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.





Fostering a love a literature

[ The following blog post was originally published as part of my university studies on, 07/10/2016 with the title 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.

Nuggets of brilliance


Sometimes teaching can feel like an uphill struggle, but every now and then we are rewarded with a little nugget of brilliance. This came to me last week in the form of a Year 7 class.

Working as a TL, I am constantly trying to find new ways to promote the library and what we do.  In the age of Google, it can sometimes be rather frustrating when both staff and student alike say that they don’t our help because they can “Google it”. Usually when I hear that classes are researching I cringe, because it often means just googling it and using the first page that comes up Wikipedia.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s merit in both of these sites, but there is even more merit in learning how to research effectively.

Last Wednesday I had been asked to run a short session for a Year 7 debating class on researching, focussing mainly on where to find information.  I gave them a worksheet to help them create a list of search terms, and reminded them of the importance of a keyword search before moving on to talk about where we could find information. Here is a shortened version of the conversation/ nugget of brilliance that followed:

‘So,  you’re ready to begin searching what now?’

‘We see if there’s a LibGuide’ said one student

‘Fantastic!, I yelled, ‘ But, we haven’t set up a LibGuide’ I had barely finished when..

‘Well, we can go to the online resources and have a look at LinksPlus or Issues in Society’ said another student.

‘Yes!!’ At this stage, I was beside myself, because for the first time, since I started working at this school, I did not need to remind them of our fantastic resources.

I was so impressed with them, this is the first year group who have really grasped the importance of finding reliable information.

I should point out that I do teach my students to use Google, but because there can be a lot of white noise ( irrelevant, unreliable sources) I find that teaching them about our resources first is valuable and reinforces the need to critically evaluate the resources that they are using.

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!


Laptops: Friend or Foe [Revisited]

I recently attended a PD called Making Thinking Visible, it was fantastic. So often, we go to PD sessions and whilst they may be interesting, we leave feeling like we didn’t really gain anything new. This was different.  I left feeling inspired and excited about what I could do in my classroom (standby for a post on this soon). But, it also got me thinking about our use of technology in the classroom and I was reminded about a post I wrote for my Uni blog last year. It was in response to a news article I’d read and as we were in our first year of BYOD I found it thought provoking:

(Original blog posted on my Uni blog May 19, 2016.)

Recently, in the media there has been a lot of talk about the use of laptops within schools, this has promoted a healthy debate about the implementation of laptops in to the classroom and how this can impact both negatively and positively on the teaching and learning process.

The article that sparked the debate was published in The Australian on March 26, 2016- Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head.   This article offers a different view on technology, and whilst there are some valid points made I do think that it is still essential to consider the needs of the 21st C learner.  Dr. Vallance goes on to say that “one of the most powerful tools in education is conversation” and I couldn’t agree more. reflecting back on my years as an English teacher, some of the most educationally valuable lessons were those fuelled by conversation, debate and questioning we didn’t use a laptop for this.

As the world changes, so does the way we teach and the way we learn. Surely there is a need, like anything for balance, we just need to be aware of our digital diet.

We are now our second year of being a BYOD school, and many staff have made the transition from paper to online, myself included. Whilst there are a multitude of pros and cons in the argument for paper vs digital,  I think having laptops in the classroom does create a wealth of opportunity and is ultimately a good thing.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that students are becoming increasingly distracted by their device and they always want to Google the answer instead of thinking about it  first. Now, there is nothing wrong with Google. Google is great. Google can help us find answers to our questions, but Google (at times) is stopping my students from thinking for themselves.

In one of my lessons last week I introduced the See, Think Wonder routine, which I was introduced to at the PD.  Students were asked to look at a specific photo from history and do the following:

  1. See: List everything they could see in the photo
  2. Think: Make statements about what they think could be going on in the photo
  3. Wonder: Make a list of questions they have about the photo

To stop the students from using Google, the image was projected on to the screen I didn’t want them doing a reverse image search and finishing out information about the photo before they had a chance to think about it yet, still they wanted to look it up. They have become used to this so-called safety net that Google provides.  What was interesting, was watching the students adapt to the expectations of the activity, and whilst they were unsure to start with,  they were able to pose interesting and thoughtful questions about the photo.

It ended up being a refreshing lesson, for myself and for the students, who were engaged and contributing to the class discussion more than usual, and it just goes to show that whilst there is merit in using technology in the classroom, there is sometimes greater benefits in going back to pen and paper and being aware of our digital diet.

Looking back

It’s been a while. I’ve been keeping my head down whilst I complete my Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship), I now have one more class to do and then I’m done!

This class asks me to reflect on what I’ve learnt throughout the course, this means going back through my course blog and using entries in my assignment. I thought I’d share some here, as I make the transition back to this blog and start to share what’s happening in the world of education and school libraries.

Beginning a New Chapter

(posted July 16, 2015 on Uni blog platform)

I have commenced a Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship), a requirement of the course is that I create a blog and reflect on my reading, learning and teaching. This blog will not only focus on what I’m learning as part of the course, but also on what I’m learning at work- what I’m teaching my students and what my colleagues are teaching me.

Already a blogger, the setting up of the blog has been fun. I like the opportunities it presents to interact and reflect.  So, let the reading, learning, teaching and reflecting commence!

The Information Highway and the Teacher Librarian 

(posted July 22, 2015 on Uni blog platform)

As I work my way through module two of ETL401 I’ve started to think about the role of the Teacher Librarian and how we navigate our way through all the information, not just through this course but all the information that is out there on the information highway.

This video was shared by a colleague on the discussion board and I had to share it because it really reinforced what our world is. Our students are digital natives, their knowledge/skill is potentially more vast than ours when it comes to ICT. Therein lies our challenge- to keep them curious about technology and the world and the different ways we can use technology to assist in their learning. 

The video highlights just how quickly our world is changing, something that we tend to forget and technology is only moving faster.  In order for libraries to remain an integral part of student learning we must engage with new ideas and technologies, reinventing our role as needed.

This has been occurring as libraries have been thinking of ways of getting students and teachers through the doors, it becomes more challenging as schools go 1:1 with laptops. As my workplace starts preparing for the implementation of 1:1 we need to start thinking of other ways to not only getting students in to the library during recess and lunch but also getting the classes in to use not only the space but our knowledge.  It will be interesting to see how much this impacts our library if at all and I’m sure I’ll be commenting on the process as it gets underway next year. 

Many may think that with the ever-growing range of online tools, resources and instructional videos the role of the librarian is being meaningless. I would argue that because of the increasing range of resources and information available the teacher librarian is needed more than ever to guide and help navigate staff and students.


Scott, K. (2014). Did you know? Shift Happens 2014 Remix. Retrieved from

It’s interesting looking back over these first two blog entries from almost two years ago- I think I’m going to enjoy completing this refelctive portfolio.

ETL504 Assignment 2: Reflective Critical Analysis

This unit has really helped me appreciate the importance of the teacher librarian within the school setting and their role as a leader. At the start of the unit I thought I had a good understanding of the teacher librarian as a leader, I reflected on my new role as a teacher librarian and what I do on a day to day basis. Now, that I’m at the conclusion of the unit I realize that this understanding was just the tip of the iceberg.  A teacher librarian is in a very good position to influence and instigate change within a school and have a significant positive impact.

In reviewing my previous blog posts, in particular Thinking about Leadership (Cain, 2016, March 21) I stated that an effective leader:

  • understands or seeks to understand the culture of the school,
  • sets long term goals in line with the vision of the school,
  • has secure and practical knowledge of ICT and how it can be implemented (Green, 2011).
  • can lead learning and look for innovations within the teaching and learning pedagogy of the school
  • collaborates with staff both informally and formally
  • is open (Cain, 2016, March 21)

I still believe this to be true, but it is so much more than this, learning about strategic plans and applying the STEEP process (Cain, 2016, May 19) to my current school, helped to reinforce the decision making that goes along with the role of the teacher librarian.

The STEEP process forced me to really think about our library and where we are headed, it also highlighted the importance of having a strategic plan- something that we do not have and need if we are to remain a successful and prominent part of the school. It helps a library to develop and acts as a guide for achieving its goals (Wong, 2012, p22). As well as this the teacher librarian should ensure that the library program remains current and that everything the library does is about maximising student learning (Wong, 2012 p.22). I know I now need to work towards creating a strategic plan that reflects our library and our future plans.

In my reflective analysis for Assignment 1, I commented that the teacher librarian will be an instructional leader (Cain, 2016, April 11).  This is of course one important aspect of the teacher librarian- they do instruct students and they also play an integral role in instructing staff and running professional development seminars and workshops. In my current role, I’m finding this aspect to be a continuous part, however the staff workshops are usually done in an informal manner and on a case by case basis. This allows for greater flexibility and ensures that the staff are integrating technology into their lesson (Starkey, 2012).

I’m realising now, that the teacher librarian wears many leadership hats within their role and it is something that is continuously evolving as new technologies are implemented as well as changes to the curriculum as it adapts to 21st Century learning.  A teacher librarian is a:

  • curriculum leader- knowing the curriculum in all subjects;
  • an instructional leader- able to teach students and provide staff development;
  • a transformative leader- share in the vision of the library and what it’s trying to achieve.

Despite the many hats, I think a teacher librarian can only be successful if they have the support of the executive committee/ Principal of the school. Again, if there is a strategic plan, a vision and mission statement for the library that has been written by teacher librarian in consultation with other key leaders of the school, such as the Principal, it helps to promote that common vision and united goal.  The teacher librarian can then lead change, but the emphasis must be on learning.  It all comes down to the positive impact the library can have on student learning outcomes.

I now know, that in my role of teacher librarian I need to lead. I need to be an effective leader; the question is how do I do this? This is occurring through collaboration with key teachers within the school. Currently I’m working with the Year 7 teachers and we are integrating digital literacy skills through their HASS program.  I am also working with other HASS teachers to promote the information search process, and effective searching. In collaborating with the teachers, they are not only improving their teaching and learning program but they are also gaining informal professional development as they learn to see new ways of integrating technology.

Whilst this unit has certainly opened my eyes to the role of a teacher librarian, and whilst I am now more aware of how I advocate and promote the library I’m also aware of the fact that I still have a lot to learn.


Cain, R.  (2016, March 21). Thinking about leadership. Scorched Page. Retrieved from

Cain, R. (2016, May 19). Applying the STEEP process. Scorched Page. Retrieved from

Cain, R.  (2016, April 11). Part B reflective critical analysis. Scorched Page. Retrieved from

Green, G. (2011). Learning leadership through the school libraryAccess, 25(4), 22-26. Retrieved from

Starkey, L. (2012). Teaching and learning in the digital age. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wong, T. (2012). Strategic long-range planning. Library Media Connection 31 (2)