Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fonder hearts/temporary absence/purple & blinds

If you're a regular reader, you may well have noticed this blog tapering into comparative silence for a while.  As can happen.  I took on some extra responsibilities at school (eg. Year 7 Adviser) and then at the end of the 2011 school year suffered an injury - still not quite rid of the crutches for that.  (Kind people have pointed out that I'm not as young as I once was.  Bless!)

I don't plan to abandon Skerricks, but take a formal leave of absence (ie I'm telling you before, not after!!) till at least term 3.  I hope it makes your hearts grow fonder (!).

There's a huge resource of content and ideas here now, so lots for you to refer to and review, and I look forward to adding more in the future.

As a farewell token/giftie, here's a glimpse of some work we did recently in the library:

We painted from the left hand edge of the word wall to the corner and on the wall around the seminar room windows, so this whole corner is now uniform purple (as opposed to purple, brown brick, cream weatherboard).  With a fabulous fabric from Ikea and a curtain making book from the library (handy!) we (actually, one of my super school assistants took charge of this part of the project) made lined roman blinds, able to be raised by cords.  Not only are they fabulous, they are fabulously more fabulous than either new commercial roller blinds (which would have most likely had to have been a bland plain colour) and certainly many times more fabulously fabulous than the ratty, torn 30+ year old beige roller blinds that  were there before.  Cost was a bit less than commercially made (bland) blinds, + our time.

Don't they look super?  It's good to 'finish' this corner (those ratty blinds have been annoying me for quite some time).  Most importantly, the kids like it. I like all the faces on the fabric, and how it works in nicely with the purple word wall.  Libraries are about words and people, after all.

So things go on at the library here, and I will have more to share when I return in July/August.

All the best for a positive and happy autumn/winter in your library (if you're in this hemisphere) and yes, Skerricks will continue.

If you're attending the Cudgegong Learning Community conference in term 2 at Mudgee, or the south west Sydney region SASS conference in term 3, I look forward to seeing you at my presentation, Re-imagining your school library.  Do say hello!



Free Comic Book Day & Supanova

A heads-up to share with your students.  What is it?

Free Comic Book Day is a single day - the first Saturday in May each year - when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. *Check with your local shop for their participation and rules.

The Free Comic Book Day website is here, with FAQs and a locator to enable your students to find the participating shops where they can acquire their freebies.

I found out about it thanks to my delightful coterie of manga/cosplay/comic book fiends.  Use your sources, I say! (They tell me that I should go to Supanova this year....)

What is Supanova? 

Supanova Pop Culture Expo is where the adoring public comes face to face with Supa-Star celebrities and the creative talent that inspire their imaginary worlds under one big roof.

Gathered from the wonderful worlds of science-fiction, pulp TV/movies, toys, console gaming, trading cards, animation/cartoons, fantasy, comic books, entertainment technology, books, internet sites and fan-clubs, the result is an amazing celebration in an atmosphere tailor made for expessing your inner geek and where getting into cosplay (cos-tume role-play) is the obvious thing to do!

(I think I'm flattered that they think I have an inner geek.)



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Modern love poems

Back around the time Prince William married Kate Middleton, the Guardian newspaper published a article containing new poems - they said for a wedding, unsurprising given the timing/context - but they seemed like they could be useful for a Valentine's day resource for school. 

One of the poems, by Poet Laureate Carol Duffy, was also part of an artwork edition by Stephen Raw (click the link to see it and see if there are still copies available for sale).  Huffington Post blogger John Lundberg approves of it in this piece.

One to share with your English teachers: or maybe include in a 'public poetry' event/display at your school library.  It's not always easy to find modern poetry, beyond English texts, unless you are looking carefully/know where to look.



Monday, October 3, 2011


Now if someone can just tell me where term 3 went....

Stuff did happen (oh my goodness yes) but not so much on Skerricks.  For assorted reasons.  But I haven't forgotten you, and plan to do more in Term 4.

I have been working with lots of teachers and classes - that's been fun.  And the school now has a Plagiarism and Ethical Use of Information Policy (more later on that) which is launching into its initial implementation this term.

This week in the hols I'm at the ASLA XXII conference at St Ignatius this week, learning lots and looking forward to presenting on Tuesday (my topic is Re-imagining your school library - do come and say hello if you're at the conference).

Hope you're enjoying your hols.  I plan to do more here on Skerricks next term.  Really.  I promise.



Friday, July 22, 2011

There are some computer problems in the world that includes writing Skerricks.  Term has resumed, the pace is as busy as ever at school and I hope Normal Programming (Blogging) will resume next week....

I was one of the winners in this week's Staff Appreciation Draw, so there's some good gnus around as well...



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Picking over the bones: cheap library furniture

Sad though it is to have two major Australian bricks'n'mortar bookshop chains closing (Angus & Robertson and Borders), I noted the other day at the store nearest me that they are selling off a lot of shopfittings, including perspex book holders, wire folding book holders, storage cubes and slatwall, that could be useful for libraries.

I got some perspex book holders (five linked units) for $10.  The wooden storage cubes were $40, the slatwall $100 for a large section (which would suit the end of a shelving run, for example).  Little hinged wire bookstands $2.

Don't know what your local store may have/may have left, but it's an opportunity to obtain some decent quality used bookstore/ library furnishings at bargain prices. (I said hello to the other local TL who happened to be in the shop at the same time...!)



Friday, July 1, 2011

What I did today

In preparation for this afternoon (last day of term 2), I put this list together:

Wiggle and swim
Line up - wavy arms
Sideways shuffle
Kissy hands
Stop hands
Train whistle
Rock climb
Slow wiggle
Thump floor
Punch down
Flap arms
Crocodile claps
Line up and link arms
Step forward
Final pose!

And no, nobody at teachers' college EVER told us about preparing lists like this.  It's a choreography list.  And before you ask, as a dancer I am a FABULOUS teacher librarian.

We have a concert on the last afternoon of term 2; performances from students and staff.  It's the finale to Spirit Week, when there are special events on each day as well as dress themes, and the kids are fundraising for charity.  So this week I have done my poor best to garb with bling, rock and roll, ninjas or pirates, and horror.  The kids have done a great job (my fave was the kid in jeans and a hoodie on the pirates or ninjas day.  I'm a software pirate, he said.  That's clever!) and enjoyed themselves.

If you look at this video, and imagine gaffer-taped stuffed animals, costumes made up of salad-cover headwear, shower-curtain dresses and headwear, balloons stapled to a garbage bag dress and, oh, a bunch more invention-of-the-moment Gaga costumery - well, you have a flavour of the part of this afternoon in which I was involved (together with one of the two faculties who did a faculty performance).

(Link: )
We finally rehearsed at lunchtime, minutes before.... we did have a colleague holding up cue cards from that list, which helped.  The students liked it, anyway!

I showed the choreography list to the dance teacher a couple of days ago.  She was very very polite; but the slight widening of her eyes was a giveaway.  Guess I haven't nailed the terminology yet....!! (but you know, it was clear enough for my equally non-dance expert colleagues, so that's what matters!)

The happy life of teacher librarians: so you think you can dance? (No.  Entertain?  More probable.)

It was fun.  And now it's hols.  YAY!

Enjoy your break, if you're having one.  See you back here next term.



PS The longer I teach, the more I realise about how many things they didn't tell us/teach us about in teachers' college.  Garbage bag/balloon couture, for example. 

PPS I discovered how to date myself instantly among younger teaching colleagues.  Use the term "teachers' college".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A new film of Romeo & Juliet

I'm researching Romeo & Juliet trailers and video bits for a lesson (will share 'em later - found some Amazing Stuff!) and tripped over mention of a new film.  I still think Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Romeo + Juliet is fabulous, but this one looks interesting too.  Cast includes True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet

and Douglas Booth (who was in Pillars of the Earth) as Romeo - both young, but probably close to the given ages in Shakespeare's play. 

Benvolio is played by young Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, from Romulus my Father, Let Me In, The Road

Release date is given as 2012, so don't hold your breath, and the script is by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Downton Abbey).  Director is Carlo Carlei.

More at IMDB here:



PS. Luhrmann's film is 16 years old now?  Yikes!

Photos from their respective IMDB profile pages

Monday, June 27, 2011

The happy life of teacher librarians: the late note

The scene: a school library.  Busyish lunchtime over, a few students in the library on study periods etc.

Polite young Year 7 boy clutching a novel: Miss?
Miss, can I please have a late note?
Um, for what?
To get into class...
(I check the time: it's 25 minutes AFTER the end of lunch bell)
Lunch finished quite some time ago. 
I know.
So I was reading in one of the seats upstairs Miss, and I didn't hear the bell.

He looks sorta apologetic, and rueful, and what the heck?  Isn't it great to know he was so comfy and happy (in the seats we have scrounged and recovered and set into a reading layout) and had so disappeared into the world of a book that the world beyond didn't register?  Yup.  It is.  A lovely compliment to the library.  He got his late note (with a cheerful explanation for the teacher).  Not that it would be good to be writing them every day, but he was genuine and it was a delightful moment.

The happy life of teacher librarians: best late note ever?



Friday, June 24, 2011

Quirky Book Week: It's a Book

Today's book is a book (which I can also share with you via a video) about books.

Books remain wonderful bits of technology.  The day after I bought Press Here and All My Friends are Dead (Quirky Books blogged about earlier this week), was a Friday.  Staff morning tea at recess.  I brought them with me and slid them like contraband to this person and that.  Just try it.  Go on.  It's funny.  And they did.  PE teachers and Art teachers and History teachers and English teachers and more.  Not just people with a practical teaching need for a quirky fun picture book, but colleagues and friends who would enjoy the fun of them, their gift of laughter.  I didn't need a screen or a battery or a lead.  Just the books.  Which is kinda the point of Lane Smith's book.

Here's a book trailer that covers the whole book, pretty much, and will give you a good flavour of it.

And here's the link, if that doesn't work:

For all the things books don't do, there is so much that they do so well.

One thing is share laughter, provide a shared experience.  That's what Quirky Books can offer, and how they can add value and fun to your library, as they do here.  I've already blogged about books with legs: and they certainly qualify as Quirky Books too.

The wonderful local independent bookshop I mentioned yesterday was the one that got me onto this book, so props to them (after I bagged them yesterday!).

Hope you've enjoyed these five Quirky Books, and I hope to learn about more candidates from your comments - do leave one!



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quirky Book Week: Press Here

Today's Quirky Book is deceptively simple.  You will probably say, I could have thought of that.  But you didn't.  Nor (dangit!) did I.  But hurrah and hurray that Herve Tullet did.

But what happens when you open the book and press the yellow dot?

This, for starters:

What's not to like about a book that draws a crowd?

The page for this book has some pictures from inside.  It also has a link so you can create this minibook version (only a few of the many fun pages in the complete book, but enough to show you how it works). 

On one of the pages, the instruction is to clap to make something change in the book.  I can track the progress and location of this book around the library by the clapping...

Another one to make the library a fun place for happy discoveries.

My wonderful local independent bookshop and I disagree on this book.  I'm enormously amused (and so are the people at school, kids and teachers, with whom I share it).  The normally smart bookshop folk say, 'meh'.  So it's lovely and gorgeous to have people say to me, Where did you get it? and I can direct traffic to the wonderful local bookshop, adding that I hope the buyer will let the bookshop know that Ruth showed them this book.... 'meh' my Aunt Fanny!

I learned about this book from friends who had learned about it from the Children's Bookshop in Beecroft NSW: Paul McDonald from there always has good recommendations (as does my wonderful local independent bookshop; just on this book, they're wrong and I'm right!!).

Tomorrow, another favourite Quirky Book.  Have you enjoyed them this week?  Do leave a comment with your own favourite Quirky Books!



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quirky Book Week: Cherise the Niece

After yesterday's sweet little girl, today you can meet Cherise:

A sweet wee thing.  Well, kinda.  I was going to do a blog entry about books with n@ughty little girls, until I considered what search engines and their bots might do with that particular concept...

On the page for this book, you can take a look inside.  You can also buy a Kindle ebook edition, and download the first chapter free.  The product description on Amazon says:

The bloody footprints leading out of Cherise’s bedroom are the first clue that perhaps the little darling with the bow in her hair is not an angel. As Cherise is shuttled from one aunt’s home to another, her aunts vanish, meeting inventive and hysterical ends. With a killer punch line on its final page, Jim Benton’s Cherise the Niece will leave readers laughing.

I myself feel that it's important to let you know that there is a note at the beginning of the book advising that no aunts were harmed in its making...

Definitely black humour; if you're not in a high school, maybe one to read before adding to the collection. 

But fun?  Heck yes!  It's caused lots of chuckling in our library.

Tomorrow's Quirky Book is one of my favourites.



Image from

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quirky Book Week: Constance and Tiny

Another Quirky Book for your delectation!

Meet Constance, and her adorably sweet cat, Tiny:

Absolute angels, they are.  Take a look inside the book with this preview from the Book Depository website.

There is an utter (and very recognisable) disparity between what Constance says (in the text of the book) and what Constance (and Tiny) do.  Could be exploitable for English.  My name is Constance.  I am locked up in an evil mansion...

But mostly, it's just gorgeous fun.

Picked this up from a sale table, but it's orderable from bookshops in Australia or overseas.  Not expensive.

What are your fave quirky books?  I have three more to share this week - enjoy!  Constance and Tiny have another adventure in Constance and the great escape.



Monday, June 20, 2011

Here is the reality of teaching

Terrific article in today's Sydney Morning Herald, from Leon Wright who teaches in western Sydney.  My favourite paragraph from "Waves of guff wash over the modern teacher" is this one:

Here is the reality. This morning, tens of thousands of teachers will go to work. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. There are motherly types, coaches, IT experts, role models, adventurers, martinets, inspirers, storytellers, social workers, academics, craftsmen, performers and, of course, a few time servers, incompetents and babes in the woods. Only the gullible and ambitious among them will uncritically embrace the passing fads. The rest will just get on with it.

But it's all worth reading.  Smart observation, this:

Once you have begun teaching, there is no let-up. At staff development days, we watch highly paid experts give presentations on how the judicious use of painted egg cartons and paper clips has transformed education in Barbados. We invariably apply one jaundiced criterion to evaluate this stuff: would it work with my year 9 class on a Friday afternoon?

Read it all:
to whom some, but not all, of the above descriptions apply.
Found via the paper paper: the SMH as broadsheet, while I scarfed down a quick sandwich before a lesson with Year 7.  Seize the day (and the lunch!)

Quirky Book Week: All My Friends Are Dead

Welcome to Quirky Book Week on Skerricks!

Five books that are just great fun - the kids like 'em, and I like 'em, and they make the library a happy place.

Which you might start to question when you see the first book:

Cheer up.  It's a really really funny book.

You can take a look inside here (Google preview on the Book Depository website).  I rather like the pirate saying all his friends have scurvy....

Just make sure when you read the book that you read all the way to the very very last page.

It's a smallish book, gifty-sized, and not expensive.  It's making lots of friends here.  Another way to make this library a place where there is laughter, and fun to be had, and discoveries to be made.  So it's about library PR, too.

Tune in tomorrow for another Quirky Book!



Image from

Friday, June 17, 2011

The happy life of teacher librarians: HI MISS!

So last Friday I spent all day at the library in the downstairs seminar room (glass walls, next to the computer area) with a group of teacher librarians for a mini-conference.

We had all brought food for recess and lunch; after recess, there was still quite a spread on the table, cake and biscuits and sandwiches and cheese and... we grazed, and talked of cabbages and kings.  Hosting this meeting, I had made sure we had peppermints on the table, because what is a seminar/conference without peppermints???

In the period before lunch, 10E8 English came to the library with their teacher for their regular fortnightly period.  Being Otherwise Engaged, I didn't spend the time with them as I usually would have done.

The boys (they're all boys in that class) are a bunch of larrikins and characters.  They were naturally curious about these unexpected goings-on right next to the computers they were working on.  And food.... (hmm, maybe a lot of their interest centred on the food...).  Being the opportunistic thinkers that they are, a couple bent their minds to exploiting this situation.

So I'm sitting facing the library, and a couple wave hello.  I smile back, and refocus on the discussion.

A couple of the boys are typing something on the computer.  They turn the screen so I can read it, big smiles on their faces:


I grin acknowledgement, and refocus.

More typing.  The screen is turned back towards me:


Couldn't help myself, I laughed aloud.  They grinned back.  I excused myself from the meeting, picking up the bowl of Seminar Peppermints as I went, and went out for a minute or two to let those larrikins know just how obnoxious they are...and to remind them, as I offered them a peppermint (they took two, naturally) that it isn't OK to eat in the library.  They agreed, as they chewed, and I returned to the meeting. (They can do Contradiction just fine).  Thanks, miss!

I haven't had the heart to tell them that the last of the food was hoovered by the public stomachs of the same teacher's Year 7 class at the end of the day.

The happy life of teacher librarians: HI MISS



Newspaper Map: find, translate, read

How cool is this?

Every balloon is a different newspaper, the languages indicated by colour.  You can use the hand icon to move around the map (so yes, it does have Australia).

Great, you say, but what if I only speak English?

No worries.

Let's try an example There's a little Spanish balloon in the middle of the sea of English in the US.  When you click on it, you can choose the language in which you wish to read that newspaper.  Sure, Google Translate ain't perfect, but it's not bad.

Lots of ways this could be handy!  Let your teachers know...

Found via Twitter: @newsfromtengrrl who posts lots of useful links.



Screenshot images from the site.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Auslan Signbank (is this a perfect use of the internet, or what?)

Many moons ago, I learned some Auslan - Australian Sign Language, as used by the deaf community.  As you may know, this is not the same as the sign language used in the UK or the US, even though our countries all share English.  As it happens I haven't used it much, or (to be honest) retained a lot of what I learned twenty years ago, but some has stuck, and come in handy from time to time.  (And one of my best true funny stories is about an unexpectedly handy application of Auslan...!)

Working with a slightly tricky kid the other day, where something lateral and quirky was more likely to catch his attention than plain vanilla, I used some fingerspelling.  It did catch his attention when I repeated a word in this unexpected way).  But his attention drifted when I had to attend to other students, and when I had time to get back to him, he was definitely grumpy again.  Hmmm, I thought, I wonder if...?  Less than a minute of googling and I'd found the Auslan signbank online.

How to sign 'grumpy'?



This is an utterly brilliant use of the internet.  Many moons ago, I had a couple of books (the more comprehensive one hugely bulky) that contained signs.  Trapped in drawn diagrams, because that is what print books can do.  But on this page, the little video shows you the word/idea being signed.  You can replay it as often as you like.  You can search for any of the other over 4000 signs listed via the alphabetical list or just the word you want.  You can search on medical terms only.  You can see in which parts of Australia a particular sign is used.

Here's what the site includes:
  • a dictionary
  • a special medical and health dictionary
  • grammar examples on video
  • videos of deaf people using Auslan naturally
  • information on the deaf community in Australia
  • links to Auslan classes
To my knowledge, there aren't students using sign at my school (ie. I don't know if we have any who use it at home, but it's not used at school) - my use of it is as an attention-getter, something different, a way to cut through and get a kid's attention (which I can then deploy in the direction I'd like it to go...); and as a window on another way of looking at the world.  The grumpy sign certainly illustrates the frustration/crankiness/grumpiness of the student who prompted this search.(He'll be back and I'll be ready!).  Maybe I'll get to use this sign instead.

One to share with other teachers - English/drama, for example.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blue eyes, brown eyes: Jane Elliott's exercise in prejudice

Photo used under Creative Commons license.  LINK

 Jane Elliott, a teacher, first tried her blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise with her class in an Iowa school in the 1960s, in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King.  You may have come across mention of it in your teacher training, or after.  While Wikipedia isn't the be-all and end-all of research, it's not a bad source for an outline of what she did, and what happened next (and check the citation list for further links).

Photo used under Creative Commons license.  LINK

This came up at school recently when one of the seniors, from a Society and Culture class studying belief systems and associated -isms was asking me to help her locate information*.  Blue-eyed/brown-eyed came up in the discussion, and while looking for information we came across this 29 page pdf which covers the blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise and after in great useful detail (the Wikipedia article seems likely to have drawn on it, and it's not Stephen G. Bloom's only article on this topic).  Find it here:

Blue-Eyes, Brown-Eyes:
The Experiment that Shocked the Nation
And Turned a Town Against its Most Famous Daughter
By Stephen G. Bloom

Here's an interesting fact from that document:

It was Jane, for instance, who complained to the Crayola Company about its single flesh-color crayon, and today there are ten flesh-color crayons — from ebony to sand. It was Jane who complained to pantyhose companies about nudecolored pantyhose, and today there are dozens of nude shades hosiery companies manufacture.

I have tried a version of this exercise with a senior class, some years ago: not as intensely/intensively as Jane; but it still had a distinct impact on the kids, got them talking and thinking. 

So, a link to share with your History/English/Society and Culture teachers, or any you think might find it useful.  Seemed a waste not to blog it.

The student also went away with a copy of The Wave, by Morton Rhue, a fictionalised version of a similar exercise.  Lots of different ways to approach and consider an idea.



* when we'd finished this discussion, the student remarked that the Pew Internet research site I'd referred her to for an earlier assignment had been just what she needed, so she had come back to me.  Nice to get repeat business from confident customers! - I hadn't remembered that occasion, as we have so many kids here and it's hard to recall every detail of every day's discussions and conversations.  I appreciated knowing.  The happy life of teacher librarians: repeat business from happy customers!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

You don't believe me that there is a Periodic Table of Storytelling?  Behold!

I know, it's hard to read detail.  But it's worth it.  Toddle over to this link:
and click on the link on the right there that says, "Download this image" to view it on your screen.

If you love it, you can buy a copy here:
(the photo print is cheaper than the fine art one).

Here's the Artist's Statement:
Get a poster-size print of the Periodic Table of Storytelling! Writers, hang it up on your wall in a location where you can stare at it for inspiration and/or throw darts, if necessary. Fans and bibliophiles, keep a copy handy for easy reference so you can keep track of hairy plot twists. English Lit teachers, get one for your classroom and watch student interest soar!

These prints have a white, sciencey background (lab coat sold separately) and the box of examples at the bottom has been removed. 16-inch prints look good; 20-inch prints and larger appear truly impressive. I recommend clicking Photo Prints on the right--that'll get you a good 20-inch print at a lower price than the Fine Art prints offer.

This poster emits high quantities of Sciencium rays. These do not interact with matter in any detectable way, with the sole exception of making the person standing in front of this poster feel smarter. Bask in the tropey, sciencey, awesome-y rays!

This is but one example of the burgeoning field known as infographics.  As with any other sort of information, they can be used for good or evil; but the many good ones out there attest to their usefulness in providing a pictorial representation of information that kids can enjoy, relate to and learn from.

Share this one with your English teachers!