a self-directed learner?

3. What professional reading are you undertaking at the moment?

4. What are you reading for fun?

5. How do you use technology as a tool to leverage learning in the classroom?

6. What online resources have you created for your class?

7. How do you assist students to learn about digital citizenship?

8. What professional networks and associations are you involved with regularly?

9. What observations can you offer about our child’s happiness at school?

10. What reflections can you make about our child’s growth as a learner and citizen this year?

Useful for one's own reflection/professional development.  Do read the full blog entry and comments (it's a blog worth following, as are his Tweets).

PLN: Building your personal learning network presentation

WeSSSTA has invited me to present at their annual inservice at Penrith in August.  I'll be doing a revised/tweaked/personalised version of my presentation about Personal Learning Networks.  Maybe I'll see some of your Social Science colleagues there? - tell them to say hello!  I've attended these over the past few years (at school I report to the SS head teacher, and attend SS faculty meetings), and it will be fun to present.  Good to revisit the presentation, which I put together for the staff here in term two, and see how I can improve/develop it, based on how it went and what I've learned in the intervening time.  Always room for improvement!



Thursday, August 12, 2010

2012: National Year of Reading

The website says:


Australian libraries and library associations have got together to turn 2012 into the National Year of Reading, linking together all the great things that are already happening around books, reading and literacy, and giving them an extra boost, with inspirational programs and events taking place across the country.

We’ll be partnering with government, writers, schools, publishers, booksellers, employers, child care providers, health professionals and a whole host of other organisations that share our passion for reading.

“Having books in the home has a greater impact on children in the most disadvantaged families. It is at the lower end of the scale, where books are scarce, that each additional book matters most.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 2010

National Year of Reading

The National Year of Reading goes live to the library and book world at the Australian Booksellers Conference in Brisbane, on 12 July 2010, and Impact 2010, the Public Libraries NSW conference in Albury, on 14 July, but the really big launch date is for the year itself on February 14, 2012.

So how can you get involved? Read on…

The site has flyers, teasers, and lots more info.  Put the date in your calendar now!



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The happy life of teacher librarians: egg on face edition

So a Year 7 history class is running about the library in enthusiastic search of books with biographical information on a specific list of people: Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Genghis Khan.  Their goal is to find one encyclopedia article on their person, and two different books with information on him/her.

They find some interesting stuff.  Joan of Arc was BURNED to death, miss?  GROSS! Who'd a thunk?

They're very used to googling, of course, and googling, of course, is forgiving of natural language (Abraham Lincoln) in a way that library catalogues and book indexes (Lincoln, Abraham) are not.  We get in some useful learning - Abraham's in the L volume, the Napoleon we want is the first one, look for the subject heading not the keyword on the catalogue terminals, Beethoven's first name wasn't Beethoven, yes the call number has to be EXACTLY the same to find that book. It really does.  You know.  Stuff like that.

One little chap is hunting down Genghis Khan.  I still have the World Book research guide/index in my hand, and launch, for the umpteenth time (but with patience, because this is stuff they need to learn, and this kid needs some support, I've helped him before) into my first name/surname/how to find someone in an index spiel.  He listens.  What should we look under? Genghis, he ventures.  Is that his surname?  Dunno.  When we look you up in list, like your roll, are you under your first name or your surname? Joe, he says.  Is that your surname? No.  Well, on the roll lists, aren't you listed in the K's, since your surname starts with a K? Yeeessss.... All righty then.  Will we look under G for Genghis or K for Khan?  K! he says.

We look under K.

Khan, Genghis, says the World Book index.  See Genghis Khan.

That would be G.

We find the G volume and he goes off with the article.  Happy, I think.  Probably thinking I'm a tad odd, if he gives it any thought.

The happy life of teacher librarians.  Egg on face edition!!



Names changed to protect the innocent.  His name isn't Joe.  Mine is Ruth. And now this is a goof you, dear reader, will never make.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"The kids' books are all right"

While au fait literary types around town await the buzzed-about new novels from Jonathan Franzen and Nicole Krauss, other former English majors have spent the summer trying to get hold of “Mockingjay,” the third book in Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy, so intensely under wraps that not even reviewers have been allowed a glimpse before its airtight Aug. 24 release. What fate will befall our heroine, Katniss Everdeen? My fellow book club members and I are desperate to know. When will the Capitol fall? And how can Collins possibly top the first two installments, “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire”?

Oh, did I mention? “Mockingjay” is for teenagers. I am well into my 30s.

But I am not embarrassed by my, shall we say, immature taste in literature. And I wasn’t much concerned when, barreling through “The Hunger Games” at the hospital after giving birth to my third child, I hardly noticed whether he ate or slept. When will the rebellion begin, I wanted to know. Which suitor will Katniss choose?

The kids' books are all right, writes Pamela Paul in the New York Times.

Yup, they are.  The link above also gives you access to the NYT books podcast in which Pamela talks about her enthusiasm for the genre.  The article goes on to say:

...the erosion of age-­determined book categories, initiated by Harry Potter, has been hastened along by an influx of crossover authors like Stephenie Meyer and interlopers like Sherman Alexie, James Patterson, Francine Prose, Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham, to name just a few stars from across the spectrum of adult fiction who have turned to writing Y.A. According to surveys by the Codex Group, a consultant to the publishing industry, 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-old women and 24 percent of same-aged men say most of the books they buy are classified as young adult. The percentage of female Y.A. fans between the ages of 25 and 44 has nearly doubled in the past four years. Today, nearly one in five 35- to 44-year-olds say they most frequently buy Y.A. books. For themselves.



Monday, August 9, 2010

Class, I want this done in four minutes, thirty seconds and counting...

...and then you get distracted by George, don't do that*, and it becomes an elastic four minutes, thirty seconds....unless you deploy a handy little online countdown tool like E.gg Timer.

Put in your own set time (three minutes and twenty seconds, five minutes, whatever)  on your own laptop/teacher PC and when time's up, it pings.  Whether or not you were distracted by George... and it's objective, so difficult to argue against.

Or you could get kids to open a new window on their machine and set individual timers.  Although that could have a cacophony effect...



* as referenced here.  Including a link to Joyce Grenfell's original monologue, lovely (and all-too-accurate) observational comedy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Trailers for English: the Batman lesson

I've been working all year with the English teacher who has a low-ability Year 9 English class.  All but one boys.  It's an interesting challenge to find material for them, that is within their scope, not patronising, not childish but accessible and attention-grabbing.  We've done a 'film trailer' lesson with them already, using 2012 (which a number had seen, and all thought RUBBISH) and The A-Team.  It worked out well, and they had lots to comment on and discuss in class.

Wanting to cover tone, colour and suchlike with them, we hit on using Batman as our example.  Contrast/compare can really help these kids see the differences and therefore be able to comment on them, and most have some idea of Batman based on the most recent films, so it gives them some secure ground under their feet/confidence to contribute.

Compare the 1960s Adam West/tv series Batman, not afraid of the daylight:
with more recent versions, usually shown at night, and in FAR cooler gear:

In showing trailers/clips from each, there's plenty to talk about - use of colour, tone/feeling, the way the stories are being presented, the characters are being presented, how music and voiceover are used.  Lots of obvious details that the kids could pick up on - the suit, the badge, two versions of the Joker etc etc - that could be used for discussion/elaboration.

Here's the list of trailers/clips I compiled for the lesson in the library - some we showed twice.  In their next classroom lesson the teacher has a worksheet prepared for them to work through as a class group, to make notes and discuss what they've seen.

Batman: Trailers and Clips

1960s Batman introduction (TV series)

1960s Batman shark scene (TV series)

1989 Batman film trailer (Tim Burton)

2005 Batman Begins film trailer (Christopher Nolan)

2008 The Dark Knight film trailer (Christopher Nolan)

2008 teaser

The boys said they'd MUCH rather wear the latest Batman's suit, not the stretchy purple number from the 1960s; but they found Heath Ledger's Joker much scarier than Jack Nicholson's (esp. since some of them recognised Jack from one of his more recent films, a comedy).

They also found the 1960s Batman corny (well it was...); and the two teachers' reaction to the shark clip (labelled Bat Ladder!  Helicopter that requires careful piloting until this inconveniences the plot! the shark! - we had tears of laughter!!) rather funny too.

I've created several lessons for English classes based on film trailers and clips - with YouTube, TeacherTube, direct projectors and computers, it's much easier to do than it once might have been (at the start of my teaching career one of my jobs was setting up the reel to reel film projector for colleagues, films out of big round tins...) and it's engaging for the kids, visual literacy...and fun.  Fun's good for learning.



PS if you reproduce this blog entry or list anywhere, can you please acknowledge the source?  Thank you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gallery of iconic chair designs

One for your Design and Technology teachers and students.  This gallery on the homelife.com.au site has images of twenty iconic chair designs, with the bonus of links to more information about each designer and a separate/additional image gallery focusing on that designer's work.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Graphic Festival in Sydney

GRAPHIC is a new festival focusing on animation and comic-book culture.  Among the featured 'names' are Kevin Clark and Neil Gaiman: meet the mythmakers of the modern world is one of its taglines. 

Read more about it here - it's on in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House this coming weekend 8-9 August 2010. 

Bookings, info, downloadable program etc. here. (Source of the screenshot image above).

One to get out to the manga/anime/graphic/comicbook/Supernovaisoverforanotheryearandmylifeisadesert crew.



Monday, August 2, 2010

The happy life of teacher librarians: take the compliments when they come...

I meant to post this last term, saved the draft and somehow life got in the way... so here's a chuckle from the end of last term.

In the last week of term 2, my school has "Spirit Week", which involves a variety of extra events: morning tea for senior citizens, concerts for the senior citizens and local primary school students, a disco for the kids, raising money for charities (chosen by the kids), Jump Rope for Heart, Motivational Media

Four days have clothing 'themes', so on Monday I wore 'school uniform' (my year adviser school jersey, the correct colour skirt and black shoes - it was very hard to spot other teaching colleagues among the throng, but boy oh boy the kids were like meerkats trying to catch out teachers 'not in full uniform' and asking if you had a note if you were out of uniform!).  On Wednesday, Pyjama Day, I took a teddy bear but wore civvies, as I had to go somewhere straight after school (and really really didn't want to totter around school all day in ugh boots and flannel jarmies). 

Yesterday was "Hippies and Heroes".  I studied my wardrobe, and in the morning put on an outfit including RM Williams elastic-sided boots, a Drizabone short coat and an Akubra hat.  All Australian clothing icons, popular with rural folk, like, say, farmers (worthy heroes, the men and women on the land, no?).

Tossing on the hat and coat in the school carpark, I added a Buchanan tartan scarf (lairy colours, it must be admitted) as the morning was a tad on the chilly side.  There have been some beautiful frosts on the way to school this week (it hasn't been cold/wet enough for black ice, which is rare anyway, so one can admire frost without fretting).

Near the library door, some of the Supernova/scifi/manga/graphic novel crowd (who have spent endless hours since that wondrous event telling me all about it, showing me their loot, telling me even more about it, showing me photos of the loot they can't bring into school...) erupted in whoops of joy.


Ah.  Right.  "Thank you.  Thank you ver' much.  HowEVER did you guess?"

(Tom Baker, I presume...)

The happy life of teacher librarians: take the compliments when they come...



PS Today's theme is Where's Wally.  Requested garb: red and white, one/other/both/stripes.  Tricky.  But it worked better than you might have expected.