Reading : opening up the conversation

Promoting reading and a love of books can at times be challenging, it can be frustrating spending time helping a class only to find the trolleys full of books when the bell goes. This term I’m working on changing this, by putting together a variety of lessons to see if I can engage our students.

Just like many other school libraries we are in the process of genrefying our collection, our main reason for doing so was to help increase our students confidence when choosing a book. Many students will spend most of their library time wandering aimlessly among the shelves, in the hope that a book will somehow grab their attention.  My view is that these students lack confidence in their ability to select a ‘good’ book.

To address the changing of our collection and the need to increase the confidence of my students I have started a small unit on genre where we are completing a series of games and activities.  The aim of each lesson is not to find a ‘good’ book, but to learn little bit more about the different genres that we have in the library.

The lessons thus far…

Lesson 1: Our expectations

genre tokens

In this lesson students had to discuss and record what their expectations are for the different genres, for example, what do we expect from a romance novel? Love, break ups and make ups etc.  They also had to share with the class what genre they enjoyed the most.  This was a great way to open the floor and establish prior knowledge.

Lesson 2: Guess the Genre

Genre study

Firstly the students had to guess the genre based on the cover of the book, I then read out the blurb of books and asked them to match the blurb to the correct cover and decide if they needed to change their genre – this created some interesting discussion.  The final activity for the lesson involved genre tokens and our travelling bookcase. Students were asked to match their token to the right book – again only using the cover as a guide.  We finished off with a discussion.

What was interesting ,was that students that don’t normally stay engaged when discussing books/reading were joining in the discussion, and by the time we got to the third activity the enthusiasm had escalated and things started to get slightly competitive!

Lesson 3: Which Genre am I?

Students now have to select ta novel from a genre they don’t normally read, for some this will require that they step outside their comfort zone.  I don’t expect them to read the entire novel, although I know many of them will. We will then discuss the novels, our expectations, the reality and our opinions on the genre. The aim is simply to expose them to a new genre and open up the conversation.





Speed Dating

Speed dating, the perfect, non-committal way to be introduced to someone/ thing new.  In my case, science fiction.


Photo credit: kellepics from


Our year nine students are about to embark on studying the science fiction genre in their English classes.  So we thought, what better way to introduce them to the genre than by showing them the LibGuide we have created on the genre and exposing them to a variety of novels via speed dating with a book.

I decided to join in the fun, not being a fan of Sci-Fi I thought this was the perfect opportunity to see how successful this activity can be in introducing students to new books.  Below is a copy of my notes, the students were asked to create the three columns and complete with the relevant information.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 3.53.10 PM

At the start of the activity, the majority of students are inevitably reluctant, they are being asked to step outside their comfort zone instead of nestling up to a familiar novel, author or genre. But, once we were underway silence descended and the students were eager to talk about their first impressions when the timer went off.

As for me, I enjoyed the activity and it seems the students did too. This activity can be developed further by possibly having each student borrow something new and possibly even create a report on it to share with the class – something to the think about for next time. But for now, I have two new books to add to my list so I better hurry up and finish my book!


ETL402: A Reflection

Prior to commencing this unit, I was stuck in a rut and looking for ways to motivate and engage readers as well as make staff aware of the benefit reading can bring to their curriculum. It turns out we were limiting ourselves by only focusing on the area of book talks, what I’ve learnt is that to have an impact we need to integrate literature into all aspects of the curriculum.

A concept I’ve been grappling with is how do we foster this love of literature? At the start of ETL 402, I couldn’t answer this question.  In my current job we battle with this scenario.  We want to have classes coming into the library and when they do we always do a book talk, promoting the latest books and some old favorites and although talking about books has been recognized as being a powerful motivator (Cremin, 2010, p.16) it is sometimes not enough, especially when it is usually only the English teachers who come in.

Now, at the end of the unit, I realise that we need to be aware of the 21st century needs and textual preferences of our students so that we can somehow foster a love of literature (Cremin, 2010, p.12).  We need to be aware that the concept of reading has changed, our students are savvy and have been exposed to the digital environment (Madej, 2003, p. 2), therefore we need to incorporate this into our quest for creating motivated readers.

Through ETL 402 I learnt that what we need to be focusing on is literary learning, we need to embed this into all areas of the curriculum, which also means effective collaboration between the teacher librarian and the subject teacher (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 48).   This can be achieved by including a literature based goal directed activity that encourages social interaction (Guthrie, Alverson & Poundstone, 1999 p. 9) The teacher librarian can simulate a curiosity for learning by collaborating with subject teachers to create literature based strategies that promote reading whilst also engaging with curriculum outcomes (Guthrie, Alverson & Poundstone, p. 13).  In doing so, the teacher librarian is exposing students to genres and texts they may not read and therefore, creating conditions for the students to develop new interests.

Combining technology and reading is an area that I will bring into work and experiment with. The literary learning program (assessment 2) was done in conjunction with our HASS department, which is a step in the right direction to working collaboratively and letting departments know what we in the library can offer.  I am hoping, once it has been marked and then modified with feedback in mind, to give this resource to the department to trial.  I intend to seek feedback from both staff and students to I can continue to work on fostering a love of literature across the curriculum.


Cooper, O.P. & Bray, M. (2011). School library media specialist-teacher collaboration: characteristics, challenges, opportunities. TechTrends, 55(4) 48- 55.

Cremin, T. (2010). Motivating children to read through literature. In J. Fletcher, F. Parkhill, & G. T. Gillon (Eds.), Motivating literacy learners in today’s world (pp. 11-21). Wellington, NZ : NZCER

Guthrie, J., Alverson, S. & Poundstone, C. (1999). Engaging students in reading. Knowledge Quest, 27(4), 8-16.

Madej, K. (2003). Towards digital narrative for children: From education to entertainment: A historical perspective. ACM Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 1-17.

Book Week 2015: Books Light Up Our World

This week is Book Week and due to our school calendar we celebrated last week and, I’m now spending this week recovering from our extensive activities.

Although I’ve worked in education for the past nine years, I’ve always worked in the Senior School and none of them have ever celebrated Book Week, it’s only ever been the Junior School.  It turns out that my current school go all out! We had a Twitter feed, Book Tasting, Green Screen and lots more, it really is a great way to showcase the library.

Here are some of the photos that we took during the week…

Illuminate your world!
Illuminate your world!  (photo by A.Marshall)

Our Bilnd Date with Book was very successful on Library Lovers Day that we thought we’d try it again. This time we chose to wrap up new books that the students hadn’t yet seen in our library.

Character Twitter Feed
Character Twitter Feed (photo by A.Marshall)

Our Twitter board proved very popular with our students loving voicing the characters thoughts.  We are in the process of typing these up to redo the display in the school canteen.  And that’s me dressed in my colourful outfit having a giggle over some of the tweets.

And finally, here is our fabulous display…

Our fabulous display
Our fabulous display (photo by A.Marshall)

It was fantastic to see all of senior school come together to celebrate Book Week, and it just reinforces that reading is important no matter how old you are.


Book Chats, Book Bash and Books.

I have a pile of books that permanently lives on my bedside table. The books in the pile change fairly regularly, the pile never seems to decrease and in fact more often than not increases weekly, sometimes daily. 

The ever increasing pile of books.
The ever increasing pile of books.

The above pile consists of a book I’m reading for book club ( completely unrelated to work), a book for a possible lesson I may take later in the term, some new books that have arrived in our library and one book that I’d like to find the time to read for myself! 

I try to read as many of our library books as I can so I know what to recommend to our students if they’re looking for something new to read. The teachers, although well read themselves, rely on us to help those students that are either struggling, disinterested readers or voracious readers that have almost read our entire collection- both pose very different challenges. And, I do like a challenge! 

We offer Book Chats to the English classes that come into the library, I’m the one that usually does this and I try to select some new books that have just arrived and some forgotten favourites as a way to pique their interest. I love this part of my job. I have some regular classes that come in ask request a Book Chat, one class in particular is a weak Y11 class. These students rarely take a book out of the library and will only manage to read their prescribed text for English. I’ve loved watching their enthusiasm develop, over the course of the last term. They now look forward to coming into the library and whilst not all of them will take a book home, they all sit and read for the lesson- a major breakthrough in itself. 

Book Bash is another popular event we run through the term. There’s a different one for the different year levels- 7/8, 9/10 and seniors and instead of asking them to read a specific book, we simply meet to chat about the books we’ve read and loved.  We also use this time to get suggestions from the students about new eBooks to purchase and eat some cake! 

Sometimes I feel like all I do is read,which isn’t a bad thing but I wonder if this will continue when I work as a full time TL- will I have time to read all these books? 

World Book Day: I’m excited!

Tomorrow we will celebrate World Book Day and I’m excited.

I’m excited because I love books. I’m excited because I love reading. I’m excited because….I love to play dress up!

Picture courtesy of
Picture courtesy of

One of the reasons I became a teacher is because I love to read and wanted to share my passion for reading and creative writing with others. The reality is that as an English teacher I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like talking about books.

Instead, I have to focus on teaching how to write in different styles and working out why a writer has used a specific word in their sentence and focussing on helping students to make the top grade. It’s marking, reporting, assessing…

So, when days like these come along, and I can momentarily abandon the syllabus I make sure to make the most of it. There are so many fantastic YA novels out there at the moment that not only is there not enough time to read them all, but the possibilities for tomorrow are endless.

I think it’s safe to say that there will be plenty dressing as Katniss Everdeen’s and Tris Prior’s… but, I wonder who else I will see wandering the hallways tomorrow?

More importantly, who will I be?