Reading Challenge 2018

Over the last two years, I have read very little – a bit embarrassing seeing as I’m in the business of books.  All my free time was devoted to my studies, but as they’re now finished I thought I’d get involved in the GoodReads Reading Challenge.

I’ve challenged myself to read 30 books, a very modest number that averages just over two books a month. At the moment, this is easy – I’m on summer break. When our new academic year begins, in a few weeks time I imagine it will become a little more challenging.

Anyone else participating?


Promoting the library

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog post from Melbourne High School. Here, Catherine talks about being inspired by the Unquiet Librarian, who wrote a similar post on promoting her library by creating goody bags. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and decided to draw upon these two posts and create my own promo bags for the new staff starting in our 2018 academic year.

I used the reflection from the Unquiet Librarian as my starting point. In her reflection she mentions the following points:

  • Approach vendors
  • Something customised from your library
  • Approach local businesses

Approaching the vendors is the time-consuming part, I contacted all our vendors and not everyone got back to me. Still, I ended up with posters, pens and bookmarks from a number of them.  They also directed me to their website, for free printable material. I chose not to do this as I wanted to keep costs down.

I liked the idea of adding something customised, I looked into having notebooks, stickies and pens but all proved to be too expensive – still, it’s something I’d look into again at a later date if the bags prove to be successful.  Instead, I created an A5 poster advertising our services. The poster contained information about our LibGuides, resources, collaboration and PD. I also created another flyer of coupons as incentive for the staff to request LibGuides, use our space and expertise. Each time they ‘cash in’ a coupon they get a service, a sweet treat and go into the draw to win a prize ( prize still to be decided).

Finally, I approached local businesses, but I left it too late.


Whilst we are only giving our new staff a promo nag, we are intending to give all staff the coupons to encourage use of the library and our resources. We just need to wait until 2018 to see if the bags are effective, but I’m thinking they will be because, who doesn’t love a freebie?



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.